Saturday, January 27, 2007

The lack of campaign chatter about foreign policy

Over at America Abroad, Earnest Wilson tells everyone what he knows about the foreign policy positions of the major Democratic candidates for president:

I don’t know. Other bloggers, journalists, policy wonks and usually talkative political pundits don’t know either. We have to assume the candidates know where they stand on the Big Issues. Maybe. But maybe not. They almost certainly don’t know all they really need to know on foreign affairs. (Except Biden. But he probably doesn’t know the other things.)

We know where the candidates stand on a small handful of Iraq-related issues – when to exit; whether they support the Baker/Hamilton report. But sitting in the Oval office requires more than a position on withdrawing American troops from Baghdad. Just doing Iraq isn’t enough....

If the Senators and governors now in the race don’t pay much attention to non-Iraq issues affairs, it’s not their fault. Having done foreign policy with a bunch of campaigns, I know the candidates’ handlers are telling them to concentrate on assembling a team that can win, with well-connected communications experts, experienced pollsters, a campaign chief who never sleeps, and so on. They need to get through the primaries where in most years (this one accepted) nobody cares about foreign policy. Even when the senator or governor or former Vice President finally makes it into the general election, there isn’t too much demand from the populace for details about Darfur and the Balkans. The foreign policy team is lucky if they get face time with the candidate, and a paragraph in the next speech. The system is designed to keep the candidate away from sticky issues abroad....

But at some point we begin to reflect on the kind of person who will end up with his or her finger on the launch button. With the authority to declare war and fight to keep American jobs from disappearing abroad. The person who will be America’s face to a disenchanted and skeptical, if not downright hostile, planet. Most of us really don’t care about the details. But we do want some insight into the moral character and basic human instincts that will guide the next president’s tough choices on tough global issues of life and death.

We can bet those basic instincts about the world will start to seep out during the campaign, well before the foreign policy ‘plan’ and the advisory groups and the position papers the candidate’s little foreign policy team will dutifully churn out. If George Bush has taught us anything, it is to look at those basic instincts and take them very seriously, because they tell us a lot more than the details offered up about Africa or global warming.

I don't have much objection to the first few paragraphs his post, but I'm not convinced Wilson is correct on his last point. Bush's foreign policy instincts in the 2000 campaign were a mixture of diffidence and indifference -- a far cry from how he has approached foreign policy since then.

Tell me, informed readers: which presidential aspirant -- from either party -- seems the most well-grounded on matters of foreign policy?

posted by Dan at 06:57 PM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Move over, Oprah

Sure, an Oprah book club selection can net an author millions in book sales and royalties. However, according to the New York Times, Tom Stoppard might be the Oprah of the Long Tail:

“Russian Thinkers,” a 1978 collection of essays on 19th-century Russian intellectuals by the philosopher Isaiah Berlin, has virtually disappeared from bookstores across the city, including Barnes & Noble, Labyrinth Books and Shakespeare & Company. The Internet is not much help either: the book is sold out on, and though it can be ordered from Amazon, the order won’t be shipped for two or three weeks.

The culprit behind this Berlin craze turns out to be none other than Tom Stoppard and his epic three-part play, “The Coast of Utopia,” which opened at Lincoln Center on Nov. 27. Tucked deep inside the show’s playbill is a list titled “For Audience Members Interested in Further Reading,” with “Russian Thinkers” at the top....

Mr. Berlin’s book is not only all but impossible to find in New York, it is also completely out of stock with its publisher, Penguin, which earlier this month quickly ordered two reprintings totaling 3,500 copies, the first time in 12 years the book has been printed, to satisfy more than 2,000 suddenly unfilled orders.

posted by Dan at 10:25 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Nationalism, globalization, China and Starbucks

The Economist's Free Exchange manages to jam all of these topics -- plus Davos!! -- into one post. Go check it out.

Favorite quote that will cause rioting in London:

[What] about a Starbucks inside Buckingham Palace[?]. For all I know there may be one, years since I was there, but certainly there should be one. It wouldn't make much money inside the private quarters, I doubt the Queen does many skinny lattes, but in the Royal Gallery, which is the visitable part of the palace, a Starbucks would be an excellent fit.

posted by Dan at 04:34 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Back in the day, they didn't have blogging scholarships

Student-bloggers, take note -- there's now a Political Blogging Scholarship:

Do you maintain a political weblog and attend college? Would you like $2,000 to help pay for books, tuition, or other living costs? If so, read on.

We're giving away $2,000 this year to a college student who blogs about politics. Our scholarship is awarded annually.

Click here to find out all the details. I do like this description of what the winner and losers get:
The Winner Gets:
  • $2,000 immediately disbursed for their college expenses
  • Bragging rights
  • Admiration from fellow bloggers
  • Popularity
  • To write an acceptance speech consisted of 1000 words or less, which will be posted on this page....
  • What Happens to the Losers? Concession Speech!
  • In a written concession speech consisting of 350 words or less, the losers can say whatever they wish…completely unedited and uncensored. We will post the speeches on this page as we receive them.
  • [The kids today, with their podcasts and their American Idol idolatry..... we didn't have blogging scholarships when we started out, did we?--ed] Yes, but they also don't have annoying editorial voices either.

    posted by Dan at 10:22 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

    Wednesday, January 24, 2007

    I'm intrigued -- does that means he's doomed?

    Many moons ago, my wife and I were roped into a focus group that was viewing a proposed television pilot. At the end of the half hour, we were asked to fill out some demographic information, including education level.

    At that point, my wife and I looked at each other, knowing that because we had post-graduate degrees, our reactions were not going to matter one whit -- we're not exactly the target demographic of profitable shows.

    This memory came to mind when someone e-mailed me this Fortune story by Nina Easton on Newt Gingrich's quixotic run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008:

    [T]his year, as he throws warm-up pitches for a 2008 presidential campaign, hoping that his big ideas, combined with his grass-roots popularity, will produce a "draft Newt" movement, even his most ardent loyalists doubt he can pull it off. "He's a better Moses, leading the party out of the wilderness, than he is a King David, running the show," says Frank Lavin, a veteran of Republican administrations who now serves as commerce undersecretary.

    While Gingrich has plenty to say on national security and social issues, the core of his resurrection and unusual race for President are his ideas on health costs - a national migraine that has driven the likes of General Motors toward bankruptcy, put insurance out of reach for 46 million Americans, and now threatens to strangle the economy by ballooning entitlement costs. The problem is so severe that state governors - most recently California's Arnold Schwarzenegger - have given up on Washington and are promoting their own sweeping reform plans.

    Gingrich got a headstart on the issue at the turn of the millennium, when he began building his credibility as the voice of free-market-style reform. He has preached his evolving message to business and health groups around the country. In Washington he has transformed his reputation from polarizing politico to business visionary who might strategize with Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt one day and Senator Hillary Clinton the next.

    What Gingrich has to say is not so much a unified theory as a way of rearranging the way we look at things - a refusal to accept the cultural status quo. At the Tempe conference, Gingrich politely listens to such proposals as applying Toyota-style production-control techniques to the health system - and then slices through them with an alternative mantra of competition, deregulation, modernized information systems, and personal responsibility.

    Leave the middleman out. Force doctors and hospitals, Medicare and Medicaid, to disclose pricing and compete with one another. Put all the latest information on databases so that American consumers can go online, plug in their personal health profile, and shop for the best prices on drugs and services.

    In other words, in Gingrich's world consumer health care should look more like Travelocity....

    For the next nine months Gingrich intends to promote sweeping solutions to difficult issues of the day - particularly health care and national security - and then, like Lincoln in 1860, see if the call comes.

    While such other GOP candidates as Senator John McCain, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, and former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani are hiring consultants and building donor networks, Gingrich has formed a tax-exempt advocacy group to raise money and promote his policies. He will wait until September - the eve of primary season - to announce whether he has the support to make it official.

    Gingrich intrigues me -- he's far more complex and interesting a thinker than the nineties stereotype of him suggested. And if Hillary Clinton can remake herself as someone who's learned from past mistakes, I see no reason why Gingrich can't as well.

    However, I can't shake the feeling that because I'm so interested in a Gingrich, he's doomed to fail. Can someone who scores well in the blogger wonk demographic really develop mainstream appeal?

    Readers, help me out here.

    posted by Dan at 03:26 PM | Comments (23) | Trackbacks (0)

    Tuesday, January 23, 2007

    Open SOTU -- oh, hell, I'm bored already

    Comment on the content of Bush's State of the Union address if you'd like.

    Me, I don't see the point. With a 28% approval rating and both houses of Congress controlled by Congress Democrats, we know that:

    1) Bush's domestic policy proposals are immaterial, since they are DOA unless they provide an opportunity for Democrats to toss some lard at their favored interests (see: energy policy, ethanol subsidies).

    2) Reaction to Bush's foreign policy proposals are immaterial since Bush still controls the executive branch, Congress is really bad at directing foreign policy, and no one is going to successfully use the A-bomb of defunding a policy initiative.

    UPDATE: The Democratic response is by James Webb.

    posted by Dan at 09:36 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

    The generation gap on jobs

    Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Bob Kimmitt has an interesting op-ed in the Washington Post on the growth in job churn, and why it's a good thing:

    More than 55 million Americans, or four out of every 10 workers, left their jobs in 2005. And this is good news, because there were over 57 million new hires that same year.

    These statistics illustrate a recent and growing trend of dynamism in our job market, especially among younger workers. Data on labor demand in the United States, gathered for the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), show that the 12 months ending in November had the highest average of labor turnover since the U.S. government began tracking this information in 2000. But the data also show that our economy has maintained a consistently strong ratio of new hires to separations. Over the year ending in November, new hires in America exceeded employee separations by an average of 364,000 per month....

    In fact, our workers lead the international marketplace in this trend. Job tenure averages 6.6 years for Americans, compared with an average of 8.2 years for Britons, 10.6 years for Germans, 11.2 years for the French and 12.2 years for the Japanese. Even more striking is that, on average, workers in the United States will have 10 different employers between ages 18 and 38.

    This dynamism of our labor force strengthens the U.S. economy because each move to a new employer can involve greater responsibility, greater pay or both. And the time workers spend in search of employment is decreasing. In December, the average duration of a job search was the shortest in more than four years.

    Unfortunately, what usually makes headlines is a big company's layoff of workers. What gets less coverage is the 40 months of job growth we have recently enjoyed, the historically low unemployment rate (4.5 percent), record tax revenue and an acceleration in real wage growth over the past year. This is good news for the generation preparing to graduate from high school and college. Unlike their grandparents, who built careers around companies rather than opportunities, members of the class of 2007 will enter the workforce with an understanding that change may be the only constant in their professional careers.

    Now I suspect that many blog readers will heap scorn and outrage upon this trend, because they are nostalgic for the days of company men.

    I also wonder, however, whether there is a generation gap in the reaction to this trend. My hunch is that the younger workers Kimmitt identifies in the piece already have accepted this new status quo, and will find objections to it puzzling.

    posted by Dan at 08:59 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

    This blog post brought to you by Peyton Manning

    My latest diavlog -- with Matthew Yglesias -- is now online. Obsessive fans of will delight in the fact that my "studio" has moved to my Fletcher office.

    Among the topics discussed -- Iraq, what we thought about Iraq in 2003, Iran, Bush's grand strategy, the 2008 campaign, and the inevitable Peyton Manning endorsement for bloggingheads.

    posted by Dan at 09:04 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    Monday, January 22, 2007

    A letter to the blog from the UN Global Compact

    In my Los Angeles Times op-ed on the Davos forum, I wrote the following passage:

    [Davos] is a useful place for politicians to launch new, grandiose initiatives that never quite live up to their billing. Former Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched the U.N.'s Global Compact there in 1999. The U.S. proposed a Middle East Free Trade Zone in 2003. And British Prime Minister Tony Blair used Davos in 2005 as the platform to launch the G8's climate-change initiative.
    It now appears that the op-ed has irked someone other than its author.

    The following is a letter sent to the LA Times and myself from George Kell, the executive director of the UN Global Compact. I don't know if the LAT is running it, but it seems appropriate to run it here:

    We take serious issue with Daniel Drezner’s characterization of the United Nations Global Compact as one of several “new, grandiose initiatives that never quite live up to their billing” (Davos’ downhill slide, 21 January 2007). What began as a call to action to global business leaders gathered in Davos eight years ago, has since grown to become the world’s largest voluntary corporate citizenship initiative with more than 3,000 participants in over 100 countries. The UN Global Compact has made a significant contribution to the emergence of corporate responsibility not only (and rightly so) as a moral obligation, but also as a management imperative. Every day, corporations around the globe are leading by example, aligning their strategies and operations with the Global Compact’s universal principles while driving value for their business and developing new opportunities.

    While certainly much remains to be done, scores of projects have been implemented that are delivering very real and tangible benefits with regard to environmental and social issues. These are documented on our website ( and include programs related to HIV/AIDS, child labour, climate change, anti-corruption and general poverty alleviation. In addition, the Global Compact has inspired several high-profile initiatives that are embedding principles and values in a number of important areas, ranging from financial market operations to the training and education of tomorrow’s business leaders. To many of our stakeholders and constituents, including a large number of early critics, the Global Compact has not just lived up to its billing - it has exceeded it.

    UPDATE: To defend my position just a little, I based my statement on two facts -- 1) The low rate of participation in the Global Compact by companies in two countries that kind of matter -- the United States and China Click here for more -- though a point for them for getting Microsoft to sign on. Second, as the Global Compact itself acknowledges, an awfu lot of companies appeared to sign on and then did nothing for quite a while.

    posted by Dan at 07:11 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

    A post in which I suck up to my employers

    The Financial Times' Rebecca Knight has a story on the Fletcher School and why it's better than sliced bread:

    It may not have been on purpose, but the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy – the oldest graduate school of international relations in the US – has suddenly found itself in the executive education business.

    Last year, Microsoft and Raytheon, as well as a non-profit group, approached the school, at Tufts University in Massachusetts, to develop customised programmes for their mid- to upper-level professionals.

    The programmes, which involved courses on international political and economic affairs, were a big hit. This year, Fletcher has three repeat customers on its hands and is “quietly and cautiously” working to attract others, according to school officials.

    Executive education programmes – which have in the past been the domain of business schools – are typically marketed to companies as a way to hone their workers’ skills with courses in finance, marketing, and sales. But, according to Stephen Bosworth, the dean of Fletcher, companies nowadays are in search of more than management refresher courses. Rather, they are looking for ways to boost their executives’ knowledge of international politics, culture and business.

    Fletcher’s programmes are ideal for those companies seeking to “upgrade the globalisation skills” of key employees, says Mr Bosworth. “The rationale for all of this is the perceived need for a greater understanding of the political, economic, and cultural context within which these companies are operating,” he says.

    The programmes, which are conducted by Fletcher and Tufts faculty, are individually tailored, depending on their varying needs and specifications of the companies.

    For instance, Microsoft asked for a distillation of the school’s overall international curriculum, while Raytheon, the military contractor, requested a programme on political, economic and cultural issues for operating in the Middle East.

    Deborah Nutter, senior associate dean and professor at Fletcher, says the school’s strength in diplomatic training is what gives it the edge in the executive education realm.

    “From the beginning, we have educated global leaders in all sectors,” she says.

    Note to self: put "educated global leader" somewhere on cv. [Since you have made exactly zero contribution to these programs, is that justified?--ed. Hey, all's fair in love and resumes.]

    UPDATE: More good financial news for Tufts.

    posted by Dan at 03:47 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

    Vote early and (reasonably) often

    Pajamas Media is conducting a thoroughly unscientific but nevertheless intriguing online Presidential straw poll. You are allowed to vote once a week.

    Vote here -- and the ongoing results can be viewed here.

    Again, Rudy Giuliani is showing surprising strength (as is Barack Obama). The names that intrigue, however, are the ones in second place -- Dennis Kucinich and Newt Gingrich.

    As I said, onlinew straw polls like this one don't have a lot of scientific value -- but I have to wonder if the first thing the nascent campaign staffs of all the candidates do in the morning is go to sites like this to boost their candidates' standing. Typical early morning list:

    1) Make coffee
    2) Check e-mail
    3) Vote in every online straw poll imaginable
    Of course, at this stage of the campaign there's another competition that matters greatly. The New York Times' Patrick Healy and Jeff Zeleny do a good job of covering the money race among the Dems.

    posted by Dan at 09:23 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

    Sunday, January 21, 2007

    Davos screws me over yet again

    I have an essay in today's Los Angeles Times about the World Economic Forum -- otherwise known as the Davos forum. In the essay,I ask whether Davos is really significant, or whether it has jumped the shark:

    Since Swiss business professor Klaus Schwab launched the forum in 1971, it has become the ne plus ultra of elite meetings, eclipsing such challengers as Renaissance Weekend, the British-American Project and the Trilateral Commission.

    At least, that's what the rhetoric surrounding Davos suggests. According to the World Economic Forum's website, Davos is "an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas." Political scientist Samuel P. Huntington asserted that "Davos people control virtually all international institutions, many of the world's governments and the bulk of the world's economic and military capabilities."

    Its critics hold a similar view. Anti-globalization protests have targeted the conference, causing its security budget to grow at an alarming rate. To many of them, Davos is the epitome of how globalization is managed by the elite to impoverish the many. One of the few scholarly studies of the Davos experience characterizes the meeting as "a polymorph platform of intermediations on the new frontiers of capitalism." I'm not entirely sure what that means, but it does not sound good....

    There are signs that Davos may have jumped the shark. Activists used to demand a voice at the forum. In recent years, however, they have abandoned it altogether. Instead, they attend the rival World Social Forum, which is held at about the same time as Davos.

    Even more disconcertingly, Davos sponsored a Gallup poll that found, across the globe, growing distrust of political and business leaders — the very people who attend Davos....

    [T]he polling data could be a harbinger of Davos' irrelevance. This leads to an interesting existential question: What if they threw an elite meeting and no one cared?

    Read the whole thing, but you should know that I submitted a different byline than the one they used.

    The byline reads -- online at least -- as "Daniel W. Drezner is associate professor of international politics at Tufts University's Fletcher School and the author of "All Politics Is Global." He maintains a blog at"

    Which is great, but the byline I submitted to them was, "Daniel W. Drezner is associate professor of international politics at Tufts University's Fletcher School and the author of "All Politics Is Global." He has never been invited to Davos, but is not bitter about that fact in the slightest."

    I think I'd be less upset if I didn't fear that the deleted sentence was the best line in the piece.

    Want to read more about Davos? You can check out the David Rothkopf's diary from last year's conference here. A precis of the polling results discussed in the piece can be found in this story. And here's a link to the official web site.

    Finally, given that I was gently mocking it in the piece, I feel I owe a link to the one scholarly piece I found on Davos: Jean-Christophe Graz, "How Powerful are Transnational Elite Clubs? The Social Myth of the World Economic Forum." New Political Economy, Vol. 8, No. 3, November 2003. If you can get past the sections when Graz gets trapped in his own jargon, he makes an interesting argument about the inherent limits of these kind of fora.

    posted by Dan at 07:51 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (1)