Thursday, April 13, 2006

Remind me again.... why hasn't Rumsfeld resigned?

The official position here at has been that Don Rumsfeld should have resigned about two years ago.

Thomas Ricks reports in the Washington Post that this has increasingly become the public position of Army commanders who have served in Iraq:

The retired commander of key forces in Iraq called yesterday for Donald H. Rumsfeld to step down, joining several other former top military commanders who have harshly criticized the defense secretary's authoritarian style for making the military's job more difficult.

"I think we need a fresh start" at the top of the Pentagon, retired Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004-2005, said in an interview. "We need leadership up there that respects the military as they expect the military to respect them. And that leadership needs to understand teamwork."

Batiste noted that many of his peers feel the same way. "It speaks volumes that guys like me are speaking out from retirement about the leadership climate in the Department of Defense," he said earlier yesterday on CNN.

Batiste's comments resonate especially within the Army: It is widely known there that he was offered a promotion to three-star rank to return to Iraq and be the No. 2 U.S. military officer there but he declined because he no longer wished to serve under Rumsfeld. Also, before going to Iraq, he worked at the highest level of the Pentagon, serving as the senior military assistant to Paul D. Wolfowitz, then the deputy secretary of defense.

Batiste said he believes that the administration's handling of the Iraq war has violated fundamental military principles, such as unity of command and unity of effort. In other interviews, Batiste has said he thinks the violation of another military principle -- ensuring there are enough forces -- helped create the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal by putting too much responsibility on incompetent officers and undertrained troops.

His comments follow similar recent high-profile attacks on Rumsfeld by three other retired flag officers, amid indications that many of their peers feel the same way. (emphasis added)

Peter Spiegel and Paul Richter put this into context in the Los Angeles Times:
The officers said that challenges to civilian policy were not new — similar opposition flared during the Clinton administration, particularly around the issue of gays in the military. But many of the latest condemnations come from officers who served in the Iraq war, and the controversy has split the ranks over whether attacks by those officers so soon after retiring are appropriate.

One current general who has debated the issue with high-ranking colleagues spoke, like others, on condition of anonymity when discussing actions of other officers.

"If every guy that retires starts sniping at their old bosses and acts like a political appointee, how do you think senior civilians start choosing their military leaders?" the general said. "Competence goes out the window. It's all about loyalty and pliability."

The general has a point.... but then again, don't Batiste and others have a point as well?

Question to Rummy-supporters: how can this kind of criticism be ignored? Why should Rummy still be the Secretary of Defense?

posted by Dan at 10:43 AM | Comments (83) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Open Mark Steyn thread

OK, the Sy Hersh thread seemed to prompt some vigorous discussion... so let's try the same thing with Mark Steyn's new essay in City Journal arguing that the Bush administration is correct to contemplate military action against the mullahs.

The key paragraphs:

The bad cop/worse cop routine the mullahs and their hothead President Ahmadinejad are playing in this period of alleged negotiation over Iran’s nuclear program is the best indication of how all negotiations with Iran will go once they’re ready to fly. This is the nuclear version of the NRA bumper sticker: “Guns Don’t Kill People. People Kill People.” Nukes don’t nuke nations. Nations nuke nations. When the Argentine junta seized British sovereign territory in the Falklands, the generals knew that the United Kingdom was a nuclear power, but they also knew that under no conceivable scenario would Her Majesty’s Government drop the big one on Buenos Aires. The Argie generals were able to assume decency on the part of the enemy, which is a useful thing to be able to do.

But in any contretemps with Iran the other party would be foolish to make a similar assumption. That will mean the contretemps will generally be resolved in Iran’s favor. In fact, if one were a Machiavellian mullah, the first thing one would do after acquiring nukes would be to hire some obvious loon like President Ahmaddamatree to front the program. He’s the equivalent of the yobbo in the English pub who says, “Oy, mate, you lookin’ at my bird?” You haven’t given her a glance, or him; you’re at the other end of the bar head down in the Daily Mirror, trying not to catch his eye. You don’t know whether he’s longing to nut you in the face or whether he just gets a kick out of terrifying you into thinking he wants to. But, either way, you just want to get out of the room in one piece. Kooks with nukes is one-way deterrence squared.

If Belgium becomes a nuclear power, the Dutch have no reason to believe it would be a factor in, say, negotiations over a joint highway project. But Iran’s nukes will be a factor in everything. If you think, for example, the European Union and others have been fairly craven over those Danish cartoons, imagine what they’d be like if a nuclear Tehran had demanded a formal apology, a suitable punishment for the newspaper, and blasphemy laws specifically outlawing representations of the Prophet. Iran with nukes will be a suicide bomber with a radioactive waist.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

posted by Dan at 07:26 AM | Comments (127) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The realist tradition in American public opinion

Remember my query about journalists' attitudes towards U.S. foreign policy from a few weeks back? It was a very small part of a paper I've written entitled, "The Realist Tradition in American Public Opinion", which I'll be presenting at Yale tomorrow. Here's the abstract:

For more than half a century, realist scholars of international relations have maintained that their theory is inimical to the American public. For a variety of reasons – national history, American exceptionalism – realists assert that the U.S. government pursues realist policies in spite of public opinion. This paper takes a closer look at the anti-realist assumption by examining survey data and the empirical literature on the mass public’s attitudes towards foreign policy priorities and worldviews, the use of force, and foreign economic policy. The results suggest that, far from disliking realism, Americans might be most comfortable with the logic of realpolitik. The persistence of the anti-realist assumption might be due to an ironic fact: American elites are more predisposed towards liberal internationalism than the rest of the American public.
One of the many germs from which this paper grew was from this blog post from two years ago.

posted by Dan at 11:40 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

Horror stories about anonmous peer review

Henry Farrell links to a Chronicle of Higher Education story by Jeffrey Young about how Microsoft Word's tags have eroded anonymity in peer review. Henry adds:

Word documents preserve a lot of metadata, including, very often, the author’s name – so that if you submit your review via a Word email attachment (as many journals ask you to these days), and the journal forwards the review unchanged to the article’s author, he or she can figure out who you are without having to play the usual guessing game. I’ve been aware of this for a couple of years (I carefully strip all data before sending reviews out, just in case) – but I suspect that many academics aren’t (some of them may not even realize that Word collates this data automatically).
I've been outed once as a reviewer after I rejected a piece, but it was not due to anything as high-tech as MS Word metadata.

I faxed the journal -- which shall remain nameless -- my review. The journal then faxed it to the paper-writer -- who shall also remain nameless. The problem was that the journal's fax to the writer contained my department's fax number and identification -- and from there it was pretty damn easy to identify the referee.

Here's a link for potential referees about how to stay anonymous if you electronically submit your referee reports.

posted by Dan at 11:33 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, April 10, 2006

The market for matchmakers

Craig Wilson has a story in USA Today about how high-end personal shoppers have added new functions -- such as trying to marry their clients off:

[Claire] Wexler's concierge service helps the wife-seeking man deal with, well, just about everything he needs in his search, from what flowers to send ("Not roses, they're trite") to what shoes to wear ("Brown goes with almost everything"). And if he has less romantic desires like finding a good doctor or choosing new appliances, she can handle that, too.

"Our concept is to build a one-stop shop of resources," says Barbie Adler, founder of 6-year-old Selective Search, where 100 well-heeled men — CEOs, professional athletes and the like — pay an annual fee of $10,000 for 15 "introductions" to some of the 30,000 "bright and talented" women she has in her database.

"They're not just arm candy, although we have that, too," she says. The women, called "affiliates," pay nothing to get in the game. Over the years, Wexler has found them mostly through word of mouth.

"We're the surrogate females in (clients' lives) until we can get them a female of their own," Adler says. "Our client is busy. They believe in outsourcing."

"We're the wing women," Wexler adds.

Three thoughts (beyond the obvious reference to Tyler Cowen's "markets in everything" meme):
1) You have to think that some Hollywood executive read this article today and immediately conceived of a romantic-comedy-starring-Rachel-McAdams-kind-of-like-The-Wedding-Planner-but-funnier-and-with-more-heart.

Some free advice for Ms. McAdams: "Run!! Run like it's a nekkid Vanity Fair cover shoot!! Run!!"

2) There's a Laura McKenna-type comment on the social significance of such services... but I'll just task this to Laura and any commenters willing to venture forth.

3) One of the suggestions that Alan Blinder makes in the current issue of Foreign Affairs about how to deall with the long-term impact of offshoring is to gear education towards jobs that require face-to-face interactions. This seems like the ne plus ultra of Blinder-style jobs. [That's all you're going to say about the Blinder article?--ed. I'll have more later in the week.]

posted by Dan at 09:55 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

Open Sy Hersh thread

I am on the road and will not be blogging up a storm for the next few days. However, continuing our conversation on Iran, readers should avail theselves of this Sy Hersh story in the New Yorker on U.S. preparations to attack Iran and comment away.

The two paragraph that stood out for me:

A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was “absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb” if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do “what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,” and “that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.”

One former defense official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the Bush Administration, told me that the military planning was premised on a belief that “a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.” He added, “I was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, ‘What are they smoking?’ ”

I think I'm at the point where I don't want any more legacies from the Bush administration.

UPDATE: Tyler Cowen offers his thoughts. Here's another question for readers: even if the intel on Iran is a slam dunk -- is anyone else bothered by the prospect of using tactical nuclear weapons as bunker-busters to ensure that Iran doesn't acquire nukes?

posted by Dan at 10:03 AM | Comments (85) | Trackbacks (0)