Monday, September 30, 2002
Far left vs. far right
Brad DeLong has a fascinating post on why commentators tend to treat public figures and thinkers associated with communism with more respect than those associated with fascism. DeLong admits this is true even though some argue that communism was responsible for more loss of life than fascism.
DeLong thinks it's because:
Actually, I think that statement says a lot more about DeLong's politics than anything else -- I very rarely hear "If only we could live according to Gorbachev's vision" these days. The year I lived in the former Soviet Union, I never heard any praise for Gorbachev.
I like Tony Judt's answer better: intellectuals are drawn to power. Fascism lasted only a generation and was crushed. Soviet-style communism existed for over seventy years. Communism was on the winning side of World War II. The Soviets were able to stand toe-to-toe with the United States for 45 years during the Cold War. The means were repugnant, but the "successes" were long-lasting enough to register in the mind of many an intellectual.
I'd entertain other possible answers.
UPDATE: Reader responses (and my responses to them) are here.
REUTERS GETS RESULTS!!: According to
REUTERS GETS RESULTS!!: According to this Reuters story, entering the phrase "go to hell" in the Google search engine spits back Microsoft as the most accurate link. The story also notes that "The official home pages for AOL Time Warner Inc.'s America Online division and for Walt Disney Co. also come in among the top five results under the "go to hell" query."
The story was posted today on CNN's web site at 12:33 PM EDT. Less than three hours later, I just tried "go to hell" at Google and got none of those sites on my first page of results. The #1 site was hell.com. Google must have fixed the "glitch."
P.S. Out of curiosity, I also entered "heaven" and got this site as the most popular, which suggests that maybe the Web has yet to outgrow its geek origins. [Not that there's anything wrong with that!!--ed.]
PAGING THE FOREIGN ECONOMIC POLICY
PAGING THE FOREIGN ECONOMIC POLICY TEAM! STAT!: In the early days of the Bush administration, it seemed that policymakers recognized that our foreign economic policy matters were inseparable from our overall foreign policy. Both Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell made it clear that they intended to play a greater role in these issues.
This was a promising trend. When the U.S. realizes the link between our security and our trade, aid, and finance policies, the result has usually been the introduction of visionary policies that pay long-term dividends. Bretton Woods, the Marshall Plan, CoCom, NAFTA, and the WTO are powerful examples of this sort of vision. These economic policies enhanced our security because they bolstered our allies and laid out a clear message to the rest of the world: play by the rules and reap the rewards.
Unfortunately, this initial spark of interest does not seem to have lasted. Indeed, since 9/11, our foreign economic policy has not been pretty:
1) We maintained trade barriers against imports vital to the Pakistani economy;
If our national security strategy is devoted to the building up of weak states into open economies with strong governments, our foreign economic policy seems designed to thwart that goal at every significant opportunity.
Who’s to blame? The latest issue of Time magazine suggests Karl Rove, who clearly affected the steel and agricultural decisions. But that’s too easy – Rove is just doing his job. No, the blame lies with the heavyweight foreign policymakers who, as the Time article indicates, are firm about denying Rove input into security decisions but seem less perturbed by his interference in equally vital economic matters. Blame also rests squarely on Paul O’Neill, who is either unwilling or unable to be the lead Bush spokesman on these matters.
Politics can never be divorced from foreign economic policy. But as we're waging a global war on terror and trying to attract allies for dealing with Iraq, how about a trial separation?
UPDATE: The Economist on the underwhelming Bank/Funds meetings (link via Brad DeLong)
IRAQ AND DETERRENCE: The money
IRAQ AND DETERRENCE: The money graf in Bob Leiber's op-ed on why Saddam Hussein is not deterrable:
"To keep his nuclear program alive, Hussein has defied no fewer than 16 successive U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding his compliance with inspections. Iraq has forfeited some $150 billion in oil revenues because it has refused to meet its disarmament obligations. If U.N. economic sanctions, periodic punishment by U.S. and British airstrikes in the no-fly zone, and the heavy costs of noncompliance have not persuaded Hussein to abandon his nuclear program, why believe that he can be deterred once he actually has obtained the weapons?"
Food for thought.
Saturday, September 28, 2002
GROSS DISTORTION: Arundhati Roy's essay
GROSS DISTORTION: Arundhati Roy's essay in the Friday Guardian nicely illuminates everything I find feckless about the anti-globalization crowd. Andrew Sullivan has already pointed out Roy's most egregious distortion of history. Here's the worst distortion of the present: "In the past 10 years, the world's total income has increased by an average of 2.5% a year. And yet the numbers of the poor in the world has increased by 100 million."
Roy's data sounds about right. Of course, it overlooks one minor fact -- the world's population grew by 1 billion in the past ten years. And the overwhelming majority of this population increase took place in the developing countries. During the past decade of globalization, yes, the absolute number of the world's poor did increase. But the percentage of the world's population that was poor has declined, even though the bulk of the population increase occurred in the poorer parts of the globe.
Roy is purported to be an excellent novelist. As a public intellectual, she's a disgrace.
GRAB BAG ON IRAQ: Some
GRAB BAG ON IRAQ: Some not-so-random weekend thoughts about the Iraq situation:
1) David Sanger’s NYT article on the proliferating historical analogies regarding Iraq is pretty good at pointing out the flaws behind some of the pro-attack examples. However, Sanger fails to mention that the anti-attack analogies are just as flawed. Ted Kennedy, for example, evoked the Cuban Missile Crisis as a counterexample to attacking in a speech he gave to SAIS. As I’ve said before, this is an awful analogy. If taken seriously, however, ask yourself this question: would JFK have let them embargo go on for more than ten years? That’s essentially the situation has been during the Gulf War.
2) You have to admit, the U.S. has excellent taste in enemies. At a crucial juncture in the global debate about whether to provide multilateral support for an armed attack, the Iraqis respond “diplomatically” and get caught trying to acquire weapons-grade uranium.
UPDATE: Sounds like they weren't acquiring a lot of uranium. I'm glad the International Atomic Energy Agency found something to laugh about.
3) As the debate progresses, how will we know if the neocon position is losing momentum? If you hear warnings about the damage to America’s reputation if we fail to take action, that’s a good sign of desperation. I don’t like this argument, because taken at face value, it’s a license for the executive branch to do anything it wants. As a branch of government, Congress can be incoherent, obstreperous, venal, petty, clueless, and downright nasty. But they are an excellent check against executive power.
4) How will we know if the anti-war position is losing momentum? If you hear arguments that the economic costs of the war will put the economy into a recession. This ranking of priorities is just a polite form of isolationism.
