Saturday, May 7, 2005
Hello out there in Drezner-land
First a big thanks to Dan for giving us the run of the place while he's off tanning in Maui.
When Dan asked me to take over for a week, I knew the chance to to preach (opine, that is) to a bunch of conservative bloghounds was too good to pass up. But I didn't know how I would manage it alone along with my pride and joy, Democracy Arsenal and, more importantly, my real pride and joy, Leo Greenberg). Fortunately I married the best writer I know, so was able to keep it in the family. My only fear is that once David starts blogging, he'll never stop.
So, on to substance. Let's start with North Korea. The consensus is growing that the Administration's policy has failed, and that Pyongyang is precariously close to a nuclear test. The LA Times reports this morning that the Administration is coming to grips with the breakdown of its diplomacy and acknowledges that military options are singularly unappealing, particularly given the deadly consequences an attack would have for South Korea. For a broader discussion of what's missing from the Administration's non-proliferation strategy (in short, a strategy), check out this post by Derek Chollet at Democracy Arsenal.
There is no bigger threat to U.S. security than nuclear weapons in the hands of a regime that is uncontrollable and despises the U.S. North Korea's case is uniquely dangerous in that the country's economic straits might lead it to pass nuclear capabilities on to black market buyers including terrorist groups and other outlaw regimes.
The Administration is clearly worried that the North Koreans may be close to a nuclear test, and is monitoring satellite photos of a specific site where construction is already underway.
So here's the question? Will an Administration that has been loath to even privately concede failure or make mid-course policy corrections have the initiative and the flexibility to innovate on its North Korea policy now that it has to?
This has the potential to be an important test of what the consequences are of the kind of rigidity and unwillingness to concede error that has been a unique hallmark of this Administration.
All the more so because it isn't obvious what would work better than the Administration's steadfast refusal to deal bilaterally with the North Koreans, its attempt to outsource leadership over the negotiations to China, and its position that the North Koreans need to commit to dismantling their program before any incentives are put on the table.
But when a policy on something as vital as North Korea is clearly, it is incumbent on an Administration to pursue other options.
In this case, one of the few routes conceivably open is to try to build an international consensus, probably in the form of a UN Security Council resolution, that North Korean proliferation is intolerable. That would allow us to mount an internationally credible effort to verify exactly what the North Koreans are up to.
But the consensus isn't there right now. Too many countries believe, rightly or wrongly, that the U.S.'s unyielding policy bears some of the blame for escalation, and that if we approached things differently crisis could be averted.
So to get to international consensus it looks as though the U.S. will first have to agree to try bilateral talks, if only to convince likely UN Security Council hold-outs in Moscow and Beijing that every alternative to UNSC action has been exhausted. This doesn't mean abandoning the six party framework (which has largely been abandoned already) but it does require augmenting it.
The Administration will also need to bridge gaps on North Korean policy that have opened up between the U.S. and South Korea and Japan, countries that will have to be shoulder-to-shoulder with us if an international front is to coalesce. Those countries are frustrated with the Administration's rigid approach which they believe has thwarted progress in the six-party framework.
Opening talks with the North Koreans and building an international consensus that the options have been exhausted will also require pivoting away from the stance that negotiations cannot begin until the North Koreans agree to scrap their program.
There's no guarantee a new approach would work. But in the face of a failing policy to contain a major security threat, a calculated risk is preferable to staying the course with a policy that's a manifest failure. Regardless of what they admit publicly, I hope the Administration makes moves that show it realizes this too.
Friday, May 6, 2005
My brother is getting married next week.... in Maui. And gosh darn it, if the Drezner clan has no choice but to head out to Maui in order to demonstrate a little family solidarity, so be it!
[You in Hawaii...that sounds familiar--ed. Yes, but that was for business; this is for family. It's like apples and oranges... or mangoes and papayas, if you will.]
Anyway, for my loyal readers, I've arranged for some stimulating guest-bloggers for this upcoming week while I perform my arduous best-man duties. The idea came after my own guest stint at Kevin Drum's Political Animal (which Kevin ably summarizes here). Many of the commenters over there lamented that no conservative blog had extended a similar courtesy to a liberal blogger.
So.... in the interest of fair play, I've invited some extremely smart liberals to blog here for the week. Let me introduce them:
That David Greenberg fellow will also be guest-blogging here:
A farewell warning to my readers -- Nossel and Greenberg are liberals, and they're going to have some different takes on politics and foreign policy than I. Feel free to challenge them with your comments -- but no threats of bodily harm, OK?
May's Books of the Month
For the merry month of May, I decided to go in-house -- that is to say, the recommended books were written by people affiliated with the University of Chicago.
The international relations book is The Limits of International Law by Jack L. Goldsmith (formerly of the U of C and now at Harvard) and Eric A. Posner. This is a bit unusual; most international relations theorists look down their nose at international law books, because the lawyers tend to assume that the law has a powerful independent effect on behavior. IR theorists tend to be skeptical of this assertion -- the thing is, so are Goldsmith and Posner. They look at customary international law, treaty law, and the use of morality in international legal discourse. They conclude that:
Not terribly shocking for IR theorists, this is most definitely a shocking thesis for international lawyers. The Limits of International Law is also, I might add, shockingly inexpensive for an IL book.
The general interest book is co-authored by another U of C professor, economist Steven Levitt. Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (co-written with Stephen J. Dubner) is essentially a collection of Levitt's efforts to apply economic and econometric techniques to explain what at first glance appear to be non-economic phenomena -- why the crime rate has declined, how one's name affects one's earning power, etc.
The Freakonomics web site states that, "if morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work." Oddly enough, then, this book is of a piece with the Goldsmith and Posner book. They both represent arguments about the severe limits of morality as a guide to explaining how the world actually works when compared to power and economic incentives.
Levitt and Dubner also have a blog devoted to Freakonomics, and in typical U of C fashion they have a post entitled "Does Freakonomics Suck?" that links to the few less-than-stellar reviews the book has received.
Go check them both out. They're great books -- which, of course, just depresses the living hell out of me. When people like Posner and Levitt are one's peers, there's a pretty high bar for making an impression.
Now I gotta go and revise my own book.....
Thursday, May 5, 2005
Raking in the big blog bucks
I too, am feeling the warm rush of riches being thrown my way. Why, less than ten minues ago, I received the following e-mail from someone at the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles:
That's right..... ten dollars. [Sounds better if you say it like Dr. Evil--ed.].
I can already envision being part of Mickey Kaus's tax position!
Wednesday, May 4, 2005
An exemplar case of blog influence?
One of the problems in studying the political influence of blogs is trying to tease out the precise causal mechanism. How is it possible to show that without the blogosphere, a political event would have ended differently? This problem is compounded by the fact that blogs often will be writing about a newsbreaking event as it happens. Researchers can conflate activity with influence -- i.e., because people are blogging about something, they must have affected the outcom (compare and contrast Ed Morrissey's take on the Eason Jordan scandal versus my own take).
However, I think NRO's Byron York has come up with an exemplar example of the influence of Daily Kos -- with regard to the John Bolton confirmation:
Read the whole thing (thanks to alert reader R.H. for the link).
Tuesday, May 3, 2005
Regarding David Horowitz and the academy
Jennifer Jacobson has an informative story in the Chronicle of Higher Education on David Horowitz's promotion of his academic bill of rights -- "a set of principles that he says will make universities more intellectually diverse and tolerant of conservativesJ," according to Jacobson. Horowitz's crusade -- which consists of speeches and a lot of testifying and lobbying of state legislatures -- has prompted vigorous opposition.
I had two take-aways from the essay:
Horowitz tells Jacobson later in the article that someone should have made a movie of his life. In other words, he comes across as a vainglorious know-it-all, absolutely convinced that he's right about everything.
Oh, wait.... Horowitz does understand how the academy works.
UPDATE: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link -- and damn Glenn Reynolds for making me read this Inside Higher Ed post by Scott Jaschik a month before I hand in my tenure file!! The funniest bit from Jaschik's essay:
And the paragraph that was the most chilling:
Monday, May 2, 2005
Trade free or die
I've been traveling so much as of late that I've missed out on a few developments worthy of posting. Last month the Economist ran a story about a study suggesting just how important free trade is to human development:
Jackson Kuhl provides a lengthier summary of the paper at Tech Central Station. And here's a link to a University of Wyoming press release about the article, as well as a link to the actual paper, which is forthcoming in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.
Posting will be light here at danieldrezner.com this week, as I have taken up Kevin Drum's gracious offer to guest-post over at the Washington Monthly site and commnent on the raft of articles in their May issue on the causes behind the democratic stirrings in the Middle East. The contributors include:
No one will be surprised to hear that the Washington Monthly's contributors believe the Bush administration deserves less credit than the Bush administration claims. However, all of the articles combined offer some themes that will provoke some interesting debates. So go check out the articles.
SECOND UPDATE: My second post is up -- on whether funding civil society will aid with democratization.