Saturday, September 28, 2002
GROSS DISTORTION: Arundhati Roy's essay
GROSS DISTORTION: Arundhati Roy's essay in the Friday Guardian nicely illuminates everything I find feckless about the anti-globalization crowd. Andrew Sullivan has already pointed out Roy's most egregious distortion of history. Here's the worst distortion of the present: "In the past 10 years, the world's total income has increased by an average of 2.5% a year. And yet the numbers of the poor in the world has increased by 100 million."
Roy's data sounds about right. Of course, it overlooks one minor fact -- the world's population grew by 1 billion in the past ten years. And the overwhelming majority of this population increase took place in the developing countries. During the past decade of globalization, yes, the absolute number of the world's poor did increase. But the percentage of the world's population that was poor has declined, even though the bulk of the population increase occurred in the poorer parts of the globe.
Roy is purported to be an excellent novelist. As a public intellectual, she's a disgrace.
GRAB BAG ON IRAQ: Some
GRAB BAG ON IRAQ: Some not-so-random weekend thoughts about the Iraq situation:
1) David Sanger’s NYT article on the proliferating historical analogies regarding Iraq is pretty good at pointing out the flaws behind some of the pro-attack examples. However, Sanger fails to mention that the anti-attack analogies are just as flawed. Ted Kennedy, for example, evoked the Cuban Missile Crisis as a counterexample to attacking in a speech he gave to SAIS. As I’ve said before, this is an awful analogy. If taken seriously, however, ask yourself this question: would JFK have let them embargo go on for more than ten years? That’s essentially the situation has been during the Gulf War.
2) You have to admit, the U.S. has excellent taste in enemies. At a crucial juncture in the global debate about whether to provide multilateral support for an armed attack, the Iraqis respond “diplomatically” and get caught trying to acquire weapons-grade uranium.
UPDATE: Sounds like they weren't acquiring a lot of uranium. I'm glad the International Atomic Energy Agency found something to laugh about.
3) As the debate progresses, how will we know if the neocon position is losing momentum? If you hear warnings about the damage to America’s reputation if we fail to take action, that’s a good sign of desperation. I don’t like this argument, because taken at face value, it’s a license for the executive branch to do anything it wants. As a branch of government, Congress can be incoherent, obstreperous, venal, petty, clueless, and downright nasty. But they are an excellent check against executive power.
4) How will we know if the anti-war position is losing momentum? If you hear arguments that the economic costs of the war will put the economy into a recession. This ranking of priorities is just a polite form of isolationism.
Friday, September 27, 2002
MAILBAG RESPONSE: Kurt B. writes
MAILBAG RESPONSE: Kurt B. writes that he's read the Michael Walzer essay I and others have recommended, and finds it wanting:
"What is his recommendation? Inspections? Not exactly. War? Not exactly? No war? ...You get the idea. There is no recommendation, just more of what he accurately calls 'dithering and delay.'"
To respond, it's necessary to realize that Walzer's concern is not whether an attack would rectify the current situation, but whether it would be a morally permissible action. To answer this he relies on his just war theory, which requires that all options short of war be exhausted. With regard to Iraq, he concludes:
“If the administration thinks that Iraq is already a nuclear power, or is literally on the verge of becoming one, then the past months of threatening war rather than fighting it would seem to represent, from the administration's perspective, something like criminal negligence. If there is even a little time before Iraq gets the bomb, the rapid restoration of the inspection system is surely the right thing to aim at--and immensely preferable to the "preemptive" war that many in Washington (including this magazine) so eagerly support.”
For him, the distinction is between a Bush-proposed "preventive war" and Walzer's definition of a "pre-emptive war." The latter is a just war, because it is a response to an immediate threat (think Israel in June 1967); the former is not, because the threat is sufficiently in the future to suggest outcomes other than war (think Germany in June 1914, afraid of Russia's growing power). For Walzer, "No one expects an Iraqi attack tomorrow or next Tuesday, so there is nothing to preempt."
Walzer's proposed alternative is to try and make the inspections regime work, even if the probability of success is miniscule. By pursuing this option, the U.S. can legitimately claim it has exhausted all options short of war.
If you believe that the U.S. should only engage in just wars, Walzer's argument requires opposition to the current strategy. As my blog indicates, I'm not as concerned with this criteria as much as Walzer. But it's very difficult to dismiss.
Keep those cards and letters coming!!
