Wednesday, June 18, 2003
I guess this explains Blogger, too
Google explains their phenomenal success.
Heh. (link via Josh Chafetz)
The blogosphere takes on the mullahs
Here is Andrew Sullivan's suggestion from earlier this week:
Glenn Reynolds thinks this is "a great idea" and provides lots of relevant links.
I plan to be on board as well. [Why don't you launch a campaign to mock Bill O'Reilly's half-assed comments about the Internet instead?--ed. Too late. Besides, I'm sure O'Reilly was using his whole ass when he penned that prose. Nice reference to The Simpsons!--ed.] However, I have a few conditions:
1) Everyone recognize the limitations of this enterprise: A great deal has been written and posted about how Iranians hunger for a more liberal democracy, and how the blogosphere is playing a vital role in communicating that hunger.
However, this conveniently ignores the fact that the Iranian government is an altogether different beast than either Trent Lott or the New York Times. They play for keeps, and have been unafraid in the past to use paramilitary violence to put down student dissent. Here are the latest reports on Iran from Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International. They don't make for pleasant reading. A lot of web postings will be unlikely to diminish the mullahs' ardor for repression.
I've argued that the blogosphere's power has been inflated as of late, and I fear this will prove my point. I really hope I'm wrong, though.
2) Don't lobby for Western governments to take direct action against Iran. Official action by western governments could backfire, as Robert Lane Greene observes:
Obviously, the nuclear question is a matter for official action, and rhetorical support for the protestors is appropriate. Further sanctions, however, are unlikely to accomplish anything.
[Why, then, did you agitate for economic pressure on Burma? Isn't this the same thing?--ed. No, it's not. In the case of Burma, the demand is extremely specific -- a release of one activist and a return to the status quo of a few months ago. In Iran, the demand is simultaneously more amorphous and more ambiguous.]
3) Remember that the goal is to act as a megaphone for the Iranians themselves. While official action might be counterproductive, direct pressure from global civil society -- which is what Sullivan wants the blogosphere to be on July 9th -- can, at the very least, offer a show of support to Iranians that their voice is being heard. To that end, please click over to Jeff Jarvis' wonderful collection of Iranian bloggers.
4) Quincy Jones is not the producer. For those of you too young to understand that reference, click here.
Tuesday, June 17, 2003
Sorry for the lack of posts
Monday, June 16, 2003
Same story, different worlds
As worldwide pressure grows on the Burmese junta to release Aung San Suu Kyi, media reaction has differed on Colin Powell's rhetorically tough approach. Here's the International Herald-Tribune:
In this version of events, the West has shamed the East into action.
Now, consider this Bangkok Post version of events:
Who's right? One is tempted to dismiss the Post version of events, since it includes a passsage in which Mahathir Mohammed, Malaysia's president, is chagrined at the thought of the Burmese junta taking over the ASEAN presidency in 2006. Mahathir's own actions suggest he is hardly the most democratic of leaders. Furthermore, the "quiet diplomacy" argument has the advantage of nonfalsifiability.
And yet, there is a difference between someone like Mahathir, who has some respect for the rule of law, and the thugs of Burma. And the Post is correct in observing that rhetorical pressure is unlikely to have any effect, and that economic sanctions will not work unless China actively participates, which is highly unlikely.
In the end, however, the most significant fact in this story is not the immediate effect on Burma, but the effect on ASEAN. The organization recognizes that its non-intervention policy needs to evolve, in part due to Western pressure. Its members are either actual democracies -- Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines -- or are rhetorically committed to democracy -- Signapore, Malaysia, Cambodia. Furthermore, local crises, such as the 1997-98 financial panic or the SARS outbreak, generally force greater regional openness.
I don't hold out much hope for a democratic Burma anytime soon. An ASEAN that recognizes the value of democracy, however, is an intriguing possibility.
Want to know what's happening in political science?
I pretty much abhor popular writing about political science. It's usually off the mark, and some of it (Emily Eakin, I'm looking in your direction) is responsible for popularizing what I can only describe as complete mush.
So I write with pleasant surprise that Sharla Stewart has written a pretty accurate piece on the current state of the political science discipline for the University of Chicago alumni magazine. It discusses in depth the rise of the "perestroika" movement, which argues that the discipline has tilted too far in the direction of rational choice theory and statistical methodologies. Go take a look if you're so inclined.
[And where do you stand on these various fault lines?--ed. I straddle a fair number of them. My research involves all of the methodologies discussed in the article. I am by no means an area studies type, however.]