Saturday, November 3, 2007
I'll second Dani Rodrik's nomination
The first winner of the the Albert O. Hirschman Prize speaks the truth about Hirschman's intellectual legacy:
I think Hirschman's contributions have been greatly under-appreciated within economics, and that goes a long way to explain why he has not won a Nobel. If the Nobel was given for impact on social sciences more broadly, Hirschman would have clearly won a long time ago. But who know, there is still some time...Let the record show that the hardworking staff here at danieldrezner.com has been calling for this move for two years now.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Newsweek 2: Rise of the hipster statesman
My monthly column in Newsweek International is up, and I really hope it's better than the movie name from which I've drawn this post title.
It's about the phenomenon of the hipster statesman -- i.e., ex-politicians trying to make a difference in the world, not by getting back into government, but through other means of policy entrepreneurship.
I'm not optimistic:
There are two very powerful constraints on ability of the hipster statesmen to get anything done. First, the policy-entrepreneur approach cannot work on all policy problems. To update Truman's aphorism for the 21st century, when you are a statesman, you can choose your issues; when you are a politician, the issues choose you. Real politicians do not always respond to the pleas of statesmen, because they are busy avoiding the fate of becoming a statesman. Wealth, popularity and glamour might be enticing, but as Henry Kissinger once observed, power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.Go check it out. The arguments are similar to those made in my "Foreign Policy Goes Glam" essay in The National Interest.
Is the foreign service like the military?
The Boston Globe's Farah Stockman reports about some trouble a brewin' between Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) and the higher-ups in the State Department:
Angry US diplomats lashed out yesterday against a State Department plan that would send them to Iraq against their will, with one likening it to "a potential death threat" and another accusing the department of providing inadequate care to diplomats who have returned home traumatized.Let's just stipulate that the quoted line is really disturbing. That said, the
question I have to readers is, should FSO's be treated differently from soldiers?
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
The twin sins of Norman Podhoretz....
Lots of bloggers of the liberal/left persuasion have been linking to this debate between Norman Podhoretz and Fareed Zakaria:Zakaraia highlights Podhoretz's obvious sin -- failing to understand the logic of deterrence.
Podhoretz commits another sin, however, in that by framing the debate as being about deterring Iran he rather misses the point. Over at Democracy Arsenal, Ilan Goldenberg writes, "you can boil down the entire argument over Iran between the crazies (Podhoretz) and the sane people (Zakaria)." Er, I'm afraid it's not that simple.
If the effect of Iran's nuclear program were limited to what Iran would do with nuclear weapons, that would be OK. But the massive negative externality of Iran's nuclear program isn't its effect on Israel or the United States -- it's the effect on the rest of the states in the Middle East:
This week Egypt became the 13th Middle Eastern country in the past year to say it wants nuclear power, intensifying an atomic race spurred largely by Iran's nuclear agenda, which many in the region and the West claim is cover for a weapons program.Just to be clear, nuclear programs do not automatically translate into nuclear weapons proliferation. But don't tell me it's not a distinct possibility.
Zakaria might argue that none of this is a problem, since deterrence can still work. My concern is that managing nuclear proliferation in the Middle East is kind of like... managing democratization in the Middle East. In theory, the end state is robust and stable... but the road from here to there is so fraught with peril that I'm very skeptical of it actually working.
This is the point Scott Sagan tried to make in a Foreign Affairs article from last year:
[B]oth deterrence optimism and proliferation fatalism are wrong-headed. Deterrence optimism is based on mistaken nostalgia and a faulty analogy. Although deterrence did work with the Soviet Union and China, there were many close calls; maintaining nuclear peace during the Cold War was far more difficult and uncertain than U.S. officials and the American public seem to remember today. Furthermore, a nuclear Iran would look a lot less like the totalitarian Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China and a lot more like Pakistan, Iran's unstable neighbor -- a far more frightening prospect. Fatalism about nuclear proliferation is equally unwarranted. Although the United States did fail to prevent its major Cold War rivals from developing nuclear arsenals, many other countries curbed their own nuclear ambitions. After flirting with nuclear programs in the 1960s, West Germany and Japan decided that following the NPT and relying on the protection of the U.S. nuclear umbrella would bring them greater security in the future; South Korea and Taiwan gave up covert nuclear programs when the United States threatened to sever security relations with them; North Korea froze its plutonium production in the 1990s; and Libya dismantled its nascent nuclear program in 2003.Again, to be clear, this does not mean we should attack Iran. But it does mean that the U.S. shouldn't be as blasé about the matter as Zakaria suggests. Because it's not just about Iran -- it's about the regional spillovers as well.
posted by Dan at 01:21 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
My all-time top five blog posts
Brad DeLong nominates his top five weblog posts ever, and is gracious enough to include this post among them.
This got me to thinking about Matt Yglesias' initial point -- there are so many newcomers to the blogosphere that, "the aggregate audience for blog commentary is enormously larger than it was a few years ago, so it's quite possible that there are people reading this blog right now who have never heard of of the classic[s]..."
So, without further ado, here are my top five, in chronological order:
1) Jacob Levy, "Political Theory and Political Philosophy."Longtime readers are warmly encouraged to proffer their faves in the comments.
A hidden utility of sports globalization?
Dani Rodrik posts about the migration of talented African
Consider that soccer fans have loyalties not only towards individual clubs but also to their national teams. So one question is what has the presence of foreign players in Europe done to the quality of the national teams. Following the disappointments of the English national team in recent games, some have suggested that the culprit is the dominance of foreign players in the Premier League and have recommended reintroducing quotas.If we're really thinking about the fans, then I think Rodrik is omitting a missing utility. Clearly, the migration has improved the quality of the play of European club teams. Furthermore, for most fans, the consumption of sports is a nonrival good -- i.e., I don't lose any utility from others watching or listening to a game. If African fans value high-quality play, then the decline in African domestic leagues can be offset by paying more attention to the European leagues, much like Rodrik himself.
This certainly happened with baseball, as the importation of players like Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui and Daisuke Matsuzaka have caused Japanese baseball fans to pay more attention to American baseball.
Admittedly, an improvement in the quality of a foreign sports league is not a perfect substitute for a domestic sports league. African soccer fans are much less likely to be able to attend a UEFA game than one from their local league. However, for those not actually attending the game, it's not clear to me that the consumption process is affected by where the good games are played. Indeed, the globalization of consumption suggests that the fans do not suffer as much from a decline in local sports leagues as Rodrik suggests.
Of course, I don't know if Africans actually have paid more attention to the European leagues, and this is an important data point. I hereby request all African readers of danieldrezner.com to submit comments about whether their athletic attention has migrated, along with their players, to northern latitudes.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I think the reviews are in
I haven't read The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. However, after the original contretemps, the initial reviews of the book, and the subsequent reviews in the Economist, New York Times Book Review, Washington Post, The New Republic, and The Nation, I was getting a sense that the book wasn't all that good.
And this was before I got to Walter Russell Mead's review of the book in Foreign Affairs -- which clarifies exactly the extent to which Mearsheimer and Walt have failed in their task:
John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt claim that they want The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy "to foster a more clear-eyed and candid discussion of this subject." Unfortunately, that is not going to happen. "The Israel Lobby" will harden and freeze positions rather than open them up. It will delay rather than hasten the development of new U.S. policies in the Middle East. It will confuse the policy debate not just in the United States but throughout the world as well, while giving aid and comfort to anti-Semites wherever they are found. All of this is deeply contrary to the intentions of the authors; written in haste, the book will be repented at leisure....The obvious question is, why did they fail? See Jacob Levy on this point.
Last year, I wrote the following:
I think we're at the point where it is time to recognize that it will be impossible to have anything close to a high-minded debate on this topic when the starting point is "The Israel Lobby" essay. Don't get me wrong -- besides the fact that Mearsheimer and Walt badly defined their independent variable, miscoded one alternative explanation, omitted several other causal variables, poorly operationalized their dependent variable, and failed to fact-check some of their assertions, it's a bang-up essay. With this foundation, however, any debate is guaranteed to topple into the mire of anti-Semitic accusations, Godwin's Law, and typing in ALL CAPS.In writing the book as a follow-up to the article, Mearsheimer and Walt had that rarest of opportunities -- a chance to correct the errors of omission and commission they committed in their original formulation.
It's a genuine shame that they did not.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Clearly, The National Interest knows my weak spots
Longtime readers of this blog can well imagine how I would reacted to the following request: "Pssst... Dan, would you be interested in writing an article about how glamorous celebrities like Angelina Jolie are taking an interest in foreign policy?"
Who would you rather sit next to at your next Council on Foreign Relations roundtable: Henry Kissinger or Angelina Jolie? This is a question that citizens of the white-collared foreign-policy establishment thought they’d never be asked. The massive attention paid to Paris Hilton’s prison ordeal, Lindsay Lohan’s shame spiral and anything Britney Spears has done, said or exposed has distracted pop-culture mavens from celebrities that were making nobler headlines.You'll have to read the entire article to see where I come down on the question of celebrity activism. I will say the following:
1) You like how I got the Unholy Trinity of celebrity bad behavior into the first paragraph? I tried, I mean really tried, to cram as many celebrity mentions into the piece as possible.Go check it out.
[The role of celebrities in world politics? Isn't that... a bit low-brow?--ed. C'mon, it's not like I was shoe-blogging.]
Really, this post is just for the family
Various friends and relations have castigated me for not advertising my media whoredom with sufficient rapidity.
Sooo.... just to catch up:
1) Tyler Cowen says nice things about this blog in the pages of Foreign Policy.I believe I'm all caught up now.
Why 2007 is different from 2004
Daisuke Matsuzaka: $103 million.
J.D. Drew: $70 million.
Julio Lugo: $36 million.
Eric Gagné: two decent young players, a couple of million dollars, and at least two months from my life expectancy.
Hideki Okajima, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon, Bobby Kielty, Manny Delcarmen, Jon Lester et al: Combined, much less than any of the aforementioned players on this list, but more than I have in my bank account.
Waking up your son and seeing him punch the air with his fist and say "YESSSS!!!" when Papelbon struck out his last batter of the season: priceless.
Congratulations to the Colorado Rockies, for an incredible run to get to the World Series, and for making the last three games much more nail-biting than the term "sweep" would suggest.
UPDATE: In Baseball Prospectus, Joe Sheehan writes about the difference between information and experience when it comes to thinking about baseball:
After tonight, however, I know what cannot be quantified: being able to claim the word “champion” for your own, to scream at the top of your lungs that you’re the best, and get no argument. To dance on a field with your teammates—no, your work family—and embrace and have, for that moment, the knowledge that no one is better than you are.It's interesting to remember that only a decade ago, the dysfunctionally managed Red Sox made headlines for their internecine warfare, while the Yankees exuded professionalism. The roles have certainly been reversed.... in Red Sox Nation, there's not even going to be a controversy about the final ball.