Saturday, January 17, 2004

For those who would disparage the United Nations...

Over the past year decade five decades, the United Nations has taken a lot of hits -- and some of it is deserved. However, one must remember that the United Nations is not a single entity, but a plethora of semi-autonomous organizations. Some of these organizations have major accomplishments under their belts, such as polio eradication.

And then there's the more recent good it's done for Carmen Electra:


[What, the UN helped with her eyeliner?--ed.] Not exactly -- the Associated Press explains:

Former "Baywatch" star Carmen Electra has won control of the Internet name in a ruling by a United Nations panel, a U.N. spokeswoman said Thursday.

An arbitrator for the World Intellectual Property Organization ordered the transfer of the domain name to the American actress, who had complained that it was being used in bad faith to divert Internet traffic to a commercial site, Celebrity1000, said WIPO spokeswoman Samar Shamoon.

The ruling upheld Electra's complaint against the company that registered the name — Network Operations Center of High Prairie, Canada....

The U.N. arbitration system, which started in 1999, allows those who think they have the right to a domain to get it back without having to fight a costly legal battle or paying large sums of money.

You can read the complete text of the arbitration ruling here.

I, for one, applaud this multilateral initiative.

[Er, I just checked out, and it's still going to Celebrity1000!--ed. OK, so enforcement hasn't been the U.N.'s strong suit. More seriously, I'd expect Electra's legal team to ensure that the decision will be implemented. A year ago, Pamela Anderson won a similar decision and her domain name now goes to her site. I trust that Carmen Electra's official site will be moving very soon. You did a lot of research for this post--ed. Just trying to be as thorough as the grant-hogging Columbia School of Journalism!!]]

UPDATE: According to this story, "If there is no court appeal, domain names must be transferred 10 days after a ruling."

posted by Dan at 02:10 PM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (1)

Andrew Sullivan server update

I've received numerous e-mails asking me if, as a former guest-blogger, I can access Andrew Sullivan's site. I just tried, got something that said, " (sic) click". I clicked with some apprehension, but was able to access the site with no difficulties -- his last post was a response to Josh Marshall's defense of Clark.

According to Andrew -- via Glenn Reynolds -- this is a server problem. I experienced similar difficulties when I was doing the guest stint earlier this month, so I can certainly empathize. Andrew, you're welcome to guest-post here while the problem is being fixed!! [Big man!--ed. Hey, it's the least I could do.]

UPDATE: The Daily Dish is back online -- with an apology from Sullivan.

[On a separate matter, that's the second post in a row in which you've mention this Clark business without addressing it head-on. What gives?--ed. I haven't read enough to comment with confidence. From what I have read, it seems clear that Drudge ginned up a Clark quote through an improper use of ellipses. Does that mean Clark can't be criticized on foreign policy?--ed. Hell, no -- I argued two weeks ago that compared to Howard Dean he was getting a free ride on this issue. Steve Sachs has more on this.]

posted by Dan at 11:35 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, January 16, 2004

Who wants a grant? Me!! ME!!

The Columbia Journalism Review has set up a new blog,, to cover the press covering the 2004 campaign. Here's something from the the introductory post:

In 2004, the Web makes it possible to analyze and criticize press coverage in real time, so that suggestions for improved coverage might actually be heeded, and incorporated into campaign coverage, while the campaign is still under way.

Thanks to generous funding from foundations -- mainly the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Revson Foundation, and the Open Society Institute -- we have set up a campaign press criticism "war room" here at the Journalism School, with the beginnings of a full-time professional staff of seven that will monitor as much of the campaign coverage as possible, and write about it here.

Wait a minute -- there are grants to be had for doing this??!! Why the hell didn't anyone tell me? The Columbia School of Journalism can just waltz in, rake in the cash, and set up some fantsy-pants blog? [Well, they do have reputation and experience, and they seem to be all over this Drudge/Clark business--ed. Yeah, so were Robert Tagorda and Mark Kleiman, and they were grant-free! Give me them plus James Joyner, Jeff Jarvis, Josh Marshall, and Noam Scheiber (who's read on Gephardt's chances seems dead-on to me), and I'll kick their a--- I think it's time for your nap--ed.]

posted by Dan at 08:41 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (2)

Can Iraq become a democracy?

I've argued repeatedly that Iraq is not fated to be an authoritarian state. Your weekend reading debates this topic at length.

In the "No" corner is George F. Will, who's meandering essay in City Journal can be boiled down to the following highlights:

Most of the political calamities through which the world has staggered since 1919 have resulted from the distinctively modern belief that things—including nations and human nature—are much more plastic, much more malleable, than they actually are. It is the belief that nations are like Tinkertoys: they can be taken apart and rearranged at will. It is the belief that human beings are soft clay that can be shaped by the hands of political artists….

It is counted realism in Washington now to say that creating a new Iraqi regime may require perhaps two years. One wonders: Does Washington remember that it took a generation, and the United States Army, to bring about, in effect, regime change—a change of institutions and mores—in the American South? Will a Middle Eastern nation prove more plastic to our touch than Mississippi was? Will two years suffice for America—as Woodrow Wilson said of the Latin American republics—to teach Iraq to elect good men? We are, it seems, fated to learn again the limits of the Wilsonian project.

