Monday, October 31, 2005

Hey, Karen Hughes!!! Over here!!! It's about Pakistan!!!

Dear Underscretary of State Hughes:

Hey there. Sorry to shout again. I hope you've recovered from any jet lag suffered from your recent Middle East listening tour.

Anyway, I wanted to write you about Pakistan. You may or may not know that they've suffered a pretty devastating earthquake there recently. The U.S. has already dispatched aid to the region, but the amount that has been allocated pales in comparison to the aid dispersed after the tsunami in late 2004/early 2005.

The reason I bring this up is that the tsunami aid brought about a tremendous amount of goodwill in places like India and Indonesia. There's already some evidence that the aid sent to Pakistan is helping to burnish America's image in a distinctly anti-American portion of the globe. Anne-Marie Slaughter reprinted one letter on America Abroad that makes the point in a plain manner:

[H]aving just visited the region and spoken to many community leaders across the NWFP and Pakistani-held Kashmir, it is apparent that there is a tremendous strategic opportunity for the United States and its allies. For a fraction of the cost of what is spent in other arenas of the War on Terror, an extremely volatile region and country's hearts and minds can be won over. All that is required is a very substantial, very visible US relief effort.

To date, the US has provided helicopters and commitments of up to $50 million. What is needed-- for adequate relief and for this opportunity-born-of-tragedy to be capitalized upon-- is not a contribution, but a massive US presence and effort. The entire country is desperate, the entire Muslim world is watching; I cannot overstate how glaring and massive the opportunity is.
My sympathies for Pakistan aside, the US can buy a great deal of affection and moral currency by responding to this emergency-- it must not let this be just another cause for further alienation.

This is one of those instances where the U.S. can do good and do well by following through with significant relief and humanitarian efforts. It's the best kind of public diplomacy you could ever buy. And bear in mind that the costs of inaction here would be considerable. As Zahid Hussain reports in Newsweek International:

Islamist groups have gotten kudos for their response to the crisis; their vast networks of well-disciplined cadres quickly spread out across the devastated areas of Kashmir to provide food and shelter. "Ordinary Pakistanis have outshined the Army," says author Ahmed Rashid. The fact that such work bolsters their public image—dented by Islamabad's tamping down of the insurgency in Kashmir in order to improve relations with the United States and India—is not lost on their leaders.

In the New York Times last week, Alexander Saunders put forward a very interesting aid proposal:

The earthquake in Pakistan has left millions homeless. Umar Ghuman, Pakistan's minister of foreign investment and a longtime customer of my foundry supply company, has asked me to help find housing for as many of these people as possible before the onset of winter in the next few days.

Tents are not protection enough, and conventional prefabricated houses are neither readily available nor easy to ship. The solution, then, is to think of something less conventional, like the work shed-greenhouse combinations sold at Sam's Club and other retailers. Such sheds - small (882 cubic feet), plastic, weather-tight, insulated and portable - retail for around $2,000. Two hundred thousand of these houses - temporary homes for a million people - would cost less than $400 million....

This is an opportunity for the United States to present to the world a product of our manufacturing ingenuity delivered by our military might. The United States needs to regain credibility with its friends throughout the region, and the people there need housing desperately....

We need to do this now, not next week or next month. Winter - with mountain blizzards, powerful winds and subzero temperatures - will come to the Himalayas in days. The commercial air freight system is already shipping blankets, tents and medical supplies. That's a good start, but it is in no way adequate for housing people in winter.

This sort of proposal needs someone at the deputy or principal level for it to fly.

How about it, Karen?

posted by Dan at 03:01 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

Open Alito thread

Feel free to comment here on President Bush's nomination of Sam Alito to the Supreme Court.

[Well, what's your take?--ed. I don't know anything at all about Alito. That said, my legal bellwether is the Volokh Conspiracy's Orin Kerr, and he seems pretty pleased with the choice. After reading this David Bernstein post, however, one wonders how the KKK will react.]

UPDATE: Julian Sanchez has a post up at Hit & Run that deconstructs some of the ThinkProgress/Center for American Progress/Daily Kos criticisms of Alito.

posted by Dan at 11:13 AM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Tell me something I don't know about pre-war planning

In the Financial Times, Stephanie Kirchgaessner report on a finding that will not surprise loyal readers of

The US government had “no comprehensive policy or regulatory guidelines” in place for staffing the management of postwar Iraq, according to the top government watchdog overseeing the country’s reconstruction.

The lack of planning had plagued reconstruction since the US-led invasion, and been exacerbated by a “general lack of co-ordination” between US government agencies charged with the rebuilding of Iraq, said Stuart Bowen, the special inspector-general for Iraq reconstruction, in a report released on Sunday.

His 110-page quarterly report, delivered to Congress at the weekend, has underscored how a “reconstruction gap” is emerging that threatens to leave many projects planned by the US on the drawing board....

While the most successful post-conflict reconstruction effort in US history – the reconstruction of Japan and Germany following the second world war – began being planned in the months after the US entered the war, Mr Bowen found that “systematic planning” for the post-hostilities period in Iraq was “insufficient in both scope and implementation”.

Here's a link to Bowen's actual report.

[C'mon, you're not hiding behind the incompetence dodge, are you?--ed.] Rosenfeld and Yglesias make some provocative points but in the end are unpersuasive. As Fareed Zakaria points out in today's NYT Book Review in his review of George Packer's The Assassins' Gate:

Packer recounts the prewar discussions in the State Department's "Future of Iraq Project," which produced an enormous document outlining the political challenges in governing Iraq. He describes Drew Erdmann's memo, written for Colin Powell, analyzing previous postwar reconstructions in the 20th century. Erdmann's conclusion was that success depended on two factors, establishing security and having international support. These internal documents were mirrored by several important think-tank studies that all made similar points, specifically on the need for large-scale forces to maintain security. One would think that this Hobbesian message - that order is the first requisite of civilization - would appeal to conservatives. In fact all of this careful planning and thinking was ignored or dismissed.

Part of the problem was the brutal and debilitating struggle between the State Department and the Defense Department, producing an utterly dysfunctional policy process. The secretary of the Army, Thomas White, who was fired after the invasion, explained to Packer that with the Defense Department "the first issue was, we've got to control this thing - so everyone else was suspect." The State Department was regarded as the enemy, so what chance was there of working with other countries? The larger problem was that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (and probably Dick Cheney) doggedly believed nation-building was a bad idea, the Clinton administration has done too much of it, and the American military should stop doing it. Rumsfeld explained this view in a couple of speeches and op-ed articles that were short on facts and long on polemics. But how to square this outlook with invading Iraq? Assume away the need for nation-building. Again, White explains: "We had the mind-set that this would be a relatively straightforward, manageable task, because this would be a war of liberation, and therefore reconstruction would be short-lived." Rumsfeld's spokesman, Larry Di Rita, went to Kuwait in April 2003 and told the American officials waiting there that the State Department had messed up Bosnia and Kosovo and that the Bush administration intended to hand over power to Iraqis and leave within three months.

SO the Army's original battle plan for 500,000 troops got whittled down to 160,000. If Gen. Tommy Franks "hadn't offered some resistance, the number would have dropped well below 100,000," Packer says....

Was all this inevitable? Did the United States take on something impossible? That seems to be the conventional wisdom today. If so, what to make of Afghanistan? That country is deeply divided. It has not had a functioning government in three decades, some would argue three centuries, and yet it is coming together under a progressive leader. Two million Afghan refugees have voted with their feet and returned to their country (unlike Iraq, where people are leaving every day). And the reasons? The United States allied itself with forces on the ground that could keep order. It handed over the political process to the international community, preventing any stigma of a neocolonial occupation (it was the United Nations that created the loya jirga, the national assembly, and produced Hamid Karzai). It partnered with NATO for much of the routine military work. In fact the Afghan National Army is being trained by the United States - and France. And it has accepted certain facts of Afghan life, like the power of its warlords, working slowly to change them.

"The Iraq war was always winnable," Packer writes, "it still is. For this very reason, the recklessness of its authors is hard to forgive."

posted by Dan at 11:35 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

The trouble with European Muslims....

One of the central tenets of the global war on terror and the National Security Strategy is that the primary source of ant-American terror comes from the Arab Middle East. Some, like Peter Bergen, challenge this assumption, arguing that the bigger threat comes disaffected Muslims living in Western societies.

Bill Powell has a long, disturbing essay in Time for Europe that makes Bergen's point for him. The nut paragraphs:

While the precise number of European jihadis is impossible to pinpoint, counterterrorism officials across the Continent believe the pool of radicals is growing. A 2004 estimate by the French police found that around 150 of the country's 1,600 mosques and prayer halls were under the control of extremist elements; in a study of 1,160 recent French converts to Islam, 23% identified themselves as Salafists, members of a sect that has been associated with violent extremism. In the Netherlands, home to 1 million Muslims, a spokesman for the Dutch intelligence service says it is believed as many as 20 different hard-line Islamic groups may be operating. Some are simply prayer groups adhering to radical interpretations of the Koran, while others may be organizing and recruiting for violence. In Britain, authorities say that as many as 3,000 veterans of al-Qaeda training camps over the years were born or based within its borders.

What explains the proliferation of Europe's homegrown radicals? Interviews by Time correspondents with dozens of Muslims across Western Europe reveal consistent answers as to why so many are responding to the call of extremism. Some lack a sense of belonging in European societies that have long struggled to assimilate new immigrants from the Islamic world. Many, in particular younger Muslims, suffer disproportionately from Europe's high-unemployment, slow-growth economies. Others are outraged over the bloodshed in Iraq and the persistent notion that the West is waging an assault on Islam itself. "There's a spreading atmosphere of indignation among normal Muslims that is echoing among the younger generation," says a French investigator with a decade of antiterror experience.

It's echoing loudly, in part because the anger is amplified by 21st century technology. In the past, the alienated would simmer in relative isolation, unable to connect or communicate with those who shared their anger. The Internet has changed that. Critical to the rise of generation jihad has been the ease with which its members can communicate with each other and peruse controversial websites like, run by Saudi dissident and London resident Mohammed al-Massari. While his other English site hosts what he calls "philosophical discussions," the Arabic site shows gruesome videos of U.S. and British troops being blown up by Iraqi insurgents, and beheadings of kidnap victims. Al-Massari says he cannot control what is posted there. These days, the very existence of such sites alarms the British government. Prime Minister Tony Blair, in the wake of the summer bombings, vowed to crack down on "specific extremist websites."

Combine alienation, unemployment, political anger and the power of the Internet, and the result is toxic.

The most disturbing aspect of Powell's story is that the turn to radicalism appears to be inculcated among second-generation Muslims:

What's striking about the rhetoric of second-generation radicals... is how much it differs from the experience of many newer arrivals to Europe. Moroccan Farid Itaiben, 30, who has lived outside Madrid for 10 years, came to Europe to find a job and a more comfortable life. "If we had work at home, believe me, we'd get out of Europe," he says. "We're not here to spread the Word, we're here simply to make a living." Itaiben has no patience for jihadis who come to Europe to fight holy war; his brother, Mohammed, was among those killed by the train blasts in Madrid on March 11, 2004. "Those people," he says, "weren't Muslims who did this thing. How can they call themselves Muslims?"

It's a critical question: how do second- generation European Muslims define themselves? Many say they feel a part neither of the country of their birth, nor of their parents' heritage. That some often live on the dole, unable to find work, only enhances their sense of estrangement. The attitude of Riad, a 32-year-old French citizen who has been unemployed since 2002, is all too common. Sitting in a café in the Lyons suburb of Vénissieux, he says, "They say we are French, and we would like to believe that as well. But do we look like normal French people to you?" His friend Karim, 27, insists they are discriminated against because of their long beards. "Who will give us a job when we look like this? We have to fend for ourselves and find a way out."

posted by Dan at 10:58 AM | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, October 28, 2005

Open Plamegate indictments thread

So it looks like Libby gets indicted today, and Rove is not out of the woods.

Special Prosecutor will hold a press conference at 2 PM today on the matter -- according to Fitzgerald's official web site.

Be sure to check out Tom Maguire's blog, as he has pretty much owned this story since day one. But then come back and comment away here.

UPDATE: The AP reports that Libby has been inicted on obstruction of justice, perjury, and making a false statement to investigators. Kathryn Jean Lopez says there are two counts of both perjury and making a false statement.

I suspect this quote from William Kristol's Weekly Standard essay hinting that no indictments would be the way to go is going to be resurfacing in the blogosphere for the rest of the day:

[I]f anyone lied under oath the way Bill Clinton did--knowingly and purposefully in order to thwart a legitimate legal process, or if anyone engaged in an obstruction of justice, the way Bill Clinton did, then indictments would be proper.

Here are links to the actual indictment as well as the transcript of Fitzgerald's press conference, as well as the Washington Post's explanation of the charges.

LAST UPDATE: For my money -- and assuming that Fitzgerald has completed his indictments -- Jason Zengerle has the last, best word at TNR's Plank:

the whole notion that the Fitzgerald investigation was going to reveal how the Bush administration led us into Iraq now seems to have been completely wrong. Democrats wanted their own Ken Starr--a prosecutor who let his investigation metastasize and whose operation leaked like a sieve. Instead, they got Elliot Ness. As Fitzgerald himself put it at his press conference:

This indictment is not about the war. This indictment's not about the propriety of the war. And people who believe fervently in the war effort, people who oppose it, people who have mixed feelings about it should not look to this indictment for any resolution of how they feel or any vindication of how they feel.

This is simply an indictment that says, in a national security investigation about the compromise of a CIA officer's identity that may have taken place in the context of a very heated debate over the war, whether some person -- a person, Mr. Libby -- lied or not.

The indictment will not seek to prove that the war was justified or unjustified. This is stripped of that debate, and this is focused on a narrow transaction.

And I think anyone's who's concerned about the war and has feelings for or against shouldn't look to this criminal process for any answers or resolution of that.

That sounds like good advice.


posted by Dan at 11:06 AM | Comments (45) | Trackbacks (0)

Miers postmortem thread

So the punching bag that was Harriet Miers' nomination is no more.

