Saturday, January 28, 2006

Those trade ministers mean business!!

Wow, some real progress was made at the Davos Economic Forum for pushing the Doha round of trade talks towards completion. Why, Alan Beattie reports for the Financial Times that trade ministers have agree to.... a new deadline:

Ministers on Saturday set themselves a tight new deadline of the end of April to come up with a framework deal under the faltering Doha round of global trade talks.

Meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, around 25 trade ministers from the World Trade Organisation’s 149 member countries promised that they would start making the key trade-offs that will underpin the final agreement.

The end-April target for agreeing the numerical formulas that will cut tariffs will require a huge acceleration in the talks, which started in 2001. “It is not going to happen unless there is a significant change in style, pace and content,” said Rachid Mohammed Rachid, the Egyptian minister who co-ordinates African countries in the talks.

Well, thank God -- the real problem with this round of trade talks had been the lack of deadlines.

Seriously, Bloomberg's Rich Miller provides some detail on what needs to be done:

Among their goals are resolving 33 differences over agricultural subsidies and 15 questions on industrial products by April 30th. "We've got a big number of topics to be addressed,'' Pascal Lamy, director general of the WTO, told reporters in Davos. ``Most of that has to be done in the first half of this year.''

U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman told reporters that ministers agreed they needed to act together to strike a deal rather than wait for each to move first.

"They all know they have to move,'' said Lamy. ``That is the widest secret here.''

Indian Minister of Commerce Kamal Nath said the onus should be on the U.S. and Europe to slash agricultural subsidies which are hurting developing nations.

"The European Union and U.S. must move,'' he said. "Developing countries cannot accept any more paying a price for the U.S. and EU to stop doing what they shouldn't be doing anyway.''

Portman is correct about the need for cross-issue linkage -- but until the ministers in Nath's camp acknowledge this fact, I'm not holding my breath waiting for progress.

posted by Dan at 07:25 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, January 27, 2006

Tom Friedman faux pas watch!

David Rothkopf is blogging about the Davos Economic Forum for Foreign Policy's web site. I bring this up because Rothkopf caught the ultimate moderator faux pas earlier this week:

Late this afternoon, there was a packed session chaired by Tom Friedman that included Queen Rania of Jordan, Pakistan’s President Musharraf, Afghanistan’s President Karzai, and Hajim Alhasani, President of the Iraqi National Assembly. The topic was Muslim societies in the modern world, but the discussion was wide ranging. There was a uniformly negative reaction to Iran getting nuclear weapons—highlighted by the awkward moment when, after arguing that no nations in the region should have nuclear weapons, Friedman realized that sitting four feet away from him was Musharraf, who does.
UPDATE: Turns out Foreign Policy was in error, and it was Karzai and not Friedman who made the faux pas. See here for more.

posted by Dan at 05:41 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Open Hamas thread

I'm at a conference all day today, which means I conveniently do not have the time to post deep thoughts on Hamas' electoral victory in Palestine. So I'll let me readers comment instead. Go to it!!

But click here and here if you want an inkling of what I think. And click here for Esther Pan's concise summary of the situaion at

UPDATE: Michael Herzog has a very pessimistic take at Foreign Affairs:

Optimists argue that Hamas' participation in mainstream Palestinian politics will spur the group to moderate its radical goals and terrorist tactics. But history shows that political participation co-opts militants only under very specific conditions -- and almost none of those exist in the Palestinian Authority today.

posted by Dan at 10:42 AM | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

So what do people think about rebuilding New Orleans?

Some of my colleagues here at the University of Chicago have been conducting some veeery interesting public opinion research on post-Katrina New Orleans. Here are some snippets from the press release:

The process of deciding how to rebuild New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is undermined by sharp racial gaps between blacks and whites about what should be done, according to new research by political scientists at the University of Chicago.

Their project, the 2005 Racial Attitudes and the Katrina Disaster Study, is the first to analyze racial differences in reactions to the reporting of the tragedy and people’s attitudes toward the responsibilities of the victims to avoid the disaster. The research is being conducted by the University of Chicago’s Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, and headed by Michael Dawson, the John D. MacArthur Distinguished Service Professor in Political Science; Cathy Cohen, Professor in Political Science; and Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Assistant Professor in Political Science....

Some of the reasons the national consensus is still unresolved may come from the way the disaster was initially reported, Harris-Lacewell suggested. Shortly after the hurricane struck, people were shown images of both black and white people being rescued as well as reports that either described them as refugees or referred to them as Americans.

To test how reporting on the tragedy influenced people’s reactions, survey participants were shown separate television images of both black and white families and asked two questions: “The federal government should spend whatever necessary to rebuild the city and restore these Americans to their homes,” or “Although this is a great tragedy, the federal government must not commit too many funds to rebuilding until we know how we will pay for it.”

Whites who viewed the images of white victims described as refugees were 6 percent more likely to support rebuilding than they were if they viewed a black family described as refugees. Blacks had similar responses, whether people were described as refugees or as Americans, but were 5 percent more likely to support rebuilding if they were shown a black family.

Overall, blacks supported the federal government spending whatever is necessary to rebuild and restore people to their homes by 79 percent. Only 33 percent of whites held that position.

Among blacks, 89 percent felt that the reason blacks were trapped by Katrina was that they didn’t have resources to escape, while 56 percent of whites held that view....

In addition to the work of the team analyzing data, Harris-Lacewell traveled to New Orleans in November 2005 to interview people and attend community meetings. She found attitudes and responses divided racially as well.

“African-Americans blamed local government. They felt that the local authorities had not maintained the levees or else blew them up so that their neighborhoods were flooded,” she said. Whites were more likely to attend meetings at which a plan with modest goals to restore the core tourist section of the city was given priority, she said.

posted by Dan at 08:23 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

Is the world really getting more pacific?

Slate's Fred Kaplan has an essay that tries to debunk claims made in last year's Human Security Report that the world is becoming more pacific. Among his many points:

The report's main exhibit, Figure 1.1, is a graph showing the numbers of wars—international, civil, and colonial—from 1946-2002. The authors summarize this graph as follows:
It reveals that the number of armed conflicts increased steadily decade by decade throughout the Cold War. Then in the early 1990s, a steep decline started that continues to this day.

Well, let's look at this graph. (Click here to follow along.)

First, yes, the number of armed conflicts has declined since 1992—from 50 to 30. But this merely puts the world at the same level of turmoil as in 1976. I don't remember anybody thinking of that era as particularly tranquil.
This sounds like a nice debunking, but it's pretty unconvincing to me, for two reasons:
1) If you look at the figure, it seems like the world was more peaceful 60 years ago -- but that's only because the total number of states in the system was much smaller than today. It's not surprising that the number of intrastate conflicts increased from 1946 to 1991 -- that's because the number of states in the system increased as well. What's interesting about the post-1991 system is that it's gotten more peaceful even as the number of states has increased. True, a lot of these new countries are microstates like Tonga -- but they also includes the former Soviet and Yugoslav republics.

Kaplan's focus is on the numerator -- but you have to look at the denominator as well. That's what makes the decline in wars so surprising.

2) Unstated in the Human Security Report, but vital to the perception of a "peace epidemic," is the absence since 1945 of the most deadly form of international conflict -- a genuine great power war. For the near future, the U.S. won't be fighting China, India, Russia, or even the European Union. Great power wars are indeed rare, but the current peace of 60 years is the longest stretch of time without one breaking out since the birth of the modern state system.

Kaplan is correct to point out that the current downturn in armed conflict might not be permanent -- but it's still a downturn.

UPDATE: Andrew Mack -- Director of the Human Security Centre at UBC and the one responsible for the report that's being debated -- has taken the time and trouble to post his response to Kaplan in the comments section. Go check it out.

posted by Dan at 01:23 AM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Legalizing domestic surveillance

Mike Allen repots at that the Bush administration is looking to gain Congressional approval of its warrantless wiretapping problem program:

Even as the White House launches a media blitz to portray its controversial wiretapping program as a perfectly legal weapon in the war on terror, administration officials have begun dropping subtle hints—without explicitly saying so—that President Bush could go to Congress to seek more specific authority to listen in on U.S. citizens who are suspected of entanglement with terrorists. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales added to such speculation Tuesday by asserting during a series of television interviews that the law setting up an apparatus requiring warrants for such eavesdropping—the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA—might be outmoded. "I think we all realize that since 1978, when FISA was passed, there have been tremendous changes in technology," he said on CBS's "The Early Show." "We are engaged in a debate now, a conversation with Congress about FISA and about these authorities."

During a speech a few hours later at Georgetown University Law Center, Gonzales made another reference to the possible need to update the law, pointing to the authorization Congress gave Bush to pursue terrorists after the Sept. 11 attacks as part of the justification for the current program. "It is simply not the case that Congress in 1978 anticipated all the ways that the president might need to act in times of armed conflict to protect the United States," said Gonzales, who also said Bush was simply following in the footsteps of such presidents as Washington and FDR who had also used military surveillance without warrants. "FISA, by its own terms, was not intended to be the last word on these critical issues."

No such move is imminent, a top aide stressed. But administration lawyers are said to be debating whether the President would be better off putting the monitoring on more solid footing, or whether seeking additional latitude would amount to admitting the government had not been following the law. The most likely route would be an amendment to FISA, sources said. Lawyers following the controversy perked up their ears when Gonzales said at Georgetown that the government could begin monitoring based on whether there was a "reasonable" basis to believe the subjects were linked to terrorism. Some lawyers contend that is lower than the "probable cause" standard established by FISA. Gonzales said that the "terrorist surveillance program involves intercepting the international communications of persons reasonably believed to be members or agents of al-Qaeda or affiliated terrorist organizations." But he added: "'Reasonable basis to believe' is essentially the same as the traditional Fourth Amendment probable cause standard."

Three thoughts on this:
1) If I were a Bush political advisor, I'd advise him to ask for congressional approval. It's the smart political move, because it engages in political jujitsu -- it ends the debate about the legalit of what happened in the fall of 2001 and refocuses attention on the merits of amending FISA. The liberal bloggers I read have allowed that amending FISA to allow what the NSA is currently doing might be appropriate. Like the House vote on Murtha's withdrawal proposal a few months ago, this kind of vote forces Bush critics to put up or shut up.

2) I still don't understand why Bush didn't include a FISA amendment in the Patriot Act when it was first passed in the fall of 2001. Can anyone explain this? Really, I blegging here.

3) Kevin Drum has been doing some excellent blogging on this topic. I can't really disagree with his characterization of the state of play right now.

UPDATE: The initial title to this post was a misnomer -- apologies.

posted by Dan at 08:16 PM | Comments (33) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!

I see Pejman Yousefzadeh has a suggestion for me:

Following Professor Ignatieff's lead, there is no reason whatsoever why we in America cannot elect academics to Congress. Indeed, now that Daniel Drezner will be decamping to Massachusetts, and given the fact that Ted Kennedy will be up for re-election this year . . .

Well, I don't have to draw a picture for you, do I?

Which is what inspired the title to this post. And also this link to a William Tecumseh Sherman quote.

[You're afraid of all the rumors involving you, Salma Hayek, and the butterscotch toppng, aren't you?--ed.] No, I've met politicians, and I know I'm not one of their breed.

I don't say this in a haughty, superior way, but rather with a sense of awe at the drive required to run for elected office in modern America. A few years ago I spent some time with a guy who was planning on running for Congress a year later. This guy wasn't a political legacy or anything, just someone who wanted to be a politician. What I remember about him was the focus, energy, and almost-animal appetite he brought to the task. He reveled in he things about campaigns that I would find infuriating. I found the experience akin to being in a room with the biggest, baddest alpha dog you've ever seen.

Sure, once you get elected, the advantages of incumbency are pretty powerful. But to get to that point, you not only have to desire the office, you have to desire making the journey as well. That's not me.

And so I teach instead....

[Wow, that was deep.... so what you're really afraid of are all the rumors involving you, Scarlett Johansson, and the buttersco--ed. Oh, give it up.]

posted by Dan at 10:09 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

A typology of glory walls

Slate's John Dickerson dissects the photos of George W. Bush with Jack Abramoff reported so breathlessly in Time. Far more important, however, is Dickerson's useful anthropological report about the hierarchy of Washington's "glory walls":

Are the photos the meaningless trinkets given out to big contributors? Or are they the meaningful trinkets that are a crucial part of the dance of influence between the White House and the lobbyists it uses to promote its agenda?

Understanding the Abramoff pictures requires investigating the absurd Washington phenomenon known as the "glory wall." Also called the "wall of fame," "me wall," and "ego wall," the glory wall is where members of the establishment flaunt their connections by displaying photos of themselves with more famous people. Lobbyists have glory walls in the office to impress clients. Staffers have them to impress other staffers. Socialites have their glory walls on the piano....

The truly famous have vast walls with candid photographs of themselves with presidents, jurists, and world leaders, usually with handwritten inscriptions scrawled at the bottom. Famed White House photographer Diana Walker has the most aesthetically pleasing glory wall: Her personal inscriptions are at the bottom of her own stunning photographs. Jack Valenti, a former Lyndon Johnson aide and former superlobbyist for the Motion Picture Association, has perhaps the most impressive photo of proximity to power. In the iconic photograph of Johnson taking the oath of office on Air Force One after Kennedy's assassination, Valenti is in the background, staring directly in to the camera.

Which brings us to the glory-wall hierarchy. Certain photos are worth more than others. Take presidential photos, for example. The Valenti photo is at the top: a picture that places you at a world-historical event. Next in prestige: you and the president, in casual clothes. After that: a shot of a president at your house. Below that, you and the president on Air Force One or in the Oval Office. And last: shaking hands with the president at some enormous, impersonal event.

The Abramoff-Bush pics are clearly in the bottom categories. The most potent picture, as described by Time, shows Abramoff, the president, several unidentified people, and a tribal leader in the Old Executive Office Building. Abramoff tried to sell such meetings to his clients as consultations with the president—that Bush was inviting the tribal leaders to Washington to get their views. Hooey. The president's performance at such meetings is brisk: pleasantries, remarks, handshakes, and he's out.

Bush doesn't need to stay long because the events are all about the picture, which is why the pictures are a political problem for the White House. Such pictures are a part of the reward system that help the White House run. White House officials know that when they give Abramoff or other lobbyists and political backers such photographs, they're going to use those photos out in the real world to claim that they have big-time access to Bush. For giving Abramoff this little bragging right, White House aides put influence in the bank.

posted by Dan at 01:22 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

No more "buy American"

What with Ford planning to lay off a few people over the next few years, there's going to be a lot of navel-gazing this week about the state of the U.S. auto sector.

Rick Popely and Deborah Horan have a story in today's Chicago Tribune that points out one big problem GM and Ford have -- the "Buy American" campaign doesn't work at crunch time anymore:

When domestic automakers had their backs to the wall 25 years ago, they could count on a "Buy American" sentiment to keep some customers from defecting to fuel-efficient foreign cars.

Today, many loyal domestic vehicle owners say they would be comfortable buying an import....

