Friday, July 11, 2003
Pat Robertson acting like a foreign policy jackass -- again.
Televangelist Pat Robertson's most notable contribution to the foreign policy debate since 9/11 was to say that Muslims were worse than Nazis, so we shouldn't expect much of use to come from his lips.
Charles Taylor may be a Baptist, but he's also an indicted war criminal whose primary hobbies over the past decade were exporting war to the rest of West Africa and cooperating with Al Qaeda (link via Radley Balko). As Ryan Lizza observes in The New Republic:
What makes Robertson's advocacy for Taylor even more galling is his financial dealings with Taylor. According to Christianity Today:
Mother Jones has the story as well.
The one potential upside to all of this is that Robertson has become so toxic that the evangelical community has started to distance themselves from him [UPDATE: some social conservatives have already distanced themselves from Robertson]. According to today's Post:
Is the country finally at the point when Pat Robertson can just be ignored?
John B. Judis, Meet Leon Trotsky
In Salon today, John Judis argues that Howard Dean would get mauled if he became the Democratic nominee:
Is Judis correct? Possibly, but that's not what interests me. What's puzzling about the essay is that Judis argued last year, in The Emerging Democratic Majority with Ruy Teixeira, that over the next decade the same demographic groups that are pushing Dean forward will make the Democrats the majority party (click here for their web site)
How does Judis reconciles this argument with what he says about Dean in Salon? Frankly, it's not clear to me that he does. Here's the key graf on this:
The implicit argument seems to be that the emerging Democratic majority is still emerging, and until that happens, someone of Dean's ilk will fare poorly in a national election. Wait until 2008, or 2012, and things will be different.
Maybe that's a correct assessment (although David Brooks makes a different demographic prediction). However, I kept flashing back to what one of Trotsky's biographers once said: "Proof of Trotsky's farsightedness is that none of his predictions have come true yet."
Thursday, July 10, 2003
How Africa can help itself, cont'd
First, Botswana's ample natural endowments make it an excellent model for much of sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. The problem with these countries is not a lack of resource endowments, but the ability to exploit them in a way that leads to sustainable economic growth.
Second, the point about AIDS (which Virginia Postrel also made in an e-mail) is dead-on, as this CNN report suggests. The model African nation on this front is Uganda. The national AIDS commission has their own web site; according to this page, the percentage of the population infected with HIV has declined from 18% in the early 1990s to 6.5% in the end of 2001.
However, economic freedom plays an interesting role here as well. Click here for a very revealing CNN interview with Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni. One highlight:
Then there's this quote from a speech Museveni gave last month to the U.S. pharamceutical lobby:
Wednesday, July 9, 2003
Alas, I was too busy with other things to post on Iran. Fortunately, the rest of the blogosphere is on the job.
For more info on the cancellation of Iranian student protests in Tehran today -- but not elsewhere -- go to Jeff Jarvis, Winds of Change, Oxblog, Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds, James Lileks, Kevin Drum, and all of Pejman Yousefzadeh's posts for today.
I'm only posting this for educational purposes
To which Kevin responds:
My hands were tied here, people.
UPDATE: One reader e-mails, "Wow, great stuff on Alyssa Milano, but who's Howard Dean?" Heh.
How Africa can help itself
Given the spate of recent coverage about Africa's political, economic, and humanitarian woes, it's worth pointing out Botswana as a clear success story. Canada's Fraser Institute just released its 2003 annual report on economic freedom of the world. In their press release, they point out the following:
Foreign aid and preferential trade agreements can help African countries, but only if they also help themselves.
Good news in Afghanistan
I've been pessimistic about the state of affairs in Afghanistan, so I'm happy to highlight more positive news. Glenn Reynolds links to this USA Today story indicating optimism among Afghans regarding the current state of affairs in the country.
And this VOA story strongly suggests that Afghans do not want to see a return to Taliban rule. Ransacking an embassy is over the top, but it does indicate the salience of this issue to ordinary residents of Kabul.
Peacekeeping Institute to stay open
In April I blogged about the Army's dubious cost-cutting decision to shut down the Peacekeeping Institute at the U.S. Army War College.
Looks like the Bush administration has changed its mind:
Congrats to the administration for moving down the learning curve on this one.
Democrats and foreign policy
Looking for links on my Dean essay in TNR Online? Here goes.
My previous blog post about Dean and Kerry is here . Dean's June 25th foreign policy speech (which Will Saletan savaged in this Slate article) is available on his official web site; his June 23rd speech officially kicking off his presidential campaign. comes from the official blog. The quote about free trade hollowing out America's manufacturing sector comes from this site. Here is Dean's Meet the Press transcript.
My appraisal of the other Democratic foreign policy platforms can be found here. The relevant Foreign Policy issue is here, as is a link for further reading on the positions of Kerry, Gephardt, Edwards, and Lieberman. And, for good measure, here's a link to the Democrats for National Security web site, about which I blogged here and here.
The point that Dean makes about how the U.S. should act if it's a declining world hegemon has been made in the academy by Joseph Nye in The Paradox of American Power and John Ikenberry in After Victory.
Finally, my explanation for why Dean is wrong about the race to the bottom in the global economy is available here.
One final Dean link; this J.P. Gownder essay from Sunday's Washington Post suggests that Dean's Internet strategy isn't as revolutionary as people believe:
Taking Howard Dean seriously
My latest TNR essay is up -- it's a sober appraisal of Howard Dean's foreign policy views. Go check it out.
Volokh and Baker
Eugene Volokh responds to the Dusty Baker question here, here, here, and here. The gist of Volokh's point is that, a) Baker may well be correct in his generalization, in which case he shouldn't need to apologize, and b) Even if he is wrong, there was no malicious intent in Baker's words: "they don't sound mean-spirited or insulting, and Baker gave no indication that he was going to act illegally based on those stereotypes." Read all of his posts for more on this.
Like Eugene, I have no clue whether Baker's generalization is factually correct, but my suspicion is that it is not (it certainly depends on the definition of "white."), which was my problem with the comment.
Another concern of mine -- and I'm walking right into Volokh's area of expertise on this -- is the slippery slope question. Eugene distinguishes between generalizations of physical conditions ("blacks perform better in baseball in hot weather") and those of moral character ("blacks are less coachable athletes"). The latter are examples of bad manners; the former are not.
Part of me wants to agree with him on this, because to disagree means applying a moral censure over a wider swath of conversations about race. Conversations about race in this country are circumscribed enough as it is, so I'm very uneasy with suggesting further constraints.
Volokh admits, however, that the physical/character dichotomy is "a subtle difference and one of degree," and "speculations about morals and ethics involve many more vague lines, subtle differences of degree , and unprovable propositions about human nature than even speculations about law do." Under Volokh's criteria, for example, is it permissible for a coach to make comments distinguishing between the races on a combination of physical and character issues, i.e., "Blacks do worse in pressure situations because their bodies generate excessive amounts of adrenaline under stress relative to whites?" I want the dividing line to be as clear as Eugene, but I'm pessimistic that it really is this distinct.
I don't think Baker should be penalized or punished for what he said. I agree with Eugene that this is a case of bad manners rather than anything more serious. But I still think he should apologize.
Tuesday, July 8, 2003
Can Dusty Baker take the heat?
Dusty Baker -- the current manager of the Chicago Cubs -- was quoted making the following observation this past Saturday:
Now there's a minor furor over the issue, as this USA Today story recounts. Some key grafs:
Now, the problem I have with this is that Baker is not saying things only about blacks. He's making a comparative statement about different races -- blacks and Latinos are better at tolerating the heat than whites. There is no difference between the content of what Baker said and the content of what CBS Sports analyst Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder said fifteen years ago when he argued that blacks were better athletes because of the way they were bred as slaves. Snyder recanted; Baker is standing firm.
Should Baker apologize for making such uninformed and stereotypical remarks? Yes, he should.
UPDATE: Two e-mails worthy of note. The first from reader J.G.:
The second from reader J.B.:
The 2003 Human Development Report
Powerful stuff, somewhat vitiated by the UNDP's atrocious track record in statistical methodology. [How does that matter?--ed. I'm glad you asked.]
As recently as last year, the Human Development Report used currency market exchange rates, rather than purchasing power parity (PPP) exchange rates, to measure income disparities across nations. There is a consensus among economists that PPP exchange rates are far more accurate at converting income across countries (long story short, PPP rates cover nontradeable services better). Market exchange rates drastically understate the size of developing country economies.
By using market exchange rates, the Human Development Report concluded that global income inequality was vastly increasing. In committing this methodological sin, the UNDP provided prestigious but factually incorrect ammunition for anti-globalization activists. One could go even further to argue that in muddying up the clear positive correlation between globalization and reductions in global income inequality, the UNDP set back the development debate by half a decade.
This screw-up eventually led to the creation of a UN commission to study such gross statistical whoppers, but as of last year, no change in their calculation of income inequality.
According to their web site, Jeffrey Sachs is guest editor of this year's HDR. The general consensus is that Sachs is not an idiot, and this note suggests that the 2003 report should be an improvement over its predecessors.
Showdown in the occupied territories
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is threatening to resign unless given more latitude in his negotiations with Israel, according to the AP:
This will be an interesting test for the Palestinian leadership. Abbas' primary lever of power is that the Americans and Israelis will actually negotiate with him. The question is whether losing that link is costly enough to force the rest of Fatah to back down.
New blog of note
NEW BLOG OF NOTE: A month ago I posted some recommendations for left-of-center bloggers as possible prospects for the left-of-center New York Times op-ed page.
Looks like some of them have decided not to wait, and are forming their own group blog instead, Crooked Timber. I heartily recommend it -- although Chris Bertram's description of the group effort is a bit over the top:
Monday, July 7, 2003
Virginia Postrel wants to steal the blogosphere's bread and butter
In this post on the disturbing tendency of commentators to escalate the rhetorical arms race as a way of capturing attention, Postrel concludes:
No kidding. What percentage of blogposts are denunciations of some blowhard on the political extremes?
Postrel's motivation for the post comes from this Andrew Sullivan comment on Ann Coulter:
It's worth pointing out that John Stuart Mill anticipated this problem in On Liberty, but believed it to be the lesser evil:
Explaining Bush's dare
\David Warren ventures an explanation for Bush's dare to Iraqi guerillas. The key grafs:
It's an interesting rationale, slightly tarnished by the fact that Warren is factually incorrect in stating that Iraq would be the first Arab democracy. The scholarly consensus is that Lebanon was a functioning democracy prior to the outbreak of civil war.
The manpower crunch
This problem is not going away anytime soon. The war on terrorism requires statebuilding, which requires large numbers of personnel on the ground. Demands for intervention will not be going away anytime soon, as the case of Liberia demonstrates.
My five-cent analysis is that the problem here is that Rumsfeld has paid far more attention to altering the warfighting doctrine than to the resources and training needed for postwar statebuilding. As I noted ten weeks agohere, the administration seems to have boxed itself into a corner on this issue.
UPDATE: I'm pretty sure the U.S. doesn't need to allocate so much manpower for this assignment.