Saturday, June 28, 2003
Well, just one post
I was going to write a quick post to say that Budapest is awesome, but then I read a Washington Post story stating that U.S. forces have put a stop to all local elections in Iraq, and that set me off.
The key grafs:
If you read further, it's clear that what scares Bremer and others is the prospect of radical parties -- which are now better organized -- taking power.
I can see this, except it's also true that radical parties tend to act more like moderates once they face the prospect of governing rather than campaigning. By halting the electoral process -- and rewarding ex-generals -- the current policy seems to do little more than successfully alienating the people you most want to motivate in Iraq.
Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Empty and stupid threat of the year
Here's more evidence that the Iraq debate is driving people batty -- A Financial Times article on Congressional reaction to European opposition on Iraq. Most of it falls into the garden-variety blowing-off-steam category. Then there's this idiocy:
Look, I could yammer on endlessly about all the reasons why this move is idiotic, but it boils down to this: pulling out would be stupid for selfish reasons. At this moment, the U.S. receives more benefits from the WTO than any other international organization -- why destroy it? Furthermore, such a move would succeed in causing a collapse of the global trade regime, a triumph for EU protectionism, and perhaps a global depression. That's a recipe for instability and violence -- not in our interests either.
I must congratulate Thomas for coming up with the single dumbest foreign policy proposal of 2003. I seriously doubt anyone else will be able to top it in the next nine months.
The half-life of the antiwar movement
George Packer has an excellent piece in today's New York Times Magazine on the network of antiwar movements. Eli Pariser, a staffer at one of the larger antiwar groups MoveOn.org, is the likeable protagonist of the piece. Read it to get Packer's main thesis, but here are three vignettes to chew on:
1) The origins of the antiwar movement: According to Packer, "On the day after Sept. 11, Pariser, who was living outside Boston at the time, sent an e-mail message to a group of friends that urged them to contact elected officials and to advocate a restrained response to the terror attacks -- a police action in the framework of international law. War, Pariser believed, was the wrong answer; it would only slaughter more innocents and create more terrorists."
I wonder three things -- a) Does Pariser now acknowledge that Operation Enduring Freedom was "a police action in the framework of international law"? Or was that action just too violent for his tastes? b) Given the success of Enduring Freedom, and the more fragmented nature of post-9/11 Al Qaeda attacks, does Pariser still think military action was the wrong answer? c) Would the people that form the backbone of the antiwar movement ever justify the use of force to advance the cause of freedom?
2) The prejudices of the antiwar movement: I love the condescension that drips from this quotation: "he [Pariser] found that opinion polls and political rhetoric didn't come close to doing justice to Americans' beliefs. 'There's all this gloss and spin and whatever, and then there's actually what people think,' he told me. 'Even when we talked to people who are racists, pro-gun folks, I couldn't make myself dislike them just because of their political views.'" (my italics)
Maybe I'm misreading an admittedly vague phrasing, but it sounds to me like Pariser thinks that racists are either identical to or just as bad as pro-gun folks. I can't believe Glenn Reynolds hasn't commented on this yet. [Well, now he has--ed.]
3) The shallowness of the antiwar movement: One of Packer's closing grafs:
"A young woman from Def Poetry Jam shouted: 'We send our love to poets in Iraq and Palestine. Stay safe!' The notion that there is little safety in Iraq and, strictly speaking, there are no poets -- that the Iraqi people, while not welcoming the threat of bombs, might be realistic enough to accept a war as their only hope of liberation from tyranny -- was unthinkable. The protesters saw themselves as defending Iraqis from the terrible fate that the U.S. was preparing to inflict on them. This assumption is based on moral innocence -- on an inability to imagine the horror in which Iraqis live, and a desire for all good things to go together. War is evil, therefore prevention of war must be good. The wars fought for human rights in our own time -- in Bosnia and Kosovo -- have not registered with Pariser's generation. When I asked Pariser whether the views of Iraqis themselves should be taken into account, he said, 'I don't think that first and foremost this is about them as much as it's about us and how we act in the world.'" (My italics)
THIS IS NOT ABOUT THE IRAQIS???!!!
Despite my extracts, Pariser seems like a genuinely nice guy. The thing is, genuinely nice guys with such an inward and uninformed view of world politics scare the crap out of me.
A working vacation
Blogging will range from intermittent to nonexistent for the next week. I'm off with the blogwife to Budapest for a conference. [Sure, it's all work to you--ed. No, really, check the program -- I'm working for a few days.] A few days of vacation after that.
What to do while I'm away? A few suggestions:
2) Turn off the computer and read a book. My spouse once told me that the only difference between me working and me on vacation is that there's a different book in my hands. So, in quasi-homage to Brink Lindsey's retirement from blogging right after he published his critical review of books read during the past year, here's what I'm bringing with me to Budapest to read:
Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Michael Kinsley flunks logic class
Here's how Kinsley's latest Slate essay starts:
Now, while I actually agree with Kinsley that "O'Connor's opinion... sinks back into a vat of fudge," the logic he uses above is incorrect.
Let's ignore the concept of the wait-list and grant Kinsley's point that admission is a binary decision. His next logical leap to assert that each factor has a binary quality because, "it either changes the result or it doesn't. It makes all the difference, or it makes none at all."
What Kinsley is describing is a necessary and sufficient condition: if X, then Y, if not X, then not Y. However, many admissions criteria are necessary but not sufficient. For example, it's safe to say that you cannot get into a good law school with a felony record. Not having a felony record is a necessary condition, but it does not make "all the difference"; it's not sufficient.
Other admissions criteria are sufficient but not necessary. For example, if an applicant had a letter of recommendation from William Rehnquist saying "this is the brightest undergraduate I've met," that person will be accepted. However, it's not necessary to have such a letter to be accepted.
One can parse conditions further. There are SUNI conditions -- sufficient but unnecessary parts of a necessary but insufficient condition. There are also INUS conditions -- insufficient but necessary parts of an unnecessary but sufficient condition.
Race, in the Michigan admissions criteria, is a INUS condition. To be let in for reasons of diversity, it's necessary for the person to be a minority. There are other criteria that must be satisfied -- no felonies, remember. Race, in and of itself, is not a necessary and sufficient condition.
[Er, does this actually matter?--ed. Let me ruminate on that. I'll update this post if it does. The abuse of logic bugged me, however.]
UPDATE: The abuse of logic bugged Kieran Healy in exactly the same way.
Affirmative action links for the day
Robert Tagorda has a first-person account of the myriad absurdities of the diversity rationale for affirmative action.
I disagree with some of what Orlando Patterson wrote in his Sunday New York Times essay, but he does an excellent job of spelling out the problems with the emphasis on diversity:
Then there's Dahlia Lithwick's logical demolition of O'Connor's majority opinion. It's no use excerpting it -- just read the whole thing.
Humorous links for the day
The Boondocks confirms what I've long suspected.
Finally, Gawker posts about Tucker Carlson admitting he put his foot in his mouth and now he's going to have to do the same thing with his shoe. Points to Carlson for being a good sport about it.
Before the critics start whopping it up too much, however, consider this:
Duty, joy, and blogging
Eugene Volokh on bloggers and biases:
Eugene is factually correct about the inclination of bloggers -- hence my general silence about the Bush tax cut. However, for scholar-bloggers, I don't think it's that easy to dismiss the notion of obligation altogether.
In my day job as one who publishes and teaches international relations, I feel a duty to acknowledge opposing arguments or contradictory facts. If I don't, then my papers won't get published in good journals and my teaching approaches hackery.
This doesn't affect the choice of what scholar-bloggers write about (Eugene's point), but it should affect the content of their posts. No one can rebut every opposing argument, but the good ones demand acknowledgment and a good intellectual wrestle.
Does this make blogging less fun? Not for me. I like an old-fashioned rant as much as the next blogger, but I like it even better when I acknowledge the points made on the other side of the debate but still win the larger argument.
Finally, there's something of an obligation here. For all of the talk about the Blogosphere as an egalitarian community, hierarchies still exist. It's easier to attract readers when your day job carries some signal of expertise, and being a professor at the University of Chicago is that kind of day job (Many academics forget this, because they tend to socialize only with other academics. When everyone you know has a Ph.D. or is working towards one, it tends to lose its luster. Outside such social clusters, it's a different story altogether). People can point to graduate students or recent undergraduates as exceptions, but their educational affiliations pack a powerful credential.
Because I know that part of what attracts my readers is my profession -- not to mention my acute awareness that several members of that profession will be reading these words -- does create a sense of obligation.
In choosing my topics, I'm never going to be an equal-opportunity blogger. Once I've chosen the topic, however, duty calls [Even on posts like this one?--ed. Well, most topics.]
Permalinks not working. New Blogger interface disappointing.
Rage at Blogger.... growing.
Desire to discard possessive pronouns and good grammar increasing.
"Fibber, dumb-ass, or panderer?"
That's Andrew Sullivan's question about Richard Gephardt. According to multiple news sources -- all courtesy of Eugene Volokh -- Gephardt said the following at a candidate forum sponsored by Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition in Michigan yesterday:
Dennis Kucinich made a similar statement.
Here's Volokh's assessment
Indeed. However, I'm even more alarmed by Gephardt's casual assumption that he knows more about constitutional law than the Supreme Court. Shudder.
By the way, I'd have to go with "panderer."
Monday, June 23, 2003
How France helps the world's poor
[Isn't it hypocritical to blast France when the U.S. has its agricultural subsidies?--ed. Look at this chart and you'll see that U.S. subsidies are considerably smaller than the those in the EU, Japan, South Korea, or Scandinavia]
If you think either ABC or myself is exaggerating, read the transcript. My favorite part:
To be fair, I think the press is exaggerating Dean's inability to recall the exact number of U.S. troops in either Iraq or Afghanistan.
Still, not an auspicious debut.
UPDATE: Pejman Yousefzadeh highlights another recent Dean gaffe.
More on Iranian bloggers
This Christian Science Monitor story (link via Tom Paine.com) looks at Iranian bloggers, including Lady Sun, described by the Monitor as the "emotional voice of Iran's Generation X." She's not very happy with CNN's headline editors.
Iraq and WMD
Elaine Sciolino makes a provocative point in yesterday's New York Times -- that regime change in Iran would not necessarily spell the end of its nuclear ambitions:
Is Sciolino correct?
On the one hand, number of democratic governments that overthrew unrepresentative regimes -- South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, even Ukraine and Belarus in the early 1990s -- did voluntarily abandon their nuclear weapons programs.
However, none of those countries were in the Middle East.
The WMD question
I've stayed silent on this issue, because my support for going to war was not related to the immediacy of the WMD problem. Even if Iraq was WMD-free by 2003, no sane person engaged in the debate on Iraq doubted that Saddam Hussein was going to make every effort to acquire such weapons if and when he could. Just because a house is cleaned once doesn't mean that dust will never reappear.
I supported the war for other reasons:
1) What we did in 1991 needed to be fixed. President Bush urged Iraqis to rise up and overthrow Saddam. 17 of 18 provinces in Iraq did so. We did nothing -- actually, worse than nothing, since we tolerated infractions of the no-fly zones -- while Saddam viciously put down those uprisings among the Kurds, Shi'a, and Marsh Arabs.
Chomsky types tend to blame the U.S. for every wrong committed everywhere. This, however, was a case of the U.S. government encouraging people to risk their lives and then sitting on its hands because the uprising was perceived to be messier than an anticipated military coup. The cause-and-effect link here was pretty tight, and the effect was devastating to the Iraqi people. This was a debt that needed to be repaid.
2) All of the other policy options stunk. It's important to remember that the containment option was deteriorating day by day even before 9/11. France, Russia, and China were openly agitating for an end to the sanctions regime. The U.S. was deemed responsible for the mass immiseration of the Iraqi people. The presence of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia were leading to discomfiting policy externalities.
War was not a great option. But it was better than the other alternatives.
Sunday, June 22, 2003
While I was away....
Not blogging for a couple of days generated two wildly contradictory impulses. The first was the rather pleasant sense of leisure. Not having to have an opinion on anything or everything was a nice respite. As Michael Kinsley recently observed, competition in the the opinion industry has accelerated its pace:
Mark Jordan, in a lovely piece of writing, conveys the problem an academic sometimes faces in trying to join the opinion mafia:
At the same time, I missed blogging -- it's just so much fun. Worse, I felt a pang of responsibility from not blogging. I got a fair amount of e-mail asking for posts, and as a good Jew I respond to guilt exceptionally well.
I'm optimistic enough to think that it is possible to engage in both quality scholarship and pithy opinion-making. So the blogging will continue, regardless of how much Blogger tries to thwart me.
UPDATE: Alas, Brink Lindsey appears close to blogging retirement for a reason I didn't mention above but certainly empathize with:
Wednesday, June 18, 2003
I guess this explains Blogger, too
Google explains their phenomenal success.
Heh. (link via Josh Chafetz)
The blogosphere takes on the mullahs
Here is Andrew Sullivan's suggestion from earlier this week:
Glenn Reynolds thinks this is "a great idea" and provides lots of relevant links.
I plan to be on board as well. [Why don't you launch a campaign to mock Bill O'Reilly's half-assed comments about the Internet instead?--ed. Too late. Besides, I'm sure O'Reilly was using his whole ass when he penned that prose. Nice reference to The Simpsons!--ed.] However, I have a few conditions:
1) Everyone recognize the limitations of this enterprise: A great deal has been written and posted about how Iranians hunger for a more liberal democracy, and how the blogosphere is playing a vital role in communicating that hunger.
However, this conveniently ignores the fact that the Iranian government is an altogether different beast than either Trent Lott or the New York Times. They play for keeps, and have been unafraid in the past to use paramilitary violence to put down student dissent. Here are the latest reports on Iran from Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International. They don't make for pleasant reading. A lot of web postings will be unlikely to diminish the mullahs' ardor for repression.
I've argued that the blogosphere's power has been inflated as of late, and I fear this will prove my point. I really hope I'm wrong, though.
2) Don't lobby for Western governments to take direct action against Iran. Official action by western governments could backfire, as Robert Lane Greene observes:
Obviously, the nuclear question is a matter for official action, and rhetorical support for the protestors is appropriate. Further sanctions, however, are unlikely to accomplish anything.
[Why, then, did you agitate for economic pressure on Burma? Isn't this the same thing?--ed. No, it's not. In the case of Burma, the demand is extremely specific -- a release of one activist and a return to the status quo of a few months ago. In Iran, the demand is simultaneously more amorphous and more ambiguous.]
3) Remember that the goal is to act as a megaphone for the Iranians themselves. While official action might be counterproductive, direct pressure from global civil society -- which is what Sullivan wants the blogosphere to be on July 9th -- can, at the very least, offer a show of support to Iranians that their voice is being heard. To that end, please click over to Jeff Jarvis' wonderful collection of Iranian bloggers.
4) Quincy Jones is not the producer. For those of you too young to understand that reference, click here.
Tuesday, June 17, 2003
Sorry for the lack of posts
Monday, June 16, 2003
Same story, different worlds
As worldwide pressure grows on the Burmese junta to release Aung San Suu Kyi, media reaction has differed on Colin Powell's rhetorically tough approach. Here's the International Herald-Tribune:
In this version of events, the West has shamed the East into action.
Now, consider this Bangkok Post version of events:
Who's right? One is tempted to dismiss the Post version of events, since it includes a passsage in which Mahathir Mohammed, Malaysia's president, is chagrined at the thought of the Burmese junta taking over the ASEAN presidency in 2006. Mahathir's own actions suggest he is hardly the most democratic of leaders. Furthermore, the "quiet diplomacy" argument has the advantage of nonfalsifiability.
And yet, there is a difference between someone like Mahathir, who has some respect for the rule of law, and the thugs of Burma. And the Post is correct in observing that rhetorical pressure is unlikely to have any effect, and that economic sanctions will not work unless China actively participates, which is highly unlikely.
In the end, however, the most significant fact in this story is not the immediate effect on Burma, but the effect on ASEAN. The organization recognizes that its non-intervention policy needs to evolve, in part due to Western pressure. Its members are either actual democracies -- Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines -- or are rhetorically committed to democracy -- Signapore, Malaysia, Cambodia. Furthermore, local crises, such as the 1997-98 financial panic or the SARS outbreak, generally force greater regional openness.
I don't hold out much hope for a democratic Burma anytime soon. An ASEAN that recognizes the value of democracy, however, is an intriguing possibility.
Want to know what's happening in political science?
I pretty much abhor popular writing about political science. It's usually off the mark, and some of it (Emily Eakin, I'm looking in your direction) is responsible for popularizing what I can only describe as complete mush.
So I write with pleasant surprise that Sharla Stewart has written a pretty accurate piece on the current state of the political science discipline for the University of Chicago alumni magazine. It discusses in depth the rise of the "perestroika" movement, which argues that the discipline has tilted too far in the direction of rational choice theory and statistical methodologies. Go take a look if you're so inclined.
[And where do you stand on these various fault lines?--ed. I straddle a fair number of them. My research involves all of the methodologies discussed in the article. I am by no means an area studies type, however.]
Friday, June 13, 2003
Warning to academic bloggers: although I have no problem with Muller's post, my spider sense tells me that this is crossing a veeerrrryyyy dangerous line. I'm actually surprised more students haven't created blogs to rate their teachers. That's not a phenomenon I anticipate with glee.
[Is this because you fear being exposed as a bad teacher?--ed. No -- an alert reader pointed me to one online ranking of my teaching -- tough but clear -- which I'd describe as reasonably fair. The source of this unease is probably the same thing that causes me never to blog about my students, no matter how brilliant or inane they turn out to be. The student-teacher relationship is not like a doctor-patient one, but there are aspects that I would prefer not to see publicized. I may just be priggish on this point, however.]
It's a strange day in the blogosphere
On the one hand, we have conservative free market advocate Andrew Sullivan acting like a PBS affiliate during the middle of pledge drive week (suggested sociology thesis topic -- are NPR pledge drives strongly correlated with increased incidents of road rage?).
On the other hand, we have liberal interventionist Josh Marshall making "arrangements to start accepting advertisements on a limited basis." The paragraph that follows that quote is Marshall describing his desirable market demographic.
Actually, I wouldn't read too much into this -- Sullivan already has ads, and Marshall has collected contributions from readers. It's still pretty funny.
[Jealous that you can't attract either pledges or ad space?--ed. Again with the jealousy meme! No, I have no beef with either pledge drives or advertisements. In fact, I'm still weighing whether it would be appropriate to launch a fundraising drive to move off Blogspot and onto an independent web site. Feedback appreciated on this point. As for advertising, to quote Spinal Tap, my audience might not be larger than Marshall, but it is more... selective].
Intentions and outcomes in Iraq
Adesnik responds with New York Times and Washington Post stories demonstrating that things are improving in Iraq. For an even better example, click on this Chicago Tribune story on the U.S. position on the Marsh Arabs, a group that was the target of what can only be described as a Baathist effort at genocide.
Mediator that I am, I think both Yglesias and Adesnik are correct. I agree with Matt that Bush principals control the neocons and not vice versa. This was why I thought all the conspiracy theory hysteria of the past few months was so absurd.
However, just because the key Bushies are not closet Wilsonians does not mean they do not recognize that frequently countries do well by doing good. Everyone acknowledges that the Iraqis are better off now than they were under Saddam, but that is but one example of this. The administration decision to increase foreign aid by 50% and create a new AIDS initiative fall under this category as well.
I suspect there is a deeper debate underlying this question -- should individuals be rewarded for good intentions or good outcomes? If a leader acts in an altruistic fashion for self-interested reasons, how does one evaluate such behavior? I strongly suspect that one's answer to this question depends on one's political affiliation.
Thursday, June 12, 2003
What's going on in Africa?
Sudhir Muralidhar has a link-filled post updating the various areas of instability in Africa.
Wednesday, June 11, 2003
WHAT'S GOING ON IN ALL
WHAT'S GOING ON IN ALL OF IRAQ?: OxBlog's David Adesnik links to a Washington Post story demonstrating the relatively high degree of cooperation between the U.S. military, Shiite clerics, and a reconstituted civilian authority in Karbala. Adesnik's conclusions:
These reports, combined with Mark Steyn's lovely travelogue, leads one to wonder if the coverage of Iraq now suffers from capital captivity. Coverage of Baghdad -- where things are clearly problematic -- is generalized to the rest of the country. Such a generalization may apply to Sunni strongholds like Fallujah and Tikrit, but not the vast majority of the country.
WHAT'S GOING ON IN THE
WHAT'S GOING ON IN THE PENTAGON?: One of the hallmarks (or frustrations, depending on your ideology) of the Bush team has been their message discipline, no matter what the clamor from the outside world. Weakness was never to be admitted or demonstrated.
It's something of a surprise, then, to see the recent torrent of statements coming from high-ranking civilians in Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Department. First, Paul Wolowitz gets into trouble in a Vanity Fair interview [Are you talking about the bogus claim in the piece that had Wolfowitz asserting that the Bush administration didn't really believe its own WMD story?--ed. No, I'm talking about something else in the interview. According to Josh Marshall,
There's some dispute over whether Wolfowitz intended this part to be on the record. However, Brad DeLong is correct in pointing out that for us non-journalists, the important part of this is the substance of Wolfowitz's comments.]
Then there is Douglas Feith's attempt to refute allegations that the DoD tried to spin the WMD story. The New Republic's &c points out that Feith's attempt backfired, leading to accusations of "doublespeak" and labeling Feith and others "browbeaters."
Today, it's a Deputy Assistant Secretary, according to USA Today:
Assignment to Phil Carter: is this just a series of unanticipated screw-ups, or is this an example of Rumsfeld losing the ability to rein in his subordinates?
"You cannot say anything too bad about the Yanks and not be believed
Let me preempt your queries with some useful links
The key government documents cited in my TNR Online essay are the September 2002 National Security Strategy and the December 2002 National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction.
[UPDATE: While I was technically correct in the TNR piece when I said that the word "pre-emption" never appeared in the National Strategy to Combat WMD, I was wrong in substance. On p. 3, the document states:
Apologies for the error, and thanks to reader M.R. for e-mailing me the correction.]
Some newspapers and columnists have gotten into trouble by misquoting Bush officials, so let’s get those links out of the way. Go to this post from last week on Wolfowitz to get the gist of his comments comparing North Korea and Iraq. As for Rumsfeld, here's a link to his quote from November 2001, and here's a post of mine from late April that provides the second quote in the article. That post also discusses the Army's decision to shut down the Peacekeeping Institute.
The Pew Research Center's "Views of a Changing World 2003" is available here. The quote in the article is from page 3 of the overview.
The Niall Ferguson quote comes from his Wall Street Journal op-ed from last week. Dr. Shireen M. Mazari is the Director General of Pakistan's Institute of Strategic Studies ; her comments came from this essay.
Click here for a March 2003 Washington Monthly essay by Nicholas Confessore that discusses how U.S. military personnel are being stretched to their limit. Ironically, Confessore lowballs his estimate of how many U.S. tropps would be needed in Iraq. And, to be fair, Rumsfeld seems to be following some of Confessore's recommendations. Phillip Carter points out that even now, there are too few troops on the ground in Iraq.
THE LIMITS OF PREEMPTION: My
THE LIMITS OF PREEMPTION: My new TNR Online piece is now up. It's a discussion of why the doctrine of preemption is not going to be exercised again. Go check it out.
End of an era
George Soros is a third-rate philosopher but a first-rate philanthropist [How does he rate as an international financier?--ed Well, he used to be first-rate, but Daniel Gross now believes his influence is on the wane]. Soros has been a fixture on the Slate 60 ranking of philanthropy.David Plotz notes, "George Soros has poured much of his fortune into civil-society projects. His Open Society Institute is a Bell Labs of civil innovation, seeding schools, NGOs, and organs of a free press all over the world." He correctly identifies Soros' philanthropy as a guide for building civil society in Iraq.
So it's somewhat sad to link to this Washington Post story :
As someone who used to work for an organization that Soros helped midwife, it's worth noting that the genius of Soros' civil society work was his firm message to the organizations he funded that his largesse would be temporary. This knowledge provided the necessary incentives for these groups to keep their bureaucracy to a minimum and actually dispatch people beyond national capitals into areas that needed civil society the most. His decision to largely pull out of Russia is fully consistent with that philosophy.
To reiterate -- I think Soros' philosophy is hackwork and his politics border on the histrionic. In his philanthropy, however, Soros epitomizes the rare combination of geneosity and hard-headedness that is needed to build civil societies from the ground up.
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
A GENERATIONAL BREAK?: This Josh
A GENERATIONAL BREAK?: This Josh Chafetz post suggests that by 2008, there will be a clear dividing line among conservatives between those who still care about the Clinton Wars and those who have moved past it:
I'm with Josh on this... and I've never even met Chelsea (go read Josh's post to understand that line).
Monday, June 9, 2003
What's wrong with Hillary Clinton and the press
Brad Delong has yet to recover from his policy run-in with Hillary Clinton in the early 1990's:
Keep reading his post for precise details of Clinton acting like a martinet.
Now, upon first reading this, I strangely found myself to the left of DeLong. The health care debacle happened a decade ago, when Clinton was new to the ways of Washington. A lot has happened since then. I don't have any great love for Hillary Clinton, but I do believe that people can learn from their mistakes.
Then we go to Andrew Sullivan's reaction to Clinton's interview with Barbara Walters:
So I wind up agreeing with DeLong (and Sullivan) after all.
What got DeLong exercised in the first place was this week's Economist "Lexington" essay on Hillary's prospects for the presidency in 2008. The essay really sets DeLong off:
What's interesting about this rant is DeLong's implicit belief that good opinion writing should care only about normative outcomes and not tactical political analysis. This is utter nonsense -- the best opinion writing contains elements of both.
Which leads me to the smartest thing I've read on this point in a good long while -- from Virginia Postrel on what ails the New York Times:
Saturday, June 7, 2003
WHY HUGH HEWITT IS WRONG
Hugh Hewitt's Weekly Standard piece on the Blogosphere begins as follows:
There are a few problems with this story.
First, it conveniently overlooks the fact that Josh Marshall was the first blogger to jump on the Trent Lott story. He also was instrumental in generating the drip, drip, drip of small stories that fueled the media and online frenzy. I agree with Hewitt that had the Big Four not gotten involved, the story may have died. To deny Marshall his due on Lott distorts the facts, however.
Second, it overlooks the fact that at times the Big Four have raised a stink about an issue, but the earth did not move. Sullivan, for example, took up Rick Santorum's problems with homosexuality (but not homosexuals!!) story, as did Volokh and InstaPundit. Bush issued a statement and that was that.
Third, to claim -- as Hewitt does later on in his essay -- that the Big Four will affect the Democratic primary is absurd. Democrats are not going to follow the lead of conservatives, neoconservatives, or libertarian hawks when they consider their candidate. Marshall will have a much greater influence -- if he wants to exercise it -- on the Dems. [What about the general election, or future Republican primaries?--ed. That's another story.]
I'm not saying that blogs -- particularly the ones Hewitt mentions -- don't matter. I'm saying that the Hewitt essay contains as much wish fulfillment as it does prognostication. Even Sullivan sounds more hopeful than assertive in evaluating Hewitt's claim.
[You're just upset you're not one of the Big Four, aren't you?--ed. Only if they have cool warm-up jackets.]
Friday, June 6, 2003
THE "INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY" AND THE
THE "INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY" AND THE AXIS OF AUTOCRATS: Hobnobbing with Council on Foreign Relations heavyweights all day, there was much rending of hair and gnashing of teeth about how the "international community" -- code for Europe, Japan, and the United Nations bureaucracy -- feels about the United States. Can the rifts created by Iraq be healed?
Let me propose a step in the right direction -- focusing on countries hell-bent on extinguishing freedom. For example, today the European Union announced economic sanctions against Cuba in response to the Castro regime's recent crackdown.
That's a good start, but it's not enough.
What I'd really like to see is concerted action against any authoritarian government that thinks it can exploit divisions within the West to crack down on their own populations.
For example, Western governments must demand and/or coerce Robert Mugabe's government in Zimbabwe to release opposition leader Morgan Tsvangerai, who has been arrested on treason charges following five days of demonstrations against the government. Thabo Mbeki, I'm looking in your direction.
Even more pressing is the case of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who -- along with 17 other opposition leaders -- has been held incommunicado since late May. To date, the Burmese military junta has ignored calls for her release. ASEAN leaders, quit making excuses for the regime. [UPDATE: for more on the ASEAN problem, go to this Boomshock post.]
The developed world needs to remember that when it comes to advancing the cause of democracy, they share a common purpose.
Thursday, June 5, 2003
I'm off to run the world again
In the realm of conspiracy theories about who runs the world, the Council on Foreign Relations is more recent than the Trilateral Commission but older than the Straussians (for an example of the CFR conspiracy meme, click here).
UPDATE: I take one plane trip and by the time I touch down, Howell Raines has resigned and The Guardian has posted a full retraction. Moral of the story: don't mess with either the Blogosphere ... or the Council on Foreign Relations.
THE BLOGOSPHERE GETS RESULTS FROM
THE BLOGOSPHERE GETS RESULTS FROM THE GUARDIAN: The good news: The Guardian story that caused such a ruckus yesterday has been taken down from their web site [UPDATE: Here's the Guardian's full, contrite explanation. Good on them]. As a side note, this isn't the only story they've had to retract this week.
Wednesday, June 4, 2003
The state of democracy in the world
In the wake of the myriad difficulties and perceived roadblocks to the democratization process in Iraq, it is easy for one's inner Burke to emerge and assume that there are limits to the transplanting of liberal democracy outside of the West. I won't deny having had these occasional qualms recently, even though I argued two months ago that the chances for democratizing Iraq were better than skeptics believed.
As a balm for these occasional worries, go read Larry Diamond's June 2003 article "Universal Democracy?" in Policy Review. For the academics in the crowd, here's a link to the version with the statistical tables. Diamond's punchline:
The entire first half of the paper is a refutation of the argument that democracy can't thrive in non-rich, non-Western countries. One key passage:
GALACTICALLY STUPID DISTORTION AT THE
GALACTICALLY STUPID DISTORTION AT THE GUARDIAN: The headline to this Guardian story blares "Wolfowitz: Iraq war was about oil". Here are the lead grafs:
Sounds pretty devastating, right? The quote makes it seem like Wolfowitz is arguing that Iraq was such a lucrative prize that it would have been stupid not to invade and grab the oil.
Now let's go to the actual transcript and see what Wolfowitz said in context:
Clearly, what Wolfowitz meant was that Iraq's oil made it easy for Saddam Hussein's regime to survive economic sanctions, while North Korea might be more vulnerable to economic pressure.
The Guardian's version of events in such a ludicrous distortion of Wolfowitz's words that it falls into the "useful idiots" category. By apparently relying on a German translation/distortion of Wolfowitz's words -- when multiple English-language sources of the actual comments were available -- I have to wonder if the Guardian is guilty of libel in this case. [UPDATE: The Guardian is even more incompetent than I thought -- on Saturday, they ran the AP story I linked to above with the correct version of the quote!!! Thanks to alert reader D.B. and CalPundit's comments page for the link.]
By the way, almost all of the above information comes from The Belgravia Dispatch -- unfortunately his permalinks aren't working, which is why I've blogged about it here. He also has a link to Wolfowitz's actual response to a direct question about whether the war is about oil.
Howell Raines, op-ed columnist?
Times-bashers may be cackling with glee at this prospect. I, on the other hand, am quite anxious about this prospect.
Why? Because, if memory serves, when A.M. Rosenthal got the boot, his golden parachute was a Times op-ed column entitled "On My Mind." Rosenthal's mind turned out to be a vacuous, barren, desolate wasteland. His column -- a hackneyed collection of incoherent and infantile ramblings -- made me wince every second I read it until I went cold turkey in the mid-1990s. I might think Paul Krugman has become too shrill, but Krugman's column is an oasis of rigorous thinking and precise prose compared to Rosenthal's mindless blather.
Op-ed space in the New York Times is a scarce commodity. Even if it has a liberal bias, I want to read smart liberals -- Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, Kieran Healy, Brad DeLong, Henry Farrell -- not pompous windbags like Rosenthal. My fear is that if Raines is given an op-ed slot, he will crowd out higher-quality contributors.
Maybe Raines would be a better columnist than an executive editor, but my suspicion is that he'll wind up being a carbon copy of Rosenthal.
Tuesday, June 3, 2003
Doha round update
I'm frequently asked by students about when a theory of international relations should be discarded due to a lack of explanatory power. In response, I will occasionally launch into a disquisition about Kuhn and Lakatos, but more often I give the following answer:
The U.S. is far from pure on the question of agricultural subsidies. However, the success of the Doha round of world trade talks now hinges on whether the French are willing to walk away from the Common Agricultural Policy.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum has additional thoughts on the matter -- and there's an interesting debate among his commenters.
Monday, June 2, 2003
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE INVISIBLE
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE INVISIBLE HANDS: A sleep-deprived and procrastination-obsessed Josh Chafetz at OxBlog is having a contest for "the worst political philosophy / political theory pick-up lines".
For me, it's all in the empirical testing and observation of good theory. Values no doubt shared by the quote's inspiration.
UPDATE: By the way, I think Kevin Drum should win. It's easily the worst of the lot -- it also made me laugh out loud.