ALEXANDER PAYNE FOR DIRECTOR LAUREATE!!:
ALEXANDER PAYNE FOR DIRECTOR LAUREATE!!: Why does the U.S. have only a Poet Laureate? Why not other laureates? Poetry is hardly the only art form that lends itself to an appreciation of our nation. Given the dominance of the U.S. film industry, shouldn't there be a U.S. Director Laureate as well? [Damn straight!!-ed. You're always more supportive on Friday afternoons, I notice]
"the team [Payne and screenwriter Jim Taylor] brilliantly reconciles a double vision of American life. While one eye gazes satirically at the rigid institutions and shopworn rituals that sustain a sense of order and tradition in the heartland, the other views those same institutions with a respectful understanding of their value."
Payne is also responsible for the best satire made about American politics, period -- Election. A flawless film that respects its characters at the same time it mocks them. Plus, there is simply no way one can watch the movie without contemplating its prescient parallels to the way the 2000 election played itself out (it was released in 1999).
Let the campaign begin!!
HAS THE "BATTLE FOR SEATTLE"
HAS THE "BATTLE FOR SEATTLE" PLAYED ITSELF OUT?: The IMF and World Bank are having their fall meetings in DC right now. Over the past few years, this has been an inviting target for anti-globalization protestors. This year, the protestors vowed to shut DC down. However, the Washington Post and TNR's &c report that they've failed to do anything other than break a few windows.
Has the anti-globalization protests played themselves out? &c and the Wall Street Journal say yes, because Big Labor does not want their protectionist message confused with the larger anti-American spirit of the anarchist wing of the protestors. That's part of the explanation, but not all of it. The other reason it's petering out is that the international financial institutions (IFIs) have become more adept at interacting with the more responsible members of the Seattle crowd. Click here to see the degree of IFI-NGO interaction that doesn't involve large puppets. Without Big Labor and constructive NGOs on the streets, all you have left is the anarchist dregs.
WHY DO THEY FEAR US?:
WHY DO THEY FEAR US?: Andrew Sullivan says, "At some point, I'd better get a deeper understanding of why some find American power so deeply deeply frightening. Even to the extent that they'd prefer to uphold the tyranny in Iraq than invoke the forces that could end it. I don't get it; and perhaps I never will."
I'm a little surprised by Sullivan's lack of comprehension here. It doesn't matter if we claim that we're on the side of goodness and light -- other nations will fear us because they cannot prevent us from doing whatever we want. On this question, the realists are correct -- acquire enough power, and match it with a willingness to project that power, and other nations will start to act in a prickly manner.
This is the one part of the realist opposition to current policy that I can't rebut -- as the U.S. evinces more aggressive intentions, even if those intentions are designed to promote a just order, it will encourage other countries to balance against us in world politics. From the outside, our intentions now seem aggressive just as our capabilities dwarf everyone else. Furthermore, as the National Security Strategy makes clear, the administration does not want any other country to approach our level of power. While the U.S. was perceived as an insular republic reluctant to get involved in world affairs, we could pull off the high-wire act of being the hegemon without triggering massive resistance. With our current posture, however, that's impossible.
I still think there are good reasons for attacking Iraq. But I'd like to see a little more of the "humility" Bush talked about during the 2000 campaign.
P.S.: Here's InstaPundit's take on the question.
Thursday, September 26, 2002
Responding to the realists
OK, I've slept enough to respond to the realist ad in today's New York Times. Are the realists correct in their assessment of the flaws behind an attack on Iraq? I don't think so. [Dude, aren't some of the signatories senior members of your field? You want to risk tenure for a friggin' blog?--ed. They'd be more upset at me if I disagreed but kept my mouth shut. That's what makes the University of Chicago a great place, as Jacob T. Levy just pointed out. Although let me add that I think they are both smart and handso-- Stop sucking up--ed. Right] Here's the flaws in their logic:
1) An invasion would destabilize the region. There are four elements of U.S. foreign policy that aggravate Arabs at the moment -- taking Israel's side against the Palestinians, maintaining the U.N. embargo against Iraq, stationing troops in Saudi Arabia, and supporting undemocratic regimes in the region. An invasion of Iraq will not solve the first problem, but it partially addresses all of the others. A successful invasion presumably eliminates the need for U.S. forces to be in Saudi Arabia (since there would be no appreciable threat from a post-invasion Iraq, and Iraq would become the new base in the Persian Gulf for U.S. forces), obviously eliminates the embargo, and topples a corrupt, brutal dictator. The Arab News agrees on this, by the way.
2) There is no exit strategy. The argument here is that Iraq is so divided that U.S. forces will have to be there a while. This is a possibility that's worth considering. On the other hand, as Gideon Rose has pointed out, the concern about exit strategies is a fundamentally flawed criticism. He notes, "Instead of obsessing about the exit, planners should concentrate on the strategy. The key question is not how we get out, but why we are getting in." I think the reasons for going in a pretty solid. [What about Bosnia? We still have troops there--ed. We also still have a peaceful, relatively open society there, as opposed to what was going on ten years ago. You make the call if it was worth it].
3) Hussein can be deterred. Therefore, the utility from an attack is not worth the costs. Kenneth Pollack makes a great case in an op-ed in today's New York Times on why Hussein might not be deterrable. Jordan and Kuwait appear to be anticipating an Iraqi attack. Furthermore, the one thing the ad fails to note is that the deterrence strategy has destabilized the region for ten years. The humanitarian cost of the sanctions combined with the presence of U.S. forces near the holy shrines of Mecca and Medina are not stabilizing forces. In this way, ironically, a successful invation not only eliminates the Iraqi threat, but over the long run it reduces the Arab resentment that feeds Al-Qaeda.
So I think they're wrong. But the people who signed the ad make some good points, particularly about the possible costs of an invasion (see Michael O'Hanlon's Slate article on this point as well). And the fact that they put up their own money to pay for the ad speaks volumes about the strength of their convictions. Let the debate roll on.
UPDATE: According to the Washington Post, Iraq is planning for urban warfare.
LEVY GETS RESULTS!: In response
LEVY GETS RESULTS!: In response to allegations that the Bush administration is acting in a petty way towards the German leadership right now, Jacob Levy asks if "Subtly nuanced, finely calibrated compliments and slights are the stuff diplomacy is made of." The answer is yes. During last year's spy-plane crisis with China, the State Department ordered U.S. officials not to engage in cocktail-party conversations with their Chinese counterparts. It goes to that level.
Regarding Germany, it's important not to read too much into single snubs. Just because Bush didn't call Schroeder doesn't mean that Germany is going to be kicked out of NATO or the G-7. Neither does it mean that Schroeder will resent the U.S. As I said previously, this is a low point -- German-American relations will improve.
UPDATE ON GORE: The New
UPDATE ON GORE: The New Republic's &c points out that the Washington Post version of Gore's Tuesday speech contained passages that Gore never said. Advantage: Blogosphere! [Does this change your opinion of the speech?--ed. No.]
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
Great Washington Post story on the current mood of pro-globalization thinkers. The money grafs:
The realist take on Iraq
The realist critique of the war I alluded to earlier is now public: 33 international security scholars took out an ad in today's New York Times entitled “War With Iraq is Not in America’s National Interest.” As I said, they’re realists, which means they don’t care about preserving the U.N.’s reputation, just in advancing U.S. interests. Their main points:
#1: “War with Iraq will jeopardize the campaign against Al Qaeda by diverting resources and attention away from that campaign”
Their alternative policy is “vigilant containment” plus a commitment to “invade Iraq if it threatens to attack America or its allies.”
I’ll respond to the substance of the criticisms after some sleep, but at this point, two things are worth noting. First, it will be interesting to see if their position moves the policy debate. All of the signatories are highly respected scholars, but whether academics can actually influence the debate at this point will be an interesting test of the power of public intellectuals.
Second, any attempt to paint these people as “fringe academics” will NOT work. Tom Schelling was one of the founders of modern deterrence theory (click here). Parts of Bush’s National Security Strategy look cribbed from John Mearsheimer’s latest book, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. (For a longer discussion of Mearsheimer's position on Iraq, click here)
FULL DISCLOSURE: Two of the signatories are in my department here at the U. of Chicago. As a grad student, I was an RA for another one. And I've had a beer with about half of them.
UPDATE: Stanley Kurtz at NRO's The Corner has a response to the ad, though it's not really on point -- it's just a weak attempt to paint some of the signatories as loonies.
Last post on Iraq for the day
Pundits, and some of the blogosphere, want there to be a neat left/right split on whether to invade Iraq. So, we've heard a lot of liberal arguments against an invasion and lots of conservative arguments in favor of an attack. As I've previously said , however, there are good liberal reasons for invading Iraq. And there are good realpolitik reasons for opposing an invasion.
The problem is, it's been too easy for conservatives to ridicule the anti-war argument because it usually comes with the whiff of anti-Americanism (Chomsky) or political failure (Gore). [What about Michael Walzer? -ed. There's him and... er, no one].
I have it on good authority that we're going to hear more about the realist argument against attacking Iraq very, very soon.
THE GORE EFFECT: What to
Follow the logic:
So, Gore is still the straw that stirs the Democrats' drink. Why will this lead to a PR disaster? The rest of the causal chain:
2) The story will inevitably be twinned with Tony Blair's vigorous approach to Iraq. And between Daschle and Blair, the latter will come off looking like the brave, forthright liberal.
3) Daschle's speech sucks the oxygen away from the economy, stupid. The reason the Democrats have avoided Iraq is because they do better with voters when they talk about the economy. The attention on Iraq will draw attention away from bad numbers on the economy. Furthermore, Daschle's objections are not about substance, they're about the politics -- which means he's led the Democrats right into the trap Karl Rove wants -- linking the war with party politics. Senator, this isn't Germany -- what were you thinking?
4) Division, inevitable passage of resolution makes Democrats look unfocused. When you have five potential Democratic candidates for president in the Senate, one of them is going to disagree with Daschle, which keeps the Dems from looking coherent. This effect will be enhanced when the resolution passes, which is the expected outcome.
Let me be clear -- there are substantive reasons to challenge the Bush administration's position on Iraq. I'd like to see a fuller debate. But Daschle's comments are the political equivalent of a hanging curveball for Republican operators to smack. And none of this happens without Gore's Tuesday speech. Disadvantage: Daschle!
MISSED CALLINGS: What would have
MISSED CALLINGS: What would have happened if George W. Bush had replaced Fay Vincent as baseball commissioner instead of Bud Selig? I don't know, but ESPN does.
P.S. For more ESPN musings on politics, check out Gregg Easterbrook's always-informative Tuesday Morning Quarterback. This week he has a spot-on analysis of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court's role in the 2000 election (you'll have to scroll past the cheerleader photo).
WHAT'S GOING ON IN PYONGYANG?:
WHAT'S GOING ON IN PYONGYANG?: In the past week, the North Korean regime has apologized for abducting Japanese citizens in the 1960's, and has announced plans to open up an "autonomous capitalist investment zone." Could the DPRK really be on the path to reform?
The New York Times seems to think so. I'm more skeptical [We're shocked!! Shocked!!--ed.] It's clear that the North Koreans want foreign direct investment. What's not clear is whether Kim wants more FDI to reform the economy or to support his own clique of supporters. Special economic zones can be used in one of two ways -- either as a first step to more general economic liberalization, or as a way to blunt pressures for such an general opening while enriching key political supporters. The last time the DPRK regime tried this, it was clearly to enrich political supporters. The fact that this time around, "the government will build walls around the city to control access by North Koreans" doesn't bode well for the reform thesis.
THANKS FOR READING, GLENN: InstaPundit
GERMANY REDUX: On Monday, I
GERMANY REDUX: On Monday, I said that the post-election Schroeder would tack back towards the U.S./U.K. position, and that within three months there would be articles about the surprisingly robust German-American relationship. Now we see that Schroeder's first foreign visit is to the U.K., not France. The New York Times interprets this as an effort to mend fences with the U.S. Veeeery interesting. So maybe it will take less than three months.
This supports Mickey Kaus' Feiler Faster Thesis, which is worth clicking on if you haven't read it yet. Certainly the Blogosphere is a contributing factor to that phenomenon. See also Andrew Sullivan's take on Schroeder's visit to Blairland.
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
AL GORE TO THE RESCUE:
PR-wise, the Bush administration has had a so-so week when it comes to Iraq. There was a pretty favorable NYT Magazine article on Paul Wolfowitz, and at least some skepticism of Saddam Hussein's tactic of permitting inspectors in. But, there was also the Times article on Israel stating it would retaliate against an Iraqi attack regardless of U.S. wishes and Schroeder's victory on the backs of the anti-Iraq crowd. Clearly, the political momentum had slowed.
Then along comes Al Gore.
Full disclosure: I had a very, very peripheral role on the Bush foreign policy team during the 2000 campaign [You were one of the Vulcans?--ed. Hardly. I helped out on some preliminary debate prep for one of my former Stanford profs who now happens to be National Security Advisor. We were called the Young Turks.] The point is, during the campaign, I pored over a lot of what Gore was saying about foreign policy during the campaign. I obviously disagreed with some of it, but certainly not all of it. I thought it was competent.
Gore's speech on Iraq, however, is not competent. Or coherent. Or consistent with Gore's previous musings on the topic. It's a grab-bag of objections, none of which has a great deal of substance (it also looks like it was drafted three weeks ago and no one bothered to update it in light of recent developments]. My personal favorite, for example, is the claim that, "Great nations persevere and then prevail. They do not jump from one unfinished task to another. We should remain focused on the war against terrorism." Gee, I thought great powers were capable of doing more than one thing at a time. That's why they're called great powers. As for the facts, funny how in the same week that Bush promoted dealing with Iraq, significant progress was made on breaking Al-Qaida's back. Great powers can walk and chew gum at the same time.
This speech perfectly captures David Brooks' point that many of those opposed to Iraq are not making serious arguments. I disagreed with Gore before, but I did think he was serious. Not now.
Gore's inchoate speech makes me wonder if the paranoids who believe in the vast, right-wing conspiracy are actually correct. Maybe Gore is actually a Republican stooge, designed to thwart The Emerging Democratic Majority by tying Democrats up in knots every time they seem to acquire political momentum [Weren't they already in knots before Gore's speech--ed. David Broder does think that, yes.]
P.S.: For a serious anti-war argument, here's Michael Walzer's take.
P.P.S.: Slate's Tim Noah argues that Gore is not flip-flopping.
Monday, September 23, 2002
GERMANY IS STILL OUR ALLY:
GERMANY IS STILL OUR ALLY: Schroeder's Red-Green coalition eked out a victory in the German election. Schroeder won because he was able to redirect attention from the economy to his anti-war (and anti-US) position, so it would be natural to assume that tensions are only going to worsen. However, I think there's three reasons for optimism:
1) The Hitley analogy... not such an electoral boost. Herta Däubler-Gmelin, the minister who compared Bush's tactics to Hitler's, lost her constituency seat. That, and the fact that the election narrowed in the last few days, showed the limit of the American-bashing argument. This also backs up the point I made last week about why Bob Kagan is wrong about an American-European divide.
2) The Greens are more moderate than the Social Democrats (gasp!): The NYT story makes clear that Joschka Fischer, the Green Party chairman and Germany's Foreign Minister was more conciliatory to the United States in his campaign statements. And, the results show that the only reason Schroder's coalition won was because the Greens picked up votes. Fischer will be able to moderate Schroeder.
3) The election is over. The need for scapegoats has passed.
Prediction: Within three months, there will be articles in the Times and the Post on the surprising rebound in the German-American relationship.
Den Beste seems to think the Bush Administration won't forget the slight. It's possible -- Bush's position on the Middle East was shaped in part because Arafat lied to his face. For this episode, however, it's telling that Bush never said anything publicly about it. There's little upside for the administration to cold-shoulder a leader that's going to be in power for the next few years.
P.P.S: This article suggests that Schroeder is already trying to mend fences. The compliment of Tony Blair is also revealing.
Dullest article ever
Michael Kinsley once wrote that the most boring headline ever would be "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative." Here's my suggestion: "Proposed U.N. Reform."
Aaron Sorkin and Tom Clancy -- separated at birth?
The West Wing won the Emmy for best drama for the third consecutive year, demonstrating once again that Emmy voters are truly one-dimensional.
Aaron Sorkin can do one thing and only one thing well -- write snappy dialogue. Characterization, moral nuance, symbolism, all of those are out the window on his shows. To be clear, I have great respect for the actors in the West Wing, they deserve all the awards they can get. After all, it's tough to develop a distinctive character when there's no difference between your dialogue and those of the other protagonists. The only shade of characterization Sorkin manages is between those who are smart and those who are evil. The evil characters are apparently not allowed to use words with more than two syllables. I appreciate witty banter as much as the next guy, but when that's the only merit to the writing, then it's not must see TV.
Watching The West Wing is exactly like reading Tom Clancy's novels. Clancy's characters are interchangeable, his villians are cartoonish, and he commits a literary misdemeanor every time he uses a metaphor. But, when he writes about military gadgetry, the prose shifts from pedestrian to vibrant. Like Sorkin, he's a one-trick pony, it's just a different trick.
Clancy never wins any awards; Sorkin can't fit all of his on his mantle. Meanwhile, The Sopranos has yet to win best drama, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer has yet to be nominated. There's no accounting for taste. [Is this rant because The West Wing is unabashedly liberal?--ed. No, I admire the fact that the show pulls no punches about where it's coming from.] On Wednesday's, I'll occasionally watch the show if I feel then need to listen to sparkling conversation. Or, I'll watch The Bernie Mac Show and wait for Sportcenter.
P.S.: David Chase, creator of The Sopranos, has a similar disdain for The West Wing:
P.P.S.: For those who snicker at the artistic value of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, click here. And Anthony Cordesmann uses Buffy in composing his thoughts on homeland defense. [From what Cordesmann wrote, he clearly never watched season four--ed. This has already been pointed out].