I was all geared up to post something debunking Kevin Drum and Harry Reid's assertion that this was Bush caving in to the radical right, but my laziness pays off, as all I have to do is link to Virginia Postrel, Matt Bodie, Dan Markel, and the Hotline (link via Daily Kos).

Readers are ordered to draw their own conclusions and post them here.

posted by Dan at 10:58 AM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

Putting a good foot forward in Pakistan

David Rohde had a story in the New York Times earlier this week that nicely demonstrates how U.S. disaster relief can affect local attitudes about Americans -- even in Al Qaeda country:

Asmat Ali Janbaz's explanation for the American military helicopters flying over this isolated mountain valley last Thursday afternoon was familiar.

Mr. Janbaz, who lives in the area and who describes himself as an Islamic hard-liner, contended that the Americans were not ferrying injured earthquake victims to safety; instead, they were secretly establishing an American military base in northern Pakistan to encircle China.

"This is the mission!" he declared triumphantly. "Not to help the people of Pakistan."

Yet after Mr. Janbaz departed, something extraordinary happened. Here in a mountainous corner of northern Pakistan long thought to be a center for militant training camps and religious conservatism, three men dismissed his theory and heartily praised the United States for aiding victims of the Oct. 8 earthquake, which killed more than 53,000 Pakistanis.

"People don't believe such things; people only believe in what they are seeing," said Manzur Hussain, a 36-year-old hospital worker whose brother, sister and two sons died in the earthquake. "People who give them aid, they respect them."

While it is too early to reach firm conclusions, anecdotal interviews with earthquake survivors in this picturesque mountain district, known as Mansehra, suggest that American assistance may be improving Pakistanis' perceptions of the United States - an image that has been overwhelmingly negative here since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Read the whole thing -- Al Qaeda is also mobilizing humanitarian relief, but it's tougher to gauge those efforts.

Link via America Abroad's Jim Lindsay, who observes:

This is only one story from one reporter. But something similar happened in Indonesia after the United States rushed to help victims of last December’s tsunami. People saw Americans willing to help them with their problems. Their attitudes toward the United States softened as a result.

All this is worth keeping in mind as policy makers and pundits tout the benefits of public diplomacy and “listening tours.” Good words are fine. Good deeds are even better.

posted by Dan at 10:05 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Anoint no economic superpower before its time

A common lament among those who like to prognosticate about America's future is that China and India are churning out more and better engineering students than the U.S., which presages their rise to superpowerdom.

For example, Geoffrey Colvin wrote the following in Fortune earlier this year:

China will produce about 3.3 million college graduates this year, India 3.1 million (all of them English-speaking), the U.S. just 1.3 million. In engineering, China’s graduates will number over 600,000, India’s 350,000, America’s only about 70,000.

Sounds ominous -- those figures were cited in a National Academy of Sciences study warning that, "In a world where advanced knowledge is widespread and low-cost labor is readily available, U.S. advantages in the marketplace and in science and technology have begun to erode." (link via Glenn Reynolds)

The thing is, those numbers don't hold up. Back in August, Carl Bialik of the Wall Street Journal's "Numbers Guy" column deconstructed Colvin's claim in Fortune and found some problems:

[T]his is one of those cases where big numbers take on a life of their own through repetition. The lofty estimates have been repeated for years, often without evidence to back them up, and it turns out they vary considerably from figures reported by official sources.

Bialik follows up in a WSJ column today (link again via Glenn Reynolds):

Ron Hira, professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a reviewer of a draft version of the report that didn't contain the figures, brought them to my attention when he spotted them in the press release. "The fact that the Academies has perpetuated the stats is very significant because [they are] viewed as a purveyor of truth," Dr. Hira wrote me in an email. He added, "[The stats] will be perpetuated by every science and technology lobbyist in D.C. from now until who knows when."

The statistics' repetition prompted me to dig deeper into the original source of Fortune's numbers. For my initial column, the author of the Fortune piece, Geoff Colvin, told me he was traveling and couldn't review his notes to find his sources in time for my deadline. Last week, he told me the numbers came from the Chinese government's China Statistical Yearbook 2004, which reported more than 644,000 graduates in engineering from the country's institutions of higher education in 2003.

"This includes graduates of the regular college program as well as graduates of a three-year program focused on engineering, which would appear to be somewhat more advanced than a U.S. engineering technician program while not quite the full bachelor's degree," Mr. Colvin wrote in an email. "Comparability is of course a large issue not just here but in general when comparing degrees across countries." (The India numbers, as I wrote earlier, are also questionable; Mr. Colvin said Monday that he is still looking for his source for those figures and will get back to me.)

But others told me that the 600,000 figure for China in 2003 included engineering graduates who had received less training than their U.S. counterparts. Richard Freeman, a professor of economics at Harvard University who has studied the issue, told me in an email that the Chinese numbers include graduates of two-to-three-year programs who would be comparable to engineering technicians in the U.S. (recipients of an associate's degree). "The number getting full course degrees is around 350,000, which is what we would compare to U.S. graduates in a year," Dr. Freeman said.

Kudos to Hira and Freeman for their intellectual honesty -- both of them are generally concerned about the effects in the U.S. of widening the global supply of educated labor.

[OK, so the number isn't as big as previously thought. It's still pretty big, right?--ed. This gets to the question of quality. Diana Farrell and Andrew J. Grant write in the latest McKinsey Quarterly that the quality problem could lead to a talent shortage in China:

[F]ew of China's vast number of university graduates are capable of working successfully in the services export sector, and the fast-growing domestic economy absorbs most of those who could. Indeed, far from presaging a thriving offshore services sector, our research points to a looming shortage of homegrown talent, with serious implications for the multinationals now in China and for the growing number of Chinese companies with global ambitions....

China's pool of potential talent is enormous. In 2003 China had roughly 8.5 million young professional graduates with up to seven years' work experience and an additional 97 million people that would qualify for support-staff positions.

Despite this apparently vast supply, multinational companies are finding that few graduates have the necessary skills for service occupations. According to interviews with 83 human-resources professionals involved with hiring local graduates in low-wage countries, fewer than 10 percent of Chinese job candidates, on average, would be suitable for work in a foreign company in the nine occupations we studied: engineers, finance workers, accountants, quantitative analysts, generalists, life science researchers, doctors, nurses, and support staff.

Consider engineers. China has 1.6 million young ones, more than any other country we examined. Indeed, 33 percent of the university students in China study engineering, compared with 20 percent in Germany and just 4 percent in India. But the main drawback of Chinese applicants for engineering jobs, our interviewees said, is the educational system's bias toward theory. Compared with engineering graduates in Europe and North America, who work in teams to achieve practical solutions, Chinese students get little practical experience in projects or teamwork. The result of these differences is that China's pool of young engineers considered suitable for work in multinationals is just 160,000—no larger than the United Kingdom's. Hence the paradox of shortages amid plenty.]

UPDATE: Howard French has a nicely balanced account in the New York Times of China's effort to upgrade its top universities in order to attract top-drawer talent. The highlights:

China is focusing on science and technology, areas that reflect the country's development needs but also reflect the preferences of an authoritarian system that restricts speech. The liberal arts often involve critical thinking about politics, economics and history, and China's government, which strictly limits public debate, has placed relatively little emphasis on achieving international status in those subjects.

In fact, Chinese say - most often euphemistically and indirectly - that those very restrictions on academic debate could hamper efforts to create world-class universities.

"Right now, I don't think any university in China has an atmosphere comparable to the older Western universities - Harvard or Oxford - in terms of freedom of expression," said Lin Jianhua, Beijing University's executive vice president. "We are trying to give the students a better environment, but in order to do these things we need time. Not 10 years, but maybe one or two generations."

French also provides his own engineering numbers: "In engineering alone, China is producing 442,000 new undergraduates a year, along with 48,000 graduates with masters' degrees and 8,000 Ph.D's."

LAST UPDATE: More on the overhyping of India and China from Pranab Bardhan and Brad DeLong.

posted by Dan at 06:22 PM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (0)

How crazy is Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad?

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad had some lovely words for Israel yesterday, according to the FT's Gareth Smyth:

Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, Iran’s fundamentalist president, on Wednesday declared that Israel should be “wiped off the map” and warned Arab countries against developing economic ties with Israel in response to its withdrawal from Gaza.

His remarks, delivered at a conference in Tehran entitled “A World without Zionism”, led to diplomatic protests by the UK, France and Spain, while Shimon Peres, Israel’s deputy prime minister, said Iran should be expelled from the United Nations.

In Washington, spokesmen for the Bush administration said the statement underscored US concern over Iran’s nuclear weapons programme.

The most depressing sentence in the story? "US analysts noted that the president’s remarks were not a departure from hardline Iranian rhetoric and did not represent new policy." Well that's a relief.

Whenever political leaders start talking crazy talk, some political scientist like me usually comes out of the woodwork to explain the underlying rationality of such a move. After reading this Financial Times piece by Smyth and Najmeh Bozorgmehr, however, I'm beginning to wonder about Ahmadi-Nejad's competence:

Complaints about rising chicken prices during the holy month of Ramadan mark the first widespread disquiet about president Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, just two months after he became Iran's president.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, last week acknowledged public concerns in Friday prayers, saying it was "unfair to drag the government to the table of expectations after only two or three months". Private business was wary of Mr Ahmadi-Nejad's rhetoric even as he won June's landslide election victory, but is now approaching a crisis of confidence. "Name me one sector that is working," says a government official.

The Tehran Stock Exchange (TSE) has dropped 20 per cent since the election, with the Tehran price index (Tepix) closing on Monday at 10,014, perilously close to the psychological 10,000 mark level. Yesterday the exchange was closed for a public holiday.

A sense of malaise in the economy has resulted both from Mr Ahmadi-Nejad's statist rhetoric and from tension with Europe and the US over Iran's atomic programme. Hossein Abdeh-Tabrizi, secretary-general of the TSE, has linked falling share prices to the nuclear issue. Business circles welcomed the new government's economic team and applauded parliament's plan to reduce subsidies on the sale of imported petrol, but Mr Ahmadi-Nejad has himself spread confusion over the government's direction. The president reacted to falling share prices by calling on public bodies, which own about 80 per cent of shares, to control the decline. At the same time, the commerce ministry banned cement exports to help meet domestic demand, hitting the cement companies which comprise about 30 per cent of the bourse. "The government seems to jettison long-term policies [favouring the market] for short-term reasons and so it's not clear where it's heading," says an economy analyst.

Iran's private businesses are also worried about possible UN Security Council sanctions over Iran's nuclear programme. Questioned last Thursday by reporters, Mr Ahmadi-Nejad refused to deny that Tehran is blocking letters of credit for companies from South Korea, the UK, Argentina and the Czech Republic, countries that last month voted for a resolution at the International Atomic Energy Agency finding Tehran in "non-compliance" with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. "Economic relations have to be balanced with political relations," says Mr Ahmadi-Nejad.

South Korean direct and indirect exports to Iran and its investment - mainly in the oil and auto sectors - were about $3bn in 2004. "When you compare this with Korea's $55bn trade surplus with the US, it's hard to see what Iran thinks it can achieve from such pressure on Korea," says the analyst.

I can't see the rationale either. Maybe these kind of sanctions weaken Ahmadi-Nejad's domestic political opponents, but in a country like Iran there are better ways of weakening one's political opponents. Even in a world of $60 oil and the U.S. bogged down in Iraq, this kind of political behavior is not heakthy.

So is Mr. Ahmadi-Nejad crazy like a fox -- or just crazy? Discuss.

posted by Dan at 12:59 AM | Comments (54) | Trackbacks (0)

Congrats to the pale hose

Back in August, Mike DeBonis wrote the following in Slate:

Chicago's Sox still have the best record in the American League by far. They're a lock for the playoffs, and they have a real shot at making the World Series for the first time since 1959. But if they do win it all, there won't be hundreds of books and special-edition DVDs that exhaustively document the final moments of anguish and misery on Chicago's South Side. When the sports world's most mundane epic losing streak ends, it will go quietly.

Now we'll get to test his hypothesis.

Congratulations to the 2005 World Champion Chicago White Sox. Like the Red Sox last year, the South Siders swept the NL representative. Unlike last year, however, all four of these games were exciting nailbiters until the end. As David Pinto points out in Baseball Musings:

The Sox did it their way. Four close games, two decided by one run. The White Sox outscored the Astros by just six runs over the four games. Houston had plenty of chances, but the White Sox pitchers always found a way to get out of the jam.

The Red Sox in 2004, the White Sox in 2005 -- man, if the Cubs win it next year, the world really will end.

Of course, I've lived in Chicago long enough to know that until that happens, White Sox fans will be very, very happy to stick it to the Cubs fans.

UPDATE: You just knew Leo Strauss was involved.

posted by Dan at 12:29 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A very important post about.... Barbara Boxer's blue mind

Via Matt Welch, I found Anne-Marie O'Connor's story in the Los Angeles Times about Senator Barbara Boxer's new novel, A Time to Run (co-authored with Mary-Rose Hayes).

There's some fascinating information in O'Connor's piece about the motivations behind the troika of protagonists:

In "A Time to Run," the main characters from the reigning "blue states" — Josh from California and Ellen from equally reassuring New York — are liberal, altruistic, sane. Their affluent families are caring and sharing.

Their red state-born buddy, Greg, is the son of an emotionally abusive Ohio hardware seller former Marine who lost his favorite son in Vietnam. The red states that Greg heads to after graduation are interchangeably dull Siberias where Greg hangs out with the menfolk, bonding over beer, football and hunting.

Josh and Ellen become Left Coast do-gooders. Greg becomes a sociopathic neoconservative journalist, the go-to guy for character assassinations conjured by a right-wing California senator. Boxer said that although she didn't intend for the characters to represent the American political equation, "I hope people will understand the issues I raise about why people are blue or red or purple."

Her literary intrigues are not all political: There's also some bodice-ripping, with a love triangle between Greg, Ellen and Josh, and physical congress, tastefully suggested by euphemisms in which bodies "mesh." There's a whiff of scandal, too, when a youthful indiscretion comes back to haunt Josh....

Boxer said the novel explores "why people become liberals and conservatives. We explore the battle between liberals and conservatives at so many levels."

And it's not pretty. If you're looking for an inspirational story about someone who rose above a difficult background to champion the downtrodden, forget it.

In "A Time to Run," underprivileged Greg emerges as an opportunistic user — an object lesson that does not seem particularly populist.

("We wanted to give Greg a very solid blue-collar background, and Ohio just seemed to be a good place for somebody like Greg to be from," said co-writer Hayes, who is the London-born author of such books as "The Winter Women." "I do believe that that is a fact, that generally speaking, large coastal cities have a more liberal bent.")

"It's so clear the relationship with (Greg's) dad and what happened to his brother in Vietnam, made a big impact on his life," Boxer said. "The fact that [Josh and Ellen] had loving families made a very big difference."

Greg, Boxer said, "didn't have that inner applause you get from your family. "It's terrible when someone with all his talent uses it to hurt people."

Insert your own joke about the Kennedys here.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go consult a therapist to determine which parent emotionally abused me so much as to drive to the right of the political spectrum.

[Wow, emotional abuse and early gender confusion. You're a psychological mess. No wonder you didn't get tenure!--ed. Hmmm... maybe I should take a closer look at the Americans With Disabilities Act!!]

posted by Dan at 04:03 PM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (0)

Harriet Miers evokes the wrong emotions

I'm actually beginning to feel pity for Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers --- and this is not a good thing. I'm feeling the same way about Miers that I feel when I go to a job talk and recognize within five minutes that there is no chance in hell that this person is going to be hired.

It now seems well nigh impossible to find anyone of substance willing to say anything really positive about her nomination. Finding negative things, on the other hand, is pretty damn easy.

Orin Kerr looks at some Miers speeches, about the role of the courts in addressing abortion or religion. Reading the highlighted passages, I concur with Kerr: "The writing is awkward enough that I'm not entirely sure what she is saying."

This pales in comparison to Virginia Postrel's take:

For whatever reason, the president has picked a woman who not only has no constitutional or judicial experience but even in her business practice has demonstrated no interest in the law as anything other than a source of billable hours. At 60 years old, she appears never to have had a substantive conversation about law or policy with any friend. She comes from a closed and cronyish legal and business culture and appears to have gotten ahead through a combination of networking, nose-to-the-grindstone diligence, and willingness to do her law firm's management, rather than legal, work.

Her selection is an insult to women, to evangelical Christians, and to corporate lawyers. Is this really the best these groups have to offer to U.S. Supreme Court?

However, the end to this New York Times story by David Kirkpatrick is what really got me to feeling sorry for Miers:

Asked if the debate had become "one-sided," with too few defending Ms. Miers, Senator Sessions, the Alabama Republican, struggled for words, then pushed a button for a nearby elevator in the Capitol building and told an aide, "Get me out of here."

As Ann Althouse points out, "Once people have decided you're dumb, pretty much everything you say sounds dumb." That is now the problem for Miers -- and, by extension, the Bush administration.

posted by Dan at 11:56 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

How long can the fundamentalists be wrong?

When it comes to predicting exchange rates, there are chartists and fundamentalists. The former focus on short-term price trends and try to win the "predict everyone else's expectations" game. The latter look at underlying economic fundamentals to figure out where the exchange rate will inevitably head.

When it comes to the dollar's performance in 2005, chartists are beating fundamentalists. The Economist's Buttonwood column tries to explain why:

The currency has gained more than 10% this year, hitting a two-year high against the yen last week and a three-month peak against the euro. This is despite an American current-account deficit even wider than last year’s and apparently reduced enthusiasm among Asian central banks for dollar-denominated assets. Buttonwood was among those early in the year who expected the dollar to go every which way but up. How wrong can a columnista be? Why didn’t the currency behave as she told it to? Don’t deficits matter?

The answer seems to be that they do, but only when relative returns are not compelling and other news looks likely to be gloomy too....

Those who feared that Asian central banks would get tired of buying depreciating dollars, causing the currency to collapse and long bond yields to shoot up, have also had to think again. Though official statistics capture only a fraction of what the banks do with their fast-growing foreign-exchange reserves ($2 trillion higher since 2000), central banks are certainly a shadow of their former selves at Treasury auctions these days. The dollar has strengthened nonetheless, and ten-year bond yields are only a little higher than a year ago. Now that dollar bonds look a plausible investment, the central banks that used to buy them to foster their own export-led development have been able to retire, while private investors have stepped up to the plate.

So too, intriguingly, have the oil-exporting countries, whose current-account surpluses—far larger than China’s—cast a long shadow over financial markets these days. The impact of petrodollars on the ordinary sort is hard to pin down. Economists at Credit Suisse First Boston, for example, have calculated that for every increase of $10 a barrel in oil prices, the daily demand for dollars just to carry out transactions increases by $300m (though other transactions may be crowded out because energy-consumers don’t have money for both).

More important is where the petrodollars end up invested. Though credible figures are elusive, a fair whack has certainly found a home in dollar-denominated assets, some in corporate bonds and some in short-term paper. In the longer term, much of it will flow to Europe and Asia—to Germany, for example, which exports the kind of capital equipment the Gulf states need to develop their infrastructure. For the moment, however, the sharp rise in oil prices this year may well have helped the dollar.

The question is how long the chartists will stay bullish on the dollar. Speaking for the fundamentalists, New York Fed President Timothy Geithner is not optimistic (link via Brad Setser):

The fact that we are using a substantial part of the savings we are borrowing from the rest of the world to finance an unsustainable level of public borrowing leaves us more vulnerable than if those savings were being used for productive private investment. Large structural fiscal deficits limit the size of the sustainable external imbalance for any country, even the United States, and they necessarily increase concern about the terms on which we are likely to finance the present imbalance.

It should concern us because of how the imbalance has been financed. A substantial portion of the capital inflows that finance our current account deficit has come from foreign central banks—which have been accumulating dollar reserves to preserve exchange rate arrangements that are unlikely to be sustainable and are already in the process of change. The impact of a reduction in the scale of official accumulation of dollar assets could be fully offset by increases in purchases by private investors. But even in the context of a continued high degree of confidence in the relative return on claims on the United States, it is hard to know with confidence how the preferences of private savers might respond to the process of gradual evolution in their nation’s exchange rate regimes now underway.

And most importantly, perhaps, these imbalances matter because at some point they will have to reverse. Market forces will at some point induce an adjustment. And that inevitable process of adjustment will bring with it the risk of large movements in relative prices, greater volatility in asset prices and slower growth in the United States and in the rest of the world.

Geithner also touches on one of the big questions that I can't answer -- why the United States has such a comparative advantage in consuming goods and services:

The adjustment process is also complicated by the fact that the rest of the world does not appear likely, even over the medium term, to be in a position to provide a sufficiently strong offsetting source of demand growth to compensate for the necessary slowing in U.S. domestic demand. Policy actions to promote structural reform in the labor, product and financial markets could potentially change this, but the policy changes required are politically difficult, and their effects on net savings over time might be offset by demographic and other forces working the other direction.

it's not even clear that policy reforms of the sort Geithner is talking about will be sufficient in the Pacific Rim -- past crises have made that region loath to consume. Click here for more on the puzzle of Asia's lack of domestic consumption.

posted by Dan at 11:37 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Do brain drains retard economic development?

Celia Dugger has an annoying New York Times story entitled, "Study Finds Flight of Educated Workers Affects Poor Nations." Here's how it opens:

Poor countries across Africa, Central America and the Caribbean are losing sometimes staggering portions of their college-educated workers to wealthy democracies, according to a World Bank study released yesterday.

The study's findings document a troubling pattern of "brain drain," the flight of skilled middle-class workers who could help lift their countries out of poverty, some analysts say. And while the exact effects are still little understood, there is a growing sense among economists that such migration plays a crucial role in a country's development.

The findings are based on an extensive survey of census and other data from the 30 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which includes most of the world's richest nations.

The study found that from a quarter to almost half of the college educated citizens of poor countries like Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda and El Salvador lived abroad in an O.E.C.D. country - a fraction that rises to more than 80 percent for Haiti and Jamaica.

In contrast, less than 5 percent of the skilled citizens of the powerhouses of the developing world, like India, China, Indonesia and Brazil, live abroad in an O.E.C.D. country.

These patterns suggest that an extensive flight of educated people is damaging many small to medium-size poor countries, while the largest developing countries are better able to weather relatively smaller losses of talent, and even benefit from them when their skilled workers return or invest in their native lands, said Frédéric Docquier, a lead researcher for the bank and an economist at the University of Leuven in Belgium.

A few thoughts:

1) Er... has Indonesia been a "powerhouse of the developing world" since 1998?

2) How much of the cause behind brain drains is simple geography? India, China, Brazil, and Indonesia are all quite distant from an OECD country -- especially for inland populations. Haiti and Jamaica are quite close. That's not the only factor (see Mozambique) but it might have been worth a mention.

3) The lead paragraphs make it sound like the brain drain is causing these countries to stay in poverty. This precludes the possibility that there are extant causes -- government corruption, weak property rights, segmented capital markets, inadequate investments in primary education -- that encouage brain drains and keep countries poor at the same time. Brain drains might be an intervening variable, but I'm unconvinced it's an underlying cause.

Here's a link to the actual World Bank report. Go check it out.

posted by Dan at 11:12 AM | Comments (27) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, October 24, 2005

Open Bernanke thread

President Bush has nominated Ben Bernanke to replace Alan Greenspan as Federal Reserve Chairman. Comment away!!

Tyler Cowen is all over the nomination. See this post grading Bernanke's capabilities to do the job -- and this one on Bernanke's contributions to the economics discipline.

On current policy debates, Bernanke is best known for his "global savings glut" hypothesis -- about which I blogged here.

For me, the key will be whether -- like Greenspan -- Bernanke will be willing to question his assumptions about the way the economy works in the face of data that contradicts his a priori assumptions. If Tyler's assessment is correct, I'm pretty optimistic.

It's nice to see Bush reverting to the John Roberts mold of picking universally well-regarded nominees -- as opposed to other, less savory molds. Andrew Samwick thinks "Bernanke is an excellent choice." Brad DeLong thinks it's "a very good choice." Max Sawicky thinks it's "the preferable outcome."

On the other hand, Stephen Roach says that Bernanke was his "second favorite choice." One could interpret that as damning with faint praise, but given Roach's general economic outlook, I'd interpret it as grudging acceptance.

UPDATE: Foreign Policy has a boatload of Bernanke-relevant articles up on their main website. In late 2003, Bernanke wrote the following:

Low and stable inflation in many countries is an important accomplishment that will continue to bring significant benefits. But de facto price stability has had another effect, which is now forcing central bankers, as well as the public, to fundamentally rethink inflation.

After a long period in which the desired direction for inflation was always downward, the industrialized world's central banks must today try to avoid major changes in the inflation rate in either direction. In central bank speak, we now face “symmetric” inflation risks....

In short, inflation can be too high, but it can also be too low. So what level of inflation is just right—what, if you will, is the “Goldilocks” level? The best-case scenario is when inflation is neither so high as to impede economic efficiency and growth nor so low that the nominal short-term interest rate routinely flirts with zero. What that ideal inflation rate is depends on the individual economy and on the views and preferences of policymakers.

Although the “just right” inflation rate for the U.S. economy remains an open question, much recent research suggests that it is around 2 percent.

One interesting question at confirmation hearings will be where Bernanke thinks inflation is right now. Given current conditions, deflation is not the source of concern it was a few years ago. At the same time -- as Daniel Gross pointed out yesterday in the New York Times -- it's not completely clear whether inflation should be a source of concern either.

posted by Dan at 02:12 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

Open Syria thread

I've been remiss in not posting about the UN report blasting Syrian officials for their role in the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. In the New York Times, John Kifner provided a nice one-paragraph summary:

In chilling detail, often reading like a paperback thriller, the United Nations report traces months of plotting by top Syrian intelligence officials - including President Bashar al-Assad's powerful brother-in-law - and their Lebanese proxies that included constant surveillance of Mr. Hariri's movements and the forced recruitment of a fake assassin to make a "suicide tape" to hide the real hands behind the bombing that killed Mr. Hariri in February.

So, the question is, what now?

Some surprising people are talking tough. In the Financial Times, Former Kerry advisor Martin Indyk urges the Bush administration to resist a Libya-style deal with Syrian leader Bashir Assad:

Mr Assad has already sought a middle way out of this dilemma, sending emissaries to Washington to offer a Libyan-style “package deal”, involving the surrender of lesser officials and an end to Syria’s rogue activities. But his offer comes far too late.

President George W. Bush has already taken the measure of the man and found him unreliable. Mr Assad’s commitment to stop Syrian support for the Iraqi insurgency was honoured in the breach. His withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon was followed by a bombing campaign that has forced many of the Lebanese political class to flee. Even people in Washington (like me), who once advocated a “carrots and sticks” approach to the Syrian ingénue, have given up on him.

The Arab press reaction has also been interesting:

A political cartoon in Jordan's independent al-Ghad expressed the choices for Syrian President Bashar Assad after the Mehlis report.

It showed a sweating and confused-looking Assad sitting at a table as he holds two cards in his hand, clearly trying to choose one of them. One of the cards is the ace of spades with a picture of a bearded and scruffy Saddam Hussein. The other card is a two of diamonds with a picture of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi dressed as a joker.


posted by Dan at 12:46 PM | Comments (40) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The EU needs to turn the key

Alan Beattie and Victor Mallet report in the Financial Times that the EU's previous trade commissioner -- and current Director-General of the World Trade Organization -- is trying to pressure the current trade commissoner to get the EU's act together on the Doha round:

The European Union is under pressure to improve its offer on farm tariff cuts within 10 days, or risk the cancellation of December's Hong Kong trade summit, according to trade officials.

Officials in Europe say that Pascal Lamy, WTO director-general, has warned them there is no point going ahead with the meeting in December without a more ambitious proposal.

The other leading partners in the negotiations - the US and the Group of 20 developing countries - have also identified the EU's position as the main sticking point. "A clear and rising degree of concern has been expressed to us," said one European Commission official.

The official confirmed that Mr Lamy had suggested that the next week to 10 days was the make-or-break point for the Doha round of talks. The WTO declined to comment.

Cancelling a ministerial meeting, which take place every other year, would require the consent of all 148 members of the WTO and would be an admission that the round had come to a halt.

The EU, which initially offered what the US says is a 24.5 per cent cut in farm tariffs, is working on a second and final offer which it hopes to present later this week, proposing cuts likely to average around 40 per cent.

But such a plan would fall short of what the US says is the minimum acceptable offer - to match the G20's plan for an average 54 per cent cut....

Mr Mandelson wants an offer to at least match the cuts agreed in the previous "Uruguay round" of trade talks, which reduced farm tariffs by an average of 36 per cent. "If there is another bid, it will be a final and non-negotiable one, and will be dependent on progress in the goods and services parts of the talks," the Commission official said. John Tsang, the Hong Kong commerce secretary due to host December's ministerial, told the Financial Times that the process was "at crisis point".

"This agriculture deadlock could really derail the whole project," Mr Tsang said, adding that the EU call for liberalisation in goods and services at the same time was pointless. "We all know agriculture is the key, the EU holds the key, and now is the time to turn the key."

The situation is clearly causing Peter Mandelson to get hot under the collar.

Why exactly is the EU acting so obdurate on this issue? Well, it's mostly the French, and according to Thomas Fuller of the International Herald Tribune, it's the power of terroir (link via Virginia Postrel)

posted by Dan at 09:49 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, October 21, 2005

Looks like I'm not getting the Prius

So I've agreed to join my own blogger cabal -- Pajamas Media.

[So what does this mean for your average reader. Wait, screw them, what does this mean for me?!--ed. Not much, really. In a few weeks/months, you'll be redirected from this URL to another one -- but this bookmark will still be valid. There will probably be a few more ads along the right-hand side -- the whole point of this idea is to pool together multiple sites to generate larger traffic for advertisers. That's about it. And me?--ed. You're still on the payroll.]

Here's my profile over at their site. Money quote: "My plan is to retire in three years based on this. I was specifically promised lots of cash and a Toyota Prius." UPDATE: Roger Simon sets me straight on the compensation.

[Hey, wasn't Pajamas Media co-conceived by Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs?--ed. Why yes, yes it is. I disagree a fair amount with Charles -- but then again, I disagree with David Corn a fair amount too, and he's involved as well. Any good classical liberal would want this kind of disagreement--it would be like one syndicated columnist caring about who else is covered by the syndicate. Besides, I don't think there's going to be a huge overlap in readership. According to this LGF commenter, "sagely and even-handedly pondering all sides of an issue of grave geo-political importance is not what makes an exciting blog." So much for the Prius!--ed.]

posted by Dan at 05:07 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)

Who the hell is Daniel W. Drezner?

A brief introduction, in the form of a Q&A [NOTE: this has been updated and revised from my previous "about me" page from four years ago. Feel free to compare and contrast the two pages to your heart's content!--ed.]:

Q: Who are you?

A: I'm a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. I've previously taught at the University of Chicago, University of Colorado at Boulder, and Donetsk Technical University in the Republic of Ukraine for Civic Education Project. I've also served as an international economist in the Treasury Department and as a research consultant for the RAND corporation.

I'm the author of All Politics is Global: Explaining International Regulatory Regimes (Princeton University Press, 2007), U.S. Trade Strategy: Free Versus Fair (Council on Foreign Relations Press, 2006), and The Sanctions Paradox: Economic Statecraft and International Relations (Cambridge University Press, 1999). I'm the editor of Locating the Proper Authorities: The Interaction of Domestic and International Institutions (University of Michigan Press, 2003). I've also written a fair number of articles in both policy and scholarly journals -- click here for links to many of them.

I have a B.A. from Williams College, an M.A. in economics and a Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University. I've received fellowships from the German Marshall Fund of the United States, Council on Foreign Relations and Harvard University's Olin Center for Strategic Studies. I was a monthly contributor to The New Republic Online, and have also published essays in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the New York Times, Slate, Tech Central Station, and the Wall Street Journal. This weblog has been in existence since September 2002.

Q: What do you know?

A: I can claim some genuine expertise on the utility of economic statecraft, the political economy of globalization, U.S. foreign policy, the Boston Red Sox, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. However, as my wife is fond of pointing out, this narrow range of expertise does not prevent me from discussing with false confidence everything else under the sun.

Q: What's your political affiliation?

A: I'm a small-l libertarian Republican who studies international relations, which means I'm frequently conflicted between my laissez-faire instincts and my clear-eyed recognition that there is no substitute for nation-states in world politics. Domestically, I was an unpaid foreign policy advisor for the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign (they didn't need the help) -- but then I grudgingly voted for Kerry in 2004. It's safe to say I'm conflicted some of the time. Just keep reading the blog, you'll get a pretty good sense of what I believe.

Q: Why are you wasting valuable hours blogging instead of writing peer-reviewed academic articles?

On the record: Blogging and academic scholarship are like apples and oranges. I love the academic side of my job, i.e., the researching and writing about international relations theory. But I'm also a policy wonk. And since the New York Times op-ed page mysteriously refuses to solicit my views, the blog lets me scratch that itch. [Er, the Times has solicited your views--ed. Oh, sure, once -- and that was only because I said "pretty please." Any time the Times is willing to give me instant access to their op-ed page without Times Select being such a killjoy, I'll give up the blog.]

Off the record: Sure, I was worried about how the blog was perceived when I was untenured. However, I'm pretty confident that the blog hasn't retarded my scholarly output And I've reached the point in my career where I don't need to worry about tenure. So f$%& that s&*^.

Q: What do you mean by wonk? How much of a policy geek are you?

A: I wrote my first op-ed -- about the Reagan Doctrine -- for the Hartford Courant when I was 17 years old. I'm pretty damn geeky.

Q: I want to learn more about international relations in today's world; what should I be reading?

A: Go to my book recommendations page and my books-of-the-month page and find out!!

Also be sure as well to check out the journals. The ones intended for a general interest audience include Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The American Interest, The National Interest, and The Washington Quarterly. On the scholarly side, go check out International Organization, International Security, International Studies Quarterly, and World Politics.

Q: Isn't it pretentious to have your middle initial in the byline for all of your publications?

A: The first time I ever published an article, my mother complained about the absence of my middle initial in the byline. Between looking pretentious and getting Mom off my back, it was an easy call.

[UPDATE: My mother, after reading this, e-mailed to say: "Using your middle initial is not pretentious. It is your name. The W stands for your great grandfather, William Pauls, my mother's dad. He was much loved as you are as well!" So there].

Q: I've perused your blog, and I'm noticing an annoying editor guy pops up on occasion. What's the deal? Are you schizophrenic?

A: This is a tic I shamelessly borrowed from Mickey Kaus. I find it useful as a way of dealing with counterarguments, as well as the occasional humorous aside [So that's all I am to you? An outlet for cheap laughs?--ed. Go bug Mickey for a while.]

Q: I still want to know more.

A: Then you clearly have too much time on your hands. However, feel free to check out the rest of my web site, which includes my academic cv and some more biographical material. Also, go check out my answers to Crescat Sententia's Twenty Questions, my Normblog profile, and my Pajamas Media bio.

posted by Dan at 04:18 PM | Trackbacks (1)

That's quite a cabal you have, Mr. President

Former State Department Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson gave quite the talk at the New America Foundation earlier this week. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank and the Financial Times' Ted Alden thought it worth writing about.

The Washington Note's Steve Clemons provides the full transcript (Clemons has plenty more about Wilkerson in other blog posts).

What's the big deal about Wilkerson's speech? Well, for the press, it's the latest sign of a conservative crack-up. For foreign policy wonks, it's the accusation that the Bush administration pretty much ignored the 1947 National Security Act:

Almost everyone since the ’47 act, with the exception, I think, of Eisenhower, has in some way or another perturbated, flummoxed, twisted, drew evolutionary trends with, whatever, the national security decision-making process. I mean, John Kennedy trusted his brother, who was attorney general – made his brother attorney general – far more than he should have. Richard Nixon, oh my god, took a position that was not even envisioned in the original framers of the act’s minds, national security advisor, and not subject to confirmation by the Senate, advice and consent – took that position and gave it to his secretary of State, concentrating power in ways that still reverberate in this country. Jimmy Carter allowed Zbig Brzezinski to essentially negate his secretary of State.

Now, I could go on and say what Sandy Berger did to Madeline Albright in the realm of foreign policy, and I could make other provocative statements too, but no one, in my study of the act’s implementation, has so flummoxed the process as the present administration....

the case that I saw for four-plus years was a case that I have never seen in my studies of aberrations, bastardizations, perturbations, changes to the national security decision-making process. What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made. And then when the bureaucracy was presented with the decision to carry them out, it was presented in a such a disjointed, incredible way that the bureaucracy often didn’t know what it was doing as it moved to carry them out....

There are all kinds of problems that need to be dealt with and we are not going to make it into the 21st century very far and keep our power intact and our powder dry if we don’t start to deal with this need to change the decision-making process, and an understanding of that need, which, for whatever reason, intuitive or intellectual I don’t know, I’ll give credit to the Bush administration for, by suddenly concentrating power in one tiny little aspect of the federal government and letting that little cabal make the decisions. That’s not a recipe for success. It’s a recipe for good decision-making in terms of the speed and alacrity with which you can make decisions, of course. Harlan and I can sit down and we can make a decision probably a lot faster than all of you and me can make a decision, but if all of you bring something to the fight and will be integral in the implementation of the decision I’m going to make, and if you know some things I don’t know and you might dissent because of those things you know, I damn well better listen to you, and I better figure out a way to get all of you to work together if we finally come to a decision and we decide to implement that. I better know how to get you to work together.

That is not what this administration did for four years. Instead it made decisions in secret, and now I think it is paying the consequences of having made those decisions in secret. But far more telling to me is America is paying the consequences. You and I and every other citizen like us is paying the consequences, whether it is a response to Katrina that was less than adequate certainly, or whether it is the situation in Iraq, which still goes unexplained. You know, if I had the time I could stand up here today I think and make a strategic case for why we are in Iraq and why we have to stay there and we have to get it right. As Winston Churchill said, “America will always do the right thing, after exhausting all other possibilities.” Well, we need to get busy and exhaust them and do the right thing.

Hmmm..... a dysfunctional foreign policy decision-making process.... this sounds familiar. Very, very familiar.

Wilkerson also points out, however, that there was a stronger pre-war consensus on Iraqi WMD intellgence than many want to believe:

I can’t tell you why the French, the Germans, the Brits and us thought that most of the material, if not all of it, that we presented at the U.N. on 5 February 2003 was the truth. I can’t. I’ve wrestled with it. I don’t know – and people say, well, INR dissented. That’s a bunch of bull. INR dissented that the nuclear program was up and running. That’s all INR dissented on. They were right there with the chems and the bios. Carl Ford and I talked; Tom Finger and I talked, who is now John Negroponte’s deputy, and that was the way INR felt. And, frankly, I wasn’t all that convinced by the evidence I’d seen that he had a nuclear program other than the software. That is to say there are some discs or there were some scientists and so forth but he hadn’t reconstituted it. He was going to wait until the international tension was off of him, until the sanctions were down, and then he was going to go back – certainly go back to all of his programs. I mean, I was convinced of that.

But I saw satellite evidence, and I’ve looked at satellite pictures for much of my career. I saw information that would lead me to believe that Saddam Hussein, at least on occasion, was spoofing us, was giving us disinformation. When you see a satellite photograph of all the signs of the chemical weapons ASP – Ammunition Supply Point – with chemical weapons, and you match all those signs with your matrix on what should show a chemical ASP, and they’re there, you have to conclude that it’s a chemical ASP, especially when you see the next satellite photograph which shows the U.N. inspectors wheeling in in their white vehicles with black markings on them to that same ASP and everything is changed, everything is clean. None of those signs are there anymore....

The consensus of the intelligence community was overwhelming. I can still hear George Tenet telling me, and telling my boss in the bowels of the CIA, that the information we were delivering – which we had called considerably – we had called it very much – we had thrown whole reams of paper out that the White House had created. But George was convinced, John McLaughlin was convinced that what we were presented was accurate. And contrary to what you were hearing in the papers and other places, one of the best relationships we had in fighting terrorists and in intelligence in general was with guess who? The French. In fact, it was probably the best. And they were right there with us.

posted by Dan at 08:40 AM | Comments (29) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

It's your very last chance to get in the acknowledgments!!

This appears to be the week when career setbacks translate into publishing successes.

A few days ago, Bruce Bartlett was fired by the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Now, Rachel Deahl reports in Publishers Weekly that Doubleday is thrilled:

Sometimes getting your pink slip can be a good thing. That's the case with Bruce Bartlett, a now-former senior fellow at the conservative Dallas-based think tank National Center for Policy Analysis. Bartlett, an ardent Bush supporter in 2000 who was also a member of the George H.W. Bush Treasury department, was given his walking papers on Monday after his boss, president of the organization John C. Goodman, read the manuscript of his upcoming book, The Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy.

After The New York Times reported the news of Bartlett's firing, Doubleday (which is pubbing Impostor) quickly bumped the book's release date from April 4 to February 28. The imprint has also upped the book's print run from 30,000 copies to 50,000.

Coincidentally, after my own career setback, I have recently learned that Princeton University Press accepted my book manuscript for publication.

[Hooray!! This means it's coming out in a few months, right?--ed. How little you know about academic publishing, my notional friend. It means I will be spending the next couple of months to complete one final revision. After I hand it in, it will come out about a year after that. So my goal will be for the book to be released in 2006.]

And you -- yes, you, the not-so-average blog reader -- can help!! If you have a few spare days, feel free to peruse the manuscript. Let me know if you have any constructive criticisms, stylistic suggestions, or detect any typos (there are a bunch strategically sprinkled into the current version). If you're lucky, you too could find yourself mentioned in the acknowledgments in a major university press book!!

[Whoop-dee-frickin'-doo. This is a big deal?--ed. Well, it is for my field. Anyone in the discipline who sees a new book in their field will first check the acknowledgments, index, and bibliography to see if they are mentioned. And anyone who tells you otherwise is not to be trusted.]

posted by Dan at 06:17 PM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

So explain this to me about Harriet Miers....

The positive trait that appeared most often in early press accounts about Harriet Miers was her meticulous attention to every detail. Say what you will about Miers, all the i's were dotted and all the t's were crossed on her watch.

One could quibble about whether this is the most useful trait in a Supreme Court Justice, but it is certainly a positive trait in its own right -- one that many Americans wish they had in greater stock. And, at this stage of the game, I suspect the Bush administration will take whatever positive memes about Miers it can get.

Which makes this Knight-Ridder story by James Kuhnhenn all the more disturbing:

Senate Republicans and Democrats said Wednesday that Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers' written answers to Senate questions were incomplete and inadequate and demanded that she and the White House provide more details, particularly about her work as White House counsel.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and the committee's top Democrat, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, took the unusual step of asking Miers by letter to amplify her responses. Specter described Miers' nomination process as "chaotic."

"We do not have much paperwork. We do not have much of a record," Specter said.

"I don't know of anybody who would tell you in that committee that they were satisfied with the responses," Leahy said....

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Miers intended to respond soon.

"From the first day when she was nominated, Ms. Miers told Sen. Specter that she had years of files to go through and that she would work to complete the questionnaire as quickly as possible, but that it was likely she would have to send follow-ups to provide additional information," Perino said.

To be fair to Miers, a lot of the incomplete answers are likely due to Bush's reluctance to do anything that event hints at a waiver of executive privilege.

Still, there's this very odd end of the story:

Specter, whose handling of Roberts' confirmation was praised by both Democrats and Republicans, voiced bewilderment at how Miers' nomination has unfolded, and he alluded to his 100-minute encounter with Miers on Monday, where she ended up disputing his account of their meeting to the press.

Specter initially said Miers had expressed the view that the Constitution contains a right to privacy, a key element in the Roe v. Wade case that established a woman's right to an abortion. Miers, however, said Specter misunderstood her, and Specter said he accepted her statement.

But on Wednesday, he said: "I've never walked out of a room and had a disagreement as to what was said."

UPDATE: Patrick Belton points out that Miers has given an embarrassing answer to an embarrassing question.

In NRO, Byron York notes that her supporters have admitted that, "The meetings with the senators are going terribly. On a scale of one to 100, they are in negative territory."

Orin Kerr thinks the tipping point on Miers has been reached.

posted by Dan at 08:54 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

Should the U.S. still have some SOB's?

As Henry Farrell pointed out two months ago, one of the more intriguing ideational coalitions of the past few years has been, "the ever-smushier and less critical lovefest between leftwing opponents of the Iraq war and rightwing realist opponents of same."

I bring this up because, a) it appears that the influence of the neocons has been on the wane in the Bush administration as compared to the realists; and b) Max Boot's Los Angeles Times column on one of our strategically convenient but ideologically awkward allies -- the ex-Soviet republic of Azerbaijan:

Azerbaijan's oil revenues — and its importance — continue to grow with the opening this year of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline that will carry 1 million barrels a day from the Caspian Sea to Turkey's Mediterranean coast. The 1,100-mile route, designed with U.S. guidance, avoids unstable Russia to the north and hostile Iran to the south, offering the West an important source of non-OPEC energy.

Not only is Azerbaijan happy to sell us oil, it's also willing to cooperate in the war against Islamist terrorists. Though most Azerbaijanis are Shiite Muslims, they are firmly secular; you see more veils in London than in Baku. The government has sent 150 soldiers to Iraq and may be willing to grant the U.S. access to some of its military bases.

All of this creates a major dilemma for President Bush. He has repeatedly pledged to "stand with dissidents and exiles against oppressive regimes." But the oppressive regime in Azerbaijan is willing to do favors for the United States. How hard is the U.S. willing to fight for its ideals?

The answer should come soon. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for Nov. 6, and they promise to be anything but free and fair. The government is passing out multiple voting cards to its supporters, and it is refusing to use indelible ink to prevent fraud. In the run-up to the vote, truncheon-wielding cops have been cracking heads among peaceful demonstrators. And, although returning opposition leader Rasul Guliyev never made it to Baku on Monday (he was detained in Ukraine), hundreds of his supporters were rounded up by authorities determined to avoid a repeat of the peaceful revolutions that have swept post-Soviet Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.

The U.S. reaction to this thuggery has been muted, to put it kindly. Two years ago, when Ilham Aliyev was anointed president in a rigged election following his father's demise, the State Department appeared to offer congratulations rather than criticism. Nowadays, U.S. Ambassador Reno L. Harnish III speaks highly of Aliyev's supposed moderation and is not protesting too loudly this "reformer's" rampant rights abuses. The ambassador tried — unsuccessfully — to block a group of Western think tanks from holding a conference last weekend in Baku that featured leading opposition figures. He told organizers he didn't want to stir things up before the election.

One wonders -- if the Bush administration veers towards a more realist direction, will liberals and neoconservatives find common cause on cases like these?

posted by Dan at 06:03 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Can you feel the Hong Kong buzz?

Last week WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said that, "the engines [of WTO negotiations] are buzzing" -- mostly because of a U.S. proposal to reform its domestic price supports for agricultural goods.

Lamy has an ambitious timetable in the run-up to the December Hong Kong Ministerial conference:

I believe we should stand by our target of circulating a comprehensive draft text in mid-November, which is essential for governments to prepare themselves properly. That is about 30 days from now, counting every day as a working day. The amount of ground to be covered in this very short time is very large. But I am convinced it is not impossible. It can be done, and I believe that a number of issues are ripe for rapid movement once other sectors unblock.

Well.... the problem is that the U.S. isn't the only country that needs to make concessions.

There's the European Union, for example. Deutsche Welle is not optimistic:

First came the proposal to reduce agricultural subsidies; then came the backlash.

Peter Mandelson, the EU trade commissioner, called for reducing subsidies under the bloc's common agricultural policy by 70 percent and farm import duties by 60 percent after 2013.

Then France, along with a dozen other members, called an emergency meeting Tuesday to tie his hands. They accused him of exceeding his mandate, offering too many concessions in negotiations, and want him restricted before he goes to Hong Kong in December.

And then there's the rest of the world -- particularly the developing countries. In the Financial Times, Alan Beattie is not optimistic:

India would like to see rich countries' subsidies cut but wants to keep the tariffs that protect its millions of small, low-productivity farmers.

Moreover, other countries that are even more defensive of their farmers than India and the EU complain that their views are squeezed out of a Doha round focused on liberalising agriculture.

The Group of 33 poor countries, for example, of which India is a member, recently complained that “it is unfortunate that the G33 are not invited in representative proportion to uphold their interests in the negotiations”.

Japan has repeatedly complained its interests in agriculture it maintains some of the highest farm tariffs in the rich world are ignored....

The influential Group of 20 developing countries, for example, to which both Brazil and India belong, has proposed heavy cuts in subsidies for rich nations' farmers but modest tariff reductions for poorer countries, a combination the US says it cannot accept.

Some observers close to the talks suspect the G20 tariff offer is already close to a red line for India....

The G20 at some point must decide whether it wants a deal, says William Cline, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington. “If there is an insistence on keeping self-injuriously high tariffs as an option, then the thing is not going to fly."

Lamy is correct -- his timetable for negotiations is not impossible.

But with this constellation of interests, it's pretty damned improbable.

posted by Dan at 04:37 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Yo Geritol!!

In my first visit to Souther California, my guide took me to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. After gawking at the stores and the price tags, we stumbled into an art gallery that was having quite a function -- lots of guys with slicked-back pony tails, black suits, black shirts, and black ties [Cut them some slack -- this was 1990--ed.]

It turned out that we had stumbled into a retrospective of the artwork of... Sylvester Stallone.

The piece of his I remember the most was "Rocky V." This was a collage of typed manuscript pages on a canvas with gobs of paint splattered everywhere. It was very... three-dimensional.

I dredge this memory out of my brain and inflict it on all of you because of this Associated Press story:

Rocky is planning another comeback.

Fifteen years after starring in "Rocky V," Sylvester Stallone is reprising his role as the boxing champ in the sixth "Rocky" movie, publicist Michelle Bega said Monday.

The 59-year-old actor will write and direct "Rocky Balboa," which will begin shooting in Philadelphia and Las Vegas next year.

Stallone told the Daily Variety trade magazine the movie will focus on an aging, widowed Rocky who is reluctant to get back in the ring but ends up doing it "just to compete, not to win."

I look forward with bated breath to see the work of art that Stallone will forge out of this screenplay.

Readers are strongly encouraged to suggest an age-appropriate opponent for Stallone's senior boxing flick. With apologies to Fight Club, I'd have to vote for William Shatner.

posted by Dan at 04:18 PM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (0)

The dissaffected Republican elites

For many years, Bruce Bartlett has been the epitome of the loyal critic -- someone who has defended the Bush administration on big questions while still highlighting his differences with the administration.

According to the New York Times' Richard Stevenson, Bartlett has joined the ranks of really disgruntled Republicans:

In the latest sign of the deepening split among conservatives over how far to go in challenging President Bush, Bruce Bartlett, a Republican commentator who has been increasingly critical of the White House, was dismissed on Monday as a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative research group based in Dallas.

In a statement, the organization said the decision was made after Mr. Bartlett supplied its president, John C. Goodman, with the manuscript of his forthcoming book, "The Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy."

....Like many economic conservatives, he has grown increasingly disenchanted with the current administration's fiscal policy, arguing that Mr. Bush has tolerated if not encouraged a federal spending spree, dashing conservative hopes for progress toward a smaller, leaner government.

He has also joined social conservatives in attacking Mr. Bush's nomination of Harriet E. Miers to the Supreme Court. The Miers nomination, more than any other move by the administration in the last five years, has drawn criticism of Mr. Bush by conservative scholars and commentators, though the White House so far appears to have succeeded in limiting the breach with elected Republicans in Congress.

Matthew Yglesias doesn't think this will amount to much:

Despite the tumult in the punditsphere, the latest Gallup poll shows Bush's approval rating still sinking, but not sinking among conservatives. Instead, he's managed to grow even more unpopular with Democrats and Independents. Not only is the rank-and-file still loyal to Bush, but dare I say that the pundits who matter are. Fox News and the talk radio hosts with big audiences are still in his corner. I work professionally in the exciting worlds of small magazines and new media, but the broadcast bohemoths are still the really influential segment of the press.

If Rupert Murdoch decides to turn on the GOP leadership someday, then that would spell huge trouble for them, but there's no indication that's happening.

This is the message that is coming from Bush officials, according to Time:

Bush's friends contend that it is the conservative élite, not the President, who miscalculated and that self-righteous right-wingers stand to lose their seats at the table of power for the next three years. "They're crazy to take him on this frontally," said a former West Wing official. "Not many people have done that with George Bush and lived to tell about it." If a Justice Miers eventually takes her seat on the court, vocal critics can only hope the Bush Administration handles the punishment of the treasonous as poorly as it is currently promoting one of its most loyal subjects.

In the end, whether Yglesias (and Bush) are right or not revolves around two really, really big questions:

: 1) Do ideas matter in the short run? One could argue that the people Bush is losing right now have been the idea entrepreneurs. Matt is correct that Bush still has quite the firm grip over important policy and power levers. With a reduced bench for supplying supporting ideas, however, will that advantage hollow out? This Peter Baker story in the Washington Post suggests far from smooth sailing.

2) Will conservative criticism eventually permeate the mass conservative public? The current Gallup poll says no, but if the crack-up continues, there's going to be some trickle-down.


posted by Dan at 12:10 PM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, October 17, 2005

All we are is dust in the wind

Foreign Policy and the UK's Prospect magazine have announced the results of their contest to determine the world's top public intellectuals.

I had my own problems with this exercise when it was first announced, but I'm a booster compared with the message contained in Chris Bertram's posting:

Not much there that is worthy of comment. Nearly everyone on the list has made a contribution which is either totally ephemeral, or which will simply be absorbed into the body of human knowledge without leaving much trace of its originator. Ideas from Sen, Habermas or Chomsky will survive in some form, but nobody will read them in 100 years. And the rest will be utterly forgotten—or so I predict.

Bertram is likely correct that many of the contributions are ephemeral, but is it really so bad to come up with an idea that is "absorbed into the body of human knowledge"? Isn't that kind of the point?

[But according to Bertram, there won't be much trace of the idea's progenitor--ed. On the one hand, duh. Current writers always interpret older writers in the context of their current epoch. On the other hand, it is precisely this habit in our thinking that then leaves the door open to graduate students eager to engage in their own kind of revisionism -- which can't happen without reading the originator.]

posted by Dan at 11:41 AM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Open Iraq constitution thread

Comment away on the implications of the Iraqi vote on its constitution.

Condi Rice is apparently pleased:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday that initial assessments indicate Iraqis had probably approved a controversial constitution, although the turnout alone showed the fragile new political process has taken hold despite a deadly insurgency.

"There's a belief that it has probably passed," Rice told reporters traveling with her, based on people in Iraq who are seeing preliminary vote tallies. At least 63 percent of Iraqis voted Saturday, she said, an increase of about 1 million voters over the first democratic election in January for a transitional government. Much of that increase, she said, comes from the higher participation of Iraq's minority Sunni Muslims.

The violence also was lower and produced fewer lethal attacks than in January's vote, she noted.

The constitution requires a simple majority to be approved, unless two-thirds of voters in three of Iraq's 18 provinces voted against it. Then the constitution would not pass and Iraqi leaders would be forced to draft a new document to be submitted to voters.