Friday, September 27, 2002
MAILBAG RESPONSE: Kurt B. writes
MAILBAG RESPONSE: Kurt B. writes that he's read the Michael Walzer essay I and others have recommended, and finds it wanting:
"What is his recommendation? Inspections? Not exactly. War? Not exactly? No war? ...You get the idea. There is no recommendation, just more of what he accurately calls 'dithering and delay.'"
To respond, it's necessary to realize that Walzer's concern is not whether an attack would rectify the current situation, but whether it would be a morally permissible action. To answer this he relies on his just war theory, which requires that all options short of war be exhausted. With regard to Iraq, he concludes:
“If the administration thinks that Iraq is already a nuclear power, or is literally on the verge of becoming one, then the past months of threatening war rather than fighting it would seem to represent, from the administration's perspective, something like criminal negligence. If there is even a little time before Iraq gets the bomb, the rapid restoration of the inspection system is surely the right thing to aim at--and immensely preferable to the "preemptive" war that many in Washington (including this magazine) so eagerly support.”
For him, the distinction is between a Bush-proposed "preventive war" and Walzer's definition of a "pre-emptive war." The latter is a just war, because it is a response to an immediate threat (think Israel in June 1967); the former is not, because the threat is sufficiently in the future to suggest outcomes other than war (think Germany in June 1914, afraid of Russia's growing power). For Walzer, "No one expects an Iraqi attack tomorrow or next Tuesday, so there is nothing to preempt."
Walzer's proposed alternative is to try and make the inspections regime work, even if the probability of success is miniscule. By pursuing this option, the U.S. can legitimately claim it has exhausted all options short of war.
If you believe that the U.S. should only engage in just wars, Walzer's argument requires opposition to the current strategy. As my blog indicates, I'm not as concerned with this criteria as much as Walzer. But it's very difficult to dismiss.
Keep those cards and letters coming!!
ALEXANDER PAYNE FOR DIRECTOR LAUREATE!!:
ALEXANDER PAYNE FOR DIRECTOR LAUREATE!!: Why does the U.S. have only a Poet Laureate? Why not other laureates? Poetry is hardly the only art form that lends itself to an appreciation of our nation. Given the dominance of the U.S. film industry, shouldn't there be a U.S. Director Laureate as well? [Damn straight!!-ed. You're always more supportive on Friday afternoons, I notice]
"the team [Payne and screenwriter Jim Taylor] brilliantly reconciles a double vision of American life. While one eye gazes satirically at the rigid institutions and shopworn rituals that sustain a sense of order and tradition in the heartland, the other views those same institutions with a respectful understanding of their value."
Payne is also responsible for the best satire made about American politics, period -- Election. A flawless film that respects its characters at the same time it mocks them. Plus, there is simply no way one can watch the movie without contemplating its prescient parallels to the way the 2000 election played itself out (it was released in 1999).
Let the campaign begin!!
HAS THE "BATTLE FOR SEATTLE"
HAS THE "BATTLE FOR SEATTLE" PLAYED ITSELF OUT?: The IMF and World Bank are having their fall meetings in DC right now. Over the past few years, this has been an inviting target for anti-globalization protestors. This year, the protestors vowed to shut DC down. However, the Washington Post and TNR's &c report that they've failed to do anything other than break a few windows.
Has the anti-globalization protests played themselves out? &c and the Wall Street Journal say yes, because Big Labor does not want their protectionist message confused with the larger anti-American spirit of the anarchist wing of the protestors. That's part of the explanation, but not all of it. The other reason it's petering out is that the international financial institutions (IFIs) have become more adept at interacting with the more responsible members of the Seattle crowd. Click here to see the degree of IFI-NGO interaction that doesn't involve large puppets. Without Big Labor and constructive NGOs on the streets, all you have left is the anarchist dregs.
WHY DO THEY FEAR US?:
WHY DO THEY FEAR US?: Andrew Sullivan says, "At some point, I'd better get a deeper understanding of why some find American power so deeply deeply frightening. Even to the extent that they'd prefer to uphold the tyranny in Iraq than invoke the forces that could end it. I don't get it; and perhaps I never will."
I'm a little surprised by Sullivan's lack of comprehension here. It doesn't matter if we claim that we're on the side of goodness and light -- other nations will fear us because they cannot prevent us from doing whatever we want. On this question, the realists are correct -- acquire enough power, and match it with a willingness to project that power, and other nations will start to act in a prickly manner.
This is the one part of the realist opposition to current policy that I can't rebut -- as the U.S. evinces more aggressive intentions, even if those intentions are designed to promote a just order, it will encourage other countries to balance against us in world politics. From the outside, our intentions now seem aggressive just as our capabilities dwarf everyone else. Furthermore, as the National Security Strategy makes clear, the administration does not want any other country to approach our level of power. While the U.S. was perceived as an insular republic reluctant to get involved in world affairs, we could pull off the high-wire act of being the hegemon without triggering massive resistance. With our current posture, however, that's impossible.
I still think there are good reasons for attacking Iraq. But I'd like to see a little more of the "humility" Bush talked about during the 2000 campaign.
P.S.: Here's InstaPundit's take on the question.
Thursday, September 26, 2002
Responding to the realists
OK, I've slept enough to respond to the realist ad in today's New York Times. Are the realists correct in their assessment of the flaws behind an attack on Iraq? I don't think so. [Dude, aren't some of the signatories senior members of your field? You want to risk tenure for a friggin' blog?--ed. They'd be more upset at me if I disagreed but kept my mouth shut. That's what makes the University of Chicago a great place, as Jacob T. Levy just pointed out. Although let me add that I think they are both smart and handso-- Stop sucking up--ed. Right] Here's the flaws in their logic:
1) An invasion would destabilize the region. There are four elements of U.S. foreign policy that aggravate Arabs at the moment -- taking Israel's side against the Palestinians, maintaining the U.N. embargo against Iraq, stationing troops in Saudi Arabia, and supporting undemocratic regimes in the region. An invasion of Iraq will not solve the first problem, but it partially addresses all of the others. A successful invasion presumably eliminates the need for U.S. forces to be in Saudi Arabia (since there would be no appreciable threat from a post-invasion Iraq, and Iraq would become the new base in the Persian Gulf for U.S. forces), obviously eliminates the embargo, and topples a corrupt, brutal dictator. The Arab News agrees on this, by the way.
2) There is no exit strategy. The argument here is that Iraq is so divided that U.S. forces will have to be there a while. This is a possibility that's worth considering. On the other hand, as Gideon Rose has pointed out, the concern about exit strategies is a fundamentally flawed criticism. He notes, "Instead of obsessing about the exit, planners should concentrate on the strategy. The key question is not how we get out, but why we are getting in." I think the reasons for going in a pretty solid. [What about Bosnia? We still have troops there--ed. We also still have a peaceful, relatively open society there, as opposed to what was going on ten years ago. You make the call if it was worth it].
3) Hussein can be deterred. Therefore, the utility from an attack is not worth the costs. Kenneth Pollack makes a great case in an op-ed in today's New York Times on why Hussein might not be deterrable. Jordan and Kuwait appear to be anticipating an Iraqi attack. Furthermore, the one thing the ad fails to note is that the deterrence strategy has destabilized the region for ten years. The humanitarian cost of the sanctions combined with the presence of U.S. forces near the holy shrines of Mecca and Medina are not stabilizing forces. In this way, ironically, a successful invation not only eliminates the Iraqi threat, but over the long run it reduces the Arab resentment that feeds Al-Qaeda.
So I think they're wrong. But the people who signed the ad make some good points, particularly about the possible costs of an invasion (see Michael O'Hanlon's Slate article on this point as well). And the fact that they put up their own money to pay for the ad speaks volumes about the strength of their convictions. Let the debate roll on.
UPDATE: According to the Washington Post, Iraq is planning for urban warfare.
LEVY GETS RESULTS!: In response
LEVY GETS RESULTS!: In response to allegations that the Bush administration is acting in a petty way towards the German leadership right now, Jacob Levy asks if "Subtly nuanced, finely calibrated compliments and slights are the stuff diplomacy is made of." The answer is yes. During last year's spy-plane crisis with China, the State Department ordered U.S. officials not to engage in cocktail-party conversations with their Chinese counterparts. It goes to that level.
Regarding Germany, it's important not to read too much into single snubs. Just because Bush didn't call Schroeder doesn't mean that Germany is going to be kicked out of NATO or the G-7. Neither does it mean that Schroeder will resent the U.S. As I said previously, this is a low point -- German-American relations will improve.
UPDATE ON GORE: The New
UPDATE ON GORE: The New Republic's &c points out that the Washington Post version of Gore's Tuesday speech contained passages that Gore never said. Advantage: Blogosphere! [Does this change your opinion of the speech?--ed. No.]
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
Great Washington Post story on the current mood of pro-globalization thinkers. The money grafs:
The realist take on Iraq
The realist critique of the war I alluded to earlier is now public: 33 international security scholars took out an ad in today's New York Times entitled “War With Iraq is Not in America’s National Interest.” As I said, they’re realists, which means they don’t care about preserving the U.N.’s reputation, just in advancing U.S. interests. Their main points:
#1: “War with Iraq will jeopardize the campaign against Al Qaeda by diverting resources and attention away from that campaign”
Their alternative policy is “vigilant containment” plus a commitment to “invade Iraq if it threatens to attack America or its allies.”
I’ll respond to the substance of the criticisms after some sleep, but at this point, two things are worth noting. First, it will be interesting to see if their position moves the policy debate. All of the signatories are highly respected scholars, but whether academics can actually influence the debate at this point will be an interesting test of the power of public intellectuals.
Second, any attempt to paint these people as “fringe academics” will NOT work. Tom Schelling was one of the founders of modern deterrence theory (click here). Parts of Bush’s National Security Strategy look cribbed from John Mearsheimer’s latest book, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. (For a longer discussion of Mearsheimer's position on Iraq, click here)
FULL DISCLOSURE: Two of the signatories are in my department here at the U. of Chicago. As a grad student, I was an RA for another one. And I've had a beer with about half of them.
UPDATE: Stanley Kurtz at NRO's The Corner has a response to the ad, though it's not really on point -- it's just a weak attempt to paint some of the signatories as loonies.
Last post on Iraq for the day
Pundits, and some of the blogosphere, want there to be a neat left/right split on whether to invade Iraq. So, we've heard a lot of liberal arguments against an invasion and lots of conservative arguments in favor of an attack. As I've previously said , however, there are good liberal reasons for invading Iraq. And there are good realpolitik reasons for opposing an invasion.
The problem is, it's been too easy for conservatives to ridicule the anti-war argument because it usually comes with the whiff of anti-Americanism (Chomsky) or political failure (Gore). [What about Michael Walzer? -ed. There's him and... er, no one].
I have it on good authority that we're going to hear more about the realist argument against attacking Iraq very, very soon.
THE GORE EFFECT: What to
Follow the logic:
So, Gore is still the straw that stirs the Democrats' drink. Why will this lead to a PR disaster? The rest of the causal chain:
2) The story will inevitably be twinned with Tony Blair's vigorous approach to Iraq. And between Daschle and Blair, the latter will come off looking like the brave, forthright liberal.
3) Daschle's speech sucks the oxygen away from the economy, stupid. The reason the Democrats have avoided Iraq is because they do better with voters when they talk about the economy. The attention on Iraq will draw attention away from bad numbers on the economy. Furthermore, Daschle's objections are not about substance, they're about the politics -- which means he's led the Democrats right into the trap Karl Rove wants -- linking the war with party politics. Senator, this isn't Germany -- what were you thinking?
4) Division, inevitable passage of resolution makes Democrats look unfocused. When you have five potential Democratic candidates for president in the Senate, one of them is going to disagree with Daschle, which keeps the Dems from looking coherent. This effect will be enhanced when the resolution passes, which is the expected outcome.
Let me be clear -- there are substantive reasons to challenge the Bush administration's position on Iraq. I'd like to see a fuller debate. But Daschle's comments are the political equivalent of a hanging curveball for Republican operators to smack. And none of this happens without Gore's Tuesday speech. Disadvantage: Daschle!
MISSED CALLINGS: What would have
MISSED CALLINGS: What would have happened if George W. Bush had replaced Fay Vincent as baseball commissioner instead of Bud Selig? I don't know, but ESPN does.
P.S. For more ESPN musings on politics, check out Gregg Easterbrook's always-informative Tuesday Morning Quarterback. This week he has a spot-on analysis of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court's role in the 2000 election (you'll have to scroll past the cheerleader photo).
WHAT'S GOING ON IN PYONGYANG?:
WHAT'S GOING ON IN PYONGYANG?: In the past week, the North Korean regime has apologized for abducting Japanese citizens in the 1960's, and has announced plans to open up an "autonomous capitalist investment zone." Could the DPRK really be on the path to reform?
The New York Times seems to think so. I'm more skeptical [We're shocked!! Shocked!!--ed.] It's clear that the North Koreans want foreign direct investment. What's not clear is whether Kim wants more FDI to reform the economy or to support his own clique of supporters. Special economic zones can be used in one of two ways -- either as a first step to more general economic liberalization, or as a way to blunt pressures for such an general opening while enriching key political supporters. The last time the DPRK regime tried this, it was clearly to enrich political supporters. The fact that this time around, "the government will build walls around the city to control access by North Koreans" doesn't bode well for the reform thesis.
