Wednesday, April 30, 2003
The Kerry-Dean flap
THE KERRY-DEAN FLAP: Will Saletan, Mickey Kaus, Howard Kurtz, Matt Yglesias, David Adesnik, Kevin Drum , ByWord, Daily Kos, and the entire left half of the Blogosphere are all in a tizzy over John Kerry's shot across Howard Dean's bow.
Dean was quoted in a Time magazine article saying,
Kerry's spokesman Chris "I used to shill for Gore" Lehane, in a press release, responded with:
The debate seems to revolve around whether Kerry was being fiendishly clever in a good way or in a hypocritical way. What strikes me, however, is that Kerry wasn't being fiendishly clever at all -- he was following the precise instructions laid out by the Time reporter, Karen Tumulty. Let's look at the Dean quote again in context of the Time story:
Kerry's staff does earn points for being the first one to read/exploit the Tumulty suggestion.
But clever? I think not.
On academic specialization
Boy, is that an eye-catching headline.
For those of you still reading, Kieran Healy critically reviews the myriad complaints across the Scholar-Blogosphere that academic specialization has stunted conversations within and across disciplines about Really Important Questions (NOTE TO GRADUATE STUDENTS: replace "conversations" with "discourse" and you'll understand what I'm saying). Kieran unearths a great Max Weber quote from "Science as a Vocation" that anyone contemplating writing a dissertation needs to remember:
I would add only one point here. It also helps tremendously if you can explain to yourself -- and hopefully others -- why others should care about what you care about so deeply.
Chris Bertram posts a modest rejoinder to Healy that's worth checking out as well.
P.S. Click here for those who are interested in the feudal structures of my own discipline of international relations.
SCORE ONE FOR THE TRIBE!:
SCORE ONE FOR THE TRIBE!: Click on this Eugene Volokh post and you'll see that I'm guilty of a really bad pun.
A FRENCH FAUX PAS: Jacob
The topic is recent French attempts to integrate Muslims into the secular state. Apparently, it's not working out as planned.
A RESPONSIBLE MIDDLE EAST?: Let
A RESPONSIBLE MIDDLE EAST?: Let me preface this post by saying that I'm going to be wildly optimistic. I recognize that terrorism, potential terrorism and general disorder continue to haunt this region.
However, one gets the definite impression that governments in the regime are beginning to comprehend that they need to change their ways.
Consider the new Palestinian prime minister. I don't know how long he will last, but his first speech sent a powerful signal, according to the Washington Post:
Then there is Libya, which today owned up to some previous nastiness:
Acknowledging that democratic representation is important and that terrorism is bad are baby steps for most of the world. In the Middle East, however, their significance should not be understated.
As I said, I'm being wildly optimistic (for example, click here for my last post about the new Palestinian PM, and here for the NYT's skepticism about Saudi Arabia's future). It's possible that terrorism and extremism on both sides will torpedo any chance at an Israeli-Palestinian peace, or that Saudi reforms will go nowhere. But maybe the elimination of the Iraqi problem will cause a genuine move toward more responsible governance.
Developing... in a good way, I hope.
UPDATE: Brian Ulrich e-mails that I missed another promising development -- in a popular referendum, Qatar just approved their first constitution. It's not perfectly democratic, but it does allow for a partially elected legislature, and more importantly, has provisions guaranteeing freedom of speech and freedom from torture.
The Washington Times story on the Qatari referendum also contains some intriguing news about Syria:
DREZNER GETS RESULTS ON SAUDI
The only troops that will remain in Saudi Arabia will be a small training mission that has been deployed in the country since the Truman administration.
So much for the American Empire. This is a signal difference between the U.S. and other hegemons of the past -- when countries don't want U.S. bases, the military packs up and leaves.
Tuesday, April 29, 2003
Is the U.S. helping poor countries?
The Center for Global Development (which is an offshoot of the Institute for International Economics, one of Washington's best think tanks) has just released a report that, "grades 21 rich nations on whether their aid, trade, migration, investment, peacekeeping, and environmental policies help or hurt poor nations." Here's the technical version of the report. Foreign Policy is publishing an summary version of it -- and the Financial Times has a quick run-down of the findings:
Is this a damning indictment of U.S. foreign policy? Yes and no.
The report deservedly takes the U.S. to task for being foreign aid misers and for tying American aid to U.S. purchases. The report also slams the U.S. for its poor record on legal migration.
However, on some of the other policy dimension, the report is stacked against the U.S. On the security dimension, for example, the measure is: “Countries' contributions to the U.N. peacekeeping budget (which funds operations in dozens of countries) and personnel contributions to international peacekeeping efforts.” This conveniently overlooks the role the U.S. military plays in preserving global security [C’mon, how significant is that?—ed. Let's go to Gregg Easterbrook's essay on U.S. military superiority from the Sunday New York Times]:
There are other flaws in the study that I'll be discussing in the near future.
That said, I'd still recommend taking a look at it.
Tips for new bloggers
Starting a blog? Want to get noticed?
For the big fish perspective, here's Eugene Volokh's perspective. The part of the post I agree with the most:
The part of Eugene's post that I sort of disagree with is his claim that
Maybe it's the contrarian in me, but I like posts that disagree with my argument -- if they rest on a compelling conceptual or empirical basis.
An additional note for those using Blogger -- make sure your f#@&ing permalinks are working.
From the smaller fish's perspective, here's Will Baude's perspective. The part I agree with the most:
Monday, April 28, 2003
THE IRAQ-AL QAEDA LINK: Andrew
THE IRAQ-AL QAEDA LINK: Andrew Sullivan and Michael Totten both link to the Daily Telegraph story discovering a document linking Hussein's regime to Al Qaeda. The Toronto Star co-broke the story -- here's their version of it. The Star also reprints the key section of the three-page document. Here it is, annotated:
Maybe the meeting went nowhere, maybe it didn't. What's clear is that in 1998, both Al Qaeda and Iraq's government were interested in cooperating.
I had thought the Al Qaeda link was the weakest part of the justification for going to war with Iraq. It will be interesting to see if more documents emerge.
IS THE WHEEL TURNING IN
IS THE WHEEL TURNING IN BERKELEY?: I have done some scary things in my life. I have sky-dived. I have bungee jumped. I drank water straight from the tap in Moscow. I've flown Uzbekistan Airways, for God's sake. However, when anyone has asked me what's the scariest thing I've ever done, I tell them unequivocally that it was when I walked up Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley wearing a business suit (I was en route to a job interview).
The article makes an excellent point, however -- that Berkeley is no longer the liberal stereotype of yore, in part because of the increasing diversity of students on campus:
Here's a link to the California Patriot description of events -- they have pictures.
SHIITE MEME OF THE WEEK:
SHIITE MEME OF THE WEEK: Last week's meme was all about how the United States had underestimated the power of Shiite clerics in Iraq, and how the most influential Shiite mullahs in Iraq are clearly linked to Iran.
My prediction is that the meme that will emerge this week is the potentially growing rift between Iran's government and Iraqi Shiite leaders.
My evidence? Two bits of data -- which is all that's needed for a media meme to develop. First, members of the largest Shia group - the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) -- attended Monday's United States-sponsored meeting of Iraqi groups with Jay Garner "to discuss the formation of a transitional administration for Iraq." SCIRI had boycotted a similar meeting held in Nasiriyah two weeks ago. At a minimum, this means that SCIRI recognizes it will need to deal with the United States if it wants to play a future role in governing Iraq.
Even the BBC acknowledges the diversity of Shia opinion:
Second, there's this New York Times piece:
I'm not even close to being an expert on intra-Shiite relations, so I'm not saying that Iran will have no influence in postwar Iraq. However, these stories certainly muddy up the claim that Iraq is on course to becoming a Shiite theocracy under the thumb of Iran's mullahs.
WELL, THIS IS A SURPRISE:
WELL, THIS IS A SURPRISE: This Financial Times discovery speaks for itself:
DREZNER GETS RESULTS ON SAUDI
DREZNER GETS RESULTS ON SAUDI ARABIA!: One of the reasons I gave back in the fall for supporting the use of force in Iraq was that removing Saddam Hussein would also remove the need for large-scale U.S. forces to be in Saudi Arabia. That troop presence has been a major irritant in the region. It was also destabilizing the Saudi regime -- and not in the good way that neocons dream about.
From today's New York Times:
Getting U.S. forces out of the same country where the holy shrines of Mecca and Medina is an unambiguously good thing.
Reading the Times piece, what struck me was not just that this was smart foreign policy, but the wildly divergent attitudes of the Saudis and Qataris on hosting the U.S. military:
This is a win-win-win situation. Qatar gets the U.S. military presence it wants. Saudi Arabia gets to reduce the U.S. military presence it loathes. The United States gets to improve relations with two countries in the region simultaneously.
Sunday, April 27, 2003
REGARDING THAT FRIENDS POST: You
REGARDING THAT FRIENDS POST: You complain about academic stereotypes in popular culture, and the blogs beat a path to your door. Posts from Amanda Butler, Stephen Karlson, Andrew Cory, and The Crooked Heart on the topic.
Friday, April 25, 2003
Should this trend be encouraged?
This story provides more explanation:
Hmmm... you know, come to think of it, Salma Hayek also opposed the war with Iraq. Why, that makes her... positively un-American!! [That may be because she's a Mexican citizen.--ed. It's the weekend. Shut up and let me have my fun.]
Just thinking out loud....
UPDATE: Patrick Belton has some less puerile thoughts on the topic.
NORTH KOREA UPDATE: First, exactly
NORTH KOREA UPDATE: First, exactly what did North Korea say in their negotiations with the U.S. and China? From today's Washington Post:
North Korean negotiators have told U.S. officials in Beijing that the communist nation possesses nuclear weapons and threatened to export them or conduct a "physical demonstration," U.S. officials said yesterday....
U.S. officials said North Korea declared it had nuclear weapons as officials were milling about in corridors on Wednesday, the first day of the talks among the United States, North Korea and China. The top North Korean official at the talks, Li Gun, pulled aside the highest-ranking American present, Assistant Secretary of State James A. Kelly, and told him that North Korea has nuclear weapons. "We can't dismantle them," Li told Kelly. "It's up to you whether we do a physical demonstration or transfer them."
U.S. officials are still puzzling over the statement and its exact meaning, including whether North Korea was threatening to test a nuclear weapon. But, a senior official said, "it was very fast, very categorical and obviously very scripted."
OK, it's safe to say this is not good news. However, the really weird aspect of this has been that, in the wake of North Korea's admission, China is more upset than South Korea. From the Financial Times: China is supposed to be North Korea's closest ally. But the failure of US-North Korean talks brokered by Beijing this week has severely tried the patience of the Chinese government, diplomats and people close to the talks said on Friday.....
"The talks failed to achieve the results that China wanted. After putting so much effort into this the Chinese are pretty frustrated with the Koreans," said one foreign diplomat. Another person close to the talks said that, behind a smiling public façade, Chinese diplomats were seething at North Korea's behaviour.....
[W]hat is becoming increasingly clear is that, behind the rhetoric, Beijing's regard for the regime of Kim Jong-il (pictured), the North Korean dictator, has virtually evaporated. Any residual affinity from the days of socialist brotherhood more than a decade ago has gone.
"Korea is a huge problem," said one government official.
On the other hand, there's South Korea's reaction:
UPDATE: Kevin Drum has more on the disturbing South Korean reaction.
A minor complaint
However, the story line that really frosted me was from a few years ago, when Ross was sleeping with an undergraduate. If the caricature of academia in the Blogosphere is a collection of tenured radicals, the caricature of academia in popular culture is a collection of lecherous white male who inevitably bed one or more of their students.
This is true across mediums. Of the top of my head:
Movies: What Lies Beneath, Loser, Terms of Endearment, Moonstruck.
There is no fighting it; if a fictional character is a white male professor, nine times out of ten he's sleeping with the co-ed.
Why is this? Probably because, in the absence of illicit sex, our jobs appear to be intensely boring to the outside world.
UPDATE: Josh Cherniss thinks this phenomenon is simply an extension of the fact that sex sells in fiction. Maybe he's right -- however, what upsets me is affair-with-coed is the only persistent trope in the fictional depiction of academics.
MORE ON SANTORUM: Give the
MORE ON SANTORUM: Give the progressives their due -- like a stopped clock, they are right every once in a while.
Example? The left anticipated Santorum would put his foot in his mouth five years ago.
In March 1998, Progressive magazine selected Santorum as the dumbest member of Congress. Yes, it's a biased list, but the entry on Santorum is still pretty funny. The key grafs:
Go read the whole entry on Santorum -- the Bob Kerrey quote is pretty funny.
Thanks to alert reader J.B. for the link.
UPDATE: The Associated Press reports on the first White House comment on Santorum:
ANOTHER UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan has a more pessimistic interpretation of Bush's statement -- and he could be right. He's certainly on the money when he says this:
THE PARALLELS CONTINUE: In the
THE PARALLELS CONTINUE: In the run-up to Gulf War II, I'd commented and linked to comments on the historical parallels between the anti-war movement and the nuclear freeze protests of the early eighties.
Well, another one is emerging -- the financial link between these protest movements and totalitarian dictatorships. There's evidence that the nuclear freeze movement received some funding from the Soviet government (click here and here).
Now it turns out that The Mariam Appeal -- a prominent British anti-war group that opposed Operation Iraqi Freedom and is headed by Labor MP George Galloway -- received funds from Saddam Hussein. Andrew Sullivan has been all over this. The Daily Telegraph broke the story a few days ago. The Guardian provides some supporting analysis. Galloway has denied receiving funds but admits that intermediaries who worked for him may have done so. The Christian Science Monitor now buttresses the original story with additional evidence:
[Are you saying this taints the entire anti-war movement?--ed. No, absolutely not. It is, however, yet another stain on the "leadership" of such social movements -- click here and here for more blemishes]
THE GREAT BLOG DEBATE: Over
THE GREAT BLOG DEBATE: Over the past few months, bloggers with higher hit counts than I have strongly encouraged me to switch from Blogger to Movable Type. In the past month, Virginia Postrel and Kevin Drum have made the leap. So why don't I?
To tell the truth, I'm sorely tempted -- Blogger has been quite aggravating as of late. I may be switching in the next few months. However, one thing that holds me back is this Virginia Postrel observation:
For those 1-2% of you out there who actually care about this question, let me know what you think about this.
Thursday, April 24, 2003
IF ONLY CELINE DION HAD
IF ONLY CELINE DION HAD BEEN IN STEERAGE: Mark Kleiman thinks shipping regulations are too stringent nowadays.
Oh, that's not really true. Go check out his interesting debate with Tom Schelling about the ethics of cost/benefit analysis.
Catching up on Rick Santorum
I'm late to the party on Rick Santorum's comments on the right to privacy and homosexuality. There's good commentary from Glenn Reynolds, Eugene Volokh, Virginia Postrel, Chris Lawrence, Kevin Drum, John Scalzi, Jonah Goldberg, and Andrew Sullivan. Jacob Levy has posted an awesome collection of links as well.
Having read the entire interview -- you should too -- I do tend to agree with Eugene Volokh that Santorum has a leg to stand on in regard to his legal arguments. Nevertheless, the following seems clear to me:
1) Santorum thinks that the public acceptance of homosexuality is destroying our country's moral fiber
UPDATE: Via Sullivan, I found this CNN transcript. Tony Blankley's comments on this are worth repeating:
That's a pretty good summary of what Alan Wolfe's research says on the topic as well.
AH, MY FAVORITE AXIS: Via
AH, MY FAVORITE AXIS: Via Tapped, I found this New York Observer report on the neoconservative ecosystem. The article occasionally veers off into the paranoid style that it explicitly warns against. Mostly, though, I found it pretty funny. My favorite part:
A MORE OPTIMISTIC POST: OK,
There's also this report from the Washington Times:
WORRYING ABOUT AFGHANISTAN: It's possible
WORRYING ABOUT AFGHANISTAN: It's possible to point to press stories indicating that things are getting better in Afghanistan. The number of returning Afghan expatriates is increasing, which is one sign of stability. Kandahar now has an Internet cafe. Polio vaccinations have drastically reduced the rate of infection in the country.
So, does that mean things are -- on the whole -- improving in the country? No, I'm afraid the security situation is getting worse.
Much, much worse.
Earlier this week I had the opportunity to chat with a high-ranking member of our armed forces. This is the kind of guy who presents a generally unflappable demeanor. It was an off-the-record conversation, so I can't say what he told me exactly. It was clear, however, that the situation in southern Afghanistan was starting to alarm him.
Further evidence comes from Jane's Intelligence Review's latest update on the Afghan situation:
Click here for today's example of the increased coordination of the anti-Karzai forces.
Part of the problem with the increased strength of the oppoosition forces is that it forces the Karzai government to rely even more on tribal militias, contradicting efforts to create a truly national military. The Christian Science Monitor explains:
The U.S. response and the Afghan government's response to this has been to step up security patrols in the affected areas, and to apply pressure on Pakistan to cut off any covert support for Taliban remnants.
The final source of my pessimism comes from someone who knows Afghanistan well, Barnett Rubin. Read this VOA report and it's clear his outlook has become more pessimistic since I heard him in January.
Clearly, more effort needs to be devoted to the country. Given all the focus that will be on Iraq, my concern is that this situation will be permitted to deteriorate even further, because Afghanistan is off the front pages and because many of the same government officials responsible for Afghanistan are dealing with Iraq as well.
Developing... and for the moment, not in a good way.
UPDATE: CNN reports on another firefight along the Afghan-Pakistani border.
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
A STEP FORWARD FOR THE
A STEP FORWARD FOR THE PALESTINIANS?: It appears that in response to overwhelming and persistent international pressure, Yassir Arafat has backed down and accepted Prime Minister-designate Mahmoud Abbas' proposed cabinet. Here's the AP story, and here's CNN's take.
Much of the press has played this up as a contest between Arafat trying to place his cronies and Abbas wanting to reform the Palestinian administration. That's true but incomplete in the sense that Abbas might not be that much of an improvement. Consider this extract from a New York Times story from yesterday:
Then there's this take in the Chicago Tribune:
These stories suggest two things. First, Palestinians would be willing to go along with a two-state solution provided there was evidence that their own state was managed somewhat efficiently. In other words, a leader commited to peace could get it by tying progress on that front with an anti-corruption campaign at home. Second, I'm far from convinced that Abbas will be able to pull this off.
This is definitely one post where I hope I'm eventually proven wrong.
UPDATE: Tom Maguire has more reasons to be pessimistic.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY!: OxBlog is one
HAPPY BIRTHDAY!: OxBlog is one year old today -- so go check out their sight.
I, for one, find them invaluable as a labor-saving device. For example, I was going to write up a long post about why Newt Gingrich's shot across Colin Powell's bow disturbed me so much -- because it presumed that the flaws in U.S. foreign policy lay in Powell's management of the State Department and not Bush's management of his cabinet. To highlight Powell's failure at diplomacy without any mention of Donald Rumsfeld's verbal gaffes in this area strikes me as fatuous. [So you're letting Powell off the hook?--ed. Go back and read this post; I'm an equal-opportunity critic]
Fortunately, I don't have to discuss this any further. Go read David Adesnik's thorough post on the subject. It also mentions beaches in Thailand.
UPDATE: According to the New York Times, the White House is having the same reaction I did:
I'm not a lawyer, but I do get cited in court decisions
Loyal readers of this blog know that I occasionally have strong opinions regarding some attempts at international law creation these days. A sharp observer might ask, "Hey, Drezner, you study international relations. What do you know about internationational law?"
My instinctive response is, "not a lot." However, a friend just informed me that the only article I have ever published in a law journal was cited by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in their decision on the Ramzi Yousef appeal (2003 U.S. App. LEXIS 6437 for those law geeks out there). Mr. Yousef was the gentleman who helped organize the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and conspired to bomb twelve United States commercial airliners in Southeast Asia. The reference was to an obscure question regarding whether scholars of international law were -- through their writings -- the primary creators of customary international law. I was cited in part because I said the obvious -- that this was a silly contention. The observation that my article "cit[ed] extensively to relevant examples" counts as high praise -- in legalese. So I know something.
Nevertheless, I still can't claim expertise. If you want some real experts regarding international law, go read what the following people write:
Tuesday, April 22, 2003
GIVE NICHOLAS KRISTOFF HIS DUE:
GIVE NICHOLAS KRISTOFF HIS DUE: I like it when public commentators admit it when they were wrong (and Lord knows, I have to do it all too frequently). Not because it humbles them, but because it sends an important signal of credibility. It tells me that their theoretical take on the world is not rigid to the point where it distorts their empirical assessment of the world.
Which brings me to Kristoff's column today. Here's his opening:
He covers a lot of the same ground that I posted about two weeks ago. However, it carries more weight when a dove admits it.
Of course, that doesn't I think Kristoff is right in this conclusion:
We'll see whether Kristoff is correct. However, approximately 40% of Iraq are not Shi'Ite, and I'm betting that a healthy fraction of the Shi'ites don't want to see an Islamic Republic.
The key will be to see the proliferation of Iraqi media. The more people that see moderately large Shi'ite demonstrations for an Islamic republic, the more it will mobilize alternative social movements who will oppose such actions. The fundamental question is, at this point, whether hard-line Shi'ites will then choose to moderate their tone to stay in the political game a la Tajikistan, or choose secessionist or rejectionist strategies.
UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan has more on Kristoff and the future for democracy in Iraq.
Don't tread on me
So I'm scrolling down InstaPundit when I come to his Monty Python Test. So I take it. The result?
See, this is why I don't have a comments section. I'd just go medieval on everyone.
I hope this doesn't imply that I'm just a dumb bunny.
UPDATE: Alan K. Henderson has a good roundup on the rest of the Blogosphere's Monty Python doppelgangers.
Monday, April 21, 2003
MUST-READ FOR THE DAY: It's
MUST-READ FOR THE DAY: It's actually from last month -- a New York Times translation of a Der Spiegel interview with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. It's extraordinary for several reasons. The first is Fischer's claim about the neocon vision of a post-9/11 world:
For the record, Wolfowitz vehemently denies he said this to Fischer. He wrote a letter to the editor in which he states, "I have never held the view the Foreign Minister attributes to me and did not express such a view in our meeting of Sept. 19, 2001, as the official notes of that meeting make clear." Given Fischer's apparent preference for public dissembling and private truth-telling, I tend to believe Wolfowitz on this one.
Then there's this exchange:
Really, I recommend reading the entire article -- the Der Spiegel interviewer gives Fisher a pretty good grilling.
I came away from the read depressed about Europe's map of the future. Fischer admits that "Europeans at their end started to hold strategic discussions too late. We have to catch up now." However, I can't divine any underlying social purpose behind Fisher's call for a strategic vision beyond constraining American power.
Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and a cautionary note
I can't count the number of times someone in the Blogosphere (myself included) has posted initial reports of this variety and have them turn out to be either overblown or just plain wrong. There's an additional strike against this story -- the conditions under which it was reported:
So why am I posting it?
That said, take this information with a grain of salt.
UPDATE: Mickey Kaus offers additional reasons for why we should keep our skepticism in check regarding this story. Of course, he also offers a link to a Los Angeles Times story that would confirm Miller's version of events.
Saturday, April 19, 2003
Gideon Rose's latest essay in Slate discusses the Defense Department's current challenge for post-conflict situations. A key graf (you should really read the whole thing):
This challenge is particularly acute if the administration wants to minimize the UN's role in postwar Iraq.
Will the DOD rise to the challenge? Signals are very mixed. On the one hand, there's this Chicago Tribune report from today:
On the other hand, there's this Chicago Tribune report from four days ago:
To be fair to Rumsfeld, he's fighting a deep antipathy among the service branches to functions other than warfighting (click here for more background).
Rumsfeld, and the rest of the Bush administration's foreign policy team, face a clear choice. It can outsource peacekeeping functions to the United Nations or close allies, at the cost of some constraints on foreign policy implementation. It can minimize the U.N. role and develop/train its own peacekeeping force. Or it can do neither and run into trouble down the road.
THE SYSTEM WORKS: Last week,
THE SYSTEM WORKS: Last week, Baseball Hall of Fame President Dale Petroskey banned Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon from appearing at a 15th anniversary celebration of the greatest baseball movie ever made, Bull Durham. Petroskey Fedexed the pair a letter arguing that comments made by the actors "ultimately could put our troops in even more danger." He went on to note: "Mr. Robbins and Ms. Sarandon have every right to express their opinions. But The Baseball Hall of Fame is not the proper venue for highly charged political expressions, whatever they may be." For more backstory, click here.
Needless to say, this was an asinine decision for three reasons. First, neither Sarandon nor Robbins said anything that put troops in danger. Yes, they opposed the war, but last I checked they weren't transmitting information to Baghdad or anything of that sort.
Second, if their behavior at the Oscars was indicative of anything, it was that neither of them had planned pull a Michael Moore or anything at the Hall of Fame Ceremony. Sarandon was quoted as saying:
Third, never, under any circumstances, do anything that permits Sarandon or Robbins to feel righteously indignant. It's just grating. Petroskey's move validated the claim by a lot of Hollywood types that their public opposition to the war was somehow being censored.
Fortunately, Petroskey's decision resulted in a deluge of letters and editorials (click here and here too) denouncing the decision. A lot of the Blogosphere was pissed too -- click here, here, and here. And this week, Petroskey did something very rare -- he issued a genuine apology. Here are the key grafs:
According to the AP, Robbins responded with a statement observing, "Because Petroskey's actions resulted in a bipartisan, nationwide affirmation of free speech and the First Amendment, he has inadvertently done us all a favor."
This may be that once-in-a-decade moment where I am in agreement with Robbins on a matter of politics.
Friday, April 18, 2003
WHY I LOVE DENMARK: There
WHY I LOVE DENMARK: There are two reasons. First, there's their commitment to open government, which is about to embarrass the European Union, according to this FT story:
Needless to say, this is causing a three-way diplomatic row between Denmark, Turkey, and Germany. I actually have some sympathy for Fischer, since he's being damned by hearsay. If it's true, however, then shame on Germany for trying to screw the Turks over, and good for the Danes' commitment to open government.
Essay question to the Eurocrats:
[What's the second reason you love Denmark?--ed. Last month the Danish weekly Weekendavisen translated and published one of my New Republic essays. I may not speak a word of Danish, but it looks pretty damn cool.]
HE'S RIGHT -- PROBABLY: Josh
HE'S RIGHT -- PROBABLY: Josh Marshall has a level-headed post today in response to today's Baghdad demonstration demanding an Islamic state in Iraq. It closes this way:
As someone who occasionally pretends to know how things will turn out, I think Marshall is right.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum has more to say on this:
Thursday, April 17, 2003
IN MY NAME: What Josh
IN MY NAME: What Josh Chafetz said here, I wholeheartedly endorse.
SIGN OF THE TIMES: Blogging
True story -- after I'd attended a senior seminar, my host explained to one of his colleagues that I needed to get to an Internet station -- because it had been some time since I'd updated the blog.
Wednesday, April 16, 2003
SYRIA AND AL-QAEDA: Via Glenn
SYRIA AND AL-QAEDA: Via Glenn Reynolds, I read Justin Weitz's discussion of sanctioning Syria (you'll have to scroll down). In the post, Wietz mentions, "Syria's close relationship with terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda and Hezbollah."
Now, this was the first time I had heard about any connection between Al-Qaeda and Syria, and I didn't like the assertion without any backup. Weitz, however, could point to this September 2002 post which linked to this Ha'aretz article chronicling the relationship between Syria and Al Qaeda. The article is sourced to various intelligence agencies as opposed to specific individuals, which makes me antsy for some reason. That said, here are the key grafs:
Now there's this Los Angeles Times story:
And finally, this Straits Times lead:
If you read everything, I'm still not sure it adds up to a conscious effort by the Syrian government to assist Al Qaeda. I see a lot of suppositions and fewer facts.
However, this post was originally going to blast Weitz for making the link between Syria and Al Qaeda without any basis in fact. Obviously, it didn't turn out that way.
What do you think? Let me know.
UPDATE: Todd Mormon posts some new information suggesting that the Syrian government has been eager to cooperate with the U.S. on Al Qaeda. And it's worth quoting at length from Lawrence Kaplan's TNR article on Syria:
Food for thought.
What are my colleagues working on?
The University of Chicago has acquired a long-standing reputation for being concerned primarily with abstract ideas. With the possible exception of our political philosophers, this is largely a canard -- what my colleagues excel at is marrying larger theoretical concerns to practical, real-world questions.
Which brings me to this University of Chicago Magazine cover story on our faculty's "unexpected areas of expertise." Law professor Mary Anne Case is investigating a subject near and dear to women's hearts across this land -- the inequities of public toilets:
Click here if you'd like to contribute to Case's database by filling out a copy of the aforementioned toilet survey.
I suspect some may find this kind of research trivial -- and I would vehemently disagree. This is an eminently practical question, and I suspect there is a dearth of literature on the topic. Good for Case.
WHEN DRUDGE HYPERVENTILATES: Matt Drudge's
WHEN DRUDGE HYPERVENTILATES: Matt Drudge's latest "flash" story is about how Sharon Bush -- Neil Bush's ex-wife -- plans to write "a tell all [book] on the Bush family". What are the juicy details? Here are some snippets:
Oh, dear God, no!! Not "pragmatic and calculating"!! And the family cares about its public image? Wow, this is going to be pathbreaking stuff. Wait, there's more:
Well, there will certainly be an uproar when the American people find out that the matriarch of the Bush clan has influence over her family members. And "fraught and complex" relationships between family members will certainly be a novel theme in American politics. You'd never see that kind of behavior among the Kennedys, Gores, Doles, Rockefellers, Clintons, or Daleys.
I understand why Sharon Bush's lawyer wants to attract publicity. I can't understand why Drudge would think that a book that spills Neil Bush's dirty laundry and implies that the other Bushes have political sides to their personalities is particularly salacious.
SO WHAT DO THE NEOCONS
SO WHAT DO THE NEOCONS WANT?: In the past month I've received a lot of e-mail flak for one of two posts -- either this one touting Josh Marshall's Washington Monthly essay as a "must-read", or this one pooh-poohing the notion that Jim Woolsey speaks for the Bush administration when he says we're starting World War IV. Critics of the first post say I'm buying into wild conspiracy theories; critics of the second post think I'm naive and uninformed about the way Washington really works.
Here's my answer to both sets of critics.
Part of the problem is that the neocons have hardly made up their minds on this question. There's this Washington Post story suggesting Syria's next on the list -- at the same time, Lawrence Kaplan writes in The New Republic that Syria isn't even on the radar screen (subscription required).
This Reuters report suggests that all of the neocons are ready to march throughout the Middle East. But chief neocon theoretician Robert Kagan opines that some humility is in order right now, and it’s going to be tough to proffer an olive branch to Europe while coercing Syria with military force. Even Josh Marshall is skeptical that military action is imminent – his description of what’s going on right now is note-perfect:
So, why did I think Marshall’s article was worth reading? Because I agree with him that a few neocons are willing to deceive in order to achieve their desired – and arguably desirable – ends. I've spoken with or listened to a fair number of the chief neocons. Most of them are intellectually rigorous and smart as hell. But some of them – who until recently held positions of influence in the Bush administration – will change their arguments on a whim, or make wildly erroneous assertions, or ignore contradictory evidence, to get what they want. And I care enough about how the process of U.S. foreign policy decision-making to oppose those tactics, no matter how desirable the perceived ends.
What could be interesting in the next few weeks/months is whether the neoconservative movement splits – between “pragmatic” neocons (Kagan, Wolfowitz) that recognize the limits of what can be done right now, and “movement” neoconservatives (Woolsey, Perle) that want to start World War IV.
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
TOUGH TIMES FOR FRENCH LEADERS:
TOUGH TIMES FOR FRENCH LEADERS: Like a bad hangover, the French obstructionism of February and March is coming back to haunt the Chirac administration. [Hey, doesn't this support your argument about the limits of anti-Americanism in established democracies?--ed. Huh. What a felicitous coincidence.] The Guardian reports:
A slide from 74% to 70% ain't that big of a comedown. The key thing, however, is that French elites are just starting to criticize Chirac for his position on Iraq. Consider this from the Voice of America:
You know France is screwed, however, when Tom Friedman writes this paragraph:
UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has more on France's current woes.
My e-mail policy
As this blog has climbed in popularity and added a comments feature, my e-mail traffic has shot up dramatically. This is all to the good. Indeed, since the comments feature has been added, the blog has garnered kudos from the blogosphere and the mediasphere about the "articulate, thoughtful & balanced' quality of the readership.
With the demands of the day job not going away, I'm just going to apologize now to those of you who don't receive a response either via e-mail or in response to a posted comment. This doesn't mean I'm not reading your mail or your comments. It means I just don't have the time to write thoughtful responses all the time, and I'm leery of writing quick, flippant replies. So, my feedback policy is simple:
UPDATE: I feel a bit churlish posting this, since compared to InstaPundit my e-mail/comment traffic is small potatoes.
[This is because of hate mail, isn't it?--ed. Knock on wood, no. I've received some angry e-mails, a few trolls, and a few individuals that are spoiling for an intellectual fight, but over 99.5% of the feedback has been polite. I can count the number of true hate-mails on one hand. I just want to lower expectations about getting a response to any query sent my way]
TOTALITARIANISM IN ZIMBABWE: Last month
TOTALITARIANISM IN ZIMBABWE: Last month I blogged about authoritarian crackdowns during Gulf War II. Since then, Mickey Kaus has been all over Casto's crackdown in Cuba (as well as what happens when Lennonist contemplate schmoozing with Leninists). However, this New York Times story suggests that Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe is rapidly catching up to Castro or Hussein in terms of totalitarianism:
"Human rights groups report a violent crackdown by President Mugabe against the opposition that forced nearly 1,000 people to flee their homes. An opposition representative in the Zimbabwean Parliament arrives in Johannesburg showing reporters how he was tortured by Zimbabwean security agents with electric shock. Three Zimbabwean women who had participated in a rally here against President Mugabe report they were later raped by Zimbabwean agents operating in South Africa. A popular Zimbabwean cricket player flees to South Africa saying he received numerous death threats after wearing a black armband — a symbol of mourning for what he considered the death of democracy in his homeland."
The focus of the Times story is actually on Mugabe's creation of a corps of young loyalist thugs who benefit from the current system:
"The young men, who range in age from 18 to 22, explained that they are runaways from Zimbabwe's National Youth Service, whose graduates are known and feared as the "green bombers," a nickname that comes from the group's military-style uniforms and capacity for devastation.
Human rights groups and Western diplomats accuse President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe of turning the recruits into violent thugs and unleashing them on political opponents. President Mugabe, who has governed since the end of white rule in 1980, dismisses the accusations. He has said that he established the youth league three years ago as a kind of poor boys' Peace Corps, enlisting his country's sizable 18-and-under population for desperately needed community service projects.
In an interview today, Makhosi Ngusanya, 19, said he answered President Mugabe's call to service when his teachers filled his head with visions of a noble way out of poverty.
'They told us that if we became good green bombers then they would make us soldiers and give us land,' Mr. Ngusanya said. 'But they didn't give us anything. And all they taught us was to kill.'"
Is the Bush administration looking the other way, or rather, looking at Syria? Not exactly. This Australian report suggests the administration is trying a "North Korea" strategy of having Zimbabwe's neighbors take the lead, quoting a "senior official" in the State Department as follows:
"What we're telling them is there has to be a transitional government in Zimbabwe that leads to a free and fair, internationally supervised election.... That is the goal. He stole the last one, we can't let that happen again.... It has to be internationally supervised, open, transparent with an electoral commission that works..... "
Will this strategy work? The U.S. official spins a positive reaction, saying: "The neighbourhood is starting to realise that there is a downside to giving aid and protection to Comrade Bob," the official said, using a derogatory nickname for Mugabe.... There is stuff happening, there is stuff happening behind the scenes."
Well, maybe. The Times story makes it clear that South African President Thabo Mbeki is reluctant to criticize a fellow African leader, especially in response to Anglosphere pressure. So does this story on negotiations within the Commonwealth on Zimbabwe:
"Zimbabwe has failed to respond to appeals for reform from the Commonwealth and its situation has worsened since suspension from the group of mainly ex-British colonies, according to a report leaked today.
'Overall the general political, economic and social situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated since March 2002,' said an internal report by Don McKinnon, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, obtained and published by Britain's opposition Conservative Party....
The Commonwealth split over Zimbabwe has appeared to pit white nations against African and Asian ones in the seven-decade-old group which joins almost one third of the world's countries with 1,7 billion people.
On one side, African heavyweights South Africa and Nigeria, for example, believe Mugabe's government has recorded enough progress over the past year in land reform, human rights and democracy to warrant re-admission to the Commonwealth.
But Mugabe's opponents such as Australia say that stance is a betrayal of Commonwealth principles, pointing to the treason trial of opposition figures and harsh media and security laws." (emphasis added)
Developing... and not in a good way.
THE SCHIZOPHRENIC ECONOMIST: Kevin Drum
THE SCHIZOPHRENIC ECONOMIST: Kevin Drum has the goods on contradictory statements coming from the august British publication, or, as Kevin puts it, "the pro-war, pro-Bush, America-friendly, center-right Economist:"
Kevin, you should have followed up that statement with, "not that there's anything wrong with that!"
Monday, April 14, 2003
I'm not a lawyer, but I know bulls@&t when I see it
The San Francisco Chronicle has a story on one man's effort to revolutionize international law:
What to know what your International Bill of Rights looks like? Here's the document. To Boyd's credit, it's not written in legalese. To Boyd's debit, it's so contradictory and pie-in-the-sky that I can't believe he's devoted five years to it.
[What's specifically wrong with it?--ed. To begin with, a third of the countries in the world could not afford the public goods required of it. The restrictions on representation include this contradictory sentence: "Only individuals, not corporations or other entities, shall be allowed to contribute money or other assets to candidates or ballot measures, but individuals may combine to contribute as a group." The enforcement mechanism gave me a good chuckle.]
I don't mean to be cruel. It seems clear that Boyd has honorable intentions. But the legal and political foundations of the document and his strategy for implementation (internationalize the European Court for Human Rights) are laughable.
I'm sure the Libyan chair of the Human Rights Commission will give Boyd a full hearing.
UPDATE: Will Baude has some additional thoughts on Boyd's attempt to draft a freedom of speech clause.
MORE ON UMM QASR: The
MORE ON UMM QASR: The New York Times reports of an open town meeting in Umm Qasr:
"For the first time anywhere in Iraq since the war started, the people in this port town gathered tonight for a remarkable democratic display — a town hall meeting.
As the sun set, turning the cloud-covered sky a dusty orange, the townspeople took turns talking about the problems they face and deciding who among them would help lead the community in the future.
However, as has been the case in interviews in cities from Safwan to Zubayr to Basra, people were too fixated on their present condition to think about what was to come. They want to know what is being done about the lack of water, security and jobs — three things they say they had under Saddam Hussein's rule."
Ah, the sounds of citizens wanting more from their government.
Meanwhile, this report suggests that the humanitarian effort to repair damage from the war will pale in comparison to the humanitarian effort needed to repair damage from the economic sanctions of the past decade.
ETIQUETTE QUESTION: It appears that
ETIQUETTE QUESTION: It appears that Tikrit has fallen. CENTCOM spokesman Vincent Brooks was quoted as follows:
"This morning the attack entered Tikrit, securing the presidential palace there and also beginning the search for any remaining regime supporters."
And this is really the only significant combat action that occurred within the last 24 hours... There was less resistance than we anticipated."
Later on the article states: "Some officers are suggesting that this battle could be the last major engagement of the war."
This news, combined with mounting evidence that the "looting phase" is over, poses an interesting question: at what point should the "No War" buttons be removed from clothing?
Nicholas De Genova speaks!!
Read the whole interview to get the entire context. I found the entire exchange hysterical -- it basically consists of the interviewer asking reasoned questions, De Genova popping off an irrelevant or incoherent answer, and the interviewer having to gently re-ask the question. Two examples:
Then there's this closing exchange:
Karl Marx once said that history repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce. It's safe to say that Nicholas De Genova is the living embodiment of that cliché.
P.S. I must give some props to the Filibuster here. I knew about this story from an independent source and expected to be the first in the Blogosphere to comment/link to it. Because they are actually up at 2 AM, they beat me to it. A tip of the cap and a place on the blogroll to them.
Sunday, April 13, 2003
ELSEWHERE IN THE BLOGOSPHERE: Trent
ELSEWHERE IN THE BLOGOSPHERE: Trent Telenko has some interesting commentary and links on successful U.S. Army efforts at statebuilding in Afghanistan, and how NGO groups have mixed feelingsa about it.
Daniel Urman has a point about the asinine hypothesis that Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins have somehow undermined our troops in Iraq by opposing the war.
Oh, and Eugene Volokh has some thoughts about vibrators.
North Korea update
The Bush administration strategy on North Korea -- which bears some resemblance to what I had suggested in this space in January -- is now reaping potentially significant dividends, according to today's New York Times:
It's not just China and Russia -- this week, ASEAN will probably send the same message.
What has been the effect of Operation Iraqi Freedom on North Korea? It would be safe to say that the North Koreans are rattled, in a potentially good way. This Friday Washington Post interview with the South Korean President opens with the following grafs:
This New York Times story buttresses this statement:
Friday, April 11, 2003
Does victory in Iraq defeat the anti-war arguments?
Michael Kinsley's latest Slate essay strikes back at a lot of the pro-war commetariat -- including key players in the Blogosphere -- that are having a good time gloating at the expense of anti-war pundits. The subtitle of the piece -- "Victory in the war is not victory in the argument about the war." -- nicely sums up the argument.
Is Kinsley correct? Yes and no. He's correct that many of the anti-war arguments had to do with issues beyond the question of how the war would play itself out. The realist argument against the war was that Saddam could be deterred without the use of force. That counterfactual will be tough to check either way. The liberal argument against the war was that the costs of frayed multilateral institutions and estranged allies outweighed the benefits of regime change. We're about to find out whether that's true. The pragmatic argument against the war was that when you prioritize the threats against the United States, other menaces -- Al Qaeda, North Korea -- are more important than Iraq. Again, we're about to see whether the nine months devoted to Iraq will cost us in these areas of concern.
However, Kinsley is also being more than a bit disingenuous. All of these arguments are decision-theoretic -- they weigh the costs and benefits of different strategies. And what all of the anti-war arguments have in common is that their estimates of the costs were vastly inflated. Consider:
1) The human costs of war. Many antiwar advocates argued that Operation Iraqi Freedom would lead to a humanitarian disaster. This antiwar site has the following two paragraphs:
The website's source for these numbers was this document, which contained this additional warning: "The UN estimates that 2 million persons will be internally displaced, including 900,000 seeking refuge in neighboring countries." (All of these figures, by the way, come from this leaked UN document).
It would be safe to describe all of these projections to be way off. Iraq Body Count -- which we would expect to overestimate the loss of life -- currently has a maximum of 1,413 deaths. Each one of those is tragic, but it's less than one percent of what was projected. The UN also states that there have been no refugee flows.
One of Kinsley's questions is: "What will toppling Saddam ultimately cost in dollars and in lives (American, Iraqi, others)?" The answer is: a hell of a lot less than you or most other antiwar critics believed.
Given that the war will likely be completely over in 60 days (the upper limit of Nordhaus' “best-case” scenario); the northern and southern oil fields were captured without significant damage [UPDATE: the last oil fire has now been extinguished]; oil markets have been unruffled; and none of the worst-case scenarios have come to pass, it would be safe to say that the dice came up favorably. However, both press reports and antiwar activists played up the potential trillions in economic costs.
As Nordhaus put it, "the record is littered with failed forecasts about the economic, political, and military outcomes of wars."
3) Regional fallout and "worst-case scenarios". The reaction of the "Arab street" was greatly feared during the build-up to war. Fragile regimes in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc., were projected to fall because of outrage over an American invasion of Iraq. Clearly, this hasn't happened. As one Arab journalist notes in the Washington Post:
(To be fair, this Washington Post update of Pakistan isn't brimming with optimism either.)
Here's what else hasn't happened: Israel wasn't attacked with weapons of mass destruction. Coalition forces weren't attacked with weapons of mass destruction. Turkey wasn't compelled to wipe out the Kurds. Al Qaeda hasn't attacked the United States.
United Nations officials, respected mainstream economists, Washington think tanks -- I'm not citing the fringe anti-war people here. All of these well-reasoned arguments were made in opposition to the war. And they were wrong.
To repeat, not all of Kinsley's or others' objections to the war were based on the immediate costs of the conflict. But a lot of the objections were based on comparing the costs of war to the other alternatives. And the antiwar estimates of the costs were -- just to repeat -- wrong.
THE LIMITS OF ANTI-AMERICANISM, CONT'D:
THE LIMITS OF ANTI-AMERICANISM, CONT'D: I didn't mention Asia in my New Republic online essay on the limits of Anti-Americanism, but this New York Times story on media coverage/commentary of the war in Pacific Rim countries with significant Muslim populations suggests that there is not much anti_americanism to dissipate. Some key grafs:
"The press in Islamic Indonesia and Malaysia has been almost uniformly critical and often derisive about the war. The tone has been the same in the Philippines, a Roman Catholic nation with close American ties and a significant Muslim minority.
But the opposition has had a half-hearted, been-there ring to it, lacking the intensity and the calls for jihad that accompanied America's attack on Afghanistan more than a year ago and that still run through the Arab media in the Middle East....
'Even in so-called Islamic media, the tendency has largely been toward not portraying this war as a religious one,' said Atmakusumah Astraatmadja, chairman of Indonesia's independent Press Council. "Iraqis have been fleeing to Indonesia for years, and refugees usually flee countries with oppressive policies."
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said, are 'related to the survival of Americans decades ahead, while we can only think of planning for tomorrow.' He added: 'I don't quite like the arguments, but they have their own reasons, not just to hit at suggested terrorists.'....
Public protests have been carefully appropriated by the Malaysian government for maximum political gain as it looks toward parliamentary elections in the coming year. The point is made repeatedly that the criticisms are antiwar rather than anti-American."
The challenge to peaceniks
One of the reasons I supported going to war with Iraq was my confirmed belief that it would, in the long run, spare more lives than it would extinguish. I blogged about this point here, here, and here.
Now that Baghdad has fallen, here’s my question to peaceniks: Are you against killing, or are you against war? Because what happened in Iraq suggests you may have to choose....
Simply put, the number of innocent people who are dead because we ousted Saddam is dwarfed by the number of innocent people who are dead because we didn’t. The use of American force is on one side of the ledger, and mass killing is on the other. Trends in military and media technology make this dilemma increasingly likely where belligerent murderers rule. You can keep your hands clean, or you can keep many more people alive. It’s up to you.
My suspicion is that most of the committed anti-war types loath American power so much that they'll choose to keep their hands clean.
I will beg to differ.
MAYBE TOM BROKAW HAD A
MAYBE TOM BROKAW HAD A POINT: Remember the late nineties, when Tom Brokaw wrote The Greatest Generation and men of all agies were weeping over Saving Private Ryan? I loved the movie, appreciated that the W.W. II generation was receiving its due, but then my own generational pride kicked in and suspected that it was all perhaps overblown.
"Don't get me wrong, I was very, very pleased. (I'm not one of those lemon-faced NPR liberals wringing their hands over the uncertainty of the weeks and years to come.) That misses the point. We won. We did it in high style, with a minimum of civilian casualties. Yes, we committed one gaffe: That soldier putting the American flag over the face of the statue of Saddam, which I guess is our atrocity for the war." (emphasis added)
Steinberg is paid for his lexicographical skills, so I think it's worth questioning his use of "atrocity." Filling a children's prison is an atrocity. Forcing pregnant women to be suicide bombers is an atrocity. Gassing your own population is an atrocity. I'm going to go out on a limb and describe this phrasing as "unbelievably offensive."
Later on, there's this:
"So I was happy at the moment of apparent victory, but... it was a weary kind of happiness. All war, all the time starts to grate on you. It gets repetitive. I don't know how our parents got through nearly four years of World War II, because after three weeks of war, I'm ready to move on. I mean, there must be other news happening in the world, right, news we don't learn about because the war sucks up all the available attention. How could it not?"
OK... someone needs to turn off their cable TV, get off their couch and actually search for what else has been going on. I've heard about this neat invention called the Internet that might be useful for this sort of activity.
As for the war being grating after three weeks, I know what he means. After reading Steinberg's column for three minutes, I wanted to move on.
Finally, there's this:
"Perhaps, to be honest, I'm also a little leery about all this mock excitement over our liberating the Iraqis. Again, hooray for Iraqis living in freedom, but I'm not such a hypocrite as to claim to care. Do you? That's funny, you didn't care when they were living under the boot of Saddam since the Carter administration. It seems odd to care now, a feigned, passing interest. Have you checked in on the Afghans lately to see how they're doing since we freed them? Me neither."
I don't think I'm going to be checking in on Steinberg's column anytime soon.
Need some laughs?
And Josh Chafetz links to this site devoted to the Iraqi Information Minister (anyone know where he is?). My favorite part of the site is this page devoted to what the Minister would say at some of the famous battles in history -- including one in a galaxy far, far away...
Thursday, April 10, 2003
The latest Hoffies
Andrew Sullivan had clearly been saving up commentary predicting quagmire and failure in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now, in his own "shock and awe" campaign, Sullivan unleashes a barrage of quotations filled with wrong-headed analysis. Click here and here to see his Von Hoffman nominees.
I think they should be relabeled the "Hoffies" so that it ends with an long "e" sound like other awards.
PROGRESS ON THE HUMANITARIAN FRONT:
PROGRESS ON THE HUMANITARIAN FRONT: As I said before, military victories in Iraq must be followed up with humanitarian victories. Umm Qasr, because it was liberated first and should therefore have the fewest security problems, is the harbinger for how things will proceed in the rest of Iraq.
In the 48 hours since I've blogged about it, how are things going? Actually, they're improving. Reuters reports that Umm Qasr is now open to merchant ships.
This Boston Globe story makes it very clear that CentCom knows perfectly well that they need to rebuild the infrastructure in the town. Some excerpts:
"The Seabees, as soldiers from the 1st Naval Construction Division are known, came to Umm Qasr to help make the port usable. They have now moved on to some goodwill projects, designed to improve quality of life in small but important ways in this, the US-led coalition's most secure nook in Iraq.
So far, the results are... successful up to a point, yet marked by difficulties...
During the Sunday visit, some of the locals complained adamantly that Umm Qasr's medical clinic lacked doctors, apparently because Ba'ath party-affiliated personnel had fled the town. But they thanked the Seabees for providing the children, many of whom were barefoot, with a place to play.
'All of these people in Iraq port Umm Qasr thank the soldier America and British,' 40-year-old Ibrahim Salman said in English. 'This is very, very good.'"
Buried in this CNN report about aid groups complaining about chaos in Baghdad is this Don Rumsfeld quote:
"'With the humanitarian aid now entering the country, he [Rumsfeld] said, 'that doesn't mean that the situation's worse -- that means it's better, and it is better.'
As an example, Rumsfeld cited the southern port city of Umm Qasr, which he said is beginning to flourish because of aid and border activity.
'Water supply is above prewar levels, a combination of U.K. pipeline and trucking,' he said. 'Electricity has been restored by U.K. engineers, sufficient food is readily available, medical facilities are sufficient and operating, UNICEF is providing supplies.
The port's cleared of mines and opened to limited operations, the channel needs dredging, [the] railway station is cleared by explosive ordnance detachment, [the] rail line is intact from there to Nasiriya, and they intend to open a line within seven days, which will allow movement of bulk water up the Euphrates Valley.'
Rumsfeld said he could give examples of similar progress in Basra and Nasiriya."
For those readers inclined to doubt Rumsfeld, this UN report on the humanitarian situation in Umm Qasr supports many of Rumsfeld's assertions. The opening graf:
"The first humanitarian assessment missions conducted jointly by UN agencies in the port of Umm Qasr in southern Iraq have identified a lack of clean drinking water as a matter of primary concern - a problem that predates the war, when the town’s needs were met by water tankers, IRIN learnt on Wednesday." (emphasis added)
Read the entire report. Umm Qasr is hardly a bed of roses. However, things are improving. For more news on the humanitarian situation in Iraq, click here.
DREZNER GETS RESULTS FROM THE
DREZNER GETS RESULTS FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES!: Last Thursday, I posted the following:
"LEARNING TO ADAPT: A big meme last week was that the Iraqi's unconventional tactics surprised Rumsfeld et al ....
My guess is that next week's meme will be about how coalition forces are adapting to these adaptations."
The following are excerpts from today's Military Analysis column by Michael Gordon in the New York Times:
"If there is a single reason for the allied success in toppling Saddam Hussein's government, it is the flexibility the American military demonstrated in carrying out its campaign.
From the very start the American military had to adapt to fickle allies, changes ordered by superiors in Washington and new tactics by their foe.....
Some changes were forced by the Iraqis. The Iraqis caught American intelligence by surprise when they stationed paramilitary units in Iraq's southern cities. That move was intended to help the government quash any possible rebellions and to put the paramilitary fighters in position to mount ambushes on allied supply lines.
Faced with such attacks, allied commanders changed their tactics as well. When the war started, the allies had planned to bypass Najaf, Nasiriya and Basra and other southern cities. The British were to guard the right flank while the Army and Marines rushed to Baghdad.
But when the paramilitary forces struck, the allied conventional and Special Operations forces began to fight in Iraq's southern cities.....
As they neared Baghdad, the American forces adapted their tactics. Their initial plan called for patiently gathering intelligence and carrying out probes before conducting raids in the city.
American commanders, however, concluded that the Iraqi command and control was weakening and pressed their advantage. After conducting a raid, the Army moved an entire armored brigade into central Baghdad. It stayed the night and Army and Marine columns soon joined the brigade in the city."
Wednesday, April 9, 2003
A SOCIOLOGIST IS MORE LOGICAL
A SOCIOLOGIST IS MORE LOGICAL THAN A POLITICAL SCIENTIST? INCONCEIVABLE!!: Via Kieran Healy, I found and took the Battleground God test. I did this with some hesitation, since it's been some time since I've pondered my ontological givens where religion is concerned.
The good news: this was my result:
You have been awarded the TPM medal of distinction! This is our second highest award for outstanding service on the intellectual battleground.
The fact that you progressed through this activity being hit only once and biting no bullets suggests that your beliefs about God are well thought out and almost entirely internally consistent."
The bad news: The medal of distinction is not as grand as it sounds -- "46.88% of the people who have completed this activity, like you, took very little damage and were awarded the TPM Medal of Distinction." More importantly, Kieran beat me on the logic score (I flamed out on the last question).
Beaten by a sociologist!! I'm going to need some time to adjust. [Er, what's the big deal?--ed. Among the social sciences, there is a little-discussed but ever-present prestige hierarchy that gives disciplines resembling the natural or physical sciences greater status than those disciplines that more resemble the humanities. Political science usually does better than sociology on that scale. I'm not saying it's logical; it's just the way things are. So sociology is at the bottom of the barrel?--ed. Heavens, no -- that would be anthropology.]
Oh, well -- maybe an economist like Brad DeLong will do even worse.
Kieran responds on the question of the social sciences.
When fantasy meets reality
WHEN FANTASY MEETS REALITY: This San Francisco Chronicle account of the celebration in downtown Baghdad contains the following amusing anecdote:
I swear, you can't make this s#$& up.
UPDATE: Josh Chafetz e-mails that Donald Sensing has pictures of the banner (scroll down a bit)
MEANWHILE, IN PALO ALTO...: I'm
MEANWHILE, IN PALO ALTO...: I'm just going to reprint this Reuters story (which CNN is also running) on the recent machinations of the Palo Alto City Council in its entirety and let everyone have a good laugh:
"In a bid to improve civility in the town's public discourse, a committee on the city council has spent hours debating guidelines for its own behavior.
'Do not use body language or other nonverbal methods of expression, disagreement or disgust,' a new list of proposed conduct rules reads.
Another rule calls for council members to address each other with titles followed by last names, a formality not always practiced in laid-back California.
'I don't want to muzzle my colleagues,' councilwoman Judy Kleinberg, who headed the committee that drafted the rules, told the San Jose Mercury News. But, she added: 'I don't think the people sitting around the cabinet with the president roll their eyes.'"
[Are you painting a fair portrait here?--ed. OK, for more context -- which does suggest that perhaps Reuters is overhyping the story -- here's a Palo Alto Weekly recap on the origins of this proposal. Was that an eye roll? C'mon, I saw that!!--ed. Too bad we moved away from Palo Alto in 1996]
CELEBRATION ROUNDUP: OK, time to
CELEBRATION ROUNDUP: OK, time to relay the really good news. The New York Times on the fall of Baghdad:
"Residents swarmed out onto the streets today, suddenly sensing that the regime of Saddam Hussein was crumbling, and celebrating the arrival of United States forces.
Throngs of men milled about, looting, blaring horns, dancing and tearing up pictures of Saddam Hussein. Baath party offices were trashed.
Occasional sniper fire continued, but Iraqi resistance largely faded away."
The Washington Post:
"Saddam Hussein's rule over the capital has ended, U.S. commanders declared Wednesday, and jubilant crowds swarmed into the streets here, dancing, looting and defacing images of the Iraqi leader. A Marine tank toppled a giant statue of Saddam in a sweeping, symbolic gesture.
In the most visible sign of Saddam's evaporating power, the 40-foot statue of the Iraqi president was brought down in the middle of Firdos Square. Cheering Iraqis, some waving the national flag, scaled the statue and danced upon the downed icon, now lying face down. As it fell, some threw shoes and slippers at the statue - a gross insult in the Arab world.
The scene was telecast worldwide by CNN and others.
'I'm 49, but I never lived a single day,' said Yusuf Abed Kazim, a Baghdad imam who pounded the statue's pedestal with a sledgehammer. 'Only now will I start living. That Saddam Hussein is a murderer and a criminal.'
Others marked the regime's dissolution more passively, picking flowers from a nearby garden and handing them to Marines. While the capital was celebrating, the fate of Saddam and his sons remained unknown, two days after they were targeted by four 2,000-pound U.S. bombs in Baghdad."
The Christian Science Monitor (with a classic understatement from a U.S.general):
"The battle for Iraq's capital is quickly turning into a rout.
'The capital city is now one of those areas that has been added to the list of where the regime does not have control,' Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said this morning at the daily Central Command briefing in Qatar.
Shiite residents of the Saddam City neighborhood, long shunted aside by the Hussein regime, danced in the streets and looted property. In scenes reminiscent of Eastern Europe after the Berlin Wall fell, Baghdad residents used ropes and a sledgehammer in an attempt to pull down a statue of Hussein in Firdos Square."
The Financial Times:
"Crowds of Baghdad residents took to the streets of the Iraqi capital on Wednesday, destroying and looting symbols of Saddam Hussein's regime after organised resistance to the arrival of US forces in the Iraqi capital evaporated.
In the city's Firdos square, a large crowd watched and cheered as US troops pulled down a monumental statue of the overthrown Iraqi leader, stamping on the bronze figure after it fell to the ground and then dragging its head through the streets.
Elsewhere, crowds looted government and other official buildings, seizing vehicles and dragging off computers, generators and other equipment.
Correspondents for the Reuters news agency in the city reported hundreds of people gathering on street corners, chanting 'Bush, Bush'."
The FT has some great pictures, too.
The Guardian reports that celebrations are not just limited to Baghdad:
"TV pictures showed Iraqis welcoming US forces, and there were also reports of Iraqis celebrating in Kurdish areas of northern Iraq.
These included the city of Irbil, 220 miles north of Baghdad, and the Guardian's Luke Harding, in Sulaimaniya, also witnessed scenes of jubilation.
'Everybody has poured out onto the street and there are scenes of total chaos and sheer, sheer delight,' he said.
'Thousands of people are in the streets celebrating. They believe Iraq is liberated. They believe that Saddam Hussein is finished.'"
The great thing is that these images are being shown on a fair number of Arab television networks -- though not on state-run TV. The Arab media reaction is mixed -- the BBC report makes it clear that some of the Arab networks are acknowledging that Iraqis are happy to be free of Saddam. On the other hand, this Washington Post roundup highlights a lot of press coberage that is either delusional or defeatist. The Reuters story splits the difference.
DREZNER GETS RESULTS FROM TOM
Andrew Sullivan thinks Friedman -- and by extension, yours truly -- are being too self-critical. Perhaps. I'm just keeping my eyes on the bigger prize -- winning the postwar game as well as the war.
I promise to be celebratory in my next post.
UPDATE: Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi is also upset at the slow pace of humanitarian efforts in Southern Iraq:
"While Chalabi offered gratitude to the coalition for Iraq's liberation, he also expressed irritation that the coalition has not provided more assistance in cities such as Nasiriya and Basra.
As long as humanitarian and infrastructure problems in the country persist, Chalabi said, the country will remain unstable, despite the coalition's military progress. Referring to Iraqi's ruling Baath Party, he called for 'de-Baathification' of the country.
'There will be no absolute security with the current situation. The U.S. troops have defeated Saddam militarily. That was never a problem. The issue is the Baath party and the remnants of the Baath party who will continue to pose a threat.'
He asked why coalition officials are in Kuwait when the southern region is in 'great need of assistance.'
'This is true all over the south,' he said.
'It's very important to be in the southern part of Iraq,' he said, because people have become 'dispossessed' and the citizenry needs to be 'empowered.'
'They must feel they are part of the political process,' he said."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW
For examples of the argument I'm trying to rebut, here's an article making the general claim that the war will cause Anti-Americanism to increase in Europe. Within the confines of the New Republic, Peter Beinart makes a similar point (subscription required).
This article by Marc J. Hetherington and Michael Nelson in PS: Political Science and Politics does a nice job of describing the "rally-round-the-flag" effect. This graph does an even better job of demonstrating the short-term bump in public support that occurs during international crises.
On the current "rally-round-the-flag" effect in coalition countries: this story shows rising support for the war in Australia (though also check out this critique of the poll's methodology). This Washington Times article discusses how John Howard is benefiting from the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
For more on the effects of Operation Iraqi freedom on public opinion in non-coalition countries, this National Post story reports surging support for the United States in Canada. Here's a similar story from last week. [Ahem, didn't you bash the Bush administration for levying similar criticisms against the Chretien government two weeks ago?--ed. Er, yes. But I also refined my criticism and admitted rather quickly that I might have been wrong.]
Regarding France, I blogged about Jacques Delors' criticism of Chirac last week. This blog from the Command Post provides a translation of the conservative parliamentary criticism of Chirac. This Washington Post article captures French public opinion on the current situation. As for Raffarin's declining popularity, click here for the UPI article.
I blogged about South Korean support for Operation Iraqi Freedom a few weeks ago. Now they're sending non-combatant troops to the region to support the United States. This Korea Times article and this Korea Herald story provide more context on President Roh's move to mend ties with the United States.
Finally, here's a link to the Pew Global Attitudes Survey from last November.
THE LIMITS OF ANTI-AMERICANISM: My
THE LIMITS OF ANTI-AMERICANISM: My latest TNR Online essay is up. It's on the potency of anti-Americanism in liberal democracies. Go check it out.
Tuesday, April 8, 2003
The next phase of this war
For Operation Iraqi Freedom to succeed, military victories must be followed up with humanitarian victories. It's not enough to defeat Saddam's regime, there needs to be tangible evidence that conditions are improving. If not, then Arab satellite networks will simply replace footage of the (relatively few) civilians injured during attacks with footage of squalid living conditions in liberated cities.
The current situation in Umm Qasr -- the first city to fall in the invasion, and therefore the city we'd expect to be furthest along in receiving humanitarian assistance, is disturbing. The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), visiting the city, reported, "Humanitarian work in the port of Umm Qasr is currently not meeting the needs of the Iraqi people. Water shortages are critical and almost everyone is desperate for fresh drinking water."
One aid worker is quoted as saying, "The humanitarian situation here is very bleak. If after two weeks it hasn't been possible to bring aid to a town of 40,000 people what hope is there of getting aid to the 1.2 million people of Basra?"
Another volunteer said, "I have recently returned from Angola where I witnessed haunting scenes of poverty but I never expected to see the same levels of misery in Iraq, a country floating on oil." [Doesn't Angola also float on oil?--ed. Fair point]
If you go to CAFOD's main site, it's pretty clear where their sympathies lie, so one could argue that these reports are biased. However, this Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty report paints a similarly bleak picture:
"The clinic in Umm Qasr is a nightmarish scene, even for those working there. If you are a visitor, try to steel yourself at the door....
Inside the clinic, the doctor was far too busy to talk. Safaa Khalaf, a young bacteriologist, met me instead. He said no medicines had come from Basra, the usual source, since the war began 17 days ago. That compounded the already chronic shortages of the Saddam era. And no aid from the new British authorities or international humanitarian agencies had yet come, though assessment teams from both had visited and promised help soon.
Khalaf also said that over the weekend, looters had broken into the clinic, stealing the motorcycle the doctors relied on for communication with their staff and running errands. Khalaf described the theft this way: 'They broke in through the kitchen door. There, there was a motorbike that belongs to the hospital and they took it.'
He continued, 'Then, they went to a storage area and tried to break down the door and they broke into the nurses' storeroom, where they keep cotton, gauze, and other surgical dressing.'
Khalaf said the theft was a heavy blow to the staff's morale because the thieves were undoubtedly fellow townsmen. In the wake of the allied advance, looting has broken out all over southern Iraq, with mobs dismantling factories and breaking into some former government facilities at night.
The British Army has largely stopped the looting around Umm Qasr in recent days. But outside other towns, the highways are crowded with cars towing away all kinds of stolen goods, from machinery to cupboards to wooden beams. If no trailer is available, vehicles simply drag heavy objects like pumps and compressors along the asphalt, sparks flying on the pavement.
The hopelessness at 'The Mother of All Battles Clinic' underlines how little has yet changed in the lives of ordinary Iraqis since Umm Qasr changed hands early in the war. Despite U.S. and British officials repeatedly saying that they are determined to win the battle for Iraqi hearts and minds by quickly delivering humanitarian aid, that aid has not arrived at one of its most critical destinations: The town's only health facility.
British military engineers, however, have connected a water pipe from Kuwait to supply the town with clean water and they have restored electricity.
After 12 years of sanctions -- during which more than half-a-million Iraqi children under the age of 5 have died, mostly of malnutrition and diarrheal diseases -- many Iraqis tell journalists they welcome any change that will better their living conditions. But the delays in aid deliveries are now making some people skeptical that the newcomers will assist them as promised.
As the father of the 11-month old girl asked my interpreter, 'Have these people come to help us or just to take our oil?'" (emphasis added)
The Financial Times reports that the U.S. is sending a transition team to Umm Qasr to start building a post-war government. This Kuwaiti report indicates that the flow of humanitarian supplies is starting to increase (link via the Command Post). Hopefully these problems will be reversed quickly, and reports like these will fade in the next week as the stability returns to Iraq.
Make no mistake -- this phase of the fight is just as important as the military phase.
I've generally avoided blogging about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because, well, it's a profoundly depressing situation.
A kindred Daniel
I think I can live with that.
Of course, this means I can kiss any job requiring Senate confirmation goodbye.
Monday, April 7, 2003
BOW TO THE MASTER: You
BOW TO THE MASTER: You know, I could blog at length about the various contortions, flip-flops, and abject fealty to the conventional wisdom of the moment that exist in New York Times reporter R.W. "Johnny" Apple Jr.'s reports during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Instead, I'll just link to this Jack Shafer evisceration of "master gasbag" Apple in Slate.
Well, I can't resist one point: Shafer notes that Apple, in his April 6 piece, laid out new benchmarks for defining American succes:
"It's not enough that the Americans and Brits have encircled Baghdad and subdued Basra in less than three weeks of fighting and eviscerated the Iraqi army and its irregulars. His impatient lede asks, 'How and when, it seems worth asking, will the United States and its allies know they have won the Iraqi war?'
Apple doesn't answer his own question directly but implies that the allies' recipe for victory pie would have to include a new, democratic government in Iraq; the elimination of Saddam Hussein; the uncovering of his weapons of mass destruction; and the departure of U.S. troops—sooner rather than later."
If the initial reports are true -- and it's worth stressing that they may not pan out -- two out of four ain't bad inside of 48 hours.
Scandal in the blogosphere
This Wired story (link via Glenn Reynolds) reports that Sean-Paul Kelley has been plagiarizing reports from Stratfor.com's U.S.-Iraq War Web Site on his Agonist site. By plagiarize I mean he's copied them verbatim without attribution or with false attributions. If you want examples, go to Strategic Armchair Command's original post outlining specific examples of plagiarism.
Kelley's quote from the Wired story: "You got me, I admit it.... I made a mistake," Kelley said. "It was stupid."
"I want to state explicitly that what I did was inexcusable and for many readers may be unforgivable. I understand that and am willing to accept the consequences of my actions.
I make no excuses for what I did." [UPDATE: Meryl Yourish thinks that what follows this post is a series of excuses]
Initial blogosphere reaction comes from Glenn Reynolds, Matthew Yglesias, Overspill, Rafe Colburn, Colby Cosh, Samizdata, N.Z. Bear, Meryl Yourish, Ken Layne, and Jeff Jarvis. My thoughts turn towards the exact magnitude of Kelley's infraction and the comparative advantage of the blogosphere.
1) How much did Kelley cross the line? The reason I originally linked to the Agonist was not because I thought Kelley was doing any original reporting, but because I thought he was doing a nice job of collating and posting recent information about the war from the Internet. I had always assumed his unlinked reports came from secondary sources that were not on the web. In other words, I never thought the comparative advantage of the Agonist was original reporting. Substantively, this disclosure does not change my opinion of the site's content.
It does change my opinion of Kelley's ethics, however. The Wired story makes it clear that what Kelley did was plagiarism, pure and simple. He copied source material word for word without attribution. He prevaricated about it when questioned by Wired's reporter. He also dodged the question in this Dallas Morning News story:
One could also argue that Kelley had a larger obligation to the Blogosphere, since he was one of the poster boys of the spate of recent coverage of warblogging by MSNBC, the New York Times, the Financial Times, and the Washington Post.
As a graduate student in international relations, Kelley knew (or should have known) he was in the wrong as he was lifting Stratfor's content, and he was in the wrong again when he initially tried to deny the plagiarism. Stratfor, to its credit, has come to an amicable agreement with Kelley on future posts, so it looks like some wrongs are being righted. However, I can't endorse what Kelley did, so I've decided to replace Kelley's spot on the blogroll with the Command Post and Stratfor -- at least until the war ends.
2) What does this mean for blogging? The Wired story has the following quote:
Paxton may be right about media reaction, but he's wrong about the comparative advantage of the Blogosphere. Blogs, taken in their entirety, do occasionally provide news scoops. However, there are two other blogtasks that are much more important.
First, some blogs can act as focal points for information provision. Now, by definition, there can only be one or two focal points. Glenn Reynolds generally acts as one for bloggers. During concentrated crises -- Josh Marshall in the case of Trent Lott's downfall, or Kelley for Operation Iraqi Freedom -- others can spring up. These blogs serve the useful purpose of collecting and distributing already available information to interested readers. In doing so, these individuals help to frame and propel debates of the day. They also reduce search costs for the rest of us [Example?--ed. Consider that the original blogger discovery of Sean-Paul's plagiarism was made a week ago -- but it was on a blog that I don't read regularly. I didn't know about it until it was on InstaPundit.]
Second, most bloggers provide value added in the form of criticism and commentary. We don't generate new facts so much as put already existing facts into a larger framework. We then look at other people who do this and comment and critique their efforts. This is my comparative advantage, at least.
This scandal, as it were, might alter media perceptions of what the Blogosphere is about. It will not alter its fundamental nature.
THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THE ANTIWAR
THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THE ANTIWAR MOVEMENT: From the Los Angeles Times:
"More than three-fourths of Americans -- including two-thirds of liberals and 70% of Democrats -- now say they support the decision to go to war. And more than four-fifths of these war supporters say they still will back the military action even if allied forces don't find evidence of weapons of mass destruction.
Bush's overall job approval rating jumped to 68%, the highest level since last summer, and three-fourths of those polled said they trust him to make the right decisions on Iraq." (emphasis added)
Let's be clear -- a lot of this is the rally-round-the-flag effect. Still, the dramatic shift among liberals and Democrats from ten days ago is noticeable. Why might this be? First, the war is clearly going well. Second, the antiwar movement has failed to articulate any coherent message. If you thing this is an exaggeration, go to one of their main web site. One article posted there opens with this vacuous assertion:
"If nothing else, the process leading to war in Iraq revealed an abject failure of our democracy. We claim to be bringing democracy to Iraq, yet the lack of it at home is in evidence everywhere, and is a grave threat to our national well-being and future."
In the absence of any coherent message, the antiwar movement is resorting to tactics guaranteed to alienate most of the public:
"Blocking traffic is the tactic of choice these days among anti-war protesters. But just how effective can it be, when it angers commuters and packs police precincts with arrested activists?
Project engineer Craig Voellmicke was on his way to work recently when he ran into gridlock around Teaneck, N.J., caused by protesters blocking traffic near the George Washington Bridge.
'I think it's more annoying,' Voellmicke said, when asked if he thought the act got people to think twice about the war. 'I think people know the message already. Most people were just standing with annoyed looks on their faces. I didn't hear any words of support [from onlookers].'"
It's not just the increase in traffic jams. It's also the drain on public services:
"Washington, D.C., police have been forced to restrict traffic to several blocks around the city, particularly around the White House, in order to prevent gridlock caused by protesters. Mayor Anthony Williams recently claimed such police activity is eating up his city's homeland security funds.
Protesters in San Francisco and several cities have formed human chains and joined themselves together with metal pipes that had to be cut open by police officers or firefighters, to the frustration of officials who believe they have more pressing security concerns.
'This is more than protest, more than free speech,' New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told the Associated Press in a recent interview. 'We're talking about violating the law.'
Protesters say they don't have much choice.
'Nothing else gets attention,' protestor Johannah Westmacott told the Associated Press. 'It's not news when people voice their opinions.'" (emphasis added)
This is what happens when people don't read memos.
UPDATE: Kieran Healy has an excellent post that's not exactly a rejoinder to what I said, but does make an accurate point -- even if the protestors are not moving public opinion, their size and duration are significant relative to past social movements.
THINGS HAVE CHANGED: Last month
THINGS HAVE CHANGED: Last month Brad Delong reprinted a paragraph from Kenneth Pollack's first book, the encyclopedic Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991 on how the Republican Guard fought fiercely but stupidly during the first Gulf War. DeLong concluded:
"According to Kenneth Pollack, if the Iraqi army of today is like the Iraqi army of the past half century, its soldiers and unit commanders will be incompetent at using their artillery, unable to maneuver, unwilling to take the intiative, incapable of adapting to any surprise, armed with technologically-inferior and poorly-maintained equipment, and yet large numbers of them, especially from the Republican Guard, will stand their ground and fight--until they die."
It's becoming increasingly clear that DeLong and Pollack's assumption does not hold -- according to this story, the Iraqi army of today is nothing like the army it used to be:
"At first, the Iraqi forces put up a strong fight against the 100-vehicle column of Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles that rumbled in from the airport, through newly lain minefields, in the early hours. F16 fighter aircraft fly ahead, bombing Iraqi tanks and positions that might have offered resistance.
But as I watch from the 12th floor of the Sheraton hotel, directly across the river, a group of vehicles that has broken away from the column moves in from the south, prompting many Iraqi defenders to flee.
Under incessant US fire - machine-guns, mortars and small missiles - they run from two directions, pouring out of the centre of the compound and from a heavily armed sand spit that intrudes into the Tigris, before bolting north along an access road that services the dozens of buildings within the fortified complex.
This is supposed to be the fearless Republican Guard, but under fire there is no bravery and little dignity as many of them abandon their posts, some struggling to strip to their underwear as they flee.
Desperate to get away, when they are confronted by a security fence that extends into the river they jump in, swimming 50 metres out from the bank before returning along the opposite side of the fence to pick up the access road again." (emphasis added)
Read the whole Sydney Morning Herald story for an excellent account of the surreal state of affairs in Baghdad right now. For that matter, go read Pollack's book too. [But wasn't Pollack wrong here?--ed. The main thesis of that book is that since the end of World War II, Arabs have never defeated a non-Arab army in a war. I'd say that thesis is bearing up well. His explanations for why this is true are also worth perusing.]
Sunday, April 6, 2003
The BBC strikes again!!!
Given the BBC's apparent biases, it was with some trepidation that I clicked on this story on estimating the number of Iraqis killed and injured during the war. To my surprise, I thought it was pretty fair -- until I got to the last part of the story:
"An independent website has been set up to try to keep track of the body count.
They're collating figures from news reports and they give two figures.
On Sunday they showed a maximum estimate of 1049 civilians killed and a minimum of 876."
The bland prose suggests that something is afoot. Why doesn't the BBC name the web site or discuss its qualifications beyond "independent" (which certainly connotes respect)? Perhaps because the site they fail to name is clearly Iraq Body Count. This site is affiliated with Marc Herold, an academic at the University of New Hampshire who produced wildly inflated civilian casualty estimates for Afghanistan (see also here). This explanation of the site's methodology includes the following:
"The project takes as its starting point and builds upon the earlier work of Professor Marc Herold who has produced the most comprehensive tabulation of civilian deaths in the war on Afghanistan from October 2001 to the present, and the methodology has been designed in close consultation with him.
Professor Herold commented: 'I strongly support this initiative. The counting of civilian dead looms ever more importantly for at least two reasons: military sources and their corporate mainstream media backers seek to portray the advent of precision guided weaponry as inflicting at most, minor, incidental civilian casualties when, in truth, such is is not the case; and the major source of opposition to these modern ‘wars’ remains an informed, articulate general public which retains a commitment to the international humanitarian covenants of war at a time when most organized bodies and so-called ‘experts’ have walked away from them'."
Herold's quote provides a decent clue as to his biases, but if you want to understand why this site's methodology is flawed, go to Josh Chafetz's posts here and here, as well as Iain Murray's Tech Central Station article. Here's all you need to know -- according to both Murray and Chafetz, on Tuesday of this past week Iraq Body Count Project's minimum count of Iraqi civilian deaths were higher than the Iraqi government figures!
Shame on the BBC for failing to raise any of these problems in their (otherwise fine) report.
UPDATE: This blog's raison d'etre is bias in the BBC.
GOOD NEWS IN KARBALA: More
"About 10,000 people gathered in the public square Sunday and pulled down a 20-foot-high bronze statue of Saddam Hussein, a move that symbolized for many the end of a tyrannical regime and the beginning of new freedoms.
The event also marked the end of a battle that has raged for five days and culminated with armored battalions firing the last shots Saturday afternoon. The battalions destroyed five tanks and a dozen pieces of Iraqi artillery on the outskirts of town, and dozens of prisoners were taken as well.
Karbala, a Shiite Muslim city about 40 miles southwest of Baghdad, fell Saturday to six battalions under the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne, who wrested control from about 500 Saddam Fedayeen fighters and loyalists of the ruling Baath Party.
Many who assembled in the city square chanted 'Saddam is no more!' and "Saddam is dead!' as they pulled on a rope, yanking the Saddam statue from its perch. Once the statue tumbled, many in the crowd jumped up and down, struck their chests and wept.
The statue was erected shortly after Saddam came to power, according to Karbala residents, and seeing it fall was a moment many would never forget.
'We have been living in fear for so many years, and we have been taught in the schools that Saddam would never die," said Hassan Muhammad, 20, as he helped pull on the rope. 'This is a historic day, and we will celebrate this day always.'"
WHY I'M ABSENT-MINDED: As my
WHY I'M ABSENT-MINDED: As my friends and family will attest, it's a good thing I'm a professor because I'm so absent-minded that no other profession would have anything to do with me [C'mon, how bad can you be?--ed. Last night I applauded myself for remembering Daylight Savings Time and adjusting the clocks accordingly. This morning I realized to my chagrin that I had turned the clocks back one hour when I was supposed to turn them forward].
Why am I so absent-minded? I always liked to cite Sherlock Holmes' explanation for why he did not want to remember the Copernican theory of the solar system in A Study in Scarlet:
"I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones."
In other words, there was only so much room in Holmes' brain, and better that it be filled with useful criminology than useless astronomy. I rationalized that my scholarly pursuits demanded the forgetting of more mundane information, such as walking the dog.
Alas, last night, after taking Entertainment Weekly's exhaustingly thorough pop culture quiz (subscription required), I now know the truth -- I'm not hoarding brain cells for the subtleties of Thucydides or Grotius, but for pop trivia. I scored an embarrasingly high 93 -- though that was with considerable help from the bonus questions.
Still, if I ever forget the inner workings of the Mundell-Fleming model, I'll know it's because I remember the original members of N.W.A, even though I don't believe I've ever heard on of their songs.
In my previous post on Nicholas De Genova I was trying to articulate a point on how teachers must balance the task of asserting authority on issues relevant to the classroom material while encouraging students to air their opinions free of perceived retribution. From the e-mail I've received, I fear I may not have succeeded.
Mark Kleiman, in discussing whether a university faculty should express its opolitical views with a collective voice, phrases it better than I did:
WHAT HASN'T HAPPENED: Back in
WHAT HASN'T HAPPENED: Back in early February, I wrote the following:
"It's possible/probable that Al Qaeda has already planned some sort of response to the start of an Iraqi attack. The question is, can they pull off a big attack, if not on a 9/11 scale, then something like Bali? I ask the question not because of any morbid curiosity, but because an attack on Iraq throws the gauntlet down for Al Qaeda, and unless they respond quickly, they will look enfeebled and irrelevant.
From today's New York Times -- "New Signs of Terror Not Evident":
"[T]error organizations like Al Qaeda appear to have been largely unmoved by Saddam Hussein's denunciations of the United States and his calls for an uprising in the Arab world against the American-led war in Iraq.
American officials have said there is little evidence of potential terrorist plots against United States interests, either in the country or overseas, since the war in Iraq began. In fact, the kind of chatter that has led the Department of Homeland Security to increase the nation's threat warning levels has decreased since the beginning of the war.
Nevertheless, the administration has maintained the government's color-coded terrorist threat level at orange, representing a heightened threat of terrorist activity, because of fears that the war will eventually provoke terrorism.
But intelligence and law enforcement officials said there was scant evidence that either Al Qaeda or any other major terrorist organization was planning an attack in the near future. One senior intelligence official said he had seen very little credible evidence that any terrorist plots were imminent in the United States.
Another American official cautioned that terrorist threat reporting received by the C.I.A. and other agencies had not significantly declined, but acknowledged that it had not increased since the start of the war as many in the intelligence community had expected."
It is still possible that Al Qaeda is merely biding its time and a spectacular attack is imminent. However, the absence of attacks suggest that the war on terror has achieved more advances than skeptics would like to admit.
"And why have there been no fresh terror strikes in the United States since the start of the war?
Brill says it's the competence of the current leadership."
NONE SHALL PASS -- EXCEPT
NONE SHALL PASS -- EXCEPT FOR THE 3RD INFANTRY DIVISION: This CNN story has Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf flatly denying that coalition forces control
"'Today we slaughtered them in the airport. They are out of Saddam International Airport,' al-Sahaf said. 'The force that was in the airport, this force was destroyed.'
Capt. Frank Thorp, spokesman for U.S. Central Command, called the claim 'groundless,' saying 'there is sporadic fighting at the airport.'
'We have heard these reports from the minister of information, which are, quite frankly, groundless,' he said. 'This is the same minister of information who yesterday was saying that coalition forces were approximately 100 kilometers away from the city.'"
The kicker, however, is the last line of the story:
"Al-Sahaf said he would take reporters to the airport later in the day, after it was cleaned up."
Is it my imagination or is Al-Sahaf starting to sound more and more like the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail?
UPDATE: Damn, I though I was being clever with the Monty Python reference. Turns out I'm late to this particular meme.
When worlds collide
For the past two days, I’ve been hobnobbing with other political scientists at the Midwestern Political Science Association’s annual meeting, which is always held in the gorgeous Palmer House in downtown Chicago. It hadn’t occurred to me until I showed up yesterday that this was the first big conference I attended since starting the blog last year. As it turns out, a fair number of them read it. Quite a few of my colleagues mentioned it to me in cocktail chatter.
My initial reaction was – surprisingly – discomfort. Part of this is the “worlds colliding” phenomenon of having my professional “scholar” persona overlap with my public “blogger” persona. This was the first time I had to reconcile those two parts of my life.
Another source of my discomfort was the “outing” of my political views, which are to the right of most of my colleagues (though not that far to the right – contrary to Blogosphere perceptions, most of my fellow political scientists do not yearn for a Marxist revival). It’s not that I keep my beliefs a secret – it’s just that, funny as it may sound, ideology rarely comes up in professional conversations with other political scientists.
The biggest part of it, however, was the fear that my colleagues would disapprove of the blog as a bastardization of our profession – and, by extension, a bad reflection on the scholarly side of my cv. As previously noted, some of my blog posts contain half-baked ideas – I certainly hope the same does not hold for my scholarly work.
There’s something else, though. Much of this blog consists of my application and translation of arguments made in the political science literature to real-world debates. Inevitably, these translations smooth over the caveats, complexities, and counterarguments that are inherent in any scholarly thesis. [Why not include all of those things in your posts?—ed. No self-respecting editor would ever ask that question. If I did that, each blog post would be 5,000 words long, no one would read it, and I wouldn’t have time to work on anything else.] Most lay readers cannot detect this smoothing process, but my colleagues can, and I fear their wrath.
Upon reflection, however, my discomfort is starting to wane, for three reasons. First, I respect everyone who complimented me on my blog; I must be doing something right [Who don't you respect in the profession?--ed. Insert sound of crickets chirping here]. Second, the people who raised the topic were all my generation or younger, which suggests that the Blogosphere has yet to permeate the tenured faculty. Since it’s these people who will determine whether I merit getting tenure myself, I still have some time to adjust. Third, one graduate student told me that blogs are increasingly popular among doctoral students, both as a diversion and as a research tool. It will be a pleasant surprise if it turns out that the blog not only serves as an outlet for the public intellectual in me, but also contributes in some small way to furthering scholarly debate.
Saturday, April 5, 2003
STUDENTS AND THE WAR: Two
STUDENTS AND THE WAR: Two stories on student attitudes and activism regarding the war with Iraq. The New York Times reports a yawning gulf between professors and students on this issue:
"Across the country, the war is disclosing role reversals, between professors shaped by Vietnam protests and a more conservative student body traumatized by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Prowar groups have sprung up at Brandeis and Yale and on other campuses. One group at Columbia, where last week an antiwar professor rhetorically called for 'a million Mogadishus,' is campaigning for the return of R.O.T.C. to Morningside Heights.
Even in antiwar bastions like Cambridge, Berkeley and Madison, the protests have been more town than gown. At Berkeley, where Vietnam protesters shouted, 'Shut it down!' under clouds of tear gas, Sproul Plaza these days features mostly solo operators who hand out black armbands. The shutdown was in San Francisco, and the crowd was grayer.
All this dismays many professors.
'We used to like to offend people,' Martha Saxton, a professor of women's studies at Amherst, said as she discussed the faculty protest with students this week. 'We loved being bad, in the sense that we were making a statement. Why is there no joy now?'
Certainly not all students are pro-war or all faculty anti. But 'there's a much higher percentage of liberal professors than there are liberal students,' said Ben Falby, the student who organized the protest at Amherst only to find that it had more professors than students.
This Chicago Tribune piece makes similar points:
"Since school began last fall at the University of Chicago, Dan Lichtenstein-Boris has carved out time to oppose the war in Iraq, drafting leaflets, creating film and speakers series and setting up a round-the-clock vigil in the center of campus.
But getting fellow students to join in a big rally and make a larger point since the war began has been difficult.
'I think things are pretty quiet,' Lichtenstein-Boris, 21, a sophomore, said in frustration. 'With all we've done, how is a lecture or film series going to help? It's kind of a soft way of going about things when people are dying.'"
What explains this? The Tribune suggests student apathy, but that's not it -- the paper also observes: "While polls show most high school and college students don't go to rallies or marches, they volunteer more than preceding generations, with 61 percent of college students volunteering, according to a study last October by the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University."
The three other suggestions that are proffered are the absence of a draft, the maturation of these students in more conservative times, and the plethora of other causes out there. Take a look and judge for yourself.
The one amusing part of the Times piece is the conviction from both pro-war and anti-war voices on campus that they are being vaguely persecuted:
"'It's a lonely place to be an antiwar protester on the Amherst campus,' said Beatriz Wallace, a junior. In the dining hall, students have set out baskets of ribbons, some yellow, some red, white and blue.
Prowar students say they feel just as alienated. 'The faculty, and events, has a chilling effect on discussions for the prowar side,' said David Chen, a sophomore."
UPDATE: This Newsday article on the same phenomenon notes another pattern:
"Jonathan Buchsbaum, who has been teaching media studies at Queens College for 25 years, said these days students there are motivated by issues like the poor economy and the elimination of school programs.
'I don't see as many students getting involved, in terms of war,' Buchsbaum said.
While the Brooklyn and Queens college students might be too preoccupied with bread-and-butter matters to take to the streets, those at big private colleges in Manhattan have the time and inclination to publicly express their views, faculty members say.
'We're getting students to understand that they are in a privileged position and to use that position to understand what is going on in the world,' said Francesca Fiorentini, 19, a sophomore at New York University and member of the NYU Peace Coalition."
Friday, April 4, 2003
ENJOY THE WEEKEND!: I'll be
ENJOY THE WEEKEND!: I'll be at the Midwestern Political Science Association's annual meeting. I'm a chair and discussant on a panel. Then I'll be grabbing a beer with fellow blogger/political scientists Chris Lawrence.
Making people nervous
Former CIA Director James Woolsey declares that the U.S. is in the middle of World War IV:
Chalk me up as one of the potentially nervous people. This is the kind of grand neocon strategy that prompted criticism in Josh Marshall's latest Washington Monthly piece. It's not that I wouldn't like to see Woolsey's list of enemies vanquished -- it's just far from clear that the use of force is the right tool for the job.
However, I'm still not nervous, for one very good reason -- Woolsey's not in the government. The hottest rhetoric on the neocon strategy comes from those out of power. The neocons in power, like Paul Wolfowitz, have refrained from such statements. Bill Keller's profile of Wolfowitz from last September shows that the neocons in power are much more wary about the willy-nilly use of force. And, it should be pointed out, there are heavyweights in the administration who do not subscribe to the neoconservative vision.
My point here is that Woolsey's statements are likely to be reprinted abroad as evidence of the Bush administration's grand strategy, In fact they represent the rhetoric of a single man who's out of power -- and, according to Mickey Kaus, a man who's "distinctly unimpressive in... a private schmooze."
Thursday, April 3, 2003
Still unsure about the war?
Worth checking out.
MORE EVIDENCE OF IRAQI HOSTILITY
MORE EVIDENCE OF IRAQI HOSTILITY TO THE INVASION: I was initially quite alarmed to see that Arts & Letters Daily has the following link up in red boldface:
"Breaking news: Iraqis have routed British Royal Marines in a fierce battle in the town of Umm Khayyal near Basra."
Concerned, I clicked on the link to the BBC story. It's true. Go check it out.
When the BBC is running stuff like this, you know the Iraqi population is glad to see the back of Saddam.
Should Nicholas De Genova be fired?
Glenn Reynolds, as well as Columbia's Filibuster blog, argue that De Genova's comment at the antiwar rally, although certainly repugnant, are protected under academic free speech. I wholeheartedly agree. The congressional activity is particularly repugnant -- the last thing anyone should want is organs of the state requesting universities to fire particular individuals. And bravo to Jim Kolbe (R--Ariz) and his press spokeswoman for stating the obvious: "it is not appropriate for him [Kolbe] in his role as a member of Congress to tell Columbia University how to discipline their employees."
However, there is one facet of De Genova's behavior that might -- might -- warrant a dismissal. It comes from yesterday's New York Times story about a Columbia student who plans to join the Marines after graduation:
Then there's this from the Columbia Daily Spectator's story:
Any teacher worth their salt knows that students must be constantly reassured that disagreement with the powers that be -- i.e., the person in charge of grading -- will not affect their class performance. If academics publicize their position on an issue of the day, and then signal to the students taking their class that this can be the only correct position, the professor has crossed the line from the free expression of personal views to the subtle intimidation of alternative points of view.
Did De Genova cross this line? The Times and Daily Spectator stories hint at this, but don't provide enough information. De Genova's lack of subtlety makes this a distinct possibility, however. If students felt that their position on the war would affect their grade, then De Genova should be fired. [But what about the protest in support of De Genova by his students?--ed. Those were his graduate students -- I'm more concerned about the undergraduates, who are more likely to feel intimidated. Based on this poll, it's highly likely that more than two students in the class held pro-war views. But only the students in the class can say for sure one way or the other.]
UPDATE: This Filibuster post provides additional information suggesting that DeGenova did not cross the line. Pazmiño went on Hannity & Colmes this evening. According to the Filibuster, "De Genova discussed the war one class period and she spoke up and expressed her views. She added... that de Genova was actually pretty respectful of her pro-war stance." If this is the case, then no student coercion took place, the question comes back to academic free speech, and De Genova should not be fired.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Tim Wagliore argues that my rationale is way too broad. His points are solid, though he's exaggerated my position a bit. Obviously, I'm not suggesting that a professor should be fired for cancelling office hours. Nor am I suggesting this rationale as a "pretext" for firing someone whose politics I find repellent. Also, I should have said that there exist measures short of termination that would probably be appropriate for this situation. Only if a professor repeatedly and persistently did what I described above would termination be the appropriate measure.
LEARNING TO ADAPT: A big
LEARNING TO ADAPT: A big meme last week was that the Iraqi's unconventional tactics surprised Rumsfeld et al (although these corrections suggest that maybe they weren't that surprised).
My guess is that next week's meme will be about how coalition forces are adapting to these adaptations. This story suggests that coalition forces are quickly moving down the learning curve in Basra:
"United States forces, preparing to invade Baghdad, praised 'impressive' British tactics.
'In Baghdad, we will definitely use a lot of the effective techniques and utilise some of the larger strategic lessons we learned in the British efforts over Basra,' a senior military official said.
Two examples of unusual yet successful soldiering in the past two days have drawn admiration from US Central Command operations chiefs. British 7th Armoured Brigade troops - the Desert Rats - deliberately allowed residents to loot a Baath Party headquarters near Basra within minutes of the office's capture and search.
'Normally we would stop looting because it's a sign that things have got out of control and that law and order has broken down,' said Captain Alex Cartwright. 'But in this case we decided that to allow it would send a powerful message: that we are in control now, not the Baath Party.'
In another incident, when an Iraqi colonel was fatally shot in his vehicle, British troops found a thick wad of cash. Instead of handing it in to officers, the troops decided to dole the cash out to local youngsters."
Why Wright is wrong
I'm betting that Robert Wright's Tuesday article in Slate will be an eventual winner of Andrew Sullivan's prestigious Von Hoffman Award for "prophetically challenged pieces of media war-wisdom" -- though it will be hard to top Sullivan's latest nominee.
This is what Wright wrote two days ago:
Wright's vision might be correct, but I doubt it. First, there is mounting evidence that the Iraqis are quite pleased about Operation Iraqi Freedom. I blogged yesterday about the reaction in Najaf. Today, according to Reuters, a "top local Shi'ite Muslim leader" issued a fatwa telling Shi'ites not to fight the Americans. In the north, Kurds are overjoyed that the U.S. has expelled the Ansar al-Islam militants. As for the Sunni Muslims near Baghdad, this report suggests they will also be happy to see the back of Saddam:
[What about Josh Marshall's point that these tribal reactions are actually strategic?--ed. Marshall's right -- but politics is all about acting opportunistically. These leaders have seen twenty years of war and sanctions -- rationally, it's highly unlikely they will try to advance their interests via violent action].
Wright seems to think that this happiness will fade with time, but there are good reasons to believe otherwise. Humanitarian aid is about to pour into Umm Qasr and the rest of southern Iraq. What will the reaction of the local population be once they realize that not only is Saddam finished, but that the days of economic sanctions are over?
As for the rest of the Arab world, Wright seems to think that the invasion itself will prompt Arabs to launch terrorist attacks within Iraq. But it's equally possible that what happened in Afghanistan will happen in Iraq. The video of Kabul's residents celebrating the fall of the Taliban quickly defused much (though not all) of the Arab resentment against the U.S. use of military force. Similar footage from Baghdad, Najaf, Mosul, Basra etc., would be likely to have a similar effect. [UPDATE: This effect is likely to be even more concentrated now, since Iraq expelled two Al Jazeera journalists, causing the network to suspend its coverage from Hussein-controlled territory. This will cause a sharp drop in the broadcasting of incendiary images to the Arab street]
Of course the speed of the Iraqi army's collapse will hopefully render this a moot point. [Won't the Republican Guard prove to be excellent guerilla fighters?--ed. This piece suggests the answer is a strong "no." So, overall, you saying Wright is an idiotarian?--ed. No, that's the funny thing. I have the same reaction whenever I read a Wright piece -- this is a fundamentally smart guy who's just dead wrong in his conclusions].
UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan comments on Wright's argument: "Bob's piece seems to be moving inexorably toward a von Hoffman award (not yet, but it's not looking good for the earthling U.N.-lover)."
ADVANTAGE: CHAFETZ: Josh Chafetz has
ADVANTAGE: CHAFETZ: Josh Chafetz has the goods (and lots of relevant links) on Marc Herold's bogus methodology for counting Iraqi civilian deaths in Iraq.
Wednesday, April 2, 2003
OVERSELLING THE COALITION: I've noted
OVERSELLING THE COALITION: I've noted previously that critics accusing the administration of unilateralism are exaggerating, since some important countries back our position in words and deeds. However, this Financial Times story hakes a good point about the Bush administration's exaggerations on the other side:
"Only six months after the US accused Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine's president, of approving the sale of high-tech radar systems to Iraq, Ukraine has joined the US-led coalition fighting to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime.
The inclusion of an avowedly pacifist, allegedly embargo-busting country in the coalition shows how eager the US is to portray broad international support for the military campaign. A recent White House press release lists 48 coalition members, ranging from active combat participants to countries with less clear roles, such as Mongolia and Tonga.
Markian Lubkivsky, press service chief at Ukraine's foreign ministry, said his country's sole contribution was a hazardous chemicals clean-up unit stationed in Kuwait, which he said had a 'humanitarian' mission and would not enter Iraq.
'We can be regarded as a participant in the coalition only in that [humanitarian] sense,' he said at a press conference on Tuesday.
'Ukraine is exclusively for deciding any crisis situation by peaceful means.'
But US ambassador Carlos Pascual said his government regarded Ukraine as a backer of the war.
He said: 'In saying that they are ready to be considered as part of the coalition to disarm Iraq, we take that as support for our position.'"
OH, YES, HE'S DEFINITELY AS
OH, YES, HE'S DEFINITELY AS POPULAR AS STALIN: From the New York Times account of the U.S. liberation of Najaf:
"The occupying forces, from the First and Second brigades of the 101st Airborne Division, entered from the south and north. They had seized the perimeter of town on Tuesday.
People rushed to greet them today, crying out repeatedly, 'Thank you, this is beautiful!'
Two questions dominated a crowd that gathered outside a former ammunition center for the Baath Party. 'Will you stay?' asked Kase, a civil engineer who would not give his last name. Another man, Heider, said, 'Can you tell me what time Saddam is finished?'"
It ends with this priceless anecdote:
"American troops found that the fleeing Baath Party and paramilitary forces had set up minefields on roads and bridges leading out of the city. Late today an American engineering team was clearing the third of such fields, this one with 30 mines, by detonating them with C4 explosives.
Lt. Col. Duke Deluca, noting that the mines had been made in Italy, said, 'Europeans are antiwar, but they are pro-commerce.'"
"'How were people in Najaf two weeks ago? How did you discuss the coming war?' I asked.
'In Najaf people are only worried about how to get food, and if they will have enough food. They were worried how long the war would last and what would come after it. I only talked to my family. You can't talk about these things outside of your house. But in my family we were happy about the Americans coming. We knew war was coming and we talked about, insh'allah, getting rid of this government.'"
BLOGOSPHERE UPDATE: Ah, praise from Glenn Reynolds. However, I was remiss in not pointing out that I found this story via OxBlog. They are also on a roll (though I'm not sure about the nickname they gave me).
FRENCH PRAISE FOR BLAIR AND
FRENCH PRAISE FOR BLAIR AND CRITICISM OF CHIRAC--NO, REALLY: Jacques Delors, the former president of the European Commission, gave an exclusive interview to the Financial Times which was chock full of praise for Tony Blair and criticism of Jacques Chirac. First on Iraq:
"Jacques Delors, former president of the European Commission, has become one of the first senior French public figures to warn that President Jacques Chirac is leading France into a diplomatic cul-de-sac over Iraq.
'We cannot accept the Messianic vision of the Americans, but nor can we limit ourselves to simply opposing it,' he said in an interview with the Financial Times.
'My position is between the two, of course. We have to find the basis for an acceptable partnership between Europe and America.'
Mr Delors praised efforts by Tony Blair, the UK prime minister, to build a bridge between the Bush administration and continental European governments by pushing hard for UN supervision of the reconstruction of Iraq." (emphasis added)
Then there's Delors' take on the European Union's future:
"He believes the creation of a genuine common European foreign policy is unlikely for the foreseeable future and that defence co-operation will not work without Britain.
The 77-year-old Mr Delors, now running the Paris-based Notre Europe think-tank, also said the EU's flagship project of economic and monetary union was ''not working' because of the failure of governments to work together on fiscal policy'....
Mr Delors believes the Iraq crisis has highlighted the problems of forging a common EU foreign policy out of divergent national interests, warning that such a concept is a vain hope 'in the next 20 years'.
On Belgian proposals for a renewed push on EU defence co-operation, including France and Germany, Mr Delors was equally cautious.
'We need a period of calm before trying to build a common European defence policy,' he said.
He believes one way forward is for defence to be driven by 'reinforced co-operation' with some member states moving more quickly than others.
But he added: 'It is difficult to envisage this working without the participation of Great Britain. Frankly, it's unrealistic. It's almost a provocation.' (emphasis added)
Delors' critique of fiscal policy is an implicit shot at the Chirac government, which has declared it won't honor the Maastricht criteria.
Delors is a Socialist, so there's likely some partisanship behind the criticism. Still, this will, as the FT puts it, "stimulate more debate in France about how the post-colonial power can best exercise its influence."
Tuesday, April 1, 2003
MULTILATERALISM IN NORTH KOREA: One
MULTILATERALISM IN NORTH KOREA: One of the arguments promulgated against the war with Iraq was that it would encourage North Korea to proliferate nuclear weapons so as to avoid the same fate. IHowever, the evidence seems to suggest the opposite -- North Korea's position is softening due to multilateral pressure.
Want evidence that the Bush administration's strategy is succeeding in cajoling North Korea's neighbors into playing a constructive role in defusing the North Korea crisis? Consider the following:
This Financial Times piece does a nice job of describing the recent shuttle diplomacy over North Korea. The key grafs:
"Ra Jong-yil, South Korea's national security adviser, began on Monday a week of talks in Russia and China about the nuclear crisis hanging over the Korean peninsula.
Last week, Maurice Strong, a United Nations envoy, met North Korean officials in Pyongyang and Yoon Young-kwan, South Korea's foreign minister, visited Washington and Tokyo.
The flurry of diplomacy is designed to find a way to persuade North Korea to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons programme.
Mr Ra's optimism echoed upbeat comments by Mr Strong following his return from Pyongyang last week. The positive mood does not mean a breakthrough is imminent but diplomats detect signs that North Korea is softening its stance.
Many analysts had forecast that Pyongyang would use the war in Iraq as an opportunity to escalate the crisis, calculating that the US would be too preoccupied to respond.
However, diplomats in Seoul say there is no intelligence to suggest North Korea is preparing to start producing weapons-grade plutonium or to test a ballistic missile. Either Pyongyang has been delayed by technical difficulties or it has decided now is not the moment to play its strongest bargaining chips.
'They have encountered some technical problems,' said one diplomat. 'But I would like to think they are also listening to the Russians and Chinese and others, who are all saying: "Don't do it.'"'"
Then there's this story on how the Japanese government has decided to move towards the U.S. position on both Iraq and North Korea:
"Given North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons, Japan is acutely aware of its reliance on the U.S. security umbrella. The two countries signed a security treaty in 1960 that extends U.S. military protection in exchange for bases in Japan.
'The North Korean dictatorship poses a threat to the safety of Japan and thus a major concern this time,' Taro Yayoma, a columnist at conservative 'Sankei' daily newspaper, says, explaining why Japan's support for the U.S. war efforts are bigger this time around than in the 1991 Gulf War.
Indeed, the invasion of Iraq has turned into a hard lesson for Japan, a pacifist country that was also defeated under U.S. bombing that ended World War II, says Yukio Okamato, special advisor to the Cabinet. That is because Japan knows full well that Washington's backing would come in handy with regard to instability next door in North Korea, which has been at loggerheads with the United States after its admission of a secret nuclear prorgramme and Washington's labelling it as part of the 'axis of evil' that included Iraq.
'Tokyo has no other choice but to support the U.S. administration in this war,' explains Okamato."
And yes, the British are also being consulted.
I'M PLAYING PEORIA: Blogging will
I'M PLAYING PEORIA: Blogging will be light for the next couple of days -- I'm headed to Bradley University in Peoria, IL for a forum entitled, "US Foreign Aid: Can it Work?"
The other participants are USAID bureaucrat based in Serbia and the head of the Libertarian Party of Illinois. I'll be playing the part of the sane, moderate voice of reason.
Memo to the antiwar movement
Hey, great job with the anti-war rallies. You're unquestionably a valid social movement that's tough to ignore -- especially when blocking traffic. However, the polls suggest you could be doing better.
I'm on the other side of the fence, and I've been critical of some of you lately, so I'll understand if you take my advice with a grain of salt. However, I believe there is a genuine debate to be had about the current war, posrtwar reconstruction, and the future of U.S. foreign policy. While I support Operation Iraqi Freedom, I'll admit to some Mickey Kaus-style qualms about the grand neocon strategy, so I'd like to see some vigorous opposing arguments to be made.
However, even if you can amass large numbers for street protests, it won't matter unless you have good arguments. And, to be blunt, some of your arguments are just God awful. Maybe they appeal to the anti-war base, but they'll turn off the rest of the country, which should be your target audience. So please jettison the following two arguments (I'll add more when I see them):
1) "Saddam is a creation of the United States". One of the mantras of the antiwar movement is that the U.S. armed and aided
It's certainly true that the U.S. was friendly to Iraq during its war with Iran in the 1980's. However, relative to other states, we were positively standoffish. This chart of arms sales to Iraq from 1973-1990 makes it clear Saddam Hussein is a creation of Russia, China, and France. Oh, and here are the approximate figures for Iraqi imports from the permanent Security Council members for 2001, under the auspices of the Oil-for-Food program:
France-- $650 million
This is just the official stuff -- it doesn't count illicit arms purchases or smuggling.
U.S. culpability pales in comparison to France, Russia, and China. Saddam is their creature, not ours. Don't try arguing otherwise.
2) "Bush is Hitler" Hyperbole like this is guaranteed to generate cheers from anti-war protestors, but it just convinces everyone else of that the anti-war movement is idiotarian and should therefore be ignored. [C'mon, how prevalent is this?--ed. Click here for one example. Last week, I heard the head of Chicago's anti-war group make this exact point -- as well as argue that the U.S. created Saddam]
If you want to be taken seriously, disavow the Hitler analogies. Claiming that dissent is being stifled and the government is acquiring dictatorial powers just makes you look like sore losers.
"AND THE COMICS SHALL UNITE
"AND THE COMICS SHALL UNITE US": Pro-war or anti-war; dove, hawk or chicken hawk; Democrat or Republican.
It doesn't matter -- I think we can all agree this is both funny and spot-on.
BEST MONTH YET: The good
BEST MONTH YET: The good news: According to Sitemeter, 60,000 unique visits, 70,000 page views for the month of March. And, I've now evolved to "Flighty Bird"!!
The bad news: As this graph shows, my average traffic may be increasing, but there's a lot of variance. If the pattern holds, I doubt I'll see as many hits this month.