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,

"We have to take a different approach [to diplomacy]. We won't always have the strongest military."

Kerry's spokesman Chris "I used to shill for Gore" Lehane, in a press release, responded with:

"Howard Dean's stated belief that the United States 'won't always have the strongest military,' raises serious questions about his capacity to serve as Commander-in-Chief."

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:

Dean has continued to beat the anti-war drums. "We've gotten rid of him," Dean said of Saddam Hussein's ouster. "I suppose that's a good thing." Pressed again last week on CNN, Dean refused to concede that Iraq is better off without Saddam. And two weeks ago, while campaigning at a Stonyfield yogurt factory in New Hampshire, the would-be Commander-in-Chief suggested that America should be planning for a time when it is not the world's greatest superpower : "We have to take a different approach [to diplomacy]. We won't always have the strongest military."

Such comments could come back to haunt Dean. If there is a central political reality in post-9/11 America, it is this: Voters won't be willing to listen to a candidate's ideas on the economy or any other domestic issue unless they are first convinced that he or she is a credible, competent guardian of national security. (emphasis added)

Kerry's staff does earn points for being the first one to read/exploit the Tumulty suggestion.

But clever? I think not.

UPDATE: Mickey Kaus provides a link to Howard Dean's weblog. Meanwhile Gary Hart wins second prize among the Dems for following Tumulty's instructions in this blog post:

Democrats will only win the White House when we convince a majority of voters--including Independents and moderate Republicans--that we have sufficient depth of understanding and experience in world affairs and increasingly complex security issues to promote legitimate American interests as well as to create economic growth and justice.

posted by Dan at 04:45 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

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:

And whoever lacks the capacity to put on blinders, so to speak, and to come up to the idea that the fate of his soul depends upon whether or not he makes the correct conjecture at this passage of this manuscript may as well stay away from science. He will never have what one may call the ‘personal experience’ of science. Without this strange intoxication, ridiculed by every outsider; without this passion … you have no calling for science and you should do something else. For nothing is worthy of man as man unless he can pursue it with passionate devotion.

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.

posted by Dan at 03:22 PM | Trackbacks (0)


SCORE ONE FOR THE TRIBE!: Click on this Eugene Volokh post and you'll see that I'm guilty of a really bad pun.

posted by Dan at 01:34 PM | Trackbacks (0)


A FRENCH FAUX PAS: Jacob Levy's latest TNR Online essay is up, paired with Reihan Salam.

The topic is recent French attempts to integrate Muslims into the secular state. Apparently, it's not working out as planned.

posted by Dan at 01:32 PM | Trackbacks (0)


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:

Mahmoud Abbas was approved Tuesday as the Palestinians' first prime minister and in a speech to parliament forcefully denounced terrorism and declared that peace was the "strategic, irrevocable choice" of the Palestinian people. But he warned Israel that it must abandon Jewish settlements and end its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to achieve a lasting peace....

"The path of negotiations is our choice," Abbas said. "We denounce terrorism by any party and in all its shapes and forms, both because of our religious and moral traditions and because we are convinced that such methods do not lend support to a just cause like ours, but rather destroy it. There is no military solution to our conflict."

Then there is Libya, which today owned up to some previous nastiness:

The Libyan government has accepted responsibility for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and set up a fund to compensate victims' families, Foreign Minister Mohammed Abderrahmane Chalgam said on Wednesday.

Finally, there's this enigmatic part of the Times story from my previous post:

Earlier this year, Saudi officials told The New York Times that the departure of American soldiers would set the stage for a series of democratic reforms, including an announcement that Saudi men — but not women, at least initially — would begin electing representatives to provincial assemblies and then to a national assembly. The ruling royal family, these officials suggested, could more easily sell potentially unsettling reform if it appears to be less dependent on the Americans.

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:

The winds of change also appear to be reaching Syria, which this week was reported to have sent a proposal of peace talks to Israel through U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat.

Previous peace talks over the status of the Golan Heights broke down over Israel's insistence on retaining a narrow strip of land along the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

While the United States has recently accused Syria of harboring members of Saddam's ousted Iraqi regime and possessing weapons of mass destruction, there are signs that it has begun to tolerate demands for greater freedom.

About 140 politically active Syrians declared in an unprecedented manifesto that a strong internal front based on freedom for all was the only effective defense against what it called American and Israeli aggression.

The manifesto was published in Damascus by the Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies, according to a report appearing in the Lebanese Daily Star.

The war against Iraq had proved, said the signatories, that one-party rule and repressive security services cannot protect a country's independence and dignity. The group called for the cancellation of emergency laws, the release of political prisoners and the establishment of a national unity government based on reconciliation.

"Pressures for change are starting in Syria via civil society," said Haytham Manna, a Syrian exile attending yesterday's referendum in Qatar as an observer from the Arab Commission for Human Rights.

Definitely developing....

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


DREZNER GETS RESULTS ON SAUDI ARABIA, PART 2: Turns out Monday's announcement was a harbinger of things to come, as the New York Times reports:

The United States said today that it would withdraw all combat forces in Saudi Arabia by this summer, ending more than a decade of military operations in this strategic Middle East nation that is America's largest oil supplier.

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.

The Washington Post version of the story ties in this decision to a larger rearrangement of U.S. forces abroad:

Having removed the government of Saddam Hussein from Iraq, the U.S. military will end operations in Saudi Arabia later this year, freeing the kingdom of a major political problem caused by the visible presence of U.S. forces in the land of Islam's two holiest shrines, defense officials announced today.

Shutting down U.S. flights from Prince Sultan air base and moving the U.S. Combined Air Operations Center from here to nearby Qatar mark the beginning of what Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has described as a major realignment of U.S. military forces, not only in the Persian Gulf, but also in Europe and the Far East. Meeting this morning with service members here inside a giant aircraft hangar, Rumsfeld said he is attempting "to refashion and rebalance those arrangements so that we're organized for the future."

Marine Gen. James L. Jones, NATO's top commander, is reviewing U.S. military installations in Germany with an eye toward moving at least some of them to new NATO members in Eastern Europe. "NATO is a different place now, and the center of gravity has in fact shifted from where it was when it was a relatively small organization of 15 countries to a much larger organization of some 26 countries," Rumsfeld told the troops here. NATO has 19 members and seven more countries have been invited to join.

The Pentagon is also considering reductions in the 38,000 military personnel stationed in South Korea and moving those that remain away from the Demilitarized Zone with North Korea. And in Central Asia, Rumsfeld and Gen. Tommy R. Franks, head of the U.S. Central Command, must decide what to do with bases in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan that were opened in 2001 and 2002 to support the war in Afghanistan.

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.

posted by Dan at 09:22 AM | Trackbacks (0)

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:

Japan and the US are the least helpful of the rich countries towards the developing world, according to a new measure from a leading think tank....

The best performers tended to be smaller countries, with the Netherlands and Denmark at the top of the list. Germany was the only one of the Group of Seven rich countries in the top half, with the UK at 11th.

The index measures each country's generosity and usefulness of overseas aid, openness to exports from developing countries, role in global peacekeeping and policies on migration and the environment.

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]:

Last year American military spending exceeded that of all other NATO states, Russia, China, Japan, Iraq and North Korea combined, according to the Center for Defense Information, a nonpartisan research group that studies global security. This is another area where all other nations must concede to the United States, for no other government can afford to try to catch up.

The runaway advantage has been called by some excessive, yet it yields a positive benefit. Annual global military spending, stated in current dollars, peaked in 1985, at $1.3 trillion, and has been declining since, to $840 billion in 2002. That's a drop of almost half a trillion dollars in the amount the world spent each year on arms. Other nations accept that the arms race is over. (emphasis added)

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.

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

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:

No-one is looking for a new blog to read. They may, however, be interested in a specific new story you've found, or a new idea you have. Therefore, pitch the blog post ("Here's a post I just posted:") not the blog ("Come and read my blog"). If people really like your posts, then they'll start to regularly read your blog....

Don't bug the recipient too often. Pitch him only your very best posts....

Of course, all this assumes that your posts are worth reading -- that they're generally interesting, novel, and readable, and entice people to return once they've visited.

The part of Eugene's post that I sort of disagree with is his claim that

"Here's why I disagree with your post on . . ." messages aren't likely to catch the recipient's attention, if the recipient runs a popular blog

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:

Find blogs with more traffice (sic) than yours, but not overwhelming amounts, the sorts that can still check their referral logs regularly. Then your links to their posts are more likely to inspire a response.


posted by Dan at 12:30 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (1)

Monday, April 28, 2003


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:

"The envoy [an Al Qaeda representative sent by bin Laden to Iraq in March 1998] is a trusted confidant [of bin Laden] and known by them. According to the above mediation we request official permission to call Khartoum station to facilitate the travel arranegments for the above-mentioned person to Iraq [According to the Star, the document "confirm(s) bin Laden's agent arrived in Baghdad on March 5 and stayed a full 16 days as a guest of the Iraqi government at the Mansur Melia Hotel, one of the capital's premier accommodations."]

"And that our body [The Mukhabarat, Iraq's intelligence service] carry all the travel and hotel expenses inside Iraq to gain the knowledge of the message from bin Laden and to convey to his enovy an oral mesage from us to bin Laden, the Saudi oppoistion leader about the future of our relationship with him and to achieve a direct meeting with him."

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.


posted by Dan at 10:01 PM | Trackbacks (0)


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).

So I could not help but bust a gut when I read this Los Angeles Timesstory (link via InstaPundit) about a Republican protest on Telegraph Avenue:

Borrowing a page from this city's radical traditions, a boisterous band of 200 college Republicans demonstrated Saturday in the bastion of American liberalism, staging a pro-Bush administration rally on the UC Berkeley campus and leading a flag-waving procession down Telegraph Avenue.

As street vendors and merchants looked on in disbelief, delegates attending a state college Republican convention here marched two blocks to People's Park, site of a widely publicized protest incident in 1969, where they chanted "Bush! Bush! Bush!" and sang "America the Beautiful."

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:

In recent years, the Berkeley college Republican chapter has thrived on this image of an embattled minority bravely battling against the liberal establishment. Once only a few dozen in number, the chapter now boasts more than 500 members and is one of the biggest student organizations on campus....

One of the main reasons for the changing political climate at Berkeley, said University Librarian Thomas Leonard , who has been on campus since 1967, is the changing profile of the Berkeley student.

The difference is clear at the Free Speech Movement Café, an elegant coffee shop funded by a wealthy 1964 graduate at the base of the new Moffitt Undergraduate Library. One of the walls of the cafe is covered with an enlarged photograph of a Free Speech era sit-in. Almost all of the faces in the photo are white. Recent classes entering Berkeley, however, have been largely Asian, accounting for more than 40% of the entering freshman class.

"As a general rule," said Leonard, "the increase in Asian Americans has pushed the student body more toward the center politically."

In fact, Leonard said, opposition to the campus conservatives is more likely to come from the faculty or aging leftists in the surrounding community. "I get the sense the community is much more into protest than the campus," Leonard said. "There is a culture of protest in the Bay Area that is steadily getting grayer and older."

Here's a link to the California Patriot description of events -- they have pictures.

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


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:

Delegates raised concerns about the lack of security, electricity and water.

But our correspondent says one influential Shia leader sounded an optimistic note.

"The Iraqi people owe a lot to the United States and the United Kingdom... for deposing the dictator," said Sheikh Hussein Sadr, dean of the Islamic Council in London.

Second, there's this New York Times piece:

Many people who follow the course of religious affairs here believe that the return of Shiite clerics to Iraq, and the revival of Iraq's historically holy city of Najaf, may pose a serious threat to the rule of the hard-line ayatollahs in Iran.

Najaf is expected to become the center of Shiite faith once again when influential clerics return and begin teaching at its seminaries. Some high-ranking Iranian clerics who believe in freer religious studies, such as Ayatollah Javad Tabrizi, have also said that they would go to Najaf when stability returns.

Since the Islamic revolution here in 1979, Iran's hard-line religious leadership has defined Shiite Islam for its 120 million followers around the world. But analysts say that Iran's status as the leader of Shiism will be undermined once Najaf develops its own brand of the faith, which is expected to be more moderate than the one Iran favors....

Iraqi clerics who are returning to Iraq say they are tired of seeing their faith dominated by Iran.

"Iraq is a holy country and we do not need Iran," Mr. [Muhammad] Hassani [a "mid-ranking cleric"] said. "It is independent and has its own differences with Iran. We do not need to look at Iran as our model."

For two weeks, the Supreme Council has been helping volunteer clerics return to Iraq. Darol-hakameh Institute in Qum, which belongs to the council, has provided the clerics with train tickets and documents to cross the border.

"They are returning to preach the faith and help bring order. We do not ask them what kind of political affiliation they have," said Mohsen Hakim, a staff member at the institute who said he too would go to Baghdad to help organize clerics.

Some Iraqis say that living in Iran and witnessing the kind of challenges facing this theocracy has convinced them that the interference by religion into affairs of state should be limited.

"The responsibility of political Islam to solve political and economic problems that the state is faced with has put enormous pressure on the seminaries in Qum," said Hamam Hamoudi, a mid-ranking Iraqi cleric who said he would also leave for Baghdad this week.

Still, Mr. Hamoudi added that the Iraqi clerics were eager to return and have a share in the future government. "We do not want an Islamic state like Iran, but the Shiites are 60 percent of the population and want to be part of the government after years of suppression."

Ayatollah Ali Muhammad Sistani, Iraq's most prominent Shiite leader in Najaf, has also objected to the interference of clerics in politics.

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.


posted by Dan at 01:34 PM | Trackbacks (0)


WELL, THIS IS A SURPRISE: This Financial Times discovery speaks for itself:

a new MORI poll for the FT reveals that 55 per cent of Britons regard France as the UK's least reliable ally, while 73 per cent view the US as the country's most reliable.


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


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:

The United States is shifting its major air operations center for the Middle East from Saudi Arabia to Qatar, the first step in what is likely to be a significant reduction of American forces in Saudi Arabia and a realignment of American military presence in the region, senior military officials said today....

Maj. Gen. Victor E. Renuart, the Central Command's director of operations, said in an interview that having the command center in Al Udeid may be a good long-term strategic fit for the United States.

"Moving to Al Udeid is a sort of a natural progression for us as we look for a footprint that will be maintainable in the future," said General Renuart, who was also in Abu Dhabi. "It's just starting the process. There's a convenience in the fact we're adjusting the size. You don't need a CAOC designed to fly 3,000 missions if you're only flying a few hundred." CAOC is the acronym for the Combat Air Operations Center the military uses to command its air operations.

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:

American military commanders, especially Air Force officials, have long favored moving the air command post to Al Udeid from Saudi Arabia. United States commanders have chafed at restrictions the Saudis have placed on the American-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq....

For the military, however, Qatar is a more congenial location. A tiny nation of 750,000 people, Qatar has come to view the United States as its main protector in the region.

Qatar built Al Udeid Air Base in 1996 at the cost of more than $1 billion. The nation did not have an air force at the time, but it wanted to encourage the United States military to base its aircraft there.

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.

posted by Dan at 09:58 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, April 27, 2003


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.

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

Friday, April 25, 2003

Should this trend be encouraged?

Interesting news item:

The Dixie Chicks have posed nude for the cover of a weekly showbiz magazine, Entertainment Weekly, in the United States.

The band members, Martie Maguire, Emily Robison and Natalie Maines, said they posed nude in response to the controversy created when they publicly stated that they were "ashamed" President George W Bush was from their home state of Texas.

This story provides more explanation:

Fiddler Martie Maguire explains, "We wanted to show the absurdity of the extreme names people have been calling us. How do you look at the three of us and think, those are (ousted Iraqi leader) Saddam (Hussein)'s angels?"

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.]

Gillian Anderson and Tea Leoni are also members of Artists United to Win Without War. I'm sure I could think of some epithets for them in the near-future.

Just thinking out loud....

UPDATE: Patrick Belton has some less puerile thoughts on the topic.

posted by Dan at 05:45 PM | Trackbacks (0)

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:

Government officials and experts in Seoul yesterday responded cautiously to some media reports on North Korea's admission of possessing nuclear weapons, saying they need more time to clarify the situation.


UPDATE: Kevin Drum has more on the disturbing South Korean reaction.

posted by Dan at 03:38 PM | Trackbacks (0)

A minor complaint

Jacob Levy complains about the verisimilitude of Ross' academic career on Friends. To which I say, "Amen."

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.
Television: Friends, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (remember, Riley was Buffy's TA), Mad About You, and every other movie on the Lifetime channel
Books: Jane Smiley's Moo, Tim O'Brien's Tomcat in Love, Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, Richard Russo's Straight Man.

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.

posted by Dan at 01:58 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)


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:

Due to his frequent gaffes, Santorum's handlers carefully stage-manage his actions and rarely allow him to be interviewed without his press secretary, who helps the boss field any tough questions. In a 1995 profile, Philadelphia magazine said that "much of Santorum's record has been a series of tantrums," and quoted a former Republican Congressional staffer as saying, "If you took the key out of his back, I'm not sure his lips would keep moving."

One example: In speaking about the country's long-term prospects, Santorum remarked, "Nowhere in the Bible does it say that America will be here 100 years from now."

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:

"The president has confidence in the senator and believes he's doing a good job as senator" and in his No. 3 Senate GOP leadership post, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Friday....

"The president believes the senator is an inclusive man. And that's what he believes," Fleischer said.

The White House expressed confidence in the leadership of Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., in the immediate aftermath of his defense of a 1948 pro-segregation presidential ticket. As the remarks drew backlash, President Bush admonished Lott for them and said it was up to the Senate to decide whether he should remain as majority leader.


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 simple truth is that I and many others feel immensely wounded not so much by some clumsy, ugly remarks by someone who might even in some way mean well; but by the indifference toward them by so many you thought might at least have empathized for a second.

Josh Marshall also weighs in on Santorum for the first time, and comes to the same conclusion I did:

When I first read about Santorum's remarks I found them objectionable. But I assumed that they were some form of a 'slippery slope' or reductio ad absurdum kind of argument, such as the ones above. But they weren't. In fact, the point he goes to great lengths to make doesn't even have anything to do with a constitutional argument. He's not saying, how can you make value-neutral distinctions between homosexuality and bigamy or incest. He is, as nearly as I can tell, making the positive assertion there are no distinctions. They are each "antithetical to strong, healthy families."

posted by Dan at 01:06 PM | Trackbacks (0)


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:

A fresh set of documents uncovered in a Baghdad house used by Saddam Hussein's son Qusay to hide top-secret files detail multimillion dollar payments to an outspoken British member of parliament, George Galloway.

Evidence of Mr. Galloway's dealings with the regime were first revealed earlier this week by David Blair, a reporter for the Daily Telegraph in London, who discovered documents in Iraq's Foreign Ministry.

The Labour Party MP, who lambasted his party's prime minister, Tony Blair, in parliamentary debates on the war earlier this year, has denied the allegations. He is now the focus of a preliminary investigation by British law-enforcement officials and is under intense scrutiny in the British press, where the story has been splashed across the front pages.

The most recent - and possibly most revealing - documents were obtained earlier this week by the Monitor. The papers include direct orders from the Hussein regime to issue Mr. Galloway six individual payments, starting in July 1992 and ending in January 2003....

The three most recent payment authorizations, beginning on April 4, 2000, and ending on January 14, 2003 are for $3 million each. All three authorizations include statements that show the Iraqi leadership's strong political motivation in paying Galloway for his vociferous opposition to US and British plans to invade Iraq.

The Jan. 14, 2003, document, written on Republican Guard stationary with its Iraqi eagle and "Trust in Allah," calls for the "Manager of the security department, in the name of President Saddam Hussein, to order a gratuity to be issued to Mr. George Galloway of British nationality in the amount of three million dollars only."

The document states that the money is in return for "his courageous and daring stands against the enemies of Iraq, like Blair, the British Prime Minister, and for his opposition in the House of Commons and Lords against all outrageous lies against our patient people...."

[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]

In the interest of fairness, here's Galloway's response to the initial Daily Telegraph story, and his response to the Christian Science Monitor story.

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


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:

Now that I've been using Movable Type's permalinks for a few weeks, I realize what's wrong with them. Instead of driving traffic to the full blog, a link from, say, InstaPundit, sends people only to a single item (not that I'm not appreciative, Glenn). That means fewer readers for everything else.

For those 1-2% of you out there who actually care about this question, let me know what you think about this.

posted by Dan at 09:51 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, April 24, 2003


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.

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

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
2) Santorum equates homosexuality with other activities -- polygamy, adultery, sodomy, or "man on dog" -- that he believes is destroying our country's moral fiber.
3) Santorum's lack of faith in Americans' ability to stick to their respective faiths is pretty appalling -- although, as Virginia Postrel points out, perfectly consistent with certain strands of conservative thought.
4) Santorum was not duped into this conversation -- he knew what he was saying.
5) That's one freaked-out AP reporter

UPDATE: Via Sullivan, I found this CNN transcript. Tony Blankley's comments on this are worth repeating:

I disagree with almost everything he [Santorum] said, both his legal analysis, which is -- I don't think it's sustainable. I'm confident the Supreme Court can distinguish between consensual conduct by gays and lesbians in private and incest, which is not consensual, by definition of the relationship.

So I don't buy his argument. I don't buy his argument that American families are in danger from the 1 percent to 2 percent of homosexuals in the country. We've had that population since the beginning of time, and American families are fine.

However, I'm in the minority, not just in the Republican party, in the Democrat party, amongst independents, in the country, in the world, that he sits and heard him say that the standard Catholic position. I disagree with it. I'm not a Catholic, but that is the received position of the vast majority of mankind. I wish it weren't, but that's the position.

That's a pretty good summary of what Alan Wolfe's research says on the topic as well.

posted by Dan at 03:37 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)


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:

It’s easy to overgeneralize and get the idea that a small group of neoconservatives have worked some voodoo on a sitting President—you may remember Hillary Rodham Clinton’s initial reaction to Monicagate on NBC’s Today Show, that it represented "a vast right-wing conspiracy." It may be easy to insist that this small, concerted group of men and women have propelled an entire nation’s foreign policy toward the radical concept of "benevolent hegemony," wonk-speak for an American Empire that brings democratic ideals to dictatorships around the globe. But that, as the neoconservatives say themselves, would be simplistic.

"I have been amazed by the level of conspiracy-mongering around neocons," said David Brooks, an editor at Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Kristol’s Weekly Standard, and author of Bobos in Paradise. "I get it every day—the ‘evil Jewish conspiracy.’ The only distinction between ‘neoconservative’ and ‘conservative’ this way is circumcision. We actually started calling it the Axis of Circumcision."

posted by Dan at 03:13 PM | Trackbacks (0)


A MORE OPTIMISTIC POST: OK, my last two posts have been pretty downbeat. Some good news -- the weakening of Al Qaeda. Glenn Reynolds links to this ABC news report. The key grafs:

Intelligence sources told ABCNEWS that a recent communication from Osama bin Laden has indicated his displeasure that al Qaeda has failed to exploit the American military campaign in Iraq with terrorist operations against U.S. interests.

U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials believe that bin Laden's displeasure may reflect al Qaeda's crippled operational capability.

There is little question that the network has the capacity to conduct low-level operations involving one, or possibly two suicide bombers, but analysts are increasingly dubious that it can commit large scale, coordinated, high-impact attacks that would cause mass casualties such as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

There's also this report from the Washington Times:

Al Qaeda and its terrorist allies remain a potent threat, but their failure to carry out a successful strike during the U.S.-led military campaign to topple Saddam Hussein has raised questions about their ability to carry out major new attacks....

"I think their credibility is increasingly on the line the longer we go without a successful terrorist strike," said Mark Burgess, director of the Terrorism Project at the Center for Defense Information.

"We know al Qaeda is a patient lot, but I don't know if they can afford to be too patient," he said. "Bin Laden made a lot of noise before the war about defending the Iraqi people, and so far there's nothing to show for it."

Certainly, the destruction of their cell in northern Iraq -- with Iran's cooperation -- must have stung.

UPDATE: Global Witness has a report out on Al Qaeda's connections with the diamond trade. Here's the press release -- and here's the page to download the report. The BBC provides a summary as well.

posted by Dan at 03:00 PM | Trackbacks (0)


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:

Politically, the opposition ["An ad hoc alliance comprising Taliban remnants, the Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) faction of former mujahideen leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and groups of Al-Qaeda stragglers"] has displayed a new confidence and political assertiveness in recent months with various leaders publicly enunciating their goal of expelling western forces. In January, Hekmatyar vowed Afghan "mujahideen" would "force America out of their country like the Soviet Union" while in February, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar used the Pakistani press to renew his call for anti-Western jihad. Then in late March in an interview with BBC radio, the day after the murder of a foreign aid worker, senior Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah promised to step up the fight against "Jews, Christians, [and] all foreign crusaders", warning Afghan government officials at all levels "not to stand behind the puppet and slave regime."

Rocket attacks have gained both in frequency and intensity. Whereas last year one or two missiles was the norm, salvos are now being fired. There have also been barrages of mortar fire.

At the same time, the opposition has displayed greater aggressiveness both in attacking US Special Forces beyond their bases, and in concentrating larger numbers of fighters. The planting of mines on roads used by US patrols, which was begun last year, continues; but is now being reinforced with close-in ambushes. The Girishk ambush has been the only one to result in Coalition fatalities this year, but on 10 February a US patrol was attacked in the Baghran valley of upper Helmand province, by assailants using rocket propelled grenades and machine guns. Other ambushes have occurred near Asadabad in eastern Kunar and near Shkin, a well-known blackspot on the border of Paktika province with Pakistan.

Attacks on the Coalition's Afghan allies - which Taliban remnants had earlier specifically refrained from - have also gathered pace this year....

[International Committee of the Red Cross engineer Ricardo] Munguia's murder has badly shaken the confidence of the international aid community. The weeks following his death saw a sharp reduction or halting of field operations in the south by the UN, the Red Cross and other non-governmental organisations. Many staff have been withdrawn to Kabul. But as all sides are well aware, any significant reduction of aid and development programmes in a chronically poor part of the country threatens to trigger a vicious downward spiral of growing Pashtun disaffection from Kabul, accelerated opposition recruitment, and a further deterioration of security.

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 growing assertiveness of tribes like the Mangals could have dramatic repercussions for an Afghan government that has had difficulty extending its authority beyond the capital, Kabul. Not only might these tribes bring back an ancient vigilante style of justice - burning the homes of accused criminals, for instance - but tribal militias could become an obstacle for US forces as they search the countryside for Al Qaeda.

Rival tribes warn that the Mangals could easily switch sides and give their armed support to Al Qaeda if they felt that Kabul was not sufficiently representing Mangal interests. This is not an idle concern. Mangal tribesmen were among the Taliban's most enthusiastic supporters in southeastern Afghanistan....

"The US forces have modern weapons, modern forces, but there are some things you can't do in a fast, modern way, and choosing your friends is one of them," says Wakil Sherkhan, an elder in the Tanai tribe, which resides in both Paktia and Khost provinces.

"One hears rumors all the time, but I think it is possible for these arbakis [Pashto for "militia"] to take action against the central government, and even against US forces," Mr. Sherkhan adds, "because money makes everything possible. If someone gives you 100 Afghanis [Afghan currency] and I gave you 2,000, who are you going to favor?"

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.

That will help, but only some. Of course, the deteriorating security situation further impairs all levels of humanitarian efforts -- click here, here, and here for examples.

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.

ATTENTION, KAUSFILES READERS: If you're still interested about the situation in Afghanistan, check out this more recent post.

posted by Dan at 11:58 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, April 23, 2003


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:

from the fraying neighborhoods of Gaza City and its refugee camps, the battle seemed more trifling.

A woman who gave her name as Khitam, 30, a mother of five, feigned surprise when asked about the new government as she picked through clothes at a vendor's stall here.

"Was there a government?" she asked. "Where's the old government to talk about appointing a new one?"

Disappointment is the wrong word for people's reactions; it implies they have hope. An opinion poll released a week ago by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that only 43 percent thought that Mr. Abbas would assemble a government that would win the public's confidence.

It is not that people do not want change. They say they long for it, but they do not expect it. Anger at the Israeli occupation blunts but does not neutralize Palestinians' frustration with their own leadership....

Palestinians look at the heavily guarded mansions here of men like Mr. Abbas and Mr. Dahlan, and they wonder whose interests they have at heart.

Mr. Abdel Shafi met with Mr. Abbas as he assembled his government, and he said he was impressed with his approach and his proposed cabinet. But he said many Palestinians saw Mr. Abbas as "part of the Palestinian leadership responsible for this misery," and he wondered, "If you were so unhappy with Yasir Arafat, why didn't you say something?"

Mr. Abbas, who is known as Abu Mazen, put forward at least five men regarded as reformers. But that was from a list of at least 19 that included several of Mr. Arafat's old guard and others widely viewed as corrupt. One associate of Mr. Abbas said today that he had erred in trying to compromise, to satisfy both Fatah's senior members and upstart legislators in the Palestinian Legislative Council."

Then there's this take in the Chicago Tribune:

Hanan Ashrawi, a Ramallah lawmaker and an outspoken advocate of government reforms, said Arafat was having difficulty giving up powers, while Abbas had made Cabinet appointments based on personal loyalty and sought to retain some ministers tainted by corruption.

"There has to be recognition that this is a new phase, but they are still playing by the old rules," Ashrawi said. "Arafat has to realize that he is no longer president with total powers, and Abu Mazen has to appoint a credible and effective Cabinet. Instead it has become a matter of personalities, settling scores and payback time."

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.

posted by Dan at 02:25 PM | Trackbacks (0)

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:

A senior White House official, asserted today that Mr. Gingrich's criticism "was seen at the White House as an attack on the president, not an attack on Powell." There was widespread anger at the White House, the official said, but he declined to characterize the reaction of Mr. Bush himself.

posted by Dan at 11:33 AM | Trackbacks (0)

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:

Curtis Bradley
Anne-Marie Slaughter
Ruth Wedgwood

posted by Dan at 10:44 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, April 22, 2003


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:

Last September, a gloom-and-doom columnist warned about Iraq: "If we're going to invade, we need to prepare for a worst-case scenario involving street-to-street fighting."

Ahem. Yes, well, that was my body double while I was on vacation.

Since I complained vigorously about this war before it started, it's only fair for me to look back and acknowledge that many of the things that I — along with other doves — worried about didn't happen.

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:

The hawks also look increasingly naïve in their expectations that Iraq will soon blossom into a pro-American democracy. For now, the figures who inspire mass support in postwar Iraq are Shiite clerics like Ali al-Sistani (moderate, but tainted by being soft on Saddam), Moqtadah al-Sadr (radical son of a martyr) and Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim (Iran's candidate), all of whom criticize the United States.

As in revolutionary Iran, the Shiite network is the major network left in Iraq, and it will help determine the narrative of the war: infidel invasion or friendly liberation. I'm afraid we infidels had better look out.

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.

posted by Dan at 02:48 PM | Trackbacks (0)

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?

Mean lil fellow, arn't you?

What Monty Python Character are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

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.

posted by Dan at 02:00 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, April 21, 2003


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:

FISCHER: Ever since September 18th or 19th, 2001, when Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in Washington roughly outlined for me what he thought the answer to international terrorism had to be.


FISCHER: His view was that the US had to liberate a whole string of countries from their terrorist rulers, if necessary by force. Ultimately a new world order would come out of this - more democracy, peace, stability, and security for people.

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:

SPIEGEL: The neo-conservatives who are in charge in Washington will probably write off your constant insistence on international regulations and institutions as Old European thinking.

FISCHER: The American political scientist Robert Kagan has developed a bizarre image: Europeans come from Venus and indulge in the dream of perpetual peace, while Americans are from Mars, and faced with the hard realities of the wolf's den of international politics, they stand and fight, all against all. Anyone who knows European history knows about the many wars we've had here. The Americans had no Verdun on their continent. In the US there is nothing comparable to Auschwitz or Stalingrad or any of the other terrible symbolic places in our history.

SPIEGEL: All of them were catastrophes in which the Americans were on the right side.

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.

posted by Dan at 02:36 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and a cautionary note

Josh Chafetz links to this New York Times report explaining the dearth of WMD caches in Iraq:

A scientist who claims to have worked in Iraq's chemical weapons program for more than a decade has told an American military team that Iraq destroyed chemical weapons and biological warfare equipment only days before the war began, members of the team said.

They said the scientist led Americans to a supply of material that proved to be the building blocks of illegal weapons, which he claimed to have buried as evidence of Iraq's illicit weapons programs.

The scientist also told American weapons experts that Iraq had secretly sent unconventional weapons and technology to Syria, starting in the mid-1990's, and that more recently Iraq was cooperating with Al Qaeda, the military officials said.

The Americans said the scientist told them that President Saddam Hussein's government had destroyed some stockpiles of deadly agents as early as the mid-1990's, transferred others to Syria, and had recently focused its efforts instead on research and development projects that are virtually impervious to detection by international inspectors, and even American forces on the ground combing through Iraq's giant weapons plants.

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:

Under the terms of her accreditation to report on the activities of MET Alpha, this reporter was not permitted to interview the scientist or visit his home. Nor was she permitted to write about the discovery of the scientist for three days, and the copy was then submitted for a check by military officials.

So why am I posting it?

Because the Times reporter is Judith Miller. She's a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and has authored/co-authored books on biological warfare and Middle East extremism. So I'm thinking the probability of her jumping the gun on a story that turns out to be a bust is unlikely. [SEE RETRACTION]

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.

posted by Dan at 09:37 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Rumsfeld's dilemma

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):

Much has been made of the Rumsfeld Pentagon's determined and well-considered efforts to "transform" the war-fighting abilities of the U.S. armed forces, making them smarter, quicker, lighter, and more nimble. What has not been generally appreciated yet, however, is that it is now just as important to bulk up their other abilities as well—whether or not this fits the military's view of its appropriate duties. As Rachel Bronson of the Council on Foreign Relations wrote last fall, Washington needs to develop "a greater appreciation for the fact that intervention entails not simply war-fighting, but a continuum of force ranging from conventional warfare to local law enforcement." That means creating plenty of units in unsexy job categories such as civil affairs and military police—the sort of folk we could use to run Baghdad today.

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:

The United States military can expect to face more Iraqi-style reconstruction projects in the future and should adjust to better prepare for that role, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday.

While denying that the U.S. is involved in "nation-building" in Afghanistan or Iraq, Rumsfeld said the military can provide crucial order in the vacuum-of-power period after a regime falls and before a new government forms.

"Somebody has to try to create an environment that's sufficiently secure and hospitable to that kind of a change, but . . . without doing it in a manner that creates a dependency. Is that likely to be a role that the United States will play from time to time? I think yes," Rumsfeld said, speaking at a question-and-answer session with Pentagon employees.

"I don't think of it as a nation-building role, because I don't think anyone can build a nation but the people of that nation," he said.

On the other hand, there's this Chicago Tribune report from four days ago:

Even as the U.S. military grapples with the largest peacekeeping effort in a generation, the Army is shutting down its only institute devoted to such operations, prompting protests from inside and outside the Pentagon.

Since its creation in 1993 at the Army War College, the Peacekeeping Institute has struggled against a military culture that sees itself as a war-fighting machine that should leave peacekeeping to others....

The Peacekeeping Institute, in Carlisle Barracks, Pa., will close Oct. 1. A Jan. 30 Army news release said its functions and mission will be absorbed at the Army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) at Ft. Monroe, Va.

A spokesman for the training command, however, said Monday that it has no plans to accept the institute's charge.

"I can tell you that no functions from the Peacekeeping Institute are being transferred to the Center for Army Lessons Learned, nor are they being transferred to TRADOC," said spokesman Harvey Perritt.

Lt. Col. Gary Keck, a Pentagon spokesman, said that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld supports closing the institute. He added, however, that the decision to close the institute was the Army's.....

An Army spokesman denied that the shutdown signals any reduction in the importance placed on peacekeeping but said it is emblematic of the "hard choices we have to make" in operating in as efficient a manner as possible.

Out of a $81 billion annual Army budget, the Peacekeeping Institute ran on $200,000 a year. (emphasis added)

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.


posted by Dan at 04:34 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)


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:

This was just a celebration, a chance to see some friends from the movie and make what's become almost an annual trip with our boys... As far as I knew, we weren't speaking. I wasn't even planning to wear makeup. And to politicize baseball is to violate the spirit of what it's all about.

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:

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is a very special place - a national treasure - and my responsibility is to protect it. Politics has no place in The Hall of Fame. There was a chance of politics being injected into The Hall during these sensitive times, and I made a decision to not take that chance. But I inadvertently did exactly what I was trying to avoid. With the advantage of hindsight, it is clear I should have handled the matter differently.

I am sorry I didn't pick up the phone to have a discussion with Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon rather than sending them a letter.

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.

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

Friday, April 18, 2003


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:

What does Germany really think about Turkish membership of the EU? How did Gerhard Schröder nearly wreck the EU enlargement deal? And what does Vladimir Putin privately think about Russian journalists?

The answers are in a "warts and all" television documentary telling the inside story of the Danish EU presidency, which culminated in the Copenhagen enlargement summit last December. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Denmark's prime minister, honoured his commitment to open government by giving rare access to a camera team during the tense talks leading to the deal allowing 10 new members to join the EU.

Not everyone is as happy as Mr Fogh Rasmussen to feature in the film, to be broadcast in Denmark on Thursday. It has caused fury across Europe, and even some Danes think his candour has gone too far. The biggest controversy surrounds claims that Joschka Fischer, German foreign minister, privately tried to find ways to stop Turkey joining the EU, while publicly supporting Ankara's application....

But it is not clear whether the EU's often secretive culture is ready for a painful dose of openness. Some Danes agree with that view. Niels Helveg Petersen, a former foreign minister, said: "This is a break with proper behaviour, a diplomatic blunder of the highest order."

Read the whole story -- as well as these takes by the BBC and the EU Observer. The latter provides the details of the most damaging part of the documentary:

a sequence displaying a politically charged statement by German foreign minister Joschka Fischer where he revealed his personal views to Danish foreign minister Per Stig Møller, on Turkish membership of the European Union.

"I am a good friend of Joschka, and he tells me, that Turkey will never join", says the Danish foreign minister Per Stig Møller in a corridor passage which was taped and used in the film.

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:

"An American-led invasion of Iraq that removes a totalitarian dictatorship will increase hatred of the West among Muslims. EU discrimination against Turkey will decrease Muslim hatred of the West."

Can those two statements be logically reconciled? Discuss.

[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.]

posted by Dan at 04:34 PM | Trackbacks (0)


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:

none of this is going to be settled by one day of good or bad photo-ops. The die is cast. Like it or not, the fate of America and Iraq are now fastened together for at least several years. I don't pretend to know how it's going to turn out. But the one thing I think we can be confident of is that none of us are going to emerge from this with our hubris intact.

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:

This is a very long term project we're involved in, and the ups and downs of daily events really don't mean much. It will be months, maybe years, before we know what the real reaction of ordinary Iraqis is to our invasion. I suspect that in the long run it's going to be more negative than positive, but at any rate — and to coin a phrase — it's sure not going to be a cakewalk.

posted by Dan at 02:11 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, April 17, 2003

IN MY NAME: What Josh

IN MY NAME: What Josh Chafetz said here, I wholeheartedly endorse.

posted by Dan at 10:38 PM | Trackbacks (0)


SIGN OF THE TIMES: Blogging is light today because I'm continuing my tour of Midwestern colleges with a talk on globalization at Beloit College.

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.

posted by Dan at 02:58 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, April 16, 2003


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:

Much evidence now shows that before 9-11, Syria was a stomping ground for Qaida operatives, considered a place where they could move around in relative freedom. The country served as transit point for them and Qaida had an infrastructure there. They were able to operate with relatively few of the restrictions that other Arab countries, like Egypt, put on them.

After 9-11.... as American rage grew and the attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan began, the Syrians changed position, and said they were ready for intelligence cooperation with the U.S. on the Qaida issue. But there are now clear indications that it was tactical and only partial cooperation.

Readiness for cooperation mostly came via information about Qaida cells in other countries and not what Qaida representatives were doing in Syria. Important information came from Syria, for example, on Qaida cells in Germany. That apparently is what kept Syria off President George W. Bush's "axis of evil" list.

Now there's this Los Angeles Times story:

Syria has functioned as a hub for an Al Qaeda network that moved Islamic extremists and funds from Italy to northeastern Iraq, where the recruits fought alongside the recently defeated Ansar al Islam terrorist group, according to an Italian investigation....

Two weeks ago, Italian police arrested seven alleged Al Qaeda operatives. They were charged with sending about 40 extremists through Syria to terrorist bases operated jointly by Al Qaeda and Ansar al Islam, whose stronghold in northeast Iraq was recently overrun by Kurdish and U.S. troops.

Transcripts of wiretapped conversations among the suspected operatives and others paint a detailed picture of overseers in Syria coordinating the movement of recruits and money between Europe and Iraq, according to court documents obtained by The Times....

Italian investigators say that they have no evidence that the Syrian government was aware of the network or protected it, and that they hope to get help with the case from Syrian authorities. Still, the activity of the alleged terror network raises questions because the Syrian government has aggressive security services that would likely be aware of extremists operating in their territory.

And finally, this Straits Times lead:

The United States tightened the screws on Syria yesterday, claiming that it was harbouring a high-ranking Iraqi intelligence official with Al-Qaeda links.

A US official alleged that Faruq Hijazi, ranked third in Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's intelligence service, flew into Damascus aboard a commercial jet on Tuesday, seeking refuge after the fall of the Baghdad regime....

According to media reports, Saddam also sent Hijazi to Afghanistan in 1998 to establish contacts with Osama bin Laden, the leader of the Al-Qaeda terror network.

Some European newspapers even insisted that Hijazi met the alleged ringleader of the Sept 11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta, before the terror attacks on the US.

But Washington has not confirmed that the meeting took place, and Hijazi is not included in the Pentagon's 'deck of death' cards which feature the 55 most-wanted Iraqi officials.

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:

In the immediate aftermath of September 11, Assad provided the United States with what one administration official describes as a "treasure trove" of intelligence on Al Qaeda activities among Syrian nationals—principal among these Mohammed Haydar Zammar, an Al Qaeda commander living in Germany, and Mamoun Darkazanli, one of the organization's alleged financiers. Assad even sent President Bush a letter proposing that the two countries "establish sound bases of worldwide cooperation ... to uproot terrorism in all its forms." Before long, Syrian intelligence operatives were meeting with the CIA and passing along warnings replete with details about likely terrorist targets. Even the administration's Syria hawks concede that one such warning, which alerted American policymakers to a plot against American forces in the Gulf, "saved American lives."

Food for thought.

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

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:

Lines for public bathrooms, one of the last supposed vestiges of “separate but equal,” regularly show the facilities are anything but. “What’s most often equalized is square footage,” Case says. But because urinals are smaller than stalls, “men are almost always offered more excreting opportunities than women,” which likely accounts for longer women’s lines—not women simply taking longer. And more of the space in women’s bathrooms, she notes, is filled with vanity tables, fainting couches, and baby stations.

The project—after several years she’s collected hundreds of surveys for a planned law-review article—was spurred by Case’s research into the history of constitutional arguments for equal protection of the sexes. Believing the law rarely should distinguish between males and females, she advocates “a model akin to the typical airline toilet,” providing ultimate privacy without segregation (though she’s learned that many women prefer a same-sex environment).

The survey also gives men and women “a sense for how the other half lives,” Case says. For instance, when she visited a New York children’s museum, a male companion saw a poster in the boys’ room asking, “Who can ‘go’ faster? It takes men about 45 seconds to urinate (pee). It takes women about 79 seconds to urinate. How do you compare to the average? Ready, Get Set, GO!” No such poster, Case confirmed, was in the girls’ room.

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.

P.S. The story links to other interesting avenues of research -- Roman Weil's analysis of the ever-increasing quality of wine, or Richard Epstein's research into parking and squatter's rights.

posted by Dan at 02:56 PM | Trackbacks (0)


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:

"She believes, and is prepared to reveal in her book, that the Bushes are far more pragmatic and calculating than has ever been seen before. She will show that the family orchestrates its public image from top to bottom. She will reveal that the family is in essence a political operation."

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:

"In the book, she hopes to show that Barabara Bush has exercised a good deal more control over the family than previously revealed. She also wants to show that the relationship between the Bush brothers, as well as relations between the President and former President, have been more fraught and complex than previously known, her associates say."

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.

Not developing....

posted by Dan at 10:32 AM | Trackbacks (0)


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:

“I doubt very much that we're about to move militarily against Syria. This strikes me as a brush-back pitch. It is critical to our efforts in Iraq that Syria not try to Lebanize Iraq. Those are the minimum ground rules. And we need to make that crystal clear to them right now.”

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.


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

Tuesday, April 15, 2003


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:

"Nearly half the French electorate believes that France was isolated diplomatically because of its opposition to the invasion of Iraq, according to an opinion poll yesterday....

In the poll, in the newspaper Libération, 46% of those questioned said President Chirac's attempts to block Anglo-American moves to topple Saddam Hussein had isolated Paris, although 59% still thought the war was wrong.

The poll also contained the first signs of a slide in Mr Chirac's popularity, which dropped by four points to 70% from a month earlier. Since that survey, leading members of his party, the UMP, have criticised the president for failing to congratulate British and American troops."

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:

"Some French media have also cautioned the government against following a confrontational diplomacy - most recently by insisting that the United Nations, not Washington, should assume interim administration of Iraq. An editorial in Le Monde called on Paris to work with Washington in finding a diplomatic solution.

Other experts, such as Philippe Moreau Defarges, Special Advisor at the French Institute of International Relations in Paris, believe the anti-war coalition, which includes Germany and Russia, may soon crumble, leaving France isolated.

'It's clear this coalition between Paris, Berlin and Moscow was really an artificial coalition,' said Mr. Defarges. 'It's certain that Russia and Mr. [Vladimir] Putin will want to play its own game and to reconcile with the United States. Particularly, but not only, because of Iraq and the oil contracts. Concerning Germany, it's clear the German chancellor is not a very strong man, and he will try at the end of the day to reconcile with Washington.'"

You know France is screwed, however, when Tom Friedman writes this paragraph:

"For me, the best argument for pressuring Syria is the fact that France's foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said on Sunday that this was not the time to be pressuring Syria. Ever since he blocked any U.N. military action against Saddam, Mr. de Villepin has become my moral compass: whatever he is for, I am against. And whatever he is against, I am for."


UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has more on France's current woes.

posted by Dan at 11:59 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

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:

1) I read every e-mail sent about the blog and every comment posted on the blog.

2) I won't necessarily reply to every e-mail message or respond to every posted query.

3) The likelihood of my replying has a lot more to do with how busy I am than with the content of your message.

4) I'm truly sorry for the non-responses.

5) Unless otherwise indicated, I will not attribute any quote from any e-mail on the blog.

6) When it comes to the comments feature, remember that I control the horizontal and the vertical. I will delete comments that I think are personally insulting, completely off-topic from the post, or so incoherent as to pass all understanding. My space, my rules.

7) When you're posting your comments, bear in mind that the government is watching and recording -- but not in a malevolent way.

8) Don't make me angry -- you wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

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]

posted by Dan at 11:16 PM | Trackbacks (0)


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.

posted by Dan at 01:50 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)


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!"

posted by Dan at 12:04 PM | Trackbacks (0)

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:

"For five years, [human rights lawyer Kirk] Boyd has devoted his life to researching and crafting a document he says will revolutionize the way the world treats its citizens.

His may seem like a Sisyphean task, but Boyd -- a human rights lawyer who lives in Mill Valley -- believes the time is right for an International Bill of Rights that guarantees free speech, freedom of religion, access to free or low-cost health care, shelter, education, fair trials and a host of other 'absolute' priorities.

When he addresses the United Nations Human Rights Commission Tuesday in Geneva, Boyd will -- for the first time -- publicly argue for implementation of the International Bill of Rights."

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.

Dan's Assignment Desk to Eugene Volokh: How did this guy get funding and institutional support from the University of California?

UPDATE: Will Baude has some additional thoughts on Boyd's attempt to draft a freedom of speech clause.

posted by Dan at 04:49 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)


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.

posted by Dan at 01:47 PM | Trackbacks (0)


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?

My guess is that they're going to be there for a while. The prominent antiwar groups are casting about for some way to keep their movement alive. We'll see if they succeed.


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

Nicholas De Genova speaks!!

The Filibuster links to this Chronicle of Higher Education interview with Nicholas De Genova, his first public comments since his letter to the editor of Columbia's student newspaper.

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:

Q. Your comment about wishing for 'a million Mogadishus' has attracted the most attention. I read your letter in the 'Columbia Daily Spectator,' which gave some more context, but I have to confess I don't see how the context changes the meaning of that statement.

A. I was referring to what Mogadishu symbolizes politically. The U.S. invasion of Somalia was humiliated in an excruciating way by the Somali people. And Mogadishu was the premier symbol of that. What I was really emphasizing in the larger context of my comments was the question of Vietnam and that historical lesson. ... What I was intent to emphasize was that the importance of Vietnam is that it was a defeat for the U.S. war machine and a victory for the cause of human self-determination.

Q. I'm a little hazy on the rhetorical connection between Mogadishu and Vietnam.

A. The analogy between Mogadishu and Vietnam is that they were defeats for U.S. imperialism and U.S. military action against people in poor countries that had none of the sophisticated technology or weaponry that the U.S. was able to mobilize against them. The analogy between Mogadishu and Iraq is simply that there was an invasion of Somalia and there was an invasion of Iraq.

Q. Just so we're clear: Do you welcome or wish for the deaths of American soldiers?

A. No, precisely not.

Then there's this closing exchange:

Q. If you had it to do over again, would you make the same remarks?

A. There is a lesson here for all of us, far and wide, beyond my immediate circle of colleagues and this particular university. There is a message for all people who affirm the importance of free speech and the freedom of thought and expression. ...

Q. I guess my question is, would you have attempted to be clearer?

A. Had I known that there was a devious yellow journalist from a tabloid newspaper among the audience, I certainly would have selected my words somewhat more carefully. But I would not have changed the message. Unfortunately, that message has been largely lost on people who were not at the event.

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.

posted by Dan at 09:47 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, April 13, 2003


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.

posted by Dan at 03:47 PM | Trackbacks (0)

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:

In a policy shift, North Korea said today that it would negotiate its nuclear program without sticking "to any particular dialogue format" if the United States changed its stance on the issue.

The new policy signals an end to a six-month insistence on two-way talks with the United States, and comes days after the fall of Iraq's government, a part, along with Iran and North Korea, of what President Bush has called an 'axis of evil.'....

In Washington, a senior official who deals extensively with North Korean issues said today that while the statement was still being evaluated, it appeared that pressure exerted by China had compelled the North Koreans to change their position. 'This means some kind of discussion can go forward but in the past the North Koreans have been known to drop out of talks if they don't like how they are going,' the official said.

As recently as Friday, American officials said there was still activity at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, although no evidence that North Korea had yet begun converting its 8,000 nuclear fuel rods into weapons-grade plutonium.

North Korea's shift may be a result of diplomatic pressure from Russia and China. On Wednesday, both nations, historic allies of North Korea, blocked the adoption in the United Nations Security Council of any statement critical of North Korea's nuclear program. It is possible that with the United Nations action out of the way, the North Koreans saw their moment to move.

On Friday, a top Russian official said Russia would reconsider its longstanding policy of opposing sanctions against North Korea if it developed nuclear arms. (emphasis added)

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:

South Korea's new president, Roh Moo Hyun, said today he believes North Korea is 'petrified' by the American success in overthrowing Saddam Hussein in Iraq, but he disputed the contention of some U.S. officials that North Korea already has a nuclear weapon.

The former human rights lawyer said in an interview that despite concerns in Washington that he wants to chart a course of independence during a nuclear weapons crisis with North Korea, 'there will be no change in the fact that the United States will remain our closest and most important ally.

This New York Times story buttresses this statement:

American and South Korean officials saw the prospects for negotiations as resting in large measure on how both the United States and North Korea interpreted the lessons of the war in Iraq.

The North Korean party newspaper Rodong Sinmun summarized the fears of North Korean leaders, saying the United States was 'keen to ignite another Korean War after concluding the Iraqi war.'

A senior South Korean official, asking that his name not be used, said North Korean intentions were likely to become clear 'after North Korea has had time to assess the significance of events in Iraq.' The official predicted, however, that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, 'will be more on the rational than on the irrational side.'

posted by Dan at 10:17 AM | Trackbacks (0)

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:

It is estimated that civilian casualties could be far greater than in 1991. In the Gulf War, 110,000 Iraqi civilians, including 70,000 children under the age of five and 7,000 elderly, died in the first year of war as a result of 'war-induced adverse health effects' caused by the destruction of infrastructure.

Estimates of civilian deaths range from 48,000 to 261,000 for a conventional conflict; if there is civil unrest and nuclear attacks are launched, the range is 375,000 to 3.9 million. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 100,000 direct and 400,000 indirect casualties and that 'as many as 500,000 people could require treatment to a greater or lesser degree as a result of direct or indirect injuries.

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.

2) The economic costs of war. William Nordhaus wrote an essay last fall on those costs (here's a nice summary table). His main findings:

Returning to the metaphor of war as a giant roll of the dice, we might say that the US could end up paying the "low" costs of around $120 billion if the dice come up favorably. If some dice come up unfavorably, the costs would lie between the low and the high cases. However, if the US has a string of bad luck or misjudgments during or after the war, the outcome, while less likely, could reach the $1.6 trillion of the upper estimate….

Even the upper estimate does not show the limit of fortune's frowns. The projections I have described exclude any costs to other countries, omit the most extreme outcomes (such as chemical or biological warfare), and exclude Perry's ‘worst’ case in oil markets. Moreover, the quantified costs ignore both civilian and military casualties suffered by Iraqis and any tangible or intangible fallout that comes from worldwide reaction against perceived American disregard for the lives and property of others.

It seems likely that Americans are underestimating the economic commitment involved in a war with Iraq.

Other economists envisioned even gloomier scenarios. Janet Yellen -- a respected macroeconomist at Berkeley who served in the Clinton Administration -- predicted doom and gloom a week ago.

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:

Indeed, despite a war raging in one of the most important Arab capitals, there have been no reports of actual violence against American soft targets in the Middle East. We have not heard about Americans being killed or injured in Casablanca or Amman. This is a significant sidebar to this war that has attracted little comment. Dire predictions notwithstanding, Arabs did not rise up to destroy American interests in the Middle East.

(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.

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


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."

posted by Dan at 04:36 PM | Trackbacks (0)

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 William Saletan makes a similar point -- and levies a pointed challenge to pacifist groups (link via InstaPundit):

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.

posted by Dan at 03:29 PM | Trackbacks (0)


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.

Then I read Neal Steinberg column in today's Chicago Sun-Times, entitled, "With us just 3 weeks, but already getting old." Read the whole piece to get the full flavor; here are the parts I choked on:

"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.

posted by Dan at 02:53 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Need some laughs?

Andrew Sullivan links to this Donald Rumsfeld sex advice column in Esquire.

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...

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

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.

posted by Dan at 02:28 PM | Trackbacks (0)


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.

posted by Dan at 12:59 PM | Trackbacks (0)


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."

posted by Dan at 11:18 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, April 9, 2003


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.

posted by Dan at 07:20 PM | Trackbacks (0)

When fantasy meets reality

WHEN FANTASY MEETS REALITY: This San Francisco Chronicle account of the celebration in downtown Baghdad contains the following amusing anecdote:

There was a lot of smiling and laughing. One Iraqi gave out high-fives to passing Marines and reporters.

There were some American and European 'human shields' at the rally, people who had come to put themselves in harm's way in hopes of stopping the shooting. They chastised the Marines for attacking Iraq and promoting war.

That angered some of the men. 'I didn't bury two of my fellow Marines just so someone like that could call us murderers,' said one Marine, angry and teary, referring to an Iraqi artillery attack that killed two of his colleagues on Monday. 'They died for this country.'

Meanwhile, two Iraqis held up a sheet bearing the message: 'Go home Human Shields, you U.S. Wankers.'' (emphasis added)

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)

posted by Dan at 04:58 PM | Trackbacks (0)


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]

posted by Dan at 03:52 PM | Trackbacks (0)


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.
While US military officials stress the war in Iraq is far from over, gains Wednesday in Baghdad suggest Saddam Hussein and his supporters are unable to control the civilian population or mount coordinated large-scale resistance in large swaths of the city.

'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.

posted by Dan at 01:43 PM | Trackbacks (0)


DREZNER GETS RESULTS FROM TOM FRIEDMAN: Yesterday I blogged about the need to speed up humanitarian relief in Umm Qasr. Tom Friedman makes the same point in his column for today.

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."

posted by Dan at 11:31 AM | Trackbacks (0)


WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE?: Greetings, New Republic (and InstaPundit) readers!! Curious about the assertions I make in my latest article? Here's some background information:

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 increasing support in the United States -- including among Democrats and liberals -- click here and here.

As for Great Britain's Tony Blair, check out this London Times poll this more recent ITV/Daily Telegraph survey.

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.

posted by Dan at 11:17 AM | Trackbacks (0)


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.

posted by Dan at 11:16 AM | Trackbacks (0)

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.

posted by Dan at 01:45 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Not good

I've generally avoided blogging about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because, well, it's a profoundly depressing situation.

However, I do agree with Mickey Kaus about Ariel Sharon's latest move to expand housing settlements in the occupied territories. It's toxic.

posted by Dan at 11:37 AM | Trackbacks (1)

A kindred Daniel

Oxblog has conceptually reorganized their blogroll . I've been categorized under Daniel Patrick Moynihan: "Thoughtful, scholarly, and well-liked and respected on both sides of the aisle."

I think I can live with that.

Of course, this means I can kiss any job requiring Senate confirmation goodbye.

posted by Dan at 11:25 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, April 7, 2003


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.

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

Scandal in the blogosphere

This Wired story (link via Glenn Reynolds) reports that Sean-Paul Kelley has been plagiarizing reports from'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."

Last week, Sean-Paul posted a defense of his actions. Today, he's posted a somewhat more contrite apology, which contains the following:

"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:

War blogs have had their own spats. On Tuesday, Kelley's got involved in a controversy because, he says, another war blog accused him of stealing information without proper attribution.

But Kelley says his audience trusts him. 'For my readers, it's like their personal news service,' he says. 'They send me an e-mail, and I send them a reply right back.'

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:

"I really thought that The Agonist was going to be the vanguard that pushed news blogging over the top and gave many of us new hope," opined a MetaFilter poster named Dean Paxton. "Instead, I fear that this is an enormous setback. Especially when the blog-savvy media pundits are turned on to this."

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.

UPDATE: Mac Diva, a journalist-turned-blogger, offers her opinion here.

posted by Dan at 04:40 PM | Trackbacks (0)



"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."

For some other choice essays, click here and here.

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.

posted by Dan at 11:30 AM | Trackbacks (0)


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.]

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

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.

posted by Dan at 08:33 PM | Trackbacks (0)


GOOD NEWS IN KARBALA: More Iraqis happy to see Saddam go (link via the Command Post):

"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.'"

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


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.


posted by Dan at 03:59 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Advantage: Kleiman!

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:

Academics spend a significant amount of time judging people: their students, and one another. They need, therefore, to bend over backwards to make it clear that those judgments are based as exclusively as human frailty will allow on scholarly, academic, professional standards of skill at research and discourse, and not on the agreement or disagreement of the people doing the judging with the opinions of the people being judged.

(Teaching, as I do, highly controversial subjects, I have a little canned speech I make the first day of class. In that speech, I claim an authoritative voice, speaking for the discipline, in resolving claims about what sorts of arguments for policy opinions count as good policy analysis, but make it clear that my actual opinions are merely that, and that it is not among my purposes as a teacher to make the students' opinions conform to mine...).


posted by Dan at 03:34 PM | Trackbacks (0)


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.

The fact is, it's extremely difficult to measure success in the war on terror. A stretch of months without a bombing could be due to improved counterterror tactics or because Al Qaeda is biding its time. However, these pronouncements, combined with the likelihood of war with Iraq, combined with skeptics claiming that such an attack will weaken our war on terror, provides what social scientists call a 'crucial case' in testing the disparate hypotheses."

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.

UPDATE: Matt Drudge , discussing Stephen Brill's new book on homeland security, provides more support for this argument:

"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."

posted by Dan at 11:13 AM | Trackbacks (0)


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 Saddam Baghdad International Airport:

"'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.

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

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.

posted by Dan at 12:23 AM | Trackbacks (1)

Saturday, April 5, 2003


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."

posted by Dan at 01:44 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, April 4, 2003


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.

posted by Dan at 01:51 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Making people nervous

Former CIA Director James Woolsey declares that the U.S. is in the middle of World War IV:

In the address to a group of college students, Woolsey described the Cold War as the third world war and said 'This fourth world war, I think, will last considerably longer than either World Wars I or II did for us. Hopefully not the full four-plus decades of the Cold War.'

Woolsey has been named in news reports as a possible candidate for a key position in the reconstruction of a postwar Iraq.

He said the new war is actually against three enemies: the religious rulers of Iran, the 'fascists' of Iraq and Syria, and Islamic extremists like al Qaeda.

Woolsey told the audience of about 300, most of whom are students at the University of California at Los Angeles, that all three enemies have waged war against the United States for several years but the United States has just 'finally noticed.'

'As we move toward a new Middle East,' Woolsey said, 'over the years and, I think, over the decades to come ... we will make a lot of people very nervous.'

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."

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

Thursday, April 3, 2003

Still unsure about the war?

For those readers who want more information, Eric Zorn has compiled a website collecting the best arguments -- pro and con -- on whether war with Iraq is a good idea.

Worth checking out.

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


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.

posted by Dan at 11:30 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Should Nicholas De Genova be fired?

The Columbia Daily Spectator reports on mounting alumni pressure to fire Nicholas De Genova for the statements he made in last week's anti-war teach-in. Congressmen are also jumping on the dogpile.

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:

A few days ago her Latino History teacher, Mr. De Genova, notified his students by e-mail that he would not be holding office hours on the usual day because he would be attending an antiwar function. 'I totally respect academic freedom,' she said. 'However, there needs to be a distance.'

Then, she said, the assistant professor set aside the coursework for a day and invited students to share their feelings about the war. 'I was one of about two students who said anything that was not antiwar,' she said. 'I said I was hoping to go into the Marine Corps as an officer, that I have friends over there, and that my main focus now was to support the troops.'

'I felt so uncomfortable,' she added."

Then there's this from the Columbia Daily Spectator's story:

Rebekah Pazmiño, CC '05, is enrolled in De Genova's undergraduate class and is also an officer-in-training in the Marines. Pazmiño used De Genova's unmoderated classroom to respond to the three graduate students' suggestion that they were being silenced.

'If you guys feel so silenced, what about those of us who are going into the military?' Pazmiño asked. 'When remarks like that are made, those of us who are on the other side also feel threatened.' 'Having to hear that, and having to be in this class, just really sucks,' she said.

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.

posted by Dan at 04:56 PM | Trackbacks (0)


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."

posted by Dan at 03:04 PM | Trackbacks (0)

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:

[A]s the war drags on, any stifled sympathy for the American invasion will tend to evaporate. As more civilians die and more Iraqis see their "resistance" hailed across the Arab world as a watershed in the struggle against Western imperialism, the traditionally despised Saddam could gain appreciable support among his people. So, the Pentagon's failure to send enough troops to take Baghdad fairly quickly could complicate the postwar occupation, to say nothing of the war itself. The Bush administration's prewar expectation of broad Iraqi support for the invasion may turn out to be a self-defeating prophecy....

It isn't just that, as noted above, the Iraqi people will grow more hostile to the United States as the war lingers on—and American soldiers kill more civilians and Saddam has more time to kill his own civilians and blame it on Americans (a tactic that, remember, doesn't surprise Don Rumsfeld!). It's that Muslims all over the world are watching the same show, and they are not amused.

Even assuming Muslim rage doesn't produce a worst-case scenario—say, regime change in Pakistan that puts nuclear arms in the hands of terrorists—there is still plenty to worry about, most notably the next generation of anti-American terrorism quietly incubating in the hearts and minds of adolescent Al Jazeera watchers around the world. Further, anti-American Muslims—already trickling into Iraq from Jordan—could start showing up in larger numbers, including the occasional suicide bomber (who will make American troops even more jittery, leading to more dead Iraqi civilians for Al Jazeera to highlight, and so on). Every week that this war drags on is a week in which bad things can happen, and Rumsfeld's seeming indifference to this fact does not inspire confidence.

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:

The Republican Guard may be ceding this territory, thinking their forces must make their stand in Baghdad in the days to come. But in an unexpected sign of popular sentiment, some residents streamed out of the city and greeted the American troops as they approached.

[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)."

posted by Dan at 01:22 PM | Trackbacks (0)

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.

posted by Dan at 11:26 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, April 2, 2003


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.

Although Ukraine says it opposes the military effort and is sending only "humanitarian aid", the US is hailing Ukraine's membership as a significant step towards mending relations.

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.'"

posted by Dan at 03:35 PM | Trackbacks (0)


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.'"

UPDATE: More confirming evidence of how residents of Najaf feel come from this Slate report of an Iraqi army defector in Kurdistan (link via Volokh):

"'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).

posted by Dan at 11:57 AM | Trackbacks (0)


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."

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

Tuesday, April 1, 2003


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.

posted by Dan at 02:52 PM | Trackbacks (0)

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.

posted by Dan at 01:00 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Memo to the antiwar movement

Dear protestors,

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
Saddam Husssein
, and now we're reaping the whirlwind. It's basically an extension of the "we created bin Laden" argument.

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
China -- $225 million
Russia -- $220 million
U.K. -- $100 million
U.S.A. -- $50 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.

posted by Dan at 12:57 PM | Trackbacks (0)


"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.

UPDATE: This isn't CNN's only flaw. Virginia Postrel is absolutely correct in this criticism, which ties into my previous post on war and gender.

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


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.

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