Friday, April 11, 2003
Does victory in Iraq defeat the anti-war arguments?
Michael Kinsley's latest Slate essay strikes back at a lot of the pro-war commetariat -- including key players in the Blogosphere -- that are having a good time gloating at the expense of anti-war pundits. The subtitle of the piece -- "Victory in the war is not victory in the argument about the war." -- nicely sums up the argument.
Is Kinsley correct? Yes and no. He's correct that many of the anti-war arguments had to do with issues beyond the question of how the war would play itself out. The realist argument against the war was that Saddam could be deterred without the use of force. That counterfactual will be tough to check either way. The liberal argument against the war was that the costs of frayed multilateral institutions and estranged allies outweighed the benefits of regime change. We're about to find out whether that's true. The pragmatic argument against the war was that when you prioritize the threats against the United States, other menaces -- Al Qaeda, North Korea -- are more important than Iraq. Again, we're about to see whether the nine months devoted to Iraq will cost us in these areas of concern.
However, Kinsley is also being more than a bit disingenuous. All of these arguments are decision-theoretic -- they weigh the costs and benefits of different strategies. And what all of the anti-war arguments have in common is that their estimates of the costs were vastly inflated. Consider:
1) The human costs of war. Many antiwar advocates argued that Operation Iraqi Freedom would lead to a humanitarian disaster. This antiwar site has the following two paragraphs:
The website's source for these numbers was this document, which contained this additional warning: "The UN estimates that 2 million persons will be internally displaced, including 900,000 seeking refuge in neighboring countries." (All of these figures, by the way, come from this leaked UN document).
It would be safe to describe all of these projections to be way off. Iraq Body Count -- which we would expect to overestimate the loss of life -- currently has a maximum of 1,413 deaths. Each one of those is tragic, but it's less than one percent of what was projected. The UN also states that there have been no refugee flows.
One of Kinsley's questions is: "What will toppling Saddam ultimately cost in dollars and in lives (American, Iraqi, others)?" The answer is: a hell of a lot less than you or most other antiwar critics believed.
Given that the war will likely be completely over in 60 days (the upper limit of Nordhaus' “best-case” scenario); the northern and southern oil fields were captured without significant damage [UPDATE: the last oil fire has now been extinguished]; oil markets have been unruffled; and none of the worst-case scenarios have come to pass, it would be safe to say that the dice came up favorably. However, both press reports and antiwar activists played up the potential trillions in economic costs.
As Nordhaus put it, "the record is littered with failed forecasts about the economic, political, and military outcomes of wars."
3) Regional fallout and "worst-case scenarios". The reaction of the "Arab street" was greatly feared during the build-up to war. Fragile regimes in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc., were projected to fall because of outrage over an American invasion of Iraq. Clearly, this hasn't happened. As one Arab journalist notes in the Washington Post:
(To be fair, this Washington Post update of Pakistan isn't brimming with optimism either.)
Here's what else hasn't happened: Israel wasn't attacked with weapons of mass destruction. Coalition forces weren't attacked with weapons of mass destruction. Turkey wasn't compelled to wipe out the Kurds. Al Qaeda hasn't attacked the United States.
United Nations officials, respected mainstream economists, Washington think tanks -- I'm not citing the fringe anti-war people here. All of these well-reasoned arguments were made in opposition to the war. And they were wrong.
To repeat, not all of Kinsley's or others' objections to the war were based on the immediate costs of the conflict. But a lot of the objections were based on comparing the costs of war to the other alternatives. And the antiwar estimates of the costs were -- just to repeat -- wrong.
THE LIMITS OF ANTI-AMERICANISM, CONT'D:
THE LIMITS OF ANTI-AMERICANISM, CONT'D: I didn't mention Asia in my New Republic online essay on the limits of Anti-Americanism, but this New York Times story on media coverage/commentary of the war in Pacific Rim countries with significant Muslim populations suggests that there is not much anti_americanism to dissipate. Some key grafs:
"The press in Islamic Indonesia and Malaysia has been almost uniformly critical and often derisive about the war. The tone has been the same in the Philippines, a Roman Catholic nation with close American ties and a significant Muslim minority.
But the opposition has had a half-hearted, been-there ring to it, lacking the intensity and the calls for jihad that accompanied America's attack on Afghanistan more than a year ago and that still run through the Arab media in the Middle East....
'Even in so-called Islamic media, the tendency has largely been toward not portraying this war as a religious one,' said Atmakusumah Astraatmadja, chairman of Indonesia's independent Press Council. "Iraqis have been fleeing to Indonesia for years, and refugees usually flee countries with oppressive policies."
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said, are 'related to the survival of Americans decades ahead, while we can only think of planning for tomorrow.' He added: 'I don't quite like the arguments, but they have their own reasons, not just to hit at suggested terrorists.'....
Public protests have been carefully appropriated by the Malaysian government for maximum political gain as it looks toward parliamentary elections in the coming year. The point is made repeatedly that the criticisms are antiwar rather than anti-American."
The challenge to peaceniks
One of the reasons I supported going to war with Iraq was my confirmed belief that it would, in the long run, spare more lives than it would extinguish. I blogged about this point here, here, and here.
Now that Baghdad has fallen, here’s my question to peaceniks: Are you against killing, or are you against war? Because what happened in Iraq suggests you may have to choose....
Simply put, the number of innocent people who are dead because we ousted Saddam is dwarfed by the number of innocent people who are dead because we didn’t. The use of American force is on one side of the ledger, and mass killing is on the other. Trends in military and media technology make this dilemma increasingly likely where belligerent murderers rule. You can keep your hands clean, or you can keep many more people alive. It’s up to you.
My suspicion is that most of the committed anti-war types loath American power so much that they'll choose to keep their hands clean.
I will beg to differ.
MAYBE TOM BROKAW HAD A
MAYBE TOM BROKAW HAD A POINT: Remember the late nineties, when Tom Brokaw wrote The Greatest Generation and men of all agies were weeping over Saving Private Ryan? I loved the movie, appreciated that the W.W. II generation was receiving its due, but then my own generational pride kicked in and suspected that it was all perhaps overblown.
"Don't get me wrong, I was very, very pleased. (I'm not one of those lemon-faced NPR liberals wringing their hands over the uncertainty of the weeks and years to come.) That misses the point. We won. We did it in high style, with a minimum of civilian casualties. Yes, we committed one gaffe: That soldier putting the American flag over the face of the statue of Saddam, which I guess is our atrocity for the war." (emphasis added)
Steinberg is paid for his lexicographical skills, so I think it's worth questioning his use of "atrocity." Filling a children's prison is an atrocity. Forcing pregnant women to be suicide bombers is an atrocity. Gassing your own population is an atrocity. I'm going to go out on a limb and describe this phrasing as "unbelievably offensive."
Later on, there's this:
"So I was happy at the moment of apparent victory, but... it was a weary kind of happiness. All war, all the time starts to grate on you. It gets repetitive. I don't know how our parents got through nearly four years of World War II, because after three weeks of war, I'm ready to move on. I mean, there must be other news happening in the world, right, news we don't learn about because the war sucks up all the available attention. How could it not?"
OK... someone needs to turn off their cable TV, get off their couch and actually search for what else has been going on. I've heard about this neat invention called the Internet that might be useful for this sort of activity.
As for the war being grating after three weeks, I know what he means. After reading Steinberg's column for three minutes, I wanted to move on.
Finally, there's this:
"Perhaps, to be honest, I'm also a little leery about all this mock excitement over our liberating the Iraqis. Again, hooray for Iraqis living in freedom, but I'm not such a hypocrite as to claim to care. Do you? That's funny, you didn't care when they were living under the boot of Saddam since the Carter administration. It seems odd to care now, a feigned, passing interest. Have you checked in on the Afghans lately to see how they're doing since we freed them? Me neither."
I don't think I'm going to be checking in on Steinberg's column anytime soon.
Need some laughs?
And Josh Chafetz links to this site devoted to the Iraqi Information Minister (anyone know where he is?). My favorite part of the site is this page devoted to what the Minister would say at some of the famous battles in history -- including one in a galaxy far, far away...
Thursday, April 10, 2003
The latest Hoffies
Andrew Sullivan had clearly been saving up commentary predicting quagmire and failure in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now, in his own "shock and awe" campaign, Sullivan unleashes a barrage of quotations filled with wrong-headed analysis. Click here and here to see his Von Hoffman nominees.
I think they should be relabeled the "Hoffies" so that it ends with an long "e" sound like other awards.
PROGRESS ON THE HUMANITARIAN FRONT:
PROGRESS ON THE HUMANITARIAN FRONT: As I said before, military victories in Iraq must be followed up with humanitarian victories. Umm Qasr, because it was liberated first and should therefore have the fewest security problems, is the harbinger for how things will proceed in the rest of Iraq.
In the 48 hours since I've blogged about it, how are things going? Actually, they're improving. Reuters reports that Umm Qasr is now open to merchant ships.
This Boston Globe story makes it very clear that CentCom knows perfectly well that they need to rebuild the infrastructure in the town. Some excerpts:
"The Seabees, as soldiers from the 1st Naval Construction Division are known, came to Umm Qasr to help make the port usable. They have now moved on to some goodwill projects, designed to improve quality of life in small but important ways in this, the US-led coalition's most secure nook in Iraq.
So far, the results are... successful up to a point, yet marked by difficulties...
During the Sunday visit, some of the locals complained adamantly that Umm Qasr's medical clinic lacked doctors, apparently because Ba'ath party-affiliated personnel had fled the town. But they thanked the Seabees for providing the children, many of whom were barefoot, with a place to play.
'All of these people in Iraq port Umm Qasr thank the soldier America and British,' 40-year-old Ibrahim Salman said in English. 'This is very, very good.'"
Buried in this CNN report about aid groups complaining about chaos in Baghdad is this Don Rumsfeld quote:
"'With the humanitarian aid now entering the country, he [Rumsfeld] said, 'that doesn't mean that the situation's worse -- that means it's better, and it is better.'
As an example, Rumsfeld cited the southern port city of Umm Qasr, which he said is beginning to flourish because of aid and border activity.
'Water supply is above prewar levels, a combination of U.K. pipeline and trucking,' he said. 'Electricity has been restored by U.K. engineers, sufficient food is readily available, medical facilities are sufficient and operating, UNICEF is providing supplies.
The port's cleared of mines and opened to limited operations, the channel needs dredging, [the] railway station is cleared by explosive ordnance detachment, [the] rail line is intact from there to Nasiriya, and they intend to open a line within seven days, which will allow movement of bulk water up the Euphrates Valley.'
Rumsfeld said he could give examples of similar progress in Basra and Nasiriya."
For those readers inclined to doubt Rumsfeld, this UN report on the humanitarian situation in Umm Qasr supports many of Rumsfeld's assertions. The opening graf:
"The first humanitarian assessment missions conducted jointly by UN agencies in the port of Umm Qasr in southern Iraq have identified a lack of clean drinking water as a matter of primary concern - a problem that predates the war, when the town’s needs were met by water tankers, IRIN learnt on Wednesday." (emphasis added)
Read the entire report. Umm Qasr is hardly a bed of roses. However, things are improving. For more news on the humanitarian situation in Iraq, click here.
DREZNER GETS RESULTS FROM THE
DREZNER GETS RESULTS FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES!: Last Thursday, I posted the following:
"LEARNING TO ADAPT: A big meme last week was that the Iraqi's unconventional tactics surprised Rumsfeld et al ....
My guess is that next week's meme will be about how coalition forces are adapting to these adaptations."
The following are excerpts from today's Military Analysis column by Michael Gordon in the New York Times:
"If there is a single reason for the allied success in toppling Saddam Hussein's government, it is the flexibility the American military demonstrated in carrying out its campaign.
From the very start the American military had to adapt to fickle allies, changes ordered by superiors in Washington and new tactics by their foe.....
Some changes were forced by the Iraqis. The Iraqis caught American intelligence by surprise when they stationed paramilitary units in Iraq's southern cities. That move was intended to help the government quash any possible rebellions and to put the paramilitary fighters in position to mount ambushes on allied supply lines.
Faced with such attacks, allied commanders changed their tactics as well. When the war started, the allies had planned to bypass Najaf, Nasiriya and Basra and other southern cities. The British were to guard the right flank while the Army and Marines rushed to Baghdad.
But when the paramilitary forces struck, the allied conventional and Special Operations forces began to fight in Iraq's southern cities.....
As they neared Baghdad, the American forces adapted their tactics. Their initial plan called for patiently gathering intelligence and carrying out probes before conducting raids in the city.
American commanders, however, concluded that the Iraqi command and control was weakening and pressed their advantage. After conducting a raid, the Army moved an entire armored brigade into central Baghdad. It stayed the night and Army and Marine columns soon joined the brigade in the city."
Wednesday, April 9, 2003
A SOCIOLOGIST IS MORE LOGICAL
A SOCIOLOGIST IS MORE LOGICAL THAN A POLITICAL SCIENTIST? INCONCEIVABLE!!: Via Kieran Healy, I found and took the Battleground God test. I did this with some hesitation, since it's been some time since I've pondered my ontological givens where religion is concerned.
The good news: this was my result:
You have been awarded the TPM medal of distinction! This is our second highest award for outstanding service on the intellectual battleground.
The fact that you progressed through this activity being hit only once and biting no bullets suggests that your beliefs about God are well thought out and almost entirely internally consistent."
The bad news: The medal of distinction is not as grand as it sounds -- "46.88% of the people who have completed this activity, like you, took very little damage and were awarded the TPM Medal of Distinction." More importantly, Kieran beat me on the logic score (I flamed out on the last question).
Beaten by a sociologist!! I'm going to need some time to adjust. [Er, what's the big deal?--ed. Among the social sciences, there is a little-discussed but ever-present prestige hierarchy that gives disciplines resembling the natural or physical sciences greater status than those disciplines that more resemble the humanities. Political science usually does better than sociology on that scale. I'm not saying it's logical; it's just the way things are. So sociology is at the bottom of the barrel?--ed. Heavens, no -- that would be anthropology.]
Oh, well -- maybe an economist like Brad DeLong will do even worse.
Kieran responds on the question of the social sciences.
When fantasy meets reality
WHEN FANTASY MEETS REALITY: This San Francisco Chronicle account of the celebration in downtown Baghdad contains the following amusing anecdote:
I swear, you can't make this s#$& up.
UPDATE: Josh Chafetz e-mails that Donald Sensing has pictures of the banner (scroll down a bit)
MEANWHILE, IN PALO ALTO...: I'm
MEANWHILE, IN PALO ALTO...: I'm just going to reprint this Reuters story (which CNN is also running) on the recent machinations of the Palo Alto City Council in its entirety and let everyone have a good laugh:
"In a bid to improve civility in the town's public discourse, a committee on the city council has spent hours debating guidelines for its own behavior.
'Do not use body language or other nonverbal methods of expression, disagreement or disgust,' a new list of proposed conduct rules reads.
Another rule calls for council members to address each other with titles followed by last names, a formality not always practiced in laid-back California.
'I don't want to muzzle my colleagues,' councilwoman Judy Kleinberg, who headed the committee that drafted the rules, told the San Jose Mercury News. But, she added: 'I don't think the people sitting around the cabinet with the president roll their eyes.'"
[Are you painting a fair portrait here?--ed. OK, for more context -- which does suggest that perhaps Reuters is overhyping the story -- here's a Palo Alto Weekly recap on the origins of this proposal. Was that an eye roll? C'mon, I saw that!!--ed. Too bad we moved away from Palo Alto in 1996]
CELEBRATION ROUNDUP: OK, time to
CELEBRATION ROUNDUP: OK, time to relay the really good news. The New York Times on the fall of Baghdad:
"Residents swarmed out onto the streets today, suddenly sensing that the regime of Saddam Hussein was crumbling, and celebrating the arrival of United States forces.
Throngs of men milled about, looting, blaring horns, dancing and tearing up pictures of Saddam Hussein. Baath party offices were trashed.
Occasional sniper fire continued, but Iraqi resistance largely faded away."
The Washington Post:
"Saddam Hussein's rule over the capital has ended, U.S. commanders declared Wednesday, and jubilant crowds swarmed into the streets here, dancing, looting and defacing images of the Iraqi leader. A Marine tank toppled a giant statue of Saddam in a sweeping, symbolic gesture.
In the most visible sign of Saddam's evaporating power, the 40-foot statue of the Iraqi president was brought down in the middle of Firdos Square. Cheering Iraqis, some waving the national flag, scaled the statue and danced upon the downed icon, now lying face down. As it fell, some threw shoes and slippers at the statue - a gross insult in the Arab world.
The scene was telecast worldwide by CNN and others.
'I'm 49, but I never lived a single day,' said Yusuf Abed Kazim, a Baghdad imam who pounded the statue's pedestal with a sledgehammer. 'Only now will I start living. That Saddam Hussein is a murderer and a criminal.'
Others marked the regime's dissolution more passively, picking flowers from a nearby garden and handing them to Marines. While the capital was celebrating, the fate of Saddam and his sons remained unknown, two days after they were targeted by four 2,000-pound U.S. bombs in Baghdad."
The Christian Science Monitor (with a classic understatement from a U.S.general):
"The battle for Iraq's capital is quickly turning into a rout.
'The capital city is now one of those areas that has been added to the list of where the regime does not have control,' Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said this morning at the daily Central Command briefing in Qatar.
Shiite residents of the Saddam City neighborhood, long shunted aside by the Hussein regime, danced in the streets and looted property. In scenes reminiscent of Eastern Europe after the Berlin Wall fell, Baghdad residents used ropes and a sledgehammer in an attempt to pull down a statue of Hussein in Firdos Square."
The Financial Times:
"Crowds of Baghdad residents took to the streets of the Iraqi capital on Wednesday, destroying and looting symbols of Saddam Hussein's regime after organised resistance to the arrival of US forces in the Iraqi capital evaporated.
In the city's Firdos square, a large crowd watched and cheered as US troops pulled down a monumental statue of the overthrown Iraqi leader, stamping on the bronze figure after it fell to the ground and then dragging its head through the streets.
Elsewhere, crowds looted government and other official buildings, seizing vehicles and dragging off computers, generators and other equipment.
Correspondents for the Reuters news agency in the city reported hundreds of people gathering on street corners, chanting 'Bush, Bush'."
The FT has some great pictures, too.
The Guardian reports that celebrations are not just limited to Baghdad:
"TV pictures showed Iraqis welcoming US forces, and there were also reports of Iraqis celebrating in Kurdish areas of northern Iraq.
These included the city of Irbil, 220 miles north of Baghdad, and the Guardian's Luke Harding, in Sulaimaniya, also witnessed scenes of jubilation.
'Everybody has poured out onto the street and there are scenes of total chaos and sheer, sheer delight,' he said.
'Thousands of people are in the streets celebrating. They believe Iraq is liberated. They believe that Saddam Hussein is finished.'"
The great thing is that these images are being shown on a fair number of Arab television networks -- though not on state-run TV. The Arab media reaction is mixed -- the BBC report makes it clear that some of the Arab networks are acknowledging that Iraqis are happy to be free of Saddam. On the other hand, this Washington Post roundup highlights a lot of press coberage that is either delusional or defeatist. The Reuters story splits the difference.
DREZNER GETS RESULTS FROM TOM
Andrew Sullivan thinks Friedman -- and by extension, yours truly -- are being too self-critical. Perhaps. I'm just keeping my eyes on the bigger prize -- winning the postwar game as well as the war.
I promise to be celebratory in my next post.
UPDATE: Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi is also upset at the slow pace of humanitarian efforts in Southern Iraq:
"While Chalabi offered gratitude to the coalition for Iraq's liberation, he also expressed irritation that the coalition has not provided more assistance in cities such as Nasiriya and Basra.
As long as humanitarian and infrastructure problems in the country persist, Chalabi said, the country will remain unstable, despite the coalition's military progress. Referring to Iraqi's ruling Baath Party, he called for 'de-Baathification' of the country.
'There will be no absolute security with the current situation. The U.S. troops have defeated Saddam militarily. That was never a problem. The issue is the Baath party and the remnants of the Baath party who will continue to pose a threat.'
He asked why coalition officials are in Kuwait when the southern region is in 'great need of assistance.'
'This is true all over the south,' he said.
'It's very important to be in the southern part of Iraq,' he said, because people have become 'dispossessed' and the citizenry needs to be 'empowered.'
'They must feel they are part of the political process,' he said."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW
For examples of the argument I'm trying to rebut, here's an article making the general claim that the war will cause Anti-Americanism to increase in Europe. Within the confines of the New Republic, Peter Beinart makes a similar point (subscription required).
This article by Marc J. Hetherington and Michael Nelson in PS: Political Science and Politics does a nice job of describing the "rally-round-the-flag" effect. This graph does an even better job of demonstrating the short-term bump in public support that occurs during international crises.
On the current "rally-round-the-flag" effect in coalition countries: this story shows rising support for the war in Australia (though also check out this critique of the poll's methodology). This Washington Times article discusses how John Howard is benefiting from the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
For more on the effects of Operation Iraqi freedom on public opinion in non-coalition countries, this National Post story reports surging support for the United States in Canada. Here's a similar story from last week. [Ahem, didn't you bash the Bush administration for levying similar criticisms against the Chretien government two weeks ago?--ed. Er, yes. But I also refined my criticism and admitted rather quickly that I might have been wrong.]
Regarding France, I blogged about Jacques Delors' criticism of Chirac last week. This blog from the Command Post provides a translation of the conservative parliamentary criticism of Chirac. This Washington Post article captures French public opinion on the current situation. As for Raffarin's declining popularity, click here for the UPI article.
I blogged about South Korean support for Operation Iraqi Freedom a few weeks ago. Now they're sending non-combatant troops to the region to support the United States. This Korea Times article and this Korea Herald story provide more context on President Roh's move to mend ties with the United States.
Finally, here's a link to the Pew Global Attitudes Survey from last November.
THE LIMITS OF ANTI-AMERICANISM: My
THE LIMITS OF ANTI-AMERICANISM: My latest TNR Online essay is up. It's on the potency of anti-Americanism in liberal democracies. Go check it out.
Tuesday, April 8, 2003
The next phase of this war
For Operation Iraqi Freedom to succeed, military victories must be followed up with humanitarian victories. It's not enough to defeat Saddam's regime, there needs to be tangible evidence that conditions are improving. If not, then Arab satellite networks will simply replace footage of the (relatively few) civilians injured during attacks with footage of squalid living conditions in liberated cities.
The current situation in Umm Qasr -- the first city to fall in the invasion, and therefore the city we'd expect to be furthest along in receiving humanitarian assistance, is disturbing. The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), visiting the city, reported, "Humanitarian work in the port of Umm Qasr is currently not meeting the needs of the Iraqi people. Water shortages are critical and almost everyone is desperate for fresh drinking water."
One aid worker is quoted as saying, "The humanitarian situation here is very bleak. If after two weeks it hasn't been possible to bring aid to a town of 40,000 people what hope is there of getting aid to the 1.2 million people of Basra?"
Another volunteer said, "I have recently returned from Angola where I witnessed haunting scenes of poverty but I never expected to see the same levels of misery in Iraq, a country floating on oil." [Doesn't Angola also float on oil?--ed. Fair point]
If you go to CAFOD's main site, it's pretty clear where their sympathies lie, so one could argue that these reports are biased. However, this Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty report paints a similarly bleak picture:
"The clinic in Umm Qasr is a nightmarish scene, even for those working there. If you are a visitor, try to steel yourself at the door....
Inside the clinic, the doctor was far too busy to talk. Safaa Khalaf, a young bacteriologist, met me instead. He said no medicines had come from Basra, the usual source, since the war began 17 days ago. That compounded the already chronic shortages of the Saddam era. And no aid from the new British authorities or international humanitarian agencies had yet come, though assessment teams from both had visited and promised help soon.
Khalaf also said that over the weekend, looters had broken into the clinic, stealing the motorcycle the doctors relied on for communication with their staff and running errands. Khalaf described the theft this way: 'They broke in through the kitchen door. There, there was a motorbike that belongs to the hospital and they took it.'
He continued, 'Then, they went to a storage area and tried to break down the door and they broke into the nurses' storeroom, where they keep cotton, gauze, and other surgical dressing.'
Khalaf said the theft was a heavy blow to the staff's morale because the thieves were undoubtedly fellow townsmen. In the wake of the allied advance, looting has broken out all over southern Iraq, with mobs dismantling factories and breaking into some former government facilities at night.
The British Army has largely stopped the looting around Umm Qasr in recent days. But outside other towns, the highways are crowded with cars towing away all kinds of stolen goods, from machinery to cupboards to wooden beams. If no trailer is available, vehicles simply drag heavy objects like pumps and compressors along the asphalt, sparks flying on the pavement.
The hopelessness at 'The Mother of All Battles Clinic' underlines how little has yet changed in the lives of ordinary Iraqis since Umm Qasr changed hands early in the war. Despite U.S. and British officials repeatedly saying that they are determined to win the battle for Iraqi hearts and minds by quickly delivering humanitarian aid, that aid has not arrived at one of its most critical destinations: The town's only health facility.
British military engineers, however, have connected a water pipe from Kuwait to supply the town with clean water and they have restored electricity.
After 12 years of sanctions -- during which more than half-a-million Iraqi children under the age of 5 have died, mostly of malnutrition and diarrheal diseases -- many Iraqis tell journalists they welcome any change that will better their living conditions. But the delays in aid deliveries are now making some people skeptical that the newcomers will assist them as promised.
As the father of the 11-month old girl asked my interpreter, 'Have these people come to help us or just to take our oil?'" (emphasis added)
The Financial Times reports that the U.S. is sending a transition team to Umm Qasr to start building a post-war government. This Kuwaiti report indicates that the flow of humanitarian supplies is starting to increase (link via the Command Post). Hopefully these problems will be reversed quickly, and reports like these will fade in the next week as the stability returns to Iraq.
Make no mistake -- this phase of the fight is just as important as the military phase.
I've generally avoided blogging about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because, well, it's a profoundly depressing situation.
A kindred Daniel
I think I can live with that.
Of course, this means I can kiss any job requiring Senate confirmation goodbye.
Monday, April 7, 2003
BOW TO THE MASTER: You
BOW TO THE MASTER: You know, I could blog at length about the various contortions, flip-flops, and abject fealty to the conventional wisdom of the moment that exist in New York Times reporter R.W. "Johnny" Apple Jr.'s reports during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Instead, I'll just link to this Jack Shafer evisceration of "master gasbag" Apple in Slate.
Well, I can't resist one point: Shafer notes that Apple, in his April 6 piece, laid out new benchmarks for defining American succes:
"It's not enough that the Americans and Brits have encircled Baghdad and subdued Basra in less than three weeks of fighting and eviscerated the Iraqi army and its irregulars. His impatient lede asks, 'How and when, it seems worth asking, will the United States and its allies know they have won the Iraqi war?'
Apple doesn't answer his own question directly but implies that the allies' recipe for victory pie would have to include a new, democratic government in Iraq; the elimination of Saddam Hussein; the uncovering of his weapons of mass destruction; and the departure of U.S. troops—sooner rather than later."
If the initial reports are true -- and it's worth stressing that they may not pan out -- two out of four ain't bad inside of 48 hours.
Scandal in the blogosphere
This Wired story (link via Glenn Reynolds) reports that Sean-Paul Kelley has been plagiarizing reports from Stratfor.com's U.S.-Iraq War Web Site on his Agonist site. By plagiarize I mean he's copied them verbatim without attribution or with false attributions. If you want examples, go to Strategic Armchair Command's original post outlining specific examples of plagiarism.
Kelley's quote from the Wired story: "You got me, I admit it.... I made a mistake," Kelley said. "It was stupid."
"I want to state explicitly that what I did was inexcusable and for many readers may be unforgivable. I understand that and am willing to accept the consequences of my actions.
I make no excuses for what I did." [UPDATE: Meryl Yourish thinks that what follows this post is a series of excuses]
Initial blogosphere reaction comes from Glenn Reynolds, Matthew Yglesias, Overspill, Rafe Colburn, Colby Cosh, Samizdata, N.Z. Bear, Meryl Yourish, Ken Layne, and Jeff Jarvis. My thoughts turn towards the exact magnitude of Kelley's infraction and the comparative advantage of the blogosphere.
