Saturday, July 24, 2004
Bipartisanship on Sudan
What with the convention season starting and the general election campaign already making people testy, we here at danieldrezner.com feel it's worth occasionally highlighting those areas of policy where both sides of the aisle are in rough agreement.
Which brings us to this Rudolph Bush story in the Chicago Tribune about Congressional pressure on Sudan's humanitarian disaster:
I did, however, find this paragraph amusing:
Friday, July 23, 2004
Mostar rebuilds its bridge
Statebuilding can be a slow, painful process, with lots of reverses, lots of buried tensions, lots of frustration. On the other hand, a lot of time, patience, and money can occsionally yield partially successes.
In that light, it's good to read this Reuters report from the Bosnian town of Mostar:
Monday night I'll be debating Kennette Benedict, the director of the International Peace and Security Area of the Program on Global Security and Sustainability at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, about "Democracy Defined: Wield or Yield?" -- in a bar.
Well, I'm certainly looking forward to "getting down," as they call it, with the young people.
Of course, the crowd might not feel the same way, as Eng elaborates:
[Sounds like a tough crowd--ed. No sweat -- all I have to do is pull off the frizzy hair-tank-top-peasant-skirt-and-clogs look.]
In all seriousness, this kind of format and venue is a great idea, and I'm happy to have the opportunity to drink and debate at the same time.
Thursday, July 22, 2004
Hey, Karl Rove!! Over here!!!
With all due respect to Glenn, that's really, really bad advice.
The business with Berger is an inside-the-Beltway story that certainly diminishes Berger's standing but in the end doesn't amount to much (see Fred Kaplan's Slate assessment for more -- I'm not quite as sanguine as Kaplan, for reasons Tom Maguire lays out here).
The 9-11 Commission report, on the other hand, amounts to a great deal. What's at stake isn't the post-mortem spin on responsibility for 9/11 as much as "where do we go from here?" The policy recommendations for intelligence, counterterrorism, homeland security and congressional oversight are all elaborate and important (I'll reserve judgment on the foreign policy recommendations). I care a hell of a lot more about that than what was in Sandy Berger's trousers, and I suspect most Americans do as well.
Peter Robinson's advice to Karl Rove over at The Corner makes a great deal more sense:
Indeed. This report contains some useful, nonpartisan suggestions for policy reforms -- some of which transfer coordinating powers to the White House, something every President likes.
So Karl, tell Bush to own this report. Make it clear to the American people that he gets it, and takes the issue seriously. Leave Berger's post-mortem to the blogs.
UPDATE: Alan Wirzbicki praises 9-11 Commission executive director Philip Zelikow over at TNR Online, echoing what I said a few weeks ago.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Fred Kaplan agrees on the virtues of the Commission's proposed reforms -- and, in a roundabout way, what the President needs to do about it:
The trouble with racial profiling
So, as a public service, here is Sara Sefeed's response to Annie Jacobsen in the Persian Mirror. Sefeed has her own disturbing experience with airport security when she's issued a boarding pass with the wrong name and no one notices.
Safeed's proposed reforms sound just as overwrought as Jacobsen's original account -- her complaint that "everything in the US is privatized and there is no unison among the different states, companies, and airlines, no one person seems to have jurisdiction or responsibility over anything" is as unfocused as the supposed target of her lament. That said, she does have a good closing paragraph:
UPDATE: This story by Eric Leonard casts further doubt on Jacobsen's account:
LAST UPDATE: Michelle Malkin, blogging with a vengeance, reports and follows up on the visa status of the Syrians.
How do Americans and Europeans feel about trade?
That's the question asked by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, which helped commission a four-country public opinion survey on the subject entitled Reconciling Trade and Poverty Reduction.
The fund concludes that "support for free trade remains robust." After reading the report, I'm more pessimistic. This is from the accompanying press release:
The report goes onto suggest ways to pitch free trade policies in politically friendly ways. Consider this proposed phrasing:
That's just a God-awful way to sell free trade, because it admits a falsity. Smart people like Stephen Roach are dredging up the race-to-the-bottom argument to explain the current job market, but it's just wrong. The statement that "workers in developing countries living under abominable conditions" with more globalization is particularly egregious.
On the other hand, this message works for me:
This phrasing has the twin virtues of greater acccuracy and greater optimism.
One final interesting finding:
Go check it out.
Open 9-11 Commission thread
Feel free to discuss the 9-11 Commission's final report here (here's a link to the executive summary, but be warned that the Commission's website seems overwhelmed at the moment. Kudos to the paper of record for having a copy on their own website). Dan Eggen and Dafna Linzer have a good advance summary in today's Washington Post. CNN has some initial reactions here -- and refreshingly, they're pretty much free of partisan sniping despite interviews with the House minority leader and House majority whip -- but that could be because Congress as an institution takes it on the chin in the report, according to the NYT.
UPDATE: From the Times report linked above, some details about the proposed intelligence reform:
This sounds like creating a position akin to the NSC or NEC advisor, while essentially stripping the CIA director of the Director of Central Intelligence title, in which s/he is ostensibly in charge of overall coordination of the disparate intelligence agencies.
At first glance, this makes a great deal of sense to me -- having intelligence coordination run by an honest broker with a small secretariat through the White House would give the new coordinator the clout that the CIA directors have tended to lack in their DCI role. But I reserve the right to change my mind after consulting with those better informed than I. [UPDATE: Hmmm... both The New Republic and The National Review agree with my first glance. James Joyner has some links to people who don't agree.]
Of course, this also explains why the acting CIA head is fighting the proposal tooth and nail.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
The power and politics of blogs
Longtime readers of danieldrezner.com are aware that I've been trying to exploit my hobby (blogging) for professional gain (peer-reviewed publications). Towards that end, Henry Farrell and I have been slowly co-authoring a paper on blogs and politics.
Both bloggers and blog readers are encouraged to download it and tell us what you think.
Be warned, however: this paper is primarily intended for a scholarly auduence, which means there's some jargon that might appear confusing but is -- like most jargon -- a form of shorthand for fellow professionals.
Most of it should be pretty digestible, however. Read it and post your comments below or over at Crooked Timber.
Finally, a quick thank-you to Henry -- I've tried co-authoring papers in the past, and it's been a disaster. This paper was a breeze.
UPDATE: More scholar-blogger research from Glenn Reynolds. With experimental evidence no less!
More seriously, this report by Jeff Jarvis from his Aspen Institute experience with Big Media machers supports one of our paper's hypotheses. In particular:
UPDATE: Tyler Cowen offers constructive criticism and calls the paper a "mini-classic."
Dean Esmay offers a long critique that boils down to:
Dean points to small-circulation political magazines as evidence for this recurring pattern in American political history.
I think I can speak for Henry as well as myself when I say that we are aware of this fact. Indeed, what we find interesting is that this phenomenon has been replicated for the blogosphere. However, compared to blogs, these kind of publications generally posses two advantages. First, a lot of elite media journals have been founded and operated by those who were already politically influential and well-connected. Second, these journals needed to have sufficient resources to pay for minor things like salaries, distribution, and printing runs.
Neither of these conditions holds particularly well for blogs. No doubt, some pioneer bloggers -- Andrew Sullivan most notably -- have been well-connected. But this is not true of most of the influential bloggers. As for material resources, some bloggers are now able to earn some scratch, but this is an effect rather than a cause of their success.
What's interesting is that despite these differences, and despite the low barriers to entry, the blogosphere looks like a similar link on the oipinion chain.
Your environmental quote of the day
In my mailbox today I found David Victor's Climate Change: Debating America's Policy Options, which was sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations. David is a disgustingly prolific and competent writer with a cv longer than my arm, so it's worth paying attention to what he writes.
The book maps out three possible policy options for the coping with climate change. Flipping through, I came across this assessment of the myriad predictions about the extent of global warming by the year 2100 (p. 11):
For a very long pdf version of the report, click here.
The Annie Jacobsen Rorshach test
From the right: Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Shaunti Feldhahn. For her, this is a story about civil liberties run amok:
I've already said why I think this is a bad idea.
Although the fear of litigation is a worthy topic, most conservative commentators are eliding the fact that the system appeared to work in this case. Contrary to Jacobsen's assertions, the Syrian passengers were searched prior to boarding the initial leg of their flight. The air marshalls (FAM) and FBI investigated and found nothing untoward. Jacobsen was clearly rattled -- but the first priority of homeland security should be about, you know, protecting the homeland. Releiving the anxiety of passengers would be a nice dividend, but it's not the primary goal.
Actually, no, that was not it, and Smith is being disingenuous in the extreme to suggest otherwise. A Federal Air Marshal Service spokesman confirmed that marshalls met the plane in Los Angeles and questioned the Syrians -- a fact that Smith abjectly fails to mention in his essay. Maybe the behavior was innocent, maybe not -- I'll never know. But the FAM's interest in the flight suggests at a minimum that something suspicious was going on, and for Smith to blithely dismiss Jacobsen's account as racist stuff and nonsense is absurd.
I'm perfectly happy to have airline professionals say that this was much ado about nothing -- like Michelle Catalano, I want to hear that this was much ado about nothing -- but Smith's half-assed efforts at snark don't cut it.
UPDATE: Clinton W. Taylor has a fact-filled report over at NRO that clears up a lot of confusion. The highlights:
Thanks to Taylor for doing the digging. I knew those Stanford poli sci Ph.D. candidates were worth something!!
My rare agreement with the preservationists
In the fall of 2003, Chicago unveiled the newly-renovated Soldier Field. The new stadium grafted a futuristic-looking bowl onto a classic structure of Doric colonnades.
The result? From the outside, it's a butt-ugly effect. Soldier Field now looks like an alien spaceship humping the Parthenon. Blair Kamin, The Tribune's excellent architecture critic, described it as "an architectural close encounter of the worst kind."
Think I'm exaggerating? Go take the official virtual tour and notice that the only exterior picture of the stadium is partially obstructed by trees. By all accounts, I hear that the interior of the stadium is actually quite nice. Driving by it on Lake Shore Drive, however, most people just shudder in revulsion.
So I can't say I'm shocked to read the following story by Hal Dardick and David Mendell in today's Chicago Tribune:
All I can add is, good for the National Park Service.
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
Does this say anything about No Child Left Behind?
Chicago Tribune reporter Stephanie Banchero spent a school year chronicling one family's efforts to exploit the No Child Left Behind act. The result has been three front-page stories in a row amounting to over 11,000 words --in order, click here, here, and then here.
The story is an affecting one -- third-grader Rayola Victoria Carwell starts the year transferring to a good school way out of her neighborhood, but in the end is transferred back to a neighborhood school of lesser quality. At one juncture, Banchero doubts the worthiness of the law:
Sounds bad, except that the three-part story undercuts that hypothesis. The Stockton school finds funding through other grant sources to address the kind of concerns Banchero raises -- all for naught, as the mother persistently fails to follow through on the offers for help. Furthermore, even after Victoria transfers back to a local neighborhood school, she experiences the same problem she did at Stockton -- truancy.
Then there's this tidbit from the last of the three articles:
I'd still recommend reading the articles, if only to realize the concrete constraints of any public policy when confronting a difficult home life. But it would be wrong to generalize anything from the Carwells' story.
What the f@$# was Sandy Berger thinking?
So Sandy Berger is in a spot of trouble, according to John Solomon's AP report:
Andrew Sullivan is "gob-smacked." Josh Marshall finds it "inexplicable," while Glenn Reynolds says it's "bizarre." That's pretty much my reaction -- no, wait, what truly shocks me is Berger's stupidity. Berger was NSC advisor when John Deutsch got into serious trouble for a similar (though not identical) screw-up while CIA director. It's not like Berger was unaware of the ramifications of the act.
I have no idea why he did it, and like Virginia Postrel am willing to believe that Berger did not have nefarious motives. However, it's very amusing to read Josh Marshall assert that this story was "the product of a malicious leak." That's a definite possibility -- just as it's a possibility that Berger did what he did to assemble ammunition for the Democrats to engage in partisan attacks on the Bush administration's Al Qaeda policies. One certainly does not excuse the other, but Josh's "shocked, shocked!" routine about Republican shenanigans -- in contrast to his überparsing defenses of similar Democrat shenanigans -- is wearing a bit thin.
UPDATE: One counterpoint -- some are using this story as an example of media bias, implying that if Condi Rice had done this it would have gotten more play. That's true, but not because of ideology. Berger is now a private citizen (albeit one advising the Kerry campaign); Rice is a government official. This type of behavior will (and should) command more attention from those in power than from those who are now out of power.
ANOTHER UPDATE: This blogger posts the following:
Even though -- as I speculated -- this is a possibility, bear in mind that Berger did this back in October 2003 -- when John Kerry was not the frontrunner, and Berger was listed as a foreign policy advisor for at least four candidates.
Also, David Gergen said the following in the Fox News story:
LAST UPDATE: Berger has announced he won't be advising the Kerry campaign. Sounds about right.
One final question -- does this episode provide empirical support for Jacob Levy's contention that shadow cabinets are a mistake or my contention that they would be a good idea?
LAST UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has a lot more . And this Josh Marshall follow-on acknowledges that Berger brought this on himself. Marshall believes that this was a Republican leak, but both Kevin Drum and Matthew Yglesias postulate that, for various reasons, the leak came from a Democrat (links via InstaPundit).
Before everyone gets too excited....
Longtime readers of danieldrezner.com may wonder whether it's possible for me to reconcile my pro-immigration, libertarian perspective with my concerns about homeland security. Annie Jacobsen favors racial profiling over political correctness if it means preventing terrorist attacks; many of the commenters believe a crackdown on immigration is necessary.
My position is as follows:
Hitting the big time
Hmmm... maybe there is a financial future in blogging.
When big budget movies start advertising on your blog (see the ad for The Manchurian Candidate remake on your right), you know the media market has changed.
Ah, but will danieldrezner.com ever hit the "big four" from Jerry Maguire --"shoe, car, clothing-line, soft-drink. The four jewels of the celebrity endorsement dollar."?
[Are those four really the appropriate "big" products for the blogosphere?--ed. No, the four jewels of the blogosphere would probably be search engines, newspapers, films, and glossy magazines. Readers are invited to suggest their "big four."]
UPDATE: Ask and you shall receive!! See the brand-new New Yorker ad on the right!!
Monday, July 19, 2004
Things get even weirder in Palestine
Last week I blogged about the UN envoy who reported that things were going to hell in a handbasket in the occupied territories -- in no small part because of the dearth of progress on reforming the Palestinian Authority's corrupt institutions.
So what's going on in Gaza this week? Lamia Lahoud reports some strange doings in the Jerusalem Post:
As the Christian Science Monitor put it in an editorial:
A story by Laila al-Haddad in Lebanon's Daily Star suggests that, "most Palestinians agree that the latest developments are not conducive to their cause, and that this is not the time for power struggles." This is true only if Arafat's successors proved every bit as corrupt and anti-democratic as Arafat -- a depressing possibility.
Following up on Annie Jacobsen
Since I'm already blogging on homeland security today, I should point out that Annie Jacobsen has a follow-up on her experiences flying with 14 Syrians from Detroit to Los Angeles. Yours truly is mentioned.
Go check it out. I agree with Donald Sensing that here's not much that's new information about what actually happened, though there are a few disturbing quotes from airline industry professionals who feign no surprise at this kind of incident and believe it to be an example of terrorist test-runs.
However, Jacobsen makes it clear that clear that the blogosphere had the desired effect:
Good -- this is exactly the kind of story that merits further inquiry by "real" journalists -- you know, as opposed to people who "don't add reporting to the personal views they post online."
Also, it's worth reprinting Jacobsen's response on the question of political correctness and the merits of linking to Ann Coulter:
I cut and paste; you decide.
LAST UPDATE: Joe Sharkey discusses Jacobsen's story in his "On the Road" column in the New York Times. A lot of it is recap, but there is this information:
Stephen Flynn scares me -- again
Two months after the September 11th attacks, I heard Stephen Flynn give a talk about homeland security and American vulnerabilities -- and he scared the crap out of me.
Listening to Flynn -- a former Coast Guard commander -- describe the various soft spots of America's infrastructure was to realize just how much 9/11 required a rethink of how America defends itself. Flynn wasn't defeatist during his talk, he just laid out what needed to be done. And it was a long list.
Two and a half years later, Flynn has written a book, America the Vulnerable: How Our Government Is Failing to Protect Us from Terrorism -- and what he's saying still scares the crap out of me. There's an excerpt in this week's Time:
And then there's this excerpt of the book quoted in yesterday's Meet the Press:
Later on Russert asks, "But on a scale of 0 to 100 percent, how well protected are we right now?" Flynn's sobering reply: Well, if I would put it maybe on a 1-to-10 scale here, where 1 were a bull's-eye and 10 were secure, we were 1 on 9/11. Today we're a 3. That's why I'm sort of saying that we're still failing. I just can't give a passing grade.
I have nothing to add to Flynn's observations -- except to say you should buy the book.
Again, if I was John Kerry, I would bash Bush again and again and again on this front. Reviewing the Senator's own proposals, however, I'm thoroughly underwhelmed. There's a recognition of the importance of port security, but nothing else about protecting critical infrastructure (and, it should be noted, port security is actually one of the unheralded initiatives of the current administration). Most of Kerry's proposals focus on emergency response rather than prevention.
UPDATE: Many of the commenters seem to feel we should embrace the Israeli paradigm when it comes to security -- which is ironic, because Flynn disdains the Israeli approach in favor of the British approach.
What is John Kerry's theory of foreign policy?
Philip Gourevitch has a lengthy New Yorker essay on John Kerry's foreign policy principles. A few parts that struck me:
What's odd about this is that within the Gourevitch article itself there's a formulation that would perfectly encapsulate what Kerry's going after. Earlier in the story, Gourevitch writes: "the signature chord of his campaign’s foreign policy unmistakably: that 'America is safer and stronger when it is respected around the world, not feared.'" (emphasis added)
This is simultaneously a promising but incomplete formulation. The political class is familiar with Machiavelli's dictum that it is better to be feared than loved -- and the Bush team would probably embrace this line of thinking.
Kerry's introduction of "respect," however, gets at a middle ground between the two poles of "fear" and "love" that probably resonates with most Americans. It's the perfect way to communicate toughness while still attacking the Bush team's foreign policy.
The problem with the way Kerry phrased it, however, is that to pretend that respect and fear are mutually exclusive components is absurd. For there to be respect in international relations, there must be an recognition of capabilities that can also inspire fear. It's the same mistake that's frequently committed with Joe Nye's "soft power" concept -- to pretend that the soft power of governments does not rest on a foundation of hard power is just wrong.* Fear comes from hard power alone; respect comes from the combination of hard and soft power -- it does not come from soft power alone.
Maybe Kerry is just exercising a rhetorical flourish and understands this -- maybe not. The fact that neither Gourevitch nor I can tell is what's so disturbing to me when I contemplate pulling the donkey lever -- which is why I'm still on the fence.
The second passage that caught my eye:
*As I noted previously, this dictum holds for states, not non-state actors.
Sunday, July 18, 2004
It would have worked if it wasn't for those meddling French literary critics!!
Curse that Ilias Yocaris!!
Last month, the professor of literary theory and French literature at the University Institute of Teacher Training in Nice published an essay about the Harry Potter series in Le Monde. Now the New York Times translates it for today's op-ed page. The highlights:
Dammit, the capitalist shock troops were supposed to get to Yocaris before he spilled the beans!!
Read the whole thing, if only for the amusement value. I found myself with four semi-serious responses (in increasing order of seriousness):
OK, I'm clearly taking this way too seriously.
The Times, incidentally, opens the essay by observing that "This article... got particular attention, including an essay published in response arguing that Harry is an antiglobalist crusader."
UPDATE: On my last point, I will Henry Farrell's argument that, "Dan just hasn’t been reading the right science fiction/science fantasy books." Certainly the sci-fi I've read that has stuck with me -- William Gibson, Philip K. Dick -- did not ignore the laws of economics. Mostly I was reacting to the endless hours of Star Trek I've consumed over the years. And I will be sure to read some of Henry's suggestions -- right after I get that tenure thing behind me.