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:

Russia on Monday agreed to shut its military bases in neighboring Georgia by 2008, a decision that effectively pares Kremlin influence in the increasingly West-leaning Caucasus region.

Russia's bases in the Georgian Black Sea port of Batumi and near the Georgian-Armenian border are holdovers from the Soviet era and house about 3,000 troops. The agreement is a major victory for Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, who has allied his country with the U.S. and Europe and aggressively pushed for the base closings.

posted by Dan at 10:13 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (1)

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Open 'non' thread

Well, the French said no to the EU constitution, and they said no with a pretty firm voice. Jacques Chirac said in response to the vote:

France has democratically expressed itself. You have rejected the European constitution by a majority.

It is your sovereign decision and I take note of it. Nevertheless, our ambitions and interests are profoundly linked to Europe....

[L]let us not be mistaken. The decision of France inevitably creates a difficult context for the defence of our interests in Europe.

We must respond to this by uniting around one requirement - national interest.

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:

  • Dissatisfaction with the current French government

  • Worries (mostly misplaced) that the constitution moves the EU in an "Anglo-Saxon" direction economically

  • General concerns at the development of the EU, especially a perceived reduction of France's influence in the enlarged Union

  • Concerns at possible future membership of Turkey in the EU.
  • 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:

    1) The only employment category that supported the constitution were Professions libérales, cadres supérieurs -- i.e., the French elite.

    2) 40% of the "non" vote thought the constitution was too economically liberal

    posted by Dan at 11:02 PM | Comments (41) | Trackbacks (6)

    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:

    Offshore outsouring also helped Donaldson Co. Inc., a Minnestota-based technology components company. Facing competition from overseas manufacturers with much lower prices, Donaldson shifted production to China. The design work stayed with its American team of engineers, chemists, and designers. Offshoring production helped increase Donaldson’s U.S.-based employment by 400 employees since 1990. What if the company had refused to go offshore? “We’d be out of business,” says an executive.

    [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:

    Two-thirds of financial services firms still have no plans to outsource any operations to low-cost overseas countries such as India, according to a new report.

    But the worldwide study of 400 IT directors by analyst Datamonitor found those banking firms which have already used offshore outsourcing are planning to increase the scope of it and extend it to more complex and core financial services processes.

    Anders Maehre, financial services technology analyst at Datamonitor and author of the study, told silicon.com there is an increasing polarisation in the banking industry between firms which choose to offshore and those that don't.

    "The vast majority of companies will not consider offshore for anything. But two-thirds to three-quarters of those who already do offshore plan to increase it, so the logical conclusion is that some of the fears these firms have don't materialise and they do experience benefits," he said.

    Only about a fifth of financial services firms are currently using offshore outsourcing and another 15 per cent said they are likely to go down that route in the near future, while the rest said they are "completely unlikely" to use overseas resources, according to Datamonitor's figures.

    But the figures can be slightly misleading if not put into context: most of the big global financial institutions make up that small number of firms which are offshoring.

    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:

    Douglas Brown and Scott Wilson, authors of "The Black Book of Outsourcing," say many executives they've interviewed are reconsidering offshoring because of the high price of fuel and airfare, management challenges, customer complaints and the increasing cost of labor in foreign technology hubs such as Bangalore, India, and a simultaneous lowering of some white-collar salaries in the United States.

    By 2015, Brown and Wilson say, the United States will likely rank as the No. 3 destination for outsourced work, behind only China and India.

    "Offshoring undoubtedly offers significant financial benefits for companies across a wide range of fields and sizes," Wilson said. "Undertaking such a venture, however, requires a cost-benefit analysis that includes downsides such as political instability, language and cultural barriers and time-zone differences."

    Instead of farming out work to countries a dozen time zones away, Wilson said, many U.S. companies are looking for relatively low-cost destinations closer to home, including Canada, Mexico and South America. He terms it "nearshoring."

    Click on this paper by Scott Noble to see some reasons why offshoring fails.

    posted by Dan at 03:26 PM | Comments (31) | Trackbacks (3)

    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:

    [T]heir decision to label all Thickburgers as 'food porn' guaranteed that they would earn sound bites, but the effect might be the opposite of what they intended. I gotta think that if a consumer sees something with that label, it will pique rather than retard their interest.

    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?]

    According to Lester Haines of The Register, the new ad caused the Carl Jr.'s website to crash from traffic overload (read all of Haines' article by the way -- wickedly funny).

    Newsweek's Jonathan Darman reports that the usual suspects are not pleased with this ad:

    The Paris pictures were news because the Parents Television Council (PTC), an influential broadcast-decency group, wants the ad banished to late-night television or off the airwaves altogether. The ad "meets the exact definition of pornography,” Tim Winter, the group’s executive director, tells NEWSWEEK. “Families shouldn’t have to be subjected to that.”

    CNN gets an even better quote from the PTC:

    "This commercial is basically soft-core porn," said Melissa Caldwell, research director for the PTC. "The way she moves, the way she puts her finger in her mouth -- it's very suggestive and very titillating."

    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:

    Carl's Jr.'s message to the PTC: The group needs to "get a life," said Andy Puzder, CEO of Carl's Jr., a subsidiary of CKE Restaurants. "This isn't Janet Jackson -- there is no nipple in this. There is no nudity, there is no sex acts -- it's a beautiful model in a swimsuit washing a car."

    Puzder says he has shown the ad to his three children, ages 12, 9 and 7, and they have shown no signs of being corrupted. "Maybe people are excited because it's Paris Hilton, but there are far worse things on television that these groups should be worried about," Puzder said.

    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.

    posted by Dan at 10:18 AM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (2)

    Apres "non".... parlez dites "oui," dammit!

    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:

    In an attempt to avert a resounding French rejection of a proposed European constitution, President Jacques Chirac told voters Thursday that they have a "historic responsibility" to approve the proposal.

    Chirac's prime-time speech marked the official end of the campaign ahead of Sunday's referendum and reflected the measure's high stakes and darkening prospects. Opinion polls predict that French voters will turn down the bid to speed the continent's political integration by strengthening institutions such as the European Union's presidency....

    Chirac urged voters not to hurt both France and Europe by using the referendum to express generalized displeasure.

    "The rejection of the treaty will be seen by Europeans as a no to Europe," Chirac warned. "It will open a period of division, of doubt, of uncertainty.... What a responsibility before history if France, a founding country of Europe, caused the risk of breaking the union of our continent."

    Hmmm... this line of argument sounds familiar... oh, yes, Romano Prodi tried it a month ago. I'll repeat what I said then:

    The European project has managed to generate a common market, a common Court of Justice, the euro, Schengenland, an increasingly assertive European parliament, and even the faint stirrings of a common foreign and defense policy -- all using the current set of legal and political arrangements. None of these will disappear if the French say non.

    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:

    If the French and the Dutch reject the EU Constitution on Sunday and Wednesday, they should re-run the referendums, the current president of the EU, Jean-Claude Juncker, has said.

    "If at the end of the ratification process, we do not manage to solve the problems, the countries that would have said No, would have to ask themselves the question again", Mr Juncker said in an interview with Belgian daily Le Soir.

    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.

    posted by Dan at 01:41 AM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (2)

    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:

    Analysts say the insurgency can probably carry on for now with or without Mr. Zarqawi's guiding hand, pointing to the high level of bloodshed that killed at least 13 more people Thursday.

    But it is under increasing pressure from numerous US offensives in western Iraq, the loss of two-dozen top lieutenants, and intelligence from Zarqawi's captured computer. Iraq's budding government is also tightening its grip, announcing Thursday that it would launch a new offensive with 40,000 troops and set up 600 checkpoints in Baghdad.

    One other paragraph was interesting, going back to Virginia Postrel's point about understanding the other:

    [Magnus Ranstorp, head of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St. Andrews University in Scotland] says that the most effective interrogators of Al Qaeda groups are masters of the theological debate. "They can point out wrong interpretations [of Islam] that further delegitimize what [militants] are trying to do."

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

    What to read about the blogosphere today

    Two outstanding contributions about the way the blogosphere works:

    1) Eszter Hargittai posts a summary of her research into the viability of Cass Sunstein's republic.com hypothesis -- that the Internet fosters cyberbalkanization -- by analyzing link structures in the political blogosphere. Her preliminary findings:

    Overall, it would be incorrect to conclude that liberal bloggers are ignoring conservative bloggers or vice versa. Certainly, liberal bloggers are more likely to address liberal bloggers and conservative bloggers are more likely to link to conservative bloggers. But people from both groups are certainly reading across the ideological divide to some extent.

    Two other interesting findings: balkanization is not increasing over time, and -- sorry, I can't resist this one -- "We found that about half of the [cross-ideological] links represent what we classify as strawman arguments. The liberal bloggers in our sample are more likely to engage in such cross-linking than the conservative bloggers."

    2) Carl Bialik has a great piece in the Wall Street Journal (no subscription required) that looks behind the numbers floated around with regard to the number of blogs out there and how blog traffic is measured. These paragraphs might make some blog triumphalists pause a bit before declaring the death of dead tree media:

    Advertisers may not be happy with [standard blog counters], since they count total visits, and not the "unique visitor" figure that is the standard currency for many kinds of online advertising (advertisers don't want to pay twice to reach the same reader). "That's a big issue," Henry Copeland, founder of Blogads.com, told me at a conference last week. "We're very aware that's a flawed number."