News services from Baghdad reported Sunday that early returns suggested large numbers of voters rejected the constitution in the Sunni strongholds of Anbar and Salahuddin provinces. But according to initial results, Sunni voters may not have been able to reach the two-thirds threshold in Diyala province east of Baghdad or in Nineveh province in the north, where Sunnis also have large representation.

Disputes over the constitution have been intense and threatened to deepen the religious and ethnic divide right up to the Saturday vote. But Rice said the turnout sends a strong signal to insurgents that the political process is "alive and well."

"What [the referendum] will certainly help to do is to broaden the base of the political process," she said, and diminish the influence of those supporting violence.

"Ultimately, insurgencies have to be defeated politically. You defeat them by sapping them of their political support, and increasingly Iraqis are throwing their support behind the political process, not behind the violence," she said on the last stop of her week-long tour of Central Asia, Afghanistan and Europe.

There's a lot riding on that last paragraph.

posted by Dan at 12:00 PM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (0)

Is any country prepared for the avian flu?

As the Bush administration continues to develop its pandemic plan, I'm beginning to wonder if any country is really prepared for a pandemic. The Financial Times reports that the EU isn't prepared for an avian flu pandemic. What's interesting is why:

Europe is not properly prepared for a flu pandemic and has inadequate supplies of vaccines and antiviral drugs, says an internal European Commission document obtained by the Financial Times.

With avian flu on its borders, the human vaccine situation in the EU is “far from satisfactory”, according to a note presented last Wednesday by Markos Kyprianou, health and consumer protection commissioner, to his colleagues ahead of a meeting of EU health ministers on October 20.

Some member states have reserved all available antiviral drug supplies for years to come, leaving countries that may be first hit by the disease without any access to drugs, it adds....

The report said: “There are complaints from member states (and third countries) that orders from some countries have reserved all manufacturing capacity for several years to come, leaving no possibilities for others who may be hit first.”

It also said the situation was “far from satisfactory”, for pandemic vaccines. “Some member states have concluded advanced purchase agreements for the H5N1 virus vaccine”.

The EU warnings of capacity shortfalls will increase pressure on Roche, sole distributor of Tamiflu the principal flu antiviral drug as Cipla, an Indian drugs company, has said it is beginning to make a generic version in defiance of patent laws.

There are going to be some nasty intra-EU squabbles if a pandemic breaks out anytime soon (which, it should be stressed, is far from certain. Experts are predicting an outbreak by 2020. So, with luck, this will turn out to be like the Y2K problem rather than the 1918 influenza outbreak).

UPDATE: Tyler Cowen makes the case for not violating Roche's patent on Tamiflu.

posted by Dan at 01:39 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, October 14, 2005

Seven days later....

Among the things I've learned in the week after tenure rejection:

1) It's good to have the blog. I very much appreciate the thoughts expressed in the comments section -- the depth of the response has been overwhelming, a nice salve on what remains an open wound.

[Yeah, but you expected the kind words, right? That's why you posted, right?--ed. The primary reason I posted was that I knew the decision would slowly ripple through the very small world of IR scholars. Since a decent chunk of that world peruses the blog, it was a quick and easy way to avoid repeating the following kind of awkward phone conversation:

DAN: Hi.

COLLEAGUE OF DAN: Hey there. How are you?

DAN: I've been better. I just got denied tenure.

COLLEAGUE OF DAN: Oh, dear, that's terrible!

DAN: Yes, it is....

(awkward pause)

COLLEAGUE OF DAN: Uh..... er.... wait, did you hear that? [Sound of phone hanging up.]

2) It's good to read other bloggers as well. I have been most grateful for the sentiments expressed across the political spectrum.

More importantly, a number of scholar-bloggers have made some excellent contriutions on the murky relationship between blogging, tenure, and scholarship -- see, in particular, Juan Non-Volokh, Ann Althouse, Sean Carroll, Timothy Burke, and Michael Bérubé.

3) It's good to have small children. Despite the occasional impulse to curl up into a fetal position and sleep most of the day, children do not really understand the concept of "having a bad day." So you have no choice but to go about your day, which is a useful check against lethargy. Plus, without getting too mushy about it, a hug from the one-year old is worth a hell of a lot more than the collective opinion of my tenured colleagues.

4) It's good to go on a 24-hour fast soon after getting denied tenure. Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. A significant aspect of the Days of Awe that lead up to the holiday is asking for forgiveness from those you have wronged over the past year. An equally significant aspect, however, is forgiving those who have wronged you.

Now I'll grant that forgiveness was not at the top of my list of emotions a week ago, but after some reflection, it's been creeping up. Among the many pieces of intelligence I've been picking up about my decision is the idea that there was little display of malice or pettiness in the discussion of my case. So I (obviously) think senior colleagues made the wrong decision -- but I can't say they made the decision in a fit of pique or envy.

Yeah, that's about all that I've learned.

[Wait just a friggin' minute. There's been a lot of chatter in the blogosphere -- and in the Chicago Tribune, and the New York Sun, and Inside Higher Ed, and the Chronicle of Higher Education -- about what (if any) role blogging played in the decision. Now that you've got some more intel, do you want to fan those particular flames?--ed. Well..... I don't want to violate any confidences, and there are some things that will remain "known unknowns" no matter what. That said, let's just say I found myself nodding unconsciously when I read these paragraphs by Sean Carroll with regard to his own case of tenure denial at the U of C:

There’s a short answer and a long answer. The short answer is "No, it’s not blogging that prevents you from getting tenure; it’s because some people in your department (or the dean, or whatever) didn’t think that your research was good enough." The blog was not a hot topic of discussion in my case, and I’m pretty sure that many of my colleagues don’t even know what a blog is, much less have a negative opinion of mine.

The longer answer must deal with the issue of why someone doesn’t think your research was good enough. (You might wonder whether teaching and various other forms of service are also relevant; at a top-tier research university like Chicago, the answer is simply "no," and if anyone says differently they’re not being honest.) I think my own research was both solid and influential, and Dan’s looks pretty good from the perspective of a complete outsider; certainly neither of us had simply sat around for six years. But these are judgment calls, and a lot goes into that judgment. Like it or not, if you are very visibly spending a great deal of time doing things other than research, people might begin to wonder how devoted you are to the enterprise. To first order it doesn’t really matter whether that time is spent blogging or playing the banjo; some folks will think that you could have been spending that time doing research. (At second order it does matter; some people, smaller in number but undoubtedly there, feel resentful and jealous when one of their colleagues attains a certain public profile on the basis of outreach rather than research.) Of course nobody will ever say that they voted against giving tenure to someone because that person spent too much time on public outreach, or put too much effort into their teaching. But getting a reputation at being really good at that stuff could in principle make it harder to have your research accomplishments recognized — or not. It’s just impossible to tell, without access to powerful mind-reading rays that one can train on the brains of the senior faculty.

Blogging may very well be a contributor to this image of not being perfectly devoted — although, given the lack of familiarity with blogs on the part of most senior faculty, it’s very unlikely to be playing a major role. But even then it’s not blogging per se, it’s the decision to make an effort to communicate with the public. Blogging is just a technology, not a fundamentally new activity.

I can knock down simple strawmen on the question of what happened. I wasn't denied tenure because of my politics, for example. At a deeper level, however, it's just impossible to parse out well-justified motivations from poorly-justified motivations. And the sooner you and I accept that fact, the better for our emotional health.]

posted by Dan at 12:00 PM | Comments (43) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Most embarrassing Miers moment yet

From today's Washington Post story by Peter Baker and Charles Babington on the Miers nomination:

The Senate Judiciary Committee sent Miers a questionnaire yesterday that included several items the panel did not ask of [Chief Justice John] Roberts. "Please describe in detail any cases or matters you addressed as an attorney or public official which involved constitutional questions," the questionnaire asks. (emphasis added)

Is it just me, or would this be like asking a nominee for Secretary of State, "Please describe in detail any foreign experience or travel you experienced"? UPDATE: Michael Froomkin supplies a more exact analogy in the comments.

posted by Dan at 01:58 PM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Thomas Schelling gets his due from Sweden -- but not from Slate

My favorite class to teach in recent years has been Classics in International Relations Theory. This is a great books course, starting with Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War and ending with Thomas Schelling's Strategy of Conflict.

The reason this is my favorite course is the effect it has on the grad students, who consume a very steady diet of literature that is supposed to be "cutting edge." They are therefore shocked to discover that the modern version of democratic peace theory bears little relationship to Kant’s original formulation, for example. However, they are always stunned to learn that whole careers in international relations have been built out of codifying a few sentences in Schelling. [Oh yeah, and you're not guilty of this?--ed. I'll plead not guilty on Schelling, but nolo contendre with regard to another Nobel-worthy economist.]

So it's wonderful news to read that Schelling has co-won (with Robert Aumann) The Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel "for having enhanced our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis." Kieran Healy has a good post up detailing the relative contributions of Schelling and Aumann. Tyler Cowen has a lovely post up (one of many) about his old Ph.D. advisor.

In Slate, Fred Kaplan tries to throw some cold water on Schelling's Nobel, pointing out:

Today's papers note his ingenious applications of "game theory" to labor negotiations, business transactions, and arms-control agreements. But what they don't note—what is little-known in general—is the crucial role he played in formulating the strategies of "controlled escalation" and "punitive bombing" that plunged our country into the war in Vietnam.

This dark side of Tom Schelling is also the dark side of social science—the brash assumption that neat theories not only reflect the real world but can change it as well, and in ways that can be precisely measured. And it's a legacy that can be detected all too clearly in our current imbroglio in Iraq.

Alas, Kaplan commits the very sin he accuses Schelling of making -- providing an overly neat theory of how Schelling contributed to U.S. policy in Vietnam. Kaplan's own description of Schelling's role in Vietnam contradicts his claim:

[Assistant Secretary of Defense John] McNaughton came to see [Schelling]. He outlined the administration's interest in escalating the conflict in order to intimidate the North Vietnamese. Air power seemed the logical instrument, but what sort of bombing campaign did Schelling think would best ensure that the North would pick up on the signals and respond accordingly? More broadly, what should the United States want the North to do or stop doing; how would bombing convince them to obey; how would we know that they had obeyed; and how could we ensure that they wouldn't simply resume after the bombing had ceased?

Schelling and McNaughton pondered the problem for more than an hour. In the end, they failed to come up with a single plausible answer to these most basic questions. So assured when writing about sending signals with force and inflicting pain to make an opponent behave, Tom Schelling, when faced with a real-life war, was stumped.

He did leave McNaughton with one piece of advice: Whatever kind of bombing campaign you end up launching, it shouldn't last more than three weeks. It will either succeed by then—or it will never succeed.

The bombing campaign—called Operation Rolling Thunder—commenced on March 2, 1965. It didn't alter the behavior of the North Vietnamese or Viet Cong in the slightest. Either they didn't read the signals—or the signals had no effect.

In this description, there's not a whole hell of a lot of brashness -- indeed, Schelling's recommendation was not to escalate Rolling Thunder if the initial bombing didn't work. In Kaplan's passage, Schelling appears to be acutely aware of the difficulties of measurement in applying his theory of compellence to Vietnam. He made a recommendation, but with none of the hubris Kaplan associates with social science (Kaplan also elides Schelling's leadership in a subsequent attempt to convince then-NSC adviser Henry Kissinger to withdraw from Vietnam in the early days of the Nixon administration).

Kaplan's essay contains a grain of truth about the dangers of social science. Too often, theorists come up with great models of the world by assuming away petty inconveniences like bureaucratic politics, implementation with incomplete information, or the effects of rhetorical blowback. But before he throws out the baby with the bathwater, Kaplan might want to ask himself the following question: if policymakers choose not to rely on social science theories to wend their way through a complex world, what navigational aid would Kaplan suggest in its stead? Policymakers across the political spectrum always like to poke fun at explicit theorizing about international relations. The problem is that they usually rely on historical analogies instead -- which are, in every way, worse than the use of explicit theories.

UPDATE: Tyler Cowen quotes Business Week's Michael Mandel on the drawbacks of game theory:

Game theory is no doubt wonderful for telling stories. However, it flunks the main test of any scientific theory: The ability to make empirically testable predictions. In most real-life situations, many different outcomes -- from full cooperation to near-disastrous conflict -- are consistent with the game-theory version of rationality.

To put it a different way: If the world had been blown up during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, game theorists could have explained that as an unfortunate outcome -- but one that was just as rational as what actually happened. Similarly, an industry that collapses into run-amok competition, like the airlines, can be explained rationally by game theorists as easily as one where cooperation is the norm.

Tyler has a number of responses (to which Mandel responds) but mine is simple: game theory has the wrong name. It is a theoretical tool rather than a theory in and of itself. Because of this, Mandel is correct that it is possible to devise game-theoretic models that lead to contrasting predictions. However, the virtue of game theory is that the differences made in starting assumptions, institutional rules, and causal processes are laid bare. One can then argue about how realistic the assumptions, rules, and processes are.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Mark Kleiman points out and explains why the blogosphere is united in its high regard for Schelling.

posted by Dan at 11:34 AM | Comments (32) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Don't worry so much about my little finger

It will come as no surprise to readers that I think Adam Smith was a very, very smart man when it came to human nature.

Reflecting on my own recent turn of events, in comparison to events in South Asia, reminds me of Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part III, Chapter III:

[T]o the selfish and original passions of human nature, the loss or gain of a very small interest of our own, appears to be of vastly more importance, excites a much more passionate joy or sorrow, a much more ardent desire or aversion, than the greatest concern of another with whom we have no particular connexion. His interests, as long as they are surveyed from this station, can never be put into the balance with our own, can never restrain us from doing. whatever may tend to promote our own, how ruinous soever to him. Before we can make any proper comparison of those opposite interests, we must change our position. We must view them, neither from our own place nor yet from his, neither with our own eyes nor yet with his, but from the place and with the eyes of a third person, who has no particular connexion with either, and who judges with impartiality between us. Here, too, habit and experience have taught us to do this so easily and so readily, that we are scarce sensible that we do it; and it requires, in this case too, some degree of reflection, and even of philosophy, to convince us, how little interest we should take in the greatest concerns of our neighbour, how little we should be affected by whatever relates to him, if the sense of propriety and justice did not correct the otherwise natural inequality of our sentiments.

