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.

posted by at 01:55 PM | Comments (40) | Trackbacks (4)

Friday, May 6, 2005

Aloha..... again

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:

Suzanne Nossel is a Senior Fellow at the Security and Peace Institute. She served as Deputy to the Ambassador for UN Management and Reform at the US Mission to the United Nations from 1999 – 2001 under Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke. There she represented the U.S. in the UN’s General Assembly negotiating a deal to settle the U.S.’s arrears to the world body. Prior to that Suzanne served as a Consultant at McKinsey & Company and as a staff attorney at Children’s Rights Inc. During the early 1990s Suzanne worked in Johannesburg, South Africa on the implementation of South Africa’s National Peace Accord, a multi-party agreement aimed at curbing political violence during that country’s transition to democracy. Ms. Nossel has done election monitoring and human rights documentation in Bosnia and Kosovo. She is also the author of Presumed Equal: What America’s Top Women Lawyers Really Think About Their Firms (Career Press, 1998). She writes frequently on foreign policy topics, and a list of her articles appears here. She is part of the group blog Democracy Arsenal. Ms. Nossel is currently an executive in New York City, where she lives with her husband David Greenberg and her son Leo.

That David Greenberg fellow will also be guest-blogging here:

David Greenberg is an assistant professor of Journalism and Media Studies and History at Rutgers University. His first book, Nixon's Shadow: The History of an Image (W.W. Norton, 2003), won the American Journalism History Award, the Washington Monthly Annual Political Book Award, and the Columbia University Bancroft Dissertation Award. Greenberg has previously served as an assistant to Bob Woodward, and as managing editor and acting editor of The New Republic. He has written for many scholarly and popular publications including The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The Atlantic Monthly, Foreign Affairs and The Journal of American History. He is also the author of the "History Lesson" column at Slate.

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?

posted by Dan at 09:17 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

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:

[I]nternational law matters but that it is less powerful and less significant than public officials, legal experts, and the media believe. International law... is simply a product of states pursuing their interests on the international stage. It does not pull states towards compliance contrary to their interests, and the possibilities for what it can achieve are limited.

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.....

posted by Dan at 04:43 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (1)

Thursday, May 5, 2005

Raking in the big blog bucks

Glenn Reynolds and Roger L. Simon speculate about the big bucks that could be blowing towards the blogosphere's.

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:

I like your blog. It has great information,
good stories and lively conversation. We are re-launching our web site with
brand new interactive features such as our Jewish LA Guide-- a one-stop web
hub for all of our visitors’ Jewish needs.

To promote and increase traffic to the site, we are sponsoring a give away
of an Apple IPod during the month of June 2005. The winner will be picked
at random on July 1, 2005. We would like you to consider posting a link to
our site or pasting the PR piece below on your blog. I know our site will
interest many of your visitors, and nothing will catch their eye faster than
a free IPod. As a thank you, we will send you a $10 gift certificate to
. (emphasis added).

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!

posted by Dan at 05:13 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (1)

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:

When Melody Townsel, the Texas woman who claims that U.N.-ambassador nominee John Bolton chased her through a Moscow hotel, throwing things at her and "behaving like a madman," first tried to tell her story to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the committee showed no interest. It was only after she turned to the influential far-Left website DailyKos that Democrats on the committee realized Townsel might be a powerful weapon in their campaign to defeat the Bolton nomination.

Read the whole thing (thanks to alert reader R.H. for the link).

posted by Dan at 03:11 PM | Comments (25) | Trackbacks (1)

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:

1) The bill of rights is not causing the opposition; Horowitz and his tactics are the cause. From Jacobson's piece:

The document itself strikes a decidedly nonpartisan tone. The problem many people have with it is the partisanship of the man who wrote it.

Republicans, not Democrats, have sponsored Mr. Horowitz's bill. Conservative students, not liberal ones, have testified in support of it. And right-wing foundations, not left-leaning ones, contribute to his center, and in turn, his campaign....

Todd Gitlin, now a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia, also has a problem with the bill as legislation. The actual text of it is fine, he says. "If it came across my desk as a petition, I'd probably sign it." But "the attempt to rope legislatures into enforcing rules of fairness and decorum on university campuses is misguided and perverse."

Gitlin's remark is triggered by Horowitz's campaign to have state legislatures take action on his proposal. What's odd about Horowitz's approach is this section of Horowitz's proposed bill of rights:

Academic freedom consists in protecting the intellectual independence of professors, researchers and students in the pursuit of knowledge and the expression of ideas from interference by legislators or authorities within the institution itself. This means that no political, ideological or religious orthodoxy will be imposed on professors and researchers through the hiring or tenure or termination process, or through any other administrative means by the academic institution. Nor shall legislatures impose any such orthodoxy through their control of the university budget.

2) I'm not sure Horowitz understands how the academy works. From the article:

Mr. Horowitz has always wanted to be a scholar himself.

After earning a bachelor's degree in English from Columbia, he attended the University of California at Berkeley. He says he got bored with his graduate program and left with a master's degree in English. "Everything had been mined," he explains. There was "nothing to research that was interesting anymore."

Instead he wrote a book on American foreign policy in the cold war, a book on Marxist theory, and one on Shakespeare....

[Horowitz] simply believes he has been blacklisted by academe. Although he says he was a "leading figure in the New Left," professors do not assign his books, nor do they refer to his work in the hundreds of courses taught on the 1960s, he says. They don't invite him to speak in those courses, either....

If he were liberal, he contends, he could be an editor at the [New York] Times or a department chairman at Harvard University.

Could someone who's a friend of Horowitz please take him aside and point out that not even Harvard awards department chairmanships to people who drop out of Ph.D. programs when they conclude that there was, "nothing to research that was interesting anymore."

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:

[University of Illinois professor Cary] Nelson said that he knew of one professor (not at Illinois) who suffered a breakdown after he was denied tenure, and responded in part by stripping naked and climbing into a college building by hauling himself up a wall, holding onto ivy, and climbing in. The professor was eventually able to reverse the decision and to win tenure.

And the paragraph that was the most chilling:

Nelson of Illinois said that the system is sufficiently “crazy” that one can’t help but lose faith in it. “Let’s say you’ve published your first book and articles and they are great and then some goon on the committee says you haven’t done enough conference papers. The whole thing can come undone. Or you’ve got six letters and they are all positive except for one small criticism in one letter. Someone on the committee will say, ‘Ah. Someone had the guts to tell the truth.’ And suddenly you are in jeopardy because of one person’s whim.”

posted by Dan at 02:59 PM | Comments (53) | Trackbacks (1)

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:

Since the days of Adam Smith and David Ricardo, advocates of free trade and the division of labour, including this newspaper, have lauded the advantages of those economic principles. Until now, though, no one has suggested that they might be responsible for the very existence of humanity. But that is the thesis propounded by Jason Shogren, of the University of Wyoming, and his colleagues. For Dr Shogren is suggesting that trade and specialisation are the reasons Homo sapiens displaced previous members of the genus, such as Homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthal man), and emerged triumphant as the only species of humanity....

One thing Homo sapiens does that Homo neanderthalensis shows no sign of having done is trade. The evidence suggests that such trade was going on even 40,000 years ago. Stone tools made of non-local materials, and sea-shell jewellery found far from the coast, are witnesses to long-distance exchanges. That Homo sapiens also practised division of labour and specialisation is suggested not only by the skilled nature of his craft work, but also by the fact that his dwellings had spaces apparently set aside for different uses.

To see if trade might be enough to account for the dominance of Homo sapiens, Dr Shogren and his colleagues created a computer model of population growth that attempts to capture the relevant variables for each species. These include fertility, mortality rates, hunting efficiency and the number of skilled and unskilled hunters in each group, as well as levels of skill in making objects such as weapons, and the ability to specialise and trade....

According to the model, this arrangement resulted in everyone getting more meat, which drove up fertility and thus increased the population. Since the supply of meat was finite, that left less for Neanderthals, and their population declined.

A computer model was probably not necessary to arrive at this conclusion. But what the model does suggest, which is not self-evident, is how rapidly such a decline might take place. Depending on the numbers plugged in, Neanderthals become extinct between 2,500 and 30,000 years after the two species begin competing—a range that nicely brackets reality. Moreover, in the model, the presence of a trading economy in the modern human population can result in the extermination of Neanderthals even if the latter are at an advantage in traditional biological attributes, such as hunting ability.

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.

posted by Dan at 01:59 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (1)

Gone guestin'

Posting will be light here at 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:

Joseph Biden
Wesley Clark
Jonathan Clarke
Nikolas Gvosdev
Heather Hurlburt
Nancy Soderberg
Michael Tomasky

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.

UPDATE: My first post for them is up, and, hey, whaddaya know, one of the commenters has already written, "I hope many of your close relatives get a serious head injury." Gonna be a fun week!

SECOND UPDATE: My second post is up -- on whether funding civil society will aid with democratization.

posted by Dan at 09:10 AM | Comments (50) | Trackbacks (5)