Friday, March 16, 2007

The fairest review I will ever receive

It's a busy day at the Drezner household -- I have to decide which of my children to ship to the Economist in gratitude for their review of my book All Politics Is Global (now available at and other fine online retailers!!!). It's subscription only, but here's the good parts version:

Daniel Drezner's “All Politics is Global” is too nuanced and academic for easy reading—but ultimately much more rewarding. Mr Drezner, an associate professor of international politics at Tufts University, focuses on the international institutions and accords that regulate trade. Such regulation, though seemingly arcane at first, in fact determines “how to treat workers, how much to pollute, what can go into our food, what can be accessed on the internet,” and “how much medicine will cost”.

...Mr Drezner believes that what really matter are the domestic preferences of powerful governments: “States make the rules.” This directly contradicts Thomas Friedman's flat-world notion that globalisation has emasculated the state. Mr Friedman's ideas—such as that capitalists worldwide now form an “electronic herd” that tramples down borders—are, according to Mr Drezner, “simple, pithy and wrong”. As evidence, Mr Drezner provides case studies ranging from internet protocols to anti-retroviral drugs. He shows that “great powers cajole and coerce those who disagree with them into accepting the same rulebook.”

....Mr Drezner does not call for the end of such international accords. Rather, he finds that the challenges of the future will be increasingly transnational. As globalisation intensifies, the rewards for co-ordination will increase as well. To achieve success, it is essential not to eliminate international institutions but rather to understand their utility. They are at heart a means for great nations to exert their will in concert. The key to their success lies in convincing the leading governments of the gains from acting in co-operation, rather than isolation, in a volatile but interconnected world—a message that surely applies well beyond the esoteric world of trade regulations.

Hmmmm.... the boy is toilet-trained but the girl has dimples. It's gonna be tough to figure out which one to give away.

posted by Dan at 02:17 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

Hey, it's been two years -- let's talk about gender and op-eds again

One of the assignments for my Stafecraft class this term is that the students must draft a cogent op-ed submission on a policy issue they care about. "In this case,"cogent" not only means well-written, but written in such a way that would actually pique the interest of an op-ed page editor.

With this assignment in mind, I see via Tom Maguire that the New York Times' Patricia Cohen is writing about seminars designed to encourage female participation on the op-ed pages:

Uproars over the sparse numbers of women in newspapers, or on news programs, in magazines, and on best-seller lists regularly erupt every couple of years. A doozy occurred in 2005, after the liberal commentator Susan Estrich and Michael Kinsley, then editor of The Los Angeles Times’s opinion pages, got into a nasty scuffle over the lack of female columnists. That dustup is what motivated Ms. [Catherine] Orenstein to take her op-ed show on the road, which she has done with support from the Woodhull Institute, an ethics and leadership group for women.

“It’s a teachable form,” Ms. Orenstein said recently over coffee and eggs. “It’s not like writing Hemingway. You show people the basics of a good argument, what constitutes good evidence, what’s a news hook, what’s the etiquette of a pitch.”....

Over the past 18 months several hundred women and men (though in fewer numbers) have taken the seminar, which can cost a group up to $5,000, Ms. Orenstein said (although she has also donated her services). She has not kept records, but said about two dozen former students have sent her clips of their published essays to say thank you. Suzanne Grossman at Woodhull didn’t have comprehensive statistics but said that the first pilot session for a dozen women at a Woodhull retreat produced 12 op-ed articles. (Some participants wrote more than one.)

“I try to convey the idea that there is a responsibility,” she said. “Op-ed pages are so enormously powerful. It’s one of the few places open to the public. Where else is someone like me going to get access? It’s not like I can call up the White House: ‘Hello?’ ”

About 30 women who also are not in the habit of calling up the White House gathered Monday evening for one of Ms. Orenstein’s seminars....

Ms. Orenstein asked: Could every woman at the large rectangular table name one specific subject that she is an expert in and say why? The author of “Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale,” Ms. Orenstein began by saying, “Little Red Riding Hood” and writing the words in orange marker on an oversize white pad.

Of the next four women who spoke, three started with a qualification or apology. “I’m really too young to be an expert in anything,” said Caitlin Petre, 23.

“Let’s stop,” Ms. Orenstein said. “It happens in every single session I do with women, and it’s never happened with men.” Women tend to back away from “what we know and why we know it,” she said.

Next she asked the participants why they thought it important to write op-ed articles. Women shouted: “Change the world,” “shape public debate,” “offer a new perspective,” “influence public policy.”

“You are all such do-gooders,” Ms. Orenstein said laughing, “I love this.” She then proceeded to create another kind of list that included fame, money, offers of books, television series and jobs.

The Rev. Dr. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, an Episcopal priest and the executive director of Political Research Associates in Boston, frowned. “It’s not why I do it,” she said.

That, Ms. Orenstein declared, is a typically female response: “I never had a man say, ‘That’s not why I do it.’ ”

“What I want to suggest to you,” she continued, is that the personal and the public interests are not at odds, and “the belief that they are mutually exclusive has kept women out of power.” Don’t you want money, credibility, access to aid in your cause? she asked.

Cristina Page, a spokeswoman for Birth Control Watch in Washington, leaned forward. “I’ve never heard anyone say that before,” she said. “What you’ve just said is so important. It’s liberating.”

Two thoughts. First, after describing the assignment to my Fletcher School students -- who are generally perceived as a group of idealistic, altruistic overachievers -- their immediate reaction to the prospect of publishing an op-ed was, "How much do we get paid for it?" I might add that this query transcended gender. Small sample issues aside, I'm very dubious about the notion that women don't seek out the things that Orenstein says they don't seek out.

Second, think about that "Little Red Robin Hood" line in the excerpt, as well as this paragraph:

A bunch of women joined together on one side of the table to discuss an op-ed piece by Ms. Orenstein that appeared in June 2004 in The New York Times on the remake of the movie “The Stepford Wives.”
Orenstein's expertise raises a question about the ways in which women seek to get op-eds published. Is the problem that women write on topics similar to men but face a glass ceiling at the op-ed desk? Is it that women do not write about "hard news" issues that are generally discussed in op-ed pages (politics, economics, foreign policy, social policy, ec.)? Or is the problem that what is defined as appropriate for the op-ed essays overly gendered? I tend to think it's the middle one (does Orenstein seriously think that op-eds about Little Red Riding Hood or the Stepford Wives will influence any White House?), but I'm open to suggestions from the readers.

posted by Dan at 09:43 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Is it the idea or the execution of the idea?

If someone pointed a gun to my head today and demanded that I say who I think will be the president in 2009:

1) I'd be pretty annoyed, because I thought I had moved to a safe neighborhood;

2) I'd say Barack Obama

This hunch -- and that's all it is -- makes me want to know how Obama thinks about foreign policy. Which leads me to Michael Hirsh's cover story in the Washington Monthly about this very question:
There’s no doubt that Obama has the intellectual curiosity and self-confidence—not to mention the ideal public persona—to fundamentally reconsider American foreign policy. But at this point, for all his promise, he’s still, in some sense, a cipher. After eight years in the Illinois Senate and two in Washington, his foreign policy thinking, unsurprisingly, remains largely unformed. That [Obama advisor Samantha] Power and [Anthony] Lake—both hard-bitten political veterans, not starstruck newcomers—each found themselves gravitating toward Obama on the basis of a speech, a dinner, or a phone call suggests the level of despair to which both had sunk. Bush, it appeared, had so destroyed what was left of the existing system of international security that both Power and Lake, through their separate journeys, had reached a point where they sought a leader who might offer not a return to that system—as John Kerry cautiously did in 2004—but a wholesale reimagining of it.

In this impulse, they are far from alone. The last year has seen a slew of efforts by foreign policy thinkers, academics, journalists, policy wonks, and politicians to envision a new international security system, and a new U.S. foreign policy to go along with it. These varied proposals often have little in common except the assumption that, through some combination of the end of the cold war, the new threat of stateless terror, and the failures of the Bush years, the old system is dead, and an entirely new one must now be created. Intellectually, like the Khmer Rouge, we’re back at the year zero.

And yet, by assuming the need to go back to basics, many of these efforts, though not stinting in their condemnation of Bush’s unilateralism, unwittingly accept the underlying premise of his foreign policy. That premise, during the first term, was that the postwar system of international relations—a system that, since 1945, has helped give the world unprecedented peace and prosperity—was no longer an effective tool for dealing with the world of the twenty-first century, in particular the post-9/11 world. But what if that premise was just plain wrong? If so, then perhaps the international system, though already weakened when Bush took office, appears to be beyond salvation now not because of its own fundamental flaws, but because of the serious damage done to it by the unprecedented radicalism of Bush’s foreign policy.

In other words, it may be that what is most broken today is not the international system, but American stewardship of it. And that, at this pivotal moment for the nation and its place in the world, what’s needed is not an entirely new vision but, rather, something simpler: a bit of faith. Faith that with time, committed diplomacy, and—perhaps most important—some basic good judgment about the use of American force, the essential framework of international relations that got us through the cold war—and that almost any president other than Bush would also have applied to the war on terror—can be repaired.

Read the whole thing. As Kevin Drum points out, "He's actually making one of the most difficult kinds of argument of all, an argument that the current system is fine and doesn't really need big changes [except the people running the show]." Of course, this bears more than a passing resemblance to the argument made by many neocons that the ideas underlying Operation Iraqi Freedom were equally sound, but the Bush administration botched the execution.

I agree with Kevin that it's worth checking out -- but I'm less sanguine with Hirsch's argument that because the system worked well in the past, a recommitment to its structures means it will work well in the future. As I pointed out recently, some difficult adjustments are going to be necessary.

[Hey, aren't there parts of Hirsh's essay that bear an awfully strong resemblance to your Washington Post essay from December 2006?--ed. Well, it seems like that to me, but that could just be an incipient sign of overbearing egotism. Besides, Hirsh's underlying thesis is dissimilar from mine, so I'm willing to let it slide.]

UPDATE: I'm fascinated that some of the commenters to this post infer that because I think Obama will win implies that I think Obama should win. Let's just say that I reserve some doubts about Obama as the candidate for me.

posted by Dan at 03:26 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

The thousand nations of the Persian empire are pissed off about 300

Via Matthew Yglesias, I see IRNA reporting that the government of Iran is not pleased with the movie 300:

Government spokesman, Gholam-Hossein Elham said Tuesday that the movie called `300' insults the culture of world countries.

The statement was made in response to the question raised about the anti-Iran movie dubbed `300'.

The government spokesman referred to the movie as part of the extensive cultural aggression aiming to degenerate cultures of world states.

Elham noted that the Iranian nation and those involved in cultural activities will respond to such a cultural aggression....

The movie has fabricated the history with depicting a war between Iran and Greece, whereas, no Greek king dared to stand up to the Persian Empire or the Emperor Xerxes.

Though Sparta's King Leonidas cherished such a dream, but, he lost his head and Iranian fighters threw his head before Emperor Xerxes's feet and told him that he had attempted a suicide attack to Persian Army.

Though Matt and I have had some differences on Iran, I agree with correct lesson he from this tidbit of information:
It's interesting that even Iran's contemporary theocrats regard themselves as the heirs to all the pre-Islamic Persian empires. Which goes to show how misleading it is to frame US-Iranian disputes as part of an apocalyptic struggle with "Islamofascism" rather than a sort of banal (but not unimportant!) situation issue where the government of Iran is seeking to assert its interests in the neighborhood where governments of Iran have traditionally sought to assert themselves.
UPDATE: Azadeh Moaveni suggests in Time that ordinary Iranians are equally ticked off about the movie.

posted by Dan at 03:15 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Nothing to do but scream?

Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been diagnosed with a cracked skull from a government beating, according to his spokesman. According to the Washington Post's Craig Timberg, this might be the trigger that actually unifies Zimbabwe's opposition movement:

Two harrowing days in police custody have left Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai with serious physical injuries but also renewed standing as head of an anti-government movement that is showing more energy than it has in years....

"If they ever wanted to boost Morgan Tsvangirai's popularity, they've done it," said David Coltart, an opposition lawmaker who is not aligned with Tsvangirai, speaking from Helsinki, where he was observing an election. "Whether Morgan intended this or not, this thing has been thrust upon him, and probably emboldened him."

At the gathering Sunday, police shot dead one anti-government activist, rounded up 50 others and beat many of them severely, opposition officials said. Those arrested appeared in court together Tuesday, wearing casts, bandages and bloodied, dirty clothing, and won both access to their attorneys and the right to medical care at a Harare clinic, news reports said....

[Tsvangirai's] harsh treatment left many people concluding that Mugabe, attempting to maintain control after 27 years in power, regards Tsvangirai as his most serious threat....

Despite his personal popularity, Tsvangirai was not able to turn discontent into effective demonstrations after tainted elections in 2000, 2002 and 2005 or during a brutal slum-clearance campaign in 2005 that left 700,000 Zimbabweans without homes or jobs. His party split later that year, and he has struggled since to regain his stature.

Even with the party fractured, opposition to Mugabe's rule began rising again late last year as inflation topped 1,000 percent and persistent shortages of gas and food affected millions of Zimbabweans. Trade union activists and several civic groups, such as the National Constitutional Assembly and Women of Zimbabwe Arise, increasingly drove this new activism. The breakaway faction of the Movement for Democratic Change grew more aggressive, issuing a flier for Sunday's rally that declared, "It is defiance or death."

But the events of recent days have altered the chemistry of opposition politics again.

John Mw Makumbe, a political analyst at the University of Zimbabwe, said Mugabe had blundered badly in mistreating Tsvangirai. "He has really raised Morgan's profile beyond his wildest imagination," Makumbe said, speaking from Harare, the capital. "This time, Morgan is almost being viewed as the president."....

Attention now is focused on what Tsvangirai will do with his enhanced stature when, and if, he is freed from jail. "We'll wait to see if Morgan will really rise to the occasion when he's recovered," Makumbe said.

The problem is that a unified opposition will be insufficient for Mugabe's government to fall. The regime has repeatedly displayed a willingness to use its coercive apparatus to maintain power -- a unified opposition will have little effect on that apparatus so long as they are willing to kill.

There need to be members of the ZANU-PF government who are willing to turn their back on Mugabe -- and that will not happen until Zimbabwe's neighbors demonstrate a willingness to ostracize the country and its leadership.

So why don't they? Alec Russell has an excellent analysis of the regional situation in the Financial Times:

Just two days before Morgan Tsvangirai was arrested, the Zimbabwean opposition leader delivered a trenchant ultimatum to the region’s leaders over their policy of “quiet diplomacy” towards President Robert Mugabe.

“When your house is on fire you depend on your neighbours to put it out,” he said in answer to a question from the Financial Times when on a fleeting visit to Johannesburg. “We cannot afford to have a failed state.”

Mr Tsvangerai, who was arrested on Sunday and accused of holding an illegal political rally, should not, however, hold out his hopes for the regional “firemen” to come soon....

In South Africa politicians are deeply exercised by the prospect of a Zimbabwean implosion, despite the callous impression given by their lack of statements of concern.

“Countries are concerned,” said Dr Jackie Cilliers, head of Pretoria’s Institute for Security Studies. “They see and feel the effect [of the crisis]. But that doesn’t translate into let’s go and do something.

“The analysis is that power resides in Zanu-PF [Mr Mugabe’s ruling party] and that the MDC is not a realistic alternative.”....

South Africa’s relations with the US are strained; it has long disagreed with the EU over how to confront Mr Mugabe and Pretoria is wary of acting unilaterally and so fuelling SADC partners’ concerns that it is seeking regional hegemony.

The government is under fire from the opposition and sections of the media over the apparent failure of its “softly softly” policy. Officials respond that condemnation will only entrench Mr Mugabe in his defiance.

