Saturday, February 8, 2003


DANGER!! PEACEKEEPER TRAP!!: If this report is correct, Old Europe has figured out a last-ditch method of indefinitely delaying action against Iraq:

"Germany announced a new Franco-German initiative to try to avert military conflict after a magazine reported it involved sending thousands of U.N. peace-keeping troops to Iraq and trebling the number of arms inspectors."

Now, at first glance, this sounds like the "coercive inspections" idea that Jessica Tuchman Matthews and others devised back in September 2002. Which I thought was a good idea, then.

But Franco/German behavior over the past two weeks has been so... so... [reluctant to acknowledge reality?--ed. Thanks!!], that I think they have an ulterior motive. They want to use peacekeepers in Iraq the same way they wound up being used in Bosnia -- as an excuse to do nothing. Because British and French peacekeepers were on the ground, there was stiff European resistance to take any coercive action against Bosnian Serb forces. This (plus U.S. vacillation, to be sure) led to three years of dithering, before any constructive action was taken.

Another question: just which nationalities would comprise the proposed peacekeeping force?


posted by Dan at 01:20 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, February 7, 2003



As a professor of international relations, I find I must travel to Europe on occasion. I promise that if I should ever fly one of your airlines, I will swear profusely at the crew, try to smuggle passengers into the first class section, write God-awful music, and generally act like a horse's ass for the entire duration of the flight.

Now, could you please send me four free first-class tickets to fly Virgin Atlantic, just like you did with Courtney Love?

Most Sincerely,

Daniel W. Drezner

P.S. I'm sure the BBC has waited decades to be able to run the headline: "LOVE MAKES PEACE WITH VIRGIN."

posted by Dan at 02:14 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Clarifying the Zakaria critique

Stanley Kurtz over at NRO's The Corner has taken issue with my critique of Fareed Zakaria's next big idea. To respond/clarfy:

1) Kurtz says, "Drezner dismisses Zakaria's thesis as an essentially worthless idea". Not true. I said I thought Zakaria was wrong. Wrong ideas are often useful because of the effort required to refute or disprove them. Both Fukyama and Huntington might be wrong, for example, but the debates they inspired were certainly valuable in thinking about the future of international relations and U.S. foreign policy. This is how I feel about Zakaria.

2) My problem with Zakaria's preconditions for democracy are that they are sufficient but unnecessary conditions -- and he treats them as both necessary and sufficient. In other words, Zakaria is probably correct that countries with decentralized forms of commercial, political and religious authority will be stable constitutional democracies, but there are other ways this outcome can come about. The result is that Zakaria presents an overly stringent criteria for how stable democracies emerge, which produces an overly risk-averse policy of democracy promotion.

3) I agree with Kurtz that "Zakaria's warnings against democratizing optimism need to be taken very seriously indeed". I believe they will be, which is the reason I blogged about Zakaria's talk. However, my warnings against the democratizing pessimism that both Zakaria and Kurtz embrace also need to be taken seriously.

UPDATE: Noah Millman has some thoughts on the myriad paths of democratization.

posted by Dan at 01:35 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)


MUST-READ FOR BLOGGERS: Kevin "CalPundit" Drum has a great interview with Joshua Micah Marshall. The part I found most interesting:

"A lot of reporters have for a long time read blogs — often ones run by their friends — as a sort of guilty pleasure. But I think just recently there's a new sense that news is being made there; opinions are being formed; stories are being broken that you don't hear about in other places. And so even your more buttoned-down reporters have started to take notice."

Read the whole thing.

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


REVISIONIST BULL@#$! AT THE GUARDIAN: Andrew Sullivan links to a Jonathan Steele essay in today's Guardian on Europe's reaction to Iraq that is impressive in mixing equal amounts of perceptive realpolitik assessment and odious crap. The realpolitik part is pretty accurate:

"The crisis showed the EU not only has no common foreign policy among today's 15 members, but its chances of ever getting one when it is enlarged to 25 are virtually nil. The pursuit of a common foreign policy was always an illusion, and if the Rumsfeld/"gang of eight" double whammy have brought a dose of realism, so much the better. As long as there is no United States of Europe or a European Federation foreign policy, Europe will never be more than a series of 'coalitions of the willing' on whatever is the major issue of the day."

So far, so accurate. Then we get to the truly reprehensible part of the story -- his explanation for why Central and Eastern European states are siding with the United States on Iraq. Sullivan dismisses it, but I can't let it go, it's so offensive. Definitely worthy of a fisking:

"In 1989 there were those who thought these newly liberated countries would be bastions of new thinking. But the west was an attractive-looking club and they were anxious to join the winning side in the cold war."

What fools those Eastern Europeans were!! Wanting such petty things as freedom, democracy, and personal enrichment!

"While the EU insisted on a slow and complex process of economically painful adjustment, joining Nato was relatively easy and the US used a mix of fear, flattery and economic incentives to get them to sign up."

Yes, that's why these countries joined NATO -- the U.S. bullied them into it. The possible alternatives -- fear of Russian revanchism, desire for self-defense, German enthusiasm for expansion, a wish for these countries to cement their status as stable democracies -- are certainly not compelling.

The EU insists on complexity? Mon dieu! That turn of phrase is a nice way of obfuscating the real explanation for the slow process of EU expansion -- a fear of being flooded with cheap agricultural exports that would further imperil French farmers.

"After all, eastern Europe's elites had spent 40 years accommodating themselves to superior power."

Yeah, that Vaclav Havel is a real kiss-ass.

"Neither the reform movement in Czechoslovakia in 1968 nor Solidarity in Poland in 1981 challenged their countries' links with Moscow."

I'm pretty sure that's wrong -- at least with Czechoslovakia. If memory serves, right before the invasion, Dubcek visited other dissident Eastern European states (Romania and Yugoslavia) as a signal to Moscow. We all know Moscow's response.

"It was only when Mikhail Gorbachev told them in 1987 that they need not follow the Soviet lead that they began to break loose. It was therefore inevitable that after the USSR collapsed these countries would sense the new reality that Europe belongs to the US."

Gee, those "complex" western European policies like Ostpolitik should have convinced those elites that western Europeans never kowtow to power.

"The fact that ex-communist leaders such as Aleksander Kwasniewski, Gyula Horn and Ion Iliescu led the way is not a paradox so much as proof that the survival instinct usually trumps vision or principle."

As I pointed out before, the economic rewards of EU membership far outweigh the more nebulous benefits of siding with the U.S. on Iraq. And this statement certainly jeapordizes the smoothness of their accession. So don't say their actions are about survival -- risks are being taken here.

"The anti-Vietnam war movement which taught a generation of Europeans about the arrogance of US power passed eastern Europe by. Isolated inside the Soviet empire, and suspicious of Moscow's propaganda line even on the occasions when it was right, they did not notice that the US was also an imperial nation."

I'm sure that if those unenlightened citizens living under communism had heard about the U.S. opposing a communist dictatorship with force of arms elsewhere on the globe, they would have just filled the streets to protest. [You saying Vietnam was a good idea?--ed. No, but saying that Eastern Europeans living under communist domination would have opposed it is a pretty dumb-ass statement, neh?]

"The imminent threat of war in Iraq has raised the issue of independence from the US to the top of the agenda. During the cold war it was a question which dared not speak its name. Now it is in the open and whether they are old or new, big or small, European nations must face this old/new question in the coming days.."

So true, Jonathan. But not for the reasons you think.

posted by Dan at 10:25 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, February 6, 2003


IN PRAISE OF POLITICIANS -- AND PUNDITS: As a political scientist, I assume that politicians will act in a opportunistic fashion in order to get elected. However, my own DC experience confirms something that Brad Delong says here is 99% correct [Only 99%?--ed. I'm sorry, I just can't put Al Sharpton into this category]:

"But everybody who goes into politics for real--who runs for the Congress, or takes a senior job in the Executive Branch--is a patriot. There are other careers one can enter with a much higher probability of success that promise more in the way of fame, wealth, and the absence of boredom. Only a deep love-of-country can make someone become an Assistant Secretary of HHS or a Director of OIRA or a Representative from the area around Knoxville.

Nobody enters politics seeking to make their country poorer, weaker, and more miserable. Only patriots enter American politics."

P.S.: If you read the DeLong post, it's clear that he thinks pundits are a different breed: for Mickey Kaus, "policies are not real, but just a game, epater le liberaloisie and all that..." C'mon Brad, that's not fair. The probability of being a successful pundit is pretty low as well. Only a slightly lower percentage of policy analysts, pundits, and commentators go into it for fame or treasure. [What about blogs?--ed. Oh, yes, a successful blogger earns... there's just no dignified way to end that sentence.] And no one who reads Kaus can believe that he doesn't genuinely care about substantive issues, like welfare reform.

posted by Dan at 10:09 PM | Trackbacks (0)


WHAT DOES ASIA THINK ABOUT IRAQ?: The IHT screw-up did lead me to wonder how other countries in the Asia/Pacific region reacted to the speech, and whether there is any support for the U.S. position:

Indonesia is most decidedly opposed to U.S. action

Singapore clearly supports the U.S. position.

India seems pretty noncommittal.

I'll update as I find out more. Anyone who wants to enlighten me, e-mail away.

posted by Dan at 07:21 PM | Trackbacks (0)

ENDGAME: That OxBlog pool on

ENDGAME: That OxBlog pool on which day the bombing starts in Iraq might want to consider the following facts:

1) The 101st Airborne has received orders to deploy in support of possible future operations, "in the global war on terrorism." The 101st is the Army's only air assault division, "trained to rapidly deploy anywhere in the world within 36 hours." (Thanks to Tom Holsinger for this link).

2) CNN reports that two more aircraft carriers might be headed to Iraq as well.

3) As a harbinger of the eventual French capitulation on Iraq, France’s Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said this week, "French military forces will be ready to intervene in Iraq, should that decision be taken." Reuters reports that France is sending its only aircraft carrier into the Medierranean for training exercises: "The training will include some joint military exercises with other European or possibly U.S. vessels." Specifically, the U.S.S. Harry S Truman. [Did you have to link to the ship?--ed. You know my feelings about aircraft carriers.] UPDATE: The IHT headline and story on France's shift in position actually match each other.

Guys, I'd bet sooner rather than later.

posted by Dan at 02:21 PM | Trackbacks (0)

The power of simulation

Robert Shapiro has a good story in Slate on what economists can learn about the functioning of markets from studying online fantasy games. (Click here for California State Fullerton economics professor Edward Castronova's paper that inspired Shapiro). However, it's worth pointing out that the use of gaming simulation data has also occurred in political science. Douglas Van Belle published a 1998 paper in Political Research Quarterly that used results from online games of Diplomacy to test certain realist propositions about order in world politics. (If you're at a university, click here to peek at the actual article). Van Belle wrote another article about the merits of studying simulated environments for International Studies Notes. The punchline is a bit depressing for my career choice of explaining world politics, but still provocative:

"The somewhat disturbing answer suggested by running this simulation over the Internet is that the international system may be fundamentally unpredictable. It is not a question of insight, method or skill, it is a question of the fundamentally unpredictable nature of innovation by creative, problem-solving human beings. The extreme complexity of the swiftly fluctuating international political arena, which in the real world is complicated by the feed-back between international and domestic politics may be creating a chaotic environment, a system that is mathematically determinant but fundamentally unpredictable. This is exactly the type of environment that is more likely to produce unpredictable behavior, including innovation, and in such an environment even the smallest of changes can produce huge differences over time."

posted by Dan at 01:00 PM | Trackbacks (0)


INACCURATE HEADLINE OF THE WEEK: "Asia unswayed by Powell’s data." The first sentence of this International Herald Tribune story seems to buttress the headline:

"Initial reaction from Asian countries on Thursday indicated that most remained unmoved by Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation of Iraq's noncompliance with United Nations mandates."