    ...ComScore Media Metrix and Neilsen//NetRatings are the sources most often used by online advertisers to track unique visitors. Neither tracks blogs as a matter of course, though comScore did look up traffic for 13 prominent blogs in April, upon my request (I picked ones from the top of the various rankings). Just five met the company's minimum threshold for statistical significance of about 150,000 monthly visitors. Media and gossip site Gawker had the most, with 304,000 unique visitors. The others that cleared the cut: Defamer (287,000), Boing Boing (250,000), Daily Kos (212,000) and Gizmodo (209,000). Among those that didn't were prominent political blogs Instapundit, Power Line and Eschaton. (I asked NetRatings about the same 13 blogs, and it had reportable data only for Defamer, Daily Kos, Boing Boing and Gizmodo -- and the sample sizes didn't meet standards for statistical significance.)

    ComScore and NetRatings both recruit panels of online users who agree to install software that monitors their behavior. The companies use sampling techniques similar to those of political pollsters.

    By point of comparison, comScore says the New York Times's Web site had 29.8 million unique visitors in April.

    posted by Dan at 11:29 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

    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:

    Daily explosions in Iraq, massacres in Sudan, the Koreas staring at each other through artillery barrels, a Hobbesian war of all against all in eastern Congo--combat plagues human society as it has, perhaps, since our distant forebears realized that a tree limb could be used as a club. But here is something you would never guess from watching the news: War has entered a cycle of decline. Combat in Iraq and in a few other places is an exception to a significant global trend that has gone nearly unnoticed--namely that, for about 15 years, there have been steadily fewer armed conflicts worldwide. In fact, it is possible that a person's chance of dying because of war has, in the last decade or more, become the lowest in human history.

    Is Easterbrook right? He has a few more paragraphs on the numbers:

    The University of Maryland studies find the number of wars and armed conflicts worldwide peaked in 1991 at 51, which may represent the most wars happening simultaneously at any point in history. Since 1991, the number has fallen steadily. There were 26 armed conflicts in 2000 and 25 in 2002, even after the Al Qaeda attack on the United States and the U.S. counterattack against Afghanistan. By 2004, Marshall and Gurr's latest study shows, the number of armed conflicts in the world had declined to 20, even after the invasion of Iraq. All told, there were less than half as many wars in 2004 as there were in 1991.

    Marshall and Gurr also have a second ranking, gauging the magnitude of fighting. This section of the report is more subjective. Everyone agrees that the worst moment for human conflict was World War II; but how to rank, say, the current separatist fighting in Indonesia versus, say, the Algerian war of independence is more speculative. Nevertheless, the Peace and Conflict studies name 1991 as the peak post-World War II year for totality of global fighting, giving that year a ranking of 179 on a scale that rates the extent and destructiveness of combat. By 2000, in spite of war in the Balkans and genocide in Rwanda, the number had fallen to 97; by 2002 to 81; and, at the end of 2004, it stood at 65. This suggests the extent and intensity of global combat is now less than half what it was 15 years ago.

    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:

    We probably owe this lull to the end of the cold war, and to a unipolar world order with a single superpower to impose its will in places like Kuwait, Serbia, and Afghanistan. The emerging world order is not exactly benign – Sept. 11 comes to mind – and Pax Americana delivers neither justice nor harmony to the corners of the earth. But a unipolar world is inherently more peaceful than the bipolar one where two superpowers fueled rival armies around the world. The long-delayed "peace dividend" has arrived, like a tax refund check long lost in the mail.

    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:

    1) To spell things out a bit more clearly -- U.S. hegemony important to the reduction of conflict in two ways. First, U.S. power can act as a powerful if imperfect constraint on pairs of enduring rivals (Greece-Turkey, India-Pakistan) that contemplate war on a regular basis. It can't stop every conflict, but it can blunt a lot ofthem. Second, and more important to Easterbrook's thesis, U.S. supremacy in conventional military affairs prevents other middle-range states -- China, Russia, India, Great Britain, France, etc. -- from challenging the U.S. or each other in a war. It would be suicide for anyone to fight a war with the U.S., and if any of these countries waged a war with each other, the prospect of U.S. intervention would be equally daunting.

    2) Many commenters think what's important is the number of casualties, not the number of wars. This is tricky, however, because of the changing nature of warfighting and medical science. Compared to, say, World War II, wars now have far less of an effect on civilian populations. Furthermore, more people survive combat injuries because of improvements in medicine. These are both salutory trends, but I dunno if that means that war as a tool of statecraft is over -- if anything, it makes the use of force potentially more attractive, because of the minimization of spillover effects.

    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.

    posted by Dan at 11:49 PM | Comments (31) | Trackbacks (1)

    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.

    posted by Dan at 11:10 PM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (0)

    Tuesday, May 24, 2005

    Some fine blogging going on this week!

    Three great things to peruse in the blogosphere:

    1) Crooked Timber has arranged a blog roundtable to discuss Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's Freakonomics (which is one of my books on the month). Contributors include the regulars at Crooked Timber, as well as Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen and the Financial Times' Tim Harford.

    If nothing else the critiques have certainly impressed Levitt :

    I’m not sure whether it says more about my own shortcomings, or the quality of these five commentaries above on Freakonomics, that I gained a great deal of self-awareness from reading them. It was a surprising reaction for me. There have been many published reviews of Freakonomics, and not one of them has given me the slightest insight into myself. Strangely, though, I felt like I understand my own motivations and goals better than I did a few hours ago.

    2) I didn't think there was anything more to mine out of the Newsweek affair, but Virginia Postrel proves me wrong. This point is particularly trenchant:

    While many Americans believe it's wrong to shock and humiliate Muslim prisoners by violating their religious taboos, very, very few Americans--mostly Muslims, of course--would themselves be horrified by the mere idea of flushing a Koran. And that, I think, is the real bias of the Newsweek report. American reporters, whether secular or religious, simply don't feel instinctive rage at the idea of Koran desecration and, hence, don't expect such reports to generate riots. Diversifying reporting staffs to include more red state types couldn't change that bias. By Western standards, it is, after all, completely idiotic--not to mention highly immoral--to kill people over the treatment of an inanimate object, however disrepectful the symbolism....

    With its Western biases, Newsweek thought it was writing about allegations of prisoner abuse, a human rights issue. Its overseas audience had a different reading. The differences between us and them really are bigger than the differences between us and us.

    3) Greg Djerejian, back to blogging at Belgravia Dispatch, riffs on a New York Times op-ed by Egyptian scholar and democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim that argues moderate Islamist parties in the Middle East might follow the path that Christian Democrats took in Western Europe.

    Djerejian's takeaway point:

    I believe the Middle East may have passed a tipping point with peoples increasingly demanding political breathing space. We are seeing it in Kuwait, in Lebanon, in Syria, in Egypt, in Iraq, in Iran, in Bahrain. Just about everywhere, really. It is the dominant narrative at this juncture. What responsible actors in the U.S. must do is figure out how best to maximize the chances of these trends taking root over the long-term and in a manner beneficial to the U.S. national interest. We should not recoil in fear, for instance, whenever we hear the word Islamists. If moderate Islamists were to take control in certain countries (though I think their popularity is often overstated) and guide stable polities, this will prove better than secular butchers like Saddam. We must be careful, however, to ensure that foreign influence is wielded in a manner calibrated to not lead to nationalist backlashes or radical Islamist reaction.

    This is why B.D. is so sensitive to tales of torture, of denigration of Islamic tenets in detainee treatment, and so on. This is not born of squeamishness; but of realism. An important element in securing a long term victory in this struggle against extremist terror is denying the enemy propaganda tools. Where are our fluent Arabic speakers on al-Arabiya explaining what legal reasons compelled us after 9/11 to have a detention center in Guantanamo for fanatical al-Qaeda detainees? Where are our spokesmen apologizing for the death of detainees in Bagram and Abu Ghraib who perished under U.S. custody? Loudly, repeatedly, in Arabic?.... Is it just me, or are we behind in getting these messages out? If so, why?

    Read the whole thing.... especially if you've seen the movie Battle of Algiers.

    posted by Dan at 11:47 PM | Comments (23) | Trackbacks (0)

    Arabs at home and abroad

    In Foreign Policy, Moises Naim makes an interesting point about Arab Americans:

    People of Arab descent living in the United States are doing far better than the average American. That is the surprising conclusion drawn from data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2000 and released last March. The census found that U.S. residents who report having Arab ancestors are better educated and wealthier than average Americans.

    Whereas 24 percent of Americans hold college degrees, 41 percent of Arab Americans are college graduates. The median income for an Arab family living in the United States is $52,300—4.6 percent higher than other American families—and more than half of all Arab Americans own their home. Forty-two percent of people of Arab descent in the United States work as managers or professionals, while the same is true for only 34 percent of the general U.S. population. For many, this success has come on quickly: Although about 50 percent of Arab Americans were born in the United States, nearly half of those born abroad did not arrive until the 1990s.

    For Naim, this success presents an interesting puzzle:

    Of course, many will explain the success of Arab Americans by pointing out that people who emigrate tend to be younger, more motivated, ambitious, and entrepreneurial. The Arab immigrants who are doing so well in the United States, according to this view, would have made it anywhere.

    Sadly, that isn’t true, either. Otherwise, how does one explain why Arab immigrants in Europe are worse off than those in the United States? Why are leaders of Arab communities in France warning that social and racial tensions are in danger of creating a “social and political atom bomb”? Sure, France may be an extreme case, but the situation of Arabs in the rest of Europe is hardly better. In general, Muslims living in Europe—of which Arabs constitute a significant proportion—are poorer, less educated, and in worse health than the rest of the population. In the Netherlands, the unemployment rate for ethnic Moroccans is 22 percent, roughly four times the rate for the country as a whole. In Britain, the Muslim population has the highest unemployment rate of all religious groups. The failure of Arabs in Europe is particularly worrisome given that 10 of the states or entities along Europe’s eastern and southern borders are home to nearly 250 million Muslims—most of them Arabs—with a birthrate more than double that of Europeans.

    This census data should prompt soul-searching in many quarters. Cultural determinists may want to revise their theories of Arab backwardness. Arab leaders should be ashamed when they see their emigrants prospering in the United States while their own people are miserable. And Europe should wake up to the possibility that it may have less of an “Arab problem” than a “European problem.” Then again, maybe the cultural determinists have an explanation for why Europeans are so predisposed against Arab success.

    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:



    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.

    posted by Dan at 11:36 AM | Comments (55) | Trackbacks (2)

    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.

    posted by Dan at 11:25 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

    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.

    From the National Review's Quin Hillyer:

    Conservatives examining last night's Senate deal on judicial nominees should see it as not a compromise but, as a capitulation. It does not save the stature of the Senate, but confirms its reputation as a den of mutual back-scratchers willing to throw principle out the window so their own reputations for wisdom and statesmanship can remain intact.

    The Center for American Progress' John Podesta:

    This victory comes at a heavy price: the near-certain confirmation of at least three nominees whose contempt for constitutional liberties and disregard of precedent make them manifestly unworthy of judicial office.

    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.

    posted by Dan at 11:17 AM | Comments (27) | Trackbacks (0)

    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:

    At a rally of 5,000 supporters in Paris on Saturday, Philippe de Villiers, the leader of the nationalist Movement for France, said that the adoption of the constitution would strip Europe's nations of their sovereignty and transfer too much power to Brussels. "To have 450m people run by 18 technocrats is a totalitarian idea from the last century," he said.

    Mr de Villiers, who has been one of the most energetic No campaigners drawing support from conservative Catholic, Gaullist and sovereigntist traditions, said that France had a "special mission" in the world, thanks to its historical, geographic, and linguistic links, which should never be abandoned.

    "It is impossible to imagine Europe without France. But France is also an extra-European power, a world power," he said to wild applause.

    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:

    Dutch opinion polls show resistance to the treaty hardening. On Friday a poll by TNS NIPO, for RTL television news, had the No campaign with 54 per cent and Yes at 27 per cent. The same day a poll by Interview NSS for Nova television gave No 63 per cent and Yes 37 per cent.

    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.

    posted by Dan at 11:27 AM | Comments (41) | Trackbacks (5)

    Friday, May 20, 2005

    Frank Gorshin, R.I.P. (1933-2005)

    The Frank Gorshin -- a.k.a., the Riddler -- is dead.

    Over at Hit & Run, Jeff Taylor observes:

    I'm not certain, but I think Frank Gorshin introduced me to idea of actors as real people. My little 4 or 5-year-old brain vividly seized upon the fact that the guy who was the Riddler on the 60s Batman TV series seemed to be the same guy in the wild black-white face make-up in that Star Trek show -- and boy was Bele sweaty!

    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:

    Outfit in the archvillain's question-mark-covered green body-stocking, Gorshin bedeviled Gotham City's finest--Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin, respectively--with a manic energy, a hyena laugh and assorted tranquilizer guns....

    Gorshin appeared in eight episodes, encompassing four cliffhanger storylines broadcast on back-to-back nights, in Batman's first breakout season. Then he picked up an Emmy nomination. Then he did the movie, teaming up with Bat enemies Cesar Romero (the Joker), Burgess Meredith (the Penguin) and Meriwether (Catwoman).

    Then Gorshin got a little worn out on the costume.

    "He didn't like the tights--I know that," Meriwether remembered Wednesday. "Back then, they were cotton and they [only] had a little bit of stretch in them...[In the movie], they gave him a gorgeous suit to wear--oh, it was wonderful."

    The Riddler is dead.... or is he???????????

    posted by Dan at 03:16 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

    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:

    But surely the larger point is not the story itself but that it was so eminently plausible, in Pakistan, Afghanistan and everywhere else. And it was plausible precisely because interrogation techniques designed to be offensive to Muslims were used in Iraq and Guantanamo, as administration and military officials have also confirmed.

    This resonates with a question Susanne Nossel asked here last week:

    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?

    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?

    posted by Dan at 04:26 PM | Comments (98) | Trackbacks (2)

    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:

    CBS canceled "Judging Amy," "Joan of Arcadia" and the Wednesday spinoff of "60 Minutes" while adding Jennifer Love Hewitt to its prime-time lineup — all in search of a more youthful appeal....

    CBS is convinced it can draw more younger viewers on Friday, where "Joan of Arcadia" had a puzzling decline in its sophomore season and "JAG" finished its last year. It will try two new supernatural stories: "Threshold" features a team of experts called in when the Navy discovers aliens have landed in the Atlantic Ocean. Hewitt's "Ghost Whisperer" finds her talking to dead people.

    "I think talking to ghosts may skew younger than talking to God," Moonves said. (emphasis added)

    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.

    posted by Dan at 12:38 PM | Comments (27) | Trackbacks (0)

    Contradictory signals on the dollar

    Two reports today send conflicting signals about what's going to happen to the dollar in the near term.

    In the Chicago Tribune, Bill Barnhart reports that one longstanding bear thinks Bretton Woods 2 is going to last a while:

    The good news was compounded by a bullish commentary by legendary bond-market bear Bill Gross, chief investment officer of Pimco.

    In remarks released Wednesday, Gross, who has been well known for years for his gloomy predictions about interest rates, said a political bargain between officials of the United States and Asian nations, notably China, should keep U.S. inflation and interest rates low for several more years....

    In his commentary, available at www.pimco.com, Gross said the 10-year yield could drop to 3 percent within five years.

    Professional bond traders are overwhelmingly bearish on interest rates, expecting the 10-year yield to climb this year toward 5 percent.

    But Gross argued that a political bargain between U.S. and Asian officials means "a range of 3 percent to 4.5 percent for 10-year nominal Treasuries will prevail."

    Gross said U.S. and Asian nations seem to have entered a political pact, whereby Americans can consume cheap imported goods and afford houses, while Asians can protect their economies, create jobs and maintain competitive currency values.

    The refusal of the Bush administration on Tuesday to label China as a currency manipulator for pegging its currency to the dollar contributes to the "bargain" theory.

    "America's growth has been stitched together more from the iron fist of government policies than the invisible hand of a dynamic free enterprise economy," Gross wrote.

    In his January commentary, Gross had predicted that China would revalue its currency higher in 2005, a move that likely would send the U.S. dollar lower and U.S. inflation and interest rates higher. At that time, he urged investors to hold assets in cash.

    On the other hand, Anna Fifield and Chris Giles report in the Financial Times that South Korea is about to roil these waters:

    South Korea's central bank will not intervene any further in foreign exchange markets, the governor of the Bank of Korea said on Wednesday in comments likely to unsettle financial markets.

    “I believe that we now have sufficient reserves to secure our sovereign credibility, so I do not anticipate increasing the amount of foreign reserves further,” Park Seung told the Financial Times. South Korea's foreign currency reserves stand at $206bn the fourth largest in the world.

    Mr Park said: “We now need to take more consideration of profitability, and I think we're at a stage where we need to manage our reserves in a more useful way.”

    Although he made no explicit comment on the won, Mr Park's remarks imply that South Korea is now unwilling to undertake the intervention required to stem its currency's rise....

    With Japan, China and South Korea which together hold at least a third of the world's central bank foreign exchange reserves each likely to suffer if one moves first to lessen their exposure to the dollar, some economists believe there is scope for more regional co-operation.

    Mr Park said: “I think that the economic co-operation of these three nations and the co-operation of their central banks is necessary to promote the growth and development of the global economy.”

    But the banks were working together only to maintain financial stability and were not doing anything that might “affect” international markets, he said.

    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:

    The Bank of Korea on Thursday backtracked on its comments that it did not plan to intervene further in the foreign exchange markets, after precipitating a sharp fall in the US dollar overnight.

    Currency traders said it appeared that the central bank in fact bought dollar-denominated assets on Thursday morning, less than 24 hours after Park Seung, the governor, told the Financial Times that he did not “anticipate” doing so....

    Mr Park’s comments pushed the won up sharply against the dollar in US trading on Wednesday, and it hit 999.5 immediately after the local market opened on Thursday but shortly fell back below the psychologically-important 1,000 mark to close at 1,005.

    The central bank on Thursday confirmed that Mr Park had been quoted accurately but it nevertheless released a statement saying that he had been “misunderstood.”

    “The Bank of Korea will take necessary measures whenever the currency markets are unstable. Especially, we will not sit idly by if speculative funds come in to exploit a groundless news report,” it said....

    Even Han Duck-soo, finance minister, last month said that reserves of about $200bn “may be adequate” for South Korea. But on Thursday Mr Han said Korean authorities would continue taking action when the foreign exchange market showed any instability.

    “When we see speculative forces and excessive volatility, we will act together with the Bank of Korea through smoothing operations,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Seoul.

    Here's a link to the original FT interview with Park.

    As Setser points out:

    It sure seems like the Bank of Korea (the central bank) and the Ministry of Finance (if not the entire government) are in somewhat different places. The Finance Ministry is worried about any slowdown in growth, and Korea's export growth seems to be slowing. This policy dispute just played out in a very public way.

    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.

    posted by Dan at 11:13 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

    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.

    posted by Dan at 02:07 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

    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:

    Over the past two years, I have compiled a database of every suicide bombing and attack around the globe from 1980 through 2003 - 315 in all. This includes every episode in which at least one terrorist killed himself or herself while trying to kill others, but excludes attacks authorized by a national government (like those by North Korean agents against South Korea). The data show that there is far less of a connection between suicide terrorism and religious fundamentalism than most people think.

    The leading instigator of suicide attacks is the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, a Marxist-Leninist group whose members are from Hindu families but who are adamantly opposed to religion. This group committed 76 of the 315 incidents, more than Hamas (54) or Islamic Jihad (27). Even among Muslims, secular groups like the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Al Aksa Martyr Brigades account for more than a third of suicide attacks.

    What nearly all suicide terrorist attacks actually have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland. Religion is often used as a tool by terrorist organizations in recruiting and in seeking aid from abroad, but is rarely the root cause.

    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.

    posted by Dan at 12:18 PM | Comments (56) | Trackbacks (4)

    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.

    posted by Dan at 01:49 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

    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:

    I live five to 10 metres away from the jail [in Andijan] and saw it being stormed. At 11.10pm on Thursday people in civilian clothes came in 15 cars from the direction of the Kyrgyz city of Osh.

    They were Uzbek, as far as I know. These men attacked the prison guards and drove an Ural 130 truck into the gates. They freed everybody in the jail. About 2,000 prisoners escaped. The guards were not ready for the attack - they did not even have bullets in their magazines.

    The mob were about 100- strong with automatic weapons, sniper sights and Makarov pistols. They knew the guards did not have ammunition as they drove right up to the door.

    They shot all 52 guards, including two women operating the telephone system. One guard survived by hiding in a watchtower.

    However, this Ferghana.ru report on the official Uzbek response suggests that the authorities have bullets in some of their magazines:

    Troops opened fire on thousands of demonstrators in the Uzbek city of Andijan on May13, bringing a bloody climax to protests sparked by a trial of local businessmen accused of being Islamic radicals.

    As thousands of people including many women and children took part in a rally in the centre of the city, located in the east of the Fergana Valley, two columns of armoured cars moved in on the crowds and fired on civilians apparently indiscriminately.

    IWPR’s country director Galima Bukharbaeva saw at least five blood-covered bodies lying on the ground, and many other people were injured.

    Some protesters who had earlier seized Kalashnikovs and other weapons from a military base returned fire at the security forces.

    The Weekly Standard's Stephen Schwartz argues that Andijan is an example of a fourth wave protest:

    This turmoil is unrelated to radical Islam, and Islamist extremists were unable to capitalize on it. Nor is it motivated by desperate poverty; rather, it is an expression of rising expectations. The democratizing revolution in Kyrgyzstan, which lies on the border near Andijan, electrified the Ferghana Valley. The unsettled Uzbeks now have, next door, a successful example of direct action against unjust rule.

    The crisis accelerated six weeks ago when citizens in the town of Andijan began peaceful demonstrations against the imprisonment of 23 young, local businessmen. The 23 were accused of belonging to an "Islamist conspiracy" called Akramiyya, which in reality seems to have been nothing more than a local spiritual and charitable circle. The Uzbek authorities and Russian and foreign news agencies and blogs have together accused Akramiyya of affiliation with Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT--the Liberation party), an extremist, neo-Wahhabi organization which is banned in several countries.

    But Sheikh Muhammad Sadiq Muhammad Yusuf, the 52-year-old, former grand mufti, or chief Muslim cleric for Central Asia, whom I interviewed at length in December, and who is notably pro-American, denies the charge that Akramiyya is connected to HuT. According to him (as reported by the Jamestown Foundation), Akramiyya "has nothing in common with Hizb-ut-Tahrir and other radical political Islamic organizations."

    Martha Brill Olcott, knower of all things Central Asian, makes a similar assessment in the Financial Times.

    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."

    Be sure to check out Registan.net blog for further updates -- it's the source of many of the links contained in this post.

    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 government of President Islam Karimov quickly shrugged off Bakhtiyor Rakhimov's claims as "nonsense,'' but the rebel leader asserted that his forces controlled Korasuv, a town of 20,000 on the Kyrgyz border, and were ready to fight any government troops that came to crush his rebellion. The rebels claimed to control 5,000 activists.

    "We will be building an Islamic state here in accordance with the Quran,'' Rakhimov said in an interview with The Associated Press. "People are tired of slavery.''

    The BBC has more on Rakhimov's aims.

    FINAL UPDATE: Paul Reynolds provides some useful analysis for the BBC.

    posted by Dan at 06:03 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (1)

    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.

    posted by Dan at 02:35 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (1)

    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:

    President Vicente Fox reversed course Monday and apologized for saying that Mexicans in the United States do the work that blacks won't.

    Despite growing criticism that included a stern U.S. response, Fox had refused repeatedly to back away from the comment he made Friday, saying his remark had been misinterpreted.

    But in phone conversations with Jesse Jackson Sr. and Al Sharpton, Fox said he "regretted" the statement....

    Fox agreed to set up a visit to Mexico by Jackson, Sharpton and a group of American black leaders.

    Many Mexicans hadn't considered Fox's remark Friday offensive.

    Blackface comedy is considered funny here, and many people hand out nicknames based on skin color.

    "The president was just telling the truth," said Celedonio Gonzalez, a 35-year-old carpenter who worked illegally in Dallas for six months in 2001. "Mexicans go to the United States because they have to. Blacks want to earn better wages, and the Mexican--because he is illegal--takes what they pay him."

    But Lisa Catanzarite, a sociologist at Washington State University, disputed Fox's assertion. She said there is intense competition for lucrative working-class jobs like construction and that employers usually prefer to hire immigrants who don't know their rights.

    "What Vicente Fox called a willingness to work ... translates into extreme exploitability," she said.

    Fox made the comment at an appearance in Puerto Vallarta: "There's no doubt that Mexican men and women--full of dignity, willpower and a capacity for work--are doing the work that not even blacks want to do in the United States."

    The issue reflected Fox's growing frustration with U.S. immigration policy.

    Even Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, the archbishop of Mexico City, had defended Fox's comments: "The declaration had nothing to do with racism. It is a reality in the United States that anyone can prove."

    ....While Mexico has a few, isolated black communities, the population is dominated by the country's native Indians and descendants of its Spanish colonizers. Comments that generally would be considered openly racist in the United States generate little attention here.

    One afternoon television program regularly features a comedian in blackface chasing actresses in skimpy outfits while an advertisement for a small, chocolate pastry called the "negrito"--or little black man--shows a white boy sprouting an afro as he eats the sweet.

    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 mau-mau kowtow to Jackson and Sharpton for something they say. I think it's a toss-up between Silvio Berlusconi and Vladimir Putin.

    [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:

    Does immigration reduce the labor market opportunities of less-skilled natives?.... Looking across major cities, differential immigrant inflows are strongly correlated with the relative supply of high school dropouts. Nevertheless, data from the 2000 Census shows that relative wages of native dropouts are uncorrelated with the relative supply of less-educated workers, as they were in earlier years. At the aggregate level, the wage gap between dropouts and high school graduates has remained nearly constant since 1980, despite supply pressure from immigration and the rise of other education-related wage gaps. Overall, evidence that immigrants have harmed the opportunities of less educated natives is scant.

    Card also provides evidence that contradicts the Huntington thesis on Hispanic assimilation.]

    UPDATE: Brad DeLong objects to this post without saying why he objects. From his comments section, I gather it was my use of the phrase "mau-mau," which some argue is a racially offensive term.

    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.

    posted by Dan at 10:51 AM | Comments (23) | Trackbacks (3)

    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:

    Mr. Bush has criticized Yalta at least six other times publicly, usually in Eastern Europe, but never so harshly. In the dust kicked up by the quarreling, the central questions for White House watchers are these: How did the unexpected attack on Yalta get in the president's speech? What drove his thinking? Did the White House expect the fallout?....

    At the White House, Mr. Bush's speech was written by Michael Gerson, the assistant to the president for policy and strategic planning and the former chief speechwriter who still has a big hand in Mr. Bush's major addresses. The language in Mr. Gerson's Latvia speech that Yalta, in an "attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability" left a continent "divided and unstable," built on steadily intensifying language over the previous four years.

    In June 2001 in Warsaw, Mr. Bush said, "Yalta did not ratify a natural divide, it divided a living civilization." In November 2002 in Lithuania, he declared that there would be "no more Munichs, no more Yaltas." In May 2003 in Krakow, he said, "Europe must finally overturn the bitter legacy of Yalta." This February in Brussels, Mr. Bush said, "The so-called stability of Yalta was a constant source of injustice and fear."

    An administration official said on Friday that in the discussions about Mr. Bush's address - the president typically gives his speechwriters big-picture thematic direction and then has a heavy hand in the editing - the goal was to make the point that "countries need to look at their pasts." In this case, the White House wanted to make the point that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Mr. Bush's host the following day, should apologize for the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, which led to the Soviet annexation of Latvia and the other Baltic states.

    So Mr. Bush's assertion of American failure at Yalta was viewed at the White House as a model for what Mr. Putin should - but did not - do. It was also a poke in the eye to the Russians, salve to Mr. Bush's Baltic hosts and an effort to contrast what Mr. Bush promotes as his uncompromising vision for democracy in the Middle East with what he sees as the expedience of the past.

    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.

    posted by Dan at 05:43 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)

    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]n discussing the process that birthed the prequels, Lucas finally seems capable of being candid. one are the If it made $400 million then it must have been good and The kids loved it! rationalizations (both of which can be strongly supported) that he peddled while promoting Clones. Now he volunteers that his prequel story line -- derived from material he'd brainstormed over 30 years ago to inform his writing of Star Wars -- was "thin.... It was not written as a movie. It's basically a character study and exhibition piece about politics--two things that are not dramatic. [Not like] the dramatic story that was constructed for Star Wars. But I wanted to be faithful to it, so I didn't construct other stories. It is what it is."

    Nor did he want to consolidate Menace and Clones, either. Lucas felt that exploring "the full range of Anakin's personality" made sense if three films addressed him at three different ages. And he wanted no hint of the dark side in Skywalker until Sith. "He has to start good and turn evil," says Lucas. "You can't have a monster turning into a monster. That's not a story."

    Lucas believes that his biggest gamble was starting the saga with Jake Lloyd's gee-whiz kid in Menace. Even his marketing team was skeptical. "That's a little bit why it got overhyped. People [here] were nervous if it was going to break even," says Lucas of Menace's notorious promotional push. "I didn't care. I said, 'This is the story. I know I'm going to need to use Hamburger Helper to get it to two hours, but that's what I want to do.'"

    By Lucas' own calculation, 60 percent of the prequel plot he dreamed up decades earlier takes place in Sith. The remaining 40 percent he split evenly between Menace and Clones, meaning each film contained a lot of...filler. Or, in Lucas parlance, "jazz riffs... things that I enjoy... just doodle around a lot."

    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!!

    posted by Dan at 02:03 AM | Comments (32) | Trackbacks (3)

    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.

    "You should have a blog."

    Apparently I push my opinions on my friends rather aggressively, because I often hear this remark.

    Last week, I had my chance. My wife and I agreed to be "guest bloggers" - the online equivalent of what David Brenner used to do for Johnny Carson - for Dan Drezner, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, who runs a popular libertarian-conservative blog, DanielDrezner.com.

    How hard could blogging be? You roll out of bed, turn on your computer, scan the headlines, think up some clever analysis while brushing your teeth, type it onto your site and you're off.

    But as I discovered, blogging is no longer for amateurs or the faint of heart. Blogging - if it's done well - has evolved into an all-consuming art....

    I did have sympathy for the audience. They expected their usual diet of conservative commentary. Instead, they got a liberal foreign policy expert (Suzanne) and a liberal historian linking to Arts & Letters Daily (aldaily.com) and the History News Network (hnn.us).

    One Dreznerite vilified me for linking to a piece by the liberal journalist Joe Conason ("Why on earth would you think that gutter-dwelling hack would have any credibility on this blog?").

    At one point, Dan took time out from real surfing in Hawaii to post a note informing readers that he had two liberals subbing for him. He must have been watching the train wreck on his beloved blog with horror....

    I wasn't the only newcomer to blogging last week. On the ballyhooed "Huffington Post," Gary Hart, Walter Cronkite and David Mamet dipped their toes in the blogosphere as well.

    I don't know how they'll fare, but I doubt that celebrity will attract readers for long. To succeed in blogging you need to understand it's a craft, with its own tricks of the trade. You need a thick skin. And you must put your life on hold to feed an electronic black hole.

    What else did I learn by sitting in for Dan Drezner? That I'm not cut out for blogging.

    Some reactions to this piece from Ann Althouse, Sheila O'Malley, Bill Quick, QandO, Steven Taylor, Tom Maguire, and Pejman Yousefzadeh. My own jet-lagged thoughts:

    1) Some useful links: Here's my explanation for why I invited Greenberg and Nossel to guest-blog. Click here to read Greenberg's Yalta article in Slate, and here to read Greenberg's follow-on post which contains the "moral cretin" comment. Having been in Hawaii and blissfully oblivious to the whole speech, I'm not prepared to comment on it one way or another -- but go read my colleague Jacob Levy's rejoinder to Greenberg and other critics of the Yalta reference in The New Republic Online.

    2) For the record: I checked in on the blog/e-mail only once while in Maui (David, I was snorkeling, not surfing), and posted the public service message because I received a few e-mails from readers who were confused about exactly who was blogging. UPDATE: CNN got confused too.

    3) My lovely wife, after reading Greenberg's essay, turned to me and asked puzzledly, "there are Dreznerites?" I'll leave it to the commenters themselves to answer that question [If the answer is yes, could you ask them if they'd be interested in buying wildly overpriced danieldrezner.com merchandise?--ed.]

    4) I hate to break it to Greenberg, but in my writing experience, the worst invective I've ever received hasn't been from blogging, but from.... this Slate essay on Bush's management of foreign policy. Click here for some of the more amusing responses.

    5) And c'mon, David -- my readers are quite familiar with Arts & Letters Daily and the History News Network (neither of which to my knowledge has an explicit or implicit political bias). And I've had a few conservatives question whether I provide a "usual diet of conservative commentary" in my posts (again, see that Slate piece of mine).

    5) Finally, I would encourage David not to give up on blogging for the wrong reasons. I agree that blogging is a craft, but not one that requires hobbyhorses, shticks or catchphrases. In my experience, successful political/policy blogging does require an unusual mix of skills:

    a) The self-confidence to post about anything and everything;

    b) The willingness to post admissions of error after screwing up;

    c) Having the courage to walk away from a half-baked post when you recognize that your thoughts are too inchoate to press "Publish.";

    d) A very, very good internal editing mechanism [Thank you!--ed];

    e) A recognition that blogging is like almost everything else in life -- a skill that improves with plenty of practice;

    g) A saintly spouse.

    Of course, Greenberg is a fellow untenured academic, which presents some perfectly valid reasons for not blogging -- but that's the topic of another post entirely.

    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):

    I’ve just found a free moment. Because you said you’d be back Monday [It's true, I did--DD], I thought I’d do a final post today (Sunday). I was planning to flag the Times piece and say thanks and farewell. But now you’re back before I made my final post. So I was wondering if you might put up a few last thoughts from me. (In fact, please include this graf, because I want readers to know I meant to notify them of the Times piece.) So herewith:

    (1) A big, big thanks again to you and to your readers. (“Dreznerites” was Suzanne’s coinage, meant as a term of endearment.) For all the harried moments I focused on in my Times piece, I really had a lot of fun doing it. Of course, I know full well that your readers aren’t monolithically conservative, or disproportionately mean-spirited; those were just the ones who chose to mix it up with me -- as is their prerogative, nay, their duty. Above all I was grateful for not just your readers’ indulgence but for their intelligent comments. As with the Yalta piece, they led me to clarify my arguments.

    (2) I hope you and your readers realize that the Times piece was meant above all as a statement of my newfound appreciation for what blogging entails. I think reader Dustin Ryan Ridgeway is right to say that other bloggers’ commentary may have colored the reception of my piece. [He has a point--Glenn Reynolds took the story in the vein Greenberg intended--DD.] My god, I certainly wasn’t trying to “sniff condescendingly,” as another reader put it. My key point in the Times piece: good blogging “requires as much talent as sculpting a magazine feature or a taut op-ed piece.” I meant that sincerely.

    (3) We may differ on the precise ingredients that make a good blog. But I should make clear that I don’t see hobbyhorses, schticks or catchphrases as bad at all. I like these things! Also, like you, I found that having a saintly spouse came in handy.

    (4) I think most readers did appreciate that my Times piece was tongue-in-cheek. But for those who didn’t: No, I wasn’t really all that shaken by Dan’s quite sensible “public service message.” Nor did I really presume readers ignorant of my favorite sites -- though I own up to ignorance of a lot of blogs out there. And I’m a bit thicker skinned than perhaps I suggested (talk about schtick!). Sorry if my humor was lost on some.

    (5) I certainly did not wish to imply that harsh discourse exists only in the blogosphere. The Internet as a whole facilitates hasty and intemperate posting and e-mailing -- something we’ve known since those discussions of “flaming” ten years ago. Slate constantly struggles to maintain a high-quality “Fray” that balances civility with freewheeling debates. And as I wanted to say in my Times piece (lines were cut for space): talk-radio and shout-TV, not to mention many of the books dominating the best-seller lists these days, prove that no medium has a monopoly on shrillness.

    (6) Your own jet-lagged, tossed-off thoughts are remarkably eloquent and sharp. Another reason I admire you and other top bloggers. It really is hard to do well.

    So -- and I think I can speak for Suzanne on this last note -- thanks again, and farewell. I hope to see you in bricks-and-mortar land sometime. And if you need a tenure letter, I’m there.

    Warmest regards,


    All emphases in original.

    posted by Dan at 11:29 AM | Comments (30) | Trackbacks (3)

    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.

    posted by Dan at 06:30 AM

    Saturday, May 14, 2005

    Good Walls Make Good Neighbors?

    I am resorting to double-entry blogkeeping but, hey, its the weekend . . .

    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.

    posted by at 10:16 AM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (0)

    Friday, May 13, 2005

    Toilet Flushing

    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.

    posted by at 09:09 PM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (1)

    Lincoln's Been Thinkin'

    Mike Crowley at The New Republic puts Lincoln Chafee's dilemma in context:

    These days, Chafee's life is one heavy load after another. Arguably Washington's chief Republican heretic, Chafee was alone among Senate Republicans in opposing the Iraq war resolution and one of two against the 2001 Bush tax cuts; last month, he joined two other Republican moderates in voting against his party's annual budget resolution. But lately, he's been trying to make some amends with the party he has spent the past few years needling. That's because Chafee faces a rough reelection campaign next year. And he understands that, without the help of the very Republicans he infuriates, he could be toast.

    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.

    Crowley identifies

    an understanding among Democrats that their road back to a Senate majority probably requires them to take on Republican moderates about whom they feel a reservoir of goodwill. Just as the GOP has steadily knocked off conservative Southern Democrats, even those willing to work with them on occasion, Democratic strategists say they must do the same.

    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.

    posted by at 11:59 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (2)

    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:

    Bolton won't get a vote before Memorial Day recess. This marathon has a long way to go, and I've been training.

    This is all looking quite good.

    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:

    And so, John Bolton lives another day—battered, bruised, and crippled, but it doesn't matter because all he needed to do was to survive today, and, now that he's done that, he'll almost certainly be confirmed as the next U.N. ambassador.

    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?

    posted by at 11:34 AM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

    Bolton Bulletin

    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.

    posted by at 12:02 AM | Comments (31) | Trackbacks (0)

    Thursday, May 12, 2005

    Voice of Voinovich

    Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) on the nomination of John Bolton to U.N. ambassador:

    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.
    It was not long ago when America's love of freedom was a force of inspiration to the world and America was admired for its democracy, generosity and its willingness to help others in need of protection.

    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.
    There are not many allies standing up to join us in bearing the cost of these wars, particularly Iraq.

    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.
    Another reason I believe Mr. Bolton is not the best candidate for the job is his tendency to act without regard for the views of others and without respect for the chain of command.
    We have heard that Mr. Bolton has a reputation for straying off message on occasion. Ambassador Hubbard testified that the tone of Mr. Bolton's speech on North Korea hurt rather than helped efforts to achieve the president's objectives. According to several respectable sources, Mr. Bolton strayed off message too often and had to be called on the carpet quite often to be reprimanded. In fairness, those sources said that once reprimanded, Mr. Bolton got back on track, but that he needs to be kept on a short leash. However, this leaves me a very uneasy feeling.
    Who is to say that Mr. Bolton will not continue to stray off message as ambassador to the U.N.?
    Who is to say he will not hurt rather than help U.S. relations with the international community and our desire to reform the U.N.?
    When discussing all these concerns with Secretary Rice, John Bolton's propensity to get off message, his lack of interpersonal skills, his tendency to abuse others who disagree with him, I was informed by the secretary of state that she understood all these things and in spite of them still feels that John Bolton is the best choice and that she would be in frequent communication with him and he would be closely supervised. My private thought at the time, and I should have expressed it to her, is: Why in the world would you want to send somebody up to the U.N. that has to be supervised?
    I'm also concerned about Mr. Bolton's interpersonal skills. Mr. Chairman, I understand there will be several vacant senior posts on the staff when Mr. Bolton arrives in his new position. As a matter of fact, I understand all the senior people – or five of them – are leaving right now. For example, Anne Patterson, who is highly regarded, is moving to another position. And I've been told by several people that, if he gets there, to be successful, he's going to need somebody like Anne Patterson to get the job done for him. As such, Mr. Bolton's going to face a challenge. These people are gone right now. He's going to have to find some new ones. But his challenge right now is to inspire, lead and manage a new team, a staff of 150 individuals that he will need to rely on to get the job done. We have all witnessed the testimony and observations related to Mr. Bolton's interpersonal and management skills. I have concerns about Mr. Bolton's ability to inspire and lead a team so that it can be as effective as possible in completing the important task before him.
    And I'm not the only one.
    I understand that 59 U.S. diplomats who served under administrations from both sides of the aisle sent a letter to the committee saying that Mr. Bolton's the wrong man for the job. I want to note that the interview given by Colin Powell's chief of staff, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, has said that Mr. Bolton would make an abysmal ambassador, that he is, quote, incapable of listening to people and taking into account their views. I would also like to highlight the words of another person that I highly respect who worked with Mr. Bolton and told me that if Mr. Bolton were confirmed, he'd be OK for a short time, but within six months his poor interpersonal skills and lack of self-discipline would cause major problems.
    Additionally, I wanted to note my concern that Colin Powell, the person to whom Mr. Bolton answered to over the last four years, was conspicuously absent from a letter signed by former secretaries of state recommending Mr. Bolton's confirmation. He's the one that had to deal with him on a day-to-day basis. He's the one that's more capable of commenting about whether or not he's got the ability to get the job done and his name was not on that letter.
    We are facing an era of foreign relations in which the choice for our ambassador to the United Nations should be one of the most thoughtful decisions we make. The candidate needs to be both a diplomat and a manager. A manager is important. Interpersonal skills are important. The way you treat other people – do you treat them with dignity and respect – very important. You must have the ability to persuade and inspire our friends to communicate and convince, to listen, to absorb the ideas of others. Without such virtues, we will face more challenges in our efforts to win the war on terrorism, to spread democracy and to foster stability globally.
    The question is, is John Bolton the best person for the job? The administration has said they believe he's the right man. They say that despite his interpersonal shortcomings, he knows the U.N. and he can reform the organization and make it more powerful and relevant to the world.
    Now, let me say there is no doubt that John Bolton should be commended and thanked for his service and his particular achievements. He has accomplished some important objectives against great odds.
    As a sponsor of legislation that established an office on global anti-Semitism in the State Department, legislation that I worked very hard to get passed, I am particularly impressed by his work to combat global anti-Semitism. I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Bolton that we must get the U.N. to change its anti-Israeli bias. Further, I'm impressed by Mr. Bolton's achievements in the areas of arms control, specifically the Moscow Treaty, the G-8 Global Partnership Fund, and the president's Proliferation Security Initiative.
    Despite these successes, there is no doubt that Mr. Bolton has serious deficiencies in the areas that are critical to be a good ambassador. As Carl Ford said, he is a kiss-up and kick-down leader who will not tolerate those who disagree with them and who goes out of his way to retaliate for their disagreement.
    As Ambassador Hubbard said, he does not listen when an esteemed colleague offers suggested changes to temper language in a speech. And as I've already mentioned, former secretary of state Powell's chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson said he would be an abysmal ambassador.
    Some others who have worked closely with Mr. Bolton stated he's an ideologue and fosters an atmosphere of intimidation. He does not tolerate disagreement. He does not tolerate dissent. Another esteemed individual who has worked with Mr. Bolton told me that even when he had success he had the tendency to lord it over and say, Hey, boy, look what I did. Carl Ford testified that he'd never seen anyone behave as badly in all his days at the State Department, and that he would not even – testified before this committee if John Bolton had simply followed protocol and simple rules of management – you know, just follow the procedure.
    Mr. Chairman, I have to say that after poring over the hundreds of pages of testimony and – you know, I wasn't here for those hearings, but I did my penance, I read all of it – I believe that John Bolton would have been fired if he'd worked for a major corporation. This is not the behavior of a true leader who upholds the kind of democracy that President Bush is seeking to promote globally. This is not the behavior that should be endorsed as the face of the United States to the world community and the United Nations. Rather, Mr. Chairman, it is my opinion that John Bolton is the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be.
    I worry about the signal that we're sending to thousands of individuals under the State Department who are serving their country in foreign service, in civil service, living at posts across the world and in some cases risking their lives, also they can represent our country, promote diplomacy and contribute to the safety of Americans everywhere.
    I just returned from a trip to the Balkans. I had a chance to spend four days with people from the State Department. He's not what they consider to be the ideal person, Mr. Chairman, to be our ambassador to the United States – to the United Nations. And I think it's important that we think about the signal that we send out there to those people that are all over this world that are doing the very best job that they can to represent the United States of America.
    This is an important nomination by the president. What we're saying to these people when we confirm such an individual to one of the highest positions – so what are we saying? I want to emphasize that I weighed Mr. Bolton's strengths carefully. I have weighed the fact that this is the president's nominee.
    All things being equal, it is my proclivity to support the president's nominee. However, in this case, all things are not equal. It's a different world today than it was four years ago. Our enemies are Muslim extremists and religious fanatics who have hijacked the Koran and have convinced people that the way to get to Heaven is through jihad against the world, particularly the U.S. We must recognize that to be successful in this war, one of our most important tools is public diplomacy.
    After hours of deliberation, telephone calls, personal conversations, reading hundreds of pages of transcripts and asking for guidance from above, I have come to the determination that the United States can do better than John Bolton.
    The world needs an ambassador who's interested in encouraging other people's points of view and discouraging any atmosphere of intimidation. The world needs an American ambassador to the U.N. who will show that the United States has respect for other countries and intermediary organizations, that we are team players and consensus builders and promoters of symbiotic relationships. And moving forward with the international community, we should remember the words of the great Scot poet who said, Oh, that some great power would give me the wisdom to see myself as other people see me.
    That being said, Mr. Chairman, I'm not so arrogant to think that I should impose my judgment and perspective of the U.S. position in the world community on the rest of my colleagues. We owe it to the president to give Mr. Bolton an up-or-down vote on the floor of the United States Senate. My hope is that on a bipartisan basis we can send Mr. Bolton's nomination to the floor without recommendation and let the Senate work its will.
    If that goes to the floor, I would plead to my colleagues in the Senate to consider the decision and its consequences carefully, to read all the pertinent material – so often we get nominees and we don't spend the time to look into the background of the individual – and to ask themselves several questions.
    Will John Bolton do the best job possible representing a trans- Atlantic face of America at the U.N.?
    Will he be able to pursue the needed reforms at the U.N. despite his damaged credibility?
    Will he share information with the right individuals?
    And will he solicit information from the right individuals, including his subordinates, so he can make the most informed decision?
    Is he capable of advancing the president and secretary of state's effort to advance our public diplomacy?
    Does he have the character, leadership, interpersonal skills, self-discipline, common decency, and understanding of the chain of command to lead his team to victory?
    Will he recognize and seize opportunities to repair and strengthen relationships, promote peace, uphold democracy as a team with our fellow nations?
    Lastly, Mr. Chairman, I would like to say this. I have met with Mr. Bolton on two occasions, spent almost two hours with him. I like Mr. Bolton. I think he's a decent man. Our conversations have been candid and cordial. But, Mr. Chairman, I really don't believe he's the best man that we can send to the United Nations.

    posted by at 01:23 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (4)

    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:

    Foreign affairs assertiveness now almost completely distinguishes Republican-oriented voters from Democratic-oriented voters; this was a relatively minor factor in past typologies. ... [Also, w]hile Republican-inclined voters range from the religious to the very religious, the Democratic Party is much more divided in terms of religious and cultural values. Its core constituents include both seculars and the highly religious.

    The value gaps for the GOP are, perhaps surprisingly, greatest with respect to the role of government. The Republicans' bigger tent now includes more lower-income voters than it once did, and many of these voters favor an activist government to help working class people. Government regulation to protect the environment is an issue with particular potential to divide Republicans.

    I'm eager to read more.

    Hat tip: Tapped.

    posted by at 09:25 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

    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:

    After the revolution, an outpouring of evangelical religion erupted, in which, as the historian Nathan Hatch has written, "the right to think for oneself became . . . the hallmark of popular Christianity."

    "The right to think for oneself." That proposition may sound unremarkable today, but it was a radical notion 200 years ago. Traveling ministers in the early 19th century carried that message to working people throughout the country. The movement they represented—deeply democratic and, in its focus on personal revelation, at odds with Church hierarchy—would do more than anything else to spread Evangelical Protestantism and eventually make it the dominant religion in the nation.

    Note: "The right to think for oneself" refers to understanding scripture individually, as opposed to accepting the authority of church leaders.

    posted by at 09:16 AM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

    Republican Trifecta?

    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.

    posted by at 08:44 AM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (1)

    Abu Ghraib Etecetera

    A little type-to-type with Belgravia Dispatch on this issue appears at Democracy Arsenal this morning.

    posted by at 08:38 AM | Trackbacks (0)

    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.

    posted by at 10:06 PM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (1)

    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.

    posted by at 09:18 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    The White House Doesn't Do Propaganda...

    ... the federal agencies have to do it on their own. We all remember Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher.

    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:

    "From NRCS's standpoint, it all reflected . . . very positively on the agency and what they were doing," Smith said. "It was just another method of getting their success stories out in the mass media."

    Smith said he told magazine editors of his government contract, and he received no fee from the publications. One of the Outdoor Oklahoma articles was accompanied by a note identifying Smith as a freelance writer who works as a biologist for the agency. None of the articles appear to disclose his federal contract.

    Gagner said the agency's intention was not to hide its role. And while the agency would consider such an arrangement again, "we would make sure there was somewhere in the article that says . . . that that writing was done by, for" the agency, he said.

    posted by at 09:06 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

    When Are You up for Tenure, Dan?

    Just thought we both should take a look at this report.

    posted by at 09:56 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (1)

    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.

    Not anymore.

    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:

    If Yalta was a betrayal of small nations as immoral as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, why do we venerate Churchill and FDR? At Yalta, this pair secretly ceded those small nations to Stalin, co-signing a cynical "Declaration on Liberated Europe" that was a monstrous lie.

    As FDR and Churchill consigned these peoples to a Stalinist hell run by a monster they alternately and affectionately called "Uncle Joe" and "Old Bear," why are they not in the history books alongside Neville Chamberlain, who sold out the Czechs at Munich by handing the Sudetenland over to Germany? At least the Sudeten Germans wanted to be with Germany. No Christian peoples of Europe ever embraced their Soviet captors or Stalinist quislings.

    [Love that throwaway line about "Christian peoples." -- Ed. Don't get me started. ...]

    posted by at 09:46 AM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (3)

    More Yalta Reverberations

    Joe Conason expresses more precisely than I did why Bush's Yalta remarks were so scandalous:

    There is nothing wrong with criticism of Yalta, or for that matter of Roosevelt, his conduct of the war and his dealings with our wartime allies. Although F.D.R. achieved the status of household deity for many American families, including mine, he was far from perfect.

    The implication of the President’s speech in Riga, however, is that the decisions reached at Yalta were morally equivalent to the feeble betrayal at Munich and the dictators’ bargain between Stalin and Hitler.

    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:

    Why did Bush mention Yalta at all? For most people alive today this is long dead history, but Bush's speechwriters are well aware that "Yalta" was once a codeword extraordinaire among a certain segment of the population. In fact, it was perhaps the single biggest bugaboo of the wingnut right in the late 40s and 50s, right up there with Alger Hiss and Joe McCarthy's list of communists in the State Department.

    But most of those people are dead. So who was the reference aimed at? Not just the Latvians, that's for sure. Bush is a master of using codewords in his speeches, and inserting Yalta into this speech wasn't a casual decision. It was there for someone. Who?

    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.

    posted by at 09:09 AM | Comments (49) | Trackbacks (3)

    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.

    posted by at 10:16 PM | Comments (34) | Trackbacks (1)

    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.

    posted by at 09:40 PM | Comments (41) | Trackbacks (0)

    "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.

    Update: Liberals Against Terrorism and Matt Yglesias are both on the Yalta case.

    posted by at 05:25 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (1)

    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.

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

    Yalta Kocker

    Last year Bush endorsed a "stab in the back" theory of the Vietnam War. Last weekend, he endorsed a similar view of the Yalta accords. My take at Slate.

    posted by at 02:24 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (4)

    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. ...

    posted by at 09:29 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (1)

    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.])

    posted by at 10:27 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    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.

    posted by at 10:22 PM | Comments (60) | Trackbacks (2)


    In the LAT David Shaw asks:

    As the list of media miscreants continues to grow — with the name of a new fabulist or plagiarist added almost daily, it sometimes seems — the inevitable question arises: Are there more lazy, careless, duplicitous, dishonest journalists working today than in earlier generations?

    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.

    posted by at 06:15 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    Thomas Friedman's Moustache is Curved

    I don't think much of the New York Press, but I am grateful to ALDaily for linking to Matt Taibbi's review of Thomas Friedman's new book. Some highlights:

    It's not that he occasionally screws up and fails to make his metaphors and images agree. It's that he always screws it up. ... The difference between Friedman and an ordinary bad writer is that an ordinary bad writer will, say, call some businessman a shark and have him say some tired, uninspired piece of dialogue: Friedman will have him spout it. And that's guaranteed, every single time. He never misses.


    On an ideological level, Friedman's new book is the worst, most boring kind of middlebrow horseshit. ... Man flies on planes, observes the wonders of capitalism, says we're not in Kansas anymore. (He actually says we're not in Kansas anymore.) That's the whole plot right there.

    [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.

    [Not so fast. Where do you get off expropriating Drezner's "--Ed." gimmick? Well, he stole it (scroll down) from Mickey Kaus, didn't he?]

    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....

    posted by at 01:42 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

    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.

    Even a cursory examination of some of the actions that Clinton's Democratic critics point to as proving his accommodation to conservative ideology--such as signing a balanced budget, pushing for welfare reform, and declaring an end to the "era of big government"--show something more than a search for the center. ... Three notions--America's increasing global interdependence, the importance of the bonds of community, and the need to rethink government for a post-bureaucratic age--formed the basis for Clinton's approach to government.

    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.)

    posted by at 10:35 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    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.

    posted by at 11:22 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (1)

    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.

    posted by at 10:44 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

    Nuclear Freeze

    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:

    A 15-year term would still provide insulation from political pressure; that tenure is seven years longer than any president can serve. It would allow plenty of time for a judge or justice to make a substantial contribution while diluting the efforts of any president to project his views onto future generations. It has worked admirably well in other jobs that require independence to be effective -- for example, the Comptroller General of the United States.

    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!

    posted by at 09:28 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (2)

    Speaking Frankly

    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:

    What makes national security such a winner for Republicans is that is dramatizes the same negative qualities of liberalism that we see in the so-called "values" issues, only much more forcefully. War casts in sharp relief [the popular image of] the inauthenticity of the liberals, the insincerity of their patriotism, and their intellectual distance (always trying to "understand" the terrorists' motives) from the raw emotions felt by ordinary Americans—each quality an expression of the deracinated upper-classness that is thought to be the defining characteristic of liberalism. ... If you relish chardonnay/lattes/ snowboarding, you will not fight. If you talk like a Texan, you are a two-fisted he-man who knows life's hardships and are ready to scrap at a moment's notice.

    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.

    posted by at 09:37 AM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (1)

    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.

    posted by at 08:35 AM | Comments (34) | Trackbacks (0)

    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.

    posted by at 07:47 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

    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.

    posted by at 01:55 PM | Comments (40) | Trackbacks (4)

    Friday, May 6, 2005

    Aloha..... again

    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:

    Suzanne Nossel is a Senior Fellow at the Security and Peace Institute. She served as Deputy to the Ambassador for UN Management and Reform at the US Mission to the United Nations from 1999 – 2001 under Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke. There she represented the U.S. in the UN’s General Assembly negotiating a deal to settle the U.S.’s arrears to the world body. Prior to that Suzanne served as a Consultant at McKinsey & Company and as a staff attorney at Children’s Rights Inc. During the early 1990s Suzanne worked in Johannesburg, South Africa on the implementation of South Africa’s National Peace Accord, a multi-party agreement aimed at curbing political violence during that country’s transition to democracy. Ms. Nossel has done election monitoring and human rights documentation in Bosnia and Kosovo. She is also the author of Presumed Equal: What America’s Top Women Lawyers Really Think About Their Firms (Career Press, 1998). She writes frequently on foreign policy topics, and a list of her articles appears here. She is part of the group blog Democracy Arsenal. Ms. Nossel is currently an executive in New York City, where she lives with her husband David Greenberg and her son Leo.

    That David Greenberg fellow will also be guest-blogging here:

    David Greenberg is an assistant professor of Journalism and Media Studies and History at Rutgers University. His first book, Nixon's Shadow: The History of an Image (W.W. Norton, 2003), won the American Journalism History Award, the Washington Monthly Annual Political Book Award, and the Columbia University Bancroft Dissertation Award. Greenberg has previously served as an assistant to Bob Woodward, and as managing editor and acting editor of The New Republic. He has written for many scholarly and popular publications including The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The Atlantic Monthly, Foreign Affairs and The Journal of American History. He is also the author of the "History Lesson" column at Slate.

    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?

    posted by Dan at 09:17 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

    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:

    [I]nternational law matters but that it is less powerful and less significant than public officials, legal experts, and the media believe. International law... is simply a product of states pursuing their interests on the international stage. It does not pull states towards compliance contrary to their interests, and the possibilities for what it can achieve are limited.

    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.....

    posted by Dan at 04:43 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (1)

    Thursday, May 5, 2005

    Raking in the big blog bucks

    Glenn Reynolds and Roger L. Simon speculate about the big bucks that could be blowing towards the blogosphere's.

    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:

    I like your blog. It has great information,
    good stories and lively conversation. We are re-launching our web site with
    brand new interactive features such as our Jewish LA Guide-- a one-stop web
    hub for all of our visitors’ Jewish needs.

    To promote and increase traffic to the site, we are sponsoring a give away
    of an Apple IPod during the month of June 2005. The winner will be picked
    at random on July 1, 2005. We would like you to consider posting a link to
    our site or pasting the PR piece below on your blog. I know our site will
    interest many of your visitors, and nothing will catch their eye faster than
    a free IPod. As a thank you, we will send you a $10 gift certificate to
    . (emphasis added).

    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!

    posted by Dan at 05:13 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (1)

    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:

    When Melody Townsel, the Texas woman who claims that U.N.-ambassador nominee John Bolton chased her through a Moscow hotel, throwing things at her and "behaving like a madman," first tried to tell her story to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the committee showed no interest. It was only after she turned to the influential far-Left website DailyKos that Democrats on the committee realized Townsel might be a powerful weapon in their campaign to defeat the Bolton nomination.

    Read the whole thing (thanks to alert reader R.H. for the link).

    posted by Dan at 03:11 PM | Comments (25) | Trackbacks (1)

    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:

    1) The bill of rights is not causing the opposition; Horowitz and his tactics are the cause. From Jacobson's piece:

    The document itself strikes a decidedly nonpartisan tone. The problem many people have with it is the partisanship of the man who wrote it.

    Republicans, not Democrats, have sponsored Mr. Horowitz's bill. Conservative students, not liberal ones, have testified in support of it. And right-wing foundations, not left-leaning ones, contribute to his center, and in turn, his campaign....

    Todd Gitlin, now a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia, also has a problem with the bill as legislation. The actual text of it is fine, he says. "If it came across my desk as a petition, I'd probably sign it." But "the attempt to rope legislatures into enforcing rules of fairness and decorum on university campuses is misguided and perverse."

    Gitlin's remark is triggered by Horowitz's campaign to have state legislatures take action on his proposal. What's odd about Horowitz's approach is this section of Horowitz's proposed bill of rights:

    Academic freedom consists in protecting the intellectual independence of professors, researchers and students in the pursuit of knowledge and the expression of ideas from interference by legislators or authorities within the institution itself. This means that no political, ideological or religious orthodoxy will be imposed on professors and researchers through the hiring or tenure or termination process, or through any other administrative means by the academic institution. Nor shall legislatures impose any such orthodoxy through their control of the university budget.

    2) I'm not sure Horowitz understands how the academy works. From the article:

    Mr. Horowitz has always wanted to be a scholar himself.

    After earning a bachelor's degree in English from Columbia, he attended the University of California at Berkeley. He says he got bored with his graduate program and left with a master's degree in English. "Everything had been mined," he explains. There was "nothing to research that was interesting anymore."

    Instead he wrote a book on American foreign policy in the cold war, a book on Marxist theory, and one on Shakespeare....

    [Horowitz] simply believes he has been blacklisted by academe. Although he says he was a "leading figure in the New Left," professors do not assign his books, nor do they refer to his work in the hundreds of courses taught on the 1960s, he says. They don't invite him to speak in those courses, either....

    If he were liberal, he contends, he could be an editor at the [New York] Times or a department chairman at Harvard University.

    Could someone who's a friend of Horowitz please take him aside and point out that not even Harvard awards department chairmanships to people who drop out of Ph.D. programs when they conclude that there was, "nothing to research that was interesting anymore."

    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:

    [University of Illinois professor Cary] Nelson said that he knew of one professor (not at Illinois) who suffered a breakdown after he was denied tenure, and responded in part by stripping naked and climbing into a college building by hauling himself up a wall, holding onto ivy, and climbing in. The professor was eventually able to reverse the decision and to win tenure.

    And the paragraph that was the most chilling:

    Nelson of Illinois said that the system is sufficiently “crazy” that one can’t help but lose faith in it. “Let’s say you’ve published your first book and articles and they are great and then some goon on the committee says you haven’t done enough conference papers. The whole thing can come undone. Or you’ve got six letters and they are all positive except for one small criticism in one letter. Someone on the committee will say, ‘Ah. Someone had the guts to tell the truth.’ And suddenly you are in jeopardy because of one person’s whim.”

    posted by Dan at 02:59 PM | Comments (53) | Trackbacks (1)

    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:

    Since the days of Adam Smith and David Ricardo, advocates of free trade and the division of labour, including this newspaper, have lauded the advantages of those economic principles. Until now, though, no one has suggested that they might be responsible for the very existence of humanity. But that is the thesis propounded by Jason Shogren, of the University of Wyoming, and his colleagues. For Dr Shogren is suggesting that trade and specialisation are the reasons Homo sapiens displaced previous members of the genus, such as Homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthal man), and emerged triumphant as the only species of humanity....

    One thing Homo sapiens does that Homo neanderthalensis shows no sign of having done is trade. The evidence suggests that such trade was going on even 40,000 years ago. Stone tools made of non-local materials, and sea-shell jewellery found far from the coast, are witnesses to long-distance exchanges. That Homo sapiens also practised division of labour and specialisation is suggested not only by the skilled nature of his craft work, but also by the fact that his dwellings had spaces apparently set aside for different uses.

    To see if trade might be enough to account for the dominance of Homo sapiens, Dr Shogren and his colleagues created a computer model of population growth that attempts to capture the relevant variables for each species. These include fertility, mortality rates, hunting efficiency and the number of skilled and unskilled hunters in each group, as well as levels of skill in making objects such as weapons, and the ability to specialise and trade....

    According to the model, this arrangement resulted in everyone getting more meat, which drove up fertility and thus increased the population. Since the supply of meat was finite, that left less for Neanderthals, and their population declined.

    A computer model was probably not necessary to arrive at this conclusion. But what the model does suggest, which is not self-evident, is how rapidly such a decline might take place. Depending on the numbers plugged in, Neanderthals become extinct between 2,500 and 30,000 years after the two species begin competing—a range that nicely brackets reality. Moreover, in the model, the presence of a trading economy in the modern human population can result in the extermination of Neanderthals even if the latter are at an advantage in traditional biological attributes, such as hunting ability.

    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.

    posted by Dan at 01:59 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (1)

    Gone guestin'

    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:

    Joseph Biden
    Wesley Clark
    Jonathan Clarke
    Nikolas Gvosdev
    Heather Hurlburt
    Nancy Soderberg
    Michael Tomasky

    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.

    UPDATE: My first post for them is up, and, hey, whaddaya know, one of the commenters has already written, "I hope many of your close relatives get a serious head injury." Gonna be a fun week!

    SECOND UPDATE: My second post is up -- on whether funding civil society will aid with democratization.

    posted by Dan at 09:10 AM | Comments (50) | Trackbacks (5)