Friday, February 14, 2003

When environmentalists pretend they're economists

When journalists have to state what the effects of global warming will be in the future, they rely on the The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC describes itself as follows:

The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. The IPCC does not carry out research nor does it monitor climate related data or other relevant parameters. It bases its assessment mainly on peer reviewed and published scientific/technical literature.

In other words, the IPCC is supposed to be a nonpartisan group of experts. They were the ones who concluded in January 2001, based on a plethora of different projections, that "globally averaged mean surface temperature is projected to increase by 1.4 to 5.8°C over the period 1990 to 2100.” Which of course leads to mass media outlets blaring "WORLD TEMPERATURES WILL INCREASE BY UP TO SIX DEGREES BY 2100"

Now it turns out that even the optimistic projections could be too pessimistic. The Economist reports that two distinguished statisticians (Ian Castles, former President of the International Association of Official Statistics, and David Henderson, formerly the OECD's chief economist) have judged the IPCC report to be "technically unsound," which is social-sciencese for "your methodology sucks eggs."

What's unsound? To see the actual critiques, click here, here, here, and here. Let me explain. No, that would take too long -- let me sum up:

1) They used incorrect exchange rates. In calculating the relative distribution and growth of global output, the IPCC relied on market exchange rates rather than purchasing power parity (PPP) rates. Now, in doing this, the IPCC drastically underestimated the actual size of developing country economies by a factor of three.

Why does this matter? By underestimating third world GDP, the panel vastly overestimated the energy intensity of these economies. Since these economies are in fact more efficient -- three to four times more efficient -- than estimated, they generate CO2 emissions at a much lower rate than the IPCC thinks. To quote the statisticians involved, "The practice of using [market] exchange rate conversion is especially inappropriate in relation to projections of physical phenomena such as emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols." This is because PPP rates better reflect local economic conditions, and therefore are a better base from which to craft predictions about increases in production facilities and infrastructure.

2) The projections vastly overestimate developing country growth. The IPCC vastly overestimated past growth rates and in their extrapolation to the future rely on wildly unrealistic growth figures for the next century. In the IPCC's most environment-friendly scenario, i.e., the one with the lowest economic growth:

the average income of South Africans will have overtaken that of Americans by a very wide margin by the end of the century. In fact America's per capita income will then have been surpassed not only by South Africa's, but also by that of other emerging economic powerhouses, including Algeria, Argentina, Libya, Turkey and North Korea.

One of the statisticians notes that, "The total output of goods and services in South Africa in 2100, according to these downscaled [IPCC] ... scenario projections, will be comparable to that of the entire world in 1990."

To quote South Park, "Dude, that's some pretty f@#&ed-up s*@% there."

3) The IPCC projections for the last ten years can be shown to overestimate carbon dioxide emissions by a factor of two. I'll just quote one of the documents here:

For fossil CO2 emissions, the standardized increase for the decade 1990 to 2000, calculated in the way explained in Box 5-1 was 0.91 GtC, or 15%. The most widely quoted estimate of the actual increase for the nine-year period 1990-99 (that published by the US Department of Energy-sponsored Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre) is 0.35 GtC, or 6%. On average, therefore, the four unadjusted marker scenarios appear to have overstated actual growth in fossil CO2 emissions in the 1990s by a factor of about 2: a surprisingly wide margin having regard to the fact that trends in emissions for the greater part of the decade were already known at the time that the projections were produced. (my italics)

Of course, I'm sure France will simply argue that since the IPCC report is in substantial compliance with known econometric techniques, it's fine the way it is. For the rest of us, it appears that the primary estimates for global warming have been grossly exaggerated.

posted by Dan at 04:39 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (3)


A DAMN FUNNY VALENTINE: I was contemplating posting something mushy about the day. It hold some actual significance for me, as seven years ago today I proposed to my now-wife. Her first response was "When did you get the ring?", flummoxed that I could pull off anything on this scale without her knowing about it. She said yes soon afterwards. [You popped the question on Valentine's Day? That's so... trite--ed. That wasn't my original intention. Why it turned out that way is a long story that I have no intention of spilling on the Internet. Sorry].

So anyway, I was thinking of posting something mushy, when I read Kieran Healy's blog-ode to his (mighty fine) sweetie, and had to concede that there was no way it could be topped with conventional measures. Go check it out.

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


THE CHALLENGE TO AL QAEDA: All of the recent Al Qaeda--"bin Laden" pronouncements seem to be getting Old Media into a very jittery state. And it's doing wonders for America's hardware stores and duct tape sector.

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. Three possibilities:

1) No attack takes place during the war or its immediate aftermath -- this would support Bush's SOTU contention that we are winning the global war on terror.

2) A big attack takes place, but not on U.S. soil -- this would support the contention that homeland defense measures have had an appreciable effect in preventing Al Qaeda from repeating a 9/11 attack. However, it would partially undercut the contention that Al Qaeda's strength is waning.

3) Coordinated attacks take place, but not on U.S. soil. Same message as above regarding homeland defense, but a clear refutation of the "weakening Al Qaeda" hypothesis.

4) A big attack takes place on U.S. soil -- this would support critics' contentions about the war on Iraq triggering such attacks, as well as raise some disturbing questions about the quality of homeland defense. It would certainly demonstrate Al Qaeda's potency.

UPDATE: This report suggests that perhaps the proximate threat from Al Qaeda has been exaggerated.

posted by Dan at 10:00 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Is American soft Power on the wane?

Saying that the U.S. is the global hegemon is obvious. One obvious source of that hegemony is our military might, but there are others, as Josef Joffe pointed out a few years ago:

The U.S.'s main asset in the rivalry with Europe is not 'hard power' — guns, ships and planes — but 'soft power,' as the U.S. political scientist Joseph Nye calls it. 'Soft power' is Harvard and Hollywood, McDonald's and Microsoft — the stuff of temptation not menace.

That jibes with this definition of soft power as well.

Now, many are fretting that as the U.S. increases its exercise of hard power -- you know, the whole war on terrorism and all that kerfuffle over Iraq -- that our soft power will decline, just because of the global resentment such actions create.

Charles Paul Freund and Shekhar Kapur also argue that U.S. soft power is on the wane, but for different reasons. They argue that, contra Benjamin Barber, that demand for indigenous culture is increasing, making U.S. exports, like Hollywood films, less compelling. Kapur (who was the director of Elizabeth) concludes:

When I went to the world economic forum in New York, the big topic of conversation was the domination of the western media. But it's a non-issue. What happens when countries like India and China become the biggest subscribers to cable TV? What will CNN do? CNN gets 10% of the Indian and Chinese markets. Ultimately the only reason you will get a western point of view is if you are western-owned. But your advertising is not going to be western any more. Television is governed by advertising. Why is it always Indians who win Miss World competitions? All the advertising comes from India: the competition would simply collapse without it. Indian cricketers are now the highest paid in the world: cricket survivies because of Indian advertising. You have to get an Indian into Formula One racing now, to get the sponsorship from the tobacco companies. Where are the big tobacco markets? China and India.

What will be the viewpoint of the western-owned news channels when 80% of revenues come from Asia? Will it give an Asian viewpoint? If it doesn't, some Asian channels will come up and destroy it. In 15 years from now, we won't be discussing the domination of the western media but the domination of the Chinese media, or the Asian media. Soon we will find that in order to make a hugely successful film, you have to match Tom Cruise with an Indian or a Chinese actor. What you're seeing now with films such as The Guru is just the tip of the iceberg.

Now is normally the time in my posts where I weigh in on whether these claims are true of not. In this case, however, I will confess that I'm just not sure. I think the above arguments are exaggerations, in part because the U.S. economy remains so dynamic compared to our competitors, and because just as broadcast networks remain relevant in a world of disparate cable channels, American culture will remain relevant in a multiculti world. But I can't deny they've got some good arguments. And I automatically tend to sympathize with any argument that proves that Jihad vs. McWorld is a load of dingo's kidneys.

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


WILL IRAQ DESTROY THE EUROPEAN UNION?: Josh Marshall has been pretty consistent in blaming the U.S. for the current fraying of transatlantic ties, specifically NATO. [Doesn't Marshall refer to non-European areas as well?--ed. Yes, but that's not what this post is about.] I've written that the U.S. could have been more tactful in their dealings with France and Germany, but Marshall has to face facts -- the current fracas is largely a result of Franco-German bullying and blundering, not U.S. bellicosity.

Critics of the U.S. posture are forgetting that the current split among European countries is not just about Iraq, but the future of the European Union. France and Germany have tried to restore their co-leadership of the EU. They've blocked agricultural reforms, propsed reforms to the European Commission that would weaken the influence of small republics, and generally been prancing around convinced that their bilateral comity would cause the rest of Europe to march behind them.

Well, they screwed up. As the Economist points out, "The [pro-U.S.] gang of eight have, quite deliberately, undermined the idea that the Franco-German couple can continue to set the EU's agenda." Recall Bill Safire's description of the genesis of the gang of eight: "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." The (now) 18 European countries are sympathetic to the U.S. position on Iraq, but they are most decidedly opposed to the French and Germans trying to speak for them.

Marshall's railing about the fraying of NATO, but neglects to point out that this isn't a case of the U.S. vs. France, Germany, and Belgium -- It's the other fifteen NATO members vs. France, Germany and Belgium. No wonder a German analyst was paraphrased in the New York Times stating, "the debate over Iraq has left in shambles Europe's own supposedly growing unity on the most basic matters of foreign policy and defense."

Now, according to the FT, these intra-European divisions are threatening the EU as well:

"there is a growing sense of foreboding in European capitals that the summit could turn into a showcase of EU division and disharmony.

Romano Prodi, European Commission president, warned that the "total lack of a European common foreign policy" was a disaster in the making.

'If Europe fails to pull together, all our nation states will disappear from the world scene,' he told the European parliament in Strasbourg. 'Unless Europe speaks with a single voice, it will be impossible to continue working closely with the US on a longstanding basis while retaining our dignity.'"

Read the FT article -- there's some good stuff in there about how France, Germany and Belgium are blocking the participation of Eastern European candidate members precisely because of their pro-American views.

The U.S. has not been blameless in recent transatlantic tiffs, but Marshall makes a mistake in apportioning most of the blame on the Bush administration. France and Germany started this latest row, and they now stand to lose the most if these disputes continue.

posted by Dan at 10:43 AM | Trackbacks (0)


THE ENIGMA THAT IS JAPAN: No one disputes that Japan has had thirteen years of economic stagnation since the 1980's property bubble burst. A key source of Japan's malaise has been its inability to clear up it's mostly insolvent banking sector. There is no doubt that such a step would be politically painful, which is why there's been such an unsatisfactory status quo.

What's weird about this is while Japanese PM Junichiro Koizumi has essentially given up tackling the economic problem, he has been willing to expend political capital to alter Japan's status quo on foreign policy, as this Chicago Tribune story makes clear:

"Yearning to support the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq and feeling threatened by North Korea, Japan is stretching and challenging the meaning of its constitutional vow to renounce war forever so its forces might participate more actively in multinational military missions.

In the first significant breakthrough, a Japanese destroyer is cruising the Indian Ocean in support of the war on terrorism. In another, Japan's foreign minister has suggested allowing Japanese troops to join future United Nations peacekeeping missions.

For any other nation these would seem very modest actions. But for Japan to even suggest using the threat of force -- particularly if it conjures up images of Japanese soldiers patrolling foreign soil, as the foreign minister's suggestion does -- is extraordinarily sensitive because of the constitutional restraints and because memories of Japan's past aggressions are still raw in other Asian nations, such as South Korea and China."

Why would Koizumi try to dislodge a foreign policy status quo with formidable legal barriers while letting sleeping economic dogs lie? One answer is that it's always easier for an executive to deal with foreign policy issues than domestic economic ones. An extension of that answer is that if Koizumi can't or won't get any political credit for fixing the economy, at least he'll receive a boost from making Japan a more active player in world politics.

Assignment to readers: compare the Bush administration to the Koizumi government. Is the current administration:
a) pursuing similar strategies for similar reasons?
b) pursuing different strategies for similar reasons?
c) pursuing similar strategies for different reasons?
d) pursuing different strategies for different reasons?

UPDATE: Here's more proof that the Japanese are serious about changing their foreign policy doctrine.

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2003


LITMUS TESTS FOR EVERYONE!: Both the London Times and the New York Times report that the UN inspectors have found their smoking gun. According to the British paper:

"A panel of independent experts ruled that the Iraqi missiles could fly beyond the permitted 150km range and Dr Blix will declare the al-Samoud 2 missile a proscribed programme.... Before making a final decision on whether the missiles contravened UN rules, Dr Blix convened a meeting of outside missile experts from Britain, China, France, Ukraine, Germany and the US on Monday and Tuesday. Diplomatic sources said that those experts determined that the al-Samoud 2 exceeded the 150km range, but that the capability of the al-Fatah remained an 'open question'.

The experts also judged Iraq to be in violation of UN rules for repairing banned casting chambers for making illegal missiles and for building a new test stand that can test missile engines five times above the permitted thrust."

The NYT report also has some good stuff on the machinations going on at the UN, including France, Russia, and China's decision to have Friday's meeting be an open session, which is rankling even their sympathizers on the Security Council.

Now, if the reports are true, there are going to be some tough litmus tests for both anti-U.S. coalition at the Security Council, as well as Iraq:

FOR FRANCE RUSSIA, AND GERMANY: Their immediate fall-back defense will be that Blix's report is not evidence of material breach, but rather that the inspections are working, since the discovery came from some of the new information contained in Iraq's December 2002 report (never mind that Powell's speech proved otherwise). However, will even these countries will have to concede that unless Iraq hand over the banned weapons, they must be declared in material breach? If yes, then the hot potato shifts to Iraq; if no, then these countries will win the Best Foreign Policy Self-Immolation Award for 2003. (UPDATE: The Russian rsponse is to claim that the violation is a technicality, but I don't think that's going to fly).

FOR IRAQ: The UN is going to ask them to hand over the weapons. And here is where the Rumsfeldian rhetoric will pay dividends -- there is no chance they will comply. Hussein is probably convinced at this point that Bush will invade no matter what the Security Council decides, so why fight with only one arm? The only possible gambit they could employ would be a quid pro quo offer of handing over weapons in exchange for a general withdrawal of U.S. forces from the region. That, however, is not unconditional compliance, and probably won't fly.

FOR THE UNITED STATES: Can Negroponte and Powell avoid looking smug when they watch the aforementioned countries try to squirm their way out of these logical traps?


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


AMUSING DIVERSIONS OF THE DAY: Patrick Ruffini has a pretty funny sketch of a West Wing-style show written from a Republican perspective. The Brothers Judd has a funny (if slightly unfair) exploration of Tom Friedman vs. Tom Friedman. And The Onion has a very funny story about North Korea's frustrations with the U.S.

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


A brief introduction, in the form of a Q&A:

Q: Who are you?

A: I’m an assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago. I’ve previously taught at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Donetsk Technical University in the Republic of Ukraine for Civic Education Project. I’ve also served as an international economist in the Treasury Department, a research consultant for the RAND corporation, and as an unpaid foreign policy advisor for the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign (they didn’t need the help).

I’m the editor of Locating the Proper Authorities: The Interaction of Domestic and International Institutions (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003), and the author of The Sanctions Paradox: Economic Statecraft and International Relations (Cambridge University Press, 1999). I’ve written a fair number of articles in both policy and scholarly journals. I’m in the middle of a book-length project on globalization and global governance, under advance contract from Princeton University Press. I have a B.A. from Williams College, an M.A. in economics and a Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University. I’ve received fellowships from the Council on Foreign Relations and Harvard University. I'm a monthly contributor to The New Republic Online, and have also published essays in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the New York Times, Slate, Tech Central Station, and the Wall Street Journal. This weblog has been in existence since September 2002.

Q: What do you know?

A: I can claim some genuine expertise on the utility of economic statecraft, the political economy of globalization, U.S. foreign policy, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. However, as my wife is fond of pointing out, this narrow range of expertise does not prevent me from discussing with false confidence everything else under the sun.

Q: What’s your political affiliation?

A: I’m a small-l libertarian Republican who studies international relations, which means I’m frequently conflicted between my laissez-faire instincts and my clear-eyed recognition that there is no substitute for nation-states in world politics. Just keep reading the blog, you'll get a pretty good sense of what I believe.

Q: You don’t have tenure – why are you wasting valuable hours blogging instead of writing peer-reviewed academic articles?

A: I will admit to some apprehension about this perceived tradeoff. However, blogging and academic scholarship are like apples and oranges. I love the academic side of my job, i.e., the researching and writing about international relations theory. But I’m also a policy wonk. And since the New York Times op-ed page mysteriously refuses to solicit my views, the blog lets me scratch that itch.

Q: What do you mean by wonk? How much of a policy geek are you?

A: I wrote my first op-ed -- about the Reagan Doctrine -- for the Hartford Courant when I was 17 years old. I’m pretty damn geeky. Of course, the University of Chicago does pride itself on being a magnet for people like me.

Q: I want to learn more about international relations in today’s world; what should I be reading?

A: Go to my book recommendations page and find out!!

Also be sure as well to check out both Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy on a regular basis.

Q: Isn’t it pretentious to have your middle initial in the byline for all of your publications?

A: The first time I ever published an article, my mother complained about the absence of my middle initial in the byline. Between looking pretentious and getting Mom off my back, it was an easy call. [UPDATE: My mother, after reading this, e-mailed to say:

Using your middle initial is not pretentious. It is your name. The W stands for your great grandfather, William Pauls, my mother's dad. He was much loved as you are as well!

So there].

Q: I’ve perused your blog, and I’m noticing an annoying editor guy pops up on occasion. What’s the deal? Are you schizophrenic?

A: This is a tic I’ve shamelessly borrowed from Mickey Kaus. I find it useful as a way of dealing with counterarguments, as well as the occasional humorous aside [So that’s all I am to you? An outlet for cheap laughs?—ed. Go bug Mickey for a while.]

Q: Why do you have such a God-awful picture on your department’s web site?

A: It was a bad hair/skin day and I’m too lazy to replace it. By the way, this is my standard response whenever I'm asked why I haven't done something. The good news is that I have a slightly better picture on my main web site.

Q: I still want to know more.

A: Then you clearly have too much time on your hands. However, feel free to check out the rest of my web site, which includes my academic cv and some more biographical material. Also, go check out my answers to Crescat Sententia's Twenty Questions.

posted by Dan at 12:42 PM | Trackbacks (10)


IT WAS ME!! IN THE OFFICE!! WITH THE COMPUTER!!: Last month, Jacob Levy announced his monthly New Republic on-line gig with the enigmatic statement that, "Another scholar-blogger will be writing with the same frequency, offset by two weeks; but I'll let him or her reveal his or her identity in due course." That mystery must have spawned... minutes of fevered speculation in the Blogosphere. Well, the mask must come off -- c'est moi!!

My first New Republic column is on why the Bush administration is actually more multilateralist than commonly perceived, and why they get no credit for it. I spread the blame around. Enjoy!!

posted by Dan at 11:19 AM | Trackbacks (0)


DOES GLOBALIZATION THREATEN THE U.S.?: That's the message of this Financial Times story:

"The heads of the main US intelligence agencies warned on Tuesday that globalisation, which has been the driving force behind the expansion of the world economy, has become a serious threat to US security."

Sounds serious. A closer read, however, suggests that the problem is not globalization per se, but the fact that it punishes societies not receptive to the free exchange of good and ideas:

"George Tenet, CIA director, said that globalisation had been 'a profoundly disruptive force for governments to manage'. Arab governments, in particular, he said 'are feeling many of globalisation's stresses, especially on the cultural front, without reaping the economic benefits'."

This mirrors a theme of this blog, which is that a lack of globalization is radicalizing Middle Eastern societies.

Beyond that, the article (which recounts U.S. Congressional testimony) stresses the dangers of WMD proliferation, which actually has little to do with globalization.

On the whole, a misleading story. [So you think globalization never threatens U.S. security?--ed. No, any opening of borders lets some bad in with the good. However, Stephen Flynn has argued in multiple fora that its possible to combine homeland defense with pro-globalization policies.]

posted by Dan at 10:39 AM | Trackbacks (0)


DEBATE OF THE DAY: Josh Marshall blames the Americans for wrecking Western multilateralism. Josef Joffe thinks the Germans are committing foreign policy suicide, and Robert Lane Greene believes the French, because they are better off in a multilateralist world, will eventually modify their position. I link -- you decide. [But shouldn't you also post your own thoughts about this?--ed. Wait an hour or two.]

posted by Dan at 10:23 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, February 11, 2003


LAST THOUGHTS ON THE ANTI-WAR PROTESTORS: David Corn has the goods on why Michael Lerner has been banned from speaking at this weekend's anti-war protest in San Francisco. It has to do with one of the protest's organizers, "ANSWER, an outfit run by members of the Workers World Party, for using antiwar demonstrations to put forward what he considers to be anti-Israel propaganda." Corn goes on to observe that, "The WWPers in control of ANSWER are socialists who call for the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, who support Slobodan Milosevic and Kim Jong Il, who oppose UN inspections in Iraq (claiming they are part of the planning for an invasion aimed at gaining control of Iraq's oil fields), and who urge smashing Zionism."

A question to antiwar protestors: if the American Nazi Party or the Ku Klux Klan helped organize (not just participate, mind you -- take an active role in preparing) an antiwar protest, would the desired end justify participation? If the answer is no, how is ANSWER any better?

Actually, though, what intrigued me about Corn's post was this Lerner quote: "There are good reasons to oppose the war and Saddam. Still, it feels that we are being manipulated when subjected to mindless speeches and slogans whose knee-jerk anti-imperialism rarely articulates the deep reasons we should oppose corporate globalization."

Hoow do the "deep reasons we should oppose corporate globalization" have anything to do with the Iraq question? Since most corporations would probably opposes an attack on Iraq (because of the introduction of business uncertainty its creating), is Lerner's statement coherent in any way?

I agree with this guy: the protestors' message is so off the charts it actually aids the attack Iraq argument. I can't take the protestors' arguments seriously anymore. And because of that, there's little point in blogging about them.

UPDATE: Lerner has an op-ed in yoday's Wall Street Journal. He's thankfully more coherent in this essay, and doesn't mention globalization once. The killer grafs (link via InstaPundit):

"The most painful thing has been watching other antiwar groups make unprincipled compromises with A.N.S.W.E.R. As a result, there is support on the left for self-determination for every group in the world except the Jewish people. Fellow progressive Jews, some anxious to speak at these rallies, have urged me to keep quiet about anti-Semitism on the left. After all, they say, stopping the war against Iraq is so much more important.

Why should we have to choose? Tikkun will be bringing thousands of our supporters to the demonstration Sunday. But just as we fought against the sexism and homophobia that once infected the left, we will challenge anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing on the left, even as we say "no" to a war with Iraq."

posted by Dan at 04:03 PM | Trackbacks (0)


I know I've had some fun at "Old Europe's" expense, but there's a meme making its way across the Blogosphere about these countries that crosses the line. The most recent version I've seen is this Steve Dunleavy op-ed in the New York Post that Glenn Reynolds linked to yesterday. Here's the final sentence of that article:

"It chills the bone when the French government and so many of its citizens steadfastly try to undermine Bush, even sneer at him, when so many of them were saved by the nation he leads - with the greatest band of brothers on earth."

Now, this boils down to the notion of indebtedness -- that because the U.S. sacrificed to liberate France during two World Wars, they owe us some gratitude now. The same could be said of Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, etc.

Let's be blunt -- this is a bullshit argument. First of all, what's the statute of limitations on such gratitude? Surely we Americans owe a debt to France for their invaluable assistance during the Revolutionary War -- not to mention the Louisiana Purchase. How much does this place us in France's debt? [But that was more than 200 years ago--ed. World War Two was more than a half-century ago, and an overwhelming majority of Americans and French have no personal memory of that time period. History is history.]

Second, how does one weigh the relative weight of such sacrifices? Yes, many Americans of the Greatest Generation gave their lives, but a hell of a lot more Russians shed their blood in the same conflict. Does this mean France owes a greater debt to Russia than the United States? [But Russia just stood by when Hitler overran France--ed. So did we. So, for that matter, did most French].

Finally, exactly why did we liberate France -- and Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, etc. -- in the first place? The simplest, noblest answer you can give is that we were fighting tyranny in the name of democracy. One can carp about the inconsistent, hypocritical attitudes of Old Europe, but it's impossible to deny that their governments' positions genuinely reflect public sentiments in those countries. In other words, they are repaying the debt they owe to us -- by governing themselves in a democratic manner. It's a crying shame they don't want to give the Iraqis the same option, but sometimes democracies make wrong decisions.

Don't tell me a country owes us anything for what we did more than a half-century ago -- it's a stupid, emotive argument that is devoid of any genuine substance.

UPDATE: I just received the following e-mail from a World War Two ETO vet, who puts it more succinctly than I: "Those crosses on the front page of the NY Post mark the graves of more guys from my old squadron than I care to remember. They would roll in their graves if they knew that Dunleavy claims they died for France. Good work."

posted by Dan at 11:39 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)


FORGET INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS -- TIME TO DISH ABOUT THE OSCARS: The Academy award nominations are out. And, although I'm sure the Blogosphere will rage about Peter Jackson not getting a Best Director nomination for Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, I'm actually pleasantly surprised with most of the choices. A few carps:

Why the hell didn't Hugh Grant get a Best Actor nomination for About a Boy? [You gonna start ranting again about how comedic performances never get nominations--ed? I would, if it weren't for the fact that Nicolas Cage and Jack Nicholson did get nominations for such performances]

Where is Dennis Quaid's Best Supporting Actor nomination for Far from Heaven?

Why wasn't the best foreign movie of last year -- Monsoon Wedding -- not nominated for anything?

Finally, and most geekily, what the hell was the Academy thinking giving a Best Visual Effects nomination to Spiderman -- which was a good movie with laughable CGI effects -- while ignoring Minority Report, which only managed to develop the freshest vision of the future since Blade Runner?

OK, I got that out of my system. Back to regular blogging.

UPDATE: Jacob Levy and Matthew Yglesias have posted their thoughts. I didn't comment on Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine getting a nomination because I haven't seen it yet.

posted by Dan at 10:23 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, February 10, 2003

Cut Blix some slack

A lot of warbloggers carped about Hans Blix when he was appointed chief weapons inspector for the UN, because he headed the IAEA when it whiffed on detecting Iraqi violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ten years ago.

However, give credit where it is due -- Blix is clearly not an American puppet, and he has also been quite forthright about Iraq's unwillingness to cooperate. And this story illustrates that Blix is not going to provide any convenient cover for the reported Franco-German-Russian plan of tripling the number of inspectors:

Asked whether more inspectors could do a better, faster job, he said: "The principal problem is not the number of inspectors but rather the active cooperation of the Iraqi side, as we have said many times."

posted by Dan at 04:14 PM | Trackbacks (0)


HMMM....PERHAPS ERIC ALTERMAN IS WRONG: A week ago, Alterman wrote a cover story for the Nation that argued Europeans do not dislike Americans -- they dislike the Bushies. I usually disagree with Alterman, but I though it was a cogent piece. And this Richard Bernstein piece in the New York Times would seem to buttress the point.

But then we have this poll:

"A majority of Germans believe the United States is a nation of warmongers and only six percent think President Bush is interested in keeping the peace, according to a survey published Monday....

"The survey found 57 percent agreed with the statement: 'The United States is a nation of warmongers.' (my bold italics)....

"The survey of 1,843 Germans found 93 percent believed Bush was ready to go to war in pursuit of his interests, while 80 percent said the United States wanted war to boost its power."

The poll question specifically asked Germans what they thought of Americans, not just the Bushies. Furthermore, that figure is probably understated, since the question is so provocatively phrased it probably caused some respondents who share the sentiment to back down.

(Depressing) food for thought.

UPDATE: A German-speaking reader who was able to access the original Financial Times Deutschland story e-mails: "the original report... phrases the statement as 'Die USA sind ein Kriegstreiber', 'the USA are a warmonger', so I don't think the NYT translation is accurate." Other German readers, don't be afraid to help out here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Another helpful German-speaker e-mails: "'Kriegstreiber' does not have the same emotional weight as 'warmonger', although it is probably the closest translation into a word that is actually used. A more literal translation would be 'conductor of war' or 'driver of war'. 'Monger' is a rather obscure term, surviving mainly in ironmonger and fishmonger, while 'Treiber' is very common, used among other things for software drivers. In other contexts, such as 'Haupttreiber' (prime mover), the connotation is completely positive."

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

You have nothing to lose but their chains

A spectre is haunting Europe -- the spectre of democracy promotion. All the Powers of Old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Eurocrat and Chancellor, Schroeder and Chirac, French Radicals and German protestors.

A (very liberal) paraphrase of the opening to the Communist Manifesto.

How can you join this spectre? If you're a college student, click over to OxBlog, where Josh Chafetz and David Adesnik are "arguing for an international student movement to coalesce around democracy promotion." Chapters have already opened at Yale, Brandeis, Columbia, and -- more nebulously -- Iran. Click here for the Oxford group's Statement of Principles. And remember:


posted by Dan at 10:20 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, February 9, 2003


SAME PLANET, DIFFERENT WORLDS: How did the meeting between Iraqi officials and the UN inspectors go?

Inspectors See 'Change of Heart'; U.S. Says Progress Is Not Enough
International Herald Tribune

"Weapons inspectors said today that they had seen "the beginning of a change of heart on the part of Iraq" on cooperating with the United Nations, but Bush administration officials dismissed the gestures as deceptions and said the Iraqis were desperately playing for time."

U.N., Iraq Fail to Agree on Key Inspection Issues
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, February 9, 2003; 7:45 PM

"BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 9 -- The top U.N. arms experts said tonight that they were unable to reach agreement with Saddam Hussein's government on several key weapons issues they had traveled here to resolve in a bid to build support for continuing inspections."

I just blog -- you decide.

posted by Dan at 08:24 PM | Trackbacks (0)


NEW POLI SCI BLOGGER.... THE POOR BASTARD: As I enter month five of being a blogger, I am noticing that some of my professional colleagues have displayed increasing interest in the blog. Increasingly, I've been wondering whether more political science profs (not grad students) would start to break free of their paradigmatic shackles and start to blog.

It's begun. Henry Farrell at the University of Toronto has surreptitiously started a blog this week. Henry and I have some overlapping research interests regarding Internet governance. Reading his blog, it's safe to say we disagree about politics (as well as theories of Internet governance). But he's terribly smart and a good egg to boot, so check out his blog for yourself.

Henry, you're about to fall down the rabbit hole...

posted by Dan at 12:48 PM | Trackbacks (0)