Monday, March 31, 2003


AN HONEST BRIEFING: Time has an excellent account of one general's assessment of how the war is proceeding. Two paragraphs worth reviewing:

"The senior officer seemed to go a little bit off message on whether the U.S. needs Saddam dead or alive. (Briefers here have repeatedly said 'this isn’t about one man') He said, 'The average Iraqi only knows Saddam. He's survived everything. He's won the lottery every time. He's a huge symbol for these people. He's everything. Unless we take him out, the population can't be confident.'

According to the senior officer, an example of Saddam's desperation came today with the 3 rd ID at a bridge near Najaf when Republican Guard forces — he said he believed they were from the Nebuchadezzer Division — put women and children out in front of them and were shooting at U.S. forces from behind the cover of the civilians. When one woman tried to move aside, she was shot in the back and fell into the river (a U.S. solider apparently rescued her). 'The regime has inflicted more casualties on its own people in the last couple days than any errant bombs of ours.'" (emphasis added).

posted by Dan at 05:08 PM | Trackbacks (0)


MORE ON THE EU: In other news, I'm shocked -- shocked!! -- to discover that the European Union proving to be a major stmbling block in the latest round of WTO talks. According to the Financial Times:

"World Trade Organisation members on Monday expressed concern at the failure of farm trade negotiators to meet on Monday's deadline for setting guidelines for cuts in agricultural tariffs and subsidies.

Trade diplomats vowed to continue working for a deal, if possible before September's critical ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico, which is due to take stock of progress in the broader Doha global trade talks.

However, they acknowledged there could be adverse repercussions on other areas of the talks, calling into question the round's ambitious three-year timetable that envisages completion in December 2004.....

David Spencer, WTO ambassador for Australia, co-ordinator of the Cairns group of free-trading agricultural exporters, said: 'This is a serious setback. This inability to make progress will have implications for other areas of the negotiations and could constitute a serious setback for our objective of concluding the negotiations by 2005.'"

He singled out the EU and Japan for blame, saying their farm trade reform proposals fell far short of the objectives set for the talks at their launch in Doha in November 2001."

On the other hand, I must commend the European Union for adopting a more laissez-faire policy towards the airline sector than the United States. The FT again:

"Europe's aviation industry has been told not to expect generous hand-outs because of the war in Iraq, even though the US is considering a multi-billion-dollar package to help ailing airlines.

Ministers meeting in Brussels late last week backed the European Commission's drive to limit aid to the sector, despite an initiative by Greece, which holds the European Union presidency, to open the way for more generous loan guarantees....

The US Senate is contemplating a package of $1.5bn-$3bn to help its own industry. The Commission says this is 'regrettable', but argues the correct response is to create EU powers to levy penalties on 'unfair subsidies' elsewhere."

posted by Dan at 04:22 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Must read for today

Josh Marshall has a powerful essay in April's Washington Monthly critiquing the neoconservative strategy for the Middle East. Read the whole thing, but here's the "good parts" version:

In short, the administration is trying to roll the table--to use U.S. military force, or the threat of it, to reform or topple virtually every regime in the region, from foes like Syria to friends like Egypt, on the theory that it is the undemocratic nature of these regimes that ultimately breeds terrorism. So events that may seem negative--Hezbollah for the first time targeting American civilians; U.S. soldiers preparing for war with Syria--while unfortunate in themselves, are actually part of the hawks' broader agenda. Each crisis will draw U.S. forces further into the region and each countermove in turn will create problems that can only be fixed by still further American involvement, until democratic governments--or, failing that, U.S. troops--rule the entire Middle East.

There is a startling amount of deception in all this--of hawks deceiving the American people, and perhaps in some cases even themselves. While it's conceivable that bold American action could democratize the Middle East, so broad and radical an initiative could also bring chaos and bloodshed on a massive scale. That all too real possibility leads most establishment foreign policy hands, including many in the State Department, to view the Bush plan with alarm. Indeed, the hawks' record so far does not inspire confidence. Prior to the invasion, for instance, they predicted that if the United States simply announced its intention to act against Saddam regardless of how the United Nations voted, most of our allies, eager to be on our good side, would support us. Almost none did. Yet despite such grave miscalculations, the hawks push on with their sweeping new agenda....

Ending Saddam Hussein's regime and replacing it with something stable and democratic was always going to be a difficult task, even with the most able leadership and the broadest coalition. But doing it as the Bush administration now intends is something like going outside and giving a few good whacks to a hornets' nest because you want to get them out in the open and have it out with them once and for all. Ridding the world of Islamic terrorism by rooting out its ultimate sources--Muslim fundamentalism and the Arab world's endemic despotism, corruption, and poverty--might work. But the costs will be immense. Whether the danger is sufficient and the costs worth incurring would make for an interesting public debate. The problem is that once it's just us and the hornets, we really won't have any choice.

I've written elsewhere why democratizing Iraq might be easier than many believe, but I tend to agree with Marshall on the grand neocon vision. At a minimum, there should be a proper debate on the subject. However, Mickey Kaus is correct to point out that given how the war has played out to date, it's highly unlikely that the grand neocon strategy will be executed.

posted by Dan at 02:46 PM | Trackbacks (0)

How to make Michael Moore look subtle

There is a growing media flap over a Columbia University teach-in about the war in Iraq that took place last Wednesday. According to the Associated Press:

A Columbia University professor told an anti-war gathering that he would like to see 'a million Mogadishus' ?Ereferring to the 1993 ambush in Somalia that killed 18 American servicemen.

At Wednesday night's 'teach-in' on the Columbia campus, Nicholas De Genova also called for the defeat of U.S. forces in Iraq (news - web sites) and said, 'The only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military.' And he asserted that Americans who call themselves 'patriots' are white supremacists.

De Genova's comments about defeating the United States in Iraq were cheered by the crowd of 3,000, Newsday reported. But his mention of the Somali ambush -- 'I personally would like to see a million Mogadishus' -- was largely met with silence.

Needless to say, De Genova's apparent desire to see 18 million Americans and -- according to Marc Bowden -- more than a billion Somalis die horrible deaths has prompted something of a backlash in the Blogosphere and in media outlets. Today's Columbia Daily Spectator notes concerns among Columbia's anti-war movement that De Genova's comments will overshadow the more "mainstream" parts of the anti-war perspective:

[Columbia University undergraduate Leigh] Johnson worries about the damage done to the anti-war movement by the strong reaction against De Genova's remarks.

'I think we have to resist every attempt of pro-war and conservative reactionaries to turn what De Genova said into an indictment of the anti-war cause, and we have to instead shift the debate to his constitutional right to say those things,' Johnson said.

[Professor of Political Science Jean] Cohen had similar concerns. 'I don't think what he's said is some kind of formalistic liberal freedom of speech,' she said. 'This kind of thing is reprehensible. if he were paid by the [political] right to do this, it could not have been more effective.'

But De Genova has not been the only target of criticism. The teach-in's organizers, as well as some other faculty members and students, have also criticized media coverage of the controversy, calling it sensationalistic and one-sided. Poornima Paidipaty, a graduate student in anthropology, spoke for many of her colleagues in an e-mail distributed among graduate students this weekend.

'It is curious to me that only his speech was picked up by the press,' she wrote. 'Keep in mind that there were 30 some speakers, who covered various topics and political positions over the course of 6 hours. But somehow, the remaining remarks hardly raised an eyebrow.'

Cohen and Paidipaty are 100% correct, so let's take a good hard look at the other speakers' comments, culled from this Columbia Daily Spectator story on the event (There's also first-person accounts here, here, and here, but let's stick with the journalistic descriptions for this post). And let's make it clear at the outset that a) none of the other speakers endorsed anything remotely resembling De Genova's comments; b) several of them have forcefully condemned what De Genova said (as has Columbia's president); c) I fully support their right to say these things and condemn efforts to censor their comments, and d) journalists tend to quote the sensationalistic portions of the speech and ignore equivocations.

That said, I do think the other speakers' comments are worthy of raising an eyebrow. Some assorted quotations:

"This is an administration that mistakes coercive power for consent ... and is willing to flirt with a new form of colonialism,' [Professor of Political Science Ira] Katznelson said. [Visiting Associate Professor of Sociology Yehouda Shenhav compared the war to 'Israeli act of aggression in the West Bank,' citing them as 'acts of colonialism' led by 'crude military men.'"

"Bush and his administration also took personal blows. [Professor of English and Comparative Literature Bruce] Robbins called them 'shameless liars and hypocrites.'"

"'I would be careful in promising wrath, shocking and awesome, to those who dismiss and ignore legitimate election results,' Associate Professor of Anthropology Rosalind Morris told the absent Bush. 'People might take you seriously and respond.'"

"Robbins offered a different approach to coping with the current administration. 'Lately, I have taken to sitting around fantasizing about being liberated at any moment by the European invasion,' he said. 'I figure the Europeans will realize that I live under an unelected government that has no respect for the rule of law, and that nothing short of violence can lead to regime change. Maybe they'll call their operation 'American Freedom.'"

"[Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies Hamid] Dabashi was excited by the teach-in format. 'Because there are no answers to our questions about this war, we just get angrier and angrier," Dabashi said. "But this is where the blessed thing called 'teach-in' comes in handy. Tonight, we think for ourselves. Revenge of the nerdy 'A' students against the stupid 'C' students with their stupid fingers on the trigger."

By all means, read the entire article. Views like these should certainly be publicized beyond the ivory tower.

Back to DeGenova. Let's reprint his letter to the Columbia Daily Spectator editor in its entirety, so no one can accuse me of distorting his views:

To the Editor:
Spectator, now for the second time in less than a year, has succeeded to quote me in a remarkably decontextualized and inflammatory manner. In Margaret Hunt Gram's report on the faculty teach-in against the war in Iraq (March 27, 2003), I am quoted as wishing for a million Mogadishus but with no indication whatsoever of the perspective that framed that remark. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that your Staff Editorial in the same issue, denouncing the teach-in for 'dogmatism,' situates me in particular as the premier example of an academic 'launching tirades against anything and everything American.'

In my brief presentation, I outlined a long history of U.S. invasions, wars of conquest, military occupations, and colonization in order to establish that imperialism and white supremacy have been constitutive of U.S. nation-state formation and U.S. nationalism. In that context, I stressed the necessity of repudiating all forms of U.S. patriotism. I also emphasized that the disproportionate majority of U.S. troops come from racially subordinated and working-class backgrounds and are in the military largely as a consequence of a treacherous lack of prospects for a decent life. Nonetheless, I emphasized that U.S. troops are indeed confronted with a choice--to perpetrate this war against the Iraqi people or to refuse to fight and contribute toward the defeat of the U.S. war machine.

I also affirmed that Iraqi liberation can only be effected by the Iraqi people themselves, both by resisting and defeating the U.S. invasion as well as overthrowing a regime whose brutality was long sustained by none other than the U.S. Such an anti-colonial struggle for self-determination might involve a million Mogadishus now but would ultimately have to become something more like another Vietnam. Vietnam was a stunning defeat for U.S. imperialism; as such, it was also a victory for the cause of human self-determination.

Is this a tirade against 'anything and everything American'? Far from it. First, I hasten to remind you that 'American' refers to all of the Americas, not merely to the United States, as U.S. imperial chauvinism would have it. More importantly, my rejection of U.S. nationalism is an appeal to liberate our own political imaginations such that we might usher in a radically different world in which we will not remain the prisoners of U.S. global domination.

Nicholas De Genova
March 21, 2003
The author is an assistant professor of anthropology and latina/o studies

Well, I certainly feel better now that he's contextualized his comments.

UPDATE: Another student-run publication, the Columbia Political Review has its own blog -- the Filibuster -- with more on this issue. This post quotes one of the other speakers, historian Alan Brinkley, on De Genova: "Abhorrent, immoral, a disgrace to intellectual life and to the University."

A first-hand source for all of the speakers' comments, including the repudiations of De Genova's commments, comes from Timothy Waligore at this group blog (for specific posts, go here, here, and here)

posted by Dan at 10:30 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, March 30, 2003


WAS I WRONG ABOUT CANADA?: Last week I blasted the Bush administration (click here as well) for rhetorically bashing Canadians and intimating possible economic repercussions for their lack of support in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I thought that the economic threat went overboard and that the public hectoring was inappropriate.

This Globe and Mail poll strongly suggests I might have been wrong:

"Support for Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's handling of the Iraq war plunged in the past week, with opinion split virtually evenly outside Quebec, where antiwar sentiment is strongest, a new Globe and Mail/CTV poll suggests....

The poll found Canadians are sensitive to his {U.S. ambassador Paul Cellucci's] argument that Canada has turned its back on its closest friend at a time of need.

Approximately 47 per cent of respondents agreed Canada 'turned our back' on the Americans, while 51 per cent disagreed. In Quebec, only 36 per cent agreed that the decision amounted to a failure to support the U.S. at its time of need, while 51 per cent of those in other provinces agreed....

Canadians are clearly worried about the economic fallout of Mr. Chrétien's decision, despite assurances from the government that there will be none. About 61 per cent of respondents agreed that the decision will have 'serious, negative economic consequences.' Even in Quebec, where antiwar sentiment dominates, half the respondents expect to pay a price for their stand."

Was I completely wrong? No, the story makes clear that the majority of Canadians still oppose the war; this has more to do with the long tradition of Canadian-American comity. It's also unclear if Cellucci's speech had anything to do with the shift in public opinion. That said, Cellucci's speech clearly did not cause public opinion to swing in a more hostile direction.

Hmmm... I may have to consider another self-imposed punishment.

posted by Dan at 11:56 PM | Trackbacks (0)


DREZNER GETS RESULTS ON NORTH KOREA!!: Back in January, I argued that the optimal strategy to deal with North Korea was to, "intimate to the key players the implications of DPRK proliferation (neither Russia nor China would be thrilled with the proliferation of nuclear weapons to Muslim-majority countries) and/or U.S. disengagement, and then combine some U.S. assurances of North Korean security with Chinese/Russian pressure on Pyongyang to behave better." The key to U.S. diplomacy here was to prevent North Korea's neighbors from buckpassing.

It looks increasingly like the U.S. is playing according to this script. First, there's this Jonathan Rauch story in Reason from two weeks ago that describes the U.S. strategy of ensuring that other countries in the region face up to the problem as well. Then there's today's story in the Baltimore Sun (link via Glenn Reynolds):

"For three straight days in recent weeks, something remarkable happened to the oil pipeline running through northeast China to North Korea - the oil stopped flowing, according to diplomatic sources, temporarily cutting off a vital lifeline for North Korea.
The pipeline shutdown, officially ascribed to a technical problem, followed an unusually blunt message delivered by China to its longtime ally in a high-level meeting in Beijing last month, the sources said. Stop your provocations about the possible development of nuclear weapons, China warned its neighbor, or face Chinese support for economic sanctions against the regime.

Such tough tactics show an unexpected resolve in Beijing's policy toward Pyongyang, and hint at the nervousness of Chinese leaders about North Korea's nuclear ambitions and North Korea's tensions with the United States.

With the Bush administration asking China to take a more active role, Beijing's application of pressure could convince North Korea to drop its demands for talks exclusively with the United States - a demand that Washington rejects."

UPDATE: Reuters also has the story.

posted by Dan at 11:35 PM | Trackbacks (0)


THE STALIN ANALOGY: For a founding member of the Idiotarian society who writes nothing but dull apologias for those who hate the United States, Robert Fisk nevertheless has the ability to provoke.

His latest essay explicitly compares Saddam to Stalin and implicitly concludes that Operation Iraqi Freedom will turn out like Operation Barbarossa. This prompted a denunciation from David Adesnik (although Adesnik really fisks Fisk here). Which prompted rebuttals from Kevin Drum and Kieran Healy, two people who are neither idiotarians nor anti-American [That's a ringing endorsement--ed. Kevin and Kieran are both very smart. Their blogs are the feel-good hits of the year!!]. Kieran starts by citing my post on de-Baathification and then makes the following point:

"[N]ever mind about Fisk’s credibility. The real point is that the Baath party is very large, basically Stalinist in organization and has successfully held power for a long time. You don’t get to do that by populating the party apparatus with idiots. Instead, you populate it with thugs. Beyond that, the thugs are organized in a manner designed to maintain a tight grip on power.

Three consequences suggest themselves. First, in the short term, Saddam’s resistance is probably going to be much tougher than the U.S. has been hoping. Second, in the medium term, the backlash after his inevitable defeat could be horrible. Third, in the long term, Iraqi society is probably going to be living with the legacy of the Baath party for generations."

So why am I bringing all of this up? To rebut Kieran's second and third predicted consequences (I agree with his first one). It rests on whether post-Saddam Iraq will be like post-communist Russia. The answer to that is no, for three reasons:

1) The Baathists have been in power for less time. No one in Russia had a political memory of life before the communists. This is not true in Iraq. If you accept that parallel between the Baathists and Communists, the better comparison is between Iraq and the Eastern European states. The good news here is that the communist parties in those states have successfully morphed into Western-leaning parties of the left.

2) Saddam is no Stalin. Saddam Hussein might aspire to be Stalin, but so far he's failed miserably at the task. Stalin was a ruthless dictator, but he also managed to industrialize Russia and defeat Hitler's invasion of Russia. It was these achievements upon which his legacy was built.

Hussein has seen his country's per capita drop 75 percent over the last 25 years. Militarily, he scratched out a draw against Iran and then soundly lost the first Gulf War. And even the most pessimistic experts believe that the U.S. is going to win this war. Saddam's successors have no legacy of success upon which to build. Iraq's decline has lasted a quarter-century, with the effects particularly concentrated over the past 12 years. And Saddam has been in charge the whole time.

A smart Baathist would blame all of this on the American embargo, and that might succeed in defusing some of the blame. However, this same Baathist would be hard-pressed to say how Saddam either boosted the Iraqi standard of living or made Iraqis proud of their country.

3) There are no loyal Kurds or Shia. When Hitler invaded Russia, Ukrainians joined the German Army in droves despite Hitler's avowed racism against Slavs. They did this in part because they loathed Stalin for starving them during the 1930's. The one way in which Saddam is like Stalin has been his treatment of the Kurds and the Shia. They'll be glad to see the back of Saddam, and they'll also be glad to turn in his Baathist co-conspirators.

In short, Saddam may aspire to be Stalin, but post-Baathist Iraq will not be like post-communist Russia.

posted by Dan at 09:30 PM | Trackbacks (0)

GENDER AND WAR: Margaret Talbot's

GENDER AND WAR: Margaret Talbot's essay in today's New York Times Magazine points out that although more women in the United States oppose the war than men, the difference is hardly overwhelming. She goes on to raise a provocative point about the feminist basis for opposition to war:

"[I]f it isn't particularly surprising that women as a group are more skeptical about the war than men, it is surprising how little the arguments of women who oppose the war as women -- rather than, say, as citizens -- have changed over the years and how ill adapted they are to an era in which female soldiers make up a substantial minority of the fighting force in Iraq. Twelve years ago, 40,000 women went to the gulf, and as anyone watching this war on TV can see, there are many more there this time. Yet women's opposition to the war is still framed much as it has always been: women are antiwar naturals because it is men who do the fighting or because, as the 19th-century feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton put it, war could never have 'emanated from the mother soul.' And the gender gap still gets more attention than do other, potentially more interesting, divisions over the war, like the generational gap some pollsters have noted. (Older adults are more likely to oppose the war in Iraq than younger ones.)....

There are plenty of reasons to be against this war, but in America today, few of those reasons have much to do with gender. We hold onto the notion that women are peculiarly adapted for the antiwar camp because it has the attractions of all cliches -- it's homey, it's simple, it contains a kernel of truth. Tapping into the frustrations of women -- with men, with their own lives -- is a way of reaching out to more people than might be attracted by a less encumbered, more policy-oriented antiwar message. And it's easier to cite women's maternal morality and Cassandra-like vision than to make hard arguments about this war in particular as opposed to war in general. But clinging to the notion of women as the world's peacemakers means lauding instinct, not thought. And it comes dangerously close to the idea that women cannot choose between just and unjust wars, nor disagree with one another on which is which."

Read the whole piece, but I have two comments. First, the generation gap might be more interesting than the gender gap, but it's much less interesting than the ethnic gap in American public opinion. While 72% of all Americans support the war with Iraq, 66% of African Americans oppose the war (OxBlog has more on the latest polls). Why is this? It may be a function of the fact that Democrats and Republicans are split over the war, and most African-Americans are Democrats. But I strongly suspect there's something else going on here, something worth investigating further.

Second, one possible explanation for why anti-war opposition may still be associated with the female gender is that organized opposition to government action requires a great deal of social capital, and women are better at organizing grass-roots elements of civil society than men. To quote Robert Putnam from Bowling Alone (p. 195): "women have traditionally invested more time than men in social connectedness. Although men belong to more organizations, women spend more time in them. Women also spend more time than men in informal conversation and other forms of schmoozing, and they participate more in religious activities." A few pages later he concludes, "Whether working full-time, part-time, or not at all outside the home, and whether by choice or necessity, women invest more time in associational life than the average man." (emphasis added)

[Cue closing music--ed.] If you'd like to know more about war and gender, consult your local library, and ask them to order Joshua Goldtein's War and Gender, which is the book to read on this topic.

posted by Dan at 05:27 PM | Trackbacks (0)


ONE DOWN, ONE TO GO: As loyal readers may recall, the U.S. had two enemies in Iraq -- Saddam Hussein's regime, and Ansar al-Islam, a militant Islamic group with links to Al Qaeda based in Northern Iraq between Hussein's forces and the secular Kurdish parties. The good news is that Operation Iraqi Freedom appears to have succeeded in destroying Ansar al-Islam. Don't trust me, trust the ordinarily pessimistic New York Times:

"An American-coordinated ground offensive against the group continued today with intensive fighting in small pockets in the mountains, but officials said the military battle against Ansar al-Islam was nearly over.

It began with cruise missile strikes a week ago and escalated on Friday when about 100 United States Special Forces soldiers and 10,000 local Kurdish fighters seized a network of villages from Ansar and drove the militants from their bases to nearby caves and mountains.

The United States contends that Ansar is a terrorist group that links Al Qaeda and Baghdad, and cited the group's operations in the largely autonomous Kurdish zone of northern Iraq as one of the justifications for the war against Saddam Hussein.

The Kurds said at least 176 Ansar fighters had died. About 150 more were said to have surrendered to the Iranian authorities at the border. Pockets of resistance in the mountains could be heard returning fire, but Kurdish military officers said the outcome seemed certain.....

Ansar and its 650 or so fighters had been feared in northern Iraq since 2001, when they ambushed a column of Kurdish fighters near here. It has since deployed assassins and suicide bombers, and succeeded in infantry raids against the secular Kurdish authorities, whom it rejects as infidel rulers.

But today Ansar seemed on the verge of military insignificance. 'We are very excited,' said Dr. Barham Salih, the Kurdish region's prime minister. 'It will be over before too long.'"

UPDATE: Here are the Washington Post , Guardian, and Associated Press versions of the same story.

posted by Dan at 05:07 PM | Trackbacks (0)

War vs. containment

One of the reasons I support forcible regime change in Iraq is because I thought war was the best choice from a menu of bad options. To evaluate the merits of any decision, the costs and benefits must be weighed against the feasible set of alternatives [Why stress "feasible"?--ed. Because many (but not all) antiwar protestors tend to present alternative policy options, like the complete withdrawal of any U.S. presence from the Middle East, that could only have been dreamed up in Fantasyland]. Whatever misgivings I may have about the use of force, they pale besides the doubts raised by the material, political and moral costs of the next-best option -- containment.

To understand this, take a look at a short paper by Steven J. Davis, Kevin M. Murphy and Robert H. Topel, all affiliated with the University of Chicago's School of Business. They argue that the costs of containment -- measured in dollars and lives -- far outweigh the costs of war. (Link via William Sjostrom). Their key finding:

[W]ar and forcible regime change raise Iraqi welfare by 50 percent compared to containment – an enormous gain. At first,
it may seem surprising that war can lead to a huge improvement in human welfare. But, in fact, this conclusion is hard to escape so long as regime change even partly undoes the collapse in living standards under Saddam.

Their basic analysis is pretty solid. The authors start to stretch things a bit by factoring in the expected value from the "probability of a terrorist attack of the same magnitude as 9/11 by 5 percent per year" due to Iraq's continued development of weapons of mass destruction. Factoring in such a probability is acceptable, but the authors don't factor in the increased short-term probability that a war with Iraq will inspire other terrorist groups to strike at the United States. Still, this weakness does not fundamentally undercut their argument.

posted by Dan at 05:01 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, March 28, 2003


WHERE'S THE LOVE, GARY?: Following InstaPundit's link, I discovered Gary Hart has just started a blog. He even has a blogroll, with links to Brad DeLong and Kevin Drum, among others. Hey, Gary, besides the fact that Brad and Kevin are more ideologically sympathetic to you than I, what gives? [Maybe it's because Kevin is not afraid to go out on a limb with war predictions--ed.]

Elsewhere on the site, there's this graf:

"Your generous support makes it possible for me to continue traveling the country, addressing college students and town hall audiences, meeting with key officials and leaders, and gauging national support for my ideas as I explore a possible national candidacy. Your donation will help fund GaryHartNews, Inc., which will manage these functions as I continue to weigh a possible presidential bid."

If this works, I might have to reconsider my pledge never to explore the possibility of -- maybe -- seeking political office.

posted by Dan at 02:42 PM | Trackbacks (0)


REACHING THE TIPPING POINT: One last post -- this Chicago Tribune story suggests that de-Baathification and humanitarian aid are helping ordinary Iraqis reach the tipping point of turning against Saddam Hussein's regime:

"The process of winning Az-Zubayr is proving a lesson for coalition troops as they move toward bigger objectives such as Basra and eventually Baghdad. Surgical strikes, aimed at political leaders as well as military targets, are being combined with humanitarian aid to ease the two biggest worries for local Iraqis: that coalition forces are simply an occupying force and that they aren't serious about removing Hussein's regime.

Iraqis 'like to be on the right side, and finding out which is the right side is the hardest thing for them,' said British Maj. Andy "Jock" Docherty, an Arabic-language translator working with troops of the Black Watch Regiment trying to pacify Az-Zubayr.....

Residents said that the humanitarian assistance was much appreciated but that decisive military action--like that in Az-Zubayr--was even more urgently needed.

U.S. forces 'should bomb [the ruling party] wherever they are. Baghdad is the most important. When it's done everything will change,' said Jasser, who agreed to an interview only out of the sight of others.

He asked the question everyone in southern Iraq asks: 'Will the Iraqi regime remain or not?'

"If this coalition does not remove the regime, half of us will die," he said. 'We will be killed just for talking to you. Saddam's eyes are all over here.'

He pointed toward an area he said remained a Baath Party stronghold in town.

'The Iraqi regime kills civilians for going against it. If they even think you're against the regime they kill you,' he said."

UPDATE: Here's more evidence indicating the tipping point has been reached in Basra.

posted by Dan at 10:26 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Honey, I'm off to debate the war again

Just when OxBlog thinks I'm on a roll, I have to go debate the war again. This time the audience will be high school students, and the other participants -- Don Wycliff, Eric Zorn, R.C. Longworth, and Marilyn Katz -- are mostly affiliated with the Chicago Tribune (Katz is the leader of Chicagoans Against War on Iraq). I'll let you know how it goes.

By the way, faithful readers might want to reread this week's posts -- a lot of them have been updated multiple times.

UPDATE: I came, I talked, I ate pizza. The high school students -- all of whom belong to Chicago Student Voices -- asked some sharp questions and were exceptionally polite about listening to alternative perspectives. Katz compared Bush to Hitler at one point, but beyond that the discourse was at a high level.

The cool part was discovering that some of the Tribune people were reading my blog. Eric Zorn even has a link to here on his web site. The best part came afterwards, when the organizer said, "You know we were worried that you would come off as flat compared with the newspaper people, but you were just as pithy." It's the blog, people!! [Is pithy a good thing for an untenured professor?--ed. Depends on the fora. When presenting an academic paper, it's the kiss of death to be thought of as glib. In front of the larger public, is it good to be glib? Damn straight!]

posted by Dan at 10:12 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, March 27, 2003

When hawks are wrong

Gideon Rose makes an excellent point in Slate this week -- if Operation Iraqi Freedom proves anything, it's that there's not a chance in hell Saddam Hussein's regime could have been toppled via arming and abetting the Iraqi National Congress. Which is what neoconservatives were suggesting in recent years. Rose has some devastating quotes from Richard Perle:

Back in 1998, Richard Perle claimed that 'It would be neither wise nor necessary for us to send ground forces into Iraq when patriotic Iraqis are willing to fight to liberate their own country.' If the United States were 'to give logistical support and military equipment to the opposition and to use airpower to defend it in the territory it controls,' the result would be 'a full-blown insurrection against Saddam.'

Later in the piece:

A good sense of what the hawks thought would happen can be found in an exchange that Perle had with Sen. Charles Robb at a Senate hearing in May 1998. When Perle claimed that 'once Basra changed hands' the situation on the ground and in the region would 'change dramatically,' Robb pressed him on how things would get to that point: 'Is someone going to have to physically stand on the Basra territory before this change in dynamic occurs? And if so, who is—which troops are going to accomplish that objective?' Perle replied, 'I think Iraqi opposition elements, with relatively light armament could accomplish that, provided they were backed up by air power.'

Let me add here that this is not a distortion of Perle's views -- I heard the same narrative from him when he gave a talk in Chicago last spring.

Rose's conclusion speaks for itself:

Because of the devastating military approach the administration has chosen, the outcome of the war is not in doubt, and victory may even (one hopes) come quite soon. But the war's progress to date is enough to put paid to the idea that Iraq was a paper tiger and that Saddam might have fallen quickly and easily to the less-than-daunting military prowess of the INC.


UPDATE: Richard Perle has resigned from the Defense Policy Board. Ordinarily I would say "Rose gets results!!" here, but I won't for two reasons. First, Perle resigned because of a lobbying imbroglio, not outside criticism. Second, in full disclosure I must say I know Gideon reasonably well and trust me, the last thing the man needs is more fulsome praise.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan links to a prominent non-hawk who also thought "this war is going to be over in a flash." If you keep reading, you'll see that not all the neocons bought into the Perle line of reasoning.

posted by Dan at 09:15 PM | Trackbacks (0)

OH, CANADA: Lots of blogosphere

OH, CANADA: Lots of blogosphere reaction to the criticism of Paul Cellucci's criticism of Canada. Dan Simon argues that I'm reacting to the Globe and Mail slant of the story, and point to this National Post version of events. Like Kevin Drum, I'm unconvinced. The Post story says at one point: "The public chiding by Mr. Cellucci marks a new low in the tortuous history of U.S.-Canada relations, which have been strained since Mr. Bush took office in 2001." This is the conservative paper, mind you.

Here's the full text of Cellucci's speech (link via Alec Saunders). It's clear that a message was trying to be sent, although it appears that Cellucci might have exacerbated the situation with the off-the-cuff comments he made after the speech.

Chris Lawrence and Jacob Levy have good roundups of other reactions.

Megan McArdle has some thoughts on Canadian-American trade, and this Chicago Tribune piece does a good job of providing detail about the mechanics of cross-border flows.

The one thing that gives me pause about what I said is reading Naomi Klein. After reading her turgid, simple-minded brand of globaloney, I felt this strange urge to annex the Atlantic provinces.

posted by Dan at 08:44 PM | Trackbacks (0)


A SCHOLAR AND A GENTLEMAN: When I was a graduate student at Stanford, I was fortunate enough to hear Vaclav Havel come and give an address. Afterwards, my friends and I speculated on whether there was any contemporary American that could equal Havel’s political and intellectual prowess. Racking our brains, we came up with only one possibility: Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

So it's a tragedy to hear that Moynihan died yesterday. The war will probably obscure the plaudits this man deserves. Mickey Kaus provides a lovely elegy (he has links to other obits as well), without being afraid to point out when Moynihan was wrong. Other online takes include Patrick Belton, William Kristol, and David Frum,

My take? Moynihan was the rare social scientist who could move the national debate – though not always in the way he wished. For every mistake that he made – welfare reform – he was undeniably right about something even bigger – like, in 1979, predicting the demise of communism by 1990.

George Will also devotes today's column to Moynihan. It contains this priceless nugget:

"In his first campaign, in 1976, Moynihan's opponent was the incumbent, James Buckley, who playfully referred to 'Professor Moynihan' from Harvard. Moynihan exclaimed with mock indignation, 'The mudslinging has begun!'"

Rest in peace, Senator Moynihan: you knew your correlations from your causations.

posted by Dan at 05:05 PM | Trackbacks (0)


WHO AND WHY WE'RE FIGHTING: You want to know why Saddam Hussein's regime is worth eliminating? Here's one reason:

"The aftermath of the firefight was a tableau of twisted Iraqi corpses, cans of unopened food and the dirty mattresses where they had spent their final hours.

But the Iraqi private with a bullet wound in the back of his head suggested something particularly grim. Up and down the 200-mile stretch of desert where the American and British forces have advanced, one Iraqi prisoner after another has told a similar tale: that many Iraqi soldiers were fighting at gunpoint, threatened with death by loyalists of Saddam Hussein.

Here, according to American doctors and Iraqi prisoners, appeared to be the confirmation. The wounded Iraqi, whose life was ebbing away outside an American field hospital, had been shot during a firefight Tuesday night with American troops. It was a small-caliber bullet, most likely from a pistol, fired at close range. Iraqi prisoners taken after the battle said their officers had been firing at them, pushing them into battle.

'The officers threatened to shoot us unless we fought,' said a wounded Iraqi from his bed in the American field hospital here. 'They took out their guns and pointed them and told us to fight.'"

More evidence from Basra:

"Air Marshall Brian Burridge, the top British commander in the Gulf, also reported Thursday that Iraqis loyal to Saddam Hussein were forcing Iraqi conscripts and regular army troops into combat near Basra with the threat of executing them or their families.

British forces destroyed 14 Iraqi tanks that tried to break out of the southern city of Basra on Thursday morning, and one official said the tanks were manned by Iraqi soldiers whose families were threatened.

'They are being forced to fight by these militia. They are going into, apparently, people's homes, forcing the men to drive these vehicles to try and lead the escape out of Basra,' said Group Capt. Al Lockwood. 'They are obviously coercing them into this action, whereas in fact we would have wished them to surrender.'"

Not repelled yet? Consider that the Basra story starts with this piece of information:

"Iraqi paramilitary forces are seizing children and threatening Iraqi men with execution if they don't fight for the regime, U.S. and British officials said Thursday.

The U.S. commanders around the south-central city of Najaf reported the development to Gen. Tommy Franks, who is commanding forces in the Gulf, said U.S. Central Command spokesman Jim Wilkinson."

One piece of good news -- what this means for Iraq's command and control:

"Lockwood said the most recent behavior by the Iraqis showed the center no longer was holding.

'The enemy's options are now limited. They don't know what to do and they're guessing. It shows the command and control exercised by Baghdad has broken down. It's a suicidal approach which is irrational with no military logic to it. Military cohesion is sadly lacking.'"

UPDATE: Here's another story on this topic.

posted by Dan at 12:06 PM | Trackbacks (0)


WHY FORMAL ALLIANCES MATTER: Jacob Levy's latest "Chicago School" piece in TNR -- a meditation on why Australia and Poland are actually sending troops to Iraq -- is now up. Here are his footnotes and bibliography.

Jacob's co-conspirator, Eugene Volokh, reports on one possible explanation for France and Germany's resistance to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

posted by Dan at 11:32 AM | Trackbacks (0)


THE QUESTIONABLE PERFIDY OF THE EUROPEAN UNION: Michael Ledeen is arguing in a New York Sun front-pager that the reason Turkey failed to permit U.S. troops to stage operations on its territory has nothing to do with the Bush administration's diplomacy: "contrary to the conventional wisdom, the vote was not an Islamic protest against the American-led coalition, but an act of anti-American intimidation by France and Germany." He goes on to say:

"The French and German governments informed the Turkish opposition parties that if they voted to help the Coalition war effort, Turkey would be locked out of Europe for a generation. As one Turkish leader put it, 'there were no promises, only threats.'

One can describe this behavior on the part of our erstwhile Old Europe allies only as a deliberate act of sabotage against America in time of war."

Let's assume for the moment that Ledeen is correct about France and Germany using the power of the European Union to influence Turkey's decision-making (Josh Marshall believes Turkish domestic politics played a significant role in the decision -- and I agree that multiple causality is at work here. UPDATE: both the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune provide postmortems that blame both U.S. diplomatic blunders and Turkish misperceptions in equal measure. European pressure is not mentioned in either piece). It would certainly be correct to scold the relevant EU members for acting in such an obstructionist fashion.

However, Ledeen should also acknowledge that the EU also just did us a huge diplomatic favor -- convincing Turkey not to send troops into Kurdish Iraq -- by using the identical coercive tactic that Ledeen deplores.

Over the past week, EU members have jointly and individually warned Turkey not to send troops into Iraq. Romano Prodi, EU Commission President, echoed these warnings, saying that such a move would be "a very serious act." An EU spokesman reiterated this warning, stating, "Any action by a neighbour that could destabilise the situation would be most unwelcome.”

The threat worked. Turkey responded to the EU by saying it did not plan any large-scale incursion and had no desire to occupy the Northern part of Iraq.

Memo to Ledeen: if you're going to bash the EU -- and there plenty of reasons to bash it -- then acknowledge its occasion utility as well.

[Hey, why are you praising EU attempts to coerce Turkey but yesterday you bashed U.S. efforts to coerce Canada?--ed. The two situations are different. Turkey desperately wants to join the EU club. Canada is already a member of NAFTA. Furthermore, what Turkey's contemplated action could have had very deleterious effects on Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Canada-bashing was over penny ante dust-ups. However, it's worth noting that Franco-German bullying has alienated many of their natural allies in the region as well.]

UPDATE: I take Glenn Reynolds' point about the distinction between "Old Europe" and the European Union. However, the only reason the EU was useful in constraining Turkey's operations in Iraq was the consensus among Great Britain, France and Germany on this issue. What holds for the EU holds for the individual countries as well -- even France.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I've received several e-mails suggesting, to quote one of them (Greg D.), "the only reason the EU needed to bully the Turks to NOT send troops into Iraq is because they FIRST bullied them to keep the US troops out."

Sorry, that dog won't hunt. Recall that earlier this month the U.S. was offering a lot of sweeteners to Turkey in return for that permission to open up a second front -- and one of them was giving the Turks a much freer reign in the Kurdish part of Iraq. If you're Kurdish, you should thank the EU twice over -- for preventing the U.S. from acquiescing to Turkey's wishes on the matter in return for military support, and for preventing the Turks from taking matters into their own hands.

posted by Dan at 11:23 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, March 26, 2003


IT'S ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE: Mickey Kaus, Glenn Reynolds, and Josh Marshall linked to separate posts on this humble blog today.

Let's face it -- I could write the modern-day equivalent of the Gettysburg Address over the next few weeks, and I'm not going to match my traffic count for today.

UPDATE: In related news, I've evolved from a slimy mollusk to a slithering reptile. Hmmmm..... slithering.

posted by Dan at 05:42 PM | Trackbacks (0)


DUMB-ASS DIPLOMACY, EH?: Henry Farrell provides a link to this Globe and Mail story about U.S. ambassador Paul Cellucci's rebuke of Canada. The first few grafs:

"Washington's ambassador to Canada has delivered the sternest public rebuke by a U.S. representative since the Trudeau era, saying Americans are upset at Canada's refusal to join the war in Iraq and hinting there could be economic fallout.

At a breakfast speech yesterday to the Economic Club of Toronto, U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci said 'there is a lot of disappointment in Washington and a lot of people are upset' about Canada's refusal to join the United States in its efforts to depose Iraqi President Saddam Hussein."

Now, to be fair to Cellucci, not until paragraph 20 does the story acknowledge that, "Mr. Cellucci took great pains to preface his admonition with a discussion of the close ties that have marked the relationship between Canada and the United States. On many issues, including the free flow of border traffic, that relationship must remain strong, he said."

However, there's something to the way the reporter frames the piece in these grafs:

"Mr. Cellucci said the relationship between the two countries will endure in the long term, but 'there may be short-term strains here.'

Asked what those strains would be, Mr. Cellucci replied, 'You'll have to wait and see.' But he cryptically added it is his government's position that 'security will trump trade,' implying possible implications for cross-border traffic."

Where to begin? This tactic is stupid on a whole variety of levels. Let's single out the big ones:

1) Don't make empty threats. Let's assume for the moment that Cellucci had a valid point. In diplomacy, never make a public threat -- even a vague one -- unless there's a possibility it could be carried out. There is simply no way in hell that the U.S. government would take any economic retaliation against Canada that violated the NAFTA treaty. The story quotes one Canadian official stating, "Even if we had conscripted 50,000 troops and sent them to fight in Iraq we would not be one bit further ahead on the softwood lumber file... And we would not be one bit further behind either."

Now, Cellucci -- and by extension the U.S. government -- looks inept for making an empty threat.

2) Don't bother criticizing actions beyond the scope of the federal government. After his speech, Cellucci cited specific examples of Canadian anti-Americanism -- the booing of the U.S. national anthem at a Canadiens game in Montreal, A Liberal MP calling Americans "bastards," etc.

Are these actions disturbing? Yes. Should they prompt ambassadorial criticism? No.

First, one can hardly blame the Chrétien government for these displays. Maybe you could argue that the government has been permissive in not criticizing Liberal party officials who make dumb-ass statements, but that's a complaint to register privately, not publicly. Second, defending one's country against these kinds of attacks should never be linked with threats of retaliation, since it defeats the purpose of the criticism. Third, the actions Cellucci cited are so over the top that they have prompted their own backlash. Public reprimands should be saved for more serious challenges to bilateral relations.

3) Don't make the Iraq question a make-or-break one for allies. The Bush administration's "with us or against us" approach is the correct one in dealing with the war on terrorism. But no one who supports the current action against Iraq should be so blind as to believe that there are no valid grounds on which to stake out an opposing point of view. The best diplomacy the Bush administration could conduct for the current situation is to politely agree to disagree with our allies. Stress that on the big issues, we share a common social purpose with our allies, and that disputes like this will hopefully be few and far between. This is how countries stay allies even when they don't always see eye to eye.

Cellucci's speech, combined with other examples of U.S. pressure applied against close allies such as Mexico or Turkey, suggests that the Bush administration is not following this diplomatic approach. They're applying the same "with us or against us" strategy for Iraq as well. Now, whatever the size of our coalition, there are significant countries that disagree with us on Iraq but wish to cooperate with us on other affairs of state. Beyond Canada, I'd include Germany, Russia, China, India, and most of the Western hemisphere on this list. Tactics like Cellucci's speech will backfire with these countries.

Just to be clear -- I have no love for the Chrétien government, and Cellucci is correct to say that a lot of Americans are upset at Canadian displays of anti-Americanism. But our diplomats are making empty threats and copying Donald Rumsfeld's technique of publicly disparaging close allies. This diplomatic injury is entirely self-inflicted.

This kind of aggravation we don't need.

UPDATE: The Globe and Mail's follow-up story makes it clear that the White House vetted Cellucci's speech:

"Despite Liberal government assurances that the Bush administration had accepted the Canadian decision gracefully, U.S. officials say Mr. Bush and his advisers are furious, not only with the decision to stay out of the battle but also with what they say is the anti-American rhetoric that Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has tolerated.

Sources said national security adviser Condoleezza Rice consulted Mr. Cellucci about the message he was to deliver at a breakfast speech on Tuesday in Toronto.

'This came right from the top,' one U.S. official said.

When Mr. Chrétien announced the Canadian position, Liberal ministers had assured the Bush team that, while Canada would not participate in the war, it also would not criticize the U.S. and British effort in Iraq.

However, American officials noted that Mr. Chrétien quickly characterized the war as 'unjustified' and then failed to condemn Natural Resources Minister Herb Dhaliwal, who called Mr. Bush a 'failed statesman.'"

It would have been better if Cellucci had only cited these specific examples, and had omitted the vague and empty threat of retaliation.

posted by Dan at 01:57 PM | Trackbacks (0)


MORE ON DEBAATHIFICATION AND URBAN COMBAT: I argued a few days ago that Baathist resistance during the war makes postwar de-Baathification a much easier task. At the same time, the resulting spectre of more urban combat was worrying.

After reading this London Times piece, I feel on much firmer ground on de-Baathification, and more sanguine that urban warfare will not be as devastating as feared. Here are the money quotes from the commander of British forces in Iraq, Air Marshal Brian Burridge:

"'What's going on there is there are these unconventional forces, the people who really have gripped the people of Iraq in fear, the Saddam Fedayin, for example, the Baath party militia and the special security operation, and these are bunches of determined men who will fight hard because they have no future in Iraq and it is they that we have to get at.

We have always known we would have to get at them and we did that last night in Zubayr.

We went to their headquarters and engaged in contact with them, killed a number of them and made it quite clear that we are up for this and you are going to have a very hard time.

'A column of armour did try to come out of Basra last night and 20 of them won't be going back because they had the attention of our artillery.'

But he said that a military victory would take time, arguing that it was "slightly early days" to be expecting a popular uprising against Saddam.

'There is a reason for that, in 1991, when Basra was the subject of a major uprising, the way in which it was dealt with by the regime has left a deep memory.

Give it some time.'"

UPDATE: Greg Djerejian provides an alternative suggestion on the best course for de-Baathification.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kanan Makiya, who's keeping a war diary for The New Republic, makes some excellent points on how de-Baathification will need to proceed. Bravo to TNR Online for the having the good sense to ask Makiya and Gregg Easterbrook to file daily dispatches on the conflict. Clearly Noam Scheiber, TNR's online editor, is going places [That's enough sucking up for now--ed.]

posted by Dan at 10:06 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (1)


COMPARE AND CONTRAST: This Financial Times op-ed (link via Brad DeLong) suggests that we do not have sufficient armor and infantry for the upcoming fight. This UPI report (link via Andrew Sullivan) explains the Pentagon's rationale behind their force deployment.

Who's right? We simply don't know, because our information about the battlefield is pretty piss-poor right now. Part of this is purposeful, as this Ha'aretz piece (link via Glenn Reynolds) points out with a great quote from military historian Martin van Creveld:

"Everyone is lying about everything all the time, and it is difficult to say what is happening. I've stopped listening. All the pictures shown on TV are color pieces which have no significance."

"There is a lot of disinformation.... Every word that is spoken is suspect."

posted by Dan at 09:55 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, March 25, 2003


DEBATING THE WAR: I spent this evening debating the merits of Operation Iraqi Freedom at Loyola's medical school in front of about 100 students and doctors. I was debating Doug Cassel, who's affiliated with Northwestern's law school. You can get a sense of his take on the issue from this Chicago Tribune op-ed he wrote a few days ago. He was honest in saying that he preferred to see Saddam Hussein remain in power rather than fight a war of liberation, and I was honest enough to disagree. It was a healthy exchange of views.

This was my first public debate. I'll admit, when I walked into the room and noticed that the first people I saw either had big "NO WAR" buttons on their lapels or were wearing chadors, I felt some trepidation. And I did get one question from a faculty member that asked how I could trust an administration that had passed such a massive tax cut and rambled on from there. However, although the audience was probably 80/20 opposed to war, the students were both inquisitive and polite -- I wound up staying there for an hour after the debate ended in order to answer all the questions I could.

I'll be doing more of these in the future. They do absolutely nothing for my tenure chances, but like blogging, they provide me a way to translate my academic pursuits to a wider audience.

posted by Dan at 10:49 PM | Trackbacks (0)

When dictators exploit the war

Mickey Kaus correctly notes that a lot of news stories will fade away quicker than they should as war news buries them. However, there's another effect that's worth mentioning -- how foreign leaders will exploit the current situation to take actions that would otherwise capture media attention. This is a more sinister problem than document dumps, because of the effect on human rights.

Consider: if you were a dictator, and the United States was preoccupied with prosecuting a war in a distant land, wouldn't you exploit the situation by cracking down on dissent? Even if such activities garner press attention, the half-life of the story is shorter, and an American response is less likely because of the inability to get the foreign policy principals to focus on anything other than the war.

Unfortunately, dictators in four continents have recognized this window of opportunity:

Cuban authorities arrested a leading independent journalist and a democracy activist, and then proceeded to round up an additional 65 dissidents, according to the Washington Post .

In response to an opposition strike, Robert Mugabe's government in Zimbabwe has arrested more than 400 followers of the Movement for Democratic Change, according to the BBC.

In Uzbekistan, the government of Islam Karimov has initiated a crackdown of independent media, beating and torturing several independent journalists.

Belarus and Myanmar are also exploiting the situation.

These crackdowns are part of the costs of war [C'mon, how do you know that these actions wouldn't have taken place anyway?--ed. They very well might have, but the various governments would have had to respond to press inquiries and U.S. policy responses. If nothing else, the war has lowered the costs for them to act]. Hopefully they will be reversed or lessened when Operation Iraqi Freedom winds down.

I'm sure the Oxford Democracy Forum will be on the case.

UPDATE: Encouraged by the Kausfiles link, I looked to see if other dictators are exploiting the current situation. Fortunately, there are not a lot of out-and-out dictators in the world anymore, and I couldn't find any more cases to cite. Here's one story about Yemeni government efforts to harass opposition leaders, but calling this a "crackdown" seems excessive.

Intriguingly, there is a more positive trend to report -- the moderation of civil conflicts. In Nepal, Nigeria, and Congo have all seen reductions in civil strife over the last week (Colombia is an exception). This is probably unrelated to the war, but nevertheless worthy of note.

Finally, while our gaze is away from Iraq, Eurasianet has an incisive analysis of the domestic political landscape in Iran following February parliamentary elections. Intriguingly, most of Iran's political cliques tacitly support the invasion of Iraq, albeit for different reasons.

posted by Dan at 02:32 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

IN OTHER NEWS: The Financial

IN OTHER NEWS: The Financial Times reports on the situation in Afghanistan, where reaction to the Iraq war is muted. Also, Wim Duisenberg might be asked to stay on as president of the European Central Bank because of.... are you ready for this... French corruption!!

Also, this report from last Friday has a good discussion of how France and Germany could exploit the war to back out of agreements on EU macroeconomic policy.

posted by Dan at 10:47 AM | Trackbacks (0)

AL-JAZEERA IN ENGLISH: Western reaction

AL-JAZEERA IN ENGLISH: Western reaction to the Al-Jazeera network has been all over the map, with some praising it as a step towards the liberalization of information flows in the Middle East, while others denounce it as anti-Semitic and anti-American Click here for a debate on the Al-Jazeera's content, and here for a cache of stories about the network.

Soon, English speakers will be able to decide for themselves. Al-Jazeera has opened up an English language web site. However, the site is currently under siege due to the heavy traffic;I haven't been able to access it despite repeated tries. [UPDATE: Apparently hackers are attacking the site]

They're suffering from other birthing pains. According to this report,

"Articles on the English-language site's first day were sure to antagonize American readers. One feature looked at the influence of the Israeli lobby in Washington. Another, headlined "Coalition of the Willing Has Become a Joke," made light of the "obscure" countries in the U.S.-led coalition. Another, titled "Misinformation Basra," cast doubt on American military assertions about its military success in the southern Iraqi city....

Managing Editor Joanne Tucker, a former BBC journalist who holds dual U.S.-British citizenship and speaks Arabic, has promised Western-style standards of journalism. She said she stands by all the articles but conceded that the site has to do more to clarify what is news and what is opinion."

Of course, you could say that about the BBC as well -- and Andrew Sullivan has.

posted by Dan at 10:27 AM | Trackbacks (0)

I like the company I keep

I argued yesterday that the campaign in Iraq is proceeding nicely, despite editorials and reports to the contrary.

If you don't believe me, however, then check out Ralph Peters, David Warren, Ze'ev Schiff, or John Keegan. Keegan and Schiff raise trenchant concerns about the stretching out of U.S. forces, but the overall picture is still one of repeated successes on the battlefield.

posted by Dan at 10:15 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, March 24, 2003


ELSEWHERE IN THE BLOGOSPHERE: Oxblog has a lot of good stuff up, and Jacob Levy is posting again at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Thomas Friedman and Andrew Sullivan are having a pretty interesting exchange about multilateralism and the war over at Andrew's blog. Here's the latest missive from Friedman. While he is clearly missing the imprantur of UN approval, he raises an cogent point about multilateral nation-building:

"Gulf War II is different from Gulf War I. Gulf War I was about liberating Kuwait. It was not about nation-building. And it is much easier for America to lead a coalition whose only task was winning a war. Gulf War II is about both winning a war and nation-building. I wish we had more allies for winning the war. I wish we had many more allies for paying for the war afterwards. But, I realize, you cannot do nation-building by committee, especially in Iraq. It will require a firm hand from the top. Or, to put it another way, maybe you can do it by committee in tiny Bosnia and Kosovo, but not in Iraq. Given the problems we had with France at the U.N., I cannot imagine trying to nation-build in Iraq with them. All the factions inside would try to play off the different big powers."

Finally, I am most definitely taking Kieran Healy's advice on blogging about the war.

posted by Dan at 08:50 PM | Trackbacks (0)


WHY THE BAATHIST RESISTANCE MAY BE A GOOD THING: One piece of evidence cited as proof that Operation Iraqi Freedom is running into roadblocks is that forces other than the Republican Guard are resisting coalition troops. Two AP reports -- here and here -- stress the role of the Baathist party militia in resisting the U.S. military. Clearly, these forces could lead to more urban combat, which is something no one wants.

Now, this could certainly drag out the war. Perversely, in could make the peace much easier to win.

Here's the logic: the Baath Party has ruled Iraq for about thirty-five years. In both its organization and tactics, it bears more than a passing resemblance to Stalinist parties. David Brooks, writing back in November 2002, stresses this point:

"The Arab Socialist Baath party, or ABSP, developed internal security and intelligence networks and even theoretical journals to develop party dogma. From the first, party statements were marked by a highly charged ideological style, which separated the world into the party of pure good (the Baathists themselves) and the party of pure evil (just about everyone else). As Tariq Aziz, a longtime party leader, noted in the 1980s, 'The ABSP is not a conventional political organization, but is composed of cells of valiant revolutionaries. . . . They are experts in secret organization. They are organizers of demonstrations, strikes, and armed revolutions. . . . They are the knights of the struggle.'

Once in power, the party behaved, in some respects, as Leninist parties do everywhere. It built a parallel party structure on top of the normal government bureaucracy to enforce loyalty and conformity. It established its own army, in addition to the regular Iraqi army, and its own intelligence service, which at first was given the otherworldly name the Apparatus of Yearnings. Ambitious young people were compelled to join the party if they hoped to rise, or even study abroad. Leaving the Baath party to join another political group remains in Iraq a crime punishable by death." (emphasis added).

Think that Brooks is some uninformed Westerner? Click here for Kanan Makiya's more pungent version of the same point.

So, a crucial part of postwar reconstruction in Iraq will be the de-Baathification of the country. Unless Baath activists are identified and purged from positions of power, ordinary Iraqis will fear speaking their minds. However, such purges are notoriously difficult to implement. Occupying forces often lack either the stomach or the energy to take the necessary actions. Because the party is embedded into Iraqi society, even the best efforts to remove Baath loyalists will be incomplete.

However, the Baathists can facilitate this task by resisting oncoming U.S. forces with force of arms. Instead of laboring to identify party loyalists after the war is over, these people are self-identifying during the combat phase, making it more likely they will be killed or treated as prisoners of war. [Yeah, but why are they doing this?--ed. The Baathists probably know they're not well-loved by either the Americans or the Iraqis they've subjugated. Even if it might be difficult to root all of them out during the postwar reconstruction phase, each individual Baathist can't like his/her odds of escaping unharmed]

The fewer Baathists that are around after the war is over, the easier it will be to rebuild Iraqi society in a manner compatible with the principles of liberal democracy. And the more that Baathist militias and party leaders resist during the war, the fewer Baathists there will be after the war.

Again, this benefit must clearly be weighed against the significant cost of more urban warfare. However, it is a clear and tangible benefit.

posted by Dan at 08:24 PM | Trackbacks (0)


IS THIS GOING TO BE A QUICK VICTORY? DEFINE "QUICK": In the wake of reports of heavy fighting at Nasiriya, the repulse of Apache helicopters in Central Iraq, and continued skirmishes in Umm Qasr, I'm expecting a wave of "quagmire" stories combined with harangues of "inflated expectations" of success.

Let's bear something in mind -- this is day five of the conflict. Coalition forces are within a hundred miles of Baghdad. (UPDATE: Make that fifty miles). The fiercest battle to date is responsible for less than 20 American fatalities -- certainly awful to the families of those killed, but not an overwhelming number. Yes, there will be losses on the front due to actual combat, and casualties in the rear due to pockets of resistance. But any attempt to paint the current U.S. campaign as stalling out because they've encountered actual resistance is ridiculous. To quote Josh Marshall on this: "what's happened so far seems well within the range of what they [US military planners] considered expected outcomes. It's only... the best case scenario does not so far seem to be materializing."

It took two months to defeat the Taliban, a much weaker force than the Republican Guard. If it takes less time than that to defeat regular military forces in Iraq, it will be a smashing -- and astonishingly quick -- victory.

P.S. Mickey Kaus makes an excellent point on how some media recognize this fact, while others don't.

P.P.S. Virginia Postrel correctly points out that the American people have more sober expectations of this conflict than many pundits. No one should be surprised by what's taken place so far. Furthermore, the Washington Post has an excellent piece explaining why support will remain robust even if casualties mount.

posted by Dan at 10:53 AM | Trackbacks (0)


RESPONDING TO CALPUNDIT: Kevin Drum requests that someone to the right of him respond to John S. Herrington's LA Times op-ed on substituting Iraq's reserves for our own Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a way of destroying OPEC's monopoly power over oil.

OK, I'll provide the realpolitik response to Herington's rambling and incoherent op-ed:

First, even Herrington should have acknowledged that OPEC has largely been a bust as a monopoly cartel. Their oil embargoes of the 70's contributed to the development of the North Sea oil fields. The collapse of the Soviet Union has introduced new exporters -- Russia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan -- that are outside OPEC's domain. OPEC production quotas are honored only in the breach. In Controlling for inflation, the price of oil is far lower now than it was during the seventies. There's simply no bogeyman to destroy here.

Second, why on earth would a smart realist ditch the material resources located in one's own country in favor of relying on a source that's 6,000 miles away? That's a logistical nightmare.

Third, the political externalities created by such a drastic drop in the price of oil would be tremendous. It would certainly lead to instability among Iraq's neighbors, which would likely complicate efforts to rebuild Iraq, at the very least. Do we really need addition aggravation on that score?

posted by Dan at 10:00 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Oscar Postmortem

In homage to Larry King's old USA Today column:

Steve Martin leered a bit too much for my tastes but had some great lines...Jennifer Connelly in a pants suit is just wrong.... For my money, Susan Sarandon hit just the right protest note with her peace sign -- simple, understated and comprehensible... Thank you, Michael Moore, for providing the best evidence for the "useful idiot" thesis, managing to go sufficiently overboard in his comments to prompt booing from the audience and a great zinger from Martin... I like a year when there are lots of upsets, and all of the actor winners were first-time recipients... Good for Adrian Brody -- I damn well would have smooched Halle Berry in the same situation... [Yeah, that'll happen--ed.]

posted by Dan at 09:44 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Some Oscar predictions -- with more links to Salma Hayek!!!

As frequent readers know, I supported the decision to go to war with Iraq now rather than a permit an interminable delay in the hopes of acquiring more multilateral support. However, if someone had told me a week ago that a delay of the war was the best way to ensure that Salma Hayek, Nicole Kidman, and Diane Lane would be wearing sexy, full-length gowns, then maybe I would have switched my position on the war. Given the cancellation of the red carpet pre-game and the predicted somber tone of the ceremonies, I'll admit to being upset. What's the point of an Oscar ceremony if Gwyneth Paltrow isn't dressed to the nines? If Halle Berry isn't dressed up, that's just wrong. Do you think our troops in the field want to see Halle Berry in a pants suit?

OK, I think I got that out of my system.

[Isn't this a pretty sexist rant?--ed. Hey, I fully supprt equal opportunity ogling. If women (or men) want to covet Will Smith, Tom Cruise, or Daniel Day-Lewis, I say go for it. However, the change in tone of the Oscar ceremony disproportionately affects what the women will wear if ballroom gowns are disdained. What about the likelihood of anti-war sentiments voiced by the winners?--ed. I'm more sanguine about that. It's their right and privilege, and besides, I have no doubt that Michael Moore will fall into the "useful idiot" category by the end of the evening.]

Anyway, here are my predictions, preferences, and explanations for the big awards this evening:

Will win -- Chicago
Should win -- Monsoon Wedding

I really liked Chicago, but it bugs me that the best musical of the year was not even nominated. The music in Monsoon Wedding was just as good, the plot was more substantive, the ending more satisfying, and the overarching themes were thought-provoking. It deserved both the nomination and victory.

Will win -- Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York
Should win -- Hugh Grant, About a Boy

Simple rule -- comedic acting is more difficult than dramatic acting. Also, great acting performances require that a character change (this is why I've always believed that Dustin Hoffman robbed Tom Cruise of the Best Actor Oscar for Rain Main). Grant wins on both counts.

Will win -- Julianne Moore, Far From Heaven
Should win -- tie, Moore and Nicole Kidman, The Hours

I'm predicting an upset here -- I think Kidman and Renee Zellweger will split the "starlet" vote. And Moore is certainly worthy. But you can't watch Kidman's performance and think it was just some prosthetic nose that explains her transformation. It's the best -- and subtlest -- portrayal of mental illness I've ever seen.

Will win -- Rob Marshall, Chicago
Should win -- Mira Nair, Monsoon Wedding

See comments under Best Picture.

Will win -- Chris Cooper, Adaptation
Should win -- Tie, Dennis Quaid, Far From Heaven, and Cedric the Entertainer, Barbershop

I will admit that I haven't seen Adaptation yet, but Quaid was fearless in portraying not just a closeted homosexual, but portraying him simultaneously in both a sympathetic and unsympathetic light. Cedric, on the other hand, was just really funny, plus he gave the most moving speech of the entire movie.

Will win -- Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago
Should win -- Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago

Everyone is praising Zeta-Jones' solo numbers in Chicago, but what sold me was what she did in "Cell Block Tango." At the end of that number, my jaw was open and I was barely breathing. It was that good, and she was that spellbinding in it.

Will win -- Pedro Almodovar, Talk to Her
Should win -- Todd Haynes, Far From Heaven

Both are good -- this is just a matter of taste.

Will win -- David Hare, The Hours
Should win -- Peter Hedges, Chris Weitz, and Paul Weitz, About a Boy

Again, I thought both were excellent, but Hedges and the Weitz brothers actually improved on their source material, which never happens in movies, unless it's a John Grisham book, in which case the only direction to go is up.

posted by Dan at 01:58 PM | Trackbacks (1)

Some political science corrections

Max Boot's essay on U.S. foreign policy in the Washington Post, (to which Glenn Reynolds links) contains one important terminological error, and one important conceptual error. The key passage:

Political scientists warn of 'bandwagoning' against a hegemon, and they might see some evidence of this in the U.N. debate, where France, Russia and China ganged up on the United States. But only one of these nations -- China -- is making an effort to challenge U.S. power, and then only in one region. France and Russia, along with the rest of Europe, are doing little or nothing to build up their military capabilities. If they were serious about taking on America, they would be forming a military alliance against us. No one imagines this will happen.

Why not? Because for all their griping about the 'hyperpower,' our fair-weather friends realize that America is not Napoleonic France or Nazi Germany. We don't seek to subjugate other states. We're using our power to promote a liberal international system that benefits all democracies." (my emphasis)

OK, the terminological error is simple to clear up. "Bandwagoning" refers to when states align themselves with a potential hegemon in the hope of receiving greater benefits from cooperation. "Balancing" refers to when states align themselves against a potential hegemon because they fear being subjugated by the most powerful state. Boot uses "bandwagoning," but he means "balancing." For the best discussion I know about why states choose to balance or bandwagon (usually the former), check out Stephen Walt's The Origin of Alliances.

The conceptual error Boot makes is his assumption that the only action that matters in the world is military balancing. This is way too simplistic. There are at least two other ways in which the middle-rank powers can make life difficult for the United States.

The first is that, through their fervent opposition to U.S. policies, they can erode our soft power. The more frequently that we can persuade other countries that their interests match our interests, the less frequently we need to apply more coercive techniques. The more we need to rely on coercion, the costlier it is to advance our national interests.

The second way middle rank powers can make life difficult is not through hard military balancing, but what my colleague Robert Pape describes as "soft balancing." He explains this concept in today's Boston Globe. It serves as a nice counterweight to Boot. The key lines:

Today's conventional wisdom holds that France, Germany, Russia, China, and important regional states may be grumbling now, but they will quickly mend fences once the war ends with a decisive US victory. But the conventional wisdom is likely to be wrong.

International relations specialists speak of ''hard balancing'' when countries form military alliances to curb a strong nation. But America's rivals today, with no hope of matching our military power, are pursuing their interests by other means, and they will continue to do so. Unless the United States radically changes course, the use of international institutions, economic leverage, and diplomatic maneuvering to frustrate American intentions will only grow.

In the future, for example, Europeans may threaten our economy by paying for paying for oil in Euros rather than dollars, and they may threaten our security by permitting the construction of nuclear reactors in Iran and elsewhere. The era of 'soft balancing' has begun.

Boot's analysis doesn't take "soft balancing" into account. That doesn't mean Pape is necessarily right and Boot is necessarily wrong. Soft balancing is less significant than hard balancing. And Pape's "soft balancing" has its own countertrend -- it encourages the lesser powers that border France, Germany, Russia, and China to bandwagon with the U.S. These states are more comfortable with a distant hegemon with an honorable history of restraint than a local hegemon with a persistent history of expansionism. This is why, on the whole, governments in the Anglosphere, Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Pacific Rim are supporting the U.S.

However, the situation is clearly more nuanced than Boot thinks.

posted by Dan at 01:04 PM | Trackbacks (0)

WORTH REPEATING: Mickey Kaus says

WORTH REPEATING: Mickey Kaus says something on the utility of the Blogosphere to punditry that's worth remembering:

"As a contributor to the fast-paced world of Internet journalism, you have to discipline yourself to go off half-cocked. You can mull over your initial impressions, testing them against available evidence over the course of weeks, slowly coming to a conclusion. Or you can go with your best instinct and change your mind later if you're wrong! The first route maybe works if you're David Broder (at least it's what David Broder seems to do). The second route works best for everyone else -- especially on the Web, where the clash of all those insta-takes gets to the truth in about a thousandth of the time it takes a Broder to pronounce judgment. 'First impression, best impression,' as Allen Ginsberg might say." (Kaus' emphasis)

As Glenn would say, "Indeed."

posted by Dan at 12:37 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Great job with the embedded reporters, video cameras, and cool flak-jacket-wearing reporters sitting atop tanks. And the frequent recaps are nice.

Oh, one minor irritant... could your reporters, announcers, and voiceovers PLEASE STOP REPEATING THE PHRASE "SHOCK AND AWE"???!!! I support our actions, and even I think it makes you sound like complete tools.

I'm sorry for being so touchy, but after hearing the FIRST 100,000 USES OF THE TERM, it starts to grate.

C'mon, you people have heard of the word "synonyn". Here's some possible substitutes:

"Stun and stagger"
"Astonish and wonder"
"Amaze and surprise"
"Flabbergast and overwhelm"

And, if you're really punch drunk, "tickle and tease."

Yes, more syllables are involved, but trust me, your core audience will be most grateful.

posted by Dan at 12:31 AM | Trackbacks (0)


A GOOD CHECKLIST: In the wake of the first few days of the war, it's worth reviewing Fred Kaplan's checklist of how well the campaign is going. His key concerns:

1) Will Israel be attacked?
2) Will Iraqi forces guarding Basra put up significant resistance?
3) Have any U.S. aircraft been shot down?
4) Is Saddam still in control?

By that checklist, things are going pretty well.

While you're at Slate, you might also want to check Will Saletan's blog post on the outdated tactics of antiwar protestors.

posted by Dan at 12:09 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, March 21, 2003

Taking care of business

Remember that pocket of northern Iraq where Al Qaeda remnants from Afghanistan were hiding? It's on the military agenda.

Meanwhile, the southern front is advancing nicely.

posted by Dan at 11:34 PM | Trackbacks (0)


HAVE PROTESTORS HIJACKED THE WASHINGTON POST?: Generally, the Post is perceived as more balanced than the New York Times, but if you click on their World page right now, you might believe that antiwar activists have seized control of the paper. (UPDATE: Not surprisingly, the page has been updated. What follows was true at the time I first posted this, however).

Why do I say that? This is the first big story headline you see:

"Thousands Worldwide Protest Start Of Iraq War."

Which is perfectly fine, certainly important and newsworthy, yada, yada, yada. I'm not objecting to the substance of the coverage. It's just that the second big story headline is:

"Tens of Thousands Around the World Protest Against the War."

The first story was in today's print edition, while the second is an AP report from this afternoon (there's also this story about protests in Arab countries).

Now, isn't it a bit much to give the biggest play to both of these stories? Don't the headlines suggest a fair amount of redundancy? And isn't there a glaring contradiction in the headlines? It reminds me of this Doonesbury strip from the days of yore.

posted by Dan at 04:14 PM | Trackbacks (0)

The first big surrender

There is mounting evidence that the psyops campaign is working. Iraq's 51st Division, which is deployed in Southern Iraq, has surrendered to U.S. Marines:

"The commander of Iraq's 51st division and his top deputy surrendered to United States Marine forces today, according to American military officials.

It was the first time that the commander of an Iraqi division has surrendered to allied forces. The 51st is a Regular Army unit that was deployed in southern Iraq directly in the path of the allied invasion.

American forces made a determined effort to persuade the 51st division to give in, including leaflets and propaganda broadcasts. The leaflets instructed Iraqi forces that did not want to fight to park their tanks and walk at least half a mile away. American officials said that many of the soldiers of the 51st had simply left their posts and that the division melted away.

There are indications that other Regular Army forces want to surrender or stay out of the fight. The most loyal capable forces, however, are the Republican Guards, who still seem determined to fight."

Film of tens or hundreds of Iraqi troops surendering is nice, but this is the scale of surrendering that suggests the regime is cracking up (athough Donald Rumsfeld's comments are being spun in a more pessimistic way in this Reuters article.

I note that Sean-Paul Kelly has yet to post this information. Advantage: Drezner!! That'll teach Sean-Paul not to take breaks.

posted by Dan at 03:57 PM | Trackbacks (0)

HYPERBOLE WATCH: I've read the

HYPERBOLE WATCH: I've read the New York Times for long enough to pick out the good foreign correspondents from the bad ones. Elaine Sciolino is a good one. But this story about the EU leaders' meeting in Brussels contains the following sentence:

"Never before in the history of the European Union have its members had to grapple with two more different impulses on foreign policy."

First of all, the phrase "common European foreign and security policy" has been pretty much an oxymoron from its inception, so in the end the current division doesn't amount to much change from the status quo. Second of all, go back to 1989-90 and read what Thatcher and Mitterand were saying about German reunification, and you'll see that the current dust-up pales in comparison. [But the EU didn't exist then. It was called the European Community until 1992--ed. It could that Sciolino meant the sentence in this way, but it's vague enough to suggest otherwise]

posted by Dan at 02:14 PM | Trackbacks (0)


QUOTE OF THE DAY: Media coverage of the extent of Iraqi resistance has varied widely. One minute the BBC says there is fierce fighting, the next minute Reuters is saying that rapid advances are taking place. Obviously, part of this is due to varying levels of Iraqi resistance across a broad front. This Financial Times story, however, quotes another logical explanation from an authoritative source:

"'If you're the corporal in the lead vehicle that's getting shot at, then you would call that stiff resistance. But if you're the division commander and you're moving 30, 50, 60 miles in one day, that's no resistance,' said Col Ben Hodges, commander of the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne at Camp Pennsylvania, Kuwait.

'At the moment, the main thing that's slowing the forces is the ability of the fuel trucks to keep up with them.'"

posted by Dan at 01:46 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, March 20, 2003


ELSEWHERE IN THE WORLD...: U.S. armed forces are also busy in Afghanistan.

Remember, critics of attacking Iraq argued that we weren't going to be able to effectively fight Al Qaeda and Iraq simultaneously.


UPDATE: Here's a follow-up report on this mission.

posted by Dan at 04:30 PM | Trackbacks (0)


SOME STOCK ADVICE: For those of you who own shares of stock in Apple, you might want to sell it. This is why.

Do it quickly.

UPDATE: Virginia Postrel implicitly proffers similar advice. Her key line: "Maybe I'm nuts, but trying to grow your market share by excluding everyone who doesn't share hippie-dippy Bay Area politics strikes me as a dumb strategy."

posted by Dan at 04:25 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Good war blogs

One blog -- Where is Raed? -- has been blogging from Baghdad. According to Will Femia, it's fresher than CNN.

Another blog -- by freelance journalist Russell Working -- provides an amusing glimpse into how the European nets are covering the war.

Finally, I've been remiss in not mentioning Sean-Paul Kelly's Agonist blog. Sean-Paul seems intent on blogging with updates every five minures. A tip of the cap to him.

posted by Dan at 01:19 PM | Trackbacks (0)


ABOUT THAT SADDAM VIDEO: I caught the video of Saddam following the first attack [How could you miss it? CNN broadcast it every three minutes--ed.] What struck me was not whether it was a body double or not. What struck me was how awful that person looked. Sunken cheeks, gray beard, and the glasses looked like a replica of Estelle Getty's from The Golden Girls.

This ties in with my point about the key to defeating our enemies in the Muslim world -- embarrass them. Make them look feeble and pathetic.

In Iraq, this shouldn't be a hard task.

posted by Dan at 01:17 PM | Trackbacks (0)


I LOVE WILLIAMS: I had a great time at my alma mater. First-rate hospitality from the faculty, and sharp, incisive questions from the undergraduates, who seem much more focused than I was when I was here.

posted by Dan at 01:08 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Today's reading

Sorry, no time for substantive blogging. Some other interesting reading matter:

1) This Jonathan Rauch essay on U.S. policy towards North Korea suggest that it has been more successful than the conventional wisdom believes. I trust Rauch, so I hope his administration source isn't just selling spin.

2) David Frum's bashing of anti-American paleoconservatives. Go. Go now.

3) John Vincour's analysis in the International Herald-Tribune suggesting the rift between the U.S. and Germany is much more transient than current events would suggest. It's relevant that Joschka Fischer says, "when I look at the 21st century world, I see no basic change in the interests of North America and Europe."

4) This Los Angeles Times piece on the role of blogs in the debate about Iraq.

5) If you still have some free time after that, buy Meghan O'Sullivan's new book, Shrewd Sanctions. The chapter on Iraq provides the best assessment of the political, economic, ethical, and humanitarian ramifications of the UN sanctions that I've ever read. [FULL DISCLOSURE: I know Meghan from my stint in DC, and she cites my sanctions work in the book.]

After that, go and take a nap.

posted by Dan at 03:36 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, March 18, 2003


LIGHT BLOGGING AHEAD: For the next few days posting will be light; I'm going to be visiting my alma mater, Williams College. They've invited me back to give a talk on "The Uncertain Future of Multilateralism." I'm sure there will be a vigorous discussion.

posted by Dan at 09:36 PM | Trackbacks (0)


WAR AND THE OSCARS: According to Matt Drudge, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce a possible postponement of the Oscars in case of war. The Oscar press room says nothing, but we'll see.

In the meanwhile, this Daily Telegraph story suggests that there will likely be at least one anti-war acceptance speech. Stephen Daldry and David Hare, nominees for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for The Hours, both state their intention to speak out. Daldry has a priceless quote:

"I do not think the case for war has been made and most of the people I know feel the same. It could be that they think differently in Cincinnati but it certainly seems to be that way in New York."

[Is this supporting evidence for Megan McArdle?--ed. I would say so]

posted by Dan at 05:05 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Some good news in Egypt

Egypt's highest court acquitted Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an Egyptian/American activist, of charges stemming from his human rights work in Egypt. He had been convicted by two lower courts -- this was his last chance before facing seven years in prison. The Guardian has the AP story.

What does this mean? Amnesty International USA's executive director's reaction was as follows:

This is a significant and important victory, not just for Saad but for all human rights activists in Egypt and the Arab world. An articulate and energetic voice has stood up to a repressive government and insisted that he won't be silenced.

Freedom House is also happy. Their executive director said:

This is a momentous day for Saad Eddin and his family and we celebrate the court's decision with them. This is also an important day for justice and the rule of law in Egypt. We hope it represents a turning point for the country's human rights and democracy advocates and that it will set a precedent that eliminates the threat of official persecution against advocates of peaceful democratic change.

I hope they're right -- it buttresses my argument about democratization in the Middle East [Not to mention helping millions of Arabs trapped in tyranny--ed. Oh, yeah, that too]

UPDATE: An alert reader points me to evidence that Egypt still has a long way to go in it's path towards liberalization.

posted by Dan at 02:17 PM | Trackbacks (0)


JUST HOW MULTILATERAL IS SUPPORT FOR THIS WAR?: Andrew Sullivan makes the point today that substantially more European states support the U.S. position than don't.

One additional thought: it's not just European countries that support the American position. Japan, South Korea, Australia, East Timor, and Singapore have all expressed vocal support for the U.S. position. The latter two countries are smaller than Belgium, but the first three are relatively significant allies.

To be clear, lots of countries oppose the U.S. position (click here for India's position and here for Botswana's. But support is not limited to the Anglosphere.

UPDATE: Thanks to Pattrick Ruffini, who links to this Heritage report arguing that multilateral support for the impending war is greater than it was in 1991. There's some exaggeration (France and Germany are on the "coalition of the willing" list, which seems bizarre), but it does demonstrate that support is broader than commonly suggested.

posted by Dan at 02:03 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Impending war roundup

In no particular order:

1) I've just read the best, fairest, and most accurate summary of why the Anglosphere is about to go to war with Iraq, why multilateral support for such action is thin, and why it is still the right thing to do. The author? Bill Clinton. The final two grafs:

I wish that Russia and France had supported Blair's resolution. Then, Hans Blix and his inspectors would have been given more time and supprt for their work. But that's not where we are. Blair is in a position not of his own making, because Iraq and other nations were unwilling to follow the logic of 1441.

In the post-cold war world, America and Britain have been in tough positions before: in 1998, when others wanted to lift sanctions on Iraq and we said no; in 1999 when we went into Kosovo to stop ethnic cleansing. In each case, there were voices of dissent. But the British-American partnership and the progress of the world were preserved. Now in another difficult spot, Blair will have to do what he believes to be right. I trust him to do that and hope the British people will too.

2) Op-eds like Stanley Kutler's in today's Chicago Tribune always puzzle me. Here's Kutler's two first paragraphs:

As we march to war, the Bush administration's interest is to discredit, even foreclose, dissent.

Passivity and a sense of powerlessness are pervasive everywhere. Tabloids and cable channels refer to the 'treason' of celebrities who oppose President Bush. Our political leaders march in lockstep with the president. The so-called 'opposition' hedges its bets, 'patriotically' supporting Bush's actions, but ever hopeful he will stumble on the economy and give them the opportunity of 1992 all over again.

It's painfully obvious that dissent is not being stifled. It's painfully obvious that serious media organs have raised qualms about the Bush administration's actions. It's painfully obvious that some Democrats support the President on principle and some oppose him out of principle (then there's John Kerry). Why would Kutler write these patently silly lines?

Perhaps because anti-war advocates are losing the argument with the American people. Why are they losing their argument? Click here for one possible answer.

First rule of politics -- if you lose an argument, blame the messenger, not the message.

3) Josh Chafetz beats me to the punch on a point worth stressing:

I believe that war is the right option. I believe that it will result in sparing more innocent lives than it takes. But it is not something to exult over. It will take innocent lives, and it will take the lives of allied soldiers. It will take the lives of Iraqi soldiers who joined the army, not because they wanted to, but because they were forced to. Each and every one of these deaths will be a tragedy, and for their family and friends, it will be a tragedy beyond measure.... I am not happy about war. I am scared, and I am nervous.