For one thing, it isn't even clear anymore what "Buy American" means when it comes to cars and trucks. Many of those new models from Toyota and others are built in places like Kentucky, Indiana and Alabama, while the Chevrolet Aveo is imported from South Korea. Meanwhile, some Dodge Ram pick-ups are built in Mexico. Dodge, of course, is a domestic brand, but it's owned by Germany-based DaimlerChrysler.

This blurring of vehicle origin means that Ford or GM can't rely on a "Buy American" marketing campaign.

Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing Research, says the confusion over national origin means consumers are less likely to try to help fellow Americans by buying a domestic vehicle.

"Basically, they throw their hands in the air and just buy what they like," Spinella said.

The lack of stigma attached to buying a foreign product goes beyond the auto industry.

Compared to the early 1980s, consumers face shelves stocked with foreign-made products--from televisions to running shoes. Often they don't notice the origin of what they purchase.

When CNW surveyed shoppers coming out of Wal-Mart stores, 75 percent said they preferred to buy American, yet an inspection of their purchases found that 90 percent were made in China.

"They don't even look to see where the stuff is made anymore. It's the price that matters," Spinella said.

It's not only price that matters, though, as the story points out later:
Though domestic brands get on the shopping lists of two-thirds of car buyers, Spinella said 20 percent of those people wind up buying an import because of better styling, a lower price or a unique feature.

For example, when Honda got into the pick-up market last year with the Ridgeline, the truck came with a novel lockable trunk in the cargo floor that holds a 72-quart cooler or three sets of golf clubs.

"Ford has been building pick-up trucks for a hundred years, yet no one thought to do that," Spinella said.

The only way Ford and GM can combat their Asian rivals is with innovative features like that, or with exciting models like the Chrysler 300, which looks like a Bentley luxury sedan.

"They just need to build some products people want to buy, something that people are excited about," Spinella said....

Ford has such a hit with the Fusion, a new midsize sedan that attracts one-third of its buyers from Asian and European brands, according to CNW, and GM's Pontiac division is attracting attention with the stylish Solstice, a two-seat sports car.

Ford and GM have steadily closed the quality gap with the leading Japanese brands in owner surveys like J.D. Power and Associates' initial-quality study, yet consumers are still leery.

"You can generate interest and excitement with styling and new products, but when it comes time to purchase, people demand a higher level of confidence and security," said Alexander Edwards, chief executive of Strategic Vision, a San Diego consulting firm.

That is one reason the Toyota Camry is America's favorite car, despite frequent criticism that it is bland. Consumers have confidence in the car and "trust in the brand," Edwards said, while domestic brands have failed to build similar trust.

posted by Dan at 10:57 AM | Comments (26) | Trackbacks (0)

Michael Ignatieff.... elected official

Ten days ago I blogged about Harvard professor Michael Ignatieff's quixotic campaign for parliament seat in Canada, as a member of the Liberal Party..

Well, the elections were yesterday, and the Liberals didn't do so well, according to the Chicago Tribune:

Canadian voters, saying they were fed up with financial scandals and ready for a change, ended the 12-year run of the ruling Liberal Party on Monday, ousting Prime Minister Paul Martin in favor of a Conservative Party likely to steer a path closer to the United States.

Nearly complete returns in the national election gave a strong victory to Conservative leader Stephen Harper, 46, an economist and political strategist from western Canada who jokes about being dull.

He shrugged off Martin's accusations that he is too cozy with U.S. conservatives for liberal-leaning Canada--the same accusations that crippled his candidacy in 2004.

While this is bad news for the Liberal party, CTV reports that Ignatieff weathered the backlash against the party and is now an elected official:
Liberal Michael Ignatieff, touted as a potential future party leader, passed his first political test Monday, shaking off a campaign marred by accusations of opportunism and ethnic slurs to win a west Toronto riding.

The 58-year-old political neophyte and Harvard academic kept Etobicoke-Lakeshore in the Liberal fold, defeating Conservative John Capobianco and NDP candidate Liam McHugh-Russell.

The Ignatieff win took on a new significance after Liberal Leader Paul Martin said early Tuesday he would soon step down.

"Now he's got to stick around and live up to the expectations that he might be the leader-in-waiting,'' said David Docherty, a political science professor at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont.

Ignaieff must now suffer the cruel fate of having political scientists talk about him in the media. [Could be worse..... could be bloggers!--ed.]

posted by Dan at 10:38 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, January 23, 2006

Bill Clinton is responsible for the Iran mess

So I see Brad DeLong is intervening intellectually outside his home area of expertise. Here are his latest thoughts on Iran (riffing off a Fareed Zakaria column):

Back in the George H.W. Bush administration the end of the Cold War broke the mold of world politics, and made new modes and orders of world affairs possible. George H. W. Bush and his advisors worked like dogs to establish two principles:
1. Aggression and conquest across national borders would be rolled back by the world community.

2. Superpowers would not intervene militarily outside their home regions without the blessing and support of the entire U.N. Security Council.

With these two principles in place, there was sound hope--well, some hope--that nonproliferation policy would succeed: diplomats could point out to countries thinking of developing nuclear programs that such programs (a) were expensive, (b) increased the chances that their citizens and cities would suffer thermonuclear death (are Pakistani and Indian citizens safer now that both have nuclear weapons? I do not think so), and (c) did not add to their national security--unless their government thought that it was so despicable and tyrannical that the entire Security Council would agree on its overthrow.

The George W. Bush administration broke principle number 2. It declared that there were three governments--Iraq's, Iran's, and North Korea's--that constituted an "axis of evil." North Korea's government claimed to have a nuclear deterrent and has survived. Iraq's government could not claim to have a nuclear deterrent and was overthrown. And Iran's government--and every other government--has drawn the natural conclusion: the threat of nuclear retaliation is the only protection against being overthrown by a U.S. president.

Let's clear some brush here:
1) DeLong's principle number 2 has not and likely never will be a cardinal element of American foreign policy, and anyone who tells you differently is selling you something.

This is not to say that the U.S. doesn't like the Security Council's imprimatur when it can get it. But neither George H.W. Bush nor Bill Clinton nor George W. Bush would ever say the Security Council gets a veto on out-of-theater military operations.

[But this allows other states to act in a similar manner!--ed. Yes, but since no other country has the logistical infrastructure to take military action against a country 3,000 miles away, that's a tradeoff most presidents can live with).

In fact, the two terms of the Clinton administration was one long, slow shift away from the Security Council's tendrils and towards clubbier multilateral institutions (NATO) as well as unilateral action. The Clinton team was fully prepared to take pre-emptive military action against North Korea in 1994 even though China would have vetoed any Security Council resolution authorizing force. They unilaterally struck both Afghanistan and Sudan following the 1998 embassy bombings. And, of course, they intervened in Kosovo with the blessing of NATO but not the Security Council.

By DeLong's logic, it's the Clinton administration's bellicose actions and rhetoric that forced the Iranians into proliferating. [UPDATE: Just to be perfectly clear -- I'm not really blaming Bill Clinton. I'm just taking DeLOng's argument, which I believe to be faulty, to its logical conclusion.]

2) DeLong's counterfactual is that if the Bush administration had not created an "Axis of Evil" or invaded Iraq, Ian would not be pursuing nuclear weapons. Yeah, not so much, no. Iran's nuclear ambitions -- and its weapons program -- did not spring forth from Bush's Axis of Evil speech. It comes from the fact that a) Iran is not located in the most stable region in the world; b) Iran's existential enemies -- the U.S. and Israel -- both have nukes; and c) The United States seems to be invading countries awfully close to Iran. I agree with DeLong that the administration is responsible for (c), but let's not kid ouurselves -- this was going to be a problem at some point.

3) I'm going to have to check, but I haven't been reading about any other countries -- or "every other government" -- frantically trying to acquire nuclear weapons since the invasion of Iraq. In fact, some countries -- such as LIbya -- have changed their minds and scrubbed their WMD programs. Other countries that one would expect to start proliferating, such as Japan, have not chosen to do so. This is partly due to the administration moderately successful Proliferation Security Initiative -- and it could also be due to the knock-on effect from invading Iraq. In fact, if memory serves, the Iraq invasion actually prompted the Iranians to want to cut a deal with the United States on its WMD program. An offer the Bush administration foolishly rejected.

There's a lot of blame to pin on the Bush administration for a whole bunch of policy sins. There's no need to invent nonexistent foreign policy doctrines for the administration to violate in the process.

UPDATE: Brad responds in good humor with this post. His key piece of evidence is a quotation from pp. 489-90 of Bush and Scowcroft's A World Transformed:

Trying to eliminate Saddam [Hussein in 1991], extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in 'mission creep,' and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs.... We would have been forced to... rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, there was no viable "exit strategy".... Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish...
To which I must reply -- look at p. 356, Brad!!:
We would ask the [Security] Council to act only if we knew in advance we had the backing of most of the Arab bloc and we were fairly certain we had the necessary votes. If at any point it became clear we could not succeed, we would back away from a UN mandate and cobble together a independent multinational effort built on friendly Arab and allied participation. The grounds for this would be the initial UN resolution condemning Iraq, the subsequent resolutions, and Article 51, along with a request from the Emir of Kuwait. In the end, if sanctions failed and it came to using force, [Richard] Haass and [Bob] Kimmitt reminded us that our ability to rally the necessary political support, with or without UN endorsement, would be enhanced significantly if we were seen to have tried hard to make diplomacy work [with Hussein].
I fear this intervention is turning into a quagmire for Professor DeLong :-)

posted by Dan at 11:44 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)

That's some interesting Islam in Morocco

Der Spiegel's Helene Zuber has an interesting story about how Morocco's government recent efflorts to fuse Islam, modernization, and civil rights. So far, it seems to be working:

Religion is making a comeback in Morocco, and more and more young, well-educated Moroccans are devouring the Koran. The new piety, no longer limited to the mosque or prayers at home, is evident in full public view. More and more women are wearing headscarves, even in Casablanca's western fashion enclaves and Rabat's gleaming shopping centers. The designers of expensive caftans -- creations of brocade and silk, embellished with gold thread -- are now selling their products as luxury couture for the next party, and their clientele is no longer limited to wealthy tourists.

Morocco's 42-year-old King Mohammed VI has discovered religion as a means of modernizing his society -- and progress through piety seems to be the order of the day. By granting new rights to women and strengthening civil liberties, the ruler of this country of 30 million on Africa's northern edge, which is 99 percent Muslim, plans to democratize Morocco through a tolerant interpretation of the Koran....

The Conseil Supérieur des Oulémas, or council of religious scholars, which the king installed a year and a half ago, has been issuing fatwas on the most pressing questions of the 21st century -- and, surprisingly, they've been well-received by both young people and hardened Islamists. If the king's reform plan succeeds, Morocco could become a model of democratic Islam....

Traditionally women are not permitted to speak out during prayer, so as not to "provoke" the men, explains Fatima al-Kabbaj, a graduate of the time-honored Islamic theological University of Karaouine in Fez and the first woman in the 16-member Council of Religious Scholars. Kabbaj instructed the king and his siblings in the laws of faith. She says that the monarch has recognized that women are better able to gain the trust of the illiterate, most of whom are also women. Besides, says Kabbaj, devout women are also more effective with the rural population and Morocco's four million poor than inaccessible imams....

But can the plan succeed? Can the Moroccan king control the interpretation of the Koran in a country where anyone can gain access to competing foreign views on the internet? The palace, at any rate, is willing to try anything. It's even set up a website that will enable the faithful to chat with religious scholars at 1,000 key mosques. In addition, Radio Coranique Mohammed VI has been broadcasting religious programming for more than a year. And during the last fasting period, the king not only had a woman lead the traditional religious discussion panel at the palace, but also inaugurated an Islamic satellite TV station.

Another tool in Mohammed's battle for the souls of his subjects is the "National Initiative for Development." Although officially more than half of the government's budget is spent on social projects, Morocco is still ranked 124th on the United Nations Human Development Index. With a budget of just under €25 million in immediate aid and another billion euros between 2006 and 2010, the government hopes to reduce poverty by half within the next five years.

If the king has his way, Moroccans will liberate themselves from the slogans and handouts of radical Islamist preachers. Although they may represent a threat to Mohammed VI's reform policies, the only Islamist party seen as capable of succeeding in next year's parliamentary election is the Justice and Development Party.

The party's young leaders are using the Turkish ruling party, AKP, and the German Christian Democrats as their model. In the eight cities controlled by the Islamists, they have already dispensed with prohibitions on serving alcohol, Western films and provocative swimwear -- knowing full well that Morocco's economy depends on tourism.

posted by Dan at 10:39 AM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The state of Afghan public opinion

The Program on International Policy Attitudes commissioned a survey in Afghanistan on how they feel about things. The results are pretty overwhelming:

A new poll of the Afghan public finds an overwhelming majority opposes al-Qaeda and the Taliban, endorses the overthrow of the Taliban and approves of the US military presence in Afghanistan.

Eighty-one percent of Afghans said they think that al-Qaeda is having a negative influence in the world with just 6% saying that it is having a positive influence. An even higher percentage—90%—said they have an unfavorable view of Osama bin Laden, with 75% saying they have a very unfavorable view. Just 5% said they have a favorable view (2% very favorable). These levels were slightly lower in the country’s war zone, the eastern and south-central part of the country: three in five (60%) in those areas had a very unfavorable view of bin Laden.

The poll was developed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes and fielded by ACSOR/D3 Systems, Inc. from November 27 to December 4, 2005, with a sample of 2,089 Afghan adults.

The fundamentalist Taliban that governed Afghanistan from 1996 until it was overthrown with the help of US forces in October 2001 received equally poor ratings. Eighty-eight percent said they have an unfavorable view of the Taliban (62% very unfavorable). Only 8% said they have a favorable view. In the war zone, a lesser 47% described their view of the Taliban as “very unfavorable,” but 81% were unfavorable nonetheless.

Perhaps most telling, 82% said that overthrowing the Taliban government was a good thing for Afghanistan, with just 11% saying it was a bad thing. In the war zone, 71% endorsed the Taliban’s overthrow while 16% saw it as a bad thing; in the north, 18% saw it as a bad thing.

These views were held by large majorities of all ethnic groups, including the large Pashtun and Tajik groups and the smaller Uzbek and Hazara groups. The Pashtuns were less emphatic in their rejection of the Taliban, with 51% expressing a very unfavorable view of the Taliban as compared to 66-79% for the other groups.

Equally large percentages endorse the US military presence in Afghanistan. Eighty-three percent said they have a favorable view of “the US military forces in our country” (39% very favorable). Just 17% have an unfavorable view.

International agencies also get a warm endorsement. An overwhelming 93% gave the United Nations favorable ratings (57% very favorable). International agencies providing aid for reconstruction were rated as effective by 79%, with 38% saying they are very effective.

Steven Kull, director of PIPA and principal investigator of the study comments, “It is remarkable that the country that was for years subjected to the totalitarian fundamentalism of the Taliban and hosted the al Qaeda as it planned 9-11, is now overwhelmingly rejecting them and welcoming the presence of the US and international agencies. Clearly this is a positive portent for the struggle against extreme fundamentalism.”

Click here for the topline results a a brief note on methodology.

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