Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I've gone to the bad place again

Really, I was going to do some work tonight.... but then I kept thinking about this Brad DeLong post about canonical Star Trek episodes. That led to some web surfing, and before I knew it found this at Youtube:

This was bad enough, but then it led to this clip, and then that led to this clip, which led to this bit, and, then, well this intrigued me but I just couldn't really enjoy it, and then, finally, oh dear God, there was this extract from my 13-year old id.

I'll post again once I've regained some equilibrium.

UPDATE: Ah, a Youtube video that brings me (sort of) back to the real world.

posted by Dan at 11:59 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Are we moving towards apolarity?

Fareed Zakaria frets about this possibility in Newsweek after going to Davos:

We are certainly in a trough for America—with Bush in his last years, with the United States mired in Iraq, with hostility toward Washington still high almost everywhere. But if so, we might also be getting a glimpse of what a world without America would look like. It will be free of American domination, but perhaps also free of leadership—a world in which problems fester and the buck is endlessly passed, until problems explode.

Listen to the new powers. China, which in three years will likely become the world's biggest emitter of CO2, is determined not to be a leader in dealing with global environmental issues. "The ball is not in China's court," said Zhu Min, the executive vice president of the Bank of China and a former senior official in the government. "The ball is in everybody's court." India's brilliant planning czar, Montek Singh Alluwalliah, said that "every country should have the same per capita rights to pollution." In the abstract that's logical enough, but in the real world, if 2.3 billion people (the population of China plus India) pollute at average Western levels, you will have a global meltdown....

The ball for every problem is in everybody's court, which means that it is in nobody's court.

The problem is that this free ride probably can't last forever. The global system—economic, political, social—is not self-managing. Global economic growth has been a fantastic boon, but it produces stresses and strains that have to be handled. Without some coordination, or first mover—or, dare one say it, leader—such management is more difficult.

The world today bears some resemblance to the 1920s, when a newly globalized economy was booming, and science and technological change were utterly transforming life. (Think of the high-tech of the time—electricity, radio, movies and cars, among other recent inventions.) But with Britain declining and America isolationist, that was truly a world without political direction. Eventually protectionism, nationalism, xenophobia and war engulfed it.

In a provocative essay in Foreign Policy three years ago, the British historian Niall Ferguson speculated that the end of American hegemony might not fuel an orderly shift to a multipolar system but a descent into a world of highly fragmented powers, with no one exercising any global leadership. He called this "apolarity." "Apolarity could turn out to mean an anarchic new Dark Age," Ferguson wrote, "an era of waning empires and religious fanaticism, of economic plunder and pillage in the world's forgotten regions, of economic stagnation, and civilization's retreat into a few fortified enclaves." That might be a little farfetched. But for those who have been fondly waiting for the waning of American dominance—be careful what you wish for.

A few thoughts:
1) It's fascinating to contrast Zakaria's column with Gideon Rachman's take on Davos. Zakaria is gloomy because of the absence of U.S. policymakers; Rachman is (somewhat) more optimistic because of the optimish of American businessmen.

The fact that Rachman and Zakaria can draw such contrasting takes suggests that Davos is more of an IR Rorshach test than a place where consensus is created -- people take away from the conference the preconceptions they bring to it.

2) Zakaria -- and Ferguson -- exaggerate the lack of existing policy coordination and underestimate the extent to which China and India have been brought into important global governance structures. Pointing out that there's been little progress on global warming and only grudging progress on trade talks is not evidence of apolarity. A decade ago, when the US and EU more clearly held the levers of power.... there was grudging progress on global warming and little progress in advancing trade talks. This has little to do with the distribution of power and a lot to do with the thorny domestic politics of these issues.

[Er... what about the point on global governance structures?--ed.] I'll have a lot more to say about that in the near future.
[Ooooh, foreshadowing!--ed.]

posted by Dan at 10:25 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Raul Castro... reformer?

Anthony Boadle writes a story for Reuters suggesting that Cuba under Raul Castro is somewhat different than Cuba under Fidel:

Six months after Cuba's sick leader Fidel Castro handed over power provisionally to his brother Raul, signs of an opening in public debate are emerging in the communist-run country.

Articles have appeared in the government-controlled media since October uncovering theft in state enterprises and other previously unmentionable deficiencies in Cuba's economy....

In unusual public statements, Cuban intellectuals have denounced the resurfacing of censors who were responsible for blacklisting writers and homosexuals 30 years ago.

The state conceded it made a mistake and allowed 400 writers and artists to hold an unprecedented meeting on Tuesday to discuss the Stalinist-style cultural purges of the 1970s....

The acting president has taken credit for stirring some of the debate, saying he has prodded the uncritical Cuban media to play a greater role in identifying economic shortcomings.

Raul surprised Cubans by encouraging greater discussion on government policies and more transparent state management. He said the country was tired of excuses and criticized delays in paying private farmers who provide 60 percent of its produce.

"Raul has made a point of abandoning Fidel's practice of scapegoating others. Instead, he is admitting that the revolution's problems are serious and home grown," said Brian Latell, a former CIA analyst and author of "After Fidel."

"The good thing about Raul is that he listens," said a Cuban economist who asked not to be named.

Raul has commissioned studies from think tanks on how to raise food production and stimulate the economy without ruling out private ownership of small business, he said....

"Each day there are more intellectuals speaking up, and that is new in Cuba," said dissident Espinosa Chepe.

But he said economic reforms wanted by most Cubans --the average monthly wage is $17-- are too slow in coming and Cuba may face turmoil without a leader of Fidel Castro's stature to contain it.

"Cuba is stable for the moment, but there is a lot of discontent on the streets," he said.

Calling for greater criticism of economic shortcoming might be a sign of greater openness -- or it might be a clue for how Raul plans to consolidate his political position. Much as China's central government highlights the daily demonstrations that take place within China as a motivation for greater government centralization, Raul might be highlighting economic difficulties to lay the groundwork for steps that consolidate his own political position.

Mind you, Raul Castro might actually be going for perestroika rather than abertura. But I'm not holding my breath.


posted by Dan at 10:14 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

I want more prizes

David Leonhardt has a near-excellent column in the New York Times today on why prizes are 1) A great way to foster innovation, but; 2) far less popular than grants or other compensation schemes:

in the 1700s, prizes were a fairly common way to reward innovation. Most famously, the British Parliament offered the £20,000 longitude prize to anyone who figured out how to pinpoint location on the open sea. Dava Sobel’s best-selling 1995 book “Longitude” told the story of the competition that ensued, and Mr. Hastings mentioned the longitude prize as a model at that meeting back in March.

Eventually, though, prizes began to be replaced by grants that awarded money upfront. Some of this was for good reason. As science became more advanced, scientists often needed to buy expensive equipment and hire a staff before having any chance of making a discovery.

But grants also became popular for a less worthy reason: they made life easier for the government bureaucrats who oversaw them and for the scientists who received them. Robin Hanson, an economist at George Mason University who has studied the history of prizes, points out that they create a lot of uncertainty — about who will receive money and when a government will have to pay it. Grants, on the other hand, allow a patron (and the scientists advising that patron) to choose who gets the money. “Bureaucracies like a steady flow of money, not uncertainty,” said Mr. Hanson, who worked as a physicist at NASA before becoming an economist. “But prizes are often more effective if what you want is scientific progress.”....

[There] are the two essential advantages of prizes. They pay for nothing but performance, and they ensure that anyone with a good idea — not just the usual experts — can take a crack at a tough problem. Much to the horror of the leading astronomers of the day, a clockmaker ultimately claimed the longitude prize.

Grants are still crucial. (Someone has to be paying those computer scientists while they’re trying to win the Netflix prize.) But it seems pretty clear that our research system doesn’t pay for results often enough.

Just look at how both political parties have so far tried to deal with global warming. They have handed out grants and subsidies for various alternative energy sources like ethanol, even though nobody knows what the best sources will ultimately be. A much smarter approach would be to mandate that the economy use less carbon. This would effectively set up a multibillion-dollar prize — in the form of new customers — for whichever companies came up with efficient energy sources.

A much smarter approach than Leonhardt's smarter approach would simply be for the government to simply offer large prizes -- we're talking in the billions -- for innovations that would reduce global warming. In return, the innovator would have to relinquish all intellectual property rights for the invention.

Beyond global warming, this approach should be used far more frequently for health care as well. Indeed, this is one of those tasks where government intervention might improve upon the market -- because the government has sufficient resources to withstand the inherent budgetary uncertainty that comes with the prospect of awarding prizes in the billions or tens of billions.

If the federal government can offer $25 million for capturing Osama bin Laden, why can't it offer a $10 billion prize for an AIDS vaccine?

I look forward to readers explain why I'm wrong.

UPDATE: Robin Hanson --cited in the above article -- elaborates on the historical switch from prizes to grants here.

posted by Dan at 07:48 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (1)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Davos vs. Herzliya

Gideon Rachman attended two conferences last week, and writes about the resulting conceptual whiplash:

I went to two international conferences last week. The Herzliya security conference took place on the Israeli coast and the World Economic Forum was held in the Swiss mountains. It felt as if they were taking place on different planets....

By the end of the week I was left wondering whether these two worlds – Davos and Herzliya – can continue running in parallel. Are they fated to collide? If so, which will prove the more powerful – conflict or capitalism?

Davos man does not seem to be particularly worried by the business implications of chaos in the Middle East. There were 17 sessions at the forum devoted to climate change – and just one to global political risk. A debate on “globalisation at the crossroads” considered three main threats to the world economy – failed trade talks, financial regulation and global economic imbalances. Nobody mentioned the war.

Perhaps Davos man is right not to worry. Even in Israel, war and globalisation have managed to coexist. The Israeli economy grew at 4.8 per cent last year, in spite of the country’s involvement in a war in Lebanon during the summer. Israel is very much part of the global high-tech economy. There are almost 100 Israeli technology companies listed on New York stock exchanges.

But the Israelis are also acutely aware that conflict threatens their prosperity. At the most basic level, many are genuinely frightened that if Iran develops nuclear weapons, it might actually use them on Israel. But there is also a subtler version of the “existential threat” that the development of an Iranian bomb is said to pose to Israel. The Israelis know that their most talented technology workers could get jobs anywhere in the world. They worry that if 20,000 decided to emigrate, rather than live under the shadow of an Iranian bomb, the damage to Israel’s economy would be irreparable. At that point, security really would have trumped globalisation....

It may be a long time before capitalism can ride to the rescue of the most troubled parts of the Middle East. In the meantime, the capitalists will just have to hope that conflict in the Middle East continues to leave them largely unmolested.

Read the whole thing. And then, for fun, check out Rachman's description of his "brainstorm" nightmare at Davos on his blog.

posted by Dan at 10:34 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Why doesn't the EU have an OFAC?

Steven Weisman has a story in the New York Times evaluating the transatlantic effort to squeeze Iran. There have been a few bumps in the road:

European governments are resisting Bush administration demands that they curtail support for exports to Iran and that they block transactions and freeze assets of some Iranian companies, officials on both sides say. The resistance threatens to open a new rift between Europe and the United States over Iran.

Administration officials say a new American drive to reduce exports to Iran and cut off its financial transactions is intended to further isolate Iran commercially amid the first signs that global pressure has hurt Iran’s oil production and its economy. There are also reports of rising political dissent in Iran....

One irony of the latest pressure, European and American officials say, is that on their own, many European banks have begun to cut back their transactions with Iran, partly because of a Treasury Department ban on using dollars in deals involving two leading Iranian banks.

American pressure on European governments, as opposed to banks, has been less successful, administration and European officials say....

The administration says that European governments provided $18 billion in government loan guarantees for Iran in 2005. The numbers have gone down in the last year, but not by much, American and European officials say.

American officials say that European governments may have facilitated illicit business and that European governments must do more to stop such transactions. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. has said the United States has shared with Europeans the names of at least 30 front companies involved in terrorism or weapons programs.

“They’ve told us they don’t have the tools,” said a senior American official. “Our answer is: get them.”

“We want to squeeze the Iranians,” said a European official. “But there are varying degrees of political will in Europe about turning the thumbscrews. It’s not straightforward for the European Union to do what the United States wants.”

Another European official said: “We are going to be very cautious about what the Treasury Department wants us to do. We can see that banks are slowing their business with Iran. But because there are huge European business interests involved, we have to be very careful.”

European officials argue that beyond the political and business interests in Europe are legal problems, because European governments lack the tools used by the Treasury Department under various American statutes to freeze assets or block transactions based on secret intelligence information.

A week ago, on Jan. 22, European foreign ministers met in Brussels and adopted a measure that might lead to laws similar to the economic sanctions, laws and presidential directives used in the United States, various officials say. But it is not clear how far those laws will reach once they are adopted.

I suspect that most of the rift on this issue is related to the difference in economic interdependence between the US and EU when it comes to Iran. However, the lack of an institutional infrastructure on the EU side is not insignificant. The Europeans have never had the equivalent of OFAC -- the Office of Foreign Assets Control that oversees the nitty-gritty implementation of U.S. sanctions.

The question is.... why? Economic sanctions have been a popular policy tool for the past fifteen years or so. Economic power is the primary means through which the EU tries to exert its influence in world politics. A EuroOFAC would, one hopes, allow the Europeans to implemebnt sanctions more quickly, while at the same time allowing for more precise in their targeting.

So why hasn't it happened yet? Two possible reasons:

1) European countries are less sanctions-happy than the United States. This is true, but there's a chicken-egg problem with this story -- the EU doesn't sanction as often because the tools aren't there;

2) European countries don't want to cede more foreign policymaking power to the EU. This is undoubtedly true, but again, I think it's overblown. A EuroOFAC would not be in charge of deciding when to sanction, but implementing the decision after its been made. The memver countries would still hold that decision-making power. There might be a slippery-slope logic at work, though -- making sanctions easier to execute puts the onus on the countries to decide to act.

I'm sure there are other reasons -- and I'mm sure my readers will inform me at great length about them.

This is part and parcel of a larger question, however -- to what extent does the EU really want to be seen as a great power? Is it willing to develop the traditional tools of statecraft that befit the moniker?

posted by Dan at 08:09 AM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Remembering Milton Friedman

Only 20 minutes left for Milton Friedman day, so here are a few salient links:

1) At Open U., Richard Stern reports on the memorial service at the University of Chicago:

2) Paul Krugman offers his take on Friedman in the New York Review of Books:

[A]lthough this essay argues that Friedman was wrong on some issues, and sometimes seemed less than honest with his readers, I regard him as a great economist and a great man.

Milton Friedman played three roles in the intellectual life of the twentieth century. There was Friedman the economist's economist, who wrote technical, more or less apolitical analyses of consumer behavior and inflation. There was Friedman the policy entrepreneur, who spent decades campaigning on behalf of the policy known as monetarism—finally seeing the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England adopt his doctrine at the end of the 1970s, only to abandon it as unworkable a few years later. Finally, there was Friedman the ideologue, the great popularizer of free-market doctrine.

