Friday, September 1, 2006

Thinking about The J Curve

I have a review of Ian Bremmer's The J Curve in today's Wall Street Journal (alas, subscriber only):

Ian Bremmer has a big idea, and the title of his book literally spells it out. He argues in “The J Curve” that the relationship between “stability” and “political and economic openness to the outside world” resembles nothing so much as the letter “J.”

Countries that close themselves off completely from outside influence—North Korea, for instance—can retain a measure of political stability. They inhabit the low up-curl of the J’s left side. Countries that are completely open—liberal democracies like the U.S.—are even more stable. They occupy the highest precincts of J’s tall main stem. As countries move from closure to openness, though, political stability will fall before it rises—they slide downward, at least at first, to the low well of the J. In some cases, the fall is so precipitous that it leads to failed states, such as Yugoslavia, Somalia and Nigeria....

For those who have paid little attention to the outside world for the past few years, “The J Curve” offers a useful primer. For everyone else, it will serve as a warning about the danger of fitting the world’s geopolitical complexity into a single letter.

You'll have to read the review to see why I was not convinced. Or, click here to view an excerpt from the book and draw your own conclusions.

I should also point out that I'm in the decided minority on being unimpressed, if these blurbs and these reviews are any indication.

Full disclosure: Ian was a few years ahead of me in the Stanford Ph.D. program in political science -- and he was nice enough to put me on The J Curve's blogroll.

posted by Dan at 09:17 AM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

Talk about talking across generations....

I attended a panel today entitled, "Reconstituting Intellectual Power in the Academy: A Conversation Across Generations," in which one of the elder members of the panel said (roughly) the following:

You have to understand, when I was in school we all thought the U.S. government was corrupt and inefficient. We were all influenced by the Teapot Dome scandal.....

posted by Dan at 12:03 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Gone to APSA -- go read something else I've written.

I'll be at the American Political Science Association annual meeting for the next couple of days. Posting may be light. Rookie APSA attendees should read click here.

In the meantime, devoted fans of can click here to read my just-released book from the Council on Foreign Relations, U.S. Trade Strategy: Free Versus Fair. From the press release:

While policymakers agree that promoting trade expansion serves U.S. national interests, they disagree on how to accomplish this goal. U.S.Trade Strategy: Free Versus Fair, by Tufts University’s Daniel W. Drezner, is a primer on trade policy. Written as a policy memo to an American president, this Council Critical Policy Choice (CPC), published by CFR press, does not argue for a particular policy but outlines two distinct options.

The “free trade” approach seeks to ensure the full realization of the economic and political benefits of free trade. It recommends a renewed commitment to the success of the Doharound of trade negotiations through top-level U.S.involvement in the negotiations and a willingness to resist domestic political pressures regarding issues such as outsourcing, textiles, and agriculture.

The “fair trade” approach seeks to balance the economic benefits of free trade with other values—community stability and income security, for instance—even at the cost of foregoing some of the benefits of trade. This approach recommends a tougher stance, in trade negotiations and in Congress, to ensure receptivity to American exports and to stem the tide of outsourcing and other potential threats to U.S.interests.

“Trade has become one of the most significant and controversial subjects in the international arena,” said Council President Richard N. Haass. “It is also one of the most complex. This book provides students, professors, and others a basic text that will help them better understand the many dimensions of trade policy and help them sort out where they stand on this critical issue.”

In addition to presenting these two alternatives, the book includes background papers on four recurring challenges to U.S. trade policy: balancing America’s trade and current account deficits, managing the intersection of trade policy and issues such as intellectual property and labor standards, supporting workers adversely affected by trade, and harmonizing the multiple tracks of trade diplomacy. The resulting product is a compact, accessible volume on the substance and politics of trade policy.

If you want to save yourself some dough and download the whole thing as a .pdf file, then click here.

Curious Fletcher students who have stumbled onto the blog can also get a sneak preview of my (still subject to last-minute changes) syllabus for DHP P217 -- Global Political Economy -- by clicking here.

posted by Dan at 06:22 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

You try changing the distribution of power in the IMF!!

Steven Weisman has a story in today's New York Times on U.S. efforts to rejigger the governance of the International Monetary Fund:

In an effort to gain Chinese cooperation on international economic issues, the Bush administration is pushing for China and other developing nations to get more power in the global institution that has played a central role in easing myriad financial crises since the end of World War II.

But the American-led effort to increase influence at the International Monetary Fund for China — and for South Korea, Turkey and Mexico, as well — is being resisted by several countries in Europe, which would lose power to those who would be gaining it....

At the same time, the administration is urging China to take on a greater role in promoting an open global trading system by helping restart the aborted trade talks sponsored by the World Trade Organization....

China is a particular focus of American interests because of the Bush administration’s uneasy relationship with the Beijing government and its desire for China to become a “stakeholder” in the international system, as American officials put it....

Critics of the Bush administration in Congress are calling on it to rebuff China’s demand for more power at the I.M.F. until Beijing revalues its currency in relation to the dollar.

But Mr. Adams and other American officials say that rather than limit China’s influence at the I.M.F., they want to increase its role there and make the lending institution a more aggressive monitor of currency manipulation by member nations.

“I would argue that by re-engineering the I.M.F. and giving China a bigger voice,” Mr. Adams said, “China will have a greater sense of responsibility for the institution’s mission.”

The initial proposed increases for China, South Korea, Turkey and Mexico in voting weight and quotas — which entitle members to more borrowing in emergencies — is viewed by Washington as a “down payment” for future changes increasing the power of many other countries, including oil-producing nations....

The American approach on the I.M.F. is seen as somewhat similar to the kind of changes officials want at the United Nations Security Council, where veto power is retained by the club of victors in World War II that are permanent members of the Council: the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France. Washington wants to expand the permanent membership to include Japan and at least one major developing country.

Voting at the I.M.F. is determined in part by a quota system that calculates how much a country must contribute to the fund and how much it can borrow in emergencies. The United States has 30 percent of the world economy but only a 17 percent share of the quota system....

[M]any recipients of the 1990’s bailouts are now sitting on large reserves that can be used to help other countries in the future. The American approach is to enlist these countries in maintaining an international system rather than having them go their own way.

There are a lot of interesting theoretical and policy debates wrapped up in this story:
1) Is it possible to smoothly reconfigure the distribution of power in an international governmental oganization (IGO)? Recent efforts to do so in the U.N. Security Council have borne little fruit -- because the losers from such a change will use their institutional prerogatives to resist such changes.

2) In terms of the distribution of interests, the U.S. is generally better off with European countries wielding disproportionate amounts of power in IGOs. The gamble here seems to be that by offering more influence to China and other advanced developing countries, there will be no radical break with the current rules of the game. Is this a belated example of John Ikenberry's "binding" strategy?

3) In terms of global governance, there is a contradiction at the heart of the EU's attempts to forge a common foreign and security policy. The more cohesive the EU looks, the greater its perceived power -- butpart of that power lies in the fact that EU countries hold individual votes in a lot of IGOs. If a common foreign policy comes to fruition, at what point should the EU be given a single vote rather than the 25 votes the members currently possess?

4) What will the content of the IMF's policies look like if China and other developing countries acquire greater sway?

5) Will the tacit grand bargain between the U.S. and China -- China acquiring greater influence within IGOs, China modifying its economic policies to assuage American concerns -- actually take place? 6) If I had told you five years ago that Weisman would write the following sentence:

But because the I.M.F. has not recently had a major crisis, some economists joke that with little to do, board members have the luxury of squabbling among themselves for power over an organization with an ill-defined mission.
would you have believed me?

posted by Dan at 08:50 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Tom Lantos steps into a big foreign policy snafu

Many thanks to Greg Djerejian, Bill Petti, and (especially) Eugene Gholz for articulating why Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA) is f***ing up U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, saving me time and effort.

posted by Dan at 08:49 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

The lost act of Waiting for Godot

My diavlog with Mickey Kaus is now available at Among the topics discussed: Hezbollah, Ana Marie Cox's literary style, rational choice theory, Paris Hilton, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Kaus' declining stock as a pundit, sacred beliefs, immigration, Wal-Mart, and the best way to watch [Did you say Paris Hilton?--ed. Yes, click here if you want to jump to that part of the conversation.]

As for the title of this post, click here for an explanation.

UPDATE: Incidentally, here is the New York Times story on immigration that I discuss in the diavlog. What I say about the percentage of immigrants being Mexican is incorrect. I'm actually glad I'm wrong about this, I might add.

posted by Dan at 07:35 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

How bad was Hezbollah hurt?

Last month I posted the following caveat to my blogging about the Lebanon conflict:

[I]it is possible that Hezbollah has suffered far greater losses than we know. There is an asymmetry in the reporting of the conflict -- reporters clearly have much greater access to the Israeli military than Hezbollah. While it's in both sides' interest to keep published reports of their losses to a minimum, it's institutionally tougher for Israel to do this.

As a result, the Israeli losses are known -- the Hezbollah losses are not completely known.

So the war is over now -- how bad was Hezbollah hurt?

I still don't know the answer. According to Greg Djerejian, Hezbollah has acted so swiftly to reconstruct and rebuild the affected portions of Lebanon that, "Hizbollah's vast independent network undermines the state and encourages criticism of the cash-strapped central government."

On the other hand, according to Michael Totten, Hezbollah is acting in a quite chastened manner in South Lebanon:

[T]he most recent development in Hezbollah’s post-war saga is frankly humiliating.
Hizbullah has dismantled 14 outposts on the Israel-Lebanon border near the Shaba Farms, Lebanese security sources said Monday.

Reportedly, the group evacuated the posts using trucks to carry artillery, other weapons and military equipment, while bulldozers blocked access to tunnels and bunkers.

Witnesses said that the vehicles laden with weapons and other military equipment were headed northward.

A French news agency reported that the Lebanese army had deployed troops along the border with Syria and that its soldiers had blocked routes used by weapons smugglers.

I challenge my readers to parse out these contradictory developments.

UPDATE: Below is an extract from an e-mail relayed to me by someone within the "defense establishment" -- make of it what you will:

1. All serious military analysts in the US, Iran and Israel understand that Hezbollah suffered an enormous defeat on the battlefield.

2. However, Hezbollah’s military branch developed a technique to nullify the tactic that the IDF normally uses in cross-border raids. Specifically, the IDF often conducts raids by quickly sending in a platoon backed up by a few tanks/mobile armor units. By arming their fighters with anti-tank weapons, Hezbollah nullified the tank advantage. By using tunnels, they were able to surprise the IDF infantry and evade reprisal.

3. In response, IDF changed tactics. Specifically, they activated massive reserves and then flooded the areas with troops. This nullifies the Hezbollah technique because the IDF could cut retreat routes, block routes to other tunnels, and can quickly kill the people who pop out of tunnels. In short, after you take a cheap shot at the IDF and you try to run, you will encounter more IDF.

4. In the last days, when the IDF called its reserves, Hezbollah lost much ground and was powerless to stop most IDF actions.

5. Also, the strategy of distributing rockets throughout the population is very effective for publicity. Though the rockets themselves cause relatively little damage and have little effective military use, they are easy to use, hard to stop and are sensational (in the sense that they bring attention).

posted by Dan at 11:31 AM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, August 28, 2006

A post in which I make several calls for action

I see that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is in the Middle East and asking everyone to behave nicely:

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, currently in Beirut on the first leg of his shuttle diplomacy to the Middle East, has called on Israel to lift its blockade of Lebanon and urged Hizbollah to free two captured Israeli soldiers.

Mr. Annan made his remarks after meeting Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and his cabinet to further discuss implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 that ended the recent month-long conflict between Hizbollah and Israel.

“The Secretary-General… called for the lifting of the Israeli blockade and the return of the Israeli soldiers. He also stressed the importance of having ‘one law, one authority and one gun’ in Lebanon,” United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

Let me add my call to Mr. Annan's.

[And what will that accomplish?--ed. Nothing... which is pretty much what Kofi's request will accomplish. Hmmm..... while I'm at it, in the interest of international goodwill and peace I urgently call on Salma Hayek to meet with me, sans advisors, for at least two six uninterrupted hours.]

If this Financial Times story by Roula Khalaf and Sharmila Devi is correct, I doubt Hezbollah will be listening to Annan anytime soon: "when he toured the devastated areas in the southern Beirut suburbs, Mr Annan was booed by some of the group’s supporters who held pictures of Hassan Nasrallah, the Hizbollah chief."

posted by Dan at 10:16 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)


From Mickey Kaus:

If you haven't been called by a booker to appear on TV all year, and you are not called to appear this weekend--even by a cable channel, even by FOX, even on Saturday--it's fair to say that you will never be called.
But, but, but..... I just got a new suit!!

[Don't worry, like Mickey you don't need them--ed.]

posted by Dan at 08:34 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

The ultimate Nth year

Anyone getting a Ph.D. knows about nth years. These are graduate students who have been around so long that no other student possess the institutional memory to know when they entered the doctoral program. Nth years serve the very useful purpose of scaring the living crap out of the other graduate students, motivating them to finish their dissertations before they unwittingly morph into an nth year themselves.

There are nth years, and at the University of Chicago, there are nth years:

After a long and fruitful career, 79-year-old master’s degree graduate Herbert Baum has returned to the University of Chicago to earn his Ph.D. The oldest person ever to be awarded a doctorate by the University, Baum will receive the degree in economics Friday, Aug. 25.

When he left the University in 1951 to become a government agricultural economist in Washington, D.C., Baum had a master’s degree and was just short of writing his dissertation to earn a doctorate.

His dissertation contributes to agricultural economics by examining how to measure the impact of fees charged producers for commodity promotion and research. The thesis, based on a case study of the strawberry industry in California in which he was a leader, developed a model for researchers to understand the long-term value of the fees assessed growers. The model shows how the policies of the state strawberry commission, which supported research into improved varieties, improved production per acre and grower profitability.

James Heckman, the Henry Scultz Distinguished Service Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2000, was a member of a committee that also included two other Nobel Prizes. Heckman said of Baum’s work, “Herb Baum’s Ph. D. thesis is a well executed study of an industry partially monopolized by government authority. His application of basic price theory to understand the consequences of this policy is in the best tradition of empirical price theory at Chicago. He combines theory with evidence in a convincing way in a serious piece of research on a major agricultural industry.”

Quite the dissertation committee:
[Milton] Friedman, the Snowden Russell Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Economics, was one of the faculty members who approved granting Baum a Ph.D. Joining Friedman on the committee were Nobel Prize-winning economists Gary Becker, University Professor in Economics, and committee chair James Heckman. Roger Myerson, the William C. Norby Professor in Economics, also served on the committee.

Baum based his dissertation on his life’s work and titled it: “Quest for the Perfect Strawberry; A Case Study of the California Strawberry Commission and the Strawberry Industry: A Descriptive Model for Marketing Order Evaluation”.

To be fair soon-to-be-Dr. Baum, he's not a true nth year, since he left the university an accomplished something.

Academic readers are invited to share any horror stories they know about nth years.

posted by Dan at 05:05 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Your Katherine Harris update for the week

It appears Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Katherine Harris has stepped into some more hot water, according to the Associated Press:

U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris told a weekly religious journal that God and the nation's founding fathers did not intend the country be "a nation of secular laws" and made other comments that have drawn criticism in recent days.

The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate also said that if Christians are not elected to political office politicians will "legislate sin," citing abortion and gay marriage as two examples in an interview published Thursday.

Harris made the comments - which she clarified Saturday - in the Florida Baptist Witness, the weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State Convention. The publication interviewed political candidates, asking them questions about religion and their positions on issues.

Let's go to the actual Florida Baptist Witness interview to see what she said... yes, yes I believe I have found the problematic answers:
Q: What role do you think people of faith should play in politics and government?

A: The Bible says we are to be salt and light. And salt and light means not just in the church and not just as a teacher or as a pastor or a banker or a lawyer, but in government and we have to have elected officials in government and we have to have the faithful in government and over time, that lie we have been told, the separation of church and state, people have internalized, thinking that they needed to avoid politics and that is so wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers. And if we are the ones not actively involved in electing those godly men and women and if people aren’t involved in helping godly men in getting elected than we’re going to have a nation of secular laws. That’s not what our founding fathers intended and that’s certainly isn’t what God intended. So it’s really important that members of the church know people’s stands....

Q: Why should Florida Baptists care about this primary election?

A: ....the real issue is why should Baptists care, why should people care? If you are not electing Christians, tried and true, under public scrutiny and pressure, if you’re not electing Christians then in essence you are going to legislate sin. They can legislate sin. They can say that abortion is alright. They can vote to sustain gay marriage. And that will take western civilization, indeed other nations because people look to our country as one nation as under God and whenever we legislate sin and we say abortion is permissible and we say gay unions are permissible, then average citizens who are not Christians, because they don’t know better, we are leading them astray and it’s wrong. ...

Harris' campaign has issued a "statement of clarification" in response to the brouhaha:
In the interview, Harris was speaking to a Christian audience, addressing a common misperception that people of faith should not be actively involved in government. Addressing this Christian publication, Harris provided a statement that explains her deep grounding in Judeo-Christian values.
The statement would also appear to explain her shallow grounding in American history.

[This entire post was just an excuse to link to this Ana Marie Cox post, wasn't it?--ed. Nolo contendre.]

posted by Dan at 08:11 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)