Saturday, November 19, 2005

The new American negotiating gambit towards Iran

The Financial Times reports that the United States has made a new concession over Iran's ambiguous nuclear program:

In a major concession towards Iran's nuclear programme, the US on Friday gave its public backing to a proposal by Russia and the European Union that would allow the Islamic republic to develop part of the nuclear fuel cycle on its own territory.

The shift in US policy - revealed after talks between President George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader - came despite a report from the UN nuclear watchdog that lent credence to US and European claims that Iran is trying, or once had ambitions, to develop nuclear weapons....

In Busan, South Korea, Stephen Hadley, the US national security adviser, said the US supported a Russian proposal that would give Iran an assured supply of nuclear fuel.

Under the proposal, Russia would take uranium that Iran had converted into gas in its own facilities, enrich it in a Russian plant that would be under part-Iranian management then deliver it back to Iran to be used as fuel in its civilian reactors.

It was a "potential avenue" out of the impasse, Mr Hadley said. Mr Bush gave his personal backing to the initiative in his meeting with Mr Putin, officials said.

The US has previously rejected proposals that would allow Iran to develop part of the nuclear fuel cycle, on the grounds that Iran would try to divert UF-6, the converted gas, into a covert enrichment programme for bomb-making....

Diplomats said the shift reflected a more realistic position by the US which was struggling to find the diplomatic support for imposing sanctions on Iran after referral to the UN Security Council.

The US may also be gambling that Iran will reject the proposal which Mr Hadley said required Iran to give up its "right" to enrich uranium on its territory. Iran has not formally responded to the proposal.

Britain, France and Germany, which have led an EU effort to reach a deal, are reluctant to refer Iran to the Security Council at the IAEA board meeting next week while diplomacy can run its course.

Having the Russians monitor Iran's WMD program strikes me as the IR equivalent of having Chivas Regal sponsoring an AA meeting [Or having you chaperoning Salma Hayek's dates!--ed.]. So why the switch in policy? I see three possible explanations in the FT article:
1) The U.S. doesn't like the end-game options on Iran and is trying to stall as long as possible;

2) The U.S. thinks Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad is such a loon that he'll reject this proposal as well. This would force the EU and Russia to admit that the current Iranian regime has gone completely round the bend and actually lead to some useful Security Council action.

3) Putin has those kind of hangdog eyes that George W. Bush simply can't resist in an intimate, one-on-one conversation.

I'm pretty sure the answer is not #3. And undesirable end games haven't stopped this administration from not compromising in the past. So my vote is for #2 -- the best way to deal with an unreasonable negotiating partner on the international stage is to convince everyone in the audience of that fact before taking more forceful action.

The Guardian's Simon Tisdall and Ewen MacAskill have some reporting to suggest that most Iranians -- including the all-powerful clerics -- now agree with the "unreasonable" label (link via Andrew Sullivan):

Iran is facing political paralysis as its newly elected president purges government institutions, bringing accusations that he is undertaking a coup d'état.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's clearout of his opponents began last month but is more sweeping than previously understood and has reached almost every branch of government, the Guardian has learned. Dozens of deputy ministers have been sacked this month in several government departments, as well the heads of the state insurance and privatisation organisations. Last week, seven state bank presidents were dismissed in what an Iranian source described as "a coup d'état"....

Growing resistance inside Iran to Mr Ahmadinejad, who was unexpectedly elected in June, is coming from several senior figures and sections of the media. Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president who was runner-up in the election, denounced the purge and, in comments reported by Iranian news agencies, suggested the president should be reined in.

"A tendency in Iran is trying to banish competent officials and it is harming the country like a plague," Mr Rafsanjani said. "Our society has been divided into two poles and some people are behaving aggressively." Hassan Rohani, sacked as Iran's senior nuclear negotiator, told Tehran newspapers that the negotiations with the west were being mishandled. The former president Mohammad Khatami also voiced concern that Mr Ahmadinejad was exceeding his powers.

In a sign of divisions at the top of the clerical establishment, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has until now supported Mr Ahmadinejad, said "irregularities" in the government's behaviour would not be tolerated....

"There is a very tense situation. Ahmadinejad has made a very bad start and needs to get attuned to political realities," the Iranian source said, suggesting that Mr Ahmadinejad could face impeachment proceedings in the majlis if he continued to pack the government with his appointees.

But the source said western threats of economic sanctions or military action against Iran were strengthening Mr Ahmadinejad at the expense of moderate conservatives, liberals and reformers.

The Bush administration has blunted that last problem. The interesting question is how Ahmadi-Nejad will react.

Developing.....

UPDATE: Tim Worstall is more optimistic than I am about the intrinsic value of the proposed deal:

What we're all worried about is Iran building a bomb. We really don't care if they make low enriched uranium for a reactor. So, if the enrichment is going to take place elsewhere (assuming we trust the Russians) then we can know that they are indeed only getting the low enriched, the stuff that doesn't go bang.
Two things -- 1) I don't trust the Russians when it comes to Middle East politics; and 2) according to the FT story, the reprocessing would take place in a Russian plant "under part-Iranian management." That doesn't make me feel any better either.

Over at NRO, Andrew Stuttaford is more pessimistic than I am:

The more I think about it, the more obvious it is that we are going to have to learn to live with the ghastly prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. The idea of 'taking out' Iran's nuclear facilities is a fantasy, and it is a dangerous fantasy in that it is a substitute for real thought. Sanctions are unlikely to do much (who will support them?) and the long-waited Iranian revolution never quite seems to materialize. As a practical matter, of course, the real nightmare is not that Iran will start launching nuclear missiles at anyone (despite all the overheated rhetoric), but that elements in the regime will be tempted to hand over nuclear materials to terrorist groups who share their ideology but cannot be linked to any one state. Do that, and the usual rules of deterrence do not apply.
Admittedly, stories like this VOA one buttress Stuttaford's point about the radical nature of the Iranian regime. And Stuttsford is making the same end-game point I've made before.

However, I'm slightly more optimistic for three reasons: 1) It's not clear how far along Iran has gone in its nuclear program (click here as well); 2) As stated above, Ahmadi-Nejad is the perfect kind of leader to cause greater cooperation among the other nuclear powers; and 3) Ahmadi-Nejad might just be the perfect kind of leader to provoke a mass revolt.

posted by Dan at 10:34 AM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)




I guess I'm extinct then....

I have long recognized that that the Republican party has become a less friendly place over the years for a libertarian who nonetheless wants the government to function well in its limited capacity.

However, I think over the past few years we've gone from "unfriendly" to "pretty damn hostile"" Andrew Sullivan and Matthew Yglesias, in their inimitable ways, suggest that I can't find a single Republican congressman who wants the things I want.

Yglesias first:

There are no moderate Republicans. If there were moderate Republicans, those would be members of the Republican Party who had moderate views on policy questions. A person with moderate views on policy questions would have been regularly defecting from the extremist-led leadership in such years as 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2005 as the aforementioned leadership pushed crazy bill after crazy bill throgh the congress. But there aren't any Republican members of the House of Representatives who fit that description. What you saw this afternoon were vulnerable Republicans running scared from an increasingly unpopular GOP leadership.
Well, I actually kind of like certain "extremist" Republican positions, such as drilling in ANWR, proposing school vouchers, and cutting budgets.

The thing is, I also like stem cell research and oppose dumb-ass Constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. And, as Sullivan points out, I'm dreaming of a null set:

In theory, it should be possible for a Republican to be both socially moderate, fiscally conservative, and dedicated to the fight against Islamo-fascism. That's, broadly speaking, my position. But one reason I feel no real connection to today's GOP is that there are almost no people in that position in the party as it now stands. The most reliable fiscal conservative, Tom Coburn, is a rabid gay-hater and a theocon. It's simply a fact that, as a RedState blogger points out, not a single Republican Senator who opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment voted for the Coburn Amendment, and not a single Republican Senator who co-sponsored the latest stem cell research bill voted for the Coburn Amendment. The kind of conservatism I believe in no longer really exists in the Congress of the United States.... McCain is the best we've got, and God bless him. But it's also undeniable that he has deep suspicions of economic freedom, and often sees the need for government to intervene in all sorts of areas - steroids in sports, for example, - where government, in my view, has no role whatever. Does that mean that social inclusives and fiscal conservatives should despair? I hope not. There are glimmers of hope among fiscally conservative Democrats. A McCain-led GOP would be vastly preferable to a Bush-led one. But these are dark days for individual freedom and fiscal sanity in America, and it's no use pretending otherwise.
Sounds pretty despairing to me. Especially when Republican representatives start accusing decorated veterans of "cowardice".

posted by Dan at 06:13 AM | Comments (37) | Trackbacks (0)



Friday, November 18, 2005

So I see there's an article in Slate....

You know you've reached a new and bizarre degree of "fame" when you read an article that features you prominently.... even though you were never contacted by the author prior to publication.

I'm talking about Robert Boynton's article in Slate on the perils and promise of scholar-bloggers. A few corrections and clarifications for those wandering over here from that story.

First, let me stress yet again that I have never said that the blog cost me tenure. My information on this front is imperfect, but rest assured that whenever more than twenty senior academics are meeting about anything, there are myriad, obscure, and frequently bizarre factors involved in any decision. Click here for more about that.

Second, although it's a great ending for Boynton's essay, the Fletcher School did not find out about my tenure denial from the blog. That said, a lot of other places did find out that way, and I did get a very healthy number of queries through the blog.

Third, I agree with Eric Alterman that having three Stanford degrees and a forthcoming Princeton University Press book is "good, but hardly sufficient" for tenure at the University of Chicago. In my own defense, though, I have a wee bit more than that under my scholarly belt.

I am grateful to Boynton for the kind words in this paragraph:

in another sense, academic blogging represents the fruition, not a betrayal, of the university's ideals. One might argue that blogging is in fact the very embodiment of what the political philosopher Michael Oakeshott once called "The Conversation of Mankind"--an endless, thoroughly democratic dialogue about the best ideas and artifacts of our culture. Drezner's blog, for example, is hardly of the "This is what I did today..." variety. Rather, he usually writes about globalization and political economy--the very subjects on which he publishes in prestigious, peer-reviewed presses and journals. If his prose style in the blog is more engaging than that of the typical academic's, the thinking behind it is no less rigorous or intelligent.

Boynton goes on to point out the basic conundrum of how to count blogging -- even if the output is high quality, what is the external and replicable measurement through which this is assessed?

Ann Althouse, Orin Kerr, and John Hawks (whose blog was mentioned but not linked to in the story -- what's up with that?) have further thoughts. Hawks makes an interesting point here:

Should blogging count in some way? I don't know. I think my blogging makes me a better researcher. If I'm right, it has its own rewards. And I don't think that any blog post approximates a review article in any way -- if they did, they would be a lot less interesting!

But the cumulative whole is greater than any single review article. And I would say that a sizable number of my posts are "worth" more than a book review, which would get counted in a minor way. It would be nice if the choice between different forms of productivity did not involve such a stark difference.

Let me suggest that there are two issues that are conflated in the story. First, there is the idea of a blog as an output for public discourse, a la op-eds and the like. On that score, blogging counts as a form of service and not much else.

Second, there is the idea that academic blogs facilitate better scholarship by encouraging online interactions about research ideas. Take, for example, this exchange between Marc Lynch, myself, and others about whether international relations theory is slighting the study of Al Qaeda, or this exchange between Erik Gartzke and R.J. Rummel about the root causes of the liberal democratic capitalist peace. Even better, the private responses I received to a post on trade-related intellectual property rights facilitated my own research efforts in that area. This sort of thing happens off-line as well, but the blog format is exceedingly well-suited for enhancing and expanding this kind of interaction. In this sense, blogs may very well supplant the old practice of having exchanges of letters in journals.

Should it count for anything? As Hawks points out, it should lead to better research anyway, which should get recognized by the traditional standards.

So I'm pretty sure that the contribution of blogs to academic output can be measured using pre-existing standards -- with one exception and one caveat. The exception is that maybe the whole of an academic blog is greater than the sum of its parts. Precisely because a blog can contribute to public discourse, scholarly research, and teaching pedagogy at the same time, it encourages a greater mkix of ideas and information than would otherwise be possible. Whether this is true I will leave for the commenters.

The caveat is that even if blogging can be counted via conventional means, there is no indication that academic units will do so. As I've said before, academics are a very conservative bunch in many ways, so the idea that blogs should count for a plus will take a long time to seep in. For the present moment, my hope is that blogs do not count against you.

posted by Dan at 10:24 AM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)



Thursday, November 17, 2005

Not a good sign for Russia

One of the standard lines of criticism about Council on Foreign Relations task forces/reports/working groups is that the desire to product nonpartisan output can water down CFR foreign policy analysis and recommendations. There might, just might, be a grain of truth to that charge every now and then.

So it's pretty damn telling that Jack Kemp and John Edwards, the co-chairs of the Council on Foreign Relations Independent Task Force on U.S. Policy Toward Russia, sent a letter to President Bush that was pretty damn explicit in terms of concern about Russia's new law regulating NGOs. Here's how it opens:

Dear Mr. President:

Last spring the Council on Foreign Relations asked the two of us to serve as co-chairs of an independent task force on U.S. policy toward Russia. The group has met several times over the past six months and is preparing a report to be issued early next year. As sometimes happens in the course of such a broad review, an individual issue emerges that is so timely -- and about which task force members feel so strongly -- that the co-chairs decide to make early contact with policymakers to express their views. We are writing you now on just such a question -- a disturbing new challenge to the ability of Russian non-governmental organizations to cooperate with, and draw support from counterparts in the United States and elsewhere. We believe this issue urgently needs discussion when you meet with President Putin this week.

As you may know, members of President Putin's party and other factions of the State Duma introduced legislation last week that would, among other things, keep foreign NGO's from maintaining "representative offices" or branches in Russia and deny foreign funds to Russian organizations that engage in (undefined) "political" activities. Virtually the entire non-profit sector -- from human-rights monitors to policy think-tanks, even public-health alliances -- is likely to be affected.

The impact of this measure, if it became law, should be obvious: it would roll back pluralism in Russia and curtail contact between our societies. It would mark a complete breach of the commitment to strengthen such contact that President Putin made when you and he met in Bratislava on February 24, 2005. And it raises an almost unthinkable prospect -- that the president of Russia might serve as chairman of the G-8 at the same time that laws come into force in his country to choke off contacts with global society.

Developing....

posted by Dan at 11:48 PM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (0)




India decides to welcome FDI

Jo Johnson reports in the Financial Times that the Indian government is about to make some major changes in its rules about foreign direct investment:

India's Communist-backed government will on Thursday afternoon consider a sweeping liberalisation of foreign direct investment rules that would kick start a long-stalled programme of economic reforms.

Kamal Nath, India's minister for commerce and industry, has proposed allowing 100 per cent foreign direct investment in a range of sectors, including airport construction, oil & gas infrastructure and cash & carry wholesale trading.

The cabinet will also debate whether to allow FDI in the exploration and mining of coal, lignite and diamonds, and in the cultivation of important plantation crops such as coffee, tea and rubber....

India attracted $5.5bn in FDI in 2004-5, an increase of 18 per cent, but less than a tenth of the inflows into China. The government estimates that $150bn needs to be invested in upgrading the country's infrastructure over the next 10 years.

If the new rules are approved, they will also allow foreign investment to come in by the so-called "automatic route", circumventing a cumbersome approvals process overseen by the Ministry of Finance's Foreign Investment Promotion Board....

The measures will disappoint the US and UK government, however, who have been lobbying aggressively for foreign direct investment thresholds to be allowed in the Indian retail sector and for the ownership ceiling to be raised in insurance. Mr Nath, in an interview on Tuesday, said he would be in a position to put a proposal to the cabinet permitting FDI in retail, allowing companies such as Wal-Mart and Tesco to enter into the $205bn Indian retail market, within three months.

UPDATE: Tim Harford has an update suggesting that FDI liberalization on't be preceding as planned.

posted by Dan at 10:49 AM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)




Putting on the foil? Read this first.



tinfoil.jpg


"On the Effectiveness of Aluminium Foil Helmets: An Empirical Study", by Ali Rahimi, Ben Recht, Jason Taylor, and Noah Vawter. The abstract:

Among a fringe community of paranoids, aluminum helmets serve as the protective measure of choice against invasive radio signals. We investigate the efficacy of three aluminum helmet designs on a sample group of four individuals. Using a $250,000 network analyser, we find that although on average all helmets attenuate invasive radio frequencies in either directions (either emanating from an outside source, or emanating from the cranium of the subject), certain frequencies are in fact greatly amplified. These amplified frequencies coincide with radio bands reserved for government use according to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Statistical evidence suggests the use of helmets may in fact enhance the government's invasive abilities. We speculate that the government may in fact have started the helmet craze for this reason.

Hat tip to The American Interest's Dan Kennelly for the link.

posted by Dan at 12:22 AM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)



Wednesday, November 16, 2005

So much for the WSIS running the Internet

It appears the United States has managed to averts a showdown over control over the Internet Domain Name System at the World Summit for the Information Society. According to the Associated Press:

Negotiators from more than 100 countries agreed late Tuesday to leave the United States in charge of the Internet's addressing system, averting a U.S.-EU showdown at this week's U.N. technology summit.

U.S. officials said early Wednesday that instead of transferring management of the system to an international body such as the United Nations, an international forum would be created to address concerns. The forum, however, would have no binding authority.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce Michael Gallagher said the deal means the United States will leave day-to-day management to the private sector, through a quasi-independent organization called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN.

"The Internet lives to innovate for another day," he told The Associated Press.

Of course, a second AP report suggests that things aren't completely hunky-dory among the WSIS participants:
Publicly, officials were positive on the agreement, noting that it brought together government, business and civil leaders to work out issues surrounding Internet governance.

Privately, many delegates fumed, noting that the secretive talks, which had been expected, seemed to take away from the focus of the summit. Many complained that the United States was grandstanding.

Martin Selmayr, an EU spokesman, said the 25-nation European bloc was the one celebrating after the deal was reached.

The EU had stepped up pressure for more international participation after the United States declared in June that it would not cede control over the Internet, as many had been led to believe.

"What we see here is a clear indication that what they (the U.S.) said in June is not the last word and that we are back on track towards internationalization," he said. "We are back on track to what has been agreed with the Clinton administration already some years ago. We are back to cooperation."

Should the EU really feel like it achieved something? Simon Taylor provides some details of the agreement:
The current system where ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is responsible for day-to-day management decisions concerning the internet will remain in place, Selmayr said.

Under the changes, however, if ICANN made a decision affecting a non-US country's TLD (top level domain), it would make a proposal to its controlling body, the US DoC (Department of Commerce). The DoC would then have to consult with the country involved, Selmayr said. Under the current structure, there is no consultation with other countries....

EU governments have complained that, under the current system, disputes concerning TLDs have to be settled in the US under US law, putting other countries and non-US firms at a disadvantage. (emphasis added)

Consultation is a pretty thin reed to claim victory -- but I suppose for the EU its better than nothing.

That last bolded part offers the first instrumental motivation for the EU's behavior that I've seen. Until now, I've mostly seen analyses that echo Laurence Lessig:

The largest cause of this rift is European distrust of the United States. It's not particularly related to the Internet. The Europeans are eager to stand up to the Americans, and that I think has been produced by the last five years of U.S. foreign policy. It's not really a cyberlaw problem....

[W]hat's interesting is, in 1998, there was no question of the Europeans taking over because there wasn't the level of skepticism of the U.S. government, even though there was a lot of skepticism about ICANN at the time.

My guess is that the EU acted as it did for both sets of reasons. The symbolic reasons explain the surprisingly public nature of the dispute.

As for the U.S., it maintained its primary objective, to ensure that the WSIS -- really the International Telecommunications Union -- has as little say as possible in any important dimension of Internet governance.

And amen to that.

posted by Dan at 10:54 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)



Tuesday, November 15, 2005

We may be experiencing technical difficulties

Sometime in the next 24 hours I'll be making a few upgrades to the site, including but not limited to an upgrade of Movable Type from the prehistoric version I currently use.

If everything works perfectly, you'll just be impressed by the redesign. But everything might not work perfectly -- so tomorrow's blogging may be light.

UPDATE: OK, looks like things are coming back on line -- let me know if you like the (mild) redesign

posted by Dan at 11:59 PM | Comments (25) | Trackbacks (0)




A weird week in the blogosphere

So there's been some positive developments for the credibility of bloggers. For example, Andrew Sullivan announced that he will be moving his blog to Time's website. Congrats to Andrew.

In other positive blog news, Harvard history graduate student Rebecca Anne Goetz has an excellent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the synergies between blogging and the academy:

Academic bloggers who write about research and teaching are thinking very seriously about their vocation and they are engaging with their colleagues about how to do it right.

Academics who blog and assemble carnivals can perform thought experiments and try out ideas quickly without going through the conventional publications or conference process. They can also comment on areas outside of their expertise or current research. If they like, and I've been known to do this myself, they can be a bit silly on their blogs too, letting off steam at the end of a long week.

In short, I find that blogging makes my work better. What isn't to like about that?

It's certainly a nice counterpoint to Ivan Tribble. And Goetz has useful follow-up links at her own blog as well.

On the other hand, there's also a lot of weird blogosphere versions of those multiple car accidents that you think are just horrible but can't help looking at anyway.

I don't want to call any more attention to them than already exists, so I'll just tell you to click over to this Rob Capriccioso story at Inside Higher Ed on one ugly academic blog brawl, [UPDATE: Tim Burke has the best assessment of this particular brouhaha] and this New York Times column by David Carr about what happens when Gawker gawks at the wrong topic. And then go take a shower.

Oh, and I'll state for the record that I'm less than thrilled with the decision by Pajamas Media to have Judy Miller give the keynote address at the big launch. I'm even less thrilled to have to agree with Kos that this is not an auspicious beginning.

posted by Dan at 10:31 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)




How much worrying about nonproliferation is justified?

Ben Bain reports in the Financial Times that the 9/11 Commission is not thrilled with U.S. nonproliferation efforts:

The US commission that investigated the attacks of September 11 2001 warned on Monday that the government was failing to move quickly to isolate terrorist groups and discourage weapons proliferation....

Since issuing the reports last year the commissioners formed the not-for-profit 9/11 Public Discourse Project as a way to keep pressure on Congress and the administration to implement their original recommendations. The first report card on homeland security and preparedness, and the second on reforming governmental institutions, were also highly critical of the US governments progress to date.

The status report called on President George W. Bush to maintain a sense of urgency in making non-proliferation, securing nuclear material and preventing terrorists from acquiring WMD his top national security priority, as well as demanding that Congress provide the necessary resources for the effort.

The most striking thing to us is that the size of the problem [proliferation of WMD] still totally dwarfs the policy response, said Thomas Kean, former commission chairman.

You can access a precis of the report by clicking here.

[Nuclear proliferation sounds worrisome--ed.] Well, the nexus between terrorist groups and nukes should be a source of concern. On the other hand, over at the Foreign Policy website, however, Jacques E. C. Hymans argues that the problem is not quite as big as Kean is claiming:

In 1964, five states possessed nuclear weapons. The previous year, President John F. Kennedy had predicted that number would expand to between 15 and 25 nuclear weapons states within a decade. Ten years later, the top U.S. arms controller, Fred Ikl, foresaw as many as 35 nuclear states in the world by 1990. But, even though nuclear technology did diffuse widely, the nuclear weapons club had only expanded by two new members by 1980. And during the 1980s, membership in the club did not grow at all.

At the end of the Cold War, experts again braced themselves for rampant proliferation. Even optimistic scenarios anticipated that key global players such as Germany would seek nuclear weaponry. The predictions again proved to be wrong. Indeed, since the end of the Cold War, more states have actually given up their nuclear weapons arsenals than have created new ones. True, no one can be certain that those who come bearing dark predictions today wont turn out to be correct after all. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. But if the proliferation prophets were managing your money, youd have fired them by now.

[But rogue states are still a source of concern, right?--ed.] Hymans makes a provocative point on this front:

Much recent press attention has focused on the nuclear activities of the unpleasant regimes of North Korea and Iran. It previously focused on Iraq and Libya. Those countries nuclear programs clearly do (or did) give cause for alarm. But they are hardly the only ones that have played fast and loose with the rules of the nonproliferation regime. For instance, last year, even democratic South Korea informed the IAEA that as late as 2000 it had been secretly producing weapons-grade uranium, in violation of commitments not to do so.

Indeed, if we use history as our guide, we might want to worry as much about the South Koreas as we do about the Libyas. For in fact, few of the members of the nuclear weapons club actually fit the rogue state designation. Apart from the original five, we find India, a democracy with international credentials so strong, it even has a chance for permanent membership in the U.N. Security Council. And then we find Israel and Pakistan, states that may not be universally admired but certainly have long enjoyed a close embrace from the United States. And it might be added that all three of these nuclear gatecrashers were headed by democratically elected leaders when they made their crucial decisions to cross the nuclear threshold. In short, few states may want the bomb, but no regime type provides a sure vaccination against nuclear weapons ambitions.

[Yeah, but surely we should worry about Iran, right?--ed.] Well, yes, but how much to worry is a question that's still subject to debate. Just as worrisome is what Kevin Drum has pointed out -- the U.S. can't convince other countries on its own to care:

This is what it's come to. A European diplomat talks openly about the possibility that the entire thing is a U.S. fraud. The Bush administration is forced to lean on France to establish its own credibility.

[At last, something to worry about!!--ed.]

posted by Dan at 01:01 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)



Monday, November 14, 2005

My personal apologies to Mitchell Hurwitz

In one of those cruel coincidences, Erika and I decided to rent the first season of Arrested Development the weekend the show itself got cancelled.

After having digested the first twelve episodes -- and still laughing about them 48 hours later -- I feel I owe an apology to creator Mitchell Hurwitz. I clearly belong to a large swath of viewers who would have enjoyed the show and yet mysteriously chose not to view it when it counted. My only defense is that a large groups of us have small children, and by the end of the weekend have little energy for anything more sophisticated than My Mother, the Car.

Why the show failed to merit any coverage by the Television Without Pity people, however, is beyond me.

Sorry, man -- we let you down.

posted by Dan at 03:47 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)



Sunday, November 13, 2005

Why aren't IR scholars paying more attention to Al Qaeda?

Marc Lynch, blogging at Abu Aardvark, says that international relations journals aren't paying enough attention to Al Qaeda:

Has IR theory been irrelevant to the debates? To find out, I just spent a few hours looking at the contents of the last four years of the six leading journals for International Relations theory (International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, World Politics, Journal of Conflict Resolution, European Journal of International Relations, Review of International Studies - see the end of the post for discussion of these choices), along with the American Political Science Review. I used an exceedingly loose definition of "about al-Qaeda" - i.e. I included everything about terrorism and counter-terrorism, even if it barely touched at all on al-Qaeda or Islamism itself; and I included review essays, even if they did not include any original research.

The results were even more striking than I expected. All told, these seven journals published 796 articles between 2002-2005. I found a total of 25 articles dealing even loosely with al-Qaeda, Islamism, or terrorism. That's just over 3% of the articles. Now, there's lots of important stuff out there in the world, and there's no reason for the whole field to be following the headlines, but still... 3%?

Lynch posits that this is because the leading paradigms used to explain international relations are unsiuted to explain Al Qaeda:

The dominant theoretical trends in the international relations field have been strikingly absent from the mountains of paper expended on analysis of al-Qaeda, Islamism, and the war on terror. Most of the dominant theoretical approaches were not so much wrong as irrelevant. Realism, with its emphasis on the balance of power among self-interested nation-states, had little to say about a non-state actor motivated by religion. Liberalism, with its various arguments about international institutions, trade, and democracy, similarly offered little traction. Rationalist approaches seemed initially stymied by an organization defined by intense religious convictions, and by individual suicide terrorism (though there were some game efforts to reconstruct a strategic rationale behind al-Qaedas terrorism). Of all the dominant trends within IR, constructivism seemed to be the best placed to account for such a religious, transnational movement. But constructivist analyses of al-Qaeda were few and far between. Whether because the Islamist movement espouses norms repugnant to the liberalism espoused by many constructivist theorists or because of a lack of interest in policy relevant research, constructivists have largely failed to rise to the opportunity of authoritatively interpreting al-Qaeda.

Kevin Drum is appalled: "I know it takes a while for people to change gears, but you'd sure think terrorism might have captured just a little more attention among IR types by now, wouldn't you?"

James Joyner and the Glittering Eye believe the fault lies with the skewed incentives of the academy.

My thoughts:

1) I'm a bit dubious of Lynch's counting methodology. First, the turnaround time between writing the rough draft of anything decent and getting it accepted and published in a major journal is eighteen months -- and that's if you're very, very lucky. To write about Al Qaeda, senior scholars would need to halt their other projects -- which means a loss of asset-specific investments -- and start building up knowledge in a new empirical domain. The failure to see anything decent crop up in the first few years is not terribly surprising. (It would be interesting to see whether the journals that were around in 1945 saw a similar lag). We're just starting to see dissertations affected by the 9/11 events come into the pipeline. Wait a bit before complaining of a deficit.

Second, Lynch doesn't include any security journals -- International Security, Security Studies, Journal of Strategic Studies, Security Dialogue, etc. Lynch justifies the exclusion of International Security by labeling it a "policy-oriented journal" -- but it and the other journals listed above are both peer-reviewed and pretty theory-oriented.

Third, there is a difference between what's been published and what's been submitted. I suspect that there has been a lot more work submitted -- but just because someone is writing something about Al Qaeda doesn't mean it's something good about Al Qaeda. My guess would be the first wave of efforts probably won't pass muster.

2) The opportunity costs of Operation Iraqi Freedom can't be denied here. That operation didn't just divert hard power resources away from Al Qaeda -- it distracted IR theorists as well. For the theorists, this was an easy call -- discussing the theoretical implications of an interstate conflict was much easier than discussing a completely new phenomenon.

3) Follow the money. The amount of intellectual enegy invested in understanding the Soviet Union during the Cold War was a function of the wads of reseearch money that was available for studying that topic. I honestly don't know what the financial incentives are right now to study AQ -- but I'd wager that it's less lucrative and less institutionalized than studying Soviet nuclear capabilities or the Fulda Gap in the early eighties.

4) I do think Lynch has a point in believing that IR theory doesn't think much about Al Qaeda because to IR theory, Al Qaeda is not in the same league as the old Soviet Union in terms of magnitude of threat. Take the Princeton Project on National Security's latest working paper on grand strategy for example (co-authored by Frank Fukuyama and John Ikenberry). Al Qaeda is mentioned three times; terrorism is mentioned sixteen times. China, in contrast, gets 127 mentions.

The reason for this is pretty simple. Al Qaeda can only weaken its enemies -- it can't govern anywhere, can't hold significant portions of territory, can't manage a modern economy, and has no base of popular support anywhere. It's not a threat to supplant U.S. hegemony. China is a different story.

5) Fukuyama and Ikenberry, however, do acknowledge the theoretical problems posed not by Al Qaeda alone as much as AQ + nuclear weapons:

The possibility that a relatively small and weak non-state organization could inflict catastrophic damage is something genuinely new in international relations, and poses an unprecedented security challenge. In all prior historical periods the ability to inflict serious damage to a society lay only within the purview of states but a recent confluence of globalization, technologies of mass destruction, and extremism amounts to what Joseph Nye has called the privatization of war. Violence capability that once only a few great powers could muster could someday fall into the hands of transnational groups with apocalyptic agendas.

The entire edifice of international relations theory is built around the presumption that nation-states are the only significant players in world politics. If catastrophic destruction can be inflicted by nonstate actors, then many of the concepts that informed security policy over the past two centuriesbalance of power, deterrence, containment, and the likelose their relevance. Deterrence theory in particular depends on the deployer of any form of WMD having a return address, and with it equities that could be threatened in retaliation.

All major IR theories do a lousy job of explaining the influence of non-state actors -- constructivism included.

[So what's your takeaway point?--ed. I think Lynch is overstating the problem, but it does exist. Whether this is important depends on whether you believe that Al Qaeda really does represent the greatest threat to U.S. power and interests over the next decade.]

UPDATE: Lynch responds here. And Ethan Bueno de Mesquita makes some excellent observations in the comments.

posted by Dan at 05:58 PM | Comments (28) | Trackbacks (0)




The rioters really are French, part deux

Following up on this post from earlier in the week about the rioters acting within the political traditions of France, we have Mark Landler's, "A Very French Message From the Disaffected" in today's New York Times:

More than 7,000 vehicles have been set ablaze since the civil unrest began in the suburbs of Paris on Oct. 27. The daily damage report posted by the French police is a car owner's nightmare: 502 burned on Friday night, 463 the previous night, 482 the night before that, and so on.

No other country in Europe immolates cars with the gusto and single-minded efficiency of France. Even during tranquil periods, an average of 80 vehicles per day are set alight somewhere in the country.

"Burning cars is rather typically French," said Michel Wieviorka, a French sociologist who has studied the phenomenon. "The last two weeks have been unusual, but it is more common than people realize."

posted by Dan at 03:40 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)