Wednesday, June 11, 2003

WHAT'S GOING ON IN ALL

WHAT'S GOING ON IN ALL OF IRAQ?: OxBlog's David Adesnik links to a Washington Post story demonstrating the relatively high degree of cooperation between the U.S. military, Shiite clerics, and a reconstituted civilian authority in Karbala. Adesnik's conclusions:

The first is that American soldiers are more dependable than American diplomats when its comes to putting American values into practice. The second is that we should expect far more violent resistance to the occupation from Sunni Ba'athists than from Shi'ite opponents of Saddam....

This story belongs to a genre that is becoming increasingly familar: pragmatic US officer wins over suspicious locals. It's already happened in Mosul and Kirkuk.

These reports, combined with Mark Steyn's lovely travelogue, leads one to wonder if the coverage of Iraq now suffers from capital captivity. Coverage of Baghdad -- where things are clearly problematic -- is generalized to the rest of the country. Such a generalization may apply to Sunni strongholds like Fallujah and Tikrit, but not the vast majority of the country.

posted by Dan at 11:26 PM | Trackbacks (0)




WHAT'S GOING ON IN THE

WHAT'S GOING ON IN THE PENTAGON?: One of the hallmarks (or frustrations, depending on your ideology) of the Bush team has been their message discipline, no matter what the clamor from the outside world. Weakness was never to be admitted or demonstrated.

It's something of a surprise, then, to see the recent torrent of statements coming from high-ranking civilians in Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Department. First, Paul Wolowitz gets into trouble in a Vanity Fair interview [Are you talking about the bogus claim in the piece that had Wolfowitz asserting that the Bush administration didn't really believe its own WMD story?--ed. No, I'm talking about something else in the interview. According to Josh Marshall,

[F]or all the buzz surrounding the WMD quotes, the real stunner comes in the very next paragraph. It's there where Tanenhaus says Wolfowitz is "confident" that Saddam was "connected" to the original World Trade Center attack in 1993 and that he has "entertained the theory" that Saddam was involved in the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995

There's some dispute over whether Wolfowitz intended this part to be on the record. However, Brad DeLong is correct in pointing out that for us non-journalists, the important part of this is the substance of Wolfowitz's comments.]

Then there is Douglas Feith's attempt to refute allegations that the DoD tried to spin the WMD story. The New Republic's &c points out that Feith's attempt backfired, leading to accusations of "doublespeak" and labeling Feith and others "browbeaters."

Today, it's a Deputy Assistant Secretary, according to USA Today:

A Pentagon official conceded Tuesday that planners failed to foresee the chaos in postwar Iraq, as another U.S. soldier was killed and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signaled that guerrilla-type attacks could continue there for months.

Joseph Collins, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for stability operations, said that despite careful planning, the Pentagon was surprised by the extent of looting and lawlessness. Postwar conditions have ''been tougher and more complex'' than planners predicted, he said.

Assignment to Phil Carter: is this just a series of unanticipated screw-ups, or is this an example of Rumsfeld losing the ability to rein in his subordinates?

Developing....

posted by Dan at 04:59 PM | Trackbacks (0)




THE LIMITS OF PREEMPTION: My

THE LIMITS OF PREEMPTION: My new TNR Online piece is now up. It's a discussion of why the doctrine of preemption is not going to be exercised again. Go check it out.

posted by Dan at 01:15 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Tuesday, June 10, 2003

A GENERATIONAL BREAK?: This Josh

A GENERATIONAL BREAK?: This Josh Chafetz post suggests that by 2008, there will be a clear dividing line among conservatives between those who still care about the Clinton Wars and those who have moved past it:

Conservatives are at their absolute worst when the name "Clinton" comes up. There's a visceral hatred there, every bit as deep as the far left's hatred for President Bush, but the conservative hatred for the Clintons seems broader....

But the thing is, who cares? Maybe she [Hillary] lied; maybe she didn't. Honestly, I don't think most of us will ever know. But why are conservatives so obsessed with speculating about it? Sure, if she knew about President Clinton's infidelities earlier than she claims, then she lied in some public interviews. But lots of politicians have lied in lots of interviews about lots of things much, much worse than whether or not their spouse was sleeping around. Conservatives really, really should move on. Because right now, it just looks like a lot of them are pursuing a vendetta -- they have the tone of the outraged self-righteous moralist who can't believe that the public still hasn't figured out how superior they are to the scum which, inexplicably, keeps rising to the top. Get over it. Bill Clinton was a popular president, and, by most accounts, Hillary Rodham Clinton is a popular senator. If the GOP really feels the need to attack Senator Clinton, it should spend less time drawing horns on pictures of her and more time arguing against her policy proposals (which, as far as I can tell, have generally been moderate since she took office). Enough is enough: personal animosity is not a political platform. At least not one that I am willing to support.

I'm with Josh on this... and I've never even met Chelsea (go read Josh's post to understand that line).

posted by Dan at 10:15 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Friday, June 6, 2003

THE "INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY" AND THE

THE "INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY" AND THE AXIS OF AUTOCRATS: Hobnobbing with Council on Foreign Relations heavyweights all day, there was much rending of hair and gnashing of teeth about how the "international community" -- code for Europe, Japan, and the United Nations bureaucracy -- feels about the United States. Can the rifts created by Iraq be healed?

Let me propose a step in the right direction -- focusing on countries hell-bent on extinguishing freedom. For example, today the European Union announced economic sanctions against Cuba in response to the Castro regime's recent crackdown.

That's a good start, but it's not enough.

What I'd really like to see is concerted action against any authoritarian government that thinks it can exploit divisions within the West to crack down on their own populations.

For example, Western governments must demand and/or coerce Robert Mugabe's government in Zimbabwe to release opposition leader Morgan Tsvangerai, who has been arrested on treason charges following five days of demonstrations against the government. Thabo Mbeki, I'm looking in your direction.

Even more pressing is the case of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who -- along with 17 other opposition leaders -- has been held incommunicado since late May. To date, the Burmese military junta has ignored calls for her release. ASEAN leaders, quit making excuses for the regime. [UPDATE: for more on the ASEAN problem, go to this Boomshock post.]

The developed world needs to remember that when it comes to advancing the cause of democracy, they share a common purpose.

posted by Dan at 09:53 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Thursday, June 5, 2003

THE BLOGOSPHERE GETS RESULTS FROM

THE BLOGOSPHERE GETS RESULTS FROM THE GUARDIAN: The good news: The Guardian story that caused such a ruckus yesterday has been taken down from their web site [UPDATE: Here's the Guardian's full, contrite explanation. Good on them]. As a side note, this isn't the only story they've had to retract this week.

The bad news: the Guardian's blatant distortion of events has already been picked up by hostile media outlets in South Africa, the Middle East, and the United States.

posted by Dan at 07:29 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Wednesday, June 4, 2003

GALACTICALLY STUPID DISTORTION AT THE

GALACTICALLY STUPID DISTORTION AT THE GUARDIAN: The headline to this Guardian story blares "Wolfowitz: Iraq war was about oil". Here are the lead grafs:

Oil was the main reason for military action against Iraq, a leading White House hawk has claimed, confirming the worst fears of those opposed to the US-led war.

The US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz - who has already undermined Tony Blair's position over weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by describing them as a "bureaucratic" excuse for war - has now gone further by claiming the real motive was that Iraq is "swimming" in oil.

The latest comments were made by Mr Wolfowitz in an address to delegates at an Asian security summit in Singapore at the weekend, and reported today by German newspapers Der Tagesspiegel and Die Welt.

Asked why a nuclear power such as North Korea was being treated differently from Iraq, where hardly any weapons of mass destruction had been found, the deputy defence minister said: "Let's look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil."

Mr Wolfowitz went on to tell journalists at the conference that the US was set on a path of negotiation to help defuse tensions between North Korea and its neighbours - in contrast to the more belligerent attitude the Bush administration displayed in its dealings with Iraq.

Sounds pretty devastating, right? The quote makes it seem like Wolfowitz is arguing that Iraq was such a lucrative prize that it would have been stupid not to invade and grab the oil.

Now let's go to the actual transcript and see what Wolfowitz said in context:

Look, the primarily difference -- to put it a little too simply -- between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil. In the case of North Korea, the country is teetering on the edge of economic collapse and that I believe is a major point of leverage whereas the military picture with North Korea is very different from that with Iraq. The problems in both cases have some similarities but the solutions have got to be tailored to the circumstances which are very different.

Clearly, what Wolfowitz meant was that Iraq's oil made it easy for Saddam Hussein's regime to survive economic sanctions, while North Korea might be more vulnerable to economic pressure.

This is how every other news outlet -- UPI, AP, Fox News, The Australian -- covered the story. UPDATE: alert reader D.B. points

The Guardian's version of events in such a ludicrous distortion of Wolfowitz's words that it falls into the "useful idiots" category. By apparently relying on a German translation/distortion of Wolfowitz's words -- when multiple English-language sources of the actual comments were available -- I have to wonder if the Guardian is guilty of libel in this case. [UPDATE: The Guardian is even more incompetent than I thought -- on Saturday, they ran the AP story I linked to above with the correct version of the quote!!! Thanks to alert reader D.B. and CalPundit's comments page for the link.]

By the way, almost all of the above information comes from The Belgravia Dispatch -- unfortunately his permalinks aren't working, which is why I've blogged about it here. He also has a link to Wolfowitz's actual response to a direct question about whether the war is about oil.

UPDATE: More on this from Tacitus, InstaPundit, CalPundit, and Bill Hobbs, Doc Searls , and South Knox Bubba.

posted by Dan at 03:32 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Monday, June 2, 2003

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE INVISIBLE

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE INVISIBLE HANDS: A sleep-deprived and procrastination-obsessed Josh Chafetz at OxBlog is having a contest for "the worst political philosophy / political theory pick-up lines".

Kieran Healy and Kevin Drum have already come up with theirs. Here's mine:

"Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience. So let us go now, you and I, and test our consciences to their fullest extent."

For me, it's all in the empirical testing and observation of good theory. Values no doubt shared by the quote's inspiration.

UPDATE: By the way, I think Kevin Drum should win. It's easily the worst of the lot -- it also made me laugh out loud.

posted by Dan at 08:31 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Saturday, May 31, 2003

Bynamist on fire

Virginia Postrel has a passel of new posts up, all of which are good reads. My personal favorite, however, is her takedown of Bill O'Reilly:

Contrary to his image as some kind of conservative ideologue, O'Reilly is just a long-winded cab driver with a TV show and no real interest in policy, ideas, or facts.

Ouch. She even has a link to empirical evidence supporting the long-winded charge.

UPDATE: More trouble for O'Reilly (link via OxBlog)

posted by Dan at 12:39 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Thursday, May 29, 2003

TUNE IN TOMORROW: I really

TUNE IN TOMORROW: I really meant to get to the question of rising income inequality in the United States today, but I'm just swamped. In the meantime, more contributions on the debate from Stephen Karlson, John Quiggin, Yankee Blog, and Kevin Drum redux.

posted by Dan at 02:59 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Wednesday, May 28, 2003

DOES MEXICO CITY MAKE SENSE?:

DOES MEXICO CITY MAKE SENSE?: My Chicago School companion Jacob Levy argues that the Bush administration's Mexico City of prohibiting "U.S. government funding of any organization that performs abortions or advocates for the liberalization of abortion laws in other countries" is incoherent.

He's got a good argument. Go check it out.

posted by Dan at 03:17 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Tuesday, May 27, 2003

BLOGGERS ON THE WARPATH: Josh

BLOGGERS ON THE WARPATH: Josh Marshall is all over Tom DeLay's role in the Texas redistricting case; Mickey Kaus is all over the New York Times' latest embarrassment involving Rick Bragg and the reliance by Times reporters on stringers.

I don't have much to add to Marshall's reporting, except this link to a Chicago Tribune piece on a similar anomalous redistricting taking place on Colorado.

As for the Times imbroglio, Glenn Reynolds, Charles Murtaugh, and Jonah Goldberg all observe that one fallout from the Bragg affair is that prominent columnists are starting to acknowledge the work of their minions -- I mean, research assistants.

If this trend takes hold, there's going to be a veeeerrrrryyyy interesting revolution in today's op-ed pages. It is common knowledge that op-eds and essays attributed to prominent people are usually not written by them, but rather by their minions/flunkies/research assistants (go to the chapter on intellectual life in David Brooks' inestimable BoBos in Paradise for the best description of this part of the knowledge economy). It will be interesting to see if more of these kinds of essays are now explicitly rather than implicitly co-authored.

If so, good for the broad spectrum of twentysomethings with Georgetown BAs and Masters from SAIS who finally earn some recognition. However, Richard Posner makes a provocative point -- that plagiarism in its myriad forms is a venial and not a mortal sin:

copying with variations is an important form of creativity, and this should make us prudent and measured in our condemnations of plagiarism.

Especially when the term is extended from literal copying to the copying of ideas. Another phrase for copying an idea, as distinct from the form in which it is expressed, is dissemination of ideas. If one needs a license to repeat another person's idea, or if one risks ostracism by one's professional community for failing to credit an idea to its originator, who may be forgotten or unknown, the dissemination of ideas is impeded....

The concept of plagiarism has expanded, and the sanctions for it, though they remain informal rather than legal, have become more severe, in tandem with the rise of individualism. Journal articles are no longer published anonymously, and ghostwriters demand that their contributions be acknowledged.

Individualism and a cult of originality go hand in hand. Each of us supposes that our contribution to society is unique rather than fungible and so deserves public recognition, which plagiarism clouds.

This is a modern view. We should be aware that the high value placed on originality is a specific cultural, and even field-specific, phenomenon, rather than an aspect of the universal moral law.

I'm still not convinced that Posner is correct -- but I am convinced that the blogosphere will strongly resist Posner's assertion. We traffic in the very ideas that Posner discusses. To us, any theft of our ideas is a theft of our intellectual progeny. To the general public, however, it matters not a whit.

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



Friday, May 23, 2003

CUE "THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA" MUSIC:

CUE "THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA" MUSIC: This is just so cool (link via Drudge)

posted by Dan at 01:02 PM | Trackbacks (0)




AFGHANISTAN UPDATE: Last month I

AFGHANISTAN UPDATE: Last month I was very pessimistic about the situation in Afghanistan.

This month, Steve Verdon argues that U.S. efforts to create a semblance of an infrastructure in Afghanistan are being overlooked by the media. He's got a point. This Baltimore Sun story, for example, has the headline, "IN KANDAHAR, SLOW PROGRESS," while containing the following graf:

Since the Taliban's fall in 2001, Afghan exiles and refugees have been slowly returning, giving the city a new vibrancy. New shops and restaurants are open, and women walk the streets alone, unescorted by male relatives as required by the Taliban. Once-forbidden music blares from alleys, and movie DVDs are on sale.

If you read the story, it's clear that most of the city's problems date back decades. Efforts to create a national police force, rebuild roads, help malnourished children, and voter registration are proceeding apace. India and Afghanistan just signed a preferential trading agreement.

However, the key political problem remains the lack of central authority and persistence of low-level violence. On this front, one can point to limited progress. This week, for example, local governors pledged to transfer more tax and customs revenue to the central government of Hamid Karzai. And the Washington Post reports that Karzai has relieved Aburrashid Dostum, one of the most opportunistic warlords in Afghanistan, from his regional post.

However, several grains of salt are in order. As the Economist notes:

[T]he governors had little to lose. Mr Karzai has no power to enforce the agreement, let alone to collect back taxes, or even to work out how much is actually being raked in at remote border posts by often corrupt officials. Mr Karzai said that the customs money would help boost central-government revenues from a pathetic $80m last year (excluding foreign aid) to $600m next year. Not likely, say observers close to the finance ministry. Several of the governors, notably Ismail Khan in the west and Abdul Rashid Dostum in the north, will still have the power to skim off what they see fit, albeit a bit less than before. After all, they need the money, not least in order to pay for their extensive private armies. Mr Khan's alone is tens of thousands strong, far outnumbering on its own the national army that Mr Karzai is trying to build.

And the Post story notes the following on Dostum:

Attah Mohammad [an ethnic Tajik militia leader whose forces frequently clash with Dostum's] had asked Karzai to relocate Dostum to Kabul rather than let him return to the north. But Dostum will be allowed to stay in the north, where he maintains a militia force numbering in the thousands, and advise Karzai on military and security affairs from afar

There are also reports that Al Qaeda is reconstituting itself in Afghanistan.

To sum up: progress slow, security still a problem.

Developing....

posted by Dan at 10:29 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Thursday, May 22, 2003

IDIOT OF THE WEEK: That

IDIOT OF THE WEEK: That award goes to Tarrytown Village Justice William Crosbie. From the Associated Press (link via OxBlog)

An Arab-American woman who was in court to fight a parking ticket fainted when the judge asked her if she was a terrorist.

Anissa Khoder, 46, has filed a complaint with the state Commission on Judicial Conduct over the May 15 incident before Tarrytown Village Justice William Crosbie.

Crosbie, 79, confirmed this week that he made the remark but said he was "probably kidding with her." He denied her claim that he also accused her of financially supporting terrorists....

Anissa Khoder told The Journal News that when her name was called, the judge asked if she was a terrorist. She said she was offended but kept that to herself.

She claimed that after giving the judge her explanation for why the tickets should be dismissed, "He said something like, 'You have money to support the terrorists, but you don't want to pay the ticket.' I could not believe I was hearing that."

Now, let's go to the Journal News story -- which has much more detail and explains the absence of corroboration -- and get Crosbie's side of the story:

Crosbie yesterday confirmed that he made the initial comment, asking Khoder if she were a terrorist, and acknowledged that it "may have been inappropriate." But he denied saying anything further regarding terrorism....

Interviewed at his home yesterday, Crosbie said he could not recall the exact sequence of his exchange with Khoder. He said he thought he asked her if she were a terrorist when she moved toward his desk and seemed to wave her hands after giving her explanation about the tickets. He said that he did not find the movement threatening in any way and, when pressed about why he would bring up terrorism at that moment, said he wasn't sure.

"I was probably kidding with her in the beginning," Crosbie said. "Sometimes, you just pose that question to people. I don't know what I based it on."

Sigh. It could be worse, I guess -- he could be working for the Office of Homeland Security.

For more stories on the episode, click here for Reuters and here for Channel 12 news.

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



Wednesday, May 21, 2003

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 1997-2003:

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 1997-2003: I'm in mourning today, as my favorite television series ever went off the air last night.

I could try to explain why I loved the show so much, but I suspect it would come off as flat. I can link like crazy, however.

For reviews of the final episode, Salon raves while Slate pans.

CNN provides a wealth of back story for the uninitiated. Connie Ogle has an excellent essay of why Buffy was so good. Jonathan Last has a great overview of his top-ten favorite episodes. Joyce Millman has an exhaustive archive of odes to Buffy in Salon. The best ones are here and here. And don't miss Slayage: The Online Journal of Buffy Studies, including this exhaustive academic bibliography of scholarship devoted to the Buffyverse. [Isn't that all a bit pretentious?--ed. Go read this Stephanie Zacharek article on the phenomenon from a non-academic perspective. And then read this Rita Kempley piece on why Buffy is so appealing to theologians]

The Parents Television Council labeled Buffy the least family-friendly show of 2001-2 -- and I must admit, their description of the show is pretty dead-on in terms of its potentially objectionable material. However, it's telling that Christianity Today praised the show's use of such material:

[S]ometimes it isn't enough merely to list the contents in a show or a book to determine its merit. How a taboo topic is dealt with can be just as important. In Buffy, the "how" is intriguing because of the show's honest portrayal of consequences....

What saves the show is its realistic grounding. Sure, it's about a skinny girl who throws demons around, but the writing honestly depicts how individuals struggle in their lives. Characters make mistakes and sin but pay consequences and change over time. In this way, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has consistently confronted human suffering and addressed compelling themes.

When a television show earns cultural praise from Christianity Today,The American Prospect, National Review Online (though they hated the finale), FHM Magazine, Reason (according to Virginia Postrel) and the New York Times editorial page, you know you're talking about something that cannot be reduced to a whiff of transient pop culture -- you're talking about a pathbreaking work of art.

I'll close with two quotes. The first is from an Onion interview with the show's creator, Joss Whedon:

I designed the show to create that strong reaction. I designed Buffy to be an icon, to be an emotional experience, to be loved in a way that other shows can't be loved. Because it's about adolescence, which is the most important thing people go through in their development, becoming an adult. And it mythologizes it in such a way, such a romantic way—it basically says, "Everybody who made it through adolescence is a hero." And I think that's very personal, that people get something from that that's very real. And I don't think I could be more pompous. But I mean every word of it. I wanted her to be a cultural phenomenon. I wanted there to be dolls, Barbie with kung-fu grip. I wanted people to embrace it in a way that exists beyond, "Oh, that was a wonderful show about lawyers, let's have dinner." I wanted people to internalize it, and make up fantasies where they were in the story, to take it home with them, for it to exist beyond the TV show.

The second is from Zacharek again, capturing how I'm feeling today:

[T]here have been many days when, after a particularly potent "Buffy" episode, I've found myself feeling vaguely off my game, my mind clouded with a gauzy, muted sense of dread. When a show jostles your equilibrium to the point of haunting your days or robbing you of sleep, when it finds a place in your imagination that also rubs, hard, at the core of who you think you really are, it starts to look like something more than what we simply call TV.

Mission accomplished, Joss.

posted by Dan at 10:18 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Tuesday, May 20, 2003

AL QAEDA'S CURRENT STRENGTH(?): The

AL QAEDA'S CURRENT STRENGTH(?): The attacks in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, combined with the Bush administration's deliberations about raising the terror warning, prompts media reports that Al Qaeda is back in strength.

However, some reflection is in order. The AP reports that the Morocco attack suffered from some poor execution:

The suicide bombers attacked a Jewish community center when it was closed and empty. A day later, the building would have been packed.

Another attacker blew himself up near a fountain, killing three Muslims. He apparently mistook it for one near a Jewish cemetery not far away. The cemetery was undamaged.

These and other miscalculations indicate that the 14 suicide attackers who killed 28 people in Casablanca in five near-simultaneous assaults Friday were not as well-trained as first believed. One attacker survived and was arrested....

A high-level Moroccan official said that investigators suspect the bombings were the work of homegrown Islamic groups working on instructions from Al Qaeda.

This fact, combined with evidence that the Saudi attack was hastily arranged, suggests that Al Qaeda is more dependent than ever on its local affiliates, who are of varying degrees of quality in terms of their competence. The BBC has more:

But if al-Qaeda is still in business, it is not the al-Qaeda of 11 September 2001.

It has lost its base in Afghanistan. Thousands of suspected members have been arrested. Millions of dollars in assets have been frozen.

Although Bin Laden himself is probably still alive, about a third of his senior officials have been killed or captured.

All this has forced the organisation to change....

Local affiliates, which always had a certain degree of autonomy, may now be working on their own initiative.

Above all, al-Qaeda seems to have adapted to the fact that, for the moment at least, it is no longer able to hit high-profile Western targets.

If it was involved in last week's suicide attacks, as seems likely, then it is now focusing on "soft" targets in Muslim countries - rather than better protected ones in the West.

For al-Qaeda, this has a downside. In the latest attacks Muslims were among the dead and wounded, even if they were not the main targets.

This has shocked many Muslims around the world.

Christopher Hitchens uses punchier language:

In Saudi Arabia, which is a fertile place for anti-Western feeling of all sorts, they managed to kill a number of Saudi officials and bystanders while inflicting fairly superficial damage on Western interests. Widespread and quite sincere denunciation of this has been evident across Saudi society. While in Morocco, where the evidence for an al-Qaida connection is not so plain, whatever organization did set off the suicide attacks in Casablanca has isolated itself politically. Please try to remember that al-Qaida and its surrogates are engaged in a war with Muslims as well: They boast of attacking the West in order to impress or intimidate those Muslims who are wavering. But they are steadily creating antibodies to themselves in the countries where they operate.

This ties into my previous post.

It is possible that Al Qaeda is marshalling its remaining strength to attack a target in a Western country, and is therefore subcontracting its other operations to locals. I'm not saying they can be entirely written off. The point is, Al Qaeda may be adapting to new circumstances, but those new circumstances have weakened it more than the past week's media coverage suggests.

Developing....

UPDATE: Brian Ulrich suggests a similar phenomenon occurring among Al Qaeda's affiliates in Central Asia. He also links to Juan Cole, who has some interesting thoughts on the spate of recent bombings.

posted by Dan at 01:57 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Monday, May 19, 2003

THE ARAB MEDIA WAKES UP:

THE ARAB MEDIA WAKES UP: Salon has a fascinating interview with Khaled Al-Maeena, editor in chief of Arab News, about the independent Arab media's reaction to the fall of Saddam Hussein and the spate of Al Qaeda bombings in the region. The money quote:

we are free to criticize the governments and all, but for a long time people were afraid to take on the extremists. But in the last two years, and especially after September 11, people sort of began parrying with them, if you know what I mean. Now I think there will be people who will go in for the knockout punch.

Frankly speaking, we are tired of them. If you want me to speak boldly, I'm tired of obscure ranters, I'm tired of people who have very little knowledge of religion trying to force down my throat teachings that do not subscribe to the views of Islam.

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan at 05:55 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Friday, May 16, 2003

TOM DELAY DOING THE HURT

TOM DELAY DOING THE HURT DANCE: This has not been the best of weeks for the House Majority Leader.

First, Josh Marshall, smelling blood in the water, is all over DeLay's role in locating Texan Democratic state legislators -- click here for some background. Andrew Sullivan keeps it simple: "TOM DELAY IS A MANIAC."

Meanwhile, from today's Chicago Tribune:

Delivering a rare rebuke to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Speaker Dennis Hastert said Thursday that he has not yet decided whether to call for a vote to renew the ban on assault weapons before it expires next year.

DeLay (R-Texas) said Tuesday that the votes do not exist to renew the 10-year ban, scheduled to end in the fall of 2004, and an aide said he would not send the bill to the floor....

Hastert (R-Ill.) said he spoke with DeLay after the majority leader announced that the bill would fail.

"I think he was trying to put his old whip's hat on and try to figure out whether he had the votes or not," said Hastert, who opposed the ban nine years ago.

"That bill hasn't been discussed by the leadership yet," Hastert continued. "I haven't had a discussion with the president yet, so I'm not ready to make that decision."

Developing....

UPDATE: Lloyd Grove reports on another DeLay travail (link via Tapped).

posted by Dan at 10:30 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Thursday, May 15, 2003

CONFESSION: I FIRST THOUGHT THIS

CONFESSION: I FIRST THOUGHT THIS WAS SPANISH: For those readers dying to see a Portuguese translation of my latest New Republic Online essay, click here.

posted by Dan at 08:39 PM | Trackbacks (0)




ON THE LIGHTER SIDE: Kieran

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE: Kieran Healy's post on Krispy Kremes is a must read for anyone who recognizes that doughnuts are the most addictive substance on the planet -- next to chocolate-frosted Pop-Tarts®.

And Bill Amend of Foxtrot comes up with a devastating comeback for geeks everywhere.

posted by Dan at 02:50 PM | Trackbacks (0)




RACE AND THE NEW YORK

RACE AND THE NEW YORK TIMES: Andrew Sullivan and Mickey Kaus are writing and linking like crazy on the role that race played in the Jayson Blair affair. And it now appears that even Howell Raines admits race may have played an unconscious role in Blair's swift ascension through the Times ranks:

"Our paper has a commitment to diversity and by all accounts he appeared to be a promising young minority reporter," Mr. Raines said. "I believe in aggressively providing hiring and career opportunities for minorities."

"Does that mean I personally favored Jayson?" he added, a moment later. "Not consciously. But you have a right to ask if I, as a white man from Alabama, with those convictions, gave him one chance too many by not stopping his appointment to the sniper team. When I look into my heart for the truth of that, the answer is yes."

Two other must-read essays on this topic. The first is Eric Boehlert's discussion in Salon -- it's worth seeing the ads to get to it. The piece does a nice job of pointing out the combustible mix of elements -- Blair's ability to schmooze, Raines' management style, and yes, race -- that led to the scandal. Here's the money quote:

Times metro editor Jonathan Landman, who tried to warn fellow editors at the paper about Blair's increasingly erratic behavior, says the truth lies somewhere in the middle. "There are two conventional wisdoms out there [about the Blair scandal]," he says, but "neither one of them is right. It's not a morality play about race and affirmative action, as some would like to suggest, and it's not a story that has nothing to do with race. Race was one factor among many in a subtle interplay."

Read the whole thing -- and, if you're wondering where Boehlert is coming from, read his previous Raines piece from last December.

The other must-read today is Don Wycliff's Chicago Tribune essay. Wycliff is the Trib's public editor, an ex-Timesman, and a member of the National Association of Black Journalists. The key grafs:

Almost as depressing as reading the Times' voluminous account of l'affaire Blair has been reading the e-mail traffic for the last week or so on the National Association of Black Journalists' listserve.

Much of the discussion has been near-apoplectic in character, as members fulminate, agonize and hand-wring over the uses to which they fear the Blair case will be and is being put by opponents of newsroom diversity.

Indeed, the NABJ itself issued a statement Friday that said in part, "While Jayson Blair is black, his race has nothing to do with allegations of misconduct."

Not only is that false; it's foolish. Almost as foolish as the notion that Blair's behavior somehow demonstrates the bankruptcy of the entire effort to diversify the staffs of America's newsrooms.

Gerald Boyd, managing editor of the Times and the first black person ever to ascend to so lofty a position at that newspaper, was quoted in Sunday's story as saying Blair's promotion to the status of full-time reporter was not based on race.

With all due respect--and I have genuine respect and admiration for Gerald Boyd--that does not ring true. On the strength of the Times' own description, Blair's work record to that point was marginal at best. Only something extra--like the hope that he might contribute to publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.'s noble goal of a more diverse newsroom--could have justified his promotion.

Nothing, I'm afraid, could have justified subsequent decisions to assign Blair to major news stories like the D.C.-area sniper case and the war in Iraq--stories on which he lied, cheated and stole his way to front-page treatment and those "attaboys" from the bosses that every reporter covets.

This is a kid who should have been on the night shift, learning the basics.

A closing note. Those readers suspecting me of schadenfreude are mistaken. Well, OK, I experienced about five minutes of it reading the story on Sunday. And yes, I like to critique the Times coverage of foreign affairs from time to time.

However, I also link to it a fair amount. Compared to any other American paper -- with the partial exception of the Christian Science Monitor -- their international coverage simply covers more ground than anyone else. The Times gets more criticism than any other paper because it's more widely read than any other paper.

posted by Dan at 11:49 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Wednesday, May 14, 2003

CONSPIRACY SECRETS REVEALED!!: The origins

CONSPIRACY SECRETS REVEALED!!: The origins of my latest New Republic Online essay can be found in my posts about the Straussian meme here and here.

Click here for an online version of Richard Hofstadter's "The Paranoid Style in World Politics."

Here's a link to the Washington Post story quoted in the essay.

Propagaters of the "neoconservative cabal" argument include Pat Buchanan and Tam Dalyell. Robert Lieber's essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education does an excellent job of collecting the quotes of others who push this argument, such as William Pfaff.

As for the Straussians, the Boston Globe had a story this past Sunday on Strauss' influence on world politics. Here's Seymour Hersh's New Yorker article -- and here's an interview with Hersh that touches on Strauss as well. Le Monde also ran a piece on the Straussians that pre-dated both the NYT and Hersh -- here's a translated version. Josh Cherniss has a series of excellent posts -- here, here, here, here and here -- that provides considerable background on Straussian thought and its relative incompatibility with neoconservatism.

Finally, for those conspiracy-mongers reading this a looking for some way to dismiss my claims, let me provide some ammunition. I teach in the very same political science department where Leo Strauss taught and Paul Wolfowitz studied forty years ago. In 1994, I briefly worked with Abe Shulsky, one of the Straussians highlighted in the New Yorker article. Last night, I attended a talk that my overlord -- I mean, respected commentator William Kristol -- gave for the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.

Oh, and I'm Jewish.

UPDATE: Justin Raimondo provides a traditional conservative rebuttal. Man, that guy can link.

posted by Dan at 11:22 AM | Trackbacks (0)




THE LIMITS OF CONSPIRACY THEORIES:

THE LIMITS OF CONSPIRACY THEORIES: My latest TNR Online essay is up. It's on the latest round of foreign policy conspiracy theories. Go check it out.

posted by Dan at 11:14 AM | Trackbacks (0)




GOODBYE, STRONG DOLLAR: Looks like

GOODBYE, STRONG DOLLAR: Looks like the Bush administration has decided on one strategy for jump-starting the economy -- kissing the strong dollar goodbye. From today's Chicago Tribune:

While professing to favor a strong dollar, the administration is sending an unmistakable signal that it would not resist if the dollar continued to weaken in world financial markets.

A less-valuable dollar stimulates the economy through price changes. American exports become cheaper, and foreign imports become more expensive. That should boost sales of U.S.-made products here and abroad, putting more Americans back to work.

This "benign neglect" dollar policy, as many analysts call it, holds some promise. U.S. firms are beginning to see benefits from the greenback's yearlong decline against the European euro and the Japanese yen....

The new dollar policy is being pursued quietly amid the administration's frustration with an economic recovery so anemic that not a single net new job has been created since the 2001 recession ended.

Then there's this from Reuters:

"People are waking up finally to the reality that the game has changed. The slurry of comments from [Treasury Secretary] John Snow today are going to be remembered as the moment when the mythology of strong Bush administration support for the Rubin-era strong dollar policy finally fell away," said Andrew Weiss, a strategist at AIG Trading Group in Greenwich, Conn.

Snow has been in the currency spotlight for a few days now, after he alluded to the benefits a weaker dollar have had on the U.S. export sector.

While highlighting the benefit a weak dollar has on exports, Snow cast doubt on the benefits of currency intervention.

I have decidedly mixed feelings about this strategy. There is some logic to it. Letting the dollar slide simultaneously increases aggregate demand in the economy, as our exports are cheaper and Americans substitute away from more expensive imports). This move simultaneously helps to alleviate the Fed's fears of deflation, as a devaluation raises the price level of imports.

In terms of foreign economic policy, however, this is a dangerous game that's being played. There was nothing in the last G-7 statement to indicate that this slide in the dollar is being coordinated with our major trading partners. Without multilateral coordination, this move smacks of beggar-thy-neighbor -- and our neighbors are Canada, Japan and the European Union, none of which is a real engine for growth right now. Japan does not want the yen to appreciate too much, and let's just say I don't see the EU willing to absorb costs to get the American economy moving again.

It will be very interesting to see how the rest of the G-7 reacts to this.

Developing....

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



Tuesday, May 13, 2003

THE WHEEL TURNS BACK A

THE WHEEL TURNS BACK A LITTLE: I've been churning out some optimistic posts about the Middle East as of late, so let's get to the bad news.

First, there's the Riyadh bombing. The death toll is now estimated at 20, but it will probably rise.Josh Marshall is all over this story, and the Saudi government's inability to provide reliable information. The parallel here to China's early handling of the SARS virus is telling.

Then there's the "Baghdad in Anarchy" headline. This Washington Post story sums up the problem:

Baghdad residents and U.S. officials said today that U.S. occupation forces are insufficient to maintain order in the Iraqi capital and called for reinforcements to calm a wave of violence that has unfurled over the city, undermining relief and reconstruction efforts and inspiring anxiety about the future.

Reports of carjackings, assaults and forced evictions grew today, adding to an impression that recent improvements in security were evaporating. Fires burned anew in several Iraqi government buildings and looting resumed at one of former president Saddam Hussein's palaces. The sound of gunfire rattled during the night; many residents said they were keeping their children home from school during the day....

[T]he British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, expressed disappointment with efforts so far to bring democracy to Iraq. He told the British Parliament that "results in the early weeks have not been as good as we would have hoped." Straw also said the lack of security in Baghdad has been disappointing.

An office and warehouse belonging to the aid group CARE were attacked Sunday night. In two other weekend incidents, two CARE vehicles were seized by armed men, the organization reported today, asking the U.S. occupation forces to "take immediate steps to restore law and order to Baghdad."

"The violence is escalating," said Anne Morris, a senior CARE staff member. "We have restricted staff movement for their own safety. What does it say about the situation when criminals can move freely about the city and humanitarian aid workers cannot?"

Baghdad residents have been increasingly preoccupied by violence and the uncertainty it has produced, slowing relief and rebuilding efforts. One U.S. reconstruction official said tonight, for example, that as the Americans seek to distribute salaries and pensions, 20 bank branches have been unable to open without U.S. protection in the absence of a credible Iraqi police force.

"Security is the biggest problem we have," the official said. "The banks don't feel comfortable opening, and I agree with that."

This failure of U.S. forces to engage in active peacekeeping goes back to a problem I discussed last month. It's not going to be solved anytime soon.

posted by Dan at 11:40 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Monday, May 12, 2003

SOUTH ASIAN TERRORIST WEB SITES:

SOUTH ASIAN TERRORIST WEB SITES: While the media is focused on the Mideast road map for peace -- not that there's anything wrong with that!! -- attention has drifted from other flash points -- like South Asia. Alyssa Ayres writes in the Wall Street Journal that although recent trends are positive, Pakistani support for -- or benign neglect of -- terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba will remain a sticking point:

Theoretically, the Lashkar does not exist: Pakistan's President Musharraf banned it in January last year and jailed its founder for six months. It enjoys the distinction of a place on the U.S. State Department's Foreign Terrorist Organizations roster, which puts it in the company of al Qaeda, the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Hamas. But for a banned militia, one whose assets should have been frozen 16 months ago, their media production continues apace. Two weeks ago they gave their family of Web sites a muscular relaunch, suggesting a new infusion of cash or smarts.....

For a banned militia to be printing up magazines in hard copy and virtual form, material obviously designed to recruit militants for a "final journey" into Kashmir, right under the nose of the Pakistani authorities, can only mean one of two things. Someone either can't, or won't, connect the dots.....

[P]eace will remain a fantasy as long as spoilers like the Lashkar-e-Taiba receive free rein to propagate their vision and recruit new soldiers to the task.

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan at 01:31 PM | Trackbacks (0)




MORE WHEELS TURNING IN THE

MORE WHEELS TURNING IN THE MIDDLE EAST: The Washington Post suggests that Syria is now discussing serious domestic and foreign policy reforms in the wake of U.S. successes in Iraq:

With tens of thousands of U.S. troops positioned just to the east and U.S. officials warning Syria it could be the next object of American ire, Syrians acknowledge they are feeling vulnerable. These regional developments -- nothing less than an "earthquake," according to Khalaf M. Jarad, editor of the state-run Tishrin newspaper -- have prompted Syria to alter its foreign policy to accommodate U.S. demands, while rethinking its domestic affairs.

"When your neighbor shaves, you start to wet your cheeks," said Nabil Jabi, a political strategist in Damascus, citing an Arabic proverb. "It means you must study the new situation in your neighborhood."....

But the changes in domestic policy may ultimately prove to be of even greater consequence.

During the past two weeks, the Syrian government has licensed its first three private banks, considered an essential step in modernizing the state-dominated economy, while approving two new private universities and four private radio stations. Officials are now reviewing the possibility of removing military training from the curriculum of schools and universities and eliminating a requirement that all students join youth groups affiliated with Syria's ruling Baath Party, according to sources close to the leadership.

While discussions about reforming the Baath Party have been underway for at least three years, they have taken on a much greater urgency since the collapse of Iraq's Baath Party government, said Syrians close to the leadership.

"If now people feel a more pressing need to do that, so much the better," said Buthaina Shaaban, spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry. "I think it's normal to be affected by external events and to use it for your own benefit, to reform your reality."

Meanwhile, Juan Cole reports that Egyptian opposition parties are also seizing the moment to push for greater democratic reforms in their country.

Developing....

posted by Dan at 09:55 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Sunday, May 11, 2003

THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S DREAM SUNDAY:

THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S DREAM SUNDAY: The Bushies' two most tenacious foils over the past two years -- France and the New York Times -- are facing a world of hurt this week.

In France, the Elf Aquitaine scandal has metastasizedto the point where it has managed to include Iraqi billionaires and the Irish financial sector (link via InstaPundit).

Meanwhile the New York Times' credibility is hemorrhaging badly, as Jayson Blair's web of deceit is put on full display [Doesn't the Times deserve credit for putting the results of its investigation so prominently on Page 1?--ed. Yes, absolutely -- although one could argue that this was merely a pre-emptive strike that prevented other news outlets from breaking the magnitude of the story behind Blair's dismissal.]

Andrew Sullivan and Mickey Kaus are -- naturally -- all over this story. However, I believe Glenn Reynolds's response is probably the most devastating.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias takes this post a bit too seriously:

[Drezner's post] sums up everything that's bad about the Bush administration. A "dream Sunday" consists not in making substantive progress on issues that would improve the lives of Americans -- employment, homeland security, nation-building in Iraq, North Korea, health care, etc. -- rather it consists in the revelation of embarrassing information about its enemies.

posted by Dan at 03:40 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Friday, May 9, 2003

NATIONALISM AND FINANCE: In light

NATIONALISM AND FINANCE: In light of the Euro hitting a four-year high against the dollar today, this CNN story should provide a cautionary warning for those who believe that nationalism plays no role in global financial markets: The key grafs:

Interestingly, while this view [that the dollar needs to fall further] is more or less seen as gospel in the rest of the world, it's not the majority view in the States, according to Merrill Lynch's April survey of 314 fund managers, both foreign and domestic.

In that survey, when asked to pick their "favorite currency," 65 percent of global respondents picked the euro. Their least favorite? For 57 percent of the world, it was the greenback.

And a whopping 66 percent of overseas fund managers thought the greenback was still too dear, despite its recent decline. In comparison, only 34 percent of U.S. respondents thought the dollar was overvalued....

The Merrill Lynch survey showed 56 percent of overseas fund managers thought U.S. equity markets still the most overvalued in the world -- compared with just 24 percent of U.S. managers....

In the Merrill Lynch survey, 42 percent of foreign fund managers said the swollen U.S. current account deficit worried them enough to make them hedge some or all of their exposure to a possible dollar decline. Just 21 percent of U.S. respondents had done the same.

posted by Dan at 04:06 PM | Trackbacks (0)




Drezner gets results on free trade in the Middle East!!

Two months ago, as an addendum my TNR Online essay on democratization in Iraq, I recommended the creation of a regional club of emerging and established Middle Eastern democracies. To quote myself:

If President Bush means what he says about a democratic Iraq, there is one other policy initiative worth considering – the creation/promotion of a regional club of emerging Middle Eastern democracies....

Of course, the rewards of membership would have to be significant. A preferential trade agreement with the United States might be an option, especially since the U.S. already has such deals with Israel and Jordan.

Currently, a club for Middle Eastern democracies would have a small list of invitees. Within the next year, that may change for the better.

From today's New York Times:

Administration officials said Mr. Bush would also offer rewards to the Arab world on Friday, when he is to propose a United States-Middle East free trade area during a commencement speech at the University of South Carolina. The White House would not say tonight what countries were to be eligible for inclusion in the trade deal, but a senior official said Iraq would be among them.

"We fully expect Iraq to be able to compete and to have free trade agreements with the U.S. and others," the official said. The United States already has free trade agreements with Israel and Jordan. A senior official said the president would set a goal of 2013 to create the free trade area.

The only thing that worries me about this is the suggestion in the article that Turkey be excluded from such a free trade area. I'm going to assume that the administration appreciates the fact that excluding the one stable, pro-Western, established Muslim democracy from any proposed agreement would be counterproductive in the long term.

UPDATE: The Associated Press and Reuters also have the free-trade area story. This Washington Times piece suggests that Egypt and Bahrain are also on the list.

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



Thursday, May 8, 2003

TRAGEDY IN CHICAGO: The Onion

TRAGEDY IN CHICAGO: The Onion has the scoop.

posted by Dan at 02:20 PM | Trackbacks (0)




MORE ON DISCIPLINARY BOUNDARIES: Last

MORE ON DISCIPLINARY BOUNDARIES: Last week I took Megan McArdle to task for asserting that the economic mode of analysis was superior to theories and methodologies that emerged from other social science and the humanities.

Now, just because I thought Megan was exaggerating things doesn't mean I think economists should stick to their disciplinary knitting and never attempt to explain other phenomenon. For example, consider this Chicago Tribune story about a University of Chicago economist venturing into the humanities:

David Galenson, an economic historian who teaches at the University of Chicago, took on the art history establishment two years ago with his book "Painting Outside the Lines: Patterns of Creativity in Modern Art" (Harvard University Press), in which he claimed statistical methods could be used to rank artistic achievements.

That idea was anathema to many art historians, who believe that creativity is fragile and unquantifiable, that using the marketplace to evaluate art would sully the field....

Robert Storr, a curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, is on record as declaring art is essentially "unquantifiable." Michael Rooks, an assistant curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, said upon the release of Galenson's book, "There's a real sense that when you start quantifying artistic output in dollars and cents, those things are tangents to what we really should be talking about."

Galenson, who publishes frequently in the leading journals in his field such as The Journal of Political Economy and The American Economic Review, found it impossible even to get his book reviewed by art historians. "To them," he said, "I'm just a nerd with a computer."

The problem, of course, is specialization. Economists are supposed to study economics, leaving the art history to the art historians, and vice versa.

Read the whole piece. Galenson's typology of artists -- "conceptual" and "experimental" -- and his method for appraising their artistic value -- how their work is valued in auctions -- are hardly slam-dunk assertions. But they are pretty interesting, and art historians do a disservice to themselves by pretending they don't exist or are beyond the pale.

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



Wednesday, May 7, 2003

THE STRAUSSIAN CONSPIRACY, CONT'D: Seymour

THE STRAUSSIAN CONSPIRACY, CONT'D: Seymour Hersh's latest New Yorker essay goes even further than the New York Times in arguing that there's Straussian conspiracy that's captured American foreign policy. [Wait, wasn't this published the day after the New York Times published their Strauss story? And wasn't Hersh formerly a New York Times reporter? Surely this isn't a coincidence?--ed. Maybe conspiracies beget conspiracies. Or maybe you need a vacation]

The essay focuses on the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, which functioned as a "Team B" of intelligence ferreting out links between Iraq and Al Qaeda in the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Some highlights:

The director of the Special Plans operation is Abram Shulsky, a scholarly expert in the works of the political philosopher Leo Strauss....

Shulsky’s work has deep theoretical underpinnings. In his academic and think-tank writings, Shulsky, the son of a newspaperman—his father, Sam, wrote a nationally syndicated business column—has long been a critic of the American intelligence community. During the Cold War, his area of expertise was Soviet disinformation techniques. Like Wolfowitz, he was a student of Leo Strauss’s, at the University of Chicago. Both men received their doctorates under Strauss in 1972. Strauss, a refugee from Nazi Germany who arrived in the United States in 1937, was trained in the history of political philosophy, and became one of the foremost conservative émigré scholars. He was widely known for his argument that the works of ancient philosophers contain deliberately concealed esoteric meanings whose truths can be comprehended only by a very few, and would be misunderstood by the masses. The Straussian movement has many adherents in and around the Bush Administration. In addition to Wolfowitz, they include William Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, and Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, who is particularly close to Rumsfeld. Strauss’s influence on foreign-policy decision-making (he never wrote explicitly about the subject himself) is usually discussed in terms of his tendency to view the world as a place where isolated liberal democracies live in constant danger from hostile elements abroad, and face threats that must be confronted vigorously and with strong leadership.

I'll give Hersh some credit -- unlike the Times piece, he makes an effort to actually link Strauss' ideas to current trends in foreign policy. In the end, however, this piece has the same problem as all conspiracy theories -- a lot more is implied than actually proven.

Then there's Hersh's track record over the past two years. Jack Shafer neatly eviscerates Hersh in this Slate piece:

At almost every critical turn since the events of 9/11, Hersh has leapt to the front of the editorial pack with a bracing, well-researched, and controversial explication of the war on terror. And almost every time, Hersh's predictive take on the course of events has been wrong. Boneheaded-dumb wrong....

Why are Sy Hersh's recent New Yorker defense pieces so consistently off the mark? Perhaps Hersh, who made his name tilting against the establishment, has become too willing to channel establishment sources' complaints. Indeed, most of his unnamed sources hail from the defense/intelligence establishment, which feels encroached upon by Rumsfeld and the rest of the new guard. If the question is, What's wrong with today's CIA?, Hersh reports back, it isn't enough like the old CIA. If the question is, What's wrong with today's Pentagon?, Hersh answers at the behest of his Army sources, Rumsfeld is mucking with tip-fiddle! If the Delta commandos and the Army generals talking to Hersh don't like Rumsfeld's policies—or the CIA, the DIA, and others resent similar turf encroachment by Wolfowitz's "cabal"—they know there is a place where their gripes can get a complete airing: A Hersh piece in The New Yorker. (emphasis in original)

Every bureaucratic struggle has at least two sides, and a reporter who recklessly throws in with one side against the other may publish blockbusters. But of what use are blockbusters that are consistently wrong?

I'll keep updating the Straussian meme's half-life as it develops.

(Full disclosure: During my brief stint at RAND in the mid-90's, I worked with and for Shulsky.)

posted by Dan at 12:11 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)




DECOMPRESSION IN THE MIDDLE EAST:

DECOMPRESSION IN THE MIDDLE EAST: Last week, I blogged about the small but promising steps being taken by various Arab states to reject terrorism and acknowledge the importance of democratic accountability. The countries discussed included Saudi Arabia, Syria, Qatar, and the Palestinian Authority.

One country I missed was Jordan. But David Adesnik (scroll down) has a lot of links and analysis indicating that King Abdullah is now prepared to restart democratic reforms that were frozen in the 9/11 aftermath. Go check it out.

posted by Dan at 10:04 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Tuesday, May 6, 2003

ARE LIBERALS LESS COSMOPOLITAN THAN

ARE LIBERALS LESS COSMOPOLITAN THAN CONSERVATIVES?: This is the question Michael Totten, a good liberal, asks. His answer is yes:

Liberals think of themselves as more worldly than conservatives. This is true in some ways, but not so in others. It seems (to me) that liberals are more likely to travel, and are more likely to visit Third World countries in particular. (If you meet an American traveler in, say, Guatemala, odds are strongly against that person being a Republican.) Liberals are more likely to listen to “world music,” and are more likely to watch foreign films. Liberals are more likely than conservatives to study the negative consequences of American foreign policy. But that’s about it. If you want to find a person who knows the history of pre-war Nazi Germany, the Middle East during the Cold War, or the partition of India and Pakistan, you’re better off looking to the right than to the left.

Read the whole piece for his explanation as to why this is the case. Roger L. Simon has more on this as well.

UPDATE: Kieran Healy posts a response. Be sure to read the comments, which includes a response from Michael Totten.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias weighs in, defending Totten's thesis.

posted by Dan at 03:54 PM | Trackbacks (0)




MORE ON AFGHANISTAN: When we

MORE ON AFGHANISTAN: When we last left off, Donald Rumsfeld has declared the war in Afganistan to be essentially over.

Today's news from Afghanistan:

1) U.S. special forces were fired upon by rockets in Eastern Afghanistan

2) The New York Times reports that Taliban loyalists in Quetta Pakistan are increasingly active: "The Taliban presence is so strong that even many of those who have been refugees here for 20 years seem to believe that the Taliban will return to power in Afghanistan."

3) The chief UN envoy says the deteriorating security situation is affecting statebuiolding in Afghanistan:

The top United Nations official in Afghanistan today told the Security Council that deteriorating security conditions continue to cast a long shadow over the peace process and future of the country, and called for the creation of Afghan security forces capable of ensuring lasting tranquillity.

In an open briefing to the Council, Lakhdar Brahimi, the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said although specific aspects of the Bonn Peace Agreement are proceeding, "the process as a whole is challenged by deterioration in the security environment, which stems from daily harassment and intimidation, inter-ethnic and inter-factional strife, increases in the activity of elements linked to the Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and the drugs economy."

4) The first anti-American protest was held in Kabul since the fall of the Taliban . It only attracted 300 people, so take the news for what it's worth.

5) A prominent Afghan academic says that cronyism and nepotism are plaguing the Karzai government.

posted by Dan at 02:48 PM | Trackbacks (0)




MORE ON NORTH KOREA: As

MORE ON NORTH KOREA: As I said over at the Volokh Conspiracy, I'm worried about North Korea. For more on the situation on the ground, Joe Katzman at Winds of Change has a nice round-up, and points out -- again -- that South Korea's reluctance to confront North Korea makes the situation an extremely dicey one.

For other interpretations, see Bob McGrew and Fred Kaplan.

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




HELLO, TECH CENTRAL STATION READERS!!:

HELLO, TECH CENTRAL STATION READERS!!: My first Tech Central Station essay is up -- it's a critique of the joint Foreign Policy/Center for Global Development effort to rate how much the U.S. and other developed countries' policies help or hurt poor countries. Go check it out.

For those interested TCS readers, this blog post has some additional information on the subject.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds managed to post a link to my TCS essay before I did.

posted by Dan at 11:22 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Monday, May 5, 2003

BACK ON TUESDAY: Still guest-blogging

BACK ON TUESDAY: Still guest-blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy. I'll be back here tomorrow.

posted by Dan at 09:19 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Thursday, May 1, 2003

A WORD FROM THE EDITOR:

A WORD FROM THE EDITOR: Drezner, since you started the blog nine months ago, you've passed 200,000 unique visits. You've been mentioned by such Blogosphere luminaries as Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus, Joshua Micah Marshall, Virginia Postrel, and Glenn Reynolds. The blog has been quoted/mentioned in the Washington Post and MSNBC. You now write a monthly column for The New Republic Online. What are you going to do now?--ed.

I'm joining the Volokh Conspiracy!!

Temporarily, that is. I'll be guest-blogging there Friday and Monday. Go check it out.

posted by Dan at 10:19 PM | Trackbacks (0)




UPDATING THE WAR ON TERROR:

UPDATING THE WAR ON TERROR: Civilization is starting to run up the score, according to the Chicago Tribune:

International terrorist attacks dropped significantly in 2002, and Bush administration officials are increasingly confident that the deadliest Al Qaeda plotters are now on the defensive, a top U.S. counterterrorism expert said Wednesday....

The State Department report, issued on the same day that Pakistani officials said they had arrested six major Al Qaeda operatives, said there were 199 terrorist attacks worldwide last year, a decline of 44 percent from the 355 attacks recorded in 2001. Attacks directed at the United States or U.S. targets dropped to 77 from 219.

Measured in terms of loss of life, 725 people were killed by terrorists around the world in 2002, a significant decline from the 3,295 who perished in 2001--a figure swelled by the nearly 3,000 deaths in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

There was additional good news -- the planner of the USS Cole bombing was captured in Pakistan.

Here's the introduction to the State Department report. It turns out that multilateral diplomacy is useful for something (I'm not being sarcastic):

The progress that has been achieved in the global war on terrorism would not have been possible without intense diplomatic engagement throughout the world. Diplomacy is the backbone of the campaign, building the political will, support, and mechanisms that enable our law-enforcement, intelligence, and military communities to act effectively.

The web of relationships we have cultivated has borne fruit in countless ways, from increasing security at home and abroad to bringing wanted terrorists to justice in the United States and elsewhere.

All our friends have stood with us multilaterally—at the United Nations, in NATO, ANZUS, EU, G-7, G-8, OAS, ASEAN, APEC, OIC, OECD, OSCE—and bilaterally in virtually every corner of the world.

New counterterrorism relationships with Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Central Asian republics, and others have shown results and hold promise for continued engagement in the future. Collaboration in combating terrorism has deepened with partners such as Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates.

The report also provides an interesting graph demonstrating that, beginning in the late eighties, there has been a secular decrease in the number of terrorist attacks. In fact, the number of attacks has fallen by more than two-thirds from 1987.

So is the Bush administration just riding the wave? No. If you look at the graph closely, there was an unambiguous spike in attacks at the end of the 1990's. The Bush administration can and should take credit for arresting that worrisome increase.

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




THE RUMSFELD SEAL OF APPROVAL:

THE RUMSFELD SEAL OF APPROVAL: Donald Rumsfeld has declared that the war in Afghanistan is over:

Defense Secretary H. Rumsfeld, seeking to reassure allies jittery about reconstruction and humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan, said Thursday "major combat activity" there has come to an end....

"We're at a point where we clearly have moved from major combat activity to a period of stability and stabilization and reconstruction activities," Rumsfeld said at a joint news conference with Karzai.

The Secretary of Defense definitely gets chutzpah points for the declaration (though, to be fair, the Reuters version of the story includes some caveats). I blogged last week about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. If you don't believe me, consider the words of Ahmed Wali Karzai -- the President's brother and respresentative in southern Kandahar -- in this CBS report from early April:

At a time when the United States is promising a reconstructed democratic postwar Iraq, many Afghans are remembering hearing similar promises not long ago.

Instead, what they see is thieving warlords, murder on the roads, and a resurgence of Taliban vigilantism.

"It's like I am seeing the same movie twice and no one is trying to fix the problem," said Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of Afghanistan's president and his representative in southern Kandahar. "What was promised to Afghans with the collapse of the Taliban was a new life of hope and change. But what was delivered? Nothing. Everyone is back in business."

Karzai said reconstruction has been painfully slow — a canal repaired, a piece of city road paved, a small school rebuilt.

"There have been no significant changes for people," he said. "People are tired of seeing small, small projects. I don't know what to say to people anymore."

When the Taliban ruled they forcibly conscripted young men. "Today I can say 'we don't take your sons away by force to fight at the front line,'" Karzai remarked. "But that's about all I can say."

If the end of major combat operations means that the U.S. is about to make a major push towards building some semblance of an infrastructure for Afghanistan, that's great. If it's a signal that America's work is done in that part of the world, that's disastrous.

posted by Dan at 11:38 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Wednesday, April 30, 2003

SCORE ONE FOR THE TRIBE!:

SCORE ONE FOR THE TRIBE!: Click on this Eugene Volokh post and you'll see that I'm guilty of a really bad pun.

posted by Dan at 01:34 PM | Trackbacks (0)




A FRENCH FAUX PAS: Jacob

A FRENCH FAUX PAS: Jacob Levy's latest TNR Online essay is up, paired with Reihan Salam.

The topic is recent French attempts to integrate Muslims into the secular state. Apparently, it's not working out as planned.

posted by Dan at 01:32 PM | Trackbacks (0)




A RESPONSIBLE MIDDLE EAST?: Let

A RESPONSIBLE MIDDLE EAST?: Let me preface this post by saying that I'm going to be wildly optimistic. I recognize that terrorism, potential terrorism and general disorder continue to haunt this region.

However, one gets the definite impression that governments in the regime are beginning to comprehend that they need to change their ways.

Consider the new Palestinian prime minister. I don't know how long he will last, but his first speech sent a powerful signal, according to the Washington Post:

Mahmoud Abbas was approved Tuesday as the Palestinians' first prime minister and in a speech to parliament forcefully denounced terrorism and declared that peace was the "strategic, irrevocable choice" of the Palestinian people. But he warned Israel that it must abandon Jewish settlements and end its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to achieve a lasting peace....

"The path of negotiations is our choice," Abbas said. "We denounce terrorism by any party and in all its shapes and forms, both because of our religious and moral traditions and because we are convinced that such methods do not lend support to a just cause like ours, but rather destroy it. There is no military solution to our conflict."

Then there is Libya, which today owned up to some previous nastiness:

The Libyan government has accepted responsibility for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and set up a fund to compensate victims' families, Foreign Minister Mohammed Abderrahmane Chalgam said on Wednesday.

Finally, there's this enigmatic part of the Times story from my previous post:

Earlier this year, Saudi officials told The New York Times that the departure of American soldiers would set the stage for a series of democratic reforms, including an announcement that Saudi men — but not women, at least initially — would begin electing representatives to provincial assemblies and then to a national assembly. The ruling royal family, these officials suggested, could more easily sell potentially unsettling reform if it appears to be less dependent on the Americans.

Acknowledging that democratic representation is important and that terrorism is bad are baby steps for most of the world. In the Middle East, however, their significance should not be understated.

As I said, I'm being wildly optimistic (for example, click here for my last post about the new Palestinian PM, and here for the NYT's skepticism about Saudi Arabia's future). It's possible that terrorism and extremism on both sides will torpedo any chance at an Israeli-Palestinian peace, or that Saudi reforms will go nowhere. But maybe the elimination of the Iraqi problem will cause a genuine move toward more responsible governance.

Developing... in a good way, I hope.

UPDATE: Brian Ulrich e-mails that I missed another promising development -- in a popular referendum, Qatar just approved their first constitution. It's not perfectly democratic, but it does allow for a partially elected legislature, and more importantly, has provisions guaranteeing freedom of speech and freedom from torture.

The Washington Times story on the Qatari referendum also contains some intriguing news about Syria:

The winds of change also appear to be reaching Syria, which this week was reported to have sent a proposal of peace talks to Israel through U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat.

Previous peace talks over the status of the Golan Heights broke down over Israel's insistence on retaining a narrow strip of land along the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

While the United States has recently accused Syria of harboring members of Saddam's ousted Iraqi regime and possessing weapons of mass destruction, there are signs that it has begun to tolerate demands for greater freedom.

About 140 politically active Syrians declared in an unprecedented manifesto that a strong internal front based on freedom for all was the only effective defense against what it called American and Israeli aggression.

The manifesto was published in Damascus by the Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies, according to a report appearing in the Lebanese Daily Star.

The war against Iraq had proved, said the signatories, that one-party rule and repressive security services cannot protect a country's independence and dignity. The group called for the cancellation of emergency laws, the release of political prisoners and the establishment of a national unity government based on reconciliation.

"Pressures for change are starting in Syria via civil society," said Haytham Manna, a Syrian exile attending yesterday's referendum in Qatar as an observer from the Arab Commission for Human Rights.

Definitely developing....

posted by Dan at 09:55 AM | Trackbacks (0)




DREZNER GETS RESULTS ON SAUDI

DREZNER GETS RESULTS ON SAUDI ARABIA, PART 2: Turns out Monday's announcement was a harbinger of things to come, as the New York Times reports:

The United States said today that it would withdraw all combat forces in Saudi Arabia by this summer, ending more than a decade of military operations in this strategic Middle East nation that is America's largest oil supplier.

The only troops that will remain in Saudi Arabia will be a small training mission that has been deployed in the country since the Truman administration.

The Washington Post version of the story ties in this decision to a larger rearrangement of U.S. forces abroad:

Having removed the government of Saddam Hussein from Iraq, the U.S. military will end operations in Saudi Arabia later this year, freeing the kingdom of a major political problem caused by the visible presence of U.S. forces in the land of Islam's two holiest shrines, defense officials announced today.

Shutting down U.S. flights from Prince Sultan air base and moving the U.S. Combined Air Operations Center from here to nearby Qatar mark the beginning of what Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has described as a major realignment of U.S. military forces, not only in the Persian Gulf, but also in Europe and the Far East. Meeting this morning with service members here inside a giant aircraft hangar, Rumsfeld said he is attempting "to refashion and rebalance those arrangements so that we're organized for the future."

Marine Gen. James L. Jones, NATO's top commander, is reviewing U.S. military installations in Germany with an eye toward moving at least some of them to new NATO members in Eastern Europe. "NATO is a different place now, and the center of gravity has in fact shifted from where it was when it was a relatively small organization of 15 countries to a much larger organization of some 26 countries," Rumsfeld told the troops here. NATO has 19 members and seven more countries have been invited to join.

The Pentagon is also considering reductions in the 38,000 military personnel stationed in South Korea and moving those that remain away from the Demilitarized Zone with North Korea. And in Central Asia, Rumsfeld and Gen. Tommy R. Franks, head of the U.S. Central Command, must decide what to do with bases in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan that were opened in 2001 and 2002 to support the war in Afghanistan.

So much for the American Empire. This is a signal difference between the U.S. and other hegemons of the past -- when countries don't want U.S. bases, the military packs up and leaves.

posted by Dan at 09:22 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Monday, April 28, 2003

THE IRAQ-AL QAEDA LINK: Andrew

THE IRAQ-AL QAEDA LINK: Andrew Sullivan and Michael Totten both link to the Daily Telegraph story discovering a document linking Hussein's regime to Al Qaeda. The Toronto Star co-broke the story -- here's their version of it. The Star also reprints the key section of the three-page document. Here it is, annotated:

"The envoy [an Al Qaeda representative sent by bin Laden to Iraq in March 1998] is a trusted confidant [of bin Laden] and known by them. According to the above mediation we request official permission to call Khartoum station to facilitate the travel arranegments for the above-mentioned person to Iraq [According to the Star, the document "confirm(s) bin Laden's agent arrived in Baghdad on March 5 and stayed a full 16 days as a guest of the Iraqi government at the Mansur Melia Hotel, one of the capital's premier accommodations."]

"And that our body [The Mukhabarat, Iraq's intelligence service] carry all the travel and hotel expenses inside Iraq to gain the knowledge of the message from bin Laden and to convey to his enovy an oral mesage from us to bin Laden, the Saudi oppoistion leader about the future of our relationship with him and to achieve a direct meeting with him."

Maybe the meeting went nowhere, maybe it didn't. What's clear is that in 1998, both Al Qaeda and Iraq's government were interested in cooperating.

I had thought the Al Qaeda link was the weakest part of the justification for going to war with Iraq. It will be interesting to see if more documents emerge.

Developing...

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




IS THE WHEEL TURNING IN

IS THE WHEEL TURNING IN BERKELEY?: I have done some scary things in my life. I have sky-dived. I have bungee jumped. I drank water straight from the tap in Moscow. I've flown Uzbekistan Airways, for God's sake. However, when anyone has asked me what's the scariest thing I've ever done, I tell them unequivocally that it was when I walked up Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley wearing a business suit (I was en route to a job interview).

So I could not help but bust a gut when I read this Los Angeles Timesstory (link via InstaPundit) about a Republican protest on Telegraph Avenue:

Borrowing a page from this city's radical traditions, a boisterous band of 200 college Republicans demonstrated Saturday in the bastion of American liberalism, staging a pro-Bush administration rally on the UC Berkeley campus and leading a flag-waving procession down Telegraph Avenue.

As street vendors and merchants looked on in disbelief, delegates attending a state college Republican convention here marched two blocks to People's Park, site of a widely publicized protest incident in 1969, where they chanted "Bush! Bush! Bush!" and sang "America the Beautiful."

The article makes an excellent point, however -- that Berkeley is no longer the liberal stereotype of yore, in part because of the increasing diversity of students on campus:

In recent years, the Berkeley college Republican chapter has thrived on this image of an embattled minority bravely battling against the liberal establishment. Once only a few dozen in number, the chapter now boasts more than 500 members and is one of the biggest student organizations on campus....

One of the main reasons for the changing political climate at Berkeley, said University Librarian Thomas Leonard , who has been on campus since 1967, is the changing profile of the Berkeley student.

The difference is clear at the Free Speech Movement Café, an elegant coffee shop funded by a wealthy 1964 graduate at the base of the new Moffitt Undergraduate Library. One of the walls of the cafe is covered with an enlarged photograph of a Free Speech era sit-in. Almost all of the faces in the photo are white. Recent classes entering Berkeley, however, have been largely Asian, accounting for more than 40% of the entering freshman class.

"As a general rule," said Leonard, "the increase in Asian Americans has pushed the student body more toward the center politically."

In fact, Leonard said, opposition to the campus conservatives is more likely to come from the faculty or aging leftists in the surrounding community. "I get the sense the community is much more into protest than the campus," Leonard said. "There is a culture of protest in the Bay Area that is steadily getting grayer and older."

Here's a link to the California Patriot description of events -- they have pictures.

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




SHIITE MEME OF THE WEEK:

SHIITE MEME OF THE WEEK: Last week's meme was all about how the United States had underestimated the power of Shiite clerics in Iraq, and how the most influential Shiite mullahs in Iraq are clearly linked to Iran.

My prediction is that the meme that will emerge this week is the potentially growing rift between Iran's government and Iraqi Shiite leaders.

My evidence? Two bits of data -- which is all that's needed for a media meme to develop. First, members of the largest Shia group - the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) -- attended Monday's United States-sponsored meeting of Iraqi groups with Jay Garner "to discuss the formation of a transitional administration for Iraq." SCIRI had boycotted a similar meeting held in Nasiriyah two weeks ago. At a minimum, this means that SCIRI recognizes it will need to deal with the United States if it wants to play a future role in governing Iraq.

Even the BBC acknowledges the diversity of Shia opinion:

Delegates raised concerns about the lack of security, electricity and water.

But our correspondent says one influential Shia leader sounded an optimistic note.

"The Iraqi people owe a lot to the United States and the United Kingdom... for deposing the dictator," said Sheikh Hussein Sadr, dean of the Islamic Council in London.

Second, there's this New York Times piece:

Many people who follow the course of religious affairs here believe that the return of Shiite clerics to Iraq, and the revival of Iraq's historically holy city of Najaf, may pose a serious threat to the rule of the hard-line ayatollahs in Iran.

Najaf is expected to become the center of Shiite faith once again when influential clerics return and begin teaching at its seminaries. Some high-ranking Iranian clerics who believe in freer religious studies, such as Ayatollah Javad Tabrizi, have also said that they would go to Najaf when stability returns.

Since the Islamic revolution here in 1979, Iran's hard-line religious leadership has defined Shiite Islam for its 120 million followers around the world. But analysts say that Iran's status as the leader of Shiism will be undermined once Najaf develops its own brand of the faith, which is expected to be more moderate than the one Iran favors....

Iraqi clerics who are returning to Iraq say they are tired of seeing their faith dominated by Iran.

"Iraq is a holy country and we do not need Iran," Mr. [Muhammad] Hassani [a "mid-ranking cleric"] said. "It is independent and has its own differences with Iran. We do not need to look at Iran as our model."

For two weeks, the Supreme Council has been helping volunteer clerics return to Iraq. Darol-hakameh Institute in Qum, which belongs to the council, has provided the clerics with train tickets and documents to cross the border.

"They are returning to preach the faith and help bring order. We do not ask them what kind of political affiliation they have," said Mohsen Hakim, a staff member at the institute who said he too would go to Baghdad to help organize clerics.

Some Iraqis say that living in Iran and witnessing the kind of challenges facing this theocracy has convinced them that the interference by religion into affairs of state should be limited.

"The responsibility of political Islam to solve political and economic problems that the state is faced with has put enormous pressure on the seminaries in Qum," said Hamam Hamoudi, a mid-ranking Iraqi cleric who said he would also leave for Baghdad this week.

Still, Mr. Hamoudi added that the Iraqi clerics were eager to return and have a share in the future government. "We do not want an Islamic state like Iran, but the Shiites are 60 percent of the population and want to be part of the government after years of suppression."

Ayatollah Ali Muhammad Sistani, Iraq's most prominent Shiite leader in Najaf, has also objected to the interference of clerics in politics.

I'm not even close to being an expert on intra-Shiite relations, so I'm not saying that Iran will have no influence in postwar Iraq. However, these stories certainly muddy up the claim that Iraq is on course to becoming a Shiite theocracy under the thumb of Iran's mullahs.

Developing....

posted by Dan at 01:34 PM | Trackbacks (0)




WELL, THIS IS A SURPRISE:

WELL, THIS IS A SURPRISE: This Financial Times discovery speaks for itself:

a new MORI poll for the FT reveals that 55 per cent of Britons regard France as the UK's least reliable ally, while 73 per cent view the US as the country's most reliable.

Indeed.

posted by Dan at 10:19 AM | Trackbacks (0)




DREZNER GETS RESULTS ON SAUDI

DREZNER GETS RESULTS ON SAUDI ARABIA!: One of the reasons I gave back in the fall for supporting the use of force in Iraq was that removing Saddam Hussein would also remove the need for large-scale U.S. forces to be in Saudi Arabia. That troop presence has been a major irritant in the region. It was also destabilizing the Saudi regime -- and not in the good way that neocons dream about.

From today's New York Times:

The United States is shifting its major air operations center for the Middle East from Saudi Arabia to Qatar, the first step in what is likely to be a significant reduction of American forces in Saudi Arabia and a realignment of American military presence in the region, senior military officials said today....

Maj. Gen. Victor E. Renuart, the Central Command's director of operations, said in an interview that having the command center in Al Udeid may be a good long-term strategic fit for the United States.

"Moving to Al Udeid is a sort of a natural progression for us as we look for a footprint that will be maintainable in the future," said General Renuart, who was also in Abu Dhabi. "It's just starting the process. There's a convenience in the fact we're adjusting the size. You don't need a CAOC designed to fly 3,000 missions if you're only flying a few hundred." CAOC is the acronym for the Combat Air Operations Center the military uses to command its air operations.

Getting U.S. forces out of the same country where the holy shrines of Mecca and Medina is an unambiguously good thing.

Reading the Times piece, what struck me was not just that this was smart foreign policy, but the wildly divergent attitudes of the Saudis and Qataris on hosting the U.S. military:

American military commanders, especially Air Force officials, have long favored moving the air command post to Al Udeid from Saudi Arabia. United States commanders have chafed at restrictions the Saudis have placed on the American-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq....

For the military, however, Qatar is a more congenial location. A tiny nation of 750,000 people, Qatar has come to view the United States as its main protector in the region.

Qatar built Al Udeid Air Base in 1996 at the cost of more than $1 billion. The nation did not have an air force at the time, but it wanted to encourage the United States military to base its aircraft there.

This is a win-win-win situation. Qatar gets the U.S. military presence it wants. Saudi Arabia gets to reduce the U.S. military presence it loathes. The United States gets to improve relations with two countries in the region simultaneously.

posted by Dan at 09:58 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Sunday, April 27, 2003

REGARDING THAT FRIENDS POST: You

REGARDING THAT FRIENDS POST: You complain about academic stereotypes in popular culture, and the blogs beat a path to your door. Posts from Amanda Butler, Stephen Karlson, Andrew Cory, and The Crooked Heart on the topic.

posted by Dan at 10:07 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Friday, April 25, 2003

NORTH KOREA UPDATE: First, exactly

NORTH KOREA UPDATE: First, exactly what did North Korea say in their negotiations with the U.S. and China? From today's Washington Post:

North Korean negotiators have told U.S. officials in Beijing that the communist nation possesses nuclear weapons and threatened to export them or conduct a "physical demonstration," U.S. officials said yesterday....

U.S. officials said North Korea declared it had nuclear weapons as officials were milling about in corridors on Wednesday, the first day of the talks among the United States, North Korea and China. The top North Korean official at the talks, Li Gun, pulled aside the highest-ranking American present, Assistant Secretary of State James A. Kelly, and told him that North Korea has nuclear weapons. "We can't dismantle them," Li told Kelly. "It's up to you whether we do a physical demonstration or transfer them."

U.S. officials are still puzzling over the statement and its exact meaning, including whether North Korea was threatening to test a nuclear weapon. But, a senior official said, "it was very fast, very categorical and obviously very scripted."

OK, it's safe to say this is not good news. However, the really weird aspect of this has been that, in the wake of North Korea's admission, China is more upset than South Korea. From the Financial Times: China is supposed to be North Korea's closest ally. But the failure of US-North Korean talks brokered by Beijing this week has severely tried the patience of the Chinese government, diplomats and people close to the talks said on Friday.....

"The talks failed to achieve the results that China wanted. After putting so much effort into this the Chinese are pretty frustrated with the Koreans," said one foreign diplomat. Another person close to the talks said that, behind a smiling public façade, Chinese diplomats were seething at North Korea's behaviour.....

[W]hat is becoming increasingly clear is that, behind the rhetoric, Beijing's regard for the regime of Kim Jong-il (pictured), the North Korean dictator, has virtually evaporated. Any residual affinity from the days of socialist brotherhood more than a decade ago has gone.

"Korea is a huge problem," said one government official.

On the other hand, there's South Korea's reaction:

Government officials and experts in Seoul yesterday responded cautiously to some media reports on North Korea's admission of possessing nuclear weapons, saying they need more time to clarify the situation.

Developing....

UPDATE: Kevin Drum has more on the disturbing South Korean reaction.

posted by Dan at 03:38 PM | Trackbacks (0)




MORE ON SANTORUM: Give the

MORE ON SANTORUM: Give the progressives their due -- like a stopped clock, they are right every once in a while.

Example? The left anticipated Santorum would put his foot in his mouth five years ago.

In March 1998, Progressive magazine selected Santorum as the dumbest member of Congress. Yes, it's a biased list, but the entry on Santorum is still pretty funny. The key grafs:

Due to his frequent gaffes, Santorum's handlers carefully stage-manage his actions and rarely allow him to be interviewed without his press secretary, who helps the boss field any tough questions. In a 1995 profile, Philadelphia magazine said that "much of Santorum's record has been a series of tantrums," and quoted a former Republican Congressional staffer as saying, "If you took the key out of his back, I'm not sure his lips would keep moving."

One example: In speaking about the country's long-term prospects, Santorum remarked, "Nowhere in the Bible does it say that America will be here 100 years from now."

Go read the whole entry on Santorum -- the Bob Kerrey quote is pretty funny.

Thanks to alert reader J.B. for the link.

UPDATE: The Associated Press reports on the first White House comment on Santorum:

"The president has confidence in the senator and believes he's doing a good job as senator" and in his No. 3 Senate GOP leadership post, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Friday....

"The president believes the senator is an inclusive man. And that's what he believes," Fleischer said.

The White House expressed confidence in the leadership of Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., in the immediate aftermath of his defense of a 1948 pro-segregation presidential ticket. As the remarks drew backlash, President Bush admonished Lott for them and said it was up to the Senate to decide whether he should remain as majority leader.

Developing...

ANOTHER UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan has a more pessimistic interpretation of Bush's statement -- and he could be right. He's certainly on the money when he says this:

The simple truth is that I and many others feel immensely wounded not so much by some clumsy, ugly remarks by someone who might even in some way mean well; but by the indifference toward them by so many you thought might at least have empathized for a second.

Josh Marshall also weighs in on Santorum for the first time, and comes to the same conclusion I did:

When I first read about Santorum's remarks I found them objectionable. But I assumed that they were some form of a 'slippery slope' or reductio ad absurdum kind of argument, such as the ones above. But they weren't. In fact, the point he goes to great lengths to make doesn't even have anything to do with a constitutional argument. He's not saying, how can you make value-neutral distinctions between homosexuality and bigamy or incest. He is, as nearly as I can tell, making the positive assertion there are no distinctions. They are each "antithetical to strong, healthy families."

posted by Dan at 01:06 PM | Trackbacks (0)




THE PARALLELS CONTINUE: In the

THE PARALLELS CONTINUE: In the run-up to Gulf War II, I'd commented and linked to comments on the historical parallels between the anti-war movement and the nuclear freeze protests of the early eighties.

Well, another one is emerging -- the financial link between these protest movements and totalitarian dictatorships. There's evidence that the nuclear freeze movement received some funding from the Soviet government (click here and here).

Now it turns out that The Mariam Appeal -- a prominent British anti-war group that opposed Operation Iraqi Freedom and is headed by Labor MP George Galloway -- received funds from Saddam Hussein. Andrew Sullivan has been all over this. The Daily Telegraph broke the story a few days ago. The Guardian provides some supporting analysis. Galloway has denied receiving funds but admits that intermediaries who worked for him may have done so. The Christian Science Monitor now buttresses the original story with additional evidence:

A fresh set of documents uncovered in a Baghdad house used by Saddam Hussein's son Qusay to hide top-secret files detail multimillion dollar payments to an outspoken British member of parliament, George Galloway.

Evidence of Mr. Galloway's dealings with the regime were first revealed earlier this week by David Blair, a reporter for the Daily Telegraph in London, who discovered documents in Iraq's Foreign Ministry.

The Labour Party MP, who lambasted his party's prime minister, Tony Blair, in parliamentary debates on the war earlier this year, has denied the allegations. He is now the focus of a preliminary investigation by British law-enforcement officials and is under intense scrutiny in the British press, where the story has been splashed across the front pages.

The most recent - and possibly most revealing - documents were obtained earlier this week by the Monitor. The papers include direct orders from the Hussein regime to issue Mr. Galloway six individual payments, starting in July 1992 and ending in January 2003....

The three most recent payment authorizations, beginning on April 4, 2000, and ending on January 14, 2003 are for $3 million each. All three authorizations include statements that show the Iraqi leadership's strong political motivation in paying Galloway for his vociferous opposition to US and British plans to invade Iraq.

The Jan. 14, 2003, document, written on Republican Guard stationary with its Iraqi eagle and "Trust in Allah," calls for the "Manager of the security department, in the name of President Saddam Hussein, to order a gratuity to be issued to Mr. George Galloway of British nationality in the amount of three million dollars only."

The document states that the money is in return for "his courageous and daring stands against the enemies of Iraq, like Blair, the British Prime Minister, and for his opposition in the House of Commons and Lords against all outrageous lies against our patient people...."

[Are you saying this taints the entire anti-war movement?--ed. No, absolutely not. It is, however, yet another stain on the "leadership" of such social movements -- click here and here for more blemishes]

In the interest of fairness, here's Galloway's response to the initial Daily Telegraph story, and his response to the Christian Science Monitor story.

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




THE GREAT BLOG DEBATE: Over

THE GREAT BLOG DEBATE: Over the past few months, bloggers with higher hit counts than I have strongly encouraged me to switch from Blogger to Movable Type. In the past month, Virginia Postrel and Kevin Drum have made the leap. So why don't I?

To tell the truth, I'm sorely tempted -- Blogger has been quite aggravating as of late. I may be switching in the next few months. However, one thing that holds me back is this Virginia Postrel observation:

Now that I've been using Movable Type's permalinks for a few weeks, I realize what's wrong with them. Instead of driving traffic to the full blog, a link from, say, InstaPundit, sends people only to a single item (not that I'm not appreciative, Glenn). That means fewer readers for everything else.

For those 1-2% of you out there who actually care about this question, let me know what you think about this.

posted by Dan at 09:51 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Thursday, April 24, 2003

IF ONLY CELINE DION HAD

IF ONLY CELINE DION HAD BEEN IN STEERAGE: Mark Kleiman thinks shipping regulations are too stringent nowadays.

Oh, that's not really true. Go check out his interesting debate with Tom Schelling about the ethics of cost/benefit analysis.

posted by Dan at 11:06 PM | Trackbacks (0)




AH, MY FAVORITE AXIS: Via

AH, MY FAVORITE AXIS: Via Tapped, I found this New York Observer report on the neoconservative ecosystem. The article occasionally veers off into the paranoid style that it explicitly warns against. Mostly, though, I found it pretty funny. My favorite part:

It’s easy to overgeneralize and get the idea that a small group of neoconservatives have worked some voodoo on a sitting President—you may remember Hillary Rodham Clinton’s initial reaction to Monicagate on NBC’s Today Show, that it represented "a vast right-wing conspiracy." It may be easy to insist that this small, concerted group of men and women have propelled an entire nation’s foreign policy toward the radical concept of "benevolent hegemony," wonk-speak for an American Empire that brings democratic ideals to dictatorships around the globe. But that, as the neoconservatives say themselves, would be simplistic.

"I have been amazed by the level of conspiracy-mongering around neocons," said David Brooks, an editor at Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Kristol’s Weekly Standard, and author of Bobos in Paradise. "I get it every day—the ‘evil Jewish conspiracy.’ The only distinction between ‘neoconservative’ and ‘conservative’ this way is circumcision. We actually started calling it the Axis of Circumcision."

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




A MORE OPTIMISTIC POST: OK,

A MORE OPTIMISTIC POST: OK, my last two posts have been pretty downbeat. Some good news -- the weakening of Al Qaeda. Glenn Reynolds links to this ABC news report. The key grafs:

Intelligence sources told ABCNEWS that a recent communication from Osama bin Laden has indicated his displeasure that al Qaeda has failed to exploit the American military campaign in Iraq with terrorist operations against U.S. interests.

U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials believe that bin Laden's displeasure may reflect al Qaeda's crippled operational capability.

There is little question that the network has the capacity to conduct low-level operations involving one, or possibly two suicide bombers, but analysts are increasingly dubious that it can commit large scale, coordinated, high-impact attacks that would cause mass casualties such as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

There's also this report from the Washington Times:

Al Qaeda and its terrorist allies remain a potent threat, but their failure to carry out a successful strike during the U.S.-led military campaign to topple Saddam Hussein has raised questions about their ability to carry out major new attacks....

"I think their credibility is increasingly on the line the longer we go without a successful terrorist strike," said Mark Burgess, director of the Terrorism Project at the Center for Defense Information.

"We know al Qaeda is a patient lot, but I don't know if they can afford to be too patient," he said. "Bin Laden made a lot of noise before the war about defending the Iraqi people, and so far there's nothing to show for it."

Certainly, the destruction of their cell in northern Iraq -- with Iran's cooperation -- must have stung.

UPDATE: Global Witness has a report out on Al Qaeda's connections with the diamond trade. Here's the press release -- and here's the page to download the report. The BBC provides a summary as well.

posted by Dan at 03:00 PM | Trackbacks (0)




WORRYING ABOUT AFGHANISTAN: It's possible

WORRYING ABOUT AFGHANISTAN: It's possible to point to press stories indicating that things are getting better in Afghanistan. The number of returning Afghan expatriates is increasing, which is one sign of stability. Kandahar now has an Internet cafe. Polio vaccinations have drastically reduced the rate of infection in the country.

So, does that mean things are -- on the whole -- improving in the country? No, I'm afraid the security situation is getting worse.

Much, much worse.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to chat with a high-ranking member of our armed forces. This is the kind of guy who presents a generally unflappable demeanor. It was an off-the-record conversation, so I can't say what he told me exactly. It was clear, however, that the situation in southern Afghanistan was starting to alarm him.

Further evidence comes from Jane's Intelligence Review's latest update on the Afghan situation:

Politically, the opposition ["An ad hoc alliance comprising Taliban remnants, the Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) faction of former mujahideen leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and groups of Al-Qaeda stragglers"] has displayed a new confidence and political assertiveness in recent months with various leaders publicly enunciating their goal of expelling western forces. In January, Hekmatyar vowed Afghan "mujahideen" would "force America out of their country like the Soviet Union" while in February, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar used the Pakistani press to renew his call for anti-Western jihad. Then in late March in an interview with BBC radio, the day after the murder of a foreign aid worker, senior Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah promised to step up the fight against "Jews, Christians, [and] all foreign crusaders", warning Afghan government officials at all levels "not to stand behind the puppet and slave regime."

Rocket attacks have gained both in frequency and intensity. Whereas last year one or two missiles was the norm, salvos are now being fired. There have also been barrages of mortar fire.

At the same time, the opposition has displayed greater aggressiveness both in attacking US Special Forces beyond their bases, and in concentrating larger numbers of fighters. The planting of mines on roads used by US patrols, which was begun last year, continues; but is now being reinforced with close-in ambushes. The Girishk ambush has been the only one to result in Coalition fatalities this year, but on 10 February a US patrol was attacked in the Baghran valley of upper Helmand province, by assailants using rocket propelled grenades and machine guns. Other ambushes have occurred near Asadabad in eastern Kunar and near Shkin, a well-known blackspot on the border of Paktika province with Pakistan.

Attacks on the Coalition's Afghan allies - which Taliban remnants had earlier specifically refrained from - have also gathered pace this year....

[International Committee of the Red Cross engineer Ricardo] Munguia's murder has badly shaken the confidence of the international aid community. The weeks following his death saw a sharp reduction or halting of field operations in the south by the UN, the Red Cross and other non-governmental organisations. Many staff have been withdrawn to Kabul. But as all sides are well aware, any significant reduction of aid and development programmes in a chronically poor part of the country threatens to trigger a vicious downward spiral of growing Pashtun disaffection from Kabul, accelerated opposition recruitment, and a further deterioration of security.

Click here for today's example of the increased coordination of the anti-Karzai forces.

Part of the problem with the increased strength of the oppoosition forces is that it forces the Karzai government to rely even more on tribal militias, contradicting efforts to create a truly national military. The Christian Science Monitor explains:

The growing assertiveness of tribes like the Mangals could have dramatic repercussions for an Afghan government that has had difficulty extending its authority beyond the capital, Kabul. Not only might these tribes bring back an ancient vigilante style of justice - burning the homes of accused criminals, for instance - but tribal militias could become an obstacle for US forces as they search the countryside for Al Qaeda.

Rival tribes warn that the Mangals could easily switch sides and give their armed support to Al Qaeda if they felt that Kabul was not sufficiently representing Mangal interests. This is not an idle concern. Mangal tribesmen were among the Taliban's most enthusiastic supporters in southeastern Afghanistan....

"The US forces have modern weapons, modern forces, but there are some things you can't do in a fast, modern way, and choosing your friends is one of them," says Wakil Sherkhan, an elder in the Tanai tribe, which resides in both Paktia and Khost provinces.

"One hears rumors all the time, but I think it is possible for these arbakis [Pashto for "militia"] to take action against the central government, and even against US forces," Mr. Sherkhan adds, "because money makes everything possible. If someone gives you 100 Afghanis [Afghan currency] and I gave you 2,000, who are you going to favor?"

The U.S. response and the Afghan government's response to this has been to step up security patrols in the affected areas, and to apply pressure on Pakistan to cut off any covert support for Taliban remnants.

That will help, but only some. Of course, the deteriorating security situation further impairs all levels of humanitarian efforts -- click here, here, and here for examples.

The final source of my pessimism comes from someone who knows Afghanistan well, Barnett Rubin. Read this VOA report and it's clear his outlook has become more pessimistic since I heard him in January.

Clearly, more effort needs to be devoted to the country. Given all the focus that will be on Iraq, my concern is that this situation will be permitted to deteriorate even further, because Afghanistan is off the front pages and because many of the same government officials responsible for Afghanistan are dealing with Iraq as well.

Developing... and for the moment, not in a good way.

UPDATE: CNN reports on another firefight along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

ATTENTION, KAUSFILES READERS: If you're still interested about the situation in Afghanistan, check out this more recent post.

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



Wednesday, April 23, 2003

A STEP FORWARD FOR THE

A STEP FORWARD FOR THE PALESTINIANS?: It appears that in response to overwhelming and persistent international pressure, Yassir Arafat has backed down and accepted Prime Minister-designate Mahmoud Abbas' proposed cabinet. Here's the AP story, and here's CNN's take.

Much of the press has played this up as a contest between Arafat trying to place his cronies and Abbas wanting to reform the Palestinian administration. That's true but incomplete in the sense that Abbas might not be that much of an improvement. Consider this extract from a New York Times story from yesterday:

from the fraying neighborhoods of Gaza City and its refugee camps, the battle seemed more trifling.

A woman who gave her name as Khitam, 30, a mother of five, feigned surprise when asked about the new government as she picked through clothes at a vendor's stall here.

"Was there a government?" she asked. "Where's the old government to talk about appointing a new one?"

Disappointment is the wrong word for people's reactions; it implies they have hope. An opinion poll released a week ago by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that only 43 percent thought that Mr. Abbas would assemble a government that would win the public's confidence.

It is not that people do not want change. They say they long for it, but they do not expect it. Anger at the Israeli occupation blunts but does not neutralize Palestinians' frustration with their own leadership....

Palestinians look at the heavily guarded mansions here of men like Mr. Abbas and Mr. Dahlan, and they wonder whose interests they have at heart.

Mr. Abdel Shafi met with Mr. Abbas as he assembled his government, and he said he was impressed with his approach and his proposed cabinet. But he said many Palestinians saw Mr. Abbas as "part of the Palestinian leadership responsible for this misery," and he wondered, "If you were so unhappy with Yasir Arafat, why didn't you say something?"

Mr. Abbas, who is known as Abu Mazen, put forward at least five men regarded as reformers. But that was from a list of at least 19 that included several of Mr. Arafat's old guard and others widely viewed as corrupt. One associate of Mr. Abbas said today that he had erred in trying to compromise, to satisfy both Fatah's senior members and upstart legislators in the Palestinian Legislative Council."

Then there's this take in the Chicago Tribune:

Hanan Ashrawi, a Ramallah lawmaker and an outspoken advocate of government reforms, said Arafat was having difficulty giving up powers, while Abbas had made Cabinet appointments based on personal loyalty and sought to retain some ministers tainted by corruption.

"There has to be recognition that this is a new phase, but they are still playing by the old rules," Ashrawi said. "Arafat has to realize that he is no longer president with total powers, and Abu Mazen has to appoint a credible and effective Cabinet. Instead it has become a matter of personalities, settling scores and payback time."

These stories suggest two things. First, Palestinians would be willing to go along with a two-state solution provided there was evidence that their own state was managed somewhat efficiently. In other words, a leader commited to peace could get it by tying progress on that front with an anti-corruption campaign at home. Second, I'm far from convinced that Abbas will be able to pull this off.

This is definitely one post where I hope I'm eventually proven wrong.

UPDATE: Tom Maguire has more reasons to be pessimistic.

posted by Dan at 02:25 PM | Trackbacks (0)




HAPPY BIRTHDAY!: OxBlog is one

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!: OxBlog is one year old today -- so go check out their sight.

I, for one, find them invaluable as a labor-saving device. For example, I was going to write up a long post about why Newt Gingrich's shot across Colin Powell's bow disturbed me so much -- because it presumed that the flaws in U.S. foreign policy lay in Powell's management of the State Department and not Bush's management of his cabinet. To highlight Powell's failure at diplomacy without any mention of Donald Rumsfeld's verbal gaffes in this area strikes me as fatuous. [So you're letting Powell off the hook?--ed. Go back and read this post; I'm an equal-opportunity critic]

Fortunately, I don't have to discuss this any further. Go read David Adesnik's thorough post on the subject. It also mentions beaches in Thailand.

UPDATE: According to the New York Times, the White House is having the same reaction I did:

A senior White House official, asserted today that Mr. Gingrich's criticism "was seen at the White House as an attack on the president, not an attack on Powell." There was widespread anger at the White House, the official said, but he declined to characterize the reaction of Mr. Bush himself.

posted by Dan at 11:33 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Tuesday, April 22, 2003

GIVE NICHOLAS KRISTOFF HIS DUE:

GIVE NICHOLAS KRISTOFF HIS DUE: I like it when public commentators admit it when they were wrong (and Lord knows, I have to do it all too frequently). Not because it humbles them, but because it sends an important signal of credibility. It tells me that their theoretical take on the world is not rigid to the point where it distorts their empirical assessment of the world.

Which brings me to Kristoff's column today. Here's his opening:

Last September, a gloom-and-doom columnist warned about Iraq: "If we're going to invade, we need to prepare for a worst-case scenario involving street-to-street fighting."

Ahem. Yes, well, that was my body double while I was on vacation.

Since I complained vigorously about this war before it started, it's only fair for me to look back and acknowledge that many of the things that I — along with other doves — worried about didn't happen.

He covers a lot of the same ground that I posted about two weeks ago. However, it carries more weight when a dove admits it.

Of course, that doesn't I think Kristoff is right in this conclusion:

The hawks also look increasingly naïve in their expectations that Iraq will soon blossom into a pro-American democracy. For now, the figures who inspire mass support in postwar Iraq are Shiite clerics like Ali al-Sistani (moderate, but tainted by being soft on Saddam), Moqtadah al-Sadr (radical son of a martyr) and Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim (Iran's candidate), all of whom criticize the United States.

As in revolutionary Iran, the Shiite network is the major network left in Iraq, and it will help determine the narrative of the war: infidel invasion or friendly liberation. I'm afraid we infidels had better look out.

We'll see whether Kristoff is correct. However, approximately 40% of Iraq are not Shi'Ite, and I'm betting that a healthy fraction of the Shi'ites don't want to see an Islamic Republic.

The key will be to see the proliferation of Iraqi media. The more people that see moderately large Shi'ite demonstrations for an Islamic republic, the more it will mobilize alternative social movements who will oppose such actions. The fundamental question is, at this point, whether hard-line Shi'ites will then choose to moderate their tone to stay in the political game a la Tajikistan, or choose secessionist or rejectionist strategies.

Developing...

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan has more on Kristoff and the future for democracy in Iraq.

posted by Dan at 02:48 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Monday, April 21, 2003

MUST-READ FOR THE DAY: It's

MUST-READ FOR THE DAY: It's actually from last month -- a New York Times translation of a Der Spiegel interview with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. It's extraordinary for several reasons. The first is Fischer's claim about the neocon vision of a post-9/11 world:

FISCHER: Ever since September 18th or 19th, 2001, when Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in Washington roughly outlined for me what he thought the answer to international terrorism had to be.

SPIEGEL: And?

FISCHER: His view was that the US had to liberate a whole string of countries from their terrorist rulers, if necessary by force. Ultimately a new world order would come out of this - more democracy, peace, stability, and security for people.

For the record, Wolfowitz vehemently denies he said this to Fischer. He wrote a letter to the editor in which he states, "I have never held the view the Foreign Minister attributes to me and did not express such a view in our meeting of Sept. 19, 2001, as the official notes of that meeting make clear." Given Fischer's apparent preference for public dissembling and private truth-telling, I tend to believe Wolfowitz on this one.

Then there's this exchange:

SPIEGEL: The neo-conservatives who are in charge in Washington will probably write off your constant insistence on international regulations and institutions as Old European thinking.

FISCHER: The American political scientist Robert Kagan has developed a bizarre image: Europeans come from Venus and indulge in the dream of perpetual peace, while Americans are from Mars, and faced with the hard realities of the wolf's den of international politics, they stand and fight, all against all. Anyone who knows European history knows about the many wars we've had here. The Americans had no Verdun on their continent. In the US there is nothing comparable to Auschwitz or Stalingrad or any of the other terrible symbolic places in our history.

SPIEGEL: All of them were catastrophes in which the Americans were on the right side.

Really, I recommend reading the entire article -- the Der Spiegel interviewer gives Fisher a pretty good grilling.

I came away from the read depressed about Europe's map of the future. Fischer admits that "Europeans at their end started to hold strategic discussions too late. We have to catch up now." However, I can't divine any underlying social purpose behind Fisher's call for a strategic vision beyond constraining American power.

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



Saturday, April 19, 2003

THE SYSTEM WORKS: Last week,

THE SYSTEM WORKS: Last week, Baseball Hall of Fame President Dale Petroskey banned Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon from appearing at a 15th anniversary celebration of the greatest baseball movie ever made, Bull Durham. Petroskey Fedexed the pair a letter arguing that comments made by the actors "ultimately could put our troops in even more danger." He went on to note: "Mr. Robbins and Ms. Sarandon have every right to express their opinions. But The Baseball Hall of Fame is not the proper venue for highly charged political expressions, whatever they may be." For more backstory, click here.

Needless to say, this was an asinine decision for three reasons. First, neither Sarandon nor Robbins said anything that put troops in danger. Yes, they opposed the war, but last I checked they weren't transmitting information to Baghdad or anything of that sort.

Second, if their behavior at the Oscars was indicative of anything, it was that neither of them had planned pull a Michael Moore or anything at the Hall of Fame Ceremony. Sarandon was quoted as saying:

This was just a celebration, a chance to see some friends from the movie and make what's become almost an annual trip with our boys... As far as I knew, we weren't speaking. I wasn't even planning to wear makeup. And to politicize baseball is to violate the spirit of what it's all about.

Third, never, under any circumstances, do anything that permits Sarandon or Robbins to feel righteously indignant. It's just grating. Petroskey's move validated the claim by a lot of Hollywood types that their public opposition to the war was somehow being censored.

Fortunately, Petroskey's decision resulted in a deluge of letters and editorials (click here and here too) denouncing the decision. A lot of the Blogosphere was pissed too -- click here, here, and here. And this week, Petroskey did something very rare -- he issued a genuine apology. Here are the key grafs:

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is a very special place - a national treasure - and my responsibility is to protect it. Politics has no place in The Hall of Fame. There was a chance of politics being injected into The Hall during these sensitive times, and I made a decision to not take that chance. But I inadvertently did exactly what I was trying to avoid. With the advantage of hindsight, it is clear I should have handled the matter differently.

I am sorry I didn't pick up the phone to have a discussion with Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon rather than sending them a letter.

According to the AP, Robbins responded with a statement observing, "Because Petroskey's actions resulted in a bipartisan, nationwide affirmation of free speech and the First Amendment, he has inadvertently done us all a favor."

This may be that once-in-a-decade moment where I am in agreement with Robbins on a matter of politics.

posted by Dan at 02:42 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Friday, April 18, 2003

WHY I LOVE DENMARK: There

WHY I LOVE DENMARK: There are two reasons. First, there's their commitment to open government, which is about to embarrass the European Union, according to this FT story:

What does Germany really think about Turkish membership of the EU? How did Gerhard Schröder nearly wreck the EU enlargement deal? And what does Vladimir Putin privately think about Russian journalists?

The answers are in a "warts and all" television documentary telling the inside story of the Danish EU presidency, which culminated in the Copenhagen enlargement summit last December. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Denmark's prime minister, honoured his commitment to open government by giving rare access to a camera team during the tense talks leading to the deal allowing 10 new members to join the EU.

Not everyone is as happy as Mr Fogh Rasmussen to feature in the film, to be broadcast in Denmark on Thursday. It has caused fury across Europe, and even some Danes think his candour has gone too far. The biggest controversy surrounds claims that Joschka Fischer, German foreign minister, privately tried to find ways to stop Turkey joining the EU, while publicly supporting Ankara's application....

But it is not clear whether the EU's often secretive culture is ready for a painful dose of openness. Some Danes agree with that view. Niels Helveg Petersen, a former foreign minister, said: "This is a break with proper behaviour, a diplomatic blunder of the highest order."

Read the whole story -- as well as these takes by the BBC and the EU Observer. The latter provides the details of the most damaging part of the documentary:

a sequence displaying a politically charged statement by German foreign minister Joschka Fischer where he revealed his personal views to Danish foreign minister Per Stig Møller, on Turkish membership of the European Union.

"I am a good friend of Joschka, and he tells me, that Turkey will never join", says the Danish foreign minister Per Stig Møller in a corridor passage which was taped and used in the film.

Needless to say, this is causing a three-way diplomatic row between Denmark, Turkey, and Germany. I actually have some sympathy for Fischer, since he's being damned by hearsay. If it's true, however, then shame on Germany for trying to screw the Turks over, and good for the Danes' commitment to open government.

Essay question to the Eurocrats:

"An American-led invasion of Iraq that removes a totalitarian dictatorship will increase hatred of the West among Muslims. EU discrimination against Turkey will decrease Muslim hatred of the West."

Can those two statements be logically reconciled? Discuss.

[What's the second reason you love Denmark?--ed. Last month the Danish weekly Weekendavisen translated and published one of my New Republic essays. I may not speak a word of Danish, but it looks pretty damn cool.]

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




HE'S RIGHT -- PROBABLY: Josh

HE'S RIGHT -- PROBABLY: Josh Marshall has a level-headed post today in response to today's Baghdad demonstration demanding an Islamic state in Iraq. It closes this way:

none of this is going to be settled by one day of good or bad photo-ops. The die is cast. Like it or not, the fate of America and Iraq are now fastened together for at least several years. I don't pretend to know how it's going to turn out. But the one thing I think we can be confident of is that none of us are going to emerge from this with our hubris intact.

As someone who occasionally pretends to know how things will turn out, I think Marshall is right.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum has more to say on this:

This is a very long term project we're involved in, and the ups and downs of daily events really don't mean much. It will be months, maybe years, before we know what the real reaction of ordinary Iraqis is to our invasion. I suspect that in the long run it's going to be more negative than positive, but at any rate — and to coin a phrase — it's sure not going to be a cakewalk.

posted by Dan at 02:11 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Thursday, April 17, 2003

IN MY NAME: What Josh

IN MY NAME: What Josh Chafetz said here, I wholeheartedly endorse.

posted by Dan at 10:38 PM | Trackbacks (0)




SIGN OF THE TIMES: Blogging

SIGN OF THE TIMES: Blogging is light today because I'm continuing my tour of Midwestern colleges with a talk on globalization at Beloit College.

True story -- after I'd attended a senior seminar, my host explained to one of his colleagues that I needed to get to an Internet station -- because it had been some time since I'd updated the blog.

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



Wednesday, April 16, 2003

SYRIA AND AL-QAEDA: Via Glenn

SYRIA AND AL-QAEDA: Via Glenn Reynolds, I read Justin Weitz's discussion of sanctioning Syria (you'll have to scroll down). In the post, Wietz mentions, "Syria's close relationship with terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda and Hezbollah."

Now, this was the first time I had heard about any connection between Al-Qaeda and Syria, and I didn't like the assertion without any backup. Weitz, however, could point to this September 2002 post which linked to this Ha'aretz article chronicling the relationship between Syria and Al Qaeda. The article is sourced to various intelligence agencies as opposed to specific individuals, which makes me antsy for some reason. That said, here are the key grafs:

Much evidence now shows that before 9-11, Syria was a stomping ground for Qaida operatives, considered a place where they could move around in relative freedom. The country served as transit point for them and Qaida had an infrastructure there. They were able to operate with relatively few of the restrictions that other Arab countries, like Egypt, put on them.

After 9-11.... as American rage grew and the attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan began, the Syrians changed position, and said they were ready for intelligence cooperation with the U.S. on the Qaida issue. But there are now clear indications that it was tactical and only partial cooperation.

Readiness for cooperation mostly came via information about Qaida cells in other countries and not what Qaida representatives were doing in Syria. Important information came from Syria, for example, on Qaida cells in Germany. That apparently is what kept Syria off President George W. Bush's "axis of evil" list.

Now there's this Los Angeles Times story:

Syria has functioned as a hub for an Al Qaeda network that moved Islamic extremists and funds from Italy to northeastern Iraq, where the recruits fought alongside the recently defeated Ansar al Islam terrorist group, according to an Italian investigation....

Two weeks ago, Italian police arrested seven alleged Al Qaeda operatives. They were charged with sending about 40 extremists through Syria to terrorist bases operated jointly by Al Qaeda and Ansar al Islam, whose stronghold in northeast Iraq was recently overrun by Kurdish and U.S. troops.

Transcripts of wiretapped conversations among the suspected operatives and others paint a detailed picture of overseers in Syria coordinating the movement of recruits and money between Europe and Iraq, according to court documents obtained by The Times....

Italian investigators say that they have no evidence that the Syrian government was aware of the network or protected it, and that they hope to get help with the case from Syrian authorities. Still, the activity of the alleged terror network raises questions because the Syrian government has aggressive security services that would likely be aware of extremists operating in their territory.

And finally, this Straits Times lead:

The United States tightened the screws on Syria yesterday, claiming that it was harbouring a high-ranking Iraqi intelligence official with Al-Qaeda links.

A US official alleged that Faruq Hijazi, ranked third in Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's intelligence service, flew into Damascus aboard a commercial jet on Tuesday, seeking refuge after the fall of the Baghdad regime....

According to media reports, Saddam also sent Hijazi to Afghanistan in 1998 to establish contacts with Osama bin Laden, the leader of the Al-Qaeda terror network.

Some European newspapers even insisted that Hijazi met the alleged ringleader of the Sept 11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta, before the terror attacks on the US.

But Washington has not confirmed that the meeting took place, and Hijazi is not included in the Pentagon's 'deck of death' cards which feature the 55 most-wanted Iraqi officials.

If you read everything, I'm still not sure it adds up to a conscious effort by the Syrian government to assist Al Qaeda. I see a lot of suppositions and fewer facts.

However, this post was originally going to blast Weitz for making the link between Syria and Al Qaeda without any basis in fact. Obviously, it didn't turn out that way.

What do you think? Let me know.

UPDATE: Todd Mormon posts some new information suggesting that the Syrian government has been eager to cooperate with the U.S. on Al Qaeda. And it's worth quoting at length from Lawrence Kaplan's TNR article on Syria:

In the immediate aftermath of September 11, Assad provided the United States with what one administration official describes as a "treasure trove" of intelligence on Al Qaeda activities among Syrian nationals—principal among these Mohammed Haydar Zammar, an Al Qaeda commander living in Germany, and Mamoun Darkazanli, one of the organization's alleged financiers. Assad even sent President Bush a letter proposing that the two countries "establish sound bases of worldwide cooperation ... to uproot terrorism in all its forms." Before long, Syrian intelligence operatives were meeting with the CIA and passing along warnings replete with details about likely terrorist targets. Even the administration's Syria hawks concede that one such warning, which alerted American policymakers to a plot against American forces in the Gulf, "saved American lives."

Food for thought.

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




WHEN DRUDGE HYPERVENTILATES: Matt Drudge's

WHEN DRUDGE HYPERVENTILATES: Matt Drudge's latest "flash" story is about how Sharon Bush -- Neil Bush's ex-wife -- plans to write "a tell all [book] on the Bush family". What are the juicy details? Here are some snippets:

"She believes, and is prepared to reveal in her book, that the Bushes are far more pragmatic and calculating than has ever been seen before. She will show that the family orchestrates its public image from top to bottom. She will reveal that the family is in essence a political operation."

Oh, dear God, no!! Not "pragmatic and calculating"!! And the family cares about its public image? Wow, this is going to be pathbreaking stuff. Wait, there's more:

"In the book, she hopes to show that Barabara Bush has exercised a good deal more control over the family than previously revealed. She also wants to show that the relationship between the Bush brothers, as well as relations between the President and former President, have been more fraught and complex than previously known, her associates say."

Well, there will certainly be an uproar when the American people find out that the matriarch of the Bush clan has influence over her family members. And "fraught and complex" relationships between family members will certainly be a novel theme in American politics. You'd never see that kind of behavior among the Kennedys, Gores, Doles, Rockefellers, Clintons, or Daleys.

I understand why Sharon Bush's lawyer wants to attract publicity. I can't understand why Drudge would think that a book that spills Neil Bush's dirty laundry and implies that the other Bushes have political sides to their personalities is particularly salacious.

Not developing....

posted by Dan at 10:32 AM | Trackbacks (0)




SO WHAT DO THE NEOCONS

SO WHAT DO THE NEOCONS WANT?: In the past month I've received a lot of e-mail flak for one of two posts -- either this one touting Josh Marshall's Washington Monthly essay as a "must-read", or this one pooh-poohing the notion that Jim Woolsey speaks for the Bush administration when he says we're starting World War IV. Critics of the first post say I'm buying into wild conspiracy theories; critics of the second post think I'm naive and uninformed about the way Washington really works.

Here's my answer to both sets of critics.

Part of the problem is that the neocons have hardly made up their minds on this question. There's this Washington Post story suggesting Syria's next on the list -- at the same time, Lawrence Kaplan writes in The New Republic that Syria isn't even on the radar screen (subscription required).

This Reuters report suggests that all of the neocons are ready to march throughout the Middle East. But chief neocon theoretician Robert Kagan opines that some humility is in order right now, and it’s going to be tough to proffer an olive branch to Europe while coercing Syria with military force. Even Josh Marshall is skeptical that military action is imminent – his description of what’s going on right now is note-perfect:

“I doubt very much that we're about to move militarily against Syria. This strikes me as a brush-back pitch. It is critical to our efforts in Iraq that Syria not try to Lebanize Iraq. Those are the minimum ground rules. And we need to make that crystal clear to them right now.”

So, why did I think Marshall’s article was worth reading? Because I agree with him that a few neocons are willing to deceive in order to achieve their desired – and arguably desirable – ends. I've spoken with or listened to a fair number of the chief neocons. Most of them are intellectually rigorous and smart as hell. But some of them – who until recently held positions of influence in the Bush administration – will change their arguments on a whim, or make wildly erroneous assertions, or ignore contradictory evidence, to get what they want. And I care enough about how the process of U.S. foreign policy decision-making to oppose those tactics, no matter how desirable the perceived ends.

What could be interesting in the next few weeks/months is whether the neoconservative movement splits – between “pragmatic” neocons (Kagan, Wolfowitz) that recognize the limits of what can be done right now, and “movement” neoconservatives (Woolsey, Perle) that want to start World War IV.

Developing….

posted by Dan at 10:19 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Tuesday, April 15, 2003

TOUGH TIMES FOR FRENCH LEADERS:

TOUGH TIMES FOR FRENCH LEADERS: Like a bad hangover, the French obstructionism of February and March is coming back to haunt the Chirac administration. [Hey, doesn't this support your argument about the limits of anti-Americanism in established democracies?--ed. Huh. What a felicitous coincidence.] The Guardian reports:

"Nearly half the French electorate believes that France was isolated diplomatically because of its opposition to the invasion of Iraq, according to an opinion poll yesterday....

In the poll, in the newspaper Libération, 46% of those questioned said President Chirac's attempts to block Anglo-American moves to topple Saddam Hussein had isolated Paris, although 59% still thought the war was wrong.

The poll also contained the first signs of a slide in Mr Chirac's popularity, which dropped by four points to 70% from a month earlier. Since that survey, leading members of his party, the UMP, have criticised the president for failing to congratulate British and American troops."

A slide from 74% to 70% ain't that big of a comedown. The key thing, however, is that French elites are just starting to criticize Chirac for his position on Iraq. Consider this from the Voice of America:

"Some French media have also cautioned the government against following a confrontational diplomacy - most recently by insisting that the United Nations, not Washington, should assume interim administration of Iraq. An editorial in Le Monde called on Paris to work with Washington in finding a diplomatic solution.

Other experts, such as Philippe Moreau Defarges, Special Advisor at the French Institute of International Relations in Paris, believe the anti-war coalition, which includes Germany and Russia, may soon crumble, leaving France isolated.

'It's clear this coalition between Paris, Berlin and Moscow was really an artificial coalition,' said Mr. Defarges. 'It's certain that Russia and Mr. [Vladimir] Putin will want to play its own game and to reconcile with the United States. Particularly, but not only, because of Iraq and the oil contracts. Concerning Germany, it's clear the German chancellor is not a very strong man, and he will try at the end of the day to reconcile with Washington.'"

You know France is screwed, however, when Tom Friedman writes this paragraph:

"For me, the best argument for pressuring Syria is the fact that France's foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said on Sunday that this was not the time to be pressuring Syria. Ever since he blocked any U.N. military action against Saddam, Mr. de Villepin has become my moral compass: whatever he is for, I am against. And whatever he is against, I am for."

Ouch.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has more on France's current woes.

posted by Dan at 11:59 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)




TOTALITARIANISM IN ZIMBABWE: Last month

TOTALITARIANISM IN ZIMBABWE: Last month I blogged about authoritarian crackdowns during Gulf War II. Since then, Mickey Kaus has been all over Casto's crackdown in Cuba (as well as what happens when Lennonist contemplate schmoozing with Leninists). However, this New York Times story suggests that Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe is rapidly catching up to Castro or Hussein in terms of totalitarianism:

"Human rights groups report a violent crackdown by President Mugabe against the opposition that forced nearly 1,000 people to flee their homes. An opposition representative in the Zimbabwean Parliament arrives in Johannesburg showing reporters how he was tortured by Zimbabwean security agents with electric shock. Three Zimbabwean women who had participated in a rally here against President Mugabe report they were later raped by Zimbabwean agents operating in South Africa. A popular Zimbabwean cricket player flees to South Africa saying he received numerous death threats after wearing a black armband — a symbol of mourning for what he considered the death of democracy in his homeland."

The focus of the Times story is actually on Mugabe's creation of a corps of young loyalist thugs who benefit from the current system:

"The young men, who range in age from 18 to 22, explained that they are runaways from Zimbabwe's National Youth Service, whose graduates are known and feared as the "green bombers," a nickname that comes from the group's military-style uniforms and capacity for devastation.

Human rights groups and Western diplomats accuse President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe of turning the recruits into violent thugs and unleashing them on political opponents. President Mugabe, who has governed since the end of white rule in 1980, dismisses the accusations. He has said that he established the youth league three years ago as a kind of poor boys' Peace Corps, enlisting his country's sizable 18-and-under population for desperately needed community service projects.

In an interview today, Makhosi Ngusanya, 19, said he answered President Mugabe's call to service when his teachers filled his head with visions of a noble way out of poverty.

'They told us that if we became good green bombers then they would make us soldiers and give us land,' Mr. Ngusanya said. 'But they didn't give us anything. And all they taught us was to kill.'"

Is the Bush administration looking the other way, or rather, looking at Syria? Not exactly. This Australian report suggests the administration is trying a "North Korea" strategy of having Zimbabwe's neighbors take the lead, quoting a "senior official" in the State Department as follows:

"What we're telling them is there has to be a transitional government in Zimbabwe that leads to a free and fair, internationally supervised election.... That is the goal. He stole the last one, we can't let that happen again.... It has to be internationally supervised, open, transparent with an electoral commission that works..... "

Will this strategy work? The U.S. official spins a positive reaction, saying: "The neighbourhood is starting to realise that there is a downside to giving aid and protection to Comrade Bob," the official said, using a derogatory nickname for Mugabe.... There is stuff happening, there is stuff happening behind the scenes."

Well, maybe. The Times story makes it clear that South African President Thabo Mbeki is reluctant to criticize a fellow African leader, especially in response to Anglosphere pressure. So does this story on negotiations within the Commonwealth on Zimbabwe:

"Zimbabwe has failed to respond to appeals for reform from the Commonwealth and its situation has worsened since suspension from the group of mainly ex-British colonies, according to a report leaked today.

'Overall the general political, economic and social situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated since March 2002,' said an internal report by Don McKinnon, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, obtained and published by Britain's opposition Conservative Party....

The Commonwealth split over Zimbabwe has appeared to pit white nations against African and Asian ones in the seven-decade-old group which joins almost one third of the world's countries with 1,7 billion people.

On one side, African heavyweights South Africa and Nigeria, for example, believe Mugabe's government has recorded enough progress over the past year in land reform, human rights and democracy to warrant re-admission to the Commonwealth.

But Mugabe's opponents such as Australia say that stance is a betrayal of Commonwealth principles, pointing to the treason trial of opposition figures and harsh media and security laws." (emphasis added)

Developing... and not in a good way.

posted by Dan at 01:50 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)




THE SCHIZOPHRENIC ECONOMIST: Kevin Drum

THE SCHIZOPHRENIC ECONOMIST: Kevin Drum has the goods on contradictory statements coming from the august British publication, or, as Kevin puts it, "the pro-war, pro-Bush, America-friendly, center-right Economist:"

Kevin, you should have followed up that statement with, "not that there's anything wrong with that!"

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



Monday, April 14, 2003

MORE ON UMM QASR: The

MORE ON UMM QASR: The New York Times reports of an open town meeting in Umm Qasr:

"For the first time anywhere in Iraq since the war started, the people in this port town gathered tonight for a remarkable democratic display — a town hall meeting.

As the sun set, turning the cloud-covered sky a dusty orange, the townspeople took turns talking about the problems they face and deciding who among them would help lead the community in the future.

However, as has been the case in interviews in cities from Safwan to Zubayr to Basra, people were too fixated on their present condition to think about what was to come. They want to know what is being done about the lack of water, security and jobs — three things they say they had under Saddam Hussein's rule."

Ah, the sounds of citizens wanting more from their government.

Meanwhile, this report suggests that the humanitarian effort to repair damage from the war will pale in comparison to the humanitarian effort needed to repair damage from the economic sanctions of the past decade.

posted by Dan at 01:47 PM | Trackbacks (0)




ETIQUETTE QUESTION: It appears that

ETIQUETTE QUESTION: It appears that Tikrit has fallen. CENTCOM spokesman Vincent Brooks was quoted as follows:

"This morning the attack entered Tikrit, securing the presidential palace there and also beginning the search for any remaining regime supporters."

And this is really the only significant combat action that occurred within the last 24 hours... There was less resistance than we anticipated."

Later on the article states: "Some officers are suggesting that this battle could be the last major engagement of the war."

This news, combined with mounting evidence that the "looting phase" is over, poses an interesting question: at what point should the "No War" buttons be removed from clothing?

My guess is that they're going to be there for a while. The prominent antiwar groups are casting about for some way to keep their movement alive. We'll see if they succeed.

Developing...

posted by Dan at 12:09 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Sunday, April 13, 2003

ELSEWHERE IN THE BLOGOSPHERE: Trent

ELSEWHERE IN THE BLOGOSPHERE: Trent Telenko has some interesting commentary and links on successful U.S. Army efforts at statebuilding in Afghanistan, and how NGO groups have mixed feelingsa about it.

Daniel Urman has a point about the asinine hypothesis that Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins have somehow undermined our troops in Iraq by opposing the war.

Oh, and Eugene Volokh has some thoughts about vibrators.

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



Friday, April 11, 2003

THE LIMITS OF ANTI-AMERICANISM, CONT'D:

THE LIMITS OF ANTI-AMERICANISM, CONT'D: I didn't mention Asia in my New Republic online essay on the limits of Anti-Americanism, but this New York Times story on media coverage/commentary of the war in Pacific Rim countries with significant Muslim populations suggests that there is not much anti_americanism to dissipate. Some key grafs:

"The press in Islamic Indonesia and Malaysia has been almost uniformly critical and often derisive about the war. The tone has been the same in the Philippines, a Roman Catholic nation with close American ties and a significant Muslim minority.

But the opposition has had a half-hearted, been-there ring to it, lacking the intensity and the calls for jihad that accompanied America's attack on Afghanistan more than a year ago and that still run through the Arab media in the Middle East....

'Even in so-called Islamic media, the tendency has largely been toward not portraying this war as a religious one,' said Atmakusumah Astraatmadja, chairman of Indonesia's independent Press Council. "Iraqis have been fleeing to Indonesia for years, and refugees usually flee countries with oppressive policies."

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said, are 'related to the survival of Americans decades ahead, while we can only think of planning for tomorrow.' He added: 'I don't quite like the arguments, but they have their own reasons, not just to hit at suggested terrorists.'....

Public protests have been carefully appropriated by the Malaysian government for maximum political gain as it looks toward parliamentary elections in the coming year. The point is made repeatedly that the criticisms are antiwar rather than anti-American."

posted by Dan at 04:36 PM | Trackbacks (0)




MAYBE TOM BROKAW HAD A

MAYBE TOM BROKAW HAD A POINT: Remember the late nineties, when Tom Brokaw wrote The Greatest Generation and men of all agies were weeping over Saving Private Ryan? I loved the movie, appreciated that the W.W. II generation was receiving its due, but then my own generational pride kicked in and suspected that it was all perhaps overblown.

Then I read Neal Steinberg column in today's Chicago Sun-Times, entitled, "With us just 3 weeks, but already getting old." Read the whole piece to get the full flavor; here are the parts I choked on:

"Don't get me wrong, I was very, very pleased. (I'm not one of those lemon-faced NPR liberals wringing their hands over the uncertainty of the weeks and years to come.) That misses the point. We won. We did it in high style, with a minimum of civilian casualties. Yes, we committed one gaffe: That soldier putting the American flag over the face of the statue of Saddam, which I guess is our atrocity for the war." (emphasis added)

Steinberg is paid for his lexicographical skills, so I think it's worth questioning his use of "atrocity." Filling a children's prison is an atrocity. Forcing pregnant women to be suicide bombers is an atrocity. Gassing your own population is an atrocity. I'm going to go out on a limb and describe this phrasing as "unbelievably offensive."

Later on, there's this:

"So I was happy at the moment of apparent victory, but... it was a weary kind of happiness. All war, all the time starts to grate on you. It gets repetitive. I don't know how our parents got through nearly four years of World War II, because after three weeks of war, I'm ready to move on. I mean, there must be other news happening in the world, right, news we don't learn about because the war sucks up all the available attention. How could it not?"

OK... someone needs to turn off their cable TV, get off their couch and actually search for what else has been going on. I've heard about this neat invention called the Internet that might be useful for this sort of activity.

As for the war being grating after three weeks, I know what he means. After reading Steinberg's column for three minutes, I wanted to move on.

Finally, there's this:

"Perhaps, to be honest, I'm also a little leery about all this mock excitement over our liberating the Iraqis. Again, hooray for Iraqis living in freedom, but I'm not such a hypocrite as to claim to care. Do you? That's funny, you didn't care when they were living under the boot of Saddam since the Carter administration. It seems odd to care now, a feigned, passing interest. Have you checked in on the Afghans lately to see how they're doing since we freed them? Me neither."

I don't think I'm going to be checking in on Steinberg's column anytime soon.

posted by Dan at 02:53 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Thursday, April 10, 2003

PROGRESS ON THE HUMANITARIAN FRONT:

PROGRESS ON THE HUMANITARIAN FRONT: As I said before, military victories in Iraq must be followed up with humanitarian victories. Umm Qasr, because it was liberated first and should therefore have the fewest security problems, is the harbinger for how things will proceed in the rest of Iraq.

In the 48 hours since I've blogged about it, how are things going? Actually, they're improving. Reuters reports that Umm Qasr is now open to merchant ships.

This Boston Globe story makes it very clear that CentCom knows perfectly well that they need to rebuild the infrastructure in the town. Some excerpts:

"The Seabees, as soldiers from the 1st Naval Construction Division are known, came to Umm Qasr to help make the port usable. They have now moved on to some goodwill projects, designed to improve quality of life in small but important ways in this, the US-led coalition's most secure nook in Iraq.

So far, the results are... successful up to a point, yet marked by difficulties...

During the Sunday visit, some of the locals complained adamantly that Umm Qasr's medical clinic lacked doctors, apparently because Ba'ath party-affiliated personnel had fled the town. But they thanked the Seabees for providing the children, many of whom were barefoot, with a place to play.

'All of these people in Iraq port Umm Qasr thank the soldier America and British,' 40-year-old Ibrahim Salman said in English. 'This is very, very good.'"

Buried in this CNN report about aid groups complaining about chaos in Baghdad is this Don Rumsfeld quote:

"'With the humanitarian aid now entering the country, he [Rumsfeld] said, 'that doesn't mean that the situation's worse -- that means it's better, and it is better.'

As an example, Rumsfeld cited the southern port city of Umm Qasr, which he said is beginning to flourish because of aid and border activity.

'Water supply is above prewar levels, a combination of U.K. pipeline and trucking,' he said. 'Electricity has been restored by U.K. engineers, sufficient food is readily available, medical facilities are sufficient and operating, UNICEF is providing supplies.

The port's cleared of mines and opened to limited operations, the channel needs dredging, [the] railway station is cleared by explosive ordnance detachment, [the] rail line is intact from there to Nasiriya, and they intend to open a line within seven days, which will allow movement of bulk water up the Euphrates Valley.'

Rumsfeld said he could give examples of similar progress in Basra and Nasiriya."

For those readers inclined to doubt Rumsfeld, this UN report on the humanitarian situation in Umm Qasr supports many of Rumsfeld's assertions. The opening graf:

"The first humanitarian assessment missions conducted jointly by UN agencies in the port of Umm Qasr in southern Iraq have identified a lack of clean drinking water as a matter of primary concern - a problem that predates the war, when the town’s needs were met by water tankers, IRIN learnt on Wednesday." (emphasis added)

Read the entire report. Umm Qasr is hardly a bed of roses. However, things are improving. For more news on the humanitarian situation in Iraq, click here.

posted by Dan at 12:59 PM | Trackbacks (0)




DREZNER GETS RESULTS FROM THE

DREZNER GETS RESULTS FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES!: Last Thursday, I posted the following:

"LEARNING TO ADAPT: A big meme last week was that the Iraqi's unconventional tactics surprised Rumsfeld et al ....

My guess is that next week's meme will be about how coalition forces are adapting to these adaptations."

The following are excerpts from today's Military Analysis column by Michael Gordon in the New York Times:

"If there is a single reason for the allied success in toppling Saddam Hussein's government, it is the flexibility the American military demonstrated in carrying out its campaign.

From the very start the American military had to adapt to fickle allies, changes ordered by superiors in Washington and new tactics by their foe.....

Some changes were forced by the Iraqis. The Iraqis caught American intelligence by surprise when they stationed paramilitary units in Iraq's southern cities. That move was intended to help the government quash any possible rebellions and to put the paramilitary fighters in position to mount ambushes on allied supply lines.

Faced with such attacks, allied commanders changed their tactics as well. When the war started, the allies had planned to bypass Najaf, Nasiriya and Basra and other southern cities. The British were to guard the right flank while the Army and Marines rushed to Baghdad.

But when the paramilitary forces struck, the allied conventional and Special Operations forces began to fight in Iraq's southern cities.....

As they neared Baghdad, the American forces adapted their tactics. Their initial plan called for patiently gathering intelligence and carrying out probes before conducting raids in the city.

American commanders, however, concluded that the Iraqi command and control was weakening and pressed their advantage. After conducting a raid, the Army moved an entire armored brigade into central Baghdad. It stayed the night and Army and Marine columns soon joined the brigade in the city."

posted by Dan at 11:18 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Wednesday, April 9, 2003

A SOCIOLOGIST IS MORE LOGICAL

A SOCIOLOGIST IS MORE LOGICAL THAN A POLITICAL SCIENTIST? INCONCEIVABLE!!: Via Kieran Healy, I found and took the Battleground God test. I did this with some hesitation, since it's been some time since I've pondered my ontological givens where religion is concerned.

The good news: this was my result:

"Congratulations!

You have been awarded the TPM medal of distinction! This is our second highest award for outstanding service on the intellectual battleground.

The fact that you progressed through this activity being hit only once and biting no bullets suggests that your beliefs about God are well thought out and almost entirely internally consistent."

The bad news: The medal of distinction is not as grand as it sounds -- "46.88% of the people who have completed this activity, like you, took very little damage and were awarded the TPM Medal of Distinction." More importantly, Kieran beat me on the logic score (I flamed out on the last question).

Beaten by a sociologist!! I'm going to need some time to adjust. [Er, what's the big deal?--ed. Among the social sciences, there is a little-discussed but ever-present prestige hierarchy that gives disciplines resembling the natural or physical sciences greater status than those disciplines that more resemble the humanities. Political science usually does better than sociology on that scale. I'm not saying it's logical; it's just the way things are. So sociology is at the bottom of the barrel?--ed. Heavens, no -- that would be anthropology.]

Oh, well -- maybe an economist like Brad DeLong will do even worse.

Kieran responds on the question of the social sciences.

posted by Dan at 07:20 PM | Trackbacks (0)




MEANWHILE, IN PALO ALTO...: I'm

MEANWHILE, IN PALO ALTO...: I'm just going to reprint this Reuters story (which CNN is also running) on the recent machinations of the Palo Alto City Council in its entirety and let everyone have a good laugh:

"In a bid to improve civility in the town's public discourse, a committee on the city council has spent hours debating guidelines for its own behavior.

'Do not use body language or other nonverbal methods of expression, disagreement or disgust,' a new list of proposed conduct rules reads.

Another rule calls for council members to address each other with titles followed by last names, a formality not always practiced in laid-back California.

'I don't want to muzzle my colleagues,' councilwoman Judy Kleinberg, who headed the committee that drafted the rules, told the San Jose Mercury News. But, she added: 'I don't think the people sitting around the cabinet with the president roll their eyes.'"

[Are you painting a fair portrait here?--ed. OK, for more context -- which does suggest that perhaps Reuters is overhyping the story -- here's a Palo Alto Weekly recap on the origins of this proposal. Was that an eye roll? C'mon, I saw that!!--ed. Too bad we moved away from Palo Alto in 1996]

posted by Dan at 03:52 PM | Trackbacks (0)




CELEBRATION ROUNDUP: OK, time to

CELEBRATION ROUNDUP: OK, time to relay the really good news. The New York Times on the fall of Baghdad:

"Residents swarmed out onto the streets today, suddenly sensing that the regime of Saddam Hussein was crumbling, and celebrating the arrival of United States forces.

Throngs of men milled about, looting, blaring horns, dancing and tearing up pictures of Saddam Hussein. Baath party offices were trashed.

Occasional sniper fire continued, but Iraqi resistance largely faded away."

The Washington Post:

"Saddam Hussein's rule over the capital has ended, U.S. commanders declared Wednesday, and jubilant crowds swarmed into the streets here, dancing, looting and defacing images of the Iraqi leader. A Marine tank toppled a giant statue of Saddam in a sweeping, symbolic gesture.

In the most visible sign of Saddam's evaporating power, the 40-foot statue of the Iraqi president was brought down in the middle of Firdos Square. Cheering Iraqis, some waving the national flag, scaled the statue and danced upon the downed icon, now lying face down. As it fell, some threw shoes and slippers at the statue - a gross insult in the Arab world.

The scene was telecast worldwide by CNN and others.

'I'm 49, but I never lived a single day,' said Yusuf Abed Kazim, a Baghdad imam who pounded the statue's pedestal with a sledgehammer. 'Only now will I start living. That Saddam Hussein is a murderer and a criminal.'

Others marked the regime's dissolution more passively, picking flowers from a nearby garden and handing them to Marines. While the capital was celebrating, the fate of Saddam and his sons remained unknown, two days after they were targeted by four 2,000-pound U.S. bombs in Baghdad."

The Christian Science Monitor (with a classic understatement from a U.S.general):

"The battle for Iraq's capital is quickly turning into a rout.
While US military officials stress the war in Iraq is far from over, gains Wednesday in Baghdad suggest Saddam Hussein and his supporters are unable to control the civilian population or mount coordinated large-scale resistance in large swaths of the city.

'The capital city is now one of those areas that has been added to the list of where the regime does not have control,' Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said this morning at the daily Central Command briefing in Qatar.

Shiite residents of the Saddam City neighborhood, long shunted aside by the Hussein regime, danced in the streets and looted property. In scenes reminiscent of Eastern Europe after the Berlin Wall fell, Baghdad residents used ropes and a sledgehammer in an attempt to pull down a statue of Hussein in Firdos Square."

The Financial Times:

"Crowds of Baghdad residents took to the streets of the Iraqi capital on Wednesday, destroying and looting symbols of Saddam Hussein's regime after organised resistance to the arrival of US forces in the Iraqi capital evaporated.

In the city's Firdos square, a large crowd watched and cheered as US troops pulled down a monumental statue of the overthrown Iraqi leader, stamping on the bronze figure after it fell to the ground and then dragging its head through the streets.

Elsewhere, crowds looted government and other official buildings, seizing vehicles and dragging off computers, generators and other equipment.

Correspondents for the Reuters news agency in the city reported hundreds of people gathering on street corners, chanting 'Bush, Bush'."

The FT has some great pictures, too.

The Guardian reports that celebrations are not just limited to Baghdad:

"TV pictures showed Iraqis welcoming US forces, and there were also reports of Iraqis celebrating in Kurdish areas of northern Iraq.

These included the city of Irbil, 220 miles north of Baghdad, and the Guardian's Luke Harding, in Sulaimaniya, also witnessed scenes of jubilation.

'Everybody has poured out onto the street and there are scenes of total chaos and sheer, sheer delight,' he said.

'Thousands of people are in the streets celebrating. They believe Iraq is liberated. They believe that Saddam Hussein is finished.'"

The great thing is that these images are being shown on a fair number of Arab television networks -- though not on state-run TV. The Arab media reaction is mixed -- the BBC report makes it clear that some of the Arab networks are acknowledging that Iraqis are happy to be free of Saddam. On the other hand, this Washington Post roundup highlights a lot of press coberage that is either delusional or defeatist. The Reuters story splits the difference.

posted by Dan at 01:43 PM | Trackbacks (0)




DREZNER GETS RESULTS FROM TOM

DREZNER GETS RESULTS FROM TOM FRIEDMAN: Yesterday I blogged about the need to speed up humanitarian relief in Umm Qasr. Tom Friedman makes the same point in his column for today.

Andrew Sullivan thinks Friedman -- and by extension, yours truly -- are being too self-critical. Perhaps. I'm just keeping my eyes on the bigger prize -- winning the postwar game as well as the war.

I promise to be celebratory in my next post.

UPDATE: Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi is also upset at the slow pace of humanitarian efforts in Southern Iraq:

"While Chalabi offered gratitude to the coalition for Iraq's liberation, he also expressed irritation that the coalition has not provided more assistance in cities such as Nasiriya and Basra.

As long as humanitarian and infrastructure problems in the country persist, Chalabi said, the country will remain unstable, despite the coalition's military progress. Referring to Iraqi's ruling Baath Party, he called for 'de-Baathification' of the country.

'There will be no absolute security with the current situation. The U.S. troops have defeated Saddam militarily. That was never a problem. The issue is the Baath party and the remnants of the Baath party who will continue to pose a threat.'

He asked why coalition officials are in Kuwait when the southern region is in 'great need of assistance.'

'This is true all over the south,' he said.

'It's very important to be in the southern part of Iraq,' he said, because people have become 'dispossessed' and the citizenry needs to be 'empowered.'

'They must feel they are part of the political process,' he said."

posted by Dan at 11:31 AM | Trackbacks (0)




WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW

WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE?: Greetings, New Republic (and InstaPundit) readers!! Curious about the assertions I make in my latest article? Here's some background information:

For examples of the argument I'm trying to rebut, here's an article making the general claim that the war will cause Anti-Americanism to increase in Europe. Within the confines of the New Republic, Peter Beinart makes a similar point (subscription required).

This article by Marc J. Hetherington and Michael Nelson in PS: Political Science and Politics does a nice job of describing the "rally-round-the-flag" effect. This graph does an even better job of demonstrating the short-term bump in public support that occurs during international crises.

On the current "rally-round-the-flag" effect in coalition countries: this story shows rising support for the war in Australia (though also check out this critique of the poll's methodology). This Washington Times article discusses how John Howard is benefiting from the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

For increasing support in the United States -- including among Democrats and liberals -- click here and here.

As for Great Britain's Tony Blair, check out this London Times poll this more recent ITV/Daily Telegraph survey.

For more on the effects of Operation Iraqi freedom on public opinion in non-coalition countries, this National Post story reports surging support for the United States in Canada. Here's a similar story from last week. [Ahem, didn't you bash the Bush administration for levying similar criticisms against the Chretien government two weeks ago?--ed. Er, yes. But I also refined my criticism and admitted rather quickly that I might have been wrong.]

Regarding France, I blogged about Jacques Delors' criticism of Chirac last week. This blog from the Command Post provides a translation of the conservative parliamentary criticism of Chirac. This Washington Post article captures French public opinion on the current situation. As for Raffarin's declining popularity, click here for the UPI article.

I blogged about South Korean support for Operation Iraqi Freedom a few weeks ago. Now they're sending non-combatant troops to the region to support the United States. This Korea Times article and this Korea Herald story provide more context on President Roh's move to mend ties with the United States.

Finally, here's a link to the Pew Global Attitudes Survey from last November.

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




THE LIMITS OF ANTI-AMERICANISM: My

THE LIMITS OF ANTI-AMERICANISM: My latest TNR Online essay is up. It's on the potency of anti-Americanism in liberal democracies. Go check it out.

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



Monday, April 7, 2003

BOW TO THE MASTER: You

BOW TO THE MASTER: You know, I could blog at length about the various contortions, flip-flops, and abject fealty to the conventional wisdom of the moment that exist in New York Times reporter R.W. "Johnny" Apple Jr.'s reports during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Instead, I'll just link to this Jack Shafer evisceration of "master gasbag" Apple in Slate.

Well, I can't resist one point: Shafer notes that Apple, in his April 6 piece, laid out new benchmarks for defining American succes:

"It's not enough that the Americans and Brits have encircled Baghdad and subdued Basra in less than three weeks of fighting and eviscerated the Iraqi army and its irregulars. His impatient lede asks, 'How and when, it seems worth asking, will the United States and its allies know they have won the Iraqi war?'

Apple doesn't answer his own question directly but implies that the allies' recipe for victory pie would have to include a new, democratic government in Iraq; the elimination of Saddam Hussein; the uncovering of his weapons of mass destruction; and the departure of U.S. troops—sooner rather than later."

If the initial reports are true -- and it's worth stressing that they may not pan out -- two out of four ain't bad inside of 48 hours.

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




THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THE ANTIWAR

THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THE ANTIWAR MOVEMENT: From the Los Angeles Times:

"More than three-fourths of Americans -- including two-thirds of liberals and 70% of Democrats -- now say they support the decision to go to war. And more than four-fifths of these war supporters say they still will back the military action even if allied forces don't find evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

Bush's overall job approval rating jumped to 68%, the highest level since last summer, and three-fourths of those polled said they trust him to make the right decisions on Iraq." (emphasis added)

Let's be clear -- a lot of this is the rally-round-the-flag effect. Still, the dramatic shift among liberals and Democrats from ten days ago is noticeable. Why might this be? First, the war is clearly going well. Second, the antiwar movement has failed to articulate any coherent message. If you thing this is an exaggeration, go to one of their main web site. One article posted there opens with this vacuous assertion:

"If nothing else, the process leading to war in Iraq revealed an abject failure of our democracy. We claim to be bringing democracy to Iraq, yet the lack of it at home is in evidence everywhere, and is a grave threat to our national well-being and future."

For some other choice essays, click here and here.

In the absence of any coherent message, the antiwar movement is resorting to tactics guaranteed to alienate most of the public:

"Blocking traffic is the tactic of choice these days among anti-war protesters. But just how effective can it be, when it angers commuters and packs police precincts with arrested activists?

Project engineer Craig Voellmicke was on his way to work recently when he ran into gridlock around Teaneck, N.J., caused by protesters blocking traffic near the George Washington Bridge.

'I think it's more annoying,' Voellmicke said, when asked if he thought the act got people to think twice about the war. 'I think people know the message already. Most people were just standing with annoyed looks on their faces. I didn't hear any words of support [from onlookers].'"

It's not just the increase in traffic jams. It's also the drain on public services:

"Washington, D.C., police have been forced to restrict traffic to several blocks around the city, particularly around the White House, in order to prevent gridlock caused by protesters. Mayor Anthony Williams recently claimed such police activity is eating up his city's homeland security funds.

Protesters in San Francisco and several cities have formed human chains and joined themselves together with metal pipes that had to be cut open by police officers or firefighters, to the frustration of officials who believe they have more pressing security concerns.

'This is more than protest, more than free speech,' New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told the Associated Press in a recent interview. 'We're talking about violating the law.'

Protesters say they don't have much choice.

'Nothing else gets attention,' protestor Johannah Westmacott told the Associated Press. 'It's not news when people voice their opinions.'" (emphasis added)

This is what happens when people don't read memos.

UPDATE: Kieran Healy has an excellent post that's not exactly a rejoinder to what I said, but does make an accurate point -- even if the protestors are not moving public opinion, their size and duration are significant relative to past social movements.

posted by Dan at 11:30 AM | Trackbacks (0)




THINGS HAVE CHANGED: Last month

THINGS HAVE CHANGED: Last month Brad Delong reprinted a paragraph from Kenneth Pollack's first book, the encyclopedic Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991 on how the Republican Guard fought fiercely but stupidly during the first Gulf War. DeLong concluded:

"According to Kenneth Pollack, if the Iraqi army of today is like the Iraqi army of the past half century, its soldiers and unit commanders will be incompetent at using their artillery, unable to maneuver, unwilling to take the intiative, incapable of adapting to any surprise, armed with technologically-inferior and poorly-maintained equipment, and yet large numbers of them, especially from the Republican Guard, will stand their ground and fight--until they die."

It's becoming increasingly clear that DeLong and Pollack's assumption does not hold -- according to this story, the Iraqi army of today is nothing like the army it used to be:

"At first, the Iraqi forces put up a strong fight against the 100-vehicle column of Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles that rumbled in from the airport, through newly lain minefields, in the early hours. F16 fighter aircraft fly ahead, bombing Iraqi tanks and positions that might have offered resistance.

But as I watch from the 12th floor of the Sheraton hotel, directly across the river, a group of vehicles that has broken away from the column moves in from the south, prompting many Iraqi defenders to flee.

Under incessant US fire - machine-guns, mortars and small missiles - they run from two directions, pouring out of the centre of the compound and from a heavily armed sand spit that intrudes into the Tigris, before bolting north along an access road that services the dozens of buildings within the fortified complex.

This is supposed to be the fearless Republican Guard, but under fire there is no bravery and little dignity as many of them abandon their posts, some struggling to strip to their underwear as they flee.

Desperate to get away, when they are confronted by a security fence that extends into the river they jump in, swimming 50 metres out from the bank before returning along the opposite side of the fence to pick up the access road again." (emphasis added)

Read the whole Sydney Morning Herald story for an excellent account of the surreal state of affairs in Baghdad right now. For that matter, go read Pollack's book too. [But wasn't Pollack wrong here?--ed. The main thesis of that book is that since the end of World War II, Arabs have never defeated a non-Arab army in a war. I'd say that thesis is bearing up well. His explanations for why this is true are also worth perusing.]

posted by Dan at 09:54 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Sunday, April 6, 2003

GOOD NEWS IN KARBALA: More

GOOD NEWS IN KARBALA: More Iraqis happy to see Saddam go (link via the Command Post):

"About 10,000 people gathered in the public square Sunday and pulled down a 20-foot-high bronze statue of Saddam Hussein, a move that symbolized for many the end of a tyrannical regime and the beginning of new freedoms.

The event also marked the end of a battle that has raged for five days and culminated with armored battalions firing the last shots Saturday afternoon. The battalions destroyed five tanks and a dozen pieces of Iraqi artillery on the outskirts of town, and dozens of prisoners were taken as well.

Karbala, a Shiite Muslim city about 40 miles southwest of Baghdad, fell Saturday to six battalions under the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne, who wrested control from about 500 Saddam Fedayeen fighters and loyalists of the ruling Baath Party.

Many who assembled in the city square chanted 'Saddam is no more!' and "Saddam is dead!' as they pulled on a rope, yanking the Saddam statue from its perch. Once the statue tumbled, many in the crowd jumped up and down, struck their chests and wept.

The statue was erected shortly after Saddam came to power, according to Karbala residents, and seeing it fall was a moment many would never forget.

'We have been living in fear for so many years, and we have been taught in the schools that Saddam would never die," said Hassan Muhammad, 20, as he helped pull on the rope. 'This is a historic day, and we will celebrate this day always.'"

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




WHY I'M ABSENT-MINDED: As my

WHY I'M ABSENT-MINDED: As my friends and family will attest, it's a good thing I'm a professor because I'm so absent-minded that no other profession would have anything to do with me [C'mon, how bad can you be?--ed. Last night I applauded myself for remembering Daylight Savings Time and adjusting the clocks accordingly. This morning I realized to my chagrin that I had turned the clocks back one hour when I was supposed to turn them forward].

Why am I so absent-minded? I always liked to cite Sherlock Holmes' explanation for why he did not want to remember the Copernican theory of the solar system in A Study in Scarlet:

"I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones."

In other words, there was only so much room in Holmes' brain, and better that it be filled with useful criminology than useless astronomy. I rationalized that my scholarly pursuits demanded the forgetting of more mundane information, such as walking the dog.

Alas, last night, after taking Entertainment Weekly's exhaustingly thorough pop culture quiz (subscription required), I now know the truth -- I'm not hoarding brain cells for the subtleties of Thucydides or Grotius, but for pop trivia. I scored an embarrasingly high 93 -- though that was with considerable help from the bonus questions.

Still, if I ever forget the inner workings of the Mundell-Fleming model, I'll know it's because I remember the original members of N.W.A, even though I don't believe I've ever heard on of their songs.

Sigh.

posted by Dan at 03:59 PM | Trackbacks (0)




WHAT HASN'T HAPPENED: Back in

WHAT HASN'T HAPPENED: Back in early February, I wrote the following:

"It's possible/probable that Al Qaeda has already planned some sort of response to the start of an Iraqi attack. The question is, can they pull off a big attack, if not on a 9/11 scale, then something like Bali? I ask the question not because of any morbid curiosity, but because an attack on Iraq throws the gauntlet down for Al Qaeda, and unless they respond quickly, they will look enfeebled and irrelevant.


The fact is, it's extremely difficult to measure success in the war on terror. A stretch of months without a bombing could be due to improved counterterror tactics or because Al Qaeda is biding its time. However, these pronouncements, combined with the likelihood of war with Iraq, combined with skeptics claiming that such an attack will weaken our war on terror, provides what social scientists call a 'crucial case' in testing the disparate hypotheses."

From today's New York Times -- "New Signs of Terror Not Evident":

"[T]error organizations like Al Qaeda appear to have been largely unmoved by Saddam Hussein's denunciations of the United States and his calls for an uprising in the Arab world against the American-led war in Iraq.

American officials have said there is little evidence of potential terrorist plots against United States interests, either in the country or overseas, since the war in Iraq began. In fact, the kind of chatter that has led the Department of Homeland Security to increase the nation's threat warning levels has decreased since the beginning of the war.

Nevertheless, the administration has maintained the government's color-coded terrorist threat level at orange, representing a heightened threat of terrorist activity, because of fears that the war will eventually provoke terrorism.

But intelligence and law enforcement officials said there was scant evidence that either Al Qaeda or any other major terrorist organization was planning an attack in the near future. One senior intelligence official said he had seen very little credible evidence that any terrorist plots were imminent in the United States.

Another American official cautioned that terrorist threat reporting received by the C.I.A. and other agencies had not significantly declined, but acknowledged that it had not increased since the start of the war as many in the intelligence community had expected."

It is still possible that Al Qaeda is merely biding its time and a spectacular attack is imminent. However, the absence of attacks suggest that the war on terror has achieved more advances than skeptics would like to admit.

UPDATE: Matt Drudge , discussing Stephen Brill's new book on homeland security, provides more support for this argument:

"And why have there been no fresh terror strikes in the United States since the start of the war?

Brill says it's the competence of the current leadership."

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




NONE SHALL PASS -- EXCEPT

NONE SHALL PASS -- EXCEPT FOR THE 3RD INFANTRY DIVISION: This CNN story has Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf flatly denying that coalition forces control Saddam Baghdad International Airport:

"'Today we slaughtered them in the airport. They are out of Saddam International Airport,' al-Sahaf said. 'The force that was in the airport, this force was destroyed.'

Capt. Frank Thorp, spokesman for U.S. Central Command, called the claim 'groundless,' saying 'there is sporadic fighting at the airport.'

'We have heard these reports from the minister of information, which are, quite frankly, groundless,' he said. 'This is the same minister of information who yesterday was saying that coalition forces were approximately 100 kilometers away from the city.'"

The kicker, however, is the last line of the story:

"Al-Sahaf said he would take reporters to the airport later in the day, after it was cleaned up."

Is it my imagination or is Al-Sahaf starting to sound more and more like the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail?

UPDATE: Damn, I though I was being clever with the Monty Python reference. Turns out I'm late to this particular meme.

posted by Dan at 01:08 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Saturday, April 5, 2003

STUDENTS AND THE WAR: Two

STUDENTS AND THE WAR: Two stories on student attitudes and activism regarding the war with Iraq. The New York Times reports a yawning gulf between professors and students on this issue:

"Across the country, the war is disclosing role reversals, between professors shaped by Vietnam protests and a more conservative student body traumatized by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Prowar groups have sprung up at Brandeis and Yale and on other campuses. One group at Columbia, where last week an antiwar professor rhetorically called for 'a million Mogadishus,' is campaigning for the return of R.O.T.C. to Morningside Heights.

Even in antiwar bastions like Cambridge, Berkeley and Madison, the protests have been more town than gown. At Berkeley, where Vietnam protesters shouted, 'Shut it down!' under clouds of tear gas, Sproul Plaza these days features mostly solo operators who hand out black armbands. The shutdown was in San Francisco, and the crowd was grayer.

All this dismays many professors.

'We used to like to offend people,' Martha Saxton, a professor of women's studies at Amherst, said as she discussed the faculty protest with students this week. 'We loved being bad, in the sense that we were making a statement. Why is there no joy now?'

Certainly not all students are pro-war or all faculty anti. But 'there's a much higher percentage of liberal professors than there are liberal students,' said Ben Falby, the student who organized the protest at Amherst only to find that it had more professors than students.

This Chicago Tribune piece makes similar points:

"Since school began last fall at the University of Chicago, Dan Lichtenstein-Boris has carved out time to oppose the war in Iraq, drafting leaflets, creating film and speakers series and setting up a round-the-clock vigil in the center of campus.

But getting fellow students to join in a big rally and make a larger point since the war began has been difficult.

'I think things are pretty quiet,' Lichtenstein-Boris, 21, a sophomore, said in frustration. 'With all we've done, how is a lecture or film series going to help? It's kind of a soft way of going about things when people are dying.'"

What explains this? The Tribune suggests student apathy, but that's not it -- the paper also observes: "While polls show most high school and college students don't go to rallies or marches, they volunteer more than preceding generations, with 61 percent of college students volunteering, according to a study last October by the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University."

The three other suggestions that are proffered are the absence of a draft, the maturation of these students in more conservative times, and the plethora of other causes out there. Take a look and judge for yourself.

The one amusing part of the Times piece is the conviction from both pro-war and anti-war voices on campus that they are being vaguely persecuted:

"'It's a lonely place to be an antiwar protester on the Amherst campus,' said Beatriz Wallace, a junior. In the dining hall, students have set out baskets of ribbons, some yellow, some red, white and blue.

Prowar students say they feel just as alienated. 'The faculty, and events, has a chilling effect on discussions for the prowar side,' said David Chen, a sophomore."

UPDATE: This Newsday article on the same phenomenon notes another pattern:

"Jonathan Buchsbaum, who has been teaching media studies at Queens College for 25 years, said these days students there are motivated by issues like the poor economy and the elimination of school programs.

'I don't see as many students getting involved, in terms of war,' Buchsbaum said.

While the Brooklyn and Queens college students might be too preoccupied with bread-and-butter matters to take to the streets, those at big private colleges in Manhattan have the time and inclination to publicly express their views, faculty members say.

'We're getting students to understand that they are in a privileged position and to use that position to understand what is going on in the world,' said Francesca Fiorentini, 19, a sophomore at New York University and member of the NYU Peace Coalition."

posted by Dan at 01:44 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Friday, April 4, 2003

ENJOY THE WEEKEND!: I'll be

ENJOY THE WEEKEND!: I'll be at the Midwestern Political Science Association's annual meeting. I'm a chair and discussant on a panel. Then I'll be grabbing a beer with fellow blogger/political scientists Chris Lawrence.

posted by Dan at 01:51 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Thursday, April 3, 2003

MORE EVIDENCE OF IRAQI HOSTILITY

MORE EVIDENCE OF IRAQI HOSTILITY TO THE INVASION: I was initially quite alarmed to see that Arts & Letters Daily has the following link up in red boldface:

"Breaking news: Iraqis have routed British Royal Marines in a fierce battle in the town of Umm Khayyal near Basra."

Concerned, I clicked on the link to the BBC story. It's true. Go check it out.

When the BBC is running stuff like this, you know the Iraqi population is glad to see the back of Saddam.

posted by Dan at 11:30 PM | Trackbacks (0)




LEARNING TO ADAPT: A big

LEARNING TO ADAPT: A big meme last week was that the Iraqi's unconventional tactics surprised Rumsfeld et al (although these corrections suggest that maybe they weren't that surprised).

My guess is that next week's meme will be about how coalition forces are adapting to these adaptations. This story suggests that coalition forces are quickly moving down the learning curve in Basra:

"United States forces, preparing to invade Baghdad, praised 'impressive' British tactics.

'In Baghdad, we will definitely use a lot of the effective techniques and utilise some of the larger strategic lessons we learned in the British efforts over Basra,' a senior military official said.

Two examples of unusual yet successful soldiering in the past two days have drawn admiration from US Central Command operations chiefs. British 7th Armoured Brigade troops - the Desert Rats - deliberately allowed residents to loot a Baath Party headquarters near Basra within minutes of the office's capture and search.

'Normally we would stop looting because it's a sign that things have got out of control and that law and order has broken down,' said Captain Alex Cartwright. 'But in this case we decided that to allow it would send a powerful message: that we are in control now, not the Baath Party.'

In another incident, when an Iraqi colonel was fatally shot in his vehicle, British troops found a thick wad of cash. Instead of handing it in to officers, the troops decided to dole the cash out to local youngsters."

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




ADVANTAGE: CHAFETZ: Josh Chafetz has

ADVANTAGE: CHAFETZ: Josh Chafetz has the goods (and lots of relevant links) on Marc Herold's bogus methodology for counting Iraqi civilian deaths in Iraq.

posted by Dan at 11:26 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Wednesday, April 2, 2003

OVERSELLING THE COALITION: I've noted

OVERSELLING THE COALITION: I've noted previously that critics accusing the administration of unilateralism are exaggerating, since some important countries back our position in words and deeds. However, this Financial Times story hakes a good point about the Bush administration's exaggerations on the other side:

"Only six months after the US accused Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine's president, of approving the sale of high-tech radar systems to Iraq, Ukraine has joined the US-led coalition fighting to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime.


Although Ukraine says it opposes the military effort and is sending only "humanitarian aid", the US is hailing Ukraine's membership as a significant step towards mending relations.

The inclusion of an avowedly pacifist, allegedly embargo-busting country in the coalition shows how eager the US is to portray broad international support for the military campaign. A recent White House press release lists 48 coalition members, ranging from active combat participants to countries with less clear roles, such as Mongolia and Tonga.

Markian Lubkivsky, press service chief at Ukraine's foreign ministry, said his country's sole contribution was a hazardous chemicals clean-up unit stationed in Kuwait, which he said had a 'humanitarian' mission and would not enter Iraq.

'We can be regarded as a participant in the coalition only in that [humanitarian] sense,' he said at a press conference on Tuesday.

'Ukraine is exclusively for deciding any crisis situation by peaceful means.'

But US ambassador Carlos Pascual said his government regarded Ukraine as a backer of the war.

He said: 'In saying that they are ready to be considered as part of the coalition to disarm Iraq, we take that as support for our position.'"

posted by Dan at 03:35 PM | Trackbacks (0)




OH, YES, HE'S DEFINITELY AS

OH, YES, HE'S DEFINITELY AS POPULAR AS STALIN: From the New York Times account of the U.S. liberation of Najaf:

"The occupying forces, from the First and Second brigades of the 101st Airborne Division, entered from the south and north. They had seized the perimeter of town on Tuesday.

People rushed to greet them today, crying out repeatedly, 'Thank you, this is beautiful!'

Two questions dominated a crowd that gathered outside a former ammunition center for the Baath Party. 'Will you stay?' asked Kase, a civil engineer who would not give his last name. Another man, Heider, said, 'Can you tell me what time Saddam is finished?'"

It ends with this priceless anecdote:

"American troops found that the fleeing Baath Party and paramilitary forces had set up minefields on roads and bridges leading out of the city. Late today an American engineering team was clearing the third of such fields, this one with 30 mines, by detonating them with C4 explosives.

Lt. Col. Duke Deluca, noting that the mines had been made in Italy, said, 'Europeans are antiwar, but they are pro-commerce.'"

UPDATE: More confirming evidence of how residents of Najaf feel come from this Slate report of an Iraqi army defector in Kurdistan (link via Volokh):

"'How were people in Najaf two weeks ago? How did you discuss the coming war?' I asked.

'In Najaf people are only worried about how to get food, and if they will have enough food. They were worried how long the war would last and what would come after it. I only talked to my family. You can't talk about these things outside of your house. But in my family we were happy about the Americans coming. We knew war was coming and we talked about, insh'allah, getting rid of this government.'"

BLOGOSPHERE UPDATE: Ah, praise from Glenn Reynolds. However, I was remiss in not pointing out that I found this story via OxBlog. They are also on a roll (though I'm not sure about the nickname they gave me).

posted by Dan at 11:57 AM | Trackbacks (0)




FRENCH PRAISE FOR BLAIR AND

FRENCH PRAISE FOR BLAIR AND CRITICISM OF CHIRAC--NO, REALLY: Jacques Delors, the former president of the European Commission, gave an exclusive interview to the Financial Times which was chock full of praise for Tony Blair and criticism of Jacques Chirac. First on Iraq:

"Jacques Delors, former president of the European Commission, has become one of the first senior French public figures to warn that President Jacques Chirac is leading France into a diplomatic cul-de-sac over Iraq.

'We cannot accept the Messianic vision of the Americans, but nor can we limit ourselves to simply opposing it,' he said in an interview with the Financial Times.

'My position is between the two, of course. We have to find the basis for an acceptable partnership between Europe and America.'

Mr Delors praised efforts by Tony Blair, the UK prime minister, to build a bridge between the Bush administration and continental European governments by pushing hard for UN supervision of the reconstruction of Iraq." (emphasis added)

Then there's Delors' take on the European Union's future:

"He believes the creation of a genuine common European foreign policy is unlikely for the foreseeable future and that defence co-operation will not work without Britain.

The 77-year-old Mr Delors, now running the Paris-based Notre Europe think-tank, also said the EU's flagship project of economic and monetary union was ''not working' because of the failure of governments to work together on fiscal policy'....

Mr Delors believes the Iraq crisis has highlighted the problems of forging a common EU foreign policy out of divergent national interests, warning that such a concept is a vain hope 'in the next 20 years'.

On Belgian proposals for a renewed push on EU defence co-operation, including France and Germany, Mr Delors was equally cautious.

'We need a period of calm before trying to build a common European defence policy,' he said.

He believes one way forward is for defence to be driven by 'reinforced co-operation' with some member states moving more quickly than others.

But he added: 'It is difficult to envisage this working without the participation of Great Britain. Frankly, it's unrealistic. It's almost a provocation.' (emphasis added)

Delors' critique of fiscal policy is an implicit shot at the Chirac government, which has declared it won't honor the Maastricht criteria.

Delors is a Socialist, so there's likely some partisanship behind the criticism. Still, this will, as the FT puts it, "stimulate more debate in France about how the post-colonial power can best exercise its influence."

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



Tuesday, April 1, 2003

MULTILATERALISM IN NORTH KOREA: One

MULTILATERALISM IN NORTH KOREA: One of the arguments promulgated against the war with Iraq was that it would encourage North Korea to proliferate nuclear weapons so as to avoid the same fate. IHowever, the evidence seems to suggest the opposite -- North Korea's position is softening due to multilateral pressure.

Want evidence that the Bush administration's strategy is succeeding in cajoling North Korea's neighbors into playing a constructive role in defusing the North Korea crisis? Consider the following:

This Financial Times piece does a nice job of describing the recent shuttle diplomacy over North Korea. The key grafs:

"Ra Jong-yil, South Korea's national security adviser, began on Monday a week of talks in Russia and China about the nuclear crisis hanging over the Korean peninsula.

Last week, Maurice Strong, a United Nations envoy, met North Korean officials in Pyongyang and Yoon Young-kwan, South Korea's foreign minister, visited Washington and Tokyo.

The flurry of diplomacy is designed to find a way to persuade North Korea to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons programme.

Mr Ra's optimism echoed upbeat comments by Mr Strong following his return from Pyongyang last week. The positive mood does not mean a breakthrough is imminent but diplomats detect signs that North Korea is softening its stance.

Many analysts had forecast that Pyongyang would use the war in Iraq as an opportunity to escalate the crisis, calculating that the US would be too preoccupied to respond.

However, diplomats in Seoul say there is no intelligence to suggest North Korea is preparing to start producing weapons-grade plutonium or to test a ballistic missile. Either Pyongyang has been delayed by technical difficulties or it has decided now is not the moment to play its strongest bargaining chips.

'They have encountered some technical problems,' said one diplomat. 'But I would like to think they are also listening to the Russians and Chinese and others, who are all saying: "Don't do it.'"'"

Then there's this story on how the Japanese government has decided to move towards the U.S. position on both Iraq and North Korea:

"Given North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons, Japan is acutely aware of its reliance on the U.S. security umbrella. The two countries signed a security treaty in 1960 that extends U.S. military protection in exchange for bases in Japan.

'The North Korean dictatorship poses a threat to the safety of Japan and thus a major concern this time,' Taro Yayoma, a columnist at conservative 'Sankei' daily newspaper, says, explaining why Japan's support for the U.S. war efforts are bigger this time around than in the 1991 Gulf War.

Indeed, the invasion of Iraq has turned into a hard lesson for Japan, a pacifist country that was also defeated under U.S. bombing that ended World War II, says Yukio Okamato, special advisor to the Cabinet. That is because Japan knows full well that Washington's backing would come in handy with regard to instability next door in North Korea, which has been at loggerheads with the United States after its admission of a secret nuclear prorgramme and Washington's labelling it as part of the 'axis of evil' that included Iraq.

'Tokyo has no other choice but to support the U.S. administration in this war,' explains Okamato."

And yes, the British are also being consulted.

posted by Dan at 02:52 PM | Trackbacks (0)




I'M PLAYING PEORIA: Blogging will

I'M PLAYING PEORIA: Blogging will be light for the next couple of days -- I'm headed to Bradley University in Peoria, IL for a forum entitled, "US Foreign Aid: Can it Work?"

The other participants are USAID bureaucrat based in Serbia and the head of the Libertarian Party of Illinois. I'll be playing the part of the sane, moderate voice of reason.

posted by Dan at 01:00 PM | Trackbacks (0)




"AND THE COMICS SHALL UNITE

"AND THE COMICS SHALL UNITE US": Pro-war or anti-war; dove, hawk or chicken hawk; Democrat or Republican.

It doesn't matter -- I think we can all agree this is both funny and spot-on.

UPDATE: This isn't CNN's only flaw. Virginia Postrel is absolutely correct in this criticism, which ties into my previous post on war and gender.

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




BEST MONTH YET: The good

BEST MONTH YET: The good news: According to Sitemeter, 60,000 unique visits, 70,000 page views for the month of March. And, I've now evolved to "Flighty Bird"!!

The bad news: As this graph shows, my average traffic may be increasing, but there's a lot of variance. If the pattern holds, I doubt I'll see as many hits this month.

posted by Dan at 10:31 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Monday, March 31, 2003

AN HONEST BRIEFING: Time has

AN HONEST BRIEFING: Time has an excellent account of one general's assessment of how the war is proceeding. Two paragraphs worth reviewing:

"The senior officer seemed to go a little bit off message on whether the U.S. needs Saddam dead or alive. (Briefers here have repeatedly said 'this isn’t about one man') He said, 'The average Iraqi only knows Saddam. He's survived everything. He's won the lottery every time. He's a huge symbol for these people. He's everything. Unless we take him out, the population can't be confident.'

According to the senior officer, an example of Saddam's desperation came today with the 3 rd ID at a bridge near Najaf when Republican Guard forces — he said he believed they were from the Nebuchadezzer Division — put women and children out in front of them and were shooting at U.S. forces from behind the cover of the civilians. When one woman tried to move aside, she was shot in the back and fell into the river (a U.S. solider apparently rescued her). 'The regime has inflicted more casualties on its own people in the last couple days than any errant bombs of ours.'" (emphasis added).

posted by Dan at 05:08 PM | Trackbacks (0)




MORE ON THE EU: In

MORE ON THE EU: In other news, I'm shocked -- shocked!! -- to discover that the European Union proving to be a major stmbling block in the latest round of WTO talks. According to the Financial Times:

"World Trade Organisation members on Monday expressed concern at the failure of farm trade negotiators to meet on Monday's deadline for setting guidelines for cuts in agricultural tariffs and subsidies.

Trade diplomats vowed to continue working for a deal, if possible before September's critical ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico, which is due to take stock of progress in the broader Doha global trade talks.

However, they acknowledged there could be adverse repercussions on other areas of the talks, calling into question the round's ambitious three-year timetable that envisages completion in December 2004.....

David Spencer, WTO ambassador for Australia, co-ordinator of the Cairns group of free-trading agricultural exporters, said: 'This is a serious setback. This inability to make progress will have implications for other areas of the negotiations and could constitute a serious setback for our objective of concluding the negotiations by 2005.'"

He singled out the EU and Japan for blame, saying their farm trade reform proposals fell far short of the objectives set for the talks at their launch in Doha in November 2001."

On the other hand, I must commend the European Union for adopting a more laissez-faire policy towards the airline sector than the United States. The FT again:

"Europe's aviation industry has been told not to expect generous hand-outs because of the war in Iraq, even though the US is considering a multi-billion-dollar package to help ailing airlines.

Ministers meeting in Brussels late last week backed the European Commission's drive to limit aid to the sector, despite an initiative by Greece, which holds the European Union presidency, to open the way for more generous loan guarantees....

The US Senate is contemplating a package of $1.5bn-$3bn to help its own industry. The Commission says this is 'regrettable', but argues the correct response is to create EU powers to levy penalties on 'unfair subsidies' elsewhere."

posted by Dan at 04:22 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Sunday, March 30, 2003

WAS I WRONG ABOUT CANADA?:

WAS I WRONG ABOUT CANADA?: Last week I blasted the Bush administration (click here as well) for rhetorically bashing Canadians and intimating possible economic repercussions for their lack of support in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I thought that the economic threat went overboard and that the public hectoring was inappropriate.

This Globe and Mail poll strongly suggests I might have been wrong:

"Support for Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's handling of the Iraq war plunged in the past week, with opinion split virtually evenly outside Quebec, where antiwar sentiment is strongest, a new Globe and Mail/CTV poll suggests....

The poll found Canadians are sensitive to his {U.S. ambassador Paul Cellucci's] argument that Canada has turned its back on its closest friend at a time of need.

Approximately 47 per cent of respondents agreed Canada 'turned our back' on the Americans, while 51 per cent disagreed. In Quebec, only 36 per cent agreed that the decision amounted to a failure to support the U.S. at its time of need, while 51 per cent of those in other provinces agreed....

Canadians are clearly worried about the economic fallout of Mr. Chrétien's decision, despite assurances from the government that there will be none. About 61 per cent of respondents agreed that the decision will have 'serious, negative economic consequences.' Even in Quebec, where antiwar sentiment dominates, half the respondents expect to pay a price for their stand."

Was I completely wrong? No, the story makes clear that the majority of Canadians still oppose the war; this has more to do with the long tradition of Canadian-American comity. It's also unclear if Cellucci's speech had anything to do with the shift in public opinion. That said, Cellucci's speech clearly did not cause public opinion to swing in a more hostile direction.

Hmmm... I may have to consider another self-imposed punishment.

posted by Dan at 11:56 PM | Trackbacks (0)




DREZNER GETS RESULTS ON NORTH

DREZNER GETS RESULTS ON NORTH KOREA!!: Back in January, I argued that the optimal strategy to deal with North Korea was to, "intimate to the key players the implications of DPRK proliferation (neither Russia nor China would be thrilled with the proliferation of nuclear weapons to Muslim-majority countries) and/or U.S. disengagement, and then combine some U.S. assurances of North Korean security with Chinese/Russian pressure on Pyongyang to behave better." The key to U.S. diplomacy here was to prevent North Korea's neighbors from buckpassing.

It looks increasingly like the U.S. is playing according to this script. First, there's this Jonathan Rauch story in Reason from two weeks ago that describes the U.S. strategy of ensuring that other countries in the region face up to the problem as well. Then there's today's story in the Baltimore Sun (link via Glenn Reynolds):

"For three straight days in recent weeks, something remarkable happened to the oil pipeline running through northeast China to North Korea - the oil stopped flowing, according to diplomatic sources, temporarily cutting off a vital lifeline for North Korea.
The pipeline shutdown, officially ascribed to a technical problem, followed an unusually blunt message delivered by China to its longtime ally in a high-level meeting in Beijing last month, the sources said. Stop your provocations about the possible development of nuclear weapons, China warned its neighbor, or face Chinese support for economic sanctions against the regime.

Such tough tactics show an unexpected resolve in Beijing's policy toward Pyongyang, and hint at the nervousness of Chinese leaders about North Korea's nuclear ambitions and North Korea's tensions with the United States.

With the Bush administration asking China to take a more active role, Beijing's application of pressure could convince North Korea to drop its demands for talks exclusively with the United States - a demand that Washington rejects."

UPDATE: Reuters also has the story.

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




THE STALIN ANALOGY: For a

THE STALIN ANALOGY: For a founding member of the Idiotarian society who writes nothing but dull apologias for those who hate the United States, Robert Fisk nevertheless has the ability to provoke.

His latest essay explicitly compares Saddam to Stalin and implicitly concludes that Operation Iraqi Freedom will turn out like Operation Barbarossa. This prompted a denunciation from David Adesnik (although Adesnik really fisks Fisk here). Which prompted rebuttals from Kevin Drum and Kieran Healy, two people who are neither idiotarians nor anti-American [That's a ringing endorsement--ed. Kevin and Kieran are both very smart. Their blogs are the feel-good hits of the year!!]. Kieran starts by citing my post on de-Baathification and then makes the following point:

"[N]ever mind about Fisk’s credibility. The real point is that the Baath party is very large, basically Stalinist in organization and has successfully held power for a long time. You don’t get to do that by populating the party apparatus with idiots. Instead, you populate it with thugs. Beyond that, the thugs are organized in a manner designed to maintain a tight grip on power.

Three consequences suggest themselves. First, in the short term, Saddam’s resistance is probably going to be much tougher than the U.S. has been hoping. Second, in the medium term, the backlash after his inevitable defeat could be horrible. Third, in the long term, Iraqi society is probably going to be living with the legacy of the Baath party for generations."

So why am I bringing all of this up? To rebut Kieran's second and third predicted consequences (I agree with his first one). It rests on whether post-Saddam Iraq will be like post-communist Russia. The answer to that is no, for three reasons:

1) The Baathists have been in power for less time. No one in Russia had a political memory of life before the communists. This is not true in Iraq. If you accept that parallel between the Baathists and Communists, the better comparison is between Iraq and the Eastern European states. The good news here is that the communist parties in those states have successfully morphed into Western-leaning parties of the left.

2) Saddam is no Stalin. Saddam Hussein might aspire to be Stalin, but so far he's failed miserably at the task. Stalin was a ruthless dictator, but he also managed to industrialize Russia and defeat Hitler's invasion of Russia. It was these achievements upon which his legacy was built.

Hussein has seen his country's per capita drop 75 percent over the last 25 years. Militarily, he scratched out a draw against Iran and then soundly lost the first Gulf War. And even the most pessimistic experts believe that the U.S. is going to win this war. Saddam's successors have no legacy of success upon which to build. Iraq's decline has lasted a quarter-century, with the effects particularly concentrated over the past 12 years. And Saddam has been in charge the whole time.

A smart Baathist would blame all of this on the American embargo, and that might succeed in defusing some of the blame. However, this same Baathist would be hard-pressed to say how Saddam either boosted the Iraqi standard of living or made Iraqis proud of their country.

3) There are no loyal Kurds or Shia. When Hitler invaded Russia, Ukrainians joined the German Army in droves despite Hitler's avowed racism against Slavs. They did this in part because they loathed Stalin for starving them during the 1930's. The one way in which Saddam is like Stalin has been his treatment of the Kurds and the Shia. They'll be glad to see the back of Saddam, and they'll also be glad to turn in his Baathist co-conspirators.

In short, Saddam may aspire to be Stalin, but post-Baathist Iraq will not be like post-communist Russia.

posted by Dan at 09:30 PM | Trackbacks (0)




GENDER AND WAR: Margaret Talbot's

GENDER AND WAR: Margaret Talbot's essay in today's New York Times Magazine points out that although more women in the United States oppose the war than men, the difference is hardly overwhelming. She goes on to raise a provocative point about the feminist basis for opposition to war:

"[I]f it isn't particularly surprising that women as a group are more skeptical about the war than men, it is surprising how little the arguments of women who oppose the war as women -- rather than, say, as citizens -- have changed over the years and how ill adapted they are to an era in which female soldiers make up a substantial minority of the fighting force in Iraq. Twelve years ago, 40,000 women went to the gulf, and as anyone watching this war on TV can see, there are many more there this time. Yet women's opposition to the war is still framed much as it has always been: women are antiwar naturals because it is men who do the fighting or because, as the 19th-century feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton put it, war could never have 'emanated from the mother soul.' And the gender gap still gets more attention than do other, potentially more interesting, divisions over the war, like the generational gap some pollsters have noted. (Older adults are more likely to oppose the war in Iraq than younger ones.)....

There are plenty of reasons to be against this war, but in America today, few of those reasons have much to do with gender. We hold onto the notion that women are peculiarly adapted for the antiwar camp because it has the attractions of all cliches -- it's homey, it's simple, it contains a kernel of truth. Tapping into the frustrations of women -- with men, with their own lives -- is a way of reaching out to more people than might be attracted by a less encumbered, more policy-oriented antiwar message. And it's easier to cite women's maternal morality and Cassandra-like vision than to make hard arguments about this war in particular as opposed to war in general. But clinging to the notion of women as the world's peacemakers means lauding instinct, not thought. And it comes dangerously close to the idea that women cannot choose between just and unjust wars, nor disagree with one another on which is which."

Read the whole piece, but I have two comments. First, the generation gap might be more interesting than the gender gap, but it's much less interesting than the ethnic gap in American public opinion. While 72% of all Americans support the war with Iraq, 66% of African Americans oppose the war (OxBlog has more on the latest polls). Why is this? It may be a function of the fact that Democrats and Republicans are split over the war, and most African-Americans are Democrats. But I strongly suspect there's something else going on here, something worth investigating further.

Second, one possible explanation for why anti-war opposition may still be associated with the female gender is that organized opposition to government action requires a great deal of social capital, and women are better at organizing grass-roots elements of civil society than men. To quote Robert Putnam from Bowling Alone (p. 195): "women have traditionally invested more time than men in social connectedness. Although men belong to more organizations, women spend more time in them. Women also spend more time than men in informal conversation and other forms of schmoozing, and they participate more in religious activities." A few pages later he concludes, "Whether working full-time, part-time, or not at all outside the home, and whether by choice or necessity, women invest more time in associational life than the average man." (emphasis added)

[Cue closing music--ed.] If you'd like to know more about war and gender, consult your local library, and ask them to order Joshua Goldtein's War and Gender, which is the book to read on this topic.

posted by Dan at 05:27 PM | Trackbacks (0)




ONE DOWN, ONE TO GO:

ONE DOWN, ONE TO GO: As loyal readers may recall, the U.S. had two enemies in Iraq -- Saddam Hussein's regime, and Ansar al-Islam, a militant Islamic group with links to Al Qaeda based in Northern Iraq between Hussein's forces and the secular Kurdish parties. The good news is that Operation Iraqi Freedom appears to have succeeded in destroying Ansar al-Islam. Don't trust me, trust the ordinarily pessimistic New York Times:

"An American-coordinated ground offensive against the group continued today with intensive fighting in small pockets in the mountains, but officials said the military battle against Ansar al-Islam was nearly over.

It began with cruise missile strikes a week ago and escalated on Friday when about 100 United States Special Forces soldiers and 10,000 local Kurdish fighters seized a network of villages from Ansar and drove the militants from their bases to nearby caves and mountains.

The United States contends that Ansar is a terrorist group that links Al Qaeda and Baghdad, and cited the group's operations in the largely autonomous Kurdish zone of northern Iraq as one of the justifications for the war against Saddam Hussein.

The Kurds said at least 176 Ansar fighters had died. About 150 more were said to have surrendered to the Iranian authorities at the border. Pockets of resistance in the mountains could be heard returning fire, but Kurdish military officers said the outcome seemed certain.....

Ansar and its 650 or so fighters had been feared in northern Iraq since 2001, when they ambushed a column of Kurdish fighters near here. It has since deployed assassins and suicide bombers, and succeeded in infantry raids against the secular Kurdish authorities, whom it rejects as infidel rulers.

But today Ansar seemed on the verge of military insignificance. 'We are very excited,' said Dr. Barham Salih, the Kurdish region's prime minister. 'It will be over before too long.'"

UPDATE: Here are the Washington Post , Guardian, and Associated Press versions of the same story.

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



Friday, March 28, 2003

WHERE'S THE LOVE, GARY?: Following

WHERE'S THE LOVE, GARY?: Following InstaPundit's link, I discovered Gary Hart has just started a blog. He even has a blogroll, with links to Brad DeLong and Kevin Drum, among others. Hey, Gary, besides the fact that Brad and Kevin are more ideologically sympathetic to you than I, what gives? [Maybe it's because Kevin is not afraid to go out on a limb with war predictions--ed.]

Elsewhere on the site, there's this graf:

"Your generous support makes it possible for me to continue traveling the country, addressing college students and town hall audiences, meeting with key officials and leaders, and gauging national support for my ideas as I explore a possible national candidacy. Your donation will help fund GaryHartNews, Inc., which will manage these functions as I continue to weigh a possible presidential bid."

If this works, I might have to reconsider my pledge never to explore the possibility of -- maybe -- seeking political office.

posted by Dan at 02:42 PM | Trackbacks (0)




REACHING THE TIPPING POINT: One

REACHING THE TIPPING POINT: One last post -- this Chicago Tribune story suggests that de-Baathification and humanitarian aid are helping ordinary Iraqis reach the tipping point of turning against Saddam Hussein's regime:

"The process of winning Az-Zubayr is proving a lesson for coalition troops as they move toward bigger objectives such as Basra and eventually Baghdad. Surgical strikes, aimed at political leaders as well as military targets, are being combined with humanitarian aid to ease the two biggest worries for local Iraqis: that coalition forces are simply an occupying force and that they aren't serious about removing Hussein's regime.

