Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Among the things I never thought I'd see
It's very easy to get jaded if you study international relations -- the powerful tend to triumph over the less powerful with regularity, and small states are the playthings of bigger powers. So when thhe ordinary rules of world politics don't hold -- say, the first Lebanese elections free of "Syrian domination," it's worth savoring.
Which brings me to Alex Rodriguez's story in today's Chicago Tribune:
Sunday, May 29, 2005
Open 'non' thread
Yeah, good luck with that, Monsieur Chirac -- it's not that the French don't want to act in their national interest -- it's just that the French are quite split about defining that national interest
The BBC analysis by Kirsty Hughes provides four reasons for the rejection:
Given reason number two, I'm skeptical of the Christopher Adams' speculation in the Financial Times that, "Britain is likely to use the result, particularly if the Netherlands also votes against the treaty on Wednesday, to push its case for economic reform across the EU more vigorously." Or, rather, Britain can try, but I doubt their efforts will fly.
In advance of the referendum, Greg Djerejian and Henry Farrell had very good analyses about the politics and prospects of the European Union in a post-'non' environment -- so go click on them and then come back here and post your comments. And check out Glenn Reynolds' collection of links.
UPDATE: Wow -- go check out the Ipsos breakdown of exit poll questions on the referendum. It makes for fascinating reading. [But it's in French--ed. Then enter the URL in Babelfish and read it anyway.] Two things stand out immediately:
Friday, May 27, 2005
The latest on offshore outsourcing
Ted Balaker and Adrian Moore have written a lengthy report for the Reason Foundation entitled "Offshoring and Public Fear: Assessing the Real Threat to Jobs." Click here or a more concise summary of the report. Nut sentence: "Outsourcing is not a newly created threat to jobs. It is merely a version of trade, and like previous versions of trade it brings some pain—but it brings even more promise."
One anecdote that's given as an example of how offshoring saves and even creates jobs:
[Sure, but what about the jobs that will be destroyed in, say, the financial sector?--ed. Hmmm.... let's check out this Silicon.com report by Andy McCue:
So there's a complex trend going on -- some big firms are increasing activity, but almost all small firms are not. My hunch is that the overall effect on employment is a wash.]
Meanwhile, a new book coming out suggests that estimates of jobs lost from offshoring are both exaggerated and reversible:
Click on this paper by Scott Noble to see some reasons why offshoring fails.
A very important post about..... Paris Hilton's food porn
When we last left the topic of food porn, the staff here at danieldrezner.com was gently mocking the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI) for awarding this label to the Hardee's/Crl's Jr. Monster Thickburger, pointing out that:
From the comments to that post, it was clear that many readers were eager to eat the burger out of sheer bloody-mindedness because of the CPSI's excessive preachiness on the topic.
One wondered, however -- riling a group like CPSI works only once in generating the kind of necessary buzz. Which group could Hardee's/Carl Jr. manage to rile up in order to secure the appropriate payoff?
Which brings me, of course, to Paris Hilton:
What you see above you is a still from the new Carl. Jr.'s ad for its new Spicy BBQ Six Dollar Burger. Click here to see the ad running on the Carl Jr.'s site, and here to see an extended version of the ad -- as well as.... commentary by Ms. Hilton herself. [How would you describe the ad?--ed. Er.... Paris Hilton doing a really bad job of washing a Bentley and an OK job of washing herself. And how would you describe her interview?--ed. A major turn-off. Hilton describes her outfit in the ad as a "bikini." For God's sake, the one thing she's supposed to actually know is fashion and she can't even use the proper term?]
Newsweek's Jonathan Darman reports that the usual suspects are not pleased with this ad:
Wow, that's hot. Note to self... check out the PTC web site more often.
Meanwhile, Carl's Jr. is just delighted by the PTC's ire:
So far Puzder has managed to aggravate the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Parents Television Council -- both to brilliant PR effects.
However, one wonders whether Puzder has run out of useful fools. Readers are strongly encouraged to suggest the next watchdog group that Puzder will provoke in order get more associations of his food products with porn.
The official campaign for the French referendum on the EU constitution has ended. According to the LA Times' Sebastian Rotella, Jacques Chirac ended things on a subtle note:
Hmmm... this line of argument sounds familiar... oh, yes, Romano Prodi tried it a month ago. I'll repeat what I said then:
Also, if Chirac needs to borrow lines of argumentation from Prodi, then it doesn't look good for "the future of Chirac, a 72-year-old political veteran who reportedly intends to run for a third term in 2007."
As for the referendum, six weeks ago I suggested that, "even if the referendum fails, the French can simply schedule another referendum." According to the EUobserver's Elitsa Vucheva, that's pretty much what the current EU president would like to see:
French speakers can read the Le Soir interview by clicking here. My French is tres rusty, but I'm pretty sure he implies elsewhere in the interview that without the constitution Europe will revisit the horrors of the the Balkan wars of the last decade.
POST-NON UPDATE: Click here for my (brief) post-non thoughts.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
Dealing with the Iraqi insurgency
Scott Peterson has an excellent roundup of the state of the Iraqi insurgency in the Christian Science Monitor. Key paragraphs:
One other paragraph was interesting, going back to Virginia Postrel's point about understanding the other:
What to read about the blogosphere today
Two outstanding contributions about the way the blogosphere works:
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Gregg Easterbrook, war, and the dangers of extrapolation
Via Oxblog's Patrick Belton, I see that Gregg Easterbrook has a cover story in The New Republic entitled "The End of War?" It has a killer opening:
Is Easterbrook right? He has a few more paragraphs on the numbers:
Easterbrook spends the rest of the essay postulating the causes of this -- the decline in great power war, the spread of democracies, the growth of economic interdependence, and even the peacekeeping capabilities of the United Nations.
Easterbrook makes a lot of good points -- most people are genuinely shocked when they are told that even in a post-9/11 climate, there has been a steady and persistent decline in wars and deaths from wars. That said, what bothers me in the piece is what Easterbrook leaves out.
First, he neglects to mention the biggest reason for why war is on the decline -- there's a global hegemon called the United States right now. Easterbrook acknowledges that "the most powerful factor must be the end of the cold war" but he doesn't understand why it's the most powerful factor. Elsewhere in the piece he talks about the growing comity among the great powers, without discussing the elephant in the room: the reason the "great powers" get along is that the United States is much, much more powerful than anyone else. If you quantify power only by relative military capabilities, the U.S. is a great power, there are maybe ten or so middle powers, and then there are a lot of mosquitoes. [If the U.S. is so powerful, why can't it subdue the Iraqi insurgency?--ed. Power is a relative measure -- the U.S. might be having difficulties, but no other country in the world would have fewer problems.]
Joshua Goldstein, who knows a thing or two about this phenomenon, made this clear in a Christian Science Monitor op-ed three years ago:
The difference in language between Goldstein and Easterbrook highlights my second problem with "The End of War?" Goldstein rightly refers to the past fifteen years as a "lull" -- a temporary reduction in war and war-related death. The flip side of U.S. hegemony being responsible for the reduction of armed conflict is what would happen if U.S. hegemony were to ever fade away. Easterbrook focuses on the trends that suggest an ever-decreasing amount of armed conflict -- and I hope he's right. But I'm enough of a realist to know that if the U.S. should find its primacy challenged by, say, a really populous non-democratic country on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, all best about the utility of economic interdependence, U.N. peacekeeping, and the spread of democracy are right out the window.
UPDATE: To respond to a few thoughts posted by the commenters:
Go check out Daniel Nexon's blog for more on this -- he's an assistant professor of political science at Georgetown, and knows some things.
Why I've never trusted my parents' milkman...
Below is a photo of me, my brother and the other groomsmen at my brother's wedding:
Can you guess which one is my brother? There is a hidden clue, but on similarity of appearances I would wager there's no chance in hell anyone will get it right.
This fact, by the way, amuses my brother and I no end.
I promise to post an answer in 24 hours.
UPDATE: Answer below the fold
Congrats to those who either figured out that my brother has the white rose in his tuxedo -- or Googled to find an answer.
Oddly enough, we looked much more alike when we were children.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Some fine blogging going on this week!
Three great things to peruse in the blogosphere:
Arabs at home and abroad
In Foreign Policy, Moises Naim makes an interesting point about Arab Americans:
For Naim, this success presents an interesting puzzle:
Read the whole thing. And thanks to Colin Grabow for the link.
UPDATE: Hmmm.... Naim may have spoken too soon. Many thanks all of the commenters -- especially Andrés Vernon -- for pointing out the differences in the attributes of Arabs emigrating to the U.S. versus Arabs emigrating to Europe. Vernon provided a link to this Arab American Institute web page on Arab demographic. Two graphs worth reprinting:
BREAKDOWN OF ARAB AMERICANS BY COUNTRY OF ORIGIN
BREAKDOWN OF ARAB AMERICANS BY RELIGION
The second graph is particularly telling. I seriously doubt that only 24% of Europe's Arab influx is Muslim -- which means that the Arab immigrant stream into Europe is demonstrably different than those Arabs who empigrate to America. For more on the European side of the equation, see Claude Salhani analysis for UPI from last December.
And thanks to all the commenters for picking up the flaw in Naim's data.
LAST UPDATE: See Reihan Salam for more on this.