1) How much did Kelley cross the line? The reason I originally linked to the Agonist was not because I thought Kelley was doing any original reporting, but because I thought he was doing a nice job of collating and posting recent information about the war from the Internet. I had always assumed his unlinked reports came from secondary sources that were not on the web. In other words, I never thought the comparative advantage of the Agonist was original reporting. Substantively, this disclosure does not change my opinion of the site's content.
It does change my opinion of Kelley's ethics, however. The Wired story makes it clear that what Kelley did was plagiarism, pure and simple. He copied source material word for word without attribution. He prevaricated about it when questioned by Wired's reporter. He also dodged the question in this Dallas Morning News story:
One could also argue that Kelley had a larger obligation to the Blogosphere, since he was one of the poster boys of the spate of recent coverage of warblogging by MSNBC, the New York Times, the Financial Times, and the Washington Post.
As a graduate student in international relations, Kelley knew (or should have known) he was in the wrong as he was lifting Stratfor's content, and he was in the wrong again when he initially tried to deny the plagiarism. Stratfor, to its credit, has come to an amicable agreement with Kelley on future posts, so it looks like some wrongs are being righted. However, I can't endorse what Kelley did, so I've decided to replace Kelley's spot on the blogroll with the Command Post and Stratfor -- at least until the war ends.
2) What does this mean for blogging? The Wired story has the following quote:
Paxton may be right about media reaction, but he's wrong about the comparative advantage of the Blogosphere. Blogs, taken in their entirety, do occasionally provide news scoops. However, there are two other blogtasks that are much more important.
First, some blogs can act as focal points for information provision. Now, by definition, there can only be one or two focal points. Glenn Reynolds generally acts as one for bloggers. During concentrated crises -- Josh Marshall in the case of Trent Lott's downfall, or Kelley for Operation Iraqi Freedom -- others can spring up. These blogs serve the useful purpose of collecting and distributing already available information to interested readers. In doing so, these individuals help to frame and propel debates of the day. They also reduce search costs for the rest of us [Example?--ed. Consider that the original blogger discovery of Sean-Paul's plagiarism was made a week ago -- but it was on a blog that I don't read regularly. I didn't know about it until it was on InstaPundit.]
Second, most bloggers provide value added in the form of criticism and commentary. We don't generate new facts so much as put already existing facts into a larger framework. We then look at other people who do this and comment and critique their efforts. This is my comparative advantage, at least.
This scandal, as it were, might alter media perceptions of what the Blogosphere is about. It will not alter its fundamental nature.
THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THE ANTIWAR
THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THE ANTIWAR MOVEMENT: From the Los Angeles Times:
"More than three-fourths of Americans -- including two-thirds of liberals and 70% of Democrats -- now say they support the decision to go to war. And more than four-fifths of these war supporters say they still will back the military action even if allied forces don't find evidence of weapons of mass destruction.
Bush's overall job approval rating jumped to 68%, the highest level since last summer, and three-fourths of those polled said they trust him to make the right decisions on Iraq." (emphasis added)
Let's be clear -- a lot of this is the rally-round-the-flag effect. Still, the dramatic shift among liberals and Democrats from ten days ago is noticeable. Why might this be? First, the war is clearly going well. Second, the antiwar movement has failed to articulate any coherent message. If you thing this is an exaggeration, go to one of their main web site. One article posted there opens with this vacuous assertion:
"If nothing else, the process leading to war in Iraq revealed an abject failure of our democracy. We claim to be bringing democracy to Iraq, yet the lack of it at home is in evidence everywhere, and is a grave threat to our national well-being and future."
In the absence of any coherent message, the antiwar movement is resorting to tactics guaranteed to alienate most of the public:
"Blocking traffic is the tactic of choice these days among anti-war protesters. But just how effective can it be, when it angers commuters and packs police precincts with arrested activists?
Project engineer Craig Voellmicke was on his way to work recently when he ran into gridlock around Teaneck, N.J., caused by protesters blocking traffic near the George Washington Bridge.
'I think it's more annoying,' Voellmicke said, when asked if he thought the act got people to think twice about the war. 'I think people know the message already. Most people were just standing with annoyed looks on their faces. I didn't hear any words of support [from onlookers].'"
It's not just the increase in traffic jams. It's also the drain on public services:
"Washington, D.C., police have been forced to restrict traffic to several blocks around the city, particularly around the White House, in order to prevent gridlock caused by protesters. Mayor Anthony Williams recently claimed such police activity is eating up his city's homeland security funds.
Protesters in San Francisco and several cities have formed human chains and joined themselves together with metal pipes that had to be cut open by police officers or firefighters, to the frustration of officials who believe they have more pressing security concerns.
'This is more than protest, more than free speech,' New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told the Associated Press in a recent interview. 'We're talking about violating the law.'
Protesters say they don't have much choice.
'Nothing else gets attention,' protestor Johannah Westmacott told the Associated Press. 'It's not news when people voice their opinions.'" (emphasis added)
This is what happens when people don't read memos.
UPDATE: Kieran Healy has an excellent post that's not exactly a rejoinder to what I said, but does make an accurate point -- even if the protestors are not moving public opinion, their size and duration are significant relative to past social movements.
THINGS HAVE CHANGED: Last month
THINGS HAVE CHANGED: Last month Brad Delong reprinted a paragraph from Kenneth Pollack's first book, the encyclopedic Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991 on how the Republican Guard fought fiercely but stupidly during the first Gulf War. DeLong concluded:
"According to Kenneth Pollack, if the Iraqi army of today is like the Iraqi army of the past half century, its soldiers and unit commanders will be incompetent at using their artillery, unable to maneuver, unwilling to take the intiative, incapable of adapting to any surprise, armed with technologically-inferior and poorly-maintained equipment, and yet large numbers of them, especially from the Republican Guard, will stand their ground and fight--until they die."
It's becoming increasingly clear that DeLong and Pollack's assumption does not hold -- according to this story, the Iraqi army of today is nothing like the army it used to be:
"At first, the Iraqi forces put up a strong fight against the 100-vehicle column of Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles that rumbled in from the airport, through newly lain minefields, in the early hours. F16 fighter aircraft fly ahead, bombing Iraqi tanks and positions that might have offered resistance.
But as I watch from the 12th floor of the Sheraton hotel, directly across the river, a group of vehicles that has broken away from the column moves in from the south, prompting many Iraqi defenders to flee.
Under incessant US fire - machine-guns, mortars and small missiles - they run from two directions, pouring out of the centre of the compound and from a heavily armed sand spit that intrudes into the Tigris, before bolting north along an access road that services the dozens of buildings within the fortified complex.
This is supposed to be the fearless Republican Guard, but under fire there is no bravery and little dignity as many of them abandon their posts, some struggling to strip to their underwear as they flee.
Desperate to get away, when they are confronted by a security fence that extends into the river they jump in, swimming 50 metres out from the bank before returning along the opposite side of the fence to pick up the access road again." (emphasis added)
Read the whole Sydney Morning Herald story for an excellent account of the surreal state of affairs in Baghdad right now. For that matter, go read Pollack's book too. [But wasn't Pollack wrong here?--ed. The main thesis of that book is that since the end of World War II, Arabs have never defeated a non-Arab army in a war. I'd say that thesis is bearing up well. His explanations for why this is true are also worth perusing.]
Sunday, April 6, 2003
The BBC strikes again!!!
Given the BBC's apparent biases, it was with some trepidation that I clicked on this story on estimating the number of Iraqis killed and injured during the war. To my surprise, I thought it was pretty fair -- until I got to the last part of the story:
"An independent website has been set up to try to keep track of the body count.
They're collating figures from news reports and they give two figures.
On Sunday they showed a maximum estimate of 1049 civilians killed and a minimum of 876."
The bland prose suggests that something is afoot. Why doesn't the BBC name the web site or discuss its qualifications beyond "independent" (which certainly connotes respect)? Perhaps because the site they fail to name is clearly Iraq Body Count. This site is affiliated with Marc Herold, an academic at the University of New Hampshire who produced wildly inflated civilian casualty estimates for Afghanistan (see also here). This explanation of the site's methodology includes the following:
"The project takes as its starting point and builds upon the earlier work of Professor Marc Herold who has produced the most comprehensive tabulation of civilian deaths in the war on Afghanistan from October 2001 to the present, and the methodology has been designed in close consultation with him.
Professor Herold commented: 'I strongly support this initiative. The counting of civilian dead looms ever more importantly for at least two reasons: military sources and their corporate mainstream media backers seek to portray the advent of precision guided weaponry as inflicting at most, minor, incidental civilian casualties when, in truth, such is is not the case; and the major source of opposition to these modern ‘wars’ remains an informed, articulate general public which retains a commitment to the international humanitarian covenants of war at a time when most organized bodies and so-called ‘experts’ have walked away from them'."
Herold's quote provides a decent clue as to his biases, but if you want to understand why this site's methodology is flawed, go to Josh Chafetz's posts here and here, as well as Iain Murray's Tech Central Station article. Here's all you need to know -- according to both Murray and Chafetz, on Tuesday of this past week Iraq Body Count Project's minimum count of Iraqi civilian deaths were higher than the Iraqi government figures!
Shame on the BBC for failing to raise any of these problems in their (otherwise fine) report.
UPDATE: This blog's raison d'etre is bias in the BBC.
GOOD NEWS IN KARBALA: More
"About 10,000 people gathered in the public square Sunday and pulled down a 20-foot-high bronze statue of Saddam Hussein, a move that symbolized for many the end of a tyrannical regime and the beginning of new freedoms.
The event also marked the end of a battle that has raged for five days and culminated with armored battalions firing the last shots Saturday afternoon. The battalions destroyed five tanks and a dozen pieces of Iraqi artillery on the outskirts of town, and dozens of prisoners were taken as well.
Karbala, a Shiite Muslim city about 40 miles southwest of Baghdad, fell Saturday to six battalions under the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne, who wrested control from about 500 Saddam Fedayeen fighters and loyalists of the ruling Baath Party.
Many who assembled in the city square chanted 'Saddam is no more!' and "Saddam is dead!' as they pulled on a rope, yanking the Saddam statue from its perch. Once the statue tumbled, many in the crowd jumped up and down, struck their chests and wept.
The statue was erected shortly after Saddam came to power, according to Karbala residents, and seeing it fall was a moment many would never forget.
'We have been living in fear for so many years, and we have been taught in the schools that Saddam would never die," said Hassan Muhammad, 20, as he helped pull on the rope. 'This is a historic day, and we will celebrate this day always.'"
WHY I'M ABSENT-MINDED: As my
WHY I'M ABSENT-MINDED: As my friends and family will attest, it's a good thing I'm a professor because I'm so absent-minded that no other profession would have anything to do with me [C'mon, how bad can you be?--ed. Last night I applauded myself for remembering Daylight Savings Time and adjusting the clocks accordingly. This morning I realized to my chagrin that I had turned the clocks back one hour when I was supposed to turn them forward].
Why am I so absent-minded? I always liked to cite Sherlock Holmes' explanation for why he did not want to remember the Copernican theory of the solar system in A Study in Scarlet:
"I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones."
