Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The twin sins of Norman Podhoretz....

Lots of bloggers of the liberal/left persuasion have been linking to this debate between Norman Podhoretz and Fareed Zakaria:

Zakaraia highlights Podhoretz's obvious sin -- failing to understand the logic of deterrence.

Podhoretz commits another sin, however, in that by framing the debate as being about deterring Iran he rather misses the point. Over at Democracy Arsenal, Ilan Goldenberg writes, "you can boil down the entire argument over Iran between the crazies (Podhoretz) and the sane people (Zakaria)." Er, I'm afraid it's not that simple.

If the effect of Iran's nuclear program were limited to what Iran would do with nuclear weapons, that would be OK. But the massive negative externality of Iran's nuclear program isn't its effect on Israel or the United States -- it's the effect on the rest of the states in the Middle East:


The Christian Science Monitor's Dan Murphy explains:

This week Egypt became the 13th Middle Eastern country in the past year to say it wants nuclear power, intensifying an atomic race spurred largely by Iran's nuclear agenda, which many in the region and the West claim is cover for a weapons program.

Experts say the nuclear ambitions of majority Sunni Muslim states such as Libya, Jordan, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia are reactions to Shiite Iran's high-profile nuclear bid, seen as linked with Tehran's campaign for greater influence and prestige throughout the Middle East.

"To have 13 states in the region say they're interested in nuclear power over the course of a year certainly catches the eye," says Mark Fitzpatrick, a former senior nonproliferation official in the US State Department who is now a fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. "The Iranian angle is the reason."

But economics are also behind this new push to explore nuclear power, at least for some of the aspirants. Egypt's oil reserves are dwindling, Jordan has no natural resources to speak of at all, and power from oil and gas has grown much more expensive for everyone. Though the day has not arrived, it's conceivable that nuclear power will be a cheaper option than traditional plants.

But analysts say the driver is Iran, which appears to be moving ahead with its nuclear program despite sanctions and threats of possible military action by the US. The Gulf Cooperation Council, a group of Saudi Arabia and the five Arab states that border the Persian Gulf, reversed a longstanding opposition to nuclear power last year.

As the closest US allies in the region and sitting on vast oil wealth, these states had said they saw no need for nuclear energy. But Fitzpatrick, as well as other analysts, say these countries now see their own declarations of nuclear intent as a way to contain Iran's influence. At least, experts say, it signals to the US how alarmed they are by a nuclear Iran.

"The rules have changed on the nuclear subject throughout the whole region," Jordan's King Abdullah, another US ally, told Israel's Haaretz newspaper early this year. "Where I think Jordan was saying, 'We'd like to have a nuclear-free zone in the area,' … [now] everybody's going for nuclear programs."

Just to be clear, nuclear programs do not automatically translate into nuclear weapons proliferation. But don't tell me it's not a distinct possibility.

Zakaria might argue that none of this is a problem, since deterrence can still work. My concern is that managing nuclear proliferation in the Middle East is kind of like... managing democratization in the Middle East. In theory, the end state is robust and stable... but the road from here to there is so fraught with peril that I'm very skeptical of it actually working.

This is the point Scott Sagan tried to make in a Foreign Affairs article from last year:

[B]oth deterrence optimism and proliferation fatalism are wrong-headed. Deterrence optimism is based on mistaken nostalgia and a faulty analogy. Although deterrence did work with the Soviet Union and China, there were many close calls; maintaining nuclear peace during the Cold War was far more difficult and uncertain than U.S. officials and the American public seem to remember today. Furthermore, a nuclear Iran would look a lot less like the totalitarian Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China and a lot more like Pakistan, Iran's unstable neighbor -- a far more frightening prospect. Fatalism about nuclear proliferation is equally unwarranted. Although the United States did fail to prevent its major Cold War rivals from developing nuclear arsenals, many other countries curbed their own nuclear ambitions. After flirting with nuclear programs in the 1960s, West Germany and Japan decided that following the NPT and relying on the protection of the U.S. nuclear umbrella would bring them greater security in the future; South Korea and Taiwan gave up covert nuclear programs when the United States threatened to sever security relations with them; North Korea froze its plutonium production in the 1990s; and Libya dismantled its nascent nuclear program in 2003.

Given these facts, Washington should work harder to prevent the unthinkable rather than accept what falsely appears to be inevitable. The lesson to be drawn from the history of nonproliferation is not that all states eyeing the bomb eventually get it but that nonproliferation efforts succeed when the United States and other global actors help satisfy whatever concerns drove a state to want nuclear weapons in the first place.

Again, to be clear, this does not mean we should attack Iran. But it does mean that the U.S. shouldn't be as blasé about the matter as Zakaria suggests. Because it's not just about Iran -- it's about the regional spillovers as well.

posted by Dan at 07:08 PM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (0)

posted by Dan at 01:21 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

My all-time top five blog posts

Brad DeLong nominates his top five weblog posts ever, and is gracious enough to include this post among them.

This got me to thinking about Matt Yglesias' initial point -- there are so many newcomers to the blogosphere that, "the aggregate audience for blog commentary is enormously larger than it was a few years ago, so it's quite possible that there are people reading this blog right now who have never heard of of the classic[s]..."

So, without further ado, here are my top five, in chronological order:

1) Jacob Levy, "Political Theory and Political Philosophy."

2) Jack Balkin, "What I learned about blogging in a year."

3) Belle Waring, "If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride -- A Pony!"

4) Scott Eric Kaufman, "My Morning: A Play in One Uncomfortable Act."

5) Megan McArdle, "Full Disclosure....."

Longtime readers are warmly encouraged to proffer their faves in the comments.

posted by Dan at 12:55 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

A hidden utility of sports globalization?

Dani Rodrik posts about the migration of talented African football soccer players to European club teams. Here's how he tallies up the costs and benefits:

Consider that soccer fans have loyalties not only towards individual clubs but also to their national teams. So one question is what has the presence of foreign players in Europe done to the quality of the national teams. Following the disappointments of the English national team in recent games, some have suggested that the culprit is the dominance of foreign players in the Premier League and have recommended reintroducing quotas.

Or consider the quality of domestic leagues in Africa proper. The complaint that the exodus of players has hurt these leagues has been around since the 1970s. But I do not know of any serious evidence on this, and I would love to know.

In any case, it is likely that the globalization of the industry has (a) increased the quality of African national teams relative to European national teams; and (b) reduced the quality of domestic leagues in African leagues relative to club play in Europe. So how do we evaluate these outcomes in terms of what ultimately counts: the enjoyment of the fans?

If we're really thinking about the fans, then I think Rodrik is omitting a missing utility. Clearly, the migration has improved the quality of the play of European club teams. Furthermore, for most fans, the consumption of sports is a nonrival good -- i.e., I don't lose any utility from others watching or listening to a game. If African fans value high-quality play, then the decline in African domestic leagues can be offset by paying more attention to the European leagues, much like Rodrik himself.

This certainly happened with baseball, as the importation of players like Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui and Daisuke Matsuzaka have caused Japanese baseball fans to pay more attention to American baseball.

Admittedly, an improvement in the quality of a foreign sports league is not a perfect substitute for a domestic sports league. African soccer fans are much less likely to be able to attend a UEFA game than one from their local league. However, for those not actually attending the game, it's not clear to me that the consumption process is affected by where the good games are played. Indeed, the globalization of consumption suggests that the fans do not suffer as much from a decline in local sports leagues as Rodrik suggests.

Of course, I don't know if Africans actually have paid more attention to the European leagues, and this is an important data point. I hereby request all African readers of to submit comments about whether their athletic attention has migrated, along with their players, to northern latitudes.

posted by Dan at 08:56 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I think the reviews are in

I haven't read The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. However, after the original contretemps, the initial reviews of the book, and the subsequent reviews in the Economist, New York Times Book Review, Washington Post, The New Republic, and The Nation, I was getting a sense that the book wasn't all that good.

And this was before I got to Walter Russell Mead's review of the book in Foreign Affairs -- which clarifies exactly the extent to which Mearsheimer and Walt have failed in their task:

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt claim that they want The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy "to foster a more clear-eyed and candid discussion of this subject." Unfortunately, that is not going to happen. "The Israel Lobby" will harden and freeze positions rather than open them up. It will delay rather than hasten the development of new U.S. policies in the Middle East. It will confuse the policy debate not just in the United States but throughout the world as well, while giving aid and comfort to anti-Semites wherever they are found. All of this is deeply contrary to the intentions of the authors; written in haste, the book will be repented at leisure....

Walt and Mearsheimer's belief that the United States needs to find ways to bridge the gap between its current policies and the national aspirations of Palestinians and other Arabs is correct. But Mearsheimer and Walt have too simplistic and sunny a view of the United States' alternatives in the Middle East -- a fault they share with the "neoconservatives," who serve as the book's bêtes noires. Overcoming the challenges of U.S. policy in the Middle East will not be nearly as easy as Mearsheimer and Walt think, and the route they propose is unlikely to reach the destination they seek, even if some of their concerns about the United States' current stance in the region are legitimate.

The book's problems start very early and run very deep. Mearsheimer and Walt outline the case they plan to make on page 14: "The United States provides Israel with extraordinary material aid and diplomatic support, the lobby is the principal reason for that support, and this uncritical and unconditional support is not in the national interest." Note the slippage. The "extraordinary" support of the first clause quietly mutates into the "uncritical and unconditional" support of the last. "Extraordinary" is hardly the same thing as "uncritical and unconditional," but the authors proceed as if it were. They claim the clarity and authority of rigorous logic, but their methods are loose and rhetorical. This singularly unhappy marriage -- between the pretensions of serious political analysis and the standards of the casual op-ed -- both undercuts the case they wish to make and gives much of the book a disagreeably disingenuous tone.

Rarely in professional literature does one encounter such a gap between aspiration and performance as there is in The Israel Lobby.

The obvious question is, why did they fail? See Jacob Levy on this point.

Last year, I wrote the following:

I think we're at the point where it is time to recognize that it will be impossible to have anything close to a high-minded debate on this topic when the starting point is "The Israel Lobby" essay. Don't get me wrong -- besides the fact that Mearsheimer and Walt badly defined their independent variable, miscoded one alternative explanation, omitted several other causal variables, poorly operationalized their dependent variable, and failed to fact-check some of their assertions, it's a bang-up essay. With this foundation, however, any debate is guaranteed to topple into the mire of anti-Semitic accusations, Godwin's Law, and typing in ALL CAPS.
In writing the book as a follow-up to the article, Mearsheimer and Walt had that rarest of opportunities -- a chance to correct the errors of omission and commission they committed in their original formulation.

It's a genuine shame that they did not.

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

Monday, October 29, 2007

Clearly, The National Interest knows my weak spots

Longtime readers of this blog can well imagine how I would reacted to the following request: "Pssst... Dan, would you be interested in writing an article about how glamorous celebrities like Angelina Jolie are taking an interest in foreign policy?"

The result, "Foreign Policy Goes Glam," is the lead article in the November/December issue of The National Interest. Here's the opening:

Who would you rather sit next to at your next Council on Foreign Relations roundtable: Henry Kissinger or Angelina Jolie? This is a question that citizens of the white-collared foreign-policy establishment thought they’d never be asked. The massive attention paid to Paris Hilton’s prison ordeal, Lindsay Lohan’s shame spiral and anything Britney Spears has done, said or exposed has distracted pop-culture mavens from celebrities that were making nobler headlines.

Increasingly, celebrities are taking an active interest in world politics. When media maven Tina Brown attends a Council on Foreign Relations session, you know something fundamental has changed in the relationship between the world of celebrity and world politics. What’s even stranger is that these efforts to glamorize foreign policy are actually affecting what governments do and say. The power of soft news has given star entertainers additional leverage to advance their causes. Their ability to raise issues to the top of the global agenda is growing. This does not mean that celebrities can solve the problems that bedevil the world. And not all celebrity activists are equal in their effectiveness. Nevertheless, politically-engaged stars cannot be dismissed as merely an amusing curiosity in foreign policy.

You'll have to read the entire article to see where I come down on the question of celebrity activism. I will say the following:
1) You like how I got the Unholy Trinity of celebrity bad behavior into the first paragraph? I tried, I mean really tried, to cram as many celebrity mentions into the piece as possible.

To my everlasting regret, I failed to include Salma Hayek. Clearly, I'm not worthy.

2) This was the perfect article to write during the dog days of summer. The most amusing moment came when I actually had to buy an issue of Esquire for an article... the very same one Ron Rosenbaum shredded in Slate this summer.

3) I'm surprised to discover that I'm a little more sanguine about celebrity activism than Gideon Rachman, Christopher Caldwell, Henry Farrell, and just about every woman I talked to about this story (Angelina provokes some strong reactions).

It's not like I have great faith in celebrity activism -- it's just that I'm unwilling to indict the entire category of behavior. As I argue in the essay, some celebrities are competent in their activism, and some are… something else. And some have a sense of humor about the whole thing.

4) Standard disclaimer: no celebrities were harmed during the drafting of this article.

Go check it out.

[The role of celebrities in world politics? Isn't that... a bit low-brow?--ed. C'mon, it's not like I was shoe-blogging.]

posted by Dan at 11:07 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

Really, this post is just for the family

Various friends and relations have castigated me for not advertising my media whoredom with sufficient rapidity.

Sooo.... just to catch up:

1) Tyler Cowen says nice things about this blog in the pages of Foreign Policy.

2) I was interviewed for yesterday's edition of NPR's All Things Considered, on the new round of sanctions against Iran.

3) Evan Goldstein has a subscriber-only article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the whole Israel Lobby business. My cameo appearance:

Walt and Mearsheimer's critics... insist there must be a more-compelling explanation for why two scholars with deeply entrenched intellectual inclinations would push such an argument at this juncture in their careers. And so a parlor game of sorts is under way within the discipline to explain what many find so inexplicable. The theory enjoying the most credence holds that their crusading zeal against the Israel lobby is fueled by lingering resentment from the period leading up to the invasion of Iraq, when Mearsheimer and Walt were high-profile critics of the Bush administration's policy of militarized regime change.

In addition to writing a major article in Foreign Policy decrying the 2003 invasion of Iraq as an "unnecessary war," they published a flurry of op-eds and led the effort to place an open letter in The New York Times with the headline "War With Iraq Is Not in America's National Interest." Yet by all accounts, those efforts barely made a ripple in the broader public conversation. "I think this flummoxed the living hell out of them," says Daniel W. Drezner, an associate professor of international politics at Tufts University. "I think it was inconceivable to them that no one listened."

When asked about that analysis, Mearsheimer concedes that the debate over Iraq policy was "very frustrating." As he rehashes that period, it is evident that he continues to be irritated by the uncivilized terms on which he feels the debate was conducted. "Critics of the war were called all sorts of names — you were called soft on terrorism, you were called an appeaser, you were accused of not being very smart," he says. But both he and Walt emphatically reject the suggestion that Iraq is at the root of their recent work on the Israel lobby.

And Iraq does seem to be only part of the story.

I'd agree that "part of the story" is a fair assessment.

[Um... why wasn't your past history disclosed in the story?--ed. It's the Megan McArdle problem... the "full disclosure" of everyone quoted in the article would require, er, another article.]

4) Gideon Rachman was kind enough to mention a forthcoming article of mine in his Financial Times column. [What's the article about?--ed. That's the subject of my next post. Tease!!--ed.]

I believe I'm all caught up now.

posted by Dan at 11:01 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Why 2007 is different from 2004

Daisuke Matsuzaka: $103 million.

J.D. Drew: $70 million.

Julio Lugo: $36 million.

Eric Gagné: two decent young players, a couple of million dollars, and at least two months from my life expectancy.

Hideki Okajima, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon, Bobby Kielty, Manny Delcarmen, Jon Lester et al: Combined, much less than any of the aforementioned players on this list, but more than I have in my bank account.

Waking up your son and seeing him punch the air with his fist and say "YESSSS!!!" when Papelbon struck out his last batter of the season: priceless.

Congratulations to the Colorado Rockies, for an incredible run to get to the World Series, and for making the last three games much more nail-biting than the term "sweep" would suggest.

UPDATE: In Baseball Prospectus, Joe Sheehan writes about the difference between information and experience when it comes to thinking about baseball:

After tonight, however, I know what cannot be quantified: being able to claim the word “champion” for your own, to scream at the top of your lungs that you’re the best, and get no argument. To dance on a field with your teammates—no, your work family—and embrace and have, for that moment, the knowledge that no one is better than you are.

Tonight, for the first time, I saw that moment up close, and I have no good way of relaying it to you in Prospectus terms. There’s no Value Over Replacement Feeling, no Equivalent Emotion, no Smile Shares. There’s just the look on a man’s face when he’s wearing the entire Cooperstown Collection, fresh off the factory floor, soaked in cheap champagne and cheaper beer, sporting the “What Not to Wear” miniseries combination of goggles and a baseball cap. There’s no measure for that; you have to see it to appreciate it, and even then you can’t really understand it.

Men play professional baseball for any number of reasons, and we pick those apart at our leisure to fill column space, to generate mouse clicks and revenue and make a name for ourselves. Make no mistake, though: however much these men enjoy the playing, the adulation, the paychecks and the power, they live for this.

We should all have this feeling at some time in our lives. We should all set a goal, work towards it, achieve it and celebrate ourselves when we accomplish it. I envy these Boston Red Sox, who played baseball in 2007 better than any team did, and will forever be known as champions for it.

It's interesting to remember that only a decade ago, the dysfunctionally managed Red Sox made headlines for their internecine warfare, while the Yankees exuded professionalism. The roles have certainly been reversed.... in Red Sox Nation, there's not even going to be a controversy about the final ball.

posted by Dan at 09:08 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, October 26, 2007

I was in a nowhere job... going nowhere....

until I heard about the Robert Mugabe National School of Intelligence!!

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has launched an intelligence academy named after him, saying it would produce officers able to counter growing threats from Western powers, state media reported on Friday.

Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, is fighting isolation from the West, which accuses him of human rights abuses and rigging elections and economic mismanagement....

"With the current unjustified demonization of Zimbabwe by Western powers, the role of intelligence in shaping foreign, security and economic policies become even more critical," the Herald newspaper quoted the president as saying at the launch of the Robert Mugabe National School of Intelligence near Harare....

The intelligence academy is also expected to train members of the army, police and operatives from other southern African countries.

Mugabe said Britain and the United States continued to try to destabilize Zimbabwe by working with "non-state actors" aimed at unseating his government.

"The important role of defending our country cannot be left to mediocre officers incapable of comprehending and analytically evaluating the operational environment to ensure that the sovereignty of our state is not only preserved, but enhanced," Mugabe said.

Request to commenters: please propose possible course names for the Robert Mugabe National School of Intelligence. Pedagogically, which courses should be required? What are the possible areas of concentration?

Hat tip: Blake Hounshell.

posted by Dan at 02:00 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Gonna be a fun hotel jihad

Note to self: never, ever deny Megan McArdle a bed.

posted by Dan at 04:51 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My productivity will be down this week

The World Series starts tonight. In a choice between the hottest team in baseball and the best team in baseball, most of the prognosticators have picked the latter. But we know the value of expert prognosticators here at

What about the statheads? They have spoken too.

Diamond Mind simulations ran the series a thousand times and had the Red Sox winning over 70% of the time.

Baseball Prospectus' Playoff Odds give the Red Sox a 59% chance of winning.

In other words, to a longtime Red Sox fan (as opposed to the more secure post-2004 variety of fan), this seems eerily like a reverse mortal lock -- i.e., if the Rockies beat Josh Beckett in Game 1, look out.

Of course, I have changed since 2004, so although I will never be able to eliminate the fear of imminent collapse by the Olde Towne Team, I have managed to reduce that fear to a tolerable nervousness.

Still, contra the Steinbrenner clan, I do believe that the journey is just as valuable as the final quest in baseball. Therefore, I heartily encourage all Sox fans to click on the video below to remember this past season.

And if the Sox win the World Series, all the better.

posted by Dan at 05:42 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

My not-so-sunny predictions for U.S. trade policy

Policy Innovations -- "The central address for a fairer globalization" asked three trade experts what they see for the future of U.S. trade policy. It appears that Mac Destler and Gary Hufbauer were too busy, so unfortunately for their readers I'm one of the experts, along with Susan Aaronson and Kevin Gallagher.

Go check it out -- you can guess my mood about the future.

My basic point:

In a jittery economy, neither Americans nor members of Congress care about how globalization affects the rest of the world. Their primary concern is how imports are destabilizing their jobs and depressing their wages.
I should have put "allegedly" somewhere in that sentence, but you get the basic idea.

posted by Dan at 02:40 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

October's (very, very belated) Books of the Month

I'm juuuust a wee bit late on this month's book club selections. So, to be quick about it:

The international relations book is Michael Tomz's Reputation and International Cooperation: Sovereign Debt across Three Centuries. In recent years, some of the most interesting work in international relations theory has been about the significance of reputation effects in world politics. Tomz argues for a dynamic theory of reputation, in which actors can update their beliefs over time about whether governments will honor their commitments. He marshalls considerable empirical evidence to make this case by looking at the behavior of sovereign borrowers and lenders over the past few centuries.

Tomz's book, combined with the recent efforts of Daryl Press and Anne Sartori, have created a fruitful area of research in international relations. Go check it out.

The general interest book is Cass Sunstein's 2.0. This is one of those arguments -- the Internet will foster cyberbalkanization -- that I pooh-poohed when the original book came out. That said, trends in the blogosphere suggest that his argument has held up better than I would have predicted a few years ago.

Naturally, by waiting until very late in the month to make this book recommendation, Sunstein has gone and published yet another book. So I promise to be more punctual next month.

posted by Dan at 12:15 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The kind of conversations that happen at IR conferences

UPDATE: As God is my witness, I did not know about this when I posted the exchange below.

The following transcript approximates a real exchange that took place at the conference I attended this past weekend among serious members of the international relations community.

This is a true story. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent:

POLICYMAKER A: You know, they've done experiments with monkeys where they have to do tricks to earn a cucumber. The two monkeys can see each other do the tricks, as well as the rewards they receive.

After a few days of trick, cucumber, etc., the experimenter gave the first monkey a cucumber, but then gave the second monkey a red grape after his trick. The first monkey nibbled at his cucumber, but did not finish it.

The next day, this was repeated. And the first monkey took the cucumber and threw it on the ground.

The third day, the first monkey took the cucumber and threw it at the experimenter.

So the point is, all primates have an innate sense of fairness, and will react when they see it violated.

IR THEORIST A: Here's the thing... if the experimenter shoots the monkey when it throws the cucumber, the other monkeys will process that information as well. So it's not only about a sense of fairness, it's about survival.

POLICYMAKER B: Yes, the experimenter could shoot the monkey, and maybe that would cow the other monkeys into submision. If you keep shooting monkeys, however, it might encourage the remaining ones to rise up and overthrow the experimenters and establish their own cucumber plantation.

For the rest of the conference, this last exchange was referred to as "the cucumber paradigm."

I wonder if George Orwell hung around international relations types all that much.

posted by Dan at 12:17 AM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, October 22, 2007

The metamorphosis of Red Sox Nation

With the Red Sox in the World Series for the second time in four years, one fan ponders the change in the team.... and Red Sox Nation:

The 2007 version of the Boston Red Sox -- with just 28 percent of the team held over from three years ago -- may be scrappy, and they might be a tad scruffy, but they're not underdogs. Not with that payroll, not with that record, and most certainly not with that air of confidence we saw on display the last three games....

Perhaps the biggest change is simply the attitude among Boston's ever-expanding fanbase. I think that's something to regret. Three years ago, a World Series title was an elusive dream. Now it's a realistic expectation. The innocence, the unblemished joy is gone, replaced by the knowledge that the unreachable is no longer so.

Yet who would rather it be different?

As Art Martone reports in the Providence Journal's SoxBlog, however, Red Sox fans are also displaying a maturity that I don't remember existing before 2004:
As the Indians' players made their way from their clubhouse to the team bus, which was parked in right field, they found themselves being honored by an unlikely group of people.

Red Sox fans who had stayed behind at Fenway Park for the post-clinching celebration stood to the sides and created an alley for the players to walk through. And as they passed, the fans applauded, making comments like, ''Good series,'' and ''Good luck next year.''

Ex-Sox right fielder Trot Nixon was the first to pass, and he seemed surprised by the ovation. The other Cleveland players passed stoically, but Travis Hafner had a smile on his face.

It all occured at around 1 a.m.

UPDATE: Of course, it's worth pointing out that the Red Sox are merely one prong of a sports town that's become an emerging hegemonic power (Patriots, Celtics, Boston College, etc.). This apparently has New York sports fans in a bit of a lather:
Being a New Yorker, I'm still getting used to this strange new world. I wake up in the hotel, turn on the TV, and there's Belichick, the cheater. "We had a lot of trouble with Miami," he says. "They're a good team."

Sure, the Dolphins with quarterback Cleo Lemon would prove a regular juggernaut. It's a wonder they held Tom Brady to fewer than seven touchdown passes. Apparently, the fans in Miami broke into a chant: "Let's go Red Sox. Let's go Red Sox."

I don't like Belichick, the lying dog, so I turned off the TV and read the paper. There was a whole section on row boating, which is huge here.

Let's go Red Sox. Let's go Red Sox. These beery kids in the bars outside Fenway chant through the night. Whatever happened to Boston's lovable losers? And the intelligentsia who glorified them? Where's Tip O'Neill? Everything is upside down. Even Ben Affleck has given up acting in bad movies to direct good ones.

Let's go Red Sox. The kids keep on chanting until their Red Bull highs subside.

The horror. For a New Yorker, it's like being in a Stephen King movie.

posted by Dan at 11:22 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Oh, s#$t

Not good. Not good at all:

At least 12 Turkish soldiers were killed in an ambush by Kurdish militants shortly after midnight on Sunday, in an audacious attack that sharply increased the pressure on Turkey’s government to send troops into northern Iraq.

A group of Kurdish fighters moved into Turkey from northern Iraq, the Turkish military said, and attacked Turkish soldiers based near the town of Hakkari, about 25 miles from the border, in three different locations, killing 12 and injuring another 16. Turkish soldiers then struck back, firing from helicopters and from the ground, killing at least 23 militants, according to the military, which provided its account in a statement.

In a statement on a Kurdish website, the militants said they captured eight Turkish soldiers, but the claim could not be substantiated.

The attack came just four days after Turkey’s parliament voted to give the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan full authority to send troops into northern Iraq to strike at Kurdish militants who hide there.

At the time, Turkish officials emphasized that they would not immediately apply the authority, and security experts said the resolution would be used mainly as political leverage to press the United States and its Iraqi Kurdish allies to act against the Kurdish militants, the Kurdistan Workers Party, known by its initials, the P.K.K.

But Sunday’s attack was one of the worst in recent memory, and the government, which has been skeptical of an offensive in the past, will be under intense pressure to act.

UPDATE: The AP calms me down... a little:
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday it appears Turkey's military is not on the verge of invading northern Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish rebels responsible for a deadly attack on Turkish soldiers.

Gates told reporters that in a meeting with Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul, he advised against launching a major cross-border incursion despite the continuing provocations.

''I'm heartened that he seems to be implying a reluctance on their part to act unilaterally, and I think that's a good thing,'' Gates said. ''I didn't have the impression that anything was imminent.''....

In his remarks to reporters, Vecdi said he told Gates that Turkey expects the U.S. to do more to constrain the PKK in Iraq, although he would not spell that out in detail.

''We'd like to have something tangible'' from the Americans, he said. ''We expect this. Any kind of tangible actions.''

Asked what Turkey's military leaders were preparing for, Gonul replied: ''They are planning to cross (the) border.''

ANOTHER UPDATE: The NYT has more on what the U.S. will need to do to prevent Turkey from a cross-border incursion:
Mr. Erdogan said he had told Ms. Rice in a phone conversation Sunday night that Turkey expected “speedy steps from U.S.” in cracking down on Kurdish rebels, and according to The Associated Press, he said that she had expressed sympathy and asked “for a few days” from him. The Iraqi government also began a concerted effort to reach out to Turkey.

“Our anger is great,” Mr. Erdogan said on national television here before he conferred with Turkey’s top political and military officials in an emergency security meeting. “We have the decisiveness to act on these events in cold-blood, and so we are determined.”

The early-morning attack, which were condemned by Iraqi officials and the Bush administration, sharply increased the pressure on Turkey’s government to ignore the wishes of its American allies and send troops into northern Iraq.

posted by Dan at 01:22 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Rowling outs Dumbledore??!!

Can we forget the the world's troubles for a second and talk about the fact that an author just outed her fictional character's sexual persuasion?

Tina Jordan explains for Entertainment Weekly's PopWatch blog:

At last night's talk at New York City's Carnegie Hall — an event for thousands of young Harry Potter fans and their parents — J.K. Rowling outed the kindly headmaster.

Responding to a question from a child about Dumbledore's love life, Rowling hesitated and then revealed, "I always saw Dumbledore as gay." Filling in a few more details, she said, "Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald.... Don't forget, falling in love can blind us. [He] was very drawn to this brilliant person. This was Dumbledore's tragedy." She added that in a recent meeting about the sixth movie, she spied a line in the script where Dumbledore waxed poetic about a girl, so she was forced to scribble director David Yates a note to correct the situation.

Now this raises all kinds of interesting questions.
1) Does what Rowling think matters?

2) Does an author have a responsibility to keep aspects of a fictional character's life private? What if the character is in a children's book? What are the ethics, if any, of fictional outings?

3) Am I just procrastinating on deeper thoughts?

Blog reactions at Red State and Andrew Sullivan.

posted by Dan at 04:38 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

Iran to rest of world: "talk to the hand"

The New York Times' Nazila Fathi and Michael Slackman report on a worrisome development in Iran:

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, viewed by the West as a moderating influence in Tehran, resigned before crucial talks with Europe this week over Iran’s nuclear program, signaling that officials here may have closed the door to any possible negotiated settlement in its standoff with the West.

The negotiator, Ali Larijani, was among a small group of officials who, while supportive of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, have tried to press back against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his more radical approach, which has left Iran increasingly isolated.

But with Mr. Larijani’s resignation, it appears that the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in all matters of state, has fallen in squarely behind the president. Mr. Ahmadinejad represents the most radical face of the leadership, which has defied the United Nations Security Council twice and sped up the process of uranium enrichment. Mr. Larijani had been appointed by and reported to the supreme leader.

Now, with oil prices high enough to help Iran mitigate the effects of any new sanctions, and with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, having made a historic trip to Tehran last week, it appears that the top leadership has settled on a single, radical track.

“This is definitely a major political change, and not necessarily a positive one,” said Saeed Leylaz, a political analyst and former government official. “It might mean that Iran is speeding up its activities and is becoming more radical, especially now with higher oil prices.”

UPDATE: Farideh Farhi provides some worrisome analysis over at the ICGA blog:
The most unsettling aspect of this move from the insiders point of view may be questions raised regarding Ayatollah Khamenei's control over the nuclear file. Both of the possibilities - that he has either lost control or decided to throw his support for the most radical elements in the Iranian political system - are bound to unsettle the domestic political scene. For him, to be seen as being in one corner with Ahmadinejad against all the other heavyweights of Iranian politics, including Hashemi Rafsanjani, Khatami, Karrubi, Rezaie, Qalibaf, and now Larijani, is a predicament he has tried hard to avoid at least publicly.

posted by Dan at 04:14 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

There's nothing like spotty wireless and the great outdoors

Blogging will be light over the next few days, because I am here.

Imagine about forty political scientists and policymakers surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, staring into their laptops and occasionally cursing their erratic wireless connection [UPDATE: In response to the polite urgings of other conference-goers, let me add that I'm guilty of this sin as well).

This place is awesome, but I keep looking around expecting to see Fredo get clipped.

The conference topic, by the way, is "New Challenges to International Regimes." Any readers who have bright ideas about how to reform either the UN system, or the nonproliferation regime should let me know ASAP.

In the meanwhile, loyal readers will have to be sated with mentions of me elsewhere.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a funny blog post about blog citations.

And I'm quoted in this Economist story on Operation Divest Terror, a movement sweeping state governments who are ordering pension fund managers to divest their holdings of companies doing business with Iran. I'm not terribly optimistic about it having any effect.

That should be enough media whoredom for the weekend.

posted by Dan at 10:53 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Hear me do my best NPR voice

My media whoredom conquers another platform, as today I have an audio commentary for NPR's Marketplace. I talk about Hillary Clinton's trade proposals and the bang-up job they would do in improving America's image.

Discerning readers will observe echoes from this blog post of last week -- but with less snark and more lilting irony. [Sounds like NPR's new motto!!--ed.]

Click here to listen and tell me if my voice can cut it on NPR.

posted by Dan at 01:55 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A question for the fair and balanced reader

Kevin Drum asks an interesting question:

[I]is there any subject among liberals that has the same totemic appeal as tax cutting does to conservatives? As near as I can tell, every single Republican running for president publicly says that cutting taxes always raises revenues — even though the idea is as absurd as Ron Paul's gold standard crankiness. Ditto for the Heritage Foundation, AEI, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, etc. etc. Deviate from the party line, as Bruce Bartlett has, and you're quickly excommunicated.

Liberals agree on lots of things, but I just can't think of anything that's enforced quite as ruthlessly as the conservative party line on tax cuts. Any ideas?

OK, fair and balanced readers... have at it.

[Your two cents?--ed. There's an easy and a hard answer. The easy answer is what's enforced ruthlessly right now vs. what's been enforced ruthlessly over the past two decades. I think I have at least one answer to the former question (don't touch Social Security). My only answer for the latter would be abortion rights.

posted by Dan at 09:18 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Comparing and contrasting McCain and Clinton

Foreign Affairs has released the latest foreign policy visions of the candidates (faithful readers of the blog will remember that Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and John Edwards have inflicted presented their views in previous issues. These efforts have ranged from fair to middlin' to bats@$t insane).

Hillary Clinton, "Security and Opportunity for the Twenty-first Century."

John McCain, "An Enduring Peace Built on Freedom."

Having read through the essays, I have two thoughts....

The first is the diametrically opposed logics these two candidates bring to Iraq. Here's Clinton:

Ending the war in Iraq is the first step toward restoring the United States' global leadership. The war is sapping our military strength, absorbing our strategic assets, diverting attention and resources from Afghanistan, alienating our allies, and dividing our people. The war in Iraq has also stretched our military to the breaking point. We must rebuild our armed services and restore them body and soul.

We must withdraw from Iraq in a way that brings our troops home safely, begins to restore stability to the region, and replaces military force with a new diplomatic initiative to engage countries around the world in securing Iraq's future. To that end, as president, I will convene the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretary of defense, and the National Security Council and direct them to draw up a clear, viable plan to bring our troops home, starting within the first 60 days of my administration....

Getting out of Iraq will enable us to play a constructive role in a renewed Middle East peace process that would mean security and normal relations for Israel and the Palestinians. The fundamental elements of a final agreement have been clear since 2000: a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank in return for a declaration that the conflict is over, recognition of Israel's right to exist, guarantees of Israeli security, diplomatic recognition of Israel, and normalization of its relations with Arab states. U.S. diplomacy is critical in helping to resolve this conflict. In addition to facilitating negotiations, we must engage in regional diplomacy to gain Arab support for a Palestinian leadership that is committed to peace and willing to engage in a dialogue with the Israelis. Whether or not the United States makes progress in helping to broker a final agreement, consistent U.S. involvement can lower the level of violence and restore our credibility in the region.

And then there's McCain:
Defeating radical Islamist extremists is the national security challenge of our time. Iraq is this war's central front, according to our commander there, General David Petraeus, and according to our enemies, including al Qaeda's leadership....

So long as we can succeed in Iraq -- and I believe that we can -- we must succeed. The consequences of failure would be horrific: a historic loss at the hands of Islamist extremists who, after having defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and the United States in Iraq, will believe that the world is going their way and that anything is possible; a failed state in the heart of the Middle East providing sanctuary for terrorists; a civil war that could quickly develop into a regional conflict and even genocide; a decisive end to the prospect of a modern democracy in Iraq, for which large Iraqi majorities have repeatedly voted; and an invitation for Iran to dominate Iraq and the region even more.

Whether success grows closer or more distant over the coming months, it is clear that Iraq will be a central issue for the next U.S. president. Democratic candidates have promised to withdraw U.S. troops and "end the war" by fiat, regardless of the consequences. To make such decisions based on the political winds at home, rather than on the realities in the theater, is to court disaster. The war in Iraq cannot be wished away, and it is a miscalculation of historic magnitude to believe that the consequences of failure will be limited to one administration or one party. This is an American war, and its outcome will touch every one of our citizens for years to come.

That is why I support our continuing efforts to win in Iraq. It is also why I oppose a preemptive withdrawal strategy that has no Plan B for the aftermath of its inevitable failure and the greater problems that would ensue.

I'm not sure I agree with either Clinton or McCain. The Senator from Arizona is vastly inflating the importance of groups like Al Qaeda in Iraq, but I can't see how the Senator from New York thinks a complete withdrawal -- and the internal chaos that will go with it -- will "enable us to play a constructive role in a renewed Middle East peace process."

That said, these two essays are easily the best of the bunch. Both Clinton and McCain -- or at least, the staffers who wrote these pieces -- have a better grasp for policy detail and means-ends relationships than the other candidates. Clinton, in contrast to either Obama or Edwards, makes the connection between a withdrawal from Iraq and a more generous policy towards Iraqi asylum-seekers. She occasionally suffers from the fairy dust that is the word "engagement," but otherwise she hits the appropriate marks. Also, not for nothing, but this essay is much more clearly written than the other essays in the mix.

McCain, more than any other candidate, gets the connection between trade policy and foreign policy. He explicitly connects improving America's image in Latin America and ratifying the bevy of trade agreements from that region. He also pushes for a completion of the Doha round. His "League of Democracies" idea sounds awfully familiar, and I'm not sure it will fly. That said, this essay is a vast improvement over the other Republican challengers.

posted by Dan at 10:14 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Why George W. Bush thinks we invaded Iraq

In the latest issue of PS: Political Science and Politics, Richard Rose recounts his meeting -- along with a few other experts -- with George W. Bush in the Oval Office. The idea -- set up by Peter Feaver when he was at the NSC -- was for Bush to interact with experts on divided societies to see what lessons could be applied to Iraq.

It's entitled, "What Do You Tell the President in Three Minutes about Iraq?" I was a little surprised to see this section:

We were told to expect a wide-ranging and free-flowing discussion--and this forecast was accurate. After the President made several references to the importance of liberty, I reminded him that Isaiah Berlin was not only in favour of liberty but also of order. The place to talk about liberty was not in discussions about a land lacking order but when he next saw President Putin. When the conversation became too academic, the President even began leafing through a book of mine that I had given him that ends with a chapter about America's victory over Iraq in Kuwait, a victory that left his father riding the crest of a wave--after which there was only a one-way option down.

The President listened far more than he spoke and when he did it was to make simple points that many critics dodge, such as: We had to do something after 19 young people blew up 3,000 Americans. (emphasis added)

posted by Dan at 04:32 PM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Not bad for a 40-year old article

The Economist examines the totemic worship of Che Guevara, 40 years after his death.

The wider the cult spreads, the further it strays from the man. Rather than a Christian romantic, Guevara was a ruthless and dogmatic Marxist, who stood not for liberation but for a new tyranny. In the Sierra Maestra, he shot those suspected of treachery; in victory, Mr Castro placed him in charge of the firing squads that executed “counter-revolutionaries”; as minister of industries, Guevara advocated expropriation down to the last farm and shop. His exhortation to guerrilla warfare, irrespective of political circumstance, lured thousands of idealistic Latin Americans to their deaths, helped to create brutal dictatorships and delayed the achievement of democracy.
What's reallly interesting, however, is that the magazine linked to its 1967 story about Guevara's death. This being the Economist, we have no idea who wrote it. Whoever it was, however, deserves props for the analysis and assessment:
This blow at the guerrilla movement in Bolivia follows on its destruction in Peru and its near-destruction in Colombia and Venezuela. It is a major strategic reverse for the “armed struggle.” But there are signs that what may happen now is that the focus of guerrilla activity will move from South America to Central America and the Caribbean. In Matagalpa province in Nicaragua insurgents have become increasingly active this year, while to the north, in Guatemala, the guerrillas, though hard pressed, are continuing to be quite a problem for the government. In Haiti the guerrilla movement is gradually co-ordinating itself, while in the Dominican Republic Dr Juan Bosch’s party this month split itself into violent and non-violent factions. Compared with the great South American dream, this is all small and fairly unimpressive fry for the guerrilla movement. But it would still be premature to say that the death of Guevara means the death of armed insurgency in Latin America.

Che Guevara’s name is already being classed with that of the Liberator, Simon Bolivar. Latin America’s marxist “liberation” has yet to look even likely, but Guevara has died with his reputation intact. From his middle-class Argentinian youth, he became a revolutionary by conviction and profession. With the two Castro brothers he invaded Cuba in the cockleshell Granma, stayed on to help run revolutionary Cuba as minister of industry, then, perhaps growing bored, took his leave of Cuba on a dedicated secret mission to set the continent alight. He failed. But many Latin Americans will go on believing that the legends that will be spun round his Pimpernel existence may one day lead to his picture being hung beside that of the Liberator in Latin American halls.

posted by Dan at 02:58 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Meet your kinda touchy-feely blogger

This is the weirdest cognitive test I have ever taken. Click first, and then click back.

Like Kevin Drum, I was initially unable to see anything but the dancer turning clockwise. When I went back to the site a few hours later, however, I was able to get her to go counter-clockwise. At this point I can -- sort of -- get her to go whichever way I want. On the whole, however, my natural inclination is to see a clockwise rotation.

Take the test youself and report back!

