Saturday, June 4, 2005

June's Books of the Month

If last month's selection theme was books written by U of C faculty, this month's theme is threefold:

1) Books about suicide terrorism;

2) Books with the word "Dying" in the title;

3) Books that thank me in the acknowledgements.

The international relations book for this month is my colleague Robert Pape's Dying to Win : The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. Pape has collected data on all events of suicide terrorism over the past three decades and distills from that data several interesting hypotheses and policy recommendations. [Why not go into more depth?--ed. Because I've blogged about Pape's work on this subject before -- click here, here, and here for my thoughts about Pape's argument, methodology, and policy pronouncements.]

The general interest book for the month is... on the same topic -- it's Mia Bloom's Dying To Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror. In contrast to Pape, Bloom conducted field research in conflict zones where suicide terrorism took place -- including Israel and Sri Lanka. The assessment from Publisher's Weekly:

An "explanation of the unexplainable," this lucid and comprehensive study of the historical roots and contemporary motivations of suicide terror is a major study. Bloom's historical range is formidable; the first eight chapters are a marvel of historical compression, moving from the Zealots of first-century Judea to the Japanese kamikaze of WWII within a few bleak but instructive pages. Bloom stresses that suicide bombings can only thrive with the implied consent of an aggrieved population, which can be withdrawn: the Omagh bombing of 1998, for example, was a disaster for the IRA. Over and over again—from Chechnya to the West Bank—history teaches that harsh counterterror tactics become part of the cycle, or, as University of Cincinnati political scientist Bloom terms it, part of the contagion of violence. She sees hopeful signs in Turkey's recent measured and partially successful response to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. The book also includes a fascinating chapter on suicide terror as practiced by women, especially in Chechnya and Sri Lanka, and how it is viewed, ironically, as a source of female empowerment.

Combined, Bloom and Pape offer a lovely refutation to claims that the academic study of international relations does not care about policy relevant research.

Go check them out.

posted by Dan at 03:21 PM | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, June 2, 2005

Run away!! run away!!!

Throughout my life there have been activities that I have shied away from, not because I disliked them but because I feared liking them so intensely that they'd impinge on the rest of my life. This was why I never played Dungeons & Dragons as a kid. My brain starts sounding like a Monty Python voice yelling, "Run away!! Run away!!!"

Occasionally, despite my mental efforts, one of these addictive activities sneaks its way through my defenses. I'm convinced that had I not gotten hooked on Sid Meier's Civilization II game, I'd have another article somewhere on my cv. Thankfully, I kicked that habit five years ago -- all that's left is a non-functional icon on my desktop.

[What about blogging?--ed. A more complex answer -- I'd probably have another article or two, but on the other hand the articles on outsourcing and blogging would not be there either.]

Which brings me to (if, as you're reading this, you know what I'm talking about and don't want to be hooked into another diversion, just click away now)...... sudoku!!!


What you see above you is a sample game of sudoku in an Economist article I stumbled onto while traveling last week. The rules of the game are very simple:

On a board of nine-by-nine squares, most of them empty, players must fill in each square with a number so that each row (left to right), column (top to bottom) and block (in bold lines) contains 1 to 9.

Click here for the solution to the above puzzle.

The Economist thinks this is the Next Big Thing in puzzles -- apparently the broadsheets in Great Britain are falling all over themselves to create the winning New-York-Times-crossword-style brand.

Seth Stevenson, in Slate, fessus up to his addition:

When Slate asked me to write about "sudoku"—the number puzzle that's taken Britain by storm (and seems poised to conquer the United States, too)—I thought it might be a pleasant little assignment. After all, I like puzzles. I'm always up for trying a new one.

And now it's 2 a.m., my deadline is looming, and (as you can see) I'm only on my second paragraph. All because, damn it, I can't stop playing sudoku. I'm a full-on sudoku addict. Thanks, Slate....

It takes just a moment to feel the rush and become addicted (sort of like crack). Also (again, like crack), sudoku is cheap to obtain and widely available.

