Saturday, May 14, 2005
Good Walls Make Good Neighbors?
Over at DA we've been taking note of what seems to be deteriorating U.S. relations with and influence among Latin and South America.
The latest is that Congress has now passed restrictive immigration legislation that would prevent illegal Mexican migrants from obtaining US drivers' licenses and authorize the construction of a wall on the US-Mexican border. The Mexicans are irate. The law wasn't Bush's idea but he evidently got behind it after seeing which way the winds were blowing in Congress. The measure would not have passed had Bush made more progress toward the guest worker program he has long been promising Vicente Fox.
So this is what happens to the U.S.'s "good neighbor and friend"; the country tapped as the first beneficiary of Condi Rice's goodwill offensive after entering office earlier this year. The move comes less than two months after Bush, Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin announced a new era of cooperation in North America.
Speaking of the hemisphere, Democrats are saying CAFTA, we don't hafta, and we won't. The question is whether they will come forward with a viable plan to address the troubling workers' rights, environmental, and poverty-related issues that CAFTA and like agreements raise, so that we won't be stuck on the wrong side of the free trade issue for long. This issue is on a homework assignment for progressives that I wrote up some weeks ago and we ought to get to it.
One additional note:
The border issues are shaping up to be a centerpiece of the upcoming Mexican election, which means that anti-US sentiment could well be a rallying cry, leading to policies that will push Mexico away from the US and closer to Brazil, Venezuela and its other South American neighbors. Such a shift may appear not to be in Mexico's self-interest, but that doesn't mean political winds won't push in that direciton anyway.
Friday, May 13, 2005
I've been doing a bit of to-and-fro on Democracy Arsenal discussing Abu Ghraib with Joseph Britt who is a kind of standing stand-in for my friend Greg Djerejian at Belgravia Dispatch (I believe Greg considers himself a conservative but we met collaborating on a task force report on UN reform).
A bizarre incident this week may help sharpen how we look at the impact of anti-Americanism. Newsweek magazine reported that American interrogators at Guantanamo bay goaded a suspect by flushing a copy of the Koran down the toilet. The revelation triggered a rash of deadly anti-American protests in 17 Afghan provinces and the violence has now spread to Pakistan, Sudan, Indonesia, and the Palestinian territories, resulting in at least 14 deaths.
The thing is, as far as the Pentagon can tell, the offending incident may never have happened. Newsweek did not disclose its sources. It's clear that the alleged desecration of the Koran was not the only cause of the anti-US unrest.
In Afghanistan, some rabble-rousers have cited a recent agreement between Presidents Bush and Karzai that would provide for permanent US military bases in country, and others have complained about the treatment of Afghan detainees at Gitmo. While there's no question deeper issues were at play, it seems equally clear that the toilet report was the proximate cause of the riots.
This reminds me of the Philip Roth novel, The Human Stain, in which an innocent remark provokes a racial furor that sets in motion events including a woman's death and the unraveling of several other lives. As may have happened this week, Roth's novel details how an incident that does not even occur (or barely occurs) winds up igniting simmering fury and unleashing mayhem.
Its hard to know how to react to this week's upset in the Muslim world. On the one hand, given that the trigger may literally have been a non-event, there's some temptation to to question how America or the Administration could be in any way to blame.
The argument goes something like this: if these people are so rabidly anti-US that they will rush to judgment and take to the streets at any provocation, they are beyond reason and there's little or nothing the US can do. This form of anti-Americanism thus gets classed in the category of "unaddressable." Its a sort of irremediable layer of anti-US attitudes that come with the superpower territory and that we cannot do anything about.
Secretary Rice can go on record stating the obvious about US policy toward the Koran, but that's about it.
After a week together it probably won't surprise you that I am not so quick to discuss the significance of what's happening in Kabul and elsewhere. The psychology of countries is in many ways like the psychology of people, marked by jealousies, insecurities, and resentments that lie just under the surface.
The situation the US faces now fits a pattern that can bedevil powerful people. Two prominent recent examples are Howell Raines, the ousted former Editor of the New York Times and Larry Summers, the embattled President of Harvard. Both men are highly talented, forceful and by at least some standards effective. Both have also attracted widespread dislike within the institutions they led.
Because of their strengths both men seemed anything but vulnerable. Yet it took just one slip for Raines to be fired and Summers to lose a faculty vote of no confidence. For Raines it was a scandal involving a flagrantly dishonest reporter, and for Summers it was an ill-advised comment on the place of women in science.
Neither incident was serious enough to have threatened a leader who enjoyed stronger support among underlings and colleagues. But in both cases people from all quarters of the organizations smelled blood and came after leaders who they had long disliked.
About two months ago I wrote this:
There's reason to fear that the Bush Administration may be similarly vulnerable. The rest of the world for the most part dislikes Bush; anti-Americanism is at an all time high. Yet the U.S. is powerful enough and Bush has racked up sufficient accomplishments that he seems invulnerable. The question is what happens if a bad mistake gets made - a more serious version of the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade or the shoot-out involving the Italian journalist and her bodyguard. Would the U.S.'s detractors all pounce, with the result of an outsized blow to America's image and influence? If there's any analogy to Summers and Raines, the signs are ominous.
See here for the rest of the post.
This toilet flushing meshugas is a case in point. Whether it happened or not, the report itself energized throngs of anti-American activists to trot out their grievances and urge others to do the same. The ground was fertile to breed the worst possible conclusions based on even the muddiest facts.
It would be nice to think the outburst was orchestrated by one small faction, but there's apparently no political movement with the capability of mounting street action across such a wide swath of Afghanistan. That suggests that each and every province lying in wait for some kind of American misstep, or even an unsubstantiated report thereof.
Both Raines and Summers could claim to have been swept up in events - and surrounding media scrutiny - outside their control. But in both cases it was less the incidents that occurred than the underlying attitudes toward those leaders that caused the controversies to spiral. Likewise this week, we need to face that it is because of the backdrop of anti-American attitudes that the Newsweek report lit such a firestorm.
Lert's hope we wind up like Summers - with the hostility palpable but ultimately under control - rather than like Raines, who wound up getting sucked under.
Lincoln's Been Thinkin'
Mike Crowley at The New Republic puts Lincoln Chafee's dilemma in context:
The only problem is, Rhode Island Republicans aren't as conservative as the Republican base, and Chafee has also won in a blue state because he's been moderate enough to win Democratic and independent votes. If you're looking for incumbent senators who'll get voted out, I think he's high on the list. The Bolton vote won't be a campaign issue, but a pattern of placating his own party could be.
All of which is to say that realignment could be continuing. For years we saw states that went GOP in presidential elections still reelecting popular Democratic senators, and vice-versa. As the parties become more ideologically uniform, that may be coming to an end.
When It's 9-9, Who Wins?
Steve Clemons seems fairly confident that the surprise 9-9 committee vote is going to create more problems for John Bolton:
On the other hand, Fred Kaplan at Slate sees Lincoln Chafee's vote for Bolton as the more telling indicator, and doesn't see a rush of Republican defections on the Senate floor:
I tend to think Kaplan's right. The UN-needs-a-bully argument has not carried the day, even if its adherents can't be disabused of it. But loyalty to Bush, on a fight on which he's staked a lot, still goes a long way. And if the stop-Bolton movement can't get Chafee, how are they going to get a Senate majority?
My computer crashed while I was pecking out a long piece on Bolton, so I'll take that as a sign and keep this short.
I have written a top 10 list of reasons I do not believe Bolton should be confirmed (drafted in early April, before the revelations of intimidation of intelligence analysts) as well as a set of 10 things I believe are at stake in this fight.
Tonight I am going to address just one point: the claim that Bolton is the right man because the UN needs reform. The evidence most often pointed to in support of this contention relates to Bolton's role in securing the repeal of the UN's notorious Zionism is Racism resolution in 2001.
I do not minimize that achievement for a moment. It was extremely tough to accomplish and, as I address in a forthcoming article for Dissent magazine (out this summer), addressing Israel's situation at the UN is a key part of bringing the organization into the twenty-first century.
But the fact that Bolton could successfully quarterback the repeal campaign does not mean he'll be effective in building consensus around reform of the UN or on behalf of U.S. priorities like referring Iran or North Korea to the UN Security Council.
Although the resolution carried significant symbolic weight, the vast majority of UN Member States did not have a lot at stake in Zionism is Racism. It didn't affect their security or economic interests. Accordingly, an appeal to capitals pointing out that the resolution was counterproductive and that repeal was a high priority for the Administration brought about agreement in a matter in relatively short order. This was on the heels of a UN-backed US victory against Iraq in the Gulf War.
Coming to the UN now, Bolton would face a very different situation. Esteem for the US is at an all time low. The issues that have to be tackled - including bringing some integrity to the UN's human rights mechanisms and beefing up the organization's work on terrorism and non-proliferation - go to the core of many countries' immediate self-interests.
Reform of the UN cannot be achieved with a steamroller. I know this because I was hired in 1999 to work on a historic package of financial reforms at the organization, culminating in repayment of most of the back dues America owed to the world body. For details look here.
Getting the deal through required getting other UN members to absorb over $100 million in annual costs for the UN's regular and peacekeeping budget.
When I first began some colleagues advised that we would be able to ram this through simply by asserting that as the UN's largest contributor and most powerful member state, we were demanding the rate cut. That's how we started, in fact, making speeches laying out what we wanted in no uncertain terms.
But that strategy got us nowhere. Getting the reforms we wanted through required consensus among the entire UN membership (189 countries at the time) and the pushier we were about what we wanted, the more dug in they got.
We fairly quickly changed tacks, wrapping our reform proposals in a broader package of financial reforms that we could support through objective reasoning. We then went through an intensive process of negotiation, cajolery, threats, and mathematic calculations to put together a deal that everyone could support. I detail it all here.
The battle was costly and exhausting, and if there had been a short cut we would have taken it. But we got the reforms passed at the end of the day, as a result of patience, flexibility, and a willingness to listen to others and accommodate them insofar as possible without compromising our own core objectives.
Toughness is much needed in a UN ambassador. But its only one part of what it takes to be effective.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Voice of Voinovich
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First let me take this opportunity to thank you and your staff for your graciousness and hard work on this nomination. You have made strong arguments in favor of the nominee throughout this process. Additionally, thank you for providing all of the members of this committee with timely information related to Mr. Bolton.
I believe that the inquiry has been fair and exhaustive. I am confident that I have enough information to cast my vote today. Again, I appreciate your staff's hard work, as well as the administration's efforts.
Since our last meeting on this subject, I have pored over hundreds of pages of testimony, have spoken to dozens or so of individuals regarding their experiences, interactions and thoughts about John Bolton. Most importantly, in addition to the meeting that I had with Mr. Bolton prior to the official business meeting that we had on his nomination, I once again met with Mr. Bolton this week personally to share my concerns and to listen carefully to his thoughts.
After great thought and consideration, I have based my decision on what I think is the bigger picture. Frankly, there is a particular concern that I have about this nomination, and it involves the big picture of U.S. public diplomacy.
Today, the United States is criticized for what the world calls arrogance, unilateralism and for failing to listen and to seek the support of its friends and allies. There has been a drastic change in the attitude of our friends and allies in such organizations as the United Nations and NATO and in the countries of leaders that we need to rely upon for help.
I discovered this last November when I was in London with people in the Parliament there. I found that to be the case when we visited the NATO meeting in Italy, that things have really changed in the last several years. It troubles me deeply that the U.S. is perceived this way in a world community, because the United States will face a steeper challenge in achieving its objectives without their support.
We will face more difficulties in conducting the war on terrorism, promoting peace and stability worldwide and building democracies without the help from our friends to share the responsibilities, leadership and costs.
To achieve these objectives, public diplomacy must once again be of high importance. If we cannot win over the hearts and minds of the world community and work together as a team, our goals will be more difficult to achieve.
Additionally, we will be unable to reduce the burden on our own resources. The most important of these resources are the human resources, the lives of the men and women of our armed forces, who are leaving their families every day to serve their country overseas.
Just this last Tuesday we passed an $82 billion supplemental bill for our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is clear that the costs of this war are rising all the time, and they are not expected to go down any time soon.
We need the help of other countries to share the financial burden that is adding to our national debt and the human resource burden that our armed forces, National Guardsmen and contractors are bearing so heavily now, including the deaths of over 1,500 American servicemen and women.
And the key to this, I believe, is public diplomacy.
Mr. Chairman, I applaud the president and secretary of state for understanding that public diplomacy is an important objective and beginning this new term with an emphasis on repairing relationships. I applaud the president and Secretary Rice for reaching out to our friends in the world community and articulating that the United States does respect international law and protocol.
And I also applaud the president's decision to appoint Karen Hughes to help take the lead in this effort. Though the United States may have differences with our friends at times and though we may need to be firm with our positions, it is important to send a message that we're willing to sit down, talk about them, discuss our reasoning and to work for solutions. The work of the president and Secretary of State Rice is a move in the right direction.
But what message are we sending to the world community when in the same breath we have sought to appoint an ambassador to the United Nations who himself has been accused of being arrogant, of not listening to his friends, of acting unilaterally, of bullying those who do not have the ability to properly defend themselves? These are the very characteristics that we're trying to dispel in the world community.
We must understand that next to the president, the vice president, secretary of state, the next most important, prominent public diplomat is our ambassador to the United Nations. It is my concern that the confirmation of John Bolton would send a contradictory and negative message to the world community about U.S. intentions.
I'm afraid that his confirmation will tell the world that we're not dedicated to repairing our relationship or working as a team, but that we believe only someone with sharp elbows can deal properly with the international community.
I want to make it clear that I do believe that the U.N. needs to be reformed if it's to be relevant in the 21st century. I do believe we need to pursue its transformation aggressively, sending the strong message that corruption's not going to be tolerated. The corruption that occurred under the oil-for-food program made it possible for Saddam's Iraq to discredit the U.N. and undermine the goals of its members. This must never happen again, and severe reforms are needed to strengthen the organization. And, yes, I believe that it will be necessary to take a firm position so we can succeed, but it will take a special individual to succeed at this endeavor, and I have great concerns with the current nominee and his ability to get the job done.
And to those who say a vote against John Bolton is against reform of the U.N., I say, nonsense. There are many other people who are qualified to go to the United Nations that can get the job done for our country. Frankly, I'm concerned that Mr. Bolton would make it more difficult for us to achieve the badly needed reforms to this outdated institution. I believe that there could even be more obstacles to reform if Mr. Bolton is sent to the United Nations than if he were another candidate.
Those in the international community who do not want to see the U.N. reform will act as a roadblock, and I fear that Mr. Bolton's reputation will make it easier for them to succeed. I believe that some member nations in the U.N. will use Mr. Bolton as part of their agenda to further question the integrity and credibility of the United States and to reinforce their negative U.S. propaganda, and there's a lot of it out there today.
Beyond Red and Blue
The Pew Center has always done some of the smartest socio-demographic analysis of Americans and politics. They have a big new study out that forges beyond some of the cliches and generalizations about red states and blue states we've all come to use. I remember a study Pew did like this about 10 years ago that was terrifically smart and revealing, so I'm eager to read this one. Even when it's stating conclusions that might seem obvious, it grounds them in thick context. Some highlights from the executive summary:
I'm eager to read more.
Hat tip: Tapped.
How Did Evangelicals Get To "Own" Religion in America?
A historical look at its rise in 19th Century America by the historian Gary Nash. Contrary to the political sloganeering you hear today, the dominant view of religion in Revolutionary generation had little in common with those of evangelicalism. The balance shifted only with the Great Awakening. Nash explains:
Note: "The right to think for oneself" refers to understanding scripture individually, as opposed to accepting the authority of church leaders.
Dick Lugar is probably just spinning, but if he's predicting he'll hold all the Republicans -- rather than saying he may lose one or two -- you have to think he'll pull it out. The urgent campaign to flip Lincoln Chafee also points to a Bolton confirmation, I think.
What does this mean for the nuclear option and Social Security? Under the old model of Washington power politics, which prevailed under Clinton, expending capital on a fight like Bolton would leave the White House depleted and inclined to give in on something else. Power was seen as finite -- roughly analogous to the theory of mercantilism. On this model, William Schneider argues in the National Journal that Bush's low poll numbers bode ill.
But the Bush White House has a different view of power. Exercising power, in its view, creates more power -- the way expending force doing daily reps at the weight room makes you stronger. A Bolton victory, I think, is likely give Bush the additional strength he needs to pull wavering senators into line on abolishing the filibuster for judicial nominees and, if he moves fast enough, to put through a Social Security plan that includes privatization.
It's like a Soviet military parade: displaying power makes people fear your power.
Abu Ghraib Etecetera
A little type-to-type with Belgravia Dispatch on this issue appears at Democracy Arsenal this morning.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
America as Beacon and Abu Ghraib responses
My third question was as follows:
Do you believe that in order to effectively promote goals like democratization and human rights around the world, the U.S. must itself be seen as an exemplar of these values? Do you believe that our status as a standard-bearer of justice and liberty is so well-entrenched that revelations like the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo won’t negatively affect it?
The commentariat seems to be split on this one. Many people think the Abu Ghraib abuses were serious, and probably not taken seriously enough. Quite a number of others seemed to regard the abuses as the work of a few rogue underlings acting without instructions.
This was probably the result of my poor phrasing, but few addressed the broader question of how Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and related developments impact the U.S.'s ability to promote democracy and other values like human rights and the rule of law that we would like to seed around the world.
In my view, there are many regimes around the world that would like to undercut the appeal of American ideals in the minds of their own people. They are fearful that if their populations begin to demand the political and economic freedoms we enjoy, that they will lose control.
On the other hand, as by fellow Democracy Arsenal co-blogger Heather Hurlburt and others pointed out as part of the thought-provoking debates at the washingtonmonthly on this subject, the most powerful force for democratization even in intractable regions like the Middle East is the will of the people themselves who crave freedom. Historically, such people have often been inspired by the example the U.S. has set.
One of the most serious consequences of the U.S.'s lapses in upholding the human rights and related standards that we purport to represent is that we play into the hands of those who claim that our ideals are empty or hypocritical. We allow them to call into quesetion the promise that our principles signify in the minds of their populations. We sow doubts in the minds of people that would otherwise tend to cleave in the values the U.S. stands for, rather than listening to the promises of corrupt leaders.
We can write off Abu Ghraib as the work of a few misfits. But in the eyes of much of the rest of the world the abuses were linked to a pattern of disregard for international norms governing the treatment of detainees.
Particularly given our under-investment in public diplomacy, we have limited ability to shape how our actions are seen from the outside. When we are seen as not taking the problem seriously, that adds further fuel to the fire of those trying to fan skepticism about American motives.
Though we may not always see the link, I suspect we will be living with the consequences of Abu Ghraib for a long time to come in the form of charges of hypocrisy, doubts about American sincerity, and a sense around the world that America does not hold itself to the standards it would impose on others.
Relax, Dan, and Enjoy Hawai'i
Dan has very cleverly dated his "public service message" Sunday, May 15 so it will remain atop the blog. Good thinking. My apologies to readers tuning in and being disappointed on finding a liberal foreign policy expert and a liberal journalist and historian opining instead. But we appreciate your indulgence.
Dan, sorry if we're hurting your hits and page views. I do appreciate the chance to keep your chair warm. Remember: Carson always recovered after David Brenner or Joan Rivers sat in.
The White House Doesn't Do Propaganda...
Now there's Dave Smith, doing public relations disguised as journalism for the Agriculture Department.
Is this really propaganda? Judge for yourself. The situation is different from either of the other two cases. The key facts, as reported by the WP:
When Are You up for Tenure, Dan?
Just thought we both should take a look at this report.
Thanks for Clarifying, Pat
In the Yalta posts, I kept wanting to say, "This is the kind of argument Pat Buchanan would make," but I thought it would be unfair.
Obviously, Buchanan's views are not Bush's views, and Bush is not responsible for what Buchanan says. But Buchanan articulates starkly the ideas in the distinct and self-conscious historical tradition with which Bush, wittingly or not, aligned himself:
[Love that throwaway line about "Christian peoples." -- Ed. Don't get me started. ...]
More Yalta Reverberations
Joe Conason expresses more precisely than I did why Bush's Yalta remarks were so scandalous:
And there's more to it. The debate over Yalta is not a debate over whether the Soviet oppression of Eastern Europe for a half century was a terrible thing. There is no debate over that question.
No, Yalta means something very different, as people who invoke it know -- or should know. There is a long tradition of Yalta-bashing, and it was used especially by far-right demagogues to accuse FDR of being a traitor. It's a claim that implies our brave fighting men were doing heroic work in liberating Europe but that their good efforts were betrayed by weak leaders.
One doesn't speak about Yalta in a vacuum. By uttering the words he did, Bush (or his speechwriter) aligned himself with a distinct and self-conscious historical tradition. He could have framed his remarks of sympathy with the peoples of Eastern Europe in any number of ways. But, wittingly or not, he endorsed an interpretation of history that sees Yalta as the hinge and America's decisions there as having cast Eastern Europe into darkness. But that was not the case.
Update: Kevin Drum asks:
Not just the Latvians, that's for sure. Key point. I should double-check this, but ... [Why? When in Rome... -- Ed. OK, I, but I'm gonna blame you if some expert on Latvian history contradicts me. And isn't there something about this "-- Ed." business reminiscent of Homer Simpson talking to his brain?] ... Anyway, I don't think Yalta dealt significantly with Latvia. At least it wasn't a central issue there. Had Bush given the speech in Poland, or even in Hungary, Yalta might have seemed more relevant.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
UN - Reply
Best I can tell, most of you think the UN is by and large a force for no good. Commenters focused on the usual laments: Syria and Cuba on the Commission on Human Rights, corruption, cronyism, etc. People think John Bolton may kick some sense into the thing and if he fails to do so, no big deal in that the place is a sinkhole anyway.
Here's where I stand:
Yes, the UN is scandal-wracked, but its trying to do something about it. And, by the way, the U.S.'s track-record on corruption and fiscal mismanagement is not exactly squeaky clean either (same is true about both the UN and the US when it comes to nepotism).
The UN, like the US government, deals in a lot of messy situations and has to rely on a lot of individuals and groups that it cannot completely control. Corruption's a serious issue and needs to be addressed as part of a major push for reform at the organization. (that package should also deal with the composition of the Commission on Human Rights, but that problem really lies with the UN membership, more so than with the institution itself).
None of this is, in my view, a reason to turn one's back on all the things the UN does well, and particularly those responsibilities that are not and cannot be fulfilled by any single nation or any other multilateral organization.
Many of the reforms of the UN that have been proposed and will be debated in the coming months are very much pro-U.S.
I don't deny the UN's weaknesses. I just think that given the organization's strengths and the unique role it plays, the obvious solution is to do what we can to strengthen and fix it through constructive diplomacy.
My views on Bolton appear on Democracy Arsenal (search under the UN tab). My bottom line essentially grows out of what I said above about anti-Americanism, namely that it stands in our way and we ought to do what we can to minimize rather than stoke it.
Anti-Americanism - Reply
It goes without saying that I had no idea what I was getting into posing a preposterous series of questions, each of which could merit a treatise in response. As for those who suggest that I get a life, well, ahem . . . shall we just say that when I copied the replies into a word document, it was more than 50 pages long (after I shrunk the font down to 9 points).
But I don't want to worm out of this, so here goes. I'll go as far as I can tonight before I collapse. As those who have been reading DA know, my day job makes me one of those bats of the blogosphere.
The gist of the replies on anti-Americanism seemed to be that most if not all of it is endemic to being a superpower, and that it should not stand in the way of the U.S. doing what it wants or believes to be in its interest. A number of commentators dismiss anti-Americanism as a kind of petty jealousness.
I actually agree with most of this. There are many different forms of anti-Americanism, ranging from the haughty reproaches of France to the terrorist violence of al Qaeda. These are very separate problems that wouldn't be lumpted together except for the fact that I have 9 more questions to somehow get through.
That said, I think the U.S.'s lone superpower status does make it somewhat of a lightening rod irrespective of what our policies are, and that much of the ill-feeling is driven by envy, by individual resentments that have little to do with the U.S. or with U.S. policies, and by internal political dynamics in particular countries.
But none of that lessens my concern about the impact of anti-Americanism on U.S. policies. One of the commentators put it like this:
"Is anti-Americanism a problem? Yes, and the majority of the responses here misunderestimate how much a bad feeling from abroad can actually diminish our ability to get results from our policies abroad. Nearly every government has to respond to its own version of the street, whether elected or not. And when the street is increasingly anti-American, doing the right thing can mean losing power, something few folks are willing to do.
So resistance to U.S. policies, or even just subtle slowness and delay and passive non-cooperativeness, can make for some pretty damn frustrating efforts to get our interests met.
It is not a popularity contest, where the U.S. is too cool to get caught up in who is the most-loved. Its about realizing U.S. interests abroad and whether we have to spend greater or lesser efforts to get what we want. From the anti-Americans out there, we need to push harder, pressure more, cajole and browbeat andd "express concern."
That makes it tougher -- and you can sit back and say thats what our diplomats are paid to do, but would you want your baseball team forced to play double-headers every day, against different teams? Being right and being right over the long term makes being hated in the short-term acceptable, but not easier.
And if we approach anti-Americanism with a "we're right, too bad" attitude and without some strategery for reducing that drain on our efforts, we are only hurting ourselves in the long run. My worry is not that we should do what the Euros and others say, its that we should listen with an effort towards changing minds, not just countering rhetoric."
This is precisely what troubles me about anti-Americanism. Having served as a U.S. diplomat at the UN, I have witnessed first-hand how much time gets wasted trying to overcome the threshold of skepticism, mistrust and sometimes bitterness toward the U.S.
Yes, a certain degree of this is unavoidable. But beyond that base level, there's plenty we can do to avoid compounding the inherent difficulties we face.
