Friday, March 2, 2007
Defining public intellectuals down
The passing earlier this week of Arthur Schlesinger Jr. caused some gnashing of teeth at Tapped about where the next generation of public intellectuals will be found. Ezra Klein writes:
So who takes their place? Will Sean Wilentz or Michael Kazin be remembered as Arthur Schlesinger is, because I don't think Doris Kearns Goodwin or Stephen Ambrose possess the grand moral compass necessary to claim the mantle. The Clinton administration had a Kennedy-esque aura of intellectual ferment, but the public intellectuals it furnished are Paul Begala and James Carville. Ira Magaziner, it turned out, lacked star power. I guess the bright spot on the horizon is Barack Obama's campaign, which boasts a glittering orbit of policy advisors and public thinkers whom the Obama camp has taken a Kennedyesque approach to, encouraging them to retain their public profiles. Hence, the world has not lost Samantha Power or Karen Kornbluh, but they are in the inner circle of a presidential candidacy. Maybe that will elevate them. Or maybe we're just done with public intellectuals, and cable news has time for little but public personalities. (underline added)Then there's Marc Schmitt:
Obviously, there's no factory for creating new Schlesingers or Galbraiths (although those two families do pretty well) but anything that can be done to change the system of incentives for young academics or would-be academics so that there are rewards to making relevant contributions to public life, rather than incrementally advancing some narrow question within their field, would be good.I've occasionally been accused of falling into the "public intellectual" category, so a few thoughts on this matter:
1) I recognize that there's a Potter-Stewart-"I know it when I see it"-quality to defining a public intellectual, but applying that label to either Begala or Carville is just wrong. They
Thursday, March 1, 2007
Why suicide terrorism is different in Afghanistan
While Iraqi suicide bombers target civilians and soft targets in order to sow destabilization and provoke/respond to sectarian violence, nearly all Taliban suicide bombings -- and in Afghanistan, resistance to the presence of foreign forces and the Karzai government is overwhelmingly Taliban -- are focused on Afghan or U.S./NATO security forces. The two researchers assess that unlike the Iraqi insurgents, al-Qaeda or Shiite militias, the Taliban has to cleave the population away from the Karzai government, but in the process must "avoid losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the Afghan people by needlessly killing civilians."
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Talking with the divine Ms. Postrel
My latest bloggingheads exchange is with Virginia Postrel., who seems to have stolen the cerulean sweater first worn by Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada.
Topics range from Helen Mirren's dress to student confessions to privacy on the Internet to the new new world order. Just for kicks, Amitai Etzioni is mocked at several points.
Go check it out.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Blogging will range from intermittent to light over the next few days, as I will be attending the International Studies Association annual meeting in Chicago. [Chicago in February?--ed. Well, not all of us get invited to Firenze, like some other bloggers I know. Besides, the previous two years, ISA was in San Diego and Honolulu, so I've decided not to complain.]
Talk amongst yourselves. Here's a topic: Mark Harris complains in Entertainment Weekly that conservative characters on television are neither conservative nor nasty enough:
As a member of the self-deluding Eastern liberal politically correct media elite (so my reader mail tells me), I would like to learn more about the opposition. The problem is, they keep going soft on me. Last fall, TV promised us two conservatives: Kitty Walker on ABC's Brothers & Sisters, and Harriet Hayes on NBC's now-shelved Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Kitty was supposed to be a brash, Ann Coulter-like firebrand in a family of whole-grain blue-staters, and deeply religious Harriet was going to redress the injustices done to people of faith by godless showbiz types. As each series has unfolded, both women have been portrayed as multidimensional, sensitive human beings. Not incidentally, they seem to be turning into liberals....Question -- doesn't everyone become more ideologically flexible when politics becomes personal?
James Galbraith confuses me
The facts are clear: NAFTA is a done deal, and China is a success story we have to live with. Progressives need a trade narrative that moves past these two issues. Broadly, this means accepting manufactured imports and dropping the idea that we can control--or that it matters much--who assembles television sets or stitches shirts. Standards to guard against flagrant abuses such as child and prison labor are fine, but it's an illusion to think they will, or should, dent the flow of goods from China. A progressive trade agenda should focus, instead, on building stronger world markets for our exports, and in ways that do not trample on the needs and rights of poor people in poor countries. That should provide plenty of room for future fights with free-trade absolutists.Um... actually, no, Galbraith's formulation doesn't leave a lot of room for future fights -- not that there's anything wrong with that!! I wish all progressives shared the Galbraith position.
The problem is that there is plenty of room for division within Galbraith's forumlation of the progressive trade agenda: "building stronger world markets for our exports, and in ways that do not trample on the needs and rights of poor people in poor countries." The former requires enforcing intellectual property rights, because they are at the root of much of what the United States currently exports. Progressives, however, would no doubt argue that the latter requires dropping IPR enforcement altogether.
Given the current standards of trade discourse, however, I should shut up and just encourage all progressives to read Galbraith.
Your agricultural subsidies fact of the day
The WTO has just issued its latest Trade Policy Review for the European Union. This fun fact is found in the overview:
In value, export subsidies notified by the EC represent approximately 90% of all the WTO Members' notified export subsidies.Hat tip: Daniel Altman on the International Herald-Tribune's globalization blog.
Cheney hears boom
Vice President Dick Cheney was whisked into a bomb shelter immediately after a Taliban suicide bomber struck the main American military base he was visiting in Afghanistan on Tuesday.Given that Cheney wasn't supposed to be in Bagram at the time of the bombing, I find this statement pretty dubious.
However, for more details about Cheney's whirlwind worldwide tour, you would be hard-pressed to beat this diary by Newsweek's Holly Bailey. One fascinating vignette:
But shortly before his plane was to lift off, it began snowing. Reporters and aides who had been waiting on the tarmac for Cheney' arrival were escorted back to the base' firehouse, where they sat and waited. Within an hour came the word: the weather in Kabul made the trip too dangerous to carry on. Already considered the most risky portion of the trip— the road connecting the airport and Karzai's palace was covered in several inches of snow and would need to be cleared. The VP and his entourage would stay overnight at Bagram, in hopes of holding the meeting on Tuesday.
Monday, February 26, 2007
The new new world order
Controversies over the war in Iraq and U.S. unilateralism have overshadowed a more pragmatic and multilateral component of the Bush administration's grand strategy: its attempt to reconfigure U.S. foreign policy and international institutions in order to account for shifts in the global distribution of power and the emergence of states such as China and India. This unheralded move is well intentioned and well advised, and Washington should redouble its efforts.The slightly longer precis that explains the title:
[The growth of India, China, and other rising powers] will pose a challenge to the U.S.-dominated global institutions that have been in place since the 1940s. At the behest of Washington, these multilateral regimes have promoted trade liberalization, open capital markets, and nuclear nonproliferation, ensuring relative peace and prosperity for six decades -- and untold benefits for the United States. But unless rising powers such as China and India are incorporated into this framework, the future of these international regimes will be uncomfortably uncertain.Read the whole thing. I look forward to static from liberals because I have actually found an issue where the Bush administration has acquitted itself reasonably well. And I look forward to static from conservatives because the issue I've identified -- playing nice with China and India in multilateral settings -- is not something they would identify as a good thing.
Later today links on sources will be posted.
UPDATE -- SEVERAL DAYS LATER. OK, so I've been busy. Still, a few relevant links.
The genesis for this article was this blog post from August 2006 about the rejiggering of IMF quotas. The Treasury statement on this effort can be found here.
Condoleezza Rice's speech on transformational diplomacy can be found at the State Department web site; here's a link to Robert Zoellick's "responsible stakeholder" speech on China.
The vocabulary of international relations
I am considering for my introductory World Politics class in the Fall. I call it "IR Vocabulary," and the basic idea is to split students into pairs and have each pair go off and find consensus definitions of key IR terms, My intuition here is that in order to have a good discussion about world politics, there are some basic terms that we need to know; some of these terms are more or less empirical and refer to objects in the world, while others are more or less conceptual and refer to ways of making sense of those objects. [Yes, yes, this is an unstable distinction; yes, empirical terms are conceptual and vice versa . . . but there is still a difference, if only a difference of degree, between a term like 'the balance of power' and a term like 'the Security Council.']Click on over to give your answers. Of the top of my head, mine are below, split 50-50 between empirical and conceptual:
EMPIRICALUPDATE: I've fixed the Westphalia term, because there actually is no Treaty of Westphalia. I knew this, but was sloppy about it in the post. Apologies.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
"I wonder why this Council on Foreign Relations meeting is so well-attended?"
Jeremy Grant reports in the Financial Times that the Council on Foreign Relations has announced its latest batch of term members. One of them apparently has some prior experience as a U.N. ambassador:
The dead-pan world of the Washington policy wonk looks set for a dash of Hollywood glamour with the nomination of actress Angelina Jolie to join one of the most venerable think-tanks in the US.
Note to self: check immediately to ascertain if Salma Hayek would be interested in CFR membership. [Um.... don't you have to be an American citizen to belong to the Council?--ed. Hayek is now a U.S. citizen, to vdare's everlasting chagrin.]