The Hotline focuses on.... me
The National Journal's Hotline has a new blog feature called Blogometer. It's like Slate's blog feature, but longer and with more links.
You can check out today's feature by clicking here -- there's a Q&A with yours truly at the end, in which I reveal my daily blog reads, and also confess a wistful nostalgia for This Week with David Brinkley.
You can filibuster all you want right here
I haven't blogged about the whole filibuster controversy -- constitutional issues aside, to me it was just a giant distraction from things like, oh, I don't know, getting the federal budget under control.
However, now that it's apparently been settled, I am amused to see the gnashing of teeth on both sides of the aisle.
Actually, that's not fair to Podesta, who opens up his statement by praising the 14 senators who crafted the compromise. Go see Jeffrey Dubner at Tapped for a more visceral reaction.
In the spirit of making only a few good predictions, here's the only one I'm willing to make: the big loser was Bill Frist. Conservatives are pissed at him because he didn't get all the judges past the filibuster. Moderates are pissed at him for pushing the nuclear option in the first place.
Comment away on the political and institutional implications.
Monday, May 23, 2005
One week left to say "Oui"
In my first post on the French referendum on the proposed EU constitution, I said that "It will be very interesting to see how this plays out over the next six weeks. My hunch is that support for the "yes" side will increase as the vote nears."
Drezner apparently gets results from the French!:
So does this mean the French will say "Oui"? Not necessarily. While the macro trend has been towards a tightening of the vote, the micro trend over the past few days has seen the "Non" vote gain strength. What's also interesting is that just as Chirac has used the logic of realpolitik to seel the constitution, opponents have also turned to realism. John Thornhill reports in the Finanicial Times:
Meanwhile, another FT story by Thornhill suggests that dissatisfaction with the constitution is not limited to France. The Netherlands, which also has a referendum next week, is even more hostile:
One caveat to all this -- Henry Farrell believes that the FT's reporting on this has been biased towards the "No" camp.
One final trend worth noting -- both FT stories note the extent to which foreign politicians are campaigning in France to try and persuade voters. For the "non" camp, it's "anti-constitution MEPs from several European countries, including the UK, Sweden, Denmark, and Poland." For the "oui" camp, it's German prime minister Gerhard Schroeder and Spanish PM José Luis Rodr´guez Zapatero. My guess is that these efforts will be a wash, but if "oui" wins, it's an interesting data point on the question of how other countries can influence voting.
Developing... until next week.
Friday, May 20, 2005
Frank Gorshin, R.I.P. (1933-2005)
Over at Hit & Run, Jeff Taylor observes:
Oddly enough, Gorshin played a role in my movie education -- an awareness of costume design.
In the 1966 Batman movie, Frank Gorshin wore the most awesome-looking suit I'd ever seen -- it's what Gorshin's wearing on the front page of his web site. Nothing Jim Carrey wore in Batman Forever comes close to it. The moment I saw Gorshin cavorting around in it, I didn't want to be Batman anymore -- the Riddler was the guy for me.
Reading the obits, I was delighted to find out in Joal Ryan's E! Online story that Gorshin's co-star loved the costume as well:
The Riddler is dead.... or is he???????????
Thursday, May 19, 2005
An open question about anti-Americanism
The Newsweek controversy doesn't really interest me that much -- Jack Shafer's take sounds about right to me. I'm more interested in the point Anne Applebaum made yesterday in the Washington Post:
This resonates with a question Susanne Nossel asked here last week:
Let me put this more bluntly: assume that the Newsweek goof was of the maximal variety -- i.e., despite Gitmo prisoner claims, it turns out that no Qu'ran was ever flushed down any toilet. Should it nevertheless be considered a major foreign policy problem that this report triggered significant protests in Afghanistan, a populace with good reasons to support the United States? In today's New York Times, David Brooks is right to point out the blogosphere's misplaced foci, and suggests that "radical clerics in Afghanistan" used the story to trigger outrage. What bothers me is that it was too damn easy for the clerics to whip up anti-American sentiment.
I leave it to my readers: am I overly concerned about this?
Pssst.... religious conservatives... here's some red meat
CBS chairman Leslie Moonves has revamped his Friday lineup. According to this MSN Entertainment story, both his decision and his explanation is likely to rile up religious conservatives:
The Reuters account makes it clear that Moonves said this in jest, but religious conservatives might not get the joke... plus, they'll be too angry about the cancellation of "Joan" to make way for a Jennifer Love Hewitt vehicle.... particularly if Hewitt's wardrobe conforms to her stereotype.
UPDATE: Yep -- Drudge has the story. Again, it's worth stressing the Reuters account ("'I think talking to ghosts may skew younger than talking to God,' Moonves joked at a news conference before the upfront presentation).
I suspect this is a case where reading the quote in cold print strikes a dramatically different chord than the effect of hearing Moonves say it.
Contradictory signals on the dollar
Two reports today send conflicting signals about what's going to happen to the dollar in the near term.
On the other hand, Anna Fifield and Chris Giles report in the Financial Times that South Korea is about to roil these waters:
Click here to see what happened the last time South Korea said anything about its dollar purchases.
UPDATE: Brad Setser links to a Financial Times follow-up by Anna Fifield on the Bank of Korea decision, in which the Bank walked back furiously from Park's comments:
Here's a link to the original FT interview with Park.
As Setser points out:
I concur -- there's no way, especially after the February episode, that Park didn't know what the effect of his interview would be on the currency markets.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
The Treasury reports on China
Yesterday, I saw Edmund Andrews' New York Times summary of the U.S. Treasury report to Congress on whether any country is manipulating its exchange rate policy in order to gain an unfair competitive advantage. I naturally thought about blogging it, but then realized all I had to do was wait for Brad Setser to blog about it and link to him.
Which is what I'm doing.
Suicide terrorism -- it's not just for Islamic extremists
My colleague Robert Pape, author of the soon-to-be-released Dying to Win from Random House, has an informative op-ed today in the New York Times about the strategic logic of suicide terrorism. The key fact is Pape's finding that suicide terrorism has more to do with foreign occupation than Islamic fundamentalism:
This doesn't mean religion is irrelevant -- religious differences between an occupying force and the residents of an occupying country are a key means through which extremists can recruit suicide terrorists.
Read the whole thing.
Why I love geek culture
Go read either James Lileks on the end (for now) of the Star Trek franchise or Harry Brighouse on taking his daughter to see The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and you will know what it means to truly adore a work of popular culture.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
How do you code Uzbekistan?
Is the recent unrest in Uzbekistan an example of the Uzbeks yearning to join the burgeoning fourth wave of democratization, or is it something else altogether, an example of Islamic extremists threatening a secular state? I'm still not completely sure, but my hunch is that it's the former.
The BBC provides a very useful timeline of events. The triggering event was an attack on the Andijan prison, where 23 local businessmen were held, accused of being Islamic extremists.
Rustam Iskhakov's first-person account of the prison-break in the Guardian cuts against the fourth wave thesis -- this looks violent and brutal:
However, this Ferghana.ru report on the official Uzbek response suggests that the authorities have bullets in some of their magazines:
The Weekly Standard's Stephen Schwartz argues that Andijan is an example of a fourth wave protest:
The limited amount of background research I did on Uzbekistan for The Sanctions Paradox suggests that Islam Karimov has been using the spectre of Islamic fundamentalism as an excuse to crack down on any and all opposition for the past thirteen years.
The fact that reporters have been kicked out of Andijan is also a decent sign that Karimov is dealing with more than terrorists. As Reporters Without Borders points out, "When the authorities keep journalists away from a conflict zone it is most often to hide abuses committed there."
UPDATE: Greg Djerejian is back at Belgravia Dispatch and has some thoughts on the what the Bush administration has done and should do.
Meanwhile, the New York Times' C.J. Chivers reports that the Uzbek government now admits more people were killed in the suppression of the Andijan protests than they originally acknowledged. And the AP's Burt Herman reports that an Islamic rebel in Uzbekistan has declared he controls a border town:
The BBC has more on Rakhimov's aims.
FINAL UPDATE: Paul Reynolds provides some useful analysis for the BBC.
The NYT op-ed shakedown
I don't have a great deal to offer on the New York Times' decision to charge for some its content (including the op-ed page) starting in September that Virginia Postrel and Matthew Yglesias haven't already made.
I do, however, have a research question that I bet some communications grad student has written a paper about -- to what extent does having a fee-for-content regime inhibit a web site's popularity/traffic/links? For example, most people I know consider the reportage of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times are papers of comparable quality (or maybe the Journal has a slight lead). However, the Times has an Alexa traffic rank of 107, while the Journal has a traffic rank of 540. Even USA Today, an inferior newspaper to the Journal, has a higher Alexa traffic rank. So it looks like free news sites attract a higher traffic level even if the quality of information is not as good.
I'm sure someone out there has done a more systematic study of this question. Please post a link to useful research if you can find it.
UPDATE: Hmm.... Mickey Kaus suggests that maybe I've been too hasty in judging the New York Times proposal.
So how do Mexicans view African-Americans?
While Latino critics in the United States have their hands full combating discrimination in the Star Wars movies (link via Glenn Reynolds), Latinos south of the border have a slightly bigger problem.... dealing with their own racial prejudices. Traci Carl explains for the Associated Press:
An intriguing angle about this story is the ability of Jackson and Sharpton to go global with.... that thing they do (though in this case they have a pretty valid point).
Readers are heartily encouraged to predict the next world leader who will be required to
[What about the "extreme exploitability" meme the sociologist is pushing?--ed. Some blogs are stressing that this is the important takeaway message from this story. But Tyler Cowen links to a paper by Berkeley economist David Card that concludes:
Card also provides evidence that contradicts the Huntington thesis on Hispanic assimilation.]
Wikipedia backs them up (though they treat it as a noun and I used it as a verb) -- so let me take the opportunity to apologize for using the term.
Monday, May 16, 2005
Follow-up on Yalta
I missed the whole Yalta brouhaha last week, but I thought it was worth linking and quoting Elisabeth Bumiller's White House letter in the New York Times that articulates the thinking that went behind the Yalta mention in Latvia:
Read the whole thing. This would appear to support Jacob Levy's assertion that the audience for the speech was not the remnants of the John Birch Society, but the former Warsaw Pact countries. [But clearly what Bush said pleased Pat Buchanan and his ilk--ed. Yes -- which means Bush has pleased Buchanan with about two percent of his foreign policy pronouncements.]
Was Bush's statement historically accurate? Here I'll side with the quoted historians in the piece (John Lewis Gaddis, Robert Dallek, David M. Kennedy) and agree that while Yalta didn't help matters, the counterfactual would still likely have been Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Furthermore, if Yalta was the abject capitulation that some have described it, then why were the Soviets so desperate for the 1975 Helsinki Accords?
However.... Bill Clinton never met an apology he didn't like on the international stage, in part because he knew that admissions of past error -- even if slightly exaggerated -- played well abroad. If Bush picks up this trope from Clinton -- and doesn't abuse it -- then liberals are protesting about this way too much.
UPDATE: For more evidence supporting the Bush officials' explanation of its motives, read these comments from last week by NSC adviser Stephen Hadley.
The confessions of George Lucas
For me, coming out of a vacation news vacuum is like moving from still water to a class ten rapid in thirty seconds -- there's just too much to catch up on. [Didn't you read anything while you were gone?--ed. Honestly, I didn't surf the web at all and the only thing I read in a newspaper that caught my eye was a reprint of this Victor David Hanson essay blasting the concept of tenure.]
Later on in the week I'll try to deal with violence in Uzbekistan, the explosive situation in Afghanistan (and Newsweek's monumental f@#$-up that triggered the problem), but to start post-vacation blogging, let's get to something really important... like George Lucas confessing his moviemaking sins.
In an Entertainment Weekly cover story by Jeff Jensen (sorry, the story is mysteriously absent from EW's Star Wars index page -- which is one of many things wrong with EW's web site, but that's off-topic), we get this little tidbit from George Lucas about how he feels about the prequel trilogy:
I'm glad to hear that Lucas agrees with me about the quality of his last two films... except that Lucas didn't cop to this when Episodes I and II came out. And the promotional campaign for Episode III has been just as heavy as the roll-out for Episode I. So I'm not getting close to a movie house for this one unless there's multiple independent confirmations that the movie is good. [But in the Jensen story the Star Wars-obsessed Kevin Smith is quoted saying, "Sith will not only enthrall the faithful, but it'll pull the haters back from the Dark Side."--ed. Two words: Jersey Girl.]
To date I've been able to resist the siren song of Revenge of the Sith. Reading Jensen's story and thinking about Lucas' execrable "Hamburger Helper" will make it even harder to turn me to the dark side.
[You'll see it at some point. It is your.... destiny--ed. Oh, go do promos for CNN or something.]
UPDATE: Well, A.O. Scott praises the movie in the New York Times, but has this ominous line: "Mr. Lucas's indifference to two fairly important aspects of moviemaking - acting and writing - is remarkable." Meanwhile, Kelli nicely encapsulates my attitude towards Lucas -- and asks an interesting question: "whether to take the kids." Sith is rated PG-13. Discuss away!!
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Hello, bemused New York Times readers
I'd like to thank Suzanne Nossel and David Greeberg for holding down the fort here at danieldrezner.com while I was away at my brother's wedding. Contrary to David's fears, their tag-team of insightful and provocative posts kept my traffic levels at very respectable levels. UPDATE: You can read David's final thoughts by clicking here.
Furthermore, I see that David made the most of his experience by writing about his guest-blogging stint in the New York Times.
LAST UPDATE: Suzanne Nossel posts her thoughts about blogging at danieldrezner.com here. And David Greenberg has asked me to pass on the following missive (after the jump):
All emphases in original.
A public service message
For those who only click onto danieldrezner.com every once in a while -- this week I've outsourced the blog to David Greenberg and Suzanne Nossel. Click here to see their bios.
Regular blogging by yours truly will commence on Monday, May 16th.
Saturday, May 14, 2005
Good Walls Make Good Neighbors?
Over at DA we've been taking note of what seems to be deteriorating U.S. relations with and influence among Latin and South America.
The latest is that Congress has now passed restrictive immigration legislation that would prevent illegal Mexican migrants from obtaining US drivers' licenses and authorize the construction of a wall on the US-Mexican border. The Mexicans are irate. The law wasn't Bush's idea but he evidently got behind it after seeing which way the winds were blowing in Congress. The measure would not have passed had Bush made more progress toward the guest worker program he has long been promising Vicente Fox.
So this is what happens to the U.S.'s "good neighbor and friend"; the country tapped as the first beneficiary of Condi Rice's goodwill offensive after entering office earlier this year. The move comes less than two months after Bush, Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin announced a new era of cooperation in North America.
Speaking of the hemisphere, Democrats are saying CAFTA, we don't hafta, and we won't. The question is whether they will come forward with a viable plan to address the troubling workers' rights, environmental, and poverty-related issues that CAFTA and like agreements raise, so that we won't be stuck on the wrong side of the free trade issue for long. This issue is on a homework assignment for progressives that I wrote up some weeks ago and we ought to get to it.
One additional note:
The border issues are shaping up to be a centerpiece of the upcoming Mexican election, which means that anti-US sentiment could well be a rallying cry, leading to policies that will push Mexico away from the US and closer to Brazil, Venezuela and its other South American neighbors. Such a shift may appear not to be in Mexico's self-interest, but that doesn't mean political winds won't push in that direciton anyway.
Friday, May 13, 2005
I've been doing a bit of to-and-fro on Democracy Arsenal discussing Abu Ghraib with Joseph Britt who is a kind of standing stand-in for my friend Greg Djerejian at Belgravia Dispatch (I believe Greg considers himself a conservative but we met collaborating on a task force report on UN reform).
A bizarre incident this week may help sharpen how we look at the impact of anti-Americanism. Newsweek magazine reported that American interrogators at Guantanamo bay goaded a suspect by flushing a copy of the Koran down the toilet. The revelation triggered a rash of deadly anti-American protests in 17 Afghan provinces and the violence has now spread to Pakistan, Sudan, Indonesia, and the Palestinian territories, resulting in at least 14 deaths.
The thing is, as far as the Pentagon can tell, the offending incident may never have happened. Newsweek did not disclose its sources. It's clear that the alleged desecration of the Koran was not the only cause of the anti-US unrest.
In Afghanistan, some rabble-rousers have cited a recent agreement between Presidents Bush and Karzai that would provide for permanent US military bases in country, and others have complained about the treatment of Afghan detainees at Gitmo. While there's no question deeper issues were at play, it seems equally clear that the toilet report was the proximate cause of the riots.
This reminds me of the Philip Roth novel, The Human Stain, in which an innocent remark provokes a racial furor that sets in motion events including a woman's death and the unraveling of several other lives. As may have happened this week, Roth's novel details how an incident that does not even occur (or barely occurs) winds up igniting simmering fury and unleashing mayhem.
Its hard to know how to react to this week's upset in the Muslim world. On the one hand, given that the trigger may literally have been a non-event, there's some temptation to to question how America or the Administration could be in any way to blame.
The argument goes something like this: if these people are so rabidly anti-US that they will rush to judgment and take to the streets at any provocation, they are beyond reason and there's little or nothing the US can do. This form of anti-Americanism thus gets classed in the category of "unaddressable." Its a sort of irremediable layer of anti-US attitudes that come with the superpower territory and that we cannot do anything about.
Secretary Rice can go on record stating the obvious about US policy toward the Koran, but that's about it.
After a week together it probably won't surprise you that I am not so quick to discuss the significance of what's happening in Kabul and elsewhere. The psychology of countries is in many ways like the psychology of people, marked by jealousies, insecurities, and resentments that lie just under the surface.
The situation the US faces now fits a pattern that can bedevil powerful people. Two prominent recent examples are Howell Raines, the ousted former Editor of the New York Times and Larry Summers, the embattled President of Harvard. Both men are highly talented, forceful and by at least some standards effective. Both have also attracted widespread dislike within the institutions they led.
Because of their strengths both men seemed anything but vulnerable. Yet it took just one slip for Raines to be fired and Summers to lose a faculty vote of no confidence. For Raines it was a scandal involving a flagrantly dishonest reporter, and for Summers it was an ill-advised comment on the place of women in science.
Neither incident was serious enough to have threatened a leader who enjoyed stronger support among underlings and colleagues. But in both cases people from all quarters of the organizations smelled blood and came after leaders who they had long disliked.
About two months ago I wrote this:
There's reason to fear that the Bush Administration may be similarly vulnerable. The rest of the world for the most part dislikes Bush; anti-Americanism is at an all time high. Yet the U.S. is powerful enough and Bush has racked up sufficient accomplishments that he seems invulnerable. The question is what happens if a bad mistake gets made - a more serious version of the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade or the shoot-out involving the Italian journalist and her bodyguard. Would the U.S.'s detractors all pounce, with the result of an outsized blow to America's image and influence? If there's any analogy to Summers and Raines, the signs are ominous.
See here for the rest of the post.
This toilet flushing meshugas is a case in point. Whether it happened or not, the report itself energized throngs of anti-American activists to trot out their grievances and urge others to do the same. The ground was fertile to breed the worst possible conclusions based on even the muddiest facts.
It would be nice to think the outburst was orchestrated by one small faction, but there's apparently no political movement with the capability of mounting street action across such a wide swath of Afghanistan. That suggests that each and every province lying in wait for some kind of American misstep, or even an unsubstantiated report thereof.
Both Raines and Summers could claim to have been swept up in events - and surrounding media scrutiny - outside their control. But in both cases it was less the incidents that occurred than the underlying attitudes toward those leaders that caused the controversies to spiral. Likewise this week, we need to face that it is because of the backdrop of anti-American attitudes that the Newsweek report lit such a firestorm.
Lert's hope we wind up like Summers - with the hostility palpable but ultimately under control - rather than like Raines, who wound up getting sucked under.
Lincoln's Been Thinkin'
Mike Crowley at The New Republic puts Lincoln Chafee's dilemma in context:
The only problem is, Rhode Island Republicans aren't as conservative as the Republican base, and Chafee has also won in a blue state because he's been moderate enough to win Democratic and independent votes. If you're looking for incumbent senators who'll get voted out, I think he's high on the list. The Bolton vote won't be a campaign issue, but a pattern of placating his own party could be.
All of which is to say that realignment could be continuing. For years we saw states that went GOP in presidential elections still reelecting popular Democratic senators, and vice-versa. As the parties become more ideologically uniform, that may be coming to an end.
When It's 9-9, Who Wins?
Steve Clemons seems fairly confident that the surprise 9-9 committee vote is going to create more problems for John Bolton:
On the other hand, Fred Kaplan at Slate sees Lincoln Chafee's vote for Bolton as the more telling indicator, and doesn't see a rush of Republican defections on the Senate floor:
I tend to think Kaplan's right. The UN-needs-a-bully argument has not carried the day, even if its adherents can't be disabused of it. But loyalty to Bush, on a fight on which he's staked a lot, still goes a long way. And if the stop-Bolton movement can't get Chafee, how are they going to get a Senate majority?
My computer crashed while I was pecking out a long piece on Bolton, so I'll take that as a sign and keep this short.
I have written a top 10 list of reasons I do not believe Bolton should be confirmed (drafted in early April, before the revelations of intimidation of intelligence analysts) as well as a set of 10 things I believe are at stake in this fight.
Tonight I am going to address just one point: the claim that Bolton is the right man because the UN needs reform. The evidence most often pointed to in support of this contention relates to Bolton's role in securing the repeal of the UN's notorious Zionism is Racism resolution in 2001.
I do not minimize that achievement for a moment. It was extremely tough to accomplish and, as I address in a forthcoming article for Dissent magazine (out this summer), addressing Israel's situation at the UN is a key part of bringing the organization into the twenty-first century.
But the fact that Bolton could successfully quarterback the repeal campaign does not mean he'll be effective in building consensus around reform of the UN or on behalf of U.S. priorities like referring Iran or North Korea to the UN Security Council.
Although the resolution carried significant symbolic weight, the vast majority of UN Member States did not have a lot at stake in Zionism is Racism. It didn't affect their security or economic interests. Accordingly, an appeal to capitals pointing out that the resolution was counterproductive and that repeal was a high priority for the Administration brought about agreement in a matter in relatively short order. This was on the heels of a UN-backed US victory against Iraq in the Gulf War.
Coming to the UN now, Bolton would face a very different situation. Esteem for the US is at an all time low. The issues that have to be tackled - including bringing some integrity to the UN's human rights mechanisms and beefing up the organization's work on terrorism and non-proliferation - go to the core of many countries' immediate self-interests.
Reform of the UN cannot be achieved with a steamroller. I know this because I was hired in 1999 to work on a historic package of financial reforms at the organization, culminating in repayment of most of the back dues America owed to the world body. For details look here.
Getting the deal through required getting other UN members to absorb over $100 million in annual costs for the UN's regular and peacekeeping budget.
When I first began some colleagues advised that we would be able to ram this through simply by asserting that as the UN's largest contributor and most powerful member state, we were demanding the rate cut. That's how we started, in fact, making speeches laying out what we wanted in no uncertain terms.
But that strategy got us nowhere. Getting the reforms we wanted through required consensus among the entire UN membership (189 countries at the time) and the pushier we were about what we wanted, the more dug in they got.
We fairly quickly changed tacks, wrapping our reform proposals in a broader package of financial reforms that we could support through objective reasoning. We then went through an intensive process of negotiation, cajolery, threats, and mathematic calculations to put together a deal that everyone could support. I detail it all here.
The battle was costly and exhausting, and if there had been a short cut we would have taken it. But we got the reforms passed at the end of the day, as a result of patience, flexibility, and a willingness to listen to others and accommodate them insofar as possible without compromising our own core objectives.
Toughness is much needed in a UN ambassador. But its only one part of what it takes to be effective.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Voice of Voinovich
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First let me take this opportunity to thank you and your staff for your graciousness and hard work on this nomination. You have made strong arguments in favor of the nominee throughout this process. Additionally, thank you for providing all of the members of this committee with timely information related to Mr. Bolton.
I believe that the inquiry has been fair and exhaustive. I am confident that I have enough information to cast my vote today. Again, I appreciate your staff's hard work, as well as the administration's efforts.
Since our last meeting on this subject, I have pored over hundreds of pages of testimony, have spoken to dozens or so of individuals regarding their experiences, interactions and thoughts about John Bolton. Most importantly, in addition to the meeting that I had with Mr. Bolton prior to the official business meeting that we had on his nomination, I once again met with Mr. Bolton this week personally to share my concerns and to listen carefully to his thoughts.
After great thought and consideration, I have based my decision on what I think is the bigger picture. Frankly, there is a particular concern that I have about this nomination, and it involves the big picture of U.S. public diplomacy.
Today, the United States is criticized for what the world calls arrogance, unilateralism and for failing to listen and to seek the support of its friends and allies. There has been a drastic change in the attitude of our friends and allies in such organizations as the United Nations and NATO and in the countries of leaders that we need to rely upon for help.
I discovered this last November when I was in London with people in the Parliament there. I found that to be the case when we visited the NATO meeting in Italy, that things have really changed in the last several years. It troubles me deeply that the U.S. is perceived this way in a world community, because the United States will face a steeper challenge in achieving its objectives without their support.
We will face more difficulties in conducting the war on terrorism, promoting peace and stability worldwide and building democracies without the help from our friends to share the responsibilities, leadership and costs.
To achieve these objectives, public diplomacy must once again be of high importance. If we cannot win over the hearts and minds of the world community and work together as a team, our goals will be more difficult to achieve.
Additionally, we will be unable to reduce the burden on our own resources. The most important of these resources are the human resources, the lives of the men and women of our armed forces, who are leaving their families every day to serve their country overseas.
Just this last Tuesday we passed an $82 billion supplemental bill for our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is clear that the costs of this war are rising all the time, and they are not expected to go down any time soon.
We need the help of other countries to share the financial burden that is adding to our national debt and the human resource burden that our armed forces, National Guardsmen and contractors are bearing so heavily now, including the deaths of over 1,500 American servicemen and women.
And the key to this, I believe, is public diplomacy.
Mr. Chairman, I applaud the president and secretary of state for understanding that public diplomacy is an important objective and beginning this new term with an emphasis on repairing relationships. I applaud the president and Secretary Rice for reaching out to our friends in the world community and articulating that the United States does respect international law and protocol.
And I also applaud the president's decision to appoint Karen Hughes to help take the lead in this effort. Though the United States may have differences with our friends at times and though we may need to be firm with our positions, it is important to send a message that we're willing to sit down, talk about them, discuss our reasoning and to work for solutions. The work of the president and Secretary of State Rice is a move in the right direction.
But what message are we sending to the world community when in the same breath we have sought to appoint an ambassador to the United Nations who himself has been accused of being arrogant, of not listening to his friends, of acting unilaterally, of bullying those who do not have the ability to properly defend themselves? These are the very characteristics that we're trying to dispel in the world community.
We must understand that next to the president, the vice president, secretary of state, the next most important, prominent public diplomat is our ambassador to the United Nations. It is my concern that the confirmation of John Bolton would send a contradictory and negative message to the world community about U.S. intentions.
I'm afraid that his confirmation will tell the world that we're not dedicated to repairing our relationship or working as a team, but that we believe only someone with sharp elbows can deal properly with the international community.
I want to make it clear that I do believe that the U.N. needs to be reformed if it's to be relevant in the 21st century. I do believe we need to pursue its transformation aggressively, sending the strong message that corruption's not going to be tolerated. The corruption that occurred under the oil-for-food program made it possible for Saddam's Iraq to discredit the U.N. and undermine the goals of its members. This must never happen again, and severe reforms are needed to strengthen the organization. And, yes, I believe that it will be necessary to take a firm position so we can succeed, but it will take a special individual to succeed at this endeavor, and I have great concerns with the current nominee and his ability to get the job done.
And to those who say a vote against John Bolton is against reform of the U.N., I say, nonsense. There are many other people who are qualified to go to the United Nations that can get the job done for our country. Frankly, I'm concerned that Mr. Bolton would make it more difficult for us to achieve the badly needed reforms to this outdated institution. I believe that there could even be more obstacles to reform if Mr. Bolton is sent to the United Nations than if he were another candidate.
Those in the international community who do not want to see the U.N. reform will act as a roadblock, and I fear that Mr. Bolton's reputation will make it easier for them to succeed. I believe that some member nations in the U.N. will use Mr. Bolton as part of their agenda to further question the integrity and credibility of the United States and to reinforce their negative U.S. propaganda, and there's a lot of it out there today.
Beyond Red and Blue
The Pew Center has always done some of the smartest socio-demographic analysis of Americans and politics. They have a big new study out that forges beyond some of the cliches and generalizations about red states and blue states we've all come to use. I remember a study Pew did like this about 10 years ago that was terrifically smart and revealing, so I'm eager to read this one. Even when it's stating conclusions that might seem obvious, it grounds them in thick context. Some highlights from the executive summary:
I'm eager to read more.
Hat tip: Tapped.
How Did Evangelicals Get To "Own" Religion in America?
A historical look at its rise in 19th Century America by the historian Gary Nash. Contrary to the political sloganeering you hear today, the dominant view of religion in Revolutionary generation had little in common with those of evangelicalism. The balance shifted only with the Great Awakening. Nash explains:
Note: "The right to think for oneself" refers to understanding scripture individually, as opposed to accepting the authority of church leaders.
Dick Lugar is probably just spinning, but if he's predicting he'll hold all the Republicans -- rather than saying he may lose one or two -- you have to think he'll pull it out. The urgent campaign to flip Lincoln Chafee also points to a Bolton confirmation, I think.
What does this mean for the nuclear option and Social Security? Under the old model of Washington power politics, which prevailed under Clinton, expending capital on a fight like Bolton would leave the White House depleted and inclined to give in on something else. Power was seen as finite -- roughly analogous to the theory of mercantilism. On this model, William Schneider argues in the National Journal that Bush's low poll numbers bode ill.
But the Bush White House has a different view of power. Exercising power, in its view, creates more power -- the way expending force doing daily reps at the weight room makes you stronger. A Bolton victory, I think, is likely give Bush the additional strength he needs to pull wavering senators into line on abolishing the filibuster for judicial nominees and, if he moves fast enough, to put through a Social Security plan that includes privatization.
It's like a Soviet military parade: displaying power makes people fear your power.
Abu Ghraib Etecetera
A little type-to-type with Belgravia Dispatch on this issue appears at Democracy Arsenal this morning.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
America as Beacon and Abu Ghraib responses
My third question was as follows:
Do you believe that in order to effectively promote goals like democratization and human rights around the world, the U.S. must itself be seen as an exemplar of these values? Do you believe that our status as a standard-bearer of justice and liberty is so well-entrenched that revelations like the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo won’t negatively affect it?
The commentariat seems to be split on this one. Many people think the Abu Ghraib abuses were serious, and probably not taken seriously enough. Quite a number of others seemed to regard the abuses as the work of a few rogue underlings acting without instructions.
This was probably the result of my poor phrasing, but few addressed the broader question of how Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and related developments impact the U.S.'s ability to promote democracy and other values like human rights and the rule of law that we would like to seed around the world.
In my view, there are many regimes around the world that would like to undercut the appeal of American ideals in the minds of their own people. They are fearful that if their populations begin to demand the political and economic freedoms we enjoy, that they will lose control.
On the other hand, as by fellow Democracy Arsenal co-blogger Heather Hurlburt and others pointed out as part of the thought-provoking debates at the washingtonmonthly on this subject, the most powerful force for democratization even in intractable regions like the Middle East is the will of the people themselves who crave freedom. Historically, such people have often been inspired by the example the U.S. has set.
One of the most serious consequences of the U.S.'s lapses in upholding the human rights and related standards that we purport to represent is that we play into the hands of those who claim that our ideals are empty or hypocritical. We allow them to call into quesetion the promise that our principles signify in the minds of their populations. We sow doubts in the minds of people that would otherwise tend to cleave in the values the U.S. stands for, rather than listening to the promises of corrupt leaders.
We can write off Abu Ghraib as the work of a few misfits. But in the eyes of much of the rest of the world the abuses were linked to a pattern of disregard for international norms governing the treatment of detainees.
Particularly given our under-investment in public diplomacy, we have limited ability to shape how our actions are seen from the outside. When we are seen as not taking the problem seriously, that adds further fuel to the fire of those trying to fan skepticism about American motives.
Though we may not always see the link, I suspect we will be living with the consequences of Abu Ghraib for a long time to come in the form of charges of hypocrisy, doubts about American sincerity, and a sense around the world that America does not hold itself to the standards it would impose on others.
Relax, Dan, and Enjoy Hawai'i
Dan has very cleverly dated his "public service message" Sunday, May 15 so it will remain atop the blog. Good thinking. My apologies to readers tuning in and being disappointed on finding a liberal foreign policy expert and a liberal journalist and historian opining instead. But we appreciate your indulgence.
Dan, sorry if we're hurting your hits and page views. I do appreciate the chance to keep your chair warm. Remember: Carson always recovered after David Brenner or Joan Rivers sat in.
The White House Doesn't Do Propaganda...
Now there's Dave Smith, doing public relations disguised as journalism for the Agriculture Department.
Is this really propaganda? Judge for yourself. The situation is different from either of the other two cases. The key facts, as reported by the WP:
When Are You up for Tenure, Dan?
Just thought we both should take a look at this report.
Thanks for Clarifying, Pat
In the Yalta posts, I kept wanting to say, "This is the kind of argument Pat Buchanan would make," but I thought it would be unfair.
Obviously, Buchanan's views are not Bush's views, and Bush is not responsible for what Buchanan says. But Buchanan articulates starkly the ideas in the distinct and self-conscious historical tradition with which Bush, wittingly or not, aligned himself:
[Love that throwaway line about "Christian peoples." -- Ed. Don't get me started. ...]
More Yalta Reverberations
Joe Conason expresses more precisely than I did why Bush's Yalta remarks were so scandalous:
And there's more to it. The debate over Yalta is not a debate over whether the Soviet oppression of Eastern Europe for a half century was a terrible thing. There is no debate over that question.
No, Yalta means something very different, as people who invoke it know -- or should know. There is a long tradition of Yalta-bashing, and it was used especially by far-right demagogues to accuse FDR of being a traitor. It's a claim that implies our brave fighting men were doing heroic work in liberating Europe but that their good efforts were betrayed by weak leaders.
One doesn't speak about Yalta in a vacuum. By uttering the words he did, Bush (or his speechwriter) aligned himself with a distinct and self-conscious historical tradition. He could have framed his remarks of sympathy with the peoples of Eastern Europe in any number of ways. But, wittingly or not, he endorsed an interpretation of history that sees Yalta as the hinge and America's decisions there as having cast Eastern Europe into darkness. But that was not the case.
Update: Kevin Drum asks:
Not just the Latvians, that's for sure. Key point. I should double-check this, but ... [Why? When in Rome... -- Ed. OK, I, but I'm gonna blame you if some expert on Latvian history contradicts me. And isn't there something about this "-- Ed." business reminiscent of Homer Simpson talking to his brain?] ... Anyway, I don't think Yalta dealt significantly with Latvia. At least it wasn't a central issue there. Had Bush given the speech in Poland, or even in Hungary, Yalta might have seemed more relevant.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
UN - Reply
Best I can tell, most of you think the UN is by and large a force for no good. Commenters focused on the usual laments: Syria and Cuba on the Commission on Human Rights, corruption, cronyism, etc. People think John Bolton may kick some sense into the thing and if he fails to do so, no big deal in that the place is a sinkhole anyway.
Here's where I stand:
Yes, the UN is scandal-wracked, but its trying to do something about it. And, by the way, the U.S.'s track-record on corruption and fiscal mismanagement is not exactly squeaky clean either (same is true about both the UN and the US when it comes to nepotism).
The UN, like the US government, deals in a lot of messy situations and has to rely on a lot of individuals and groups that it cannot completely control. Corruption's a serious issue and needs to be addressed as part of a major push for reform at the organization. (that package should also deal with the composition of the Commission on Human Rights, but that problem really lies with the UN membership, more so than with the institution itself).
None of this is, in my view, a reason to turn one's back on all the things the UN does well, and particularly those responsibilities that are not and cannot be fulfilled by any single nation or any other multilateral organization.
Many of the reforms of the UN that have been proposed and will be debated in the coming months are very much pro-U.S.
I don't deny the UN's weaknesses. I just think that given the organization's strengths and the unique role it plays, the obvious solution is to do what we can to strengthen and fix it through constructive diplomacy.
My views on Bolton appear on Democracy Arsenal (search under the UN tab). My bottom line essentially grows out of what I said above about anti-Americanism, namely that it stands in our way and we ought to do what we can to minimize rather than stoke it.
Anti-Americanism - Reply
It goes without saying that I had no idea what I was getting into posing a preposterous series of questions, each of which could merit a treatise in response. As for those who suggest that I get a life, well, ahem . . . shall we just say that when I copied the replies into a word document, it was more than 50 pages long (after I shrunk the font down to 9 points).
But I don't want to worm out of this, so here goes. I'll go as far as I can tonight before I collapse. As those who have been reading DA know, my day job makes me one of those bats of the blogosphere.
The gist of the replies on anti-Americanism seemed to be that most if not all of it is endemic to being a superpower, and that it should not stand in the way of the U.S. doing what it wants or believes to be in its interest. A number of commentators dismiss anti-Americanism as a kind of petty jealousness.
I actually agree with most of this. There are many different forms of anti-Americanism, ranging from the haughty reproaches of France to the terrorist violence of al Qaeda. These are very separate problems that wouldn't be lumpted together except for the fact that I have 9 more questions to somehow get through.
That said, I think the U.S.'s lone superpower status does make it somewhat of a lightening rod irrespective of what our policies are, and that much of the ill-feeling is driven by envy, by individual resentments that have little to do with the U.S. or with U.S. policies, and by internal political dynamics in particular countries.
But none of that lessens my concern about the impact of anti-Americanism on U.S. policies. One of the commentators put it like this:
"Is anti-Americanism a problem? Yes, and the majority of the responses here misunderestimate how much a bad feeling from abroad can actually diminish our ability to get results from our policies abroad. Nearly every government has to respond to its own version of the street, whether elected or not. And when the street is increasingly anti-American, doing the right thing can mean losing power, something few folks are willing to do.
So resistance to U.S. policies, or even just subtle slowness and delay and passive non-cooperativeness, can make for some pretty damn frustrating efforts to get our interests met.
It is not a popularity contest, where the U.S. is too cool to get caught up in who is the most-loved. Its about realizing U.S. interests abroad and whether we have to spend greater or lesser efforts to get what we want. From the anti-Americans out there, we need to push harder, pressure more, cajole and browbeat andd "express concern."
That makes it tougher -- and you can sit back and say thats what our diplomats are paid to do, but would you want your baseball team forced to play double-headers every day, against different teams? Being right and being right over the long term makes being hated in the short-term acceptable, but not easier.
And if we approach anti-Americanism with a "we're right, too bad" attitude and without some strategery for reducing that drain on our efforts, we are only hurting ourselves in the long run. My worry is not that we should do what the Euros and others say, its that we should listen with an effort towards changing minds, not just countering rhetoric."
This is precisely what troubles me about anti-Americanism. Having served as a U.S. diplomat at the UN, I have witnessed first-hand how much time gets wasted trying to overcome the threshold of skepticism, mistrust and sometimes bitterness toward the U.S.
Yes, a certain degree of this is unavoidable. But beyond that base level, there's plenty we can do to avoid compounding the inherent difficulties we face.
This does not mean bending our policies or subordinating our interests to please the rest of the world.Better diplomacy, a greater willingness to listen, putting resources behind the foreign policy commitments that are most visible and important to the rest of the world, more energetic efforts to persuade others rather than trying to impose our policies by fiat would all help chip away at the negative attitudes.
On the flip side, pro-US attitudes are multipliers of our own force. We see this in the form of the help Eastern European countries have given us in Iraq and at the UN. They like us, they support us, they make it look as though our policies have some resonance, and they make it less politically costly for other countries to come over to our side as well.
As long as we convince ourselves that anti-Americanism doesn't matter, we overlook the low-hanging fruit of countries that can and should be solid supporters of the U.S. - traditional allies that share our values and have everything to gain from a close relationship with us. By allowing friction to rise and not taking relatively simple steps to try to avoid and smooth it, we make our own lives more difficult.
"In the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact"?
Contrary to my first impression, Bush's outrageous Yalta remarks aren't going unnoticed. Along with the indefatigable Arthur M. Schlesinger, add Jacob Heilbrunn at the LA Times to those pointing out the ugliness of Bush's remarks.
History and the House
Historians and journalists who cover Congress are familiar with the excellence and professionalism of the Senate Historical Office, especially Dick Baker and Don Ritchie. Robert "KC" Johnson reports on the History News Network that the House has finally appointed its own historians. Its choices? The 83-year-old Andrew Jackson scholar Robert V. Remini and an associate who's the author of The University of Illinois: A Pictorial History.
Where's the Instant Analysis?
Why haven't there been more harsh, snarky snap judgments about the amply hyped, celebrity-stocked The Huffington Post? You'd think bloggers would be tearing apart this interloper into the blogosphere within hours. Has a sudden outbreak of politesse gripped the Internet? Professional courtesy run amok?
You can't get away with saying that it's not fair to judge a blog by it's first day. Absurdly consequential judgments based on a debut performance have become the rule in the film industry. And the Web (especially the blogosphere) is far better equipped to render such verdicts.
That said, a few instant reactions:
Warren Bell, National Review Online: "I made the mistake of checking out The Huffington Post without putting down a dropcloth. Does anyone know how to get all this sanctimonious ooze off my rug?"
Nikki Finke, L.A. Weekly: "Her blog is such a bomb that it's the box-office equivalent of Gigli, Ishtar and Heaven's Gate rolled into one."
James Joyner, Outside the Beltway: "a decidedly mixed bag"
Howie Kurtz, Washington Post: "Larry David should have his own blog!":
Jack Shafer, Slate: "None of the alleged bloggers at the Huff Post are really arguing with anybody or reacting to much of anything in the news in their first entries … These entries read like the opening lines from ungiven speeches that dribble off into empty mutterings."
Wait, I have it ... Maybe nobody really cares. ...
Monday, May 9, 2005
John Dean Weighs In
... on the filibuster here. Dean was there in the Nixon years when the old deference to presidential prerogrative collapsed in the wake of the filibuster of Fortas. (I discovered his expertise on the subject in 2001 when I reviewed his book The Rehnquist Choice. ["Clowns in Gowns"? -- Ed. As the journalists out there know, writers do not choose the heds for their articles.])
Can we talk? I mean really talk?
There are a series of questions on foreign policy that I’d like to pose to conservatives while I'm here. I am hoping at least some of the many very thoughtful commentators Dan has attracted rise to the bait not with platitudes or pablum, but with honest insights that help reveal the thinking behind the policies and arguments. In short, if your answer sounds like anything Scott McClellan might say, no need to repeat it here.
Like Dan, I think that progressives and conservatives need to learn to understand each other better on foreign policy subjects. We have to move beyond witty soundbytes, gotcha repartee and reductio ad absurdum. Progressives harbor a host of notions about conservative viewpoints that are probably false or at least exaggerated, and that need to be challenged. I plan to post some questions on Democracy Arsenal this week that progressives ought to take a stab at too. If you have questions you’d like to have progressives answer, send ‘em over and I’ll take a look.
1. Does the rise in anti-Americanism concern you? If so, do you link it to the Bush Administration’s policies? Even if you don’t think it’s a major issue that should be guiding policy choices, do you think it matters at the margins and can make it tougher to build support for U.S. goals?
2. Do you really think we can make the UN further U.S. interests by criticizing and beating down the organization? Do you believe that John Bolton’s style will enable him to actually accomplish things, or is it more a matter of his standing in the way of the UN doing wrong?
3. Do you believe that in order to effectively promote goals like democratization and human rights around the world, the U.S. must itself be seen as an exemplar of these values? Do you believe that our status as a standard-bearer of justice and liberty is so well-entrenched that revelations like the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo won’t negatively affect it?
4. What do you really think of the failure to find WMD in Iraq? Do you believe that the Administration was genuinely as surprised as the American people were? Does this make you question intelligence assessments on other matters like North Korea and Iran; why or why not?
5. Do you believe that an international criminal court would be likely to indict U.S. servicemembers for war crimes, notwithstanding the provision that when countries are capable of investigating and prosecuting crimes in their own court systems, an international court will not have jurisdiction? Is this a real fear, or a stand-in for a broader concern over the impact of an international criminal justice system?
6. Do you believe that development aid is important in its own right, or do you see it more as something the U.S is compelled to do for image reasons, much of which winds up being wasteful? How important is the Millennium Challenge Account, in your view?
7. How important is intelligence reform? Is this a real priority, or more a political exigency driven by the 9/11 and Silberman-Robb reports? As the profile of those reports fades, is intelligence reform likely to recede as an issue?
8. How worried are you about China? What about in the long-term?
9. How worried are you about the sagging dollar and yawning balance of payments deficit?
10. What to you is most problematic about the Bush Administration’s foreign policy? If there’s one thing you don’t like, what is it?
In case you’re interested, my views on most of these questions can be found over at Democracy Arsenal.
In the LAT David Shaw asks:
Shaw says yes, though he also says that there's greater opportunity to nab miscreants. But he doesn't consider what's probably the biggest reason for the apparent spike in cases of journalistic malfeasance that make the news: our standards are not lower but higher.
This idea came to mind after reading the historian Ron Robin's book Scandals and Scoundrels: Seven Cases that Shook the Academy. Robin points out that there were cases of rogue historians like Stephen Ambrose in previous generations, but they either didn't cause a stir or remained of interest within the academy.
Just so, isn't it possible that just as journalists are now policing more aggressively the behavior of presidential candidates, Cabinet nominees, professors, and other public figures, they're also casting a colder eye on their colleagues? Did anyone miss Jack Shafer's 2003 Slate piece on the fabrications of journalistic gods H.L. Mencken and A.J. Liebling? Maybe there have always been Ruth Shalits, Stephen Glasses, Mitch Alboms and Rodney Rothmans, but no one howled about it.
[You're aware, aren't you, that Shafer doesn't buy that argument? -- Ed. Yes, but the article's so good, it's worth reading anyway.]
And the theory of higher standards may also help explain why journalists are now being let go for minor or even non-offenses.
Thomas Friedman's Moustache is Curved
[Wait a second. You're going to get a lot of guff from readers who actually follow the link to that review and see how glibly dissmissive it is. It doesn't even get into the substance of foreign policy.--Ed.]
OK, the review is not a top-drawer piece of intellectual analysis. But neither is much of what Friedman writes. From the most valued plot of pundit real estate in America he dispenses banalities that he passes off as profound because he first heard them from a hotelier in Dubai or a systems analyst in Bangalore.
Anyway, the point is, why does it fall to the New York Press to deflate the biggest, most overrated blowhard in all of punditdom? There's still time for Leon Wieseltier to assign it to Jackson Lears, Alan Wolfe, or one of his other merciless but rigorous review-essayists....
What Was Clintonism?
At TNR online, former Kerry speechwriter Andrei Cherny has a smart piece on Clintonism. How many times have we heard the simple-minded cliche that Clinton just split the difference between liberals and moderates? Or the bizarre statement that the Democrats in 2000 or 2004 had to choose between a populist message and a DLC-style centrist one? Even Clinton himself(!) recently seemed to characterize his presidency, in Cherny's words, as "the political equivalent of a menu in an old-fashioned Chinese restaurant: one issue from a conservative Column A and another from a more liberal Column B."
Cherny realizes that the analysis of political ideas is complex.
I've got a slightly different take on Clintonism's component parts, but either way there's a lot more to it than "triangulation." (TNR Subscription required to read all of Cherny's piece.)
Sunday, May 8, 2005
What's Wrong With the UN
Over at Democracy Arsenal I have a post published as part of a Weekly Top 10 list I do that looks at the top 10 things the UN does well. I promised readers there that I would list here a few things that should be on the UN's top 10 list but aren't. I am going to keep this short and sweet, but here goes:
Non-Proliferation - Top of mind this week, due to all the ferment over North Korea. This one's largely the fault of the Member States for not strengthening the UN's non-pro mechanisms. See this post at DA for more.
Combating Terrorism - The UN's anti-terror mechanisms are pretty weak. Annan has proposed a series of ways to strengthen them, and the U.S. ought to get behind this agenda.
Human Rights - The UN's human rights mechanisms have essentially been held captive by rights violators. This has got to change, and once again Kofi Annan has the makings of a good proposal on the table.
Public Relations - Always a weak spot, and one that undercuts the organization's effectiveness in many other areas.
Promoting Democracy: Incredible Shrinking Budget Line Item
My co-blogger Lorelei Kelly, who works on Capitol Hill, has a piece about how and why the latest budget slashes funding for the newly created State Department Office for the Coordinator of Reconstruction and Stabilization.
This goes directly to the debate that Dan, Kevin Drum, Abu Aardvark and others were mired in last week about how much credit Bush deserves for the positive political developments now underway in the Middle East.
When the creation of the Office for the Special Coordinator was first announced last Spring, everyone seemed to take it as a sign that the Bush Administration had finally gotten serious about post-conflict reconstruction, a precursor to democratization in countries that have endured violence. Truthfully speaking, I never had a lot of faith that a State Department "office," could take on what I view as a herculean and multi-faceted task that requires a host of standing capabilities. That's why I favor the creation of a Stabilization Corps to deal with post-conflict and like situations.
But whether you think the Office of the Coordinator is a solution or just a starting point, its astounding to learn that more than half its budget has been de-funded. If the Bush Administration cared to acknowledge mistakes, its failure to adequately plan and execute its operation in post-war Iraq would be top of the list. Yet there is no serious program underway to rectify the glaring capability gaps that operation revealed. Lorelei has a good, if depressing, analysis of why.
Whatever happens with the nuclear option, judicial appointments are likely to remain ugly for some time to come, as a result of long-term trends that first afflicted Supreme Court nominations and with Reagan, Clinton, and Bush increasingly spilled down to the appellate level. One idea I've floated with friends on the left and right that might ultimately be less draining of political energies -- and whose appeal seems inherently no greater to left or right -- would be to do away with lifetime judicial appointments. Fairly certain others must have had this idea first, I did a quick Google search and turned up an op-ed by none other than … Norman Ornstein, Washington's genius of centrist policy solutions! I should have known! I would think a 20- or 25-year term would be necessary for the political insulation of judges; Ornstein suggests a 15-year term:
Obviously, we'd need to amend the Constitution. But given that both liberals and conservatives now fear the power of "unelected" federal judges, it might draw one of those wacky strange-bedfellow across-the-spectrum coalitions. If an AEI scholar (even a liberal one) can get published on ReclaimDemocracy.org (with which I was unacquainted until now), who knows? …
One error in the Ornstein piece. He repeats the inside-the-Beltway CW that the judicial nomination wars began in 1987 over Robert Bork. Not so!
My greetings to Dan's readers as well. As I hope some of you will know from my columns for Slate and elswhere, I am less of a foreign policy expert than Dan or Suzanne (though not averse to offering thoughts on the subject). I'm a historian and political writer -- like Dan, I enjoy joining debates on political affairs not necessarily connected to my scholarship -- and I appreciate your indulging my areas of interest this week.
One of which is the Democratic party's struggle to find direction. For 35 years everyone has been aware that Democrats have lost working-class voters because of “social” issues -- from “acid, amnesty, and abortion” in 1972 to prison furloughs and the pledge of allegiance in 1988 to gay marriage in 2004. Last fall, Tom Frank won attention as the latest commentator to pick up this theme, catapulting himself to mini-celebrity. Now his book is out in paper, with a new afterword analyzing the 2004 election, well worth reading, which appears in the NYRB.
I’ve always thought Frank (a fellow historian) to be shrewd about many things, and he makes a convincing case that in nominating Kerry, the Democrats guaranteed they’d again have an uphill battle in refuting the stereotype of their party as in thrall to "cultural elites." Frank's especially good on why the Democrats perennially struggle on issues of war and the military:
Now, the solution of Frank -- and many others of his ilk over the last 35 years -- is to return to "economic populism," stressing the bread-and-butter issues on which the Democrats’ stands are naturally more appealing to most voters, including the Silent Majority-Reagan Democrat-Nascar Dad-types, than are the Republicans’.
The only problem with this argument is that the Democrats haven’t abandoned their economic populism. This charge has been leveled from the left at every losing Democratic candidate since the 1980s, and it’s just wrong. Economic populism was a key ingredient in the campaigns of Dems from Walter Mondale onward -- incluing John Kerry, scourge of outsourcing. The reality is that economic populism is a necessary but not sufficient element for a Democratic victory.
In 2004, foreign policy was more salient in the news almost every day than were economic issues. The issue environment consistently favored the Republicans, and no Democratic candidate could have changed that. What Democrats can change is how they're viewed by the public on foreign policy.
Bolton and the Politicization of Intelligence
Douglas Jehl has a good piece in this morning's New York Times taking a closer look at the allegations that John Bolton tried to twist intelligence estimates on Cuba and Syria. This is something I've written about here and is one of the major issues I think is at stake in the fate of the Bolton nomination. To me this is why the the problem with Bolton goes well beyond his having a bad temper and being a nasty boss to work for.
Jehl makes the point that the Administration's critics have never quite succeeded in making the charge of intelligence manipulation stick.
But here's the rub. Highy respected former intelligence officials like John McLaughlin and Robert Hutchings are convinced that Bolton crossed the line. How come the Administration differs?
Jehl reports that: administration's view has been that policy makers do not cross the line unless they force intelligence analysts to change their conclusions. The Senate intelligence committee, in its review of prewar intelligence on Iraq, found that the Bush administration had indeed pressed analysts to turn up evidence of a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda, but concluded that there was no breach of proper conduct, because the analysts ultimately stood firm in their contrary judgments.
To me this is the equivalent of saying that no matter how forceful, threatening and inappropriate his advances are, a boss who does not succeed in getting his subordinate to submit to sexual overtures is not a harasser. If she fends him him off, no matter what it takes, he's off the hook.
The law has always recognized the crime of attempt: think attempted robbery and attempted murder. The fact that the billfolds were taken out of the safe before the thief cracked it or that the old lady happened to be dead before the unwitting killer shot her does not negate the crime (unless the perpetrator knew he would fail in his attempt, in which case the requisite criminal intent may not have existed).
On this rationale, all the terrorists whose plans were thwarted before they actually launched their attacks ought to be let off the hook and released to go out and plot again.
Bush Administration: you've got to think again on this one. Preferably before John Bolton gets confirmed to a post in which, there's reason to fear, he will strike again.
More on North Korea
For a bit more on why I think bilateral talks will soon be imperative (and for a couple of takes on what all this will mean for Iran), check out Democracy Arsenal.
Saturday, May 7, 2005
Hello out there in Drezner-land
First a big thanks to Dan for giving us the run of the place while he's off tanning in Maui.
When Dan asked me to take over for a week, I knew the chance to to preach (opine, that is) to a bunch of conservative bloghounds was too good to pass up. But I didn't know how I would manage it alone along with my pride and joy, Democracy Arsenal and, more importantly, my real pride and joy, Leo Greenberg). Fortunately I married the best writer I know, so was able to keep it in the family. My only fear is that once David starts blogging, he'll never stop.
So, on to substance. Let's start with North Korea. The consensus is growing that the Administration's policy has failed, and that Pyongyang is precariously close to a nuclear test. The LA Times reports this morning that the Administration is coming to grips with the breakdown of its diplomacy and acknowledges that military options are singularly unappealing, particularly given the deadly consequences an attack would have for South Korea. For a broader discussion of what's missing from the Administration's non-proliferation strategy (in short, a strategy), check out this post by Derek Chollet at Democracy Arsenal.
There is no bigger threat to U.S. security than nuclear weapons in the hands of a regime that is uncontrollable and despises the U.S. North Korea's case is uniquely dangerous in that the country's economic straits might lead it to pass nuclear capabilities on to black market buyers including terrorist groups and other outlaw regimes.
The Administration is clearly worried that the North Koreans may be close to a nuclear test, and is monitoring satellite photos of a specific site where construction is already underway.
So here's the question? Will an Administration that has been loath to even privately concede failure or make mid-course policy corrections have the initiative and the flexibility to innovate on its North Korea policy now that it has to?
This has the potential to be an important test of what the consequences are of the kind of rigidity and unwillingness to concede error that has been a unique hallmark of this Administration.
All the more so because it isn't obvious what would work better than the Administration's steadfast refusal to deal bilaterally with the North Koreans, its attempt to outsource leadership over the negotiations to China, and its position that the North Koreans need to commit to dismantling their program before any incentives are put on the table.
But when a policy on something as vital as North Korea is clearly, it is incumbent on an Administration to pursue other options.
In this case, one of the few routes conceivably open is to try to build an international consensus, probably in the form of a UN Security Council resolution, that North Korean proliferation is intolerable. That would allow us to mount an internationally credible effort to verify exactly what the North Koreans are up to.
But the consensus isn't there right now. Too many countries believe, rightly or wrongly, that the U.S.'s unyielding policy bears some of the blame for escalation, and that if we approached things differently crisis could be averted.
So to get to international consensus it looks as though the U.S. will first have to agree to try bilateral talks, if only to convince likely UN Security Council hold-outs in Moscow and Beijing that every alternative to UNSC action has been exhausted. This doesn't mean abandoning the six party framework (which has largely been abandoned already) but it does require augmenting it.
The Administration will also need to bridge gaps on North Korean policy that have opened up between the U.S. and South Korea and Japan, countries that will have to be shoulder-to-shoulder with us if an international front is to coalesce. Those countries are frustrated with the Administration's rigid approach which they believe has thwarted progress in the six-party framework.
Opening talks with the North Koreans and building an international consensus that the options have been exhausted will also require pivoting away from the stance that negotiations cannot begin until the North Koreans agree to scrap their program.
There's no guarantee a new approach would work. But in the face of a failing policy to contain a major security threat, a calculated risk is preferable to staying the course with a policy that's a manifest failure. Regardless of what they admit publicly, I hope the Administration makes moves that show it realizes this too.
Friday, May 6, 2005
My brother is getting married next week.... in Maui. And gosh darn it, if the Drezner clan has no choice but to head out to Maui in order to demonstrate a little family solidarity, so be it!
[You in Hawaii...that sounds familiar--ed. Yes, but that was for business; this is for family. It's like apples and oranges... or mangoes and papayas, if you will.]
Anyway, for my loyal readers, I've arranged for some stimulating guest-bloggers for this upcoming week while I perform my arduous best-man duties. The idea came after my own guest stint at Kevin Drum's Political Animal (which Kevin ably summarizes here). Many of the commenters over there lamented that no conservative blog had extended a similar courtesy to a liberal blogger.
So.... in the interest of fair play, I've invited some extremely smart liberals to blog here for the week. Let me introduce them:
That David Greenberg fellow will also be guest-blogging here:
A farewell warning to my readers -- Nossel and Greenberg are liberals, and they're going to have some different takes on politics and foreign policy than I. Feel free to challenge them with your comments -- but no threats of bodily harm, OK?
May's Books of the Month
For the merry month of May, I decided to go in-house -- that is to say, the recommended books were written by people affiliated with the University of Chicago.
The international relations book is The Limits of International Law by Jack L. Goldsmith (formerly of the U of C and now at Harvard) and Eric A. Posner. This is a bit unusual; most international relations theorists look down their nose at international law books, because the lawyers tend to assume that the law has a powerful independent effect on behavior. IR theorists tend to be skeptical of this assertion -- the thing is, so are Goldsmith and Posner. They look at customary international law, treaty law, and the use of morality in international legal discourse. They conclude that:
Not terribly shocking for IR theorists, this is most definitely a shocking thesis for international lawyers. The Limits of International Law is also, I might add, shockingly inexpensive for an IL book.
The general interest book is co-authored by another U of C professor, economist Steven Levitt. Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (co-written with Stephen J. Dubner) is essentially a collection of Levitt's efforts to apply economic and econometric techniques to explain what at first glance appear to be non-economic phenomena -- why the crime rate has declined, how one's name affects one's earning power, etc.
The Freakonomics web site states that, "if morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work." Oddly enough, then, this book is of a piece with the Goldsmith and Posner book. They both represent arguments about the severe limits of morality as a guide to explaining how the world actually works when compared to power and economic incentives.
Levitt and Dubner also have a blog devoted to Freakonomics, and in typical U of C fashion they have a post entitled "Does Freakonomics Suck?" that links to the few less-than-stellar reviews the book has received.
Go check them both out. They're great books -- which, of course, just depresses the living hell out of me. When people like Posner and Levitt are one's peers, there's a pretty high bar for making an impression.
Now I gotta go and revise my own book.....
Thursday, May 5, 2005
Raking in the big blog bucks
I too, am feeling the warm rush of riches being thrown my way. Why, less than ten minues ago, I received the following e-mail from someone at the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles:
That's right..... ten dollars. [Sounds better if you say it like Dr. Evil--ed.].
I can already envision being part of Mickey Kaus's tax position!
Wednesday, May 4, 2005
An exemplar case of blog influence?
One of the problems in studying the political influence of blogs is trying to tease out the precise causal mechanism. How is it possible to show that without the blogosphere, a political event would have ended differently? This problem is compounded by the fact that blogs often will be writing about a newsbreaking event as it happens. Researchers can conflate activity with influence -- i.e., because people are blogging about something, they must have affected the outcom (compare and contrast Ed Morrissey's take on the Eason Jordan scandal versus my own take).
However, I think NRO's Byron York has come up with an exemplar example of the influence of Daily Kos -- with regard to the John Bolton confirmation:
Read the whole thing (thanks to alert reader R.H. for the link).
Tuesday, May 3, 2005
Regarding David Horowitz and the academy
Jennifer Jacobson has an informative story in the Chronicle of Higher Education on David Horowitz's promotion of his academic bill of rights -- "a set of principles that he says will make universities more intellectually diverse and tolerant of conservativesJ," according to Jacobson. Horowitz's crusade -- which consists of speeches and a lot of testifying and lobbying of state legislatures -- has prompted vigorous opposition.
I had two take-aways from the essay:
Horowitz tells Jacobson later in the article that someone should have made a movie of his life. In other words, he comes across as a vainglorious know-it-all, absolutely convinced that he's right about everything.
Oh, wait.... Horowitz does understand how the academy works.
UPDATE: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link -- and damn Glenn Reynolds for making me read this Inside Higher Ed post by Scott Jaschik a month before I hand in my tenure file!! The funniest bit from Jaschik's essay:
And the paragraph that was the most chilling:
Monday, May 2, 2005
Trade free or die
I've been traveling so much as of late that I've missed out on a few developments worthy of posting. Last month the Economist ran a story about a study suggesting just how important free trade is to human development:
Jackson Kuhl provides a lengthier summary of the paper at Tech Central Station. And here's a link to a University of Wyoming press release about the article, as well as a link to the actual paper, which is forthcoming in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.
Posting will be light here at danieldrezner.com this week, as I have taken up Kevin Drum's gracious offer to guest-post over at the Washington Monthly site and commnent on the raft of articles in their May issue on the causes behind the democratic stirrings in the Middle East. The contributors include:
No one will be surprised to hear that the Washington Monthly's contributors believe the Bush administration deserves less credit than the Bush administration claims. However, all of the articles combined offer some themes that will provoke some interesting debates. So go check out the articles.
SECOND UPDATE: My second post is up -- on whether funding civil society will aid with democratization.