Friday, October 24, 2003
On the radio again
Tonight from 9:00 -- 11:00 CST I'll be on Extension 720 with Milt Rosenberg on WGN radio 720. The other guests are Karen Alter from Northwestern University's political science department and legendary Chicago journalist Dick Ciccone.
According to their calendar, the topic will be our take on, "the California recall, the Valerie Plame leak scandal, the recent events in Iraq and Israel and much, much more."
The shots across Don Rumsfeld's bow
Is it my imagination, or is the Beltway souring on Don Rumsfeld faster than a postseason bullpen collapse?
True, a lot of defence policy wonks were never thrilled with him in the first place. Right before 9/11, the scuttlebutt about Rumsfeld's impotence as SecDef was so loud that Tim Noah started the Rumsfeld Death Watch at Slate. Of course, Rumsfeld's performance after the September 11th attacks silenced those murmurs.
Today's first example is this New York Daily News story:
Josh Marshall points out that the administration source is likely, "some Bush One type at or in the orbit of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" who's close to Daily News reporter Tom DeFrank.
However, this New York Times report suggests that Rumsfeld's problems go beyond Bush I types. The story mostly quotes people in the legislative branch, but there's more:
Check out Eleanor Clift's Newsweek analysis as well. The Daily News story insists that Rumsfeld's job is safe because, "sacking Rumsfeld would give the appearance of admitting that Iraq is as big a mess as his critics contend." Still, if I was Tim Noah, I might want to crank up that death watch meme again.
Debating the Cuba embargo
The New York Times reports a growing split within Congress on the merits of the Cuba embargo:
David Adesnik certainly thinks this the travel ban should be lifted:
As someone who can plausibly claim some genuine expertise on this issue, I'm mildly in favor of lifting the embargo. First, it's clear that forty years of the embargo has not succeeded in overwthrowing Castro. Given that record, trying the engagement track can't make things any worse.
Second, anyone who thinks that engagement will have a dramatic effect on the situation is fooling themselves. The difference between Cuba and China is not just one of size -- it's also a difference in regime. What I wrote earlier this year in reference to North Korea holds with equal force in dealing with Cuba.
This gets to the distinction between a totalitarian and an authoritarian state. China or Singapore fall into the latter camp -- political dissent is stifled, but in other spheres of life there is sufficient breathing froom from state intervention to permit the flowering of pro-market, pro-democratic civil society. North Korea is totalitarian, in the sense that the state control every dimension of social life possible.
In authoritarian societies, the introduction of market forces and international news media can has the potential to transform society in ways that central governments will not be able to anticipate. In totalitarian societies, reform can only take place when the central government favors it. These societies have to take the first steps towards greater openness before any outside force can accelerate the process. Usually, such societies turn brittle and collapse under their own weight....
For the past decade, the DPRK [and Cuban] leadership has been completely consistent about one thing -- it prefers mass famine and total isolation over any threat to the survival of its leadership. Uncontrolled exchange with the West will threaten that leadership. I have no doubt that Pyongyang [and Havana] is enthusiastic about the creation of segmented economic zones where foreign capital would be permitted -- so long as the rest of North Korean [and Cuban] society remained under effective quarrantine.
So, why support a change in policy? On the off chance that I'm wrong and the Castro regime falls. A regime transition with the U.S. already on the ground in Cuba will be much smoother than a regime transition without any such interaction.
The Onion weighs in on Valerie Plame
What's scary about this Onion story is that it's not much of a tweak from a real news story. The highlights:
The Yglesias-Lowry smackdown
The American Prospect's Matthew Yglesias and The National Review's Rich Lowry are having a war of words over the prescience of conservatives regarding the Clinton administration's antiterrorism policy.
Lowry has published Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years. In it, he writes:
In a Q&A on NRO, Lowry elaborates:
On Tapped, Yglesias points out that Lowry's National Review failed to levy these attacks before 9/11. He concludes:
Two thoughts on this contretemps:
Yglesias may or may not be correct on this point -- off the cuff, I suspect he's correct in nailing the National Review as fundamentally realist in orientation, and the realist recommendation during the 1990's on dealing with terrorism was essentially to pull U.S. forces out of the Middle East.
However, just because the National Review did not criticize the antiterrorism policies of the Clinton era during the Clinton era does not mean no conservative publication failed to do so. It's worth re-reading Tom Donnelly's prescient October 30, 2000 cover story in the Weekly Standard. It was written in the aftermath of the USS Cole bombing. The relevant highlights:
Note, by the way, that the uniformed services come in for as much criticism as Clinton's foreign policy. Criticism that remains relevant today.
UPDATE: I was chary in my praise of the Weekly Standard on this score. The same issue that had Donnelly's cover story also included Reuel Marc Gerecht's spot-on criticism of Clinton's antiterrorism policy. Go check it out. Meanwhile, David Adesnik is going after Yglesias on another matter.
ANOTHER UPDATE: For those interested in reading a defense of the Clinton administration's foreign policy, click here.
Thursday, October 23, 2003
DanielDrezner.com is huge in India!! HUGE!!
My favorite part of the movie Singles -- one of Cameron Crowe's lesser works -- is when Matt Dillion tries to console himself at his band's poor reputation in the Seattle music scene by repeating the mantra, "We're huge in Belgium!!"
Well, now I get to say, "I'm huge in India!!"
[So, to carry the Singles analogy to its logical conclusion, does this mean you have a poor reputation in the blogosphere?--ed. I don't think so. I just love the "We're huge in Belgium" line.]
Wesley Clark, meet Nora Bensahel
Clark's running for president, and one can't begrudge the fact that this is both a good and salient line of attack.
However, it's worth exploring Clark's own policy positions to see how they're holding up. Consider the role of NATO. One of Clark's mantras since 9/11 has been that the Bush administration has slighted NATO and other multilateral fora in fighting the global war on terror. Here's an excerpt from Clark's May 2002 Senate testimony:
However, Patrick Belton links to a new RAND study -- The Counterterror Coalitions: Cooperation with Europe, NATO, and the European Union, by Nora Bensahel [FULL DISCLOSURE: I know Nora from graduate school -- we both attended Stanford]
The following is from the report summary:
Bensahel is a policy analyst, while Clark's actually run significant NATO operations. Clark may still be right. Still, this contradicts a key position of his, and -- once he's done with Rumsfeld -- I'd be curious to see how he would respond.
The verdict is in for the European Union
Chris Lawrence writes the following:
Pieter Dorsman has more on small country reactions to this decision. Chris concludes:
Weeeellll....... I wouldn't go that far. The difference between French behavior in the EU and French behavior in a multilateral organization that includes the U.S. is that France is a great power in the context of the former and only a middle-range power in the context of the latter. When the U.S. is a member, France's ability to defect from the rules carries much greater costs.
Although the media tends to focus on instances in which France makes life difficult for the United States, there are a welter of organizations and clubs -- the G-7, for example -- in which France plays a constructive role.
A final thought on the European Union. It has been pointed out by many that the macroeconomic rules that France is breaking are pretty stupid. This is undoubtedly true. However, two points in response. First, as I pointed out here:
Second, instead of actually changing the rules, France is simply flouting them. Neither the European Commission nor the European Council seems prepared to punish France for defecting.
In other words, at present the European Union, for all of its supranational characteristics, remains an ordinary international organization.
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Should I take this as a compliment?
There's been a rash of denial of service (DoS) attacks on various blogs. Andrew Sullivan and Roger Simon believes these were conscious attacks on warblogs. Joe Katzman has a thorough discussion of this over at Winds of Change.
Since I was among those who experienced a series of blog outages over the past 72 hours, I guess I should take this as a compliment. The thing is, I might just be an example of collateral damage. I've noticed that whenever InstaPundit faces a DoS attack, so do Calpundit and myself. I wouldn't exactly label Kevin Drum as a warblogger, so this might just be the result of all three of us using the same hosting service.
So, from now on, if a DoS attack incapacitates this blog for longer than 24 hours, you can find me at my old Blogger site. The address is: http://drezner.blogspot.com. For those who really need a daily dose of Drezner [You poor sods--ed.], bookmark the backup.
The Defense Department moves down the learning curve
Virginia Postrel links to this USA Today story about a leaked memo from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that paints a more sober picture of current progress in the War on Terror and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The memo states:
Postrel is completely correct [UPDATE: so does Josh Marshall], and bravo to Rumsfeld for putting it down on paper. It's the job of our leading policymakers to ask uncomfortable questions, plan for worst-case scenarios, and adapt to new facts and new situations.
That's why this week's Sy Hersh story in The New Yorker is so disturbing -- if true, it suggests that the DoD did none of these things in it's planning for postwar Iraq. Here's the part that raises alarm bells:
As I said before, bravo to Rumsfeld for raising the big, thorny questions.
You're finally moving down the learning curve on policy planning.
UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has a ton of links on the Rumsfeld memo.
Falsifying Paul Krugman
Here's why Krugman's hypothesis is wrong:
1) There is no domestic flank to protect. Mahathir's speech was to the Organization of the Islamic Conference -- an international body -- on the current state of the Muslim world. There was no domestic component to his intended audience. [But surely Mahathir knew that media coverage would lead to his domestic flank becoming aware of the speech!--ed. Yes, except that since Mahathir is stepping down as Prime Minister at the end of the month, he doesn't really need to be concerned about the domestic flank. Indeed, in his comments to the brouhaha, it's clear he thinks he was speaking truth to power. If that's the case, why the anti-Semitic rhetoric? Maybe, as Chris Lawrence suggests, Mahathir plans to pull strings from behind the scenes, a la Deng Xiaoping or Lee Kuan Yew--ed. Even if that's true, there's no need to protect a domestic flank, since this kind of power exercise does not need a popular domestic base.]
2) The dependent variable has taken this value before without the presence of the independent variable. Mahathir's exhibited this behavior prior to the current administration taking power. As Krugman and I have pointed out, Mahathir used similar rhetoric during the Asian financial crisis, which was in a pre-9/11 world. Krugman takes this to mean that whenever Mahathir faces domestic pressure, he'll resort to anti-Semitism, and that in 2003, the domestic pressure emanates from the Bush administration.
The problem with this logic is that the pressure that Mahathir faced in 1997 was far stronger than anything he's facing now from the United States. Indeed, as David Sanger pointed out yesterday, until recently, Mahathir warmly embraced the U.S.-led war on terror, and the Bush administration embraced Mahathir right back:
Where, exactly, is the emprical evidence that supports Krugman? Where are the street protests in Kuala Lumpur over U.S. support of Israel?
I'm sure Krugman believes that the Bush administration's foreign policy can explain any negative outcome in world politics. From someone with Krugman's ideology, it's a compelling argument. In this case, he's flat-out wrong.
The context: in 1999, Krugman receives and accepts an invitation from Mahathir to visit Malaysia, because Krugman had also disagreed with the IMF's policy recommendations. By the time of the visit, Mahathir has little reason to throw "red meat" to the Muslim majority:
So Mahathir has no need to worry about domestic discontent with his regime, and the external pressure from the crisis had faded considerably. So, Mahathir would have little need to resort to anti-Semitism to speak truth to power. Here, however, is Krugman's description of Mahathir's speech at a forum held in Krugman's honor:
Krugman describes this as, "an unfortunate emphasis." He doesn't say in the article that Mahathir said that the big speculators were Jewish, but I'd bet a fair amount of money that such a sentence was uttered.
So, in 1999, with no Bush administration in sight, with little domestic or international pressure on Mahathir's political position, does he change his tune? Nope.
FINAL UPDATE: Brad DeLong weighs in.
The best twenty movies from the last twenty years
Roger Simon has posted his favorite twenty films of all time. It's a good list -- but at the end, he observes, "What interest me is there isn't a single movie on this list made in the last twenty years."
Anyone who's been to my personal page knows that I'm a movie buff, and that I like older movies a great deal. However, in defense of my generation's moviegoing habits, I feel it necessary to counter Roger's list with what I think are the twenty best movies from the past twenty years.
In chronological order:
1) The Purple Rose of Cairo -- Woody Allen (The ending is so heartbreaking that I've never watched it through to the end a second time).
2) Bull Durham -- Ron Shelton (Everyone mentions the big speech Kevin Costner's character gives about what he believes. That's actually the worst part of the movie. Everything else in the film gets the rhythm of baseball, sex, and the mysteries of success perfectly).
3) Say Anything -- Cameron Crowe (The amazing thing about Crowe's movies -- anyone with more than three lines of dialogue is a fully-formed, three-dimensional character).
4) Do the Right Thing -- Spike Lee (Gorgeous photography by Earnest Dickerson, a screenplay that spends 80% of the movie walking the fine line between comedy and tragedy, and an ambiguous ending).
5) The Fabulous Baker Boys -- Steve Kloves (Dave Grusin's soundtrack is divine, and Michelle Pfeiffer's performance defines sultry. The Bridges brothers were good, too)
6) The Silence of the Lambs -- Jonathan Demme (What's amazing, in light of Demme's later trend towards the pedantic, is the subtlety of the direction here. Oh, and the scenes between Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster are pretty good).
7) Reservoir Dogs -- Quentin Tarantino (The dialogue is great, but it's often forgotten that Tarantino cut the camera away at the moments of horrific violence in this movie. Plus, the ending puts the lie to the notion that "nothing matters" in Tarantino films).
8) Groundhog Day -- Harold Ramis (Something I never thought possible -- a heart-warming Bill Murray movie).
9) Schindler's List -- Steven Spielberg (A meditation on the mysteries of good and evil).
10) Four Weddings and a Funeral -- Mike Newell (The last ten years have been lean for romantic comedies, but this one can hold its own. Not a word out of place).
11) Courage Under Fire -- Ed Zwick (In terms of acting performances, the most underrated movie of the past ten years. Denzel Washington, Meg Ryan, Matt Damon, and Lou Diamond Phillips are all outstanding).
12) Saving Private Ryan -- Steven Spielberg (The first movie I cried at since ET: The Extra Terrestrial).
13) Election -- Alexander Payne (The best movie about politics ever made. That's right, I said ever).
14) Run Lola Run -- Tom Tykwer (A perfect exercise in plot minimalism. Plus, a kick-ass soundtrack).
15) The Matrix -- The Wachowski Brothers (The only other movie that left me this awestruck at the power of movies was Raiders of the Lost Ark).
16) Toy Story 2 -- John Lasseter (The first one was great -- the second one was a perfect mix of poignancy and hilarity).
17) The Insider -- Michael Mann (This movie shouldn't work, in that there are only two moments of decision in the entire film. It's to Mann's credit that the entire film is gripping).
18) Mulholland Drive -- David Lynch (This man's films scare me like no others. Plus, it has the most erotic scene put on film in the past twenty years).
19) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon -- Ang Lee (The martial arts!! The music!! The joy of discovering Zhang Zhiyi!!)
20) Monsoon Wedding -- Mira Nair (Gorgeous photography, great music, and an interesting exploration of tradition and modernity in India).
Looking over the list, I'm intrigued to see how much action and music played a role in my decisions.
Let the debate commence!!
UPDATE: Damn, lots of good movies that commenters and other bloggers have raised that I didn't think about when I composed the list -- This is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Lone Star, L.A. Confidential, Zero Effect, and High Fidelity. Maybe I would take one of these over Courage Under Fire, but otherwise I'm still comfortable with the list.
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
An apology to Gregg Easterbrook
I've been informed by both Brad DeLong and Gregg Easterbrook that the e-mail was a fake, so I'm crossed it out from my post.
My apologies for getting suckered. It was a disservice to you, the readers, as well as to Easterbrook. Gregg's cool with it -- as he put it in an e-mail, it's "the nature of a new medium." For those readers who prowl other blogs, if you see it there, let the blogger know it's a fake.
We'll return to our regularly scheduled blogging tomorrow.
UPDATE: See the comment below by John Hinderaker of the Power Line. All I can say is that I'm going on what DeLong and Easterbrook have told me via e-mail.
Monday, October 20, 2003
The post-war debate about the pre-war rhetoric -- my decision
It's time for my decision. I'd like to congratulate Holsclaw and Schwarz for the effort they put into their arguments. I'd also like to congratulate Jerry, who easily made the silliest argument -- pro or con -- of all the commenters.
The question, to review, is:
So, with my criteria clear, the winner is....
Here's my reasoning:
1) Schwarz is correct to point out that the administration redefined imminent threat in its 2001 National Security Strategy. As Schwarz quoted:
So, the Bush administration's concept of imminent threat encompassed more situations than prior definitions. For this administration, the combination of hostile intentions and WMD-delivery capabilities is sufficient to be labeled as "imminent." Note, by the way, that this also clears away all the underbrush generated by the Thesaurus Wars.
2) On the capabilities question, Schwarz wins. His quotations from Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld all characterize Hussein's capabilities as both pre-existing (with regard to chemical or biological weapons) and growing over time. The quotes also indicate that the administration argued at various points that Hussein would use terrorist groups as his delivery mechanism. Holsclaw, in characterizing the Cheney quote, acknowledges:
3) The above quote also indicates that Holsclaw accepted that Cheney, at least, thought Hussein's intentions were hostile. Interestingly, neither debater really delved into the question of Saddam Hussein's intentions. This was actually the key argument behind the realist opposition to the war -- that Saddam's intentions were not fundamentally aggressive. However, given Bush's description in the SOTU of Saddam as "evil", and his statement in same that, "trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option," I'm assuming both of them will stipulate that the administration argued that Saddam had malevolent and hostile intentions.
4) Holsclaw's best argument is this much-cited paragraph from the State of the Union:
Here, it seems that Bush makes a distinction between the conventional definition of "imminent threat" and what weas articulated in the National Security Strategy. Holsclaw concludes from this statement:
This is where the "complete fabrication" part of the statement works against Holsclaw. It doesn't matter if Bush makes the clear distinction between in the SOTU, if he or other principals in the administration blurred the distinction at other points in the debate over Iraq. And here, the preponderance of the evidence favors Schwarz. From the National Security Strategy forward, the administration argued that:
Was it a complete fabrication that the administration argued in the runup to the war that there was an imminent threat from Iraq? No, it was not.
Congratulations to Jonathan for winning the $100. As a consolation to Sebastian -- who I think faced an uphill battle due to the framing of the question -- let me take the opportunity to encourage those who agreed and disagreed but respected his line of argumentation to go check out his new blog.
[So, you're saying that Schwarz wins, but that in winning he doesn't vindicate the bulk of the anti-war criticisms. Were you trying to alienate all sides?--ed. I believe that is the technical description of "referee."]
Last thoughts on Easterbrook
The New Republic's editors have just posted their response to the Easterbrook donnybrook. Worth a read. A key paragraph:
Mickey Kaus' post on the subject strikes a similar tone:
Finally, The Power Line reprints an e-mail from Easterbrook that is making the rounds of the blogosphere. [UPDATE: Easterbrook says this e-mail is not genuine. See this post for more.] Yesterday I was told to expect to be fired by ESPN. It hasn't happened yet, but seems likely [he has since been fired by ESPN]. Friday the top officers of ESPN refused several orders from Michael Eisner, the head of Disney, that I be fired. By the end of the day it seemed likely they would give in.... Yesterday I was told by an ally within Disney corporate that Eisner has assigned people to try to destroy the book [The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse] -- to get Time to drop the serial, to keep me off interview shows, even to get Random House to kill the book. In a published body of work that now extends to millions of words, I have written three foolish and wrong sentences. Now I've not only lost reputation and half my income (ESPN): what matters to me most in all the world, my book writing, is in jeopardy at the worst possible time. And I'm up against one of the richest, most vindictive men in the world. (emphasis added)
Yesterday I was told to expect to be fired by ESPN. It hasn't happened yet, but seems likely [he has since been fired by ESPN]. Friday the top officers of ESPN refused several orders from Michael Eisner, the head of Disney, that I be fired. By the end of the day it seemed likely they would give in....
Yesterday I was told by an ally within Disney corporate that Eisner has assigned people to try to destroy the book [The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse] -- to get Time to drop the serial, to keep me off interview shows, even to get Random House to kill the book. In a published body of work that now extends to millions of words, I have written three foolish and wrong sentences. Now I've not only lost reputation and half my income (ESPN): what matters to me most in all the world, my book writing, is in jeopardy at the worst possible time. And I'm up against one of the richest, most vindictive men in the world. (emphasis added)
As I've said before, Easterbrook must bear the costs of exercising his right to free speech. However, if this is true, then Eisner is enggaging in mass overkill.
UPDATE: Eugene Volokh gets a response to his letter from ESPN. Go read it for a concrete example of the term "Orwellian."
Odds & ends on anti-semitism
In no particular order:
Thanks to DanielDrezner.com's trusted South Asian correspondent A.A. for the link.
Solomonia points out that this thank-you has unnerved Chirac to the point of being more explicit in his condemnation. He links to this Haaretz story reporting that Cirac has sent a personal letter to Mahathir that contains the following paragraph:
Yourish reports that Easterbrook's firing has had significant costs, since his ESPN payments were, "a huge chunk of his income." Howard Kurtz quotes Easterbrook saying, "This nuclear-bomb response is dramatically disproportionate to the offense,"
Now, I think ESPN erred in what they did, but I have to wonder whether Easterbrook's comments now contradict his comments from two years ago (thanks to Don Williams for the link) on the costs of free speech:
Maybe the cost of Easterbrook's speech in this incident was excessive. But to extend his analogy, if a bookstore has the right to not promote a book, then ESPN has the right to not promote Easterbrook.
However, Atrios concludes his last post by saying, "I find the rallying around him rather creepy." You know what I find creepy? Anonymous bloggers hypocritically lambasting Easterbrook and other bloggers with the guts to write under their own name.
A hypothetical: what happens if Atrios had posted something equally offensive? Does he lose his day job? No, because of his anonymity. He clearly prefers it this way, and I'm not saying that bloggers must out themselves. However, the cloak of anonymity does give Atrios a degree of insulation that other bloggers don't have. Say what you will about Easterbrook -- at least he put his real name on his posts. It's not clear to me that Atrios is willing to bear the real costs of free speech that have now entangled Easterbrook.
UPDATE: Will Baude writes:
I wasn't trying to imply that at all. I was trying to imply that the kind of schadenfreude Atrios takes from Easterbrook's current plight strikes me as hypocritical.