Let us suppose that the great empire of China, with all its myriads of inhabitants, was suddenly swallowed up by an earthquake, and let us consider how a man of humanity in Europe, who had no sort of connexion with that part of the world, would be affected upon receiving intelligence of this dreadful calamity. He would, I imagine, first of all, express very strongly his sorrow for the misfortune of that unhappy people, he would make many melancholy reflections upon the precariousness of human life, and the vanity of all the labours of man, which could thus be annihilated in a moment. He would too, perhaps, if he was a man of speculation, enter into many reasonings concerning the effects which this disaster might produce upon the commerce of Europe, and the trade and business of the world in general. And when all this fine philosophy was over, when all these humane sentiments had been once fairly expressed, he would pursue his business or his pleasure, take his repose or his diversion, with the same ease and tranquillity, as if no such accident had happened. The most frivolous disaster which could befal himself would occasion a more real disturbance. If he was to lose his little finger to-morrow, he would not sleep to-night; but, provided he never saw them, he will snore with the most profound security over the ruin of a hundred millions of his brethren, and the destruction of that immense multitude seems plainly an object less interesting to him, than this paltry misfortune of his own. (emphasis added)

I have been very touched by the empathetic responses to my recent bit of bad luck. But a sense of propriety and justice would be good in responding to the devastation in South Asia -- not to mention other recent natural disasters.

Click here for the Red Cross' response to the Kashmiri earthquake.

UPDATE: California Yankee has a useful list of charities for quake victims.

posted by Dan at 05:30 PM | Comments (30) | Trackbacks (0)

Saturday, October 8, 2005

So Friday was a pretty bad day....

This Friday was a less-than-great day for two reasons.

First, the Red Sox got swept in the playoffs. I’m sad about it, but not that sad. I can hardly begrudge the White Sox for their first playoff series victory since 1959 1917, and my son was quite pleased by the result. Along the spectrum of Red Sox Nation, I fall in the Bill Simmons camp – disappointed but no longer devastated when they lose. Besides, for reasons I posted on six months ago, I am optimistic about the future.

[Shouldn’t you be more "rah-rah" about the team representing the South Side of Chicago?—ed.] Well, that leads to the second and more important reason why Friday was a pretty bad day.

The political science department voted to deny me tenure. Next year at this time, I will no longer be residing in Hyde Park or teaching at the University of Chicago.

[Wait a minute, you can’t leave it at that. What happened? What the hell happened? Why didn’t you get tenure? Was it your failure to anchor yourself within a clearly established theoretical paradigm? A lack of respect from peers in your IPE subfield? Too much output? A declining respect of your subfield by your tenured colleagues? The departmental turn away from mainstream political science scholarship? Your political orientation? Jealousy of your public intellectual status? WAS IT THE FRIGGIN’ BLOG??!!--ed.] My answers in order: I dunno, perhaps, probably not, maybe, I guess so, a little, could be, I seriously doubt it, and who the hell knows? Any decent social scientist must allow for multiple causes, so it’s not necessarily an either/or question. At the moment, I simply lack the data to confirm or deny any explanation. I may garner more information in the days and weeks that follow, but the fact that I was genuinely surprised at the outcome suggests that my ex ante intelligence gathering was piss-poor.

[So what will you do now?--ed.] Look for gainful employment to start in June 2006 – a fact that will no doubt amuse readers who have disagreed with my take on the effect of offshore outsourcing on job creation. At least I have some lead time.

[How are you feeling? Are you bitter at the U of C?--ed.] I’ve felt better. And -- duh -- yeah. That said, I will miss the students. The undergrads have been wonderful, and the grad students have been razor-sharp. At the moment, my biggest regret about all this is the knowledge that I’ve taught my last class at the university.

[Speaking of regrets, let’s go back to the blog.... er… any regrets?--ed.] The very first words I wrote on this blog were: "I shouldn't be doing this. I'll be going up for tenure soon." This is a theme that I’ve touched on several times since then. The point is, I can’t say I didn’t go into this with my eyes open.

That said, if one assumes that the opportunity cost of blogging (e.g., better or more scholarship) was the difference between tenure and no tenure – an unclear assertion at best – then it’s a tough call. From a strict cost-benefit analysis, one could argue that the doors that blogging opened could have been deferred for a few years in return for the annuity of a tenured position at Chicago. That said, if I did things only for the money, I never would have entered the academy in the first place. And I’ve enjoyed the psychic rewards of blogging way too much to regret my choice.

[Just this week you said, "The academic job market, as I've witnessed it, is a globally rational but locally capricious system." Still believe that?--ed.] Well, I’d posit that the second half of the hypothesis has received another data point of empirical support. We’ll see how the first half holds up as the job market proceeds.

Blogging may be slower than usual for the next couple of days.

posted by Dan at 10:20 PM | Comments (264) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, October 7, 2005

Is there anything more exciting than Canadian public television?

Blogging may be slow for the next few days, as I'll be at the University of Toronto's Munk Centre for International Studies for a conference entitled, "Growing Apart: Europe and America."

However, for those diehard readers of who reside in Ontario -- yes, that's all three of you -- I'll be one of a bevy of talking heads for TVOntario's Diplomatic Immunity, airing this Friday.

TVO will also -- God forbid -- be airing the "highlights" of the conference... er... at some point in the next few weeks.

Canadian public TV -- it's fantastic!!

posted by Dan at 12:57 AM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, October 6, 2005

More Miers links

Both Virginia Postrel and Ann Althouse have plenty of posts up about the Miers confirmation, so go check them out.

In this one, Althouse asks:

I have yet to see a single piece of writing by Harriet Miers dealing with an issue of constitutional law or even anything purporting to demonstrate the analytical, interpretive skills required to serve on the Supreme Court. The nomination was announced on Monday. It's Thursday. Can we have something in writing that shows her mind in action, that inspires confidence that this is a person whose judgment we should all trust for the next two decades?

This Jim Lindgren post probably won't assuage her.

In this post, Postrel partially corrects Lindgren's assessment -- but then goes onto observe, "The prose is indeed clunky, however, and the article is banal in that well-known corporate way, where you make an argument--her main point is that the courts need more money--without any sharp points."

I'll give the last word to Postrel, who rebuts the snobbery argument:

The anti-snobbery defense of Miers is an understandable but wrong-headed one--doubly so when it comes from graduates of large, research-oriented public universities that attract great students with low tuitions. My father, a math and physics major at Davidson (a far more academically oriented school then and now than SMU), always had that same southern chip on his shoulder about the Ivy League. Then I went to Princeton, and he discovered that they really do teach you more there. Most important, of course, is that nobody would care where Miers had gone to school if she had a track record, whether as a scholar, a policy maker, or a litigator, on constitutional law. (emphasis added)

posted by Dan at 06:41 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)

Scholar-blogger thoughts, cont'd

Following up on my last post:

Oxblog's David Adesnik is happy about the new U of C Law School blog -- and the extent to which the law school is proud of its existence -- but nevertheless believes blogging remains decidedly out of the academic mainstream:

What the issue comes down to, I think, is the perception that blogging is inherently unbecoming of a scholar. Posts are brief and rapid-fire. But what I hope that more faculties are beginning to discover is that blogging can serve as an important complement to the traditional forums for scholarship.

No one thinks that blogging should replace books or journal articles. But I think it can serve as an invaluable means of allowing scholars to apply their knowledge to current situations without having first to write a 30 or 300 page manuscript. Thus, I wish the UC faculty bloggers all the best and hope that their example will demonstrate that blogging is anything but the academic equivalent of lese majeste.

In the spirit of the last paragraph, I would encourage the IR scholars in the audience to check out Dan Nexon's post about the debate over the role that norms play in world politics. He's looking for feedback.

posted by Dan at 05:07 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

"I can't think of anything bigger that's happened in virology for many years."

That's the assessment of one expert in Gina Kolata's New York Times front-pager on new research about the 1918 influenza virus:

The 1918 influenza virus, the cause of one of history's most deadly epidemics, has been reconstructed and found to be a bird flu that jumped directly to humans, two teams of federal and university scientists announced yesterday....

"This is huge, huge, huge," said John Oxford, a professor of virology at St. Bartholomew's and the Royal London Hospital who was not part of the research team. "It's a huge breakthrough to be able to put a searchlight on a virus that killed 50 million people. I can't think of anything bigger that's happened in virology for many years."

The scientists painstakingly traced the genetic sequence, synthesized the virus using tools of molecular biology, and infected mice and human lung cells with it in a secure laboratory at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. The research is being published in the journals Nature and Science.

The findings, the scientists say, reveal a small number of genetic changes that may explain why this virus was so lethal. It is significantly different from flu viruses that caused the more recent pandemics of 1957 and 1968. Those viruses were not bird flu viruses but instead were human flu viruses that picked up a few genetic elements of bird flu.

The research also confirms the legitimacy of worries about the bird flu viruses, called H5N1, that are emerging in Asia. Since 1997, bird flocks in 11 countries have been decimated by flu outbreaks. So far nearly all the people infected - more than 100, including more than 60 who died - contracted the sickness directly from birds. However, there has been little transmission between people.

A companion piece by Gardiner Harris suggests that Democrats have officially freaked out about the avian flu problem:

Health officials have warned for years that a virulent bird flu could kill millions of people, but few in Washington have seemed alarmed. After a closed-door briefing last week, however, fear of an outbreak swept official Washington, which was still reeling from the poor response to Hurricane Katrina.

The day after the briefing, led by Michael O. Leavitt, the secretary of Health and Human Services, and other senior government health officials, the Senate squeezed $3.9 billion for flu preparations into a Pentagon appropriations bill.

On Wednesday, Senate Democrats plan to introduce another bill calling for the creation of a flu pandemic coordinator within the White House and a federal buy-back program for unused flu vaccines, among other measures, according to a draft of the bill. Its authors include the Senate minority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada; Senator Barack Obama of Illinois; and Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Thirty-two Democratic senators sent a letter to President Bush on Tuesday expressing "grave concern that the nation is dangerously unprepared for the serious threat of avian influenza."....

Mr. Leavitt warned in the briefing last week that an outbreak could cause 100,000 to 2 million deaths and as many as 10 million hospitalizations in the United States, one person who was present said. Those numbers have been presented publicly many times before. But hearing them in closed session gave them urgency, some who were at the meeting said.

The briefing "scared the hell out of me," Senator Reid said recently.

So the Times, it appears, passes the Hotline Blog's test of media relevance (link via Glenn Reynolds).

Even though I've been Bush-bashing as of late, it's worth pointing out that Democrats are late to this party. Kolata says in her story that, "Bush administration officials have been talking about pandemic flu preparedness for years, and they say they will soon release a pandemic flu plan, in the works for more than a year." Harris says that, "The Senate majority leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee, said he had been delivering speeches about improving the nation's preparedness for a flu pandemic since December."

Of course, let's see how the plans pan out.

posted by Dan at 01:25 AM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Who do you trust?

George W. Bush is asking Americans to trust him one hell of a lot in recent weeks.

On the Miers nomination, as George Will put it, "The president's 'argument' for her amounts to: Trust me."

The problem is, this kind of presidential assertion runs into the "crony too far" problem, as Jacob Levy points out:

[T]he administration and its allies are resorting to saying: "Trust us; the President knows her really well, and she's a real right-winger not a potential Souter." But that only emphasizes the fact that she's an insider pick. The more they say "trust us," the more skeptics of [Miers' competence at jurisprudence] will say, "We shouldn't have to take Supreme Court nominations on faith, and the fact that George W. Bush is the guy who has all this secret knowledge about her makes us more worried, not less."

Then there's this Congressional push to ward off further Abu Ghraibs by codifying the United States Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation as the uniform standard for military interrogations in the field. According to the AP's Liz Sidoti, Bush doesn't like that proposal at all (link via Andrew Sullivan):

The stalemate began in July when [Bill] Frist, R-Tenn., who shepherds President Bush's agenda through the Senate by deciding what bills get a vote, abruptly stopped debate on the [defense authorization] bill. That avoided a high-profile fight over amendments, supported by Warner and sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., restricting the Pentagon's handling of detainees in the war on terror.

The White House had threatened to veto the entire measure over the issue and sent Vice President Dick Cheney to Capitol Hill to press the administration's opposition.

In the Weekly Standard, Tom Donnelly and Vance Serchuk state why the administration is off base:

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. When it comes to detaining prisoners seized in Iraq, Afghanistan and on the other fronts of the terror war, the Pentagon's "just-trust-us" mentality continues to undercut American strategy. Thankfully, Congress is at last on the verge of doing what the administration clearly cannot: set clear standards for the treatment of detainees....

[T]the well-documented pattern of abuses from Afghanistan to Iraq reveals the intellectual bankruptcy of the Pentagon's prized "ambiguity." Despite the unique challenges posed by the war on terror, the Congress--and Republican conservatives, in particular--should be skeptical when the executive branch says, in effect, "Just trust us." Although it's understandable that the Defense Department would like to act with the maximum freedom of action, it has created a Balkanized set of standards in which different rules apply in different places, which plainly does not work. If ever there were an appropriate object for congressional oversight, this is it.

There are good people working in the executive branch in whose competency I trust. At this point, George W. Bush is not one of them.

UPDATE: William J. Stuntz argues in TNR Online that Bush is echoing Truman:

Truman didn't believe in deferring to experts; as the sign on his desk said, the buck stopped with him. Though an ex-senator, he had a very un-legislative disdain for decision-making procedure. Mostly, he just called 'em as he saw 'em, with little reflection and no second-guessing.

In a White House like that, decisions are bound to be high-variance. When layers of process and staff surround every appointment, the extremes--good and bad--tend to be lopped off. Brilliant minds with controversial ideas get nixed along with third-rate schmoozers. But when the boss refuses to staff it out and trusts his own intuition, all those options remain on the table. Cream can rise to the top. So can scum. That is how Harry Truman's presidency produced both Dean Acheson and Fred Vinson, the brilliance of the Marshall Plan and the ineptitude of the Korean War. Few administrations have such highs or such lows.

