Friday, November 30, 2007
So what's going on in the Islamic justice system?
A British teacher in Sudan was convicted of "insulting Islam because her class of 7-year-olds named a teddy bear Muhammad," according to the New York Times' Jeffrey Gettleman. He has more information on the Sudanese reaction, which is a bit varied:
Hundreds of demonstrators in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, poured into the streets on Friday demanding the execution of a British teacher who was convicted of insulting Islam because her class of 7-year-olds named a teddy bear Muhammad....Time's Rob Crilly has more backstory, which suggests that much of the outrage is terribly, terribly faux:
Teachers at Unity High have stood by their colleague, noting that the first complaint came only last week despite the fact that parents had been aware of the class bear's name since September.At the same time, there's another case in Saudi Arabia that's equally interesting -- because it suggests that there are fissures within the Saudi government. Click over to Charli Carpenter's post at Duck of Minerva for more -- as well as this post at the wonderfully-named Elected Swineherd.
UPDATE: Lydia Polgreen has a front-pager today iin the New York Times about yet another country that has incorporated sharia into its justice system -- Nigeria. The outcome, however, is at variance with initial expectations:
When Muslim-dominated states like Kano adopted Islamic law after the fall of military rule in 1999, radical clerics from the Arabian peninsula arrived in droves to preach a draconian brand of fundamentalism, and newly empowered religious judges handed down tough punishments like amputation for theft. Kano became a center of anti-American sentiment in one of the most reliably pro-American countries in Africa.
What are Russia and China's end game on Iran?
After reading Elaine Sciolino's excellent review of the current state of play regarding Iran in today's New York Times, I'm going to have to put the same question to Russia and China:
Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is known for overheated, boastful pronouncements. So it was hardly a surprise earlier this month when he declared that despite demands from the United States and other countries that Iran stop enriching uranium, Tehran was pressing ahead and negotiations were out of the question.As near as I can figure, China and Russia don't want to think about the end game because the status quo benefits them enormously.
The status quo is a situation in which:
a) The US and EU are committed to work through the United Nations;This is all well and good, and rational in the short run. The thing is, I'm reasonably sure that neither Russia nor China really wants Iran to develop a nuclear fuel cycle that is independent of any IAEA or UNSC strictures -- which is what the status quo will lead to in a few years. Clearly, solving the problem now will be less costly than solving the problem later. And as much as China and Russia might disdain sanctions, I've seen zero evidence that inducements are having any effect either.
Question to Russia and China-watchers -- what do they believe the end game is on Iran?
UPDATE: This Reuters story highlights another problem -- as long as Iran believes that the great powers are not coordinated, they have no incentive to make any concessions:
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said late on Thursday that nothing would deflect the Islamic Republic from its pursuit of nuclear technology and that Washington had "lost" in its attempts to stop them.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Another exercise in ranking generosity
One of pieces of accepted wisdom among policy cognoscenti is that while the United States is not terribly generous in terms of foreign aid, it does excel in niche areas, like providing providing relief for humanitarian disasters.
The Financial Times' Quentin Peel reports on a new ranking exercise that suggests this perception might not match.... other people's perception:
Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands have been ranked as the top four aid donors in providing relief for humanitarian disasters, according to a new index published on Thursday.I tried to access the actual report, but Dara's web site, while quite fancy, is also maddeningly short on detail or methodology.
Still, two quick thoughts:
1) Are the evaluations of aid agencies really the only metric being used here? Surely some of these agencies were on the losing end of various funding decisions by major power donors. Might that not affect their responses?
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Soft power penetrates the Bush administration
It was unusual for two reasons. First, he was asking for greater budgetary and institutional support -- for other Cabinent departments:
[M]y message today is not about the defense budget or military power. My message is that if we are to meet the myriad challenges around the world in the coming decades, this country must strengthen other important elements of national power both institutionally and financially, and create the capability to integrate and apply all of the elements of national power to problems and challenges abroad. In short, based on my experience serving seven presidents, as a former Director of CIA and now as Secretary of Defense, I am here to make the case for strengthening our capacity to use “soft” power and for better integrating it with “hard” power.The second unusual quality was that Gates embraced an academic concept Joseph Nye's notion of "soft power." This is quite the turnaround -- a few years ago, Nye complained in Foreign Affairs about Gates' predecessor: "Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld professes not even to understand the term."
It is interesting to see the head of one bureaucracy realize that his organization benefits from enhancing the capacities of a quasi-rival organization, and kudos to Gates for this kind of thinking.
On the "soft power" idea, I have just a smidgen of sympathy for Rumsfeld. Over the past half-decade, the hardworking staff here at danieldrezner.com has found this idea simltaneously beguiling and frustrating. However, as Nye defined the term initially -- getting others to want what you want -- he was talking primarily about non-state capabilities, such as culture and ideology.
Question to readers: can a government consciously generate soft power?
The mainstreaming of blogging in political science
When a former editor of the American Political Science Review gets into the blogging biz, you know things have changed.
Open Annapolis thread
The hard-workin staff here at danieldrezner.com will be hard at work on offline activities today. Readers are strong encouraged to post comments about today's meeting in Annapolis.
Not much of substance will be accomplished, so readers are also encouraged to develop drinking game rules for wathing the summitry. A few provisional rules:
Take a sip whenever:1) Amedia commentator compares this summit to Bill Clinton's late second-term effort at iddle East diplomacy.Take a shot whenever:
Monday, November 26, 2007
Bloggers 1, reporters 0
Over at Slate's Trailhead blog, Christopher Beam listens into two conference calls for GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, one for reporters and one for bloggers. Beam's conclusion:
[T]the bloggers’ questions were more substantive by a long shot....
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Paranoia about paranoia?
In the Boston Globe today, Drake Bennett takes a closer look at the fears of a conspiracy to create a North American Union -- and what it means about the United States:
The NAU may be the quintessential conspiracy theory for our time, according to scholars studying what the historian Richard Hofstadter famously called the "paranoid style" in American politics. The theory elegantly weaves old fears and new realities into one coherent and all-encompassing plan, and gives a glimpse of where, politically, many Americans are right now: alarmed over immigration, worried about globalization, and - on both sides of the partisan divide - suspicious of the Bush administration's expansive understanding of executive power.Bennett is not the first writer to make this point with regard to the fictional NAU. And certainly, the hard-working staff here at danieldrezner.com is not above poking holes in conspiracy theories or relying on Hofstadter's "paranoid style" to explain a particularly absurd line of argumentation.
Before concluding that America is awash in conspiracy theories, however, there are some paragraphs in Bennett's essay that makes me wonder whether the paranoia problem is less acute now than before:
As a social anxiety, the NAU's roots run deep. Global government and elites who secretly sell out their own citizenry have long been staples of conspiracy theories, thanks in part to the Book of Revelation's warning that world government will be an early indicator of the Apocalypse. Over the centuries, the world's puppeteers have been thought to be, in turn, the Bavarian Illuminati, the Freemasons, the pope, the Jews, international bankers, the League of Nations, the United Nations, the Rockefellers, and the Communist International.Conspiracy theories have wreaked far more damage on past policies than present ones. One could plausibly argue that in the past, the paranoid style helped torpedo America's entry into the League of Nations and exacerbated the worst excesses of McCarthyism. The paranoias that exist today -- the NAU, the 9/11 conspiracies, Bush stole the 2004 election -- are certainly irksome to policymakers and candidates alike. That said, as political roadblocks I'm not sure they rise to the same level as previous waves of paranoia.
[But the Internets, the Internets!! Surely this shows that conspiracies are omnipresent in a way that never existed before!!--ed. No, they just make them more visible than ever before. The Internet also makes it easier to puncture conspiracy theories earlier than ever before as well.]
I'm not sure I'm right about this, so I'll put the question to readers -- are today's conspiracy theories more harmful than the conspiracy theories of the past? How could we test this assertion?
UPDATE: Hmmm... this Scripps-Howard report suggests the prevalence -- but also the limits -- of the paranoid style (hat tip: Tom Maguire):
A national survey of 811 adult residents of the United States conducted by Scripps and Ohio University found that more than a third believe in a broad smorgasbord of conspiracy theories including the attacks, international plots to rig oil prices, the plot to assassinate President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and the government's knowledge of intelligent life from other worlds.The decline in the UFO response suggests two things: a) The X-Files has been off the air for some time now; and b) there is a residual belief in some conspiracy at any point in time -- but when the global political economy seem threatening, conspiracy theorists migrate towards those issues.
Friday, November 23, 2007
An extra special reason for New Yorkers to give thanks
New York City is on track to have fewer than 500 homicides this year, by far the lowest number in a 12-month period since reliable Police Department statistics became available in 1963.That last fact is too bad -- I was looking forward to the day when the combined number of homicides on Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent exceeded the actual number of homicides in the five boroughs.
Hmmm.... come to think of it, most of these shows are set in Manhattan. I wonder if we hae reached the point when the annual number of homicides in that borough are less than the number of homicides that would be portrayed on television. Not just the L&O franchise, but also CSI: NY and the half-dozen other crime shows I'n sure are set in the city.
Readers, go and check this out!
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
A global thanksgiving
The editors of Foreign Policy provide a list of reasons to be thankful this year. Among the reasons:
1) Improvements in air safetyHappy Thanksgiving!
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Defending Angelina Jolie and other debatable issues
This blog has a long and distinguished tradition of defending celebrities. This tradition continues in my latest installment of bloggingheads.tv with Henry Farrell. I had to defend Angelina Jolie. It wasn't easy, but somehow I mustered the necessary willpower.
We also bit the hand that feeds bloggingheads by debating the New York Times op-ed page, as well as one of November's Books of the Month.
Go check it out!
Most awesome simulation ever
Robert Farley details a "mini-simulaton" at the Patterson School, "informed by repeated viewings of Independence Day."
And suddenly, millions of men who spend their weekends watching FX prick up their ears.
My favorite bit:
We worked out that the Vice President and the Cabinet (with the exception of the Secretary of Defense) have all, perhaps with a straggler or two, been killed. Congress fares much better, as we figured that most Senators and Representatives wouldn't be in DC during the attack. We're guessing about 85% of Congress survives.No cabinet, little civil service, but a functional Congress? I predict the new capital would be in Bozeman, Montana -- which, as anyone who's been to Bozeman knows, it not an entirely bad outcome.
Good news on stem cell research
Two teams of scientists are reporting today that they turned human skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells without having to make or destroy an embryo — a feat that could quell the ethical debate troubling the field.
Meanwhile, in Iraq....
The New York Times' Damien Cave and Alissa Rubin have the story that will occupy the blogosphere for today -- Baghdad is safer:
The security improvements in most neighborhoods are real. Days now pass without a car bomb, after a high of 44 in the city in February. The number of bodies appearing on Baghdad’s streets has plummeted to about 5 a day, from as many as 35 eight months ago, and suicide bombings across Iraq fell to 16 in October, half the number of last summer and down sharply from a recent peak of 59 in March, the American military says.This report, combined with reports on monthly deaths from sectarian violence, suggest that the effects of the surge are clear -- we've managed to get Baghdad back to the place it was prior to the February 2006 bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra. I believe this is also a period in which even members of the Bush administration admitted that their Iraq policy was "adrift."
Well, there are some other changes... ike in the rest of Iraq. The Christian Science Monitor's Sam Dagher has a story on this:
Ammar al-Hakim is presiding over an Iraqi Shiite building boom. His austere Shaheed al-Mihrab Foundation has raised 400 mosques in Iraq since 2003. It's building the largest seminary here in the holy city of Najaf and opening a chain of schools. And it now has 95 offices throughout the country.Is this a good thing? The International Crisis Group is skeptical:
As long as the U.S. remains in Iraq, its alliance with ISCI will help entrench the party in the country’s governing, security and intelligence institutions, in Baghdad as well as most southern governorates. Its only true challenger remains the Mahdi army, which despite its ruffian credentials and bloody role in sectarian reprisals enjoys broad support among Shiite masses. Their rivalry now takes the form of a class struggle between the Shiite merchant elite of Baghdad and the holy cities, represented by ISCI (as well, religiously, by Sistani), and the Shiite urban underclass.Question to readers: is there cause to be optimistic about the future of Iraq?
[The] optimism is totally unwarranted. Not because things aren't improving in Iraq—it seems they are, at least for the moment—but because the collateral damage inflicted by the war on America's relationships with the rest of the world is a lot deeper and broader than most Americans have yet realized. It isn't just that the Iraq war invigorated the anti-Americanism that has always been latent pretty much everywhere. Far worse is the fact that—however it all comes out in the end, however successful Iraqi democracy becomes a decade from now—our conduct of the war in Iraq has disillusioned our natural friends and supporters and thrown a lasting shadow over our military and political competence. However it all comes out, the price we've paid is too high.
Monday, November 19, 2007
And I thought I was disorganized
In the spring, I'm going to be running a conference at the Fletcher School on the future of policy planning. This means I'm going to have to flex my administrative muscles, which are about as well-developed as my pectorals. Which is to say, I'm a bit disorganized.
Of course, if the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler is correct, I can always console myself that my conference can't possibly be as badly planned as the upcoming Annapolis meeting on the Middle East:
A few days after Thanksgiving, President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plan to open a meeting in Annapolis to launch the first round of substantive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks during Bush's presidency.Question to readers -- if you're going to go through the trouble of assembling such a large collection of officials in Annapolis, isn't it worthwhile to have them stay for more than a day? Or is this a case where more discussion would not necessarily equal more fruitful discussion?
UPDATE: The AP now reports that invitations will be sent out seven days in advance:
As the U.S. finalizes preparations, the State Department will start sending out invitations overnight for the event, U.S. officials said Monday. The conference will be held in Annapolis on Nov. 27 in between meetings in Washington. The main guests are the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the Bush administration also is inviting Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and key international players in the peace process, the officials said.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Could Hugo Chavez threaten Venezuela baseball?
Maria Burns Ortiz has a story at ESPN.com that indicates Hugo Chavez's nationalization policies are starting to foreign direct investment -- in baseball:
With that kind of talent emerging from Venezuela in recent seasons, one would assume that big league clubs would be flocking to the South American nation in search of the next superstar. However, the cultural and political scene in Venezuela is undergoing rapid and radical transformation, and instead of flocking to the country, teams are fleeing over concerns about safety and political uncertainty. They aren't leaving in droves just yet, but the stream has been steady enough to raise a red flag about the future....
Friday, November 16, 2007
November's Books of the Month
This month's international relations book is Dani Rodrik's One Economics, Many Recipes: Globalization, Institutions, and Economic Growth. After having read an ever-increasing number of economic development treatises, Rodrik's book is one of the best and describing the current state of play. Of course, this earns him tons of flak -- as he says on his own blog, "[my work] is perfectly calibrated to annoy both the adherents and opponents of the standard way of doing economics."
The general interest book is Walter Russell Mead's God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World. Mead's objective in the book is to explain how and why Great Britain and the United States have defined the global order, for good or for ill. This is an engaging, fun and provocative book. Mead does an outstanding job of burrowing deeper and deeper into the mysteries of the Anglo-American psyche without forgetting the big picture. It's a little heavy on the Friedmanesque metaphors, but it's a small price to pay for an interesting read.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
What's in an M.A., redux
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson and Rob Farley have fired additional volleys on the utility of an M.A. in international relations.
Except that with this round, the debate is actually about something more fundamental -- the utility of international relations theory to policymaking.
These paragraphs suggest where Jackson is coming from:
[W]here it gets controversial is the relationship between scholarship and object. We have two ideal-typical positions on this: scholarship ought to improve practice, and scholarship can't possibly improve practice, at least not directly. Rob clearly prefers door #1; I prefer door #2. Rob's position is the classic Enlightenment hope for the sciences of society: place practice on a more rational basis, achieve better results, produce a world that looks more like the world we want to live in; I think that's both dangerous and a little naive -- dangerous because it puts a potential transcendental justification for coercion in the hands of would-be reformers (after all, if the experts told us that we can do this, and you disagree, then you're either stupid or obstinate, and in either way you're in the way so forcibly removing you starts to look like a good idea) and naive because it presumes that scholarly knowledge translates more or less simply to the actual world (and once again, if it doesn't, maybe we ought to use force to make the world look more like the model . . .).Farley's response to this is here. My response is below the fold....
From this excerpt, I've concluded that Jackson is likely correct that he should not be teaching anyone in an M.A. program. I am more skeptical that this stricture should be applied to others.
The problem with Jackson's argument is that it sets up a false dichotomy. Neither ideal type holds, and most profs in policy schools are smart enough to know that. International relations theory provides some useful constructs through which one can interpret world politics. Now -- and this is important -- they are far from perfect. Most IR theories -- hell, most social science theories -- do a much better job at after-the-fact explanation than before-the-fact prediction. In teaching them, therefore, one has to be wary of having your students believe that what they are learning is some sort of gospel. [This, by the way, is one reason why an M.A. has value-added -- most M.A. students eventually realize that sometime there is no right answer to a question. B.A. students are more reluctant to believe that the Wizards of IR are not all-powerful.]
Why teach theory at all, then? Two quick answers. First. to paraphrase Churchill, IR theory is a lousy rotten way of understanding the world -- until you consider the alternatives. Policymakers who claim to disdain abstract theories just use implicit ones -- poorly chosen historical analogies, bad metaphors, you name it. Jackson's "intellectually isolationist" approach to teaching policy doesn't make the situation any better -- it just deprives would-be policymakers of a component in their analytical tool kit.
Second, good teachers don't just teach the strengths of a particular theoretical approach -- they also teach the weaknesses and blind spots of each approach. This is the "procedural liberalism" that Michael Berube is so fond of. As Farley puts it:
Why wouldn't it be better if the policymakers in question had some theoretical training, such that they could, on their own, evaluate elements of the claims that the scholars are making? This IS teaching students; it's teaching students to be better, more critical policymakers.Teaching students theoretical concepts and how to critique them is a two-fer. Hopefully, it provides them with some useful knowledge about how the world works. More importantly, however, it should teach them how to judge for themselves about how the world works. That's the best way to get students to temper the idealism that scares the crap out of Jackson.
Oh, one last point -- Jackson's sabremetric metaphor is crap. The Boston Red Sox have been successful in the past half-decade because of a combination of sabremetric analysis, traditional scouting, and a larger budget to fill out the roster. Sabremetrics was not solely responsible -- but without it, there's no way they win two World Series either.
This is how IR scholarship should be viewed as well -- an insufficient but necessary base of knowledge from which one can craft effective policies.
Just to play devil's advocate....
For many Americans, bashing the United Nations is like bashing the French -- it's easy and fun! And there's plenty to criticize, as anyone who observes the workings of the UN Human Rights Council can attest. Both realists and neoconservatives argue that a hegemon like the United States has greater freedom of action outside the strictures of the UN than within it.
Here's a question, then. Compare the recent crackdowns in Myanmar and Pakistan. The American response to the former country's crackdown has largely been carried out through the United Nations, whereas the Security Council has been mum on Pakistan.
Which is not to say that the U.S. has been inactive -- clearly, George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice have been been directly pressuring Pervez Musharraf to reverse his course of action, respect the rule of law and allow the secular parties to participate in upcoming elections.
What does it say, then, that Myanmar seems to be taking tentative steps in a liberalizing direction, while Pakistan is moving in the opposite direction?
(To be clear, Pakistan remains a much more open society than Myanmar -- I'm talking about recent trends and not overall status.)
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
The New York Times op-ed page mimics the blogosphere
They're exactly like a typical blog exchange, in that the debate quickly devolves from Big Questions to minutiae.
Unlike a typical blog exchange, none of the participants have linked/mentioned the others by name. Also, instead of taking a few days to play out, this will take two months.
In that spirit, the hard-working staff here at danieldrezner.com urges its readers to participate in its first ever Mimic the New York Times Op-ed Columnist Contest!!
