Friday, May 14, 2004

Regarding India

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:

Mr. Vajpayee is said to have been punished for the pro-market reforms that fostered India's high-tech boom; voters in the villages felt left out and took their revenge at the ballot box. This suggests that even the world's most successful economic reformers run big political risks. India conducted poverty surveys in 1993 and '94 and again in 1999 and 2000; over that period, the rural poverty rate fell from 37 percent to 30 percent, so the idea that the villagers have not benefited from India's growth is spurious. Given India's continued boom since 2000, poverty in the villages has almost certainly fallen further. Mr. Vajpayee apparently got no thanks for this.

Salman Rushdie suggests that it wasn't rural poverty so much as growing inequality that triggered this outcome:

The Indian battle for centrality in the debate about the country's future has always been, to some degree, a battle between the city and the village. It is between, on the one hand, the urbanized, industrialized India favored by both the socialist-inclined Jawaharlal Nehru and the free-market architects of "India Shining," the new India in which a highly successful capitalist class has transformed the heights of the economy; and, on the other hand, the agricultural, homespun India beloved of Mahatma Gandhi, the immense countryside India where three-quarters of the population still lives and which has not benefited in the slightest from the recent economic boom.

It's no accident that the ruling alliance lost heavily in Andhra Pradesh and in Tamil Nadu, precisely the states that wooed information technology giants such as Microsoft to set up shop, turning sleepy "second cities" such as Madras, Bangalore and Hyderabad into new-tech boom towns. That's because while the rich got richer, the fortunes of the poor, such as the farmers of Andhra, declined year by year. The gulf between India's rich and poor has never looked wider than it does today, and the government has fallen into that chasm.

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.

posted by Dan at 04:51 PM | Comments (45) | Trackbacks (3)

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:

Overall, California businesses exported $27.1 billion worth of goods in the quarter, with an array of high- and low-tech product categories seeing substantial gains. Exports of iron and steel products jumped 60%, nuts and fruits were up 33%, and sports equipment and games rose 9%. California-made apparel was one of the few items that saw a significant decline in exports.

Across industries, one common thread tied many companies' increases in exports: China.

In the second half of last year, China became California's fourth-largest export destination, moving ahead of South Korea. The activity has since accelerated, as China's rapid industrialization and production are generating a huge appetite for commodities and consumer goods.

UPDATE: Bloomberg has some great news about industrial production as well. This is the most intriguing paragraph:

Inventories at U.S. businesses grew 0.7 percent in March to a record level, the Commerce Department reported today, while sales rose 2.9 percent, the biggest jump ever. That brought the ratio of inventories to sales at manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers down to 1.30 months, the lowest on record.

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."

posted by Dan at 12:59 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

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 do think that you... are falling into a kind of academic groupthink that is at least 160 degrees off of reality. As I see it, Rumsfeld has consistently been proven correct about the size of the force and the appropriate methods for achieving our objectives.

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.

Others are accusing me of just following the crowd of lily-livered Bush-haters -- you know, George Will, David Brooks, Andrew Sullivan, Tom Friedman, Robert Kagan, William Kristol, Max Boot, Peter Beinart, and Republican Senators Lindsey Graham, John Warner, and John McCain -- now voicing qualms about the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq occupation.

So, let me collect the most optimistic news about Iraq that I've seen recently and see if I should change my mind:

1) It could be worse. At Tech Central Station, Arnold Kling and Charles Rousseaux list the various important things that haven't gone wrong in Iraq (Kling link via Milt Rosenberg). Rousseaux in particular reinforces an important about the lack of civil uprising:

One of the most important developments has been the gradual defanging of Muqtada al-Sadar and his Mahdi militia by both Coalition forces and moderate Shi'ites. When the radical cleric rose in revolt, he appeared to have put Coalition forces in an impossible position: If they attacked, they would risk alienating the Iraqi population with casualties and the destruction of holy places; if they failed to attack, they would give him the country. The persistent pressure applied instead appears to be having a pronounced effect. Earlier this week, a joint patrol of U.S. Marines and Iraqi forces entered Fallujah for the first time. While they weren't met by flowers, they weren't met by grenades either. In Najaf and Karbala, Coalition forces have cut down many members of the Mahdi militia and captured or destroyed a number of its arms caches. Last weekend, they captured two of Sadr's top aides. On Monday, Coalition forces blew up one of his two main headquarters in Baghdad.

Part of the reason that Coalition forces have acted so aggressively is that they no longer fear a popular revolt. Last week, a large group of influential Shi'ite leaders told Sadr to leave the holy places and the arms he had stored there. On both Monday and Tuesday, hundreds of individuals marched through Najaf calling for Sadr to depart. Even more are expected to turn out to demand Sadr's expulsion on Friday. They've been called into the streets by senior Shi'ite leader Sadruddin Qubanchi, who is allied with the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. For good reason, the Los Angeles Times ran a story on Tuesday titled, "Iraq Cleric Faces Showdown with Moderate Shiites." They want Sadr to go back to where he came from -- namely an embryonic state -- so that they can get back to the lucrative business of servicing the pilgrims who come to those holy places. It's something they can't do while being held hostage in their own cities, and the numbers of devout travelers have dropped to a trickle.

2) Some Iraqis are grateful. Andrew Sullivan links to this amusing Iraqi post.

3) Statebuilding has not completely failed in Iraq. The fact that I found most depressing over the past six weeks was the utter failure of the U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces to maintain their positions in the face of insurgent attacks, leading to a partial breakdown of order. This signaled the deep problems with the U.S. statebuilding effort.

Sullivan also links to this New York Times story suggesting that at least some of this statebuilding effort has not been for naught:

American soldiers were forced to fight insurgents holed up in the Mukhaiyam shrine, a domed building next to a high school and near the Mukhaiyam Mosque. Militiamen had regrouped at the shrine in the middle of the fighting and had begun launching mortars from there at the American-occupied mosque. Special Forces soldiers led teams of Iraqi commandos to the area and drove the insurgents from the shrine during an intense firefight.

The two dozen or so Iraqi commandos who helped the Americans in the battle were part of the Iraqi Counter Terrorist Force, trained in Jordan to combat insurgents. They acted under the supervision of Special Forces, who instructed them on clearing munitions from the Mukhaiyam Mosque and shrine and from the high school. Special Forces soldiers guided much of the battle on the ground, storming the mosque and setting up a base there to direct troops.

The Special Forces soldiers appeared impressed by the weapons caches found in the area. Those included powerful 155-millimeter artillery shells, Italian land mines and sniper rifles. In all, the munitions were the equivalent of more than 100 roadside bombs, one of the most effective killers of American soldiers in Iraq, a military intelligence analyst said. Sappers wired the caches with plastic explosives and detonated them as most of the American troops left the area.

Rumsfeld himself said in his Senate testimony that 80 to 90 percent of Iraqis are "being governed by local councils," which is pretty significant.

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.

posted by Dan at 12:21 AM | Comments (83) | Trackbacks (6)

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:

If Chicagoans loathe everything Wal-Mart represents, of course, they can easily defend themselves by declining to shop there. But the people in the neighborhoods where the stores are planned (one on the South Side and one on the West Side) bear an uncanny resemblance to other Americans in (a) their desire for a bargain and (b) their preference not to have to travel far to get it. The danger, from the standpoint of the critics, is not that Chicagoans will detest Wal-Mart but that they'll like it.

That has been the case for most people in most places. The company didn't climb to the top of the Fortune 500 list, sell nearly $259 billion worth of goods last year, and become the largest private employer in the country by failing to cater to ordinary Americans....

It's true that very few people get rich working for Wal-Mart, but the company says the average hourly wage for full-time workers in its Chicago-area stores is $10.77. It says the typical starting pay for an inexperienced worker at the new stores will be from $7 to $8 an hour (compared to the current minimum wage of $5.15). Some 60 percent of its employees get health coverage through Wal-Mart, with most of the rest getting it through spouses, parents or Medicare.

Does the company resist unions? Sure. But that doesn't exactly make it unusual, since 92 percent of private-sector workers in the United States lack a union. Does it hurt small businesses? Only by offering consumers goods they want at lower prices than established retailers....

Despite our economic troubles, the U.S. unemployment rate remains well below that in supposedly enlightened places like Germany, France and Canada. Not only that, but as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development reports, Americans have the highest average purchasing power among the industrialized democracies, partly because "$100 buys more in the United States."

How come? One reason is that we have so many fiercely competitive discount retailers like Wal-Mart. Economist W. Michael Cox of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas has called Wal-Mart "the greatest thing that ever happened to low-income Americans." Anyone who thinks its arrival would be a bad thing for low-income Chicagoans should let them vote on these stores, with their feet.

posted by Dan at 09:38 AM | Comments (37) | Trackbacks (2)

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:

Growing up, I watched my parents watch Mary Tyler Moore and Bob Newhart's eponymous situation comedies: Here were childless professionals in their 30s and 40s who moved in a world that seemed mysteriously complicated and grown-up. Week in and week out, they contended with traffic jams and IRS audits, incompetent colleagues and drunken doormen, and negotiated the intricate dilemmas of bourgeois etiquette: What do you do when a flaky friend asks to borrow a significant sum of money to start a business? Granted, my perception may be skewed by the fact I was 4 feet tall at the time, but even now, revisiting the world of those '70s sitcoms, the texture of adult life is palpable behind the standard sitcom storylines of marriage and divorce, flirtation and friendship. Frasier was a throwback to that time; more mature than its jejune (but still funny) progenitor, Cheers, it posited a world where a divorced, stocky, balding man in his 40s, who collected African erotic art and noodled on a grand piano in his stark modernist apartment, could be a plausible romantic lead for 11 straight seasons. In the post-Seinfeldian TV landscape of perpetual adolescence, where attractive young slackers were hooking up and trading apartments as casually as if New York City were their personal college dorm, Frasier sided with the grown-ups and won the respect of its audience by treating them as such.

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:

[P]arents have gone to extraordinary lengths not to let jobs get in the way of child rearing. They have added work time, but on average, they have not stolen those hours from child-rearing time. The time has come out of housework, relaxation, and adult friendships. (emphasis added)

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.

posted by Dan at 01:08 AM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (0)

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:

We know that manufacturing jobs have been shifting overseas for some time. But now the services sector is being hit hard by offshore outsourcing – and that hurts. The services sector provides 83% of America’s jobs, employing 86 million people. It dominates our economy. Customer call centers and data entry facilities are being relocated to places where capable labor can be found at lower wage levels. High-speed digital technologies make a connection between Boston and Bangalore as fast as between Boston and Baltimore.

But offshoring is no longer limited to entry-level services jobs. Higher skilled professional jobs like computer chip design, information technology services, programming, architecture, engineering, consulting, automotive design and pharmaceutical research are beginning to go overseas. That is the bulk of the iceberg below the surface of the sea. The outsourcing of R&D is probably the most alarming illustration of this new problem. American companies now invest $17 billion in R&D abroad every year. IT multinationals have now established 223 R&D centers in China alone.

OK, lets count the inaccuracies in these two grafs:

1) Manufacturing jobs are not moving offshore -- they're largely disappearing due to technological innovation and productivity gains.

2) The service sector is not being "hit hard" by offshoring -- job losses due to overseas relocation represent a trivial amount of total job destruction.

3) Offshoring is, in fact, largely limited to entry-level services jobs, even in the IT sector. This CNet article on R&D strikes an equally alarmist tone, but the interviews and raw numbers show that not a lot of high-level tasks are going to move offshore. Two tidbits:

Like many technology executives, Rhonda Hocker saw offshore outsourcing as an ideal way to stretch her budget and speed the development of new systems.

The chief information officer at San Jose-based software maker BEA Systems contracted with an Indian outsource company six months ago to handle maintenance and support of internal enterprise software from PeopleSoft, Siebel Systems and Clarify. She then outsourced help-desk work and made plans to do the same for the development of Web services components.

But even Hocker, a fan of outsourcing by any measure, has her limits.

"We'll never outsource any of our IT architects," she said of her "rocket scientists," BEA's top information technology developers. "I would never envision putting them over there or outsourcing that to anyone."....

Microsoft, the world's largest software maker, has an R&D budget that is also one of the world's largest--some $6.8 billion for fiscal 2004. It operates research labs in China and the United Kingdom, but the bulk of its work takes place in the United States.

"We will push some product development projects to India and China, but the lion's share will stay where it is, because we think the best work force is here," Microsoft's chairman and chief software architect, Bill Gates, said in an interview with CNET

The article looks at some firms with R&D operations overseas. Typical is IBM, which has 70 researchers in Delhi, India, and 90 in Beijing -- in contrast to 3,000 total research staffers, and 2,000 in the United States.

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.

posted by Dan at 01:29 PM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (1)

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:

In the latest twist in the outsourcing tale, two Indian companies have announced the creation of jobs in the telecoms and software services sector that will boost the domestic jobs market in the US.

Although the numbers are comparatively small in relation to the exodus of jobs going the other way, the decision represents a marked positive step for the future of US-India trade relations....

Bharti Tele-Ventures, India's largest private telecommunications company, has awarded an IT services contract to US computer giant IBM, worth up to $750m (£424m) in a 10-year deal. Bharti said IBM would now take care of all its hardware and software requirements, improve its data centres, IT help desks and disaster recovery capabilities.

"Arrangements like this will take the sting out of outsourcing," said Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman of Bharti Televentures

Infosys, the second-largest software manufacturer in India, has announced that it will be creating 500 consulting jobs in the US. Infosys is investing $20 (£11.3m) into creating a US-based subsidiary, Infosys Consulting, providing services to US companies.

The group plans to hire 75 consultants in the first year, with 500 hires total at the end of five years.

Damn Infosys and Bharti!! Next thing you know, Americans might actually realize that trade is a win-win game!!

posted by Dan at 12:18 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

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:

At that time, Fruit of the Loom let 3,200 jobs go overseas to save costs at its plant in Taylor County, with a population of 22,000.

Instead of giving up, the city pulled together. The town has since added 13 new employers, including More than 3,700 jobs have been created from those employers and expansions from others.

Read the article to see how the town pulled this off.

A hint -- education and insourcing are involved.

posted by Dan at 12:11 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

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:

"Manufacturing Job" is largely a liberal code phrase for "heavy industry, mega-company, big factory, full-health-care-coverage-for-the-smoking & overweight, generous pensions, old world, heavily unionized, low productivity, north-eastern, upper mid-west, old-mill town-south, democratic voting" job....

There is a myth that Big Company, Big Union "American workers" are the most productive in the world. The truth is that our industrial managers, our design and manufacturing engineers, and our supply chain managers make their companies the most productive in the world...largely through shedding those types of fantasy jobs through driving competition (should we make it here or there? or should we source it?) and technology improvements (more manufacturable designs, factory redesign, automation and control). (all emphases in original)

posted by Dan at 11:38 AM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (1)

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:

Soft power, or so the doctrine goes, will set Americans free from misunderstanding, vilification, and the kind of determined opposition to American foreign policy that has marked the presidency of George W. Bush. We can and must "attract others to our side," and we can do this by better communicating America's true character and values to the world. The next president must seduce other governments and international institutions rather than bully them. If that does not work, take two aspirin and call Harvard tomorrow. By then it may be clearer what soft power is and how it will work....

In 1990, his three main sources of soft power were American culture, international laws and institutions, and American multinational corporations. Two of those secret weapons have now dropped well down the list. Culture--in particular educational exchanges, "public diplomacy" (as government-run information programs are now known), and mass-market films and other media--still makes Nye's cut as an American resource for changing opinion abroad through the force of example or persuasion. But American political values (when, Nye warns, they are in fact honored in America) and American foreign policies ("when they are seen as legitimate and having moral authority") have somehow stormed ahead of McDonald's and Coca-Cola in Nye's worldview. It would be interesting to know why and how, but we are glided past that and much more.

Definition is all in this kind of exercise. Nye's book so stretches the definition of soft power, and so heavily conditions it, that the term comes to mean almost everything and therefore almost nothing.

In contrast, Hoagland has a more favorable take on the Gaddis book:

The alternative to Nye's softness, of course, is not an unsophisticated and chest-thumping unilateralism. There are significant roots in American history for a smart multilateralism that is not at all allergic to the use of force. For this, we must return to Gaddis....

Gaddis reminds (or more likely informs) us that the United States would not exist today as a continental power if it had not employed unilateralism, preemption, and hegemony as tools of national policy well into the twentieth century. Bush 43, meet Adams 6. In 1793, John Quincy Adams, whom Gaddis plausibly describes as the "most influential American grand strategist of the nineteenth century," was already writing that only unilateralism--staying disconnected "from all European interests and European politics"--would guarantee "real independence" for the fledgling United States. Nor could the United States simply co-exist on equal terms with any other great power on the North American continent. That, Adams wrote in 1811, would create "an endless multitude of little insignificant clans and tribes at eternal war with one another for a rock, or a fish pond, the sport and fable of European masters and oppressors."....

Gaddis is convincing in arguing that the Bush administration has paid a heavy price for sustaining momentum in the war on terrorism rather than consolidating its battlefield successes through a more focused, more Rooseveltian multilateralism. "Shock and awe are necessary departures from the normal," he observes. But "they become what's expected, and that undermines the element of surprise that makes such practices work in the first place. That's why good strategists know when to stop shocking and awing." And he continues: "The precedent John Quincy Adams set has at last produced what he warned against: an American government that deliberately goes abroad in search of monsters to destroy--lest those monsters attempt to destroy it."

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.

posted by Dan at 11:04 AM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

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:

The narrative of liberation was critical to the success of the mission - politically and militarily. This was never going to be easy, but it was worth trying. It was vital to reverse the Islamist narrative that pitted American values against Muslim dignity. The reason Abu Ghraib is such a catastrophe is that it has destroyed this narrative. It has turned the image of this war into the war that the America-hating left always said it was: a brutal, imperialist, racist occupation, designed to humiliate another culture. Abu Ghraib is Noam Chomsky's narrative turned into images more stunning, more damaging, more powerful than a million polemics from Ted Rall or Susan Sontag. It is Osama's dream propaganda coup....

The one anti-war argument that, in retrospect, I did not take seriously enough was a simple one. It was that this war was noble and defensible but that this administration was simply too incompetent and arrogant to carry it out effectively. I dismissed this as facile Bush-bashing at the time. I was wrong. I sensed the hubris of this administration after the fall of Baghdad, but I didn't sense how they would grotesquely under-man the post-war occupation, bungle the maintenance of security, short-change an absolutely vital mission, dismiss constructive criticism, ignore even their allies (like the Brits), and fail to shift swiftly enough when events span out of control.

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:

Rumsfeld, and the rest of the Bush administration's foreign policy team, face a clear choice. It can outsource peacekeeping functions to the United Nations or close allies, at the cost of some constraints on foreign policy implementation. It can minimize the U.N. role and develop/train its own peacekeeping force. Or it can do neither and run into trouble down the road.

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.

posted by Dan at 11:18 AM | Comments (109) | Trackbacks (25)

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:

DREZNER -- Louis, 101 blessed years, passed away on May 7, 2004. Devoted husband to the late Sayde Hirsch Drezner, dear brother to older sister Shirley, treasured father to Susan, Barry, David, and Esther. Loving grandfather to Robyn, Robert, William, Lisa, Daniel, Erika, and Benjamin. Proud great-grandfather to Matthew, Emily, and Samuel. Admired uncle to his many nieces and nephews. Loyal and trusted friend and employer to E. Lois Marshall for 63 years. Founder and President of Illustrators, Inc., and Central Photographic Studio, accomplished gardener and landscape designer, skilled woodworker and model ship builder, a master Mr. Fix-It, a man of great curiosity, intelligence with a lifelong respect for education, of a strong ethical and moral character. A wonderful role model for his family and friends. How dearly we will miss him.

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.

posted by Dan at 02:37 PM | Comments (36) | Trackbacks (0)

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:

The question I was left asking myself after the debate was what questions I might have asked if I had been in the audience but hadn't been a blogger. Probably exactly the same ones that the actual audience asked. They were intelligent. They solicited important information from the guest. But from the perspective of a blogger-slash-backseat journalist, they seemed so elementary. And that made me realize just how much I had learned by spending a couple of hours a day on this website for the last eighteen months

It also made me realize how specialized and pedantic bloggers' media criticism is. Even the most intelligent "normal" people out there have only the vaguest sense of how bloggers read the newspaper. Much like scholars, bloggers tend to think of their analytical methods as being a secret treasure, while critics think of them as the product of some kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Yet in contrast to scholars, bloggers are rapidly winning bigger and bigger audiences.

Bloggers are also getting the attention of those they criticize. In contrast, politicians ignore what political scientists write (while obsessing about the media)....

The final thought I had about today's discussion was that if I can look back on myself from two years and say "Oh my God, I can't believe how ignorant I was!", who might look at me now and say "Oh my God, I can't believe how ignorant he is!"

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.

posted by Dan at 01:53 AM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (1)