UPDATE: Some commenters have suggested that this is merely a software trick -- i.e., the image will rotate in one direction and then randomly switch rotation. To test this, the Official Blog Wife, Official Blog Son and I all looked at the image at the same time. Two of us saw it going clockwise, one of us counter-clockwise. So it's not a software trick.

posted by Dan at 12:01 PM | Comments (29) | Trackbacks (0)

BDM, in profile

Good Magazine has a long Michael Lerner profile of Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, the chair of political science at New York University (in the field, Bruce will forever be known by the three letter acronym "BDM.")

Lerner's story is about BDM's political forecasting techniques, his use of rational choice methodology... and the uniqueness that is Bruce:

If you listen to Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, and a lot of people don’t, he’ll claim that mathematics can tell you the future. In fact, the professor says that a computer model he built and has perfected over the last 25 years can predict the outcome of virtually any international conflict, provided the basic input is accurate. What’s more, his predictions are alarmingly specific. His fans include at least one current presidential hopeful, a gaggle of Fortune 500 companies, the CIA, and the Department of Defense. Naturally, there is also no shortage of people less fond of his work. “Some people think Bruce is the most brilliant foreign policy analyst there is,” says one colleague. “Others think he’s a quack.”

Today, on a rare sunny summer day in San Francisco, Bueno de Mesquita appears to be neither. He’s relaxing in his stately home, answering my questions with exceeding politesse. Sunlight streams through the tall windows, the melodic sound of a French horn echoing from somewhere upstairs; his daughter, a musician in a symphony orchestra, is practicing for an upcoming recital. It’s all so complacent and genteel, which is exactly what Bueno de Mesquita isn’t. As if on cue, a question sets him off. “I found it to be offensive,” he says about a colleague’s critique of his work. “This is absolutely, totally, and utterly false,” he says about the attack of another....

To verify the accuracy of [BDM's] model, the CIA set up a kind of forecasting face-off that pit predictions from his model against those of Langley’s more traditional in-house intelligence analysts and area specialists. “We tested Bueno de Mesquita’s model on scores of issues that were conducted in real time—that is, the forecasts were made before the events actually happened,” says Stanley Feder, a former high-level CIA analyst. “We found the model to be accurate 90 percent of the time,” he wrote. Another study evaluating Bueno de Mesquita’s real-time forecasts of 21 policy decisions in the European community concluded that “the probability that the predicted outcome was what indeed occurred was an astounding 97 percent.” What’s more, Bueno de Mesquita’s forecasts were much more detailed than those of the more traditional analysts. “The real issue is the specificity of the accuracy,” says Feder. “We found that DI (Directorate of National Intelligence) analyses, even when they were right, were vague compared to the model’s forecasts. To use an archery metaphor, if you hit the target, that’s great. But if you hit the bull’s eye—that’s amazing.”

How does Bueno de Mesquita do this? With mathematics. “You start with a set of assumptions, as you do with anything, but you do it in a formal, mathematical way,” he says. “You break them down as equations and work from there to see what follows logically from those assumptions.” The assumptions he’s talking about concern each actor’s motives. You configure those motives into equations that are, essentially, statements of logic based on a predictive theory of how people with those motives will behave. From there, you start building your mathematical model. You determine whether the predictive theory holds true by plugging in data, which are numbers derived from scales of preferences that you ascribe to each actor based on the various choices they face.

Read the whole thing if you want a mostly accurate but incomplete discussion of rational choice theory and its critics -- Mearsheimer and Walt make cameo appearances!

[Jeez, doesn't BDM seems like a bit of a self-promoter?--ed. Compared to whom? Relative to many IR scholars, Bueno de Mesquita has not been shy in trumpeting his own horn. Compared to others, however, BDM seems pretty normal.]

The part that grabbed my attention was BDM's proposal for how to address the Israel/Palestinian conflict:

Recently, he’s applied his science to come up with some novel ideas on how to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “In my view, it is a mistake to look for strategies that build mutual trust because it ain’t going to happen. Neither side has any reason to trust the other, for good reason,” he says. “Land for peace is an inherently flawed concept because it has a fundamental commitment problem. If I give you land on your promise of peace in the future, after you have the land, as the Israelis well know, it is very costly to take it back if you renege. You have an incentive to say, ‘You made a good step, it’s a gesture in the right direction, but I thought you were giving me more than this. I can’t give you peace just for this, it’s not enough.’ Conversely, if we have peace for land—you disarm, put down your weapons, and get rid of the threats to me and I will then give you the land—the reverse is true: I have no commitment to follow through. Once you’ve laid down your weapons, you have no threat.”

Bueno de Mesquita’s answer to this dilemma, which he discussed with the former Israeli prime minister and recently elected Labor leader Ehud Barak, is a formula that guarantees mutual incentives to cooperate. “In a peaceful world, what do the Palestinians anticipate will be their main source of economic viability? Tourism. This is what their own documents say. And, of course, the Israelis make a lot of money from tourism, and that revenue is very easy to track. As a starting point requiring no trust, no mutual cooperation, I would suggest that all tourist revenue be [divided by] a fixed formula based on the current population of the region, which is roughly 40 percent Palestinian, 60 percent Israeli. The money would go automatically to each side. Now, when there is violence, tourists don’t come. So the tourist revenue is automatically responsive to the level of violence on either side for both sides. You have an accounting firm that both sides agree to, you let the U.N. do it, whatever. It’s completely self-enforcing, it requires no cooperation except the initial agreement by the Israelis that they are going to turn this part of the revenue over, on a fixed formula based on population, to some international agency, and that’s that.”

I'm not sure the long-run demographics of the region would support this idea, but it's certainly intriguing.

Full disclosure: When I was putting together my dissertation committee oh so many years ago, I was fortunate enough to persuade Bruce to join -- and The Sanctions Paradox is a much, much better book because of that decision.

posted by Dan at 09:00 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A possible utility of being rude

Earlier this month I argued in Newsweek that rising powers were hurting themselves by acting rudely on the global stage.

It's worth pointing out possible contradictory data on this point, however, so let's turn to Steven Lee Myers and Thom Shanker's story in the New York Times on a possible counterexample:

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia sharply upbraided the visiting American secretaries of state and defense on Friday as highly anticipated negotiations produced no specific accords to resolve growing disagreements over missile defense and other security issues.

Mr. Putin followed a pattern of recent criticisms of American policy, whether speaking in Moscow, Munich or even Maine, and he shaped the initial public tone on Friday when he greeted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at his residence outside Moscow with a derisive lecture in front of the television cameras.

Mr. Putin dismissed with sarcasm the American plan to build components of a missile defense system in formerly Communist nations of Central Europe as a reaction to a threat that had not yet materialized.

“Of course, we can some time in the future decide that some antimissile defense should be established somewhere on the moon,” Mr. Putin said, “but before we reach such an arrangement we will lose an opportunity of fixing some particular arrangements between us.”

However, American officials said things had been different behind the scenes, a view not completely contradicted by Russian negotiators....

Mr. Putin often veers from the diplomatic language typical of such high-level meetings. On Friday, meeting with the Americans at his residence in Novo-Ogaryovo, outside of Moscow, the outwardly warm interactions that once marked relations, at least between the countries’ two leaders, had clearly chilled in public.

Mr. Putin seemed to catch Mr. Gates and Ms. Rice off guard with his remarks, since no public statements were planned in advance.

Mr. Putin, though, arrived with notes and spent eight minutes welcoming the opportunity to talk about where Russia strongly disagreed with the Bush administration.

His remarks seemed to anger Ms. Rice, though Mr. Gates reacted impassively.

Mr. Putin kept the Americans waiting 40 minutes before he appeared. But Mr. Putin hardly rushed his guests away, as the private meeting went far longer than scheduled.

The implication in the story is that maybe -- maybe -- Putin is acting rudely in public because that gives him the leeway to be serious in private negotiations.

In the long run, however, this can only work if Putin can frame the outcome of the negotiations as representing a victory for Russia. So I'm not really convinced about the long-term viability of being obnoxious in a public forum. But this possibility is certainly worth a blog post.

posted by Dan at 09:37 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Not to quibble with the Nobel committee, but....

Al Gore co-won this year's Nobel Peace Prize, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Combined with his Emmy, Webby, and Academy Awards, Gore's Nobel has cemented his hold on the world's Most Bitchin' Mantle Ever.

Just to be curmudgeonly, I thought this bit from the official press release was odd:

Al Gore has for a long time been one of the world's leading environmentalist politicians. He became aware at an early stage of the climatic challenges the world is facing. His strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change. He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted (emphasis added).
I have a question -- is this really true? I don't doubt that if one replaced "worldwide" with "American" that this would be the case. Has the rest of the world, however, really been smacking their forehead saying, "Thank God Al Gore was here to alert us!!"

This is a serious question -- for those non-American readers out there, was Al Gore the reason you began to think about global warming?

UPDATE: Gore blogs about his prize, saying, "We face a true planetary emergency. The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity. It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level."

Again, being curmudgeonly, of couse the climate crisis is a political issue -- it's about the distribution of Really Really Big Costs and Benefits. This doesn't preclude it from being a moral issue as well, but Gore's statement suggests that he ascribes to the Jeffrey Sachs Theory of Politics.

LAST UPDATE: Lest I seem too curmudgeonly, it's worth reading the opening to John Dickerson's Slate column on Gore.

Al Gore is a winner. Al Gore was right. One of the best things for Al Gore about winning the Nobel Peace Prize is that the sound bites are finally all on his side. For decades the two-term vice president has been championing environmental causes and until recently often received public scorn and derision. Now he's been rewarded with one of the most coveted prizes on the planet.

This reversal in Gore's fortunes is extraordinary. He's not only seen a rolling vindication of his environmental activism as the world becomes more consumed with combating global climate change, but his prewar warnings about the conflict in Iraq now look prescient. Meanwhile, George Bush—the other political scion with whom Gore will forever be linked because of their bitter election fight in 2000—has followed almost exactly the opposite trajectory. Unpopular and increasingly criticized by many in his own party, Bush's legacy will be the broken war. While Gore is lauded for his prescience and insight, Bush will for some time—perhaps forever—be best known for lacking those same qualities.

It's hard to dispute much in those paragraphs.

posted by Dan at 09:14 AM | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Open Turkey thread

CNN reports that the Turkish government has not taken too kindly to the U.S. House of Representatives:

Turkey on Thursday recalled its ambassador to the United States and warned of repercussions in a growing dispute over congressional efforts to label the World War I era killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces "genocide."

The U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs passed the measure 27-21 Wednesday. President Bush and key administration figures lobbied hard against the measure, saying it would create unnecessary headaches for U.S. relations with Turkey.

Turkey -- now a NATO member and a key U.S. ally in the war on terror -- accepts Armenians were killed but call it a massacre during a chaotic time, not an organized campaign of genocide.

