Wednesday, February 19, 2003
Blogging will be intermittent for the next couple of days. I'll be participating in a conference at Duke on "rethinking international relations theory."
LET THE CLIMBDOWN BEGIN: The
LET THE CLIMBDOWN BEGIN: The International Herald Tribune reports the first effort by Chirac to back away from his tantrum:
"Chirac’s spokeswoman, Catherine Colonna, said by telephone from Paris that France was committed to the enlargement of the European Union and wanted to 'avoid any trouble on the road’ to the historic admission of former Soviet-bloc countries.
Colonna retreated from Chirac’s threat to delay the entry of at least two candidates for membership, Bulgaria and Romania, because of their pro-American leanings. ‘We want the enlargement to be a success,’ she added.
France would ‘certainly not’ delay approval of next year’s scheduled admission of 10 new countries, Colonna said."
If you read the story, however, it's clear that Tony Blair will milk this for all it's worth. Bully for him.
THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO
THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO "HMMM....": Given South Korea's extreme reluctance to confront North Korea, willingness to ignore recent North Korean provocations, and borderline-delusional faith in Pyongyang's ability to reform, I'd been trying to figure out what the South Korean position was on Iraq. Somewhat to my surprise, this Reuters report suggests they are staunchly pro-U.S.:
"The United States and Britain picked up support for a tough position against Iraq among U.N. members on Wednesday, although a substantial majority in a two-day debate opposed an invasion of Iraq....
on Wednesday, Macedonia, Albania, Uzbekistan, Iceland, Serbia and Montenegro, Latvia, Nicaragua and South Korea, sharply criticized Iraq and said it had to comply or face tough action."
I wonder if this is a simple case of NIMBY politics, or if the South Koreans genuinely believe that Iraq is flouting the nonproliferation regime but North Korea is not. Marcus Noland makes a decent case that it's NIMBY.
1983 ALL OVER AGAIN: Christopher
1983 ALL OVER AGAIN: Christopher Buckley makes the comparison between last weekend's antiwar protests and the nuclear freeze movement of the early 1980's. Go check it out.
Power laws and blogging
For my day job, I've recently had to read some stuff on power law distributions. Now I find it applies to blogging as well (Link via Hit & Run). Read the whole article, but the basic point is relatively intuitive:
French foreign policy is even dumber than I thought
The quick and overwhelmingly hostile reaction (UPDATE: the BBC has a nice roundup of editorial reaction in New Europe) to Chirac's idiotic comments about central/eastern European countries convinced me that the French government would apologize or downplay the remarks as quickly as possible, probably with some statement explaining that the depth of his love for peace prompted him to make such intemperate remarks. This would be preceded or followed by soothing words from key cabinet officials.
Boy was I wrong. Today, the French Defense Minister upped the ante, according to the Daily Telegraph. Here are her -- pardon the pun -- galling comments:
My favorite part of the article is this priceless graf:
This German report makes her comments sound more Orwellian, if possible:
I must give the Chirac government credit -- it's not easy to make Donald Rumsfeld look diplomatic and Leonid Brezhnev look polite. The French managed it in one fit of temper.
UPDATE: Little noticed in the wake of Chirac's comments has been the tacit support he's received from the chief Eurocrat. According to this report, "But he [Chirac] won some support from European Commission President Romano Prodi, who said the candidates had to realize the EU was a political union and not just an economic club, but he was sure they would get used to it." Of course, how foolish of those candidate countries to believe that a political union meant states would actually debate policy disputes! To be fair, other EU officials who oppose the U.S. position on Iraq have distanced themselves from Chirac's outburst, as this report makes clear:
Tuesday, February 18, 2003
WHAT HE SAID: I might
"The poster child for America’s self-defeating machismo is Donald Rumsfeld. He brings to mind another famously impolitic American diplomat, John Foster Dulles. Dulles, Winston Churchill once remarked, 'is the only bull I’ve seen who brings his china shop with him.'
THE ATTENTION SPAN OF GREAT
THE ATTENTION SPAN OF GREAT POWERS: One of the critiques of the administration's Iraq policy is that going to war will divert scarce resources from the ongoing war against terrorism. I've said before this is a bogus argument, because a) U.S. policy on how to combat terrorism is pretty much set; b) seems to be generating successes, and; c) there are ample resources for both operations. To quote myself, "Gee, I thought great powers were capable of doing more than one thing at a time. That's why they're called great powers."
Upon reflection, I'd like to add one caveat to that statement. The danger with the administration's preoccupation with Iraq -- and the transatlantic fallout it creates -- is that the foreign policy principals (Bush, Rice, Powell, Cheney, Rumsfeld) are devoting so much time to the diplomatic and military preparations vis-à-vis Iraq that they have no time to formulate policy responses to other crises, such as North Korea. Great powers can implement different policies in different parts of the globe because they have copious material resources. However, even great powers have difficulty crafting different policies at the same time. The same people need to approve all of these policy responses, and there are only so many hours in the day.
Therefore, one significant cost to the continued confrontation over Iraq is that the administration will, consciously or not, deal with other policy problems with an unintended posture of benign neglect. Both Andrew Sullivan and Brad Delong make this argument with regard to fiscal policy. More acute is the difficulty the administration is having juggling foreign policy crises.
Michael Gordon's NYT-online essay does a nice job of capturing this problem. The key grafs:
"Bush administration officials have been arguing that ousting the Saddam Hussein regime will serve as an object lesson of what can happen to a rogue nation that seeks weapons of mass destruction. But the North Korean nuclear breakout is sending the opposite signal to the W.M.D wannabees: if a regime does not want to be pressured by the sole remaining superpower or pushed around by a powerful neighbor, it should go nuclear as secretly and quickly as it can.....
But if the Bush administration has a better idea to stop North Korea from churning out more plutonium, it has yet to share it. When lawmakers asked Mr. Tenet how the administration would respond if Pyongyang reprocessed plutonium, he said the matter was still under discussion. The administration, it seems, does not have a policy; it has a policy review. With its eye on Iraq, the administration has also sought to downplay the North Korea issue and dispel the sense of crisis." (My bold italics)
If you want to ignore the New York Times, try ignoring Brent Scowcroft:
"We cannot afford to defer this issue. Time is on North Korea's side; each day increases North Korea's nuclear and missile capabilities, enhancing its military strength and bargaining leverage -- while narrowing our options to respond. The North Korean regime will ultimately follow other dictatorships into oblivion, but this will not happen soon enough to spare us the terrible consequences of its acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, if North Korea builds up its nuclear arsenal while it sees the United States diverted by Iraq, it may enhance its ability to survive that much longer and inflict that much more harm." (my bold italics)
Critics would argue that this is exactly why the administration should not invade Iraq. I'd counter that such a course of action would actually keep Iraq on the front-burner indefinitely, since the alternative of containment requires constant high-level effort to ensure against backsliding by the UN Security Council. Attacking Iraq sooner rather than later removes the issue from the principals' table, allowing them to focus on the rest of the world.
But Bush's critics are correct to point out that the longer Iraq stays in the headlines, the more that other crises will fester from the lack of attention.
AN ODD INTERVIEW: David Adesnik
AN ODD INTERVIEW: David Adesnik over at OxBlog highlights something that's been bothering me as well -- the recent Sunday NYT Magazine interview with Robert Kagan. More than a third of the questions dealt with whether Kagan was a "chicken hawk." What's weird about this is Kagan's answer to the first question on this point:
"Did you serve in the military?
I was 14 when the Vietnam War ended, and I didn't choose the military as my career path."
That really should have ended the questioning on this topic, but the interviewer persisted for three more questions.
I vehemently disagree with the chicken hawk logic, but I can sort of understand the point being made about elites avoiding military service during Vietnam. The thing is, once the military switched to an all-volunteer force, the question becomes somewhat moot -- either you chose the military as a career or you did not. Kagan did nothing dishonorable or duplicitous -- and yet he has to explain why we shouldn't be living in a Starship Troopers-kind of society.
WHAT'S UP IN INDONESIA?: As
WHAT'S UP IN INDONESIA?: As part of my informal series of updates about countries that are too big to fail, here's the latest on Indonesia. Both this New York Times article and this Financial Times op-ed indicate that the country has taken aggressive and productive steps to eliminate terrorism. The Times reports:
"After denying there was a terrorist threat here and calling travel warnings alarmist, the Indonesian police in recent months have rounded up more than two dozen suspected terrorists, including several men thought to be senior Qaeda operatives in Southeast Asia. The police have also increased security at the American Embassy and at residences of American diplomats, as the United States has been demanding.
'Progress on every one of our benchmarks has been extraordinary,' the American ambassador, Ralph L. Boyce, said in a letter last week to American diplomats.
While Americans at home have been warned to buy duct tape and bottled water to prepare for terrorist attacks, Mr. Boyce wrote that 'there has been no new credible threat information against the official American community' in Indonesia for nearly two months."
The FT essay concurs:
"In spite of a weak leadership, conflict in its regions and economic, political and social crises, Indonesia has, since the October 12 Bali bombing, moved firmly against both regional and local terrorists. With international support, its police force has caught almost all of the Jemaah Islamiah members responsible for terrorist acts carried out over the past three years. In doing so it has gained self-respect and public confidence, and is now going after Indonesia's other terrorist groups, forcing them on to the defensive.
Debilitating local conflicts have been overcome in central Kalimantan, south Sulawesi (Poso) and the Moluccas. In Aceh, which has endured a separatist insurgency for the past 20 years, a road map for peace has been agreed between the government and the rebels with the assistance of the Henri Dunant Centre in Geneva. This outlines a process for ending hostilities and allowing the rebels to participate in the political process. And at last Jakarta is granting greater autonomy to Papua, after long years of neglect.
