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."

posted by Dan at 05:19 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

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.

However, now Rumsfeld's enemies and rivals leaking like crazy. In the past week alone, there was the Sy Hersh story and the the leaked memo.

Today's first example is this New York Daily News story:

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld angered the White House yesterday with a leaked memo questioning whether the U.S. was winning the war on terror.
"This has put Rummy in a bad spot," one Bush administration source said.

"Before this he had personality and policy problems," the source said. "Now he has a credibility problem because he's acknowledged that they've all been putting on a happy face about Iraq."

It was the latest blow for the beleaguered defense secretary. Earlier this month, the White House switched responsibility for rebuilding Iraq from Rumsfeld to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

"The President isn't happy," but he won't fire Rumsfeld, a Bush official said.

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:

On issues that include General Boykin (who has likened the war against Islamic militants to a battle against Satan) and his own views about the war on terrorism (and the gap between Mr. Rumsfeld's glossy public assessments and the more roughly hewn private views that leaked out this week), senior Republicans have joined Democrats in openly complaining that the Pentagon has left them in the dark and vulnerable on critical and sensitive political issues....

White House officials have also made clear that they are increasingly frustrated and impatient with Mr. Rumsfeld, particularly after he publicly criticized the president's closest foreign policy adviser, Condoleezza Rice, earlier this month in an internal power struggle that the defense secretary made public.

A Republican who is close to the White House said the view there had been that Mr. Rumsfeld "went off the deep end" in his reaction earlier this month to Mr. Bush's decision to designate Ms. Rice as the overall coordinator of Iraq policy. "The worst thing that can happen in Washington is if you're a cabinet member, you think you're bigger than the president," the Republican said. (emphasis added)

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.

UPDATE: Drezner gets no results from Tim Noah, but gets some from Time and Newsweek.

posted by Dan at 05:11 PM | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (1)

Debating the Cuba embargo

The New York Times reports a growing split within Congress on the merits of the Cuba embargo:

In a firm rebuke to President Bush over Cuba policy, the Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly voted to ease travel restrictions on Americans seeking to visit the island.

The 59-to-38 vote came two weeks after Mr. Bush, in a Rose Garden ceremony, announced that he would tighten the travel ban on Cuba in an attempt to halt illegal tourism there and to bring more pressure on the government of Fidel Castro....

The vote also highlighted a widening split between two important Republican constituencies: farm-state Republicans, who oppose trade sanctions in general or are eager to increase sales to Cuba, and Cuban-American leaders, who want to curb travel and trade to punish Mr. Castro. The White House views Cuban-Americans as essential to Mr. Bush's re-election prospects in Florida.

The Senate last rejected an easing of travel restrictions in 1999, by a vote of 43 to 55. But in an indication of how much the political and policy pendulum has swung, 13 senators who voted against easing the curbs four years ago switched sides and voted for it on Thursday.

David Adesnik certainly thinks this the travel ban should be lifted:

It's time to lift the travel ban, lift trade restrictions, lift everything. Cuba is a small island just off the coast of Florida. The more open it is to American influence, the more its people will recognize that there are alternatives to living in a police state of misery....

We are going to overwhelm Cuba with ideas. And we may be able to foster something of a private sector that has assets of its own. Moreover, even Castro's loyal bureaucrats may recognize that their cut of the goods is nothing compared to what it would be if liberalization went even further.

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.

posted by Dan at 12:06 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (3)

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:

A White House administration official who can be blamed for leaking the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame to the press remains at large, White House officials announced Monday.

"We are doing everything in our power to see that the scapegoat is found and held accountable," President Bush said. "We will not stop until he—or she—is located. Believe me, nobody wants to see the blame placed squarely on the shoulders of a single person, and photos of that individual in every newspaper in the country, more than I do."

As the White House's search for the scapegoat continues, the Justice Department's investigative team is also working around the clock to find the ostensibly guilty party.

"We're doing everything we can," Attorney General John Ashcroft said. "I have assured the president that I will let him know the second we find either the leak or a decent scapegoat. It will happen. He's out there somewhere."

UPDATE: The Wahington Post has a real update on the Plame investigation (link via Josh Marshall)

posted by Dan at 11:18 AM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (0)

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:

On September 11, Clinton's most important legacy arrived in horrifying form, and settled in a pile of rubble seven stories high in downtown Manhattan.

In a Q&A on NRO, Lowry elaborates:

Well, obviously, Osama bin Laden was responsible for 9/11. But the September 11th attacks were clearly Clinton's most consequential legacy. The way he had hamstrung the CIA, handcuffed the FBI, neglected airport security, and, most importantly, left a nest of terrorist training camps in Afghanistan unmolested — knowing, knowing they were there — created the ticking time bomb that went off on September 11th. Should Bush have done more during the eight months he was in office? Absolutely. But much of his work would have been — and has been — undoing the mistakes of the Clinton administration.

I talked to a lot of former FBI officials, and they just can't believe the weakness of Clinton in response to the terror threat. After the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996, in which Iran was implicated, Clinton made a semi-apology to Iran while the investigation was still underway. After al Qaeda nearly leveled two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, Clinton responded with pinprick cruise-missile strikes, one of which was against a probably mistaken target. After the Cole bombing in 2000, Clinton did nothing.

On Tapped, Yglesias points out that Lowry's National Review failed to levy these attacks before 9/11. He concludes:

I would argue that before 9-11 Democrats were more focused on terrorism than Republicans (most of whom seemed overly enamored with missile defense and great-power politics) but it's clear -- in retrospect -- that it would have been nice if both the Clinton and Bush administrations had done more to combat al-Qaeda. By and large, liberals have resisted the temptation to play the 9-11 blame game, but obviously the folks at National Review have no intention of extending us the same courtesy.

Well, needless to say, this roiled Lowry a fair bit. He responds to Yglesias here. Yglesias then fires back here. Read the entire exchange.

Two thoughts on this contretemps:

  • If you're Yglesias, you have to be feeling pretty damn good. Forget the merits of the debate. As a recent college graduate and junior member of TAP's writing team has managed to make Rich Lowry mad. If the Center for American Progress has any brains, they'll recruit comers like Yglesias.

  • In his last reply, Yglesias says:

    The question I sought to raise, however, was not whether America's pre-9-11 counterterrorism policy looks flawed in retrospect -- it obviously was -- but whether the editors of the National Review were urging that the Clinton administration do anything substantially different at the time. (emphasis in original)

    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:

    The immediate reaction to the bombing of the Cole was telling. President Clinton denounced a "cowardly act of terrorism." An American president these days has difficulty recognizing an assault on a U.S. Navy vessel in a foreign port for what it obviously is: an act of war. Almost anything short of a conventional armored invasion across an international border is now regarded as terrorism, ethnic cleansing, or even genocide--something entirely irrational, as opposed to a calculated political act. And the proper response to today's unconventional assaults is seen to be legal and moral: Terrorists should be "brought to justice" and ethnic cleansers made to stand trial in the Hague; our military forces should be employed in a disinterested, evenhanded way on "humanitarian" missions....

    Not only are these anti-American warriors brave, they are increasingly well organized, well armed, and well trained. "Globalism," it turns out, favors not only international businessmen, but also international drug lords and guerrillas. These may be "non-state actors," but they benefit from state sponsorship, and they can form alliances of convenience with governments hostile to the United States or simply take advantage of weak or failing states. New information technologies, along with old-fashioned weapons proliferation, make the resort to violence both tempting and effective.

    Curiously, those most resistant to these lessons include the leaders of the U.S. armed forces, both in uniform and out. To them, constabulary duties are far less glamorous and honorable than the conventional wars they signed up for, and far more ambiguous. These missions do not take place on a well-defined battlefield and drive to a clear end. As a result, despite their frequency, the Pentagon has done almost nothing to adapt its operations, its forces, or its budgets to the new reality.

    As long as the unipolar moment lasts, then, unconventional attacks like that on the Cole or on the Khobar Towers or the ambush of the Rangers in Mogadishu will continue to punctuate the headlines. The American response to these acts of war should be to use the instruments of war--intelligence gathering and military force--not only to avenge them and deter similar acts, but also to frustrate the political aims of our enemies.

    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.

    posted by Dan at 12:08 AM | Comments (41) | Trackbacks (2)

    Thursday, October 23, 2003 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!!"

    The Indian Express -- which I'm told is the third-largest paper in India -- has reprinted this post on Mahathir Mohammed that became a Tech Central Station column.


    [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.]

    posted by Dan at 04:33 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (2)

    Wesley Clark, meet Nora Bensahel

    Wesley Clark is making a lot of hay about the Rumsfeld memo. The Chicago Tribune quotes him as follows:

    [R]etired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, a Democratic presidential candidate, said the memo marked the first glimpse the administration has allowed into problems many critics have been alleging for months.

    "Secretary Rumsfeld is only now acknowledging what we've known for some time--that this administration has no plan for Iraq and no long-term strategy for fighting terrorism," Clark said Wednesday.

    "Attacks on our troops in Iraq are spiking," he said. "If that doesn't impart a sense of urgency, I don't see how a memo is going to do it."

    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:

    Instead of just looking for additional manpower, ships and aircraft, we need to focus on the problems of eliminating al Qaeda through the exchange of information and sensitive intelligence, through the harmonization of legal and judicial standards and procedures, and the coordination of law enforcement activities. We need to make the international environment as seamless for our counterterrorist efforts as it is seamless to the terrorists themselves.

    However, exchanges of information, harmonization and coordination of activities are extraordinarily difficult. There is no international organization to do this. In fact, even though this is mentioned in the NATO strategic concept, the United States position in the past has always been that we would prefer to do this bilaterally. The problem is that you can't have effective coordination when every different agency of the United States government is working bilaterally with 10, 15, 20 different governments....

    The experience of over 40 years suggests that all of this work is best concerted in institutional rather than ad hoc relationships. As we heard in the previous panel, military liaison is not enough. It has to be embedded at every level of the government. It has to go from the top down. If we didn't have NATO, we'd be in the process of inventing it or reinventing it today. But I think NATO, if it were properly utilized, could provide the institutional framework that we need.

    Here's a more recent essay by Clark on NATO that makes similar points. Again, sounds reasonable. Joe Lieberman has made similar noises on this question.

    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:

    The long-term success of the counterterror campaign will depend on concerted cooperation from European states, but a key question (addressed in Chapter Three) is the extent to which that cooperation should be pursued through European multilateral institutions. NATO has not yet proven capable of reorienting itself to challenge terrorism....

    As the United States develops a policy of counterterror cooperation with Europe, it must strike the right balance between bilateral and multilateral approaches. The policy choice is not whether to pursue bilateral or multilateral approaches; many important policies are now being made at the European level and multilateral institutions cannot simply be ignored. Instead, the United States must determine which issues are best addressed through a multilateral approach and which ones are best addressed through a bilateral approach.

    This report argues that the United States should pursue military and intelligence cooperation on a bilateral basis, and it should increasingly pursue financial and law enforcement cooperation on a multilateral basis. (See pp. 45–54.) Bilateral cooperation will remain necessary in the military and intelligence realms—states retain significant capacities in these areas, NATO currently lacks the political will to embrace counterterrorism as a new mission, and the EU does not intend to build the centralized structures and offensive capabilities that would be required.

    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.

    posted by Dan at 11:56 AM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (2)

    The verdict is in for the European Union

    Chris Lawrence writes the following:

    Two months ago, Daniel Drezner noted the split over whether the European Union is an international organization or a supranational authority among IR scholars... and that upcoming events in France and Germany would help settle that question—in particular, whether those countries would be punished for violating E.U. treaty commitments.

    At which point, Chris links to the following Glenn Reynolds post, which links to this story from the Scotsman:

    France escaped hefty fines today despite flagrantly breaching EU rules on running the single currency.

    The let-off from the European Commission triggered fresh attacks on the euro’s credibility, with warnings that the UK could not be expected to join the currency while others were allowed to ignore the rules.

    The Commission acknowledges that the French government is failing to keep its economy in line with EU requirements...

    In theory, France could have been fined up to 0.5% of its gross domestic product (GDP) for transgressing the rules, but the Commission this afternoon recommended merely that fellow EU governments “request France to take new measures to reduce the budget deficit“.

    Pieter Dorsman has more on small country reactions to this decision. Chris concludes:

    Not only does this event help confirm Dan’s thesis that the E.U. is, at its core, a regular international organization, it should also give pause to those Americans and others who urge the United States to commit to international agreements involving France and other states.

    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:

    [D]issolving the Maastricht criteria is probably the smart move. However, such a decision would be supremely ironic for Germany and France. Those two countries insisted on establishing such stringent macroeconomic criteria in order to exclude Southern European economies like Spain, Italy and Greece from the Euro, because they doubted those countries fiscal prudence.

    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.

    posted by Dan at 10:49 AM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (3)

    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.

    Anyway, as Will Baude noticed, when this site was down, I had no backup site -- unlike Glenn Reynolds or Pejman Yousefzadeh.

    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: For those who really need a daily dose of Drezner [You poor sods--ed.], bookmark the backup.

    posted by Dan at 04:26 PM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (0)

    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:

    Does DoD need to think through new ways to organize, train, equip and focus to deal with the global war on terror?

    Are the changes we have and are making too modest and incremental? My impression is that we have not yet made truly bold moves, although we have have made many sensible, logical moves in the right direction, but are they enough?

    Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?

    Postrel observes:

    Probing questions are exactly what DoD needs, no matter how unpolitic they may be. The Pentagon is set up to fight not just traditional armed forces but traditional armed forces in countries with centrally planned economies and innovation-suppressing totalitalitarian governments--adversaries who make the Pentagon look nimble by comparison. But the future security of Americans depends on responding to nimble enemies with flexible tactics. Rumsfeld is asking the right questions. And, while there will certainly be a p.r. flap over the leak, it's better to have them out in public.

    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:

    There was also a change in procedure at the Pentagon under Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and Douglas Feith, the Under-Secretary for Policy. In the early summer of 2001, a career official assigned to a Pentagon planning office undertook a routine evaluation of the assumption, adopted by Wolfowitz and Feith, that the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group headed by Ahmad Chalabi, could play a major role in a coup d’état to oust Saddam Hussein. They also assumed that Chalabi, after the coup, would be welcomed by Iraqis as a hero.

    An official familiar with the evaluation described how it subjected that scenario to the principle of what planners call “branches and sequels”—that is, “plan for what you expect not to happen.” The official said, “It was a ‘what could go wrong’ study. What if it turns out that Ahmad Chalabi is not so popular? What’s Plan B if you discover that Chalabi and his boys don’t have it in them to accomplish the overthrow?”

    The people in the policy offices didn’t seem to care. When the official asked about the analysis, he was told by a colleague that the new Pentagon leadership wanted to focus not on what could go wrong but on what would go right. He was told that the study’s exploration of options amounted to planning for failure. “Their methodology was analogous to tossing a coin five times and assuming that it would always come up heads,” the official told me. “You need to think about what would happen if it comes up tails.”

    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.

    posted by Dan at 03:14 PM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (0)

    Falsifying Paul Krugman

    Here's how Paul Krugman explains -- not excuses, but explains -- Mahathir Mohammad's OIC speech:

    Not long ago Washington was talking about Malaysia as an important partner in the war on terror. Now Mr. Mahathir thinks that to cover his domestic flank, he must insert hateful words into a speech mainly about Muslim reform. That tells you, more accurately than any poll, just how strong the rising tide of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism among Muslims in Southeast Asia has become. Thanks to its war in Iraq and its unconditional support for Ariel Sharon, Washington has squandered post-9/11 sympathy and brought relations with the Muslim world to a new low.

    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:

    For four days after Mr. Mahathir spun out his theory of how Jews survived efforts to destroy them — and then went on to succeed at the expense of Muslims — Mr. Bush was silent on the speech, even as Italy, Australia and other countries condemned it as offensive and anti-Semitic....

    In fact, Malaysia has often been cited by administration officials as an exemplary moderate Islamic nation, even if it was run by a man who once blamed the Asian financial crisis in 1997 on the Jews and often said Western-style democracy would be a disaster in the developing world....

    In the past, Mr. Bush has bitten his tongue when asked about Mr. Mahathir. When the two men took questions from reporters in the Oval Office in May 2002, the president was asked whether the United States had changed its view that Mr. Mahathir's former deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, was a political prisoner.

    Mr. Ibrahim, the former finance minister and a potential rival to Mr. Mahathir, was convicted of sodomy and jailed in 1998. But the president, intent that day on emphasizing Malaysia's cooperation in fighting terrorism, made no public reference to Mr. Ibrahim's fate, and said, quietly, "Our position has not changed."

    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.

    UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan, Tom Maguire, Robert Musil and the ADL weigh in.

    ANOTHER UPDATE: Thanks to rilkefan, here's a Slate article from 1999 in which Paul Krugman unwittingly falsifies his 2003 hypothesis for Mahathir's behavior!!

    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:

    I arrived at a moment of celebration. When the controls were put on, many Western analysts predicted disaster: a collapse of the economy, hyperinflation, rampant black markets. It didn't happen. Two days before I arrived, the latest statistics had confirmed that Malaysia was in fact experiencing a fairly strong economic recovery.

    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:

    In our staged "dialogue"--which was played out in semi-public, in front of a disturbingly obsequious audience of a hundred or so businessmen--Mahathir continued to sound a minor-key version of the conspiracy theme, insisting that capital controls were necessary to protect small countries against the evil designs of big speculators.

    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.

    Advantage: Drezner!!

    FINAL UPDATE: Brad DeLong weighs in.

    posted by Dan at 03:03 PM | Comments (77) | Trackbacks (5)

    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.

    posted by Dan at 08:30 AM | Comments (56) | Trackbacks (13)

    Tuesday, October 21, 2003

    An apology to Gregg Easterbrook

    In my last post on Gregg Easterbrook, I quoted what I thought was an e-mail sent by him to other bloggers that was posted in The Power Line.

    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.

    posted by Dan at 10:02 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (1)

    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:

    "It is a complete fabrication that the Bush administration argued in the runup to the war that there was an imminent threat from Iraq."

    You can see their posts, in order, here, here, here, here, and here. Note what Holsclaw and Schwarz were not debating:

  • "Bush lied." -- What was in dispute was rhetoric and not intent -- so I ignored all the various hypotheses both authors proffered about why the administration did what it did.
  • "We only went to war because Bush said there was an imminent threat." That's patently false, but whether the Bush administration made other arguments justifying the use of force is irrelevant to the question of whether an imminent threat argument was used.
  • "The administration implied there was an imminent threat." To argue is to use the active voice to make a positive argument. To hint at something, or fail to correct misperceptions made by others, is not quite the same thing.
  • So, with my criteria clear, the winner is....

    Jonathan Schwarz

    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:

    We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today’s adversaries. Rogue states and terrorists do not seek to attack us using conventional means. They know such attacks would fail. Instead, they rely on acts of terror and, potentially, the use of weapons of mass destruction -- weapons that can be easily concealed, delivered covertly, and used without warning.

    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:

    "This quote points out Saddam's capability, and our knowledge about Saddam's willingness to use such capabilities makes it disturbing that he should continue in power indefinitely."

    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:

    Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late.

    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:

    The Bush administration did not in fact argue that there was an imminent threat. In fact they strenuously resisted labeling it as such.

    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:

  • The definition of "imminent" needs to be expanded;
  • The threat from Saddam Hussein -- in the form of "grave and gathering" capabilities and hostile intentions -- was getting worse.
  • 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."]

    posted by Dan at 11:05 PM | Comments (47) | Trackbacks (6)

    Last thoughts on Easterbrook

    The New Republic's editors have just posted their response to the Easterbrook donnybrook. Worth a read. A key paragraph:

    But, while we understand the outrage that Easterbrook's comment has caused, we are concerned also about the brutality of some of the criticism. There is another, important side to this story. We have known Easterbrook for many years, and we wish to say without doubt or hesitation that he is not an anti-Semite. Indeed, he is a person of high integrity. He has written prolifically and thoughtfully and with great erudition on many subjects, including science, the environment, politics, and religion; and the moral sensibility that appears in his writings is that of tolerance and open-mindedness. The many editors and writers who have worked with him over the decades of his career--at Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Washington Monthly, to name but a few--can all attest not only to his talent, but to his character. A good individual said a bad thing. Sometimes this happens. (Sometimes a bad individual says a good thing.) When it happens, he must credibly express his regret, and his understanding of how he erred. This Easterbrook has done. We have seen too many reputations unjustly ruined by media inquisitions and the vituperative politics of ethnic insult in America. We hope that the firmness with which Easterbrook's awful remark has been judged will be attended by fairness in the consideration of his character and his career. What he wrote last week is the terrible exception, not the terrible rule.

    Mickey Kaus' post on the subject strikes a similar tone:

    I've known Gregg Easterbrook since 1979, when he was hired as a fellow editor at The Washington Monthly. He's not remotely an anti-Semite, as his colleagues from the The New Republic have attested, nor have I ever heard him express a bigoted thought in the 24 years I've known him. He's one of the smartest people I've ever met, and he's produced some of the best journalism I've ever read, and he's extremely funny (as his ESPN readers know)--yet he also has a slightly clumsy, emotional, well-meaning earnestness about him. That may be part of what got him into trouble. But the easiest thing to to say about the Easterblogg controversy is that this wasn't a case of the mask slipping to reveal a writer's previously concealed, ugly thoughts (despite Roger Simon's reasonable suspicions). Forget that idea.

    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.] Some of the disconcerting sections:

    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."

    posted by Dan at 06:17 PM | Comments (41) | Trackbacks (1)

    Odds & ends on anti-semitism

    In no particular order:

  • Tech Central Station is running a slightly revised version of my take on Mahathir's speech from last Friday. See if you can spot the minor revisions!!

  • Speaking of that speech, here are the highlights of the the Daily Times of Pakistan editorial about it:

    Dr Mohammad’s speech has 4223 words and 59 paragraphs. Out of these, his direct or indirect references to the Jewish people, the Palestinian problem, Israel, Zionism and Western policies only make up 373 words. And these 373 words include the line: “Even among the Jews there are many who do not approve of what the Israelis are doing”. This sentence alone should make clear to anyone accusing Dr Mohammad of anti-Semitism of the absurdity of the charge since he makes a clear distinction between the Jewish people and the state of Israel....

    We fail to see why anyone in the West should quibble with what Dr Mohammad has said. Clearly, what has caused the uproar are his remarks about the Jewish ‘control of the world’. And pray, how is he wrong on that count? Is it any secret that there is a very powerful Jewish lobby in the United States that all but controls that country’s political system? Is it a secret that without the unstinting support of the United States, Israel could not have survived and gone from strength to strength? Is it any secret that the Nixon administration resorted to the biggest airlift in Oct 1973 since the crisis over Berlin after the then Israeli premier Golda Meir rushed to Washington in the face of advancing Egyptian armour? Is it any secret that the United States has killed (or compelled members to water down) every single resolution the United Nations Security Council has tried to bring against Israel? Is it any secret that the United States has multiple joint weapons development programmes with Israel? Is it any secret that scores of American politicians have seen their political careers come to an end at the hands of the Jewish lobby and Jewish money? Is it any secret that a sizeable number of Washington’s neo-cons are Jews? Is it also any secret that they pushed the United States into a war with Iraq and the reshaping of the Middle East, an enterprise for which they had prepared a blueprint back in 1995, much before the events of September 11, 2001?

    Thanks to's trusted South Asian correspondent A.A. for the link.

  • Roger Simon links to this Agence France-Presse story in which Mahathir thanked French President Jacques Chirac for blocking an official European Union declaration condemning the anti-Semitic portion of his comments. The key quote:

    "I never thought the Europeans would be against me," the New Sunday Times quoted him as saying. "I can't understand them. I'm glad that Chirac at least understands. I would like to thank him publicly."

    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:

    "Your remarks on the rule of Jews gave rise to very strong disapproval in France and in the world... these remarks can only be condemned by all who preserve the memory of the Holocaust."

  • I'm a bit surprised there's not more big media coverage of ESPN's decision to turn Gregg Easterbrook into a non-person. For the latest, go see Glenn Reynolds, Meryl Yourish, Aaron Schatz, and Howard Kurtz. UPDATE: Mickey Kaus weighs in as well.

    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:

    William Blackstone, the English legal theorist closely read by the Framers, argued that the essence of free speech was forbidding prior restraint: Anyone should be able to say anything, but then must live with the aftermath. A citizen should possess "an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public," Blackstone wrote in his "Commentaries"--which James Madison consulted often while working on drafts of the First Amendment wording--but "must take the consequences" for any reaction.

    The reaction to free speech, Madison thought, would be part of the mechanism by which society sifted out beliefs. Protected by Madison's amendment, the Ku Klux Klan can spew whatever repugnant drivel its wishes. Society, in turn, shuns KKK members for the repugnant people their free speech exposes them to be. No one expects the KKK to speak without a price; its price is ostracism...

    [W]hen the novelist Barbara Kingsolver says "the American flag stands for intimidation, censorship, violence, bigotry, sexism, homophobia and shoving the Constitution through a paper shredder," or the novelist Arundhati Roy says George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden are "interchangeable," these statements are safeguarded. But readers may fairly respond by declining to buy Ms. Kingsolver's and Ms. Roy's books, and bookstores may fairly respond by declining to stock them. That these authors have a right to their views does not mean publishers and bookstores must promote them. It is censorship if books are seized and burned; it is not censorship if books are tossed into the trash because their authors mock the liberty that made the books possible. Indeed, expressing revulsion at the sight of a Kingsolver book is itself a form of protected speech....

    Speech must be free, but cannot be without cost.

    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.

  • A final thought on Atrios' criticism of Easterbrook. I think that he makes a good point in this post -- namely, that Easterbrook assumed way too much about Eisner and Weinstein's faith. There's also an interesting discussion between him and Josh Marshall on the mores and clubbiness of DC insiders. Start here, then go here, then here, then here and here.

    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'm questioning Professor Drezner's implied assertion that anonymous bloggers have some special duty to, say, the Gregg Easterbrooks of the world to defend them from being punished by their employers.

    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.

  • posted by Dan at 11:35 AM | Comments (25) | Trackbacks (6)