In other words, there was only so much room in Holmes' brain, and better that it be filled with useful criminology than useless astronomy. I rationalized that my scholarly pursuits demanded the forgetting of more mundane information, such as walking the dog.
Alas, last night, after taking Entertainment Weekly's exhaustingly thorough pop culture quiz (subscription required), I now know the truth -- I'm not hoarding brain cells for the subtleties of Thucydides or Grotius, but for pop trivia. I scored an embarrasingly high 93 -- though that was with considerable help from the bonus questions.
Still, if I ever forget the inner workings of the Mundell-Fleming model, I'll know it's because I remember the original members of N.W.A, even though I don't believe I've ever heard on of their songs.
In my previous post on Nicholas De Genova I was trying to articulate a point on how teachers must balance the task of asserting authority on issues relevant to the classroom material while encouraging students to air their opinions free of perceived retribution. From the e-mail I've received, I fear I may not have succeeded.
Mark Kleiman, in discussing whether a university faculty should express its opolitical views with a collective voice, phrases it better than I did:
WHAT HASN'T HAPPENED: Back in
WHAT HASN'T HAPPENED: Back in early February, I wrote the following:
"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.
From today's New York Times -- "New Signs of Terror Not Evident":
"[T]error organizations like Al Qaeda appear to have been largely unmoved by Saddam Hussein's denunciations of the United States and his calls for an uprising in the Arab world against the American-led war in Iraq.
American officials have said there is little evidence of potential terrorist plots against United States interests, either in the country or overseas, since the war in Iraq began. In fact, the kind of chatter that has led the Department of Homeland Security to increase the nation's threat warning levels has decreased since the beginning of the war.
Nevertheless, the administration has maintained the government's color-coded terrorist threat level at orange, representing a heightened threat of terrorist activity, because of fears that the war will eventually provoke terrorism.
But intelligence and law enforcement officials said there was scant evidence that either Al Qaeda or any other major terrorist organization was planning an attack in the near future. One senior intelligence official said he had seen very little credible evidence that any terrorist plots were imminent in the United States.
Another American official cautioned that terrorist threat reporting received by the C.I.A. and other agencies had not significantly declined, but acknowledged that it had not increased since the start of the war as many in the intelligence community had expected."
It is still possible that Al Qaeda is merely biding its time and a spectacular attack is imminent. However, the absence of attacks suggest that the war on terror has achieved more advances than skeptics would like to admit.
"And why have there been no fresh terror strikes in the United States since the start of the war?
Brill says it's the competence of the current leadership."
NONE SHALL PASS -- EXCEPT
NONE SHALL PASS -- EXCEPT FOR THE 3RD INFANTRY DIVISION: This CNN story has Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf flatly denying that coalition forces control
"'Today we slaughtered them in the airport. They are out of Saddam International Airport,' al-Sahaf said. 'The force that was in the airport, this force was destroyed.'
Capt. Frank Thorp, spokesman for U.S. Central Command, called the claim 'groundless,' saying 'there is sporadic fighting at the airport.'
'We have heard these reports from the minister of information, which are, quite frankly, groundless,' he said. 'This is the same minister of information who yesterday was saying that coalition forces were approximately 100 kilometers away from the city.'"
The kicker, however, is the last line of the story:
"Al-Sahaf said he would take reporters to the airport later in the day, after it was cleaned up."
Is it my imagination or is Al-Sahaf starting to sound more and more like the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail?
UPDATE: Damn, I though I was being clever with the Monty Python reference. Turns out I'm late to this particular meme.
When worlds collide
For the past two days, I’ve been hobnobbing with other political scientists at the Midwestern Political Science Association’s annual meeting, which is always held in the gorgeous Palmer House in downtown Chicago. It hadn’t occurred to me until I showed up yesterday that this was the first big conference I attended since starting the blog last year. As it turns out, a fair number of them read it. Quite a few of my colleagues mentioned it to me in cocktail chatter.
My initial reaction was – surprisingly – discomfort. Part of this is the “worlds colliding” phenomenon of having my professional “scholar” persona overlap with my public “blogger” persona. This was the first time I had to reconcile those two parts of my life.
Another source of my discomfort was the “outing” of my political views, which are to the right of most of my colleagues (though not that far to the right – contrary to Blogosphere perceptions, most of my fellow political scientists do not yearn for a Marxist revival). It’s not that I keep my beliefs a secret – it’s just that, funny as it may sound, ideology rarely comes up in professional conversations with other political scientists.
The biggest part of it, however, was the fear that my colleagues would disapprove of the blog as a bastardization of our profession – and, by extension, a bad reflection on the scholarly side of my cv. As previously noted, some of my blog posts contain half-baked ideas – I certainly hope the same does not hold for my scholarly work.
There’s something else, though. Much of this blog consists of my application and translation of arguments made in the political science literature to real-world debates. Inevitably, these translations smooth over the caveats, complexities, and counterarguments that are inherent in any scholarly thesis. [Why not include all of those things in your posts?—ed. No self-respecting editor would ever ask that question. If I did that, each blog post would be 5,000 words long, no one would read it, and I wouldn’t have time to work on anything else.] Most lay readers cannot detect this smoothing process, but my colleagues can, and I fear their wrath.
Upon reflection, however, my discomfort is starting to wane, for three reasons. First, I respect everyone who complimented me on my blog; I must be doing something right [Who don't you respect in the profession?--ed. Insert sound of crickets chirping here]. Second, the people who raised the topic were all my generation or younger, which suggests that the Blogosphere has yet to permeate the tenured faculty. Since it’s these people who will determine whether I merit getting tenure myself, I still have some time to adjust. Third, one graduate student told me that blogs are increasingly popular among doctoral students, both as a diversion and as a research tool. It will be a pleasant surprise if it turns out that the blog not only serves as an outlet for the public intellectual in me, but also contributes in some small way to furthering scholarly debate.