This does not mean bending our policies or subordinating our interests to please the rest of the world.Better diplomacy, a greater willingness to listen, putting resources behind the foreign policy commitments that are most visible and important to the rest of the world, more energetic efforts to persuade others rather than trying to impose our policies by fiat would all help chip away at the negative attitudes.
On the flip side, pro-US attitudes are multipliers of our own force. We see this in the form of the help Eastern European countries have given us in Iraq and at the UN. They like us, they support us, they make it look as though our policies have some resonance, and they make it less politically costly for other countries to come over to our side as well.
As long as we convince ourselves that anti-Americanism doesn't matter, we overlook the low-hanging fruit of countries that can and should be solid supporters of the U.S. - traditional allies that share our values and have everything to gain from a close relationship with us. By allowing friction to rise and not taking relatively simple steps to try to avoid and smooth it, we make our own lives more difficult.
"In the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact"?
Contrary to my first impression, Bush's outrageous Yalta remarks aren't going unnoticed. Along with the indefatigable Arthur M. Schlesinger, add Jacob Heilbrunn at the LA Times to those pointing out the ugliness of Bush's remarks.
History and the House
Historians and journalists who cover Congress are familiar with the excellence and professionalism of the Senate Historical Office, especially Dick Baker and Don Ritchie. Robert "KC" Johnson reports on the History News Network that the House has finally appointed its own historians. Its choices? The 83-year-old Andrew Jackson scholar Robert V. Remini and an associate who's the author of The University of Illinois: A Pictorial History.
Where's the Instant Analysis?
Why haven't there been more harsh, snarky snap judgments about the amply hyped, celebrity-stocked The Huffington Post? You'd think bloggers would be tearing apart this interloper into the blogosphere within hours. Has a sudden outbreak of politesse gripped the Internet? Professional courtesy run amok?
You can't get away with saying that it's not fair to judge a blog by it's first day. Absurdly consequential judgments based on a debut performance have become the rule in the film industry. And the Web (especially the blogosphere) is far better equipped to render such verdicts.
That said, a few instant reactions:
Warren Bell, National Review Online: "I made the mistake of checking out The Huffington Post without putting down a dropcloth. Does anyone know how to get all this sanctimonious ooze off my rug?"
Nikki Finke, L.A. Weekly: "Her blog is such a bomb that it's the box-office equivalent of Gigli, Ishtar and Heaven's Gate rolled into one."
James Joyner, Outside the Beltway: "a decidedly mixed bag"
Howie Kurtz, Washington Post: "Larry David should have his own blog!":
Jack Shafer, Slate: "None of the alleged bloggers at the Huff Post are really arguing with anybody or reacting to much of anything in the news in their first entries … These entries read like the opening lines from ungiven speeches that dribble off into empty mutterings."
Wait, I have it ... Maybe nobody really cares. ...
Monday, May 9, 2005
John Dean Weighs In
... on the filibuster here. Dean was there in the Nixon years when the old deference to presidential prerogrative collapsed in the wake of the filibuster of Fortas. (I discovered his expertise on the subject in 2001 when I reviewed his book The Rehnquist Choice. ["Clowns in Gowns"? -- Ed. As the journalists out there know, writers do not choose the heds for their articles.])
Can we talk? I mean really talk?
There are a series of questions on foreign policy that I’d like to pose to conservatives while I'm here. I am hoping at least some of the many very thoughtful commentators Dan has attracted rise to the bait not with platitudes or pablum, but with honest insights that help reveal the thinking behind the policies and arguments. In short, if your answer sounds like anything Scott McClellan might say, no need to repeat it here.
Like Dan, I think that progressives and conservatives need to learn to understand each other better on foreign policy subjects. We have to move beyond witty soundbytes, gotcha repartee and reductio ad absurdum. Progressives harbor a host of notions about conservative viewpoints that are probably false or at least exaggerated, and that need to be challenged. I plan to post some questions on Democracy Arsenal this week that progressives ought to take a stab at too. If you have questions you’d like to have progressives answer, send ‘em over and I’ll take a look.
1. Does the rise in anti-Americanism concern you? If so, do you link it to the Bush Administration’s policies? Even if you don’t think it’s a major issue that should be guiding policy choices, do you think it matters at the margins and can make it tougher to build support for U.S. goals?
2. Do you really think we can make the UN further U.S. interests by criticizing and beating down the organization? Do you believe that John Bolton’s style will enable him to actually accomplish things, or is it more a matter of his standing in the way of the UN doing wrong?
3. Do you believe that in order to effectively promote goals like democratization and human rights around the world, the U.S. must itself be seen as an exemplar of these values? Do you believe that our status as a standard-bearer of justice and liberty is so well-entrenched that revelations like the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo won’t negatively affect it?
4. What do you really think of the failure to find WMD in Iraq? Do you believe that the Administration was genuinely as surprised as the American people were? Does this make you question intelligence assessments on other matters like North Korea and Iran; why or why not?
5. Do you believe that an international criminal court would be likely to indict U.S. servicemembers for war crimes, notwithstanding the provision that when countries are capable of investigating and prosecuting crimes in their own court systems, an international court will not have jurisdiction? Is this a real fear, or a stand-in for a broader concern over the impact of an international criminal justice system?
6. Do you believe that development aid is important in its own right, or do you see it more as something the U.S is compelled to do for image reasons, much of which winds up being wasteful? How important is the Millennium Challenge Account, in your view?
7. How important is intelligence reform? Is this a real priority, or more a political exigency driven by the 9/11 and Silberman-Robb reports? As the profile of those reports fades, is intelligence reform likely to recede as an issue?
8. How worried are you about China? What about in the long-term?
9. How worried are you about the sagging dollar and yawning balance of payments deficit?
10. What to you is most problematic about the Bush Administration’s foreign policy? If there’s one thing you don’t like, what is it?
In case you’re interested, my views on most of these questions can be found over at Democracy Arsenal.
In the LAT David Shaw asks:
Shaw says yes, though he also says that there's greater opportunity to nab miscreants. But he doesn't consider what's probably the biggest reason for the apparent spike in cases of journalistic malfeasance that make the news: our standards are not lower but higher.
This idea came to mind after reading the historian Ron Robin's book Scandals and Scoundrels: Seven Cases that Shook the Academy. Robin points out that there were cases of rogue historians like Stephen Ambrose in previous generations, but they either didn't cause a stir or remained of interest within the academy.
Just so, isn't it possible that just as journalists are now policing more aggressively the behavior of presidential candidates, Cabinet nominees, professors, and other public figures, they're also casting a colder eye on their colleagues? Did anyone miss Jack Shafer's 2003 Slate piece on the fabrications of journalistic gods H.L. Mencken and A.J. Liebling? Maybe there have always been Ruth Shalits, Stephen Glasses, Mitch Alboms and Rodney Rothmans, but no one howled about it.
[You're aware, aren't you, that Shafer doesn't buy that argument? -- Ed. Yes, but the article's so good, it's worth reading anyway.]
And the theory of higher standards may also help explain why journalists are now being let go for minor or even non-offenses.
Thomas Friedman's Moustache is Curved
[Wait a second. You're going to get a lot of guff from readers who actually follow the link to that review and see how glibly dissmissive it is. It doesn't even get into the substance of foreign policy.--Ed.]
OK, the review is not a top-drawer piece of intellectual analysis. But neither is much of what Friedman writes. From the most valued plot of pundit real estate in America he dispenses banalities that he passes off as profound because he first heard them from a hotelier in Dubai or a systems analyst in Bangalore.
Anyway, the point is, why does it fall to the New York Press to deflate the biggest, most overrated blowhard in all of punditdom? There's still time for Leon Wieseltier to assign it to Jackson Lears, Alan Wolfe, or one of his other merciless but rigorous review-essayists....
What Was Clintonism?
At TNR online, former Kerry speechwriter Andrei Cherny has a smart piece on Clintonism. How many times have we heard the simple-minded cliche that Clinton just split the difference between liberals and moderates? Or the bizarre statement that the Democrats in 2000 or 2004 had to choose between a populist message and a DLC-style centrist one? Even Clinton himself(!) recently seemed to characterize his presidency, in Cherny's words, as "the political equivalent of a menu in an old-fashioned Chinese restaurant: one issue from a conservative Column A and another from a more liberal Column B."
Cherny realizes that the analysis of political ideas is complex.
I've got a slightly different take on Clintonism's component parts, but either way there's a lot more to it than "triangulation." (TNR Subscription required to read all of Cherny's piece.)
Sunday, May 8, 2005
What's Wrong With the UN
Over at Democracy Arsenal I have a post published as part of a Weekly Top 10 list I do that looks at the top 10 things the UN does well. I promised readers there that I would list here a few things that should be on the UN's top 10 list but aren't. I am going to keep this short and sweet, but here goes:
Non-Proliferation - Top of mind this week, due to all the ferment over North Korea. This one's largely the fault of the Member States for not strengthening the UN's non-pro mechanisms. See this post at DA for more.
Combating Terrorism - The UN's anti-terror mechanisms are pretty weak. Annan has proposed a series of ways to strengthen them, and the U.S. ought to get behind this agenda.
Human Rights - The UN's human rights mechanisms have essentially been held captive by rights violators. This has got to change, and once again Kofi Annan has the makings of a good proposal on the table.
Public Relations - Always a weak spot, and one that undercuts the organization's effectiveness in many other areas.
Promoting Democracy: Incredible Shrinking Budget Line Item
My co-blogger Lorelei Kelly, who works on Capitol Hill, has a piece about how and why the latest budget slashes funding for the newly created State Department Office for the Coordinator of Reconstruction and Stabilization.
This goes directly to the debate that Dan, Kevin Drum, Abu Aardvark and others were mired in last week about how much credit Bush deserves for the positive political developments now underway in the Middle East.
When the creation of the Office for the Special Coordinator was first announced last Spring, everyone seemed to take it as a sign that the Bush Administration had finally gotten serious about post-conflict reconstruction, a precursor to democratization in countries that have endured violence. Truthfully speaking, I never had a lot of faith that a State Department "office," could take on what I view as a herculean and multi-faceted task that requires a host of standing capabilities. That's why I favor the creation of a Stabilization Corps to deal with post-conflict and like situations.
But whether you think the Office of the Coordinator is a solution or just a starting point, its astounding to learn that more than half its budget has been de-funded. If the Bush Administration cared to acknowledge mistakes, its failure to adequately plan and execute its operation in post-war Iraq would be top of the list. Yet there is no serious program underway to rectify the glaring capability gaps that operation revealed. Lorelei has a good, if depressing, analysis of why.
Whatever happens with the nuclear option, judicial appointments are likely to remain ugly for some time to come, as a result of long-term trends that first afflicted Supreme Court nominations and with Reagan, Clinton, and Bush increasingly spilled down to the appellate level. One idea I've floated with friends on the left and right that might ultimately be less draining of political energies -- and whose appeal seems inherently no greater to left or right -- would be to do away with lifetime judicial appointments. Fairly certain others must have had this idea first, I did a quick Google search and turned up an op-ed by none other than … Norman Ornstein, Washington's genius of centrist policy solutions! I should have known! I would think a 20- or 25-year term would be necessary for the political insulation of judges; Ornstein suggests a 15-year term:
Obviously, we'd need to amend the Constitution. But given that both liberals and conservatives now fear the power of "unelected" federal judges, it might draw one of those wacky strange-bedfellow across-the-spectrum coalitions. If an AEI scholar (even a liberal one) can get published on ReclaimDemocracy.org (with which I was unacquainted until now), who knows? …
One error in the Ornstein piece. He repeats the inside-the-Beltway CW that the judicial nomination wars began in 1987 over Robert Bork. Not so!
My greetings to Dan's readers as well. As I hope some of you will know from my columns for Slate and elswhere, I am less of a foreign policy expert than Dan or Suzanne (though not averse to offering thoughts on the subject). I'm a historian and political writer -- like Dan, I enjoy joining debates on political affairs not necessarily connected to my scholarship -- and I appreciate your indulging my areas of interest this week.
One of which is the Democratic party's struggle to find direction. For 35 years everyone has been aware that Democrats have lost working-class voters because of “social” issues -- from “acid, amnesty, and abortion” in 1972 to prison furloughs and the pledge of allegiance in 1988 to gay marriage in 2004. Last fall, Tom Frank won attention as the latest commentator to pick up this theme, catapulting himself to mini-celebrity. Now his book is out in paper, with a new afterword analyzing the 2004 election, well worth reading, which appears in the NYRB.
I’ve always thought Frank (a fellow historian) to be shrewd about many things, and he makes a convincing case that in nominating Kerry, the Democrats guaranteed they’d again have an uphill battle in refuting the stereotype of their party as in thrall to "cultural elites." Frank's especially good on why the Democrats perennially struggle on issues of war and the military:
Now, the solution of Frank -- and many others of his ilk over the last 35 years -- is to return to "economic populism," stressing the bread-and-butter issues on which the Democrats’ stands are naturally more appealing to most voters, including the Silent Majority-Reagan Democrat-Nascar Dad-types, than are the Republicans’.
The only problem with this argument is that the Democrats haven’t abandoned their economic populism. This charge has been leveled from the left at every losing Democratic candidate since the 1980s, and it’s just wrong. Economic populism was a key ingredient in the campaigns of Dems from Walter Mondale onward -- incluing John Kerry, scourge of outsourcing. The reality is that economic populism is a necessary but not sufficient element for a Democratic victory.
In 2004, foreign policy was more salient in the news almost every day than were economic issues. The issue environment consistently favored the Republicans, and no Democratic candidate could have changed that. What Democrats can change is how they're viewed by the public on foreign policy.
Bolton and the Politicization of Intelligence
Douglas Jehl has a good piece in this morning's New York Times taking a closer look at the allegations that John Bolton tried to twist intelligence estimates on Cuba and Syria. This is something I've written about here and is one of the major issues I think is at stake in the fate of the Bolton nomination. To me this is why the the problem with Bolton goes well beyond his having a bad temper and being a nasty boss to work for.
Jehl makes the point that the Administration's critics have never quite succeeded in making the charge of intelligence manipulation stick.
But here's the rub. Highy respected former intelligence officials like John McLaughlin and Robert Hutchings are convinced that Bolton crossed the line. How come the Administration differs?
Jehl reports that: administration's view has been that policy makers do not cross the line unless they force intelligence analysts to change their conclusions. The Senate intelligence committee, in its review of prewar intelligence on Iraq, found that the Bush administration had indeed pressed analysts to turn up evidence of a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda, but concluded that there was no breach of proper conduct, because the analysts ultimately stood firm in their contrary judgments.
To me this is the equivalent of saying that no matter how forceful, threatening and inappropriate his advances are, a boss who does not succeed in getting his subordinate to submit to sexual overtures is not a harasser. If she fends him him off, no matter what it takes, he's off the hook.
The law has always recognized the crime of attempt: think attempted robbery and attempted murder. The fact that the billfolds were taken out of the safe before the thief cracked it or that the old lady happened to be dead before the unwitting killer shot her does not negate the crime (unless the perpetrator knew he would fail in his attempt, in which case the requisite criminal intent may not have existed).
On this rationale, all the terrorists whose plans were thwarted before they actually launched their attacks ought to be let off the hook and released to go out and plot again.
Bush Administration: you've got to think again on this one. Preferably before John Bolton gets confirmed to a post in which, there's reason to fear, he will strike again.
More on North Korea
For a bit more on why I think bilateral talks will soon be imperative (and for a couple of takes on what all this will mean for Iran), check out Democracy Arsenal.