The full House could vote on the genocide resolution as early as Friday. A top Turkish official warned Thursday that consequences "won't be pleasant" if the full House approves the resolution.

"Yesterday some in Congress wanted to play hardball," said Egemen Bagis, foreign policy adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "I can assure you Turkey knows how to play hardball."....

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Tom Lantos, D-California, was unmoved by the Turkish government's protests.

"The Turkish government will not act against the United States because that would be against their own interests," he told CNN. "I'm convinced of this."

But Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Missouri, sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposing the resolution, and said the backlash threatened by Turkey could disrupt "America's ability to redeploy U.S. military forces from Iraq," a top Democratic priority.

Turkey, a NATO member, has been a key U.S. ally in the Middle East and a conduit for sending supplies into Iraq.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday that good relations with Turkey are vital because 70 percent of the air cargo sent to U.S. forces in Iraq and 30 percent of the fuel consumed by those forces fly through Turkey.

U.S. commanders "believe clearly that access to airfields and roads and so on, in Turkey, would very much be put at risk if this resolution passes and the Turks react as strongly as we believe they will," Gates said.

Bagis said no French planes have flown through Turkish airspace since a French Parliament committee passed a similar resolution last year.

He said the response to the U.S. might not be the same, but warned if the full House passes it that "we will do something, and I can promise you it won't be pleasant."

Comment away. A few questions worthy of discussion:
1) Hey, what happened to the Democrats' claimi that they would restore America's image to the rest of the world?

2) Doesn't the Lantos quote sound an awful lot like George W. Bush's strategic thought? UPDATE: This is not the first example of Lantos screwing up U.S. foreign policy.

3) So when will we get to read The Armenian Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy?

posted by Dan at 08:25 PM | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Clearly, there are no constructivists at Foggy Bottom

I've been remiss in not linking to the new State Department blog, DipNote. Part of the reason for the slow-motion link is that Joshua Keating panned it over at Passport ("most of the posts from the big shots consist of little more than summaries of their schedules.... zzzz."). Then there's been the outright mockery.

Clicking over, however, I found this Sean McCormack post about negotiating with Iran pretty interesting. McCormack -- who's the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs -- clearly articulates how Foggy Bottom thinks about the utility of negotiations:

One way the mainstream media breaks down coverage of Iran policy is to place people (both inside and outside government) into two neat categories – those who want to engage Iran and those who want to isolate Iran. Admittedly, there are other ways to create camps on the Iran issue – use of force vs. diplomacy, for example – but the engage vs. isolation dichotomy is the one I most often read about those at State purportedly chomping at the bit to negotiate with an Iranian, any Iranian. Let me offer another way to look at the issue.

I’ll start with a simple premise: diplomacy without incentives and disincentives (carrots and sticks) is just talking. Put another way, diplomacy without the proper mix will accomplish nothing when dealing with an adversary. The question then becomes one of establishing both sides of the equation – incentives and disincentives -- before any negotiation. So those who want to divide the world into engage vs. isolate camps are missing the point. In fact, it is not a binary choice. Instead engagement and isolation are two different sides of the same coin.

Experience tells us that without creating significant leverage, you will fail in a negotiation – unless of course you face a weak or unthinking opponent. So, unless the U.S. creates the right conditions for successful negotiations with Iran, we won’t get anyplace.

This prompts a few questions:
1) Is McCormack correct? If he is, social constrictivists all over the world will be crying themselves to sleep.

2) Does this logic change when one views the very decision to engage in direct negotiations to be an incentive in and of itself?

3) How does the United States look when we don't answer letters?

posted by Dan at 11:08 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

The baseball gods apparently read this blog

Daniel Drezner, "That's right, I'm risking the wrath of the baseball gods," May 28, 2007:

The best thing that could happen to the long-term plans of the Red Sox is if Steinbrenner fires Cashman in favor of a Steinbrenner toady. At that point, I bet you that the new GM would trade Philip Hughes, Jose Tabata, and Melky Cabrera for Johan Santana.

In which case, there will be seven fat years for the Sox, and seven lean years for the Yankees.

Peter Gammons, "Yanks' issues go beyond Torre," August 9, 2007:
They are the Yankees, so two hours after their season turned to winter, there was a cellphone conversation about what could be packaged with Chien-Ming Wang to get Johan Santana, not Carlos Silva or any of the other mongrel free agents. They inquired about Santana, because they are the Yankees.
Psst... George.... package Melky Cabera and Ian Kennedy with Wang and I bet you could get him.

Do it. Pleeeease.

UPDATE: At TNR online, Alex Massie argues that the Yankees are suffering from a two-term curse:

Can it really be a coincidence that the most-storied and successful team in American sports has failed to win while George W. Bush has occupied the Oval Office? I think not. The successor to the Curse of the Bambino is George W. Bush's hex upon the Yankees.
You'll have to read Massie's essay to see the parallels -- it does kinda explain the New York Times' coverage of the Yankees and Red Sox.

posted by Dan at 07:25 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Grading out the GOP debate on trade

I didn't see the GOP debate yesterday, but looking through the transcipt, I was surprised to see trade came up as an issue.

According to the Wall Street Journal's Jackie Calmes and Amy Shatz:

{S]everal [candidates] reflected skepticism about free trade that is gaining hold in both political parties. The others, while professedly free-traders, acknowledged widespread job losses as a consequence of globalism and a public sense that trading partners, particularly China, are taking advantage of the U.S.
Looking at the transcript, I think Calmes and Shatz are overinterpreting what was said.

The fringe candidates (Hunter, Tancredo) were perfectly happy to sound protectionist. But they're not going to win, so let's skip them.

Some of the mainstream candidates (Romney, Giuliani, Huckabee) had some caveats:

Romney: "We need to make sure that the Chinese begin to float their currency and they protect our designs and our patents and our technology."

Giuliani: "I think you've got to almost separate them into two different categories. There's economic protection and then there's protection for safety, security, and legal rights. And I don't think we've done a particularly good job on the second, and we have to improve those agreements. But we can't throw out the baby with the bathwater. We can't say, because these agreements weren't perfect, because they have problems, because they have issues, we're going to turn our back on free trade."

Huckabee: "the fact is, we don't have fair trade. And that's the issue we've got to address."

The other candidates (Paul, McCain, Thompson) didn't pander at all on this question. Which, of course, means they're doomed.

So, on the whole, the only possible nominee who scared me was Huckabee. The rest of the field sounded relatively sane on the topic. And, credit where it's due, Giuliani scored the best combination of sound policy and sound politics on the issue.

Oh, one last thing -- no one let Ron Paul anywhere near the Federal Reserve.

posted by Dan at 02:47 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

Your foreign policy quote of the day

From Mark Mazzetti and Helene Cooper, "An Israeli Strike on Syria Kindles Debate in the U.S." New York Times, October 10, 2007:

“You can’t just make these [foreign policy] decisions using the top of your spinal cord, you have to use the whole brain,” said Philip D. Zelikow, the former counselor at the State Department. “What other policy are we going to pursue that we think would be better?”

posted by Dan at 08:15 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Hillary Clinton really wants to improve America's standing abroad

Last week I asked which major party was going to be more trade-friendly.

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton provided part of the answer. The Financial Times' Edward Luce summarizes:

Hillary Clinton, frontrunner for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination, on Monday said that all US trade agreements should be evaluated every five years and, if necessary, amended.

The process should start with the North America Free Trade Agreement, which was the signature trade pact of her husband, Bill Clinton, when he was president.

The comments, which were aimed at union leaders who remain critical of Nafta, which they say has displaced US workers, amount to her strongest break so far with Mr Clinton’s pro-free trade agenda of the 1990s.

Mrs Clinton said Nafta suffered from “serious shortcomings”. She also reiterated her pledge to incorporate strong environmental and labour protections in future trade deals – a measure most economists view as protectionist.

“I think it is time that we assess trade agreements every five years to make sure they’re meeting their goals or to make adjustments if they are not,” she said in a speech in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which stages the first caucus vote in the presidential nomination process next January. “And we should start by doing that with Nafta.”....

In addition to the five-year trade reviews, Mrs Clinton said she would appoint a federal trade enforcement officer who would monitor compliance with trade agreements.

Click here for more details (it's not all bad; the proposal to expand trade adjustment assistance to cover service-sector workers makes sense). For a party that claims it wants to burnish America's image abroad, the Democrats sure know how to propose specific steps that will piss off our trading partners.

Seriously, if this kind of review is proposed, what incentive would any country have to sign an FTA with the United States? The major benefit of a free-trade agreement with the United States is less economic than political. An FTA increases the certainty of the bilateral relationship. Clinton's "review process" essentially strips away that certainty.

Does Hillary Clinton really want to return Mexican-American relations to the bad old pre-NAFTA days?

As for a "trade enforcement officer," this is the trade equivalent of Michael Dukakis' pledge from 1988 to balance the federal budget deficit through improved tax collection. It's nice politics, but it ain't going to mean a damn thing in terms of reducing the trade deficit or protecting American jobs.

Look, trade expansion does have distributional effects, and it makes sense to expand programs that try to compensate for those effects. Clinton's ham-handed idea is not the answer, however. This will play great on the hustings and contribute to an eroding image of the United States abroad.

Clinton should -- and does -- know better.

posted by Dan at 08:54 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Thinking about China's weight gain

Steve Clemons thinks that China is running diplomatic rings around the United States:

It is China that is "out multilateral-ing" the United States today. As we have been distracted in Iraq, China has rolled out aid and development programs globally, helped institute yet another Asian multilateral effort in its "East Asian Community" initiative, launched a multilateral security organization in the "Shanghai Cooperation Organization", and was the key factor in the recent negotiating successes with North Korea over its nuclear program. As State Department Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and chief negotiator with North Korea Christopher Hill has said, "China has become the first stop for any American diplomacy."

While much of the world perceives -- at best -- America as a status quo power but more realistically as a superpower in decline that will eventually look something like a well-endowed military state and more as an ordinary great power -- that same world looks at China as an ascending power. China's weight gains in global affairs matters.

This has been a recurring theme among foreign policy wonks.

I share this concern, but I also have my doubts. North Korea aside -- and it's a big aside -- China has had a pretty lousy year of diplomacy. I pointed his out last week:

Even China has had its diplomatic stumbles this year. Despite claims about the rise of Chinese "soft power," it has experienced some nasty blowback from its aggressive investments in Africa and its inadequate consumer regulation at home. The uprising of the monks in Myanmar also caught China short—a replay of Beijing's slow response after the 2005 tsunami.
I'm not the only one who's observed China's bad year.

As China amasses more "weight," it will also find itself amassing more global criticism. Beijing is valued now because it acts as a check against American power -- but the reverse will also be true.

