Saturday, August 5, 2006
Mexico is about to get very interesting
Mexico's electoral body has rejected a request by left-wing candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador for a full recount of votes from July's disputed election.Reporting for the AP, Traci Carl reports that Lopez Obrador's supporters are not taking the news well:
In Mexico's central plaza, thousands of protesters watched the court session on a huge screen, chanting "Vote by vote!" and drowning out the judges' statements. Representatives of Lopez Obrador walked out of the session in protest.Lopez Obrador's party controls the Mexico City government, so there is very little chance of the city trying to clear out his supporters. What will be interesting is whether the court decision will increase protests, or whether the current sit-in has turned off former supporters. As this New York Times story by James C. McKinley, Jr. suggests, the street protests are starting to annoy people:
The blockade looks more like a fair than a protest. City workers and party members have erected enormous circus-like tents the length of the avenue. There are stages where musicians entertain the protesters, and a photo exhibit of Mr. López Obrador’s life. A volleyball net had been set up, as well as a mini soccer field.Developing....
Thursday, August 3, 2006
Drezner on Weisberg on sanctions
So when someone alerted me to Jacob Weisberg's Slate essay on sanctions yesterday, I decided to take a look.
A quick survey (of sanctions cases): We began our economic embargo against North Korea in 1950. We've had one against Cuba since 1962. We first applied economic sanctions to Iran during the hostage crisis in 1979 and are currently trying for international sanctions aimed at getting the government there to suspend uranium enrichment. We attached trade sanctions to Burma beginning in 1990 and froze the assets of Sudan beginning in 1997. President Bush ordered sanctions against Zimbabwe in 2003 and against Syria beginning in 2004. We have also led major international sanctions campaigns against regimes since brought down by force of arms: Milosevic's Yugoslavia, Saddam's Iraq, and Taliban Afghanistan.Weisberg makes a valid point -- as a general rule, applying sanctions against rogue states unless and until there is regime change tends not to work.
However, against this important point, let me throw in a few modifiers:
1) Sanctions with more specifically tailored demands can work against authoritarian regimes. The 1979 financial sanctions against Iran did play an important role in the release of the hostages. The U.S. and U.N. sanctions against Libya led that country to surrender suspects in several airline bombings -- and probably played a supporting role in Libya's decision to renounce its WMD program. So, if the sanctioning country can be precise in what it wants, and is willing to settle for less than regime change, sanctions have the potential to work. The flaw in America's sanctions policy is not their use, but the tendency to overestimate the concessions sanctions can generate.UPDATE: On sanctions policy towards Cuba in particular, see this thoughtful post from Eugene Gholz from a few months back. It pretty much matches my skepticism about both sanctions and engagement strategies towards Cuba.
Wednesday, August 2, 2006
Iris Marion Young, R.I.P.
It would be safe to say that Iris and I disagreed a fair amount on matters of politics and policy. It would also be safe to say that I really did not care. Iris was one of the more decent people I've met in the academy -- indefatigable and interested in everything. Her students -- and there were many of them -- were devoted to her.
She had been suffering from cancer for the past year or so, not that this slowed her down all that much. The way she carried herself was remarkable -- not because Iris was all bulldog determination in the face of her illness and treatment, or any such maudlin sentiment. Rather, she was cheerfully unafraid to tell you exactly how she was feeling, and doing so in a way that filtered the awkwardness out of the conversation.
She was both brave and gentle, and she will be missed.
Calling all IR scholars!!! We've got a coding problem in the Middle East!!
Guest-posting for Instapundit, Michael Totten makes a provocative statement about democratic peace theory:
This war in the Middle East nearly demolishes the theory that democracies don't go to war with each other. Lebanon, aside from Hezbollah's state-within-a-state, is a democracy. At least it's an almost-democracy. Aside from my personal affection for Lebanon, the country where I recently lived, the only country other than the US where I've ever lived, this is what anguishes me the most: The Arab world's only democracy is being torn to pieces by another democracy.Question to the IR types in the audience: is Totten right?
The "aside from Hezbollah" is an awfully big aside. It suggests that Lebanon might better be coded as a "democratizing" state rather than a stable democracy -- and Ed Mansfield and Jack Snyder have demonstrated that democratizing states are the most violent regime type.
That said, one can argue that it is Israel, the established democracy, that expanded what had been a low-level border skirmish (by IR standards) into a war.
Given Hezbollah's role as instigator, and the failure of the Lebanese army to engage the IDF, it seems hard to code this as a violation of the democratic peace proposition. And yet, labeling this case as an exception carries the whiff of fitting the data to match the hypothesis.
Let the debate commence!!
The New York Times, they like to kid
From James McKinley Jr.'s front-page story in the New York Times, "Castro Is ‘Stable,’ but His Illness Presents Puzzle":
News that Mr. Castro had relinquished power for the first time in his 47-year rule prompted expressions of concern from leftist leaders in Latin America and set off immediate celebration among Cuban exiles in Miami.I'll concede that Fidel Castro must possess some charisma and ample amounts of political skill -- he's the longest-serving leader in the world, after all.
Since when, however, does the capacity to give six-hour speeches imply "rhetorical brilliance"?
There are many words that can be used to describe Castro's rhetorical style -- and "brilliance" is nowhere close to the top of that list.
Tuesday, August 1, 2006
Dogpiling on Mel Gibson
Unlike Andrew Sullivan, I really don't have much to say about Mel Gibson's drunken, anti-Semitic, misogynist rant against the cops who pulled him over for drunken driving last week. Mostly, this is because Tim Noah framed the event pretty well in Slate:
The best case that can be made for Gibson's belief system now is that he's anti-Semitic only when he's three sheets to the wind. And really, now. Are you in the habit of declaring, "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world" when you get pie-eyed? Or simply of muttering, "Fucking Jews"? Or of asking your arresting officer, "Are you a Jew?" (Here Gibson revealed an anti-Jewish bigotry so all-consuming that he couldn't even get his ethnic stereotypes straight. The Jews control international banking, Mel. It's the Irish who control the police.)Well, I have two more thoughts on the matter. The first is that there needs to be a term that describes the mechanism through which the New York Times manages to run stories about scandals while claiming that they are really metastories (In the past week alone, they managed a front-pager about the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes baby as well). To their credit, however, the Times story by Allison Hope Weiner contains this juicy tidbit: "On Monday, Hope Hartman, a spokeswoman for Disney’s ABC television network, said the company was dropping its plans to produce a Holocaust-themed miniseries in collaboration with Mr. Gibson."
Second, I'll ask my readers to suggest the likelihood of the following arc taking place:
1) Gibson repeatedly issues contrite apologies -- oh, wait, that's already happened.
Sometimes there is no selection bias
After David Ortiz hit his latest walk-off home run, I kept telling myself like a good social scientist, "Yes, we remember these events, but we don't remember the times when he has the opportunity and fails." In other words, much as I love David Ortiz, I was sure that the statistics would demonstrate that his walk-off capabilities were overrated.
Turns out, in this case, that perception is reality. From The Joy of Sox:
Since the end of the 2004 regular season, Ortiz has come to the plate in a walk-off situations 19 times -- and reached base 16 times. He is 11-for-14 (.786), with 7 HR and 20 RBI.Hat tip: Gordon Edes.
UPDATE: Bill Simmons has an enertaining column comparng Ortiz to Larry Bird in terms of coming through in the clutch:
Basketball stars have a 45-50 percent chance of coming through in the clutch. In Bird's case, he was a 50 percent shooter and a 90 percent free-throw shooter, so even if he was being double-teamed, 60/40 odds seem reasonable, especially if someone raises his game in those situations. But a star slugger gets on base 40 percent of the time, only Ortiz dials it up to the 60-70 percent range in big moments (as the stats back up). I can't believe I'm saying this, but Big Papi's current three-year stretch tops anything Bird came up with simply because the odds against Ortiz were greater.Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Ilya Somin has a discussion thread on this very important debate.
Monday, July 31, 2006
How isolated is Iran right now?
I find it amazing that despite the turmoil in the Middle East -- and the blame that many place on the United States for what's happening -- the Security Council still voted 14-1 to threaten Iran with economic sanctions unless that country suspended its nuclear enrichment and reprocessing activities.
The tricky thing about mythologizing history....
Robert Pringle, who served as U.S. ambassador to Mali from 1987 to 1990, wrote in the spring issue of The Wilson Quarterly on how Mali was able to preserve its democracy. This is not a trivial question -- socioeconomic indicators would predict, Fareed Zakaria-style, that Maliian democracy should not work.
Pringle's article is now available online. What's his explanation for Mali's success? Mythology:
Was Mali’s record simply the result of fortuitous good leadership, or was something more fundamental at work? To find out, I returned in 2004 and traveled throughout the country conducting interviews. When I asked Malians to explain their aptitude for democracy, their answers boiled down to “It’s the history, stupid,” of course expressed more politely....This is interesting, because the trouble with mythologizing the past is that it cuts both ways. Pringle might be correct that Mali's construction of history has led to the flourishing of a relative stable democracy in an unlikely locale.
However, one can point to other parts of the globe [Cough, cough, Serbia, cough--ed.] where mythology has been used to promote extremist ideologies instead.
So I'm not completely convinced that Pringle is correct in believing that the promotion of traditon is the way to promote democracy in Africa. The promotion of tradition can lead to a lot of things -- and not all of them good.