Thursday, September 28, 2006

Is it possible to forge a world of liberty under law?

You can add another grand strategy to the pile of candidates proffered in recent months -- "progressive realism," "ethical realism," "realistic Wilsonianism," etc. The Princeton Project on National Security released its final report, Forging A World Of Liberty Under Law: U.S. National Security In The 21st Century.

One factor that distinguishes the Princeton Project from these other approaches was the degree of consultation. UPI's Martin Walker provides a nice precis:

The new strategy seeks to absorb the rising powers like China, India, Brazil and others into a law-based global economic and diplomatic structure that avoids open conflict by making them stakeholders within the system, and thus encouraged in their own interests to play by the rules.

Known as the Princeton Project, the venture lasted over two years and brought in over 400 participants, and was chaired jointly by the Reagan administration's former Secretary of State George Shultz and by former President Bill Clinton's national security adviser, Tony Lake.

The strategy they have devised, titled 'Liberty Under Law," seeks to chart of long-term course in the way that George F. Kennan in 1946 drafted the concept of "containment" that broadly defined U.S. policy in the Cold War for the next 45 years.

"The difference is that we soon came to realize that there is now no single threat as there was in 1946, so there can be no single theme like "containment," Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of Princeton's Woodrow Wilson school of public and international affairs and one of the directors of the project, and a former president of the American Society for International Law. [Slaughter co-directed the project with G. John Ikenberry--DWD.]

"There are now a series of threats, including global terrorism, nuclear proliferation, pandemics, the rise of Asia, the energy crisis and threats emanating from the Middle East becoming too numerous to count," Slaughter added.

A lot of bloggers were involved in the project -- Steve Clemons, Christopher Preble of Across the Aisle, everyone at TPM's America Abroad, a couple of the Democracy Arsenal gang, Nikolas Gvosdev, and yours truly. To be clear, however, none of us would necessarily endorse everything that's in this report. I do, however, agree with the point Anne-Marie and John make about the multiplicity of threats.

Read it and debate away.

posted by Dan at 11:20 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

What could be done on farm subsidies?

If the Doha round is ever to be resuscitated, it will require the United States to rethink its agricultural subsidies. The Financial Times' Doug Cameron reports on one possible rethink:

The US should offer to end distorting farm subsidies within five years in a bid to revive global trade talks and avoid a clampdown by the World Trade Organisation, according to a report released on Wednesday by an influential group of economists and agriculture officials.

Agricultural subsidies have emerged as the key barrier to progress in the stalled Doha round of multilateral trade talks, though such unilateral action by the US would face fierce opposition as the administration weighs new farm legislation next year....

The year-long study by the task force recommends a raft of measures to replace the existing US subsidy programme, which fed around $20bn to farmers last year, most of it focused on commodity crops such as cotton and corn.

Mike Johanns, the US agriculture secretary, has already stated that the system instituted by the existing farm bill in 2002 may have to change, targeting support at emerging sectors such as biofuels and avoiding further challenges by the WTO.

Brazil has already won at a case against US cotton subsidies through the WTO, and there are fears that this could trigger further challenges against crops such as rice and soyabeans.

“If we don’t take the lead in reducing and eventually ending trade-distorting subsidies, the WTO legal system will do it for us,” said Gus Schumacher, a task force co-chair and former USDA under-secretary who managed the farm subsidy programmes. “We’ll lose control of key farm policy tools and miss the export expansion opportunities in emerging markets that a successful Doha round could bring.”

The health of the US farm economy has improved after two years of bumper crops, rising exports to emerging markets and the boom in corn-derived ethanol, but influential lobbyists such as the American Farm Bureau are pushing for the existing subsidy regime to be extended.

The task force called for the system to be reformed to comply with WTO rules by introducing alternatives such as subsidised insurance programmes to counter poor harvests and sharp falls in global commodity prices. Other measures include new tax-efficient savings accounts for farmers and payments to support environmental initiatives.

Here's a link to the report from the Institute for International Economics and the organization formerly known as the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. This is the interesting part from the executive summary:
We propose that the entire grouping of product-specific, tradedistorting income and support programs, including countercyclical and loan deficiency payments, price supports, and federal crop insurance and disaster payments, be replaced with a new portfolio of approaches that are nondistorting and compliant with WTO green
box rules, including:
Direct payments that are delinked from specific types of production and from market conditions so as to comply fully with green box standards and that are only used during a transition period until other approaches are fully developed

A universal revenue insurance program covering all commodities on a multiproduct basis that allows farmers to purchase coverage at subsidized rates to protect against losses in price and in production

A new land stewardship program that recognizes and rewards the value of the environmental contributions made by farmers and pays producers according to the kind and amount of environmental goods and services they provide

Farmer savings accounts similar in structure to tax-deferred 401(k) accounts that are backed by government matching contributions and that could be tapped for a variety of farm household costs, including health care, education, or retirement savings

A significant investment in public goods that benefit the entire farm sector, including research and infrastructure projects; not less than 20 percent of the federal baseline funds currently committed to trade-distorting domestic support programs (in addition to money spent on stewardship and conservation programs) should be redirected to investments in these sectorwide public goods

Transition measures to protect farmers and owners of rented farmland against investment losses such as declining land values as a result of the proposed changes to support programs

The proper development, experimentation, and implementation of these new programs will take time, but should be accomplished within the five-to-six-year term of the next farm bill.
If it was up to me, I'd transfer more money away from agricultural progams, but that's a political nonstarter. The Chicago Council ask force has a lot of pragmatic ideas. Unfortunately, given the American Farm Bureau's happiness with the status quo and opposition to any change in subsidies prior to Doha's completion, I fear this approach is a nonstarter as well.

posted by Dan at 10:34 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Why are there no anti-Borat riots in Kazakhstan?

The New York Times' Steven Lee Myers looks at a question that I've wondered about from time to time -- what do the people of Kazakhstan think about Borat? The answer appears to be surprisingly liberal:

There is no Running of the Jews here. No one greets you with the expression “Jagshemash,” which is either nonsense, garbled Polish or mangled Czech; it’s hard to say. The country’s national drink is not made from horse urine, though fermented horse milk, or kumys, is considered a delicacy. (It tastes like effervescent yogurt.)

There is almost nothing, in short, remotely truthful in the satiric depiction of Kazakhstan popularized by Sacha Baron Cohen, the British comedian who plays a bumbling, boorish, anti-Semitic, homophobic and misogynistic Kazakh television reporter named Borat Sagdiyev.

And yet Borat — Mr. Cohen, that is — has managed to infuriate and confound the country’s officials. Their attempts to respond, to set the record straight, have resulted only in more attention here, where Borat’s antics, shown on British and American television and on the Internet, now make the rounds like samizdat from the long-gone days when the country was part of the Soviet Union....

“There is an unwritten rule that the president’s personality is never criticized,” said Baryz Bayen, a correspondent and editor for TV 31, a privately owned channel in Almaty.

Last fall Mr. Bayen prepared a six-minute feature on the controversy over Mr. Cohen’s MTV performance that included clips of the skit depicting Mr. Nazarbayev, borrowed from Russia’s NTV channel. Mr. Bayen cited a history of political satire dating to Molière and recalled an old refrain from Soviet times: “I have never read Solzhenitsyn, but I condemn him absolutely.”

“I do not feel any false patriotism,” said Mr. Bayen, who, like all ethnic Kazakhs, bears no resemblance to Borat whatsoever. “I saw portions of his show, and I can say it is funny.”

TV 31’s executive producer, Yevgeny Grundberg, said he hoped to send a correspondent to interview Mr. Cohen in character, reversing the roles in Borat’s acts, where his mock interviews have duped some subjects. So far, though, Mr. Cohen has not responded to his offer. He said Mr. Cohen’s satire was hyperbolic at best and wildly off the mark at worst but nonetheless served as an antidote to the articles and broadcasts that appear in official state media, where Kazakhstan is forever harmonious and prosperous.

“Most people take it normally,” he said, noting that those who have seen Borat remain a minority with access to the Internet or satellite television, where “Da Ali G Show” appears on Russian MTV, which is on cable television here. “The nation has changed enough for that.”

It is interesting that this Muslim country can take Borat with a grain of salt, whereas other jibes at Middle Eastern values provoke a more... frenzied response.

[Borat does not poke fun at Islam, whereas Mohammed cartoons do. You're comparing apples and oranges!!--ed. Maybe... except that nationalism can provoke just as much passion as religion, so I think the similarities are more important than the differences.]

Oh, and you can see the trailer for Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan by clicking here. As for Borat's reaction to the Kazakh government's denunciations, click here.

posted by Dan at 02:45 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Open NIE thread

Feel free to comment away on the declassified portion of the much-discussed NIE, now available online. I've already posted one tangential thought about it over at Open U.

The two obvious sections to highlight:

We assess that the global jihadist movement is decentralized, lacks a coherent global strategy, and is becoming more diffuse. New jihadist networks and cells, with anti-American agendas, are increasingly likely to emerge. The confluence of shared purpose and dispersed actors will make it harder to find and undermine jihadist groups....

Four underlying factors are fueling the spread of the jihadist movement: (1) Entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Western domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness; (2) the Iraq "jihad;" (3) the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and political reforms in many Muslim majority nations; and (4) pervasive anti-US sentiment among most Muslims--all of which jihadists exploit.

Shorter NIE fragment: The good news is that Al Qaeda is a less viable network than it was before 9/11 -- because of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, moves to combat financial networks that assist terrorist groups, and improved homeland security and counterintelligence. The bad news is that the groups looking for Al Qaeda's imprimatur have a whole bunch of new reasons on top of the old ones to attack the United States -- because of Iraq.

Based on this NIE fragment -- and according to Jane Harman, this fragment is "broadly consistent" with the overall thrust of the document -- there is simply no way to claim, ceteris paribus, that the invasion of Iraq has made the United States more secure against terrorist attacks.

UPDATE: Props to Ghost in the Machine for coming up with the best post title on this subject.

ANOTHER UPDATE: David Ignatius' column in today's Washington Post makes an important point:

The issue raised by the National Intelligence Estimate is much grimmer than the domestic political game. Iraq has fostered a new generation of terrorists. The question is what to do about that threat. How can America prevent Iraq from becoming a safe haven where the newly hatched terrorists will plan Sept. 11-scale attacks that could kill thousands of Americans? How do we restabilize a Middle East that today is dangerously unbalanced because of America's blunders in Iraq?

This should be the Democrats' moment, if they can translate the national anger over Iraq into a coherent strategy for that country. But with a few notable exceptions, the Democrats are mostly ducking the hard question of what to do next. They act as if all those America-hating terrorists will evaporate back into the sands of Anbar province if the United States pulls out its troops. Alas, that is not the case. That is the problem with Iraq -- it is not an easy mistake to fix.

Kevin Drum is nonplussed by this argument. .

posted by Dan at 10:55 PM | Comments (30) | Trackbacks (0)

The dog that is not barking in financial markets

Brad DeLong makes a good point in highlighting one positive sign from the Amaranth collapse:

Amaranth blows up following a trading strategy that either had no method at all to it or was a failed attempt to corner next spring's natural gas market.

Yet there is not a sign of disturbance to the markets. Amaranth's investors have lost what is now said to be $6 billion. Some other people have the $6 billion--if they can, in turn, unwind their positions. But the system cruises on with no worries about liquidity or solvency and no changes in risk premiums.

Reassuring, I think.

posted by Dan at 02:42 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

So what's our Iran policy right now?

I blogged in the spring about my puzzlement and confusion regarding U.S. foreign policy towards Iran. On the one hand, it was clear that certain elements of the Bush administration were not big fans of either direct or indirect dialogue.

On the other hand: [E]ven if this skepticism (towards negotiations and incentives) is warranted, exactly what is the hawkish set of policy options on Iran? Is there any coercive policy instrument that is a) publicly viable; and b) would actually compel Iran into compliance without negotiations?
I'm even more puzzled today.

First, Bill Gertz has a Washington Times exclusive that is clearly designed to torpedo one diplomatic option:

Iran is close to an agreement that would include a suspension of uranium enrichment but wants the deal to include a provision that the temporary halt be kept secret, according to Bush administration officials.

Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, has been working with Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani on the enrichment-suspension deal that could be completed this week.....

According to the officials, the suspension of uranium enrichment by Iran would be for 90 days, so additional talks could be held with several European nations.

Many U.S. officials are opposing the agreement as a further concession to Iran, which continues to defy a United Nations' call for a complete halt to uranium enrichment. A Security Council resolution had given Iran until Aug. 31 to stop its enrichment program or face the imposition of international sanctions. Tehran ignored the deadline, but diplomacy has continued.

Some in the State Department are supporting the deal, which they view as a step toward achieving a complete halt to uranium enrichment.

However, other officials said that keeping any suspension secret would be difficult and that it would drag the United States into further negotiations with Iran.

The officials opposed to the deal want any agreement on uranium suspension to be announced publicly.

Also, any suspension of enrichment would require International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections to verify that work has stopped at Iranian facilities. The inspections would likely be disclosed, exposing any secret arrangement with Iran on suspension.

Failing to publicly announce the suspension also would be a face-saving measure for the Iranian government.

Officials said President Bush is not happy with the secrecy demand, although he continues to support the use of diplomacy to solve the problem.

I have to wonder if Gertz asked his editors to headline his article, "A Story That By Its Very Existence Will Alter The Facts Reported In Said Story."

OK, so clearly diplomacy is not the policy du jour of this administration when it comes to Iran. How about sanctions? Here we come to Condoleezza Rice's comments to the Wall Street Journal editorial board:

QUESTION: What do you think about a gasoline embargo on Iran?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I just – I don’t think that it was anything that you have to look at it in the near term and I’m not sure that it would have the desired effect. One of the problems that we have is if indeed you would like not to have a situation in which you reinforce the leadership’s desire to make their people feel that America is anti-Iranian people, then you want to stay away from things that have a bad effect on the Iranian people to the degree that you can. You know, we’ve talked – people have talked for instance about barring Iranian students or barring Iranian – there was at one point the World Cup, you know, bar them from the World Cup or something like that.

The Iranian regime has been pretty insistent on a line of reasoning that this is not between the United States and the Iranian regime; this is between the United States and Iran, the culture, the people, its great national pride. And that’s something we really do have to fight against and some believe a gasoline embargo might play into that.

If you read the whole interview, it's clear that Rice favors financial sanctions ("Iran is not North Korea. It’s not isolated and it is pretty integrated into the international financial system. And that actually makes its potential isolation more damaging to Iran than for instance North Korea which, as you notice, has not been too thrilled with even the rather modest financial measures that we’ve taken against North Korea.").

That said, rejecting the gasoline embargo strikes me as a huge mistake. Iran is also not like North Korea in that there's actually a middle class in Tehran and environs that like their cheap gasoline very much, thank you. I concede that the possibility of a nationalist backlash is there -- but just because Ahmadinejad is painting the conflict as a civilizational one does not mean that Iranians are buying it. There's a decent possibility that of a lot of Iranians taking out their economic frustrations against Ahmadinejad's government -- especially after Iran's government spends so much on Hezbollah.

So, to review: there are administration efforts to sabotage the available diplomatic option, and the most powerful economic sanction has been rejected in the near term. I don't think financial sanctions will bite as much as the secretary, in part because it always takes a long time to implement and after the 1979 asset seizures the Iranians have moved down the learning curve on evading those kind of strictures.

What's left in the policy tool kit besides force?


UPDATE: Fareed Zakaria offers some suggestions that I am quite sure will be ignored by the Bush administration.

posted by Dan at 10:42 AM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (0)

Just a little of the old media bias

What does this distribution of cover stories imply about how Americans get their information about the world?

Hat tip: Passport's Carolyn O'Hara
posted by Dan at 10:29 AM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, September 25, 2006

The latest step in scholar-blogging

John Holbo has introduced a new and interesting book imprint series that he will edit called Glassbead:

Glassbead will exemplify what academic book publishing should be in another sense: namely, healthy public intellectual culture. We will purvey a wide variety of content—ranging from academic specialist works to journalism to critical editions of public domain fiction to new fiction. But we aim to make our mark with works that solve intellectual circulation problems—within the ivory tower and without. We will make books that are maximally available, searchable, usable—by the public and by academics. We will make books the general reader (not so mythical as sometimes reported) and the academic reader will want to make use of.

Our most distinctive offerings—our first releases—will be "book events." Born on blogs as massive, multi-reviewer online seminars, the book events are hybrid creatures, unknown in a paper age. We are proud of the critical work they do, the range of participants they have attracted. And, after the fact, they look quite nice on paper. And we hereby demonstrate what an intellectual gift culture can do for the rest of academic publishing. Not all of these books will be narrowly academic, but the case for their intellectual functionality is clearest in the scholarly cases, and perhaps clearest of all in the humanities. Every book published in the humanities should be widely read, discussed, publicly reviewed—should have it's own lively comment box, not to put too fine a point on it. Because any scholarly book incapable of rousing a measure of sustained, considerate, knowledgeable, intelligent criticism and downright bookchat from a few dozen souls specializing in that area . . . needn't have been published, after all. Turning the point around: in an age in which technology assures any book worth publishing can be accompanied by such an event, any book that lacks one has been sadly failed by the academic culture in which it was so unfortunate as to be born. We hope to do our part and, even more so, set an excellent example of how to keep ideas circulating.

There are several interesting implications of this project. Among the more obvious:
1) It's another means through which blog outputs can be translated into scholarly capital, as it were;

2) I predict John Holbo is going to find that people will be much nicer to him than in the past;

3) There will be the interesting question of whether these collections are better to get in .pdf format or in hard copy. From the first effort, I suspect it might be the former:

Paper has been a bit of a puzzle. We have opted to make it typographically clear where links appear in the electronic version. Readers of the paper version who wish to follow links can download the PDF version of the book from Parlor Press, or check the original posts.
Over at Open U., Jacob Levy is also enthusiastic.

posted by Dan at 09:35 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Must.... stop.... consuming.... ideological analogies

Via Greg Mankiw, I see that Niall Ferguson was interviewed by Harvey Blume in the Ideas section of the Boston Globe. An excerpt:

IDEAS: How do you understand radical Islamism? Is it, as some say, the successor to Marxism?

FERGUSON: It is. The great category error of our time is to equate radical Islamism with fascism. If you actually read what Osama bin Laden says, it's clearly Lenin plus the Koran. It's internationalist, revolutionary, and anticapitalist-rhetoric far more of the left than of the right. And radical Islamism is good at recruiting within our society, within western society generally. In western Europe, to an extent people underestimate here, the appeal of radical Islamism extends beyond Muslim communities.

IDEAS: To people who might once have been drawn to Marxism?

FERGUSON: And for much the same reason. Here is a way to reject the impure, corrupt qualities of western life and embrace a monotheistic zealotry. That's very satisfying.

Two quick thoughts:
1) Maybe, just maybe, radical islam is a kind of sui generis phenomenon tha would be best understood on its own terms rather than desperately trying to glom it onto secular totalitarian ideologies of the past;

2) Can anyone provide anything close to hard data to support Ferguson's contention that, "to an extent people underestimate here, the appeal of radical Islamism extends beyond Muslim communities"? That statement strikes me a very easy to say and very difficult to substantiate.

posted by Dan at 11:12 PM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (1)

The blogosphere as a labor saving device

Alex Tabarrok deconstructs how the mainstream media covers Wal-Mart's drug initiative -- so I don't have to.

posted by Dan at 10:57 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)