Saturday, June 7, 2003
WHY HUGH HEWITT IS WRONG
Hugh Hewitt's Weekly Standard piece on the Blogosphere begins as follows:
There are a few problems with this story.
First, it conveniently overlooks the fact that Josh Marshall was the first blogger to jump on the Trent Lott story. He also was instrumental in generating the drip, drip, drip of small stories that fueled the media and online frenzy. I agree with Hewitt that had the Big Four not gotten involved, the story may have died. To deny Marshall his due on Lott distorts the facts, however.
Second, it overlooks the fact that at times the Big Four have raised a stink about an issue, but the earth did not move. Sullivan, for example, took up Rick Santorum's problems with homosexuality (but not homosexuals!!) story, as did Volokh and InstaPundit. Bush issued a statement and that was that.
Third, to claim -- as Hewitt does later on in his essay -- that the Big Four will affect the Democratic primary is absurd. Democrats are not going to follow the lead of conservatives, neoconservatives, or libertarian hawks when they consider their candidate. Marshall will have a much greater influence -- if he wants to exercise it -- on the Dems. [What about the general election, or future Republican primaries?--ed. That's another story.]
I'm not saying that blogs -- particularly the ones Hewitt mentions -- don't matter. I'm saying that the Hewitt essay contains as much wish fulfillment as it does prognostication. Even Sullivan sounds more hopeful than assertive in evaluating Hewitt's claim.
[You're just upset you're not one of the Big Four, aren't you?--ed. Only if they have cool warm-up jackets.]
Friday, June 6, 2003
THE "INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY" AND THE
THE "INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY" AND THE AXIS OF AUTOCRATS: Hobnobbing with Council on Foreign Relations heavyweights all day, there was much rending of hair and gnashing of teeth about how the "international community" -- code for Europe, Japan, and the United Nations bureaucracy -- feels about the United States. Can the rifts created by Iraq be healed?
Let me propose a step in the right direction -- focusing on countries hell-bent on extinguishing freedom. For example, today the European Union announced economic sanctions against Cuba in response to the Castro regime's recent crackdown.
That's a good start, but it's not enough.
What I'd really like to see is concerted action against any authoritarian government that thinks it can exploit divisions within the West to crack down on their own populations.
For example, Western governments must demand and/or coerce Robert Mugabe's government in Zimbabwe to release opposition leader Morgan Tsvangerai, who has been arrested on treason charges following five days of demonstrations against the government. Thabo Mbeki, I'm looking in your direction.
Even more pressing is the case of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who -- along with 17 other opposition leaders -- has been held incommunicado since late May. To date, the Burmese military junta has ignored calls for her release. ASEAN leaders, quit making excuses for the regime. [UPDATE: for more on the ASEAN problem, go to this Boomshock post.]
The developed world needs to remember that when it comes to advancing the cause of democracy, they share a common purpose.
Thursday, June 5, 2003
I'm off to run the world again
In the realm of conspiracy theories about who runs the world, the Council on Foreign Relations is more recent than the Trilateral Commission but older than the Straussians (for an example of the CFR conspiracy meme, click here).
UPDATE: I take one plane trip and by the time I touch down, Howell Raines has resigned and The Guardian has posted a full retraction. Moral of the story: don't mess with either the Blogosphere ... or the Council on Foreign Relations.
THE BLOGOSPHERE GETS RESULTS FROM
THE BLOGOSPHERE GETS RESULTS FROM THE GUARDIAN: The good news: The Guardian story that caused such a ruckus yesterday has been taken down from their web site [UPDATE: Here's the Guardian's full, contrite explanation. Good on them]. As a side note, this isn't the only story they've had to retract this week.
Wednesday, June 4, 2003
The state of democracy in the world
In the wake of the myriad difficulties and perceived roadblocks to the democratization process in Iraq, it is easy for one's inner Burke to emerge and assume that there are limits to the transplanting of liberal democracy outside of the West. I won't deny having had these occasional qualms recently, even though I argued two months ago that the chances for democratizing Iraq were better than skeptics believed.
As a balm for these occasional worries, go read Larry Diamond's June 2003 article "Universal Democracy?" in Policy Review. For the academics in the crowd, here's a link to the version with the statistical tables. Diamond's punchline:
The entire first half of the paper is a refutation of the argument that democracy can't thrive in non-rich, non-Western countries. One key passage:
GALACTICALLY STUPID DISTORTION AT THE
GALACTICALLY STUPID DISTORTION AT THE GUARDIAN: The headline to this Guardian story blares "Wolfowitz: Iraq war was about oil". Here are the lead grafs:
Sounds pretty devastating, right? The quote makes it seem like Wolfowitz is arguing that Iraq was such a lucrative prize that it would have been stupid not to invade and grab the oil.
Now let's go to the actual transcript and see what Wolfowitz said in context:
Clearly, what Wolfowitz meant was that Iraq's oil made it easy for Saddam Hussein's regime to survive economic sanctions, while North Korea might be more vulnerable to economic pressure.
The Guardian's version of events in such a ludicrous distortion of Wolfowitz's words that it falls into the "useful idiots" category. By apparently relying on a German translation/distortion of Wolfowitz's words -- when multiple English-language sources of the actual comments were available -- I have to wonder if the Guardian is guilty of libel in this case. [UPDATE: The Guardian is even more incompetent than I thought -- on Saturday, they ran the AP story I linked to above with the correct version of the quote!!! Thanks to alert reader D.B. and CalPundit's comments page for the link.]
By the way, almost all of the above information comes from The Belgravia Dispatch -- unfortunately his permalinks aren't working, which is why I've blogged about it here. He also has a link to Wolfowitz's actual response to a direct question about whether the war is about oil.
Howell Raines, op-ed columnist?
Times-bashers may be cackling with glee at this prospect. I, on the other hand, am quite anxious about this prospect.
Why? Because, if memory serves, when A.M. Rosenthal got the boot, his golden parachute was a Times op-ed column entitled "On My Mind." Rosenthal's mind turned out to be a vacuous, barren, desolate wasteland. His column -- a hackneyed collection of incoherent and infantile ramblings -- made me wince every second I read it until I went cold turkey in the mid-1990s. I might think Paul Krugman has become too shrill, but Krugman's column is an oasis of rigorous thinking and precise prose compared to Rosenthal's mindless blather.
Op-ed space in the New York Times is a scarce commodity. Even if it has a liberal bias, I want to read smart liberals -- Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, Kieran Healy, Brad DeLong, Henry Farrell -- not pompous windbags like Rosenthal. My fear is that if Raines is given an op-ed slot, he will crowd out higher-quality contributors.
Maybe Raines would be a better columnist than an executive editor, but my suspicion is that he'll wind up being a carbon copy of Rosenthal.
Tuesday, June 3, 2003
Doha round update
I'm frequently asked by students about when a theory of international relations should be discarded due to a lack of explanatory power. In response, I will occasionally launch into a disquisition about Kuhn and Lakatos, but more often I give the following answer:
The U.S. is far from pure on the question of agricultural subsidies. However, the success of the Doha round of world trade talks now hinges on whether the French are willing to walk away from the Common Agricultural Policy.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum has additional thoughts on the matter -- and there's an interesting debate among his commenters.
Monday, June 2, 2003
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE INVISIBLE
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE INVISIBLE HANDS: A sleep-deprived and procrastination-obsessed Josh Chafetz at OxBlog is having a contest for "the worst political philosophy / political theory pick-up lines".
For me, it's all in the empirical testing and observation of good theory. Values no doubt shared by the quote's inspiration.
UPDATE: By the way, I think Kevin Drum should win. It's easily the worst of the lot -- it also made me laugh out loud.