Friday, September 13, 2002
INSERT YOUR OWN JOKE ABOUT
INSERT YOUR OWN JOKE ABOUT THE EURO HERE: Apparently the Euro could be toxic for those who hold it. Literally.
ABOUT THAT MISSILE CRISIS: Historical
ABOUT THAT MISSILE CRISIS: Historical analogies are always dangerous, because they tend to ignore concrete differences in favor of glib similarities. However, there's some uncomfortable similarities between the two cases for Kristoff:
1) The adversary lied repeatedly about their intentions. In the six weeks prior to the missile crisis, the Soviet premier, foreign minister, and ambassador to the United States flatly denied any desire to place missiles in Cuba. The foreign minister stated this to Kennedy after the missiles had been discovered. I don't think the Iraqi prevarications need to be discussed.
2) The U.S. acted unilaterally first and then sought multilateral cover. Kennedy ordered the blockade first and then appealed to the OAS to approve it. As for the United Nations, Kennedy used it to court world opinion, nothing more. By this standard, Bush, in seeking a Security Council resolution, is more multilateral. Oh, and by the way, during the 1962 crisis U.N. Secretary-General U Thant proposed a peace plan that would have resulted in the missiles becoming operational; intellectuals like Bertrand Russell simply blamed the United States.
3) The civilian leaders were suspicious of the uniformed military's advice. Burned by the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara were plagued with the fear that the military would refuse to carry out their orders to the letter. Today, the Bush administration is similarly concerned with the uniformed military's reluctance to heed to their preferences.
4) The adversary backed down for only one reason: the imminent use of force. Kristoff is right that Kennedy displayed admirable restraint in response to a number of Soviet provocations during the missile crisis. However, the Soviet decision to back down came after Robert Kennedy told the Soviet ambassador that an invasion would take place with 36 hours. This suggests a very tight linkage between the use of force and Iraqi compliance.
Thursday, September 12, 2002
STOP, OR I'LL SAY "STOP"
STOP, OR I'LL SAY "STOP" AGAIN: Nicholas D. Kristoff argues that we should learn from the Cuban Missile Crisis in dealing with Iraq. In particular, he asks, "why shouldn't war be a last resort instead of the first tool that President Bush grabs off the shelf?"
I'll discuss whether the Cuban Missile Crisis works as an analogy after a good night's sleep, but for now, it's worth asking whether Kristoff has amnesia. The U.S. government has already used its other tools. Comprehensive, U.N.-backed sanctions did not stop Iraqi progress towards developing weapons of mass destruction; Iraq rebuffed U.N. inspections just when they were starting to work; the U.S. tried and failed to create a "smart sanctions" regime; coercive bombing has not altered Iraq's course. I think that exhausts the other options. Kristoff's preference seems to be accepting the status quo, which is a humanitarian disaster that the Arab world believes is the fault of the U.S. There are good arguments out there for not invading, but Kristoff is not making them.
The liberal arguments for invading Iraq
William Saletan makes an excellent point in his assessment of Bush's UN speech -- that the best reason for forceful action against Iraq is that country's utter disregard for U.N. resolutions. The money line:
This turns the liberal argument against war on its head. A principled liberal must be prepared to punish those who defect from multilateral norms. There is no question that Iraq has defected from those norms. Comprehensive sanctions are already in place; the last remaining option is the force of arms.
The sanctions provide the other liberal argument to invade. The best (and least biased) study of the sanction's effects on Iraqi children shows that the price has been high. Who's to blame for this? Obviously, Saddam -- he rejected the oil-for-food programme in its first four years of operation. But if Saddam is to blame, the U.S., as the instigator of the sanctions, must share some moral responsibility for loss of life. One way to deal with this would be to create a CoCom-style strategic embargo, but the Bush administration tried and failed to get the Security Council to go along with this before 9/11. The other option is to convert an unjust sanctions regime into a just war. Some military analysts think that, in terms of civilian casualties, military action is more humane than sanctions.
This might be why there has been such vacillation among liberals about Iraq -- because the principles of multilateralism and just war dictate the use of force.
PS: The New Republic points out that these liberal arguments scare hawks because they don't necessarily lead to regime change.
THE SALLY QUINN BLUES: "The
THE SALLY QUINN BLUES: "The capital's reigning hostess" apparently believes that the Bush administration has cast a pall over the Washington social scene. Two predictions: 1) this fact will wind up in a Maureen Dowd column to indicate how insular the Bushies are, and 2) no one will mention Quinn's much nastier, uber-snob treatment of the Clintons.
NETWORKS VS. GOVERNMENTS: China has
NETWORKS VS. GOVERNMENTS: China has blocked access to Google, according to the New York Times. This comes in the wake of a summer in which the government shut down 14,000 cybercafes in a few weeks and got Yahoo! and other ISPs to agree to regulate their content. Saudi Arabia has also had success in filtering content, but China is different in that it wants to exploit the commercial possibilities while avoiding the political side-effects. It's going for the Singapore model.
There is a disturbing parallel between China's effort to regulate the Net and the U.S. war on terrorism. Al Qaeda operates along the same decentralized network structure as the Internet. Great powers want to control those networks. China's ability to regulate content suggests that maybe the U.S. will be able to prevent the anonymous communications and money laundering that form the backbone of Al-Qaeda. However, it also suggests that for China, the libertarian logic of economic exchange leading to idea exchange leading to democracy won't be happening anytime soon.
WHITHER GLOBALIZATION? Foreign Policy magazine
WHITHER GLOBALIZATION? Foreign Policy magazine has been good to me, but Moses Naim's essay on how globalization has survived 9/11 needs a little clarification. Naim first states that "While relying on 'a sum of techniques,' globalization is in effect gradually reengineering and displacing the balance-of-power mechanisms that have served as the basis of international relations for the last four centuries." Two sentences later, he says, "Big-country realpolitik has not disappeared, and nation-states and governments will remain an important part of the international landscape, but in a very different way." Assignment to Ph.D. students -- reconcile those two statements.
Wednesday, September 11, 2002
Part LXXVIII of the NYT's "Why we shouldn't invade Iraq" series
Milton Viorst warns of the worst-case scenarios if we invade Iraq. This essay is a great example of what InstaPundit's been pointing out -- that the anti-war crowd is making lousy arguments even though there are some decent arguments lying around. He makes four arguments, three of which can be quickly dismissed:
1) "...in suggesting that our forces will dispose of Saddam Hussein in a war that is quick and painless, like the Persian Gulf war or the war in
2) "By moving into Saudi Arabia, Saddam Hussein would shift the battlefield far to the south, imposing on American forces a much heavier burden than just the capture of Baghdad." Er... how is this a worst-case scenario? If Hussein were actually stupid enough to do this, what is currently a roiling international debate about Iraq would turn into the Gulf War redux, except this time it wouldn't end until the regime had changed. Plus, any invasion would leave Iraqi forces totally vulnerable to an air attack. If I were Central Command and tried to envision the way to guarantee regime change with the least amount of political or actual "friendly fire," this would be the scenario.
3) "Saddam Hussein, prior to an American attack, goes after Israel with the chemical or biological weapons that Mr. Bush says Iraq possesses. Israel, if it survives, will retaliate, perhaps even with nuclear weapons." In 1991, a Bush administration -- which had a much more strained relationship with an Israeli government that was more vulnerable to domestic hardline pressures -- and was able to prevent any Israeli response to the Scud attacks.
4) Pakistan would explode and Musharraf would fall; Islamists could control the bomb and there would be global chaos. OK, it's late for me, but I'm pretty sure this is the one valid point in the op-ed. Except that the distinction between Pakistan's ISI and Viorst's Islamists seems awfully thin. I leave this one to the Blogosphere.
MOVING ON UP: Day 2
MOVING ON UP: Day 2 of blogging, and a mention from the mighty InstaPundit... excellent. [Dude, you need to get out more.--ed. Fair point.]
LET THE KAGAN BACKLASH BEGIN:
LET THE KAGAN BACKLASH BEGIN: Every couple of years, pundits and policymakers think they've located The Next Big Thing in Foreign Policy. In 1989 it was Francis Fukuyama's "The End of History?" In 1993 it was Samuel Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations?" In 1997 it was Jessica Matthews "Power Shift." Each of these articles grabbed attention because they simultaneously challenged the conventional wisdom but seemed to mirror the current state of the world. After a few months, however, the inevitable counter-reaction would set in, and great effort would be devoted to explaining why these brilliant authors were wrong. Nevertheless, these sort of intellectual cycles are useful, because they force policymakers and policy wonks to look up from their inbox and think about the Big Picture for a while.
Over the past few months, The Next Big Thing has been Robert Kagan's "Power and Weakness." The basic argument is that Europeans now have a Kantian view of the world, in which all problems can be solved by multilateral processes of "jaw-jaw," while Americans think the world is Hobbesian, multilateral institutions are a joke, and that the chief way to solve problems is unilateral action. His conclusion is clear in his first graf: "It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world. On the all-important question of power — the efficacy of power, the morality of power, the desirability of power — American and European perspectives are diverging."
Kagan's piece has gotten a lot of play, but little criticism. Like previous Next Big Things, he's onto something, but the piece cries out for a backlash. So, here's five reasons why Kagan is wrong:
1) Transatlantic public opinion is closer than Kagan thinks. A recent public opinion poll shows that Europeans are more comfortable with military action against Iraq than Kagan argues, while Americans are more supportive of multilateral action than one would expect from Hobbesians.
2) European elites are more diverse. Sure, Gerhard Schroeder fits Kagan's Kantian straw man perfectly. Some other leaders don't. Italian president Sylvio Berlusconi strongly supports the use of force; so does Tony Blair. We're not talking about piddling countries here. Recent elections in all of the EU countries indicate a growing dissatisfaction with the uber-Kantian European Union. This also runs into the next point...
3) Europe is bigger than the EU. The next tranche of countries to be admitted into the European Union are very skeptical of the "European" style of foreign policy. Former communist countries like Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic remember how much the "jaw-jaw" of detente got them during the Cold War. They want Europe to be Kantian, but have few illusions about the rest of the world.
4) Kant and Hobbes are not the only options. Locke preferred the rule of law to the state of nature, but he also believed that when certain core principles were violated, the reversion to state of nature strategies were appropriate. Both American and European elites are much closer to Locke than either of them are to the more extreme poles.
5) Actions speak louder than words. Last September, there was a lot of talk about a common European position vis-a-vis the Taliban. Then Tony Blair met with Bush and suddenly all of the European heads of state were tripping over each other to get in on the action. You could argue that the U.S. didn't need the help in Afghanistan, but funny how many European troops are actually on the ground at the present. The Economist is right that the Europeans will eventually go along on Iraq as well, because they prefer some influence to no influence. At the same time, as the rhetoric on Iraq heats up, President Bush is also making much louder multilateral sounds.
Prediction: if an invasion happens, the U.S. won't be alone. Some multilateral entity will be in tow.
Samizdata has a moving post on how “the real England” feels about 9/11.
Last September, because of the attacks, I was stuck for a week in London, a city I love, feeling nothing but the desperate ache of someone who wanted to be with his wife and son. The day after the attacks, too numb to do much of anything, I took a walk around the city and stumbled onto Grosvenor Square, where the American embassy is located. A makeshift memorial of flowers, candles, and poems was already set up outside the building. I bought my own bouquet, placed it among the others, and started to read what had been written. Those expressions of empathy and solidarity were so moving that I lost it right then and there, and had to dash away before ITV caught me on film.
For the entire week, strangers treated me as if I’d just come from a close relative’s funeral. I will always remember those expressions of support; I’m glad -- but not surprised -- to see that outside of the broad sheet’s op-ed pages, little has changed in the past year.
MONOLITH MYOPIA: Tom Hayden has
MONOLITH MYOPIA: Tom Hayden has a long post on how conservatives are exploiting 9/11 to advance their Dr. Evil-like plans for empire. Refuting Hayden's claims is too easy. What's more interesting is his assumption that all conservatives have acted in a monolithic fashion. Please. No power on earth is going to make Charles Krauthammer, Paul Kennedy, Max Boot, Robert D. Kaplan, and Dick Cheney see eye-to-eye on foreign policy. This is the natural tendency to assume that political adversaries always act in a monolithic fashion. Conservatives are just as guilty when they presume that liberal media bias is responsible for all negative press.
As bad as this type of thinking is in Washington, it's much worse in Europe. Because European elites are generally to the left of the American center of political gravity, they also assume all conservatives think alike. So when they hear Bill Kristol extol the virtues of invading Iraq, they naturally assume this is the official Bush administration position. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of Republican politics knows that Kristol is not an administration mouthpiece. European elites not only lack that knowledge, they show little interest in getting it.
WHAT CAN FLORIDA TEACH US
WHAT CAN FLORIDA TEACH US ABOUT HOMELAND SECURITY? After the 2000 ballot controversey in Florida, the state passed a comprehensive election reform that, at the time, prompted huzzahs from the chattering classes. Whoops.
What's relevant about this for the war on terrorism is that the very reforms that were supposed to prevent mishaps were responsible for the current fiasco. According to the Washington Post, "Ballots were chewed up in the new touchscreen voting system" and "In Union County, officials counted every ballot by hand after the optical-scan system showed that every vote cast was for a Republican candidate."
In complex organizations, reforms designed to prevent catastrophic failures can often interact in unanticipated ways to increase the liklelihood of such failures. Scott Sagan has shown how this sort of phenomenon led to some harrowing near-accidents involving the U.S. nuclear arsenal. There has been a lot of criticism about how proposed homeland security reforms could infringe civil liberties or enhance the power of incompetent bureaucracies. No one, however, has raised the disturbing prospect that the proposed reforms could actually increase our vulnerability to attack. The natural penchant for centralization control during a crisis will magnify any error made by that central authority.
Tuesday, September 10, 2002
LAST THOUGHTS FOR MY FIRST
LAST THOUGHTS FOR MY FIRST DAY: 1) I won't normally be posting this much. Just got excited today. 2) I will shamelessly borrow useful techniques from other blogs. [Isn't this an infringement of intellectual property rights?--ed. Not at all -- the blogosphere is more like open source code, with constant improvements diffusing rapidly across the Net].
NEWS FLASH: SONTAG'S WRONG!! Sullivan,
NEWS FLASH: SONTAG'S WRONG!! Sullivan, Chatterbox, InstaPundit, and Tapped have all commented on Susan Sontag's op-ed, but none of them have pointed out an obvious flaw in Sontag's reasoning: her statement that: "Real wars are not metaphors. And real wars have a beginning and an end."
Is this cause for depression? Not necessarily. These type of intractable wars can have happy endings -- look at the Cold War. And, even though that conflict caused a dramatic expansion of government power, Aaron Friedberg and Walter Russell Mead have pointed out that the national character of the United States places unique constraints on such expansion. I'm glad there are people like InstaPundit who worry about this, but that worry should not lead to Sontag's doom and gloom.
UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan makes the same point in his Salon essay -- a day later. Advantage: Drezner! [Yes, but people read Sullivan --ed. Advantage: Sullivan! He takes on the entire essay, too.]
THE ANSWER TO TERRORISM: LABOR
THE ANSWER TO TERRORISM: LABOR STANDARDS!! Robert Wright argues that globalization is partly responsible for the terrorist motivations. His policy prescription: "To blunt some of globalization's sharper edges, carry political governance beyond the level of the nation-state, to the transnational level." His specific recommendations amount to appeasing those on the left who believe that globalization leads to a race to the bottom in labor and environmental standards.
Two problems with this logic. First, globalization does not lead to a race to the bottom, and I dare Wright to come up with a single study that supports that claim. For refutations of this thesis, click here and here. Second, Wright's solution is to kowtow to anxieties among developed countries and install barriers to exchange. This might satisfy potential terrorists on the left, but it worsens the current situation. None of the global governance Wright suggests will block the cultural diffusion that enrages Islamic fundamentalists. It will, however, retard the very economic opening that Wright advocated yesterday.
Andy Rooney award nominee
Growing up, I noticed that about 10% of what Andy Rooney said was interesting, 80% was pedantic, and the last 10% was so uninformed, incendiary and wrong that you immediately forgot his overall point. In honor of that style of commentary, I nominate John McEnroe, writing in the Daily Telegraph, for the first Rooney award. Most of it's harmless, but then he says on 9/11:
The natural extension of this logic is that because the U.S. is so powerful, anything that happens anywhere must be caused by something the U.S. government did (or did not do).
This is what I get for not knocking on Jacob's door
My colleague Jacob T. Levy also decided to start blogging this week, and has an extended riff on how/if scholarship and blogging could be compliments. He pointed out the same advantages of the Blogosphere that I just did. Advantage: Levy!
Levy also has a concern -- that the blogosphere will eventually devolve into the sort of uninformed discourse that Richard Posner claims is increasingly common among public intellectuals. He might be right, but to be blunt, there's uninformed discourse in professional outlets as well, at least in the social sciences. Look at this piece on why political scientists aren't public intellectuals. The author claims that other social scientists are more likely to be public intellectuals, but a quick perusal of Posner's "Top 100" reveals that there are approximately as many political science Ph.D.s as other social science disciplines. The notable finding is the number of lawyers. The point is, the author's primary assertion is made without credible evidence to support his claim; despite this, the essay got published in a refereed journal.
Here goes nothing
I shouldn't be doing this. I'll be going up for tenure soon; I occasionally daydream of occupying a high position in government; and I like semicolons way too much to be pithy. Plus, my sixth-grade English teacher scarred me for life about having too many "I"s in my writing, which may render me incompatible with blogging. So why do this?