The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion There’s a new cold war on. No, not that one. Even colder.

5 min

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In today’s edition:

The coldest war

There’s a new cold war on. No, not the one with China. Not the one with Russia, either. Or the one with tech companies — OKAY, there are multiple new cold wars maybe, but this one … this one is definitely the coldest: It’s over the Arctic.

Journalist Kenneth Rosen, an expert on the region, writes that “climate change, military competition and the search for natural resources are turning the frozen north into a hotbed of global rivalry.”

Rosen’s essay is a really interesting survey of an often overlooked region, one he calls a “remote and peculiar afterthought for the nation.” Consequently, the United States doesn’t have a particularly coherent plan of attack for the Arctic.

Meanwhile, our competitors do. Rosen writes that Russia is reopening (actual) Cold War-era bases in its far north, and China is investing in energy projects up there. Even famously non-Arctic India wants in on the action.

Fortuitously, Rosen has recommendations for the United States, from expanding the country’s fleet of icebreakers to modernizing the NORAD air-defense system. Watch out, Santa.

The United States has some time, and it has been making some moves in the right direction, but Rosen says it needs to get moving faster. This isn’t a sprint, but it’s not quite a marathon, either. Maybe more like an Iditarod.

Chaser: Down at the other end of the globe, the concerns are mostly climate-based. Last year, the Editorial Board wrote that humanity must prepare for the consequences of Antarctica’s melting ice.

Congress, in the Capitol, with the incompetence

In the Washington whodunit over the death of legislation that would have reined in Big Tech, obviously the butler did it. (Well, if not Jeeves, at least successor Google, along with Apple, Amazon, Facebook and all their endless money.)

But these killers had help, public affairs professor Steven Pearlstein writes in the latest long-form Opinions Essay: Congress’s own bungling is equally to blame.

Pearlstein’s tick-tock goes all the way back to 2019, when bills protecting competition in the tech space had huge bipartisan support; Democrats’ and Republicans’ reasons for taking on Big Tech might have rarely overlapped, but their end goals often aligned. Early committee hearings, Pearlstein reports, left members “radicalized” over the industry’s anticompetitive packages.

But the bills’ biggest boosters eventually ran headlong into Congress’s ultimate paradox, Pearlstein writes: “On most issues, both parties prefer gridlock because both believe it reduces the risk of losing the next election.”

His essay dives into the problems with revolving-door lobbying, with congressional committee bloat, with dark money, with omnibus appropriations bills — everything that left a once-shining bipartisan proposal lying on the floor.

It’s unclear when or whether a fix for Big Tech’s dominance will ever be revived. But we know that, for now, its consequences will keep arriving on consumers’ doorsteps, via guaranteed two-day delivery.

Chaser: So how do we fix that ultimate polarization paradox? Try revisiting contributing columnist Danielle Allen’s ongoing series on renovating our democracy.

From columnist and editorial writer Chuck Lane’s examination of the political legitimacy crisis the country faces. It’s fitting these figures come out right after the Fourth of July; they’re awfully reminiscent of how the early colonists felt about King George III.

Clearly, healthy skepticism of the government is baked into Americans’ DNA (see: colonists), but Chuck writes that the historically low confidence goes beyond that. There are real reasons to distrust institutions — the Afghanistan pullout for the military, for example, or overzealous school shutdowns during the pandemic.

And on top of that, Chuck worries, “a major reason Americans are losing confidence in large institutions might be that so many people in politics so often tell them that they ought to.” The country, he writes, needs a better message.

Chaser: Columnist Marc Thiessen writes that when it comes to those mistrusted schools, conservatives should double down on giving parents more choice. That, he argues, could fix racial disparities.

More politics

In the Ukrainian front-line village of Niu York, a mortar shell explodes and a soldier throws himself to the ground. When he raises his head, he sees an old man sitting on a nearby bench, unmoved and holding a bouquet of lilacs.

This is just one of the scenes in the dispatch from Ukrainian soldier Yehor Firsov, who has discovered during his months of fighting off Russia’s invasion that “war is just one more form of human life with all its characteristic features: laughter and tears, love and jealousy, laziness, courage and fear.”

Volleyball and ballistics, bunkers and TikTok — the things that go hand-in-hand in war-inured Ukraine might surprise and move you.

Chaser: Eurasia policy expert Eric Ciaramella reports that Ukraine can expect to get meaningful security guarantees at next week’s NATO summit.

Smartest, fastest

It’s a goodbye. It’s a haiku. It’s … The Bye-Ku.

It’s tricky to thaw

Permafrosty relations

In subzero temps


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