Friday, February 1, 2008

Listen.... to the BBC World Service!

UPDATE: To listen to the entire discussion, click here and then click on the "listen to the debate" link.

On Saturday at 1:00 PM Eastern time I'll be participating a live debate on the BBC World Service. What's it about? I'll let the BBC explain:

Ahead of Super Tuesday - the day when 24 US states decide on their preferred candidate for the Presidency - BBC World Service and Chicago Public Radio present a major debate on the big election issues live from Chicago on Saturday 2 February.

Election 2008: America's Decision - Your Business comes from the Jim And Kay Mabie Performance Studio of Chicago Public Radio and can be listened to live on the BBC World Service website.

Presented by the BBC's Claire Bolderson and Richard Steele from Chicago Public Radio, the debate will see four select studio guests and their audience focus on the global economy and foreign policy, internal debate in the US, and the impact on the rest of the world.

The panellists are Tom Bevan, editor of the website RealClearPolitics; professor Jean Bethke Elshtain of the University of Chicago; Laura Washington of the Chicago Sun-Times; and professor Daniel Drezner of the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

I believe you can listen to it online as well.

Since I wrote my Newsweek column on this issue, there's been some straight news coverage on this from the New York Times, as well as Roger Cohen's recent op-ed.

None of these stories cover Chinese perceptions of the campaign. Thank goodness for!!!:

After seeing myriad YouTube clips of geographically illiterate Americans, I have to say it's refreshing to see a U.S. citizen displaying more positive traits.

And for those wondering where the title of this post comes from.... well, see below:

posted by Dan at 12:48 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Human rights vs. democracy promotion

Human Rights Watch has released their 2008 world report, and it's getting some play in the Financial Times and other outlets. Here's the FT lead:

The world’s well established democracies are increasingly prepared to give credibility to authoritarian regimes, failing to probe how autocracies conduct flawed elections to bolster their international standing, a leading human rights body said on Thursday.

In its annual survey of democracy across the world, Human Rights Watch argues that the US and the European Union are too quick to support “sham democracies” in states like Pakistan, Egypt, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan, turning a blind eye to their abuse of underlying civil and political rights.

“In 2007, too many governments...acted as if simply holding a vote was enough to prove a nation ’democratic,’ and Washington, Brussels and European capitals played along,” Human Rights watch said in its latest report.

This is difficult to dispute. That said, Roth's introduction reveals an interesting tension between the human rights and democracy promotion agendas:
Part of the reason that dictators can hope to get away with such subterfuge is that, unlike human rights, “democracy” has no legally established definition. The concept of democracy reflects the powerful vision that the best way to select a government and guide its course is to entrust ultimate authority to those who are subject to its rule. It is far from a perfect political system, with its risk of majoritarian indifference to minorities and its susceptibility to excessive influence by powerful elements, but as famously the “least bad” form of government, in the words of Winston Churchill, it is an important part of the human rights ideal. Yet there is no International Convention on Democracy, no widely ratified treaty affirming how a government must behave to earn the democracy label. The meaning of democracy lies too much in the eye of the beholder.

By contrast, international human rights law grants all citizens the right to “take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives” and to “vote” in “genuine periodic elections” with “universal and equal suffrage” and “secret ballot” so as to “guarantee[] the free expression of the will of the electors.” It also grants a range of related rights that should be seen as essential to democracy in any robust and meaningful form, including rights protecting a diverse and vigorous civil society and a free and vibrant press, rights defending the interests of minorities, and rights ensuring that government officials are subject to the rule of law. The specificity and legally binding nature of human rights are their great strength. But when autocrats manage to deflect criticism for violating these rights by pretending to be democrats, when they can enjoy the benefits of admission to the club of democracies without paying the admission fee of respect for basic rights, the global defense of human rights is put in jeopardy. Why bother complying with so intrusive a set of rules as international human rights law when, with a bit of maneuvering, any tyrant can pass himself off as a “democrat”?

On the one hand, Roth is correct so far as the state of international law is concerned. On the other hand, it's far from clear that the clarity of human rights law has had appreciable effects on, you know, respect for human rights.

Indeed, whether human rights treaties have had any effect on state behavior is a disputed point in both international relations and international law scholarship. Compared to the various waves (and smaller counterwaves) of democratization that have occurred in recent decades, however, the advancement of human rights looks like its lagging pretty badly. So I'm not sure that the codification of human rights law is the great advancement that Roth proclaims it to be.

posted by Dan at 11:48 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Live-blogging the Democratic debate

Because I feel compelled to do one of these.....

7:58 PM: Yep, even two minutes of Lou Dobbs Tonight is painful.

8:02 PM: Wow, Clinton dominated the walking-out-on-stage part of the debate!!

8:06 PM: Jesus, there have been seventeen debates?!!

8:07 PM: From the opening statements, a clear advantage that Clinton has over Obama in these formats is the latter's hesitancy in his voice -- which plays into the belief that he's inexperienced. Hillary, on the other hand, does not lack in confidence. This will impress the commentariat, at least.

8:12 PM: Clinton just gave the GOP one guaranteed YouTube clip to use if Obama wins the nomination -- about how their policies are really so similar. This is not a new thought, but to have Hillary say it right next to Obama will make for a great ad.

8:17 PM: I like Obama's reply on the mortgage crisis.... and he's definitely winning the "kiss John Edwards' ass" contest.

8:24 PM: Clinton's response on the political realities of health care makes her sound like George W. Bush: neither of them will negotiate with themselves.

8:27 PM: Obama's "broadcast health care dialogue on C-SPAN" seemed like a deft comparison to Clinton's 1994 health care fiasco... until Wolf Blitzer made it overt.

8:28 PM: K-Lo on the debate: "Barack Obama vs. Mitt Romney makes you feel good about America. McCain vs. Hillary makes you stressed."

8:30 PM: Andrew Sullivan: "They are not disabusing me of the notion that discussing the details of healthcare policy is really boring."

8:34 PM: GEORGE!!!!! Jason Alexander is in the house!

8:36 PM: As a former employee, it's worth pointing out that Hillary Clinton's claim that the RAND Corporation is "far from liberal" is a bit rich. If memory serves, they're actually pretty liberal on health care .

8:40 PM: I don't know if it will win him any votes, but Obama's refusal to blame immigration on inner-city unemployment was the right answer

8:48 PM: Clinton gets a point for bringing up the fact that she was co-sponsoring immigration legislation in 2004

8:50 PM: Is there any issue Clinton does not feel personally?

8:53 PM: We're almost at the halfway point... and my card-carrying Democratic Party life partner wife gives the edge to Clinton.

9:03 PM: A Bradley Whitford sighting... our long national nightmare is over.

9:06 PM: Wow, Hillary's wants to let me use my own crieria to evaluate my choice for president?!!! That's the most libertarian thing she's ever said.

9:11 PM: Pierce Brosnan in the house... is he an American citizen?

9:13 PM: And now I see Diane Keaton and Rob Reiner... thank God this audience is truly representative of America.

9:19 PM: One of the problems with watching too many of these debates is that many of these lines have been repeated seventeen times.

9:20 PM: America Ferrara and Alfre Woodard in attendance.... it's good to see Hollywood looking more like America.

9:23 PM: Hillary is proud to have Maxine Waters endorse her? Man, that's sad....

9:27 PM: Topher Grace looks intense.

9:32 PM: Official Blog Wife on Hillary's answer on her Iraq vote: "Is this her 'I did not inhale' moment?"

9:33 PM: Hillary claims that no one could forsee that President Bush was bound and determined to go to war in Iraq? Um, really? That was pretty obvious to the entire blogosphere in the fall of 2002. UPDATE: And Obama makes exactly this point.

9:39 PM: Lou Gossett Jr. sighting. The first Oscar winner. UPDATE: And Spielberg as well... Garry Shandling did not win an Oscar.

9:46 PM: Good Lord, Hillary Clinton has the worst, most annoying laugh ever.

9:52 PM: Maybe they're good actors, but there seemed to be genuine affection between the two of them at the end of the debate.

9:53 PM: From the Blog Wife -- she gives a thumbs up to the earth-tones of Hillary's brown suit with the turquoise jewelry, but Obama's tie exuded cool.

FINAL ASSESSMENT: I thought Clinton did marginally better on the nitty-gritty of policy, but Obama did better on everything else. More importantly, given his past debate performances, Obama did much better than expected.

Thumbs up to Doyle McManus as well... and thumbs down to Wolf Blitzer.

posted by Dan at 07:57 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Hegemonic decline, revisited

I see that both Kevin Drum and Matthew Yglesias liked Parag Khanna's "Waving Goodbye to Hegemony" argument a lot more than I did.

Both Kevin and Matt like the fact that, "it's a useful article if only because it's so rare to see foreign policy pieces in the mainstream media that aren't almost completely America-centric." Fair enough. But if that's their interest, I would recommend "A World Without the West," by Naazneen Barma, Ely Ratner and Steve Weber in May/June 2007 issue of The National Interest -- which was followed up by a lively debate on TNI online.

Furthermore, as an adjunct to Khanna's essay, it would be good to read Michael Lind's cover story in the February issue of Prospect magazine. Lind's argument:

America does, of course, have many problems, such as spiralling healthcare costs and a decline in social mobility. Yet the truth is that apart from the temporary frictions caused by current immigration from Latin America, the US is more integrated than ever. Racial and cultural diversity is in long-term decline, as a result of the success of the melting pot in merging groups through assimilation and intermarriage—and many of the country's infamous social pathologies, from violent crime to teenage drug use, are also seeing improvements. Americans are far more religious than Europeans, but the "religious right" is concentrated among white southern Protestants. And there is no genuine long-term entitlement problem in the US. The US suffers from healthcare cost inflation, a problem that will be solved one way or another in the near future, long before it cripples the economy as a whole. And the long-term costs of social security, America's public pension programme, could be met by moderate benefit cuts or a moderate growth in the US government share of GDP. With a linguistically united, increasingly racially mixed supermajority and a solvent system of middle-class entitlements, the US will remain first among equals for generations to come, even in a multipolar world with several great powers.
Another, small cavilabout Matt's post. He writes:
[T]he big thing to keep in mind when considering any particular "declinist" thesis about American hegemony is that we've actually been on the decline for a good long while. In 1945-46 the U.S. economy completely dominated the world, contributing some absurdly high share of total output. Every other significant country on earth had been completely destroyed by war, and we had a monopoly on nuclear weapons. Over time, this dominant position unraveled and Robert Keohane's After Hegemony, a study of America's efforts to forge a diplomatic system to continue to get bye in this new world actually came out decades ago. The collapse of the Soviet Union created a kind of illusion of a return to hegemony since international politics had been organized as "USA or USSR" for so long, but all along throughout the postwar period other countries have been gaining in importance.

What happens, I think, is that whenever the United States makes policy blunders such as Vietnam or Iraq, the fact that hegemony has been slowly slipping through our fingertips for decades suddenly becomes apparent.

Well, sort of. Yglesias is completely correct that the U.S. had nowhere to go but down after 1945 -- a year in which we had the nuclear monopoly and were responsible for 50% of global economic output. Nevertheless, the U.S. resurgence in the nineties was not an illusion. The simple fact is that all of the potential peer competitors to the United States -- Germany, Japan and the USSR -- either stagnated or broke apart. At the same time, U.S. GDP and productivity growth surged. The revival of U.S. relative power was not a mirage.

posted by Dan at 07:40 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Behold the awesome power of undorsements!!!

In December I wrote: "[M]y two undorsements of candidates that could ostensibly win are.... John Edwards and Rudy Giuliani."

Today, both Edwards and Giuliani are dropping out.


Many thanks to Minipundit for the shout-out.

posted by Dan at 10:19 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

I won't have Rudy Giuliani to kick around anymore

I know I've picked on Rudy Giuliani during his presidential campaign, and it seems a bit cruel to dogpile on him after he finished a distant third in his make-or-break state.

That said, after reading Michael Powell and Michael Cooper's dissection of the Giuliani campaign in the New York Times, I do have one final thought. Consider this passage:

Mr. Giuliani’s campaign was stumbling, even if it was not immediately evident. He leaned on friendly executives who would let him speak to employees in company cafeterias. Mr. Romney and Mr. McCain, by contrast, compiled lists of undecided Republican voters and invited them — sometimes weeks in advance — to town-hall-style meetings.

“Rudy Giuliani had a tremendous opportunity in New Hampshire that his campaign never embraced,” said Fergus Cullen, the state Republican chairman. “They vacillated between being half committed and three-quarters committed, and that doesn’t work up here.”

Mr. Giuliani also relied on a New York-style approach to photo-friendly crowds. “Rudy went very heavy on Potemkin Village stops, working what I call ‘hostage audiences,’ “ Mr. Cullen said. “It looked like he was campaigning, but he didn’t know who he was talking to.”....

In the end, Mr. Giuliani and his advisers treated supporters as if they were so many serried lines of troops. If they tell a pollster in November that they are going to vote for you, this indicates they are forever in your camp, their thinking went.

But politics does not march to a military beat; it is a business of shifting loyalties. By Tuesday night, even those voters who rated terrorism as the most important issue were as likely to vote for Mr. Romney or Mr. McCain as for Mr. Giuliani.

From the way he organized his campaign, it seems like Giuliani would have been a complete failure at any kind of governance that would have required, you know, politics or legislation or wonky stuff like that.

posted by Dan at 08:40 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Second World and my discontents

Over at Duck of Minerva, Daniel Nexon heaps praise (and gentle criticism) on Parag Khanna's The Second World, which was excerpted as the cover story for the New York Times Magazine: ("[T]he book is really excellent. I consider it one of the most important contributions to the debate over American grand strategy to make its way into the public sphere in quite some time.")

I will heap praise on Khanna's agent for getting the excerpt placed into the Magazine. There's less demand than there used to be for prose stylings that read like Benjamin Barber after a three-day coke bender in Macao.

As for the content of Khanna's ideas... well, here's a key excerpt:

The Big Three are the ultimate “Frenemies.” Twenty-first-century geopolitics will resemble nothing more than Orwell’s 1984, but instead of three world powers (Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia), we have three hemispheric pan-regions, longitudinal zones dominated by America, Europe and China. As the early 20th-century European scholars of geopolitics realized, because a vertically organized region contains all climatic zones year-round, each pan-region can be self-sufficient and build a power base from which to intrude in others’ terrain. But in a globalized and shrinking world, no geography is sacrosanct. So in various ways, both overtly and under the radar, China and Europe will meddle in America’s backyard, America and China will compete for African resources in Europe’s southern periphery and America and Europe will seek to profit from the rapid economic growth of countries within China’s growing sphere of influence. Globalization is the weapon of choice. The main battlefield is what I call “the second world.”

There are plenty of statistics that will still tell the story of America’s global dominance: our military spending, our share of the global economy and the like. But there are statistics, and there are trends. To really understand how quickly American power is in decline around the world, I’ve spent the past two years traveling in some 40 countries in the five most strategic regions of the planet — the countries of the second world. They are not in the first-world core of the global economy, nor in its third-world periphery. Lying alongside and between the Big Three, second-world countries are the swing states that will determine which of the superpowers has the upper hand for the next generation of geopolitics. From Venezuela to Vietnam and Morocco to Malaysia, the new reality of global affairs is that there is not one way to win allies and influence countries but three: America’s coalition (as in “coalition of the willing”), Europe’s consensus and China’s consultative styles. The geopolitical marketplace will decide which will lead the 21st century.