Stevenson goes on to analyze whether sudoku will be just as addictive as the NYT's crossword. His conclusion:

I guess the most basic difference is that sudoku is a puzzle of logic—not a puzzle of esoteric knowledge and literate playfulness. Logic is less my bag. And I'd rather interact with someone's precious, painstaking creation than with a set of numbers spat out by a computer program.

Proceed to the London Times sudoku page at your own risk.

posted by Dan at 05:49 PM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (5)

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Diplomacy 201

Congratulations to Josh Marshall for the opening of TPM Cafe, a virtual smorgasbord of blogs, including Matthew Yglesias's new home.

Closer to home, Josh has managed to rustle up some high-profile international relations scholars and policy wonks for TPMCafe's foreign policy blog, America Abroad -- contributors include G. John Ikenberry, Anne-Marie Slaughter, and Ivo Daalder. As Henry Farrell put it, "The IR-academic corner of the blogosphere has been relatively underpopulated up until very recently.... it’s experiencing a bit of a population boom. Nice to see."

Yes it is -- now let's get to the fun part of critiquing the posts.

Anne-Marie Slaughter posted yesterday about the shortcomings of the Bush administration's diplomacy. She uses the recent failure of the NPT negotiations as an example:

Notwithstanding all the hype about public diplomacy, the Administration is still managing to be a global bad press machine. As Ivo describes, we have managed to generate still more global animus by apparently refusing to take the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review seriously, even though Iran and North Korea are front-burner issues and there is general consensus that the NPT needs amending to prevent states from getting to the edge of nuclear capability in complete conformity with the treaty and then legally withdrawing and making a bomb.

Nor is there any lack of proposals out there. IAEA director Mohammed el-Baradei has proposed a five-year moratorium for all uranium enrichment and plutonium production for all 188 signatories of the NPT. The U.S. and Iran both opposed that -- as did France, Brazil, Japan, Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands -- on the grounds that it would limit their future nuclear fuel options. But what about a one-year moratorium? Or making all nuclear fuel generating facilities part of multinational consortia, so they are not controlled by a single state?

The larger point is that the Administration has not mastered the basic diplomatic art of making a positive proposal and putting other countries on the defensive, rather than always being the naysayer, or, as in this case, ignoring the multilateral proceedings and going our own way, thereby uniting everyone else in opposition to our unilateralism. Worse still, the Administration has ideas and initiatives worth expanding in the non-proliferation area. The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which is now a very loose and ad-hoc network of states committed to stopping shipments of WMD and delivery systems, is a promising start....

Given that the PSI purportedly conforms to existing international law and treaties, why couldn't the Administration propose expanding its membership and connecting it to the NPT treaty? Why are we so afraid to suggest that other states join with us to identify "state actors of proliferation concern"?

....Would it be so terrible actually to show up at an international conference as the leader of a coalition of states seeking to institutionalize an ad-hoc arrangement? At the very least, we would be the proposer rather than the nay-sayer for a change.

My very mixed reaction to this post:

1) If the U.S. joins France, Brazil, Iran, Japan, Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands in opposing something, it's not clear to me whether the U.S. has really triggered "global animus" or just animus among international lawyers.

2) Trying to get the PSI attached to the NPT would be an unmitigated disaster. The precise reason the PSI works is that membership is restricted to important like-minded states. Attaching that to a universal-membership treaty is almost (but not quite; I'll explain why in a sec) tantamount to suggesting that NATO be subsumed under the United Nations.

3) If this Wall Street Journal story by Jay Solomon and Gordon Fairclough is any indication, it actually looks like the Bush administration has more up its diplomatic sleeve than the PSI in dealing with North Korea:

As the North Korea nuclear crisis deepens, an interagency team inside the Bush administration is working with East Asian governments to curb what U.S. officials say is Pyongyang's booming trade in counterfeit cigarettes, pharmaceuticals and currency....

Larry Wilkerson, who was former Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff, said in an interview that the effort -- which officials named the Illicit Activities Initiative -- was launched to augment, rather than undercut, diplomacy. He said the State Department believed that to get Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program, the U.S. would have to offer inducements. Washington also must show that "we could severely cut off North Korea's economic lifeline" if the country's leader, Kim Jong Il, doesn't come to the negotiating table, Mr. Wilkerson says.

The North Korea initiative, Mr. Wilkerson says, was launched by the State Department in support of a wider Bush-administration effort to choke off the global trade in weapons of mass destruction. Yesterday, the White House touted its Proliferation Security Initiative, which calls for the interdiction of suspect international ships, for notching nearly a dozen successes in curtailing missile and nuclear-related technology headed to countries such as Iran.

4) There is a compelling logic to the Bush administration's position. This quote from a David Sanger story in the New York Times last week (link via Ivo Daalder) crystallizes their position:

Before the [NPT] meeting, administration officials said President Bush wanted to move the discussion to smaller groups where nations like Iran could not block a consensus. The officials, who did not want to be identified because the negotiating stance was in flux, named the Group of 8 industrial nations and the obscure Nuclear Suppliers Group.

With informal accords, the suppliers group controls the flow of nuclear-related technology to nations seeking to build nuclear infrastructures. By operating through that organization, Mr. Bush seems to hope to impose new rules without having to renegotiate the treaty.

Bush officials like these ad hoc coalitions. Slaughter wants arrangements like the G-8, PSI, and NSG to be converted from ad hoc coalitions to adjuncts of larger international organizations. I'd rather see them stay as private clubs, but become more institutionalized on their own (This, by the way, is why the NATO analogy above wasn't quite fair. NATO is institutionalized to a far greater extent than the PSI or NSG -- which might be one reason that multilateralists like NATO so much).

5) Finally, the most trenchant criticism by Slaughter is her contention that "the Administration has not mastered the basic diplomatic art of making a positive proposal and putting other countries on the defensive, rather than always being the naysayer".

Nowhere is this more evident than the Bush administration's policy on global warming. The administration rejected Kyoto, and rightly so (a fact that former Clinton officials will acknowledge if you get them good and liquored up). Bush officials said at the time of rejecting Kyoto that it would come up with an alternative plan. An even though it's actually implemented some useful programs in this area, it never followed through with a positive alternative. So even though I seriously doubt any European signatory to the Protocol will actually abide by the friggin' treaty, the U.S. looks like the bad guy. It's just so unnecessary.

A fnal query to readers. America Abroad and Duck of Minerva are the two recent blogs I've seen to be run by international relations scholars. Beyond them, Rodger Payne, and March Lynch (a.k.a. Abu Aardvark), readers are encouraged to clue me in to other IR scholar-blogs out there.

posted by Dan at 07:03 PM | Comments (57) | Trackbacks (1)

The Dutch say nee but not non

The Dutch were more emphatic than the French in saying no to the EU constitution -- but their reasons for saying no were not precisely the same. Oh, there were some surface similarities -- Emma Thomasson and Paul Gallagher explain for Reuters:

The Netherlands emphatically rejected the European Union constitution in a referendum on Wednesday, an exit poll showed, deepening a crisis in the bloc and potentially dooming a treaty already spurned by France.

Interview/NSS projected the "No" camp had won 63 percent of votes based on an exit poll to 37 percent for the "Yes" camp with voter turnout at an estimated 62 percent -- well above the 39 percent that voted in European Parliament elections in 2004.

The resounding "No," even stronger than nearly 55 percent against the treaty in France on Sunday, is the latest sign of Dutch anger with the political elite since the 2002 murder of anti-immigration populist Pim Fortuyn. Unease was further stoked by the killing last year of a filmmaker critical of Islam.

This rationale strikes me as different from the French fear of Turkey, which seemed predicated on both economic and cultural fears. In the Dutch case, I think the assassinations show it to be more of a direct concern with the threat to the Dutch commitment to liberal values (in both the classical and modern sense).

Marlise Simons of the New York Times provides more motivation behind the Dutch decision:

Among the main complaints, reflected in opinion polls, is that the Dutch feel pushed around by the big countries and that the union's heavy bureaucracy lacks transparency and democracy and is growing too fast. They resent that they are already the union's largest net per capita contributor without being the richest member, and that the new constitution would lessen their voting power.

The Dutch were furious when, after seriously tightening their belts in the last two years to respect European Union budget rules, France and Germany ignored those same rules. More recently they were irritated when Italy and Greece admitted that they had provided the union with false budget information.

I'm more sympathetic to motivations behind the Dutch 'no' than the motivations behind the French 'non.'

If anyone can find a link to the actual exit poll results, post them in the comments.

I do wonder if this is another part of the master plot to prevent the euro from ffurther appreciation against the dollar.

UPDATE: This site has the official vote count. So does trhis one. Another bleg -- does anyone know why Utrecht is such an outlier for the yes vote? My limited knowledge about Utrecht ends at 1713.

As for the Netherlands, Dutch blogger Arjan Dasselaar asks a simultaneously provocative but obvious question:

If 85 percent of Parliament wants to support a constitution that 63 percent of the constituency rejects, it seems obvious that our representatives in the Second Chamber (our Lower House/House of Representatives) no longer represent us.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Max Boot has an excellent analysis of the EU in the Los Angeles Times. The paragraph that must vex those in Brussels:

The European Union provides a convenient punching bag. In Britain, people hate the EU because it's too socialist; in France because it's too capitalist. In Eastern Europe, they're upset that the EU isn't doing more to facilitate labor mobility; in Western Europe, where the low-wage, if largely mythical, "Polish plumber" is a dreaded figure, they think it's already done too much.

David Adesnik also has an excellent analysis at Oxblog.

posted by Dan at 04:30 PM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (3)

The housing market: foam or no foam?

I don't normally blog about the housing market (see here for an exception), but since everyone from Alan Greenspan to Brad Setser has been talking about whether the U.S. is experiencing a housing bubble right now, I thought it might be useful to link to this Chicago Fed Letter by Richard Rosen that suggests the answer is no. The highlights:

Some believe that the rapid increase in housing prices is a sign of a bubble. In this Chicago Fed Letter, I document changes in the median sale price of a house in the United States and
for major markets in the Seventh Federal Reserve District. I show that the increase in housing prices in most areas, including the Seventh District, can be largely explained by falling mortgage interest rates and changes in household income.

Do note the big caveats in the article, namely:

1) Rosen assumes all homebuyers will use fixed-rate mortgages;

2) Housing is not purchased for investment purposes.

For a summary of the report, see this Chicago Tribune story.

posted by Dan at 11:44 AM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (1)

No one trashes guido the killer pimp on my watch!!!

What could David Adesnik be thinking?:

[I]n case you were thinking of watching Risky Business after reading about it on OxBlog, I have one word for you: Don't.

Any movie with the line, "Joel, get off the babysitter" deserves better treatment than that. Heresy, I say!! Heresy!!

On a slightly more serious note -- I haven't seen the movie in some years, but my memory is that it's quite a good flick. The interesting question is whether this is true because I first saw the movie when I was roughly the protagonist's age. It's possible -- not probable, but possible -- that I'm viewing this film through rose-colored glasses. There are movies that occupy a more prominent place in our personal pantheons because of when we see them, and the good memories we associate with that time. There are "generational" movies that are valued because they click on some level with one's entire peer group -- The Shawshank Redemption for Generation Y or Rebel Without A Cause for baby-boomers, for example.

Readers are encouraged to debate the merits of Risky Business, or to confess the movies that they adore but recognize may not be as good as they originally thought. Oh. and this seems as good a time as any to link to Time's "All-Time 100 Movies."

UPDATE: Hey, apparently this concern of mine has a name -- the Tron effect.

posted by Dan at 11:05 AM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (1)

I wonder if Bangkok will take a check?

Note to self: no matter how much money they offer, never, ever accept an offer to become the governer of Thailand's central bank.

The BBC explains why:

A former Thai central bank governor has been fined 186bn baht ($4.6bn; £2.5bn) for his leading role in the country's 1997 financial crash.

Rerngchai Marakanond spent that figure trying - and failing - to prop up the country's currency during the crisis.

The Bangkok Civil Court has now ordered that Mr Marakanond must reimburse the Bank of Thailand within a month.

Otherwise he will face the seizure of his personal assets. The case was brought by the Thai government.

Adding insult to injury, the Bangkok Post reports that on top of the 186 billion baht, "The court also ordered Mr Rerngchai to pay 7.5% a year interest, retroactive to July 2, 1997, the date of the central bank's last currency transaction, although the court limited total interest charges to 62 million baht." I wait with bated breath to see if there is a Far East Economic Review story reporting that the court has also ordered Rerngchai's girlfriend to dump him.

Kidding aside, the Economist pointed out three years ago that, "The whole exercise seems grossly unfair, in that many other officials and politicians must have had a hand in the policy, as well as pointless, in that Mr Rerngchai seems unlikely to stump up the 186 billion baht he is alleged to owe." Actually, I think it's worse than that -- surely this will dissuade competent people from taking the job -- no matter how big Thailand's foreign exchange reserves are right now.

UPDATE: Brad Setser has semi-serious thoughts about whether the head of China's central bank needs to worry about this.

posted by Dan at 01:36 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (6)

Don't hold your breath on TAFTA

Glenn Reynolds links to a John O'Sullivan column on the fallout from the French rejection of the EU constitution. It's an odd column, in that carries a lot of normative appeal to me but doesn't make complete sense.

O'Sullivan correctly brings up a worrisome byproduct of the French rejection -- the effect on Turkey:

Since the Turks have been seeking entry -- and getting half-promises of it -- from the Europeans since the early 1960s, rejection is likely to create a series of international crises. In Turkey the reaction would be profound and bitter. The Turks would reasonably feel that they had carried out every reform requested by Brussels, significantly altering their political, social and economic life, and still have been rejected. Both the major parties -- the traditional Kemalist opposition and the new Islamic conservative government -- would be weakened since both supported the European orientation of Turkish foreign policy.

The forces likely to be strengthened by rejection are the Turkish army, extreme Turkish nationalists and Islamist fundamentalists. Since these are all radically opposed to each other -- the army being secular and pro-American, the Islamists in favor of a Turkish identity rooted in Islam and closer links with the Arab world, and the extreme nationalists, well, extremely nationalist -- there will probably be a series of crises in Ankara until a new political status quo is established.

No disagreement with that analysis. Then things get very strange:

"There is no Plan B" -- Plan A being Turkey's EU admission. And Washington echoes the same slogan because it strongly supports the Turkish application.

In reality there is always a Plan B, even if the politicians avoid considering it until Plan A has collapsed. Under this particular Plan B, the United States would rescue Turkey and the EU from their joint crises while also advancing U.S. interests in transatlantic integration.

It would work as follows:

First, the EU and the United States (together with its partners in NAFTA) would merge their markets to form TAFTA -- or a transatlantic free trade area.

Second, they would invite all the existing European countries not in the EU, including Turkey, Norway and Switzerland, to join this enlarged TAFTA. (Ukraine, Russia and Latin American countries outside NATFA would be eligible to join once they met criteria similar to those required for EU entry.)

Third, this TAFTA would establish joint procedures for harmonizing existing and new regulations between NAFTA, the EU and non-EU states,.

Fourth, free movement of labor would not be a provision in TAFTA, but there would be preferential immigration rules between members.

Laid out in this way, such a Plan B inevitably sounds utopian. Many of its individual features, however, have been widely discussed for years. Indeed, a full-scale EU-U.S. free trade area almost came about a decade ago.