To enter, just submit, via a comment to this post, the opening paragraph of either Maureen Dowd or Thomas Friedman's op-ed contributions on this subject. Winners will be lifted from comments and promoted to the hilt by this mighty blog.
I just can't write Dowd, but here's my sample Friedman entry:
RIYADH, KSA: If you want to smoke at King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh, you have to brave the 120 degree outdoor heat. I wanted to continue my conversation with Prince Bandar, however, so I took my ice water from the first class lounge and followed him outside. He tapped his cigar ash on the round and said, "What the Middle East needs right now is its own sunny optimist -- it's own Ronald Reagan." I sipped my Evian and told him how the cradle of Reagan's political successes could be found in Philadelphia. Not the one in Pennsylvania, but the one in Mississippi. Let's call it the Philadelphia Story.....
Monday, November 12, 2007
So you want to get a job in the foreign policy world....
At work, the question I am most often asked that I am most ill-equipped to answer is, "How do you successfully pursue a career in the foreign policy world?"
To be fair, I don't think anyone is really well-equipped to answer this question. Unlike medicine, law, or other professions, there is no routinized, codified career track for the foreign policy community.
In my experience, most successful people make the mistake of generalizing from their own experience in proffering career advice in this field. If I did that, I'd have to say something like, "Here's what you should do.... start out pursuing a Ph.D. in economics, and then change your mind after the first-year sequence...."
Still, over at Passport, Peter Singer makes a game effort in providing advice for those who wish to pursue a career in foreign policy analysis. [Who the f@%& is Peter Singer?--ed. Why, he's the youngest person to be named a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.]
[M]ulti-taskers tend to advance further than pure specialists. People who can also convene and bring people, programs, and events together are more likely to advance to the leadership level than people who lock themselves away and only write. That is, when you look around at who is in the leadership positions in this field at think tanks, NGOs and the like, it is not merely people who are good writers but people who bring other skills to the table: management, organizational process, strategy, budgeting, fundraising, etc. The funny thing is that many of these skills get absolutely no nourishment within the education backgrounds that typically bring people into the foreign-policy field. Most people either come in with a politics degree or a law degree, but the skills often called upon at the leadership level are of the MBA variety. As you focus on what sort of activities to undertake and skills to build on early in your career, I would keep this in mind.Singer is much more plugged into intellectual-industrial complex than I, but I'm not entirely sure that answer is completely correct. I think it depends on what you want to do in your career.
If you want to move up the bureaucratic food chain, then by all means Singer is correct. If, on the other hand, you actually want to influence a specific set of policies, then specialization also has its merits.
Commenters well-versed in this world are heartily encouraged to proffer their own advice on this question.
Time to collect my Gore bets
Some colleaues at Fletcher -- who shall remain nameless -- were convinced Al Gore was going to run for President in 2008. When informed of this conviction, I quickly put down bets.
This Fortune story by Marc Gunther and Adam Lashinsky makes me think it's time to collect:
The recovering politician, environmental activist, and Nobel laureate is adding another title to his résumé: venture capitalist. After "a conversation that's gone on for a year and a half," according to Gore, he has decided to join his old pal John Doerr as an active, hands-on partner at Kleiner Perkins, Silicon Valley's preeminent venture firm.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
The FSOs are beginning to leave me cold
Glenn Kessler has a Washington Post front-pager on how Cobdoleezza Rice is not such a great manager at Foggy Bottom.
Given Rice's management performance at NSC, this is not completely surprising. That said, three points in her defense.
First, traditionally it's been the Deputy Secretary of State who managed the bureaucracy at State. And, as Kessler observes between Robert Zoellick and John Negroponte the office, "was unoccupied for the longest period in State Department history."
Second, Kessler compares Rice's management style to James Baker's stint at the building -- and then contrasts it with Colin Powell's embrace of the bureaucracy. Fair enough, but this suggests to me that how the Secretary of State manages the bureaucracy has no bearing whatsoever on whether they are successful at their jobs.
Third, the subtext of the article is that Foreign Service Officers are bitching and moaning about how Rice has made their lives difficult. Policy objections I can understand. Being sent to Iraq I against their will I can (sort of) understand. But some of the complaints voiced to Kessler make the FSOs sound absurdly out of touch:
At State, Rice has pushed ambitious efforts to reshape how foreign aid is distributed and to shift key diplomatic jobs from Europe to emerging powers such as China and India. The foreign-assistance overhaul, in which Rice personally approved country-by-country budget numbers, was criticized by lawmakers and some within the department because it appeared to minimize the advice of specialists in the field. The job shifts were put in place so quickly that a number of Foreign Service officers who had been promised plum posts in Paris and elsewhere had to be told that those positions no longer existed....No Paris jobs? Fewer staff meetings? Getting angry over negative press? Wow, this is dirty laundry!!!
Coming soon: a front-pager from Kessler about how Rice viciously ordered the State Department cafeteria to eliminate "Free Fro-Yo Fridays"
UPDATE: I received the following in an e-mail from an FSO who shall remain nameless that provides some interesting context to the Kessler story:
Very few FSOs live for "plum assignments." People who go to comfy posts very often have kids in high school (they need a place that has a good one), may be struggling with temporary medical issues, want easy access to aging parents, or may be just be plain tired out from tough years in rough places or having been separated from family at a post like Iraq or Afghansitan. Most of us happily choose challenge and hardship over life in a place like Paris, but most of us also hope for a break here and there and if we finally get such a gift and it then gets wiped away in a reorg, that's no fun.
Friday, November 9, 2007
An optimistic post on trade
It's no secret that I've been in a sour mood as of late on the future of U.S. trade policy. Today's New York Times story on the House's passage of the Peru FTA didn't cheer me up either, because the takeaway point is that its passage was the exception and not the rule.
Eoin Callan, however, lifts me from complete and total despair with this Financial Times story:
Diplomats from the US and European Union are laying the groundwork for an unprecedented round of bilateral bargaining in which all of the main transatlantic trade disputes would be put on the table and negotiated in one go.If this works -- and given the interest groups at play, I'd put the odds of success at about 35% -- then it's win-win-win-win-win.
Both the United States and European Union would score some policy victories, and remove some major irritants to the transatlatic relationship.
The business community on both sides of the Atlantic would benefit from greater policy certainty.
Consumers would gain from increased levels of exchange
The biggest winner, however, would likely be the WTO -- because it would save the dispute settlement body from having to decide cases that are way beyond its pay grade.
Weston Field hits the big time
ESPN's College Gameday is going to your humble blogger's alma mater, Williams College, for tomorrow's broadcast. This reason is the 122nd playing of the Williams-Amherst football game.
To celebrate, ESPN.com has two stories on the rivalry. One tidbit from Chris Fowler:
Some of the early games reportedly were just glorified brawls between students. In the infamous 1928 edition, Amherst coaches dressed one of their own in a Williams uniform and sent him onto the field to confuse their rivals. Officials detected the ruse and forced the player to strip off his uni in full view of the amused fans.Lauren Reynolds' story, however, has the better anecdotes about off-the-field stunts:
The rivalry is not confined to the players and coaches, however. In the long history of the rivalry, some of the most memorable moments have taken place off the field. Amherst students have accused their Williams counterparts of stealing back the books Moore took with him nearly two centuries ago; a few years ago, Williams' band presented Lord Jeffs supporters with a bill for $1.6 million in late fees for those same books.Go Ephs!!
Thursday, November 8, 2007
I hereby yield to the superior metaphor
The combined efforts of Phoebe Maltz and Julian Sanchez have convinced me that Sanchez has the better metaphor to describe this problem.
Can the U.S. leverage the House of Saud?
Forget Pakistan -- Shadi Hamid and Stephen McInerney argue in The New Republic that the United States should be pressing the Saudis on human rights reform:
America can leverage its support to shape Arab regimes' decisions on democratization. This is particularly true for the ruling al-Saud family, which is intimately tied to the U.S. and dependent on its military backing. The arms deal presents an opportunity for Washington to exert influence in Riyadh. This opening should be seized to push the Saudis along the path of reform, the only path that will lead to long-term security.I was certainly sympathetic to this argument a few years ago. The problem is that America's strategic situation in the region has deteriorated so badly since 2004 that I'm not sure the United States can afford to alienate another ally.
This will come as no surprise to my wife
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Training the MAs
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson has a rather odd post at Duck of Minerva in which he questions the utiliy of an MA in international relations. Which is OK, except I'm pretty sure that's the degree program in which he teaches:
I have to admit that at some level I simply do not understand the idea of a terminal MA degree in international relations, although I teach in a policy school that awards large numbers of them every year. I do not understand what is supposed to be gained through the course of study that most MA students engage in, since they don't do enough coursework to develop a real scholarly grasp of the field (or even of their specialized portion of it) and at least in my experience they generally don't do enough concrete skills-training to really develop themselves as competent professionals (and when they do, it comes in their internships rather than in the classroom, which is what virtually any MA in international relations will tell you if you ask them where they learned the most during their graduate school experiences). So as far as I can tell it is largely a certification and networking exercise, and an expensive one at that.Over at Lawyers, Guns and Money, Rob Farley dissents from this view:
The courses in a terminal MA program (at least the one I'm part of) are far more policy oriented, with a correspondingly greater focus on the empirical over the theoretical, than students would encounter in a political science program. Memos are a learned skill, as is the ability to skim the news for noteworthy events, manage time, and so forth.... it's possible that nothing genuinely productive is happening here, but I'd really like to think that students emerge with a firmer grasp of the debates, a stronger sense of the empirical, and a few skills that they'll need in the workplace. As such, it's really irrelevant whether they have a scholarly grasp of the field; indeed, such a grasp might even be counter-productive....As I begin my second year at Fletcher, I'm definitely with Farley on this one. If you want to ensure a life of wretched misery, teach at a policy school and try to
You cannot and should not coax a student into getting a Ph.D. You can tell them they have the intellectual chops for it, but for them to commit to
As for the training, the goal shouldn't be to ensure that the students have "a real scholarly grasp of the field." You should ensure, however, that they are trained well enough to become discriminating consumers of the policy and scholarly literature (I suspect that Jackson does this when he presses his students to, "clarify their arguments and to take the implications of their commitments more seriously"). Beyond that, as Farley suggests, the skill set of policymakers looks rather different from those of scholars.
I feel that the best IR/Policy MAs are those earned from institutions that requre their applicants to have actually DONE something before matriculating....So true.
A post in which I defend the most insipid magazine article of the year
The nice publicists at Vanity Fair e-mailed me an alert about this Maureen Orth essay about the decline and fall of the Washington social scene (apparently, partisans killed the socialite stars).
Here's how Orth's essay opens:
Red Fay, undersecretary of the navy under John F. Kennedy, was a charming bon vivant, a great pal of the president’s, and the uncle of my roommate at Berkeley in the 60s. So it was my great good luck, on my very first trip to the capital, in May 1964, just six months after Kennedy’s assassination, to have “Uncle Red” invite me to dinner on the presidential yacht, the Sequoia. A few minutes after we arrived on board, I was amazed to see not only Jackie Kennedy but also Bobby and Ethel Kennedy and Jean Kennedy Smith and her husband, Steve Smith, walking up the gangplank. They were followed by George Stevens Jr., the youthful head of the U.S. Information Agency’s motion-picture division; the Peruvian ambassador and his wife; and my roommate’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles McGettigan, of San Francisco. This was one of Jackie’s first nights out since the tragedy, but she greeted everyone graciously. She was in ethereal white and spoke little during dinner, except to the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who was seated to her right.As you can imagine, a whole lotta of bloggers have gone to town on the piece -- and I really can't blame them. Beyond her personal reflections, the piece primarily consists of older DC doyennes bemoaning that people don't know what finger bowls are anymore, or socialities that lack old money, an illustrious family, or great wealth..
At one point Orth actually complains, "Washington is far more diverse today than it was when Wasps with pedigrees who went into journalism and government service constituted the Georgetown set." Mon dieu!!
In the perverse joy of contrarianism, however, I will try to find two things that are useful in Orth's essay.....
1) Orth's essay will be a great template for the Vanity Fair arrticle I will write in 2042 about how the blogospheric social scene ain't what it used to be. Here's how my essay will open:
Tyler Cowen was a bon vivant, a gourmand, and an acquaintance of mine from my days orbiting Virginia Postrel's intellectual salon. So it was my great good luck, on my very first trip to the capital, to have “the Big Kahuna” invite me to dinner at one of the best hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants in DC. A few minutes after we arrived, I was amazed to see not only Megan McArdle but also Ana Marie Cox, Steve Clemons, Matthew Yglesias and Josh Marshall, walking up the order window to get some tacos. This was one of Megan's first nights out since leaving New York City for DC, but she greeted everyone graciously with her dewy green eyes. She was in ethereal white short shorts and spoke little during dinner, except to Jacob Levy, who was seated to her right (she asked him to pass her the hot sauce).And so on.
2) The piece suggests that there has been no real replacements for the old hostesses: "Susan Mary Alsop, Oatsie Charles, Evangeline Bruce, Kay Graham, and Pamela Harriman." What puzzles me is why. If we're drowning in a sea of the super-rich, surely there must be at least a few individuals who would choose to specialize at the task of non-partisan power-schmoozing. (One possibility is that these people, rather than creating non-partisan social environments, take the charitable cause route. Damn those AIDS victims!! Damn them to hell!!)
Stay away -- I have a syndrome!!
In the Chronicle of Higher Education, John Gravois writes about a syndrome that's so pervasive I'm not sure it can be called a syndrome so much as an occupational hazard:
On a recent evening, Columbia University held a well-attended workshop for young academics who feel like frauds.Of course, there's the question of whether it's such a bad thing:
According to [professor of psychology Gail] Matthews, a person with impostor syndrome typically experiences a cycle of distress when faced with a new task: self-doubt, followed by perfectionism, then — sometimes but not always — procrastination.So the academy's occupational hazard is society's welfare benefit.
The story links to this site about imposter syndrome -- which has some imposter-y like qualities to it. Take the quiz to see if you have the syndrome. If you have one of eight symptoms -- including perfectionism -- you have the syndrome!!
[And how many symptoms do you have?--ed. All of them. But on the other hand, I also have a blog, which is likely a symptom of the polar opposite of imposter syndrome -- the belief that you are an expert on anything and everything. Indeed, we'll know when the blogosphere has really become professionalized when paid bloggers start fessing up to imposter syndrome.]
UPDATE: Of course, as David Leonhardt points out in today's New York Times, sometimes there really are imposters or frauds amidst us.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Blackmail plays no role whatsoever in this post
All readers of this blog would make my life considerably easier if you were to click over to the Best Podcast category for the 2007 Weblog Awards and voted for EconTalk.
That is all.
Credit where credit is due
It should be noted, therefore, that my concerns have not come to pass. In fact, if this Newsweek report by Owen Matthews and Sami Kohen is correct, the Bush administration deserves some credit for defusing a situation that could have been really, really ugly:
Fortunately for both sides, yesterday's White House encounter produced a solution that allowed both sides to step back from the brink. Bush not only declared the Kurdistan Workers' Party (or PKK), "an enemy of Turkey, a free Iraq and the United States," but also committed to providing actionable intelligence to Ankara on the whereabouts of PKK positions. Officially, Bush publicly stuck to the line that Iraq's territory should not be violated. In practice, though, the United States would cooperate "in order to chase down people who murder people," Bush pledged. Essentially, that appears to be a green light for the Turks to carry out limited raids into Iraqi territory with the blessing of the United States. And, crucially, it also allows Erdogan to call off a full-scale land invasion—though he stressed that that option remained on the table if raids proved unsuccessful.Read the whole thing. The final solution is not a great one, but given the current state of play, it was probably the best feasible bargain.
Monday, November 5, 2007
What if there was a peace agreement and no one came?
The Christian Science Monitor's Ilene Prusher reports that Israeli PM Ehud Olmert has put the status of East Jerusalem on the table at the US-sponsored "international meeting" on the Middle East in Annapolis.
This would appear to be good news, since there isn't going to be a peace unless the Palestinian Authority can claim its capital to be in East Jerusalem.
Whether the Palestinians who live in these neighborhoods actually want this to happen is another question entirely, according to Prusher:
Those feeling skittish about the city's potential partition aren't just Israelis – who traditionally take the position that Jerusalem should be Israel's united capital – but also Palestinian Jerusalemites, who fear that their standard of living will fall if they come under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Political winners and losers from the Hollywood strike
Forget the troubles in Pakistan -- let's focus on something really impirtant, like the Hollywood writers and how it affects the 2008 campaign.
USA Today's Gary Leven and Bill Keveney explain the immediate effects from the strike: "Jay Leno and David Letterman will go dark tonight as last-ditch talks failed and the first strike by movie and TV writers since 1988 began at midnight." Also The Daily Show, the Colbert Report, Saturday Night Live, etc.
In other words, every show that takes delight in mocking/satirizing the presidential candidates is now down indefinitely. If the politics of campaigning is a zero-sum game, who wins and who loses?
I'd have to say the big losers are Barack Obama and John McCain. As his SNL cameo suggests, and as Kevin Drum elaborates, Obama has largely been immune from press criticism, and I'd wager that this extends to the satirical shows. McCain, as everyone knows, is the Ed McMahon to Stewart's Johnny Carson. As I pointed out in The National Interest, Obama and McCain are unusual in that they are politicians that can get (and want) access to "soft news" outlets. They don't have that option for the near future, denying them free media.
The big winners are all the candidates who are vulnerable to satire.... or the favorite targets of Hollywood writers. In other words, Hillary Clinton and the entire Republican field.
The biggest winner is likely the news media itself..... they won't have Jon Stewart to kick them around for the indefinite future.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
For the record....
I fall into the second category in Brad DeLong's typology of Prius drivers: "I have spent a fortune on a fuel-efficient car, and now I am going to get some of that back by saving time!"
Of course, I'm not the one who's apparently blogging and driving at the same time.
Open Pakistan thread
Hey, it's been about a decade... time for martial law in Pakistan again:
The government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, making no concessions a day after seizing emergency powers, rounded up leading opposition figures and said Sunday that parliamentary elections could be delayed for as long as a year.Comment away.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
I'll second Dani Rodrik's nomination
The first winner of the the Albert O. Hirschman Prize speaks the truth about Hirschman's intellectual legacy:
I think Hirschman's contributions have been greatly under-appreciated within economics, and that goes a long way to explain why he has not won a Nobel. If the Nobel was given for impact on social sciences more broadly, Hirschman would have clearly won a long time ago. But who know, there is still some time...Let the record show that the hardworking staff here at danieldrezner.com has been calling for this move for two years now.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Newsweek 2: Rise of the hipster statesman
My monthly column in Newsweek International is up, and I really hope it's better than the movie name from which I've drawn this post title.
It's about the phenomenon of the hipster statesman -- i.e., ex-politicians trying to make a difference in the world, not by getting back into government, but through other means of policy entrepreneurship.
I'm not optimistic:
There are two very powerful constraints on ability of the hipster statesmen to get anything done. First, the policy-entrepreneur approach cannot work on all policy problems. To update Truman's aphorism for the 21st century, when you are a statesman, you can choose your issues; when you are a politician, the issues choose you. Real politicians do not always respond to the pleas of statesmen, because they are busy avoiding the fate of becoming a statesman. Wealth, popularity and glamour might be enticing, but as Henry Kissinger once observed, power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.Go check it out. The arguments are similar to those made in my "Foreign Policy Goes Glam" essay in The National Interest.
Is the foreign service like the military?
The Boston Globe's Farah Stockman reports about some trouble a brewin' between Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) and the higher-ups in the State Department:
Angry US diplomats lashed out yesterday against a State Department plan that would send them to Iraq against their will, with one likening it to "a potential death threat" and another accusing the department of providing inadequate care to diplomats who have returned home traumatized.Let's just stipulate that the quoted line is really disturbing. That said, the
question I have to readers is, should FSO's be treated differently from soldiers?