Iraqis 'like to be on the right side, and finding out which is the right side is the hardest thing for them,' said British Maj. Andy "Jock" Docherty, an Arabic-language translator working with troops of the Black Watch Regiment trying to pacify Az-Zubayr.....

Residents said that the humanitarian assistance was much appreciated but that decisive military action--like that in Az-Zubayr--was even more urgently needed.

U.S. forces 'should bomb [the ruling party] wherever they are. Baghdad is the most important. When it's done everything will change,' said Jasser, who agreed to an interview only out of the sight of others.

He asked the question everyone in southern Iraq asks: 'Will the Iraqi regime remain or not?'

"If this coalition does not remove the regime, half of us will die," he said. 'We will be killed just for talking to you. Saddam's eyes are all over here.'

He pointed toward an area he said remained a Baath Party stronghold in town.

'The Iraqi regime kills civilians for going against it. If they even think you're against the regime they kill you,' he said."

UPDATE: Here's more evidence indicating the tipping point has been reached in Basra.

posted by Dan at 10:26 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Thursday, March 27, 2003

OH, CANADA: Lots of blogosphere

OH, CANADA: Lots of blogosphere reaction to the criticism of Paul Cellucci's criticism of Canada. Dan Simon argues that I'm reacting to the Globe and Mail slant of the story, and point to this National Post version of events. Like Kevin Drum, I'm unconvinced. The Post story says at one point: "The public chiding by Mr. Cellucci marks a new low in the tortuous history of U.S.-Canada relations, which have been strained since Mr. Bush took office in 2001." This is the conservative paper, mind you.

Here's the full text of Cellucci's speech (link via Alec Saunders). It's clear that a message was trying to be sent, although it appears that Cellucci might have exacerbated the situation with the off-the-cuff comments he made after the speech.

Chris Lawrence and Jacob Levy have good roundups of other reactions.

Megan McArdle has some thoughts on Canadian-American trade, and this Chicago Tribune piece does a good job of providing detail about the mechanics of cross-border flows.

The one thing that gives me pause about what I said is reading Naomi Klein. After reading her turgid, simple-minded brand of globaloney, I felt this strange urge to annex the Atlantic provinces.

posted by Dan at 08:44 PM | Trackbacks (0)




A SCHOLAR AND A GENTLEMAN:

A SCHOLAR AND A GENTLEMAN: When I was a graduate student at Stanford, I was fortunate enough to hear Vaclav Havel come and give an address. Afterwards, my friends and I speculated on whether there was any contemporary American that could equal Havel’s political and intellectual prowess. Racking our brains, we came up with only one possibility: Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

So it's a tragedy to hear that Moynihan died yesterday. The war will probably obscure the plaudits this man deserves. Mickey Kaus provides a lovely elegy (he has links to other obits as well), without being afraid to point out when Moynihan was wrong. Other online takes include Patrick Belton, William Kristol, and David Frum,

My take? Moynihan was the rare social scientist who could move the national debate – though not always in the way he wished. For every mistake that he made – welfare reform – he was undeniably right about something even bigger – like, in 1979, predicting the demise of communism by 1990.

George Will also devotes today's column to Moynihan. It contains this priceless nugget:

"In his first campaign, in 1976, Moynihan's opponent was the incumbent, James Buckley, who playfully referred to 'Professor Moynihan' from Harvard. Moynihan exclaimed with mock indignation, 'The mudslinging has begun!'"

Rest in peace, Senator Moynihan: you knew your correlations from your causations.

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




WHO AND WHY WE'RE FIGHTING:

WHO AND WHY WE'RE FIGHTING: You want to know why Saddam Hussein's regime is worth eliminating? Here's one reason:

"The aftermath of the firefight was a tableau of twisted Iraqi corpses, cans of unopened food and the dirty mattresses where they had spent their final hours.

But the Iraqi private with a bullet wound in the back of his head suggested something particularly grim. Up and down the 200-mile stretch of desert where the American and British forces have advanced, one Iraqi prisoner after another has told a similar tale: that many Iraqi soldiers were fighting at gunpoint, threatened with death by loyalists of Saddam Hussein.

Here, according to American doctors and Iraqi prisoners, appeared to be the confirmation. The wounded Iraqi, whose life was ebbing away outside an American field hospital, had been shot during a firefight Tuesday night with American troops. It was a small-caliber bullet, most likely from a pistol, fired at close range. Iraqi prisoners taken after the battle said their officers had been firing at them, pushing them into battle.

'The officers threatened to shoot us unless we fought,' said a wounded Iraqi from his bed in the American field hospital here. 'They took out their guns and pointed them and told us to fight.'"

More evidence from Basra:

"Air Marshall Brian Burridge, the top British commander in the Gulf, also reported Thursday that Iraqis loyal to Saddam Hussein were forcing Iraqi conscripts and regular army troops into combat near Basra with the threat of executing them or their families.

British forces destroyed 14 Iraqi tanks that tried to break out of the southern city of Basra on Thursday morning, and one official said the tanks were manned by Iraqi soldiers whose families were threatened.

'They are being forced to fight by these militia. They are going into, apparently, people's homes, forcing the men to drive these vehicles to try and lead the escape out of Basra,' said Group Capt. Al Lockwood. 'They are obviously coercing them into this action, whereas in fact we would have wished them to surrender.'"

Not repelled yet? Consider that the Basra story starts with this piece of information:

"Iraqi paramilitary forces are seizing children and threatening Iraqi men with execution if they don't fight for the regime, U.S. and British officials said Thursday.

The U.S. commanders around the south-central city of Najaf reported the development to Gen. Tommy Franks, who is commanding forces in the Gulf, said U.S. Central Command spokesman Jim Wilkinson."

One piece of good news -- what this means for Iraq's command and control:

"Lockwood said the most recent behavior by the Iraqis showed the center no longer was holding.

'The enemy's options are now limited. They don't know what to do and they're guessing. It shows the command and control exercised by Baghdad has broken down. It's a suicidal approach which is irrational with no military logic to it. Military cohesion is sadly lacking.'"

UPDATE: Here's another story on this topic.

posted by Dan at 12:06 PM | Trackbacks (0)




WHY FORMAL ALLIANCES MATTER: Jacob

WHY FORMAL ALLIANCES MATTER: Jacob Levy's latest "Chicago School" piece in TNR -- a meditation on why Australia and Poland are actually sending troops to Iraq -- is now up. Here are his footnotes and bibliography.

Jacob's co-conspirator, Eugene Volokh, reports on one possible explanation for France and Germany's resistance to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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




THE QUESTIONABLE PERFIDY OF THE

THE QUESTIONABLE PERFIDY OF THE EUROPEAN UNION: Michael Ledeen is arguing in a New York Sun front-pager that the reason Turkey failed to permit U.S. troops to stage operations on its territory has nothing to do with the Bush administration's diplomacy: "contrary to the conventional wisdom, the vote was not an Islamic protest against the American-led coalition, but an act of anti-American intimidation by France and Germany." He goes on to say:

"The French and German governments informed the Turkish opposition parties that if they voted to help the Coalition war effort, Turkey would be locked out of Europe for a generation. As one Turkish leader put it, 'there were no promises, only threats.'

One can describe this behavior on the part of our erstwhile Old Europe allies only as a deliberate act of sabotage against America in time of war."

Let's assume for the moment that Ledeen is correct about France and Germany using the power of the European Union to influence Turkey's decision-making (Josh Marshall believes Turkish domestic politics played a significant role in the decision -- and I agree that multiple causality is at work here. UPDATE: both the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune provide postmortems that blame both U.S. diplomatic blunders and Turkish misperceptions in equal measure. European pressure is not mentioned in either piece). It would certainly be correct to scold the relevant EU members for acting in such an obstructionist fashion.

However, Ledeen should also acknowledge that the EU also just did us a huge diplomatic favor -- convincing Turkey not to send troops into Kurdish Iraq -- by using the identical coercive tactic that Ledeen deplores.

Over the past week, EU members have jointly and individually warned Turkey not to send troops into Iraq. Romano Prodi, EU Commission President, echoed these warnings, saying that such a move would be "a very serious act." An EU spokesman reiterated this warning, stating, "Any action by a neighbour that could destabilise the situation would be most unwelcome.”

The threat worked. Turkey responded to the EU by saying it did not plan any large-scale incursion and had no desire to occupy the Northern part of Iraq.

Memo to Ledeen: if you're going to bash the EU -- and there plenty of reasons to bash it -- then acknowledge its occasion utility as well.

[Hey, why are you praising EU attempts to coerce Turkey but yesterday you bashed U.S. efforts to coerce Canada?--ed. The two situations are different. Turkey desperately wants to join the EU club. Canada is already a member of NAFTA. Furthermore, what Turkey's contemplated action could have had very deleterious effects on Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Canada-bashing was over penny ante dust-ups. However, it's worth noting that Franco-German bullying has alienated many of their natural allies in the region as well.]

UPDATE: I take Glenn Reynolds' point about the distinction between "Old Europe" and the European Union. However, the only reason the EU was useful in constraining Turkey's operations in Iraq was the consensus among Great Britain, France and Germany on this issue. What holds for the EU holds for the individual countries as well -- even France.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I've received several e-mails suggesting, to quote one of them (Greg D.), "the only reason the EU needed to bully the Turks to NOT send troops into Iraq is because they FIRST bullied them to keep the US troops out."

Sorry, that dog won't hunt. Recall that earlier this month the U.S. was offering a lot of sweeteners to Turkey in return for that permission to open up a second front -- and one of them was giving the Turks a much freer reign in the Kurdish part of Iraq. If you're Kurdish, you should thank the EU twice over -- for preventing the U.S. from acquiescing to Turkey's wishes on the matter in return for military support, and for preventing the Turks from taking matters into their own hands.

posted by Dan at 11:23 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Wednesday, March 26, 2003

IT'S ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE:

IT'S ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE: Mickey Kaus, Glenn Reynolds, and Josh Marshall linked to separate posts on this humble blog today.

Let's face it -- I could write the modern-day equivalent of the Gettysburg Address over the next few weeks, and I'm not going to match my traffic count for today.

UPDATE: In related news, I've evolved from a slimy mollusk to a slithering reptile. Hmmmm..... slithering.

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




DUMB-ASS DIPLOMACY, EH?: Henry Farrell

DUMB-ASS DIPLOMACY, EH?: Henry Farrell provides a link to this Globe and Mail story about U.S. ambassador Paul Cellucci's rebuke of Canada. The first few grafs:

"Washington's ambassador to Canada has delivered the sternest public rebuke by a U.S. representative since the Trudeau era, saying Americans are upset at Canada's refusal to join the war in Iraq and hinting there could be economic fallout.

At a breakfast speech yesterday to the Economic Club of Toronto, U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci said 'there is a lot of disappointment in Washington and a lot of people are upset' about Canada's refusal to join the United States in its efforts to depose Iraqi President Saddam Hussein."

Now, to be fair to Cellucci, not until paragraph 20 does the story acknowledge that, "Mr. Cellucci took great pains to preface his admonition with a discussion of the close ties that have marked the relationship between Canada and the United States. On many issues, including the free flow of border traffic, that relationship must remain strong, he said."

However, there's something to the way the reporter frames the piece in these grafs:

"Mr. Cellucci said the relationship between the two countries will endure in the long term, but 'there may be short-term strains here.'

Asked what those strains would be, Mr. Cellucci replied, 'You'll have to wait and see.' But he cryptically added it is his government's position that 'security will trump trade,' implying possible implications for cross-border traffic."

Where to begin? This tactic is stupid on a whole variety of levels. Let's single out the big ones:

1) Don't make empty threats. Let's assume for the moment that Cellucci had a valid point. In diplomacy, never make a public threat -- even a vague one -- unless there's a possibility it could be carried out. There is simply no way in hell that the U.S. government would take any economic retaliation against Canada that violated the NAFTA treaty. The story quotes one Canadian official stating, "Even if we had conscripted 50,000 troops and sent them to fight in Iraq we would not be one bit further ahead on the softwood lumber file... And we would not be one bit further behind either."

Now, Cellucci -- and by extension the U.S. government -- looks inept for making an empty threat.

2) Don't bother criticizing actions beyond the scope of the federal government. After his speech, Cellucci cited specific examples of Canadian anti-Americanism -- the booing of the U.S. national anthem at a Canadiens game in Montreal, A Liberal MP calling Americans "bastards," etc.

Are these actions disturbing? Yes. Should they prompt ambassadorial criticism? No.

First, one can hardly blame the Chrétien government for these displays. Maybe you could argue that the government has been permissive in not criticizing Liberal party officials who make dumb-ass statements, but that's a complaint to register privately, not publicly. Second, defending one's country against these kinds of attacks should never be linked with threats of retaliation, since it defeats the purpose of the criticism. Third, the actions Cellucci cited are so over the top that they have prompted their own backlash. Public reprimands should be saved for more serious challenges to bilateral relations.

3) Don't make the Iraq question a make-or-break one for allies. The Bush administration's "with us or against us" approach is the correct one in dealing with the war on terrorism. But no one who supports the current action against Iraq should be so blind as to believe that there are no valid grounds on which to stake out an opposing point of view. The best diplomacy the Bush administration could conduct for the current situation is to politely agree to disagree with our allies. Stress that on the big issues, we share a common social purpose with our allies, and that disputes like this will hopefully be few and far between. This is how countries stay allies even when they don't always see eye to eye.

Cellucci's speech, combined with other examples of U.S. pressure applied against close allies such as Mexico or Turkey, suggests that the Bush administration is not following this diplomatic approach. They're applying the same "with us or against us" strategy for Iraq as well. Now, whatever the size of our coalition, there are significant countries that disagree with us on Iraq but wish to cooperate with us on other affairs of state. Beyond Canada, I'd include Germany, Russia, China, India, and most of the Western hemisphere on this list. Tactics like Cellucci's speech will backfire with these countries.

Just to be clear -- I have no love for the Chrétien government, and Cellucci is correct to say that a lot of Americans are upset at Canadian displays of anti-Americanism. But our diplomats are making empty threats and copying Donald Rumsfeld's technique of publicly disparaging close allies. This diplomatic injury is entirely self-inflicted.

This kind of aggravation we don't need.

UPDATE: The Globe and Mail's follow-up story makes it clear that the White House vetted Cellucci's speech:

"Despite Liberal government assurances that the Bush administration had accepted the Canadian decision gracefully, U.S. officials say Mr. Bush and his advisers are furious, not only with the decision to stay out of the battle but also with what they say is the anti-American rhetoric that Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has tolerated.

Sources said national security adviser Condoleezza Rice consulted Mr. Cellucci about the message he was to deliver at a breakfast speech on Tuesday in Toronto.

'This came right from the top,' one U.S. official said.

When Mr. Chrétien announced the Canadian position, Liberal ministers had assured the Bush team that, while Canada would not participate in the war, it also would not criticize the U.S. and British effort in Iraq.

However, American officials noted that Mr. Chrétien quickly characterized the war as 'unjustified' and then failed to condemn Natural Resources Minister Herb Dhaliwal, who called Mr. Bush a 'failed statesman.'"

It would have been better if Cellucci had only cited these specific examples, and had omitted the vague and empty threat of retaliation.

posted by Dan at 01:57 PM | Trackbacks (0)




MORE ON DEBAATHIFICATION AND URBAN

MORE ON DEBAATHIFICATION AND URBAN COMBAT: I argued a few days ago that Baathist resistance during the war makes postwar de-Baathification a much easier task. At the same time, the resulting spectre of more urban combat was worrying.

After reading this London Times piece, I feel on much firmer ground on de-Baathification, and more sanguine that urban warfare will not be as devastating as feared. Here are the money quotes from the commander of British forces in Iraq, Air Marshal Brian Burridge:

"'What's going on there is there are these unconventional forces, the people who really have gripped the people of Iraq in fear, the Saddam Fedayin, for example, the Baath party militia and the special security operation, and these are bunches of determined men who will fight hard because they have no future in Iraq and it is they that we have to get at.

We have always known we would have to get at them and we did that last night in Zubayr.

We went to their headquarters and engaged in contact with them, killed a number of them and made it quite clear that we are up for this and you are going to have a very hard time.

'A column of armour did try to come out of Basra last night and 20 of them won't be going back because they had the attention of our artillery.'

But he said that a military victory would take time, arguing that it was "slightly early days" to be expecting a popular uprising against Saddam.

'There is a reason for that, in 1991, when Basra was the subject of a major uprising, the way in which it was dealt with by the regime has left a deep memory.

Give it some time.'"

UPDATE: Greg Djerejian provides an alternative suggestion on the best course for de-Baathification.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kanan Makiya, who's keeping a war diary for The New Republic, makes some excellent points on how de-Baathification will need to proceed. Bravo to TNR Online for the having the good sense to ask Makiya and Gregg Easterbrook to file daily dispatches on the conflict. Clearly Noam Scheiber, TNR's online editor, is going places [That's enough sucking up for now--ed.]

posted by Dan at 10:06 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (1)




COMPARE AND CONTRAST: This Financial

COMPARE AND CONTRAST: This Financial Times op-ed (link via Brad DeLong) suggests that we do not have sufficient armor and infantry for the upcoming fight. This UPI report (link via Andrew Sullivan) explains the Pentagon's rationale behind their force deployment.

Who's right? We simply don't know, because our information about the battlefield is pretty piss-poor right now. Part of this is purposeful, as this Ha'aretz piece (link via Glenn Reynolds) points out with a great quote from military historian Martin van Creveld:

"Everyone is lying about everything all the time, and it is difficult to say what is happening. I've stopped listening. All the pictures shown on TV are color pieces which have no significance."

"There is a lot of disinformation.... Every word that is spoken is suspect."

posted by Dan at 09:55 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Tuesday, March 25, 2003

DEBATING THE WAR: I spent

DEBATING THE WAR: I spent this evening debating the merits of Operation Iraqi Freedom at Loyola's medical school in front of about 100 students and doctors. I was debating Doug Cassel, who's affiliated with Northwestern's law school. You can get a sense of his take on the issue from this Chicago Tribune op-ed he wrote a few days ago. He was honest in saying that he preferred to see Saddam Hussein remain in power rather than fight a war of liberation, and I was honest enough to disagree. It was a healthy exchange of views.

This was my first public debate. I'll admit, when I walked into the room and noticed that the first people I saw either had big "NO WAR" buttons on their lapels or were wearing chadors, I felt some trepidation. And I did get one question from a faculty member that asked how I could trust an administration that had passed such a massive tax cut and rambled on from there. However, although the audience was probably 80/20 opposed to war, the students were both inquisitive and polite -- I wound up staying there for an hour after the debate ended in order to answer all the questions I could.

I'll be doing more of these in the future. They do absolutely nothing for my tenure chances, but like blogging, they provide me a way to translate my academic pursuits to a wider audience.

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




IN OTHER NEWS: The Financial

IN OTHER NEWS: The Financial Times reports on the situation in Afghanistan, where reaction to the Iraq war is muted. Also, Wim Duisenberg might be asked to stay on as president of the European Central Bank because of.... are you ready for this... French corruption!!

Also, this report from last Friday has a good discussion of how France and Germany could exploit the war to back out of agreements on EU macroeconomic policy.

posted by Dan at 10:47 AM | Trackbacks (0)




AL-JAZEERA IN ENGLISH: Western reaction

AL-JAZEERA IN ENGLISH: Western reaction to the Al-Jazeera network has been all over the map, with some praising it as a step towards the liberalization of information flows in the Middle East, while others denounce it as anti-Semitic and anti-American Click here for a debate on the Al-Jazeera's content, and here for a cache of stories about the network.

Soon, English speakers will be able to decide for themselves. Al-Jazeera has opened up an English language web site. However, the site is currently under siege due to the heavy traffic;I haven't been able to access it despite repeated tries. [UPDATE: Apparently hackers are attacking the site]

They're suffering from other birthing pains. According to this report,

"Articles on the English-language site's first day were sure to antagonize American readers. One feature looked at the influence of the Israeli lobby in Washington. Another, headlined "Coalition of the Willing Has Become a Joke," made light of the "obscure" countries in the U.S.-led coalition. Another, titled "Misinformation Basra," cast doubt on American military assertions about its military success in the southern Iraqi city....

Managing Editor Joanne Tucker, a former BBC journalist who holds dual U.S.-British citizenship and speaks Arabic, has promised Western-style standards of journalism. She said she stands by all the articles but conceded that the site has to do more to clarify what is news and what is opinion."

Of course, you could say that about the BBC as well -- and Andrew Sullivan has.

posted by Dan at 10:27 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Monday, March 24, 2003

ELSEWHERE IN THE BLOGOSPHERE: Oxblog

ELSEWHERE IN THE BLOGOSPHERE: Oxblog has a lot of good stuff up, and Jacob Levy is posting again at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Thomas Friedman and Andrew Sullivan are having a pretty interesting exchange about multilateralism and the war over at Andrew's blog. Here's the latest missive from Friedman. While he is clearly missing the imprantur of UN approval, he raises an cogent point about multilateral nation-building:

"Gulf War II is different from Gulf War I. Gulf War I was about liberating Kuwait. It was not about nation-building. And it is much easier for America to lead a coalition whose only task was winning a war. Gulf War II is about both winning a war and nation-building. I wish we had more allies for winning the war. I wish we had many more allies for paying for the war afterwards. But, I realize, you cannot do nation-building by committee, especially in Iraq. It will require a firm hand from the top. Or, to put it another way, maybe you can do it by committee in tiny Bosnia and Kosovo, but not in Iraq. Given the problems we had with France at the U.N., I cannot imagine trying to nation-build in Iraq with them. All the factions inside would try to play off the different big powers."

Finally, I am most definitely taking Kieran Healy's advice on blogging about the war.

posted by Dan at 08:50 PM | Trackbacks (0)




WHY THE BAATHIST RESISTANCE MAY

WHY THE BAATHIST RESISTANCE MAY BE A GOOD THING: One piece of evidence cited as proof that Operation Iraqi Freedom is running into roadblocks is that forces other than the Republican Guard are resisting coalition troops. Two AP reports -- here and here -- stress the role of the Baathist party militia in resisting the U.S. military. Clearly, these forces could lead to more urban combat, which is something no one wants.

Now, this could certainly drag out the war. Perversely, in could make the peace much easier to win.

Here's the logic: the Baath Party has ruled Iraq for about thirty-five years. In both its organization and tactics, it bears more than a passing resemblance to Stalinist parties. David Brooks, writing back in November 2002, stresses this point:

"The Arab Socialist Baath party, or ABSP, developed internal security and intelligence networks and even theoretical journals to develop party dogma. From the first, party statements were marked by a highly charged ideological style, which separated the world into the party of pure good (the Baathists themselves) and the party of pure evil (just about everyone else). As Tariq Aziz, a longtime party leader, noted in the 1980s, 'The ABSP is not a conventional political organization, but is composed of cells of valiant revolutionaries. . . . They are experts in secret organization. They are organizers of demonstrations, strikes, and armed revolutions. . . . They are the knights of the struggle.'

Once in power, the party behaved, in some respects, as Leninist parties do everywhere. It built a parallel party structure on top of the normal government bureaucracy to enforce loyalty and conformity. It established its own army, in addition to the regular Iraqi army, and its own intelligence service, which at first was given the otherworldly name the Apparatus of Yearnings. Ambitious young people were compelled to join the party if they hoped to rise, or even study abroad. Leaving the Baath party to join another political group remains in Iraq a crime punishable by death." (emphasis added).

Think that Brooks is some uninformed Westerner? Click here for Kanan Makiya's more pungent version of the same point.

So, a crucial part of postwar reconstruction in Iraq will be the de-Baathification of the country. Unless Baath activists are identified and purged from positions of power, ordinary Iraqis will fear speaking their minds. However, such purges are notoriously difficult to implement. Occupying forces often lack either the stomach or the energy to take the necessary actions. Because the party is embedded into Iraqi society, even the best efforts to remove Baath loyalists will be incomplete.

However, the Baathists can facilitate this task by resisting oncoming U.S. forces with force of arms. Instead of laboring to identify party loyalists after the war is over, these people are self-identifying during the combat phase, making it more likely they will be killed or treated as prisoners of war. [Yeah, but why are they doing this?--ed. The Baathists probably know they're not well-loved by either the Americans or the Iraqis they've subjugated. Even if it might be difficult to root all of them out during the postwar reconstruction phase, each individual Baathist can't like his/her odds of escaping unharmed]

The fewer Baathists that are around after the war is over, the easier it will be to rebuild Iraqi society in a manner compatible with the principles of liberal democracy. And the more that Baathist militias and party leaders resist during the war, the fewer Baathists there will be after the war.

Again, this benefit must clearly be weighed against the significant cost of more urban warfare. However, it is a clear and tangible benefit.

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




IS THIS GOING TO BE

IS THIS GOING TO BE A QUICK VICTORY? DEFINE "QUICK": In the wake of reports of heavy fighting at Nasiriya, the repulse of Apache helicopters in Central Iraq, and continued skirmishes in Umm Qasr, I'm expecting a wave of "quagmire" stories combined with harangues of "inflated expectations" of success.

Let's bear something in mind -- this is day five of the conflict. Coalition forces are within a hundred miles of Baghdad. (UPDATE: Make that fifty miles). The fiercest battle to date is responsible for less than 20 American fatalities -- certainly awful to the families of those killed, but not an overwhelming number. Yes, there will be losses on the front due to actual combat, and casualties in the rear due to pockets of resistance. But any attempt to paint the current U.S. campaign as stalling out because they've encountered actual resistance is ridiculous. To quote Josh Marshall on this: "what's happened so far seems well within the range of what they [US military planners] considered expected outcomes. It's only... the best case scenario does not so far seem to be materializing."

It took two months to defeat the Taliban, a much weaker force than the Republican Guard. If it takes less time than that to defeat regular military forces in Iraq, it will be a smashing -- and astonishingly quick -- victory.

P.S. Mickey Kaus makes an excellent point on how some media recognize this fact, while others don't.

P.P.S. Virginia Postrel correctly points out that the American people have more sober expectations of this conflict than many pundits. No one should be surprised by what's taken place so far. Furthermore, the Washington Post has an excellent piece explaining why support will remain robust even if casualties mount.

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




RESPONDING TO CALPUNDIT: Kevin Drum

RESPONDING TO CALPUNDIT: Kevin Drum requests that someone to the right of him respond to John S. Herrington's LA Times op-ed on substituting Iraq's reserves for our own Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a way of destroying OPEC's monopoly power over oil.

OK, I'll provide the realpolitik response to Herington's rambling and incoherent op-ed:

First, even Herrington should have acknowledged that OPEC has largely been a bust as a monopoly cartel. Their oil embargoes of the 70's contributed to the development of the North Sea oil fields. The collapse of the Soviet Union has introduced new exporters -- Russia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan -- that are outside OPEC's domain. OPEC production quotas are honored only in the breach. In Controlling for inflation, the price of oil is far lower now than it was during the seventies. There's simply no bogeyman to destroy here.

Second, why on earth would a smart realist ditch the material resources located in one's own country in favor of relying on a source that's 6,000 miles away? That's a logistical nightmare.

Third, the political externalities created by such a drastic drop in the price of oil would be tremendous. It would certainly lead to instability among Iraq's neighbors, which would likely complicate efforts to rebuild Iraq, at the very least. Do we really need addition aggravation on that score?

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



Sunday, March 23, 2003

WORTH REPEATING: Mickey Kaus says

WORTH REPEATING: Mickey Kaus says something on the utility of the Blogosphere to punditry that's worth remembering:

"As a contributor to the fast-paced world of Internet journalism, you have to discipline yourself to go off half-cocked. You can mull over your initial impressions, testing them against available evidence over the course of weeks, slowly coming to a conclusion. Or you can go with your best instinct and change your mind later if you're wrong! The first route maybe works if you're David Broder (at least it's what David Broder seems to do). The second route works best for everyone else -- especially on the Web, where the clash of all those insta-takes gets to the truth in about a thousandth of the time it takes a Broder to pronounce judgment. 'First impression, best impression,' as Allen Ginsberg might say." (Kaus' emphasis)

As Glenn would say, "Indeed."

posted by Dan at 12:37 PM | Trackbacks (0)




MEMO TO CNN, MSNBC, AND

MEMO TO CNN, MSNBC, AND FOX: Dear nets,

Great job with the embedded reporters, video cameras, and cool flak-jacket-wearing reporters sitting atop tanks. And the frequent recaps are nice.

Oh, one minor irritant... could your reporters, announcers, and voiceovers PLEASE STOP REPEATING THE PHRASE "SHOCK AND AWE"???!!! I support our actions, and even I think it makes you sound like complete tools.

I'm sorry for being so touchy, but after hearing the FIRST 100,000 USES OF THE TERM, it starts to grate.

C'mon, you people have heard of the word "synonyn". Here's some possible substitutes:

"Stun and stagger"
"Astonish and wonder"
"Amaze and surprise"
"Flabbergast and overwhelm"

And, if you're really punch drunk, "tickle and tease."

Yes, more syllables are involved, but trust me, your core audience will be most grateful.

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




A GOOD CHECKLIST: In the

A GOOD CHECKLIST: In the wake of the first few days of the war, it's worth reviewing Fred Kaplan's checklist of how well the campaign is going. His key concerns:

1) Will Israel be attacked?
2) Will Iraqi forces guarding Basra put up significant resistance?
3) Have any U.S. aircraft been shot down?
4) Is Saddam still in control?

By that checklist, things are going pretty well.

While you're at Slate, you might also want to check Will Saletan's blog post on the outdated tactics of antiwar protestors.

posted by Dan at 12:09 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Friday, March 21, 2003

HAVE PROTESTORS HIJACKED THE WASHINGTON

HAVE PROTESTORS HIJACKED THE WASHINGTON POST?: Generally, the Post is perceived as more balanced than the New York Times, but if you click on their World page right now, you might believe that antiwar activists have seized control of the paper. (UPDATE: Not surprisingly, the page has been updated. What follows was true at the time I first posted this, however).

Why do I say that? This is the first big story headline you see:

"Thousands Worldwide Protest Start Of Iraq War."

Which is perfectly fine, certainly important and newsworthy, yada, yada, yada. I'm not objecting to the substance of the coverage. It's just that the second big story headline is:

"Tens of Thousands Around the World Protest Against the War."

The first story was in today's print edition, while the second is an AP report from this afternoon (there's also this story about protests in Arab countries).

Now, isn't it a bit much to give the biggest play to both of these stories? Don't the headlines suggest a fair amount of redundancy? And isn't there a glaring contradiction in the headlines? It reminds me of this Doonesbury strip from the days of yore.

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




HYPERBOLE WATCH: I've read the

HYPERBOLE WATCH: I've read the New York Times for long enough to pick out the good foreign correspondents from the bad ones. Elaine Sciolino is a good one. But this story about the EU leaders' meeting in Brussels contains the following sentence:

"Never before in the history of the European Union have its members had to grapple with two more different impulses on foreign policy."

First of all, the phrase "common European foreign and security policy" has been pretty much an oxymoron from its inception, so in the end the current division doesn't amount to much change from the status quo. Second of all, go back to 1989-90 and read what Thatcher and Mitterand were saying about German reunification, and you'll see that the current dust-up pales in comparison. [But the EU didn't exist then. It was called the European Community until 1992--ed. It could that Sciolino meant the sentence in this way, but it's vague enough to suggest otherwise]

posted by Dan at 02:14 PM | Trackbacks (0)




QUOTE OF THE DAY: Media

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Media coverage of the extent of Iraqi resistance has varied widely. One minute the BBC says there is fierce fighting, the next minute Reuters is saying that rapid advances are taking place. Obviously, part of this is due to varying levels of Iraqi resistance across a broad front. This Financial Times story, however, quotes another logical explanation from an authoritative source:

"'If you're the corporal in the lead vehicle that's getting shot at, then you would call that stiff resistance. But if you're the division commander and you're moving 30, 50, 60 miles in one day, that's no resistance,' said Col Ben Hodges, commander of the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne at Camp Pennsylvania, Kuwait.

'At the moment, the main thing that's slowing the forces is the ability of the fuel trucks to keep up with them.'"

posted by Dan at 01:46 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Thursday, March 20, 2003

ELSEWHERE IN THE WORLD...: U.S.

ELSEWHERE IN THE WORLD...: U.S. armed forces are also busy in Afghanistan.

Remember, critics of attacking Iraq argued that we weren't going to be able to effectively fight Al Qaeda and Iraq simultaneously.

Whoops.

UPDATE: Here's a follow-up report on this mission.

posted by Dan at 04:30 PM | Trackbacks (0)




SOME STOCK ADVICE: For those

SOME STOCK ADVICE: For those of you who own shares of stock in Apple, you might want to sell it. This is why.

Do it quickly.

UPDATE: Virginia Postrel implicitly proffers similar advice. Her key line: "Maybe I'm nuts, but trying to grow your market share by excluding everyone who doesn't share hippie-dippy Bay Area politics strikes me as a dumb strategy."

posted by Dan at 04:25 PM | Trackbacks (0)




ABOUT THAT SADDAM VIDEO: I

ABOUT THAT SADDAM VIDEO: I caught the video of Saddam following the first attack [How could you miss it? CNN broadcast it every three minutes--ed.] What struck me was not whether it was a body double or not. What struck me was how awful that person looked. Sunken cheeks, gray beard, and the glasses looked like a replica of Estelle Getty's from The Golden Girls.

This ties in with my point about the key to defeating our enemies in the Muslim world -- embarrass them. Make them look feeble and pathetic.

In Iraq, this shouldn't be a hard task.

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




I LOVE WILLIAMS: I had

I LOVE WILLIAMS: I had a great time at my alma mater. First-rate hospitality from the faculty, and sharp, incisive questions from the undergraduates, who seem much more focused than I was when I was here.

posted by Dan at 01:08 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Tuesday, March 18, 2003

LIGHT BLOGGING AHEAD: For the

LIGHT BLOGGING AHEAD: For the next few days posting will be light; I'm going to be visiting my alma mater, Williams College. They've invited me back to give a talk on "The Uncertain Future of Multilateralism." I'm sure there will be a vigorous discussion.

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




WAR AND THE OSCARS: According

WAR AND THE OSCARS: According to Matt Drudge, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce a possible postponement of the Oscars in case of war. The Oscar press room says nothing, but we'll see.

In the meanwhile, this Daily Telegraph story suggests that there will likely be at least one anti-war acceptance speech. Stephen Daldry and David Hare, nominees for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for The Hours, both state their intention to speak out. Daldry has a priceless quote:

"I do not think the case for war has been made and most of the people I know feel the same. It could be that they think differently in Cincinnati but it certainly seems to be that way in New York."

[Is this supporting evidence for Megan McArdle?--ed. I would say so]

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




JUST HOW MULTILATERAL IS SUPPORT

JUST HOW MULTILATERAL IS SUPPORT FOR THIS WAR?: Andrew Sullivan makes the point today that substantially more European states support the U.S. position than don't.

One additional thought: it's not just European countries that support the American position. Japan, South Korea, Australia, East Timor, and Singapore have all expressed vocal support for the U.S. position. The latter two countries are smaller than Belgium, but the first three are relatively significant allies.

To be clear, lots of countries oppose the U.S. position (click here for India's position and here for Botswana's. But support is not limited to the Anglosphere.

UPDATE: Thanks to Pattrick Ruffini, who links to this Heritage report arguing that multilateral support for the impending war is greater than it was in 1991. There's some exaggeration (France and Germany are on the "coalition of the willing" list, which seems bizarre), but it does demonstrate that support is broader than commonly suggested.

posted by Dan at 02:03 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Monday, March 17, 2003

QUOTE OF THE DAY: I'm

QUOTE OF THE DAY: I'm still in the middle of Fareed Zakaria's opus on "The Arrogant Empire," so I can't really comment on it just yet. However, this quote within the article -- from Denis MacShane, Britain’s minister for Europe -- is priceless:

"Scratch an anti-American in Europe, and very often all he wants is a guest professorship at Harvard or to have an article published in The New York Times.”

posted by Dan at 04:06 PM | Trackbacks (0)




THE NEXT TEST FOR AMERICAN

THE NEXT TEST FOR AMERICAN DIPLOMACY: Matt Drudge has exclusive excerpts from an interview with Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz in Time's European edition. The key parts:

"Time: If there is an Iraqi Scud attack on Israel, will you retaliate or refrain, as Israel did in the 1991 Gulf War?

The reality of 1991 won’t repeat itself. The chances that we’ll be attacked are low. But if we’re attacked, Israel is obliged to defend itself and its civilians. This time it must be clear to everyone that might endanger us, especially the Iraqis, that Israel reserves the right to retaliate.

Time: What if the attack is with nonconventional weapons?

We are a sovereign state, but we are also a responsible state. We won’t retaliate automatically. It will be only after an assessment. The ties we have with the Americans are so strong that we won’t carry out automatic actions."

My suspicion is that the Arab street will not be roiling that much is the United States attacks Iraq. If Israel chooses to do so, however, that would lead to massive protests.

It's clear from the interview that the Israelis won't act before consulting with the Bush administration. That consultation will prove crucial to the politics of the Middle East for some years to come. One does hope that they will be more persuasive than they have in the past with the Sharon administration.

UPDATE: One reader e-mails that this post demonstrates an "apparent callousness towards Israel in its efforts to defend itself and its civilians." That was not my intention. The obvious (but unstated) point is that if Iraq chooses to retaliate by attacking Israel, it would be much better for the United States to respond with force (or, rather redirect what force they are applying), rather than have Israel act on its own.

posted by Dan at 01:28 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Friday, March 14, 2003

FOR GEEKS AND UNIVERSITY OF

FOR GEEKS AND UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO UNDERGRADUATES ONLY: After I posted about the joys of crafting a globalization syllabus, I received a couple of e-mails asking for a peek.

Well, here's your chance. I've set up a separate blog for my globalization course -- Globalization and Its Discontents. The entire syllabus is there. U of C undergraduates that want to get a jump on buying books -- here's your chance!!

WARNING: Many of the article links will not work unless you are at a university account that has the requisite online subscriptions.

For another good blogger syllabus, check out Brad DeLong's Introduction to Economic History, which he's co-teaching with Barry Eichengreen. My only quibble with it is the omission of How The West Grew Rich from their reading list. Economists, however, always disdain books in favor of articles.

posted by Dan at 03:28 PM | Trackbacks (0)




HOW BUSH DECIDES: David Brooks

HOW BUSH DECIDES: David Brooks has an excellent reply to E.J. Dionne, Joe Klein, and others who worry about Bush's apparent decisiveness:

"In certain circles, it is not only important what opinion you hold, but how you hold it. It is important to be seen dancing with complexity, sliding among shades of gray. Any poor rube can come to a simple conclusion--that President Saddam Hussein is a menace who must be disarmed--but the refined ratiocinators want to be seen luxuriating amid the difficulties, donning the jewels of nuance, even to the point of self-paralysis. And they want to see their leaders paying homage to this style. Accordingly, many Bush critics seem less disturbed by his position than by his inability to adhere to the rules of genteel intellectual manners. They want him to show a little anguish. They want baggy eyes, evidence of sleepless nights, a few photo-ops, Kennedy-style, of the president staring gloomily through the Oval Office windows into the distance.

And this prompts a question in their minds. Why does George Bush breach educated class etiquette so grievously? Why does he seem so certain, decisive and sure of himself, when everybody--tout le monde!--knows that anxiety and anguish are the proper poses to adopt in such times.

The U.S. press is filled with psychologizing. And two explanations have reemerged.

First, Bush is stupid. Intellectually incurious, he is unable to adapt to events.

Secondly, he is a religious nut. He sees the world as a simple battle of good versus evil. His faith cannot admit shades of gray.

The problem with the explanations is that they have nothing to do with reality."

Read the rest of the essay for Brooks' explanation.

I suspect there's something else going on, which is simple partisanship. Consider that the last President who identified an emerging threat to U.S. security and altered American foreign policy accordingly was famous for his decisiveness.

Curiously, however, neither history nor the Democrats have judged Harry S Truman to have been too decisive.

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



Thursday, March 13, 2003

DOES SOMEONE NEEDS A "TIME

DOES SOMEONE NEEDS A "TIME OUT"? OR MAYBE A FIELD TRIP?: OK, as war approaches, everyone's nerves are clearly getting frayed. However, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld seems especially ill-tempered. How else to explain his recent gaffes?

First he manages to alienate the British, only our most important ally in the looming conflict, with the suggestion that we don't really need them.

Then he publicly states that "secret surrender" negotiations are under way. According to CNN, Rumsfeld said this "to the dismay of the U.S. officials involved." This dismay would make sense, since, after all, surrendering before the war starts is a delicate tango.

Now, Rummy has the reputation of being a straight-shooter in public, so maybe he thinks these moments of candor are just part of his charm. However, I share Andrew Sullivan's suspicion that he's been acting up in private as well:

"By tonight, the tensions were spilling over into the administration itself, as the hawkish senior officials who had opposed going to the United Nations in the first place erupted in frustration that the process was becoming protracted.

One senior official referred to the frantic negotiations with an epithet and put the onus for the delays on Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who had insisted on the new resolution to gain crucial political support at home.

'Blair is driving this, and we're trying to accommodate him,' the official said."

Somehow I doubt that "official" was Colin Powell.

Perhaps now would be a good time for our esteemed Defense Secretary to take a goodwill tour. First stop... Nauru!! [You do know that their President just died?--ed. All the more reason to send a high-ranking official.]

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




ALL HAIL THE WELL-INTENTIONED POWERS!:

ALL HAIL THE WELL-INTENTIONED POWERS!: I'm sure leaders in Paris and Moscow must be beaming with pride at the Iraqi response to the proposed British compromise at the Security Council:

"Iraqi newspapers were gloating over the turmoil [at the UN].

'It is obvious that Bush and Blair have lost the round before it starts, while we, along with well-intentioned powers in the world, have won it,' the popular daily Babil, owned Saddam's son Odai, said in a front-page editorial. [emphasis added]

'Blair's future is at stake now, and his downfall will be a harsh lesson in Britain's political history,' it said."

The Washington Post has the story as well. Here's a link to the English-language version of Babil.

If I were Tony Blair, I'd just repeat that last clause during question time at the House of Commons and dare anyone to speak in opposition.

posted by Dan at 10:51 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Wednesday, March 12, 2003

ADVANTAGE: CALPUNDIT!!: Brad Delong responds

ADVANTAGE: CALPUNDIT!!: Brad Delong responds to Mickey Kaus' response to Paul Krugman's column on short-term deflation fears and long-term inflation fears.

It's all interesting, but if you scroll through the comments section in DeLong's post, Kevin Drum asks the question that popped into my head as I was perusing the debate.

posted by Dan at 07:15 PM | Trackbacks (0)




WHAT TO KNOW MORE?: I

WHAT TO KNOW MORE?: I always feel slightly uncomfortable writing essays where I'm not allowed to use footnotes. My latest TNR essay is a case in point, since I cite a lot of people. So, for those who are curious, here's the references and background:

You can find John W. Dower's pessimism about comparing the occupation of Japan to the situation in Iraq here. The quotation comes from this Guardian essay from last November.

Edward Said's quote comes from this screed.

The book Samuel Huntington wrote before The Clash of Civilizations was entitled The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century. The (brief) discussion of the second wave of democratization is on pp. 18-21.

The O'Donnell and Schmitter quotation comes from their 1986 book, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions About Uncertain Democracies, p. 17-18.

The work by Jeffrey Kopstein and David Reilly on democratic transition in the post-communist space comes from their article, "Geographic Diffusion and the Transformation of the Postcommunist World," in the October 2000 issue of World Politics; here's the online abstract. Here's the draft version of the paper.

The most recent Freedom House country rankings of political rights and civil liberties can be found here.

The Human Rights Watch assessment of Northern Iraq comes from their 2003 World Report, which is really a survey of human rights around the globe in 2002. The quotation comes from this section.

This Ian Urbina op-ed has a nice discussion of the democratization process taking place in the outlying parts of the Middle East.

Finally, The Journal of Democracy devoted much of its October 2002 issue to the question of democracy in the Middle East. You can click on the (brief) article summaries here.

posted by Dan at 10:54 AM | Trackbacks (0)




"CHICAGO SCHOOL" -- WHY THE

"CHICAGO SCHOOL" -- WHY THE NEOCONS MAY BE RIGHT: My latest TNR Online essay is up. It's a discussion of why the neocons are not crazy when they talk about democracy sweeping over the Middle East after an invasion of Iraq. It's an extension and refinement of this post from last week.

Go check it out. If you want to know more, look at the above post.

posted by Dan at 10:26 AM | Trackbacks (0)




SERBIAN LEADER ASSASINATED: The Guardian

SERBIAN LEADER ASSASINATED: The Guardian reports:

"Zoran Djindjic, the Serbian prime minister and one of the key leaders in the revolt that toppled Slobodan Milosevic, was today assassinated in Belgrade.

According to local media reports, Mr Djindjic was shot while entering the government building. Mr Djindjic sustained two shots in his stomach and back. He died while being treated in Belgrade's emergency hospital."

Two quick thoughts. First, Djindjic was, in many ways, Serbia's Yeltsin -- an imperfect but resolute reformer. Back to the Guardian:

"Only last month, Mr Djindjic survived an alleged assassination attempt when a lorry cut across his motorcade. He later dismissed the February 21 incident as a 'futile effort' that could not stop democratic reforms.

'If someone thinks the law and the reforms can be stopped by eliminating me, then that is a huge delusion,' Mr Djindjic was quoted as saying by the Politika newspaper at the time." I hope and believe he's correct.

Second, even though the events are entirely unrelated, there's something spooky about the assassination of a Balkan leader coinciding with the world being, say, 45 days from an international conflagration.

At least it's not July.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias points out why there isn't even a prima facie parallel between this assassination and the killing of Archduke Ferdinand, which is why I changed "Serbian" to "Balkan" in the second-to-last paragraph.

posted by Dan at 09:28 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Tuesday, March 11, 2003

THE MEALIAN DIALOGUE: Inspired by

THE MEALIAN DIALOGUE: Inspired by the Melian Dialogue, Brad DeLong uses Thucydides' technique to describe an exchange on behavioral economics with Stanford economist Robert Hall (FULL DISCLOSURE: I took Hall's macroeconomics course).

The result is extremely amusing, like a random walk down University Avenue [You going to explain that last clause--ed? No, that's just for the economics geeks out there]

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




A SANE ANALYSIS OF TRANSATLANTIC

A SANE ANALYSIS OF TRANSATLANTIC RELATIONS: Seth Green has an hopeful essay on the distinction between mainstream and extreme viewpoints in Europe. The highlights:

"I am convinced that anti-Americanism is not nearly as prevalent in Europe as media accounts suggest. Generally speaking, I have been overwhelmed by the friendship of my European peers -- from their outpouring of compassion when I came here just after the September 11 attacks to their concern for my safety now. It is true that a distinct, and unfortunately visible, minority do virulently hate us -- but they are the headline-hogging exception, not the rule. Indeed, the vast majority of Europeans continue to embrace American ideas, American culture and American people.

That is why I am troubled by the recent tendency to lump together all Europeans who oppose any facet of U.S. foreign policy under the one-size-fits-all banner of "anti-Americanism." No doubt there are extremists -- and drunkards -- here who deserve the label. Yet they are the very reason that we must use the term sparingly. When we see all Europeans -- from those who reasonably disagree with us to those who senselessly hate us -- as part of the same phenomenon, we blur the critical distinction between Europe's mainstream and its fringe.

Mainstream Europe shares American values. In the aftermath of September 11, Europeans overwhelmingly supported our common war on terrorism. Today, most Europeans still agree with our campaign to end terrorism and promote world security. Eighty-five percent of Brits, 67 percent of French and 82 percent of Germans believe that Saddam Hussein is a dangerous threat, and majorities in each of these countries support removing him. While many moderate Europeans are against war in Iraq under the current conditions -- primarily because they want more time for inspections -- they fundamentally share our principles.

By contrast, European extremists resent the United States and our beliefs. To extremists, every American icon -- from Starbucks to Britney Spears -- represents a form of American imperialism. And no matter what we achieve, whether in Kosovo or Afghanistan, they fault us. They call Americans bullies even as they seek to bully us. They call the United States a terrorist state even as they romanticize true terrorists."

Green glosses over the division on Iraq to suit his argument, but his point is worth remembering. Give it a read.

posted by Dan at 10:40 AM | Trackbacks (0)




I WAS WRONG ABOUT FRANCE:

I WAS WRONG ABOUT FRANCE: Last month, I was among one of many in the Blogosphere who said that France would eventually capitulate to United Nations action against Iraq. Some bloggers still believe in this outcome.

Alas, I must admit that this story demonstrates that I was clearly wrong:

"In a dramatic break with the United States, President Jacques Chirac said tonight that France would veto a United Nations resolution threatening war against Iraq.

'My position is that whatever the circumstances, France will vote no,' Mr. Chirac said. He added that he had 'the feeling' that Russia and China, which also have veto power in the Security Council, are prepared to follow France's lead.

Speaking calmly and deliberately during a live television interview in Élysée Palace this evening, Mr. Chirac said he was convinced that the United Nations inspections process was working and that Iraq could be stripped of its dangerous weapons without war.

'The inspectors say that cooperation has improved and that they are in a position to pursue their work,' Mr. Chirac said. 'This is what is essential. It's not up to you or me to say if the inspections are working.'

He added, 'We refuse to follow a path that will lead automatically to war as long as the inspectors don't say to us, "We can't go any further."'"

I've highlighted the relevant passages to point out the following:

1) France has now switched to the German position. That first highlighted passage makes it clear that there is simply no point to further deliberations at the Security Council. Saddam Hussein could be caught on tape sitting on a nuclear weapon, or threatening to shoot down U-2 overflights, and France would not change its mind.

This isn't a case of the French behaving as obstreperously as the Americans. For all of the bluster, the U.S. actually demonstrated a willingness to compromise at the Security Council, in the crafting of 1441 and more recently. France has now joined Germany in stating flat-out that it doesn't matter what Iraq does.

2) France is buckpassing on top of its buckpassing. It's not just that Chirac is buckpassing on enforcing Iraq's compliance with Security Council resolutions -- now he's buckpassing on interpreting the effectiveness of the enforcement process itself.

3) The French do want automaticity -- in the other direction. Just read the highlighted parts -- it's pretty clear that there is no circumstance under which France would decide to go to war.

UPDATE: TNR's &c offers a different interpretation.

posted by Dan at 10:27 AM | Trackbacks (0)




...AND THEN THERE'S THE SENATE:

...AND THEN THERE'S THE SENATE: Not to be outdone by House members insulting minorities and other countries, the Senate now has a piece of the action:

"President Bush called Afghan President Hamid Karzai last week to apologize for the way he was treated in a meeting with members of a Senate committee on Capitol Hill late last month, according to senior Afghan officials....

During the conversation, the Afghan officials said, Bush offered to make the apology public, but Karzai declined. 'Bush called to say he was really sorry about how things had gone in the Senate, and that Karzai should not have been treated like that,' said an official familiar with the call.

The problem arose when Karzai visited the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for what the committee had billed as a 'meeting.' Generally, heads of state meet with the committee in private, but Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) instead invited Karzai to a hearing room with reporters present.

Karzai was placed at a witness table looking up at the senators, the usual layout for people summoned to testify at a hearing. There were several skeptical and hostile questions that Karzai did not expect and had not prepared for, according to the Afghan officials."

To be fair, read the whole piece -- the Senate Foreign Relations Committee deserves some of the blame, but the Afghans clearly did some poor advance work.

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




IS THE HOUSE HAVING A

IS THE HOUSE HAVING A "STUPID BIGOT" CONTEST I DON'T KNOW ABOUT?: Eric Muller has been doing a great job blogging about the various idiocies coming from the mouths of North Carolina House Representatives such as Howard Coble or Sue Myrick. Now, via Muller's blog, comes another House Representative acting like a jackass. According to the Washington Post:

"Jewish organizations condemned Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) today for delivering what they said were anti-Semitic remarks at an anti-war forum in Reston, in which he suggested that American Jews are responsible for pushing the country to war with Iraq and that Jewish leaders could prevent war if they wanted.

At the Reston forum, attended by about 120 people at St. Anne's Episcopal Church last Monday, Moran discussed why he thought anti-war sentiment was not more effective in the United States.

'If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq we would not be doing this," Moran said, in comments first reported by the Reston Connection and confirmed by Moran. "The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going and I think they should.'"

The Reston Connection has the initial (and quite thorough) account of the town meeting in question. That article paraphrases Moran's observation that "Many of those Jewish leaders were swayed after talking with former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu."

Drezner's Assignment Desk: Mickey Kaus, is this anti-Semitism or not? I'm going to have to say "yes." Moran did not explicitly raise the "dual loyalties" issue. However, this doesn't get a pass for the simple reason that Moran is propagating the conspiracy myth that Jews always act in concert and are so powerful that they can direct U.S. foreign policy without regard for other Americans.

UPDATE: Kevin Dum has found another elected idiotarian, but at the state representative level.

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



Monday, March 10, 2003

CLINTON VS. DOLE: Stephen Green

CLINTON VS. DOLE: Stephen Green notes that the Dole/Clinton reviews are in and aren't good.

Here's the Chicago Tribune review. I think their expert commentator makes a lot of hard-hitting points, particularly with regard to Britney Spears.

UPDATE: Don Hewitt now admits that he blew it.

posted by Dan at 10:31 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Sunday, March 9, 2003

WHEN WILL NORTH KOREA GO

WHEN WILL NORTH KOREA GO BIBLICAL?: After the past week of myriad North Korean provocations, that Onion story of a few weeks ago is looking more and more prescient. Their latest threat -- torching New York, DC, and Chicago:

"North Korea would launch a ballistic missile attack on the United States if Washington made a pre-emptive strike against the communist state's nuclear facility, the man described as Pyongyang's 'unofficial spokesman' claimed yesterday.

Kim Myong-chol, who has links to the Stalinist regime, told reporters in Tokyo that a US strike on the nuclear facility at Yongbyon 'means nuclear war'.

'If American forces carry out a pre-emptive strike on the Yongbyon facility, North Korea will immediately target, carry the war to the US mainland,' he said, adding that New York, Washington and Chicago would be 'aflame'."

This isn't really funny, but part of me is amused by the Pyongyang's apparent desperation to get the Bush administration's attention off of Iraq and onto the Korean peninsula.

A suggestion -- start thinking in Biblical terms. As his critics like to point out, this is a President who's very open about his faith. You want his attention, go Old Testament on him. Locusts, frogs, boils, famine -- now those are threats!! An ultimatum that every first-born male child in America will be dead in ten days will definitely generate some bilateral talks.

posted by Dan at 10:19 PM | Trackbacks (0)




EXTRA!! EXTRA!! NEW YORK TIMES

EXTRA!! EXTRA!! NEW YORK TIMES SURRENDERS TO FRANCE!!: The New York Times editorial page has finally made up its mind:

"Within days, barring a diplomatic breakthrough, President Bush will decide whether to send American troops into Iraq in the face of United Nations opposition. We believe there is a better option involving long-running, stepped-up weapons inspections. But like everyone else in America, we feel the window closing. If it comes down to a question of yes or no to invasion without broad international support, our answer is no.

Even though Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, said that Saddam Hussein was not in complete compliance with United Nations orders to disarm, the report of the inspectors on Friday was generally devastating to the American position. They not only argued that progress was being made, they also discounted the idea that Iraq was actively attempting to manufacture nuclear weapons. History shows that inspectors can be misled, and that Mr. Hussein can never be trusted to disarm and stay disarmed on his own accord. But a far larger and more aggressive inspection program, backed by a firm and united Security Council, could keep a permanent lid on Iraq's weapons program."

This is, essentially, the French position. For a refutation, click here.

posted by Dan at 03:54 PM | Trackbacks (0)




ADVANTAGE: OXBLOG!!: I'm at the

ADVANTAGE: OXBLOG!!: I'm at the point now where if I see a Jimmy Carter New York Times op-ed, I know it will make everything else on the op-ed page loook erudite and well-reasoned. [Example?--ed. It took me a few hours to figure out the problem with Tom Friedman's piece today. He can't seem to reconcile the two sides of his brain. One half wants the U.S. to act humbly and within the tight strictures of international law and multilateralism. The other half wants the U.S. to be aggressively promoting democratic regime changes. Given the UN's makeup, there's no way to reconcile those aims.]

Josh Chafetz has a proper fisking of today's Carter nonsense.

The day might soon come when a blog should be set up only for Carter-fisking. As a public good for the rest of the blogosphere.

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




WE COULD HAVE... A BAD

WE COULD HAVE... A BAD MANNERS GAP!!: As perviously noted, the looming war with Iraq is prompting lots of diplomatic faux-pas. I've been on record saying that the U.S., in the form of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, have certainly contributed to the problem (in fairness, Rumsfeld has been pretty quiet as of late).

Of course, the Germans did start this was of bad words, back in September when the German Justice Minister compared Bush to Hitler. And now, after Rumsfeld insults Old Europe, Chirac insults Eastern Europe, and the Middle East insults each other, a high-ranking German official has closed the bad manners gap, according to Amiland:

"The German Under-Secretary of Defense has called President Bush a "dictator." Walter Kolbow (of Schröder's SPD) was quoted in a local newspaper (Die Kitzinger, not online) on Friday as saying:

'Economically and politically, Bush positions himself [in an] absolutely one-side [manner], without any respect for anyone else. That isn't a partner, that's a dictator.'"

Germans just hate to lose an arms race [Cheap shot--ed. Oh, it's the weekend, I'm permitted]

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




HOW IS THIS GULF WAR

HOW IS THIS GULF WAR DIFFERENT FROM OTHER WARS?: James C. Bennett has an interesting piece on the different types of wars fought by the Anglosphere:

"In each of the three major wars America engaged in since 1945 -- Korea, Vietnam, and Gulf War I -- three characteristics stand out in contrast to most of the nation's previous conflicts: regime change was not directly pursued as a war goal; there was no formal declaration of war, and the conflict ended with a combination of military victory for the U.S. and its allies, and political defeat, to various degrees. Regime change was achieved in none of those cases, even when it was sought indirectly in the case of Iraq....

Was the lack of a declaration of war in each of these three cases also a factor in the outcome? Given the Anglo-American military tradition as it has evolved over the centuries, there is a good case that it is so. Global maritime commercial powers, of which Britain and America are both exemplars, tend to fight two types of war. One is the small war, the "savage war of peace", fought by marines and long-term professionals, limited in scope, and usually undeclared.

The other is the major national mobilization against an all-out enemy, fought by reserves, volunteers and draftees raised for the occasion, and militia called into service. Such wars included the Napoleonic Wars and both World Wars. As Britain and America have always had mechanisms (gradually growing stronger) for obtaining public consent for such large mobilizations, the declaration of war was historically the occasion for fixing the major objectives, including in most circumstances regime change. Major war has always been a deal between the executive and the people: the people will bear the burdens, and the executive will strive diligently, under the scrutiny of the legislature, to achieve the stated goals. The declaration of war, and the debate preceding it, form the contract between executive and people....

On Thursday evening, George Bush made it clear that the United States will pursue regime change as a matter of national self-defense regardless of the outcome of United Nations processes. It would be appropriate to the Anglo-American constitutional traditions of war and peace, and serve to bind executive and nation to a compact to fight to win a meaningful and lasting victory, for both George Bush and Tony Blair to seek and obtain legislative support for a formal declaration of war against the Ba'athist regime of Iraq before launching the main assault."

Bennett's got an interesting point, but fails to consider how an all-volunteer force, combined with the revolution in military affairs, has altered the way the Anglosohere fights wars. A full-scale mobilization no longer necessary to fight a war of regime change -- unless Russia or China were to be the adversary. Bennett also obscures the fact that even though there was never a formal declaration of war in these cases, Congress did give its assent to the use of force. Still provocative reading, however.

posted by Dan at 02:43 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Friday, March 7, 2003

IS BOEING GIVING UP ON

IS BOEING GIVING UP ON CIVILIAN AIRCRAFT?: There are two ways to interpret the news that Boeing is trying to acquire BAE Systems PLC, the British aerospace firm that is a 20% owner of Airbus, Boeing's rival in the passenger plane market.

The first is that Boeing is trying to make life difficult for Airbus by threatening to absorb one of its owners. This doesn't make any sense, however, since the European Union Competition Commisioner can veto any merger on antitrust grounds -- which was why the GE-Honeywell deal was scotched three years ago. The British government also owns a golden share that could block any deal.

The second is that Boeing is trying to enhance its core competency in defence manufacturing. BAE is "the largest Euopean defense company," but its civilian sales have been flat as of late. One wonders, however, if markets -- and airline companies -- wouldn't take this as a signal of Boeing's surrender to Airbus on commercial airliners.

One final, subversive thought -- a good Leninist would argue that Boeing will try to increase its superprofits by exploiting current transatlantic tensions. An increase in those tensions would lead to increased defense spending on the continent. If Boeing acquires BAE, it becomes a vital player in any European arms buildup. Boeing CEO Phil Condit is going all out to woo key EU officials.

I'm most certainly not a good Leninist, though.

posted by Dan at 11:27 PM | Trackbacks (0)




NOTE TO SELF -- DO

NOTE TO SELF -- DO NOT GET ON WILLIAM SALETAN'S BAD SIDE: Either Saletan got up on the wrong side of the bed today, or he's just fed up with the Franco-German international shuffle. Either way, he eviscerates their diplomatic stance during today's UN Security Council debate in this Slate piece. The highlights:

"In Friday's council debate, they made two arguments against a U.S. invasion of Iraq. First, they said it was unnecessary because Iraq has begun to comply with U.N. inspections. Second, they warned that an attack on Iraq without U.N. approval would ruin the credibility of the United Nations, on which the security of every nation, including ours, depends.

Are inspections more effective than force? Is the United Nations a better guarantor of U.S. security than American power is? Both questions are fraudulent. Inspections depend on force, and the United Nations depends on the United States. The French and Germans are telling us not to mess with the status quo, when the status quo is us....

Nice try, Joschka and Dominique. We aren't fooled. We're touched by your pleas for relevance. And we're flattered that the only rival you can put up against us is ourselves."

posted by Dan at 11:06 PM | Trackbacks (0)




WHAT ABOUT CIVILIAN CASUALTIES?: David

WHAT ABOUT CIVILIAN CASUALTIES?: David Adesnik over at OxBlog has a series of informative posts on how many civilian casualties the U.S. military has caused during the past decade or so of armed conflicts. Click here for Kosovo; here for the first Gulf War; and here for Afghanistan (plus a smackdown of Marc Herold). Key findings:

1) While any loss of life is tragic, these numbers are smal compared to other wars that have taken place in these countries.
2) The more that precision-guided munitions are used, the smaller the casualty count.

It should be noted that much of Adesnik's info comes from the good people at Human Rights Watch.

posted by Dan at 01:50 PM | Trackbacks (0)




MEMO TO DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES FOR

MEMO TO DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES FOR PRESIDENT: Apparently you've all decided that it's necessary to publicly comment on important foreign policy matters. On Iraq, you may be tempted to spout the standard line about Bush as a unilateralist, blah, blah, blah.

Here's a suggestion: read Michael Walzer's op-ed in today's New York Times. Walzer recognizes that simple opposition to a big war is not a viable policy option:

"The American march is depressing, but the failure of opponents of the war to offer a plausible alternative is equally depressing. France and Russia undoubtedly raised the diplomatic stakes on Wednesday by threatening to veto a new Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq. But they once again failed to follow up the rhetoric with anything meaningful.

What would a plausible alternative look like? The way to avoid a big war is to intensify the little war that the United States is already fighting. It is using force against Iraq every day — to protect the no-flight zones and to stop and search ships heading for Iraqi ports. Only the American threat to use force makes the inspections possible — and possibly effective.

When the French claim that force is a 'last resort,' they are denying that the little war is going on. And, indeed, France is not participating in it in any significant way. The little war is almost entirely the work of American and British forces; the opponents of the big war have not been prepared to join or support or even acknowledge the work that the little war requires."

So he offers one of his own, which confronts both Saddam Hussein and Jacques Chirac:

"First, extend the northern and southern no-flight zones to include the whole country. America has already drastically restricted Iraqi sovereignty, so this would not be anything new. There are military reasons for the extension — the range of missiles, the speed of planes, the reach of radar all make it difficult for the United States and Britain to defend the northern and the southern regions of Iraq without control of central airspace. But the main reason would be punitive: Iraq has never accepted the containment regime put in place after the gulf war, and its refusal to do that should lead to tighter and tighter containment.

Second, impose the 'smart sanctions' that the Bush administration talked about before 9/11 and insist that Iraq's trading partners commit themselves to enforcing them. Washington should announce sanctions of its own against countries that don't cooperate, and it should also punish any companies that try to sell military equipment to Iraq. Third, the United States should expand the United Nations' monitoring system in all the ways that have recently been proposed: adding inspectors, bringing in United Nations soldiers (to guard military installations after they have been inspected), sending surveillance planes without providing 48 hours' notice, and so on.

Finally, the United States should challenge the French to make good on their claim that force is indeed a last resort by mobilizing troops of their own and sending them to the gulf. Otherwise, what they are saying is that if things get very bad, they will unleash the American army. And Saddam Hussein knows that the French will never admit that things have gotten that bad. So, if they are serious, the French have to mount a credible threat of their own. Or better, they have to join the United States in every aspect of the little war."

Will this work? I doubt it. But it's the best and most concrete counterproposal to the current policy that I've seen yet. Plus, it allows Democrats to simultaneously talk tough and advocate for peace.

P.S. Go to &c for some more advice on this matter.

posted by Dan at 11:44 AM | Trackbacks (0)




DREZNER GETS RESULTS FROM THE

DREZNER GETS RESULTS FROM THE ECONOMIST!: The Economist has just reviewed Fareed Zakaria's new book, The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad. Their critique is eerily reminiscent of another review of Zakaria's thesis that appeared last month. Some key paragraphs from the Economist review:

"America is not Mr Zakaria's main focus: the developing world is. And it is here that his Big Idea begins to get bogged down. He argues that countries need a history of building liberty and an income per head of at least $5,000 if they are to begin sustaining liberal democracy. That gives him just nine candidates, and a strange batch they are—Romania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Malaysia, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia and Iran. Yet many countries have managed the trick without meeting those preconditions, including Japan, Costa Rica and, despite his strictures, India. [Hey, didn't you provide the exact same list of countries?--ed. Yes, but I mentioned Botswana and the Baltic states as well.]

He writes rather as if countries face a simple choice between establishing democracy or maintaining incremental reform. In practice, new democracies have often begun because the previous regime had collapsed and there was no other way of establishing legitimacy.....

Illiberal democracies are volatile. That does not necessarily make them worse for themselves or the world in the long run. It is a matter of timing: they get the bad news out early. Reforming autocracies leave tough political problems until later, in the hope they will be more manageable. That is not necessarily an argument against rapid democratisation. Mr Zakaria's book is not an attack on democracy, but on its over-extension. He calls the problem 'too much of a good thing'. The same might be said of this book."

To paraphrase Homer Simpson, "Hmmm.... Influencing the zeitgeist..."

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




IMAGINE IF WE WERE FOCUSED:

IMAGINE IF WE WERE FOCUSED: Another blow to Al Qaeda, according to Reuters:

"Two sons of Osama bin Laden were wounded and possibly arrested in an operation by U.S. and Afghan troops in Afghanistan which killed at least nine suspected al Qaeda members, a Pakistani official said on Friday.

The operation took place on Thursday in the Ribat area, where the borders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran meet, Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, home minister of the western province of Baluchistan, told Reuters....

A U.S. official in Washington could not immediately confirm or deny the report of bin Laden's sons' capture. 'We don't have any information to substantiate that,' he said."

Remember, the conflict with Iraq is supposed to be distracting us from the war on terrorism.

posted by Dan at 10:46 AM | Trackbacks (0)




ADVANTAGE: VOLOKH!!: Michael Kinsley's columns

ADVANTAGE: VOLOKH!!: Michael Kinsley's columns in Slate have been getting stranger with each passing week. This week's effort -- which suggests that Bush doesn't mind rising oil prices because it helps his friends -- is the most inchoate yet. I was going to blog a rebuttal, but Eugene Volokh has done a nice job of dismantling it. And also check out Joesph Grieco's insightful essay on the exact relationship between war and oil. [FULL DISCLOSURE: I know Joe pretty well, as we do research in the same area.]

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan has a fisking of Kinsley on his site.

posted by Dan at 09:54 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Thursday, March 6, 2003

ANOTHER SCHOLAR-BLOGGER: Amitai Etzioni, a

ANOTHER SCHOLAR-BLOGGER: Amitai Etzioni, a distinguished sociologist and a godfather of communitarian thought, just started a blog. He's disgusted with anti-Americanism.

Welcome to the Blogosphere, Professor Etzioni.

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




PRESS CONFERENCE MUSINGS: In the

PRESS CONFERENCE MUSINGS: In the immediate wake of President Bush's press conference:

1) This is not personal; it's strictly business. For all of the claims that Bush is acting like a cowboy, what struck me was how sober, how somber he sounded. It was clear that in his calculations, "the costs of inaction are greater than the costs of action." There was no anger in his voice or his words, either at Iraq or our erstwhile allies. Instead, there was sadness and a heavy heart about the decision that lies ahead of him.

2) The President understands the value of protestors. I thought one of his best responses came on his reaction to the protestors. He -- quite rightly -- made the connection between the current anti-war protests and prior anti-globalization protests. The illogic of the anti-globalization movement makes Bush's implication clear: even if millions of people say that 2 + 2 = 5, it doesn't make it so.

3) Bush believes in "honest multilateralism." Consistent with what I wrote last month, Bush thinks that multilateralism is a means to an end. He's not afraid of discord -- he'd rather have any disagreement out in the open. It is this quality above all that flummoxes an Old Europe that prefers a false display of consensus to principled differences of opinion.

UPDATE: Kieran Healy has a nice roundup of the Blogosphere reaction. Shockingly, those on the left found it uninspiring while those on the right found it straightforward. Jonah Goldberg has a good point on which audience Bush was targeting.

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




THAT'S A LUCKY MAN: You

THAT'S A LUCKY MAN: You know, I could blog nonstop, 24/7/365, and I don't know if I could top Asparagirl's thoughts about The Lysistrata Project. My favorite part:

"It's not enough for these "feminists" that sexuality, or even specifically female sexuality, be used as an oxymoronic anti-war weapon, but that it must be denial of female sexuality that is the weapon, that very special tool for keeping their social order and their status quo intact. Sex, after all, should only be given up in the appropriate manner and to the appropriate person, and woe to they who disagree...waitaminute, this is starting to sound kinda familiar...

What also galls me is that these women are claiming not only sex, but femininity itself as a uniformly passive, gentle, loving, pacifist attribute. What rubbish. I shouldn't support waging war on a mass-killing dictator because as a woman, my place is to elevate discourse and consensus and eschew 'manly', messy action? They're even implying that if I am not a peaceful, good-mannered, right-thinking woman like them, a woman for peace, then perhaps I am not really a woman at all? And these are the women who are telling me this?"

Read the whole thing. The whole f@%$ing thing. It explains the title to this post.

posted by Dan at 07:55 PM | Trackbacks (0)




THE COARSENING OF DIPLOMACY: 2003

THE COARSENING OF DIPLOMACY: 2003 has not been a good year for diplomatic niceties. Donald Rumsfeld compares Germany to Cuba and Libya; Jacques Chirac telling Eastern Europe to shut up; Canadian MPs calling Americans "bastards"; Congressional representatives threatening a U.S. withdrawal from the WTO, or comparing Osama bin Laden to Ethan Allen. Clearly, the prospect of war is making everyone testy, causing people who should know better to shoot their mouths off. Some of these statements fall into the "Kinsley gaffe" category, while others are simply beyond-the-pale, offensive, stupid tripe.

Compared to Middle Eastern diplomacy, however, the above examples are pretty tame stuff.

A Kinsley gaffe first: At last Saturday's Arab League summit, Libyan leader Muhammar Khaddafi [Is that how you spell it?--ed. Don't start] accused Saudi Arabia of making a pact with the devil by allowing U.S. forces to be stationed in the region. Crown Prince Abdullah responded -- on live television, mind you -- with the following:

"Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country and not an agent of colonialism like you and others. As for you, who brought you to power? Don't talk about matters that you fail to prove. You are a liar, while the grave is ahead of you."

Khaddafi has responded by withdrawing his ambassador from Riyadh and threatening to withdraw from the Arab League.

Now the beyond-the-pale tripe: With that effort at establishing Arab comity a failure, the countries of the region tried again at yesterday's Organization of the Islamic Conference. That meeting -- broadcast live on satellite TV -- didn't go so well either:

"After Kuwait's foreign minister used his speech to the summit to call on Saddam to step down to avert war, Iraq's Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri accused the Kuwaiti minister in his own speech of 'threatening Iraq's security at the core' by allowing U.S. troops on Kuwaiti soil.

Sheik Mohammed Sabah Al Salem Al Sabah, another Kuwaiti minister, interrupted al-Douri, calling the Iraqi's remarks lies.

Al-Douri responded: 'Shut up, you monkey. Curse be upon your mustache, you traitor.' 'Mustache' is a traditional Arabic term for honor.

'This is hypocrisy and falsehood,' Sheik Mohammed shot back."

Needless to say, much of the Middle Eastern press is upset at these displays of ill temper and Arab disunity [Yes, it must distract from directing their vitriol against Israel--ed. You said it, I didn't]

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




THE DECISION: According to Matt

THE DECISION: According to Matt Drudge, last night was decision night at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue:

"President Bush on Wednesday night was to make the ultimate call whether to strike and invade Iraq with military force, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.

A top White House source offered few details, but did reveal the president would make a 'defining decision' by morning....

Plans for a major speech on Iraq next week by the president were under review. Bush might give Saddam a very short time period to disarm completely, perhaps as little as 72 hours, before military action."

In related news, I just finished Richard Brookhiser's cover story in the Atlantic Monthly . It's not available on line, but it's a pretty good read -- if nothing else, it puts into perspective the role of Bush's faith in his decision-making. This summary is accurate:

"He [Brookhiser] concludes that Bush's greatest strength is the clarity of his strategic and personal vision. His greatest weakness? Imagination."

posted by Dan at 10:19 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Wednesday, March 5, 2003

GOOD FOR OPRAH: Oprah Winfrey

GOOD FOR OPRAH: Oprah Winfrey is restarting her book club -- with a twist:

"Winfrey sent a jolt of excitement through the publishing world last Wednesday when she revealed plans to resume her phenomenally successful book club after a 10-month hiatus.

This time, though, she plans to shine the spotlight on literary classics. She will try to bring to life books and authors that many people haven't attempted to read since high school or college, if ever.

For the club, tentatively titled 'Traveling with the Classics,' Winfrey said she expects to make three to five picks a year. In addition to on-air discussions of the chosen work, she will take the show to locations around the world related to the books' plots or their authors' lives."

Given that Winfrey was able to convert all 46 of her previous book-club picks into best sellers, it will be interesting to see if she has a similar effect on more "classical" works.

The reason I like this is that it's bound to lead to roiling debates about whether Oprah is destroying, simplifying, or revitalizing the "canon." The article is a bit vague on what Winfrey considers a "literary classic", although one tipoff is her observation: "I can't imagine a world where there is no Shakespeare, where there's no Tolstoy or George Eliot or Toni Morrison or Proust or Hemingway or Steinbeck."

I'm sure that the debate, plus people actually reading Winfrey's suggestions, will have an edifying effect.

Oh, and publishers love it.

posted by Dan at 10:49 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)




A DEPRESSING DAY FOR U.S.

A DEPRESSING DAY FOR U.S. FOREIGN POLICY: Regular readers of this blog know that I strongly support an attack on Iraq, even if the United Nations doesn't go along. However, I will admit that today, the spillovers of that policy are dragging me down. I've already discussed the significant opportunity costs of keeping Iraq on the front burner indefinitely. Today is one of those days when the costs are front and center while the benefits seem like a distant mirage. Consider:

1) Michael Tomasky on the deteriorating state of Mexican-American relations (I think he's exaggerating things, but not too much).

2) The Los Angeles Times on the Bush administration's apparent acceptance of North Korean nuclear proliferation (link via Kevin Drum, who has more to say on this).

3) Slate's Fred Kaplan, who's been extremely sympathetic to an invasion of Iraq, assessing the month of diplomacy since Powell's UN speech: "It is becoming increasingly and distressingly clear that, however justified the coming war with Iraq may be, the Bush administration is in no shape—diplomatically, politically, or intellectually—to wage it or at least to settle its aftermath. It is hard to remember when, if ever, the United States has so badly handled a foreign-policy crisis or been so distrusted by so many friends and foes as a result."

Do I agree with everything that's said in these links? No. Do I think these pieces exaggerate? Yes. Is there something to what they're saying? Alas, I believe so.

The U.S. has to deal with the resentment that comes with being the global hegemon, China, Germany, France and Russia acting like spoiled teenage brats, and a lot of trouble spots in the globe. The Bush administration has not been dealt the best of diplomatic hands. That said, today is one of those days when I think the administration could be husbanding its hole cards a little better.

UPDATE: This Washington Post analysis captures a bit of what I'm feeling:

"The Bush administration this week has become increasingly isolated in the world over its determination to topple the Iraqi government, leaving it in a diplomatically difficult position in advance of a critical U.N. Security Council meeting Friday.

By contrast, Iraq has made great headway in splintering the Security Council, making it less likely it will approve a U.S.-backed resolution authorizing military action. Iraq over the weekend began complying with a demand to destroy missiles that exceeded U.N. restrictions, provided unrestricted access to seven scientists and promised to answer inspectors' questions on its weapons programs."

However, if you read further, it's clear that the foundation of this week's events was laid weeks and months ago:

"A number of foreign diplomats said they were taken aback -- even betrayed -- by what they perceived as the administration's rush to war. They seized on any evidence of Iraqi cooperation to argue that the inspections were working and that imminent military action was not necessary. Positions were so hardened by early last month that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's extensive presentation of Iraqi misdeeds to the Security Council failed to sway many minds."

The $64,000 question is the last paragraph of the piece:

"The administration has frequently threatened that the United Nations would become irrelevant if the United States is forced to wage war without U.N. backing. But that argument has been turned on its head. France and other nations increasingly appear to believe a rejection of the U.S. position would rein in an administration they feel has been consumed with hubris."

I strongly suspect that France has grossly miscalculated the administration's willingness to act regardless of what transpires at the Security Council this week.

posted by Dan at 04:55 PM | Trackbacks (0)




THEY NEVER LEARN: A disturbing

THEY NEVER LEARN: A disturbing rite of passage for new Treasury secretaries is, within the first weeks of office, to make a Kinsley Gaffe -- accidentally speaking the truth when silence would suffice. I suspect this is because they simply can't comprehend the notion that a single offhand remark can move markets -- until they utter an offhand remark that moves markets.

For reasons that remain a mystery, the Bush appointees inevitably screw up on the "strong dollar" policy:

"Mr Snow's remarks that he was not concerned by the recent fall in the dollar - which he said was within normal ranges - made perfect economic sense. Unfortunately, they also betrayed a worrying lack of market savvy and an inability to learn from the mistakes of his predecessor, Paul O'Neill....

If Mr Snow is to follow the example of one of his predecessors, then Robert Rubin or Larry Summers would be much better choices than Mr O'Neill. Both realised little could be gained by expressing an opinion on the dollar's moves. If Treasury secretaries express concern at a fall in the dollar and then do nothing they lose credibility. If they appear unconcerned, they risk fuelling the move. As a result, whenever asked about the dollar Mr Rubin and Mr O'Neill simply intoned the mantra that they supported a strong currency, and left the market to draw conclusions about what this meant."

As a result of Snow's comments, the dollar is now at a 4-year low against the Euro.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, both Robert Rubin and Larry Summers did make similar gaffes when they first came to the Treasury department. However, they quickly learned on the job. Paul O'Neill did not learn on the job. Let's hope Snow is a fast learner.

[Why should the U.S. support a strong dollar? Doesn't this worsen our balance of trade?--ed. Yes, but it has compensating benefits. A strong dollar helps to keep inflation low (by keeping the price of imported goods down) and interest rates low (by attracting capital inflows). Low interest rates and low inflation contribute to robust economic growth]

posted by Dan at 04:06 PM | Trackbacks (0)




DEMOCRATIZATION AND IRAQ: Can democracy

DEMOCRATIZATION AND IRAQ: Can democracy flourish in Iraq? The answer depends on which expert you ask.

Historians are skeptics. They do not like analogies to the U.S. occupation of Japan, in part because they don't like historical comparisons, period.

Regional historians believe that the ethnic cleavages and long history of authoritarianism within the country makes the notion of a successful Iraqi transition to democracy absurd.

Middle Eastern experts are skeptics because the term "Arab democracy" appears to be an oxymoron.

Experts in comparative politics are skeptical because Iraq is an oil exporter, and these "rentier states" are traditionally correlated with authoritarianism (click here for a dissenting view).

In other words, lots of experts agree that the local conditions for a liberal democracy in Iraq are not good.

These people make solid arguments, but overlooks one crucial detail -- international factors are more important than domestic factors in determining the success of democratic transition and consolidation.

The international dimension matters in two ways. First, to quote one standard text on democratization:

"the most frequent context within which a transition from authoritarian rule has begun in recent decades has been military defeat in an international conflict. Moreover, the factor which most probabilistically assured a democratic outcome was occupation by a foreign power which was itself a political democracy." (my italics)

This argument has already been out there, and is usually countered by citing the myriad domestic roadblocks combined with the point that military occupation alone does not guarantee a democratic transition. Here's where the second part kicks in -- transitions to market democracy are easier when your neighbors are market democracies. One study has found this to hold for the post-communist countries (click here for more) and there is no reason to believe that the effect is limited to that region.

It would seem that Iraq would fare poorly along this dimension, but consider:

1) Turkey is a democracy and borders Iraq to the north.
2) Iran might not be liberal, but it is a democracy, and borders Iraq to the east.
3) Jordan is more democratic than most Middle Eastern governments and borders Iraq to the west
4) There is promising evidence of democratic institutions in Kurdish Iraq

So, I'm optimistic.

posted by Dan at 02:23 PM | Trackbacks (0)




THE QUINTISSENTIAL BUCKPASSING ARGUMENT: I've

THE QUINTISSENTIAL BUCKPASSING ARGUMENT: I've blogged previously about the phenomenon of other states buckpassing their international responsibilities so as to free ride of the United States. However, Stuart Taylor is both more fiery and more eloquent about the topic:

"The point is to underscore how the Europeans, South Koreans and others who have become so anti-American depend on American power -- unthinkingly, ungratefully, and completely -- for their well-being. Abdicating their own responsibilities to help maintain world order, they are free riding, as my colleague Clive Crook noted last week, on the same U.S. polices that they publicly denounce. Like a spoiled teenager who expects her parents to support her even though she refuses to do any work around the house and constantly mouths off to them, these nations enjoy the benefits of U.S. global policing while refusing to share in the costs and trashing the policeman....

The tidal wave of anti-Americanism has multiple wellsprings, of course.... But underlying them all is the implicit calculation that the safest course for European nations (and others) is to obstruct American policies while free riding on American power.

It may be too much to expect the European and Arab publics, who are fed grotesque caricatures of Bush and America by their media and intelligentsia, to grasp their own interests in helping the United States defang Iraq. But wise leadership is about seeing one's national interest in the long term, and educating public opinion instead of pandering to it. The superficially clever Chirac and Schroeder are not wise leaders. They are fools. And they are helping to bring the world closer to a dark era of nuclear anarchy."

Read the whole piece.

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



Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Y A-T-IL UN MOT FRANÇAIS

Y A-T-IL UN MOT FRANÇAIS POUR "WEBLOG"? JE N'AI PAS PENSÉ AINSI: Apparently the French are losing another battle. The European Union is increasingly becoming an English-speaking zone:

"The Union's public voice is increasingly anglophone. For a brief period earlier this year the spokesmen for all three major institutions in Brussels—the commission, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers—were British. Jonathan Faull, the commission's chief spokesman, will be replaced this month by Reijo Kemppinen, a Finn. But for French-speakers the change is a double-edged sword. The good news for them is that this high-profile job will no longer be held by a Briton; the bad news is that Mr Faull's French is rather better than Mr Kemppinen's....

A recent study by the EU's statistical arm showed that over 92% of secondary-school students in the EU's non-English-speaking countries are studying English, compared with 33% learning French and 13% studying German....

As one would imagine, this sort of English imperialism scares the French. The Economist story provides two specific reasons for French concern, one of which is completely logical and one that is absurd:

"the rise of English within EU institutions particularly alarms the French elite because for many years the Brussels bureaucracy has been a home-from-home, designed along French administrative lines, often dominated by high-powered French officials working in French. Moreover, the emergence of English as the EU's main language gives an advantage to native English-speaking Eurocrats. As Mr Dethomas notes: 'It's just much easier to excel in your own language.'

Some French officials argue that there are wider intellectual implications that threaten the whole European enterprise. In a speech at a conference in Brussels on the French language and EU enlargement, Pierre Defraigne, a senior official at the commission, argued that 'it's not so much a single language that I fear but the single way of thinking that it brings with it.' When French was Europe's dominant language in the 18th century, French ideas were the intellectual currency of Europe. Voltaire was lionised at the Prussian court; Diderot was fêted by Russia's Catherine the Great. These days, however, ambitious young Europeans need to perfect their English and so tend to polish off their education in Britain or the United States, where they are exposed to Anglo-Saxon ideas. For a country like France, with its own distinct intellectual traditions in economics, philosophy and law, such a trend is understandably galling. The commission's Mr Defraigne worries aloud whether 'it is possible to speak English without thinking American.'”

Thinking American? Mon dieu!!

P.S. For a translation of the post title, cut and paste the text into Babel Fish.

posted by Dan at 03:41 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Monday, March 3, 2003

WHY I LOVE STUDYING INTERNATIONAL

WHY I LOVE STUDYING INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: One of my favorite parts of teaching IR is when I tell students anecdotes about international crises that they didn't know.

Like how during the Cuban Missile Crisis, U.S. warplanes came close to firing air-to-air, nuclear-armed missiles over the Soviet Far East.

Like how President Reagan actually did send a signed Bible and birthday cake to Iranian leaders in an effort to win the release of American hostages in Lebanon.

Like how Kim Jong Il has offered political asylum to Saddam Hussein

You just can't make this stuff up.

posted by Dan at 04:42 PM | Trackbacks (0)




IS THE FINANCIAL TIMES RECYCLING

IS THE FINANCIAL TIMES RECYCLING ITS STORIES?: According to the FT, the liberalization of European Union economies is failing:

"European diplomats are warning that the European Union's liberalisation programme, intended to make Europe the world's most competitive economy by 2010, has run out of steam.

An EU summit this month, scheduled to review and inject new impetus into the liberalisation process, is instead set to be dominated by the crisis over Iraq and the problems of the EU's stability and growth pact....

But diplomats from other countries caution that progress at the summit is likely to be merely symbolic. 'The problem is Germany and France and it is clear that Schröder and Chirac are not willing to take the necessary measures,' said one EU diplomat. 'There are also worries about the watering down of the stability pact.'"

I fear this story will be recycled endlessly as long as Schröder and Chirac remain in power -- although, given the way the EU operates, it might just be endemic to the institution.

posted by Dan at 01:15 PM | Trackbacks (0)




COULD BE WORSE -- COULD

COULD BE WORSE -- COULD BE AN "INSIGNIFICANT MICROBE": According to N.Z. Bear's Blogosphere ecosystem, I'm a "crawly amphibian," in contrast to the "higher beings" of Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan, or Stephen Green.

Sorry, I'm flashing back to high school again. I'll be able to post again in a few hours, I'm sure.

posted by Dan at 10:45 AM | Trackbacks (0)




MY GEEKIEST POST YET: Two

MY GEEKIEST POST YET: Two quick thoughts after scanning InstaPundit this morning:

1) A remake of Battlestar Galactica? Yes!! An underrated sci fi series, in no small part because it actually took the concept of logistics seriously [Oh, yes, because logistics always sells--ed. Look, I said this was going to be a geeky post].

Casting the new Starbuck as a woman? Hmmm... risky but intriguing. The original Starbuck character was your classic scoundrel-with-a-heart-of-gold. Apollo, on the other hand, was the ultimate goody-goody. If -- a big if -- they let the female Starbuck be just as scoundrel-like, it would be a great twist. If they turn the female Starbuck into another Apollo, I won't be watching.

2) Note to self -- by 2004, get wife to wear baby-doll t-shirt with blogname on it. Almost as good as tenure.

UPDATE: Contrary to what David Adesnik fears, I have no intention of posting any pictures of my wife on the blog. Although David is correct in postulating that she "is so stunningly beautiful that we will be forced to ogle her for days on end." David, I would never stoop to posting about attractive women in order to attract attention.

posted by Dan at 09:36 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Sunday, March 2, 2003

A COMEDY OF ERRORS ON

A COMEDY OF ERRORS ON A SHIP OF FOOLS: An apology is in order. In a previous post, I labeled as "fatuous and cynical" those individuals going to Iraq to be human shields. After reading Tim Blair's post and his collection of links regarding the latest developments, I'm afraid I must take back the words "fatuous and cynical" and replace them with "stupid and naive."

This Daily Telegraph article about the departure of eleven British human shields is just hysterical. The best parts:

"During one cold, rainy night in Milan, we were left without our sleeping bags after an Italian went AWOL with the support bus. Later, a £500 donation from a well-wisher in Istanbul was squandered on boxes of Prozac in a misguided attempt to cheer up the war-weary Iraqi civilians....

After a propaganda lecture from Dr Hashimi, one young American told me: 'It's so interesting to hear what is really going on in this country.' He scoffed at any suggestion that their good intentions might be misused by Saddam's regime: 'All we have seen here is continuous kindness and hospitality.'

Bruce, a 24-year-old Canadian wearing a T-shirt saying 'I don't want to die', was one of a group of tanned young men who were drafted into protect a grain store. Initially, he, like others, had concerns about the sites, which included an oil refinery, a water purification plant and electricity stations. He was won over when the Iraqis provided televisions, VCRs, telephones and a Play Station.

'Dr Hashimi has explained that we help the population more by staying in the "strategic sites",' he explained. His friend added: 'We play football in the afternoons and the Iraqis bring us cartons of cigarettes. It's just like summer camp.'"

Read the whole piece -- it's quite droll.

Kudos as well to Sweden's anti-war movement, which, according to the AP, has the good sense to repudiate the human shields:

"On Friday, the head of Sweden's largest peace organization urged human shields to leave Iraq, saying they were being used for propaganda purposes by Saddam Hussein.

Maria Ermanno, chairwoman of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, cited reports that Iraqi officials were arranging transportation, accommodations and news conferences for the human shields.

'To go down to Iraq and live and act there on the regime's expense, then you're supporting a terrible dictator. I think that method is entirely wrong,' Ermanno told Swedish Radio."

posted by Dan at 01:55 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Saturday, March 1, 2003

THE KIESLING LETTER: When a

THE KIESLING LETTER: When a high-ranking Foreign Service officer publicly resigns because of a policy disagreement, it makes one take notice. There may be private-sector opportunities for those who leave government service, but don't kid yourself -- almost no one outside the government can shape policy as much as those in the executive branch. To leave that for reasons of principle is significant -- as the International Herald-Tribune notes, "It is rare... for a diplomat, immersed in the State Department's culture of public support for policy regardless of private feelings, to resign with this kind of public blast."

So I took the resignation of John Brady Kiesling, the political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Athens and a 20-year veteran of the Foreign Service quite seriously. Until I read the resignation letter. Here's the key paragraph:

"The sacrifice of global interests to domestic politics and to bureaucratic self-interest is nothing new, and it is certainly not a uniquely American problem. Still, we have not seen such systematic distortion of intelligence, such systematic manipulation of American opinion, since the war in Vietnam. The September 11 tragedy left us stronger than before, rallying around us a vast international coalition to cooperate for the first time in a systematic way against the threat of terrorism. But rather than take credit for those successes and build on them, this Administration has chosen to make terrorism a domestic political tool, enlisting a scattered and largely defeated Al Qaeda as its bureaucratic ally. We spread disproportionate terror and confusion in the public mind, arbitrarily linking the unrelated problems of terrorism and Iraq. The result, and perhaps the motive, is to justify a vast misallocation of shrinking public wealth to the military and to weaken the safeguards that protect American citizens from the heavy hand of government. September 11 did not do as much damage to the fabric of American society as we seem determined to so to ourselves. Is the Russia of the late Romanovs really our model, a selfish, superstitious empire thrashing toward self-destruction in the name of a doomed status quo?"

I hope he's right about Al Qaeda's strength (this should help), but the bombings in Bali, Kenya, and Tunisia suggest that this group remains a potent force and that Kiesling is exaggerating.

Which is the problem with the whole missive. There is some measure of truth in what Kiesling writes, but there is so much gross exaggeration and simplification that it makes it hard to take seriously.

Kiesling started his career at the Foreign Service in 1983 -- a year in which Ronald Reagan was receiving mass condemnation abroaf for branding the Soviet Union an "evil empire." The U.S. was applying extraterritorial sanctions against its NATO allies because of their cooperation with the Soviet gas pipeline. Hundreds of thousands of protestors were pressuring Western European governments not to install Pershing II missiles as a counter to Soviet intermediate-range missiles, instead pushing for a nuclear freeze. A much larger budget deficit (as a share of GDP) was ballooning, in part because of an increase in military spending that makes today's increases look like chump change.

Maybe he wrote this in a distraught state of mind, but in the end the letter reads like a 16-year old protesting his curfew to his parents.

posted by Dan at 03:27 PM | Trackbacks (0)



Friday, February 28, 2003

SHAME, SHAME: As Michael Green

SHAME, SHAME: As Michael Green and Jacob Levy have already pointed out, "No War in Iraq, the University of Chicago group devoted to actively opposing the war in Iraq," which receives funding from multiple university accounts, has published a brief collection of opinion pieces from professors regarding the merits of a war with Iraq.

According to the group:

"No War in Iraq... has chosen to put together this journal of essays because we recognize the grays in the world, and because we still oppose a war in Iraq.... We wanted to put together a journal with opinions both supporting and opposing a war in Iraq.

We wanted readers to get both sides, to see the complexity and come to an educated decision, as we had. When we started soliciting essays, we realized that this task would be more difficult than we had originally thought. While it was fairly easy to find faculty who opposed the war, finding faculty who supported it was a much more difficult task. We followed every lead we had and in most cases learned that the faculty we were told probably supported a war really were not sure where they stood (This is with the exception of Richard Posner of the Law School, whoes (sic) contribution and willingness to participate despite the lack of other pro-war essays we greatly appreciate). While we were trying to convey the honest disagreement within the academic community at the University, we found it difficult to find many professors who supported a war in Iraq. Our impression was that there may not be so much disagreement after all, and that there is general skepticism surrounding the Bush administration's policies on Iraq." (my bold italics)

If this is their story, then these individuals have displayed neither the research skills nor the intellectual curiosity to merit being University of Chicago students. Go to Jacob Levy's post to see particular individuals on campus that believe an attack on Iraq would be justified. They most certainly did not follow every lead.

If this group was serious in its endeavor to present a balanced debate, all that was needed was a mass e-mail to solicit faculty positions on the war. At a minimum, such an e-mail should have been sent to faculty affiliated with the Political Science department, Middle Eastern Studies, International Studies, Public Policy, and/or Philosophy. No email was sent.

The only conceivable defense I can think of for their error was a belief that the contributors had to come from different departments in the university and didn't want too many political science professors. However, the fact that they were able to squeeze in two English professors suggests that perhaps I'm being too generous.

Let me make it clear that if No War in Iraq had only wanted to publish a collection of antiwar pieces, that would have been perfectly appropriate, given the group's raison d'etre. What offends me is their initial claim that they wanted to publish a collection of diverse opinions and then their subsequent claim that they were unable to find any diversity of thought on campus. At the University of Chicago, if you can't find diversity of thought among the faculty, you're not looking hard enough.

It gives me no pleasure to write about this. I don't like publicly criticizing undergraduates on campus. Being at college is all about going on an intellectual journey, one that usually has its share of embarrassing stops along the way.

However, I find the incident I've just related so contrary to this university's principles of open debate that it's worth blogging about it.

posted by Dan at 12:58 PM | Trackbacks (1)



Thursday, February 27, 2003

THE ART OF APOLOGIES: A

THE ART OF APOLOGIES: A Canadian MP has apologized for calling Americans "bastards.":

"A Liberal MP has apologized for saying about Americans: "I hate those bastards."

MP Carolyn Parrish was speaking to reporters about Canada's diplomatic initiative on Iraq. At the end of her comments, after most of the cameras were turned off, Parrish said, 'Damn Americans … I hate those bastards.'

CBC reporter Susan Lunn, who heard Parrish make the comment, said the MP then laughed as she was walking away....

'My comments do not reflect my personal opinion of the American people and they certainly do not reflect the views of the government of Canada,' she said in her written statement.

Late last year, the prime minister's communications director, Françoise Ducros, resigned after calling U.S. President George W. Bush 'a moron' during a conversation with a reporter in Prague."

Parrish's statement is probably false -- the "bastards" comment was -- obviously -- her personal opinion. Maybe she changed her mind later, but she can't claim aliens made her say it. As one American e-mailed the CBC in reaction to the story: "If she hates us, I'd rather her say it and at least have the guts to stick to it... I'd rather be aware of honest hate rather than the smarmy lies of a pretended friend."

This kind of story makes me flash back to 1985, when Reagan was heard muttering "sons of bitches" into a microphone as the press was leaving a Cabinet meeting. Reagan never apologized -- his press spokesman said, with a straight face, that what Reagan had really uttered was "It's sunny and you're rich." In handling it that way, Reagan was able to back away from what he said. He used an obvious lie to avoid telling a more insidious lie.

posted by Dan at 01:18 PM | Trackbacks (0)




COULD BE WORSE... COULD BE

COULD BE WORSE... COULD BE "BLUNT AND UPTIGHT": The New Republic Online has given a name to the contributions from Jacob T. Levy and myself -- "Chicago School." Their extraordinarily erudite editor goes on to note:

"Levy and Drezner are members of a small but growing clique of 'scholar bloggers'--scholars who share their insights with wider audiences on their respective web logs. They will be bringing a similiar brand of sharp but informal commentary on politics and foreign policy to TNR readers."

Jacob's latest effort is now available -- and should give some pause to those praising the Bush administration's commitment to Iraqi democracy.

posted by Dan at 11:36 AM | Trackbacks (0)




ASSESSING AFGHANISTAN: President Bush's declaration

ASSESSING AFGHANISTAN: President Bush's declaration that the U.S. will build a free and stable Iraq is causing both supporters and critics to take another look at Afghanistan to see how things are there. Evidence of increasing stability and democracy supports the assertion that Iraq can be remade -- evidence of lawlessness and authoritarianism would suggest more humility.

So what's the situation? Depends on who you ask. Hamid Karzai thinks the Afghan situation is continually improving -- of course, he has a strong political incentive to advocate that line of thinking . That same Chicago Tribune story shows that Democratic Senators believe the situation is deteriorating -- of course, they have strong political incentives to advocate that line of thinking.

Journalistic accounts are also split. This Washington Post story, hyped by Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds, and Josh Chafetz, offers some comfort about the improving situation:

"In a city that had a handful of shopworn eating places two years ago, a new Chinese or Italian or American hamburger restaurant opens almost weekly, as well as kebab shops by the score. Small hotels have sprung up, and a $40 million Hyatt is on the way. The food bazaars are bustling and there are downtown blocks filled almost entirely with bridal shops. Rebuilt homes are rising from the ruins, and every little storefront seems to be stuffed with bathtubs or fans or with men building and carving things to be sold....

According to Commerce Minister Seyyed Mustafa Kazemi, the number of foreign firms setting up shop in Afghanistan is growing fast.

He said that in the past six months, his ministry has approved 2,600 business licenses, compared with 2,045 in the 45 years before. Many were given to foreign firms, he said, or those headed by Afghans living abroad who want to return to their homeland. These licensed businesses are the large ones that will pay all taxes and other government fees; most Afghan businesses still open without registration and beyond the reach of central government tax collectors."

However, that report only deals with the situation in Kabul. This Knight-Ridder story suggests much more pessimism about the situation outside the capital:

"More than a year after U.S. forces toppled the Taliban government that sheltered Osama bin Laden, Afghanistan is a fractured country torn by ethnic strife and divided regional loyalties. Its roads are impassable and unsafe, plagued by bandits. Opium production is surging. Regional armies owe no allegiance to the national government, and neither do political leaders who run their provinces like little countries....

'The central government is very weak and can't unite the country because it can't obtain the financial support from the international community,' said Abdul Razak, director of commerce in the southern city of Kandahar."

The truth probably lies somewhere in between, though I always trust the report coming from the sticks more than the report coming from the capital. Two final thoughts on this, however.

First, comparing Afghanistan to Iraq is as unfair as comparing it to post-W.W.II Japan. Afghanistan is the toughest test imaginable for post-war reconstruction. The fact that any demonstrable progress has taken place in a society with no sizeable middle class, economic infrastructure, or stable governance for the last 25 years is worth celebrating. Iraqis are not nearly so impoverished, uneducated, or factionalized as Afghans.

Second, for all of the criticism being levied at the U.S. for not doing enough to rebuild the country, it's pretty clear that the U.S. is doing more than others. This Iranian news story paints a slightly discouraging picture of Afghanistan, but not so bad as the Knight-Ridder story. The key line:

"'The US has been true to its pledge much more than the rest of the global community in providing financial assistance to Afghanistan,' said [Tehran representative of the Islamic Party of Afghanistan Qolam-Hussein] Nasseri.

'Of course, Afghanistan has technical problems in receiving the aid, since these grants are usually distributed by the NGOs. It has been over a year since the Taliban regime collapsed but colossal problems persist in Afghanistan.'"

Considering the source being quoted, and the organization doing the quoting, it's tough to argue that the U.S. has fallen down on the job in Afghanistan.

UPDATE: This Washington Post op-ed definitely comes down on the negative side. Of course, I have no idea where they get their info.

posted by Dan at 11:23 AM | Trackbacks (0)




A VERY SAD DAY IN

A VERY SAD DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Fred Rogers is dead of cancer at 74.

As a small child, I still remember watching -- in order -- Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, and then Electric Company. Now, I'll admit that my favorite was Electric Company -- it had Spiderman and Morgan Freeman as Easy Reader -- but my afternoon was incomplete if I didn't see Mr. Rogers take off his jacket and tie and put on his cardigan.

Rest in peace, good sir. Millions of middle-aged Americans will never be able to forget you.

UPDATE: Virginia Hefferman's obit captures what I think about Mr. Rogers.

posted by Dan at 10:18 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Wednesday, February 26, 2003

THOSE FATUOUS AND CYNICAL HUMAN

THOSE FATUOUS AND CYNICAL HUMAN SHIELDS: Tapped has admirably and appropriately scolded the antiwar protestors now heading to Iraq as "human shields," with the idea of thwarting U.S. bombing raids: "If you're opposed to war at any cost, risking your life to protest it has a certain nobility and purity to it. But by our lights, a line is crossed when citizens go from engaging in the political process to prevent a decision to go to war to actively impeding prosecution of the war once that decision has been made."

The situation is even worse than Tapped (or Salon) suggests. According to this Chicago Tribune story, the human shields aren't risking their lives.

Here's the key section of the article:

"'We are here for the people, not the government,' said Katarina Soederholm of Norway. She said she objects to the group being used for 'propaganda.'

The Iraqi government has given the volunteers unprecedented freedom to organize their protests, which have included a blood drive and several marches. The government pays for their hotels and provides other services such as phone lines and Internet access.

Soederholm was not part of the group going to the power plant.

'Too risky' was her assessment. 'I will go to a hospital,' she said, 'I don't want to be someplace where my life will really be in danger.'

Despite being called 'human shields,' many activists aren't prepared to die.

'I am not saying I will see this thing through to the bitter end,' said [Godfrey] Meynell, the leader of the group at the power plant. Most plan to leave before any attack starts."

If these protestors don't intend to be human shields when the war actually starts, why are they going to Iraq? What possible purpose could this activity serve other than to boost the Iraqi regime? How can these people be called anything but fools or traitors? [You do know that many of these people aren't Americans--ed. How about traitors to Western civilization? That works!--ed.]

The hypocrisy of these protestors' actions is so rank that they can do nothing to further their alleged cause of peace. There are unsavory members of both sides of this debate, but these people are lower than either Noam Chomsky or ANSWER on the food chain of stupid ideas.

[I thought you weren't going to write about the protestors again--ed. These people are far, far more insidious than run-of-the-mill protestors.]

UPDATE: I take back what I said about Chomsky -- click here for why.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Chris Lawrence, Virginia Postrel, and Tim Blair have some further thoughts on these nitwits.

posted by Dan at 09:55 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Tuesday, February 25, 2003

WHO'S RUNNING THE FOREIGN POLICY

WHO'S RUNNING THE FOREIGN POLICY STORE?: John Judis has an interesting but incomplete analysis of the different administration foreign policy factions. He divides up the administration into hard-core unilateralists (Rumsfeld, Cheney), half-realist/half-institutionalists (Powell, Tenet), and neocons (Wolfowitz). It does a nice job of highlighting the divisions within the administration.

It's incomplete in that I have no idea on what basis Judis is making these assertions -- he provides no actual evidence, says it's "based on interviews with administration officials, press reports and, where necessary, speculation." That doesn't fill me with confidence. It's also incomplete in failing to locate all of the key players (where's Condi Rice?)

Most important, Judis is too willing to lump Bush with Rumsfeld and Cheney as hard-core unilateralists. As I've argued elsewhere, Bush is a multilateralist, but a results-oriented one.

However, the difficulty of locating Bush raises an interesting and somewhat troubling management question -- why hasn't President Bush done a better job of privately managing these publicly feuding factions? (NOTE: As Brad DeLong makes clear, this applies to the administration's economic policy as well). It's clear that this president likes an open and honest debate about foreign policy matters. However, there's a difference between a private debate and a public one.

This administration has been far too public in its disagreements. The result is that anti-American elites in the rest of the world can seize on public comments made by some factions in the administration and trumpet them as official U.S. policy even when they may be a minority view. In contrast, the first Bush administration clearly has policy splits, but they were never made piblic until Bob Woodward wrote about them.

In the end, only the president has the authority to rein in such public divisions. Given the stakes involved in the current debate over Iraq, this should happen soon.

posted by Dan at 11:43 AM | Trackbacks (0)



Monday, February 24, 2003

SILLY FINANCIAL TIMES: This FT

SILLY FINANCIAL TIMES: This FT story on the emergence of realpolitik in China's foreign policy is so ahistorical that it just looks silly. The key thesis:

"The restraint that has characterised China's response to the crises in Iraq and North Korea demonstrates a fundamental shift in the way that Beijing pursues its foreign policy, Chinese academics and foreign diplomats said.

As Colin Powell, US secretary of state, holds talks with Chinese leaders today, the importance of Beijing's new-found pragmatism may be on display. Chinese leaders are not expected to stand in the way of Washington's desire to attack Iraq, nor are the two sides likely to hit an impasse over North Korea, analysts said....

'China now publicly tells the world that our foreign policy serves our interests,' says Yan Xuetong, director of the institute of international studies at Tsinghua University."

China's acting in its own interests? Stop the presses!! The unstated implication -- that in recent years China has not acted to advance its own interests -- is ridiculous.

What's dangerous is that this article completely ignores an alternative explanation for China's inaction on both Iraq and North Korea -- a struggle for leadership at the top (UPDATE: Sam Crane makes the same point even more concisely in this LA Times op-ed). The North Korea crisis has been percolating for almost six months now, and the principal Chinese reaction has been to insist it will do nothing.

This might be pragmatism in the form of buckpassing. Or it might be a sign of paralysis. You'd never know from the FT.

posted by Dan at 09:10 AM |