Friday, June 9, 2006

Drezner gets results from Richard Lugar!!

Senator Richard Lugar has an op-ed in the International Herald-Tribune that sounds a theme familiar to readers of -- high energy prices hurt the developing world a hell of a lot more than the developed world:

As we in the West contend with spiraling world crude prices, we must remember that they can be devastating to developing countries, blunting the effectiveness of foreign aid and the push for democracy. This is more than a humanitarian issue - it is also a global security concern that demands our urgent attention.

By stunting development and increasing poverty, high world oil prices contribute to instability that can lead to internal civil strife and regional conflict. More ominously, they help build the resentments and frustrations that breed terrorism. That's why the United States' quest for energy security must encompass global energy security too. Lessening America's petroleum use will not have its maximum potential geopolitical impact if others simply consume the oil we save, keeping markets tight and prices high, with the producers in control and the poor- country importers impoverished.

posted by Dan at 10:55 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, June 8, 2006

The role of partisanship in American politics

It's been a busy day for the partisanship meme today.

In The American Prospect, Marc Schmitt points out what many have observed in the past -- the rising ideological purity of both Democrats and Republicans:

If there is a voter backlash against the GOP this November, it will be aimed at the far-right Republicans who've been running the party. But, like a quail-hunting Dick Cheney, it will instead take out an unintended target—the so-called "moderate" Republicans who are somewhat pro-environment, more or less pro-choice, and sometimes labor-friendly leftovers of the genteel GOP tradition. Generally speaking, these are the only Republicans in vulnerable districts.

Shed no tears for the Republican moderates. As Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said at a Prospect-sponsored breakfast in May, they are "enablers" of the culture of corruption. But the disappearance of Republicans who were willing to deviate occasionally from right-wing orthodoxy will mark a major change in our political life and culture. Back in 1994, many conservative Democrats were wiped out in the election and the party switching that followed. This year, whether Democrats win enough seats to control the House or not, the second shoe will drop. The hardening of our country into a parliamentary democracy, with two parties representing distinct ideologies and political traditions, will be complete.

Is this a bad thing? Polarized partisanship makes it hard to get things done, unless one party controls everything, as in a real parliament. Or could it be a good thing? In 1950, political scientists issued a plea for American parties to become just like this—ideologically coherent and "responsible," modeled on the British parliamentary parties. The answer doesn't matter; this is the way it's going to be. It may turn out that the political framework of the 20th century—in which conservative and moderate factions in each of the two parties overlapped, and shifting bipartisan coalitions were always the way things got done—was the anomaly, a living fossil dating from the peculiar history of the post-Reconstruction South.

Anomalous or not, that framework is exactly what almost everyone in Washington was trained for. We were all brought up knowing that the first thing you must do to pass legislation is to build a solid bipartisan coalition. But soon, whether we choose partisanship or not, we will all be absorbed into a more partisan world, and those who fight that trend will be left behind....

One of the arguments of the 1950 political scientists was for this very result, to reduce the influence of "the pressure groups," because ideas would move through the parties rather than through external, unaccountable groups. But the political framework of the late 20th century had a lot going for it. In theory if not always in practice, it could find consensus and more stable solutions to public problems. But it's going, and in its place we will have a more rigid system in which the parties themselves dominate. The conservatives probably figured this out first and embraced it, thus explaining much of their political success in the last decade. Liberals can lament the loss of the old pluralist world, but we had better move on and deal with the new.

Oddly enough, partisanship is also the theme of Tom DeLay's valedictory address to the House of Representatives. I've never been a big fan of DeLay, but his address offers an interesting rejoinder to Schmitt:
In preparing for today, I found that it is customary in speeches such as these to reminisce about the "good old days" of political harmony and across-the-aisle camaraderie, and to lament the bitter, divisive partisan rancor that supposedly now weakens our democracy.

I can’t do that. Because partisanship, Mr. Speaker — properly understood — is not a symptom of a democracy’s weakness, but of its health and strength — especially from the perspective of a political conservative....