THANKS FOR READING, GLENN: InstaPundit
GERMANY REDUX: On Monday, I
GERMANY REDUX: On Monday, I said that the post-election Schroeder would tack back towards the U.S./U.K. position, and that within three months there would be articles about the surprisingly robust German-American relationship. Now we see that Schroeder's first foreign visit is to the U.K., not France. The New York Times interprets this as an effort to mend fences with the U.S. Veeeery interesting. So maybe it will take less than three months.
This supports Mickey Kaus' Feiler Faster Thesis, which is worth clicking on if you haven't read it yet. Certainly the Blogosphere is a contributing factor to that phenomenon. See also Andrew Sullivan's take on Schroeder's visit to Blairland.
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
AL GORE TO THE RESCUE:
PR-wise, the Bush administration has had a so-so week when it comes to Iraq. There was a pretty favorable NYT Magazine article on Paul Wolfowitz, and at least some skepticism of Saddam Hussein's tactic of permitting inspectors in. But, there was also the Times article on Israel stating it would retaliate against an Iraqi attack regardless of U.S. wishes and Schroeder's victory on the backs of the anti-Iraq crowd. Clearly, the political momentum had slowed.
Then along comes Al Gore.
Full disclosure: I had a very, very peripheral role on the Bush foreign policy team during the 2000 campaign [You were one of the Vulcans?--ed. Hardly. I helped out on some preliminary debate prep for one of my former Stanford profs who now happens to be National Security Advisor. We were called the Young Turks.] The point is, during the campaign, I pored over a lot of what Gore was saying about foreign policy during the campaign. I obviously disagreed with some of it, but certainly not all of it. I thought it was competent.
Gore's speech on Iraq, however, is not competent. Or coherent. Or consistent with Gore's previous musings on the topic. It's a grab-bag of objections, none of which has a great deal of substance (it also looks like it was drafted three weeks ago and no one bothered to update it in light of recent developments]. My personal favorite, for example, is the claim that, "Great nations persevere and then prevail. They do not jump from one unfinished task to another. We should remain focused on the war against terrorism." Gee, I thought great powers were capable of doing more than one thing at a time. That's why they're called great powers. As for the facts, funny how in the same week that Bush promoted dealing with Iraq, significant progress was made on breaking Al-Qaida's back. Great powers can walk and chew gum at the same time.
This speech perfectly captures David Brooks' point that many of those opposed to Iraq are not making serious arguments. I disagreed with Gore before, but I did think he was serious. Not now.
Gore's inchoate speech makes me wonder if the paranoids who believe in the vast, right-wing conspiracy are actually correct. Maybe Gore is actually a Republican stooge, designed to thwart The Emerging Democratic Majority by tying Democrats up in knots every time they seem to acquire political momentum [Weren't they already in knots before Gore's speech--ed. David Broder does think that, yes.]
P.S.: For a serious anti-war argument, here's Michael Walzer's take.
P.P.S.: Slate's Tim Noah argues that Gore is not flip-flopping.
Monday, September 23, 2002
GERMANY IS STILL OUR ALLY:
GERMANY IS STILL OUR ALLY: Schroeder's Red-Green coalition eked out a victory in the German election. Schroeder won because he was able to redirect attention from the economy to his anti-war (and anti-US) position, so it would be natural to assume that tensions are only going to worsen. However, I think there's three reasons for optimism:
1) The Hitley analogy... not such an electoral boost. Herta Däubler-Gmelin, the minister who compared Bush's tactics to Hitler's, lost her constituency seat. That, and the fact that the election narrowed in the last few days, showed the limit of the American-bashing argument. This also backs up the point I made last week about why Bob Kagan is wrong about an American-European divide.
2) The Greens are more moderate than the Social Democrats (gasp!): The NYT story makes clear that Joschka Fischer, the Green Party chairman and Germany's Foreign Minister was more conciliatory to the United States in his campaign statements. And, the results show that the only reason Schroder's coalition won was because the Greens picked up votes. Fischer will be able to moderate Schroeder.
3) The election is over. The need for scapegoats has passed.
Prediction: Within three months, there will be articles in the Times and the Post on the surprising rebound in the German-American relationship.
Den Beste seems to think the Bush Administration won't forget the slight. It's possible -- Bush's position on the Middle East was shaped in part because Arafat lied to his face. For this episode, however, it's telling that Bush never said anything publicly about it. There's little upside for the administration to cold-shoulder a leader that's going to be in power for the next few years.
P.P.S: This article suggests that Schroeder is already trying to mend fences. The compliment of Tony Blair is also revealing.
Dullest article ever
Michael Kinsley once wrote that the most boring headline ever would be "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative." Here's my suggestion: "Proposed U.N. Reform."
Aaron Sorkin and Tom Clancy -- separated at birth?
The West Wing won the Emmy for best drama for the third consecutive year, demonstrating once again that Emmy voters are truly one-dimensional.
Aaron Sorkin can do one thing and only one thing well -- write snappy dialogue. Characterization, moral nuance, symbolism, all of those are out the window on his shows. To be clear, I have great respect for the actors in the West Wing, they deserve all the awards they can get. After all, it's tough to develop a distinctive character when there's no difference between your dialogue and those of the other protagonists. The only shade of characterization Sorkin manages is between those who are smart and those who are evil. The evil characters are apparently not allowed to use words with more than two syllables. I appreciate witty banter as much as the next guy, but when that's the only merit to the writing, then it's not must see TV.
Watching The West Wing is exactly like reading Tom Clancy's novels. Clancy's characters are interchangeable, his villians are cartoonish, and he commits a literary misdemeanor every time he uses a metaphor. But, when he writes about military gadgetry, the prose shifts from pedestrian to vibrant. Like Sorkin, he's a one-trick pony, it's just a different trick.
Clancy never wins any awards; Sorkin can't fit all of his on his mantle. Meanwhile, The Sopranos has yet to win best drama, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer has yet to be nominated. There's no accounting for taste. [Is this rant because The West Wing is unabashedly liberal?--ed. No, I admire the fact that the show pulls no punches about where it's coming from.] On Wednesday's, I'll occasionally watch the show if I feel then need to listen to sparkling conversation. Or, I'll watch The Bernie Mac Show and wait for Sportcenter.
P.S.: David Chase, creator of The Sopranos, has a similar disdain for The West Wing:
P.P.S.: For those who snicker at the artistic value of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, click here. And Anthony Cordesmann uses Buffy in composing his thoughts on homeland defense. [From what Cordesmann wrote, he clearly never watched season four--ed. This has already been pointed out].
Friday, September 20, 2002
ANTI-GLOBALIZATION AND ANTI-SEMITISM: Larry Summers
ANTI-GLOBALIZATION AND ANTI-SEMITISM: Larry Summers has noticed the connection (link courtesy of Jacob T. Levy). As a fellow "identified but hardly devout" Jew, he pretty much nails how I feel about the current state of affairs.
To be fair, I don't think this is the norm, even among street protestors. For a fair assessment of the lay of the anti-globalization land, click here.
GRAND STRATEGY FOOTNOTE -- AFRICA
GRAND STRATEGY FOOTNOTE -- AFRICA NOW MATTERS: I just read through the new "National Security Strategy." Having worked in government last year, it's all too easy to spot the cutting and pasting that goes on in cobbling together a document like this. The natural focus is going to be on the articulation of the pre-emption doctrine. But what I found interesting was that the strategy suggests that Africa is now a higher priority than Latin America. The latter region gets a total of four paragraphs, whereas the former gets more play, including "three interlocking strategies." Of the four places listed as prime candidates for future bilateral free trade agreements, two of them (Morocco and Southern Africa) are in Africa.
Does this make sense? Sort of. The introduction astutely notes, "The events of September 11, 2001, taught us that weak states, like Afghanistan, can pose as great a danger to our national interests as strong states. Poverty does not make poor people into terrorists and murderers. Yet poverty, weak institutions, and corruption can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels within their borders." This would explain the focus on Africa. But some countries in Latin America have these problems too -- I hope the administration is not taking their stability for granted.
One mad economist
When I was a graduate student in the early nineties, I was lucky enough to have Joe Stiglitz teach me macroeconomics. He was an energetic, inquisitive teacher, but what always struck me was how gentle he could be -- it was a stark contrast to some my other economics instructors.
I think eight years in Washington has purged the gentleness out of Stiglitz. There's his latest book, Globalization and Its Discontents, in which he excoriated the IMF and the U.S. Treasury Department for their response to the 1998 crisis in East Asia. Now, check out this article in the November Atlantic Monthly. There's simply no way to read this but as a rant against Robert Rubin, who as Treasury Secretary steamrolled Stiglitz in many a bureaucratic tussle.
Stiglitz is right about a lot of what he says, but the essay reads like a drink of sour milk. And he distorts/exaggerates the section on East Asia. For a sober critique of Stiglitz's obsession of "market fundamentalism," click here.
Stiglitz is now at Columbia. I hope the gentleness returns soon.
MORE ON CAMPUS FREEDOM: Dahlia
MORE ON CAMPUS FREEDOM: Dahlia Lithwick has a Slate article on campuses stifling freedom. The cases she cites are abhorrent, but the tendency to sensationalize a trend from a few outlying cases is so.... old media.
Jacob T. Levy has a long post on conservative hysteria on this topic and why it doesn't apply to the University of Chicago. He makes a trenchant point: "the literary and artistic humanities often seem to be much more hostile to political-moral disagreement than are political science, philosophy, or law, where such debate is central to our study." Could this be because over the past few decades research in the humanities has adopted the tropes of social science without any of the proper training?
Thursday, September 19, 2002
GERMAN IRONY... NO, REALLY!!: Germany's
GERMAN IRONY... NO, REALLY!!: Germany's Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin recently compared President Bush's threats against Iraq to Hitler's tactics against the rest of Europe (link via InstaPundit). The exact quote, according to Reuters: "Bush wants to divert attention from his domestic problems. It's a classic tactic. It's one that Hitler used."
Outrageous? Yes, but also ironic in the extreme. This is exactly what Gerhard Schroeder is doing in the current German election. Trailing against his conservative challenger, Schroeder has repeatedly stated that he opposed military action against Iraq, even if the UN supports it, as an effort to tap into anti-war support. According to the BBC, "Poking America in the eye has given Mr Schroeder new hope of winning the election." This despite domestic economic travails.
Obviously, Schroeder is no Hitler. But his Justice Minister is clueless.
UPDATE: The New York Times story has some follow-up. Steven Erlanger notes, "Pollsters now say Iraq — not the weak German economy — has become the most important issue for those still deciding how they will vote."
THE PERILS OF PUBLISHING: As
THE PERILS OF PUBLISHING: As ideology becomes a determining factor in the nomination and confirmation of federal judges, Michael McConnell -- a distinguished former University of Chicago law professor nominated by Bush -- is Exhibit A on why academic publishing and federal service are like oil and water. According to this story, Chuck Schumer -- Schumer's staff, really -- tried to paint McConnell as someone who values opposition to abortion above the law, when in fact McConnell explicitly states the reverse in the article in question. McConnell corrected Schumer in his testimony, but this is a small example ofd a larger problem. McConnell's sin here is that he is prolific, provocative, and pungent with his prose [Enough with the p's--ed.]. Democrats will troll his publications to find anything controversial enough to deep-six the nomination, even if they are stripped of context.
Pundits love to crow about how academics are so far removed from politics. However, if academics are going to be raked over the coals for being good at their job -- publishing articles that provoke new ways of thinking -- what's the incentive to enter the political maelstrom?
P.S.: Here's the article in dispute -- check it out for yourself.
Wednesday, September 18, 2002
A TRUE "AXIS OF EVIL":
On another note, in the wake of the 9/11 anniversary, tribute should again be paid to The Onion's first post-9/11 issue, a stunningly tasteful (for them) collection of articles that still brought the funny. For an excellent example of humor that can provoke laughs and tears at the same time, click here.
Tuesday, September 17, 2002
TIRED OLD SCHTICK: John Leo
TIRED OLD SCHTICK: John Leo argues that political correctness has overwhelmed our cherished universities. He cites an American Enterprise study revealing the overwhelming pro-left bias of most professors at elite institutions. So far, a reasonably accurate depiction. Then Leo goes overboard with the following:
"Graduate students who want to become academics know they can't rise within the system unless they display liberal views. Professors know they are unlikely to get hired or promoted unless they embrace the expected package of campus isms–radical feminism, multiculturalism, postmodernism, identity politics, gender politics, and deconstruction. Remaining conservatives and moderates can survive if they keep their heads down and their mouths shut. Dissent from campus orthodoxy is risky. A single expressed doubt about affirmative action or a kind word about school vouchers may be enough to derail a career."
Look, I'm a Republican academic, and I previously taught at the University of Colorado at Boulder, which Leo claims is one of the most ideologically skewed campuses in America. I should be sympathetic to Leo's sort of posturing. But give me a break. Yes, there's some silliness in the ivory tower, but it's hardly the Stalinist world Leo depicts. Citing the extreme cases and then labeling them as typical is a favorite tactic of the very P.C. crowd Leo despises, but he's doing the same thing. I've spent a disturbing number of years on a variety of college campuses. Are academics generally a liberal bunch? God, yes. Have I ever seen a situation when those politics actually led to the kind of discrimination Leo alleges? Never. Personally, I have never felt the sort of coercive pressure Leo claims exists for academics to conform to politically correct views.
A more interesting question is whether what academics say really matters anymore. The proliferation of DC think tanks has made it possible for Ph.D.'s interested in public affairs to bypass the academy altogether. Given the large number of conservative think tanks, my suspicion is that conservative scholars, like good conservatives, are simply following market incentives rather than fleeing leftist persecution.
P.S.: I'm not saying that there aren't examples of conservative or outspoken academics that have been persecuted by P.C. groups (Click here for InstaPundit's take). I am saying that the sort of systematic conspiracy that Leo and American Enterprise are peddling simply doesn't exist. Trust me -- academics just aren't that organized.
Monday, September 16, 2002
THE NEW YORK TIMES AND
THE NEW YORK TIMES AND ATONEMENT FOR PAST SINS: At sunset Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, ended. In the previous ten days, a good Jew is supposed to apologize for sins committed against others. Now, for the past two years I have generally ranted against the Saturday Arts & Ideas page of the New York Times because of their praise of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's Empire. So, in the spirit of good will, check out Jacob Levy's praise of some recent articles in that section.
Sunday, September 15, 2002
"THE GUYS": The Goodman Threater
"THE GUYS": The Goodman Threater arranged for a week of free productions of "The Guys," Anne Nelson's 9/11 two person play about a firehouse captain and a writer fashioning eulogies. I was fortunate enough to snag tickets, and went to see it last night.
Was it a great play? No. The structure is repetitive, and there are moments when you can feel the stitchwork of the playwright. However, it effectively captured the raw wound that the attacks created. At one point a character is told, “We’ll be normal again. But it won’t be the same kind of normal. This will be the new normal.” A year later, we're at the new normal, but the play was written during a time when normal seemed too distant to contemplate. Sitting in the audience, I found myself flashing back to how I felt in the first few months after the attacks. As a tool to resurrect that swirl of anger, resentment, sadness, fear, dread, and confusion, the play works better than any TV retrospective.
Friday, September 13, 2002
INSERT YOUR OWN JOKE ABOUT
INSERT YOUR OWN JOKE ABOUT THE EURO HERE: Apparently the Euro could be toxic for those who hold it. Literally.
ABOUT THAT MISSILE CRISIS: Historical
ABOUT THAT MISSILE CRISIS: Historical analogies are always dangerous, because they tend to ignore concrete differences in favor of glib similarities. However, there's some uncomfortable similarities between the two cases for Kristoff:
1) The adversary lied repeatedly about their intentions. In the six weeks prior to the missile crisis, the Soviet premier, foreign minister, and ambassador to the United States flatly denied any desire to place missiles in Cuba. The foreign minister stated this to Kennedy after the missiles had been discovered. I don't think the Iraqi prevarications need to be discussed.
2) The U.S. acted unilaterally first and then sought multilateral cover. Kennedy ordered the blockade first and then appealed to the OAS to approve it. As for the United Nations, Kennedy used it to court world opinion, nothing more. By this standard, Bush, in seeking a Security Council resolution, is more multilateral. Oh, and by the way, during the 1962 crisis U.N. Secretary-General U Thant proposed a peace plan that would have resulted in the missiles becoming operational; intellectuals like Bertrand Russell simply blamed the United States.
3) The civilian leaders were suspicious of the uniformed military's advice. Burned by the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara were plagued with the fear that the military would refuse to carry out their orders to the letter. Today, the Bush administration is similarly concerned with the uniformed military's reluctance to heed to their preferences.
4) The adversary backed down for only one reason: the imminent use of force. Kristoff is right that Kennedy displayed admirable restraint in response to a number of Soviet provocations during the missile crisis. However, the Soviet decision to back down came after Robert Kennedy told the Soviet ambassador that an invasion would take place with 36 hours. This suggests a very tight linkage between the use of force and Iraqi compliance.
Thursday, September 12, 2002
STOP, OR I'LL SAY "STOP"
STOP, OR I'LL SAY "STOP" AGAIN: Nicholas D. Kristoff argues that we should learn from the Cuban Missile Crisis in dealing with Iraq. In particular, he asks, "why shouldn't war be a last resort instead of the first tool that President Bush grabs off the shelf?"
I'll discuss whether the Cuban Missile Crisis works as an analogy after a good night's sleep, but for now, it's worth asking whether Kristoff has amnesia. The U.S. government has already used its other tools. Comprehensive, U.N.-backed sanctions did not stop Iraqi progress towards developing weapons of mass destruction; Iraq rebuffed U.N. inspections just when they were starting to work; the U.S. tried and failed to create a "smart sanctions" regime; coercive bombing has not altered Iraq's course. I think that exhausts the other options. Kristoff's preference seems to be accepting the status quo, which is a humanitarian disaster that the Arab world believes is the fault of the U.S. There are good arguments out there for not invading, but Kristoff is not making them.
The liberal arguments for invading Iraq
William Saletan makes an excellent point in his assessment of Bush's UN speech -- that the best reason for forceful action against Iraq is that country's utter disregard for U.N. resolutions. The money line:
This turns the liberal argument against war on its head. A principled liberal must be prepared to punish those who defect from multilateral norms. There is no question that Iraq has defected from those norms. Comprehensive sanctions are already in place; the last remaining option is the force of arms.
The sanctions provide the other liberal argument to invade. The best (and least biased) study of the sanction's effects on Iraqi children shows that the price has been high. Who's to blame for this? Obviously, Saddam -- he rejected the oil-for-food programme in its first four years of operation. But if Saddam is to blame, the U.S., as the instigator of the sanctions, must share some moral responsibility for loss of life. One way to deal with this would be to create a CoCom-style strategic embargo, but the Bush administration tried and failed to get the Security Council to go along with this before 9/11. The other option is to convert an unjust sanctions regime into a just war. Some military analysts think that, in terms of civilian casualties, military action is more humane than sanctions.
This might be why there has been such vacillation among liberals about Iraq -- because the principles of multilateralism and just war dictate the use of force.
PS: The New Republic points out that these liberal arguments scare hawks because they don't necessarily lead to regime change.
THE SALLY QUINN BLUES: "The
THE SALLY QUINN BLUES: "The capital's reigning hostess" apparently believes that the Bush administration has cast a pall over the Washington social scene. Two predictions: 1) this fact will wind up in a Maureen Dowd column to indicate how insular the Bushies are, and 2) no one will mention Quinn's much nastier, uber-snob treatment of the Clintons.
NETWORKS VS. GOVERNMENTS: China has
NETWORKS VS. GOVERNMENTS: China has blocked access to Google, according to the New York Times. This comes in the wake of a summer in which the government shut down 14,000 cybercafes in a few weeks and got Yahoo! and other ISPs to agree to regulate their content. Saudi Arabia has also had success in filtering content, but China is different in that it wants to exploit the commercial possibilities while avoiding the political side-effects. It's going for the Singapore model.
There is a disturbing parallel between China's effort to regulate the Net and the U.S. war on terrorism. Al Qaeda operates along the same decentralized network structure as the Internet. Great powers want to control those networks. China's ability to regulate content suggests that maybe the U.S. will be able to prevent the anonymous communications and money laundering that form the backbone of Al-Qaeda. However, it also suggests that for China, the libertarian logic of economic exchange leading to idea exchange leading to democracy won't be happening anytime soon.
WHITHER GLOBALIZATION? Foreign Policy magazine
WHITHER GLOBALIZATION? Foreign Policy magazine has been good to me, but Moses Naim's essay on how globalization has survived 9/11 needs a little clarification. Naim first states that "While relying on 'a sum of techniques,' globalization is in effect gradually reengineering and displacing the balance-of-power mechanisms that have served as the basis of international relations for the last four centuries." Two sentences later, he says, "Big-country realpolitik has not disappeared, and nation-states and governments will remain an important part of the international landscape, but in a very different way." Assignment to Ph.D. students -- reconcile those two statements.
Wednesday, September 11, 2002
Part LXXVIII of the NYT's "Why we shouldn't invade Iraq" series
Milton Viorst warns of the worst-case scenarios if we invade Iraq. This essay is a great example of what InstaPundit's been pointing out -- that the anti-war crowd is making lousy arguments even though there are some decent arguments lying around. He makes four arguments, three of which can be quickly dismissed:
1) "...in suggesting that our forces will dispose of Saddam Hussein in a war that is quick and painless, like the Persian Gulf war or the war in
2) "By moving into Saudi Arabia, Saddam Hussein would shift the battlefield far to the south, imposing on American forces a much heavier burden than just the capture of Baghdad." Er... how is this a worst-case scenario? If Hussein were actually stupid enough to do this, what is currently a roiling international debate about Iraq would turn into the Gulf War redux, except this time it wouldn't end until the regime had changed. Plus, any invasion would leave Iraqi forces totally vulnerable to an air attack. If I were Central Command and tried to envision the way to guarantee regime change with the least amount of political or actual "friendly fire," this would be the scenario.
3) "Saddam Hussein, prior to an American attack, goes after Israel with the chemical or biological weapons that Mr. Bush says Iraq possesses. Israel, if it survives, will retaliate, perhaps even with nuclear weapons." In 1991, a Bush administration -- which had a much more strained relationship with an Israeli government that was more vulnerable to domestic hardline pressures -- and was able to prevent any Israeli response to the Scud attacks.
4) Pakistan would explode and Musharraf would fall; Islamists could control the bomb and there would be global chaos. OK, it's late for me, but I'm pretty sure this is the one valid point in the op-ed. Except that the distinction between Pakistan's ISI and Viorst's Islamists seems awfully thin. I leave this one to the Blogosphere.
MOVING ON UP: Day 2
MOVING ON UP: Day 2 of blogging, and a mention from the mighty InstaPundit... excellent. [Dude, you need to get out more.--ed. Fair point.]
LET THE KAGAN BACKLASH BEGIN:
LET THE KAGAN BACKLASH BEGIN: Every couple of years, pundits and policymakers think they've located The Next Big Thing in Foreign Policy. In 1989 it was Francis Fukuyama's "The End of History?" In 1993 it was Samuel Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations?" In 1997 it was Jessica Matthews "Power Shift." Each of these articles grabbed attention because they simultaneously challenged the conventional wisdom but seemed to mirror the current state of the world. After a few months, however, the inevitable counter-reaction would set in, and great effort would be devoted to explaining why these brilliant authors were wrong. Nevertheless, these sort of intellectual cycles are useful, because they force policymakers and policy wonks to look up from their inbox and think about the Big Picture for a while.
Over the past few months, The Next Big Thing has been Robert Kagan's "Power and Weakness." The basic argument is that Europeans now have a Kantian view of the world, in which all problems can be solved by multilateral processes of "jaw-jaw," while Americans think the world is Hobbesian, multilateral institutions are a joke, and that the chief way to solve problems is unilateral action. His conclusion is clear in his first graf: "It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world. On the all-important question of power — the efficacy of power, the morality of power, the desirability of power — American and European perspectives are diverging."
Kagan's piece has gotten a lot of play, but little criticism. Like previous Next Big Things, he's onto something, but the piece cries out for a backlash. So, here's five reasons why Kagan is wrong:
1) Transatlantic public opinion is closer than Kagan thinks. A recent public opinion poll shows that Europeans are more comfortable with military action against Iraq than Kagan argues, while Americans are more supportive of multilateral action than one would expect from Hobbesians.
2) European elites are more diverse. Sure, Gerhard Schroeder fits Kagan's Kantian straw man perfectly. Some other leaders don't. Italian president Sylvio Berlusconi strongly supports the use of force; so does Tony Blair. We're not talking about piddling countries here. Recent elections in all of the EU countries indicate a growing dissatisfaction with the uber-Kantian European Union. This also runs into the next point...
3) Europe is bigger than the EU. The next tranche of countries to be admitted into the European Union are very skeptical of the "European" style of foreign policy. Former communist countries like Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic remember how much the "jaw-jaw" of detente got them during the Cold War. They want Europe to be Kantian, but have few illusions about the rest of the world.
4) Kant and Hobbes are not the only options. Locke preferred the rule of law to the state of nature, but he also believed that when certain core principles were violated, the reversion to state of nature strategies were appropriate. Both American and European elites are much closer to Locke than either of them are to the more extreme poles.
5) Actions speak louder than words. Last September, there was a lot of talk about a common European position vis-a-vis the Taliban. Then Tony Blair met with Bush and suddenly all of the European heads of state were tripping over each other to get in on the action. You could argue that the U.S. didn't need the help in Afghanistan, but funny how many European troops are actually on the ground at the present. The Economist is right that the Europeans will eventually go along on Iraq as well, because they prefer some influence to no influence. At the same time, as the rhetoric on Iraq heats up, President Bush is also making much louder multilateral sounds.
Prediction: if an invasion happens, the U.S. won't be alone. Some multilateral entity will be in tow.
Samizdata has a moving post on how “the real England” feels about 9/11.
Last September, because of the attacks, I was stuck for a week in London, a city I love, feeling nothing but the desperate ache of someone who wanted to be with his wife and son. The day after the attacks, too numb to do much of anything, I took a walk around the city and stumbled onto Grosvenor Square, where the American embassy is located. A makeshift memorial of flowers, candles, and poems was already set up outside the building. I bought my own bouquet, placed it among the others, and started to read what had been written. Those expressions of empathy and solidarity were so moving that I lost it right then and there, and had to dash away before ITV caught me on film.
For the entire week, strangers treated me as if I’d just come from a close relative’s funeral. I will always remember those expressions of support; I’m glad -- but not surprised -- to see that outside of the broad sheet’s op-ed pages, little has changed in the past year.
MONOLITH MYOPIA: Tom Hayden has
MONOLITH MYOPIA: Tom Hayden has a long post on how conservatives are exploiting 9/11 to advance their Dr. Evil-like plans for empire. Refuting Hayden's claims is too easy. What's more interesting is his assumption that all conservatives have acted in a monolithic fashion. Please. No power on earth is going to make Charles Krauthammer, Paul Kennedy, Max Boot, Robert D. Kaplan, and Dick Cheney see eye-to-eye on foreign policy. This is the natural tendency to assume that political adversaries always act in a monolithic fashion. Conservatives are just as guilty when they presume that liberal media bias is responsible for all negative press.
As bad as this type of thinking is in Washington, it's much worse in Europe. Because European elites are generally to the left of the American center of political gravity, they also assume all conservatives think alike. So when they hear Bill Kristol extol the virtues of invading Iraq, they naturally assume this is the official Bush administration position. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of Republican politics knows that Kristol is not an administration mouthpiece. European elites not only lack that knowledge, they show little interest in getting it.
WHAT CAN FLORIDA TEACH US
WHAT CAN FLORIDA TEACH US ABOUT HOMELAND SECURITY? After the 2000 ballot controversey in Florida, the state passed a comprehensive election reform that, at the time, prompted huzzahs from the chattering classes. Whoops.
What's relevant about this for the war on terrorism is that the very reforms that were supposed to prevent mishaps were responsible for the current fiasco. According to the Washington Post, "Ballots were chewed up in the new touchscreen voting system" and "In Union County, officials counted every ballot by hand after the optical-scan system showed that every vote cast was for a Republican candidate."
In complex organizations, reforms designed to prevent catastrophic failures can often interact in unanticipated ways to increase the liklelihood of such failures. Scott Sagan has shown how this sort of phenomenon led to some harrowing near-accidents involving the U.S. nuclear arsenal. There has been a lot of criticism about how proposed homeland security reforms could infringe civil liberties or enhance the power of incompetent bureaucracies. No one, however, has raised the disturbing prospect that the proposed reforms could actually increase our vulnerability to attack. The natural penchant for centralization control during a crisis will magnify any error made by that central authority.
Tuesday, September 10, 2002
LAST THOUGHTS FOR MY FIRST
LAST THOUGHTS FOR MY FIRST DAY: 1) I won't normally be posting this much. Just got excited today. 2) I will shamelessly borrow useful techniques from other blogs. [Isn't this an infringement of intellectual property rights?--ed. Not at all -- the blogosphere is more like open source code, with constant improvements diffusing rapidly across the Net].
NEWS FLASH: SONTAG'S WRONG!! Sullivan,
NEWS FLASH: SONTAG'S WRONG!! Sullivan, Chatterbox, InstaPundit, and Tapped have all commented on Susan Sontag's op-ed, but none of them have pointed out an obvious flaw in Sontag's reasoning: her statement that: "Real wars are not metaphors. And real wars have a beginning and an end."
Is this cause for depression? Not necessarily. These type of intractable wars can have happy endings -- look at the Cold War. And, even though that conflict caused a dramatic expansion of government power, Aaron Friedberg and Walter Russell Mead have pointed out that the national character of the United States places unique constraints on such expansion. I'm glad there are people like InstaPundit who worry about this, but that worry should not lead to Sontag's doom and gloom.
UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan makes the same point in his Salon essay -- a day later. Advantage: Drezner! [Yes, but people read Sullivan --ed. Advantage: Sullivan! He takes on the entire essay, too.]
THE ANSWER TO TERRORISM: LABOR
THE ANSWER TO TERRORISM: LABOR STANDARDS!! Robert Wright argues that globalization is partly responsible for the terrorist motivations. His policy prescription: "To blunt some of globalization's sharper edges, carry political governance beyond the level of the nation-state, to the transnational level." His specific recommendations amount to appeasing those on the left who believe that globalization leads to a race to the bottom in labor and environmental standards.
Two problems with this logic. First, globalization does not lead to a race to the bottom, and I dare Wright to come up with a single study that supports that claim. For refutations of this thesis, click here and here. Second, Wright's solution is to kowtow to anxieties among developed countries and install barriers to exchange. This might satisfy potential terrorists on the left, but it worsens the current situation. None of the global governance Wright suggests will block the cultural diffusion that enrages Islamic fundamentalists. It will, however, retard the very economic opening that Wright advocated yesterday.
Andy Rooney award nominee
Growing up, I noticed that about 10% of what Andy Rooney said was interesting, 80% was pedantic, and the last 10% was so uninformed, incendiary and wrong that you immediately forgot his overall point. In honor of that style of commentary, I nominate John McEnroe, writing in the Daily Telegraph, for the first Rooney award. Most of it's harmless, but then he says on 9/11:
The natural extension of this logic is that because the U.S. is so powerful, anything that happens anywhere must be caused by something the U.S. government did (or did not do).
This is what I get for not knocking on Jacob's door
My colleague Jacob T. Levy also decided to start blogging this week, and has an extended riff on how/if scholarship and blogging could be compliments. He pointed out the same advantages of the Blogosphere that I just did. Advantage: Levy!
Levy also has a concern -- that the blogosphere will eventually devolve into the sort of uninformed discourse that Richard Posner claims is increasingly common among public intellectuals. He might be right, but to be blunt, there's uninformed discourse in professional outlets as well, at least in the social sciences. Look at this piece on why political scientists aren't public intellectuals. The author claims that other social scientists are more likely to be public intellectuals, but a quick perusal of Posner's "Top 100" reveals that there are approximately as many political science Ph.D.s as other social science disciplines. The notable finding is the number of lawyers. The point is, the author's primary assertion is made without credible evidence to support his claim; despite this, the essay got published in a refereed journal.
Here goes nothing
I shouldn't be doing this. I'll be going up for tenure soon; I occasionally daydream of occupying a high position in government; and I like semicolons way too much to be pithy. Plus, my sixth-grade English teacher scarred me for life about having too many "I"s in my writing, which may render me incompatible with blogging. So why do this?