Friday, May 14, 2004
Josh Chafetz has assigned me the homework task of explaining the ramifications of the surprising Indian elections for India's economic development and relations with Pakistan.
Actually, I think the links Chafetz provides in his post do a fair job of capturing some of the dynamics. As this Washington Post editorial points out, it wasn't an increase in poverty that caused the BJP to fall:
Salman Rushdie suggests that it wasn't rural poverty so much as growing inequality that triggered this outcome:
Rushdie also points out the numerous sins of the government in power -- particularly it's hidden-hand role in the 2002 pogrom of Muslims in Gujarat. The Economist provides an excellent summary account as well.
My quick answers to Josh's questions -- the election returns aren't going to affect all that much of India's policy, except that there will be a ratcheting up of anti-American rhetoric. Congress has repeatedly said that its committed to the liberalization program -- and 8% GDP growth buys a lot more rural development aid than the 4% growth that would come if liberalization stalled. Relations with Pakistan might worsen a bit, in the sense that the BJP, as Hindu nationalists, had the credibility to compromise. Congress might not have that margin of error.
UPDATE: Looks like India's financial markets are less sanguine than I about the election results.
Good signs of economic recovery
Virginia Postrel provides useful links suggesting that the two traditional harbingers of the American economy -- California and small businesses -- are feeling the positive effects of the recovery. From the California story:
UPDATE: Bloomberg has some great news about industrial production as well. This is the most intriguing paragraph:
LAST UPDATE: The National Federation of Independent Business summarizes their Small Business Economic Trends for May by saying: "Small-business owners are laying the foundation for what could be the best economy in 20 years."
Should Rummy resign redux
I've received a fair amount of e-mail traffic politely asking me to reconsider my call for Donald Rumsfeld to resign. Here's one snippet:
I agree that Rumsfeld has been proven correct in his warfighting strategies. I am completely unconvinced that Rumsfeld has been proven correct in his statebuilding strategies.
So, let me collect the most optimistic news about Iraq that I've seen recently and see if I should change my mind:
OK, that's the best I can do (readers are asked to provide links to even better news).
Is that enough for me to change my mind about Rummy? No, it's not.
The above list indicates that the situation in Iraq is not hopeless, which is an unambiguously good thing. What the list doesn't indicate is what Rumsfeld's doctrines and decisions have done to improve the situation in Iraq. After a year of Rumsfeld overseeing the handling of Iraq, opinion polls show that a majority of Iraqis want the U.S. to conduct an immediate withdrawal, and 80% of Iraqis don't have much confidence in the Coalition Provisional Authority (both links via Mark Kleiman)
[What, you expected this to be easy? Show some backbone!--ed.] No, I didn't expect it to be easy. However, I did expect Rumsfeld, as a smart individual who wanted to be in charge of Iraqi statebuilding, to recognize some of the resource constraints he faced and take the necessary steps to solve them. Rumsfeld has been given clear and direct warnings on this since last summer, and there's strong evidence that he's correctly processed this information. There's just not much evidence that his solution -- train new Iraqi security forces from scratch -- has worked. The side effects have been serious. The absence of a proper U.S. constabulary force, combined with a failure to guard Iraq's borders, have led Iraqis to the opinions they hold now about American troops -- and those opinions aren't good. The failure to provide security, combined with Abu Ghraib, have tarnished perceptions of U.S. power and legitimacy. As much as Rumsfeld may want to deny it, perception and legitimacy are valuable in world politics. They make it much less costly to influence international interactions, by making the exercise of hard power less frequent. Donald Rumsfeld's management of the Defense
I don't think Iraq is hopeless -- but I also don't think that Rumsfeld has made much of a positive contribution since the end of the "major combat." It's precisely because I want to see the U.S. succeed in Iraq that I think it's worth it to replace Rummy ASAP.
Thursday, May 13, 2004
Drezner gets results from Steve Chapman!!
Steve Chapman's op-ed column in today's Chicago Tribune picks up on the debate about inner-city Wal-Marts in Chicago that I touched on last week. The good parts:
Adieu to the adult sitcom?
Slate's headline writers teased me with this Dana Stevens essay about the Frasier finale. The headline is, "Where Have All the Grown-Ups Gone? The Frasier finale marks the end of situation comedies for adults."
The Stevens essay underscores this point in this graf:
The problem with the rest of the essay is that it doesn't ever expand on this thesis, turning instead to why Frasier was so good. Left unaddressed is why are there no more sophisticated, adult sitcoms?
I actually do have a roundabout theory to explain this -- the target demographic of sophisticated adults have morphed into obsessive-compulsive parents. This argument is implicit in David Brooks' latest book, On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense. One of the themes in the book -- which Brooks has previously touched on in myriad articles -- is the growing obsession with parenting in this country, to the point where unorganized play has simply ceased to exist in much of the country.
Brooks tends to focus on the effect this has on the kids -- but what about the parents? All this organizing of their kids' lives can crowd out other activities, as Brooks points out on p. 139:
Whether the tradeoff of more child rearing at the expense of adult relationships is a good thing or a bad thing I will leave to my gentle readers and bloggers I trust on the subject. However, if fewer adults are investing the time in adult friendships, that could translate into less demand for adult situation comedies on network television.
Just an idle thought.
Closing note -- before people start bewailing the decline of the sophisticated sitcome, do bear in mind that for every Frasier there have been a hundred crappy adult sitcoms. Furthermore, it is at least possible to write a sophisticated family-oriented sitcom -- go watch an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond and admire Patricia Heaton's perfection of the slow burn.
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
The schizophrenic Senator Lieberman
Senator Joe Lieberman gave a speech this morning at the New America Foundation on offshore outsourcing and what the U.S. government should do about it. Here's a link to his white paper summary of proposals -- and here's a link to Grant Gross' coverage of the speech for IT World. Among other things, Lieberman calls for increased wage insurance, expanded Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), and a bipartisan commission to study the problem.
I'm of two minds about the speech and proposal. I like the proposals. Boosting R&D investment, expanding TAA, expanding education spending, getting our macroeconomic house in order -- I'm in favor of all of these, and promoted some of them in my Foreign Affairs article.
The problem is the speech, which is alarmist in the extreme. Here's one sample:
OK, lets count the inaccuracies in these two grafs:
Lieberman is correct about the education gap and the decline in public R&D investments -- but those problems have little to do with the alarmist tone of the speech.
Why wrap such sensible proposals around such exaggerated rhetoric? Because it's politically effective. The key Lieberman proposals --- education, R&D, macroeconomic prudence -- are smart things to do on their own. However, only the spectre of foreign competition seems capable of motivating Washington -- a fact that flummoxed Paul Krugman a decade ago.
While I'm very enthusiastic about the Senator's concrete proposals, I'm very, very queasy about the scaremongering tactics that are associated with them.
Those damn Indians
Oh dear -- Indian companies are messing with the dominant narrative that U.S. jobs are being outsourced to the subcontinent at an increasing rate. According to Contractor UK:
Damn Infosys and Bharti!! Next thing you know, Americans might actually realize that trade is a win-win game!!
The Campbellsville comeback
Christopher Miller has an interesting article in the Bowling Green Daily News about how the town of Campbellsville, Kentucky responded to the 1997-98 decision by Fruit of the Loom to offshore production:
Read the article to see how the town pulled this off.
A hint -- education and insourcing are involved.
A PG-13 post about heavy manufacturing
Be warned. If you think heavy manufacturing is really important, or that unions are vital to the development of American capitalism, do not click on this Tim Belknap rant.
The following contains strong language about the manufacturing sector, and may not be suitable for economic romantics under the age of 80 who believe that the United States needs to return to the "good old days" when what was good for GM was good for America.
A brief preview:
Dissecting soft power
Jim Hoagland has a good review of Joseph Nye's Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics and John Lewis Gaddis' Surprise, Security, and the American Experience in The New Republic.
I've always found "soft power" a maddening concept, in that Nye has managed to identiy something important but its precise definition and causal logic remains inchoate (click here, here, and here for more of my thoughts on the matter). Hoagland appears to be equally frustrated with Nye:
In contrast, Hoagland has a more favorable take on the Gaddis book:
UPDATE: For more on the Gaddis book, readers would be well-served to check out the Slate Book Club exchange between Robert Kagan and Niall Ferguson about Gaddis' book as well as Walter Russell Mead's Power, Terror, Peace, and War: America's Grand Strategy in a World at Risk.
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
Should Rummy resign?
In the wake of the ever-widening prisoner scandal (see the heretofore secret Red Cross report here and the Washington Post story about it here), a lot of people are calling for Rummy's head. The Economist wants him to resign -- as does Megan McArdle. President Bush maintains that he's "doing a superb job." As Kevin Drum documents, those who supported the war are growing ever more disgruntled with the administration in general and Rumsfeld in particular. Andrew Sullivan puts it well:
Actually, one could argue that the administration has in fact shifted a fair amount on how to handle postwar Iraq -- it's just that the shifts have amounted to mere tinkering given the lack of troop strength, the absence of border protection, and the abject failure of the Iraqi statebuilding project. In other words, they shifted on everything but the big things.
A year ago, I wrote the following about Rumsfeld's obsession with slimming down the military:
We're down the road now. The administration never really resolved that dilemma, and I'd say we've hit trouble with a capital "T".
This is certainly not only Rummy's fault -- though he should have been asking tough questions on Iraq instead of letting others ask fluffy ones. The man residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue shoulders the bulk of the responsibility. Bush's job prospects will be decided in November, however (and since I was undecided back in January -- when foreign policy was Bush's strength -- imagine my current preference ordering). In the meantime, it seems inescapable to me that Donald Rumsfeld should resign as Secretary of Defense. It's not just Abu Ghraib -- it's the whole damn Mongolian cluster-f#*k of the postwar occupation.
I'm willing to be persuaded otherwise -- but the arguments better be really, really, good ones.
UPDATE: Some of the commenters seem to be confusing my disdain for Rumsfeld with a desire to get out of Iraq. That's just wrong. It's precisely because I want the U.S. to stay in Iraq, to help build institutions that resemble a liberal polity, to demonstrate that the words "democracy" and "Arab" can be combined in the same sentence, that I want Rummy to go.
ANOTHER UPDATE: This commenter prudently suggests that I can't support Rummy's removal without a suitable replacement.
OK. My suggested replacement would be retired Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki.
Sunday, May 9, 2004
Louis Drezner, R.I.P. (1902-2004)
No blogging for the next two days, as I'll be at my grandfather's funeral. Here's a reprint of the relevant sections of his obituary as it appeared in today's New York Times:
I'll miss his smile -- the man had a smile that made you forget your troubles and believe that all was right in the world.
Oh, and yes, you read the obituary correctly -- he is survived by his older sister, my great-aunt Shirley. She's 103.
UPDATE: My profound thanks to one and all for your kind condolences -- I'm very touched.
The ceremony was lovely, and sad as the occasion was, it was nice for the extended Drezner clan to congregate together and swap fond memories of Grandpa. His quite but authoritative presence will be dearly missed.
The political science of blogs
David Adesnik has a marathon-length post on moderating a Harvard panel with a Boston Globe journalist and discussing what he's learned via blogging. He concludes:
Oh my God, I can't believe how ignorant Davi--- just kidding.
More seriously, David has hit on one of the reasons I've given for blogging -- it can command immediate attention in a way that an article in either International Organization or the American Journal of Political Science cannot. Score one for blogging.
And yet -- there are two important caveats to David's thesis that blogging is more influential than political science. The first is that it may be that either activity is a necessary but not sufficient condition for influencing the body politic. Using myself as an example -- I got my gig at TNR Online because they liked the style and content of the blog. But, they also liked the fact that I was a professor of political science. My academic credentials probably opened a few doors that have been more difficult to open for a Kevin Drum or a Steven Den Beste.
The second caveat is that, while many political scientists yearn for "policy relevance," it comes in different forms. One way is to become a public intellectual/media whore and directly address one's fellow citizens. There are other, more permanent ways, however. John Maynard Keynes once observed that, "Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist." A good political scientist can have that kind of long-run influence as well. I doubt that politicians ever listened to what E.E. Schattschneider, David Mayhew, Hans Morgenthau, or Graham Allison said on a day-to-day basis -- but the political world they live in was partily constructed by their ideas.