Friday, October 21, 2005

Looks like I'm not getting the Prius

So I've agreed to join my own blogger cabal -- Pajamas Media.

[So what does this mean for your average reader. Wait, screw them, what does this mean for me?!--ed. Not much, really. In a few weeks/months, you'll be redirected from this URL to another one -- but this bookmark will still be valid. There will probably be a few more ads along the right-hand side -- the whole point of this idea is to pool together multiple sites to generate larger traffic for advertisers. That's about it. And me?--ed. You're still on the payroll.]

Here's my profile over at their site. Money quote: "My plan is to retire in three years based on this. I was specifically promised lots of cash and a Toyota Prius." UPDATE: Roger Simon sets me straight on the compensation.

[Hey, wasn't Pajamas Media co-conceived by Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs?--ed. Why yes, yes it is. I disagree a fair amount with Charles -- but then again, I disagree with David Corn a fair amount too, and he's involved as well. Any good classical liberal would want this kind of disagreement--it would be like one syndicated columnist caring about who else is covered by the syndicate. Besides, I don't think there's going to be a huge overlap in readership. According to this LGF commenter, "sagely and even-handedly pondering all sides of an issue of grave geo-political importance is not what makes an exciting blog." So much for the Prius!--ed.]

posted by Dan at 05:07 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)

Who the hell is Daniel W. Drezner?

A brief introduction, in the form of a Q&A [NOTE: this has been updated and revised from my previous "about me" page from four years ago. Feel free to compare and contrast the two pages to your heart's content!--ed.]:

Q: Who are you?

A: I'm a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. I've previously taught at the University of Chicago, University of Colorado at Boulder, and Donetsk Technical University in the Republic of Ukraine for Civic Education Project. I've also served as an international economist in the Treasury Department and as a research consultant for the RAND corporation.

I'm the author of All Politics is Global: Explaining International Regulatory Regimes (Princeton University Press, 2007), U.S. Trade Strategy: Free Versus Fair (Council on Foreign Relations Press, 2006), and The Sanctions Paradox: Economic Statecraft and International Relations (Cambridge University Press, 1999). I'm the editor of Locating the Proper Authorities: The Interaction of Domestic and International Institutions (University of Michigan Press, 2003). I've also written a fair number of articles in both policy and scholarly journals -- click here for links to many of them.

I have a B.A. from Williams College, an M.A. in economics and a Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University. I've received fellowships from the German Marshall Fund of the United States, Council on Foreign Relations and Harvard University's Olin Center for Strategic Studies. I was a monthly contributor to The New Republic Online, and have also published essays in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the New York Times, Slate, Tech Central Station, and the Wall Street Journal. This weblog has been in existence since September 2002.

Q: What do you know?

A: I can claim some genuine expertise on the utility of economic statecraft, the political economy of globalization, U.S. foreign policy, the Boston Red Sox, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. However, as my wife is fond of pointing out, this narrow range of expertise does not prevent me from discussing with false confidence everything else under the sun.

Q: What's your political affiliation?

A: I'm a small-l libertarian Republican who studies international relations, which means I'm frequently conflicted between my laissez-faire instincts and my clear-eyed recognition that there is no substitute for nation-states in world politics. Domestically, I was an unpaid foreign policy advisor for the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign (they didn't need the help) -- but then I grudgingly voted for Kerry in 2004. It's safe to say I'm conflicted some of the time. Just keep reading the blog, you'll get a pretty good sense of what I believe.

Q: Why are you wasting valuable hours blogging instead of writing peer-reviewed academic articles?

On the record: Blogging and academic scholarship are like apples and oranges. I love the academic side of my job, i.e., the researching and writing about international relations theory. But I'm also a policy wonk. And since the New York Times op-ed page mysteriously refuses to solicit my views, the blog lets me scratch that itch. [Er, the Times has solicited your views--ed. Oh, sure, once -- and that was only because I said "pretty please." Any time the Times is willing to give me instant access to their op-ed page without Times Select being such a killjoy, I'll give up the blog.]

Off the record: Sure, I was worried about how the blog was perceived when I was untenured. However, I'm pretty confident that the blog hasn't retarded my scholarly output And I've reached the point in my career where I don't need to worry about tenure. So f$%& that s&*^.

Q: What do you mean by wonk? How much of a policy geek are you?

A: I wrote my first op-ed -- about the Reagan Doctrine -- for the Hartford Courant when I was 17 years old. I'm pretty damn geeky.

Q: I want to learn more about international relations in today's world; what should I be reading?

A: Go to my book recommendations page and my books-of-the-month page and find out!!

Also be sure as well to check out the journals. The ones intended for a general interest audience include Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The American Interest, The National Interest, and The Washington Quarterly. On the scholarly side, go check out International Organization, International Security, International Studies Quarterly, and World Politics.

Q: Isn't it pretentious to have your middle initial in the byline for all of your publications?

A: The first time I ever published an article, my mother complained about the absence of my middle initial in the byline. Between looking pretentious and getting Mom off my back, it was an easy call.

[UPDATE: My mother, after reading this, e-mailed to say: "Using your middle initial is not pretentious. It is your name. The W stands for your great grandfather, William Pauls, my mother's dad. He was much loved as you are as well!" So there].

Q: I've perused your blog, and I'm noticing an annoying editor guy pops up on occasion. What's the deal? Are you schizophrenic?

A: This is a tic I shamelessly borrowed from Mickey Kaus. I find it useful as a way of dealing with counterarguments, as well as the occasional humorous aside [So that's all I am to you? An outlet for cheap laughs?--ed. Go bug Mickey for a while.]

Q: I still want to know more.

A: Then you clearly have too much time on your hands. However, feel free to check out the rest of my web site, which includes my academic cv and some more biographical material. Also, go check out my answers to Crescat Sententia's Twenty Questions, my Normblog profile, and my Pajamas Media bio.

posted by Dan at 04:18 PM | Trackbacks (1)

That's quite a cabal you have, Mr. President

Former State Department Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson gave quite the talk at the New America Foundation earlier this week. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank and the Financial Times' Ted Alden thought it worth writing about.

The Washington Note's Steve Clemons provides the full transcript (Clemons has plenty more about Wilkerson in other blog posts).

What's the big deal about Wilkerson's speech? Well, for the press, it's the latest sign of a conservative crack-up. For foreign policy wonks, it's the accusation that the Bush administration pretty much ignored the 1947 National Security Act:

Almost everyone since the ’47 act, with the exception, I think, of Eisenhower, has in some way or another perturbated, flummoxed, twisted, drew evolutionary trends with, whatever, the national security decision-making process. I mean, John Kennedy trusted his brother, who was attorney general – made his brother attorney general – far more than he should have. Richard Nixon, oh my god, took a position that was not even envisioned in the original framers of the act’s minds, national security advisor, and not subject to confirmation by the Senate, advice and consent – took that position and gave it to his secretary of State, concentrating power in ways that still reverberate in this country. Jimmy Carter allowed Zbig Brzezinski to essentially negate his secretary of State.

Now, I could go on and say what Sandy Berger did to Madeline Albright in the realm of foreign policy, and I could make other provocative statements too, but no one, in my study of the act’s implementation, has so flummoxed the process as the present administration....

the case that I saw for four-plus years was a case that I have never seen in my studies of aberrations, bastardizations, perturbations, changes to the national security decision-making process. What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made. And then when the bureaucracy was presented with the decision to carry them out, it was presented in a such a disjointed, incredible way that the bureaucracy often didn’t know what it was doing as it moved to carry them out....

There are all kinds of problems that need to be dealt with and we are not going to make it into the 21st century very far and keep our power intact and our powder dry if we don’t start to deal with this need to change the decision-making process, and an understanding of that need, which, for whatever reason, intuitive or intellectual I don’t know, I’ll give credit to the Bush administration for, by suddenly concentrating power in one tiny little aspect of the federal government and letting that little cabal make the decisions. That’s not a recipe for success. It’s a recipe for good decision-making in terms of the speed and alacrity with which you can make decisions, of course. Harlan and I can sit down and we can make a decision probably a lot faster than all of you and me can make a decision, but if all of you bring something to the fight and will be integral in the implementation of the decision I’m going to make, and if you know some things I don’t know and you might dissent because of those things you know, I damn well better listen to you, and I better figure out a way to get all of you to work together if we finally come to a decision and we decide to implement that. I better know how to get you to work together.

That is not what this administration did for four years. Instead it made decisions in secret, and now I think it is paying the consequences of having made those decisions in secret. But far more telling to me is America is paying the consequences. You and I and every other citizen like us is paying the consequences, whether it is a response to Katrina that was less than adequate certainly, or whether it is the situation in Iraq, which still goes unexplained. You know, if I had the time I could stand up here today I think and make a strategic case for why we are in Iraq and why we have to stay there and we have to get it right. As Winston Churchill said, “America will always do the right thing, after exhausting all other possibilities.” Well, we need to get busy and exhaust them and do the right thing.

Hmmm..... a dysfunctional foreign policy decision-making process.... this sounds familiar. Very, very familiar.

Wilkerson also points out, however, that there was a stronger pre-war consensus on Iraqi WMD intellgence than many want to believe:

I can’t tell you why the French, the Germans, the Brits and us thought that most of the material, if not all of it, that we presented at the U.N. on 5 February 2003 was the truth. I can’t. I’ve wrestled with it. I don’t know – and people say, well, INR dissented. That’s a bunch of bull. INR dissented that the nuclear program was up and running. That’s all INR dissented on. They were right there with the chems and the bios. Carl Ford and I talked; Tom Finger and I talked, who is now John Negroponte’s deputy, and that was the way INR felt. And, frankly, I wasn’t all that convinced by the evidence I’d seen that he had a nuclear program other than the software. That is to say there are some discs or there were some scientists and so forth but he hadn’t reconstituted it. He was going to wait until the international tension was off of him, until the sanctions were down, and then he was going to go back – certainly go back to all of his programs. I mean, I was convinced of that.

But I saw satellite evidence, and I’ve looked at satellite pictures for much of my career. I saw information that would lead me to believe that Saddam Hussein, at least on occasion, was spoofing us, was giving us disinformation. When you see a satellite photograph of all the signs of the chemical weapons ASP – Ammunition Supply Point – with chemical weapons, and you match all those signs with your matrix on what should show a chemical ASP, and they’re there, you have to conclude that it’s a chemical ASP, especially when you see the next satellite photograph which shows the U.N. inspectors wheeling in in their white vehicles with black markings on them to that same ASP and everything is changed, everything is clean. None of those signs are there anymore....

The consensus of the intelligence community was overwhelming. I can still hear George Tenet telling me, and telling my boss in the bowels of the CIA, that the information we were delivering – which we had called considerably – we had called it very much – we had thrown whole reams of paper out that the White House had created. But George was convinced, John McLaughlin was convinced that what we were presented was accurate. And contrary to what you were hearing in the papers and other places, one of the best relationships we had in fighting terrorists and in intelligence in general was with guess who? The French. In fact, it was probably the best. And they were right there with us.

posted by Dan at 08:40 AM | Comments (29) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

It's your very last chance to get in the acknowledgments!!

This appears to be the week when career setbacks translate into publishing successes.

A few days ago, Bruce Bartlett was fired by the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Now, Rachel Deahl reports in Publishers Weekly that Doubleday is thrilled:

Sometimes getting your pink slip can be a good thing. That's the case with Bruce Bartlett, a now-former senior fellow at the conservative Dallas-based think tank National Center for Policy Analysis. Bartlett, an ardent Bush supporter in 2000 who was also a member of the George H.W. Bush Treasury department, was given his walking papers on Monday after his boss, president of the organization John C. Goodman, read the manuscript of his upcoming book, The Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy.

After The New York Times reported the news of Bartlett's firing, Doubleday (which is pubbing Impostor) quickly bumped the book's release date from April 4 to February 28. The imprint has also upped the book's print run from 30,000 copies to 50,000.

Coincidentally, after my own career setback, I have recently learned that Princeton University Press accepted my book manuscript for publication.

[Hooray!! This means it's coming out in a few months, right?--ed. How little you know about academic publishing, my notional friend. It means I will be spending the next couple of months to complete one final revision. After I hand it in, it will come out about a year after that. So my goal will be for the book to be released in 2006.]

And you -- yes, you, the not-so-average blog reader -- can help!! If you have a few spare days, feel free to peruse the manuscript. Let me know if you have any constructive criticisms, stylistic suggestions, or detect any typos (there are a bunch strategically sprinkled into the current version). If you're lucky, you too could find yourself mentioned in the acknowledgments in a major university press book!!

[Whoop-dee-frickin'-doo. This is a big deal?--ed. Well, it is for my field. Anyone in the discipline who sees a new book in their field will first check the acknowledgments, index, and bibliography to see if they are mentioned. And anyone who tells you otherwise is not to be trusted.]

posted by Dan at 06:17 PM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

So explain this to me about Harriet Miers....

The positive trait that appeared most often in early press accounts about Harriet Miers was her meticulous attention to every detail. Say what you will about Miers, all the i's were dotted and all the t's were crossed on her watch.

One could quibble about whether this is the most useful trait in a Supreme Court Justice, but it is certainly a positive trait in its own right -- one that many Americans wish they had in greater stock. And, at this stage of the game, I suspect the Bush administration will take whatever positive memes about Miers it can get.

Which makes this Knight-Ridder story by James Kuhnhenn all the more disturbing:

Senate Republicans and Democrats said Wednesday that Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers' written answers to Senate questions were incomplete and inadequate and demanded that she and the White House provide more details, particularly about her work as White House counsel.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and the committee's top Democrat, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, took the unusual step of asking Miers by letter to amplify her responses. Specter described Miers' nomination process as "chaotic."

"We do not have much paperwork. We do not have much of a record," Specter said.

"I don't know of anybody who would tell you in that committee that they were satisfied with the responses," Leahy said....

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Miers intended to respond soon.

"From the first day when she was nominated, Ms. Miers told Sen. Specter that she had years of files to go through and that she would work to complete the questionnaire as quickly as possible, but that it was likely she would have to send follow-ups to provide additional information," Perino said.

To be fair to Miers, a lot of the incomplete answers are likely due to Bush's reluctance to do anything that event hints at a waiver of executive privilege.

Still, there's this very odd end of the story:

Specter, whose handling of Roberts' confirmation was praised by both Democrats and Republicans, voiced bewilderment at how Miers' nomination has unfolded, and he alluded to his 100-minute encounter with Miers on Monday, where she ended up disputing his account of their meeting to the press.

Specter initially said Miers had expressed the view that the Constitution contains a right to privacy, a key element in the Roe v. Wade case that established a woman's right to an abortion. Miers, however, said Specter misunderstood her, and Specter said he accepted her statement.

But on Wednesday, he said: "I've never walked out of a room and had a disagreement as to what was said."

UPDATE: Patrick Belton points out that Miers has given an embarrassing answer to an embarrassing question.

In NRO, Byron York notes that her supporters have admitted that, "The meetings with the senators are going terribly. On a scale of one to 100, they are in negative territory."

Orin Kerr thinks the tipping point on Miers has been reached.

posted by Dan at 08:54 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

Should the U.S. still have some SOB's?

As Henry Farrell pointed out two months ago, one of the more intriguing ideational coalitions of the past few years has been, "the ever-smushier and less critical lovefest between leftwing opponents of the Iraq war and rightwing realist opponents of same."

I bring this up because, a) it appears that the influence of the neocons has been on the wane in the Bush administration as compared to the realists; and b) Max Boot's Los Angeles Times column on one of our strategically convenient but ideologically awkward allies -- the ex-Soviet republic of Azerbaijan:

Azerbaijan's oil revenues — and its importance — continue to grow with the opening this year of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline that will carry 1 million barrels a day from the Caspian Sea to Turkey's Mediterranean coast. The 1,100-mile route, designed with U.S. guidance, avoids unstable Russia to the north and hostile Iran to the south, offering the West an important source of non-OPEC energy.

Not only is Azerbaijan happy to sell us oil, it's also willing to cooperate in the war against Islamist terrorists. Though most Azerbaijanis are Shiite Muslims, they are firmly secular; you see more veils in London than in Baku. The government has sent 150 soldiers to Iraq and may be willing to grant the U.S. access to some of its military bases.

All of this creates a major dilemma for President Bush. He has repeatedly pledged to "stand with dissidents and exiles against oppressive regimes." But the oppressive regime in Azerbaijan is willing to do favors for the United States. How hard is the U.S. willing to fight for its ideals?

The answer should come soon. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for Nov. 6, and they promise to be anything but free and fair. The government is passing out multiple voting cards to its supporters, and it is refusing to use indelible ink to prevent fraud. In the run-up to the vote, truncheon-wielding cops have been cracking heads among peaceful demonstrators. And, although returning opposition leader Rasul Guliyev never made it to Baku on Monday (he was detained in Ukraine), hundreds of his supporters were rounded up by authorities determined to avoid a repeat of the peaceful revolutions that have swept post-Soviet Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.

The U.S. reaction to this thuggery has been muted, to put it kindly. Two years ago, when Ilham Aliyev was anointed president in a rigged election following his father's demise, the State Department appeared to offer congratulations rather than criticism. Nowadays, U.S. Ambassador Reno L. Harnish III speaks highly of Aliyev's supposed moderation and is not protesting too loudly this "reformer's" rampant rights abuses. The ambassador tried — unsuccessfully — to block a group of Western think tanks from holding a conference last weekend in Baku that featured leading opposition figures. He told organizers he didn't want to stir things up before the election.

One wonders -- if the Bush administration veers towards a more realist direction, will liberals and neoconservatives find common cause on cases like these?

posted by Dan at 06:03 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Can you feel the Hong Kong buzz?

Last week WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said that, "the engines [of WTO negotiations] are buzzing" -- mostly because of a U.S. proposal to reform its domestic price supports for agricultural goods.

Lamy has an ambitious timetable in the run-up to the December Hong Kong Ministerial conference:

I believe we should stand by our target of circulating a comprehensive draft text in mid-November, which is essential for governments to prepare themselves properly. That is about 30 days from now, counting every day as a working day. The amount of ground to be covered in this very short time is very large. But I am convinced it is not impossible. It can be done, and I believe that a number of issues are ripe for rapid movement once other sectors unblock.

Well.... the problem is that the U.S. isn't the only country that needs to make concessions.

There's the European Union, for example. Deutsche Welle is not optimistic:

First came the proposal to reduce agricultural subsidies; then came the backlash.

Peter Mandelson, the EU trade commissioner, called for reducing subsidies under the bloc's common agricultural policy by 70 percent and farm import duties by 60 percent after 2013.

Then France, along with a dozen other members, called an emergency meeting Tuesday to tie his hands. They accused him of exceeding his mandate, offering too many concessions in negotiations, and want him restricted before he goes to Hong Kong in December.

And then there's the rest of the world -- particularly the developing countries. In the Financial Times, Alan Beattie is not optimistic:

India would like to see rich countries' subsidies cut but wants to keep the tariffs that protect its millions of small, low-productivity farmers.

Moreover, other countries that are even more defensive of their farmers than India and the EU complain that their views are squeezed out of a Doha round focused on liberalising agriculture.

The Group of 33 poor countries, for example, of which India is a member, recently complained that “it is unfortunate that the G33 are not invited in representative proportion to uphold their interests in the negotiations”.

Japan has repeatedly complained its interests in agriculture it maintains some of the highest farm tariffs in the rich world are ignored....

The influential Group of 20 developing countries, for example, to which both Brazil and India belong, has proposed heavy cuts in subsidies for rich nations' farmers but modest tariff reductions for poorer countries, a combination the US says it cannot accept.

Some observers close to the talks suspect the G20 tariff offer is already close to a red line for India....

The G20 at some point must decide whether it wants a deal, says William Cline, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington. “If there is an insistence on keeping self-injuriously high tariffs as an option, then the thing is not going to fly."

Lamy is correct -- his timetable for negotiations is not impossible.

But with this constellation of interests, it's pretty damned improbable.

posted by Dan at 04:37 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Yo Geritol!!

In my first visit to Souther California, my guide took me to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. After gawking at the stores and the price tags, we stumbled into an art gallery that was having quite a function -- lots of guys with slicked-back pony tails, black suits, black shirts, and black ties [Cut them some slack -- this was 1990--ed.]

It turned out that we had stumbled into a retrospective of the artwork of... Sylvester Stallone.

The piece of his I remember the most was "Rocky V." This was a collage of typed manuscript pages on a canvas with gobs of paint splattered everywhere. It was very... three-dimensional.

I dredge this memory out of my brain and inflict it on all of you because of this Associated Press story:

Rocky is planning another comeback.

Fifteen years after starring in "Rocky V," Sylvester Stallone is reprising his role as the boxing champ in the sixth "Rocky" movie, publicist Michelle Bega said Monday.

The 59-year-old actor will write and direct "Rocky Balboa," which will begin shooting in Philadelphia and Las Vegas next year.

Stallone told the Daily Variety trade magazine the movie will focus on an aging, widowed Rocky who is reluctant to get back in the ring but ends up doing it "just to compete, not to win."

I look forward with bated breath to see the work of art that Stallone will forge out of this screenplay.

Readers are strongly encouraged to suggest an age-appropriate opponent for Stallone's senior boxing flick. With apologies to Fight Club, I'd have to vote for William Shatner.

posted by Dan at 04:18 PM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (0)

The dissaffected Republican elites

For many years, Bruce Bartlett has been the epitome of the loyal critic -- someone who has defended the Bush administration on big questions while still highlighting his differences with the administration.

According to the New York Times' Richard Stevenson, Bartlett has joined the ranks of really disgruntled Republicans:

In the latest sign of the deepening split among conservatives over how far to go in challenging President Bush, Bruce Bartlett, a Republican commentator who has been increasingly critical of the White House, was dismissed on Monday as a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative research group based in Dallas.

In a statement, the organization said the decision was made after Mr. Bartlett supplied its president, John C. Goodman, with the manuscript of his forthcoming book, "The Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy."

....Like many economic conservatives, he has grown increasingly disenchanted with the current administration's fiscal policy, arguing that Mr. Bush has tolerated if not encouraged a federal spending spree, dashing conservative hopes for progress toward a smaller, leaner government.

He has also joined social conservatives in attacking Mr. Bush's nomination of Harriet E. Miers to the Supreme Court. The Miers nomination, more than any other move by the administration in the last five years, has drawn criticism of Mr. Bush by conservative scholars and commentators, though the White House so far appears to have succeeded in limiting the breach with elected Republicans in Congress.

Matthew Yglesias doesn't think this will amount to much:

Despite the tumult in the punditsphere, the latest Gallup poll shows Bush's approval rating still sinking, but not sinking among conservatives. Instead, he's managed to grow even more unpopular with Democrats and Independents. Not only is the rank-and-file still loyal to Bush, but dare I say that the pundits who matter are. Fox News and the talk radio hosts with big audiences are still in his corner. I work professionally in the exciting worlds of small magazines and new media, but the broadcast bohemoths are still the really influential segment of the press.

If Rupert Murdoch decides to turn on the GOP leadership someday, then that would spell huge trouble for them, but there's no indication that's happening.

This is the message that is coming from Bush officials, according to Time:

Bush's friends contend that it is the conservative élite, not the President, who miscalculated and that self-righteous right-wingers stand to lose their seats at the table of power for the next three years. "They're crazy to take him on this frontally," said a former West Wing official. "Not many people have done that with George Bush and lived to tell about it." If a Justice Miers eventually takes her seat on the court, vocal critics can only hope the Bush Administration handles the punishment of the treasonous as poorly as it is currently promoting one of its most loyal subjects.

In the end, whether Yglesias (and Bush) are right or not revolves around two really, really big questions:

: 1) Do ideas matter in the short run? One could argue that the people Bush is losing right now have been the idea entrepreneurs. Matt is correct that Bush still has quite the firm grip over important policy and power levers. With a reduced bench for supplying supporting ideas, however, will that advantage hollow out? This Peter Baker story in the Washington Post suggests far from smooth sailing.

2) Will conservative criticism eventually permeate the mass conservative public? The current Gallup poll says no, but if the crack-up continues, there's going to be some trickle-down.


posted by Dan at 12:10 PM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, October 17, 2005

All we are is dust in the wind

Foreign Policy and the UK's Prospect magazine have announced the results of their contest to determine the world's top public intellectuals.

I had my own problems with this exercise when it was first announced, but I'm a booster compared with the message contained in Chris Bertram's posting:

Not much there that is worthy of comment. Nearly everyone on the list has made a contribution which is either totally ephemeral, or which will simply be absorbed into the body of human knowledge without leaving much trace of its originator. Ideas from Sen, Habermas or Chomsky will survive in some form, but nobody will read them in 100 years. And the rest will be utterly forgotten—or so I predict.

Bertram is likely correct that many of the contributions are ephemeral, but is it really so bad to come up with an idea that is "absorbed into the body of human knowledge"? Isn't that kind of the point?

[But according to Bertram, there won't be much trace of the idea's progenitor--ed. On the one hand, duh. Current writers always interpret older writers in the context of their current epoch. On the other hand, it is precisely this habit in our thinking that then leaves the door open to graduate students eager to engage in their own kind of revisionism -- which can't happen without reading the originator.]

posted by Dan at 11:41 AM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Open Iraq constitution thread

Comment away on the implications of the Iraqi vote on its constitution.

Condi Rice is apparently pleased:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday that initial assessments indicate Iraqis had probably approved a controversial constitution, although the turnout alone showed the fragile new political process has taken hold despite a deadly insurgency.

"There's a belief that it has probably passed," Rice told reporters traveling with her, based on people in Iraq who are seeing preliminary vote tallies. At least 63 percent of Iraqis voted Saturday, she said, an increase of about 1 million voters over the first democratic election in January for a transitional government. Much of that increase, she said, comes from the higher participation of Iraq's minority Sunni Muslims.

The violence also was lower and produced fewer lethal attacks than in January's vote, she noted.

The constitution requires a simple majority to be approved, unless two-thirds of voters in three of Iraq's 18 provinces voted against it. Then the constitution would not pass and Iraqi leaders would be forced to draft a new document to be submitted to voters.

News services from Baghdad reported Sunday that early returns suggested large numbers of voters rejected the constitution in the Sunni strongholds of Anbar and Salahuddin provinces. But according to initial results, Sunni voters may not have been able to reach the two-thirds threshold in Diyala province east of Baghdad or in Nineveh province in the north, where Sunnis also have large representation.

Disputes over the constitution have been intense and threatened to deepen the religious and ethnic divide right up to the Saturday vote. But Rice said the turnout sends a strong signal to insurgents that the political process is "alive and well."

"What [the referendum] will certainly help to do is to broaden the base of the political process," she said, and diminish the influence of those supporting violence.

"Ultimately, insurgencies have to be defeated politically. You defeat them by sapping them of their political support, and increasingly Iraqis are throwing their support behind the political process, not behind the violence," she said on the last stop of her week-long tour of Central Asia, Afghanistan and Europe.

There's a lot riding on that last paragraph.

posted by Dan at 12:00 PM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (0)

Is any country prepared for the avian flu?

As the Bush administration continues to develop its pandemic plan, I'm beginning to wonder if any country is really prepared for a pandemic. The Financial Times reports that the EU isn't prepared for an avian flu pandemic. What's interesting is why:

Europe is not properly prepared for a flu pandemic and has inadequate supplies of vaccines and antiviral drugs, says an internal European Commission document obtained by the Financial Times.

With avian flu on its borders, the human vaccine situation in the EU is “far from satisfactory”, according to a note presented last Wednesday by Markos Kyprianou, health and consumer protection commissioner, to his colleagues ahead of a meeting of EU health ministers on October 20.

Some member states have reserved all available antiviral drug supplies for years to come, leaving countries that may be first hit by the disease without any access to drugs, it adds....

The report said: “There are complaints from member states (and third countries) that orders from some countries have reserved all manufacturing capacity for several years to come, leaving no possibilities for others who may be hit first.”

It also said the situation was “far from satisfactory”, for pandemic vaccines. “Some member states have concluded advanced purchase agreements for the H5N1 virus vaccine”.

The EU warnings of capacity shortfalls will increase pressure on Roche, sole distributor of Tamiflu the principal flu antiviral drug as Cipla, an Indian drugs company, has said it is beginning to make a generic version in defiance of patent laws.

There are going to be some nasty intra-EU squabbles if a pandemic breaks out anytime soon (which, it should be stressed, is far from certain. Experts are predicting an outbreak by 2020. So, with luck, this will turn out to be like the Y2K problem rather than the 1918 influenza outbreak).

UPDATE: Tyler Cowen makes the case for not violating Roche's patent on Tamiflu.

posted by Dan at 01:39 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)