Saturday, April 17, 2004
The New York Times solicits my opinion
Well, that still holds. But a different section of the paper -- the New York Times Book Review -- decided, in its infinite wisdom, to solicit my view on Jagdish Bhagwati's In Defense of Globalization. The result is in this Sunday's Times. Here's the first paragraph:
Take that, Gail Collins!
[Hey, wasn't In Defense of Globalization one of your March books of the month? Isn't there a conflict of interest here?--ed. I'd finished the review back in February -- the NYT Book Review had built up a slight backlog.]
It should be noted for the record that despite strong temptation, I elected not to mention the fact that Bhagwati misspelled my name in the book (though, weirdly, he gets it right in the footnote, even though it gets screwed up again in the index).
[Foreign Affairs and the New York Times in just the past month. You're becoming quite the public intellectual!--ed. Oh, yes, if it wasn't for that Jessica Simpson, I'd be racking up the magazine covers. Racking, I tell ya.]
The neocon mea culpas
James Joyner observes that multiple neo-conservatives have published op-eds today critical of the Bush Administration’s handling of Iraq. The kicker is David Brooks' New York Times column. Brooks still thinks the invasion was the right thing to do, but allows:
Matthew Yglesias doesn't accept Brooks' argument that invading Iraq was still the right thing to do:
Now, since back in the day I wrote a memo to liberal hawks urging them to support the war, I suppose Matt could blame me, except that I doubt my arguments tipped the scales either way.
Like Yglesias, I care about process issues. I've been saying for some time that the Bush administration has f@#&ed with the foreign policy process in serious ways. That said, I still side with Brooks over Yglesias -- provided the United States sees Iraq out to the end. If Bush -- or Bush's successor -- were to turn tail and withdraw from Baghdad without leaving a stable popular government in its wake, then I'm afraid Yglesias would be correct. From a humanitarian perspective, invading Iraq was the right thing to do. From a national security perspective, invading Iraq and then withdrawing in the face of insurgent attacks would be far worse than not invading in the first place.
And this point, I suspect, is what drives so many of Bush's mainstream opponents around the bend. It's one thing to have opposed the Iraq invasion -- that's a reasonable position to hold, and I said so at the time. However, responsible politicos recognize that it's irresponsible to advocate withdrawal after the invasion. The damage to the United States of pulling out in the midst of insugent violence would be severe. This is why Howard Dean, even when he was riding high in the polls, advocated sending more U.S. troops to Iraq.
During this campaign season, Bush's mainstream opponents are forced to support staying in a country that most of them did not want to invade in the first place. They didn't want to break the country -- but they're nonetheless stuck with the proof of purchase.
UPDATE: Niall Ferguson compares the Iraq of 2004 with the Iraq of 1920.
NATO deepens its cooperation
Transatlantic tensions have not prevented NATO from taking defense cooperation to the next level -- procurement. According to the New York Times: With NATO member states just days away from awarding a military contract for 4 billion euros to a trans-Atlantic consortium of aerospace companies, a new era of joint procurement may be dawning for the alliance, defense experts said on Thursday.
A group of six companies, led by the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company, known as EADS, and Northrop Grumman of the United States, looks set to win the contract, worth $4.8 billion, to build a mixed fleet of manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft for the alliance by 2010, said a NATO official close to the selection process....
Against a backdrop of violence in Iraq and heightened concerns that terrorists may be aiming at Europe after the Madrid train bombings, pragmatism may be gaining the upper hand over the political procurement decisions of the past, analysts said. While some major European governments continue to disagree with the United States on a wide range of issues, including the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the willingness to deepen their cooperation within NATO may herald a renewed commitment to the alliance.
James Appathurai, a spokesman for NATO, called the decision "historic,'' confirming a report on Thursday in The Financial Times.
"This is only the second time in NATO's history that members join forces in procurement on this scale,'' he said. The first time, he said, was the Awacs surveillance system developed in the 1960's.
"The decision was reached pragmatically on the basis of price, capability and scheduling considerations - not necessarily three factors that have determined procurement decisions in the past,'' Mr. Appathurai said.