At the time it was vetoed by the French. But Europeans might now see the value of a program for economic integration that does not involve free immigration -- but that would offer Turkey a solid substitute for EU membership, mollify the Islamic world, and build an long-term economic bridge to Russia, North Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

And in their currently shaken state, even the French might be prepared to accept American leadership out of the crisis -- so, Condi, act quickly.

Okaaayyyyy.... just a few questions for O'Sullivan:

1) If a large percentage of the French opposition to the constitution was that it was too liberal, how is a free trade area with the United States going to be viewed by the French?

2) If Americans are hostile to the Kennedy-McCain version of immigration refor, how do you think Americans will react to any arrangement whereby Mexicans would receive "preferential immigration rules"?

3) Would anyone on either side of the Atlantic be comfortable with an arangement whereby there would be "joint procedures for harmonizing existing and new regulations between NAFTA, the EU and non-EU states"? How does O'Sullivan think that would work with, say, genetically modified foods?

To be clear, I think O'Sullivan's proposal has a lot of merit on substance -- I just don't think it has any hope of succeeding at the current political moment.

I am curious whether there would be support in the U.S. for something a bit simpler -- a free trade agreement with Turkey. Comment away!!

posted by Dan at 12:01 AM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Among the things I never thought I'd see

It's very easy to get jaded if you study international relations -- the powerful tend to triumph over the less powerful with regularity, and small states are the playthings of bigger powers. So when thhe ordinary rules of world politics don't hold -- say, the first Lebanese elections free of "Syrian domination," it's worth savoring.

Which brings me to Alex Rodriguez's story in today's Chicago Tribune:

Russia on Monday agreed to shut its military bases in neighboring Georgia by 2008, a decision that effectively pares Kremlin influence in the increasingly West-leaning Caucasus region.

Russia's bases in the Georgian Black Sea port of Batumi and near the Georgian-Armenian border are holdovers from the Soviet era and house about 3,000 troops. The agreement is a major victory for Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, who has allied his country with the U.S. and Europe and aggressively pushed for the base closings.

posted by Dan at 10:13 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (1)

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Open 'non' thread

Well, the French said no to the EU constitution, and they said no with a pretty firm voice. Jacques Chirac said in response to the vote:

France has democratically expressed itself. You have rejected the European constitution by a majority.

It is your sovereign decision and I take note of it. Nevertheless, our ambitions and interests are profoundly linked to Europe....

[L]let us not be mistaken. The decision of France inevitably creates a difficult context for the defence of our interests in Europe.

We must respond to this by uniting around one requirement - national interest.

Yeah, good luck with that, Monsieur Chirac -- it's not that the French don't want to act in their national interest -- it's just that the French are quite split about defining that national interest

The BBC analysis by Kirsty Hughes provides four reasons for the rejection:

  • Dissatisfaction with the current French government

  • Worries (mostly misplaced) that the constitution moves the EU in an "Anglo-Saxon" direction economically

  • General concerns at the development of the EU, especially a perceived reduction of France's influence in the enlarged Union

  • Concerns at possible future membership of Turkey in the EU.
  • Given reason number two, I'm skeptical of the Christopher Adams' speculation in the Financial Times that, "Britain is likely to use the result, particularly if the Netherlands also votes against the treaty on Wednesday, to push its case for economic reform across the EU more vigorously." Or, rather, Britain can try, but I doubt their efforts will fly.

    In advance of the referendum, Greg Djerejian and Henry Farrell had very good analyses about the politics and prospects of the European Union in a post-'non' environment -- so go click on them and then come back here and post your comments. And check out Glenn Reynolds' collection of links.

    UPDATE: Wow -- go check out the Ipsos breakdown of exit poll questions on the referendum. It makes for fascinating reading. [But it's in French--ed. Then enter the URL in Babelfish and read it anyway.] Two things stand out immediately:

    1) The only employment category that supported the constitution were Professions libérales, cadres supérieurs -- i.e., the French elite.

    2) 40% of the "non" vote thought the constitution was too economically liberal

    posted by Dan at 11:02 PM | Comments (41) | Trackbacks (6)