Friday, October 26, 2007

I was in a nowhere job... going nowhere....

until I heard about the Robert Mugabe National School of Intelligence!!

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has launched an intelligence academy named after him, saying it would produce officers able to counter growing threats from Western powers, state media reported on Friday.

Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, is fighting isolation from the West, which accuses him of human rights abuses and rigging elections and economic mismanagement....

"With the current unjustified demonization of Zimbabwe by Western powers, the role of intelligence in shaping foreign, security and economic policies become even more critical," the Herald newspaper quoted the president as saying at the launch of the Robert Mugabe National School of Intelligence near Harare....

The intelligence academy is also expected to train members of the army, police and operatives from other southern African countries.

Mugabe said Britain and the United States continued to try to destabilize Zimbabwe by working with "non-state actors" aimed at unseating his government.

"The important role of defending our country cannot be left to mediocre officers incapable of comprehending and analytically evaluating the operational environment to ensure that the sovereignty of our state is not only preserved, but enhanced," Mugabe said.

Request to commenters: please propose possible course names for the Robert Mugabe National School of Intelligence. Pedagogically, which courses should be required? What are the possible areas of concentration?

Hat tip: Blake Hounshell.

posted by Dan at 02:00 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Gonna be a fun hotel jihad

Note to self: never, ever deny Megan McArdle a bed.

posted by Dan at 04:51 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My productivity will be down this week

The World Series starts tonight. In a choice between the hottest team in baseball and the best team in baseball, most of the prognosticators have picked the latter. But we know the value of expert prognosticators here at

What about the statheads? They have spoken too.

Diamond Mind simulations ran the series a thousand times and had the Red Sox winning over 70% of the time.

Baseball Prospectus' Playoff Odds give the Red Sox a 59% chance of winning.

In other words, to a longtime Red Sox fan (as opposed to the more secure post-2004 variety of fan), this seems eerily like a reverse mortal lock -- i.e., if the Rockies beat Josh Beckett in Game 1, look out.

Of course, I have changed since 2004, so although I will never be able to eliminate the fear of imminent collapse by the Olde Towne Team, I have managed to reduce that fear to a tolerable nervousness.

Still, contra the Steinbrenner clan, I do believe that the journey is just as valuable as the final quest in baseball. Therefore, I heartily encourage all Sox fans to click on the video below to remember this past season.

And if the Sox win the World Series, all the better.

posted by Dan at 05:42 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

My not-so-sunny predictions for U.S. trade policy

Policy Innovations -- "The central address for a fairer globalization" asked three trade experts what they see for the future of U.S. trade policy. It appears that Mac Destler and Gary Hufbauer were too busy, so unfortunately for their readers I'm one of the experts, along with Susan Aaronson and Kevin Gallagher.

Go check it out -- you can guess my mood about the future.

My basic point:

In a jittery economy, neither Americans nor members of Congress care about how globalization affects the rest of the world. Their primary concern is how imports are destabilizing their jobs and depressing their wages.
I should have put "allegedly" somewhere in that sentence, but you get the basic idea.

posted by Dan at 02:40 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

October's (very, very belated) Books of the Month

I'm juuuust a wee bit late on this month's book club selections. So, to be quick about it:

The international relations book is Michael Tomz's Reputation and International Cooperation: Sovereign Debt across Three Centuries. In recent years, some of the most interesting work in international relations theory has been about the significance of reputation effects in world politics. Tomz argues for a dynamic theory of reputation, in which actors can update their beliefs over time about whether governments will honor their commitments. He marshalls considerable empirical evidence to make this case by looking at the behavior of sovereign borrowers and lenders over the past few centuries.

Tomz's book, combined with the recent efforts of Daryl Press and Anne Sartori, have created a fruitful area of research in international relations. Go check it out.

The general interest book is Cass Sunstein's 2.0. This is one of those arguments -- the Internet will foster cyberbalkanization -- that I pooh-poohed when the original book came out. That said, trends in the blogosphere suggest that his argument has held up better than I would have predicted a few years ago.

Naturally, by waiting until very late in the month to make this book recommendation, Sunstein has gone and published yet another book. So I promise to be more punctual next month.

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

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The kind of conversations that happen at IR conferences

UPDATE: As God is my witness, I did not know about this when I posted the exchange below.

The following transcript approximates a real exchange that took place at the conference I attended this past weekend among serious members of the international relations community.

This is a true story. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent:

POLICYMAKER A: You know, they've done experiments with monkeys where they have to do tricks to earn a cucumber. The two monkeys can see each other do the tricks, as well as the rewards they receive.

After a few days of trick, cucumber, etc., the experimenter gave the first monkey a cucumber, but then gave the second monkey a red grape after his trick. The first monkey nibbled at his cucumber, but did not finish it.

The next day, this was repeated. And the first monkey took the cucumber and threw it on the ground.

The third day, the first monkey took the cucumber and threw it at the experimenter.

So the point is, all primates have an innate sense of fairness, and will react when they see it violated.

IR THEORIST A: Here's the thing... if the experimenter shoots the monkey when it throws the cucumber, the other monkeys will process that information as well. So it's not only about a sense of fairness, it's about survival.

POLICYMAKER B: Yes, the experimenter could shoot the monkey, and maybe that would cow the other monkeys into submision. If you keep shooting monkeys, however, it might encourage the remaining ones to rise up and overthrow the experimenters and establish their own cucumber plantation.

For the rest of the conference, this last exchange was referred to as "the cucumber paradigm."

I wonder if George Orwell hung around international relations types all that much.

posted by Dan at 12:17 AM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, October 22, 2007

The metamorphosis of Red Sox Nation

With the Red Sox in the World Series for the second time in four years, one fan ponders the change in the team.... and Red Sox Nation:

The 2007 version of the Boston Red Sox -- with just 28 percent of the team held over from three years ago -- may be scrappy, and they might be a tad scruffy, but they're not underdogs. Not with that payroll, not with that record, and most certainly not with that air of confidence we saw on display the last three games....

Perhaps the biggest change is simply the attitude among Boston's ever-expanding fanbase. I think that's something to regret. Three years ago, a World Series title was an elusive dream. Now it's a realistic expectation. The innocence, the unblemished joy is gone, replaced by the knowledge that the unreachable is no longer so.

Yet who would rather it be different?

As Art Martone reports in the Providence Journal's SoxBlog, however, Red Sox fans are also displaying a maturity that I don't remember existing before 2004:
As the Indians' players made their way from their clubhouse to the team bus, which was parked in right field, they found themselves being honored by an unlikely group of people.

Red Sox fans who had stayed behind at Fenway Park for the post-clinching celebration stood to the sides and created an alley for the players to walk through. And as they passed, the fans applauded, making comments like, ''Good series,'' and ''Good luck next year.''

Ex-Sox right fielder Trot Nixon was the first to pass, and he seemed surprised by the ovation. The other Cleveland players passed stoically, but Travis Hafner had a smile on his face.

It all occured at around 1 a.m.

UPDATE: Of course, it's worth pointing out that the Red Sox are merely one prong of a sports town that's become an emerging hegemonic power (Patriots, Celtics, Boston College, etc.). This apparently has New York sports fans in a bit of a lather:
Being a New Yorker, I'm still getting used to this strange new world. I wake up in the hotel, turn on the TV, and there's Belichick, the cheater. "We had a lot of trouble with Miami," he says. "They're a good team."

Sure, the Dolphins with quarterback Cleo Lemon would prove a regular juggernaut. It's a wonder they held Tom Brady to fewer than seven touchdown passes. Apparently, the fans in Miami broke into a chant: "Let's go Red Sox. Let's go Red Sox."

I don't like Belichick, the lying dog, so I turned off the TV and read the paper. There was a whole section on row boating, which is huge here.

Let's go Red Sox. Let's go Red Sox. These beery kids in the bars outside Fenway chant through the night. Whatever happened to Boston's lovable losers? And the intelligentsia who glorified them? Where's Tip O'Neill? Everything is upside down. Even Ben Affleck has given up acting in bad movies to direct good ones.

Let's go Red Sox. The kids keep on chanting until their Red Bull highs subside.

The horror. For a New Yorker, it's like being in a Stephen King movie.

posted by Dan at 11:22 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Oh, s#$t

Not good. Not good at all:

At least 12 Turkish soldiers were killed in an ambush by Kurdish militants shortly after midnight on Sunday, in an audacious attack that sharply increased the pressure on Turkey’s government to send troops into northern Iraq.

A group of Kurdish fighters moved into Turkey from northern Iraq, the Turkish military said, and attacked Turkish soldiers based near the town of Hakkari, about 25 miles from the border, in three different locations, killing 12 and injuring another 16. Turkish soldiers then struck back, firing from helicopters and from the ground, killing at least 23 militants, according to the military, which provided its account in a statement.

In a statement on a Kurdish website, the militants said they captured eight Turkish soldiers, but the claim could not be substantiated.

The attack came just four days after Turkey’s parliament voted to give the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan full authority to send troops into northern Iraq to strike at Kurdish militants who hide there.

At the time, Turkish officials emphasized that they would not immediately apply the authority, and security experts said the resolution would be used mainly as political leverage to press the United States and its Iraqi Kurdish allies to act against the Kurdish militants, the Kurdistan Workers Party, known by its initials, the P.K.K.

But Sunday’s attack was one of the worst in recent memory, and the government, which has been skeptical of an offensive in the past, will be under intense pressure to act.

UPDATE: The AP calms me down... a little:
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday it appears Turkey's military is not on the verge of invading northern Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish rebels responsible for a deadly attack on Turkish soldiers.

Gates told reporters that in a meeting with Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul, he advised against launching a major cross-border incursion despite the continuing provocations.

''I'm heartened that he seems to be implying a reluctance on their part to act unilaterally, and I think that's a good thing,'' Gates said. ''I didn't have the impression that anything was imminent.''....

In his remarks to reporters, Vecdi said he told Gates that Turkey expects the U.S. to do more to constrain the PKK in Iraq, although he would not spell that out in detail.

''We'd like to have something tangible'' from the Americans, he said. ''We expect this. Any kind of tangible actions.''

Asked what Turkey's military leaders were preparing for, Gonul replied: ''They are planning to cross (the) border.''

ANOTHER UPDATE: The NYT has more on what the U.S. will need to do to prevent Turkey from a cross-border incursion:
Mr. Erdogan said he had told Ms. Rice in a phone conversation Sunday night that Turkey expected “speedy steps from U.S.” in cracking down on Kurdish rebels, and according to The Associated Press, he said that she had expressed sympathy and asked “for a few days” from him. The Iraqi government also began a concerted effort to reach out to Turkey.

“Our anger is great,” Mr. Erdogan said on national television here before he conferred with Turkey’s top political and military officials in an emergency security meeting. “We have the decisiveness to act on these events in cold-blood, and so we are determined.”

The early-morning attack, which were condemned by Iraqi officials and the Bush administration, sharply increased the pressure on Turkey’s government to ignore the wishes of its American allies and send troops into northern Iraq.

posted by Dan at 01:22 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)