On the economic front, too, the indicators have improved: inflation - 10 per cent in 2002 - is under control; growth is 3.5 per cent (although still not adequate to absorb 2m people entering the workforce each year); the currency has stabilised; and the fiscal deficit is manageable."
This essay also acknowledges the country's persistent problems -- corruption in particular. But this is still an improving picture.
More French blowback
First they get outmaneuvered on NATO defending Turkey.
Then, Chirac has to suffer the indignity of other European leaders calling him on France's hypocrisy.
Then Chirac gets mad and says something stupid about EU candidate members from central and eastern Europe.
This produces the expected reaction from those countries.
Remember, though, according to Josh Marshall, any transatlantic rift is the fault of the Bush administration. [C'mon, you're going to let the administration off the hook completely?--ed. No, Marshall is correct about Donald Rumsfeld, whose plan for punishing 'Old Europe' sounds like it was devised by a 12-year old in the middle of a temper tantrum.]
UPDATE: Even the International Herald Tribune thinks Chirac went too far.
THAT OXFORD CABAL: OxBlog's David
THAT OXFORD CABAL: OxBlog's David Adesnik and Josh Chafetz have an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal about the student democracy movement. The first line of their piece sounds vaguely familiar, though.
How dare they borrow from my...er... borrowing of Marx.
SURVEY SAYS: Funny.
SURVEY SAYS: Funny.
Monday, February 17, 2003
WHY I WILL NOT BLOG
WHY I WILL NOT BLOG ABOUT THE PROTESTS: Last week I tried to explain why I wouldn't bother to rebut anti-war protestors. By this I do NOT mean reasoned critiques that acknowledge the costs and benefits of inaction, but arguments along the lines of "NO BLOOD FOR OIL!" or "PEACE IN OUR TIME!"
The protests this past weekend, which were pretty sizeable, does nothing to change that. However, the sentiments in Stephen Pollard's Times essay convey something close to my visceral reaction, so here's that link.
UPDATE: This peace blog that Glenn Reynolds links to is either an intentional or unintentional parody of the antiwar movement. If it's intentional, it's too smarmy and obvious to be funny; if it's unintentional, then it's both hilarious and appalling at the same time.
ANOTHER UPDATE: It always freaks me out a little when someone else independently has the exact same response to an essay as I.
GREGG EASTERBROOK IS NOW THIS
GREGG EASTERBROOK IS NOW THIS BLOG'S OFFICIAL SECRETARY OF SANITY: Easterbrook's Week in Review essay on the the genuine and overblown threats to U.S. soil should be required reading for both Homeland Security officials and television news producers. Go read it. Now. I'll wait....
(Sound of me idly whistling).
Don't you feel calmer now? There are still scary things that could happen, but this is the sort of message we need from a Homeland Security Director. I would suggest that Easterbrook take a government position, but that would mean he would have to give up his most important job, which is being ESPN's Tuesday Morning Quarterback during football season.
Surely, a wise government could devise a position for Mr. Easterbrook for the other eight months of the year, n'est pas?
What's up in Pakistan?
Generally, the media picture of Pakistan is a country ready to collapse into an orgy of Islamic fundamentalism. So its worthwhile to point out contradictory evidence, as this Washington Post article highlights. The key paragraphs:
The decline of hawala, given prior assessments that such a decline would be next to impossible, is also noteworthy.
Sunday, February 16, 2003
This InstaPundit-linked story suggests the extent to which France may be suffering some blowback from its obstructionist policy on Iraq. In a delicious irony, France's aversion to genuine multilateralism is about to sabotage its faux multilateralism:
I suspect Eastern Europe's governments have fresh memories of the last time the EU tried to pressure them to oppose the U.S. (to be fair, Washington applied pressure on them as well).
UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg has a nice piece in the Los Angeles Times (link via OxBlog) about the French that makes some of these points [But it also uses that meme you don't like--ed. Yes, but his own magazine's blog agrees with me.] The best grafs:
Indeed, there's almost no criticism of the United States that doesn't apply with greater or equal force to France. The French are certainly willing to trade blood for oil, just so long as it's not their own. And if it's true to say that America helped 'create' Hussein, it's doubly accurate to say it of the country that sold him a nuclear reactor. The only difference between the two countries is that America is eager to correct its mistakes while France is entirely at peace with letting Hussein continue murdering and terrorizing his subjects and neighbors.
It's true, the phrase 'cheese-eating surrender monkeys' isn't particularly accurate here. The French aren't being cowards: They're more like cheese-eating appeasement monkeys, willing to negotiate with evil for short-term advantage. If that makes them heroes to the antiwar movement, so be it. But it doesn't make them principled -- and it certainly doesn't make them our friends.