There are those who say: “Differences be damned! America has a duty to accomplish that project.” They should remember an elemental principle of moral reasoning: there can be no duty to do what cannot be done.

What is to be done in Iraq? As Robert Frost said, the best way out is always through. We are there. We dare not leave having replaced a savage state with a failed state—a vacuum into which evil forces will flow. Our aim should be the rule of law, a quickened pulse of civil society, some system of political representation. Then, let us vow not to take on such reconstructions often.

In the Atlantic Monthly, Francis Fukuyama recognizes the same problems as Will but argues that there is no other option:

The fact is that the chief threats to us and to world order come today from weak, collapsed, or failed states. Weak or absent government institutions in developing countries form the thread linking terrorism, refugees, AIDS, and global poverty. Before 9/11 the United States felt it could safely ignore chaos in a far-off place like Afghanistan; but the intersection of religious terrorism and weapons of mass destruction has meant that formerly peripheral areas are now of central concern....

Donald Rumsfeld has articulated a strategy of nation-building "lite," involving a rapid transition to local control and a tough-love policy that leaves locals to find their own way toward good government and democracy. This is a dubious approach, at least if one cares about the final outcome. The new Iraqi government will be administratively weak and not regarded by its citizens as fully legitimate. It will be plagued by corruption and mismanagement, and riven by internal disagreements—witness the fight between the Iraqi Governing Council's Shia and non-Shia members over how to draft a new constitution. Nation-building requires a lot more than training police and military forces to take over from the United States: unless such forces are embedded in a strong framework of political parties, a judiciary, a civilian administration, and a rule of law, they will become mere pawns in the internal struggle for power. Nation-building "lite" risks being used as an intellectual justification for getting out, regardless of the mess we leave behind.

A standing U.S. government office to manage nation-building will be a hard sell politically, because we are still unreconciled to the idea that we are in the nation-building business for the long haul. However, international relations is no longer just a game played between great powers but one in which what happens inside smaller countries can have a huge effect on the rest of the world. Our "empire" may be a transitional one grounded in democracy and human rights, but our interests dictate that we learn how better to teach other people to govern themselves.

Now, for a first-hand account, check out Ken Pollack's assessment of the situation on the ground in Iraq. The executive summary:

The situation in Iraq is extremely complex. In some areas, American and Coalition efforts have helped Iraqis to make real progress toward transforming their economy, polity, and society. What's more, many basic factors in the country augur well for real progress if the pace of reconstruction is maintained. By the same token, there are also numerous negative developments in the country, many the result of mistaken American policies.

David Adesnik provides extended commentary as well.

That's your weekend reading. Enjoy!!

posted by Dan at 05:07 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

The Democratic candidates' foreign policy gurus

As a politics junkie, I love what's going on in Iowa. Four candidates with roughly the same level of support the wekend before the caucus? That's awesome, baby!! How long has it been since this many candidates had a legitimate shot at winning Iowa this late in the day?

Another leading indicator indicates that it's a close race. I argued a year ago that the Democratic candidate that attracted the heavyweight foreign policy advisors would be the putative nominee. Last month, Dean unveiled his list of advisors, and they seemed like a formidable group.

However, thanks to Foreign Policy, we now know the major candidates' roster of foreign policy advisors. Go check it out for yourselves. A few surprises:

  • John Kerry has a lot of foreign policy advisors. The story observes that many of them, "are regional experts who meet weekly in what one Kerry advisor calls 'a mini or shadow NSC [National Security Council].'"

  • The only advisor Wesley Clark has who isn't advising another campaign is Jaime Rubin.

  • It's disturbing that there is only one foreign economic policy advisor in the entire list -- and George Soros does not make me feel more sanguine towards Richard Gephardt. This is doubly odd because the strength of the Clinton foreign policy team was its international economics team. Where's Robert Rubin? Larry Summers? Mickey Kantor? Charlene Barshefsky? Lael Brainard?

  • If you care about democracy promotion, John Edwards really is your man -- Larry Diamond is one of his advisors.

  • Sandy Berger is advising four campaigns? That foreign policy whore!!

  • Although Clark and Kerry are minor outliers, the overall distribution of advisors is pretty even. As a leading indicator, it suggests the race is still up for grabs.
  • Developing.....

    posted by Dan at 10:37 AM | Comments (25) | Trackbacks (0)

    Thursday, January 15, 2004

    Kudos and embarrassment for Josh Marshall

    I get asked on a regular basis what my senior colleagues think about the blog. The truth is, I try not to mention it -- because I don't know if all of them either know about or understand the concept of a blog. Oh sure it's the trendy thing, but academics, particularly those ensconced in the University of Chicago, delight in ignoring trends and fads -- or at least pretending to ignore them.

    If people are familiar with blogs, then it's easy to discuss mine -- in the blogosphere I can hold my own. However, if someone is not familiar with the blog concept, then it's like trying to explain the virtues of first class air travel to someone who's never heard of or seen an airplane.

    Which is why the following anecdote is so damn funny. To put it into context -- The Week magazine held its first annual Opinion Awards, which included a Blogger of the Year. For descriptions of the awards -- held at Harold Evans and Tina Brown's apartment, no less -- go see Jeff Jarvis or Editor & Publisher.

    The Blogger of the Year -- chosen by Jarvis, Glenn Reynolds, and Daniel Radosh -- was Joshua Micah Marshall (to whom congratulations are most certainly in order).

    Now comes the funny anecdote, from Marshall himself:

    Early on I noticed that one of the folks there was Arthur Schlesinger, Jr....

    Schlesinger is a rather big deal to me. So toward the end of the whole event, after most folks had left, I saw Schlesinger and two women standing off to one side. And I thought, this is my chance. How can I let it go by?

    So I walked over to where the three were talking and planted myself there like a schoolboy and waited.

    And I waited, and waited a bit more until they, a touch awkwardly, turned their attention to me. When they did, I introduced myself and told him what a great admirer I was of his and what an honor it was to meet him and so forth. When I did this I explained that in addition to my semi-reputable work as a blogger I was also a trained historian with a Ph.D. in American history and the works....

    To be polite Schlesinger’s wife asked me to explain to them just what a blog is. And though I get this question pretty often, it turns out to be a rather challenging one if the people you’re trying to explain it to don’t necessarily have a lot of clear web reference points to make sense of what you’re saying.

    I ended up telling them that it was something like political commentary structured like a personal journal with occasional reporting mixed in.

    Now, as I was explaining and watching the looks on everyone’s faces it was incrementally becoming clear to me that this was playing rather like saying that something was like a washing machine structured like a rhinoceros with the occasional sandwich thrown in. And, as Schlesinger himself had said rather little through all this, it was also dawning on me that being one of the four guests of honor at this little event was providing no guarantee against making a bit of a fool of myself....

    Read the rest of Josh's post for the denouement -- it doesn't end too badly for him.

    posted by Dan at 09:44 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (2)

    Good news and bad news on Brazilian fingerprinting

    The bad news: Some Americans aren't reacting too well to the Brazilian plan of photographing and fingerprinting then. According to the Associated Press:


    An American Airlines pilot was fined nearly $17,000 [That's in Australian dollars -- in USD, it's $13,000 -- hat tip to David M. Rosenberg for the correction!--DD] on accusations he made an obscene gesture when being photographed at the airport as part of entry requirements for US citizens, officials said.

    Brazil imposed the new rules that Americans be fingerprinted and photographed at entry points in response the similar rules in the United States for citizens of Brazil and other countries whose citizens need visas to enter.

    The pilot, Dale Robin Hersh, lifted his middle finger while undergoing the new security process at Sao Paulo's Guarulhos International Airport, said federal prosecutor Matheus Baraldi Magnani.

    Police accused the pilot of showing contempt to authorities, a crime in Brazil, and escorted him to a nearby federal courthouse for possible formal charges.

    Thanks to Mike Derham for the photo link.

    The good news -- The Brazilians are ingenious at soothing these potentially ugly Americans:


    The AP photo caption reads:

    Warm welcome: Samba dancers greet a tourist and his son as they arrive at the Rio de Janeiro Galeao airport yesterday. The samba reception is part of a city campaign against a federal judge ruling that all US citizens be fingerprinted and photographed at the country's entry points.

    More seriously, the Volokh Conspiracy has been blogging this story more seriously.

    Less seriously -- readers, given the myriad kinds of amusements available in the world, which other countries should follow the Brazilian template?

    posted by Dan at 04:12 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

    Wednesday, January 14, 2004

    White House intimidation.... or Paul O'Neill's nature?

    Josh Marshall suggests -- with tongue partially in cheek -- that Paul O'Neill's backtracking must be due to Karl Rove's bullying, echoing the John DiIulio experience of last year.

    Paul O'Neill being intimidated by Karl Rove? That dog won't hunt.

    Unlike John DiIulio, Paul O'Neill is too senior to desire another cabinet-level position, and has what is referred to in DC lexicon as "f**k-you money" -- i.e., O'Neill doesn't have to play nice in oreder to guarantee a future revenue stream. Plus, as the original Time story points out, O'Neill refused to go along with Cheney's direct suggestion that he say he resigned:

    Cheney called. "Paul, the President has decided to make some changes in the economic team. And you're part of the change," he told O'Neill. The bloodless way he was cut loose by his old chum shocked O'Neill, Suskind writes, but what came after was even more shocking. Cheney asked him to announce that it was O'Neill's decision to leave Washington to return to private life. O'Neill refused, saying "I'm too old to begin telling lies now."

    Paul O'Neill is old, rich, secure in himself, and previously refused a direct request from Dick Cheney. A year later, what could Karl Rove possibly do that would intimidate him? [Compromising pictures of O'Neill with Jillian Barberie?--ed. Hell, that would have helped him!]

    Instead of intimidation, let's consider another possibility, one based on O'Neill's track record as Treasury Secretary. When I was working there, the following would happen like clockwork every two weeks:

    a) O'Neill say something that he thought meant X, when in fact it could be interpreted as either X or Y -- and Y is either controversial or wrong;
    b) The financial press would seize on the statement as suggestive of Y;
    c) O'Neill would have to issue a clarifying statement that he really meant X and not Y

    The same thing is going on here. O'Neill said on the Today Show:

    People are trying to say that I said the president was planning war in Iraq early in the administration. Actually there was a continuation of work that had been going on in the Clinton administration with the notion that there needed to be a regime change in Iraq.

    In this case, O'Neill's predeliction for foot-in-mouth disease is compounded by the fact that much of what O'Neill said comes indirectly through Ron Suskind's book.

    Finally, it's worth noting that the many of the usual suspects aren't biting on this non-story. Spencer Ackerman, who's co-authored a lot of TNR's more damaging assessments of the Bush team's invade-at-all-costs mentality, is quite clear that the O'Neill charge is bogus:

    Contrary to much of the hype surrounding it ( headlined its story on the book, "O'Neill: Bush planned Iraq invasion before 9/11") it doesn't really answer the question of whether Bush was planning war from day one or just regime change by other means.

    At the first meeting of Bush's National Security Council--held January 30, 2001--Condoleezza Rice set the tone by announcing that "Iraq is destabilizing the region." Bush clearly favored some kind of action against Saddam Hussein, but the shape of the action appeared to be undetermined at this point. O'Neill's notes quote Bush ordering Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs Chairman Hugh Shelton to "examine our military options," including "how it might look" to use U.S. troops in support of an insurrection. Yet, at the same meeting, he also ordered Secretary of State Colin Powell to plan a new sanctions regime--a course of action that administration hawks believed would inhibit, rather than engender, Saddam's downfall. It appears that Bush was indicating his preference for a more aggressive approach than the Clinton administration took against Saddam, but that he was still casting about for options as to what that might entail....

    [I]t appears from O'Neill's notes that Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was the only high-level official who was advocating "sending in U.S. troops to support and defend [an Iraqi opposition] insurgency." Clearly Bush's desire to have Rumsfeld and Shelton review military options for Iraq created a new policy menu, but O'Neill never indicates Bush's actual preference among these options--and certainly not so early in the administration....

    [I]t is a valuable addition to the historical record to know that the president was determined to topple Saddam long before September 11. But that's not the same thing as a president who had already decided to go to war. Ironically, a book written to condemn the administration's lack of straight talk on the Iraq issue has produced even less straight talk itself.

    [But what about Brad DeLong's claim that what Bush said yesterday contradicted your earlier post?--ed.] Hmmm.... Brad quotes Bush as follows:

    The stated policy of my administration toward Saddam Hussein was very clear -- like the previous administration, we were for regime change.

    A touch, a touch, I do confe-- oh, wait a minute, let's put that quote in context, shall we?:

    "The stated policy of my administration toward Saddam Hussein was very clear -- like the previous administration, we were for regime change," Bush told a joint news conference in Monterrey, Mexico, with Mexican President Vicente Fox. "And in the initial stages of the administration, as you might remember, we were dealing with (enforcing a no-fly zone over Iraq) and so we were fashioning policy along those lines."

    Bush said al-Qaida's surprise Sept. 11 attacks on the United States put him on a hair trigger to take pre-emptive action against Iraq rather than await evidence of a new threat to Americans.

    "September the 11th made me realize that America was no longer protected by oceans and we had to take threats very seriously no matter where they may be materializing," Bush said.

    Let's also go to this January 2003 statement from Bush:

    Actually, prior to September 11, we were discussing smart sanctions. We were trying to fashion a sanction regime that would make it more likely to be able to contain somebody like Saddam Hussein. After September 11, the doctrine of containment just doesn’t hold any water.

    I said two things in my previous O'Neill post -- that Bush had given Colin Powell the lead on Iraq prior to 9/11, and that he changed his mind after that date. Nothing Bush said contradicts that. [But Brad also links to this ABC report saying Bush wanted a review of military policy options!--ed.] A review of options -- particularly in the first months of an administration -- is nothing new. But there's a big difference between evaluating policy options and acting on them. The key question, as Ackerman notes, is whether the administration moved forward on these options. The evidence says no. Until 9/11, Powell had the lead on Iraq and Rumsfeld seemed close to leaving the administration (though not because of Iraq).

    Sure, Bush wanted to get rid of Hussein, but so did Clinton and all of Congress. The question was, what was Bush prepared to do to change the regime? And there is no evidence to support the charge that prior to 9/11, Bush was planning to invade Iraq.

    posted by Dan at 04:21 PM | Comments (156) | Trackbacks (8)

    Which candidate said what on foreign policy?

    The good people at the Council on Foreign Relations has set up a 2004 campaign website on Foreign Policy in the Presidential Election. There are collections of each candidates' major foreign policy addresses, plus issue briefs. Also a useful campaign calendar.

    It's pretty thorough. Go check it out.

    UPDATE: Hmmm.... my original title for this post had the word "shopping" in the titles -- which seemed to attract spam like Salma Hayek attracts hits. I guess I'm going to have to stop doing that [Linking to Salma Hayek? Gasp!!--ed. No, use the word "shopping" in post titles.]

    posted by Dan at 03:52 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    Another John Edwards moment

    It's John Edwards day at the Chicago Tribune. There's a lengthy bio of him in one section (including his high school graduation photo). On the front page, the paper reports Edwards may have the "Big Mo" in Iowa:

    Since stepping into her first caucus in 1964, Jane Hogan has sized up her share of Democratic presidential hopefuls as they have trooped through Iowa. And those years of experience, she said, have taught her to sense a key ingredient in a healthy campaign.

    So when Hogan arrived at Fairmeadows Village community center here Tuesday morning, she wanted to do more than merely catch a glimpse of her favorite candidate, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. She wanted to gauge his momentum....

    Hogan, a 69-year-old retired teacher and librarian, surveyed the crowd that was tightly packed into two levels of the community center. After the senator delivered his speech, she said she was sufficiently impressed by the energy, the message and the prospects of his presidential campaign.

    To this political enthusiast, Edwards passed the momentum test.

    "He's the one who is building," said Hogan, who only days ago dropped her monthslong indecision and picked Edwards as her candidate. "There are a lot of undecided people in Iowa. Now is the time to be growing."

    Yeah, it's an anecdote -- but there may be something to it. See the Baltimore Sun and the Raleigh News-Observer (the latter admittedly has a local-boy-makes-good flavor). A triggering factor behind these reports was the Des Moines Register's endorsement of Edwards this Sunday, which undoubtedly raised his profile (he's picked up other endorsements as well).

    But what about substance? Check out Edwards' proposal to promote democracy in the Middle East. As someone who's sympathetic to this policy, I was impressed with the level of detail -- particularly in contrast to some other Democratic candidates.

    This is not only true about foreign policy. As Michelle Cottle pointed out in her case for Edwards in The New Republic:

    [U]nlike most high-promising pols, Edwards also explains how he intends to pay for his proposals, listing a range of cost-saving and income-generating measures that include opening more government procurement to competitive bidding, reducing subsidies for major oil and agricultural concerns, shrinking non-security-related federal agencies over the next decade, and repealing specific elements of the Bush tax cuts. It's true that some of Edwards's cost-saving plans may be difficult to achieve--is he really going to abolish the Office of Thrift Supervision and reduce other federal agencies by 10 percent per year for ten years?--but the specificity with which he lays them out allows one to judge them on the merits. Contrast this with the vague platitudes offered by his rivals. As The Washington Post recently complained of Howard Dean's big domestic policy rollout, "[Dean] includes access to affordable health care and child care, help with college tuition, a new retirement savings program and other worthy ideas. But beyond asserting that `we must be responsible stewards, not profligate spenders,' Mr. Dean offers few details about how he would achieve these ambitious goals--and tackle a deficit set to exceed $500 billion this year."

    I wrote back in September that Democrats might be slighting Edwards' campaign. We'll see if that's still true after Iowa.

    UPDATE: This comment on Edwards' integrity -- by a Bush supporter, no less -- is worth reading.

    posted by Dan at 10:24 AM | Comments (73) | Trackbacks (9)

    Tuesday, January 13, 2004

    The European front in the War on Terror

    The Guardian's Sunday Observer had an extremely disturbing story two days ago on the renaissance of Muslim terrorist cells across the continent. The highlights:

    An investigation by The Observer has revealed the extent of the new networks that Islamic militants have been able to build in Europe since 11 September - despite the massive effort against them. The militants' operations go far beyond the few individuals' activities that sparked massive security alerts over Christmas and the new year. Interviews with senior counter-intelligence officials, secret recordings of conversations between militants and classified intelligence briefings have shown that militants have been able to reconstitute, and even enlarge, their operations in Europe in the past two years....

    · Britain is still playing a central logistical role for the militants, with extremists, including the alleged mastermind of last year's bombings in Morocco, and a leader of an al-Qaeda cell, regularly using the UK as a place to hide. Other radical activists are using Britain for fundraising, massive credit card fraud, the manufacture of false documents and planning. Recruitment is also continuing. In one bugged conversation, a senior militant describes London as 'the nerve centre' and says that his group has 'Albanians, Swiss [and] British' recruits. He needs people who are 'intelligent and highly educated', he says and implies that the UK can, and does, supply them.

    · Islamic terror cells are spreading eastwards into Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and the Czech Republic for the first time, prompting fears of a new battleground in countries with weak authorities, powerful criminal gangs and endemic corruption in the years to come.

    · Austria has become a central communications hub for Muslim extremists; France has become a key recruiting ground for fighters in Chechnya; and German groups, who often have extensive international links, are developing contacts with Balkan mafia gangs to acquire weapons.

    The investigation has also revealed that, despite moves by the government there to crack down, Saudi Arabia remains the key source of funds for al-Qaeda and related militant groups.

    Investigators stress that most of the European cells are autonomous, coming together on an ad hoc basis to complete specific tasks. To describe them as 'al-Qaeda' is simplistic. Instead, sources say, the man most of these new Islamic terror networks look to for direction is Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian Islamic militant who some analysts believe was behind the recent Istanbul suicide bombings against British targets and synagogues. Though he follows a similar agenda to Osama bin Laden, the 37-year-old Zarqawi has always maintained his independence from the Saudi-born fugitive. Last week, his developing stature in global Islamic militancy was reinforced when he issued his first-ever public statement, an audiotape calling on God to 'kill the Arab and the foreign tyrants, one after another'.

    Zarqawi is believed to be in Iran or Iraq.

    This matches what the London Times (subscription required) reported earlier this month:

    London's key role as a command and control centre for Al-Qaeda's European network since the September 11 terrorist attacks is revealed in leaked police transcripts.

    The documents, which form part a court case in Milan, detail bugged discussions between Al-Qaeda members on how to recruit and train new contingents of terrorists in Europe.

    The papers, translated and released by a branch of the American State Department, are the result of an 18-month investigation into Al-Qaeda's overhaul of its European arm in the wake of September 11....

    The court documents, part of the trial of seven Al-Qaeda suspects, reveal that after September 11 the network began to train a new army of suicide units, codenamed Force 9. Investigators say more than 200 terrorists were recruited.

    The man said to be the strategic brain behind the European network is Abu Musab Zarqawi, an Al-Qaeda leader who is believed to be based in Iran and is thought to have masterminded the suicide attacks in Turkey in November.

    According to one bugged conversation, the new recruits were mostly north Africans but also included middle-class Europeans. Some were described as "highly cultured foreigners" -non-Arabs.

    Developing... in a very disturbing way.

    posted by Dan at 04:36 PM | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (2)

    Just how liberal are the Democrats?

    In the wake of the Iowa Brown and Black debate, Andrew Sullivan despairs about the Democratic shift to the left on race and in general:

    There wasn't a nano-second in which any candidate said anything to suggest that minorities can do anything to benefit themselves without more government help, more money and more white condescension. The crowd lapped it up. Joe Lieberman couldn't even bring himself to oppose reparations. Not affirmative action. Reparations! You've come a long way, Joe. Long gone is the Clintonian art of giving a damn about race without resorting to paleo notions that all whites are at fault and all blacks are victims. In that kind of context, it's no accident that Al Sharpton becomes the moral arbiter.... One thing we have learned from this campaign is that the Clinton policy make-over of the Democrats now has only one standard-bearer: his wife. For the rest, it's that '70s Show, with post-industrial populism thrown in. (emphasis added)

    Mickey Kaus has an interesting rejoinder to Sullivan on racial issues:

    To some extent, Clinton's welfare reform--and the (not unrelated!) slow-but-perceptible improvement in inner-city crime and the black family structure have had the perverse effect of freeing Democrats to be paleoliberals on race again....

    But something is missing when you compare this year's humiliating panderfest with previous humiliating panderfests: There's no more talk of sinking vast sums of money into Model Cities and UDAGs and CDBGs and all the other sinkholes and mayoral slush funds of the Democratic antipoverty apparatus. Even relatively non-left Democrats like Carter and Dukakis eagerly embraced such programs, but they don't get defended anymore. (emphases in original)

    On Sullivan's general point, I'd also dissent somewhat. Undoubtedly, on some issues, the party has lurched leftwards. This is certainly true on trade matters, and it's true about race to some extent.

    On the other hand, compared to 2000, the Democrats have shifted to the right on national security issues -- just not as quickly or as far as Bush. The Dems certainly haven't abandoned the Clintonian emphasis on balanced budgets. They've also moved to the right on gun control, as the Chicago Tribune observes:

    All of the leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination say they oppose new federal initiatives to license gun owners or to require the registration of handguns — the principal gun-control measures Al Gore and Bill Bradley offered when they were running for the nomination in 2000.

    I care about foreign economic policy a lot, which is why I harp on it. But I'm not sure if the general claim can be made that the Democratic party has shifted to the left.

    I have no doubt Democrats will weigh in on this matter themselves.

    posted by Dan at 02:19 PM | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (0)

    Could Bush win New York?

    I doubt even diehard Republicans would answer this question with a "Yes." Today, however, I saw this Associated Press story:

    Howard Dean has moved out to at least a 2-1 lead in New York over his chief rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, while President Bush's popularity has rebounded in the heavily Democratic state, a statewide poll reported Tuesday....

    [T]he new poll also found that Republican Bush appears to be a viable option for New York voters in a state where Democrats have a 5-3 enrollment advantage over Republicans. Among all registered New York voters sampled, 34 percent said they would definitely vote for the incumbent president in this year's election while 36 percent said they would definitely vote against him. Thirty percent were undecided.

    A September poll from the Poughkeepsie, N.Y.-based institute had found 32 percent of voters planned to vote for Bush and 48 percent planned to vote against him.

    The improvement for Bush's standing in New York was also evident in his job approval rating _ 52 percent in the new poll and 44 percent in the September poll.

    Part of this might be due to a greater (thought hardly overwhelming) willingness for Jews to vote for Bush. Over at Volokh, David Bernstein has an interesting post on the subject.

    It's still a long way to November, though.

    UPDATE: Stephen Green has more on the New York question here and here.

    Meanwhile a Chicago Tribune poll shows a similar trend for Bush in Illinois -- particularly if Dean is the opponent. The usual caveat (it's still damn early) applies.

    posted by Dan at 10:47 AM | Comments (42) | Trackbacks (3)

    Monday, January 12, 2004

    Thoughts on Paul O'Neill

    Paul O'Neill has decided to open up about the inner workings of the Bush administration. He's the primary source for a new Ron Suskind book, The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill. O'Neill is also granting interviews galore -- see both 60 Minutes and Time. Some not-so-random thoughts:

    1) Ron Suskind strikes again!! Despite the Bush administration's best efforts to keep White House leaks to a minimum (well, except if they involve CIA operatives) he has the ability to get Bush officials to open up on the record.

    2) Paul O'Neill is a smart guy, but do bear in mind that he was a pretty lousy Treasury secretary when he was in charge. The day he left, I wrote the following:

    O'Neill fundamental strengths were his intelligence and his willingness to say what he though even if it roiled markets and politicians. His fatal flaw was that he knew he was intelligent, and therefore never considered the possibility that he could be wrong. Also, saying what you think is not the most useful skill for a job that requires a fair amount of tact. Since O'Neill had no political ambitions, his incentive to correct these flaws were nil. Therefore, he never learned on this job.

    Brad DeLong concurred that "O'Neill seems never to have tried to learn what his job was." The Time story observed, "Rarely had a person who spoke so freely been embedded so high in an Administration that valued frank public remarks so little." Later on in the story, even O'Neill thinks that O'Neill goes too far:

    Describing top-level meetings, O'Neill tells Suskind that during the course of his two years the President was "like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people."

    In his interview with TIME, O'Neill winces a little at that quote. He's worried it's too stark and now allows that it may just be Bush's style to keep his advisers always guessing.

    My point is not to claim that all of O'Neill's criticisms can be dismissed in a single stroke. He's clearly a smart person, and no doubt some of his criticisms have the ring of truth. My point is to remind people that O'Neill brings some baggage that he brings to the table -- and that even smart people can let that baggage overwhelm them.

    3) Both O'Neill and Suskind engage in some slightly revisionist history on Iraq. Here's the 60 Minutes transcript on this point:

    [W]hat happened at President Bush's very first National Security Council meeting is one of O'Neill's most startling revelations.

    “From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” says O’Neill, who adds that going after Saddam was topic "A" 10 days after the inauguration - eight months before Sept. 11....

    He got briefing materials under this cover sheet. “There are memos. One of them marked, secret, says, ‘Plan for post-Saddam Iraq,’" adds Suskind, who says that they discussed an occupation of Iraq in January and February of 2001.

    Based on his interviews with O'Neill and several other officials at the meetings, Suskind writes that the planning envisioned peacekeeping troops, war crimes tribunals, and even divvying up Iraq's oil wealth.

    He obtained one Pentagon document, dated March 5, 2001, and entitled "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield contracts," which includes a map of potential areas for exploration.

    “It talks about contractors around the world from, you know, 30-40 countries. And which ones have what intentions,” says Suskind. “On oil in Iraq.”

    During the campaign, candidate Bush had criticized the Clinton-Gore Administration for being too interventionist: "If we don't stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road. And I'm going to prevent that."

    “The thing that's most surprising, I think, is how emphatically, from the very first, the administration had said ‘X’ during the campaign, but from the first day was often doing ‘Y,’” says Suskind. “Not just saying ‘Y,’ but actively moving toward the opposite of what they had said during the election.”

    Suskind's revelations sound sexy, but they're pretty overblown. As Glenn Reynolds has pointed out, a lot of what O'Neill talks about and what Suskind cites had been under discussion in the Clinton administration. In early 2001, "peacekeeping troops, war crimes tribunals, and even divvying up Iraq's oil wealth" were not merely under discussion by neocons that might have wanted to invade Iraq, but by policy wonks across the board. At the time, the Washington consensus about the Iraq policy at the time was that the status quo was an untenable situation. A lot of meetings were being held about ways to rejigger U.S. policy. FULL DISCLOSURE -- as a sanctions expert, I participated in one such bipartisan meeting chaired by Richard Haass in the early days of the transition.

    Most important, this narrative overlooks the fact that prior to September 11th, the State Department had the lead on Iraq policy -- and they wanted to lift a lot of the sanctions. Don't believe me? Check out Lawrence Kaplan's attack on Colin Powell and Richard Haass (then-director of Policy Planning) in March 2001 in The New Republic (subscription is required). Kaplan preferred a more hawkish approach, so he took Powell to task. Here's the good part:

    Powell didn't dream up this policy disaster on his own. Though the notion of scaling back sanctions against Iraq has been floating around the State Department for some time, much of the credit for dusting it off belongs to Richard Haass, a Powell ally from the first Bush administration whom the secretary of state has installed as his director of policy planning with the rank of ambassador. Haass, who's made a name for himself over the years championing carrots rather than sticks in America's dealings with Iraq, Iran, Libya, and pretty much everyone else. (Israel being the occasional exception), has become Powell's Middle East guru. And in recent weeks he's been peddling to administration officials recommendations gleaned from a policy paper titled, aptly enough, "Iraq: Time for a Modified Approach." Written last month by Meghan O'Sullivan, who worked for Haass at the Brookings Institution, the brief for softening the sanctions regime neatly anticipates almost every utterance Powell has made recently about Iraq--from his insistence that loosening the embargo will dispel Arab anger to the old canard that "there is linkage to the situation between the Israelis and Palestinians." Bush, of course, inherited Haass from his father's Middle East team. And, with him, he's inheriting its worst inclinations.

    Haass's return to Middle East policy-making, coupled with the sanctions episode, has thrown administration hawks into a funk.

    It's worth reading the whole thing, if for no other reason to see Kaplan accuse Haass -- who was a dove on Iraq -- of being in the pocket of the oil companies!!

    The larger point is that Haass and Powell had the upper hand on Iraq policy -- until September 11th. [UPDATE: Ted Barlow over at Crooked Timber has a Bush quote that captures this point perfectly]. Clearly, after 9/11, Bush changed his mind. But to claim that George W. Bush planned to invade Iraq from day one of his administration is utter horses&$t.

    4) This paragraph from Time made me reflect on my own qualms with the Bush policy process:

    So, what does O'Neill reveal? According to the book, ideology and electoral politics so dominated the domestic-policy process during his tenure that it was often impossible to have a rational exchange of ideas. The incurious President was so opaque on some important issues that top Cabinet officials were left guessing his mind even after face-to-face meetings. Cheney is portrayed as an unstoppable force, unbowed by inconvenient facts as he drives Administration policy toward his goals.

    O'Neill's statements dovetail with the TNR cover story by John Judis and Spencer Ackerman from six weeks ago (sorry, subscription required again) -- this section in particular:

    Cheney's ideology hardly made a dent in the first Bush White House. But, in the second, George W. Bush tasked him with a robust foreign policy portfolio....

    The Office of the Vice President (OVP) was more than a consolation prize. Cheney gave his national security staff far greater responsibilities than had traditionally been accorded the vice president's team. His regional specialists wouldn't be involved only in issues relevant to the vice president--they would participate fully in the policymaking process and attend almost every interagency meeting. When Cheney first created this new structure, some Bushies openly described the operation as a "shadow" NSC. For those in the NSC itself, it often seemed like the "shadow" had more power than the real deal. One former Bush official says, "In this case, it's often the vice president's office that's driving the policy, leading the debate, leading the arguments, instead of just hanging back and recognizing that the vice president is not supposed to be driving the policy."

    I'm beginning to wonder how much Cheney's activism -- which Bush enabled -- has thrown the NSC process completely off-kilter.

    UPDATE: I'm not sure I explained that last point completely. This has nothing to do with the policy positions Cheney has taken on Iraq or anything else. Rather, the difficulty is that even cabinet-level officials can be reluctant in disagreeing with him because he's the vice-president. This leads to a stunted policy debate, which ill-serves both the President and the country. Brad DeLong's excerpt from the Wall Street Journal on the cabinet-level meeting on steel tariffs provide another case where Cheney seemed to choke off opposition to his position.

    ANOTHER UPDATE: Bruce Bartlett has more.

    FINAL UPDATE: A lot of the commentors have asked me about O'Neill's comments regarding both fiscal policy and the White House obsession with the political.

    Andrew Sullivan, after a funny line ("This White House is all about politics. Yes, and banks are full of money.") makes much of the same points I would on this front.

    NO, REALLY, THIS IS THE FINAL UPDATE -- I SWEAR: O'Neill walks back the Iraq allegations completely in this Reuters story:

    He described the reaction to Suskind's book as a "red meat frenzy" and said people should read his comments in context, particularly about the Iraq war.

    "People are trying to say that I said the president was planning war in Iraq early in the administration. Actually there was a continuation of work that had been going on in the Clinton administration with the notion that there needed to be a regime change in Iraq."

    What surprised him, said O'Neill, was how much priority was given to Iraq by the president....

    Asked about his comment that during Cabinet meetings Bush was like "a blind man in a room full of deaf people," O'Neill said he regretted some of the language he used to describe his former boss.

    "If I could take it back, I would take it back. It has become the controversial centerpiece."

    Pressed whether he would vote for Bush in the November presidential election, O'Neill said he probably would, but he said the American people needed to demand more of their leaders. (emphasis added)

    posted by Dan at 10:54 AM | Comments (65) | Trackbacks (8)

    Depressing news story of the day

    The Chicago Tribune reports that the Democratic candidates are falling all over themselves in Iowa to blame NAFTA for all of the state's economic woes. The highlights:

    Trade has emerged as a potent political issue in Iowa in the final days before the state's Jan. 19 caucuses start the process of determining a Democratic presidential nominee....

    All of the Democratic contenders' stump speeches call for at least modifying NAFTA and trade agreements with China, and some go so far as to talk about ending NAFTA and withdrawing the U.S. from the World Trade Organization [To be fair, I'm pretty sure Kucinich is the only one proposing anything in this last sentence--DD.]....

    Indeed, Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, who unlike his rivals battled NAFTA in Congress, told a crowd of union organizers and activists in Des Moines recently that Maytag was planning more Iowa layoffs and job shifts to foreign operations. The company has made no such announcement.

    "You don't have to stir people on trade," said Donald Kaniewski, legislative and political director of the Laborers' International Union of North America.

    "I represent a union that is not largely trade-sensitive, but the reaction of our members isn't just that they've bought into the whole labor thing on trade," Kaniewski said. "Our folks feel it in the places where plants have shut down. They see it in their lives and they understand it. Trade is an easy political sell, the easiest sell there is."

    Bruce Babcock, a professor of economics and director of the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University in Ames, said NAFTA and other agreements "probably sped" the natural consolidation of farming operations while opening new export markets for products.

    On the manufacturing side, Babcock said complaints of job losses caused by NAFTA are "somewhat overblown," adding that a shift in jobs would have come about anyway because of globalization.

    Babcock said Democrat and Republican rhetoric on trade is "just so far from reality." Democrats, he said, are moving so far toward a protectionist posture that President Bush can make marginal steps toward managed trade and still look like a free trader. (emphases added)

    Unfortunately, that last sentence is dead-on.

    posted by Dan at 10:23 AM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (1)