Friday, April 16, 2004
Yes, I'm at a conference again
I'll be back tomorrow. In the meantime, critical readers can re-read what I wrote a year ago about what the anti-war advocates got right and wrong about Iraq. [How well does it hold up?--ed. Opponents of the war were largely wrong about the ramifications outside of Iraq, but have a much better track record of what would happen inside of Iraq.]
Thursday, April 15, 2004
When is it good to be explicit?
David Adesnik writes a lengthy, must-read post about why the George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon's joint press conference became the lead story yesterday:
Here's the question -- in matters of diplomacy and world politics, is it always the right thing to make explicit what had been implicit?
One can make the case that an end to hypocrisy is an intrinsically good thing in world politics. However, international relations is also an arena where -- in the short term -- perception matters just as much as reality. While consistency and clarity can bolster an actor's reputation in world politics, ambiguity and, dare I say, nuance also have their advantages in bargaining and power projection. There are clear tradeoffs at work here.
I don't have a good answer to this question -- well, I don't have an answer that could be condensed into a blog post. I will therefore leave it to my readers to try to hash out.
Trading with China
So much for being inundated with a tidal wave of services imports due to outsourcing.
[But what about China? Surely their undervaluation of the renminbi is leading them to run such whopping trade surpluses?--ed.] Actually, as Nicholas Lardy pointed out last month in Congressional testimony, this narrative doesn't hold up:
Read the whole thing. This page has some relevant charts and graphs.
Al Qaeda offers a carrot to Europe
I doubt this will have any immediate effect on European countries that are committed to keeping their troops in Iraq. The disturbing question is whether that resolve would waver if another Madrid-style attack were to take place.
UPDATE: Here's Al Jazeera's report on the tape, which contains this odd quote from bin Laden:
Well, now I'm confused -- is the United Nations a tool of Zionist lackeys or an anti-Israeli institution?
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports on the widespread European rejection of bin Laden's offer.
Wednesday, April 14, 2004
Amazon.com vs. the blogosphere
James Marcus, a former senior editor for Amazon.com, has an amusing essay in the Washington Post on the varying quality of Amazon's customer reviews:
Here's a provocative thought -- does Marcus' assessment of Amazon's customer reviews also apply to the comments posted on blogs? Because bloggers lack the administrative resources/capabilities of Amazon.com, will this lead to the end of comment features over time?
I'll be further amused to see the customer comments on Marcus' forthcoming book, Amazonia: Five Years at the Epicenter of the Dot.Com Juggernaut
The next stage of campaign ads
The Onion amusingly identifies the next fake trend in negative campaign ads -- blasting voters rather than the other candidate. Here are some samples:
I have to think that late at night, after a few beers, both the Kerry and Bush campaign teams fantasize about airing these kind of ads.
The EU's divide-and-conquer strategy on agricultural trade
The Financial Times reports that the European Union has a strategy for getting its egregious Common Agricultural Policy through the Doha round to WTO talks unscathed -- buying off Mercosur:
Politically, this is a clever move on the EU's part, though it puts Brazil in the awkward position of simultaneously trying to act as a leader of the Global South while cutting most of these countries out of any EU benefits.
Economically, the perpetuation of the CAP is, as always, unambiguously stupid.
Meanwhile, the FT also reports that Oxfam has "accused the European Union on Tuesday of employing 'economic sophistry' to conceal the true costs of its controversial sugar regime, saying the policy inflicted big losses on poor countries and reduced the value of EU development aid." Here's a link to the press release and full version of Oxfam's report, "Dumping on the World."
Are campus crimes exaggerated?
Anne Hendershott has a provocative Chicago Tribune op-ed arguing that a University of Wisconsin-Madison student's bogus claims being abducted at knifepoint and enduring a five-day "imprisonment" are more common on campuses than many would think:
Read the whole article -- Hendershott addresses rape cases as well.
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
The trouble with indices...
Every index can be challenged on the quality of the data that goes into it, and the weights that are assigned to the various components that make up the overall figure. A lack of transparency about methodology is also a valid criticism. For example, in my previous post on the competitiveness of different regions in the global information economy, the company responsible for the rankings provides little (free) information on how the index was computed. That's a fair critique.
Real Clear Politics has dueling graphs, comparing Kerry's misery index with the actual misery index. Check them out for youself.
Meanwhile, ESPN's Page 2 devises a much more controversial misery index for baseball teams. Why controversial? Because some Boston Red Sox fans will be shocked to learn that their beloved Olde Towne Team is only the sixth most immiserating team (Montreal was first):
I agree with ESPN, but I'm probably in the minority among Sox fans. Already, some Sox fans are outraged.
So, indices seem to serve one useful purpose -- the fostering of debate. So debate away!
San Francisco 1, Bangalore 0
The Financial Times reports on a survey of global regions and their competitiveness in the knowledge economy. The results are interesting:
Check out Robert's post for more.
Thrilling for a grilling
I'm very curious to see how the 9/11 Commission treats former FBI director Louis Freeh at today's hearings. Even more than the Bushies, Freeh was Richard Clarke's nemesis in Against All Enemies. Freeh launched a pre-emptive strike laying out his position in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. The key paragraph:
This is an able defense, but Clarke makes repeated assertions in his book that Freeh failed to follow through on counterterrorism, failed to update the FBI's antiquated computer systems, and reallocated resources officially allocated to the task towards more traditional FBI crime-fighting. [Could Clarke be leaving anything out because of his desire to exact his measure of bureaucratic revenge?--ed. Certainly -- And Freeh is correct to cite the marked increase of FBI legal attaches in U.S. embassies abroad, which were/are useful in combating terrorism.] Bush's official campaign blog is touting the op-ed, but I'm not sure that's the best thinking. The Bushies have the understandable defense of only having been on the job for eight months. Freeh has less of an excuse.
The questioning of Freeh is also a test for the 9/11 Commission to see just how much partisanship will affect their judgment. It would be very fishy if the Dems are not as hard on Freeh as they were on Rice.
UPDATE: Reuters has the precis of the Commission's staff report on the FBI. A "culture resistant to change" figures prominently.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Pandagon links to an old Tim Noah piece in Slate that blasts Freeh's handling of counterintelligence. Noah links to this New Yorker profile of Freeh's role in the Khobar Towers bombing.
Should U.S. courts listen to international law?
Tim Wu pens an interesting but incomplete Slate essay on a growing trend -- the citation of international law and foreign law in U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The highlight:
Wu argues that Scalia and Thomas are overreacting, comparing the citation of foreign experiences as the legal equivalent of a 50 Cent shout-out to Bob Dre:
Wu has a valid point to make -- the Supremes aren't in the thrall of Eurocrats. Still, one suspects that Wu is sanguine in part because the Court is citing foreign law that is consistent with modern liberalism. One wonders what the reaction would be if the foreign legal shout-outs were for less desirable principles the conservatism of the Official Secrets Act or the more statist bent behind U.N. treaties on economic and social rights.
The citation of foreign legal norms is not merely decorative -- it's strategic as well.
As further evidence that Slate has cornered the popular market on interesting Supreme Court writing, go read Dahlia Lithwick's quickie on the Supreme Court's federal marshals.
UPDATE: Jacob Levy reminds me that he penned an excellent TNR Online essay five months ago on this very topic. Levy draws an appropriate distinction between appropriate and inappropriate citations of foreign law:
Monday, April 12, 2004
Robert Maranto appropriates my line
Political scientists sometimes do think alike. I've argued repeatedly that the way to understand Richard Clarke's position vis-à-vis the Bush administration has been that of a pure bureaucratic actor:
Robert Maranto, who teaches political science and public administration at Villanova University, makes some similar observations in today's Wall Street Journal:
Then there's this point:
UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has more on some revisionist elements of Clarke's book.
Sunday, April 11, 2004
How I spent the last four days
I was in Washington, DC for the last four days at a Liberty Fund conference organized by Tyler Cowen that included several bloggers -- Marginal Revolution's Alex Tabarrok, Asymmetrical Information's Megan McArdle, FuturePundit's Randall Parker, and Cronaca's David Nishimura. A fine time was had by all the bloggers -- although those participants who had no friggin' idea what a blog was before they arrived probably heard more than they cared to hear about the blogosphere.
Among the more memorable moments: