Friday, June 25, 2004
Give Iyad Allawi -- and the Bush administration -- their due
Last month I blogged about the designation of Iyad Allawi as the Iraqi president until January of next year, and the extent to which the U.S. did not want to be seen as puppetmaster. Other Iraq watchers were skeptical of the new government's ability to command legitimacy -- at the time, Spencer Ackerman wrote, "Any interim prime minister would surely face the accusation of being an occupation stooge. With Allawi, the charge is likely to have serious currency."
Hey, this and banking reform -- two in a row for the CPA!
There's one reason why Allawi is likely to be able to sustain this popularity -- he has a built-in scapegoat for his biggest headache, which is the security situation. If problems continue in that area, all he has to do is publicly harangue the Americans.
What will be particularly interesting is whether the new government and security forces' legitimacy gives them greater access to informants who will rat out insurgents.
The new government's popularity might go south in the future -- but this is certainly good news as June 30th approaches.
Trading up to some informative links
Want to know more about American attitudes towards outsourcing and trade? I'll make you a trade -- I'll write, you read [This kind of thinking explains your decision to go into academia for the money--ed.]
Outsourcing info: The Bureau of Labor Statistics survey about offshore outsourcing and employment came out earlier this month -- but note the caveats in this post. I addressed the guesstimates made by management consultants in my Foreign Affairs essay, "The Outsourcing Bogeyman." The preliminary results of the Colorado inquiry on IT jobs and outsourcing comes from this Rocky Mountain News op-ed by one of the principal investigators. The Detroit study can be found at the Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference web site. I blogged about both in this guest-post for GlennReynolds.com at MSNBC. On the costs that states are now facing from protectionist measures -- click here for California, and here for Kansas. Finally, I blogged about the the E-Loan experiment on consumer behavior here and here.
Polling data: In an interesting coincidence, the Employment Law Alliance poll about outsourcing and the Associated Press poll about outsourcing were conducted within a week of each other; I blogged about both of these polls last month. You can read about the change in public opinion about trade between 1999 and 2004 by reading this Peronet Despeignes story in USA Today from February of this year. Ron Fournier wrote the Associated Press story about the poll showing Americans believe the economy has lost jobs in the past six months. As for older polling data, Kenneth Scheve's Globalization and the Perceptions of American Workers has a nice review of public attitudes towards all facets of economic globalization in the 1990s. The data about the 1950's comes from I.M. Destler's 1986 book American Trade Politics: System Under Stress. The data on Bush's polling numbers in late 2002 and now can be seen in this Washington Post graph (hat tip: Andrew Sullivan).
Kerry and outsourcing: John Kerry's tax proposal can be found at his campaign website -- here's a link to the press release as well. My initial reactions to it can be read here and here. My assertion that the proposal would not have the desired effect on unemployment comes from this Institute for International Economics policy brief by Gary Clyde Hufbauer and Paul Grieco.
Trade politics: An excellent primer on the role that ideas play in the crafting of American foreign economic policy can be found in Judith Goldstein's Ideas, Interests, and American Trade Policy [Full disclosure: Goldstein was one of my professors when I was a graduate student at Stanford]. Robert Rubin's observations about the state of American trade politics can be found in his engaging memoir In an Uncertain World: Tough Choices from Wall Street to Washington (co-authored with Jacob Weisberg) . The point about praising imports can be found on page 394. Robert Zoellick's op-ed can be found in the digital archives of the New York Times for a fee -- or the USTR web site for free. Finally, on the current state of play for the Doha round, see this post from earlier this month, as well as Jeffrey Schott's excellent backgrounder for the Institute of International Economics.
[Ahem, didn't you promise to take a break on the outsourcing stuff?--ed. That was almost two weeks ago!! In blog years, that's quite a stretch.]
UPDATE: Brad DeLong has some trenchant criticisms of this essay over at Semi-Daily Journal. My major beef is with his last point:
The thing is, I'm pretty sure that neither John Kerry nor George W. Bush will embrace the merits of free trade with the same enthusiasm of President Clinton. Neither Kerry's rhetoric nor his policy proposals to date make me particularly sanguine about his future foreign economic policies.
The state of play on trade
My latest TNR Online essay is up -- this one is about why, even with the outsourcing furor dying down, we're not likely to see any groundswell of support for trade liberalization. Go check it out.
Footnote link will follow shortly. UPDATE: Here it is.
Actual financial reform in Iraq
Of course, that last paragraph is kind of important -- and that goes back to the CPA's mistakes. Bill Powell and Aparism Ghosh are the latest to dissect Paul Bremer's errors in Time.
Thursday, June 24, 2004
Arnold Schwarzenegger likes it rough
Charlie LeDuff and John M. Broder write a pretty favorable story about the governor from California in today's New York Times (link via Andrew Sullivan). Two points stood out:
Philip Carter weighs in
Philip Carter manages to meld together the theme of my last two posts -- troop levels and the crisis in Sudan. On the first question, Carter has a Slate piece criticizing pretty much everyone inside the Beltway for using fuzzy math on the question of optimal troop levels. The highlights:
In a follow-up blog post, Carter ties the debate about troop levels into the case of Sudan.
Go check it all out.
400 villages destroyed in Sudan
Things are getting very bad in Sudan, as Edith Lederer reports for the Associated Press:
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
I'll say it again -- it's good to have more troops
Over the past year one of my constant refrains about Iraq is that the administration had failed to put sufficient numbers of troops to deal with the occupation phase of the campaign. This argument inevitably triggered comments from readers saying that more troops would have minimal effect on peacebuilding while increasing the number of inviting targets for insurgents.
I would urge those skeptics to read Rowan Scarborough's account in the Washington Times about how the U.S. army effectively destroyed Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi militia. The highlights:
Only time will tell if Sadr has been truly defanged -- and it's worth pointing out that his armed resistance appears to have caused a steady increase in public support for him. Still, Sadr's decision to try to attain power through legal rather than extralegal means seems a pretty powerful argument for the virtues of more troops.
Thank you, Fareed Zakaria
The New Republic has a special issue this week devoted to the question of "Were We Wrong?" -- ruminations, defenses, or mea culpas by supporters of Gulf War II in the wake of the past year's events. Contributors include John McCain, Kenneth Pollack, Fouad Ajami, Anne Applebaum, Thomas Friedman, Joseph Biden, and Paul Berman.
As someone who's engaging in a similar cognitive exercise, Fareed Zakaria's contribution is the one that most closely approximates my own position. I may differ with Zakaria on big-think international relations questions, but he is right on target in his dissection of the ins and outs of Iraq. The highlights:
Read the whole essay.
I blogged an awful lot about Iraq prior to the war, so I don't have the time to completely fulfill this task. However, perusing the posts in which I recall making a substantive argument -- here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here -- I'm still feeling reasonably secure. Readers should feel free to disagree.
Going medieval on AFI
The American Film Institute has cannily raised its public profile through a series of television tributes and the releases of myriad "top 100" lists. Their latest -- which suggests they're running out of ideas -- is "100 Years... 100 Songs.."
As a courtesy to readers of danieldrezner.com --- or burden, take your pick -- the following is a reprint of my interior monologue as I was perusing the list:
If you'll all excuse me, I have to go cut someone's ear off -- well, that or alert Roger L. Simon to the crimes committed on this list.
While I'm away, readers are hereby invited to submit other glaring omissions (or glaring inclusions) from AFI's list.
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
Respect Eugene Volokh's authority!!
Kudos to Eugene Volokh for his latest coups:
Cass, Jacob, myself -- Eugene has now managed to have 10% of the poli sci faculty at the University of Chicago blog for him.
Barack Obama's lucky star
Last month Noam Scheiber penned a lengthy but fascinating cover story in The New Republic on the rise of Illinois State Senator Barack Obama (he's also a senior lecturer at the U of C's law school). Obama is currently the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate in this state. Scheiber's essay was about how Obama, an African-American, was able to surmount the tricky hurdles that a minority candidate can face in a statewide campaign.
While Scheiber stressed Obama's considerable talents as a politician, he also acknowledged that Obama had been the recipient of some good fortune as well on the way to winning the nomination: "Obama ran into a bit of luck. The media turned up evidence that [erstwhile frontrunner Blair] Hull's ex-wife had sought a restraining order against him, and Hull's campaign, which had built a ten-point lead, imploded after the candidate essentially admitted to having abused her."
It now appears that Obama has once again received a huge dollop of fortuna -- again from the divorce courts. Obama's Republican opponent Jack Ryan may experience some political difficulties sustaining his campaign after the unsealing and partial release of records from Ryan's divorce from Jeri Ryan -- yes, the same Jeri Ryan who's starred in Boston Public and Star Trek: Voyager. [I'm still hazy -- who is this again?--ed. Inserting shameless photo here:]
Click here to read Jeri Ryan's statement responding to the story.
Obama wisely told the Tribune that "Obviously Mr. Ryan and his supporters will be discussing this and I don't think that's my role." There's no mention of it on his campaign blog as well.
Now it's hardly Obama's fault that he has political idiots for opponents -- and it's to his credit that he hasn't perpetrated anything as stupid in his personal or professional career. And it's worth pointing out that the latest poll (conducted last week) had Obama ahead of Ryan by eleven points -- so it's not like he really needed this to happen.
Still, politicians of every stripe must be burning with envy, marveling at Obama's run of good luck.
Readers are invited to submit other politicians who have similarly benefited from this kind of self-destructive behavior by opponents during a campaign.
UPDATE: Over at Tapped, Nick Confessore frets that this may hurt Obama:
ANOTHER UPDATE: Mark Buehner posts a comment that reflects my thoughts on the matter:
Lou Dobbs is a big fat hypocrite
If I wasn't busy trying to get tenure and all that, I'd be sorely tempted to write a quickie paperback with that title. Never mind Dobbs' tendentious reporting about outsourcing -- now he's got bigger ethical quandries.
Back in March, James Glassman pointed out in Tech Central Station that Dobbs was praising companies like Boeing and Washington Mutual as worthy stocks in his eponymous investment letter -- even though he was bashing these very same companies for offshore outsourcing on his CNN show, Lou Dobbs Tonight.
Last week, Zachary Roth at CJR's Campaign Desk followed up on this tendency of Dobbs to say one thing to his viewers and another thing to readers of his investment letter:
Read both Glassman and Roth. We here at danieldrezner.com are appalled -- there are actually people out there who would pay $398 a year for Lou Dobbs' investment advice?! To be fair, however, Glassman does point out in another column that on his TV show, Dobbs is the perfect anti-predictor when it comes to investment decisions.
Amazingly, Dobbs is proving to be somewhat two-faced in his response to the Campaign Desk post. In a follow-up post, Roth writes, "When we contacted him, Dobbs was unrepentant, saying that he didn't see a problem with using one hand to reprimand companies for outsourcing, while using the other to promote the same firms." However, when the Wall Street Journal came a callin', Dobbs changed his tune:
Lou, Lou, Lou -- it's never the original scandal that brings you down -- it's the cover-up to the scandal.
I'll give Roth the final word of this post:
Monday, June 21, 2004
Spencer Ackerman, filling in for Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, scores an interview with the anonymous author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terrorism. The author -- let's call him Mr. A -- believes both Afghanistan and Iraq to be complete disasters in both policymaking and the application of military force.
While this no doubt warms the cockles of those who oppose the Bush administration, Mr. A's policy prescriptions are likely to scare the ever-living crap out of those same critics. A sample:
Needless to say, this provoked Matthew Yglesias to write an epithet I was thinking after reading that passage. Kevin Drum is similarly rattled -- and Drum follows up with an e-mail missive from Ackerman confirming that what I just quoted was not taken out of context. The following is from Mr. A's interview with Ackerman:
This kind of rhetoric makes even the most "out there" neoconservative -- except perhaps for Jim Woolsey -- look like a peacenik by comparison. Even the most imperial-sounding neocons don't talk about "a Sherman-like razing of infrastructure."
I think this kind of thinking is nuts -- forget whether it would actually work in the Middle East and consider the collateral damage such actions would create in every other region of the globe. If you want an actual alliance -- not mere rhetoric, but actual alliances, coordination of territorial defense, and actual balancing -- of every other significant power in the globe arrayed against the United States, well, Mr. A's strategy is the way to go. Don't worry about soft power if this strategy is implemented -- worry about whether the U.S. government would have sufficient hard power resources to simultaneously ward off threats from China, Russia, India, Japan, North and South Korea, France, and Great Britain while simultaneously imposing martial law in this country following the insurrection that such a strategy would undoubtedly inspire.
The golden age of cartoons?
Justin Peters makes a strong case in the Washington Monthly that we are currently experiencing a golden age of animation, beginning with Cartoon Network's Adult Swim:
Read the whole thing -- indeed, my only criticism of the article is that it failed to mention the renaissance in high-quality superhero cartoons -- X-Men, Batman, Superman, Justice League, and the awesome Batman Beyond.
However, Peters does give appropriate props to Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law, a surreal 15 minutes of genre-busting. My personal favorite -- and the only successful Sopranos parody I've seen -- is when Harvey defends suspected mobster Fred Flinstone. Best line -- "You're dead to me, Barney!! [Actually, the best line is "Ewwww, Gleep juice!'--ed. Well, yes, but understanding why that line is funny requires a knowledge of bad Saturday morning cartoons that the sophisticated readers of danieldrezner.com should never admit to possessing.]
The blogging of the convention
Andrew is largely correct -- the conventions because of their effect on the television audience. That said, I don't think this is an either/or kind of situation. I'm happy some bloggers will be inside the tent, as it were -- mostly because I'm betting that they'll be able to provide the kind of "local color" that can seem blasé to the veteran journalist. Bloggers also shouldn't care about whether such anecdotes offend the sensitivities of the powerful and the privileged. Plus, bloggers can also report on an issue that mainstream journalists would be reluctant to cover --how mainstream journalists behave at these shindigs.
Incidentally, I got a call last week from a Washington Post writer asking me if I'd be attending. I patiently explained that my wife is not keen for me to go to Boston and/or New York on our own dime just because the political parties might let me through the front door.
Karl Rove's nightmare come true
A huge component of the Bush re-election strategy is the overwhelming support the president receives from white evangelicals -- both its leadership and rank and file. If, for some reason, this group were to grow either disaffected or less politically active, states that were previously thought of as Republican locks would suddenly be in play.
Which is why Karl Rove can't be too happy about Larry B. Stammer's article in the Los Angeles Times about a new white paper on political action that's coming from the National Association of Evangelicals:
Read the whole piece -- there's a quote at the end from a former NAE president saying, "I think short term it probably won't have a lot of impact. In the long term it will have a fairly significant impact." This is probably true -- but I can't help think the symbolism and the timing of the document will have some short-term impact -- not so much from converting Republican voters into Democrats, but rather reducing voter turnout.
Competence gets rewarded in Iraq
Despite the management screw-ups that have taken place in Iraq, there are a few silver linings. I linked to one of them -- dealing with Iraq's economic future -- in my last post.
Another one comes from Lieutenant General David Petraeus -- the former commander of the 101st Airborne who was in charge of Mosul for ten months. I've blogged about him before here and here -- he clearly seemed to "get it" when it came to the postwar occupation.
In a nice example of competence rewarded, Vivienne Walt reports in Time that Petraeus was asked by President Bush to "assess" the Iraqi security forces back in April. Given their perfomance, the General has taken a hands-on approach:
Petraeus' effect can already be felt in this plan to scale back Iraqi Interior Ministry forces by 30,000. [Why is that number being reduced?--ed. Fewer trained personnel is better than a lot of untrained personnel.] Unlike last year's disastrous dismissal of the Iraqi military, this reduction is being accomplished through generous severance payments.
Sunday, June 20, 2004
Ugly CPA autopsies
Last month I posted about the ideological litmus tests that were applied in hiring for the Coalitional Provisional Authority. I said at the end that, "This is a story crying out for further investigation."
Today the Washington Post (link via Matthew Yglesias) and Chicago Tribune both have front-page stories focusing on the CPA -- and this issue comes up in both articles.
In the Post, Rajiv Chandrasekaran paints an ugly picture of poor planning and inadequate resources. As for recruitment, Chandrasekaran observes:
In the Tribune, Andrew Zajac focuses more closely on the recruitment of CPA personnel. Again, not a pretty picture:
Read both pieces.
It's still worth keeping in mind that despite these missteps, the situation in Iraq is still not hopeless. Go check out this Council on Foreign Relations backgrounder on the Iraqi economy, compiled by Esther Pan. The final paragraph: