Saturday, April 5, 2003


STUDENTS AND THE WAR: Two stories on student attitudes and activism regarding the war with Iraq. The New York Times reports a yawning gulf between professors and students on this issue:

"Across the country, the war is disclosing role reversals, between professors shaped by Vietnam protests and a more conservative student body traumatized by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Prowar groups have sprung up at Brandeis and Yale and on other campuses. One group at Columbia, where last week an antiwar professor rhetorically called for 'a million Mogadishus,' is campaigning for the return of R.O.T.C. to Morningside Heights.

Even in antiwar bastions like Cambridge, Berkeley and Madison, the protests have been more town than gown. At Berkeley, where Vietnam protesters shouted, 'Shut it down!' under clouds of tear gas, Sproul Plaza these days features mostly solo operators who hand out black armbands. The shutdown was in San Francisco, and the crowd was grayer.

All this dismays many professors.

'We used to like to offend people,' Martha Saxton, a professor of women's studies at Amherst, said as she discussed the faculty protest with students this week. 'We loved being bad, in the sense that we were making a statement. Why is there no joy now?'

Certainly not all students are pro-war or all faculty anti. But 'there's a much higher percentage of liberal professors than there are liberal students,' said Ben Falby, the student who organized the protest at Amherst only to find that it had more professors than students.

This Chicago Tribune piece makes similar points:

"Since school began last fall at the University of Chicago, Dan Lichtenstein-Boris has carved out time to oppose the war in Iraq, drafting leaflets, creating film and speakers series and setting up a round-the-clock vigil in the center of campus.

But getting fellow students to join in a big rally and make a larger point since the war began has been difficult.

'I think things are pretty quiet,' Lichtenstein-Boris, 21, a sophomore, said in frustration. 'With all we've done, how is a lecture or film series going to help? It's kind of a soft way of going about things when people are dying.'"

What explains this? The Tribune suggests student apathy, but that's not it -- the paper also observes: "While polls show most high school and college students don't go to rallies or marches, they volunteer more than preceding generations, with 61 percent of college students volunteering, according to a study last October by the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University."

The three other suggestions that are proffered are the absence of a draft, the maturation of these students in more conservative times, and the plethora of other causes out there. Take a look and judge for yourself.

The one amusing part of the Times piece is the conviction from both pro-war and anti-war voices on campus that they are being vaguely persecuted:

"'It's a lonely place to be an antiwar protester on the Amherst campus,' said Beatriz Wallace, a junior. In the dining hall, students have set out baskets of ribbons, some yellow, some red, white and blue.

Prowar students say they feel just as alienated. 'The faculty, and events, has a chilling effect on discussions for the prowar side,' said David Chen, a sophomore."

UPDATE: This Newsday article on the same phenomenon notes another pattern:

"Jonathan Buchsbaum, who has been teaching media studies at Queens College for 25 years, said these days students there are motivated by issues like the poor economy and the elimination of school programs.

'I don't see as many students getting involved, in terms of war,' Buchsbaum said.

While the Brooklyn and Queens college students might be too preoccupied with bread-and-butter matters to take to the streets, those at big private colleges in Manhattan have the time and inclination to publicly express their views, faculty members say.

'We're getting students to understand that they are in a privileged position and to use that position to understand what is going on in the world,' said Francesca Fiorentini, 19, a sophomore at New York University and member of the NYU Peace Coalition."

posted by Dan at 01:44 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, April 4, 2003


ENJOY THE WEEKEND!: I'll be at the Midwestern Political Science Association's annual meeting. I'm a chair and discussant on a panel. Then I'll be grabbing a beer with fellow blogger/political scientists Chris Lawrence.

posted by Dan at 01:51 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Making people nervous

Former CIA Director James Woolsey declares that the U.S. is in the middle of World War IV:

In the address to a group of college students, Woolsey described the Cold War as the third world war and said 'This fourth world war, I think, will last considerably longer than either World Wars I or II did for us. Hopefully not the full four-plus decades of the Cold War.'

Woolsey has been named in news reports as a possible candidate for a key position in the reconstruction of a postwar Iraq.

He said the new war is actually against three enemies: the religious rulers of Iran, the 'fascists' of Iraq and Syria, and Islamic extremists like al Qaeda.

Woolsey told the audience of about 300, most of whom are students at the University of California at Los Angeles, that all three enemies have waged war against the United States for several years but the United States has just 'finally noticed.'

'As we move toward a new Middle East,' Woolsey said, 'over the years and, I think, over the decades to come ... we will make a lot of people very nervous.'

Chalk me up as one of the potentially nervous people. This is the kind of grand neocon strategy that prompted criticism in Josh Marshall's latest Washington Monthly piece. It's not that I wouldn't like to see Woolsey's list of enemies vanquished -- it's just far from clear that the use of force is the right tool for the job.

However, I'm still not nervous, for one very good reason -- Woolsey's not in the government. The hottest rhetoric on the neocon strategy comes from those out of power. The neocons in power, like Paul Wolfowitz, have refrained from such statements. Bill Keller's profile of Wolfowitz from last September shows that the neocons in power are much more wary about the willy-nilly use of force. And, it should be pointed out, there are heavyweights in the administration who do not subscribe to the neoconservative vision.

My point here is that Woolsey's statements are likely to be reprinted abroad as evidence of the Bush administration's grand strategy, In fact they represent the rhetoric of a single man who's out of power -- and, according to Mickey Kaus, a man who's "distinctly unimpressive in... a private schmooze."

posted by Dan at 01:19 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, April 3, 2003

Still unsure about the war?

For those readers who want more information, Eric Zorn has compiled a website collecting the best arguments -- pro and con -- on whether war with Iraq is a good idea.

Worth checking out.

posted by Dan at 11:44 PM | Trackbacks (0)


MORE EVIDENCE OF IRAQI HOSTILITY TO THE INVASION: I was initially quite alarmed to see that Arts & Letters Daily has the following link up in red boldface:

"Breaking news: Iraqis have routed British Royal Marines in a fierce battle in the town of Umm Khayyal near Basra."

Concerned, I clicked on the link to the BBC story. It's true. Go check it out.

When the BBC is running stuff like this, you know the Iraqi population is glad to see the back of Saddam.

posted by Dan at 11:30 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Should Nicholas De Genova be fired?

The Columbia Daily Spectator reports on mounting alumni pressure to fire Nicholas De Genova for the statements he made in last week's anti-war teach-in. Congressmen are also jumping on the dogpile.

Glenn Reynolds, as well as Columbia's Filibuster blog, argue that De Genova's comment at the antiwar rally, although certainly repugnant, are protected under academic free speech. I wholeheartedly agree. The congressional activity is particularly repugnant -- the last thing anyone should want is organs of the state requesting universities to fire particular individuals. And bravo to Jim Kolbe (R--Ariz) and his press spokeswoman for stating the obvious: "it is not appropriate for him [Kolbe] in his role as a member of Congress to tell Columbia University how to discipline their employees."

However, there is one facet of De Genova's behavior that might -- might -- warrant a dismissal. It comes from yesterday's New York Times story about a Columbia student who plans to join the Marines after graduation:

A few days ago her Latino History teacher, Mr. De Genova, notified his students by e-mail that he would not be holding office hours on the usual day because he would be attending an antiwar function. 'I totally respect academic freedom,' she said. 'However, there needs to be a distance.'

Then, she said, the assistant professor set aside the coursework for a day and invited students to share their feelings about the war. 'I was one of about two students who said anything that was not antiwar,' she said. 'I said I was hoping to go into the Marine Corps as an officer, that I have friends over there, and that my main focus now was to support the troops.'

'I felt so uncomfortable,' she added."

Then there's this from the Columbia Daily Spectator's story:

Rebekah Pazmiño, CC '05, is enrolled in De Genova's undergraduate class and is also an officer-in-training in the Marines. Pazmiño used De Genova's unmoderated classroom to respond to the three graduate students' suggestion that they were being silenced.

'If you guys feel so silenced, what about those of us who are going into the military?' Pazmiño asked. 'When remarks like that are made, those of us who are on the other side also feel threatened.' 'Having to hear that, and having to be in this class, just really sucks,' she said.

Any teacher worth their salt knows that students must be constantly reassured that disagreement with the powers that be -- i.e., the person in charge of grading -- will not affect their class performance. If academics publicize their position on an issue of the day, and then signal to the students taking their class that this can be the only correct position, the professor has crossed the line from the free expression of personal views to the subtle intimidation of alternative points of view.

Did De Genova cross this line? The Times and Daily Spectator stories hint at this, but don't provide enough information. De Genova's lack of subtlety makes this a distinct possibility, however. If students felt that their position on the war would affect their grade, then De Genova should be fired. [But what about the protest in support of De Genova by his students?--ed. Those were his graduate students -- I'm more concerned about the undergraduates, who are more likely to feel intimidated. Based on this poll, it's highly likely that more than two students in the class held pro-war views. But only the students in the class can say for sure one way or the other.]

UPDATE: This Filibuster post provides additional information suggesting that DeGenova did not cross the line. Pazmiño went on Hannity & Colmes this evening. According to the Filibuster, "De Genova discussed the war one class period and she spoke up and expressed her views. She added... that de Genova was actually pretty respectful of her pro-war stance." If this is the case, then no student coercion took place, the question comes back to academic free speech, and De Genova should not be fired.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tim Wagliore argues that my rationale is way too broad. His points are solid, though he's exaggerated my position a bit. Obviously, I'm not suggesting that a professor should be fired for cancelling office hours. Nor am I suggesting this rationale as a "pretext" for firing someone whose politics I find repellent. Also, I should have said that there exist measures short of termination that would probably be appropriate for this situation. Only if a professor repeatedly and persistently did what I described above would termination be the appropriate measure.

posted by Dan at 04:56 PM | Trackbacks (0)


LEARNING TO ADAPT: A big meme last week was that the Iraqi's unconventional tactics surprised Rumsfeld et al (although these corrections suggest that maybe they weren't that surprised).

My guess is that next week's meme will be about how coalition forces are adapting to these adaptations. This story suggests that coalition forces are quickly moving down the learning curve in Basra:

"United States forces, preparing to invade Baghdad, praised 'impressive' British tactics.

'In Baghdad, we will definitely use a lot of the effective techniques and utilise some of the larger strategic lessons we learned in the British efforts over Basra,' a senior military official said.

Two examples of unusual yet successful soldiering in the past two days have drawn admiration from US Central Command operations chiefs. British 7th Armoured Brigade troops - the Desert Rats - deliberately allowed residents to loot a Baath Party headquarters near Basra within minutes of the office's capture and search.

'Normally we would stop looting because it's a sign that things have got out of control and that law and order has broken down,' said Captain Alex Cartwright. 'But in this case we decided that to allow it would send a powerful message: that we are in control now, not the Baath Party.'

In another incident, when an Iraqi colonel was fatally shot in his vehicle, British troops found a thick wad of cash. Instead of handing it in to officers, the troops decided to dole the cash out to local youngsters."

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

Why Wright is wrong

I'm betting that Robert Wright's Tuesday article in Slate will be an eventual winner of Andrew Sullivan's prestigious Von Hoffman Award for "prophetically challenged pieces of media war-wisdom" -- though it will be hard to top Sullivan's latest nominee.

This is what Wright wrote two days ago:

[A]s the war drags on, any stifled sympathy for the American invasion will tend to evaporate. As more civilians die and more Iraqis see their "resistance" hailed across the Arab world as a watershed in the struggle against Western imperialism, the traditionally despised Saddam could gain appreciable support among his people. So, the Pentagon's failure to send enough troops to take Baghdad fairly quickly could complicate the postwar occupation, to say nothing of the war itself. The Bush administration's prewar expectation of broad Iraqi support for the invasion may turn out to be a self-defeating prophecy....

It isn't just that, as noted above, the Iraqi people will grow more hostile to the United States as the war lingers on—and American soldiers kill more civilians and Saddam has more time to kill his own civilians and blame it on Americans (a tactic that, remember, doesn't surprise Don Rumsfeld!). It's that Muslims all over the world are watching the same show, and they are not amused.

Even assuming Muslim rage doesn't produce a worst-case scenario—say, regime change in Pakistan that puts nuclear arms in the hands of terrorists—there is still plenty to worry about, most notably the next generation of anti-American terrorism quietly incubating in the hearts and minds of adolescent Al Jazeera watchers around the world. Further, anti-American Muslims—already trickling into Iraq from Jordan—could start showing up in larger numbers, including the occasional suicide bomber (who will make American troops even more jittery, leading to more dead Iraqi civilians for Al Jazeera to highlight, and so on). Every week that this war drags on is a week in which bad things can happen, and Rumsfeld's seeming indifference to this fact does not inspire confidence.

Wright's vision might be correct, but I doubt it. First, there is mounting evidence that the Iraqis are quite pleased about Operation Iraqi Freedom. I blogged yesterday about the reaction in Najaf. Today, according to Reuters, a "top local Shi'ite Muslim leader" issued a fatwa telling Shi'ites not to fight the Americans. In the north, Kurds are overjoyed that the U.S. has expelled the Ansar al-Islam militants. As for the Sunni Muslims near Baghdad, this report suggests they will also be happy to see the back of Saddam:

The Republican Guard may be ceding this territory, thinking their forces must make their stand in Baghdad in the days to come. But in an unexpected sign of popular sentiment, some residents streamed out of the city and greeted the American troops as they approached.

[What about Josh Marshall's point that these tribal reactions are actually strategic?--ed. Marshall's right -- but politics is all about acting opportunistically. These leaders have seen twenty years of war and sanctions -- rationally, it's highly unlikely they will try to advance their interests via violent action].

Wright seems to think that this happiness will fade with time, but there are good reasons to believe otherwise. Humanitarian aid is about to pour into Umm Qasr and the rest of southern Iraq. What will the reaction of the local population be once they realize that not only is Saddam finished, but that the days of economic sanctions are over?

As for the rest of the Arab world, Wright seems to think that the invasion itself will prompt Arabs to launch terrorist attacks within Iraq. But it's equally possible that what happened in Afghanistan will happen in Iraq. The video of Kabul's residents celebrating the fall of the Taliban quickly defused much (though not all) of the Arab resentment against the U.S. use of military force. Similar footage from Baghdad, Najaf, Mosul, Basra etc., would be likely to have a similar effect. [UPDATE: This effect is likely to be even more concentrated now, since Iraq expelled two Al Jazeera journalists, causing the network to suspend its coverage from Hussein-controlled territory. This will cause a sharp drop in the broadcasting of incendiary images to the Arab street]

Of course the speed of the Iraqi army's collapse will hopefully render this a moot point. [Won't the Republican Guard prove to be excellent guerilla fighters?--ed. This piece suggests the answer is a strong "no." So, overall, you saying Wright is an idiotarian?--ed. No, that's the funny thing. I have the same reaction whenever I read a Wright piece -- this is a fundamentally smart guy who's just dead wrong in his conclusions].

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan comments on Wright's argument: "Bob's piece seems to be moving inexorably toward a von Hoffman award (not yet, but it's not looking good for the earthling U.N.-lover)."

posted by Dan at 01:22 PM | Trackbacks (0)

ADVANTAGE: CHAFETZ: Josh Chafetz has

ADVANTAGE: CHAFETZ: Josh Chafetz has the goods (and lots of relevant links) on Marc Herold's bogus methodology for counting Iraqi civilian deaths in Iraq.

posted by Dan at 11:26 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, April 2, 2003


OVERSELLING THE COALITION: I've noted previously that critics accusing the administration of unilateralism are exaggerating, since some important countries back our position in words and deeds. However, this Financial Times story hakes a good point about the Bush administration's exaggerations on the other side:

"Only six months after the US accused Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine's president, of approving the sale of high-tech radar systems to Iraq, Ukraine has joined the US-led coalition fighting to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime.

Although Ukraine says it opposes the military effort and is sending only "humanitarian aid", the US is hailing Ukraine's membership as a significant step towards mending relations.

The inclusion of an avowedly pacifist, allegedly embargo-busting country in the coalition shows how eager the US is to portray broad international support for the military campaign. A recent White House press release lists 48 coalition members, ranging from active combat participants to countries with less clear roles, such as Mongolia and Tonga.

Markian Lubkivsky, press service chief at Ukraine's foreign ministry, said his country's sole contribution was a hazardous chemicals clean-up unit stationed in Kuwait, which he said had a 'humanitarian' mission and would not enter Iraq.

'We can be regarded as a participant in the coalition only in that [humanitarian] sense,' he said at a press conference on Tuesday.

'Ukraine is exclusively for deciding any crisis situation by peaceful means.'

But US ambassador Carlos Pascual said his government regarded Ukraine as a backer of the war.

He said: 'In saying that they are ready to be considered as part of the coalition to disarm Iraq, we take that as support for our position.'"

posted by Dan at 03:35 PM | Trackbacks (0)


OH, YES, HE'S DEFINITELY AS POPULAR AS STALIN: From the New York Times account of the U.S. liberation of Najaf:

"The occupying forces, from the First and Second brigades of the 101st Airborne Division, entered from the south and north. They had seized the perimeter of town on Tuesday.

People rushed to greet them today, crying out repeatedly, 'Thank you, this is beautiful!'

Two questions dominated a crowd that gathered outside a former ammunition center for the Baath Party. 'Will you stay?' asked Kase, a civil engineer who would not give his last name. Another man, Heider, said, 'Can you tell me what time Saddam is finished?'"

It ends with this priceless anecdote:

"American troops found that the fleeing Baath Party and paramilitary forces had set up minefields on roads and bridges leading out of the city. Late today an American engineering team was clearing the third of such fields, this one with 30 mines, by detonating them with C4 explosives.

Lt. Col. Duke Deluca, noting that the mines had been made in Italy, said, 'Europeans are antiwar, but they are pro-commerce.'"

UPDATE: More confirming evidence of how residents of Najaf feel come from this Slate report of an Iraqi army defector in Kurdistan (link via Volokh):

"'How were people in Najaf two weeks ago? How did you discuss the coming war?' I asked.

'In Najaf people are only worried about how to get food, and if they will have enough food. They were worried how long the war would last and what would come after it. I only talked to my family. You can't talk about these things outside of your house. But in my family we were happy about the Americans coming. We knew war was coming and we talked about, insh'allah, getting rid of this government.'"

BLOGOSPHERE UPDATE: Ah, praise from Glenn Reynolds. However, I was remiss in not pointing out that I found this story via OxBlog. They are also on a roll (though I'm not sure about the nickname they gave me).

posted by Dan at 11:57 AM | Trackbacks (0)


FRENCH PRAISE FOR BLAIR AND CRITICISM OF CHIRAC--NO, REALLY: Jacques Delors, the former president of the European Commission, gave an exclusive interview to the Financial Times which was chock full of praise for Tony Blair and criticism of Jacques Chirac. First on Iraq:

"Jacques Delors, former president of the European Commission, has become one of the first senior French public figures to warn that President Jacques Chirac is leading France into a diplomatic cul-de-sac over Iraq.

'We cannot accept the Messianic vision of the Americans, but nor can we limit ourselves to simply opposing it,' he said in an interview with the Financial Times.

'My position is between the two, of course. We have to find the basis for an acceptable partnership between Europe and America.'

Mr Delors praised efforts by Tony Blair, the UK prime minister, to build a bridge between the Bush administration and continental European governments by pushing hard for UN supervision of the reconstruction of Iraq." (emphasis added)

Then there's Delors' take on the European Union's future:

"He believes the creation of a genuine common European foreign policy is unlikely for the foreseeable future and that defence co-operation will not work without Britain.

The 77-year-old Mr Delors, now running the Paris-based Notre Europe think-tank, also said the EU's flagship project of economic and monetary union was ''not working' because of the failure of governments to work together on fiscal policy'....

Mr Delors believes the Iraq crisis has highlighted the problems of forging a common EU foreign policy out of divergent national interests, warning that such a concept is a vain hope 'in the next 20 years'.

On Belgian proposals for a renewed push on EU defence co-operation, including France and Germany, Mr Delors was equally cautious.

'We need a period of calm before trying to build a common European defence policy,' he said.

He believes one way forward is for defence to be driven by 'reinforced co-operation' with some member states moving more quickly than others.

But he added: 'It is difficult to envisage this working without the participation of Great Britain. Frankly, it's unrealistic. It's almost a provocation.' (emphasis added)

Delors' critique of fiscal policy is an implicit shot at the Chirac government, which has declared it won't honor the Maastricht criteria.

Delors is a Socialist, so there's likely some partisanship behind the criticism. Still, this will, as the FT puts it, "stimulate more debate in France about how the post-colonial power can best exercise its influence."

posted by Dan at 11:34 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, April 1, 2003


MULTILATERALISM IN NORTH KOREA: One of the arguments promulgated against the war with Iraq was that it would encourage North Korea to proliferate nuclear weapons so as to avoid the same fate. IHowever, the evidence seems to suggest the opposite -- North Korea's position is softening due to multilateral pressure.

Want evidence that the Bush administration's strategy is succeeding in cajoling North Korea's neighbors into playing a constructive role in defusing the North Korea crisis? Consider the following:

This Financial Times piece does a nice job of describing the recent shuttle diplomacy over North Korea. The key grafs:

"Ra Jong-yil, South Korea's national security adviser, began on Monday a week of talks in Russia and China about the nuclear crisis hanging over the Korean peninsula.

Last week, Maurice Strong, a United Nations envoy, met North Korean officials in Pyongyang and Yoon Young-kwan, South Korea's foreign minister, visited Washington and Tokyo.

The flurry of diplomacy is designed to find a way to persuade North Korea to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons programme.

Mr Ra's optimism echoed upbeat comments by Mr Strong following his return from Pyongyang last week. The positive mood does not mean a breakthrough is imminent but diplomats detect signs that North Korea is softening its stance.

Many analysts had forecast that Pyongyang would use the war in Iraq as an opportunity to escalate the crisis, calculating that the US would be too preoccupied to respond.

However, diplomats in Seoul say there is no intelligence to suggest North Korea is preparing to start producing weapons-grade plutonium or to test a ballistic missile. Either Pyongyang has been delayed by technical difficulties or it has decided now is not the moment to play its strongest bargaining chips.

'They have encountered some technical problems,' said one diplomat. 'But I would like to think they are also listening to the Russians and Chinese and others, who are all saying: "Don't do it.'"'"

Then there's this story on how the Japanese government has decided to move towards the U.S. position on both Iraq and North Korea:

"Given North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons, Japan is acutely aware of its reliance on the U.S. security umbrella. The two countries signed a security treaty in 1960 that extends U.S. military protection in exchange for bases in Japan.

'The North Korean dictatorship poses a threat to the safety of Japan and thus a major concern this time,' Taro Yayoma, a columnist at conservative 'Sankei' daily newspaper, says, explaining why Japan's support for the U.S. war efforts are bigger this time around than in the 1991 Gulf War.

Indeed, the invasion of Iraq has turned into a hard lesson for Japan, a pacifist country that was also defeated under U.S. bombing that ended World War II, says Yukio Okamato, special advisor to the Cabinet. That is because Japan knows full well that Washington's backing would come in handy with regard to instability next door in North Korea, which has been at loggerheads with the United States after its admission of a secret nuclear prorgramme and Washington's labelling it as part of the 'axis of evil' that included Iraq.

'Tokyo has no other choice but to support the U.S. administration in this war,' explains Okamato."

And yes, the British are also being consulted.

posted by Dan at 02:52 PM | Trackbacks (0)

I'M PLAYING PEORIA: Blogging will

I'M PLAYING PEORIA: Blogging will be light for the next couple of days -- I'm headed to Bradley University in Peoria, IL for a forum entitled, "US Foreign Aid: Can it Work?"

The other participants are USAID bureaucrat based in Serbia and the head of the Libertarian Party of Illinois. I'll be playing the part of the sane, moderate voice of reason.

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

Memo to the antiwar movement

Dear protestors,

Hey, great job with the anti-war rallies. You're unquestionably a valid social movement that's tough to ignore -- especially when blocking traffic. However, the polls suggest you could be doing better.

I'm on the other side of the fence, and I've been critical of some of you lately, so I'll understand if you take my advice with a grain of salt. However, I believe there is a genuine debate to be had about the current war, posrtwar reconstruction, and the future of U.S. foreign policy. While I support Operation Iraqi Freedom, I'll admit to some Mickey Kaus-style qualms about the grand neocon strategy, so I'd like to see some vigorous opposing arguments to be made.

However, even if you can amass large numbers for street protests, it won't matter unless you have good arguments. And, to be blunt, some of your arguments are just God awful. Maybe they appeal to the anti-war base, but they'll turn off the rest of the country, which should be your target audience. So please jettison the following two arguments (I'll add more when I see them):

1) "Saddam is a creation of the United States". One of the mantras of the antiwar movement is that the U.S. armed and aided
Saddam Husssein
, and now we're reaping the whirlwind. It's basically an extension of the "we created bin Laden" argument.

It's certainly true that the U.S. was friendly to Iraq during its war with Iran in the 1980's. However, relative to other states, we were positively standoffish. This chart of arms sales to Iraq from 1973-1990 makes it clear Saddam Hussein is a creation of Russia, China, and France. Oh, and here are the approximate figures for Iraqi imports from the permanent Security Council members for 2001, under the auspices of the Oil-for-Food program:

France-- $650 million
China -- $225 million
Russia -- $220 million
U.K. -- $100 million
U.S.A. -- $50 million

This is just the official stuff -- it doesn't count illicit arms purchases or smuggling.

U.S. culpability pales in comparison to France, Russia, and China. Saddam is their creature, not ours. Don't try arguing otherwise.

2) "Bush is Hitler" Hyperbole like this is guaranteed to generate cheers from anti-war protestors, but it just convinces everyone else of that the anti-war movement is idiotarian and should therefore be ignored. [C'mon, how prevalent is this?--ed. Click here for one example. Last week, I heard the head of Chicago's anti-war group make this exact point -- as well as argue that the U.S. created Saddam]

If you want to be taken seriously, disavow the Hitler analogies. Claiming that dissent is being stifled and the government is acquiring dictatorial powers just makes you look like sore losers.

posted by Dan at 12:57 PM | Trackbacks (0)


"AND THE COMICS SHALL UNITE US": Pro-war or anti-war; dove, hawk or chicken hawk; Democrat or Republican.

It doesn't matter -- I think we can all agree this is both funny and spot-on.

UPDATE: This isn't CNN's only flaw. Virginia Postrel is absolutely correct in this criticism, which ties into my previous post on war and gender.

posted by Dan at 11:08 AM | Trackbacks (0)


BEST MONTH YET: The good news: According to Sitemeter, 60,000 unique visits, 70,000 page views for the month of March. And, I've now evolved to "Flighty Bird"!!

The bad news: As this graph shows, my average traffic may be increasing, but there's a lot of variance. If the pattern holds, I doubt I'll see as many hits this month.

posted by Dan at 10:31 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, March 31, 2003


AN HONEST BRIEFING: Time has an excellent account of one general's assessment of how the war is proceeding. Two paragraphs worth reviewing:

"The senior officer seemed to go a little bit off message on whether the U.S. needs Saddam dead or alive. (Briefers here have repeatedly said 'this isn’t about one man') He said, 'The average Iraqi only knows Saddam. He's survived everything. He's won the lottery every time. He's a huge symbol for these people. He's everything. Unless we take him out, the population can't be confident.'

According to the senior officer, an example of Saddam's desperation came today with the 3 rd ID at a bridge near Najaf when Republican Guard forces — he said he believed they were from the Nebuchadezzer Division — put women and children out in front of them and were shooting at U.S. forces from behind the cover of the civilians. When one woman tried to move aside, she was shot in the back and fell into the river (a U.S. solider apparently rescued her). 'The regime has inflicted more casualties on its own people in the last couple days than any errant bombs of ours.'" (emphasis added).

posted by Dan at 05:08 PM | Trackbacks (0)


MORE ON THE EU: In other news, I'm shocked -- shocked!! -- to discover that the European Union proving to be a major stmbling block in the latest round of WTO talks. According to the Financial Times:

"World Trade Organisation members on Monday expressed concern at the failure of farm trade negotiators to meet on Monday's deadline for setting guidelines for cuts in agricultural tariffs and subsidies.

Trade diplomats vowed to continue working for a deal, if possible before September's critical ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico, which is due to take stock of progress in the broader Doha global trade talks.

However, they acknowledged there could be adverse repercussions on other areas of the talks, calling into question the round's ambitious three-year timetable that envisages completion in December 2004.....

David Spencer, WTO ambassador for Australia, co-ordinator of the Cairns group of free-trading agricultural exporters, said: 'This is a serious setback. This inability to make progress will have implications for other areas of the negotiations and could constitute a serious setback for our objective of concluding the negotiations by 2005.'"

He singled out the EU and Japan for blame, saying their farm trade reform proposals fell far short of the objectives set for the talks at their launch in Doha in November 2001."

On the other hand, I must commend the European Union for adopting a more laissez-faire policy towards the airline sector than the United States. The FT again:

"Europe's aviation industry has been told not to expect generous hand-outs because of the war in Iraq, even though the US is considering a multi-billion-dollar package to help ailing airlines.

Ministers meeting in Brussels late last week backed the European Commission's drive to limit aid to the sector, despite an initiative by Greece, which holds the European Union presidency, to open the way for more generous loan guarantees....

The US Senate is contemplating a package of $1.5bn-$3bn to help its own industry. The Commission says this is 'regrettable', but argues the correct response is to create EU powers to levy penalties on 'unfair subsidies' elsewhere."

posted by Dan at 04:22 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Must read for today

Josh Marshall has a powerful essay in April's Washington Monthly critiquing the neoconservative strategy for the Middle East. Read the whole thing, but here's the "good parts" version:

In short, the administration is trying to roll the table--to use U.S. military force, or the threat of it, to reform or topple virtually every regime in the region, from foes like Syria to friends like Egypt, on the theory that it is the undemocratic nature of these regimes that ultimately breeds terrorism. So events that may seem negative--Hezbollah for the first time targeting American civilians; U.S. soldiers preparing for war with Syria--while unfortunate in themselves, are actually part of the hawks' broader agenda. Each crisis will draw U.S. forces further into the region and each countermove in turn will create problems that can only be fixed by still further American involvement, until democratic governments--or, failing that, U.S. troops--rule the entire Middle East.

There is a startling amount of deception in all this--of hawks deceiving the American people, and perhaps in some cases even themselves. While it's conceivable that bold American action could democratize the Middle East, so broad and radical an initiative could also bring chaos and bloodshed on a massive scale. That all too real possibility leads most establishment foreign policy hands, including many in the State Department, to view the Bush plan with alarm. Indeed, the hawks' record so far does not inspire confidence. Prior to the invasion, for instance, they predicted that if the United States simply announced its intention to act against Saddam regardless of how the United Nations voted, most of our allies, eager to be on our good side, would support us. Almost none did. Yet despite such grave miscalculations, the hawks push on with their sweeping new agenda....

Ending Saddam Hussein's regime and replacing it with something stable and democratic was always going to be a difficult task, even with the most able leadership and the broadest coalition. But doing it as the Bush administration now intends is something like going outside and giving a few good whacks to a hornets' nest because you want to get them out in the open and have it out with them once and for all. Ridding the world of Islamic terrorism by rooting out its ultimate sources--Muslim fundamentalism and the Arab world's endemic despotism, corruption, and poverty--might work. But the costs will be immense. Whether the danger is sufficient and the costs worth incurring would make for an interesting public debate. The problem is that once it's just us and the hornets, we really won't have any choice.

I've written elsewhere why democratizing Iraq might be easier than many believe, but I tend to agree with Marshall on the grand neocon vision. At a minimum, there should be a proper debate on the subject. However, Mickey Kaus is correct to point out that given how the war has played out to date, it's highly unlikely that the grand neocon strategy will be executed.

posted by Dan at 02:46 PM | Trackbacks (0)

How to make Michael Moore look subtle

There is a growing media flap over a Columbia University teach-in about the war in Iraq that took place last Wednesday. According to the Associated Press:

A Columbia University professor told an anti-war gathering that he would like to see 'a million Mogadishus' ?Ereferring to the 1993 ambush in Somalia that killed 18 American servicemen.

At Wednesday night's 'teach-in' on the Columbia campus, Nicholas De Genova also called for the defeat of U.S. forces in Iraq (news - web sites) and said, 'The only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military.' And he asserted that Americans who call themselves 'patriots' are white supremacists.

De Genova's comments about defeating the United States in Iraq were cheered by the crowd of 3,000, Newsday reported. But his mention of the Somali ambush -- 'I personally would like to see a million Mogadishus' -- was largely met with silence.

Needless to say, De Genova's apparent desire to see 18 million Americans and -- according to Marc Bowden -- more than a billion Somalis die horrible deaths has prompted something of a backlash in the Blogosphere and in media outlets. Today's Columbia Daily Spectator notes concerns among Columbia's anti-war movement that De Genova's comments will overshadow the more "mainstream" parts of the anti-war perspective:

[Columbia University undergraduate Leigh] Johnson worries about the damage done to the anti-war movement by the strong reaction against De Genova's remarks.

'I think we have to resist every attempt of pro-war and conservative reactionaries to turn what De Genova said into an indictment of the anti-war cause, and we have to instead shift the debate to his constitutional right to say those things,' Johnson said.

[Professor of Political Science Jean] Cohen had similar concerns. 'I don't think what he's said is some kind of formalistic liberal freedom of speech,' she said. 'This kind of thing is reprehensible. if he were paid by the [political] right to do this, it could not have been more effective.'

But De Genova has not been the only target of criticism. The teach-in's organizers, as well as some other faculty members and students, have also criticized media coverage of the controversy, calling it sensationalistic and one-sided. Poornima Paidipaty, a graduate student in anthropology, spoke for many of her colleagues in an e-mail distributed among graduate students this weekend.

'It is curious to me that only his speech was picked up by the press,' she wrote. 'Keep in mind that there were 30 some speakers, who covered various topics and political positions over the course of 6 hours. But somehow, the remaining remarks hardly raised an eyebrow.'

Cohen and Paidipaty are 100% correct, so let's take a good hard look at the other speakers' comments, culled from this Columbia Daily Spectator story on the event (There's also first-person accounts here, here, and here, but let's stick with the journalistic descriptions for this post). And let's make it clear at the outset that a) none of the other speakers endorsed anything remotely resembling De Genova's comments; b) several of them have forcefully condemned what De Genova said (as has Columbia's president); c) I fully support their right to say these things and condemn efforts to censor their comments, and d) journalists tend to quote the sensationalistic portions of the speech and ignore equivocations.

That said, I do think the other speakers' comments are worthy of raising an eyebrow. Some assorted quotations:

"This is an administration that mistakes coercive power for consent ... and is willing to flirt with a new form of colonialism,' [Professor of Political Science Ira] Katznelson said. [Visiting Associate Professor of Sociology Yehouda Shenhav compared the war to 'Israeli act of aggression in the West Bank,' citing them as 'acts of colonialism' led by 'crude military men.'"

"Bush and his administration also took personal blows. [Professor of English and Comparative Literature Bruce] Robbins called them 'shameless liars and hypocrites.'"

"'I would be careful in promising wrath, shocking and awesome, to those who dismiss and ignore legitimate election results,' Associate Professor of Anthropology Rosalind Morris told the absent Bush. 'People might take you seriously and respond.'"

"Robbins offered a different approach to coping with the current administration. 'Lately, I have taken to sitting around fantasizing about being liberated at any moment by the European invasion,' he said. 'I figure the Europeans will realize that I live under an unelected government that has no respect for the rule of law, and that nothing short of violence can lead to regime change. Maybe they'll call their operation 'American Freedom.'"

"[Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies Hamid] Dabashi was excited by the teach-in format. 'Because there are no answers to our questions about this war, we just get angrier and angrier," Dabashi said. "But this is where the blessed thing called 'teach-in' comes in handy. Tonight, we think for ourselves. Revenge of the nerdy 'A' students against the stupid 'C' students with their stupid fingers on the trigger."

By all means, read the entire article. Views like these should certainly be publicized beyond the ivory tower.

Back to DeGenova. Let's reprint his letter to the Columbia Daily Spectator editor in its entirety, so no one can accuse me of distorting his views:

To the Editor:
Spectator, now for the second time in less than a year, has succeeded to quote me in a remarkably decontextualized and inflammatory manner. In Margaret Hunt Gram's report on the faculty teach-in against the war in Iraq (March 27, 2003), I am quoted as wishing for a million Mogadishus but with no indication whatsoever of the perspective that framed that remark. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that your Staff Editorial in the same issue, denouncing the teach-in for 'dogmatism,' situates me in particular as the premier example of an academic 'launching tirades against anything and everything American.'

In my brief presentation, I outlined a long history of U.S. invasions, wars of conquest, military occupations, and colonization in order to establish that imperialism and white supremacy have been constitutive of U.S. nation-state formation and U.S. nationalism. In that context, I stressed the necessity of repudiating all forms of U.S. patriotism. I also emphasized that the disproportionate majority of U.S. troops come from racially subordinated and working-class backgrounds and are in the military largely as a consequence of a treacherous lack of prospects for a decent life. Nonetheless, I emphasized that U.S. troops are indeed confronted with a choice--to perpetrate this war against the Iraqi people or to refuse to fight and contribute toward the defeat of the U.S. war machine.

I also affirmed that Iraqi liberation can only be effected by the Iraqi people themselves, both by resisting and defeating the U.S. invasion as well as overthrowing a regime whose brutality was long sustained by none other than the U.S. Such an anti-colonial struggle for self-determination might involve a million Mogadishus now but would ultimately have to become something more like another Vietnam. Vietnam was a stunning defeat for U.S. imperialism; as such, it was also a victory for the cause of human self-determination.

Is this a tirade against 'anything and everything American'? Far from it. First, I hasten to remind you that 'American' refers to all of the Americas, not merely to the United States, as U.S. imperial chauvinism would have it. More importantly, my rejection of U.S. nationalism is an appeal to liberate our own political imaginations such that we might usher in a radically different world in which we will not remain the prisoners of U.S. global domination.

Nicholas De Genova
March 21, 2003
The author is an assistant professor of anthropology and latina/o studies

Well, I certainly feel better now that he's contextualized his comments.

UPDATE: Another student-run publication, the Columbia Political Review has its own blog -- the Filibuster -- with more on this issue. This post quotes one of the other speakers, historian Alan Brinkley, on De Genova: "Abhorrent, immoral, a disgrace to intellectual life and to the University."

A first-hand source for all of the speakers' comments, including the repudiations of De Genova's commments, comes from Timothy Waligore at this group blog (for specific posts, go here, here, and here)

posted by Dan at 10:30 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, March 30, 2003


WAS I WRONG ABOUT CANADA?: Last week I blasted the Bush administration (click here as well) for rhetorically bashing Canadians and intimating possible economic repercussions for their lack of support in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I thought that the economic threat went overboard and that the public hectoring was inappropriate.

This Globe and Mail poll strongly suggests I might have been wrong:

"Support for Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's handling of the Iraq war plunged in the past week, with opinion split virtually evenly outside Quebec, where antiwar sentiment is strongest, a new Globe and Mail/CTV poll suggests....

The poll found Canadians are sensitive to his {U.S. ambassador Paul Cellucci's] argument that Canada has turned its back on its closest friend at a time of need.

Approximately 47 per cent of respondents agreed Canada 'turned our back' on the Americans, while 51 per cent disagreed. In Quebec, only 36 per cent agreed that the decision amounted to a failure to support the U.S. at its time of need, while 51 per cent of those in other provinces agreed....

Canadians are clearly worried about the economic fallout of Mr. Chrétien's decision, despite assurances from the government that there will be none. About 61 per cent of respondents agreed that the decision will have 'serious, negative economic consequences.' Even in Quebec, where antiwar sentiment dominates, half the respondents expect to pay a price for their stand."

Was I completely wrong? No, the story makes clear that the majority of Canadians still oppose the war; this has more to do with the long tradition of Canadian-American comity. It's also unclear if Cellucci's speech had anything to do with the shift in public opinion. That said, Cellucci's speech clearly did not cause public opinion to swing in a more hostile direction.

Hmmm... I may have to consider another self-imposed punishment.

posted by Dan at 11:56 PM | Trackbacks (0)


DREZNER GETS RESULTS ON NORTH KOREA!!: Back in January, I argued that the optimal strategy to deal with North Korea was to, "intimate to the key players the implications of DPRK proliferation (neither Russia nor China would be thrilled with the proliferation of nuclear weapons to Muslim-majority countries) and/or U.S. disengagement, and then combine some U.S. assurances of North Korean security with Chinese/Russian pressure on Pyongyang to behave better." The key to U.S. diplomacy here was to prevent North Korea's neighbors from buckpassing.

It looks increasingly like the U.S. is playing according to this script. First, there's this Jonathan Rauch story in Reason from two weeks ago that describes the U.S. strategy of ensuring that other countries in the region face up to the problem as well. Then there's today's story in the Baltimore Sun (link via Glenn Reynolds):

"For three straight days in recent weeks, something remarkable happened to the oil pipeline running through northeast China to North Korea - the oil stopped flowing, according to diplomatic sources, temporarily cutting off a vital lifeline for North Korea.
The pipeline shutdown, officially ascribed to a technical problem, followed an unusually blunt message delivered by China to its longtime ally in a high-level meeting in Beijing last month, the sources said. Stop your provocations about the possible development of nuclear weapons, China warned its neighbor, or face Chinese support for economic sanctions against the regime.

Such tough tactics show an unexpected resolve in Beijing's policy toward Pyongyang, and hint at the nervousness of Chinese leaders about North Korea's nuclear ambitions and North Korea's tensions with the United States.

With the Bush administration asking China to take a more active role, Beijing's application of pressure could convince North Korea to drop its demands for talks exclusively with the United States - a demand that Washington rejects."

UPDATE: Reuters also has the story.

posted by Dan at 11:35 PM | Trackbacks (0)


THE STALIN ANALOGY: For a founding member of the Idiotarian society who writes nothing but dull apologias for those who hate the United States, Robert Fisk nevertheless has the ability to provoke.

His latest essay explicitly compares Saddam to Stalin and implicitly concludes that Operation Iraqi Freedom will turn out like Operation Barbarossa. This prompted a denunciation from David Adesnik (although Adesnik really fisks Fisk here). Which prompted rebuttals from Kevin Drum and Kieran Healy, two people who are neither idiotarians nor anti-American [That's a ringing endorsement--ed. Kevin and Kieran are both very smart. Their blogs are the feel-good hits of the year!!]. Kieran starts by citing my post on de-Baathification and then makes the following point:

"[N]ever mind about Fisk’s credibility. The real point is that the Baath party is very large, basically Stalinist in organization and has successfully held power for a long time. You don’t get to do that by populating the party apparatus with idiots. Instead, you populate it with thugs. Beyond that, the thugs are organized in a manner designed to maintain a tight grip on power.

Three consequences suggest themselves. First, in the short term, Saddam’s resistance is probably going to be much tougher than the U.S. has been hoping. Second, in the medium term, the backlash after his inevitable defeat could be horrible. Third, in the long term, Iraqi society is probably going to be living with the legacy of the Baath party for generations."

So why am I bringing all of this up? To rebut Kieran's second and third predicted consequences (I agree with his first one). It rests on whether post-Saddam Iraq will be like post-communist Russia. The answer to that is no, for three reasons:

1) The Baathists have been in power for less time. No one in Russia had a political memory of life before the communists. This is not true in Iraq. If you accept that parallel between the Baathists and Communists, the better comparison is between Iraq and the Eastern European states. The good news here is that the communist parties in those states have successfully morphed into Western-leaning parties of the left.

2) Saddam is no Stalin. Saddam Hussein might aspire to be Stalin, but so far he's failed miserably at the task. Stalin was a ruthless dictator, but he also managed to industrialize Russia and defeat Hitler's invasion of Russia. It was these achievements upon which his legacy was built.

Hussein has seen his country's per capita drop 75 percent over the last 25 years. Militarily, he scratched out a draw against Iran and then soundly lost the first Gulf War. And even the most pessimistic experts believe that the U.S. is going to win this war. Saddam's successors have no legacy of success upon which to build. Iraq's decline has lasted a quarter-century, with the effects particularly concentrated over the past 12 years. And Saddam has been in charge the whole time.

A smart Baathist would blame all of this on the American embargo, and that might succeed in defusing some of the blame. However, this same Baathist would be hard-pressed to say how Saddam either boosted the Iraqi standard of living or made Iraqis proud of their country.

3) There are no loyal Kurds or Shia. When Hitler invaded Russia, Ukrainians joined the German Army in droves despite Hitler's avowed racism against Slavs. They did this in part because they loathed Stalin for starving them during the 1930's. The one way in which Saddam is like Stalin has been his treatment of the Kurds and the Shia. They'll be glad to see the back of Saddam, and they'll also be glad to turn in his Baathist co-conspirators.

In short, Saddam may aspire to be Stalin, but post-Baathist Iraq will not be like post-communist Russia.

posted by Dan at 09:30 PM | Trackbacks (0)

GENDER AND WAR: Margaret Talbot's

GENDER AND WAR: Margaret Talbot's essay in today's New York Times Magazine points out that although more women in the United States oppose the war than men, the difference is hardly overwhelming. She goes on to raise a provocative point about the feminist basis for opposition to war:

"[I]f it isn't particularly surprising that women as a group are more skeptical about the war than men, it is surprising how little the arguments of women who oppose the war as women -- rather than, say, as citizens -- have changed over the years and how ill adapted they are to an era in which female soldiers make up a substantial minority of the fighting force in Iraq. Twelve years ago, 40,000 women went to the gulf, and as anyone watching this war on TV can see, there are many more there this time. Yet women's opposition to the war is still framed much as it has always been: women are antiwar naturals because it is men who do the fighting or because, as the 19th-century feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton put it, war could never have 'emanated from the mother soul.' And the gender gap still gets more attention than do other, potentially more interesting, divisions over the war, like the generational gap some pollsters have noted. (Older adults are more likely to oppose the war in Iraq than younger ones.)....

There are plenty of reasons to be against this war, but in America today, few of those reasons have much to do with gender. We hold onto the notion that women are peculiarly adapted for the antiwar camp because it has the attractions of all cliches -- it's homey, it's simple, it contains a kernel of truth. Tapping into the frustrations of women -- with men, with their own lives -- is a way of reaching out to more people than might be attracted by a less encumbered, more policy-oriented antiwar message. And it's easier to cite women's maternal morality and Cassandra-like vision than to make hard arguments about this war in particular as opposed to war in general. But clinging to the notion of women as the world's peacemakers means lauding instinct, not thought. And it comes dangerously close to the idea that women cannot choose between just and unjust wars, nor disagree with one another on which is which."

Read the whole piece, but I have two comments. First, the generation gap might be more interesting than the gender gap, but it's much less interesting than the ethnic gap in American public opinion. While 72% of all Americans support the war with Iraq, 66% of African Americans oppose the war (OxBlog has more on the latest polls). Why is this? It may be a function of the fact that Democrats and Republicans are split over the war, and most African-Americans are Democrats. But I strongly suspect there's something else going on here, something worth investigating further.

Second, one possible explanation for why anti-war opposition may still be associated with the female gender is that organized opposition to government action requires a great deal of social capital, and women are better at organizing grass-roots elements of civil society than men. To quote Robert Putnam from Bowling Alone (p. 195): "women have traditionally invested more time than men in social connectedness. Although men belong to more organizations, women spend more time in them. Women also spend more time than men in informal conversation and other forms of schmoozing, and they participate more in religious activities." A few pages later he concludes, "Whether working full-time, part-time, or not at all outside the home, and whether by choice or necessity, women invest more time in associational life than the average man." (emphasis added)

[Cue closing music--ed.] If you'd like to know more about war and gender, consult your local library, and ask them to order Joshua Goldtein's War and Gender, which is the book to read on this topic.

posted by Dan at 05:27 PM | Trackbacks (0)


ONE DOWN, ONE TO GO: As loyal readers may recall, the U.S. had two enemies in Iraq -- Saddam Hussein's regime, and Ansar al-Islam, a militant Islamic group with links to Al Qaeda based in Northern Iraq between Hussein's forces and the secular Kurdish parties. The good news is that Operation Iraqi Freedom appears to have succeeded in destroying Ansar al-Islam. Don't trust me, trust the ordinarily pessimistic New York Times:

"An American-coordinated ground offensive against the group continued today with intensive fighting in small pockets in the mountains, but officials said the military battle against Ansar al-Islam was nearly over.

It began with cruise missile strikes a week ago and escalated on Friday when about 100 United States Special Forces soldiers and 10,000 local Kurdish fighters seized a network of villages from Ansar and drove the militants from their bases to nearby caves and mountains.

The United States contends that Ansar is a terrorist group that links Al Qaeda and Baghdad, and cited the group's operations in the largely autonomous Kurdish zone of northern Iraq as one of the justifications for the war against Saddam Hussein.

The Kurds said at least 176 Ansar fighters had died. About 150 more were said to have surrendered to the Iranian authorities at the border. Pockets of resistance in the mountains could be heard returning fire, but Kurdish military officers said the outcome seemed certain.....

Ansar and its 650 or so fighters had been feared in northern Iraq since 2001, when they ambushed a column of Kurdish fighters near here. It has since deployed assassins and suicide bombers, and succeeded in infantry raids against the secular Kurdish authorities, whom it rejects as infidel rulers.

But today Ansar seemed on the verge of military insignificance. 'We are very excited,' said Dr. Barham Salih, the Kurdish region's prime minister. 'It will be over before too long.'"

UPDATE: Here are the Washington Post , Guardian, and Associated Press versions of the same story.

posted by Dan at 05:07 PM | Trackbacks (0)

War vs. containment

One of the reasons I support forcible regime change in Iraq is because I thought war was the best choice from a menu of bad options. To evaluate the merits of any decision, the costs and benefits must be weighed against the feasible set of alternatives [Why stress "feasible"?--ed. Because many (but not all) antiwar protestors tend to present alternative policy options, like the complete withdrawal of any U.S. presence from the Middle East, that could only have been dreamed up in Fantasyland]. Whatever misgivings I may have about the use of force, they pale besides the doubts raised by the material, political and moral costs of the next-best option -- containment.

To understand this, take a look at a short paper by Steven J. Davis, Kevin M. Murphy and Robert H. Topel, all affiliated with the University of Chicago's School of Business. They argue that the costs of containment -- measured in dollars and lives -- far outweigh the costs of war. (Link via William Sjostrom). Their key finding:

[W]ar and forcible regime change raise Iraqi welfare by 50 percent compared to containment – an enormous gain. At first,
it may seem surprising that war can lead to a huge improvement in human welfare. But, in fact, this conclusion is hard to escape so long as regime change even partly undoes the collapse in living standards under Saddam.

Their basic analysis is pretty solid. The authors start to stretch things a bit by factoring in the expected value from the "probability of a terrorist attack of the same magnitude as 9/11 by 5 percent per year" due to Iraq's continued development of weapons of mass destruction. Factoring in such a probability is acceptable, but the authors don't factor in the increased short-term probability that a war with Iraq will inspire other terrorist groups to strike at the United States. Still, this weakness does not fundamentally undercut their argument.

posted by Dan at 05:01 PM | Trackbacks (0)