Saturday, April 19, 2003
Gideon Rose's latest essay in Slate discusses the Defense Department's current challenge for post-conflict situations. A key graf (you should really read the whole thing):
This challenge is particularly acute if the administration wants to minimize the UN's role in postwar Iraq.
Will the DOD rise to the challenge? Signals are very mixed. On the one hand, there's this Chicago Tribune report from today:
On the other hand, there's this Chicago Tribune report from four days ago:
To be fair to Rumsfeld, he's fighting a deep antipathy among the service branches to functions other than warfighting (click here for more background).
Rumsfeld, and the rest of the Bush administration's foreign policy team, face a clear choice. It can outsource peacekeeping functions to the United Nations or close allies, at the cost of some constraints on foreign policy implementation. It can minimize the U.N. role and develop/train its own peacekeeping force. Or it can do neither and run into trouble down the road.
THE SYSTEM WORKS: Last week,
THE SYSTEM WORKS: Last week, Baseball Hall of Fame President Dale Petroskey banned Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon from appearing at a 15th anniversary celebration of the greatest baseball movie ever made, Bull Durham. Petroskey Fedexed the pair a letter arguing that comments made by the actors "ultimately could put our troops in even more danger." He went on to note: "Mr. Robbins and Ms. Sarandon have every right to express their opinions. But The Baseball Hall of Fame is not the proper venue for highly charged political expressions, whatever they may be." For more backstory, click here.
Needless to say, this was an asinine decision for three reasons. First, neither Sarandon nor Robbins said anything that put troops in danger. Yes, they opposed the war, but last I checked they weren't transmitting information to Baghdad or anything of that sort.
Second, if their behavior at the Oscars was indicative of anything, it was that neither of them had planned pull a Michael Moore or anything at the Hall of Fame Ceremony. Sarandon was quoted as saying:
Third, never, under any circumstances, do anything that permits Sarandon or Robbins to feel righteously indignant. It's just grating. Petroskey's move validated the claim by a lot of Hollywood types that their public opposition to the war was somehow being censored.
Fortunately, Petroskey's decision resulted in a deluge of letters and editorials (click here and here too) denouncing the decision. A lot of the Blogosphere was pissed too -- click here, here, and here. And this week, Petroskey did something very rare -- he issued a genuine apology. Here are the key grafs:
According to the AP, Robbins responded with a statement observing, "Because Petroskey's actions resulted in a bipartisan, nationwide affirmation of free speech and the First Amendment, he has inadvertently done us all a favor."
This may be that once-in-a-decade moment where I am in agreement with Robbins on a matter of politics.
Friday, April 18, 2003
WHY I LOVE DENMARK: There
WHY I LOVE DENMARK: There are two reasons. First, there's their commitment to open government, which is about to embarrass the European Union, according to this FT story:
Needless to say, this is causing a three-way diplomatic row between Denmark, Turkey, and Germany. I actually have some sympathy for Fischer, since he's being damned by hearsay. If it's true, however, then shame on Germany for trying to screw the Turks over, and good for the Danes' commitment to open government.
Essay question to the Eurocrats:
[What's the second reason you love Denmark?--ed. Last month the Danish weekly Weekendavisen translated and published one of my New Republic essays. I may not speak a word of Danish, but it looks pretty damn cool.]
HE'S RIGHT -- PROBABLY: Josh
HE'S RIGHT -- PROBABLY: Josh Marshall has a level-headed post today in response to today's Baghdad demonstration demanding an Islamic state in Iraq. It closes this way:
As someone who occasionally pretends to know how things will turn out, I think Marshall is right.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum has more to say on this:
Thursday, April 17, 2003
IN MY NAME: What Josh
IN MY NAME: What Josh Chafetz said here, I wholeheartedly endorse.
SIGN OF THE TIMES: Blogging
True story -- after I'd attended a senior seminar, my host explained to one of his colleagues that I needed to get to an Internet station -- because it had been some time since I'd updated the blog.
Wednesday, April 16, 2003
SYRIA AND AL-QAEDA: Via Glenn
SYRIA AND AL-QAEDA: Via Glenn Reynolds, I read Justin Weitz's discussion of sanctioning Syria (you'll have to scroll down). In the post, Wietz mentions, "Syria's close relationship with terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda and Hezbollah."
Now, this was the first time I had heard about any connection between Al-Qaeda and Syria, and I didn't like the assertion without any backup. Weitz, however, could point to this September 2002 post which linked to this Ha'aretz article chronicling the relationship between Syria and Al Qaeda. The article is sourced to various intelligence agencies as opposed to specific individuals, which makes me antsy for some reason. That said, here are the key grafs:
Now there's this Los Angeles Times story:
And finally, this Straits Times lead:
If you read everything, I'm still not sure it adds up to a conscious effort by the Syrian government to assist Al Qaeda. I see a lot of suppositions and fewer facts.
However, this post was originally going to blast Weitz for making the link between Syria and Al Qaeda without any basis in fact. Obviously, it didn't turn out that way.
What do you think? Let me know.
UPDATE: Todd Mormon posts some new information suggesting that the Syrian government has been eager to cooperate with the U.S. on Al Qaeda. And it's worth quoting at length from Lawrence Kaplan's TNR article on Syria:
Food for thought.
What are my colleagues working on?
The University of Chicago has acquired a long-standing reputation for being concerned primarily with abstract ideas. With the possible exception of our political philosophers, this is largely a canard -- what my colleagues excel at is marrying larger theoretical concerns to practical, real-world questions.
Which brings me to this University of Chicago Magazine cover story on our faculty's "unexpected areas of expertise." Law professor Mary Anne Case is investigating a subject near and dear to women's hearts across this land -- the inequities of public toilets:
Click here if you'd like to contribute to Case's database by filling out a copy of the aforementioned toilet survey.
I suspect some may find this kind of research trivial -- and I would vehemently disagree. This is an eminently practical question, and I suspect there is a dearth of literature on the topic. Good for Case.
WHEN DRUDGE HYPERVENTILATES: Matt Drudge's
WHEN DRUDGE HYPERVENTILATES: Matt Drudge's latest "flash" story is about how Sharon Bush -- Neil Bush's ex-wife -- plans to write "a tell all [book] on the Bush family". What are the juicy details? Here are some snippets:
Oh, dear God, no!! Not "pragmatic and calculating"!! And the family cares about its public image? Wow, this is going to be pathbreaking stuff. Wait, there's more:
Well, there will certainly be an uproar when the American people find out that the matriarch of the Bush clan has influence over her family members. And "fraught and complex" relationships between family members will certainly be a novel theme in American politics. You'd never see that kind of behavior among the Kennedys, Gores, Doles, Rockefellers, Clintons, or Daleys.
I understand why Sharon Bush's lawyer wants to attract publicity. I can't understand why Drudge would think that a book that spills Neil Bush's dirty laundry and implies that the other Bushes have political sides to their personalities is particularly salacious.
SO WHAT DO THE NEOCONS
SO WHAT DO THE NEOCONS WANT?: In the past month I've received a lot of e-mail flak for one of two posts -- either this one touting Josh Marshall's Washington Monthly essay as a "must-read", or this one pooh-poohing the notion that Jim Woolsey speaks for the Bush administration when he says we're starting World War IV. Critics of the first post say I'm buying into wild conspiracy theories; critics of the second post think I'm naive and uninformed about the way Washington really works.
Here's my answer to both sets of critics.
Part of the problem is that the neocons have hardly made up their minds on this question. There's this Washington Post story suggesting Syria's next on the list -- at the same time, Lawrence Kaplan writes in The New Republic that Syria isn't even on the radar screen (subscription required).
This Reuters report suggests that all of the neocons are ready to march throughout the Middle East. But chief neocon theoretician Robert Kagan opines that some humility is in order right now, and it’s going to be tough to proffer an olive branch to Europe while coercing Syria with military force. Even Josh Marshall is skeptical that military action is imminent – his description of what’s going on right now is note-perfect:
So, why did I think Marshall’s article was worth reading? Because I agree with him that a few neocons are willing to deceive in order to achieve their desired – and arguably desirable – ends. I've spoken with or listened to a fair number of the chief neocons. Most of them are intellectually rigorous and smart as hell. But some of them – who until recently held positions of influence in the Bush administration – will change their arguments on a whim, or make wildly erroneous assertions, or ignore contradictory evidence, to get what they want. And I care enough about how the process of U.S. foreign policy decision-making to oppose those tactics, no matter how desirable the perceived ends.
What could be interesting in the next few weeks/months is whether the neoconservative movement splits – between “pragmatic” neocons (Kagan, Wolfowitz) that recognize the limits of what can be done right now, and “movement” neoconservatives (Woolsey, Perle) that want to start World War IV.
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
TOUGH TIMES FOR FRENCH LEADERS:
TOUGH TIMES FOR FRENCH LEADERS: Like a bad hangover, the French obstructionism of February and March is coming back to haunt the Chirac administration. [Hey, doesn't this support your argument about the limits of anti-Americanism in established democracies?--ed. Huh. What a felicitous coincidence.] The Guardian reports:
A slide from 74% to 70% ain't that big of a comedown. The key thing, however, is that French elites are just starting to criticize Chirac for his position on Iraq. Consider this from the Voice of America:
You know France is screwed, however, when Tom Friedman writes this paragraph:
UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has more on France's current woes.
My e-mail policy
As this blog has climbed in popularity and added a comments feature, my e-mail traffic has shot up dramatically. This is all to the good. Indeed, since the comments feature has been added, the blog has garnered kudos from the blogosphere and the mediasphere about the "articulate, thoughtful & balanced' quality of the readership.
With the demands of the day job not going away, I'm just going to apologize now to those of you who don't receive a response either via e-mail or in response to a posted comment. This doesn't mean I'm not reading your mail or your comments. It means I just don't have the time to write thoughtful responses all the time, and I'm leery of writing quick, flippant replies. So, my feedback policy is simple:
UPDATE: I feel a bit churlish posting this, since compared to InstaPundit my e-mail/comment traffic is small potatoes.
[This is because of hate mail, isn't it?--ed. Knock on wood, no. I've received some angry e-mails, a few trolls, and a few individuals that are spoiling for an intellectual fight, but over 99.5% of the feedback has been polite. I can count the number of true hate-mails on one hand. I just want to lower expectations about getting a response to any query sent my way]
TOTALITARIANISM IN ZIMBABWE: Last month
TOTALITARIANISM IN ZIMBABWE: Last month I blogged about authoritarian crackdowns during Gulf War II. Since then, Mickey Kaus has been all over Casto's crackdown in Cuba (as well as what happens when Lennonist contemplate schmoozing with Leninists). However, this New York Times story suggests that Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe is rapidly catching up to Castro or Hussein in terms of totalitarianism:
"Human rights groups report a violent crackdown by President Mugabe against the opposition that forced nearly 1,000 people to flee their homes. An opposition representative in the Zimbabwean Parliament arrives in Johannesburg showing reporters how he was tortured by Zimbabwean security agents with electric shock. Three Zimbabwean women who had participated in a rally here against President Mugabe report they were later raped by Zimbabwean agents operating in South Africa. A popular Zimbabwean cricket player flees to South Africa saying he received numerous death threats after wearing a black armband — a symbol of mourning for what he considered the death of democracy in his homeland."
The focus of the Times story is actually on Mugabe's creation of a corps of young loyalist thugs who benefit from the current system:
"The young men, who range in age from 18 to 22, explained that they are runaways from Zimbabwe's National Youth Service, whose graduates are known and feared as the "green bombers," a nickname that comes from the group's military-style uniforms and capacity for devastation.
Human rights groups and Western diplomats accuse President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe of turning the recruits into violent thugs and unleashing them on political opponents. President Mugabe, who has governed since the end of white rule in 1980, dismisses the accusations. He has said that he established the youth league three years ago as a kind of poor boys' Peace Corps, enlisting his country's sizable 18-and-under population for desperately needed community service projects.
In an interview today, Makhosi Ngusanya, 19, said he answered President Mugabe's call to service when his teachers filled his head with visions of a noble way out of poverty.
'They told us that if we became good green bombers then they would make us soldiers and give us land,' Mr. Ngusanya said. 'But they didn't give us anything. And all they taught us was to kill.'"
Is the Bush administration looking the other way, or rather, looking at Syria? Not exactly. This Australian report suggests the administration is trying a "North Korea" strategy of having Zimbabwe's neighbors take the lead, quoting a "senior official" in the State Department as follows:
"What we're telling them is there has to be a transitional government in Zimbabwe that leads to a free and fair, internationally supervised election.... That is the goal. He stole the last one, we can't let that happen again.... It has to be internationally supervised, open, transparent with an electoral commission that works..... "
Will this strategy work? The U.S. official spins a positive reaction, saying: "The neighbourhood is starting to realise that there is a downside to giving aid and protection to Comrade Bob," the official said, using a derogatory nickname for Mugabe.... There is stuff happening, there is stuff happening behind the scenes."
Well, maybe. The Times story makes it clear that South African President Thabo Mbeki is reluctant to criticize a fellow African leader, especially in response to Anglosphere pressure. So does this story on negotiations within the Commonwealth on Zimbabwe:
"Zimbabwe has failed to respond to appeals for reform from the Commonwealth and its situation has worsened since suspension from the group of mainly ex-British colonies, according to a report leaked today.
'Overall the general political, economic and social situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated since March 2002,' said an internal report by Don McKinnon, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, obtained and published by Britain's opposition Conservative Party....
The Commonwealth split over Zimbabwe has appeared to pit white nations against African and Asian ones in the seven-decade-old group which joins almost one third of the world's countries with 1,7 billion people.
On one side, African heavyweights South Africa and Nigeria, for example, believe Mugabe's government has recorded enough progress over the past year in land reform, human rights and democracy to warrant re-admission to the Commonwealth.
But Mugabe's opponents such as Australia say that stance is a betrayal of Commonwealth principles, pointing to the treason trial of opposition figures and harsh media and security laws." (emphasis added)
Developing... and not in a good way.
THE SCHIZOPHRENIC ECONOMIST: Kevin Drum
THE SCHIZOPHRENIC ECONOMIST: Kevin Drum has the goods on contradictory statements coming from the august British publication, or, as Kevin puts it, "the pro-war, pro-Bush, America-friendly, center-right Economist:"
Kevin, you should have followed up that statement with, "not that there's anything wrong with that!"
Monday, April 14, 2003
I'm not a lawyer, but I know bulls@&t when I see it
The San Francisco Chronicle has a story on one man's effort to revolutionize international law:
What to know what your International Bill of Rights looks like? Here's the document. To Boyd's credit, it's not written in legalese. To Boyd's debit, it's so contradictory and pie-in-the-sky that I can't believe he's devoted five years to it.
[What's specifically wrong with it?--ed. To begin with, a third of the countries in the world could not afford the public goods required of it. The restrictions on representation include this contradictory sentence: "Only individuals, not corporations or other entities, shall be allowed to contribute money or other assets to candidates or ballot measures, but individuals may combine to contribute as a group." The enforcement mechanism gave me a good chuckle.]
I don't mean to be cruel. It seems clear that Boyd has honorable intentions. But the legal and political foundations of the document and his strategy for implementation (internationalize the European Court for Human Rights) are laughable.
I'm sure the Libyan chair of the Human Rights Commission will give Boyd a full hearing.
UPDATE: Will Baude has some additional thoughts on Boyd's attempt to draft a freedom of speech clause.
MORE ON UMM QASR: The
MORE ON UMM QASR: The New York Times reports of an open town meeting in Umm Qasr:
"For the first time anywhere in Iraq since the war started, the people in this port town gathered tonight for a remarkable democratic display — a town hall meeting.
As the sun set, turning the cloud-covered sky a dusty orange, the townspeople took turns talking about the problems they face and deciding who among them would help lead the community in the future.
However, as has been the case in interviews in cities from Safwan to Zubayr to Basra, people were too fixated on their present condition to think about what was to come. They want to know what is being done about the lack of water, security and jobs — three things they say they had under Saddam Hussein's rule."
Ah, the sounds of citizens wanting more from their government.
Meanwhile, this report suggests that the humanitarian effort to repair damage from the war will pale in comparison to the humanitarian effort needed to repair damage from the economic sanctions of the past decade.
ETIQUETTE QUESTION: It appears that
ETIQUETTE QUESTION: It appears that Tikrit has fallen. CENTCOM spokesman Vincent Brooks was quoted as follows:
"This morning the attack entered Tikrit, securing the presidential palace there and also beginning the search for any remaining regime supporters."
And this is really the only significant combat action that occurred within the last 24 hours... There was less resistance than we anticipated."
Later on the article states: "Some officers are suggesting that this battle could be the last major engagement of the war."
This news, combined with mounting evidence that the "looting phase" is over, poses an interesting question: at what point should the "No War" buttons be removed from clothing?
Nicholas De Genova speaks!!
Read the whole interview to get the entire context. I found the entire exchange hysterical -- it basically consists of the interviewer asking reasoned questions, De Genova popping off an irrelevant or incoherent answer, and the interviewer having to gently re-ask the question. Two examples:
Then there's this closing exchange:
Karl Marx once said that history repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce. It's safe to say that Nicholas De Genova is the living embodiment of that cliché.
P.S. I must give some props to the Filibuster here. I knew about this story from an independent source and expected to be the first in the Blogosphere to comment/link to it. Because they are actually up at 2 AM, they beat me to it. A tip of the cap and a place on the blogroll to them.
Sunday, April 13, 2003
ELSEWHERE IN THE BLOGOSPHERE: Trent
ELSEWHERE IN THE BLOGOSPHERE: Trent Telenko has some interesting commentary and links on successful U.S. Army efforts at statebuilding in Afghanistan, and how NGO groups have mixed feelingsa about it.
Daniel Urman has a point about the asinine hypothesis that Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins have somehow undermined our troops in Iraq by opposing the war.
Oh, and Eugene Volokh has some thoughts about vibrators.
North Korea update
The Bush administration strategy on North Korea -- which bears some resemblance to what I had suggested in this space in January -- is now reaping potentially significant dividends, according to today's New York Times:
It's not just China and Russia -- this week, ASEAN will probably send the same message.
What has been the effect of Operation Iraqi Freedom on North Korea? It would be safe to say that the North Koreans are rattled, in a potentially good way. This Friday Washington Post interview with the South Korean President opens with the following grafs:
This New York Times story buttresses this statement: