Thursday, October 12, 2006
Robert D. Kaplan's exaggeration of the day
Robert D. Kaplan, "When North Korea Falls," The Atlantic Monthly, June 2006.
UPDATE: Just to clear up any confusion, Kaplan is talking about being deployed in South Korea.
Boy, my tribe can be dumb sometimes
Michael Powell has a story in the Washington Post about how Tony Judt got prevented from speaking at the Polish Consulate last week:
Two major American Jewish organizations helped block a prominent New York University historian from speaking at the Polish consulate here last week, saying the academic was too critical of Israel and American Jewry.I might think Tony Judt is wrong about the Israel Lobby, and I think his one-state solution to the Israel/Palestinian problem borders on delusional, but if the ADL and AJC did what Powell implies, their behavior is absurd, counterproductive, and, frankly, un-American.
If they think Judt is wrong, say so, protest his talk, critique his arguments, the whole megillah -- but preventing him from speaking merely provides fodder for Judt's claim about the stifling of debate in this country.
UPDATE: Suzy Hansen has more background on what happened in the New York Observer. After reading the story, the extent of ADL and AJC pressure is still not clear to me.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Hey, this Jew really does control Mel Gibson
From my August 1, 2006 blog post, "Dogpiling on Mel Gibson," here's the beginning of my predicted narrative arc for Gibson:
1) Gibson repeatedly issues contrite apologies -- oh, wait, that's already happened.From ABC News, "Mel Gibson Says He Feels 'Powerless Over Everything'":
In an exclusive interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, Mel Gibson talks about his recent D.U.I. arrest, his battle with alcoholism and his anti-Semitic remarks.I'm not right about a lot, but I was right about J. Lo, and now Mel comes through for me as well.
I'm elsewhere in the blogosphere
If blog posts are light this week, it's for two reasons:
1) I'm trying to debug the comment spam problem (and tech-savvy readers, feel free to e-mail me advice on this one).Go check them out!
So how's the Kyoto Protocol working out?
I'm shocked, shocked at this Associated Press report that some industrialized nations might not be living up to their Kyoto Protocol obligations:
With few exceptions, the world’s big industrialized nations are struggling to meet the greenhouse gas reductions they committed to in the embattled Kyoto pact on climate change. Europe is veering off course, Japan is still far from its target and Canada has given up.Hat tip: Jonathan Adler at the Volokh Conspiracy.
The report does observe that the EU as a whole could achieve its target -- provided that they "make full use of carbon credits for investing in clean technology projects in developing countries." However, another AP report by Charles Hanley points out the pitfalls of trading scheme as implemented:
As the world grows warmer, poorer nations are helping the rich by reining in heat-trapping gases in a multibillion-dollar "carbon trade" that is outrunning its U.N. overseers and founding principles, and spawning conflicts of interest and possible abuse....UPDATE: Ah, it appears that the EU has devised a new way to ensure countries honor their commitments to halt global warming. Sounds like some commissioners must have been talking to Joe Stiglitz.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
China, China... what to do about China?
Cfr.org is hosting a debate between Stephen Roach and Desmond Lachman on "Is China Growing at the United States' Expense?" The (somewhat hyperbolic) overview:
The Chinese economic boom could change the global order and lift Beijing above Washington in economic might and influence. The United States is worried about China's tactic of undervaluing its currency to boost exports, but Beijing has resisted repeated calls to raise the yuan's value. The result has been a boost for U.S. consumers buying low-cost Chinese goods, as well as what some say is a severe trade imbalance. In addition, the overheating of the Chinese economy would have worldwide repercussions. The U.S. Congress has entertained threats of trade retaliation, but administration policymakers have adopted a more cautious approach.Go check it out.
Monday, October 9, 2006
Are economic sanctions an option for North Korea?
Now that North Korea has conducted a nuclear test, and now that China and North Korea are actually upset about it, what is the appropriate policy response?
First, let's acknowledge that a military strategy is not terribly viable. I suspect that North Korea's military, as in other communist societies, is not quite as fearsome as defense analysts assert. This suspicion includes whether their nuclear test was really as successful as they claimed. That said, I have every confidence that the DPRK could rain a hellfire of conventional missiles and artillery shells upon Seoul -- so there's no point going there.
When it comes to sanctions, the Guardian's Ewen MacAskill suggests that the UN Security Council will be reluctant to go all-out because it's haunted by the Iraq sanctions:
Negotiations between the council members will centre on a draft resolution prepared by the US that sets out punitive measures including a trade ban on military and luxury items, authorising the inspection of all cargo entering or leaving the country, and freezing assets connected with its weapons programmes. Mr Bolton last night distributed the document listing a broad range of sanctions.This problem is pretty much a red herring, because of a grisly fact -- the DPRK leadership has essentially been sanctioning its own people for the past fifteen years. The only North Koreans who benefit from the current structure of the DPRK economy are the elite. Assuming that China and South Korea buy in, sanctions against North Korea would actually have a powerful effect.
Perhaps too powerful -- a point that Aditya Tiwathia raises ove at Passport:
So what can be done? Deepening its isolation, as Ian Bremmer points out in his book, The J-Curve, only shores up the regime. Even if sanctions succeed in regime collapse, that's the last thing that neighbors China and South Korea want. As Ivo H. Daalder points out, this would flood them with millions of destitute refugees and destabilize the region. That explains their minimal enthusiasm for Washington's hardline approach in the six-party talks.Tiwathia's positive analysis is correct, but her normative assessment is not. Given the history of the DPRK, regime collapse is the best policy outcome. An eventual DPRK metamorphosis into a peaceful, capitalist-friendly state would be the best outcome.... in Fantasyland. Here on the planet Earth, that's just not going to happen.
So, how to get China and South Korea to favor regime colapse? Ralph Cossa makes some good suggestions in the International Herald-Tribune:
Beijing should also note that economic sanctions imposed as a result of a nuclear test will be accompanied by an "open border" policy and the establishment of UN-sponsored refugee camps on the Chinese side of the Yalu River. China, at North Korea's insistence, presently forces most refugees to return, where they meet a most unpleasant fate. This policy must change.Now it might be more cost-effective to pay off the DPRK periodically rather than pay to reconstruct the North. Given the DPRK's willingness to proliferate, however, I say sanction them. Sanction them now. And sanction them with the Security Council's imprimatur.
Open North Korea test thread
Comment away on North Korea's decision to see whether the rest of the world will pay attention to it now that it's apparently conducted a nuclear test. According to the official DPRK statement, "[The test] was carried out under scientific consideration and careful calculation.... It will contribute to defending the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the area around it." Oh, so there's nothing to worry about then.
The DPRK [North Korea] ignored universal opposition of the international community and flagrantly conducted the nuclear test on October 9. The Chinese government is resolutely opposed to it.We'll see if the South Koreans are equally perturbed.
More later if possible -- I have discivered my hell on earth and it is being trapped in the Miami International Airport waiting five hours with the kids for a flight for which we only have standby status.
UPDATE: Comments appear to be down. I'll try to get Movable Type on the case.
In the mean time, because Amos Bitzan took the time to e-mail me his comment, it goes in the post:
The Chinese may be pissed off but there is nothing they or the South Koreans can really do. Neither country wants the NK regime to collapse right now. They are just going to have to increase the shipments of food and energy to Pyongyang. In any case, it's another MASSIVE failure for the Bush administration. The US should have been at the table with North Korea, carrying out bilateral talks, a long time ago. I think the South Koreans will be more perturbed by further Bush bungling or by Japanese plans to beef up their military (or, God forbid, go nuclear themselves) than by the North Korean test. In any case, a military solution is simply not in the cards. If only Bush had not been so insistent on linking North Korea to Iran. Now there...that's a real problem. And now he's put himself in the position where a concession to NK also means a victory for Iran because - hey - they're both part of the Axis of Evil.
Sunday, October 8, 2006
What is the utility of price stability?
In the Detroit Free Press, Alejandro Bodipo-Memba has an odd story about OPEC's declining influence over oil prices -- and why this might be a bad thing:
But as the price of crude oil -- the feedstock for gasoline -- creeps back up on news that several members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries plan production cuts, it's clear that the cartel no longer wields the power over fuel costs that it once did.This is an odd story for a few reasons.
First, the claim that "OPEC's use of production controls... often benefited U.S. consumers" is certainly an interesting one. Saudi Arabia was certainly responsible for whatever downward pressure there was on oil prices during this period -- but claiming that OPEC kept oil prices low during this period is certainly an interesting one.
Second, if you look at the OPEC statement cited in the story, it becomes clear that OPEC's motives might differ somewhat from what Bodipo-Memba ascribes to them:
The reasons for this protracted volatility are, by now, familiar to OPEC Bulletin readers and relate to an unusual convergence of factors: the exceptionally strong world economic growth and, in turn, oil demand growth, especially in developing countries; the slow-down in non-OPEC supply growth, although this is picking-up again; tightness in the downstream sectors of major consumer countries; geopolitical concerns; major natural disasters; and heightened levels of speculative behaviour....This assessment has some truth.... but it's also a way for OPEC to say, "Don't blame us for the high prices that are enriching our members."
Finally, Bodipo-Memba overlooks the obvious angle for why Michiganders would benefit from price stability, even if the price of oil is relatively high -- it provides a set of stable expectations for car manufacturers as they plan production for the future.
This raises a few interesting questions:
1) For which commodities is price stability a particular virtue?