Friday, April 2, 2004
A small blog sabbatical
For the next ten days, I will be away from a computer. I'll be at an undosclosed sandy beach with my family for the first week, and then after that I'll be at a conference for several days [What's the difference between a vacation and a conference?--ed. At conferences, there's like, homework and stuff.] There will be limited to no blogging for the next ten days.
Discussion topic -- Andrew C. McCarthy's essay "The Intelligence Mess: How It Happened, What to Do About It." in the April issue of Commentary. McCarthy led the 1995 prosecution of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman in connection with the first World Trade Center bombing. He's skeptical that the mantra of "greater interagency coordination" will work:
Read the whole thing.
Thursday, April 1, 2004
April's Books of the Month
This month's international relations book is Amy Zegart's Flawed by Design: The Evolution of the CIA, JCS, and NSC [FULL DISCLOSURE: The very talented Ms. Zegart and I went to graduate school together]. This recommendation comes in the wake of important questions about how to reform America's intelligence-gathering apparatus for the war on terror. Zegart demonstrates the bureaucratic hurdles to either reforming or creating efficient foreign policy institutions are considerable.
The general interest book is Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. Here's a precis of Pinker's argument:
Plus, as far as I'm concerned, this book has now acquired totemic status.
What are the popular foreign policy books?
They've just come out with March's bestseller list:
If you look at the whole list, there are only three books that could be thought of as sympathetic to Bush's foreign policy -- Frum and Perle's An End to Evil, Richard Miniter's Losing Bin Laden, and Gaddis' Surprise, Security, and the American Experience
Question to readers -- does this mean:
a) A lot of Americans are interested in books that are critical of Bush's foreign policy (which implies a lot of Americans are unimpressed with it)?
b) The kind of people who buy foreign policy books in the first place are predisposed to dislike Bush's brand of hawkishness?
You be the judge!!
What's a small-l libertarian to do?
Megan McArdle writes what I'm thinking at the moment:
Read the whole thing.
My La-La experience
On Tuesday and Wednesday, your trusty blogger was in LA to give a talk at USC's Center for International Studies. It was quite the experience.
Have any readers experienced a moment during which they realized they were in a place that was way too hip/cool/edgy for them? That's how I felt when I checked into the Standard Hotel in the downtown. The place looked really fab -- clearly they had checked out Virginia Postrel's The Substance of Style. As the Guardian put it last year:
Alas, I witnessed no nighttime skinnydipping -- I had evening plans (I found out later that there was a private runway show and they booted the hotel's regular patrons from the rooftop bar anyway). Plus, I had dinner plans anyway. I can confirm the Star Trek-style waterbeds that would have made William Shatner proud.
However, the highlight of the trip was eating a fabulous lunch on the rooftop, and then noticing that the guy sitting at the next table bore more than a passing resemblance to Nicholas Brendon, who played Xander on Buffy the Vampire Slayer!!
Regular readers know that I'm a big Buffy fan, and I always identified with Xander -- the smart aleck who never had any superpowers. [That, plus his character got to make out with Charisma Carpenter, Alyson Hannigan, and Emma Caulfield's characters on camera!--ed. Er, yeah, that too.]
I've been told repeatedly that the residents of LA never ask for authographs -- it's considered gauche. Well, I'm not from LA, baby!! So I asked Mr. Brendon, and he gladly obliged with an autograph on the only blank piece of paper I had -- the back cover to Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate. Not entirely coincidentally, star blogger Megan McArdle is reading the very same book.
So I now own the ultimate academic geek artifact -- a copy of The Blank Slate autographed by a Buffy the Vampire Slayer cast member.
Oh, and the talk went well, too.
[Why are you posting about all this?--ed. I'm trying to provide this guy some genuine blogosphere gossip.]
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
A foursquare problem
My latest New Republic Online column is up. It's on the hidden constraints that either Bush or Kerry will face in their foreign policies after the November election.
Political scientists in the crowd might notice a hidden 2X2 diagram that didn't make the final piece, but was implicit in how I set up the article. For those of you who aren't political scientists -- poli sci types love a good 2X2.
Go check it out!! [Where's the footnote link? Where's the damn footnote link?!!--ed. For this essay, there's not a lot to link to, except for Kerry's foreign policy page and the February 27th speech that was the source of the quotes in the essay. Oh, and a previous TNR online essay I wrote about Edmund Burke and democratic nation-bulding.]
UPDATE: My apologies to readers that the TNR Online essay is subscriber only. While a TNR subscription makes a charming gift, I was not aware this was going to happen with my essays.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Drezner gets results from TNR!! Non-subscribers can access the whole article by clicking here.
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Outsourcing creates American jobs
Treasury Secretary John Snow apparently sparked some controversy in a Monday interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer. Why? Snow said what Greg Mankiw said last month -- that the outsourcing of U.S. jobs "is part of trade ... and there can't be any doubt about the fact that trade makes the economy stronger."
Hillary Clinton wasted no time in bashing Snow, saying: "I don't know what reality the Bush administration is living in, but it's certainly not the reality I represent, from one end of New York to the other."
Funny thing, though -- Snow appears to be right, according to this CNN report:
[C'mon, this study was sponsored by the IT industry -- can it be credible?--ed. According to the relevant Global Insight web page,
UPDATE: To clear up one source of confusion from some of the comments -- the study is not claiming that an economy with outsourcing will create only 317,000 jobs by 2008. The study says that holding other factors constant (population growth, fluctuations in aggregate demand, etc.) an American economy creates an additional 317,000 jobs.
The VP and the NSC
One of my great white whales has been the Bush team's poor management of the foreign policy process. I had suggested two months ago that one cause of this was the fact that the Vice President had inserted himself into the National Security Council process in a way that deliberately or accidentally sabotaged the decision-making process:
U.S. News and World Report has a story this week confirming this fear. The highlights:
Monday, March 29, 2004
Finishing Against All Enemies
Having finished Against All Enemies, I was searching for a way to describe my read of Richard Clarke. Christopher Hitchens points out in Slate that in Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon's The Age of Sacred Terror, Clarke is depicted "as an egotistical pain in the ass who had the merit of getting things right."
That's not bad. I'd make it simpler -- Richard Clarke is the perfect bureaucrat. I mean that in the best and worst senses of the word. In the best sense, it's clear that Clarke was adept at maximizing the available resources and authority required to do his job, given the organizational rivalries and cultures that made such a pursuit difficult. In the worst sense, Clarke was a monomaniacal martinet whose focus on his bailiwick to the exclusion of everything else is phenomenal.
Think I'm exaggerating? According to Against All Enemies, the reason Clinton decides to intervene in Bosnia in 1995 is because Al Qaeda was threatening to capture the Bosnian government. That's an interesting theory to be sure, but somewhat at odds with more authoritative accounts of the intervention (it doesn't help that Clarke misspells Richard Holbrooke's name).
The result is that what's in Against all Enemies is certainly the truth, but as I said before, I doubt it's the whole truth.
Clarke implies that the Bush administration should have made Al Qaeda the highest priority -- as it supposedly was during the second term of the Clinton administration. However, the Clinton sections have a familiar refrain -- Clarke's team tries to get the government to move, the White House is behind the push, and the effort dies somewhere in the bowels of the CIA, FBI, or the Pentagon. Now, the heads of the CIA and FBI were unchanged during the first eight months of the Bush administration, and Rumsfeld's difficulties with the uniformed brass at Defense during those months prompted rumors of resignation. So it's hard to see how anything would have changed unless the Bush team had focused on Al Qaeda to the exclusion of all other foreign policy priorities, which no one, not even Clarke, was suggesting at the time.
Vive le Big Mac!! Vive la France!!
Todd Richissin writes in the Baltimore Sun that despite the frictions over the past year, France still loves MacDonald's. Why? It's their nourriture de confort -- comfort food: