Friday, November 25, 2005
Al Qaeda has lost the Middle East
That's the basic thrust of this Economist article. The key paragraphs:
The global al-Qaeda franchise, whose Iraqi branch claimed responsibility for the Amman atrocity, has scored many own-goals over the years. The carnage in such Muslim cities as Istanbul, Casablanca, Sharm el-Sheikh and Riyadh has alienated the very Muslim masses the jihadists claim to be serving. By bringing home the human cost of such violence, they have even stripped away the shameful complacency with which the Sunni Muslim majority in other Arab countries has tended to regard attacks by Iraq's Sunni insurgent “heroes” against “collaborationist” Shia mosque congregations, funeral processions and police stations.All good news. Methinks the more controversial paragraphs are the following ones:
Noteworthy in all these subtle shifts is the fact that they are, by and large, internally generated. Few of them have come about as a result of prodding or policy initiatives from the West. On the contrary, the intrusion of foreign armies into Iraq, the consequent ugly spectacle of civilian casualties and torture, and the continuing agony of Palestine, have clearly slowed down the Arab public's response to the dangers posed by jihadism.The administration has consistently crticized the domestic opposition to the Iraq war effort because it ostensible undercuts troop morale. However, the suggestion that this same opposition helps to vitiate Arab claims of U.S. imperialism is an intriguing one.
I'll leave it to the readers to determine if this is also true.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Could be worse... could be in Harbin
Among the things to be thankful for this year -- my family does not live in Harbin, China. David Fickling explains in the Guardian:
Panic was today spreading in Harbin, with officials preparing to cut off water supplies as heavily polluted river water flowed towards the Chinese city.Of course, my thanks is tempered by the fact that 3.4 million people do live there.
A civil/military disconnect on Iraq?
The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, in collaboration with the Council on Foreign Relations, has released its latest poll on America's Place in the World:
This quadrennial study examines the foreign policy attitudes of state and local government officials, security and foreign affairs experts, military officers, news media leaders, university and think tank leaders, religious leaders, and scientists and engineers, along with the general public.There are two stark findings. First, there's been a strong turn towards an isolationist foreign policy:
As the Iraq war has shaken the global outlook of American influentials, it has led to a revival of isolationist sentiment among the general public. Fully 42% of Americans say the United States should "mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own." This is on par with the percentage expressing that view during the mid-1970s, following the Vietnam War, and in the 1990s after the Cold War ended.Second, there is a growing gap between civilian and military elites about the likelihood of success in Iraq. Here's the relevant table:
Is the military out of touch on this one? In his Los Angeles Times column today, Max Boot argues that perhaps the military agrees more with Iraqis than Americans:
[I]n a survey last month from the U.S.-based International Republican Institute, 47% of Iraqis polled said their country was headed in the right direction, as opposed to 37% who said they thought that it was going in the wrong direction. And 56% thought things would be better in six months. Only 16% thought they would be worse....[But James Fallows asserts in the Atlantic that Iraq doesn't really have a viable security force--ed. Yes, but David Adesnik points out that the overwheling focus of the Fallows piece is on the period prior to June 2004.]
Now if you want a different take on what's happening in Iraq right now, see Barrack Obama's latest speech.
My qusestion to readers -- who suffers from the greater delusions -- the military or civilian elites?
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
The difficulty of doing good on HIV/AIDS
Despite decreases in the rate of infection in certain countries, the overall number of people living with HIV has continued to increase in all regions of the world except the Caribbean. There were an additional five million new infections in 2005. The number of people living with HIV globally has reached its highest level with an estimated 40.3 million people, up from an estimated 37.5 million in 2003. More than three million people died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2005; of these, more than 500000 were children.David Greising has a front-pager in the Chicago Tribune about the efforts of Abbott Laboratories to help Tanzania cope with the AIDS epidemic. The story highlights the fact that this is not simply about access to cheap medicines:
For five years now, Abbott has worked with Tanzania's government to alleviate the impact of AIDS. The experience has taught the company that the biggest obstacles are less obvious, and less readily overcome, than getting drugs to the villages.
A data point for frozen turkeys
One of the fiercest debates among the staff here at danieldrezner.com about the Thanksgiving holiday is whether the convenience of purchasing a frozen turkey days in advance outweighs the added taste of cooking a fresh, unfrozen bird.
Angela Rozas has a story in the Chicago Tribune that highlights a heretofore unknown value of the frozen turkey -- in an emergency, it can save lives:
Mark Copsy saw the smoke inside the car, and watched as the vehicle careered into a curb in Northlake on Sunday afternoon. It took him only a moment to realize the horror--the car was on fire, and there were people inside. Copsy and his 12-year-old son ran the half-block to help.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Hmmm.. what's missing from this survey?
There are a lot of news stories (here's one from Silicon.com's Jo Best) out today on the latest Pew survey that shows search engines have become the second-most frequent online activity after e-mail. According to Pew's Lee Rainie:
These results from September 2005 represent a sharp increase from mid-2004. Pew Internet Project data from June 2004 show that use of search engines on a typical day has risen from 30% to 41% of the internet-using population, which itself has grown in the past year. This means that the number of those using search engines on an average day jumped from roughly 38 million in June 2004 to about 59 million in September 2005 - an increase of about 55%. comScore data, which are derived from a different methodology, show that from September 2004 to September 2005 the average daily use of search engines jumped from 49.3 million users to 60.7 million users -- an increase of 23%.Here's a link to the data memo in .pdf format. What I found most interesting was "the proportion of that daily population who are doing some well-known internet activities":
Email 77%Two thoughts -- first, this blog number is consistent with other recent surveys suggesting that not a large fraction of Americans are blog consumers.
Second, there's one very large invisible elephant in this survey. One obvious online activity was not included in the above list. See if you can guess what it is. [What is it?--ed.] Umm.... just guess. [Can you give the people a hint?--ed.] Ummm.... er.... Chapelle's Show had a hysterically funny skit about what people do when they're on the web that best captures this activity.
If search engines are more popular than that invisible elephant, then I'll start to disagree with Asymmetrical Information about Google's share price.
That old Iraqi nostalgia
Ellen Knickmeyer has a front-pager in the Washington Post about U.S. and Iraqi efforts to reconstitute the Iraqi army's junior officer corps with former officers from Saddam Hussein's army. Kinckmeyer's report suggests that this process is going pretty smoothly by Iraqi standards -- but it leads to some very bizarre scenes:
Clad in the olive-green uniform of old, his heart rising to the sound of the lilting march to which he once went to war for President Saddam Hussein, Sgt. Bashar Fathi, a veteran of Iraq's once-elite Republican Guard, watched Iraqi tanks trundle across a parade ground recently -- just as they once swept across the sands of Kuwait.[Er... isn't the reliance on former army people a bad thing in terms of democratizing Iraq?--ed. It's been a while since I've perused the comparative politics literature on this, but if memory serves there has never been a successful occupation or revolution that did not rely on the cooperation of the prior regime's technocrats. It's just a fact of life.]