Saturday, November 20, 2004
Could be worse -- could be Celtic/Rangers
Last night as I was flying back to Chicago I dipped into Franklin Foer's How Soccer Explains the World. The two chapters I read were about the tight linkage between Serbia's soccer hooligans and Arkan's war crimes, and the fierce Celtic-Rangers rivalry that defines Glasgow.
Reading the book helped put last night's melee between the Indiana Pacers, the Detroit Pistons, and the Piston fans at Auburn Hills in the proper perspective. Brendan Loy has the immediate reaction.
I'm not condoning the behavior of the fans here -- Mike Celizic is correct to assign a significant amount of blame on the moronic fan that threw something at Ron Artest in the first place. And, of course, Artest was Artest -- which means he subsequently lost it. If he hadn't, however, this would have ended with some minor suspensions and would not have led off Sportscenter. In other words, it took a precise sequence of actions for this to happen, and if Artest isn't the player in the middle, I'm not sure it escalates.
This was a case of emotions spilling out of control by all concerned -- starting with Artest and Ben Wallace. What it was not was a case of organized, premeditated violence with the intent of harming players or opposing fans. Go read Foer's book for examples of truly sociopathic sports fans.
What happened last night wasn't pretty -- but Marc Stein is probably right to say that the NBA will recover quickly from this episode:
However, Stein missteps when he says:
In my book -- and I believe most criminal codes -- premeditated acts are considered more heinous than acts of passion.
UPDATE: Kevin Hench has a good round-up over at Fox Sports. And Chris McCosky of the Detroit News points out the failure of the refs to take control of the situation -- not to mention their inexplicable failure to whistle Artest for a foul in the first place.
LAST UPDATE: Given that Artest was suspended for the rest of the season, this interview he gave last week to ESPN.com's Marc Stein seems unintentionally hilarious. The key bit:
A scholarly post
Another useful site for scholars is ResourceShelf's DocuTicker -- a blog that started up about six months ago and is devoted solely to linking to recent government and think tank research (thanks to A.S. for the link). In fact, on their main site, Rita Vine provides a librarian's assessment of Google's new search feature.
Finally, Eszter Hargittai has a post "challeng[ing] the position of dismissing blogging as relevant scholarship altogether." As one of the people Eszter is challenging, I'm going to digest her post before proffering a full response. But. as with anything Eszter writes, it's well worth reading.
Friday, November 19, 2004
Hey, the system works
Kevin Drum and David Adesnik are gnashing their teeth over Colin Powell's statements about a nuclear Iran -- and the fact that they were based on shaky empirical evidence. Kevin writes, "It's hard to believe our credibility can get any worse on stuff like this, but obviously we're trying."
I take the "glass-is-half-full" approach on this one. A lot of IR scholars were convinced that what happened in Iraq was evidence that contrary to a lot of democratic peace theory stretching back to Kant, the executive branch could gin up any excuse to go to war and it would fly with the other branches of government and the American people.
I always thought this was exaggerated. Iraq was a sui generis case in which, post-9/11, the administration went after low-hanging fruit in the form of a country in the same region that we'd fought a decade earlier, and was in noncompliance with a lot of UN Security Council resolutions. There aren't a lot of countries like that -- even Iran isn't like that. Furthermore, the post-invasion revelations about the mistakes that were made were not going to just fade away.
The Powell episode bears this out. If Iraq did anything, it made all the relevant actors -- including the Bush officials who leaked to the Washington Post -- recognize that the hurdle to justify coercive force is going to be higher from here on in. Maybe, just maybe, the failures of intelligence in Iraq have made everyone set the evidentiary bar just a bit higher for future military action.
One final random thought -- is it me, or did the Powell episode happen at almost blog speed for the U.S. government? Basically, Thursday's post corrected Wednesday's post.
Now one can question whether the U.S. government should really operate according to the norms of blog posting, and I share Kevin's concerns about U.S. credibility. Credibility is sustained by being right, but it's also sustained by admitting when you are wrong. This strikes me as a case where the government was forced to be more transparent with the quality of the information they had than at any time in the run-up to Iraq.
And that's a very, very good thing.
The state of the State Department
Via Glenn Reynolds, I've been growing more and more interested in this anonymous group blog by State Department Foreign Service Officers who happen to be Republican. This post on what Condi should do to reform the management at Foggy Bottom rings true:
I don't agree with all of their recommendations -- yeah, we do need embassies in all of those countries -- but their observations about the excessive levels of bureaucracy are spot-on. When I had my CFR fellowship and was choosing between going to State and Treasury, I took the Treasury option even though it was at a lower level. It took only one visit and one glance at the two organizational charts to realize that Treasury's hierarchy was much quicker and flatter -- and as a result, policy was able to be altered and implemented much more quickly.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
It's always something....
According to Drezner family lore, whenever I travel I always leave something behind. Alas, this time around I forgot the AC cord for my laptop, so blogging will probably be very light today and tomorrow.
For those in DC, a reminder of why I'm travelling (note NEW LOCATION):
UPDATE: Well, the panel was a blast -- for those of us who had chairs to sit on. The room was pretty crowded, which was great in terms of interest but not so great in terms of temperature and ventilation. Thanks to one and all who showed up!
China extends its soft power
Jane Perlez writes in the New York Times about the contrast between China's expanding efforts to sell its culture in its near abroad with the ratcheting down of U.S. public diplomacy:
Read the whole thing -- Perlez backs up her assertion.
Does any of this matter? This depends whether you think that soft power actually matters. I think soft power doesn't exist without hard power, so really Chinese soft power matters only as it represents a manifestation of China's hard power.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
About that values gap....
I've been back and forth about whether the values gap explains the 2004 election. Mystery Pollster Mark Blumenthal looks at the latest Pew analysis of the role that moral values played in the 2004 election, and comes away convinced that there's something to the argument. Go check it out.
And, for a lovely example of this, see how you react to this Reuters story (thanks to R.H. for the link):
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Oh, yes, there are costs to blogging
This week's blog casualties:
Not quite as bad as the Iranians, of course.
What happens if Conan the Bacterium infects Aquaman?
John J. Fialka has a front-pager in today's Wall Street Journal (this link should be good for non-subscribers as well) that spurs a "Wow, this is cool" reaction in me. It's about research into microorganisms that can not only survive in nuclear waste dumps -- they thrive there:
I will confess that the bolded section was my second reaction when reading the headline. I immediately flashed back to when I would watch Superfriends on Saturday mornings. Inevitably Aquaman would experience some "freak genetic mutation" and turn into some giant pissed-off fish that wreaked havoc on the high seas until Superman finally gave him the antidote. It was always a nuisance. [Er, but these extremophiles would prevent this from happening -- so why did you think of Aquaman?--ed. I didn't say I was following a rational chain of logic here. I was describing gut instinct.]
Shrewd assessment or wishful thinking from William Kristol?
Via Dan Froomkin, there's an article by Guy Dinmore in the Financial Times suggesting that Donald Rumsfeld is on his way out as well. Well, it's not the FT saying this so much as William Kristol:
Kristol has much better inside dope than I, but I've seen little evidence that Rumsfeld wants to leave -- or that Bush wants him to go. Then there's this quote from Mike Allen's Washington Post story:
Link via Andrew Sullivan.
Monday, November 15, 2004
David Rothkopf on the NSC
As Condi Rice moves on to State, Glenn Kessler and Thomas E. Ricks devote half a Washington Post article to what David Rothkopf, a former Clinton apointee at Commerce and the author of the forthcoming The Committee in Charge of Running the World, thought of Rice's performance at NSC. Rothkopf makes some points that have been stressed here at danieldrezner.com:
Open cabinet reshuffle thread
Mike Allen and William Branigin are reporting in the Washington Post that Colin Powell will resign today as Secretary of State. Three other cabinet secretaries -- Education Secretary Rod Paige, Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman, and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham -- are also expected to resign.
Feel free to post your thought here on Powell's legacy, possible replacement, implications for U.S. foreign policy, and whether there will be any further departues from the foreign policy team. I'm particularly curious about this section in the Allen and Branigin story:
If this is true, then it means Don Rumsfeld ain't going anywhere.