Friday, July 25, 2003
Looking for answers?
Thursday, July 24, 2003
Today is my brother's birthday -- sort of. It's the 25th, but as he's living in Sydney, Australia, and it's sixteen hours ahead there, it is essentially today.
When I asked him what he wanted for his B-day, among the (tongue-in-cheek) options he gave me was:
1) Buy him a small island; or -- and let me quote him here:
He's right -- it was pretty easy.
Happy birthday, JBD!!
Debating the causes of war
Den Beste agrees. His take is almost identical on this issue:
Marshall and Den Beste also agree that this motivation was not mentioned all that frequently by Bush or Blair -- instead, the rhetorical emphasis was on the WMD question and whether Hussein's regime was in league with Al Qaeda.
The disagreement is over the ethical and practical implications of these tactics. Marshall takes a dim view:
Den Beste's position is pretty much the polar opposite of Marshall:
Den Beste is even blunter about the virtues of rhetorical misdirection in this post.
Who's right? You'll be hearing my thoughts on this tomorrow [But I want to be enlightened now!!--ed. Patience, my Simpsons-obsessed friend]. For now, however, read both arguments, because they set up a veeeeerrrrryyyyy interesting debate.
A few months ago I expressed pessimism about the state of affairs in Afghanistan. However, in scanning my recent posts about the country -- here, here, and here, I've noticed an encouraging trend of positive developments. An upbeat report from Glenn Reynolds' Kabul correspondent suggests statebuilding efforts are working. The key graf:
Is this part of a more encouraging trend in that war-torn country?
The answer is still mixed. The good news is that the central government is getting its act together. Hamid Karzai's efforts to increase revenue flows from the provinces to the central government is a partial success. The central government is conducting the first census in 24 years. That sounds mundane, but these kind of statistics are vital for ensuring stable economic and political development. The new Afghan National Army is also conducting its first military operations, deploying 1,000 troops in a joint exercise with U.S. forces against Taliban remnants in the southern mountains.
The improvements in state institutions are matched by an increase in democratic activism and national pride. Consider a few grafs from this report:
Quite a different take than Amnesty International's more downbeat assessment.
Meanwhile, in Kandahar -- the Taliban's old stronghold -- a thousand people filled the largest mosque to protest Pakistani incursions into Afghan territory. A top Taliban leader was arrested there earlier in the month.
The reduction of instability -- combined with an adjustment in tactics -- has permitted the United Nations to restart its de-mining operationsin the southern provinces.
Beyond the state, things are looking up as well. This year the country will experience its biggest wheat crop in two decades -- not a difficult achievement, but still important. A consortium of telecommunications firms are setting up the country's second cellular phone network. Movies are being shown in the provinces.
So has a tipping point been reached where stability will be the norm rather than instability? Not yet. In the short-term, attacks on coalition forces increased over the past month. Some of the provinces are still beset with Taliban activity and a paucity of reconstruction aid. Other provinces are still experiencing factional fighting. And the Afghan defense minister still seems to believe that confiscating opposition newspapers is a viable policy option. Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan are badly strained. According to the Christian Science Monitor, this year also produced a bumper opium crop in addition to a good wheat harvest. More disturbing is the link between opium and the Taliban resistance:
Is there a pattern? Sort of. It's clear that conditions are improving in areas where the central government holds some sway. However, that remains a very small portion of the country. As state institutions improve, one hopes that it will expand.
Developing.... in an uncertain way.
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
A DEFENSE OF ASHCROFT
The elite consensus is that the Bush administration homeland security measures -- and the Ashcroft Justice Department -- have been an unmitigated disaster for civil liberties. The war on terror has caused a slow but steady erosion in our essential freedoms.
As a libertarian, I tend to sympathize with this logic without digging too deeply into the facts. Over time, this makes me uncomfortable -- how do I know the consensus is correct?
I'm not completely persuaded with regard to her reasoning on the Padilla case. But it's worth a look.
In the wake of the Hussein boys' demise, it's worth stepping back and appraising the current situation in Iraq.
Not surprisingly, there is disagreement over whether this is just an ephemeral victory for U.S. forces or part of a more positive trend that will reduce the guerilla attacks against U.S. forces. Juan Cole, David Adesnik, and Matthew Yglesias say no [UPDATE: David was only joking]; Andrew Sullivan, Josh Chafetz, and the Christian Science Monitor say yes. The Economist, the Guardian, -- and most importantly, the U.S. Army -- are hedging their bets.
My answer is yes, not because of the attack itself but rather the shift in intelligence-gathering that preceded it. The Washington Post has an excellent story on how this shift in tactics may be creating a tipping-point phenomenon among the Iraqi populace:
It should also be stressed that outside the Sunni zone of instability, conditions are improving. A few days ago the Los Angeles Times reported two stories indicating that things are quite stable in the Kurdish provinces of northern Iraq, as well as Basra (both links via this Kevin Drum post). As for the Shi'a, this RFE/RL report provides some excellent background of the current state of play among the various Shi'a groups. What's becoming increasing clear is that the Shi'a leaders posing the greatest problems for the occupation are those linked to the Iranian government.
The United Nations is still downbeat about the current situation. However, there is reason to hope that the occupation authorities will be able to take the crucial steps towards stability that the Iraq Reconstruction Assessment Mission says is vital for the success of the U.S. mission.
Developing.... in a good way, I hope.
UPDATE: Brian Ulrich has some additional thoughts on the subject, and links to a story suggesting that Kurdish leaders are adopting a wait-and-see posture.
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
THE LATEST FALLOUT FROM NORTH KOREA
I've been remiss in posting about recent developments in North Korea. However, as I argued back in January, one part of the U.S. strategy has to be convincing Russia and China that it is in their best interests to have a de-nuclearized Korean peninsula. One way in which this would happen would be for the countries in the region to see that a nuclear North Korea would lead to a nuclear Japan, which would trigger an unwelcome arms race across the region.
This leads to yesterday's New York Times report that Japan's nuclear taboo is slowly eroding. The key grafs:
This slow change in Japanese public opinion might be part of the backstory for China's renewed pressure to get North Korea back to the bargaining table.
This pressure on North Korea appears to have permitted the U.S. to take the initiative, according to the Washington Post's front-pager from today.
[Ahem, an entire post on North Korea and no mention of the Sunday New York Times story about the North Korean's having a second, secret reprocessing plans?--ed. The Post and LA Times stories from today suggest this has been more overblown than Nigerien yellowcake.]
Internet research addendum
Henry Farrell responds at length to last week's post about Google and academic research. Worth checking out -- if you're in the social science biz.
Monday, July 21, 2003
THE POLITICIZATION OF INTELLIGENCE
Josh Marshall has gone into great detail about the extent to which the hawks within the Bush administration fought a bureaucratic battle with intelligence professionals over questions of interpretation and presentation. Marshall links to this Jim Hoagland essay from October 2002 that puts the issue in stark terms:
To which Marshall points out:
Marshall makes a serious point here -- the management of the intelligence process matters.
However, there are two points worth considering in response. The first is that this is hardly the first administration to take an active interest in the shaping of intelligence. As Chris Sullentrop obseved last week in his assessment of CIA director George Tenet:
Now the natural counterargument to this is that "everyone else does it" is a poor defense. However, as Marshall himself acknowledges, "sometimes bureaucracies really do need to be taken on, to be shaken up." Eliot Cohen points out in Supreme Commandthat civilian leaders should intervene in the planning and management of military operations. A parallel case can be made for intelligence -- over time, intel experts become locked into their preconceptions of the raw data, and need to be exposed to rival interpretations. Skillful intervention in the intelligence process can introduce intellectual debate, which in turn can generate sharper analysis.
Of course, there's a difference between skillful intervention, mismanaged intervention, and willful ignorance of brute facts. The outcome of the debate that's currently taking place will rests on which interpretation of events will become the consensus.
Responding to my critics
Catching up from a weekend spent off the net, I found Kieran Healy taking issue with my not taking issue with the WMD/intelligence imbroglio:
So I'm getting all worked up to deliver a multipronged response along the lines of:
1) Restating my point that I did not think the questions being raised about the process of intelligence -gathering and dissemination were either trivial or partisan;
2) Explaining that although it is an issue, the extent to which the run-up to the Iraq war has been reframed to make it appear that the Bush administration's only stated rationale for going to war was that Iraq had acquired uranium from Niger is just wrong;
3) Suggesting that I did not critique the anti-war movement for being self-indulgent or solipsistic -- although I certainly critiqued the myriad elements of that movement.
I was looking at a bit of work here.
So, I'm taking the afternoon off.
