Friday, July 14, 2006
The fluid situation in Lebanon
You know a crisis is still in a fluid state when major U.S. newspapers take opposing positions on in their new analysis of the situation.
For example -- how have the Israeli attacks affected Hezbollah's political position in Lebanon?
A few short months ago, representatives of every Lebanese faction gathered in central Beirut and discussed many of the issues that divide them - including how and when to disarm the Hezbollah militia.In the Washington Post, Anthony Shadid takes a different position:
The radical Shiite movement Hezbollah and its leader, Hasan Nasrallah, hold an effective veto in Lebanese politics, and the group's military prowess has heartened its supporters at home and abroad in the Arab world. But that same force of arms has begun to endanger Hezbollah's long-term standing in a country where critics accuse it of dragging Lebanon into an unwinnable conflict the government neither chose nor wants to fight.Developing....
Thursday, July 13, 2006
The trouble with bubble diplomacy
While in Berlin, a friend told me what may or may not be an apocryphal story about during George W. Bush's last visit to Berlin. There was apparently a photo op planned for the president's car to pull up to the Chancellery building in Berlin, where the German prime minister lives and works. Apparently, Bush armored limousine was so heavy, it would have chewed up the cobblestone driveway. The U.S. solution to this problem? Have the Germans repave the road.
I bring this up because of this Deutshe Welle report on Bush's visit to Stralsund -- a German resort on the Baltic coast:
The two-day stop in Merkel's constituency on the Baltic Sea coast is meant to give the two leaders time to get to know each other better, as well as show Bush the "real Germany."Click on this UPI story for more about the security arrangements.
In fairness to Bush's advance team, I suspect that some of this article could have been written about any president with a modern security detail. Still, there's got to be a way for a president to shrink the security bubble.
Open Israel/Hezbollah/Hamas thread
Against my better judgment, here's a thread for commenting on recent developments in Israel, Lebanon, and the occupied territories.
In The New Republic, Yossi Klein Halevi send shivers down my spine with this opening paragraph:
The next Middle East war--Israel against genocidal Islamism--has begun. The first stage of the war started two weeks ago, with the Israeli incursion into Gaza in response to the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier and the ongoing shelling of Israeli towns and kibbutzim; now, with Hezbollah's latest attack, the war has spread to southern Lebanon. Ultimately, though, Israel's antagonists won't be Hamas and Hezbollah but their patrons, Iran and Syria. The war will go on for months, perhaps several years. There may be lulls in the fighting, perhaps even temporary agreements and prisoner exchanges. But those periods of calm will be mere respites.Greg Djerejian approximates my level of worry:
The temperature is getting very hot indeed among Israel and her neighbors. A humanitarian crisis looms in Gaza, and there is talk of turning the clock back 20 years on Lebanon's infrastructure by some in Israel's military. Olmert has talked very tough too ("act of war"), somewhat understandably, as he must be seen to be able to step up into Sharon's big shoes as credible guarantor of Israel's national security....UPDATE: Two more thoughts. First, I suspect the Economist wishes it could go into the "way back" machine and erase this part of a story on Israel and Hamas from last week:
Mr Olmert has reportedly been rejecting the army's most ambitious plans. In the longer run, Mr [former head of the army's strategic planning Shlomo] Brom thinks, Israel's “new rules” may mean an attempt to create a balance similar to the one on its border with Lebanon. There, tough Israeli responses to every attack by Hizbullah's militants are credited with bringing about an uneasy but largely successful detente.Second, I suspect the Kadima plan for a unilateral withdrawal of the West Bank is now a DOA policy. At the current moment, ordinary Israelis will not buy the idea that unilteral withdrawal increases Israeli security.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
So you want to publish an op-ed....
In the latest issue of International Studies Perspectives, Douglas Borer has an essay entitled, "Rejected by the New York Times? Why Academics Struggle to Get Published in National Newspapers." Here's how it opens:
At one time or another the bug to write an editorial strikes many in our profession. Our motivation is driven by disgust in what we see in the media, where many of the pundits are, for lack of a more nuanced description, idiots.Fortunately, Borer then focuses most of his ire at academic folkways:
The first hurdle to overcome is schizophrenia when it comes to following rules. While academics suffer no hesitation when placing limits on students' term papers, professors generally do not like to follow similar restrictions. Because our first foray into editorial writing is usually for a local newspaper, bad habits form quickly. A decade ago, my colleagues at Virginia Tech informed me that the Roanoke Times would publish essays of almost any length that a Tech professor submitted. If I had something to say, and needed 1,500 words to say it, I simply sent my over-stuffed story, and presto! I was playing the smug role of public intellectual. Move over Tom Friedman, this was easy!That last line applies to blogs as well.
Your interesting argument for the day
In fact, it's looking more and more likely that the eight states of the Southwest and the broader interior West -- Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming -- are on their way to becoming the next great swing region in American politics. As the Republican Party tilts on its South-West axis, increasingly favoring southern values (religion, morality, tradition) over western ones (freedom, independence, privacy), the Democrats have been presented with a tremendous opportunity. If the Republican Party doesn't want to lose its hold over all of the West, as it lost hold of once-reliable California more than a decade ago, its leaders are going to have to rethink their embrace of big-government, big-religion conservatism.Read the whole thing, and see if you're convinced. I'm only about 50% convinced -- but it's interesting.
Hat tip to Virginia Postrel for the link.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
The State Department is really hard up
Here's more fodder: I'll be in Germany for the rest of this week as part of a State Department speaker program that brings U.S. experts overseas to speak to German expert audiences on such topics as economics, trade and global affairs.
Blogging will likely be intermittent for the rest of the week.
Discussion topic amongst yourselves: what will Iraq look like a year from now?
Is it a good idea to podcast lectures?
That's the question being debated in this Christina Silva story in the Boston Globe:
Hoping to appeal to tech-savvy students with a shrinking attention span, more Boston-area colleges are pushing professors to go digital and record their lectures as downloadable files that student can listen to wherever, whenever....My take: some students would use podcasts as a substitute for attending lectures, others will use it as intended. The ones who use it as a substitute probably know it's not as good as attending the lecture itself, but are willing to pay the price in terms of lower grades.
I'm curious what other professors and students think.
Monday, July 10, 2006
I think Barbara Ehrenreich needs a time out
Without wading into the deeper waters of feminist thought -- a swim for which I might lack the proper training -- I did find my jaw dropping as I read this passage:
Cox is not the first post-feminist to denounce paleo-feminists as sexless prudes. Ever since Andrea Dworkin -- a truly puritanical feminist -- waged war on pornography, there've been plenty of feisty women ready to defend Victoria's Secret as a beachhead of liberation. Something similar happened in the 1920s, when newly enfranchised young women blew off those frumpy old suffragists and declared their right to smoke cigarettes, wear short skirts, and dance the Charleston all night.I find it hard to believe that there is any dimension in which the situation for women -- in the U.S. and across the globe -- is gloomier today than it was in the 1920's. There might be isolated exceptions in some countries, but by any aggregate measure -- women's suffrage, employment opportunities, educational opportunities -- I cannot see how Ehrenreich's implication holds.
I dare my readers to prove my assertion wrong.
This seems like good news
There's not a lot of good news out there today, so let's engage in a little counter-programming before we get to it.
A British drug company is seeking permission to conduct the first human trials of an experimental vaccine against the avian flu virus.