Like Truman, George W. Bush makes decisions easily. He obviously trusts his own intuitions, especially about people--remember, this is the man who looked into Vladimir Putin's soul. Also like Truman, Bush does not readily admit mistakes, and hence rarely corrects them. It is no accident that both presidents fought badly improvised wars. Finally, Bush has a Truman-like virtue many presidents lack: He doesn't mind having people with better minds and better educations around him. Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz--these are major-league talents, a cut above the norm for their jobs. So is John Roberts, who might be the smartest chief justice since Charles Evans Hughes. But along with the Rices and Robertses come an Alberto Gonzales here, a Michael Brown there--people who are a notch or two below the norm for their jobs. As is Harriet Miers.

This is a nice piece of analogical reasoning, but I don't think it holds up. The first problem is that even the Bush people who are "major-league talents," like Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, have not acquitted themselves well. The second problem is that Truman, unlike Bush, was a voracious reader who demonstrated a fair amount of intellectual curiousity.

posted by Dan at 03:12 PM | Comments (23) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Gendered observations that make you go, "hmmm...."

Wow, talk about your night and day observations about how Miers' gender will affect her possible performance on the Supreme Court.

First, there's Crooked Timber's Kieran Healy:

[T]he fact that she’s a woman leads me to think that, unlike the likes of Michael Brown, she’s also competent and probably a pretty tough person. It’s hard to get to this point in U.S. politics without having those qualities if you’re a woman.... I’d be surprised if her confirmation hearings showed her to be clueless or a pushover.

That's a lovely sentiment, but without digging too deep I can think of a few examples on both sides of the political fence who don't meet Healy's criteria. [UPDATE: Healy amends his assessment, but not on the gender issue.]

Then, there's this from the American Thinker's Thomas Lifner:

One of the lessons the President learned at Harvard was the way in which members of small groups assume different roles in their operation, each of which separate roles can influence the overall function. The new Chief Justice is a man of unquestioned brilliance, as well as cordial disposition. He will be able to lead the other Justices through his intellect and knowledge of the law. Having ensured that the Court’s formal leader meets the traditional and obvious qualities of a Justice, and is a man who indeed embodies the norms all Justices feel they must follow, there is room for attending to other important roles in group process.

According to a source in her Dallas church quoted by Marvin Olasky, Harriet Miers is someone who

taught children in Sunday School, made coffee, brought donuts: "Nothing she's asked to do in church is beneath her."

As the court’s new junior member, the 60 year old lady Harriet Miers will finally give a break to Stephen Breyer, who has been relegated to closing and opening the door of the conference room, and fetching beverages for his more senior Justices. Her ability to do this type of work with no resentment, no discomfort, and no regrets will at the least endear her to the others. It will also confirm her as the person who cheerfully keeps the group on an even keel, more comfortable than otherwise might be the case with a level of emotional solidarity.

Apparently, if confirmed, Miers would also have the prerogative to ground any Justice who stays out after curfew.

posted by Dan at 11:03 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

Your scholar-blogger links for today

My co-author Henry Farrell has an excellent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the ways in which blogging and scholarship can complement each other. Without saying his name, it is certainly an excellent rejoinder to one Mr. "Ivan Tribble." The key paragraphs:

Many young academics who are thinking about blogging share [Duncan] Black's dilemma. Is it a good idea to blog if you're on the job market or have a nontenured position? Tenured academics who blog face relatively little risk when they express controversial opinions -- they have job protection. It's a different story for academics without tenure who want to blog. They may worry that their colleagues would find their blogs objectionable, damaging their career chances, and either blog under a pseudonym, like Black and the law professor "Juan Non-Volokh," or not blog at all. Younger scholars may also worry that blogging would eat up time that could be devoted to publishing articles or working on a book. Few if any academics would want to describe their blogging as part of their academic publishing record (although they might reasonably count it toward public-service requirements). While blogging has real intellectual payoffs, it is not conventional academic writing and shouldn't be an academic's main focus if he or she wants to get tenure.

But to dismiss blogging as a bad idea altogether is to make an enormous mistake. Academic bloggers differ in their goals. Some are blogging to get personal or professional grievances off their chests or... to pursue nonacademic interests. Others, perhaps the majority, see blogging as an extension of their academic personas. Their blogs allow them not only to express personal views but also to debate ideas, swap views about their disciplines, and connect to a wider public. For these academics, blogging isn't a hobby; it's an integral part of their scholarly identity. They may very well be the wave of the future.

Meanwhile, for those who believe that the academic life is a cushy one, go click over to Dan Nexon's post about the poli sci job market at Duck of Minerva. The highlights:

[O]ver the years I have:

1) Written at least sixteen applications for post-doctoral fellowships, only two of which were successful;

2) Sent something on the order of a hundred job-application packets to institutions of higher learning, out of which I received a handful of interviews and a miniscule number of offers;

3) Gone mostly bald.

What, then, is my advice?

Let's start with the obvious. There will always be people who are smarter, better credentialed, and much more attractive than you are. Many of them will be applying for the same jobs as you. But take heart in two facts about the world. One, almost no one can physically occupy the position of assistant professor at two institutions. Two, life is unfair. Between these two laws of nature, you just might get a job offer... or even many, many job offers.

Now, the bad news....

The academic job "market," in other words, is nothing of the sort. It is penetrated by informal and formal ties of friendship and influence. Short-lists, interviews, and offers are made on the basis of many collective and individual decisions, including search committees, departments, and various high priests of the academy (e.g., deans and provosts). In aggregate, these decisions can take many surprising and unpredictable directions. Bottom line: it is foolhardy to invest your ego in the process.

I'm simultaneously more pessimistic and optimistic than Nexon.

On the pessimistic side, the fact that no single person can occupy all the jobs proffered to them does not mean the market will clear. Among top-tier institutions, it is far more likely that departments will simply adopt a "wait 'til next year" approach than hire their second choice. At which point the process repeats itself -- a lucky few snap up all the job offers, everyone else waits until next year. For aspiring academics that want the really plum jobs, this can be like repeatedly banging your head against a wall in the hopes of obtaining a result different than your head hurting -- a textbook definition of insanity.

On the optimistic side, I don't think old-boy networks warp the hiring process as much as is often posited. This is what I said in "So You Want to Get a Tenure-Track Job..."

This process has two parts; getting an interview, and then getting an offer. No doubt, letters of recommendation and phone lobbying can help to get you an interview; that, however, is as far as this kind of influence can carry someone. At the interview stage, the quality of your work and your presentation determines whether you get the job.

The academic job market, as I've witnessed it, is a globally rational but locally capricious system. Some people will undoubtedly slip through the cracks -- but on the whole, talent is recognized and rewarded.

posted by Dan at 03:19 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

So how did the grand stategizin' go?

I was in Princeton last week to attend a conference on "National Security in the 21st Century."

Over at Democracy Arsenal, former guest-blogger Suzanne Nossel provides a lengthy post outlining the general sense of the meeting.

Go check it out. There were a few conference papers worth reading, and I'll post links to them once they're made available.

posted by Dan at 10:00 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, October 3, 2005

Open Miers thread

Comment away on the president's latest Supreme Court nomination -- current White House Counsel Harriet Miers.

My substantive take is pretty much in line with the Volokh Conspiracy's David Bernstein -- particularly this point:

What do Miers and Roberts have in common? They both have significant executive branch experience, and both seem more likely than other potential candidates to uphold the Administration on issues related to the War on Terror (e.g., Padilla and whether a citizen arrested in the U.S. can be tried in military court). Conservative political activists want someone who will interpret the Constitution in line with conservative judicial principles. But just as FDR's primary goal in appointing Justices was to appoint Justices that would uphold the centerpiece of his presidency, the New Deal, which coincidentally resulted in his appointing individuals who were liberal on other things, perhaps Bush sees his legacy primarily in terms of the War on Terror, and appointing Justices who will acquiesce in exercises of executive authority is his priority, even if it isn't the priority of either his base or the nation as a whole.

Jack Balkin concurs: "Although we don't know much about Miers, it's likely that, like John Roberts, she was picked with a view toward protecting executive power." That's a thought that makes a small-government conservative just giddy with anticipation, doesn't it?

As for the politics of it, Michelle Malkin chronicles discontent on the right side of the blogosphere -- including her own reaction:

It's not just that Miers has zero judicial experience. It's that she's so transparently a crony/"diversity" pick while so many other vastly more qualified and impressive candidates went to waste.

Eerily enough, this parallels Josh Marshall's reaction:

The key that this nomination should and, I suspect, will turn on is that the she fits the Bush administration mold -- she's a loyalist through and through. The lack of any other clear qualifications for the job becomes clear in that context.

Tom Goldstein at SCOTUSblog informs me that, "Moderate Republicans have no substantial incentive to support Miers."

As an anonymous e-mailer put it to me:

[At the confirmation hearings], there'll be contrasts drawn with Mr. Resume who just took his seat -- "We've just established that the lack of judicial experience or scholarly writings can be compensated for with a stellar legal record. And you, Ms. Miers, have done... what?"

Well, George W. Bush had this to say about her:

When I came to office as the governor of Texas, the Lottery Commission needed a leader of unquestioned integrity. I chose Harriet because I knew she would earn the confidence of the people of Texas. The Dallas Morning News said that Harriet insisted on a system that was fair and honest. She delivered results.

Whoa, hold the phone -- she was a fair and honest Lottery Commissioner? Put this woman on the bench right away!!!

[Isn't that a little harsh?--ed. Look, maybe Miers is supremely qualified -- I'm sure the hearings will reveal something about her competence at jurisprudence. However, a glance at her cv -- and those praising her accomplishments -- suggests that beyond not having ever served on a bench, she appears to have held no other job of parallel legal distinction. Would Miers ever be an answer to any legal question that starts, "Name the top nine lawyers who _____" -- besides serving George W. Bush for an extended period of time? In a post-Katrina environment, that dog won't hunt. You stole that from Jacob Levy--ed. Well, I only borrow from the best, and besides, Jacob also said he wanted this meme to travel as far and wide as possible.]]

Given the politics of the Supreme Court right now, there was no one -- no one -- who was going to skate through this nomination. This choice, however, seems designed to tick off every variety of conservative known to man.

No wonder Glenn Reynolds thinks Bush has pulled a perfect storm -- and not in a good way.

UPDATE: Cass Sunstein is blogging about Miers on the new University of Chicago Law School's Faculty blog:

On technocratic grounds, the following recent nominees were obviously outstanding: Roberts, Breyer, Ginsburg, Scalia, and Bork. (Douglas Ginsburg belongs in that category as well.) No one could doubt the ability and relevant experience of these nominees. Their records clearly demonstrated that they were first-rate. The same could be said of several other recent nominees as well....

What about Harriet Miers? She might be superb, but her record and experience certainly do not compare to those of recent nominees.

Jacob Levy ain't thrilled with Miers either.

Meanwhile Senator Frank Lautenberg (D, NJ) tells the Associated Press that he finds Miers, "courteous and professional."

FINAL UPDATE: Oh, man, does Larry Solum find the right quote from Federalist 76.

posted by Dan at 09:50 AM | Comments (29) | Trackbacks (0)

Things that keep me up at night

The Independent's Jeremy Laurance reports that the World Health Organization is trying to calm people down about avian flu:

The World Health Organisation has moved to play down a cataclysmic warning by one of its own officials that a pandemic caused by the bird flu virus ravaging poultry flocks in the Far East could kill as many as 150 million people.

The prediction came from David Nabarro, a senior WHO expert on infectious diseases, who was appointed on Thursday as UN co-ordinator for avian and human influenza. He said the next pandemic could claim from five million up to 150 million lives....

While he did not say the 150 million prediction was wrong, or even implausible, he said it was impossible to estimate how many could die. But he reiterated the WHO calculation that countries should prepare for 7.4 million deaths globally, arguing that was "the most reasoned position". (emphasis added)

Well, I feel much better now.

Even more calming is this report from Christine Gorman:

If, like public health authorities in the U.S. and many other countries, you're counting on the anti-viral drug Tamiflu (generic name oseltamivir) to save you should bird flu become pandemic, you may have to think again. A Hong Kong expert told Reuters on Friday that a strain of the H5N1 virus isolated in northern Vietnam this year is resistant to Tamiflu. More common human flu viruses have also recently been shown to be developing a resistance to another set of antivirals called adamantine drugs.

If the Vietnam report proves true, the implications will be particularly worrisome for public health programs to combat bird flu: Many governments have made stockpiling Tamiflu the centerpiece of their planning for a possible pandemic. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt wants to create a big enough stockpile to treat 20 million Americans, and about $3 billion of the $4 billion the U.S. Senate last week proposed allocating to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prepare for bird flu is to be used to buy Tamiflu. Never mind the fact that Tamiflu is produced in only one facility in the world, which is unlikely to produce enough to fill everyone's stockpile for several more years.

What this tells you is that the medical, private and public sectors had better have more than one big idea on how to deal with a potential pandemic of bird flu among humans. Debating — as a number of health experts have done recently — over whether a pandemic would kill 2 million or 150 million people is kind of beside the point.

posted by Dan at 01:04 AM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

Saturday, October 1, 2005

Liberalization, Moroccan style

Neil MacFarquhar has an excellent front-pager in today's New York Times looking at the conundrums of Morocco's recent liberalization:

Morocco has moved further along the reform road than any of its Arab neighbors. Its press is vibrant and outspoken. A family law no longer treats women as chattel. Civic organizations can be formed with relative ease, and scores of them work on everything from improving prison conditions to lowering the country's abysmal illiteracy rate.

Yet the entire system of law rests not on a framework of checks and balances, but on the whim of the king. Morocco's Constitution declares the king both sacred and the "prince of the faithful."

Other Arab constitutions do not declare the ruler holy, but an official reverence cocoons virtually every president or monarch in the region. Anyone who challenges the ruler does so at his own peril.

It is a fact that raises a central question here and across the Middle East: What is needed to turn states of despotic whim into genuine nations of law?

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan at 04:46 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)