Critics often bash the Bush administration for buying into a crude "bandwagoning" theory world politics. These fears of China seem to be predicated on the same kind of bandwagoning logic, however.

Clemons and others would point out that the difference is that while the Bush administration cares only about hard power, the Chinese have been astutely developing its soft power capabilities. Well, maybe. Are the Chinese initiatives at multilateralism significant or not? The Shanghai Cooperation Organization could be significant, but for every warning I read I also come across analysis suggesting that the organization doesn't matter that much.

Consider this an open thread -- are concerns about Chinese-led multilateral initiatives overblown or not?

posted by Dan at 05:24 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

I almost feel bad for Kevin Drum. Almost.

For this Stanford graduate and Red Sox fan, I must confess that Kevin Drum's horrible sports weekend is pretty awesome for the hardworking staff here at

posted by Dan at 12:52 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A first-person account of being lobbied by the Israel lobby

In the Boston Globe, journalist Elaine McArdle describes an AIPAC-funded junket to Israel and the effect it had on her:

I've found myself picking over the question: how much has my opinion on Israel been moved?

It's not hard for me to acknowledge that I'm much more sympathetic to the predicament of Israel than I was before I saw the place so extensively with my own eyes. Traveling the countryside has given me a much clearer picture of its precarious state, with a mere 9 miles separating the West Bank from Tel Aviv - less than from Boston to Concord, and easy distance for rockets. You can certainly see why Israel wouldn't give up the West Bank until it has a partner it can trust. Its existence - and the lives of the people we met - are at risk.

Before the junket, I would have described myself as admiring of Israel but increasingly disturbed by its human rights violations.

Now I would say I find myself aligned with a growing group of former Israeli leftists, those who once believed a peaceful solution was imminent but after the debacle of Gaza have, with heavy hearts, lost their bearings and moved toward the center.

Is this a seismic shift? No. But I also have no way of knowing where I would stand had I paid for the trip with my own money, organized my own interviews, and gotten equal access to the Palestinian point of view.

Our guides, to their credit, showed us the separation wall at its most formidable and depressing. But what life is like on the other side of that wall - whether families are eating olives and grilled fish, what their hopes and dreams for the future are, whether they dream of a nonviolent resolution to the conflict - of this, I have no personal experience.

posted by Dan at 08:43 AM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, October 5, 2007

A small question about trade and parties

If you believe that trade liberalization benefits both the U.S. and global economy, which party is the party for you?

When I came of voting age, the answer was pretty obvious -- the GOP.

Now we live in a world where Obama's chief economic advisor is making more sense on the trade issue than rank-and-file Republicans. (both links courtesy of Greg Mankiw)

Obviously, it is slightly unfair to compare advisors with voters -- and the WSJ article linked above points out that the GOP frontrunners are still talking the talk on trade.

I'm beginning to wonder, however, whether either party will walk the walk.

Question to free traders -- which party do you think is likelier to promote trade liberalization?

posted by Dan at 11:48 AM | Comments (25) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Getting back into the op-ed game

In my last bloggingheads with Matthew Yglesias, we agreed that it is tough to excel at the op-ed format.

Naturally, I have now agreed to contribute to Newsweek International on a monthly basis.

My first effort, "Calling Miss Manners," is now online. Go check it out. The concluding paragraphs:

It would be a cruel irony indeed if rising powers learned the wrong lessons from Bush's mistakes. The United States has received more flak for its diplomatic mistakes than other countries because the glare of the spotlight is at its harshest for the hegemon. As these countries acquire more power, however, they will also garner more attention. So far, their behavior is worrisome. Russia, for example, has had some prior experience with being a great power. Their current diplomatic style, however, makes the Bush administration's first term look like a paragon of propriety and decorum.

Power and interest drive most of what happens in world politics. Diplomatic style does matter on the margins, however. And if these recent events are what passes as diplomacy from rising powers, then world politics is going to start looking like a bad episode of reality television. "The Real World: Turtle Bay" might make for good entertainment, but it's going to be a lousy way to address global problems.

The column has its roots in this blog post from a few weeks ago.

posted by Dan at 05:34 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

The 2008 foreign policy wonk list

William Arkin does a public service and compiles a list of all known foreign policy wonks currently advising the major presidential candidates.

Arkin comments:

I think of these advisers as falling into two broad categories: Those providing legitimacy and those seeking legitimacy. The two camps aren't always mutually exclusive. But it's a useful framework for analyzing the list, and may help us sort out any conflict-of-interest charges that may arise in the course of the campaign.
Kevin Drum is unimpressed (hat tip: Ilan Goldenberg):
Of course, what would be more genuinely useful is a list of the people who actually have each candidate's ear on foreign policy, not a telephone book of every single foreign policy wonk who's made an endorsement. I want to know which ones are figureheads and which ones are likely to have West Wing offices in 2009.
It's tricky to do that, because a) wonks will often advise more than one candidate; and b) sometimes wonks from losing campaigns rise to success during the general election (see: Jim Baker).

This is a blog, however, so it seems like fun to take a stab at answering Drum's question. My answers are based entirely on scuttlebutt, half-assed speculation, and some simple rules of thumb. First, ambition goes up, not down -- i.e., Madeleine Albright's not going to be the NSC advisor when she's been Secretary of State. Second, the national security advisor position usually goes to someone who has a longtime relationship with the candidate.

Going through the list:

1) HILLARY CLINTON: Foggy Bottom would go to Richard Holbrooke. National Security Advisor: Lee Feinstein.

2) BARACK OBAMA: Foggy Bottom would go to Anthony Lake. National Security Advisor: Hmmm... interesting list, but I'd put money on Susan Rice.

3) JOHN EDWARDS: Foggy Bottom would go to.... no one on Arkin's list. Not enough name recognition/non-military experience. National Security Advisor: Derek Chollet.

4) RUDOLPH GIULIANI: Foggy Bottom would go to Norman Podhoret... BWA HA HA HA HA HA!!! I'm sorry, I couldn't get that out without laughing. Seriously, on this list, Robert Kasten is the only likely candidate. National Security Advisor: Ken Weinstein Charles Hill.

5) JOHN MCCAIN: Foggy Bottom would go to... well, this depends on whether McCain's contrarian instincts lead him to nominate someone who would constrain his interventionist impulses. If that's the case, then it's Brent Scowcroft or Richard Armitage. If not, then it's James Woolsey. National Security Advisor: Gary Schmitt.

6) MITT ROMNEY: Foggy Bottom would go to... someone on McCain's list -- there's no one on Arkin's list with sufficient gravitas. National Security Advisor: Mitchell Reiss.

Readers are strongly encouraged to disabuse me of any of these predictions with really good inside dirt.

UPDATE: Blake Hounshell informs me that, "Anthony Lake has said in no uncertain terms that he will not return to government and is happy as a Georgetown professor."

Assuming that this statement is genuine and not boilerplate, the only other name on Obama's list that might come up for Foggy Bottom would be Dennis Ross, though it's a major step up.

posted by Dan at 03:49 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

For every op-ed action, there is an out-of-proportion blogosphere reaction

Intentionally or not, Roger Cohen has some fun with the netroots in his New York Times column today:

A few years back, at the height of the jingoistic post-9/11 wave, the dirtiest word in the American political lexicon was “liberal.” Everyone from President Bush to Ann Coulter was using it to denote wimplike, Volvo-driving softies too spineless for dangerous times and too given to speaking French....

[A]s America bumped down to earth, “liberal” lost the mantle of political insult most foul. Its place was taken by the pervasive, glib “neocon.”....

What’s a neocon? A liberal “mugged by reality,” Irving Kristol said. The reality in question, back then, was communism-as-evil, the centrality of military force, the indispensability of the American idea and much else. But that’s ancient history. The neocons are the guys who gave us the Iraq war.

They’re the guys who, in the words of leftist commentator and blogger Matthew Yglesias, “believe that America should coercively dominate the world through military force” and “believe in a dogmatic form of American exceptionalism” and “favor the creation of a U.S.-dominated ‘universal empire.’ ”

But the term, in these Walt-Mearsheimered days, often denotes more than that. Neocon, for many, has become shorthand for neocon-Zionist conspiracy, whatever that may be, although probably involving some combination of plans to exploit Iraqi oil, bomb Iran and apply U.S. power to Israel’s benefit.

Beyond that, neocon has morphed into an all-purpose insult for anyone who still believes that American power is inextricable from global stability and still thinks the muscular anti-totalitarian U.S. interventionism that brought down Slobodan Milosevic has a place, and still argues, like Christopher Hitchens, that ousting Saddam Hussein put the United States “on the right side of history.”

In short, neoconitis, a condition as rampant as liberal-lampooning a few years back, has left scant room for liberal hawks....

Democrats have learned from their nuance-free bludgeoning by Republicans in the 2004 election, and they’re reciprocating. I’ll see your “liberal” with a “neocon” — and truth be damned.

This has prompted some acerbic replies. Here's one example:
I assure you, we liberals are smart enough to know that [Paul] Berman is not Wolfowitz. No one, except for you, Berman, and other liberal hawks is confused about this (and Feith, but he's confused about everything). Certainly your critics aren't, because if they were, you'd give an example, and you don't....

No, Roger, I honestly don't think you're a neocon. I just think you're a goddammed fool.

And you're a fool who still doesn't understand that only incompetents who rose to unimaginable power, like Bush and Rumsfeld, would ever have thought the invasion of Iraq was a good idea in the first place.

Meanwhile, Yglesias doesn't seem thrilled with being quoted in the New York Times:
I'm not sure if I'm meant to be included within the scope of those nameless Jew-haters who appear to be criticizing an ideological movement of the American right while actually criticizing a shadowy Zionist conspiracy, but if you're interested in the post from which Cohen drew those quotations, it's here and you'll see that neither Israel nor Zionism actually comes up.

Um... OK, a few things:
1) Seriously, how do netroots types attain this level of cognitive dissonance? Perhaps Digby Tristero has not conflated liberal hawks with neoconservatives, but is he seriously suggesting that no one else hasperformed this rhetorical trick?

2) In his response, Yglesias seems to be purposefully misreading Cohen's essay to infer that he's being lumped together with "Jew-haters." It seems pretty clear to me that Cohen is transitioning from Yglesias to others in the paragraph break.

3) Why should the netroots be upset about Cohen's argument? Everything from Crashing The Gate onwards has been about how the left should appropriate the tactics of the right, because it was politically effective. Isn't this tactic exactly what Cohen is describing?

posted by Dan at 10:43 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

And the Joe Bob Briggs award goes to...

Fifteen years ago Joe Bob Briggs wrote a scathing essay on the phenomenon of Sunday morning talk shows -- which, mysteriously, does not appear to be online anywhere (the one line I will never forget: "[Robert] Novak is the only human being in history who, on his IRS 1080 form, fills out, "Occupation: Obnoxious").

Since cable news has become a 24/7 version of these talk shows on every subject imaginable, there's a crying need for a new version of Briggs' kind of satire. So click below and enjoy.

My favorite part -- the fake moustaches.

posted by Dan at 01:48 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

What color is the sky in Joshua Muravchik's world?

From Joshua Muravchik's Commentary essay on the state of neoconservatism:

In any event, the decisions about troop levels and about abolishing Iraq's existing administrative structure had nothing to do with neoconservative ideas. The most that can fairly be said is that Rumsfeld was an ally of neoconservatives and that some among them, enamored of military technology or influenced by the Iraqi dissident Ahmad Chalabi, endorsed his choices. Besides, whatever measure of responsibility may be placed on neoconservatives in this one matter, it pales in comparison to the errors of the realists in the George H.W. Bush administration who in 1991 chose to leave Saddam in power, and of the liberals in the Clinton administration who allowed Saddam's defiance of his disarmament obligations to swell steadily over eight long years. Together, these failures left the problem of Saddam Hussein festering for George W. Bush to confront in the aftermath of 9/11, when it appeared in a more ominous light.
I agree with Muravchik on one point -- some neoconservatives (Kristol, Brooks, Kagan) did want the U.S. to use more troops in the initial invasion, and it's possible that such a troop presence at the start of the invasion could have averted the chaos that has ensued.

Many neoconservatives, however, (Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith) were just fine with this arrangement. And while the costs of not ousting Saddam Hussein in 1991 were not insignficant, I'd like to know the empirical grounds upon which Muravchik can make this assertion.

posted by Dan at 11:41 AM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

How to deal with Myanmar

Michael Green and Derek Mitchell have an unbelievably timely piece in the next issue of Foreign Affairs that discusses how to deal with Myanmar. The piece is oddly framed, however:

[N]either sanctions nor constructive engagement has worked. If anything, Burma has evolved from being an antidemocratic embarrassment and humanitarian disaster to being a serious threat to the security of its neighbors. But despite the mounting danger, many in the United States and the international community are still mired in the old sanctions-versus-engagement battle. At the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed the former Nigerian diplomat and UN official Ibrahim Gambari to continue the organization's heretofore fruitless dialogue with the junta about reform. The U.S. State Department and the U.S. Congress have fought over control of U.S. Burma policy, leading to bitterness and polarization on both sides. Although the UN Security Council now does talk openly about Burma as a threat to international peace and security, China and Russia have vetoed attempts to impose international sanctions. And while key members of the international community continue to undermine one another, the junta, which renamed itself the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997, continues its brutal and dangerous rule.

Regimes like the SPDC do not improve with age; therefore, the Burma problem must be addressed urgently. All parties with a stake in its resolution need to adjust their positions and start coordinating their approach to the problem. Although this may seem like an unlikely proposition, it has more potential today than ever before. Burma's neighbors are beginning to recognize that unconditional engagement has failed. All that is needed now is for the United States to acknowledge that merely reinforcing its strategy of isolation and the existing sanctions regime will not achieve the desired results either. Such a reappraisal would then allow all concerned parties to build an international consensus with the dual aim of creating new incentives for the SPDC to reform and increasing the price it will pay if it fails to change its ways.

So Green and Mitchell aren't saying that sanctions and incentives don't work -- they're saying that uncoordinated sanctions and incentives won't work.

Their proposal:

[A] new multilateral initiative on Burma cannot be based on a single, uniform approach. Sanctions policies will need to coexist with various forms of engagement, and it will be necessary to coordinate all of these measures toward the common end of encouraging reform, reconciliation, and ultimately the return of democracy. To succeed, the region's major players will need to work together.

Bringing them together will require the United States' leadership. One way to proceed would be for Washington to lead the five key parties -- ASEAN, China, India, Japan, and the United States -- in developing a coordinated international initiative and putting forth a public statement of the principles that underlie their vision for a stable and secure Burma. The five partners should develop a road map with concrete goalposts that lays out both the benefits that the SPDC would enjoy if it pursued true political reform and national reconciliation and the costs it would suffer if it continued to be intransigent. The road map should present the SPDC with an international consensus on how Burma's situation affects international stability and the common principles on which the international community will judge progress in the country. One purpose of such a road map would be to reassure the SPDC of regional support for Burma's territorial integrity and security and demonstrate the five parties' commitment to provide, under the appropriate conditions, the assistance necessary to ensure a better future for the country. This would be an important guarantee given the Burmese military's traditional paranoia.

Contact groups like this do make some sense when dealing with pariah regimes. Their utility is twofold -- they make it easier to present a common face to the undesirable regime, and they also reassure each of the contact group's members that another member of the contact group is not cutting a deal behind their back.

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan at 08:25 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Blip or surge?

The Financial Times' Steve Negus offers some good news from Iraq. No, really:

The Iraqi government reported on Monday that civilian casualties dropped by more than 50 per cent in September, a month in which US casualties also declined to their lowest level in 14 months.

All estimates of civilian casualties are contentious, due to the difficulty of obtaining complete data from conflict zones scattered across the country as well as the danger that statistics will be politically manipulated.

But September’s drop is one of the most dramatic since the Iraqi government began releasing figures, and is in rough accordance with other data suggesting levels of violence may be dropping.

The apparent decline also comes in spite of September’s partial overlap with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which usually sees an increase in attacks by Sunni Arab militants. A tally provided by Iraq’s health, interior and defence ministries quoted by news agencies noted 884 civilians killed in September, down from 1,773 in August, 1,653 in July and 1,227 in June.

The independent Iraq Body Count, which tallies press reports of civilian deaths, recorded higher numbers but showed a similar trajectory – 1,280 killed in September, 2,575 in August, 2,600 in July, and 2,092 in June.

US casualties also declined., a website which keeps a tally of US deaths, reported 63 fatalities in September, compared with 84 in August and 126 in May. September’s total is the lowest since July 2006.

posted by Dan at 10:23 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

I bet Sinead O'Connor is a great mother

I can't resist one bit of Britney-blogging -- namely, that I'm not sure how good high-falutin newspapers are at covering the down and dirty. From Mireya Navarro's account in the New York Times of the custody decision that went against Ms. Spears:

The ruling was the culmination of a rash of bad news for Ms. Spears, whose erratic behavior on and off the stage, including shaving her head and diving into the ocean from a public beach in her underwear, had cast doubt on her fitness as a mother. (emphasis added)
Note to self: alert DCFS authorities about these women immediately.

Seriously, there are plenty of reasons on the table to explain why K-Fed is the more responsible parent.... hold on a sec, my keyboard just burst into flame for some reason.... there, it's out now.... but do head-shaving and ocean-diving really belong on the list? I'm going to go out on a limb and say the drug and alcohol abuse and the bad driving might be more relevant.

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

Monday, October 1, 2007

Your mock music video for today

This is awesome.

Hat tip: Garance Franke-Ruta: "Soft power, at its finest, baby."

posted by Dan at 01:59 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Those college kids today, with their ambition....

Yesterday was the New York Times Magazine's ballyhooed college issue, which includes a Rick Perlstein essay that seems like a shorter version of David Brooks' "Organization Kid" essay from six years ago (to Perlstein's credit, he does cites Brooks' piece in his essay).

If you want something really provocative, however, check out Jake Halpern's "The New Me Generation" in the Boston Globe Magazine. His opening:

Nicole Mirabile, who is just 15 years old, has a clear vision of her future, and it doesn't involve a boss. The prospect of working at a Fortune 500 company – and landing the sort of well-paying job that Americans once regarded as the benchmark of success – holds zero allure for her. "It would be hard compromising with a lot of different people whom I might clash with," she speculates. Mirabile, a sophomore at North Quincy High School, would be far happier running her own company. "I have the time, I have the brains, I have the patience to do it, and I am not going to give up if I fail once," she vows.

Alan Chhabra, who is 31 years old, shares a similar sensibility even if, as it turns out, he does report to a boss. Chhabra works at Egenera, a computer-server manufacturer based in Marlborough, but he is not the sort of fellow who puts too much stock in old-school notions of corporate protocol. As he puts it, "I have no problem knocking on the door and walking into the CEO's office or the CTO's office on a whim – interrupting their schedule – and saying, 'I need to talk to you.'" Chhabra says that ever since he was a kid, he has been "knocking heads with basketball teachers, track coaches, teachers, and girlfriends. If I felt that I was right, I wouldn't back down."

What do Alan Chhabra and Nicole Mirabile have in common – besides a great deal of chutzpah? They are members of the so-called Entitlement Generation, the upstarts at the office who put their feet on their desks, voice their opinions frequently and loudly at meetings, and always volunteer – nay, expect – to take charge of the most interesting projects. They are smart, brash, even arrogant, and endowed with a commanding sense of entitlement. And since a new crop is graduating from Boston's high-powered colleges and universities every year, chances are, one may be heading to your office soon.

Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, says that this includes virtually everyone born after 1970. According to Twenge, these young people were raised on a daily regimen of praise and flattery from their baby boomer parents and from teachers who embraced a self-esteem-boosting curriculum that included activities like the Magic Circle game. Never heard of it? In this game, one child a day is given a badge that says "I'm great." The other children then take turns praising the "great" child, and eventually these compliments are written up and given to the child for posterity. This constant reinforcement, argues Twenge, is largely responsible for those young co-workers who drive you nuts. At the University of South Alabama, psychology professor Joshua Foster has done a great deal of research using a standardized test called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI). The NPI asks subjects to rate the accuracy of various narcissistic statements, such as "I can live my life any way I want to" and "If I ruled the world, it would be a better place." Foster has given this personality test to a range of demographic groups around the world, and no group has scored higher than the American teenager. Narcissism also appears to be reaching new highs, even within the Entitlement Generation, among American college students. Another national study involving the NPI, conducted by Twenge, shows that 24 percent of college students in 2006 showed elevated levels of narcissism compared to just 15 percent in the early 1990s.

All of this would seem to suggest that this generation, which is flooding into the workforce, will create chaotic, unpleasant, and utterly unproductive work environments that will drive many a good business directly into the ground. But there's another very real possibility. It may be that this much-reviled generation will revitalize the economy and ensure the prosperity of America for years to come. Painful as it sounds, in the not-too-distant future, we may owe a debt of gratitude to these narcissists.

I'm not entirely sure Halpern's correct -- but I'd rather argue about his essay than Perlstein's warmed-over copy.

[What's your beef with Perlstein?--ed. Really, it's not intentional -- he's just published two pieces in the last week that have annoyed the crap out of me.]

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