Indeed, the common lament over the rise in political partisanship is often nothing more than a veiled complaint instead about the rise of political conservatism. I should add here that I do not begrudge liberals their nostalgia for the days of a timid, docile, and permanent Republican minority. If we Republicans had ever enjoyed the same luxury over the last twelve years… Heck, I’d be nostalgic, too!

Had liberals not fought us tooth and nail over tax cuts and budget cuts and energy and Iraq and partial-birth abortion, those of us on this side of the aisle can only imagine all the additional things we could have accomplished. But the fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, they didn’t agree with us.

So — to their credit — they stood up to us. They argued with us. And they did so honorably, on behalf of more than 100 million people, just like we did against President Clinton, and they did against President Reagan....

The point is: we disagree. On first principles, Mr. Speaker, we disagree. And so we debate — often loudly, and often in vain — to convince our opponents and the American people of our point of view. We debate here on the House floor. We debate in committees. We debate on television, and on radio, and on the Internet, and in the newspapers. And then every two years, we have a HUGE debate… and then in November we see who won.

That is not rancor.

That is democracy!

You show me a nation without partisanship, and I’ll show you a tyranny.

For all its faults, it is partisanship — based on core principles — that clarifies our debates, that prevents one party from straying too far from the mainstream, and that constantly refreshes our politics with new ideas and new leaders.

Indeed, whatever role partisanship may have played in my own retirement today — or in the unfriendliness heaped upon other leaders in other times, Republican and Democrat, however unjust — all we can say is that partisanship is the worst means of settling fundamental political differences… except for all the others.

Now, politics demands compromise, Mr. Speaker, and even the most partisan among us have to understand that. But we must never forget that compromise and bipartisanship are means, not ends, and are properly employed only in the service of higher principles.

It is not the principled partisan, however obnoxious he may seem to his opponents, who degrades our public debate, but the preening, self-styled statesman who elevates compromise to a first-principle. For true statesmen, Mr. Speaker, are not defined by what they compromise, but what they don’t.

Two cavils to DeLay's farewell address. First, the defense of "higher principles" would have a better ring to it if the Hammer hadn't played such a large role in policies that served no ideological purpose other than dishing large slabs of pork to favored constituencies.

Second -- and this is where I break ranks with both DeLay and Schmitt -- I don't think Democrats and Republicans disagree on the first principles of governing. I'm not even sure they disagree on second principles. There are policy differences, to be sure -- but Carl Schmitt (not relation to Marc) does not travel well to these shores -- no matter what Alan Wolfe says.

If Marc Schmitt is correct, then the next few years will be an interesting test of my beliefs.

posted by Dan at 08:39 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

Open Zarqawi thread

Accoding to both U.S. and Iraqi officials, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in an airstrike today.

Question to readers: what effect, if any, will this have on the security situation in Iraq?

UPDATE: I do like this AP headline: "Around the world, al-Zarqawi death praised"

ANOTHER UPDATE: Greg Djerejian has some instant analysis that is worh reading.

posted by Dan at 08:01 AM | Comments (32) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Is Mark Malloch Brown really a diplomat?

Yesterday Kofi Annan's deputy, Mark Malloch Brown, gave a speech in which he asserted the following:

[A]s someone who has spent most of his adult life in this country, only a part of it at the UN, I hope you will take it in the spirit in which it is meant: as a sincere and constructive critique of US policy towards the UN by a friend and admirer. Because the fact is that the prevailing practice of seeking to use the UN almost by stealth as a diplomatic tool while failing to stand up for it against its domestic critics is simply not sustainable. You will lose the UN one way or another....

Americans complain about the UN’s bureaucracy, weak decision-making, the lack of accountable modern management structures and the political divisions of the General Assembly here in New York. And my response is, “guilty on all counts”.

But why?

In significant part because the US has not stuck with its project -- its professed wish to have a strong, effective United Nations -- in a systematic way. Secretary Albright and others here today have played extraordinary leadership roles in US-UN relations, for which I salute them. But in the eyes of the rest of the world, US commitment tends to ebb much more than it flows. And in recent years, the enormously divisive issue of Iraq and the big stick of financial withholding have come to define an unhappy marriage.

As someone who deals with Washington almost daily, I know this is unfair to the very real effort all three Secretaries of State I have worked with –- Secretary Albright, Secretary Powell and Secretary Rice -– put into UN issues. And today, on a very wide number of areas, from Lebanon and Afghanistan to Syria, Iran and the Palestinian issue, the US is constructively engaged with the UN. But that is not well known or understood, in part because much of the public discourse that reaches the US heartland has been largely abandoned to its loudest detractors such as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. That is what I mean by “stealth” diplomacy: the UN’s role is in effect a secret in Middle America even as it is highlighted in the Middle East and other parts of the world.

Exacerbating matters is the widely held perception, even among many US allies, that the US tends to hold on to maximalist positions when it could be finding middle ground.

Democracy Arsenal's Suzanne Nossel was at the conference where Brown gave his speech, and it even made her cringe a little:
He argues that the UN's role is a secret in middle America because of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh's disinformation campaigns. That's true, but its been true for years despite efforts by organizations like the UN Foundation and UN Association to address the ignorance and publicize the UN's important contributions. What we need is creative and new ideas for how to turn this around, not more ranting about why American perceptions of the UN aren't what they should be.

He's acknowledging that the Group of 77 developing countries have opposed vital reforms to, for example, give the SYG the authority to properly manage the UN, for example by being able to hire and fire and shift around posts to meet priorities. I hope he doesn't attribute their recalcitrance wholly to resentment toward the U.S. . . . yup, he just did. He argues they oppose reasonable proposals just because we back them. But there's more to it. Those obsolete posts are filled by country-nationals who often have their home missions in thrall.

He's calling for no more take-it-or-leave-it demands by the US. Yet often take-it-or-leave-it is all that works. It was Holbrooke's approach to getting an agreement on US dues to the UN paid.

So, if Nossel thinks the speech was overblown, how do you think John Bolton is going to react?

Let's go to the AP and find out!!:

It was a rare instance of a senior U.N. official directly and openly criticizing a member state. An unwritten U.N. rule says high-ranking officials don't name names or shame nations.

Yet Malloch Brown and even Annan have done so in the past. Last year, with the U.N. under intense criticism over the Iraq oil for food program, Annan said opponents of the U.N. had been "relentless," and the world body wasn't fighting back enough.

U.S. officials, including Bolton, said they were especially upset that Malloch Brown, a Briton, mentioned "Middle America."

Bolton said Malloch Brown's "condescending, patronizing tone about the American people" was the worst part about the speech.

"Fundamentally and very sadly, this was a criticism of the American people, not the American government, by an international civil servant," Bolton said. "It's just illegitimate."....

Bolton warned that Malloch Brown's comments could undermine the reforms that Annan wants and that the United States supports.

"To have the deputy secretary-general criticize the United States in such a manner can only do grave harm to the United Nations," Bolton said. "Even though the target of the speech was the United States, the victim, I fear, will be the United Nations."

I wager to say that Bolton is hopping mad about this. How do I know? Because I, a lowly blogger, was e-mailed this story by Bolton's deputy press secretary. And I'm guessing others were as well.

Bolton might be mad, but he's also right -- the speech will hurt the UN more than it will help it in this country. Brown's speech will do for U.S. attitudes towards the UN what Mearsheimer and Walt's "Israel Lobby" article did towards elite attitudes towards U.S. policy towards the Middle East -- it will roil everyone up, but the kernels of insight contained in the speech (Brown makes a good point about the merits of UN peacekeeping) will be safely ignored because of the rhetorical and conceptual overkill.

There is one big difference, however -- Mearsheimer and Walt were academics trying to be provocative -- Brown is ostensibly a UN diplomat. He says his speech was meant as, "a sincere and constructive critique of US policy towards the UN by a friend and admirer," but in characterizing Middle America as moronic xenophobes, he's creating the very attitude he seeks to change.

UPDATE: Kyle Spector at FP's Passport points out that Bolton's reaction might be equally overdramatic:

Brown's speech, including the criticism that the US uses "the UN almost by stealth as a diplomatic tool while failing to stand up for it against its domestic critics" was, for Bolton, the "worst mistake" in 17 years by a UN official.

Right. Never mind the now scandalous oil-for-food program or the failure to prevent a genocide in Rwanda.

posted by Dan at 02:16 PM | Comments (64) | Trackbacks (0)

What is new and essential in international relations?

Tyler Cowen worries that after a burst of innovation in the late eighties, economics has gone a bit stale:

I see mid-1980s as the end of a great era in economic theorizing. Take game theory, principal-agent theory, and the economics of information, and apply them to everything, for better or worse. This was an exciting, indeed intoxicating, time to learn economics. While applications continue, we have run out of new ideas on those fronts. Experimental economics is completely Nobel-worthy, but it is now over forty years old. What are the next breakthroughs or the breakthroughs which have just been made?
Readers have requested more IR theory posts, so let's take Tyler's question and apply it to international relations. What has been written in the past decade that is essential reading for an up and coming IR grad student?

[What do you think?--ed. I'll add my picks in a few hours. For now I'll just observe that my thoughts run to books rather than articles, and I'm not sure that's a good thing.]

posted by Dan at 09:16 AM | Comments (22) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Davos has so jumped the shark

Rob Long has a very amusing piece at on how celebrities can maximize their star poweer to pursue foreign policy agendas:

Welcome to the fascinating world of foreign policy! It’s wonderful that Hollywood has taken such an interest in world affairs—the hotel lobbies and corridors of Davos have never been so glittering, and hotspots in Africa and the Middle East are sprinkled with stardust. Boffo kudos, as we say in the business.

The world, though, is a complicated and treacherous place. It’s impossible, really, to convey the pitfalls and booby traps waiting out there as you venture far outside the 310 area code. Playing to the lefty Academy Awards crowd is fine, but that instinct may get you into trouble in, say, Caracas or Pyongyang. If you say something that delights a Fidel Castro or a Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, chances are it’s going to go over badly back home—and for good reason.

Still, your success in navigating the ferociously competitive world of Hollywood is the ideal training for global activism. Think about it: The entertainment industry is characterized almost entirely by shrieking egomaniacs, psychotic dictators, money-losing operations, clueless bureaucrats, corrosive nepotism, enormous travel allowances, and fraudulent accounting practices—not unlike most large nongovernmental organizations, the World Economic Forum, and the continent of Africa. You are well prepared to succeed on the world stage.

Apparently, going to the Davos Economic Forum is a no-no:
Honestly, Davos is a no-win situation for you. You won’t be the most famous person there; that honor will inevitably go to Bill Clinton. You won’t be the richest; that honor will go to Bill Gates. You won’t really get the respect or the attention that you deserve. It’s sort of like going to the Oscars when you’re not nominated. No matter how famous you are, people will wonder what, exactly, you’re doing there. You’ll be photographed in a swank hotel lobby with a lot of short men in dark suits. Someone will try to hire you to appear in a commercial in Bahrain. The scientists and techies will ignore you. The Economist will print something snarky about you. Davos is a terrible costar.
Read the whole thing.

[Do you have any more advice?--ed. Oh, yes... lots of very valuable advice... but I'm saving myself for a particular Academy award-nominated actress.]

posted by Dan at 08:12 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Has Al Qaeda acquired a new base?

I've occasionally riffed about how Al Qaeda acts like the Tampa Bay Devil Rays Kansas City Royals of world politics. However, this was predicated on the assumption that Al Qaeda had lost their base in Afghanistan and failed to acquire a new one.

Which brings me to Somalia, and the takeover of Mogadishu by an entity called the Union of Islamic Courts. There are some very disturbing parallels between what's happening in Mogadishu, Somalia right now and what happened in Afghanistan when the Taliban took over Kabul. Consider this BBC report:

The Islamic Courts say they want to promote Islamic law rather than clan allegiance, which has divided Somalis over the past 15 years.

However, all but one of the 11 courts is associated with just one clan - the Hawiye, who dominate the capital....

The Union's public face is its chairman Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate who sought to assure Somalis and the international community this week that the Islamic Courts were no threat and only wanted order.

But the Union does contain radical elements.

Two of the 11 courts are seen as militant; one is led by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, on an American list of terrorism suspects because he used to head al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, which was linked to al-Qaeda.

Mr Aweys says al-Itihaad no longer exists and also denies accusations from some western diplomats and observers that there are training grounds for Islamic fighters in Somalia.

He is, however, strongly critical of the United States and its "war on terror"....

During the years of warfare and anarchy, many Somalis have increasingly turned to their faith for some sort of stability.

One visible sign is that before the civil war began in the 1980s, very few women wore headscarves in Mogadishu.

Now, almost every woman wears a headscarf and an increasing number are wearing veils covering their faces, with just narrow slits for the eyes.

Even those Mogadishu residents who are wary of Islamic extremism may welcome a single group being in control of the capital for the first time in 15 years, saying there will at least be some authority.

And many will prefer Islamic preachers to the warlords who have fought over and in many cases systematically looted the city since 1991.

This July 2005 report from the International Crisis Group about Somalia does not make me feel any more sanguine.

James Gordon Meek has a roundup of U.S. intelligence views in the New York Daily News:

"Now you've got a safe haven for al-Qaida," said a defense intelligence official monitoring the country that was used as a base to stage attacks on two U.S. embassies and an Israeli resort in East Africa. "It's definitely a concern."

However, current and former U.S. officials told the New York Daily News that Osama bin Laden's terror network isn't firmly established in Somalia, though the country hasn't had a central government in 15 years.

U.S. Special Forces teams have found no signs of a firm al-Qaida presence, such as terror training camps, sources said.

"Probably our worst fears have not materialized," said recently retired CIA counterterrorism official Paul Pillar.

But Pillar said events in Mogadishu this week are "somewhat similar" to how the Taliban ended infighting by Afghan warlords in the 1990s, brought peace to a war weary country and gave sanctuary to bin Laden's training camps. Pillar said the CIA is likely telling its operatives to "collect, collect, collect" intelligence urgently.

"Having a place to stage attacks in that area is going to be attractive" to al-Qaida, warned former National Counterterrorism Center chief John Brennan.

Developing.... and not in a good way at all.

posted by Dan at 07:55 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, June 4, 2006

So long, Chicago

As of today, my family and I are no longer residents of Chicago.

It is a bittersweet departure, for obvious reasons. However, it's also a good time to reflect on what I will miss and what I won't miss about the place....


1) The workshop system. This will always be the U of C's comparative advantage. The paper workshops -- especially PIPES -- were a place where ideas and theories were ripped apart and then stitched back together by the faculty and graduate students. I will sorely miss the looks of shock and awe from visiting presenters when they see their paper expertly dissected by a 2nd-year graduate student.

2) My walk to work in the spring. When the miniature lilac bushes bloom on 57th street, the scent is one of the best stress-reducers around. Plus, any commute that requires walking past Robie House every day is a good thing.

3) My synagogue. I would not have thought this five years ago, but as it turned out our synagogue was the way through whivch we got to know our community. I'll miss the building, I'll miss the people... I'll even miss the unrelentingly liberal sermons at Kol Nidre.

4) Istria cafe. Those guys could whip up a mean skim mocha.

5) A competitive market in air travel. I've travelled anough in recent years to appreciate the fact that I was in a city serviced by almost every airline -- which meant I could usually find a nonstop, reasonably priced flight to anywhere I needed to go.

1) The Co-op supermarket. There is one supermarket in the Hyde Park neighborhood, and it is just awful. How awful? We stopped shopping there after our first few years in Chicago -- as this Chicago Maroon essay points out, "how can a supermarket chain that charges higher prices and offers lower quality products sustain itself?" Never have I seen a better advertisement for the evils of barriers to entry than that sorry excuse of a store.

2) The traffic. At least the Big Dig is done.... but the Dan Ryan will be under construction for years.

3) The anti-business culture in the South Side. Click here for one example. Ask the owners of Istria about how long it took them to open up their store for another example.

4) The short springs. This past May was typical -- cold as hell for the first two weeks, then oppressively hot and humid for a week, and then one nice week of spring. On the other hand, as one cabbie put it to me, "Of course the weather stinks in Chicago. If it didn't, 20 million peiople would live here."

5) Not enough Red Sox games on television. I didn't say my complaints were reasonable, they're just complaints!!

Time to turn the page. On to Boston!!

posted by Dan at 09:03 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)