If true, this would certainly be newsworthy. Read the story, however. Malaysia is the only country with officials quoted as being unconvinced. In contrast, foreign policy leaders from Australia, Japan and the Philippines are all quoted with expressions of solid support for the U.S. position. The story acknowledges the extent of Japan's policy shift:

"Moving as close as Tokyo has come to backing the use of military force against Iraq, [Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro] Koizumi added: 'Iraq holds the key to whether this matter can be resolved peacefully or not.'"

By my count, then, shouldn't the headline read, "ASIA SWAYED BY POWELL'S DATA"?

To attribute this to the recent New York Times takeover of the International Herald Tribune would just be paranoid.... or would it?

UPDATE: Astute reader K.W. points out that geographically, Australia is not part of Asia. An error for both the IHT and myself. My proposed headline should instead read, "PACIFIC RIM SWAYED BY POWELL'S DATA."

posted by Dan at 11:24 AM | Trackbacks (0)


IS THE U.S. SHAFTING MUSLIM COUNTRIES ON TRADE?: The Progressive Policy Institute just issued a policy report warning that current U.S. trade policy will undermine the war on terrorism. Because the U.S. is actively pursuing bilateral and regional trade deals with much of Latin America, Africa, and East Asia, the Middle Eastern countries are falling behind by standing still: "Of the 70-90 countries covered by U.S. regional/bilateral trade inititatives planned for 2003-2005, only one (Morocco) is in the Middle East." Since these countries have similar export portfolios, the creation of new trade deals will lead to a lot of trade diversion -- with other developing countries replacing Middle Eastern exports to the U.S.

The report overreaches a bit. These countries have brought a lot of this difficulty on themselves, with protectionist, dirigiste policies. Only half of the Arab League's members are WTO members; by one measure, Arab countries are among the least globalized states in the world. That said, it has some decent policy proposals, and is worth a look.

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


HE MUST HAVE BEEN JEALOUS OF TRENT LOTT'S SPOTLIGHT: House Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., who chairs the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security that supervises the U.S. Department of Justice, including laws aimed at preventing terrorism, praised the decision to intern Japanese-Americans during the Second World War. He observed that some Japanese-Americans ``probably were intent on doing harm to us... just as some of these Arab Americans are probably intent on doing harm to us.'' Note that, by this logic, we might want, in future months/years, to round up and intern all Korean-Americans, Chinese-Americans, and potentially Franco-Americans.

The obvious comparison of this jackass statement is to the Lottroversy. What's chilling is the extent of the parallels:

1) Both are Republicans in positions of leadership.
2) Both praised racist policies that were instituted/proposed more than 50 years ago by Democrats.
3) Both of them have a track record of such embarrassing statements: According to the San Jose Mercury News, "Coble made similar remarks about internment camps in 1988, when he voted against paying reparations and extending a national apology to Japanese-Americans interned during World War II." (Eric Muller links to the specific comments.)
4) Both made their comments at public functions where the media was sure to record them accurately.

Coble wins special dummy points, however, for making his comments a mere six weeks after Lott demonstrated the political danger of praising racist policies.

When Coble received his subcommittee chairmanship last week, he was quoted: "I think we'll be in the eye of the storm. ... It's going to be challenging," I'm pretty sure this is one storm the good Representative can clear up by resigning his chairmanship and beating a hasty retreat to the back benches. On one crucial dimension, this flap is even more serious than the Lottroversy: Coble has direct oversight authority for the type of activity he so enthusiastically supported. Shudder....

One interesting side note: Eric Muller appears to be the first to blog about this, but unlike the Lottroversy, it was old media that first reported on this. Hopefully the Blogosphere will not need to get as exercised this time around, as Coble gets caught in his own perfect media storm.

UPDATE: Coble is not the only idiotarian North Carolina representative. According to this report, "Republican Sue Myrick, commenting on domestic security threats, said -- quote -- 'Look at who runs all the convenience stores across the country.'" [UPDATE: The APhas the fuller quote: "You know, and this can be misconstrued, but honest to goodness (husband) Ed and I for years, for 20 years, have been saying,`You know, look at who runs all the convenience stores across the country.' Every little town you go into, you know?'"]
Her representative said the remark was "not intended as an insult to any ethnic or religious group." I'd like to see exactly how that assertion can be reconciled with the original statement.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Josh Marshall is now blogging about the North Carolina delegation. Yep, it's just a matter of time before they fall like dominoes.

FINAL UPDATE: Coble's press spokesman tries to dig out of the hole his boss created. Now, if you read the text, play devil's advocate, and ignore Coble's history of idiotic remarks on the subject, the rationaly might fly. I'm pretty sure, however, that the last thing a Coble press spokesman would have wanted was the headline: "Coble says internment remark meant to illustrate segregation."

posted by Dan at 10:09 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, February 5, 2003

Updated score -- New Europe 18, Old Europe 2

The foreign ministers of the Vilnius Group Countries -- Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia -- just issued a statement strongly supporting the U.S. position on Iraq, in response to the Powell speech on Iraq. This is in addition to last week's statement by the Gang of Eight. Here's the good part:

Our countries understand the dangers posed by tyranny and the special responsibility of democracies to defend our shared values. The trans-Atlantic community, of which we are a part, must stand together to face the threat posed by the nexus of terrorism and dictators with weapons of mass destruction.

We have actively supported the international efforts to achieve a peaceful disarmament of Iraq. However, it has now become clear that Iraq is in material breach of U.N. Security Council Resolutions, including U.N. Resolution 1441, passed unanimously on November 8, 2002. As our governments said on the occasion of the NATO Summit in Prague: "We support the goal of the international community for full disarmament of Iraq as stipulated in the UN Security Council Resolution 1441. In the event of non-compliance with the terms of this resolution, we are prepared to contribute to an international coalition to enforce its provisions and the disarmament of Iraq."

The clear and present danger posed by the Saddam Hussein's regime requires a united response from the community of democracies. We call upon the U.N. Security Council to take the necessary and appropriate action in response to Iraq's continuing threat to international peace and security.

It will be interesting to see if similar declarations emerge from non-European countries in the next couple of days.

[Aren't you exaggerating the story? These countries are small compared to France and Germany. They won't be involved in any actual fighting. What's the big deal?--ed. Consider that 13 of these 18 countries are not yet members of the European Union, and to get in, they're going to have to make France and Germany happy. These governments took a significant political risk to make these statements -- don't trivialize it.]

posted by Dan at 09:45 PM | Trackbacks (0)

The next (spectacularly wrong) big idea

Public intellectuals like big ideas, because they help us organize the way we see the world. You can't go far as a public intellectual by being consistently wrong. You can, however, go very far if you are spectacularly, grandiosely wrong in a big-idea kind of way . Spectacularly wrong big ideas demand attention. Countless authors devoted countless numbers of pages to proving why Francis Fukuyama was wrong in "The End of History?" and Samuel Huntington was wrong in "The Clash of Civilizations?", few people remember them; they remember Fukuyama and Huntington.

Which brings me to Fareed Zakaria's forthcoming book, The Future of Freedom, which is the end result of a question he initially asked in a Foreign Affairs essay entitled "The Rise of Illiberal Democracy." Zakaria was at the University of Chicago's John M. Olin Center for Inquiry into the Theory and Practice of Democracy yesterday to road-test some of his book's arguments, which boil down to:

1) It took a long time for constitutional liberal democracy to develop properly in the West;
2) When democracy has been installed in places without a prior decentralization of religious, commercial, and political authority, bad things happen to democracy, i.e., Nazi Germany;
3) Encouraging the acceleration of democracy in the developing world will lead to democracies that are fundamentally illiberal, which would be bad. So, rather than cajole China into democratizing faster than it is currently doing, let nature take it's course, otherwise you wind up with backsliding democracies, such as Russia.

Now, this is a great big idea. It's topical, relies on history, has few moving parts, and leads to counter-intuitive policy recommendations. But it's still spectacularly wrong.

1) Stable democracies have emerged without the preconditions Zakaria spells out. Some (big and small) examples: Botswana, Costa Rica, India, Japan, and the Baltic states.

2) The slow processes stressed by Zakaria have equally adverse consequences. States that are in the middle of Zakaria's process are more dangerous than even illiberal democracies. As Jack Snyder has pointed out, these sort of states often have a sufficient mix of particularistic coalitions that lead to overexpansion, which leads to war. Snyder and Ed Mansfield have statistically demonstrated that states undergoing regime transition are far more likely to initiate wars than either democracies OR autocracies (click here for a precis of this argument).

As for illiberal democracies, it is undoubtedly true that their first few years are volatile ones, with lots of potentially aggressive leaders getting elected and then causing problems. However, as Stephen Walt has shown, these revolutionary states tend to mellow, and act as responsible members of the international system.

This doesn't mean that illiberal democracies are necessarily better for world politics than slowly reforming authoritarian states are. But they are not necessarily worse, either. It's more a question of timing -- illiberal states that become democratic are more likely to have problems sooner rather than later, while authoritarian states that are slowly democratizing are likely to have problems later rather than sooner.

So, to conclude: a) states do not necessarily have to go through the same long-term evolution that England or America endured to become a liberal democracy, and b) over the long term, illiberal democracies are not necessarily more violent actors than other non-democratic states.

All that said, I have no doubt that three months from now, this will be the next big idea. So bookmark this post and remember it for cocktail party chatter come late April! [So whaddaya think of Zakaria's other stuff?--ed. His first book is a staple of my U.S. Foreign Policy class.]

UPDATE: Several people have e-mailed to point out that Japan did have a long history of decentralization in political/economic power. This may be true, but that certainly does not hold on the religious dimension. Since Zakaria seems to imply that all of these myriad sources of power must be decentralized, I don't think his argument holds here.

posted by Dan at 03:58 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)


SIGN #248 THAT I AM A POLITICAL SCIENCE GEEK: When I was a senior in college, I was essentially choosing three career routes -- investment banker, policy gadfly, or serious research. I chose the latter because I found the idea of being paid to think deep thoughts and then research whether those thoughts have any merit enourmously appealing. However, every once in a while (usually when I'm looking at my bank balance) I ponder whether I made the right choice.

Today, however, I just put the finishing touches on my syllabus for an undergraduate course I'll be teaching on globalization. Putting together the list of topics and readings is crucial, because the best improvisations can't cover a badly-designed course or dull-as-sin essays. The fact that I'm excited about the substantive debates that will undoubtedly ensue makes me positively giddy.

I may occasionally muse about making loads of money in the private sector, or exercising loads of power in the policy world. In the end, however, I'm too happy being a professor to consider anything else full-time.

posted by Dan at 11:47 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, February 4, 2003

The overreaching French

One way to judge a country is by the caliber of the countries that choose to oppose it. Who are the adversaries of the U.S.? Iraq and North Korea -- pretty good choices. Then there's the French. The Economist sums up France's foreign policy of the last few months quite nicely:

The president, apparently in a fit of pique, in October abruptly postpones a long-planned summit with Britain. The agriculture minister criss-crosses the European Union to sabotage the European Commission's plan to reform EU farm policy. The foreign minister last week enrages the United States by implicitly threatening a veto at the United Nations over any assault on Iraq. Such is the behaviour of France over the past four months—and doubtless there is more to come.
Most of this can be explained by the French fear of U.S. "hyperpower" and the desire to create a Franco-German counterweight via the European Union. A funny thing happened along the way to balancing, however: the French overreached. Bill Safire (link via OxBlog) does an excellent job of linking last week's "Gang of Eight" declaration to the fear of peripheral European states of French power-grabbing. The key sections:
The underlying purpose of the Schröder-Chirac push was less about protecting or defanging Saddam Hussein than it was about a much more parochial goal: to assert permanent Franco-German bureaucratic dominance over the growing federation of European states. Opposition to American superpower, they thought, was their lever of Archimedes to move the Old World....

The draft document was then circulated by the Europeans among other leaders thought to be (1) critical of the Franco-German proposal to assert dominance in the European Commission; (2) genuinely worried about their nations' exposure to weapons of mass destruction being developed by Saddam; and (3) eager to express solidarity with the United States, which three times in the past century had saved them from tyrannous takeover.

Once the French got wind of the document, they tried like hell to get these countries to reverse. Only the Netherlands acquiesced.

In other words: the French attempt to balance against the United States has led to much of Europe balancing against France.

As I said, we have good taste in our rivals. [But don't the French have substantially valid reasons for objecting to U.S. policies?--ed. As Chris Sullentrop pointed out last week in Slate, French opposition to the United States is rooted in U.S. hegemony, not any set of specific policies.]

posted by Dan at 10:26 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, February 3, 2003

The Koreas and self-denial

Josh Marshall has made a lot of hay about the Bush administration's supposed blunder in publicly rejecting Kim Dae Jung's "sunshine policy" towards North Korea in early 2001. As I've previously posted, I agree with Josh on the "public" nature of the brush-off, but not the substantive rejection -- it was unclear to me just what the sunshine policy achieved beyond some statements of comity, Kim Dae Jung's Nobel Peace Prize, and a few years of being duped about the DPRK uranium enrichment program.

Now it turns out that the statements of comity -- and by extension Kim's Nobel -- came with a hidden $400 million price tag. Kim Dae Jung has all but admitted that he paid the bribe to Kim Jong il in order to ensure the historic June 2000 Pyongyang summit took place. Idle question: if $400 million is the going price for a summit, what will the DPRK asking price for denuclearization be?

The South Korean reaction to this also merits further comment. This country seems badly split between conservatives who share the U.S. view of North Korea's intention, and sunshine advocates (one of whom was just elected to the presidency) who seem in complete denial about the situation in North Korea. This faction is deathly afraid of a DPRK collapse, because of the overwhelming costs that will come with reunification. I suspect this fear is what lies behind their willingness to repeatedly bribe the North Koreans into acquiescence. However, unless and until the liberal wing of the South Korean political spectrum comes to grips with the moral and material price of appeasing the North Korean regime, there is little that the U.S. will be able to do to defuse the situation.

UPDATE: Now a former ROK intelligence officer claims the bribe was actually $1.7 billion for the summit. I'm not sure how much I trust this allegation, but if true, it merely underscores the point I made above.

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


ON IRAQ, IT'S DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN: One of the benefits of going on vacation is that it permits some perspective on the myriad cycles of news and commentary. On Iraq, I can't escape the feeling of déjà vu. The current cycle of opinion seems like a replay of September/October all over again -- publics/pundits feeling queasy about aggressive action, antiwar activists decrying U.S. imperialism, European leaders either categorically rejecting the U.S. position or calling for more time for "the process" to sort itself out, Russia constantly hemming and hawing, China shrugging its shoulders, and Iraq flipping the bird to anyone and everyone.

Then -- presto! -- Bush makes a compelling speech that points out the implications for the security of the U.S. and the prestige of the U.N. if no action is taken. Which means:

1) Public support for action shoots up in the United States.
2) Allied leaders rally to the U.S. position.
3) Iraq flips the bird to the world.
4) Bush moves the multilateral consensus ever closer to his position.

The final kicker for déjà vu came this weekend: The New York Times published an antiwar argument that appeared elsewhere two months ago. [Does that make it an unworthy argument?--ed. Hardly. As I've previously noted, it's a good but not impregnable argument. But why would the Times choose to recycle it after it's been in the public domain for two months?]

posted by Dan at 02:49 PM | Trackbacks (0)


BELATED CONGRATULATIONS TO JACOB LEVY: A scant four months ago, Jacob Levy was just another struggling young blogger with dreams of hit counts that only Andrew Sullivan could envy. Now he's got a monthly gig at the New Republic (click here for his first column) and for February, he's joining the Volokh Conspiracy.

You go, Jacob!!

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