To those who argue for economic sanctions, and even a reduction of the electricity supply, they counter that such tactics would hurt ordinary people most.

With South Africa facing its own succession battle this year, as African National Congress heavyweights vie for the party leadership, it is unlikely to risk provoking a bruising debate on foreign policy by changing tack on Zimbabwe, analysts say.

Zambia has indicated it may be keen to take a more forthright stance when it becomes chairman of the SADC in August.

Last week its foreign minister, Mundia Sikatana, made headlines when he said: “We should not pretend that all is well in Zimbabwe.”

But Zimbabwe still has allies in SADC, in particular Namibia. And Mr Sikatana’s follow-up comment that “ostracising Zimbabwe will not help solve the problems there” may be more significant than his more prominently reported opening gambit.

Western diplomats accept that the only meaningful diplomatic pressure can come from Mr Mugabe’s peers in southern Africa, but they are not optimistic. “We have seen a move from defending him to silence,” said one diplomat. “We’d like to see a move to expressing concern for the situation. But that’s not the African way.”

Dr Cilliers said that the realpolitik assumption of the region was that “stability comes before democracy. If it is a question of principles, then stability comes first.” So what if Zimbabwe is in such turmoil that the argument of stability no longer applies? That is the nightmare scenario for South Africa but analysts, diplomats and officials agree that the only way it would intervene would be with the approval of the rest of SADC.

The probability of joint SADC action is low. This leads Fletcher student Drew Bennett to despair:
I was in Zimbabwe a little less than a year ago and saw first hand that the political and economic elite in Zimbabwe, though a miniscule cabal, managed their portfolios just fine in a surreal economy dominated by the black market. Clearly, there are ways around sanctions when the international community has abandoned you.

But I'm not sure what those of us outside of Zimbabwe can do other than scream. It's our duty to condemn human rights violations and support those being violated, but beyond that, we're resigned to waiting this thing out.

So, to review -- a unifiying opposition, but little effect on government power without regional action, which is highly unlikely.

Developing.... in a very uncertain way.

UPDATE: Reuters reports that Mugabe is now resorting to unusual epithets:

President Robert Mugabe on Thursday told Western countries to "go hang" after international outrage over charges his government assaulted the main opposition leader in police detention.

posted by Dan at 09:18 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Gideon Rachman, security risk

Over at his FT blog, Rachman points out that excessive regulation for admitting both foreigners and foreign capital is posing some problems for the United States:

[T]he survey for the Discover America partnership – a group of big businesses that seeks to promote tourism – also suggested that 39 per cent of regular travellers rate the US “worst” for immigration and entry procedures; the Middle East came second on 16 per cent. Discover America complains of a “climate of fear” and a “travel crisis”. It cites a “near 20 per cent drop in the United States share of overseas travellers since 2000” and claims that this has cost 200,000 jobs and $93bn in revenue.

There is always a slightly spurious precision about figures like these. But it is not just the tourism industry that is complaining. A McKinsey report into America’s financial services industry, also published in January, warned that New York risks losing its status as the “financial capital of the world” within 10 years. The first two problems it cited were over-regulation and fear of litigation. But problem three was “US immigration restrictions which are shutting out highly skilled workers”. Getting foreign businessmen into the US for one-off meetings can be a problem. Long-term work visas are an even bigger issue. One financial service executive is quoted as complaining: “It is much easier to hire talented people in the UK – I couldn’t hire the team I need in the US and I wouldn’t bother trying.”

The McKinsey report says Wall Street is still the best place to find talent. But the City of London is catching up, as it benefits from free movement of workers within the European Union and the fact that Britain does not have a quota-limit on work visas, even for non-Europeans.

Testifying before Congress last week, Bill Gates of Microsoft argued that US computing companies are also suffering from a severe skills shortage and that: “America’s immigration policies are driving away the best and brightest, precisely when we need them most.” Mr Gates sees an interlocking set of problems. A smaller proportion of international students are now studying at American universities, partly because it is made so hard for foreign graduates to then get a job in the US.

In 2001, the US issued 200,000 H-1B visas for highly skilled workers. That figure has now shrunk to about 65,000 a year. A big increase is promised, if and when a new immigration act is finally passed. But in the meantime Mr Gates complains that American companies are shifting research and development work overseas.

Presenting an unwelcoming face to the world has political as well as economic implications. Surveys regularly show that foreigners who have actually visited the US have a much more favourable impression of the country. The same report that uncovered widespread fear of American immigration procedures reported that 72 per cent of visitors had a “great” experience inside the US.

The good news for the US is that so far the damage is at the margins. American universities, investment banks and computing companies are still clearly the world leaders. The American government has shown that it is keen to improve immigration procedures. The annual number of student visas issued for the US, after falling for some years, rose in 2006. The number of business visas issued for the US also rose. The waiting time to get a visa interview in India, which used to be notorious, has been cut back to a few days. Tourist numbers are also going up again. A lot more needs to be done. But at least there is an awareness of the problem.

You'll have to read his whole post to understand the title of this post.

posted by Dan at 11:09 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

A conversational waltz with Garance Franke-Ruta

My latest duet is up -- this one is with The American Prospect's Garance Franke-Ruta (who has her own blog, as well as a detailed explanation of the origins of her name).

Topics include whether Barack Obama and John McCain would pursue similar interventionist foreign policies; why GOP candidates are "Hollywood whores"; the death of neoliberalism; and how liberal journalists are coping with this.

Go check it out.

UPDATE: One small note: if it seems like I did not pick up on every point Garance made, this had to do with our phone connection. I could not completely hear all of her points.

posted by Dan at 11:03 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Open U.S. Attorneys thread

I've been remiss in not posting about the brewing brouhaha about the role that Republican members of Congress, as well as the White House, played in the removal of several U.S. Attorneys in December 2006. Comment away.

If this New York Times story is accurate, then this story has the perfect storm of tidbits to fuel numerous news cycles: Harriet Miers, Karl Rove, White House overreaching, and the kind of investgation that promises regular tidbits of new information.

UPDATE: Ah, the Washington Post's Dan Eggen and John Solomon feed the storm:

The White House suggested two years ago that the Justice Department fire all 93 U.S. attorneys, a proposal that eventually resulted in the dismissals of eight prosecutors last year, according to e-mails and internal documents that the administration will provide to Congress today.

The dismissals took place after President Bush told Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in October that he had received complaints that some prosecutors had not energetically pursued voter-fraud investigations, according to a White House spokeswoman.

Gonzales approved the idea of firing a smaller group of U.S. attorneys shortly after taking office in February 2005. The aide in charge of the dismissals -- his chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson -- resigned yesterday, officials said, after acknowledging that he did not tell key Justice officials about the extent of his communications with the White House, leading them to provide incomplete information to Congress.

Lawmakers requested the documents as part of an investigation into whether the firings were politically motivated. While it is unclear whether the documents, which were reviewed yesterday by The Washington Post, will answer Congress's questions, they show that the White House and other administration officials were more closely involved in the dismissals, and at a much earlier date, than they have previously acknowledged.

posted by Dan at 11:51 PM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (0)

Does Zimbabwe support or weaken the smart sanctions argument?

Last week Michael H. Cognato blogged at Passport about the fact that smart sanctions seemed to be having an effect in Zimbabwe:

[The International Crisis Group] found that targeted sanctions have played an important role in undermining Mugabe's support:
Targeted EU and U.S. sanctions on senior regime figures are working. ZANU-PF leaders cite their personal financial situations as motivation for wanting Mugabe out. “We have businesses which we worked hard over years to set up which are collapsing. It is about time we change course”, said a senior politburo member.
The possible implications stretch far beyond Zimbabwe. Targeted sanctions, which limit the activity of specific regime members, rather than the entire country, are a relatively recent innovation. The hope has been that they would better pressure a target government while sparing its citizens needless suffering. Officials in Sudan, Iran, and North Korea are currently on the receiving end of these appeals to their unenlightened self-interest. The news out of Zimbabwe is reason to hope they might be similarly persuaded.
Sounds promising... until we get to more recent events. Like today's AP report:
Top opposition leaders were assaulted and tortured by police who broke up a prayer meeting planned to protest government policies, colleagues of the activists said Monday.

One protester was shot dead by police in Sunday's unrest in the outskirts of the capital and scores of others were arrested. Journalists trying to cover the events also were arrested.

In a statement, organizers of the prayer meeting, an alliance of opposition, civic, church leaders and student and anti-government groups, said lawyers who visited the detainees Monday reported the main opposition party leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, fainted three times after being beaten by police.

The alliance, called the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, said another opposition leader, Lovemore Madhuku, was taken to the main Harare hospital early Monday after collapsing from police assaults.

At least four other opposition and civic leaders were beaten and tortured in custody, the campaign said.

``The police thoroughly assaulted leaders of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign while in custody,'' the group said.

The alliance said lawyers were still trying to establish the whereabouts of all those picked up by police, saying some were denied food or legal advice.

No comment was immediately available from police on Monday.

There are two ways to interpret this kind of repression. One way is that this is the last gasp of a dying regime. You can find this interpretation in this Washington Post story by Craig Timberg:
[Former member of parliament Roy] Bennett, speaking in Johannesburg after consulting with other opposition figures by phone, said Sunday's gathering was the beginning of mass protests against Mugabe's government under a newly formed Save Zimbabwe Coalition.

"This is what everybody's been building up to," said Bennett, who fled Zimbabwe a year ago. "It's the beginning of the end."....

Tafadzwa Mugabe, from the group Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said from Harare that attorneys were denied access to Tsvangirai and the others who were arrested. Judges at the High Court of Harare declined to hear the case Sunday night but scheduled a hearing for Monday morning.

Mugabe, who is not related to the Zimbabwean president, said there had never been such a broad crackdown on opposition figures there. "In terms of magnitude and profile, I'd safely say it's unprecedented," he said.

Zimbabwe has been in economic decline for seven years. It has inflation of more than 1,700 percent, unemployment exceeding 80 percent and chronic shortages of such basics as gasoline, bread and cooking oil. Mugabe, who has been Zimbabwe's ruler since the end of white-supremacist rule in 1980, has become increasingly authoritarian, sharply limiting political freedoms....

The International Crisis Group, a conflict resolution organization based in Brussels, reported last week that the crisis in Zimbabwe was nearing its conclusion because of deepening splits in Mugabe's ruling party, but warned that spontaneous violence could erupt.

The opposition has been severely split as well. There are now two rival factions of the Movement for Democratic Change, the group Tsvangirai helped found. The leader of the other faction, Arthur Mutambara, also was arrested Sunday, as was Lovemore Madhuku, head of the National Constitutional Assembly, which also opposes Mugabe's rule.

The thing is, the Save Zimbabwe Campaign has been around for six months now, and prior efforts to mobilize have not panned out.

So there's another, gloomier possibility: smart sanctions are insufficient, and the state's ability to repress will not be tamed anytime soon.


posted by Dan at 03:30 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

A subtle look at the academic bias question

I normally do not like to dredge up the academic bias question unless I'm reviewing books, but Cathy Young has a fine piece in Reason that takes an appropriately nuanced approach. Some highlights:

While the HERI [Higher Education Research Institute] does an annual survey of incoming college freshmen that includes questions about political beliefs, no one has tried tracking changes in student political beliefs over the college years. One interesting glimpse is provided by HERI's 2004 report on political attitudes among freshmen and college graduates. In 1994, 82 percent of students in the class of 1998 agreed that "the federal government should do more to control the sale of handguns" and 61 percent agreed that abortion should be legal. In 1998, these opinions were held by, respectively, 83 percent and 65 percent of college graduates in that cohort.

Thus, while college-educated Americans appear to be much more liberal than the general population-at least on certain issues-they also seem to hold those views before they first enter a college classroom....

What is difficult either to deny or to quantify is that, especially at the more prestigious colleges and universities, the social climate fosters a strong presumption of liberal like-mindedness and a marginalization of dissent. Being left of center is the norm, and it is freely assumed that other people around you, be they students or faculty members, will share in your joy at the Democratic victories in Congress or your dismay at the passage of a ballot initiative prohibiting racial preferences in college admissions. This can translate into not only a chilly climate for conservatives but in some cases outright hostility.

If a student doesn't subscribe to the campus orthodoxy, the likely effect is not to convert her but to alienate her from intellectual life. Others learn only about a narrow range of ideas. One woman, a Ph.D. student in the social sciences at a Midwestern university, told me recently that when she started reading conservative, libertarian, or otherwise heretical blogs, "it was a whole perspective I had never been exposed to before in anything other than caricature."

When that's the norm, the harm is less to dissenters than to the life of the mind. It's not good for any group of people to spend a lot of time listening only to like-minded others. It is especially bad for a profession whose lifeblood is the exchange of ideas.

posted by Dan at 10:20 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

There's lazy reporting and then there's lazy Sunday analysis

Over the past few years, the Boston Globe Ideas section has generally been considered one of the best treats of theirs or any Sunday paper. Which is why I was surprised when I read this Matt Steinglass article on the intellectual trendiness among economists of preaching capital controls:

When the Shanghai stock index dropped 9 percent on Feb. 27, touching off sharp slides in markets across the globe, many were quick to recall the Asian financial crisis of 1997. That crisis was triggered not by a drop in stock prices, but by a collapse in the value of the Thai baht, brought on by currency speculators. But the reason the crash of '97 spread from one country to the next, savaging the economies of Indonesia, South Korea, the Philippines, and ultimately non-Asian countries like Russia, was a broad loss of investor confidence in such so-called "emerging markets."

Investors were excited by these economies' high growth rates, but suspicious of regulatory environments that were far from transparent and governments prone to corruption. As they lost confidence in the countries' currencies and securities, investors pulled their money out en masse. Last week, there were concerns that a dramatic drop in Asian stock values might provoke a similar loss of confidence and capital flight....

[Unlike the Wall Street Journal editorial page,] many economists drew precisely the opposite lessons [from the Asian financial crisis]: That open capital markets sometimes behave like irrational mobs, and that government-imposed capital controls can be essential tools for developing countries to preserve stability.

The most famous exponent of this view is the Nobel Prize-winner Joseph Stiglitz, former chairman of President Bill Clinton's Council of Economic Advisors, who was the World Bank's chief economist during the crisis. Interviewed last week on the risks to Asian markets today, Stiglitz said capital controls are widespread in emerging markets, and in many cases, that's a good thing....

[D]espite the persistence of these laissez-faire views, a quiet shift may be taking place. Economists and financial analysts today are more likely than they were 10 years ago to accept the need for certain capital controls. Some are even willing to admit it. (emphasis added)

Now, the bolded sentence is clearly supposed to be the takeaway point of the piece, so I was curious which economist or economists Steinglass found to echo Stiglitz's views on capital controls. It turns out that the economist Steinglass found was.... Joe Stiglitz:
In the decade since the crisis, many economists have come to share these views -- including some within the IMF itself. "In 2003 their chief economist came to the conclusion that the empirical evidence did not show that capital market liberalization worked," Stiglitz says. "It did not lead to more growth, it did not lead to more stability. They still believe it's true, but what they now say is they can't prove it." In some cases, the IMF is actually telling countries that "soft" capital controls, such as tax measures and banking regulations, may be a good idea.
Stiglitz might be correct in his assertion, although in 2003 at least one chief IMF economist was pretty disparaging of capital controls.

Still, that's not the point. If Steinglass' assertion is correct, one should expect to see a quote from at least one other economist. Hell, Steinglass probably could have raided Brad DeLong's archives and probably found something useful.

We don't get either of those things, however. Instead, we get Stiglitz and more Stiglitz. This is insufficient for the assertion that's made in the essay.

Bad Ideas section. Bad, bad, bad.

posted by Dan at 11:33 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)