Remember, that's the perspective of someone who's outside the field of fire. Here's the take of someone who will be in the line of fire.

posted by Dan at 10:07 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, March 17, 2003


QUOTE OF THE DAY: I'm still in the middle of Fareed Zakaria's opus on "The Arrogant Empire," so I can't really comment on it just yet. However, this quote within the article -- from Denis MacShane, Britain’s minister for Europe -- is priceless:

"Scratch an anti-American in Europe, and very often all he wants is a guest professorship at Harvard or to have an article published in The New York Times.”

posted by Dan at 04:06 PM | Trackbacks (0)


THE NEXT TEST FOR AMERICAN DIPLOMACY: Matt Drudge has exclusive excerpts from an interview with Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz in Time's European edition. The key parts:

"Time: If there is an Iraqi Scud attack on Israel, will you retaliate or refrain, as Israel did in the 1991 Gulf War?

The reality of 1991 won’t repeat itself. The chances that we’ll be attacked are low. But if we’re attacked, Israel is obliged to defend itself and its civilians. This time it must be clear to everyone that might endanger us, especially the Iraqis, that Israel reserves the right to retaliate.

Time: What if the attack is with nonconventional weapons?

We are a sovereign state, but we are also a responsible state. We won’t retaliate automatically. It will be only after an assessment. The ties we have with the Americans are so strong that we won’t carry out automatic actions."

My suspicion is that the Arab street will not be roiling that much is the United States attacks Iraq. If Israel chooses to do so, however, that would lead to massive protests.

It's clear from the interview that the Israelis won't act before consulting with the Bush administration. That consultation will prove crucial to the politics of the Middle East for some years to come. One does hope that they will be more persuasive than they have in the past with the Sharon administration.

UPDATE: One reader e-mails that this post demonstrates an "apparent callousness towards Israel in its efforts to defend itself and its civilians." That was not my intention. The obvious (but unstated) point is that if Iraq chooses to retaliate by attacking Israel, it would be much better for the United States to respond with force (or, rather redirect what force they are applying), rather than have Israel act on its own.

posted by Dan at 01:28 PM | Trackbacks (0)

And so, the end is near....

Bush's scheduled address this evening, combined with Blair's emergency cabinet meeting, means that everyone knows what's coming.

The question that's been asked this weekend is, "Handled differently, could there have been a better outcome? Could the U.S. have succeeded in prosecuting a war with the U.N.'s blessing?"

The New York Times and Washington Post both have detailed post-mortems on the last six months of diplomacy [Are they slanted in any way?--ed. The Times account is pretty biased in reporting U.S. missteps but not those of other countries, but the information contained in the article seems accurate.] If you read them carefully, the following is clear:

1) The administration could have done more. Anonymous administration quotes in both stories acknowledge that they've made mistakes. What's appalling in both the Times and Post accounts is how little effort the administration put into its diplomatic efforts. Here's the Post:

Last weekend, while Blair was working the phones -- he spoke to 30 heads of state in six days -- and French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin was traveling to the capitals of uncommitted Security Council members, Bush made no visits or phone calls....

The president and senior officials in the current Bush administration spend less time on the phone or on the road, They appear more comfortable issuing demands than asking for help or bridging differences, diplomats and U.S. officials said. The [Azores] summit will be Bush's first overseas trip in four months. He has not spoken to French President Jacques Chirac in more than five weeks.

Baker, in contrast to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, was almost constantly on the road before the Gulf War, flying at one point from the Middle East to Colombia to make the U.S. case to a Security Council member. 'It was a very different level of activity, much more face-to-face than long-distance,' said Dennis Ross, who was director of policy planning for Baker. 'It was a way of demonstrating to those publics and those leaders that we were interested in their concerns.'

The easy thing to do here is blame the Rumsfeld/Cheney side of the administration. The Times story, however, is surprisingly blunt at pointing the blame at Powell:

Throughout the last several months, one of the puzzles at the State Department and throughout the administration is why Mr. Powell, one of the best-known and best-liked Americans in many parts of the world, never engaged in a campaign of public appearances abroad as energetic as the telephone and broadcast interview campaign he pressed from his office, home and car.

'His travels abroad are too few and far between,' said an official, noting that the only trips Mr. Powell made to Europe since the beginning of last year were to accompany the president or to attend short-lived conferences.

The secretary also never traveled to Turkey to help line up support for using its territory as a base for a northern front in the war, although State Department officials say doing so would have undercut his stance that he was trying to prevent a conflict.

Mr. Powell is known to dislike travel. 'I think I have a right balance between phone diplomacy, diplomacy here in Washington, and diplomacy on the road,' he said recently when questioned about his schedule. (emphasis added)

Let's be clear -- Powell's task was not helped by Donald Rumsfeld's audition for a late-night talk show gig. However, since Powell was the principal who pushed the multilateral route, it was his obligation to execute that track to the utmost of his ability.

2) If the administration had expended more effort, there would be more multilateral support... If you make a list of the key countries that needed persuading on Iraq, it comes down to the Security Council members plus key regional actors. Let's list those countries: Angola, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, France, Germany, Great Britain, Guinea, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, Spain, and Turkey.

Now, some of those countries were persuaded, but most weren't. What's shocking is that many of the unpersuaded countries are close U.S. allies. With the exception of Turkey, however, none of them received any positive inducements, in the form of tangible carrots or expressions of empathy to their objections. Instead, there were hints at possible retaliation. Here's the Times again:

[O]fficials said President Vicente Fox of Mexico was too boxed in politically after the United States gave him little of his own agenda, particularly easing curbs on Mexican immigrants in the United States.

There were hints for Chile that if it went along with Washington, it might smooth the way for its free-trade agreement pending in Congress. But Chilean leaders reacted negatively, saying the agreement benefited the United States just as much as Chile.

At a minimum, if the administration had expended more effort and more resources on the diplomatic front, there would be more support for the U.S. position now. But....

3) The outcome -- military action without an explicit Security Council resolution -- would still be the same. There is fundamental disagreement between the U.S. and France, Germany, and the U.N. bureaucracy on Iraq. The U.S. prefers to see Iraq disarmed and Saddam Hussein removed from power, even if that means the use of force. France, Russia, Kofi Annan, and Hans Blix prefer the absence of war, even if that means Iraq refuses to fully comply and Saddam Hussein stays in power.

[Aren't you overstating French inflexibility?--ed. Exhibit #1 -- what Cheney said on Meet the Press and Face the Nation: "he rattled off an impressively detailed case against the credibility of the French when it comes to disarming Iraq. France, he explained, opposed a 1995 U.N. resolution finding Iraq in material breach; a 1996 resolution condemning the massacre of the Kurds; a 1997 attempt to block travel by Iraqi intelligence and military officials; and the 1999 creation of the UNMOVIC weapons-inspection regime. The French also declared in 1998 that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, Cheney said. 'Given that pattern of behavior," Cheney told Russert, "I think it's difficult to believe that 30 days or 60 more days are going to change anything.'" Exhibit #2 -- Chirac's unequivovcal statement from last week.]

No amount of diplomacy in the world could have reconciled those views. A better effort would have left France more isolated in the Security Council and given the looming war a greater patina of multilateralism. Make no mistake, however, this ending is not that much different from a best-case scenario.

posted by Dan at 10:47 AM | Trackbacks (1)

Friday, March 14, 2003


FOR GEEKS AND UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO UNDERGRADUATES ONLY: After I posted about the joys of crafting a globalization syllabus, I received a couple of e-mails asking for a peek.

Well, here's your chance. I've set up a separate blog for my globalization course -- Globalization and Its Discontents. The entire syllabus is there. U of C undergraduates that want to get a jump on buying books -- here's your chance!!

WARNING: Many of the article links will not work unless you are at a university account that has the requisite online subscriptions.

For another good blogger syllabus, check out Brad DeLong's Introduction to Economic History, which he's co-teaching with Barry Eichengreen. My only quibble with it is the omission of How The West Grew Rich from their reading list. Economists, however, always disdain books in favor of articles.

posted by Dan at 03:28 PM | Trackbacks (0)


HOW BUSH DECIDES: David Brooks has an excellent reply to E.J. Dionne, Joe Klein, and others who worry about Bush's apparent decisiveness:

"In certain circles, it is not only important what opinion you hold, but how you hold it. It is important to be seen dancing with complexity, sliding among shades of gray. Any poor rube can come to a simple conclusion--that President Saddam Hussein is a menace who must be disarmed--but the refined ratiocinators want to be seen luxuriating amid the difficulties, donning the jewels of nuance, even to the point of self-paralysis. And they want to see their leaders paying homage to this style. Accordingly, many Bush critics seem less disturbed by his position than by his inability to adhere to the rules of genteel intellectual manners. They want him to show a little anguish. They want baggy eyes, evidence of sleepless nights, a few photo-ops, Kennedy-style, of the president staring gloomily through the Oval Office windows into the distance.

And this prompts a question in their minds. Why does George Bush breach educated class etiquette so grievously? Why does he seem so certain, decisive and sure of himself, when everybody--tout le monde!--knows that anxiety and anguish are the proper poses to adopt in such times.

The U.S. press is filled with psychologizing. And two explanations have reemerged.

First, Bush is stupid. Intellectually incurious, he is unable to adapt to events.

Secondly, he is a religious nut. He sees the world as a simple battle of good versus evil. His faith cannot admit shades of gray.

The problem with the explanations is that they have nothing to do with reality."

Read the rest of the essay for Brooks' explanation.

I suspect there's something else going on, which is simple partisanship. Consider that the last President who identified an emerging threat to U.S. security and altered American foreign policy accordingly was famous for his decisiveness.

Curiously, however, neither history nor the Democrats have judged Harry S Truman to have been too decisive.

posted by Dan at 02:47 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Talk about minimizing collateral damage

Michael Gordon, the New York Times chief military correspondent, has started writing a high-quality weekly column for called Dispatches. His latest essay analyzes the differences between how the military will prosecute Gulf War II as opposed to Gulf War I. The key grafs:

Unlike the 1991 Persian Gulf war, the American and British militaries are not looking to pummel its adversary into submission. This time, allied forces have a complicated, two-edged task. They are trying to defeat the Iraqi army without utterly destroying it. They are also trying to win over the Iraqi people....

In the view of American intelligence, many of the regular army troops are virtual bystanders in an international drama that pits their leader against an American president. They may even be potential allies since the United States already has plans to take some of Iraq's existing forces and fashion them into a new army in a post-Saddam Iraq.

What's astonishing is the extent to which the military is implementing this strategy. Here's the final grafs:

Even the most enthusiastic proponents of the new approach caution, however, that there will be limits. Some units, especially some Republican Guard forces, are deemed to be more likely to fight than others and will be hit. Some regular army forces, such as artillery units, are seen by American commanders as too great a potential threat to allied troops to be left alone. Some hapless Iraqis will simply find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time: that is, in the immediate path of the American-led invasion.

"There are some units that are more likely to fight than others," said General Leaf. "The Republican Guards are more likely to fight than the regular army. There are some units that are positioned closer to friendly forces and are more likely to still be coherent, cohesive units before they have an opportunity to completely capitulate," he said.

'How do you balance the risk between the fact that the U.S. and coalition land forces are going to wind up in contact with these units and would like them just to surrender?,' General Lee asked. 'We are going to have to make some difficult choices. And sometimes we are going to simply have to destroy equipment and destroy Iraqi soldiers.'"

I'm well aware of how triumphalist this sounds, but is there another military in the world that would care this much about minimizing the killing of enemy soldiers?

posted by Dan at 10:43 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Shameless media plug

For those readers in the Chicago area, I'll be on WGN radio, the Spike O'Dell show specifically, tomorrow morning at 6:30 AM to discuss recent machinations in the UN Security Council.

UPDATE: I love doing radio shows. For some reason, I derive great satisfaction from sounding erudite on the radio only 10 minutes after I awake, snuggled under my blanket, wearing my pajamas.

posted by Dan at 11:03 PM | Trackbacks (0)


DOES SOMEONE NEEDS A "TIME OUT"? OR MAYBE A FIELD TRIP?: OK, as war approaches, everyone's nerves are clearly getting frayed. However, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld seems especially ill-tempered. How else to explain his recent gaffes?

First he manages to alienate the British, only our most important ally in the looming conflict, with the suggestion that we don't really need them.

Then he publicly states that "secret surrender" negotiations are under way. According to CNN, Rumsfeld said this "to the dismay of the U.S. officials involved." This dismay would make sense, since, after all, surrendering before the war starts is a delicate tango.

Now, Rummy has the reputation of being a straight-shooter in public, so maybe he thinks these moments of candor are just part of his charm. However, I share Andrew Sullivan's suspicion that he's been acting up in private as well:

"By tonight, the tensions were spilling over into the administration itself, as the hawkish senior officials who had opposed going to the United Nations in the first place erupted in frustration that the process was becoming protracted.

One senior official referred to the frantic negotiations with an epithet and put the onus for the delays on Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who had insisted on the new resolution to gain crucial political support at home.

'Blair is driving this, and we're trying to accommodate him,' the official said."

Somehow I doubt that "official" was Colin Powell.

Perhaps now would be a good time for our esteemed Defense Secretary to take a goodwill tour. First stop... Nauru!! [You do know that their President just died?--ed. All the more reason to send a high-ranking official.]

posted by Dan at 03:26 PM | Trackbacks (0)

A few good links

Boy, you publish a short essay in TNR Online, have Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds, David Adesnik, Kevin Drum, Jacob Levy, Matthew Yglesias, and the Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web link to it, and suddenly the world is beating down your e-mail door with lots of additional information, pro and con, on the odds for democratization in the Middle East.

Martin Kramer provides a passel of links that suggest skepticism on Middle Eastern democratization, all of them from last fall. Here is Kramer's address to the 2002 Weinberg Founders Conference; an abstract of Adam Garfinkle's October 2002 National Interest essay; and a Carnegie Endowment policy brief.

On the positive side, the Oxford Democracy Forum has an excellent frequently asked questions page with lots of links on democracy and war with Iraq. Go check it out.

As for me, I think I'll take this advice for the rest of today.

posted by Dan at 10:53 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)


ALL HAIL THE WELL-INTENTIONED POWERS!: I'm sure leaders in Paris and Moscow must be beaming with pride at the Iraqi response to the proposed British compromise at the Security Council:

"Iraqi newspapers were gloating over the turmoil [at the UN].

'It is obvious that Bush and Blair have lost the round before it starts, while we, along with well-intentioned powers in the world, have won it,' the popular daily Babil, owned Saddam's son Odai, said in a front-page editorial. [emphasis added]

'Blair's future is at stake now, and his downfall will be a harsh lesson in Britain's political history,' it said."

The Washington Post has the story as well. Here's a link to the English-language version of Babil.

If I were Tony Blair, I'd just repeat that last clause during question time at the House of Commons and dare anyone to speak in opposition.

posted by Dan at 10:51 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

ADVANTAGE: CALPUNDIT!!: Brad Delong responds

ADVANTAGE: CALPUNDIT!!: Brad Delong responds to Mickey Kaus' response to Paul Krugman's column on short-term deflation fears and long-term inflation fears.

It's all interesting, but if you scroll through the comments section in DeLong's post, Kevin Drum asks the question that popped into my head as I was perusing the debate.

posted by Dan at 07:15 PM | Trackbacks (0)

The costs of containment

I've had discussions with numerous anti-war faculty on campus here. They inevitably get uncomfortable when I mention that starting a war now would probably save more lives than continued containment.

I understand this discomfort. After all, war is the most violent option in world politics. Pacifists wish to put a normative taboo on military action, as a way of constraining states. The mere suggestion that a quick war is superior to a long siege (which is what the containment of Iraq would mean) cuts at the core assumption of pacifists.

That said, facts are facts -- containment will probably spill more blood than force. In separate op-eds, Walter Russell Mead and Charles Lipson make this point. To quote Mead's conclusion:

Morally, politically, financially, containing Iraq is one of the costliest failures in the history of American foreign policy. Containment can be tweaked -- made a little less murderous, a little less dangerous, a little less futile -- but the basic equations don't change. Containing Hussein delivers civilians into the hands of a murderous psychopath, destabilizes the whole Middle East and foments anti-American terror -- with no end in sight.

This is disaster, not policy.

It is time for a change.

Amen. [Er, doesn't Mead exaggerate the number of deaths in Iraq that can be attributed to sanctions?--ed. Yes -- see Matt Welch and Stephen Green for the details -- but even a conservative estimate supports his point].

(FULL DISCLOSURE: Charles is a departmental colleague of mine. He also has an excellent web site for those generally interested in international relations)

posted by Dan at 03:12 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Iraq, Al Qaeda, and a modest proposal for the Security Council

This Washington Post story provides some excellent detail on the precise link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. The first few grafs:

Most of the estimated 100 Arab extremists reported to have found a haven in this rocky corner of northern Iraq began arriving early last year, a few weeks after losing their camps in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

The Halabja Valley, their destination, is one of the more obscure places in the world, about 35 miles southeast of Sulaymaniyah and close to the mountainous border with Iran. A U-shaped enclave just inside Iraq had been taken over by radical Islamic Kurds, the Ansar al-Islam, who fielded an estimated 900 fighters and regarded the two secular Kurdish organizations who run the rest of northern Iraq as their enemies.

The Ansar-run pocket, although only 10 to 15 square miles, was the ideal place to hide out. Residents at nearby Anab, just north of Halabja on the road to Sulaymaniyah, noticed how intently their new neighbors guarded their privacy but did nothing to disturb it. The newcomers, they say, kept to a village reserved for Arabs, appeared in the market only to buy provisions and buried their dead in their own cemetery.

Since then, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and other Bush administration officials have highlighted the foreign fighters' presence in the Ansar enclave in an effort to link Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization and the government of President Saddam Hussein, which controls Iraq south of the Kurdish-administered zone but has little influence here. Citing interrogations of Ansar members who were taken prisoner, Kurdish political officials confirm that the group sent a steady stream of trainees to the camps that al Qaeda operated in Afghanistan until U.S. forces ended Taliban rule there at the end of 2001. (emphasis added)

Now, this piece makes two things clear. First, contrary to many skeptics' assertions, there is an Al Qaeda presence in Iraq. Second, it's also clear that Saddam Hussein has little to do with this presence. At worst, Hussein's policy on Al Qaeda might be characterized as benign neglect -- he's not helping them but he doesn't mind them being in parts of Iraq he can't control. There might be other reasons to support regime change in Iraq, but the Al Qaeda connection is a weak reed.

However, there's military action short of regime change. At a minimum, the Post story would seem to justify an offensive to knock out Ansar al-Islam and retake the Halabja Valley. This leads to an intriguing question. Given the obvious link between achieving this objective and the war on terror, and given the assertions by France and others that credible evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda would justify use of force, would the Security Council be willing to approve U.S. military action in this area? [So you think this would be an acceptable substitute to a whole-scale invasion?--ed. No, I still support an invasion. But securing Security Council support for this phase of operations might be an good stop-gap proposal].

This would be an excellent test of where exactly the French and Germans stand. Is their opposition to Iraq based on a blind determination to counter U.S. power, or is there some nuance to their stance?

posted by Dan at 01:48 PM | Trackbacks (2)

Three final thoughts on democratization in the Middle East

In descending order of importance:

1) If President Bush means what he says about a democratic Iraq, there is one other policy initiative worth considering – the creation/promotion of a regional club of emerging Middle Eastern democracies. One of the most powerful incentives for Eastern European countries to democratize was the tantalizing prospect of joining the democratic clubs of NATO and the European Union.

There's some compelling evidence that democratic clubs matter. Jon Pevehouse at the University of Wisconsin has statistically demonstrated that when fragile governments gain membership into democratic clubs, they are more likely to become stable democracies. Here's an abstract of one published paper; Jon makes a similar point in his contribution to my edited volume ( Amazon sales rank: 2,111,830 and climbing!!)

Of course, the rewards of membership would have to be significant. A preferential trade agreement with the United States might be an option, especially since the U.S. already has such deals with Israel and Jordan.

Currently, a club for Middle Eastern democracies would have a small list of invitees. Within the next year, that may change for the better.

2) One point that I didn't address in the TNR essay but is worth acknowledging is that democratization may be taking place in the countries surrounding Iraq, but that's not the only thing that matters. These countries are still plagued by a fair amount of corruption. Even if Iraq becomes democratic, it's likely to have significant problems with corruption.

3) Reason #213 why I love the blog is that I can amend and augment material that I publish in other media.

posted by Dan at 11:21 AM | Trackbacks (0)


WHAT TO KNOW MORE?: I always feel slightly uncomfortable writing essays where I'm not allowed to use footnotes. My latest TNR essay is a case in point, since I cite a lot of people. So, for those who are curious, here's the references and background:

You can find John W. Dower's pessimism about comparing the occupation of Japan to the situation in Iraq here. The quotation comes from this Guardian essay from last November.

Edward Said's quote comes from this screed.

The book Samuel Huntington wrote before The Clash of Civilizations was entitled The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century. The (brief) discussion of the second wave of democratization is on pp. 18-21.

The O'Donnell and Schmitter quotation comes from their 1986 book, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions About Uncertain Democracies, p. 17-18.

The work by Jeffrey Kopstein and David Reilly on democratic transition in the post-communist space comes from their article, "Geographic Diffusion and the Transformation of the Postcommunist World," in the October 2000 issue of World Politics; here's the online abstract. Here's the draft version of the paper.

The most recent Freedom House country rankings of political rights and civil liberties can be found here.

The Human Rights Watch assessment of Northern Iraq comes from their 2003 World Report, which is really a survey of human rights around the globe in 2002. The quotation comes from this section.

This Ian Urbina op-ed has a nice discussion of the democratization process taking place in the outlying parts of the Middle East.

Finally, The Journal of Democracy devoted much of its October 2002 issue to the question of democracy in the Middle East. You can click on the (brief) article summaries here.

posted by Dan at 10:54 AM | Trackbacks (0)


"CHICAGO SCHOOL" -- WHY THE NEOCONS MAY BE RIGHT: My latest TNR Online essay is up. It's a discussion of why the neocons are not crazy when they talk about democracy sweeping over the Middle East after an invasion of Iraq. It's an extension and refinement of this post from last week.

Go check it out. If you want to know more, look at the above post.

posted by Dan at 10:26 AM | Trackbacks (0)



"Zoran Djindjic, the Serbian prime minister and one of the key leaders in the revolt that toppled Slobodan Milosevic, was today assassinated in Belgrade.

According to local media reports, Mr Djindjic was shot while entering the government building. Mr Djindjic sustained two shots in his stomach and back. He died while being treated in Belgrade's emergency hospital."

Two quick thoughts. First, Djindjic was, in many ways, Serbia's Yeltsin -- an imperfect but resolute reformer. Back to the Guardian:

"Only last month, Mr Djindjic survived an alleged assassination attempt when a lorry cut across his motorcade. He later dismissed the February 21 incident as a 'futile effort' that could not stop democratic reforms.

'If someone thinks the law and the reforms can be stopped by eliminating me, then that is a huge delusion,' Mr Djindjic was quoted as saying by the Politika newspaper at the time." I hope and believe he's correct.

Second, even though the events are entirely unrelated, there's something spooky about the assassination of a Balkan leader coinciding with the world being, say, 45 days from an international conflagration.

At least it's not July.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias points out why there isn't even a prima facie parallel between this assassination and the killing of Archduke Ferdinand, which is why I changed "Serbian" to "Balkan" in the second-to-last paragraph.

posted by Dan at 09:28 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, March 11, 2003


THE MEALIAN DIALOGUE: Inspired by the Melian Dialogue, Brad DeLong uses Thucydides' technique to describe an exchange on behavioral economics with Stanford economist Robert Hall (FULL DISCLOSURE: I took Hall's macroeconomics course).

The result is extremely amusing, like a random walk down University Avenue [You going to explain that last clause--ed? No, that's just for the economics geeks out there]

posted by Dan at 11:08 AM | Trackbacks (0)


A SANE ANALYSIS OF TRANSATLANTIC RELATIONS: Seth Green has an hopeful essay on the distinction between mainstream and extreme viewpoints in Europe. The highlights:

"I am convinced that anti-Americanism is not nearly as prevalent in Europe as media accounts suggest. Generally speaking, I have been overwhelmed by the friendship of my European peers -- from their outpouring of compassion when I came here just after the September 11 attacks to their concern for my safety now. It is true that a distinct, and unfortunately visible, minority do virulently hate us -- but they are the headline-hogging exception, not the rule. Indeed, the vast majority of Europeans continue to embrace American ideas, American culture and American people.

That is why I am troubled by the recent tendency to lump together all Europeans who oppose any facet of U.S. foreign policy under the one-size-fits-all banner of "anti-Americanism." No doubt there are extremists -- and drunkards -- here who deserve the label. Yet they are the very reason that we must use the term sparingly. When we see all Europeans -- from those who reasonably disagree with us to those who senselessly hate us -- as part of the same phenomenon, we blur the critical distinction between Europe's mainstream and its fringe.

Mainstream Europe shares American values. In the aftermath of September 11, Europeans overwhelmingly supported our common war on terrorism. Today, most Europeans still agree with our campaign to end terrorism and promote world security. Eighty-five percent of Brits, 67 percent of French and 82 percent of Germans believe that Saddam Hussein is a dangerous threat, and majorities in each of these countries support removing him. While many moderate Europeans are against war in Iraq under the current conditions -- primarily because they want more time for inspections -- they fundamentally share our principles.

By contrast, European extremists resent the United States and our beliefs. To extremists, every American icon -- from Starbucks to Britney Spears -- represents a form of American imperialism. And no matter what we achieve, whether in Kosovo or Afghanistan, they fault us. They call Americans bullies even as they seek to bully us. They call the United States a terrorist state even as they romanticize true terrorists."

Green glosses over the division on Iraq to suit his argument, but his point is worth remembering. Give it a read.

posted by Dan at 10:40 AM | Trackbacks (0)


I WAS WRONG ABOUT FRANCE: Last month, I was among one of many in the Blogosphere who said that France would eventually capitulate to United Nations action against Iraq. Some bloggers still believe in this outcome.

Alas, I must admit that this story demonstrates that I was clearly wrong:

"In a dramatic break with the United States, President Jacques Chirac said tonight that France would veto a United Nations resolution threatening war against Iraq.

'My position is that whatever the circumstances, France will vote no,' Mr. Chirac said. He added that he had 'the feeling' that Russia and China, which also have veto power in the Security Council, are prepared to follow France's lead.

Speaking calmly and deliberately during a live television interview in Élysée Palace this evening, Mr. Chirac said he was convinced that the United Nations inspections process was working and that Iraq could be stripped of its dangerous weapons without war.

'The inspectors say that cooperation has improved and that they are in a position to pursue their work,' Mr. Chirac said. 'This is what is essential. It's not up to you or me to say if the inspections are working.'

He added, 'We refuse to follow a path that will lead automatically to war as long as the inspectors don't say to us, "We can't go any further."'"

I've highlighted the relevant passages to point out the following:

1) France has now switched to the German position. That first highlighted passage makes it clear that there is simply no point to further deliberations at the Security Council. Saddam Hussein could be caught on tape sitting on a nuclear weapon, or threatening to shoot down U-2 overflights, and France would not change its mind.

This isn't a case of the French behaving as obstreperously as the Americans. For all of the bluster, the U.S. actually demonstrated a willingness to compromise at the Security Council, in the crafting of 1441 and more recently. France has now joined Germany in stating flat-out that it doesn't matter what Iraq does.

2) France is buckpassing on top of its buckpassing. It's not just that Chirac is buckpassing on enforcing Iraq's compliance with Security Council resolutions -- now he's buckpassing on interpreting the effectiveness of the enforcement process itself.

3) The French do want automaticity -- in the other direction. Just read the highlighted parts -- it's pretty clear that there is no circumstance under which France would decide to go to war.

UPDATE: TNR's &c offers a different interpretation.

posted by Dan at 10:27 AM | Trackbacks (0)


...AND THEN THERE'S THE SENATE: Not to be outdone by House members insulting minorities and other countries, the Senate now has a piece of the action:

"President Bush called Afghan President Hamid Karzai last week to apologize for the way he was treated in a meeting with members of a Senate committee on Capitol Hill late last month, according to senior Afghan officials....

During the conversation, the Afghan officials said, Bush offered to make the apology public, but Karzai declined. 'Bush called to say he was really sorry about how things had gone in the Senate, and that Karzai should not have been treated like that,' said an official familiar with the call.

The problem arose when Karzai visited the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for what the committee had billed as a 'meeting.' Generally, heads of state meet with the committee in private, but Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) instead invited Karzai to a hearing room with reporters present.

Karzai was placed at a witness table looking up at the senators, the usual layout for people summoned to testify at a hearing. There were several skeptical and hostile questions that Karzai did not expect and had not prepared for, according to the Afghan officials."

To be fair, read the whole piece -- the Senate Foreign Relations Committee deserves some of the blame, but the Afghans clearly did some poor advance work.

posted by Dan at 10:09 AM | Trackbacks (0)


IS THE HOUSE HAVING A "STUPID BIGOT" CONTEST I DON'T KNOW ABOUT?: Eric Muller has been doing a great job blogging about the various idiocies coming from the mouths of North Carolina House Representatives such as Howard Coble or Sue Myrick. Now, via Muller's blog, comes another House Representative acting like a jackass. According to the Washington Post:

"Jewish organizations condemned Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) today for delivering what they said were anti-Semitic remarks at an anti-war forum in Reston, in which he suggested that American Jews are responsible for pushing the country to war with Iraq and that Jewish leaders could prevent war if they wanted.

At the Reston forum, attended by about 120 people at St. Anne's Episcopal Church last Monday, Moran discussed why he thought anti-war sentiment was not more effective in the United States.

'If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq we would not be doing this," Moran said, in comments first reported by the Reston Connection and confirmed by Moran. "The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going and I think they should.'"

The Reston Connection has the initial (and quite thorough) account of the town meeting in question. That article paraphrases Moran's observation that "Many of those Jewish leaders were swayed after talking with former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu."

Drezner's Assignment Desk: Mickey Kaus, is this anti-Semitism or not? I'm going to have to say "yes." Moran did not explicitly raise the "dual loyalties" issue. However, this doesn't get a pass for the simple reason that Moran is propagating the conspiracy myth that Jews always act in concert and are so powerful that they can direct U.S. foreign policy without regard for other Americans.

UPDATE: Kevin Dum has found another elected idiotarian, but at the state representative level.

posted by Dan at 09:29 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, March 10, 2003

CLINTON VS. DOLE: Stephen Green

CLINTON VS. DOLE: Stephen Green notes that the Dole/Clinton reviews are in and aren't good.

Here's the Chicago Tribune review. I think their expert commentator makes a lot of hard-hitting points, particularly with regard to Britney Spears.

UPDATE: Don Hewitt now admits that he blew it.

posted by Dan at 10:31 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Could be worse... could be in France

As another weary pro-war blogger, I have some sympathy for Glenn Reynolds when he writes:

War — or at least the rumor of war — has sucked the oxygen out of the room where other topics are concerned. I write about that other stuff, and I enjoy it, but I keep getting pulled back to war, and rumor of war. It’s what people e-mail about, it’s what other people write about, it’s what the news is about. And, of course, it’s pretty important. Nonetheless, it’s tiring and I won’t miss it when it’s over.

That said, there are many ways in which things could be worse:

1) We could be blogging about this in countries much less sympathetic to pro-American views.

2) We could be stuck in a desert waiting to implement those views.

3) We could be in Iraq, fretting about whether the U.S. will actually do what it says, or whether it will scale back its plans to please France and Russia.

4) We could be receiving almost daily rants from some airhead at, who must be affiliated with this web site. Oh wait, I actually do have this problem, and it's certainly more irritating than what Glenn is complaining about.

There's another option, of course -- retire from blogging. We don't get paid for it. No one's making us do it. Of course, that would be.... inconceivable!!

UPDATE: Mickey Kaus provides a pick-me-up.

posted by Dan at 05:05 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, March 9, 2003


WHEN WILL NORTH KOREA GO BIBLICAL?: After the past week of myriad North Korean provocations, that Onion story of a few weeks ago is looking more and more prescient. Their latest threat -- torching New York, DC, and Chicago:

"North Korea would launch a ballistic missile attack on the United States if Washington made a pre-emptive strike against the communist state's nuclear facility, the man described as Pyongyang's 'unofficial spokesman' claimed yesterday.

Kim Myong-chol, who has links to the Stalinist regime, told reporters in Tokyo that a US strike on the nuclear facility at Yongbyon 'means nuclear war'.

'If American forces carry out a pre-emptive strike on the Yongbyon facility, North Korea will immediately target, carry the war to the US mainland,' he said, adding that New York, Washington and Chicago would be 'aflame'."

This isn't really funny, but part of me is amused by the Pyongyang's apparent desperation to get the Bush administration's attention off of Iraq and onto the Korean peninsula.

A suggestion -- start thinking in Biblical terms. As his critics like to point out, this is a President who's very open about his faith. You want his attention, go Old Testament on him. Locusts, frogs, boils, famine -- now those are threats!! An ultimatum that every first-born male child in America will be dead in ten days will definitely generate some bilateral talks.

posted by Dan at 10:19 PM | Trackbacks (0)


EXTRA!! EXTRA!! NEW YORK TIMES SURRENDERS TO FRANCE!!: The New York Times editorial page has finally made up its mind:

"Within days, barring a diplomatic breakthrough, President Bush will decide whether to send American troops into Iraq in the face of United Nations opposition. We believe there is a better option involving long-running, stepped-up weapons inspections. But like everyone else in America, we feel the window closing. If it comes down to a question of yes or no to invasion without broad international support, our answer is no.

Even though Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, said that Saddam Hussein was not in complete compliance with United Nations orders to disarm, the report of the inspectors on Friday was generally devastating to the American position. They not only argued that progress was being made, they also discounted the idea that Iraq was actively attempting to manufacture nuclear weapons. History shows that inspectors can be misled, and that Mr. Hussein can never be trusted to disarm and stay disarmed on his own accord. But a far larger and more aggressive inspection program, backed by a firm and united Security Council, could keep a permanent lid on Iraq's weapons program."

This is, essentially, the French position. For a refutation, click here.

posted by Dan at 03:54 PM | Trackbacks (0)


ADVANTAGE: OXBLOG!!: I'm at the point now where if I see a Jimmy Carter New York Times op-ed, I know it will make everything else on the op-ed page loook erudite and well-reasoned. [Example?--ed. It took me a few hours to figure out the problem with Tom Friedman's piece today. He can't seem to reconcile the two sides of his brain. One half wants the U.S. to act humbly and within the tight strictures of international law and multilateralism. The other half wants the U.S. to be aggressively promoting democratic regime changes. Given the UN's makeup, there's no way to reconcile those aims.]

Josh Chafetz has a proper fisking of today's Carter nonsense.

The day might soon come when a blog should be set up only for Carter-fisking. As a public good for the rest of the blogosphere.

posted by Dan at 03:06 PM | Trackbacks (0)


WE COULD HAVE... A BAD MANNERS GAP!!: As perviously noted, the looming war with Iraq is prompting lots of diplomatic faux-pas. I've been on record saying that the U.S., in the form of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, have certainly contributed to the problem (in fairness, Rumsfeld has been pretty quiet as of late).

Of course, the Germans did start this was of bad words, back in September when the German Justice Minister compared Bush to Hitler. And now, after Rumsfeld insults Old Europe, Chirac insults Eastern Europe, and the Middle East insults each other, a high-ranking German official has closed the bad manners gap, according to Amiland:

"The German Under-Secretary of Defense has called President Bush a "dictator." Walter Kolbow (of Schröder's SPD) was quoted in a local newspaper (Die Kitzinger, not online) on Friday as saying:

'Economically and politically, Bush positions himself [in an] absolutely one-side [manner], without any respect for anyone else. That isn't a partner, that's a dictator.'"

Germans just hate to lose an arms race [Cheap shot--ed. Oh, it's the weekend, I'm permitted]

posted by Dan at 02:57 PM | Trackbacks (0)


HOW IS THIS GULF WAR DIFFERENT FROM OTHER WARS?: James C. Bennett has an interesting piece on the different types of wars fought by the Anglosphere:

"In each of the three major wars America engaged in since 1945 -- Korea, Vietnam, and Gulf War I -- three characteristics stand out in contrast to most of the nation's previous conflicts: regime change was not directly pursued as a war goal; there was no formal declaration of war, and the conflict ended with a combination of military victory for the U.S. and its allies, and political defeat, to various degrees. Regime change was achieved in none of those cases, even when it was sought indirectly in the case of Iraq....

Was the lack of a declaration of war in each of these three cases also a factor in the outcome? Given the Anglo-American military tradition as it has evolved over the centuries, there is a good case that it is so. Global maritime commercial powers, of which Britain and America are both exemplars, tend to fight two types of war. One is the small war, the "savage war of peace", fought by marines and long-term professionals, limited in scope, and usually undeclared.

The other is the major national mobilization against an all-out enemy, fought by reserves, volunteers and draftees raised for the occasion, and militia called into service. Such wars included the Napoleonic Wars and both World Wars. As Britain and America have always had mechanisms (gradually growing stronger) for obtaining public consent for such large mobilizations, the declaration of war was historically the occasion for fixing the major objectives, including in most circumstances regime change. Major war has always been a deal between the executive and the people: the people will bear the burdens, and the executive will strive diligently, under the scrutiny of the legislature, to achieve the stated goals. The declaration of war, and the debate preceding it, form the contract between executive and people....

On Thursday evening, George Bush made it clear that the United States will pursue regime change as a matter of national self-defense regardless of the outcome of United Nations processes. It would be appropriate to the Anglo-American constitutional traditions of war and peace, and serve to bind executive and nation to a compact to fight to win a meaningful and lasting victory, for both George Bush and Tony Blair to seek and obtain legislative support for a formal declaration of war against the Ba'athist regime of Iraq before launching the main assault."

Bennett's got an interesting point, but fails to consider how an all-volunteer force, combined with the revolution in military affairs, has altered the way the Anglosohere fights wars. A full-scale mobilization no longer necessary to fight a war of regime change -- unless Russia or China were to be the adversary. Bennett also obscures the fact that even though there was never a formal declaration of war in these cases, Congress did give its assent to the use of force. Still provocative reading, however.

posted by Dan at 02:43 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, March 7, 2003


IS BOEING GIVING UP ON CIVILIAN AIRCRAFT?: There are two ways to interpret the news that Boeing is trying to acquire BAE Systems PLC, the British aerospace firm that is a 20% owner of Airbus, Boeing's rival in the passenger plane market.

The first is that Boeing is trying to make life difficult for Airbus by threatening to absorb one of its owners. This doesn't make any sense, however, since the European Union Competition Commisioner can veto any merger on antitrust grounds -- which was why the GE-Honeywell deal was scotched three years ago. The British government also owns a golden share that could block any deal.

The second is that Boeing is trying to enhance its core competency in defence manufacturing. BAE is "the largest Euopean defense company," but its civilian sales have been flat as of late. One wonders, however, if markets -- and airline companies -- wouldn't take this as a signal of Boeing's surrender to Airbus on commercial airliners.

One final, subversive thought -- a good Leninist would argue that Boeing will try to increase its superprofits by exploiting current transatlantic tensions. An increase in those tensions would lead to increased defense spending on the continent. If Boeing acquires BAE, it becomes a vital player in any European arms buildup. Boeing CEO Phil Condit is going all out to woo key EU officials.

I'm most certainly not a good Leninist, though.

posted by Dan at 11:27 PM | Trackbacks (0)


NOTE TO SELF -- DO NOT GET ON WILLIAM SALETAN'S BAD SIDE: Either Saletan got up on the wrong side of the bed today, or he's just fed up with the Franco-German international shuffle. Either way, he eviscerates their diplomatic stance during today's UN Security Council debate in this Slate piece. The highlights:

"In Friday's council debate, they made two arguments against a U.S. invasion of Iraq. First, they said it was unnecessary because Iraq has begun to comply with U.N. inspections. Second, they warned that an attack on Iraq without U.N. approval would ruin the credibility of the United Nations, on which the security of every nation, including ours, depends.

Are inspections more effective than force? Is the United Nations a better guarantor of U.S. security than American power is? Both questions are fraudulent. Inspections depend on force, and the United Nations depends on the United States. The French and Germans are telling us not to mess with the status quo, when the status quo is us....

Nice try, Joschka and Dominique. We aren't fooled. We're touched by your pleas for relevance. And we're flattered that the only rival you can put up against us is ourselves."

posted by Dan at 11:06 PM | Trackbacks (0)


WHAT ABOUT CIVILIAN CASUALTIES?: David Adesnik over at OxBlog has a series of informative posts on how many civilian casualties the U.S. military has caused during the past decade or so of armed conflicts. Click here for Kosovo; here for the first Gulf War; and here for Afghanistan (plus a smackdown of Marc Herold). Key findings:

1) While any loss of life is tragic, these numbers are smal compared to other wars that have taken place in these countries.
2) The more that precision-guided munitions are used, the smaller the casualty count.

It should be noted that much of Adesnik's info comes from the good people at Human Rights Watch.

posted by Dan at 01:50 PM | Trackbacks (0)


MEMO TO DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES FOR PRESIDENT: Apparently you've all decided that it's necessary to publicly comment on important foreign policy matters. On Iraq, you may be tempted to spout the standard line about Bush as a unilateralist, blah, blah, blah.

Here's a suggestion: read Michael Walzer's op-ed in today's New York Times. Walzer recognizes that simple opposition to a big war is not a viable policy option:

"The American march is depressing, but the failure of opponents of the war to offer a plausible alternative is equally depressing. France and Russia undoubtedly raised the diplomatic stakes on Wednesday by threatening to veto a new Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq. But they once again failed to follow up the rhetoric with anything meaningful.

What would a plausible alternative look like? The way to avoid a big war is to intensify the little war that the United States is already fighting. It is using force against Iraq every day — to protect the no-flight zones and to stop and search ships heading for Iraqi ports. Only the American threat to use force makes the inspections possible — and possibly effective.

When the French claim that force is a 'last resort,' they are denying that the little war is going on. And, indeed, France is not participating in it in any significant way. The little war is almost entirely the work of American and British forces; the opponents of the big war have not been prepared to join or support or even acknowledge the work that the little war requires."

So he offers one of his own, which confronts both Saddam Hussein and Jacques Chirac:

"First, extend the northern and southern no-flight zones to include the whole country. America has already drastically restricted Iraqi sovereignty, so this would not be anything new. There are military reasons for the extension — the range of missiles, the speed of planes, the reach of radar all make it difficult for the United States and Britain to defend the northern and the southern regions of Iraq without control of central airspace. But the main reason would be punitive: Iraq has never accepted the containment regime put in place after the gulf war, and its refusal to do that should lead to tighter and tighter containment.

Second, impose the 'smart sanctions' that the Bush administration talked about before 9/11 and insist that Iraq's trading partners commit themselves to enforcing them. Washington should announce sanctions of its own against countries that don't cooperate, and it should also punish any companies that try to sell military equipment to Iraq. Third, the United States should expand the United Nations' monitoring system in all the ways that have recently been proposed: adding inspectors, bringing in United Nations soldiers (to guard military installations after they have been inspected), sending surveillance planes without providing 48 hours' notice, and so on.

Finally, the United States should challenge the French to make good on their claim that force is indeed a last resort by mobilizing troops of their own and sending them to the gulf. Otherwise, what they are saying is that if things get very bad, they will unleash the American army. And Saddam Hussein knows that the French will never admit that things have gotten that bad. So, if they are serious, the French have to mount a credible threat of their own. Or better, they have to join the United States in every aspect of the little war."

Will this work? I doubt it. But it's the best and most concrete counterproposal to the current policy that I've seen yet. Plus, it allows Democrats to simultaneously talk tough and advocate for peace.

P.S. Go to &c for some more advice on this matter.

posted by Dan at 11:44 AM | Trackbacks (0)


DREZNER GETS RESULTS FROM THE ECONOMIST!: The Economist has just reviewed Fareed Zakaria's new book, The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad. Their critique is eerily reminiscent of another review of Zakaria's thesis that appeared last month. Some key paragraphs from the Economist review:

"America is not Mr Zakaria's main focus: the developing world is. And it is here that his Big Idea begins to get bogged down. He argues that countries need a history of building liberty and an income per head of at least $5,000 if they are to begin sustaining liberal democracy. That gives him just nine candidates, and a strange batch they are—Romania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Malaysia, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia and Iran. Yet many countries have managed the trick without meeting those preconditions, including Japan, Costa Rica and, despite his strictures, India. [Hey, didn't you provide the exact same list of countries?--ed. Yes, but I mentioned Botswana and the Baltic states as well.]

He writes rather as if countries face a simple choice between establishing democracy or maintaining incremental reform. In practice, new democracies have often begun because the previous regime had collapsed and there was no other way of establishing legitimacy.....

Illiberal democracies are volatile. That does not necessarily make them worse for themselves or the world in the long run. It is a matter of timing: they get the bad news out early. Reforming autocracies leave tough political problems until later, in the hope they will be more manageable. That is not necessarily an argument against rapid democratisation. Mr Zakaria's book is not an attack on democracy, but on its over-extension. He calls the problem 'too much of a good thing'. The same might be said of this book."

To paraphrase Homer Simpson, "Hmmm.... Influencing the zeitgeist..."

posted by Dan at 11:06 AM | Trackbacks (0)


IMAGINE IF WE WERE FOCUSED: Another blow to Al Qaeda, according to Reuters:

"Two sons of Osama bin Laden were wounded and possibly arrested in an operation by U.S. and Afghan troops in Afghanistan which killed at least nine suspected al Qaeda members, a Pakistani official said on Friday.

The operation took place on Thursday in the Ribat area, where the borders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran meet, Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, home minister of the western province of Baluchistan, told Reuters....

A U.S. official in Washington could not immediately confirm or deny the report of bin Laden's sons' capture. 'We don't have any information to substantiate that,' he said."

Remember, the conflict with Iraq is supposed to be distracting us from the war on terrorism.

posted by Dan at 10:46 AM | Trackbacks (0)

ADVANTAGE: VOLOKH!!: Michael Kinsley's columns

ADVANTAGE: VOLOKH!!: Michael Kinsley's columns in Slate have been getting stranger with each passing week. This week's effort -- which suggests that Bush doesn't mind rising oil prices because it helps his friends -- is the most inchoate yet. I was going to blog a rebuttal, but Eugene Volokh has done a nice job of dismantling it. And also check out Joesph Grieco's insightful essay on the exact relationship between war and oil. [FULL DISCLOSURE: I know Joe pretty well, as we do research in the same area.]

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan has a fisking of Kinsley on his site.

posted by Dan at 09:54 AM | Trackbacks (0)

The sports desk though his audience was the Cubs' pitching staff

The first paragraph of Michael Tackett's "news analysis" of Bush's press conference in today's Chicago Tribune:

"On some occasions when the subject has been Iraq, President Bush clearly has been speaking to the world. This time, as he signaled more firmly than ever a path toward war, he seemed to be speaking pointedly to the American people."

The first paragraph of today's lead editorial in the Tribune:

"At the beginning of his televised press conference Thursday night, President Bush spoke less to the American people than to the 14 other nations that sit on the United Nations Security Council. The question the council faces now, Bush said, is whether Saddam Hussein has complied with international demands that he fully disarm."

posted by Dan at 09:42 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, March 6, 2003


ANOTHER SCHOLAR-BLOGGER: Amitai Etzioni, a distinguished sociologist and a godfather of communitarian thought, just started a blog. He's disgusted with anti-Americanism.

Welcome to the Blogosphere, Professor Etzioni.

posted by Dan at 08:18 PM | Trackbacks (0)


PRESS CONFERENCE MUSINGS: In the immediate wake of President Bush's press conference:

1) This is not personal; it's strictly business. For all of the claims that Bush is acting like a cowboy, what struck me was how sober, how somber he sounded. It was clear that in his calculations, "the costs of inaction are greater than the costs of action." There was no anger in his voice or his words, either at Iraq or our erstwhile allies. Instead, there was sadness and a heavy heart about the decision that lies ahead of him.

2) The President understands the value of protestors. I thought one of his best responses came on his reaction to the protestors. He -- quite rightly -- made the connection between the current anti-war protests and prior anti-globalization protests. The illogic of the anti-globalization movement makes Bush's implication clear: even if millions of people say that 2 + 2 = 5, it doesn't make it so.

3) Bush believes in "honest multilateralism." Consistent with what I wrote last month, Bush thinks that multilateralism is a means to an end. He's not afraid of discord -- he'd rather have any disagreement out in the open. It is this quality above all that flummoxes an Old Europe that prefers a false display of consensus to principled differences of opinion.

UPDATE: Kieran Healy has a nice roundup of the Blogosphere reaction. Shockingly, those on the left found it uninspiring while those on the right found it straightforward. Jonah Goldberg has a good point on which audience Bush was targeting.

posted by Dan at 08:12 PM | Trackbacks (0)


THAT'S A LUCKY MAN: You know, I could blog nonstop, 24/7/365, and I don't know if I could top Asparagirl's thoughts about The Lysistrata Project. My favorite part:

"It's not enough for these "feminists" that sexuality, or even specifically female sexuality, be used as an oxymoronic anti-war weapon, but that it must be denial of female sexuality that is the weapon, that very special tool for keeping their social order and their status quo intact. Sex, after all, should only be given up in the appropriate manner and to the appropriate person, and woe to they who disagree...waitaminute, this is starting to sound kinda familiar...

What also galls me is that these women are claiming not only sex, but femininity itself as a uniformly passive, gentle, loving, pacifist attribute. What rubbish. I shouldn't support waging war on a mass-killing dictator because as a woman, my place is to elevate discourse and consensus and eschew 'manly', messy action? They're even implying that if I am not a peaceful, good-mannered, right-thinking woman like them, a woman for peace, then perhaps I am not really a woman at all? And these are the women who are telling me this?"

Read the whole thing. The whole f@%$ing thing. It explains the title to this post.

posted by Dan at 07:55 PM | Trackbacks (0)


THE COARSENING OF DIPLOMACY: 2003 has not been a good year for diplomatic niceties. Donald Rumsfeld compares Germany to Cuba and Libya; Jacques Chirac telling Eastern Europe to shut up; Canadian MPs calling Americans "bastards"; Congressional representatives threatening a U.S. withdrawal from the WTO, or comparing Osama bin Laden to Ethan Allen. Clearly, the prospect of war is making everyone testy, causing people who should know better to shoot their mouths off. Some of these statements fall into the "Kinsley gaffe" category, while others are simply beyond-the-pale, offensive, stupid tripe.

Compared to Middle Eastern diplomacy, however, the above examples are pretty tame stuff.

A Kinsley gaffe first: At last Saturday's Arab League summit, Libyan leader Muhammar Khaddafi [Is that how you spell it?--ed. Don't start] accused Saudi Arabia of making a pact with the devil by allowing U.S. forces to be stationed in the region. Crown Prince Abdullah responded -- on live television, mind you -- with the following:

"Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country and not an agent of colonialism like you and others. As for you, who brought you to power? Don't talk about matters that you fail to prove. You are a liar, while the grave is ahead of you."

Khaddafi has responded by withdrawing his ambassador from Riyadh and threatening to withdraw from the Arab League.

Now the beyond-the-pale tripe: With that effort at establishing Arab comity a failure, the countries of the region tried again at yesterday's Organization of the Islamic Conference. That meeting -- broadcast live on satellite TV -- didn't go so well either:

"After Kuwait's foreign minister used his speech to the summit to call on Saddam to step down to avert war, Iraq's Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri accused the Kuwaiti minister in his own speech of 'threatening Iraq's security at the core' by allowing U.S. troops on Kuwaiti soil.

Sheik Mohammed Sabah Al Salem Al Sabah, another Kuwaiti minister, interrupted al-Douri, calling the Iraqi's remarks lies.

Al-Douri responded: 'Shut up, you monkey. Curse be upon your mustache, you traitor.' 'Mustache' is a traditional Arabic term for honor.

'This is hypocrisy and falsehood,' Sheik Mohammed shot back."

Needless to say, much of the Middle Eastern press is upset at these displays of ill temper and Arab disunity [Yes, it must distract from directing their vitriol against Israel--ed. You said it, I didn't]

posted by Dan at 12:11 PM | Trackbacks (0)

THE DECISION: According to Matt

THE DECISION: According to Matt Drudge, last night was decision night at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue:

"President Bush on Wednesday night was to make the ultimate call whether to strike and invade Iraq with military force, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.

A top White House source offered few details, but did reveal the president would make a 'defining decision' by morning....

Plans for a major speech on Iraq next week by the president were under review. Bush might give Saddam a very short time period to disarm completely, perhaps as little as 72 hours, before military action."

In related news, I just finished Richard Brookhiser's cover story in the Atlantic Monthly . It's not available on line, but it's a pretty good read -- if nothing else, it puts into perspective the role of Bush's faith in his decision-making. This summary is accurate:

"He [Brookhiser] concludes that Bush's greatest strength is the clarity of his strategic and personal vision. His greatest weakness? Imagination."

posted by Dan at 10:19 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, March 5, 2003

GOOD FOR OPRAH: Oprah Winfrey

GOOD FOR OPRAH: Oprah Winfrey is restarting her book club -- with a twist:

"Winfrey sent a jolt of excitement through the publishing world last Wednesday when she revealed plans to resume her phenomenally successful book club after a 10-month hiatus.

This time, though, she plans to shine the spotlight on literary classics. She will try to bring to life books and authors that many people haven't attempted to read since high school or college, if ever.

For the club, tentatively titled 'Traveling with the Classics,' Winfrey said she expects to make three to five picks a year. In addition to on-air discussions of the chosen work, she will take the show to locations around the world related to the books' plots or their authors' lives."

Given that Winfrey was able to convert all 46 of her previous book-club picks into best sellers, it will be interesting to see if she has a similar effect on more "classical" works.

The reason I like this is that it's bound to lead to roiling debates about whether Oprah is destroying, simplifying, or revitalizing the "canon." The article is a bit vague on what Winfrey considers a "literary classic", although one tipoff is her observation: "I can't imagine a world where there is no Shakespeare, where there's no Tolstoy or George Eliot or Toni Morrison or Proust or Hemingway or Steinbeck."

I'm sure that the debate, plus people actually reading Winfrey's suggestions, will have an edifying effect.

Oh, and publishers love it.

posted by Dan at 10:49 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)


A DEPRESSING DAY FOR U.S. FOREIGN POLICY: Regular readers of this blog know that I strongly support an attack on Iraq, even if the United Nations doesn't go along. However, I will admit that today, the spillovers of that policy are dragging me down. I've already discussed the significant opportunity costs of keeping Iraq on the front burner indefinitely. Today is one of those days when the costs are front and center while the benefits seem like a distant mirage. Consider:

1) Michael Tomasky on the deteriorating state of Mexican-American relations (I think he's exaggerating things, but not too much).

2) The Los Angeles Times on the Bush administration's apparent acceptance of North Korean nuclear proliferation (link via Kevin Drum, who has more to say on this).

3) Slate's Fred Kaplan, who's been extremely sympathetic to an invasion of Iraq, assessing the month of diplomacy since Powell's UN speech: "It is becoming increasingly and distressingly clear that, however justified the coming war with Iraq may be, the Bush administration is in no shape—diplomatically, politically, or intellectually—to wage it or at least to settle its aftermath. It is hard to remember when, if ever, the United States has so badly handled a foreign-policy crisis or been so distrusted by so many friends and foes as a result."

Do I agree with everything that's said in these links? No. Do I think these pieces exaggerate? Yes. Is there something to what they're saying? Alas, I believe so.

The U.S. has to deal with the resentment that comes with being the global hegemon, China, Germany, France and Russia acting like spoiled teenage brats, and a lot of trouble spots in the globe. The Bush administration has not been dealt the best of diplomatic hands. That said, today is one of those days when I think the administration could be husbanding its hole cards a little better.

UPDATE: This Washington Post analysis captures a bit of what I'm feeling:

"The Bush administration this week has become increasingly isolated in the world over its determination to topple the Iraqi government, leaving it in a diplomatically difficult position in advance of a critical U.N. Security Council meeting Friday.

By contrast, Iraq has made great headway in splintering the Security Council, making it less likely it will approve a U.S.-backed resolution authorizing military action. Iraq over the weekend began complying with a demand to destroy missiles that exceeded U.N. restrictions, provided unrestricted access to seven scientists and promised to answer inspectors' questions on its weapons programs."

However, if you read further, it's clear that the foundation of this week's events was laid weeks and months ago:

"A number of foreign diplomats said they were taken aback -- even betrayed -- by what they perceived as the administration's rush to war. They seized on any evidence of Iraqi cooperation to argue that the inspections were working and that imminent military action was not necessary. Positions were so hardened by early last month that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's extensive presentation of Iraqi misdeeds to the Security Council failed to sway many minds."

The $64,000 question is the last paragraph of the piece:

"The administration has frequently threatened that the United Nations would become irrelevant if the United States is forced to wage war without U.N. backing. But that argument has been turned on its head. France and other nations increasingly appear to believe a rejection of the U.S. position would rein in an administration they feel has been consumed with hubris."

I strongly suspect that France has grossly miscalculated the administration's willingness to act regardless of what transpires at the Security Council this week.

posted by Dan at 04:55 PM | Trackbacks (0)

THEY NEVER LEARN: A disturbing

THEY NEVER LEARN: A disturbing rite of passage for new Treasury secretaries is, within the first weeks of office, to make a Kinsley Gaffe -- accidentally speaking the truth when silence would suffice. I suspect this is because they simply can't comprehend the notion that a single offhand remark can move markets -- until they utter an offhand remark that moves markets.

For reasons that remain a mystery, the Bush appointees inevitably screw up on the "strong dollar" policy:

"Mr Snow's remarks that he was not concerned by the recent fall in the dollar - which he said was within normal ranges - made perfect economic sense. Unfortunately, they also betrayed a worrying lack of market savvy and an inability to learn from the mistakes of his predecessor, Paul O'Neill....

If Mr Snow is to follow the example of one of his predecessors, then Robert Rubin or Larry Summers would be much better choices than Mr O'Neill. Both realised little could be gained by expressing an opinion on the dollar's moves. If Treasury secretaries express concern at a fall in the dollar and then do nothing they lose credibility. If they appear unconcerned, they risk fuelling the move. As a result, whenever asked about the dollar Mr Rubin and Mr O'Neill simply intoned the mantra that they supported a strong currency, and left the market to draw conclusions about what this meant."

As a result of Snow's comments, the dollar is now at a 4-year low against the Euro.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, both Robert Rubin and Larry Summers did make similar gaffes when they first came to the Treasury department. However, they quickly learned on the job. Paul O'Neill did not learn on the job. Let's hope Snow is a fast learner.

[Why should the U.S. support a strong dollar? Doesn't this worsen our balance of trade?--ed. Yes, but it has compensating benefits. A strong dollar helps to keep inflation low (by keeping the price of imported goods down) and interest rates low (by attracting capital inflows). Low interest rates and low inflation contribute to robust economic growth]

posted by Dan at 04:06 PM | Trackbacks (0)


DEMOCRATIZATION AND IRAQ: Can democracy flourish in Iraq? The answer depends on which expert you ask.

Historians are skeptics. They do not like analogies to the U.S. occupation of Japan, in part because they don't like historical comparisons, period.

Regional historians believe that the ethnic cleavages and long history of authoritarianism within the country makes the notion of a successful Iraqi transition to democracy absurd.

Middle Eastern experts are skeptics because the term "Arab democracy" appears to be an oxymoron.

Experts in comparative politics are skeptical because Iraq is an oil exporter, and these "rentier states" are traditionally correlated with authoritarianism (click here for a dissenting view).

In other words, lots of experts agree that the local conditions for a liberal democracy in Iraq are not good.

These people make solid arguments, but overlooks one crucial detail -- international factors are more important than domestic factors in determining the success of democratic transition and consolidation.

The international dimension matters in two ways. First, to quote one standard text on democratization:

"the most frequent context within which a transition from authoritarian rule has begun in recent decades has been military defeat in an international conflict. Moreover, the factor which most probabilistically assured a democratic outcome was occupation by a foreign power which was itself a political democracy." (my italics)

This argument has already been out there, and is usually countered by citing the myriad domestic roadblocks combined with the point that military occupation alone does not guarantee a democratic transition. Here's where the second part kicks in -- transitions to market democracy are easier when your neighbors are market democracies. One study has found this to hold for the post-communist countries (click here for more) and there is no reason to believe that the effect is limited to that region.

It would seem that Iraq would fare poorly along this dimension, but consider:

1) Turkey is a democracy and borders Iraq to the north.
2) Iran might not be liberal, but it is a democracy, and borders Iraq to the east.
3) Jordan is more democratic than most Middle Eastern governments and borders Iraq to the west
4) There is promising evidence of democratic institutions in Kurdish Iraq

So, I'm optimistic.

posted by Dan at 02:23 PM | Trackbacks (0)


THE QUINTISSENTIAL BUCKPASSING ARGUMENT: I've blogged previously about the phenomenon of other states buckpassing their international responsibilities so as to free ride of the United States. However, Stuart Taylor is both more fiery and more eloquent about the topic:

"The point is to underscore how the Europeans, South Koreans and others who have become so anti-American depend on American power -- unthinkingly, ungratefully, and completely -- for their well-being. Abdicating their own responsibilities to help maintain world order, they are free riding, as my colleague Clive Crook noted last week, on the same U.S. polices that they publicly denounce. Like a spoiled teenager who expects her parents to support her even though she refuses to do any work around the house and constantly mouths off to them, these nations enjoy the benefits of U.S. global policing while refusing to share in the costs and trashing the policeman....

The tidal wave of anti-Americanism has multiple wellsprings, of course.... But underlying them all is the implicit calculation that the safest course for European nations (and others) is to obstruct American policies while free riding on American power.

It may be too much to expect the European and Arab publics, who are fed grotesque caricatures of Bush and America by their media and intelligentsia, to grasp their own interests in helping the United States defang Iraq. But wise leadership is about seeing one's national interest in the long term, and educating public opinion instead of pandering to it. The superficially clever Chirac and Schroeder are not wise leaders. They are fools. And they are helping to bring the world closer to a dark era of nuclear anarchy."

Read the whole piece.

posted by Dan at 10:00 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, March 4, 2003


Y A-T-IL UN MOT FRANÇAIS POUR "WEBLOG"? JE N'AI PAS PENSÉ AINSI: Apparently the French are losing another battle. The European Union is increasingly becoming an English-speaking zone:

"The Union's public voice is increasingly anglophone. For a brief period earlier this year the spokesmen for all three major institutions in Brussels—the commission, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers—were British. Jonathan Faull, the commission's chief spokesman, will be replaced this month by Reijo Kemppinen, a Finn. But for French-speakers the change is a double-edged sword. The good news for them is that this high-profile job will no longer be held by a Briton; the bad news is that Mr Faull's French is rather better than Mr Kemppinen's....

A recent study by the EU's statistical arm showed that over 92% of secondary-school students in the EU's non-English-speaking countries are studying English, compared with 33% learning French and 13% studying German....

As one would imagine, this sort of English imperialism scares the French. The Economist story provides two specific reasons for French concern, one of which is completely logical and one that is absurd:

"the rise of English within EU institutions particularly alarms the French elite because for many years the Brussels bureaucracy has been a home-from-home, designed along French administrative lines, often dominated by high-powered French officials working in French. Moreover, the emergence of English as the EU's main language gives an advantage to native English-speaking Eurocrats. As Mr Dethomas notes: 'It's just much easier to excel in your own language.'

Some French officials argue that there are wider intellectual implications that threaten the whole European enterprise. In a speech at a conference in Brussels on the French language and EU enlargement, Pierre Defraigne, a senior official at the commission, argued that 'it's not so much a single language that I fear but the single way of thinking that it brings with it.' When French was Europe's dominant language in the 18th century, French ideas were the intellectual currency of Europe. Voltaire was lionised at the Prussian court; Diderot was fêted by Russia's Catherine the Great. These days, however, ambitious young Europeans need to perfect their English and so tend to polish off their education in Britain or the United States, where they are exposed to Anglo-Saxon ideas. For a country like France, with its own distinct intellectual traditions in economics, philosophy and law, such a trend is understandably galling. The commission's Mr Defraigne worries aloud whether 'it is possible to speak English without thinking American.'”

Thinking American? Mon dieu!!

P.S. For a translation of the post title, cut and paste the text into Babel Fish.

posted by Dan at 03:41 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Overstatements about Germany

The debate about Iraq is starting to debilitate people's good judgment. For example, suddenly everyone is making loopy statements about German history that perhaps should be reconsidered.

On the antiwar side, Mark Kleiman finds what he believes is the "stupidest, most offensive argument" in the entire debate in this Guardian lead editorial from last Friday:

German men won the vote as far back as 1849, albeit subject to a property qualification, at a time when Mr Bush's country practised legalised slavery. Bearing in mind that America only became a full democracy in 1965, and Germany in 1946, there is a case for saying that Germans have at least as strong a democratic tradition as Americans.

On the other hand, methinks Andrew Sullivan may be indulging in some hyperbole in his latest post on the real agendas of various international actors in the Iraq debate. Most of them make sense, but this line on Germany is over the top:

For the Germans, it's about a new national identity. The Germans have never been able to sustain a moderate polity on their own. They veer from extreme romantic militarism to romantic pacifism. Their current abdication of all strategic responsibility for Europe or the wider world is just another all-too-familiar spasm from German history.

Bloggers, commentators, protestors, I beg you... no more abuses of German history!

posted by Dan at 09:46 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, March 3, 2003


WHY I LOVE STUDYING INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: One of my favorite parts of teaching IR is when I tell students anecdotes about international crises that they didn't know.

Like how during the Cuban Missile Crisis, U.S. warplanes came close to firing air-to-air, nuclear-armed missiles over the Soviet Far East.

Like how President Reagan actually did send a signed Bible and birthday cake to Iranian leaders in an effort to win the release of American hostages in Lebanon.

Like how Kim Jong Il has offered political asylum to Saddam Hussein

You just can't make this stuff up.

posted by Dan at 04:42 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Why this should be your #1 international relations blog

Does OxBlog, Stephen Den Beste*, or Tim Blair have the latest on Anna Kournikova and her secret marriage? According to Reuters:

"Detroit Red Wings forward Sergei Fedorov has admitted that he and tennis player Anna Kournikova were married but are now divorced and no longer talk.

The 33-year-old, rated as one of the top players in the NHL, confirmed his relationship with 21-year-old Kournikova in the Hockey News, which went on sale on Monday.

'They are true,' said Fedorov, when asked about rumors concerning their wedding. 'We were married, albeit briefly, and we are now divorced.'"

Here's the original Hockey News article. I'm quite confident that these other -- alleged -- foreign affairs blogs have also failed to observe that Kournikova's official web site has nothing to say about this -- her latest diary entry is about her trip to Memphis.

I pledge to continue providing the most thorough coverage of this ongoing story... at least until the African members of the Security Council start their rose ceremony regarding the Iraq resolution.

Daniel Drezner -- your source for all aspects of international relations! [Won't this pathetically desperate ploy to attract more hits fail when it's revealed that you think Salma Hayek is much more interesting than Kournikova?--ed. No, I think that would only happen once it's revealed that I think Ashley Judd is a better conversationalist than Kournikova]

*Even if Den Beste did have this news, wouldn't it take you more than an hour to read through his post on it?

UPDATE: For those readers who would find Colin Farrell more interesting than any of the aforementioned ladies , click over to Farrellblogger for a pretty amusing anecdote involving a BMW, a pub, and some tight shorts.

posted by Dan at 02:51 PM | Trackbacks (0)


IS THE FINANCIAL TIMES RECYCLING ITS STORIES?: According to the FT, the liberalization of European Union economies is failing:

"European diplomats are warning that the European Union's liberalisation programme, intended to make Europe the world's most competitive economy by 2010, has run out of steam.

An EU summit this month, scheduled to review and inject new impetus into the liberalisation process, is instead set to be dominated by the crisis over Iraq and the problems of the EU's stability and growth pact....

But diplomats from other countries caution that progress at the summit is likely to be merely symbolic. 'The problem is Germany and France and it is clear that Schröder and Chirac are not willing to take the necessary measures,' said one EU diplomat. 'There are also worries about the watering down of the stability pact.'"

I fear this story will be recycled endlessly as long as Schröder and Chirac remain in power -- although, given the way the EU operates, it might just be endemic to the institution.

posted by Dan at 01:15 PM | Trackbacks (0)


COULD BE WORSE -- COULD BE AN "INSIGNIFICANT MICROBE": According to N.Z. Bear's Blogosphere ecosystem, I'm a "crawly amphibian," in contrast to the "higher beings" of Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan, or Stephen Green.

Sorry, I'm flashing back to high school again. I'll be able to post again in a few hours, I'm sure.

posted by Dan at 10:45 AM | Trackbacks (0)

How to demoralize Al Qaeda

Today's picture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed after his capture by U.S. and Pakistani agents is precisely how to puncture the allure of Al Qaeda in the Arab community. This guy looks like a pathetic slob. That's the lasting image you want of Al Qaeda.

In general, embarrassment is a much more effective method than decapitation to destroying terrorist networks. The key to destroying such groups is to eliminate recruitment by spreading the perception that the group is ineffective. Capturing terrorist leaders and publishing photos that make them look like death warmed over is the most effective way to do this.

Empirical example: the most successful anti-terror campaign against a network of suicide terrorists was Turkey's successful battle against the Kurdish People's Party, or PKK. A turning point in this battle was Turkey's capture and trial of Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK leader. Öcalan's behavior after his capture helped knock the wind out of the PKK's sails, as this analyst notes:

"During his 1999 trial, PKK leader Öcalan apologized to the Turkish people for the PKK's 'historic mistake' of waging a war against the state, debriefed Turkish intelligence on the organization's activities, sold out every demand the PKK had ever made, and urged his followers to lay down their arms. To most observers, it was obvious that Öcalan was simply trying to save his own life."

I'd spring for the pay-per-view fee if the U.S. can get Mohammed to behave the same way.

UPDATE: Click here for one of my esteemed colleagues' takes on the strategic logic of suicide terrorism and how to fight it.

posted by Dan at 10:11 AM | Trackbacks (0)


MY GEEKIEST POST YET: Two quick thoughts after scanning InstaPundit this morning:

1) A remake of Battlestar Galactica? Yes!! An underrated sci fi series, in no small part because it actually took the concept of logistics seriously [Oh, yes, because logistics always sells--ed. Look, I said this was going to be a geeky post].

Casting the new Starbuck as a woman? Hmmm... risky but intriguing. The original Starbuck character was your classic scoundrel-with-a-heart-of-gold. Apollo, on the other hand, was the ultimate goody-goody. If -- a big if -- they let the female Starbuck be just as scoundrel-like, it would be a great twist. If they turn the female Starbuck into another Apollo, I won't be watching.

2) Note to self -- by 2004, get wife to wear baby-doll t-shirt with blogname on it. Almost as good as tenure.

UPDATE: Contrary to what David Adesnik fears, I have no intention of posting any pictures of my wife on the blog. Although David is correct in postulating that she "is so stunningly beautiful that we will be forced to ogle her for days on end." David, I would never stoop to posting about attractive women in order to attract attention.

posted by Dan at 09:36 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, March 2, 2003

Memo to liberal hawks

Dear Kevin Drum, Kieran Healy, and Matthew Yglesias:

As self-proclaimed "liberal hawks," I see you're debating whether to hope against hope that a war with Iraq will be called off due to a lack of multilateral support (even though you all support multilateral action against Iraq), leading to Bush's political downfall in 2004. You object to the absence of strong multilateral support, due to "the more-or-less inept manner in which the Bush administration has handled the build-up for war," combined with evidence that the Bush administration's plan of democracy promotion looks haphazard at best and phony at worst. Kevin Drum sums it up:

So if I thought that opposing the war had a chance of hurting Bush's re-election, it would probably be all the nudge I'd need to actually switch sides and oppose it. I've never thought that Saddam Hussein posed an immediate threat, so postponing war for a while would have little downside, while getting rid of Bush would have a big upside.

OK, as someone who's to the right of y'all, let me try to provide you with one substantive point and one cynical point while you continue your debate:

The substantive point is that when push came to shove, internationalist Republicans did support President Clinton when he used force in both Bosnia and Kosovo. In the case of Bosnia, Bob Dole supported Clinton even though it was not in his political interests to do so. They supported the President because, corny as it sounds, it was the right thing to do [C'mon, not every Republican acted this responsibly--ed. No, but most of the ones the media took seriously on foreign policy matters -- Dole, McCain, Lugar -- did act responsibly]

These "conservative hawks" supported the administration even though they also -- justifiably -- disagreed about process and planning matters. If you read Richard Holbrooke, Samantha Power or David Halberstam, it's clear that the Clinton foreign policy team took far too long to act in Bosnia. When they did act, it was in a largely ad hoc manner to avoid the shame of deploying U.S. forces to cover a withdrawal of French and British peacekeepers. In the case of Kosovo, there was such a lack of consensus about the means that Clinton decided on his pledge not to use ground troops a few hours before his televised speech in response to an offhand comment from an ex-NSC staffer. Altruism and democracy promotion were not high up on the priority list.

I dredge all of this up not to argue that the Bush team is better than the Clinton team, but rather to point out that crafting foreign policy is like making a sausage -- you really don't want to know exactly how they do it, but the end result is usually pretty tasty. The interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo were not the result of carefully crafted decisions in line with an overarching philosophy of foreign relations -- they were messy and clumsy and, in the end, did much more good than harm.

Whatever you think of Bush's intentions or his decision-making process, Tom Friedman is correct:

Anyone who thinks President Bush is doing this for political reasons is nuts. You could do this only if you really believed in it.

Even if you don't like the process by which the U.S. currently finds itself, the cause is just and the outcome in Iraq ikely to be a dramatic improvement over the status quo.

The cynical point is simple: politically, the best outcome for Democrats is for the war to take place sooner rather than later. The "no war" outcome is a nonstarter, for all of the domestic political reasons Matthew outlines. However, the longer a war is delayed, the more it benefits Republicans, for two reasons:

1) The rally-round-the-flag effect will be stronger. A successful war now will fade from memory quicker than one taking place in the fall or next spring. We're approaching the exact point in the electoral cycle when Bush 41 was riding his after the Gulf War victory. Eighteen months is a liftetime in politics. Twelve months or shorter, and Bush will be better poised to use the war to bolster his electoral chances.

2) The economic rebound will be stronger. It's clear that what's depressing business investment and consumer confidence is the uncertainty over the Iraq situation. If an attack occurs now, the economy will probably experience a short-term rebound from the reduction of uncertainty. Over the longer term, macroeconomic fundamentals like the size of the budget deficit and interest rates will kick in. Now, if you're a Democrat, you have to believe that in the long term, the "bizarrely destructive " domestic policies of the Bush administration will trigger a downturn. So, if you're a Dem, when do you want the short-term uptick in the economy to take place -- 2003 or 2004?

Have fun with your debate!

UPDATE: Kevin Drum e-mails to say I missed his biggest beef:

my biggest issue is less competence than vision: does Bush genuinely believe in using this as a springboard to promote democracy in the Mideast? If I thought he did, I'd bury my personal discomfort with him and stay on board. But more and more it really doesn't look like he cares much about that.

I think Bush's speech last week is pretty convincing evidence that he does care about democracy in the Middle East. However, this NYT Sunday Magazine story suggests the possibility that the neocon position won't necessarily win out. In any event, my main point is that even if Iraq turns out to be like Bosnia is now, that's still a dramatic improvement over the status quo, which is just wretched.

Also, be sure to read Kevin's entire post on this. My quote makes him sound more cynical than he actually is.

More on the liberal hawk debate from Dmitriy Guberman.

posted by Dan at 02:56 PM | Trackbacks (0)


A COMEDY OF ERRORS ON A SHIP OF FOOLS: An apology is in order. In a previous post, I labeled as "fatuous and cynical" those individuals going to Iraq to be human shields. After reading Tim Blair's post and his collection of links regarding the latest developments, I'm afraid I must take back the words "fatuous and cynical" and replace them with "stupid and naive."

This Daily Telegraph article about the departure of eleven British human shields is just hysterical. The best parts:

"During one cold, rainy night in Milan, we were left without our sleeping bags after an Italian went AWOL with the support bus. Later, a £500 donation from a well-wisher in Istanbul was squandered on boxes of Prozac in a misguided attempt to cheer up the war-weary Iraqi civilians....

After a propaganda lecture from Dr Hashimi, one young American told me: 'It's so interesting to hear what is really going on in this country.' He scoffed at any suggestion that their good intentions might be misused by Saddam's regime: 'All we have seen here is continuous kindness and hospitality.'

Bruce, a 24-year-old Canadian wearing a T-shirt saying 'I don't want to die', was one of a group of tanned young men who were drafted into protect a grain store. Initially, he, like others, had concerns about the sites, which included an oil refinery, a water purification plant and electricity stations. He was won over when the Iraqis provided televisions, VCRs, telephones and a Play Station.

'Dr Hashimi has explained that we help the population more by staying in the "strategic sites",' he explained. His friend added: 'We play football in the afternoons and the Iraqis bring us cartons of cigarettes. It's just like summer camp.'"

Read the whole piece -- it's quite droll.

Kudos as well to Sweden's anti-war movement, which, according to the AP, has the good sense to repudiate the human shields:

"On Friday, the head of Sweden's largest peace organization urged human shields to leave Iraq, saying they were being used for propaganda purposes by Saddam Hussein.

Maria Ermanno, chairwoman of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, cited reports that Iraqi officials were arranging transportation, accommodations and news conferences for the human shields.

'To go down to Iraq and live and act there on the regime's expense, then you're supporting a terrible dictator. I think that method is entirely wrong,' Ermanno told Swedish Radio."

posted by Dan at 01:55 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Saturday, March 1, 2003


THE KIESLING LETTER: When a high-ranking Foreign Service officer publicly resigns because of a policy disagreement, it makes one take notice. There may be private-sector opportunities for those who leave government service, but don't kid yourself -- almost no one outside the government can shape policy as much as those in the executive branch. To leave that for reasons of principle is significant -- as the International Herald-Tribune notes, "It is rare... for a diplomat, immersed in the State Department's culture of public support for policy regardless of private feelings, to resign with this kind of public blast."

So I took the resignation of John Brady Kiesling, the political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Athens and a 20-year veteran of the Foreign Service quite seriously. Until I read the resignation letter. Here's the key paragraph:

"The sacrifice of global interests to domestic politics and to bureaucratic self-interest is nothing new, and it is certainly not a uniquely American problem. Still, we have not seen such systematic distortion of intelligence, such systematic manipulation of American opinion, since the war in Vietnam. The September 11 tragedy left us stronger than before, rallying around us a vast international coalition to cooperate for the first time in a systematic way against the threat of terrorism. But rather than take credit for those successes and build on them, this Administration has chosen to make terrorism a domestic political tool, enlisting a scattered and largely defeated Al Qaeda as its bureaucratic ally. We spread disproportionate terror and confusion in the public mind, arbitrarily linking the unrelated problems of terrorism and Iraq. The result, and perhaps the motive, is to justify a vast misallocation of shrinking public wealth to the military and to weaken the safeguards that protect American citizens from the heavy hand of government. September 11 did not do as much damage to the fabric of American society as we seem determined to so to ourselves. Is the Russia of the late Romanovs really our model, a selfish, superstitious empire thrashing toward self-destruction in the name of a doomed status quo?"

I hope he's right about Al Qaeda's strength (this should help), but the bombings in Bali, Kenya, and Tunisia suggest that this group remains a potent force and that Kiesling is exaggerating.

Which is the problem with the whole missive. There is some measure of truth in what Kiesling writes, but there is so much gross exaggeration and simplification that it makes it hard to take seriously.

Kiesling started his career at the Foreign Service in 1983 -- a year in which Ronald Reagan was receiving mass condemnation abroaf for branding the Soviet Union an "evil empire." The U.S. was applying extraterritorial sanctions against its NATO allies because of their cooperation with the Soviet gas pipeline. Hundreds of thousands of protestors were pressuring Western European governments not to install Pershing II missiles as a counter to Soviet intermediate-range missiles, instead pushing for a nuclear freeze. A much larger budget deficit (as a share of GDP) was ballooning, in part because of an increase in military spending that makes today's increases look like chump change.

Maybe he wrote this in a distraught state of mind, but in the end the letter reads like a 16-year old protesting his curfew to his parents.

posted by Dan at 03:27 PM | Trackbacks (0)