Friday, October 5, 2007

A small question about trade and parties

If you believe that trade liberalization benefits both the U.S. and global economy, which party is the party for you?

When I came of voting age, the answer was pretty obvious -- the GOP.

Now we live in a world where Obama's chief economic advisor is making more sense on the trade issue than rank-and-file Republicans. (both links courtesy of Greg Mankiw)

Obviously, it is slightly unfair to compare advisors with voters -- and the WSJ article linked above points out that the GOP frontrunners are still talking the talk on trade.

I'm beginning to wonder, however, whether either party will walk the walk.

Question to free traders -- which party do you think is likelier to promote trade liberalization?

posted by Dan at 11:48 AM | Comments (25) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Getting back into the op-ed game

In my last bloggingheads with Matthew Yglesias, we agreed that it is tough to excel at the op-ed format.

Naturally, I have now agreed to contribute to Newsweek International on a monthly basis.

My first effort, "Calling Miss Manners," is now online. Go check it out. The concluding paragraphs:

It would be a cruel irony indeed if rising powers learned the wrong lessons from Bush's mistakes. The United States has received more flak for its diplomatic mistakes than other countries because the glare of the spotlight is at its harshest for the hegemon. As these countries acquire more power, however, they will also garner more attention. So far, their behavior is worrisome. Russia, for example, has had some prior experience with being a great power. Their current diplomatic style, however, makes the Bush administration's first term look like a paragon of propriety and decorum.

Power and interest drive most of what happens in world politics. Diplomatic style does matter on the margins, however. And if these recent events are what passes as diplomacy from rising powers, then world politics is going to start looking like a bad episode of reality television. "The Real World: Turtle Bay" might make for good entertainment, but it's going to be a lousy way to address global problems.

The column has its roots in this blog post from a few weeks ago.

posted by Dan at 05:34 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

The 2008 foreign policy wonk list

William Arkin does a public service and compiles a list of all known foreign policy wonks currently advising the major presidential candidates.

Arkin comments:

I think of these advisers as falling into two broad categories: Those providing legitimacy and those seeking legitimacy. The two camps aren't always mutually exclusive. But it's a useful framework for analyzing the list, and may help us sort out any conflict-of-interest charges that may arise in the course of the campaign.
Kevin Drum is unimpressed (hat tip: Ilan Goldenberg):
Of course, what would be more genuinely useful is a list of the people who actually have each candidate's ear on foreign policy, not a telephone book of every single foreign policy wonk who's made an endorsement. I want to know which ones are figureheads and which ones are likely to have West Wing offices in 2009.
It's tricky to do that, because a) wonks will often advise more than one candidate; and b) sometimes wonks from losing campaigns rise to success during the general election (see: Jim Baker).

This is a blog, however, so it seems like fun to take a stab at answering Drum's question. My answers are based entirely on scuttlebutt, half-assed speculation, and some simple rules of thumb. First, ambition goes up, not down -- i.e., Madeleine Albright's not going to be the NSC advisor when she's been Secretary of State. Second, the national security advisor position usually goes to someone who has a longtime relationship with the candidate.

Going through the list:

1) HILLARY CLINTON: Foggy Bottom would go to Richard Holbrooke. National Security Advisor: Lee Feinstein.

2) BARACK OBAMA: Foggy Bottom would go to Anthony Lake. National Security Advisor: Hmmm... interesting list, but I'd put money on Susan Rice.

3) JOHN EDWARDS: Foggy Bottom would go to.... no one on Arkin's list. Not enough name recognition/non-military experience. National Security Advisor: Derek Chollet.

4) RUDOLPH GIULIANI: Foggy Bottom would go to Norman Podhoret... BWA HA HA HA HA HA!!! I'm sorry, I couldn't get that out without laughing. Seriously, on this list, Robert Kasten is the only likely candidate. National Security Advisor: Ken Weinstein Charles Hill.