I will, however, make one additional suggestion. The power of the critique against Bush would be strengthened if it could be shown that a significant fraction of the American public -- as well as the legislative branch -- supported action against Iraq only because of the claim that Hussein's regime had an active nuclear weapons program.
UPDATE: Tom Maguire links to polls suggesting that the WMD question was salient in the run-up to the war. However, WMD includes chemical and biological weapons as well as nuclear weapons. Kevin Drum responds here -- and be sure to read the comments page. My personal favorite ends with: "Who is Dan Drezner, and why anyone should give his opinion a second thought? I mean, really. Anyone can set up a web log."
OXBLOG VS. THE NEW YORK TIMES
David Adesnik's recent posts challenge the NYT's attempt -- intended or not -- to paint Iraq as a domestic and foreign policy fisco.
OxBlog. This post critiques the Times piece on the WMD debate at home; this post attacks the quagmire thesis (UPDATE: the last link is acting dodgy -- just go to their front page and scroll down to Sunday's posts). Go check them out.
Friday, July 18, 2003
Tyler Cowen is correct to praise Michael Lewis' Moneyball as "one of the best books about management I have read." Actually, this is his third excellent business book that Lewis has penned. The first two were Liar's Poker -- which perfectly encapsulates millieu of the Wall Street boom of the late 1980's-- and The New New Thing -- which perfectly encapsulates the dot-com explosion in Silicon Valley in the late 1990's.
It is worth noting, however, that this week marks the one-year anniversary of what will probably be the bravest essay Lewis ever writes. Give it a read and be amazed at the the guts it must have taken to publish it.
The official attack on Palestinian intellectuals
The mob assault on Palestinian political scientist Khalil Shikaki's center (see also here) has prompted some follow-up coverage on ways in which Palestinian intellectuals are threatened when they deviate from the Palestinian Authority's party line. The San Francisco Chronicle points out that Shikali is not the only Palestinian academic to feel the effects of the state-organized mob:
Read the whole piece to see the links between the Palestinian Authority and mob attacks. The article also points out that beyond the intellectual class, independent journalists are feeling the heat:
It is this kind of thuggery that makes Shikali's work so dangerous -- a fact that he and Arafat understand clearly. Shikali's follow-up interview in today's Chicago Tribune spells this out:
It should also be pointed out that Nusseibeh is not backing down either. He is currently spearheading an extraordinary petition drive with prominent Israelis to promote an alternative path to peace. In the span of six weeks, this effort has already garnered 30,000 signatures in Israel and the occupied territories.
Israelis have criticized Palestinian intellectuals for not speaking truth to power. However, a small slice of Palestinian civil society has spoken truth to power, espousing nonviolence and negotiation as the proper tools of resistance, despite the overwhelming pressure these individuals must face to toe the party line.
Shikali and Nusseibeh demonstrate that there are Palestinian intellectuals who are willing to challenge official doctrine. One can only hope that in the future, such challenges do not require the ample amounts of bravery these men clearly possess.
UPDATE: Judith Weiss posts on the emerging opposition to the Arafat's disastrous economic policies. Go check it out.
Thursday, July 17, 2003
Stephen Johnson is not an academic
The problem with this argument is that it fails to recognize that this process predates Google -- or the Internet, for that matter.
Johnson sets this up as an either/or question -- online papers or books. In point of fact, for most academics this is a progression. First you circulate your ideas in draft form, then as a conference paper, then as an article, and then -- maybe -- publish a book. The book stage depends on the discipline -- for example, they matter far less in economics than in political science. However, this was true long before Google. The only thing the Internet and its search engines has changed is widening the access to papers at the preliminary stages of development. [But what about writers not affiliated with universities?--ed. I'd argue that the process is similar. Good writers/researchers often publish the germ of an idea in a magazine before deciding that it has enough legs to merit writing a book. Often, the author will publish excerpts from the book in magazines or journals. For example, Michael Lewis published an excerpt of Moneyball in the New York Times Magazine this March. This applies to fiction-writers as well.]
Furthermore, there are good reasons for the process to work this way. Getting an idea/argument out in draft form has two advantages to just writing a book without posting or publishing bits of it online. First, for the author, making the ideas available in draft form permits greater feedback, which in turn helps to improve the ideas. Second, for the community of people interested in the topic, finding such ideas as early as possible lets them stay on the cutting edge of the latest work on the subject (it certainly helps with bibliography-hunting).
Is Johnson correct that with Google, fewer people prefer to read a researcher's book-length treatment of the topic over the Internet-accessible, condensed version of the argument? I doubt it. Busy people look for shortcuts, and a big shortcut for scholars is to read an author's article instead of his/her book (unless the topic or argument really hits home). This was true long before the Internet or Google ever existed.
David Adesnik's critique of the Washington Post's reporting on its own polls, and Colby Cosh's detailed dissection of Russia's role in making or breaking the Kyoto Protocol. Both links via InstaPundit.
Let them eat subsidies
That's the title of my latest Tech Central Station piece. It's a report on how the EU's inability to seriously reform its Common Agricultural Policy is derailing world trade talks and impoverishing lots of poor farmers. Go check it out.
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Let them eat yellowcake
I understand why Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, and others are so exercised about the "sixteen little words" meme. The uranium question -- and the blame game that has erupted along with it -- manages to undercut two pillars of strength for the Bush team. The first was the 2000 pledge to be straight-shooters, avoiding the waffling and legalese of the Clinton administration. The second was the notion that the wealth of gravitas in the foreign policy team would produce a well-oiled, professional foreign policy. Many people have hit the first pillar hard, which surprises me, because there are valid defenses to it. I'm waiting for the second one to come under attack.
My take on this, however, is akin to Tom Friedman's in today's NYT:
Look, Frank Gaffney overreaches when he says this is pure partisanship. It's perfectly valid to question the policy process that led to the SOTU screw-up, and part of me is grateful that it's happening.
I can't get exercised about it, however. My reasons for supporting an attack on Iraq had little to do with the WMD issue. The uranium question was part of one rationale among many the administration gave for pushing forward in Iraq. I'm not saying this should be swept under the rug, but the level of righteous indignation that's building up on the left is reaching blowback proportions.
ESPN's ESPY awards show -- which airs this evening -- is an exercise to fill airtime during one of the slowest sports days of the year, the day after Major League Baseball's All-Star Game. On the whole, it's a pretty silly event -- the only memory I have of it was Bill Murray doing a hysterical bit in the late 1990's about how Michael Jordan's career was complete now that he'd won an ESPY.
However, the event does has one authentic creation -- the Arthur Ashe Courage Award (click here to see the past winners). Last year's winners were the rugby players who battled the terrorists on United flight 93.
Click here for more information on the Tillmans.
Not everyone, by the way, is pleased about this. Kevin Blackistone writes in the Dallas Morning News:
I would never presume to speak for Ashe, but I suspect he would acknowledge that the oppressed and afflicted in Iraq have a better chance of seeing their human rights conditions improve with the toppling of the Baasthist regime.
Drezner gets results from the Chicago Tribune!!
Two days ago I blogged about the attack on Palestinian political scientist Khalil Shikaki. Today, the Chicago Tribune has an editorial about it. The key section:
Quote of the day
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
The Jose Bove follies
Back in November, I blogged about idiotarian José Bové being arrested for trying to destroy some genetically modified crop fields in France. Here's an update:
After being tried and convicted, Bové resisted government efforts to negotiate an appropriate sentencing -- such as community service. So, in late June, French police officers forcible entered Bové's home in what the BBC calls "a dawn commando-style operation" to serve a ten-month jail sentence.
Naturally this prompted protests in France -- calling for French President Jacques Chirac to commute his sentence on Bastille Day. Chirac did shorten Bové's sentence by four months -- but this failed to mollify Bové's supporters in the Confederation Paysanne, the militant union Bové heads.
So, they decided to sabotage the Tour de France, according to Reuters :
The BBC observes that this could trigger a backlash:
There's nothing left to say, except that:
a) This confirms my hunch that French farmers may be the world's exemplar iditotarians; and
Debating the regulation of annoyance
I'm quite certain that the sentence "Spammers and telemarketers comprise the lowest form of existence on the planet." would generate huzzahs across the developed world. Christopher Caldwell certainly feels that way about spam e-mail, and he's not alone. It's not too hard to find similar comments about telemarketing. These complaints are usually accompanied by the tagline "something must be done!"
In the case of telemarketing, something is being done. Congress passed and President Bush signed the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act -- which empowers the FCC to create a national "do not call registry" that would make it illegal for telemarketers to call your phone number -- with some exceptions. It would not be surprising to see a similar legislative effort to deal with spam.
In the interest of being completely contrarian, let me kindly suggest that legislative/regulatory efforts might not be the best way to deal with the problem. It's not that I like these activities -- it's that there are compelling arguments for relying on private measures to deal with these kinds of private interference. Mass annoyances generates demand for products to deal with them for minimal cost. This is one reason I'm enjoying my newly-installed Google toolbar so much -- 187 pop-up ads blocked and counting!! Arnold Kling points to multiple methods to filter out spam.
[But surely telemarketing merits regulation?--ed. Farhad Manjoo argues that the looming regulation carries significant costs, although her reliance on industry data suggests those cost estimates are exaggerated. Plus, even with telemarketers, services such as caller ID can bemore precise than the do-not-call registry. So this means you won't be using the do-not-call registry?--ed. Ummm... I didn't say that. Hypocrite--ed. No, just a mortal human demonstrating why the urge to regulate is strong, even if it's not the first-best solution to the problem]
Meet the IMF's new economist-in-chief
Earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund announced that Raghuram Rajan -- the Joseph L. Gidwitz Professor of Finance at the U of C's business school -- will be replacing Kenneth Rogoff as the IMF's chief economist.
The BBC -- in typical fashion -- is painting this as a blow to the United States:
Leave it to the BBC to eliminate any trace of nuance or background in their coverage. A closer look shows that Rajan probably agrees a lot more with American policymakers than BBC paleolibs when it comes to IMF policy. [What about other policies?--ed. Rajan opposes both the hike in steel tariffs and the removal of the estate tax. This makes him a friend to the BBC because that means opposing the Bush administration on high-profile issues.]
Go to the links above to read more on Rajan's views, as well as this precis of his latest book (co-authored Luigi Zingales).
Brink Lindsey, by the way, provides this review of : "Wide-ranging, idea-crammed case for free financial markets and analysis of why they seldom exist."
Fierce opposition to protectionism of any kind, combined with the conviction that globally integrated financial markets are the best way to help both poor countries and poor individuals, make Rajan an excellent selection to replace Ken Rogoff. The BBC's coverage of this replacement suggests just how one-dimensional their reporting has become.
Monday, July 14, 2003
Two takes on blogs
Kathleen Parker takes to the Blogosphere:
Fareed Zakaria's perspective is similar, if the language is less laudatory. From p. 254 of The Future of Freedom:
This strikes me as essentially correct. Most blogs, most of the time, do not generate news -- and it's not always a good thing when they claim to have new info. What most blogs excel at is the sifting, sorting, and framing of information that's already in the public domain.
The best blogs do this with rigor, wit, and alacrity. The rest of us just use long quotes as a substitute.
New York Times update
Bill Keller has been named the new executive editor of the New York Times. I saw Keller for the first time last month at a Council on Foreign Relations event, and I'll say this -- if the executive editor gig doesn't work out, Keller has a bright future replacing Bill Maher on HBOs schedule. Keller is both funnier and smarter than Maher [Not that impressive a compliment--ed. I meant well].
Meanwhile, Howell Raines has apparently decided on a Shermanesque approach in departing from the Times -- burning every bridge possible. For more on this, go to the Times story linked above, as well as Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus, and Mnoosweek.
The good news and bad news about Palestinian political science
The good news is that -- in contrast to many of its neighbors -- there exist Palestinian political scientists independent of the state and contributing to the stock of useful knowledge about the region. For an example, click here.
The bad news is, good political science is vulnerable to the rule of the mob, as this New York Times story makes clear:
Click here for the Voice of America report, which makes it clear that the idiotarians who ransacked the center don't seem to realize that the poll results suggest that the right of return issue is tractable rather than intractable.
Well, so long as this kind of behavior is not condoned by the public authorities, then -- oh, wait.
Uganda, Botswana, and AIDS, redux
That last graf is just devastating.
The FT article jibes with what Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist emphasized as necessary for fighting AIDS in Africa in a speech he gave last month at the Council on Foreign Relations:
It's all about the infrastructure.
And the crowd goes wild!!!
The blog just topped the 300,000-hit mark. Thanks to one and all for reading!
Friday, July 11, 2003
Pat Robertson acting like a foreign policy jackass -- again.
Televangelist Pat Robertson's most notable contribution to the foreign policy debate since 9/11 was to say that Muslims were worse than Nazis, so we shouldn't expect much of use to come from his lips.
Charles Taylor may be a Baptist, but he's also an indicted war criminal whose primary hobbies over the past decade were exporting war to the rest of West Africa and cooperating with Al Qaeda (link via Radley Balko). As Ryan Lizza observes in The New Republic:
What makes Robertson's advocacy for Taylor even more galling is his financial dealings with Taylor. According to Christianity Today:
Mother Jones has the story as well.
The one potential upside to all of this is that Robertson has become so toxic that the evangelical community has started to distance themselves from him [UPDATE: some social conservatives have already distanced themselves from Robertson]. According to today's Post:
Is the country finally at the point when Pat Robertson can just be ignored?
John B. Judis, Meet Leon Trotsky
In Salon today, John Judis argues that Howard Dean would get mauled if he became the Democratic nominee:
Is Judis correct? Possibly, but that's not what interests me. What's puzzling about the essay is that Judis argued last year, in The Emerging Democratic Majority with Ruy Teixeira, that over the next decade the same demographic groups that are pushing Dean forward will make the Democrats the majority party (click here for their web site)
How does Judis reconciles this argument with what he says about Dean in Salon? Frankly, it's not clear to me that he does. Here's the key graf on this:
The implicit argument seems to be that the emerging Democratic majority is still emerging, and until that happens, someone of Dean's ilk will fare poorly in a national election. Wait until 2008, or 2012, and things will be different.
Maybe that's a correct assessment (although David Brooks makes a different demographic prediction). However, I kept flashing back to what one of Trotsky's biographers once said: "Proof of Trotsky's farsightedness is that none of his predictions have come true yet."
Thursday, July 10, 2003
How Africa can help itself, cont'd
First, Botswana's ample natural endowments make it an excellent model for much of sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. The problem with these countries is not a lack of resource endowments, but the ability to exploit them in a way that leads to sustainable economic growth.
Second, the point about AIDS (which Virginia Postrel also made in an e-mail) is dead-on, as this CNN report suggests. The model African nation on this front is Uganda. The national AIDS commission has their own web site; according to this page, the percentage of the population infected with HIV has declined from 18% in the early 1990s to 6.5% in the end of 2001.
However, economic freedom plays an interesting role here as well. Click here for a very revealing CNN interview with Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni. One highlight:
Then there's this quote from a speech Museveni gave last month to the U.S. pharamceutical lobby:
Wednesday, July 9, 2003
Alas, I was too busy with other things to post on Iran. Fortunately, the rest of the blogosphere is on the job.
For more info on the cancellation of Iranian student protests in Tehran today -- but not elsewhere -- go to Jeff Jarvis, Winds of Change, Oxblog, Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds, James Lileks, Kevin Drum, and all of Pejman Yousefzadeh's posts for today.
I'm only posting this for educational purposes
To which Kevin responds:
My hands were tied here, people.
UPDATE: One reader e-mails, "Wow, great stuff on Alyssa Milano, but who's Howard Dean?" Heh.
How Africa can help itself
Given the spate of recent coverage about Africa's political, economic, and humanitarian woes, it's worth pointing out Botswana as a clear success story. Canada's Fraser Institute just released its 2003 annual report on economic freedom of the world. In their press release, they point out the following:
Foreign aid and preferential trade agreements can help African countries, but only if they also help themselves.
Good news in Afghanistan
I've been pessimistic about the state of affairs in Afghanistan, so I'm happy to highlight more positive news. Glenn Reynolds links to this USA Today story indicating optimism among Afghans regarding the current state of affairs in the country.
And this VOA story strongly suggests that Afghans do not want to see a return to Taliban rule. Ransacking an embassy is over the top, but it does indicate the salience of this issue to ordinary residents of Kabul.
Peacekeeping Institute to stay open
In April I blogged about the Army's dubious cost-cutting decision to shut down the Peacekeeping Institute at the U.S. Army War College.
Looks like the Bush administration has changed its mind:
Congrats to the administration for moving down the learning curve on this one.
Democrats and foreign policy
Looking for links on my Dean essay in TNR Online? Here goes.
My previous blog post about Dean and Kerry is here . Dean's June 25th foreign policy speech (which Will Saletan savaged in this Slate article) is available on his official web site; his June 23rd speech officially kicking off his presidential campaign. comes from the official blog. The quote about free trade hollowing out America's manufacturing sector comes from this site. Here is Dean's Meet the Press transcript.
My appraisal of the other Democratic foreign policy platforms can be found here. The relevant Foreign Policy issue is here, as is a link for further reading on the positions of Kerry, Gephardt, Edwards, and Lieberman. And, for good measure, here's a link to the Democrats for National Security web site, about which I blogged here and here.
The point that Dean makes about how the U.S. should act if it's a declining world hegemon has been made in the academy by Joseph Nye in The Paradox of American Power and John Ikenberry in After Victory.
Finally, my explanation for why Dean is wrong about the race to the bottom in the global economy is available here.
One final Dean link; this J.P. Gownder essay from Sunday's Washington Post suggests that Dean's Internet strategy isn't as revolutionary as people believe:
Taking Howard Dean seriously
My latest TNR essay is up -- it's a sober appraisal of Howard Dean's foreign policy views. Go check it out.
Volokh and Baker
Eugene Volokh responds to the Dusty Baker question here, here, here, and here. The gist of Volokh's point is that, a) Baker may well be correct in his generalization, in which case he shouldn't need to apologize, and b) Even if he is wrong, there was no malicious intent in Baker's words: "they don't sound mean-spirited or insulting, and Baker gave no indication that he was going to act illegally based on those stereotypes." Read all of his posts for more on this.
Like Eugene, I have no clue whether Baker's generalization is factually correct, but my suspicion is that it is not (it certainly depends on the definition of "white."), which was my problem with the comment.
Another concern of mine -- and I'm walking right into Volokh's area of expertise on this -- is the slippery slope question. Eugene distinguishes between generalizations of physical conditions ("blacks perform better in baseball in hot weather") and those of moral character ("blacks are less coachable athletes"). The latter are examples of bad manners; the former are not.
Part of me wants to agree with him on this, because to disagree means applying a moral censure over a wider swath of conversations about race. Conversations about race in this country are circumscribed enough as it is, so I'm very uneasy with suggesting further constraints.
Volokh admits, however, that the physical/character dichotomy is "a subtle difference and one of degree," and "speculations about morals and ethics involve many more vague lines, subtle differences of degree , and unprovable propositions about human nature than even speculations about law do." Under Volokh's criteria, for example, is it permissible for a coach to make comments distinguishing between the races on a combination of physical and character issues, i.e., "Blacks do worse in pressure situations because their bodies generate excessive amounts of adrenaline under stress relative to whites?" I want the dividing line to be as clear as Eugene, but I'm pessimistic that it really is this distinct.
I don't think Baker should be penalized or punished for what he said. I agree with Eugene that this is a case of bad manners rather than anything more serious. But I still think he should apologize.
Tuesday, July 8, 2003
Can Dusty Baker take the heat?
Dusty Baker -- the current manager of the Chicago Cubs -- was quoted making the following observation this past Saturday:
Now there's a minor furor over the issue, as this USA Today story recounts. Some key grafs:
Now, the problem I have with this is that Baker is not saying things only about blacks. He's making a comparative statement about different races -- blacks and Latinos are better at tolerating the heat than whites. There is no difference between the content of what Baker said and the content of what CBS Sports analyst Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder said fifteen years ago when he argued that blacks were better athletes because of the way they were bred as slaves. Snyder recanted; Baker is standing firm.
Should Baker apologize for making such uninformed and stereotypical remarks? Yes, he should.
UPDATE: Two e-mails worthy of note. The first from reader J.G.:
The second from reader J.B.:
The 2003 Human Development Report
Powerful stuff, somewhat vitiated by the UNDP's atrocious track record in statistical methodology. [How does that matter?--ed. I'm glad you asked.]
As recently as last year, the Human Development Report used currency market exchange rates, rather than purchasing power parity (PPP) exchange rates, to measure income disparities across nations. There is a consensus among economists that PPP exchange rates are far more accurate at converting income across countries (long story short, PPP rates cover nontradeable services better). Market exchange rates drastically understate the size of developing country economies.
By using market exchange rates, the Human Development Report concluded that global income inequality was vastly increasing. In committing this methodological sin, the UNDP provided prestigious but factually incorrect ammunition for anti-globalization activists. One could go even further to argue that in muddying up the clear positive correlation between globalization and reductions in global income inequality, the UNDP set back the development debate by half a decade.
This screw-up eventually led to the creation of a UN commission to study such gross statistical whoppers, but as of last year, no change in their calculation of income inequality.
According to their web site, Jeffrey Sachs is guest editor of this year's HDR. The general consensus is that Sachs is not an idiot, and this note suggests that the 2003 report should be an improvement over its predecessors.
Showdown in the occupied territories
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is threatening to resign unless given more latitude in his negotiations with Israel, according to the AP:
This will be an interesting test for the Palestinian leadership. Abbas' primary lever of power is that the Americans and Israelis will actually negotiate with him. The question is whether losing that link is costly enough to force the rest of Fatah to back down.
New blog of note
NEW BLOG OF NOTE: A month ago I posted some recommendations for left-of-center bloggers as possible prospects for the left-of-center New York Times op-ed page.
Looks like some of them have decided not to wait, and are forming their own group blog instead, Crooked Timber. I heartily recommend it -- although Chris Bertram's description of the group effort is a bit over the top:
Monday, July 7, 2003
Virginia Postrel wants to steal the blogosphere's bread and butter
In this post on the disturbing tendency of commentators to escalate the rhetorical arms race as a way of capturing attention, Postrel concludes:
No kidding. What percentage of blogposts are denunciations of some blowhard on the political extremes?
Postrel's motivation for the post comes from this Andrew Sullivan comment on Ann Coulter:
It's worth pointing out that John Stuart Mill anticipated this problem in On Liberty, but believed it to be the lesser evil:
Explaining Bush's dare
\David Warren ventures an explanation for Bush's dare to Iraqi guerillas. The key grafs:
It's an interesting rationale, slightly tarnished by the fact that Warren is factually incorrect in stating that Iraq would be the first Arab democracy. The scholarly consensus is that Lebanon was a functioning democracy prior to the outbreak of civil war.
The manpower crunch
This problem is not going away anytime soon. The war on terrorism requires statebuilding, which requires large numbers of personnel on the ground. Demands for intervention will not be going away anytime soon, as the case of Liberia demonstrates.
My five-cent analysis is that the problem here is that Rumsfeld has paid far more attention to altering the warfighting doctrine than to the resources and training needed for postwar statebuilding. As I noted ten weeks agohere, the administration seems to have boxed itself into a corner on this issue.
UPDATE: I'm pretty sure the U.S. doesn't need to allocate so much manpower for this assignment.
Saturday, July 5, 2003
Emerging from the vacation cocoon
As I have previously noted, vacation for me means that I tend not to pay attention to international news all that much. So, when I return to the world, I inevitably find myself astonished that certain events actually occurred. For example:
2) Did Antonin Scalia really use the phrase "so-called homosexual agenda" in a Supreme Court dissent?
4) Did George W. Bush really dare Iraqi guerillas to attack U.S. forces? It's a bad sign when CNN reports that, "more than one White House official acknowledged that, at a minimum, the Bush line was open to misinterpretation."
A wrap-up of my working vacation
For those who care:
Q: So how much work did you do?
A: Not a whole lot. The most interesting work experience was having to be a discussant for three erudite papers the afternoon that I landed in Budapest. Since I don't sleep on planes -- and since Lufthansa misplaced our bags for a few hours -- this meant showing up to this particular panel having slept only one hour in the past twenty-four and wearing the same clothes I'd flown in. Scarily enough, it was one of my better performances as a discussant.
I spent the next day doing more conference stuff, and then it was vacation time?
Q: So did you actually read all of the books you blogged about?
A: No, I didn't make it to the Harry Potter book. Got through the rest of them, however.
Q: And what did you think of them?
A: Well, I liked the Zakaria book more than Robert Kagan did (subscription required) -- but that's not saying much. I'll be commenting more on this book in the future -- but I will say that I thought Kagan's TNR review was a bit over the top. I found Kavalier & Clayabsorbing. Devil in the White City has a good story to tell, but the author seemed to care more about dinner menus than the larger significance of the 1893 Colombian Expedition, which I found disappointing. Prague was an odd book, in that the author devoted more and more time to less interesting characters. It was a hoot to read a book about Budapest in Budapest, but without that novelty I'm not sure I would have finished it. My favorite book set in Budapest remains Tibor Fischer's Under the Frog. Actually, that's not fair -- Under the Frog is one of my favorite novels, period.
Q: And how was Budapest?
What a delightful city!! The cafés! (Click here for a panoramic look at one of the best cafés in the city, the Gerbaud.) The architecture! The desserts! The other desserts! The goulash! The blood sausage! The parks! The amazing tranformation of the place since the fall of communism!
Q: OK, I believe that's a wrap.
Thursday, July 3, 2003
Back in Chicago
But waaaaayyyyyy too jet-lagged to write anything coherent [And this is different from your normal blogging style in what way?--ed. I'm too tired to rebut even that point.]