Did the same man play all these roles? Yes and no. All three roles were informed by Friedman's faith in the classical verities of free-market economics. Moreover, Friedman's effectiveness as a popularizer and propagandist rested in part on his well-deserved reputation as a profound economic theorist. But there's an important difference between the rigor of his work as a professional economist and the looser, sometimes questionable logic of his pronouncements as a public intellectual. While Friedman's theoretical work is universally admired by professional economists, there's much more ambivalence about his policy pronouncements and especially his popularizing. And it must be said that there were some serious questions about his intellectual honesty when he was speaking to the mass public.

It should be pointed out that Krugman has also played all three roles in his career -- I'll be intrigued to see whether he gets accused of similar flaws down the road.

3) Virginia Postrel has a nice round-up of links.

4) The Economist's Free Exchange offers an assessment of how far Friedman pushed policymakers:

And though he may not have achieved the low-government paradise he sought, he wrought a crucial change in the way that we expect government to serve us. Before Milton Friedman, progressives pursuing an idealised version of technocratic government bureaucrats running a vast government apparatus that would take over more and more of the functions of the economy. Milton Friedman's revolutionary idea was that, to the extent that government should help people, it should do so by giving them money, and the freedom to choose what was best for them. America's Earned Income Tax Credit, which has proven wildly successful at helping the poor into the workforce, is the most prominent programme along these lines, but by no means the only one.

posted by Dan at 06:51 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

The euro disconnect

There's something a bit odd about the contrast between a) economists debating the prospect of the euro supplanting the dollar as the world's reserve currency, and b) the fact that Europeans don't like the euro all that much. The Financial Times' Ralph Atkins explains:

An overwhelming majority of citizens in the big eurozone countries believe the euro has damaged their national economies, highlighting the popular scepticism that still surrounds Europe’s eight-year-old monetary union.

More than two-thirds of the French, Italians and Spanish – and more than half of Germans – believe the single currency has had a “negative impact”, according to an FT-Harris poll. In France, just 5 per cent said the euro has had a positive effect on the French economy....

[M]ore than half of citizens in countries using the euro say they prefer their former national currency, according to the poll of 5,314 adults in Germany, the UK, France, Spain and Italy, which was conducted between January 10 and January 22. Almost two-thirds of Germans say they preferred their former currency, the D-Mark.

UPDATE: Henry Farrell provides an explanation for the oddity.

posted by Dan at 08:42 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The lack of campaign chatter about foreign policy

Over at America Abroad, Earnest Wilson tells everyone what he knows about the foreign policy positions of the major Democratic candidates for president:

I don’t know. Other bloggers, journalists, policy wonks and usually talkative political pundits don’t know either. We have to assume the candidates know where they stand on the Big Issues. Maybe. But maybe not. They almost certainly don’t know all they really need to know on foreign affairs. (Except Biden. But he probably doesn’t know the other things.)

We know where the candidates stand on a small handful of Iraq-related issues – when to exit; whether they support the Baker/Hamilton report. But sitting in the Oval office requires more than a position on withdrawing American troops from Baghdad. Just doing Iraq isn’t enough....

If the Senators and governors now in the race don’t pay much attention to non-Iraq issues affairs, it’s not their fault. Having done foreign policy with a bunch of campaigns, I know the candidates’ handlers are telling them to concentrate on assembling a team that can win, with well-connected communications experts, experienced pollsters, a campaign chief who never sleeps, and so on. They need to get through the primaries where in most years (this one accepted) nobody cares about foreign policy. Even when the senator or governor or former Vice President finally makes it into the general election, there isn’t too much demand from the populace for details about Darfur and the Balkans. The foreign policy team is lucky if they get face time with the candidate, and a paragraph in the next speech. The system is designed to keep the candidate away from sticky issues abroad....

But at some point we begin to reflect on the kind of person who will end up with his or her finger on the launch button. With the authority to declare war and fight to keep American jobs from disappearing abroad. The person who will be America’s face to a disenchanted and skeptical, if not downright hostile, planet. Most of us really don’t care about the details. But we do want some insight into the moral character and basic human instincts that will guide the next president’s tough choices on tough global issues of life and death.

We can bet those basic instincts about the world will start to seep out during the campaign, well before the foreign policy ‘plan’ and the advisory groups and the position papers the candidate’s little foreign policy team will dutifully churn out. If George Bush has taught us anything, it is to look at those basic instincts and take them very seriously, because they tell us a lot more than the details offered up about Africa or global warming.

I don't have much objection to the first few paragraphs his post, but I'm not convinced Wilson is correct on his last point. Bush's foreign policy instincts in the 2000 campaign were a mixture of diffidence and indifference -- a far cry from how he has approached foreign policy since then.

Tell me, informed readers: which presidential aspirant -- from either party -- seems the most well-grounded on matters of foreign policy?

posted by Dan at 06:57 PM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Move over, Oprah

Sure, an Oprah book club selection can net an author millions in book sales and royalties. However, according to the New York Times, Tom Stoppard might be the Oprah of the Long Tail:

“Russian Thinkers,” a 1978 collection of essays on 19th-century Russian intellectuals by the philosopher Isaiah Berlin, has virtually disappeared from bookstores across the city, including Barnes & Noble, Labyrinth Books and Shakespeare & Company. The Internet is not much help either: the book is sold out on, and though it can be ordered from Amazon, the order won’t be shipped for two or three weeks.

The culprit behind this Berlin craze turns out to be none other than Tom Stoppard and his epic three-part play, “The Coast of Utopia,” which opened at Lincoln Center on Nov. 27. Tucked deep inside the show’s playbill is a list titled “For Audience Members Interested in Further Reading,” with “Russian Thinkers” at the top....

Mr. Berlin’s book is not only all but impossible to find in New York, it is also completely out of stock with its publisher, Penguin, which earlier this month quickly ordered two reprintings totaling 3,500 copies, the first time in 12 years the book has been printed, to satisfy more than 2,000 suddenly unfilled orders.

posted by Dan at 10:25 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Nationalism, globalization, China and Starbucks

The Economist's Free Exchange manages to jam all of these topics -- plus Davos!! -- into one post. Go check it out.

Favorite quote that will cause rioting in London:

[What] about a Starbucks inside Buckingham Palace[?]. For all I know there may be one, years since I was there, but certainly there should be one. It wouldn't make much money inside the private quarters, I doubt the Queen does many skinny lattes, but in the Royal Gallery, which is the visitable part of the palace, a Starbucks would be an excellent fit.

posted by Dan at 04:34 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Back in the day, they didn't have blogging scholarships

Student-bloggers, take note -- there's now a Political Blogging Scholarship:

Do you maintain a political weblog and attend college? Would you like $2,000 to help pay for books, tuition, or other living costs? If so, read on.

We're giving away $2,000 this year to a college student who blogs about politics. Our scholarship is awarded annually.

Click here to find out all the details. I do like this description of what the winner and losers get:
The Winner Gets:
  • $2,000 immediately disbursed for their college expenses
  • Bragging rights
  • Admiration from fellow bloggers
  • Popularity
  • To write an acceptance speech consisted of 1000 words or less, which will be posted on this page....
  • What Happens to the Losers? Concession Speech!
  • In a written concession speech consisting of 350 words or less, the losers can say whatever they wish…completely unedited and uncensored. We will post the speeches on this page as we receive them.
  • [The kids today, with their podcasts and their American Idol idolatry..... we didn't have blogging scholarships when we started out, did we?--ed] Yes, but they also don't have annoying editorial voices either.

    posted by Dan at 10:22 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

    Wednesday, January 24, 2007

    I'm intrigued -- does that means he's doomed?

    Many moons ago, my wife and I were roped into a focus group that was viewing a proposed television pilot. At the end of the half hour, we were asked to fill out some demographic information, including education level.

    At that point, my wife and I looked at each other, knowing that because we had post-graduate degrees, our reactions were not going to matter one whit -- we're not exactly the target demographic of profitable shows.

    This memory came to mind when someone e-mailed me this Fortune story by Nina Easton on Newt Gingrich's quixotic run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008:

    [T]his year, as he throws warm-up pitches for a 2008 presidential campaign, hoping that his big ideas, combined with his grass-roots popularity, will produce a "draft Newt" movement, even his most ardent loyalists doubt he can pull it off. "He's a better Moses, leading the party out of the wilderness, than he is a King David, running the show," says Frank Lavin, a veteran of Republican administrations who now serves as commerce undersecretary.

    While Gingrich has plenty to say on national security and social issues, the core of his resurrection and unusual race for President are his ideas on health costs - a national migraine that has driven the likes of General Motors toward bankruptcy, put insurance out of reach for 46 million Americans, and now threatens to strangle the economy by ballooning entitlement costs. The problem is so severe that state governors - most recently California's Arnold Schwarzenegger - have given up on Washington and are promoting their own sweeping reform plans.

    Gingrich got a headstart on the issue at the turn of the millennium, when he began building his credibility as the voice of free-market-style reform. He has preached his evolving message to business and health groups around the country. In Washington he has transformed his reputation from polarizing politico to business visionary who might strategize with Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt one day and Senator Hillary Clinton the next.

    What Gingrich has to say is not so much a unified theory as a way of rearranging the way we look at things - a refusal to accept the cultural status quo. At the Tempe conference, Gingrich politely listens to such proposals as applying Toyota-style production-control techniques to the health system - and then slices through them with an alternative mantra of competition, deregulation, modernized information systems, and personal responsibility.

    Leave the middleman out. Force doctors and hospitals, Medicare and Medicaid, to disclose pricing and compete with one another. Put all the latest information on databases so that American consumers can go online, plug in their personal health profile, and shop for the best prices on drugs and services.

    In other words, in Gingrich's world consumer health care should look more like Travelocity....

    For the next nine months Gingrich intends to promote sweeping solutions to difficult issues of the day - particularly health care and national security - and then, like Lincoln in 1860, see if the call comes.

    While such other GOP candidates as Senator John McCain, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, and former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani are hiring consultants and building donor networks, Gingrich has formed a tax-exempt advocacy group to raise money and promote his policies. He will wait until September - the eve of primary season - to announce whether he has the support to make it official.

    Gingrich intrigues me -- he's far more complex and interesting a thinker than the nineties stereotype of him suggested. And if Hillary Clinton can remake herself as someone who's learned from past mistakes, I see no reason why Gingrich can't as well.

    However, I can't shake the feeling that because I'm so interested in a Gingrich, he's doomed to fail. Can someone who scores well in the blogger wonk demographic really develop mainstream appeal?

    Readers, help me out here.

    posted by Dan at 03:26 PM | Comments (23) | Trackbacks (0)

    Tuesday, January 23, 2007

    Open SOTU -- oh, hell, I'm bored already

    Comment on the content of Bush's State of the Union address if you'd like.

    Me, I don't see the point. With a 28% approval rating and both houses of Congress controlled by Congress Democrats, we know that:

    1) Bush's domestic policy proposals are immaterial, since they are DOA unless they provide an opportunity for Democrats to toss some lard at their favored interests (see: energy policy, ethanol subsidies).

    2) Reaction to Bush's foreign policy proposals are immaterial since Bush still controls the executive branch, Congress is really bad at directing foreign policy, and no one is going to successfully use the A-bomb of defunding a policy initiative.

    UPDATE: The Democratic response is by James Webb.

    posted by Dan at 09:36 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

    The generation gap on jobs

    Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Bob Kimmitt has an interesting op-ed in the Washington Post on the growth in job churn, and why it's a good thing:

    More than 55 million Americans, or four out of every 10 workers, left their jobs in 2005. And this is good news, because there were over 57 million new hires that same year.

    These statistics illustrate a recent and growing trend of dynamism in our job market, especially among younger workers. Data on labor demand in the United States, gathered for the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), show that the 12 months ending in November had the highest average of labor turnover since the U.S. government began tracking this information in 2000. But the data also show that our economy has maintained a consistently strong ratio of new hires to separations. Over the year ending in November, new hires in America exceeded employee separations by an average of 364,000 per month....

    In fact, our workers lead the international marketplace in this trend. Job tenure averages 6.6 years for Americans, compared with an average of 8.2 years for Britons, 10.6 years for Germans, 11.2 years for the French and 12.2 years for the Japanese. Even more striking is that, on average, workers in the United States will have 10 different employers between ages 18 and 38.

    This dynamism of our labor force strengthens the U.S. economy because each move to a new employer can involve greater responsibility, greater pay or both. And the time workers spend in search of employment is decreasing. In December, the average duration of a job search was the shortest in more than four years.

    Unfortunately, what usually makes headlines is a big company's layoff of workers. What gets less coverage is the 40 months of job growth we have recently enjoyed, the historically low unemployment rate (4.5 percent), record tax revenue and an acceleration in real wage growth over the past year. This is good news for the generation preparing to graduate from high school and college. Unlike their grandparents, who built careers around companies rather than opportunities, members of the class of 2007 will enter the workforce with an understanding that change may be the only constant in their professional careers.

    Now I suspect that many blog readers will heap scorn and outrage upon this trend, because they are nostalgic for the days of company men.

    I also wonder, however, whether there is a generation gap in the reaction to this trend. My hunch is that the younger workers Kimmitt identifies in the piece already have accepted this new status quo, and will find objections to it puzzling.

    posted by Dan at 08:59 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

    This blog post brought to you by Peyton Manning

    My latest diavlog -- with Matthew Yglesias -- is now online. Obsessive fans of will delight in the fact that my "studio" has moved to my Fletcher office.

    Among the topics discussed -- Iraq, what we thought about Iraq in 2003, Iran, Bush's grand strategy, the 2008 campaign, and the inevitable Peyton Manning endorsement for bloggingheads.

    posted by Dan at 09:04 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    Monday, January 22, 2007

    A letter to the blog from the UN Global Compact

    In my Los Angeles Times op-ed on the Davos forum, I wrote the following passage:

    [Davos] is a useful place for politicians to launch new, grandiose initiatives that never quite live up to their billing. Former Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched the U.N.'s Global Compact there in 1999. The U.S. proposed a Middle East Free Trade Zone in 2003. And British Prime Minister Tony Blair used Davos in 2005 as the platform to launch the G8's climate-change initiative.
    It now appears that the op-ed has irked someone other than its author.

    The following is a letter sent to the LA Times and myself from George Kell, the executive director of the UN Global Compact. I don't know if the LAT is running it, but it seems appropriate to run it here:

    We take serious issue with Daniel Drezner’s characterization of the United Nations Global Compact as one of several “new, grandiose initiatives that never quite live up to their billing” (Davos’ downhill slide, 21 January 2007). What began as a call to action to global business leaders gathered in Davos eight years ago, has since grown to become the world’s largest voluntary corporate citizenship initiative with more than 3,000 participants in over 100 countries. The UN Global Compact has made a significant contribution to the emergence of corporate responsibility not only (and rightly so) as a moral obligation, but also as a management imperative. Every day, corporations around the globe are leading by example, aligning their strategies and operations with the Global Compact’s universal principles while driving value for their business and developing new opportunities.

    While certainly much remains to be done, scores of projects have been implemented that are delivering very real and tangible benefits with regard to environmental and social issues. These are documented on our website ( and include programs related to HIV/AIDS, child labour, climate change, anti-corruption and general poverty alleviation. In addition, the Global Compact has inspired several high-profile initiatives that are embedding principles and values in a number of important areas, ranging from financial market operations to the training and education of tomorrow’s business leaders. To many of our stakeholders and constituents, including a large number of early critics, the Global Compact has not just lived up to its billing - it has exceeded it.

    UPDATE: To defend my position just a little, I based my statement on two facts -- 1) The low rate of participation in the Global Compact by companies in two countries that kind of matter -- the United States and China Click here for more -- though a point for them for getting Microsoft to sign on. Second, as the Global Compact itself acknowledges, an awfu lot of companies appeared to sign on and then did nothing for quite a while.

    posted by Dan at 07:11 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

    A post in which I suck up to my employers

    The Financial Times' Rebecca Knight has a story on the Fletcher School and why it's better than sliced bread:

    It may not have been on purpose, but the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy – the oldest graduate school of international relations in the US – has suddenly found itself in the executive education business.

    Last year, Microsoft and Raytheon, as well as a non-profit group, approached the school, at Tufts University in Massachusetts, to develop customised programmes for their mid- to upper-level professionals.

    The programmes, which involved courses on international political and economic affairs, were a big hit. This year, Fletcher has three repeat customers on its hands and is “quietly and cautiously” working to attract others, according to school officials.

    Executive education programmes – which have in the past been the domain of business schools – are typically marketed to companies as a way to hone their workers’ skills with courses in finance, marketing, and sales. But, according to Stephen Bosworth, the dean of Fletcher, companies nowadays are in search of more than management refresher courses. Rather, they are looking for ways to boost their executives’ knowledge of international politics, culture and business.

    Fletcher’s programmes are ideal for those companies seeking to “upgrade the globalisation skills” of key employees, says Mr Bosworth. “The rationale for all of this is the perceived need for a greater understanding of the political, economic, and cultural context within which these companies are operating,” he says.

    The programmes, which are conducted by Fletcher and Tufts faculty, are individually tailored, depending on their varying needs and specifications of the companies.

    For instance, Microsoft asked for a distillation of the school’s overall international curriculum, while Raytheon, the military contractor, requested a programme on political, economic and cultural issues for operating in the Middle East.

    Deborah Nutter, senior associate dean and professor at Fletcher, says the school’s strength in diplomatic training is what gives it the edge in the executive education realm.

    “From the beginning, we have educated global leaders in all sectors,” she says.

    Note to self: put "educated global leader" somewhere on cv. [Since you have made exactly zero contribution to these programs, is that justified?--ed. Hey, all's fair in love and resumes.]

    UPDATE: More good financial news for Tufts.

    posted by Dan at 03:47 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

    Vote early and (reasonably) often

    Pajamas Media is conducting a thoroughly unscientific but nevertheless intriguing online Presidential straw poll. You are allowed to vote once a week.

    Vote here -- and the ongoing results can be viewed here.

    Again, Rudy Giuliani is showing surprising strength (as is Barack Obama). The names that intrigue, however, are the ones in second place -- Dennis Kucinich and Newt Gingrich.

    As I said, onlinew straw polls like this one don't have a lot of scientific value -- but I have to wonder if the first thing the nascent campaign staffs of all the candidates do in the morning is go to sites like this to boost their candidates' standing. Typical early morning list:

    1) Make coffee
    2) Check e-mail
    3) Vote in every online straw poll imaginable
    Of course, at this stage of the campaign there's another competition that matters greatly. The New York Times' Patrick Healy and Jeff Zeleny do a good job of covering the money race among the Dems.

    posted by Dan at 09:23 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

    Sunday, January 21, 2007

    Davos screws me over yet again

    I have an essay in today's Los Angeles Times about the World Economic Forum -- otherwise known as the Davos forum. In the essay,I ask whether Davos is really significant, or whether it has jumped the shark:

    Since Swiss business professor Klaus Schwab launched the forum in 1971, it has become the ne plus ultra of elite meetings, eclipsing such challengers as Renaissance Weekend, the British-American Project and the Trilateral Commission.

    At least, that's what the rhetoric surrounding Davos suggests. According to the World Economic Forum's website, Davos is "an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas." Political scientist Samuel P. Huntington asserted that "Davos people control virtually all international institutions, many of the world's governments and the bulk of the world's economic and military capabilities."

    Its critics hold a similar view. Anti-globalization protests have targeted the conference, causing its security budget to grow at an alarming rate. To many of them, Davos is the epitome of how globalization is managed by the elite to impoverish the many. One of the few scholarly studies of the Davos experience characterizes the meeting as "a polymorph platform of intermediations on the new frontiers of capitalism." I'm not entirely sure what that means, but it does not sound good....

    There are signs that Davos may have jumped the shark. Activists used to demand a voice at the forum. In recent years, however, they have abandoned it altogether. Instead, they attend the rival World Social Forum, which is held at about the same time as Davos.

    Even more disconcertingly, Davos sponsored a Gallup poll that found, across the globe, growing distrust of political and business leaders — the very people who attend Davos....

    [T]he polling data could be a harbinger of Davos' irrelevance. This leads to an interesting existential question: What if they threw an elite meeting and no one cared?

    Read the whole thing, but you should know that I submitted a different byline than the one they used.

    The byline reads -- online at least -- as "Daniel W. Drezner is associate professor of international politics at Tufts University's Fletcher School and the author of "All Politics Is Global." He maintains a blog at"

    Which is great, but the byline I submitted to them was, "Daniel W. Drezner is associate professor of international politics at Tufts University's Fletcher School and the author of "All Politics Is Global." He has never been invited to Davos, but is not bitter about that fact in the slightest."

    I think I'd be less upset if I didn't fear that the deleted sentence was the best line in the piece.

    Want to read more about Davos? You can check out the David Rothkopf's diary from last year's conference here. A precis of the polling results discussed in the piece can be found in this story. And here's a link to the official web site.

    Finally, given that I was gently mocking it in the piece, I feel I owe a link to the one scholarly piece I found on Davos: Jean-Christophe Graz, "How Powerful are Transnational Elite Clubs? The Social Myth of the World Economic Forum." New Political Economy, Vol. 8, No. 3, November 2003. If you can get past the sections when Graz gets trapped in his own jargon, he makes an interesting argument about the inherent limits of these kind of fora.

    posted by Dan at 07:51 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (1)

    Thursday, January 18, 2007

    I'm away from my blog right now....

    And on my way to the Mershon Center for International Security Studies to present a paper, "Regime Proliferation and World Politics: Is There Viscosity in Global Governance?" I already realize I made one mistake in this version -- I forgot to thank Eli Wallach in the acknowledgements.

    Talk amongst yourselves. Here's a topic: exactly what does it mean when the North Koreans say they've reached "a certain agreement" with U.S. negotiators?

    posted by Dan at 11:17 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    My black mark on Iraq

    Today I received the following in an e-mail:

    Since you seem to have been wrong about everything you wrote in support of the invasion... no WMDs, no Al Queda before the war, no connection to 9/11, took troops and reconstruction money away from where real battle was in Afghanistan... now have more Al Queda and no success in either Afghanistan or Iraq... in other words a completely counter-productive disaster as some did predict... I was wondering if you had issued an apology to everybody who did get it right (and for the right reasons)... including Al Gore?
    Well, this seems like a good time to address the big blog topic for the week.

    There have been a boatload of blog posts, op-eds, and magazine articles that discuss how and whether people who supported the Iraq war in 2002-3 should have their pundit's license removed, and whether those who opposed the war deserve promotions to pundit first class.

    This Radar Magazine story by Jebediah Reed kicked things off, followed quickly by Jonathan Chait, Mark Thoma, Megan McArdle, Julian Sanchez, Kevin Drum (follow-up here), Daniel Davies, Scott Lemieux, Obsidian Wings (here and here), and Eric Rauchway.

    You can read the above links for their thoughts on the matter now, and their thoughts on their thoughts back in 2002-3. One grand irony is that back in April 2003 it was the pro-war people who basked in their successful prediction, and anti-war activists who pointed out that, as Michael Kinsley put it then: "victory in the war is not victory in the argument about the war":

    The serious case [against the war] involved questions that are still unresolved. Factual questions: Is there a connection between Iraq and the perpetrators of 9/11? Is that connection really bigger than that of all the countries we're not invading? Does Iraq really have or almost have weapons of mass destruction that threaten the United States? Predictive questions: What will toppling Saddam ultimately cost in dollars and in lives (American, Iraqi, others)? Will the result be a stable Iraq and a blossoming of democracy in the Middle East or something less attractive? How many young Muslims and others will be turned against the United States, and what will they do about it?

    Political questions: Should we be doing this despite the opposition of most of our traditional allies? Without the approval of the United Nations? Moral questions: Is it justified to make "pre-emptive" war on nations that may threaten us in the future? When do internal human rights, or the lack of them, justify a war? Is there a policy about pre-emption and human rights that we are prepared to apply consistently? Does consistency matter?

    Given the current answers to Kinsley's questions, I'm going to indulge in a bit of painful navel-gazing below the fold....

    I supported the war going in, and if I could go into the way-back machine and do it all over again, I'd say "HELL, NO!" as loudly and as firmly as possible. I was pretty critical of the occupation phase from day one, and got more critical very quickly. That said, it's a useful exercise to look back and figure out where I screwed up in my pre-war logic.

    The main blog posts where I articulated my own arguments in favor of war -- and against those who opposed military action -- can be found, in chronological order, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. There was also this TNR Online piece.

    Summing up, I had three major reasons for favoring war in 2002-3:

    1) I wanted U.S. troops out of Saudi Arabia, because that was a major irritant for devout Muslims, a great talking point for Al Qaeda, and seemed to be destabilizing the Saudi regime in a bad, bad way. That was not going to happen until Saddam was deposed or otherwise removed from power.

    2) I thought the status quo U.S. policy in the region was trending in a negative direction. Countries like France, Russia and China were talking about ways to end the U.N. sanctions regime -- and the pre-9/11 Powell initiative to make the sanctions smarter had not borne much fruit. Saddam Hussein was offering future oil contracts to Security Council members as a way of weakening their willpower further. Obviously, Saddam did not have any WMD, and the sanctions worked pretty well on that score -- but my concern was that if the sanctions had ended with Saddam still in power, he was going to try to acquire WMD capabilities. I can't prove this would have happened, but the lack of WMD doesn't dissuade me on this point.

    3) I thought that war was the humanitarian option. Throughout the nineties, the sanctions regime, combined with Hussein's rejection of humanitarian aid, had been responsible for tens of thousands dying every year. Hussein's devastation of the marsh Arabs was proceeding apace. I was hopeful that a quick war would, in the long run, reduce the annual number of dead and dying in Iraq.

    Note that my e-mailer was in error -- my support for the war was not based on Iraq having WMD, or Iraq being connected to Al Qaeda (indeed, click here for my thoughts in March 2003 on this point).

    My major screw-up was both simple and profound -- at the time, with regard to foreign policy, I thought the Bush administration could walk and chew gum at the same time (i.e., fight Al Qaeda and Iraq), when it turned out that they couldn't even chew gum unaided.

    I also implicitly assumed that if administration officials -- many of whom had displayed a fair amount of competence in the Bush 41 prosecution of Gulf War I -- discovered that their initial plans did not go, er, according to plan, that they would recognize this fact and adopt contingency plans. I did not think that their response would boil down to something like "stay the course" for close to four years, followed by a surge proposal.

    In making this mistake, I didn't just make an ass out of you and me: two-and-a-half of my three reasons for the war got vitiated. Pulling out of Saudi Arabia was still a good move, and the Saudi experts I talk to say this has helped reduce Al Qaeda sympathies on the Arabian peninsula. Of course, compared to the cluster f**k in Iraq, this is small beer. For the Iraqis, this has been a humanitarian disaster by any metric as compared to the pre-war sanctions regime. And I simply cannot believe that an eroding UN sanctions regime, bad as it would have been, compares to what exists now.

    In fact, the sanctions might not ever have eroded. In retrospect, it's heartbreaking to contemplate what would have happened had the administration halted its plans to invade Iraq after the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed Resolution 1441. Through that resolution, the Bush administration had a dramatic effect on Iraqi compliance just with the threat of military force. Had Bush stopped there, a lot of treasure and no small amount of blood would have been spared.

    Re-reading these posts also reminds me that I do, in fact, owe an apology to Al Gore, who by supporting the 1991 Gulf War and opposing the 2003 war is batting a rare 2 for 2 in Middle East conflicts. He wasn't just right on the outcome: he was right in (much of) his reasoning as well:

    I vividly remember that during one of the campaign debates in 2002 Jim Lehrer asked then Governor Bush whether or not America, after being involved in military action, should engage in any form of nation building. And the answer was, and I quote, "I don't think so. I think what we need to do is to convince people who live in the lands they live in to build the nations."

    "Maybe I'm missing something here. We're going to have a kind of nation-building corps in America?"

    "Absolutely not."

    Now, my point is, this is a Bush doctrine. This is administration policy. Given that it is administration policy, we have to take that into account as a nation in looking at the likely consequences of an overwhelming American military victory against the government of Iraq.

    If we go in there and dismantle them--and they deserve to be dismantled--but then we wash our hands of it and walk away and leave it in a situation of chaos and say, "Oh, that's for you all to decide how to put things back together now." That hurts us.

    Sorry, Al.

    So, dear readers, I definitely erred in the arguments I made in 2002 and 2003. I have and will try to do better. Bear in mind, however, that when it comes to foreign policy prognostications, better is a relative term.

    posted by Dan at 07:13 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)

    Um.... isn't this how incentives work?

    Fiona Harvey, the Financial Times' environment correspondent, reports that environmentalists are irked about the way carbon emissions trading is working out:

    Factories in China and carbon traders are exploiting a loophole in climate change regulations that allows them to make big profits from greenhouse gas emissions trading.

    Chemical plants that reduce the amount of polluting HFC gases they release into the atmosphere receive “carbon credits” in return. Such credits can fetch $5 to $15 on the international carbon market.

    The equipment, known as “scrubbers”, to reduce HFC gases is cheap to install, at $10m-$30m (£5m-£15m) for a typical factory, according to industry estimates. Installing such equipment can generate millions of carbon credits, because HFC-23 is a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide.

    Mark Woodall is chief executive of Climate Change Capital, which has a portfolio of about 50m certified emission reductions, or carbon credits,worth up to $750m, derived from Chinese HFC projects. He said: “They were deals that could be done relatively quickly and did not need a large amount of capital. These projects have a good track record of delivering the credits because of the low methodology and low technology risk.”

    The practice is perfectly legal but effectively allows the factories and the companies through which they trade carbon credits to make big profits. The eventual buyers of the credits are governments in developed countries that have agreed to cut their greenhouse gas output under the Kyoto protocol....

    But some carbon specialists are uneasy that the use of credits generated by HFC reductions is distorting the market. Tristan Fischer, chief executive of Camco International,a carbon trader, told the Financial Times: “HFCs are controversial.”

    He said regulations to force factories to fund HFC reduction from profits might work better than allowing them to benefit from the carbon markets, or “perhaps the World Bank should fund the installation of scrubbers”.

    About 60 per cent of “certified emissions reductions” issued under the Kyoto protocol are estimated to be from HFC reduction projects, although the gas makes up a small fraction of industrial greenhouse gas emissions.

    Mitchell Feierstein, head of emissions products at Cheyne Capital Management UK, the fund management company, said: “Carbon dioxide and methane clearly represent the majority of the problem. We believe a proportional amount of investment should be focused on curb emissions.”

    Now this is a story that the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have also carried this story, and each time I read it I'm confused. Reading the articles, I get that CO2 and methane are the big contributors to global warming in the aggregate -- but I also get that per unit of emission, HFC is far, far worse, and far cheaper to correct. Doesn't it make sense that a market mechanism would focus on the low-hanging, cheapest fruit first?

    The implication in these articles is that the carbon market is not working to reduce greenhouse gases, but from what I'm reading, it's working pretty well (though Chinese firms are reaping a large windfall). Greg Mankiw or someone else in the Pigou Club needs to explain all the hubbub to me. I understand if environmentalists want to increase incentives to cut greenhouse gas emissions even further; I don't understand why they think the current focus on HFC emission should be dealt with through direct regulation instead of the current set of arrangements.

    It should benoted that there are other ways that the carbon trading scheme is imperfect. The focus on HFC can, perversely, undercut the Montreal Protocol's efforts to reduce CFC emissions (click here for more on that). The primary thrust of these articles, however, is that the market is not working -- and I don't see that.

    posted by Dan at 08:48 AM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

    Wednesday, January 17, 2007

    Anne Applebaum kind of agrees with me

    Back in November I argued for outright drug legalization, in part because of the benefits to U.S. foreign policy:

    Because of current policies regarding narcotics, the United States is stymied in promoting the rule of law in Afghanistan and several Latin American countries because farmers in those countries keep harvesting products that American cunsumers demand. Because this activity is crminalized, the bulk of the revenues from this activity enriches criminal syndicates and terrorist networks. All for a supply-side policy that does nothing but act as a price support for producers.
    In Slate, Anne Applebaum makes a more moderate argument with respect to Afghanistan:
    [B]y far the most depressing aspect of the Afghan poppy crisis is the fact that it exists at all—because it doesn't have to. To see what I mean, look at the history of Turkey, where once upon a time the drug trade also threatened the country's political and economic stability. Just like Afghanistan, Turkey had a long tradition of poppy cultivation. Just like Afghanistan, Turkey worried that poppy eradication could bring down the government. Just like Afghanistan, Turkey—this was the era of Midnight Express—was identified as the main source of the heroin sold in the West. Just like in Afghanistan, a ban was tried, and it failed.

    As a result, in 1974, the Turks, with U.S. and U.N. support, tried a different tactic. They began licensing poppy cultivation for the purpose of producing morphine, codeine, and other legal opiates. Legal factories were built to replace the illegal ones. Farmers registered to grow poppies, and they paid taxes. You wouldn't necessarily know this from the latest White House drug strategy report—which devotes several pages to Afghanistan but doesn't mention Turkey—but the U.S. government still supports the Turkish program, even requiring U.S. drug companies to purchase 80 percent of what the legal documents euphemistically refer to as "narcotic raw materials" from the two traditional producers, Turkey and India.

    Why not add Afghanistan to this list? The only good arguments against doing so—as opposed to the silly, politically correct, "just say no" arguments—are technical: that the weak or nonexistent bureaucracy will be no better at licensing poppy fields than at destroying them, or that some of the raw material will still fall into the hands of the drug cartels. Yet some of these problems can be solved by building processing factories at the local level and working within local power structures. And even if the program only succeeds in stopping half the drug trade, then a huge chunk of Afghanistan's economy will still emerge from the gray market, the power of the drug barons will be reduced, and, most of all, Western money will have been visibly spent helping Afghan farmers survive instead of destroying their livelihoods. The director of the Senlis Council, a group that studies the drug problem in Afghanistan, told me he reckons that the best way to "ensure more Western soldiers get killed" is to expand poppy eradication further.

    Besides, things really could get worse. It isn't so hard to imagine, two or three years down the line, yet another emergency presidential speech calling for yet another "surge" of troops—but this time to southern Afghanistan, where impoverished villagers, having turned against the West, are joining the Taliban in droves. Before we get there, maybe it's worth letting some legal poppies bloom.

    I still like my idea better -- but Applebaum does have the advantage of proposing something that seems politically possible in the current universe.

    UPDATE: Ilya Somin weighs in.

    posted by Dan at 10:57 AM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (1)

    Tuesday, January 16, 2007

    A question that will haunt protectionists and free traders alike

    The Financial Times' Richard McGregor notes that China is making somewhat louder noises about continued appreciation of the renminbi:

    The Chinese ministry responsible for promoting exports has backed a further appreciation of the renminbi, removing one of the last remaining institutional lobbies in Beijing against a stronger currency.

    A think-tank attached to the commerce ministry said that an “appropriate or modest” appreciation of the renminbi would benefit China’s economy and trade “in the long run”.

    “In the near term, a 3 per cent appreciation of the renminbi every year will not have an obvious or apparent influence on the overall increase of China’s trade,” said the report, which was posted on the ministry’s website.

    The ministry said previously a 3 per cent appreciation would wipe out the profits of many exporters because of the razor-thin margins under which businesses operate. However, the ministry’s position has become increasingly untenable, with the trade surplus soaring during the past 18 months, a period in which the renminbi appreciated by more than 6 per cent against the US dollar. (emphasis added)

    Six percent is not a lot, but clearly it's trending in the right direction. Which leads to an interesting thought -- if the renminbi continues to appreciate, but the bilateral deficit is not seriously affected, what does this mean for trade politics in this country?

    Protectionists will be robbed of the easy crutch that the U.S. runs a large trade deficit because of China's unfair trading practices.

    But free traders will be robbed of the argument that letting exchange rates float maes it easier to correct for current and capital account imbalances (see this Brad Setser post for more on the oddities of current global investment trends).


    posted by Dan at 10:40 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    Where the foreign tourists are

    Virginia Postrel has a great column in the Atlantic Monthly about the decline and fall of airline glamour. Go check it out -- if for no other reason than to admire a writer's ability to justify someone paying for her to fly from Los Angeles to London in Virgin Atlantic’s “Upper Class” cabin.

    In a follow-up post, however, Postrel makes a rather curious assertion:

    I suspect that The Guardian's audience is not as well traveled as they think they are. Outside the major cities in the United States, for instance, the only foreign tourists you usually find are Germans, who will go just about anywhere and rent RVs to do it. How many Guardian readers have driven through the desert Southwest or the Blue Ridge?
    I've traveled a fair amount in the United States, and my casual empiricism suggests that you'll find quite a lot of foreign tourists in the Southwest. They might not be driving RVs, but they will go there to take in one of the features of the United States that is not quite as common in Europe -- jaw-dropping natural vistas like the Grand Canyon, Garden of the Gods, or Zion National Park. In fact, in my experience, I've bumped into foreign tourists more often at non-urban destinations than urban ones.*

    This could be a perceptual bias, so I'd be curious to hear from readers if this is their experience as well.

    *If the dollar continues to fall in value, this will change, as even more tourists come to the U.S. for lower consumer prices.

    posted by Dan at 08:54 AM | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (0)

    Monday, January 15, 2007

    Personally, I'm voting for option A

    What does it mean that, when I contemplate the fact that today is Martin Luther King Day, I can't stop thinking about the first three minutes of this clip from Blazing Saddles?:

    A) I have bizarre sense of humor;

    B) It underscores Seth Mnookin's point that, "[It's] twenty-nine years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr…and we still can’t talk openly and honestly about race." UPDATE: Wow, I am old. it's been thirty-nine years since the MLK assassination.

    C) All of the above

    D) None of the Above

    posted by Dan at 02:57 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

    The blog wheel has turned

    Between 2002 and 2006, I noticed a meta-narrative that appeared in the blogosphere every so often:

    1) Policy X is promulgated;

    2) Policy X is generally acknowledged to be bad by policy wonks across the ideological spectrum;

    3) The left half of the policy-wonk blogosphere blames Republicans for being responsible for implementing said idiotic policy;

    4) The right half of the political blogosphere responds by pointing out the complicity of several Democrats in getting political approval of the policy;

    5) The left half responds that this is besides the point, because the Republicans hold all the levers of power, so they're the ones who are to blame

    6) Raucus name-calling debate ensues.

    I bring this up because, once the Democrats took power in Congress, I had a hunch that we might see the inverse of this passion play in the blogosphere: Republicans bashing Dems for bad policy, and Dems responding by pointing out that some Republicans embrace the policy as well.

    For Exhibit A, see this Mark Thoma post about protectionist Republicans. His basic point:

    There has been attempt after attempt to portray the trade issue as an area where Democrats are deeply divided, and there has been much written about how Democrats will stifle trade and hurt the economy now that they are in power.

    But the split is not unique to Democrats. As with immigration, Republicans are no less divided on this issue....

    The point here is not to answer all the questions that surround the trade issue, but simply to emphasize that the divisions that exist are not confined to a particular party no matter what some pundits would have you believe.

    Read the whole thing. Thoma is correct about protectionist Republicans (though I think they're more significant on immigraton than trade). That said, he overlooks the fact that if the Democrats hold majorities in both houses of Congress, then it is appropriate that they shoulder the majority of criticism for their protectionist wing.

    posted by Dan at 02:15 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    Saturday, January 13, 2007

    The truest sentence I will read this weekend

    People rarely watch their language when they’re about to be eaten by a giant crocodile or shot in the head by a glowering thug.
    Parental warning accomanying A.O. Scott's New York Times review of Primeval.

    posted by Dan at 08:49 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

    Friday, January 12, 2007

    A question about Somalia

    Over at Across the Aisle, Eugene Gholz is puzzled about U.S. policy in Somalia:

    [T]he most interesting choice, from my perspective: as Kenya sealed its border with Somalia to prevent the escape of the Islamic Courts fighters (at the request of the interim government and the Ethiopians), the U.S. used naval forces off the Somali coast to try to block Islamic Courts fighters’ escape by sea....

    [T]he choice to declare that policy at all seems remarkable to me. Of course U.S. forces generally do their best to chase al Qaeda operatives around the world — specific people who have done the U.S. harm or have tried to do the U.S. harm. But the Islamic Courts must have had many more supporters than the small number of people there who specifically have attacked the United States (or even our allies). Most people fighting in Somalia presumably cared most about stability in Somalia or, perhaps, Islam in Somalia. Somalia is apparently relatively homogeneous ethnically and religiously, but clan (and subclan) differences lead to a constant struggle for power there; some people seem to think that Islam might serve as a uniting and stabilizing force there. If the U.S. is now in the business of rounding people up solely because they supported an Islamic government, are we not substantially expanding the list of adversaries in the War on Terror?

    Read the whole thing. The only point where I might differ with Eugene is that he downplays the Islamic Courts' belligerent attitude towards Ethiopia (an attitude that Ethiopia reciprocated in full). Click here for more background info on this from the Economist.

    One last point -- the problem right now with U.S. policy is not that it's tried to strike at Al Qaeda suspects in Somalia, which is perfectly justified. The problem with U.S. policy is that this action is taking place after three years of Abu Ghraib revelations, four years of futile war in Iraq, five years of revelations about faulty U.S. intelligence, five and a half years of internments in Guantanamo, and nearly six years of bellicose rhetoric from the Bush administration. In this context, even justifiable military actions come with terrific amounts of blowback.

    posted by Dan at 08:55 AM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (0)

    Thursday, January 11, 2007

    The thing about credible commitment....

    The masses ain't too thrilled with the surge option. This has little to do with the actual merits and demerits of the option. According to Mystery Pollster:

    [T]he data above suggest that general assessments of President Bush- both among speech watchers and other Americans - are driving judgments about the troop surge. Since the majority of Americans are skeptical of Bush, they are also skeptical of this new proposal.
    So what about the actual plan? Over at NRO, John Derbyshire confronts the paradoxes of the latest Bush plan on Iraq:
    The central and most glaring contradiction is the implied threat to walk away... Yoked to the ringing declaration that, of course, we can't walk away. We seem to be saying to the Maliki govt.: "Hey, you guys better step up to your responsibilites, or else we're outa here." This, a few sentences after saying that we can't leave the place without a victory. So-o-o-o:

    —-We can't leave Iraq without a victory.

    —-Unless Maliki & Co. get their act together, we can't achieve victory.

    —-If Maliki & Co. don't get their act together, we'll leave.

    It's been a while since I studied classical logic, but it seems to me that this syllogism leaks like a sieve.

    Tom Maguire offers a valiant attempt to bail out the syllogism:
    However, it *may* be that Bush is simply greasing the skids for something resembling an "acceptable" US defeat. Increasing our troops shows our commitment and gives the lie to Osama and others who took from Vietnam, Beirut and Somalia that the US lacked the stomach for an extended fight.

    However - if we "lose" because the Iraqis don't have the will to a fight, well, we didn't really lose, now did we? We're not the paper tiger, they are. Say it with me, say it a lot, and maybe someone will believe it.

    Look, of course this is pretty thin, but let me throw it out there as a possibility - Bush's plan is meant to lead either to something resembling victory, or to a face-saving withdrawal.

    Even Tom knows this is weak beer, but it's worth pointing out one empirical flaw in Maguire's reasoning: what Bush is proposing now is exactly what happened in Vietnam, Beirut and Somalia.

    In each case:

    1) The United States suffered a pivotal attack that altered their perception of the enemy (the Tet Offensive, the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, and the 1993 Black Hawk Down incident);

    2) The American response at some point after the attack was a show of escalation, not de-escalation (Nixon/Kissinger escalation in Vietnam, naval and air bombardments in Lebanon, six-month force expansion in Somalia);

    3) After this display of strength, the U.S. withdraws;

    4) Despite the increase in forces and retaliatory attacks, everyone recognizes the withdrawal for what it was.

    I see very little reason to go through this charade again.... but I'm willing to listen to commenters who disagree. To them, I must ask -- how with the surge option be anything other than a more grandiose version of the Clinton administration's response to the Somalia bombings?

    [So you're saying that no matter what we do, our credibility is damaged for the future?--ed.] Not necessarily. In Calculating Credibiliy: How Leaders Assess Military Threats, Daryl Press argues that the past is not a significant factor when leaders assess the credibility of other states' actions.

    posted by Dan at 06:58 PM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (1)

    Opinio Juris scores a (perfectly legal) coup

    The international law blog Opinio Juris announces what I believe to be a first -- an executive branch official openly participating in a blog:

    Opinio Juris is very pleased to announce that John Bellinger will be guest blogging with us for the week of January 15. As our readers well know, Bellinger is the State Department Legal Adviser, the top lawyer at the Department of State. In that capacity he is the principal adviser on all domestic and international law matters to the Department of State, the Foreign Service, and the diplomatic and consular posts abroad. Full details of his bio are available here.

    The format will be as follows. Bellinger will post six posts over the course of next week. The discussion will begin on Monday morning with an introduction to the Legal Adviser’s office, and then turn to substantive discussions of the treatment of detainees, international humanitarian law, and sovereign immunity.

    UPDATE: Another first for bloggers.

    posted by Dan at 02:45 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (1)

    This post is dedicated to my brother....

    Two years ago, I was the best man for my suspicious-looking yet disgustingly affluent I-banker of a brother at his wedding in in Hawaii. A few minutes before the ceremony started, he turned to me and, with a sheepish look, said: "Hang onto this, and don't tell [the bride]. She told me I couldn't bring this to the ceremony."

    Then he gave me his Blackberry.

    I bring this up (with the permission of my happily married brother), because for some reason I thought of him when I saw this story in The Onion (WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE):

    New Mobile-Device Purchase Makes Asshole More Versatile

    The Onion

    New Mobile-Device Purchase Makes Asshole More Versatile

    NEW YORK—The new BlackBerry 8703c has allowed total shithead Robert McClain to assign more work to his assistants while he is gambling in Atlantic City.

    posted by Dan at 02:12 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    Sheryl Gay Stolberg owes me big time!!

    Daniel Drezner, "Open Surge Thread," January 10, 2007:

    Since November, President Bush has received an electoral rebuke, the Iraq Study Group report, a statement from his own Defense Secretary, and a whole lot of other free advice saying essentially the same thing: the current policy is not working, and it's simply too late for putting more troops on the ground. A surprisingly large number of people who work for him agree with this assessment. In response, Bush has shuffled around his high command and proposed a surge. Is is possible to draw any conclusion other than, "George W. Bush is a stubborn ass?"
    Lead paragraphs for Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "Bush’s Strategy for Iraq Risks Confrontations," New York Times, January 11, 2007:
    By stepping up the American military presence in Iraq, President Bush is not only inviting an epic clash with the Democrats who run Capitol Hill. He is ignoring the results of the November elections, rejecting the central thrust of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group and flouting the advice of some of his own generals, as well as Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq....

    The plan, outlined by the president in stark, simple tones in a 20-minute speech from the White House library, is vintage George Bush — in the eyes of admirers, resolute and principled; in the eyes of critics, bull-headed, even delusional, about the prospects for success in Iraq.

    [Um... wasn't that the obvious way to frame it?--ed. Hey, I found that $20 bill on the sidewalk first, dammit!]

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

    Wednesday, January 10, 2007

    "The next year of the war could be bloody"

    Comment away here on the President's speech tonight, in which, according to the Washington Post's Michael Abramowitz and Robin Wright, "President Bush will announce this evening that he is sending 21,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq and will warn Americans that the next year of the war could be bloody as U.S. and Iraq forces confront sectarian militias and seek to quell the Sunni Muslim insurgency."

    Here's a link to the NSC slide show report that apparently summarizes Bush's own Iraq Strategy Review.

    I've filed this under "politics" rather than "foreign policy" for reasons proffered earlier today.

    posted by Dan at 08:12 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    You have to have AAFTA

    The Wall Street Journal op-ed page is currently the Beltway bulletin board on trade. A few days ago, former USTR and deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick wrote an essay proposing that the United States consolidate our trade diplomacy in the region:

    This year President Bush and the Democratic-led Congress should launch a new Association of American Free Trade Agreements (AAFTA). The AAFTA could shape the future of the Western Hemisphere, while offering a new foreign and economic policy design that combines trade, open societies, development and democracy. In concert with successful immigration reform, the AAFTA would signal to the Americas that, despite the trials of war and Asia's rising economic influence, U.S. global strategy must have a hemispheric foundation.

    Successful and sustainable international strategies must be constructed across administrations. Ronald Reagan called for free trade throughout the Americas, opened U.S. markets to our Caribbean neighbors, and completed an FTA with Canada. George H.W. Bush completed negotiations for a North American FTA, offered trade preferences to the Andean countries, negotiated peace in Central America, and freed Panama. Bill Clinton secured the passage of Nafta, launched work on a Free Trade Area of the Americas, and backed Plan Colombia.

    George W. Bush enacted FTAs with Chile, the five states of Central America and the Dominican Republic. He also completed FTAs with Colombia, Peru and Panama. If Congress passes these agreements, the U.S. will finally have an unbroken line of free trade partners stretching from Alaska to the tip of South America. Not counting the U.S., this free trade assembly would comprise two-thirds of both the population and GDP of the Americas.

    The AAFTA would draw together these 13 partners to build on the gains of free trade. It could also include the island states of the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act. Starting with a small secretariat, perhaps in Miami, the AAFTA should advance hemispheric economic integration; link development and democracy with trade and aid; improve working and environmental conditions; and continue to pursue the goal of free trade throughout the hemisphere. It might even foster cooperation in the WTO's global trade negotiations. The AAFTA might be connected to an academic center, which could combine research and practice through an association among universities in the Americas....

    The U.S. cannot afford to lose interest in its own neighborhood. The pied pipers of populism in Latin America are taking advantage of the genuine frustrations, especially in indigenous communities, of people who have not been able to climb the ladder of opportunity. We should not let these populists dictate the debate. We already have seen that electorates in Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Central America and the Dominican Republic have recognized that trade with the U.S. offers jobs and hope. We need to build on that foundation with results that link trade, aid, good governance, property rights and better working and environmental conditions. Even where populists prevailed, substantial constituencies who view the U.S. as an economic partner have constrained backward policies.

    To launch the AAFTA, the president and the congressional leadership must stand up to America's populist protectionists, too. The new chairmen of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees, Charles Rangel and Max Baucus, have signaled that trade may offer the best economic policy opportunity to work with the president. As Finance Committee Chair in 2001-02, Sen. Baucus worked closely with Sen. Grassley to authorize the negotiations for these FTAs. Rangel helped push preferential trade for Africa and the Caribbean. In response to urgings from New Democrats and Blue Dogs, the U.S. is the only country that includes mutual labor and environmental commitments in its FTAs, backed by enforcement. The administration worked with the International Labor Organization (ILO) and its developing country partners to check their laws with core ILO standards. In cooperation with Sen. Baucus, the administration developed special environmental review and comment procedures for Cafta, strengthening the role of local NGOs. The AAFTA offers more: an opportunity to design labor and environmental partnerships that would complement the rules in the FTAs. The alternative -- ignoring Latin America or defeating FTAs to court economic isolationists -- would leave the causes of workers and the environment to unlikely friends: poverty and populism.

    I'm curious to see how Democrats like Sherrod Brown would react to this, since in many ways, Zoellick is simply proposing a political trade with our FTA partners -- deeper economic integration in return for adding on stringent labor and environmental standards. Nominally, at least, this is what populists like Brown claim to want.

    However, I confess that the real point of the post, if you've read this far, is to see how Lou Dobbs covers this sort of proposal:

    The answer seems to be, "very, very poorly."
    posted by Dan at 07:52 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

    Thank you, Mr. President

    The Boston Globe's Marcella Bombardieri and Maria Sacchetti report that Harvard has narrowed its shortlist for the presidency position. There's some good news -- for me, at least:

    Harvard University has narrowed its hunt for a president to a handful of candidates, including three Harvard administrators and a Nobel Laureate who heads a scientific research institute, according to people familiar with the search.

    The Harvard insiders on the short list are the provost, Steven E. Hyman, a neuroscientist; the dean of the law school, Elena Kagan; and the dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Drew Gilpin Faust.

    Another top contender is Thomas R. Cech, a 1989 Nobel Prize recipient in chemistry who is president of the multi billion dollar Howard Hughes Medical Institute, one of the top philanthropies and research organizations in the world.

    Harvard also has asked the president of Tufts University, Lawrence S. Bacow, to be interviewed, but he refused.

    Bacow has said several times that he expects to remain at Tufts. (emphasis added)

    [So, what, you bucking for an endowed chair or something?--ed. No, a better parking spot. That's like gold in academia. Gold!!!]

    UPDATE: The Harvard Crimson's Javier Hernandez and Daniel Schuker report that, "the [search] committee may not yet have ruled out Tufts University President Lawrence S. Bacow." Damn you, Harvard!!!

    posted by Dan at 07:27 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

    I am so going to hell for this link

    Pssst..... hey, you, the IR grad students who furtively read this blog.... want to waste a few hours?

    Then click here.

    If you are not an IR grad student, then this link will not interest you.... unless you like fantasy sports, in which case you'll have a good chuckle.

    posted by Dan at 11:35 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    Open surge thread

    I've been mute about the proposed surge in U.S. troops as a way to achieve some semblance of victory in Iraq. That does not mean my readers have to be mute as well. So, comment away.

    To stack the deck a little, however, surge proponents need to answer three questions for me:

    1) How would a surge of only 20,000 troops make any difference, when even the proponents of such an option were talking about 50,000 troops in the fall? Is anyone going to claim that Iraq is more stable now than then?

    2) Given that even proponents of a surge are only talking about an 18-month window of placement in a limited part of Iraqi territory, why wouldn't insurgents simply melt away/move to other parts of the country?

    3) Since November, President Bush has received an electoral rebuke, the Iraq Study Group report, a statement from his own Defense Secretary, and a whole lot of other free advice saying essentially the same thing: the current policy is not working, and it's simply too late for putting more troops on the ground. A surprisingly large number of people who work for him agree with this assessment. In response, Bush has shuffled around his high command and proposed a surge. Is is possible to draw any conclusion other than, "George W. Bush is a stubborn ass?"

    posted by Dan at 09:14 AM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (0)

    The energy follies, continued

    I might need to create a new category for the blog: file under Utterly Stupid Moves by Energy-Abundant Regimes.

    First, there's Venezuela. Simon Romero and Clifford Krauss explain in the New York Times:

    Investors reacted with alarm here and in markets in the United States and throughout Latin America on Tuesday as they measured the impact of the plan by Mr. Chávez to nationalize crucial areas of the economy. Memories of past nationalizations during another turbulent era, in places like Cuba and Chile, helped drive down the Caracas stock exchange’s main index by almost 19 percent....

    Owners of Venezuelan steel, banking, cement and hotel companies — even the cable car operator that takes tourists to the top of the Ávila mountain here — could be affected by the push toward nationalization, analysts said.

    “Chávez is deepening his revolution, but in doing so will he follow the law and compensate the companies whose assets will be nationalized?” said Miguel Octavio, executive director of BBO Servicios Financieros, a brokerage firm, who calculated the costs of taking over companies in the telecommunications, electricity and oil industries, as well assuming their debts, at more than $15 billion.

    “It doesn’t seem like the government has thought this project out yet,” Mr. Octavio said.

    Tony Snow, a White House spokesman, said on Tuesday, “Nationalization has a long and inglorious history of failure around the world. We support the Venezuelan people and think this is an unhappy day for them.”

    Mr. Chávez further intensified worries with his request for vastly enhanced presidential authority from his Congress. If successful, those new powers would allow him to decree measures into law for one year, bypassing any debate in the legislature, where in any case all 167 deputies are his supporters. On top of that, he made a request to abolish the autonomy of Venezuela’s central bank. The Venezuelan government did not immediately contact the American companies, which declined to discuss details.

    Then there is Russia. [For forcing Belarus to pay higher prices for energy?--ed.] No, and let's be clear about this -- as with Ukraine last year, Russia is perfectly justified in switching to market rates for their energy exports. It's the way in which they go about trying to do this that's so wrong-footed. In the International Herald-Tribune, Judy Dempsey and Dan Bilefsky explain why Europe is so ticked off:
    Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday publicly rebuked Russia for not consulting its European partners before suspending oil shipments destined for Poland and Germany in a dispute with Belarus.

    "It is unacceptable when there are no consultations over these actions," Merkel said during a joint news conference with the European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, in Berlin. "That hurts trust and it makes it difficult to build a cooperative relationship based on trust."

    Russia on Monday halted shipments to Belarus after Minsk imposed a tariff on Russian oil in retaliation for an increase in the price of Russian oil exports to Belarus. Belarus, one of Russia's main routes for piping its oil to Europe, admitted that it had siphoned off some oil destined for European customers after Russia cut the shipments through the Druzhba, or Friendship, pipeline.

    Barroso said it was "not acceptable for suppliers or transit countries to take measures without consultation," adding, "Of course this is a matter for concern."

    Germany depends on Russia for a third of its natural gas and a fifth of its oil. Russia supplies a quarter of the EU's gas and about a fifth of its oil.

    I don't understand the lack of consultation on this one. It's not like the European Union is going to be upset about squeezing the Belarusian leadership -- and with sufficient preparation, this could have been handled much more smoothly. Why not consult?

    Finally, we have Iran. As the United States ratchets up its own sanctions, the Iranian leadership seems surprised that, like, they have alienated a lot of countries. In the Financial Times, Daniel Dombey and Gareth Smyth explain the confusion in Tehran:

    [T]he new UN regime - which took months to negotiate in New York - appears to have surprised parts of Iran's leadership, with differences emerging on how best to respond. After a period in which Iran saw its regional influence increase at relatively little cost, Tehran now faces greater isolation....

    A regime insider told the FT last week there was no chance Iran would accept the resolution within the 60-day deadline, and would go ahead with plans to extend the number of centrifuges - devices for enriching uranium - in the research plant at Natanz.

    But pragmatists in Tehran have become bolder in pronouncements, because of their concern at the scope of the UN resolution and because of the reverse suffered by President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad last month in elections for local councils and for a top clerical body. "The mood has shifted but not yet policy," the insider said. "There may well be changes in the leadership's approach, but not immediately."....

    Iran's Fars news agency yesterday ran a long interview with Hossein Mousavian, a former nuclear negotiator close to former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, in which he described the UN Security Council as the "highest international legislative authority" and criticised the government of Mr Ahmadi-Nejad for attacking the council's resolution as "illegal".

    But yesterday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, reiterated that nuclear energy was "a source of pride for the Iranian nation and Islamic world" and that Iran would not give up its "right".

    Even the Nelson Report observes that, "there’s no question that, along with the EU, Washington and Beijing are simultaneously taking a tough line on Iran. And the implicit 'message' of the arrival in China of Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, today, is clear to all concerned."


    posted by Dan at 08:47 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    Tuesday, January 9, 2007

    How will the Olympics affect China?

    When historians debate what caused the decline and fall of the Soviet Union, there is occasionally a mention of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. As the narrative goes, the Soviets invested enormous sums to turn Moscow into a showcase for the international media -- and bankrupted themselves in the process.

    I bring this up because the Economist's Asia.view column reports on how China is, temporarily, changing its laws for the 2008 summer games in Beijing:

    China wants to show that its relations with the foreign media are in line with those of other countries that have hosted the games in the past 20 years. It does not want its Olympics marred by the sort of boycotts and tensions that spoilt the 1980 games in Moscow―the only other communist capital to have hosted the event.

    The games are of enormous political importance to China. They are designed to show off the country’s economic achievements and to demonstrate its growing pride and confidence. China wants the event to strengthen its ties with the West. It worries that restrictions on foreign media might complicate that task.

    The old media rules had changed little, on paper at least, since communist China first allowed Western journalists to open offices in Beijing in the 1970s. For example, if a resident foreign journalist wanted to conduct interviews outside the city where he was based, he had to obtain permission from the relevant provincial government. In recent years most journalists ignored this restriction, and the central government largely turned a blind eye, but local governments did not. A trip to the provinces on a sensitive story could mean a cat-and-mouse game with the local police, who would happily expel the foreigner for “illegal” reporting.

    The old rules, though not formally repealed, have been superseded from January 1st by more liberal regulations which remain in force until the games are over. In theory foreign journalists can travel around China pretty much as they please.

    And if they highlight some shortcomings in the course of their provincial travels, the central government will probably not be too upset. It wants to bring wayward local governments to heel, as part of its drive to cut corruption and impose more order on the economy. A bit of publicity may be helpful.

    Sounds like the 2007 Beijing leadership is savvier than the 1980 Moscow leadership. It will be interesting to see whether the cental government manages to stay ahead of whatever adverse developments emerge over the next 18 months. As the column concludes:
    It remains to be seen, however, how local governments respond. They have long been adept at ignoring central directives they dislike. Some have deployed thugs to keep unwanted visitors at bay.

    The new rules are meant to signal that China is moving closer to developed countries in the way it handles the media. But unless local governments accept them too, a very different message may be sent: that China is moving rapidly closer to the norm of a developing country where central authority is weakening and disrespect for the law is widespread. Journalists, Chinese and foreign alike, will have to deal with the hazards this trend poses.

    posted by Dan at 08:57 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

    Monday, January 8, 2007

    This is every academic's secret nightmare

    After reading the headline, "Gas-Like Odor Permeates Parts of New York City," I was convinced that my secret fear had come true.

    You see, at this very moment I have an article manuscript that's being edited by someone in New York City. Clearly, I thought (OK, not so clearly), my work has become so bad that the metaphorical has become literal. It's my fault!! MINE!!.

    [Get your head out of your narcissistic ass!--ed. Thank you, I needed that.]

    Surfing the web on the story, the most interesting tidbit I found was in Nathan Thornburgh's story at

    New York, of course, has had its share of mystery aromas, big and small. In 2005, an odd maple syrup smell overcame parts of Manhattan and New Jersey. Last August, an unidentified odor sent people to the hospital in Staten Island and Queens.
    I kind of like the idea of maple syrup wafting through my town.

    posted by Dan at 07:09 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    Next year, I'm putting my money on Latvia

    Another January, another energy dispute between Russia and a former Soviet republic freaks out the Europeans:

    Russia, accusing Belarus of stealing oil from a major pipeline, has shut off oil exports to its western neighbour, halting supplies to Poland and Germany and threatening wider disruptions in central Europe.

    Russia’s pipeline monopoly Transneft said on Monday it was forced to act because Minsk had been siphoning off oil illegally from the Druzhba (’Friendship’) pipeline system.

    The oil supply cut was reminiscent of a stand-off last year between Russia and Ukraine that hit gas supplies to Europe. It escalates a tit-for-tat dispute between Russia and longtime ally Belarus, who have imposed punitive oil levies on each other.

    The European Union demanded an “urgent and detailed” explanation, a spokesman for Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said. Europe is heavily reliant on energy powerhouse Russia for its oil and gas and extremely vulnerable to Russian supply cuts.

    What's odd about this dispute is that Belarus backed down last week when faced with similar Russian pressure on natural gas. Lukashenka agreed (he wasn't thrilled, obviously, but he agreed) to a ramp up in Gazprom's natural gas price.

    Writing in the Financial Times, Arkady Ostrovskyin reports that Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko has backed himself into a corner:

    Speaking for the first time since Belarus succumbed to Russia's demands to double gas prices and take control of half of its pipeline infrastructure, Mr Lukashenko said he had instructed his government to propose to Moscow that it pay for everything "they are getting here for free, from military objects to transit of oil".

    Analysts said Mr Lukashenko's angry comments should be put down to the frustration of a leader push-ed into a corner.

    "Lukashenko is in an extremely weak position - both economically and politically. He is already isolated by Europe and Russia is his only lifeline," said Christopher Weafer, chief strategist at Alfa Bank.

    On New Year's eve, Gazprom, Russia's state-controlled gas group, forced Belarus to sign a new five-year gas deal which will bring gas prices to European levels by 2011. Russia also threatened to slap a full duty on Russian - currently duty-free - crude oil exports to Belarus of $180.70 (£92.71) per tonne from next year.

    These measures would wipe out most of the $4bn plus subsidy that Mr Lukashenko has enjoyed over the past years and which helped him retain his popularity. However, unlike Ukraine, the former Soviet republic that irritated Russia by pushing closer to Europe, Belarus has few friends in the west and now risks straining its relationship with Russia to a breaking point.

    The big question here is whether Western Europe will force Russia to turn the oil tap back on before Lukashenka is ousted by someone not stupid enough to annoy Belarus' only ally. From a human rights perspective, it would seem hard to believe that anyone in Belarus could be worse than Lukashenko. On the other hand, it's not clear that a replacement would be much better, either -- and there's the pesky problem of heating homes and such.

    My prediction: If this kind of standoff lasts more than a week, Lukashenko is gone. But I suspect European pressure will force an agreement before Lukashenko is ousted.

    Readers are invited to speculate which country will be the focus of next year's energy squeeze.

    UPDATE: The Economist's Democracy in America blog thinks the target of this cutoff isn't Belarus -- it's Germany and Poland.

    posted by Dan at 11:42 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

    So that's why tenure is such a big deal

    In my day, I have read many a rant about how the tenure system in academia is merely a con job that ivory tower types have used to hoodwink the lumpenproletariat not privileged enough to sit in on the mind-numbing minutiae that are facult meetings. Academics usually trot out the importance of "academic freedom," but this is dimissed by most as unimportant.

    I will now refer these ranters to this Inside Higher Ed piece by Elia Powers:

    Elena Kagan, dean of Harvard Law School, lowered her spectacles and, as if addressing a group of students, presented her audience with a case study.

    This one involved the University of Minnesota, where students had protested the hiring of a part-time Constitutional law instructor on the grounds that he was co-author of the controversial Department of Justice torture memo.

    As dean, Kagan asked the audience, would you have hired the professor, Robert Delahunty? The answers were mixed.

    Then Kagan changed the scenario. What if the professor was tenured at the time when the same facts came out? Would he be protected under the banner of academic freedom?

    Yes, the audience of lawyers, law school professors and administrators almost unanimously agreed.

    Read the whole thing to see Kagan's explanation of this seeming paradox.

    Then again, Stanley Fish does not hold that capacious a view on academic freedom more generally:

    [I]s academic freedom worth protecting? Only when one applies a limited definition, Fish argued. Worthy of protection: a professor’s ability to introduce material and equip students with analytical skills.

    “That’s it,” he said. “There’s nothing else. The moment a professor tries to do something else [such as inject a political opinion], he is performing an action for which there should be no academic freedom.”

    Fish added that a professor who comes clean about her political view at the start of class still shouldn’t be protected. “Ask this question,” he said. “Is it an account or an advocacy of an agenda?

    I have to assume that Fish was limiting his remarks about protecting academic freedom within the context of a classroom setting. Because if he's saying that research topics and research output should not be protected, then dear God, keep that man away from my campus. One also wonders what Fish's views would be about blogging....

    UPDATE: Only tangentially connected, but it seems appropriate here to say goodbye to Michael Berube's blog -- he hung up his blogging spurs today. He makes a valid point in his last post:

    [L]et me try to answer the most serious question I’ve gotten about this decision: why not just cut down? Post something under 2000 words for a change? Post once a week or once a month, instead of maniacally posting every weekday?....

    I’ve tried that, actually, but it doesn’t work. Blog maintenance on this scale is a daily, sometimes hourly thing, regardless of whether there’s a new post up. And even if I didn’t try to maintain the blog on this scale (a good idea in itself), there’s still the problem of the invisible blogging. I don’t write these posts out in advance, you know. I sit down for an hour or two (more for the really long posts), write them in one take in WordPerfect, look ‘em over, transfer ‘em to the blog, preview, edit, submit, and then proofread one last time once they’re up. (Because sometimes you can’t catch a typo until it’s really up there on the blog, and even then, I’ve missed a bunch so far.) Which means, among other things, that I do a great deal of the planning-before-the-writing while I’m not blogging. And that’s what’s been so mentally exhausting. It’s like ABC from Glengarry Glen Ross: Always Be Composing. And while it’s been great mental exercise, and it’s compelled me to think out (and commit myself in public to) any number of things that otherwise would have simply laid around the mental toolshed for years, it’s not the kind of thing I can keep up forever, and it wouldn’t be seriously affected if I went to a lighter posting schedule. I’d still spend way too much time thinking about the Next Post and the Post After That.

    posted by Dan at 09:18 AM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

    A few good trade links

    A few if the saner things written about trade in the past few weeks:

    1) William Overholt, "Globalization's Unequal Discontents,", December 21, 2006:

    Some manufacturing workers in the United States -- such as those who labored in huge factories making basic steel -- have suffered as they've seen their jobs leave America for low-wage countries. But for workers as a whole, the truth about globalization and inequality is the opposite of what the protectionists claim. There are three caveats to the steel worker's story and two larger perspectives on inequality.

    One caveat is that protectionists enormously exaggerate the negative effects of globalization by attributing virtually all manufacturing job losses to competition with China. We are told by union leaders and some politicians that America is exporting millions of jobs to China. This is absolutely untrue.

    Scholarly studies show that most job losses in the United States are attributable to domestic causes such as increased domestic productivity. A few years ago it took 40 hours of labor to produce a car. Now it takes 15. That translates into a need for fewer workers. Protectionists who blame China for such job losses are being intellectually dishonest. In fact, both China and the U.S. have lost manufacturing jobs due to rising productivity, but China has lost ten times more -- a decline of about 25 million Chinese jobs from over 54 million in 1994 to under 30 million ten years later.

    A second caveat is that there are two ways to increase people's standard of living. One is to increase their wages. The other is to decrease prices so that they can buy more things with the same amount of money.

    The ability to buy inexpensive, quality Chinese-made shoes and Japanese-made cars at lower prices disproportionately benefits lower income Americans. The Wall Street banker who pays $350 for Church's shoes benefits relatively little, but the janitor who buys shoes for $25 rather than $50 at Payless or Target or Wal-Mart benefits greatly.

    Lower prices due to imports from China alone -- ignoring all other similar results of globalization -- probably raise the real incomes of lower income Americans by 5 to 10 percent. That's something no welfare program has ever accomplished.

    A third caveat is that the protectionists never mention the jobs created and saved by globalization. If General Motors avoids bankruptcy, as seems likely, one important reason will be the profits it has made by selling cars in China. The vast China market, and the ability of American corporations to expand and refine their operations though a division of labor with China, creates many high level jobs in U.S. operations ranging in diversity from Motorola to IBM to Caterpillar to Boeing to farming.

    The first of the larger perspectives on globalization is that open economies adjust faster to their real competitive advantages, allowing them to employ their own people. The most recent U.S. unemployment rate was 4.4 percent. France, along with other relatively protected economies, typically has twice as high a proportion of the population unemployed because their workers are stuck in inappropriate jobs.

    Still more protected economies, like many in Latin America, often run much higher rates of unemployment -- up to 40%. Economies more open than the U.S. -- like Singapore and Hong Kong -- historically run lower rates of unemployment.

    The worst inequality is between families whose breadwinners have jobs and those who don't. Globalization minimizes that problem.

    Globalization has brought countries with about 3 billion people from subhuman conditions of life into modern standards of living with adequate food, basic shelter, modern clothing rather than rags, and life spans that are over 60 rather than under 45. (In the early 1950s China's life expectancy was 41 years, in 2005 it was 72.7 years. This is the greatest reduction of inequality that has happened in human history.

    2) Jagdish Bhagwati, "Technology, not Globalisation, Drives Wages Down," Financial Times, January 3, 2007:
    Lou Dobbs of CNN, the labour groups’ think-tank Economic Policy Institute and nearly all the Democrats newly elected to Congress believe that globalisation has much to do with the economic distress of the working and middle classes. Therefore they have coherence on their side when they want to lean on the door – even to close it – on trade with poor countries and occasionally on unskilled immigration from them.

    Proponents of globalisation, however, find themselves in a politically implausible position: they typically skirt around and hence accept this “distributional” critique of globalisation – yet nonetheless propose that those adversely affected should accept globalisation but be aided so as to cope with their affliction in other ways.

    As it happens, globalisation’s supporters are on firmer ground than they fear. Examine the common arguments linking globalisation to the distributional distress and little survives....

    The decline in unionisation has been going on for longer than the past two decades of globalisation, shows no dramatic acceleration in the past two decades and is to be attributed to the union-unfriendly provisions of the half-century-old Taft-Hartley provisions that crippled the ability to strike....

    The culprit is not globalisation but labour-saving technical change that puts pressure on the wages of the unskilled. Technical change prompts continual economies in the use of unskilled labour. Much empirical argumentation and evidence exists on this. But a telling example comes from Charlie Chaplin’s film, Modern Times. Recall how he goes berserk on the assembly line, the mechanical motion of turning the spanner finally getting to him. There are assembly lines today, but they are without workers; they are managed by computers in a glass cage above, with highly skilled engineers in charge.

    Such technical change is quickly spreading through the system. This naturally creates, in the short-run, pressure on the jobs and wages of the workers being displaced....

    The pressure on wages becomes relentless, lasting over longer periods than in earlier experience with unskilled labour-saving technical change. But this technical change, which proceeds like a tsunami, has nothing to do with globalisation.

    One slight cavil -- that last paragraph by Bhagwati strikes me as a bit of a stretch. I have to think that globalization is one of the drivers for greater technical change.

    3) Susan Aaronson, "Labor Rights Not Optional,", January 5, 2007:

    [Both] the Democratic alternative and the current Bush administration approach do little to bolster the demand in developing countries for strong labor protections. Neither approach facilitates the ability of citizens in our trade partners to participate in and monitor labor rights enforcement. In countries such as Oman, a U.S. free trade partner, workers cannot easily influence their government or obtain due process in administrative procedures. In addition, some of America’s free trade agreement partners do not provide their citizens with full information about their labor rights under the law. As a result, it is difficult for activists to monitor their government and hold it accountable.

    Labor rights advocates should take a page from the environmental chapters of several recent free trade agreements. In 2004, Democratic Senator Max Baucus pressed U.S. trade policymakers to strengthen public participation provisions and embed them in every future trade agreement.

    The Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) is the first trade agreement built on Baucus’ suggestions. It includes both a mechanism and secretariat that allows citizens from any one of the seven signatory nations to challenge enforcement of environmental laws. Moreover, the trade agreement requires policymakers to respond to these complaints. To ensure the viability of this model, the United States agreed to fund the first year of the secretariat’s work. In addition to setting up a complaint mechanism, trade and/or environmental ministries in each of the CAFTA countries reached out to their constituents on the environmental chapters. They held hearings, called for public comments, and published their new regulations on the web and in print. Each environment ministry developed a website on environmental activities and outreach. USTR has agreed to replicate this model in other free trade agreements with Colombia and Peru.

    But these citizen submission strategies should not be limited to the environmental chapters of free trade agreements. The U.S. government should adopt a similar approach in the labor chapters as well. As the Democrats have promised, the U.S. first should ask its trade partners to ensure that their labor laws meet internationally accepted labor standards before negotiating a trade agreement. In addition, policymakers should also include provisions that ensure public comment on labor law development and or enforcement; allow citizens to petition their government regarding labor law violations; and set up a complaint and hearing process related to labor rights. By so doing, the U.S. would be strengthening local labor movements as well as expanding grassroots pressure for democratic accountability.

    America’s founding fathers recognized that democracy and good governance could not flourish if the public did not participate in decision making. In the long run, good governance, like democracy, can’t be exported. But the U.S. can use trade policy to help workers abroad influence and monitor labor rights in their home countries.

    UPDATE: Brad Setser protests in the comments about the Overholt piece -- which reminds me that I should have linked this post of his from last week.

    posted by Dan at 09:00 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

    Friday, January 5, 2007

    Taking exception to American exceptionalism?

    I have an article in the January/February issue of The National Interest entitled, "Mind the Gap." It's an extended review of two books on public opinion and international relations. The first is Andrew Kohut and Bruce Stokes' America Against the World -- which compares and contrasts the attitudes of Americans and other nationalities, relying primarily on the Pew Global Attitudes project. The second is Benjamin Page and Marshall Bouton's The Foreign Policy Disconnect, which compares and contrasts the attitudes of Americans and foreign policymaking elites.

    An excerpt:

    In detailing the patterns and gaps between the American public and others, these books nicely complement and occasionally contradict each other. Both The Foreign Policy Disconnect and America Against the World will add grist to the mill for those who profess faith in the wisdom of crowds and doubts about the judgment of foreign policy experts. After cogitating on both books, it would be difficult for the informed reader to believe that Americans hold irrational or flighty views about foreign policy. Most Americans, on most issues, articulate what George W. Bush characterized as a “humble” foreign policy during the 2000 campaign. They want a prudent foreign policy based on security against attacks and threats to domestic well-being—though American attitudes about multilateralism remain an open question. The gaps between American attitudes and the rest of the world are overstated; the gaps between Americans and their policymakers might be understated. The biggest question—which neither of these books answers satisfactorily—is to what extent these views, and gaps between views, matter.
    Read the whole thing.

    posted by Dan at 11:37 AM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (1)

    Thursday, January 4, 2007

    The devil is in Max Baucus' details

    I've received more than one query about what to make of Max Maucus' Wall Street Journal op-ed on trade policy(subscription only). Here's an excerpt:

    Some think that the new Democratic congressional majority will be bad for trade policy. While it is true that some candidates criticized trade in their campaigns, I believe that the new Congress will have both the desire and opportunity to renew U.S. trade policy, with a unifying purpose that Americans can understand and support. Through trade, we must bolster the nation's innovative economy in an increasingly global marketplace. At the same time, we must tackle with equal vigor the negative domestic consequences of globalization, from trade deficits to job losses.

    Congress should begin by renewing the administration's fast-track negotiating authority for trade agreements. The current grant expires in June, and trading partners will not negotiate trade agreements with us unless Congress gives the president the ability to bring these agreements to fruition....

    Fast-track authority should be improved as it is renewed, with better trade enforcement capability and better environmental and labor provisions. By making those changes, we can protect American interests, project America's values, and help to create consumer classes capable of purchasing more U.S.-made goods. And as we address expiring fast-track authority, we must take on -- head-on -- globalization's downsides, especially worker displacement and the unsustainable trade deficit.

    The trade deficit requires action on several fronts, which include beefing up U.S. export promotion programs and dedicating more time and resources to trade enforcement. We must also recognize that the trade deficit has causes closer to home, especially Americans' negative savings rate.

    When it comes to helping workers, we must make the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, which expires in September, more reflective of today's innovative economy.

    TAA is our commitment that America will provide wage and health benefits while trade-displaced workers retool, retrain, and find better jobs. And a renewed TAA must do what today's program does not. TAA must be available to the eight out of 10 American workers who make their money in services professions; and it must apply to all workers displaced by trade, not just those affected by free-trade agreements. In fact, we should seriously examine the idea of expanding TAA into "GAA" -- Globalization Adjustment Assistance that would offer benefits not only to workers displaced by trade, but to those displaced by all aspects of globalization.

    In addition to these new priorities, we must refocus current trade efforts. The Doha round is of obvious importance, but the world's economies do not appear ready to make the hard choices necessary to bring the round to an ambitious conclusion. Doha may yet progress in time, as the Uruguay round did after 1990. But until then, America should move forward on commercially significant initiatives with our largest trading partners. We should lay the foundations for a future free-trade agreement with the European Union and Japan by concluding a first ever free-trade agreement in services. We should stitch our current patchwork quilt of free-trade agreements into a seamless, coherent network that we can later open to other countries. Even more immediately, we must enforce China's trade and investment commitments. Doing that will help to boost the U.S. gross domestic product by $86.5 billion over the next three years.

    There are three ways to interpret this essay:
    1) Baucus, representing pro-trade Democrats, is laying down a marker against protectionist Democrats. For Sherrod Brown, Byron Dorgan, James Webb, etc., he's saying, "It's great that you won your elections with economic populism, but now you have to actually try and craft policy that does not trigger trade wars, runs on the dollar, global recessions, economic development, etc. We agree that cushioning the losers is important, and we're with you on bolstering labor and environmental standards, but let's play like grown ups, shall we?"

    2) Baucus, representing the Democratic caucus, is trying to get the Bush administration to sign off on Democratic policy proposals with a veneer of soothing rhetoric. When you boil down the policy proposals, what Baucus is saying doesn't differ all that much from Sherrod Brown and Byron Dorgan: inserting stringent labor and environmental standards into FTAs, "trade enforcement," etc. He's just doing it minus the crackpot economic theories and idiotic rhetoric. Because Dorgan and Brown are so far out there, however, Baucus suddenly looks reasonable proposing something as amorphous as "Globalization Adjustment Assistance."

    3) Baucus isn't entirely sure what he's saying. Again, see the GAA. And the lack of suggestions for increasing U.S. savings. Then again, it's only an op-ed, so specificity is tough.

    I'll be charitable and say that the op-ed is 40% of (1), 25% of (2), and 35% of (3).

    One last point -- Baucus embrace of a service pact with the EU, coming so soon after Angela Merkel's quasi-TAFTA proposal, makes me wonder if the Bush administration will become more enthusiastic about the proposal -- or run away, scared it's an EU-Blue State conspiracy.

    posted by Dan at 03:58 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

    More bloggingheads goodness

    My latest bloggingheads duet is with Eric Alterman. In a stunning new visual effect, I wear my glasses. We discuss:

    1) Gerald Ford's "when I die" interviews (in which Eric and I confuse the Pueblo and Mayaguez debacles);

    2) Why pundits stink (in which Eric does not forgive Andrew Sullivan);

    3) The end of Big Liberalism in domestic policy (in which Eric surprises me by sounding positively Clintonian)

    4) Grand strategy, redux (in which I make a heartfelt apology)

    Adults over 21, here's a fun drinking game to play while watching -- take a shot whenever Eric or I pimp our own work!! [Why can't they take a shot every time you say "you know"?--ed. Because their livers would explode.]

    posted by Dan at 08:43 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    Condoleezza Rice's powers of persuasion

    After Condoleezza Rice became Secretary of State, she (well, not only she) convinced Robert Zoellick to leave the U.S. Trade Representative's position to take the Deputy Secretary of State position. In the hierarchy of Washington positions, this was viewed by many as a step down in rank.

    Since Zoellick left last July, the position had been vacant... until now. Condi's found a replacement, according to the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler:

    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has persuaded John D. Negroponte to leave his post as director of national intelligence and come to the State Department as her deputy, government officials said last night.

    Negroponte's move would fill a crucial hole on Rice's team. She has been without a deputy since Robert B. Zoellick left in July for a Wall Street firm. It also comes as President Bush plans to announce a new Iraq strategy; as former Iraq envoy, Negroponte would be expected to play a major role in implementing that plan in his new role.

    Negroponte's decision to step down as the nation's top spy for a sub-Cabinet position marks a sudden reversal. Rice had earlier sought to recruit Negroponte -- as well as other high-profile figures -- for the job, but last month he insisted he was staying at his post.

    Over at the New York Times, Mark Mazzetti explains why this move is so puzzling: "On paper, the director of national intelligence outranks the deputy secretary of state, raising questions about why the White House would seek — and why Mr. Negroponte would agree to — the shift."

    Maybe there are hidden perks to the dSoS position. Possibilities include:

    1) A sweeter parking spot;

    2) Unlimited refills at the Foggy Bottom Starbucks

    3) A heavy-duty stapler that actually works

    4) A lower profile position so that years later, when autopsies of this administration are written, Zoellick and Negroponte are more in the background and less front-and-center.

    5) The position is actually more powerful

    That last one is suggested by Kessler:
    Rice gave Zoellick wide berth as her deputy. He had primary responsibility for relations with China, the crisis in Sudan, Latin America, economic affairs and Southeast Asia. In a first for a deputy secretary of state, he frequently allowed reporters on his plane when he traveled abroad.
    Whoa! Talking to the press!! Where do I sign up for this job?!

    UPDATE: Greg Dejerejian offers his explanation:

    The likely reason Cabinet level people like Zoellick and now, Negroponte, will take a Deputy slot is because, in reality, they know they will often be serving as quasi-Secretaries of State given how weak their boss has proven (Zoellick on Sudan, China etc, Negroponte on a to be determined portfolio, very likely to include Iraq). Sorry to be so plain about it, but there it is, no?
    Ed Morrissey thinks this is more about Negroponte than the vacant dSoS position: "The change reflects a possible loss of confidence in Negroponte, especially given his proximity to the President and the obvious opportunity to influence his decisions on policy on a whole range of issues."

    UPDATE: More speculation from James Joyner, related to point #5 above -- it's not that dSoS is so great, it's that DNI is so bad a position.

    ANOTHER UPDATE: The Nelson Report proffers this answer:

    Negroponte’s immediate past includes Ambassador to Baghdad, and it is within the context of the Administration’s total immersion in the Iraq situation that his acceptance of the job must be seen, our sources argue.

    “The President makes his big speech next week, and he’s desperate to make it look like he has a real strategy, and not just a revised process,” says an informed observer. “Negroponte helps them [Bush and Rice] ‘re-brand’ the policy because he seems credible, and he has personal overseas friendships and contacts. This Administration has almost no one it can deploy for this purpose.”

    In other words, “see this as more about Rice, in some ways, than Negroponte. She’s articulate, but if you know something about the topic, you usually see it’s mostly glib salesmanship. She has no serious credibility overseas, she owns no personal relationships with any international leaders which are valuable, deployable in private, face-to-face diplomacy.”

    posted by Dan at 07:57 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    Wednesday, January 3, 2007

    Do hawks have a psychological edge?

    In the January/February issue of Foreign Policy, Daniel Kahneman and Jonathan Renshon make a very provocative argument -- as a species, humans are too damn hawkish:

    National leaders get all sorts of advice in times of tension and conflict. But often the competing counsel can be broken down into two basic categories. On one side are the hawks: They tend to favor coercive action, are more willing to use military force, and are more likely to doubt the value of offering concessions. When they look at adversaries overseas, they often see unremittingly hostile regimes who only understand the language of force. On the other side are the doves, skeptical about the usefulness of force and more inclined to contemplate political solutions. Where hawks see little in their adversaries but hostility, doves often point to subtle openings for dialogue.

    As the hawks and doves thrust and parry, one hopes that the decision makers will hear their arguments on the merits and weigh them judiciously before choosing a course of action. Don’t count on it. Modern psychology suggests that policymakers come to the debate predisposed to believe their hawkish advisors more than the doves. There are numerous reasons for the burden of persuasion that doves carry, and some of them have nothing to do with politics or strategy. In fact, a bias in favor of hawkish beliefs and preferences is built into the fabric of the human mind.

    Social and cognitive psychologists have identified a number of predictable errors (psychologists call them biases) in the ways that humans judge situations and evaluate risks. Biases have been documented both in the laboratory and in the real world, mostly in situations that have no connection to international politics. For example, people are prone to exaggerating their strengths: About 80 percent of us believe that our driving skills are better than average. In situations of potential conflict, the same optimistic bias makes politicians and generals receptive to advisors who offer highly favorable estimates of the outcomes of war. Such a predisposition, often shared by leaders on both sides of a conflict, is likely to produce a disaster. And this is not an isolated example.

    In fact, when we constructed a list of the biases uncovered in 40 years of psychological research, we were startled by what we found: All the biases in our list favor hawks. These psychological impulses—only a few of which we discuss here—incline national leaders to exaggerate the evil intentions of adversaries, to misjudge how adversaries perceive them, to be overly sanguine when hostilities start, and overly reluctant to make necessary concessions in negotiations. In short, these biases have the effect of making wars more likely to begin and more difficult to end.