5) JOHN MCCAIN: Foggy Bottom would go to... well, this depends on whether McCain's contrarian instincts lead him to nominate someone who would constrain his interventionist impulses. If that's the case, then it's Brent Scowcroft or Richard Armitage. If not, then it's James Woolsey. National Security Advisor: Gary Schmitt.

6) MITT ROMNEY: Foggy Bottom would go to... someone on McCain's list -- there's no one on Arkin's list with sufficient gravitas. National Security Advisor: Mitchell Reiss.

Readers are strongly encouraged to disabuse me of any of these predictions with really good inside dirt.

UPDATE: Blake Hounshell informs me that, "Anthony Lake has said in no uncertain terms that he will not return to government and is happy as a Georgetown professor."

Assuming that this statement is genuine and not boilerplate, the only other name on Obama's list that might come up for Foggy Bottom would be Dennis Ross, though it's a major step up.

posted by Dan at 03:49 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

For every op-ed action, there is an out-of-proportion blogosphere reaction

Intentionally or not, Roger Cohen has some fun with the netroots in his New York Times column today:

A few years back, at the height of the jingoistic post-9/11 wave, the dirtiest word in the American political lexicon was “liberal.” Everyone from President Bush to Ann Coulter was using it to denote wimplike, Volvo-driving softies too spineless for dangerous times and too given to speaking French....

[A]s America bumped down to earth, “liberal” lost the mantle of political insult most foul. Its place was taken by the pervasive, glib “neocon.”....

What’s a neocon? A liberal “mugged by reality,” Irving Kristol said. The reality in question, back then, was communism-as-evil, the centrality of military force, the indispensability of the American idea and much else. But that’s ancient history. The neocons are the guys who gave us the Iraq war.

They’re the guys who, in the words of leftist commentator and blogger Matthew Yglesias, “believe that America should coercively dominate the world through military force” and “believe in a dogmatic form of American exceptionalism” and “favor the creation of a U.S.-dominated ‘universal empire.’ ”

But the term, in these Walt-Mearsheimered days, often denotes more than that. Neocon, for many, has become shorthand for neocon-Zionist conspiracy, whatever that may be, although probably involving some combination of plans to exploit Iraqi oil, bomb Iran and apply U.S. power to Israel’s benefit.

Beyond that, neocon has morphed into an all-purpose insult for anyone who still believes that American power is inextricable from global stability and still thinks the muscular anti-totalitarian U.S. interventionism that brought down Slobodan Milosevic has a place, and still argues, like Christopher Hitchens, that ousting Saddam Hussein put the United States “on the right side of history.”

In short, neoconitis, a condition as rampant as liberal-lampooning a few years back, has left scant room for liberal hawks....

Democrats have learned from their nuance-free bludgeoning by Republicans in the 2004 election, and they’re reciprocating. I’ll see your “liberal” with a “neocon” — and truth be damned.

This has prompted some acerbic replies. Here's one example:
I assure you, we liberals are smart enough to know that [Paul] Berman is not Wolfowitz. No one, except for you, Berman, and other liberal hawks is confused about this (and Feith, but he's confused about everything). Certainly your critics aren't, because if they were, you'd give an example, and you don't....

No, Roger, I honestly don't think you're a neocon. I just think you're a goddammed fool.

And you're a fool who still doesn't understand that only incompetents who rose to unimaginable power, like Bush and Rumsfeld, would ever have thought the invasion of Iraq was a good idea in the first place.

Meanwhile, Yglesias doesn't seem thrilled with being quoted in the New York Times:
I'm not sure if I'm meant to be included within the scope of those nameless Jew-haters who appear to be criticizing an ideological movement of the American right while actually criticizing a shadowy Zionist conspiracy, but if you're interested in the post from which Cohen drew those quotations, it's here and you'll see that neither Israel nor Zionism actually comes up.

Um... OK, a few things:
1) Seriously, how do netroots types attain this level of cognitive dissonance? Perhaps Digby Tristero has not conflated liberal hawks with neoconservatives, but is he seriously suggesting that no one else hasperformed this rhetorical trick?

2) In his response, Yglesias seems to be purposefully misreading Cohen's essay to infer that he's being lumped together with "Jew-haters." It seems pretty clear to me that Cohen is transitioning from Yglesias to others in the paragraph break.

3) Why should the netroots be upset about Cohen's argument? Everything from Crashing The Gate onwards has been about how the left should appropriate the tactics of the right, because it was politically effective. Isn't this tactic exactly what Cohen is describing?

posted by Dan at 10:43 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

And the Joe Bob Briggs award goes to...

Fifteen years ago Joe Bob Briggs wrote a scathing essay on the phenomenon of Sunday morning talk shows -- which, mysteriously, does not appear to be online anywhere (the one line I will never forget: "[Robert] Novak is the only human being in history who, on his IRS 1080 form, fills out, "Occupation: Obnoxious").

Since cable news has become a 24/7 version of these talk shows on every subject imaginable, there's a crying need for a new version of Briggs' kind of satire. So click below and enjoy.

My favorite part -- the fake moustaches.

posted by Dan at 01:48 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

What color is the sky in Joshua Muravchik's world?

From Joshua Muravchik's Commentary essay on the state of neoconservatism:

In any event, the decisions about troop levels and about abolishing Iraq's existing administrative structure had nothing to do with neoconservative ideas. The most that can fairly be said is that Rumsfeld was an ally of neoconservatives and that some among them, enamored of military technology or influenced by the Iraqi dissident Ahmad Chalabi, endorsed his choices. Besides, whatever measure of responsibility may be placed on neoconservatives in this one matter, it pales in comparison to the errors of the realists in the George H.W. Bush administration who in 1991 chose to leave Saddam in power, and of the liberals in the Clinton administration who allowed Saddam's defiance of his disarmament obligations to swell steadily over eight long years. Together, these failures left the problem of Saddam Hussein festering for George W. Bush to confront in the aftermath of 9/11, when it appeared in a more ominous light.
I agree with Muravchik on one point -- some neoconservatives (Kristol, Brooks, Kagan) did want the U.S. to use more troops in the initial invasion, and it's possible that such a troop presence at the start of the invasion could have averted the chaos that has ensued.

Many neoconservatives, however, (Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith) were just fine with this arrangement. And while the costs of not ousting Saddam Hussein in 1991 were not insignficant, I'd like to know the empirical grounds upon which Muravchik can make this assertion.

posted by Dan at 11:41 AM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

How to deal with Myanmar

Michael Green and Derek Mitchell have an unbelievably timely piece in the next issue of Foreign Affairs that discusses how to deal with Myanmar. The piece is oddly framed, however:

[N]either sanctions nor constructive engagement has worked. If anything, Burma has evolved from being an antidemocratic embarrassment and humanitarian disaster to being a serious threat to the security of its neighbors. But despite the mounting danger, many in the United States and the international community are still mired in the old sanctions-versus-engagement battle. At the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed the former Nigerian diplomat and UN official Ibrahim Gambari to continue the organization's heretofore fruitless dialogue with the junta about reform. The U.S. State Department and the U.S. Congress have fought over control of U.S. Burma policy, leading to bitterness and polarization on both sides. Although the UN Security Council now does talk openly about Burma as a threat to international peace and security, China and Russia have vetoed attempts to impose international sanctions. And while key members of the international community continue to undermine one another, the junta, which renamed itself the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997, continues its brutal and dangerous rule.

Regimes like the SPDC do not improve with age; therefore, the Burma problem must be addressed urgently. All parties with a stake in its resolution need to adjust their positions and start coordinating their approach to the problem. Although this may seem like an unlikely proposition, it has more potential today than ever before. Burma's neighbors are beginning to recognize that unconditional engagement has failed. All that is needed now is for the United States to acknowledge that merely reinforcing its strategy of isolation and the existing sanctions regime will not achieve the desired results either. Such a reappraisal would then allow all concerned parties to build an international consensus with the dual aim of creating new incentives for the SPDC to reform and increasing the price it will pay if it fails to change its ways.

So Green and Mitchell aren't saying that sanctions and incentives don't work -- they're saying that uncoordinated sanctions and incentives won't work.

Their proposal:

[A] new multilateral initiative on Burma cannot be based on a single, uniform approach. Sanctions policies will need to coexist with various forms of engagement, and it will be necessary to coordinate all of these measures toward the common end of encouraging reform, reconciliation, and ultimately the return of democracy. To succeed, the region's major players will need to work together.

Bringing them together will require the United States' leadership. One way to proceed would be for Washington to lead the five key parties -- ASEAN, China, India, Japan, and the United States -- in developing a coordinated international initiative and putting forth a public statement of the principles that underlie their vision for a stable and secure Burma. The five partners should develop a road map with concrete goalposts that lays out both the benefits that the SPDC would enjoy if it pursued true political reform and national reconciliation and the costs it would suffer if it continued to be intransigent. The road map should present the SPDC with an international consensus on how Burma's situation affects international stability and the common principles on which the international community will judge progress in the country. One purpose of such a road map would be to reassure the SPDC of regional support for Burma's territorial integrity and security and demonstrate the five parties' commitment to provide, under the appropriate conditions, the assistance necessary to ensure a better future for the country. This would be an important guarantee given the Burmese military's traditional paranoia.

Contact groups like this do make some sense when dealing with pariah regimes. Their utility is twofold -- they make it easier to present a common face to the undesirable regime, and they also reassure each of the contact group's members that another member of the contact group is not cutting a deal behind their back.

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan at 08:25 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Blip or surge?

The Financial Times' Steve Negus offers some good news from Iraq. No, really:

The Iraqi government reported on Monday that civilian casualties dropped by more than 50 per cent in September, a month in which US casualties also declined to their lowest level in 14 months.

All estimates of civilian casualties are contentious, due to the difficulty of obtaining complete data from conflict zones scattered across the country as well as the danger that statistics will be politically manipulated.

But September’s drop is one of the most dramatic since the Iraqi government began releasing figures, and is in rough accordance with other data suggesting levels of violence may be dropping.

The apparent decline also comes in spite of September’s partial overlap with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which usually sees an increase in attacks by Sunni Arab militants. A tally provided by Iraq’s health, interior and defence ministries quoted by news agencies noted 884 civilians killed in September, down from 1,773 in August, 1,653 in July and 1,227 in June.

The independent Iraq Body Count, which tallies press reports of civilian deaths, recorded higher numbers but showed a similar trajectory – 1,280 killed in September, 2,575 in August, 2,600 in July, and 2,092 in June.

US casualties also declined., a website which keeps a tally of US deaths, reported 63 fatalities in September, compared with 84 in August and 126 in May. September’s total is the lowest since July 2006.

posted by Dan at 10:23 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

I bet Sinead O'Connor is a great mother

I can't resist one bit of Britney-blogging -- namely, that I'm not sure how good high-falutin newspapers are at covering the down and dirty. From Mireya Navarro's account in the New York Times of the custody decision that went against Ms. Spears:

The ruling was the culmination of a rash of bad news for Ms. Spears, whose erratic behavior on and off the stage, including shaving her head and diving into the ocean from a public beach in her underwear, had cast doubt on her fitness as a mother. (emphasis added)
Note to self: alert DCFS authorities about these women immediately.

Seriously, there are plenty of reasons on the table to explain why K-Fed is the more responsible parent.... hold on a sec, my keyboard just burst into flame for some reason.... there, it's out now.... but do head-shaving and ocean-diving really belong on the list? I'm going to go out on a limb and say the drug and alcohol abuse and the bad driving might be more relevant.

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

Monday, October 1, 2007

Your mock music video for today

This is awesome.

Hat tip: Garance Franke-Ruta: "Soft power, at its finest, baby."

posted by Dan at 01:59 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Those college kids today, with their ambition....

Yesterday was the New York Times Magazine's ballyhooed college issue, which includes a Rick Perlstein essay that seems like a shorter version of David Brooks' "Organization Kid" essay from six years ago (to Perlstein's credit, he does cites Brooks' piece in his essay).

If you want something really provocative, however, check out Jake Halpern's "The New Me Generation" in the Boston Globe Magazine. His opening:

Nicole Mirabile, who is just 15 years old, has a clear vision of her future, and it doesn't involve a boss. The prospect of working at a Fortune 500 company – and landing the sort of well-paying job that Americans once regarded as the benchmark of success – holds zero allure for her. "It would be hard compromising with a lot of different people whom I might clash with," she speculates. Mirabile, a sophomore at North Quincy High School, would be far happier running her own company. "I have the time, I have the brains, I have the patience to do it, and I am not going to give up if I fail once," she vows.

Alan Chhabra, who is 31 years old, shares a similar sensibility even if, as it turns out, he does report to a boss. Chhabra works at Egenera, a computer-server manufacturer based in Marlborough, but he is not the sort of fellow who puts too much stock in old-school notions of corporate protocol. As he puts it, "I have no problem knocking on the door and walking into the CEO's office or the CTO's office on a whim – interrupting their schedule – and saying, 'I need to talk to you.'" Chhabra says that ever since he was a kid, he has been "knocking heads with basketball teachers, track coaches, teachers, and girlfriends. If I felt that I was right, I wouldn't back down."

What do Alan Chhabra and Nicole Mirabile have in common – besides a great deal of chutzpah? They are members of the so-called Entitlement Generation, the upstarts at the office who put their feet on their desks, voice their opinions frequently and loudly at meetings, and always volunteer – nay, expect – to take charge of the most interesting projects. They are smart, brash, even arrogant, and endowed with a commanding sense of entitlement. And since a new crop is graduating from Boston's high-powered colleges and universities every year, chances are, one may be heading to your office soon.

Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, says that this includes virtually everyone born after 1970. According to Twenge, these young people were raised on a daily regimen of praise and flattery from their baby boomer parents and from teachers who embraced a self-esteem-boosting curriculum that included activities like the Magic Circle game. Never heard of it? In this game, one child a day is given a badge that says "I'm great." The other children then take turns praising the "great" child, and eventually these compliments are written up and given to the child for posterity. This constant reinforcement, argues Twenge, is largely responsible for those young co-workers who drive you nuts. At the University of South Alabama, psychology professor Joshua Foster has done a great deal of research using a standardized test called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI). The NPI asks subjects to rate the accuracy of various narcissistic statements, such as "I can live my life any way I want to" and "If I ruled the world, it would be a better place." Foster has given this personality test to a range of demographic groups around the world, and no group has scored higher than the American teenager. Narcissism also appears to be reaching new highs, even within the Entitlement Generation, among American college students. Another national study involving the NPI, conducted by Twenge, shows that 24 percent of college students in 2006 showed elevated levels of narcissism compared to just 15 percent in the early 1990s.

All of this would seem to suggest that this generation, which is flooding into the workforce, will create chaotic, unpleasant, and utterly unproductive work environments that will drive many a good business directly into the ground. But there's another very real possibility. It may be that this much-reviled generation will revitalize the economy and ensure the prosperity of America for years to come. Painful as it sounds, in the not-too-distant future, we may owe a debt of gratitude to these narcissists.

I'm not entirely sure Halpern's correct -- but I'd rather argue about his essay than Perlstein's warmed-over copy.

[What's your beef with Perlstein?--ed. Really, it's not intentional -- he's just published two pieces in the last week that have annoyed the crap out of me.]

posted by Dan at 11:12 AM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)