    Foreign Policy also invited Matthew Continetti and Matthew Yglesias to comment on the piece. Yglesias is enthusiastic about the finding, and goes even further:
    Kahneman and Renshon actually end up being unduly generous to the hawkish point of view. Sometimes, of course, war is necessary. But since there are two sides to every conflict, hawks won’t always be right. Even in a case where an American president is rightly listening to his hawkish advisors (George H.W. Bush in the first Gulf War, say, or Bill Clinton over Kosovo), a foreign leader (Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic) is making a serious miscalculation in listening to his hawkish advisors.

    In short, most decisions to go to war have been mistakes. Sometimes, as in World War I, both sides are making a mistake, and other times, as in World War II, only one side is, but the upshot is that the impulse to launch wars is more widespread than it ought to be. Indeed, hawks themselves recognize this fact. Pro-war arguments almost always contend that the enemy is irrationally aggressive, while overestimating one’s own military capabilities. Where the hawks go wrong is in their belief that irrational exuberance about violence is the exclusive province of real or potential adversaries, rather than a problem from which they themselves may suffer.

    Continetti is less sanguine:
    [W]hy do only the fundamental attribution errors of hawks lead to “pernicious” effects? Doves share the same bias; it just works in different ways. If hawks treat hostile behavior at face value when they shouldn’t, so too do doves treat docility. Those who championed the 1973 accords ending the Vietnam War saw them as a chance for the United States to leave Vietnam while preserving the sovereignty of the south. But to North Vietnamese eyes, the cease-fire was merely an opportunity to consolidate their forces for the final seizure of the south, which happened a mere two years later.

    The second hawk bias Kahneman and Renshon identify is “excessive optimism,” which the authors speculate “led American policymakers astray as they laid the groundwork for the current war in Iraq.” Yet prior to the war in Iraq, some hawks worried that Saddam Hussein might set oil fields ablaze, as he had done in 1991. They worried that he might launch missiles against American allies in the region, that his removal might be long and bloody, and that post-Saddam Iraq would face humanitarian crises of great magnitude. Doves optimistically argued that Saddam could be “contained” even as the sanctions against him were unraveling and as America’s military presence in Saudi Arabia became increasingly untenable.

    Why Kahneman and Renshon limit the biases they identify to hawks is something of a mystery. Take “reactive devaluation,” or “what was said matters less than who said it.” They cite likely American skepticism over any forthcoming Iranian nuclear concessions as an example, albeit conceding that doubt may be warranted in this case. They could have cited a domestic case instead: Just as many Republicans opposed President Clinton’s interventions in Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo, and at one point even accused him of resorting to force in order to distract from the Monica Lewinsky scandal, many Democrats now oppose Bush administration policies sight unseen because they don’t like the messenger. Doves are just as susceptible to reactive devaluation as hawks.

    I love this article -- in fact, it's going in my Statecraft course for this semester!!

    However, I love it in part because it's simultaneously clear, provocative, and way overblown as a hypothesis. That is to say, even if one acknowledges the individual-level cognitive biases discussed in the piece, it's a stretch to then conclude that foreign policies are more belligerent than they should be because of hawk bias.

    If I have more time today, I'll try to fill out these cryptic points, but for now, here are my issues with the argument:

    1) Definitional squabbles: I don't like the "hawk" and "dove" labels. Individuals can be hawkish in some situations but dovish in others. Indeed, there might be ideologies or operational codes that countermand the crude hawk/dove dichotomy.

    2) There might be worse cognitive biases. Click here, here, here and here for a prior discussion about how, regardless of one's hawk and dove proclivities, even political experts get an awful lot wrong for reasons other than hawkishness. In fact, Kahneman and Renshon have posited a hedgehog theory of war, and that makes me think they've sipped from the very elixir they fear.

    3) There are rationalist arguments for war. There aren't a lot of them, but they do exist. It would be interesting, however, if one could marry game-theoretic problems of imperfect information and credible commitment problems to fundamental attribution error and other hawk biases (and yes, please e-mail me or post a citation if someone has done this already).

    4) This theory massively overpredicts war as an outcome. If one accepts this argument, then one would also have to explain why war has been such a historically rare event -- and it's been getting rarer. There are a lot of countervailing factors that the authors don't mention, including but not limited to bureacratic politics, domestic politics, regime type, balance of power, etc.

    5) Organizations act as a particularly powerful constraint on cognitive limitations. This is one point of the original Carnegie school of organizational behavior.

    6) I'm not sure Democrats want to be too enthusiastic about this finding. Let's have some fun and apply these cognitive biases to the domestic policy of liberals*. Hmmm..... so liberals will be likely to demonize their political opponents and misread their intentions.... they'll be excessively optimistic and prone to an "illusion of control" in their domestic policy ambitions.... and they'll double down on ambitious social programs that look like they're not working terribly well (cough, health care, cough). Run, run for your lives!!!

    *Yes, this applies with almost equal force to Republicans, but Yglesias is defending the thesis here, so I'm using his side as an example.

    posted by Dan at 11:20 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

    A reluctant tip of the cap to Brian Cashman

    Baseball fans who follow the Hot Stove League may be aware that the Red Sox have made some aggressive moves in a bid to improve their performance from the 2006 season.

    [Yeah, that'll show the Yankees!!--ed.] Er..... perhaps not. I must duly link and quote this Seth Mnookin post from last week here:

    Suddenly, the Yankees are shedding payroll like they’re the Marlins, and [Yankees GM] Brian Cashman looks determined to pick up young prospects and jettison the senior citizens collecting outrageous paychecks.

    This doesn’t mean the Red Sox and the Yankees will have anywhere near equal payrolls, but it does seem to indicate that Steinbrenner (and his Tampa-based suckups) are no longer making baseball-related decisions. If that’s true, it’s bad news for Boston (and everyone else). A senior member of the team’s baseball ops staff told me last year that the only reason the Sox had a fighting chance against a team with $80 million more in payroll was because New York made such stupefyingly idiotic moves. If that’s not going to be the case anymore, it means the Yankees and the Sox are going to be operating more and more on the same plane…not because, as some would have you believe, the Red Sox have become the Evil Empire II but because the Yankees are starting to act (and yes, it hurts to say this) intelligently.

    Gulp. Two thousand and seven, here we come…

    It gets worse, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale:
    The Arizona Diamondbacks expect to complete a deal with the New York Yankees by the end of the week to bring back pitcher Randy Johnson, a high-ranking Diamondbacks official familiar with the negotiations told USA TODAY.

    The clubs have agreed on the package of players the Diamondbacks will send to the Yankees, according to a club official from each team — two minor league pitchers and a major league reliever.

    The deal has not been completed because of money issues, including how much the Yankees will pay toward Johnson's $16 million contract in 2007.

    Hat tip to David Pinto, who also makes the Marlins comparison:
    [T]he Yankees are just tired of old pitchers trying to stay ahead of a great offense. Depending on the pitchers in this deal, the Yankees will end up picking up quality pitching prospects like the Marlins did last year while still remaining a playoff contender.
    I can take some comfort that ESPN's Keith Law thinks the Red Sox had a good offseason as well, and that Boston got the better Japanese import. I can also take some comfort in the fact that, well, the season hasn't started yet, so this is all just so much idle chat. As Peter Gammons notes on his ESPN blog:
    What we do know about 2007 is that we don't know much. Hit the rewind button back a year, and tell us you thought the opening matchup of the World Series would pit Anthony Reyes against Justin Verlander, and that the Series would be closed by Adam Wainwright. Or that the Marlins would win one less game than the Braves, or that Chien-Ming Wang would lead the majors in wins, Aaron Harang would lead the National League in wins and strikeouts, Barry Zito would be worth $126 million to the Giants and Daisuke Matsuzaka would be worth $103 million to the Red Sox, and that Jason Marquis could have a 6.02 ERA, lead the NL in losses, runs allowed and gopher balls and be worth $7 million a year to the Cubs.

    The game is acted out by humans, not computer programs.

    But I can't shake the feeling that over the past six months, Cashman has done as good a job, if not better, than Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. And unlike the last time I compared the two franchises, the Yankees farm system doesn't look so barren now.

    Developing.... in a worrisome way.

    UPDATE:'s Jon Heyman thinks the Red Sox improved themselves more than the Yankees this offseason, but if Heyman's numbers turn out to be correct, it's not enough for them to catch the Yankees.

    Also, given the cost of pitching this offseason, I do like this move by Theo Epstein.

    posted by Dan at 11:01 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    Tuesday, January 2, 2007

    The mother of all economic integrations

    Three months ago I discussed German enthusiasm for a transatlantic free trade area. Well, now Bertrand Benoit and Quentin Peel report in the Financial Times that Angela Merkel is planning on taking the next step -- not TAFTA exactly, but defintely liberalizing:

    Angela Merkel, German chancellor, will this month launch a sweeping initiative for the harmonisation of US and European legislation to boost investment flows and trade between the world’s largest economic blocs.

    Initial talks will review financial market regulations, including delisting rules, which many US-listed European companies feel are too cumbersome, as well as intellectual property law. Ms Merkel is also seeking mutual recognition of technical standards for products such as cars....

    Her ambition is to create a single transatlantic market for investors, with common rules and standards on issues such as intellectual property and financial regulation. However, her initiative may face opposition from a more protectionist US and other EU member states....

    “Our economic systems are based on the same values,” said Ms Merkel. “We have learnt how to combine the Anglo-Saxon and Continental European legal systems, which are very different from one another . . . think transatlantic co-operation will be more straightforward in many areas than might appear at first glance.”

    Ms Merkel’s initiative marks the EU’s first attempt to achieve a transatlantic single market since a similar move by the European Commission in 1998 petered out because of French opposition. Formal negotiations on drafting the partnership should start at the EU-US summit in May, she said.

    Matthias Wissmann, chairman of the German parliament’s Europe Committee, estimates that the integration of US and EU financial markets alone could be achieved by 2015 and would cut trading costs on both sides by 60 per cent and the cost of equity capital by 9 per cent.

    Ms Merkel stressed that tariffs and customs duties were not part of her plan.

    Merkel talks about this in an interview with the FT's Quentin Peel. Some excerpts:
    At the forthcoming EU-US summit we want to talk about ever-closer economic co-operation. Our economic systems are based on the same values. The EU and the US have sophisticated patent legislation. We have regulatory mechanisms governing our financial markets. We should be looking for ways to keep developing these together at a transatlantic level. We must watch out that we do not drift apart, but instead come closer together, where there are clear advantages for both sides.

    For example, it causes unnecessary friction for patent rules in the US to be structured differently from those in the EU. I think our economies can save a lot of money and effort, in stock market share offerings, for instance, or in setting technical standards. We face the same tough competition from Asian markets, and from Latin America in the future. We must join forces and co-operate, for instance in the fight for better intellectual property protection in the global market.

    Now I'm beginning to wonder if John O'Sullivan knew something I did not 18 months ago. I hope so -- for one thing, I could then look forward to Sherrod Brown complain about Polish plumbers.

    posted by Dan at 10:45 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (2)

    How protectionism causes bad traffic

    My Fletcher colleague John Curtis Perry, with Scott Borgerson and Rockford Weitz, have an op-ed in today's New York Times that explores America's decline as a maritime shipping nation. Apparently, it has something to do with protectionism:

    In 1948, more than a third of the world’s merchant fleet flew the stars and stripes; today that figure is down to 2 percent. Half a century ago, America built more ships than any other nation, and New York City could boast that it was the world’s busiest seaport. Sliding from the top since the 1980s, New York now barely ranks among the top 20.

    The only American port now on the top-10 list is Los Angeles-Long Beach, an indication of how much maritime trade has shifted from the North Atlantic to the North Pacific.

    A major factor in the decline of American shipping has been an antiquated law that prevents American coastal shippers from buying ships made in other countries. By amending this law and, at the same time, encouraging the development of domestic coastal shipping, Congress could help restore America’s status as a great and proud maritime nation....

    Shipping has always been the most economically efficient way to carry goods from place to place; it requires no investment in highways or rails, and thanks to the relatively frictionless ease with which ships move across water, fuel costs per ton are low. The arrival of containerized shipping pushed transport costs even lower, swelling world trade and expanding global wealth....

    The export-driven economies of Pacific Asia built much of their enormous success upon the new maritime technologies. The United States did not. The Merchant Marine Acts of the 1920s and ’30s are one reason why.

    Intended to protect the domestic shipbuilding industry, the acts decreed that the only ships allowed to call on two or more consecutive American ports would be those built in the United States, owned by American companies, flying the American flag and operated by American crews.

    At the time, the United States still had a large merchant marine. But the acts’ restrictions handicapped coastal shipping within American waters, opening the way for the growth of the trucking and freight-rail industries.

    To revive the maritime trade, Congress should give shipping companies as much choice in buying ships as their land-based rivals have when buying trucks and train cars.

    Freed from the restraints of the Merchant Marine Acts, commercial shippers could not only begin to resume their position in global trade but also handle much more of the freight that moves within our borders. Before railroads and highways were developed, a network of water transportation routes connected America’s port cities and towns. Today coastal shipping handles only 2 percent of domestic freight, even though coastal counties hold more than half of the nation’s population.

    The trucks that carry nearly a third of our cargo clog the highways. That is one reason why Americans now lose at least 3.7 billion hours and 2.3 billion gallons of fuel each year sitting in traffic. Ships could take on a larger share of this freight — and even some of the passengers now traveling by highway and rail — and carry it at lower cost....

    Americans are rightfully concerned about security, but part of protecting the nation is generating a strong economy. Revitalized coastal shipping could shorten our morning commutes as it begins to rejuvenate America’s wider maritime economy.

    UPDATE: Tyler Cowen unearths this great Walt Whitman quote about protectionism:
    The profits of "protection" go altogether to a few score select persons--who, by favors of Congress, State legislatures, the banks, and other special advantages, are forming a vulgar aristocracy full as bad as anything in the British and European castes, of blood, or the dynasties there of the past

    posted by Dan at 08:38 AM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

    Monday, January 1, 2007

    Merry New Year!!

    Three thoughts to welcome in 2007:

    1) It's good to be near the focal point. New Year's has never been high up there on my holiday list, but I always enjoyed it less when I wasn't in the Eastern time zone when Auld Lang Syne was sung. I have to conclude that this is because the dropping of the ball in Times Square means something more when I'm in the same time as New York. Why this is true is beyond me.

    2) The young people today will never believe their elders when we tell them that for the longest time, Dick Clark did not age. Tonight he was half a beat behind countting down, but back in the day, Fortunately, Wikipedia will tell them too, and because it is on that newfangled information superhighway, they will accept it as gospel.

    3) A question to readers -- is there a movie that does a better job with New Year's Eve than Trading Places?

    posted by Dan at 12:32 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)