The key second-world countries in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, South America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia are more than just “emerging markets.” If you include China, they hold a majority of the world’s foreign-exchange reserves and savings, and their spending power is making them the global economy’s most important new consumer markets and thus engines of global growth — not replacing the United States but not dependent on it either. I.P.O.’s from the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) alone accounted for 39 percent of the volume raised globally in 2007, just one indicator of second-world countries’ rising importance in corporate finance — even after you subtract China. When Tata of India is vying to buy Jaguar, you know the landscape of power has changed. Second-world countries are also fast becoming hubs for oil and timber, manufacturing and services, airlines and infrastructure — all this in a geopolitical marketplace that puts their loyalty up for grabs to any of the Big Three, and increasingly to all of them at the same time. Second-world states won’t be subdued: in the age of network power, they won’t settle for being mere export markets. Rather, they are the places where the Big Three must invest heavily and to which they must relocate productive assets to maintain influence.

While traveling through the second world, I learned to see countries not as unified wholes but rather as having multiple, often disconnected, parts, some of which were on a path to rise into the first world while other, often larger, parts might remain in the third. I wondered whether globalization would accelerate these nations’ becoming ever more fragmented, or if governments would step up to establish central control. Each second-world country appeared to have a fissured personality under pressures from both internal forces and neighbors. I realized that to make sense of the second world, it was necessary to assess each country from the inside out.

Maybe I'm a stickler for conceptual boundaries, but I don't think you can claim that the central conceit in your book -- the second world -- is really, really important by temporarily sticking China in the category to inflate the numbers.

There are other, bigger problems:

1) The second world is not nearly as nimble at playing the big powers off of each other as Khanna would have you believe. For example, despite all of Hugo Chavez's machinations, Venezuela still needs the U.S. market.

2) As Nexon said, the excerpt does its darndest to play up Europe and China's rise and America's fall. Actually, it's worse than that -- in the excerpt at least, Khanna simply asserts that American power is waning. I suspect that's true in a relative sense, but some, you know, data, would have been nice. I suspect that these trends are occurring, but Khanna just skates over the internal and external difficulties faced by these other two poles.

3) Robert D. Kaplan style-travelogue inquiries into international relations are really fun to write, and might be fun to read -- but they don't actually shine that bright a light onto the contours of world politics.

I did like the frenemies line, though.

posted by Dan at 08:49 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, January 28, 2008

This year, pollsters know nothing

From the Wall Street Journal's Christopher Cooper and Amy Chozick:

This has proved a tough season for statewide pollsters even by historical standards. Mrs. Clinton eked out a win in New Hampshire even though most pollsters expected her to be buried by Mr. Obama. A recent analysis of polls in that state by Survey USA found that pollsters were off by an average of 10 percentage points in the days leading up to the election. Meanwhile, in South Carolina, where Mr. Obama routed Mrs. Clinton on Saturday, Survey USA found that prognosticators did even worse, chalking up average error rates of 17 percentage points.
What's odd about this is that the bulk of Cooper and Chozick's article is about how Hillary Clinton has a built-in advantage come Super Tuesday... because of statewide polls showing her in the lead.

posted by Dan at 09:40 AM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Looking on the bright side of politics

Kevin Drum is grumpy about the post-South Carolina primary reaction:

I haven't been impressed with very much of the chatter about Barack Obama's primary victory last night. Hillary didn't give a concession speech? Give me a break. Who cares? Turnout was up? Yes, but it's been an exciting and money-filled campaign and turnout has been up everywhere. Obama won the black vote and lost the white vote? Nothing new there. Obama won young people and Hillary won among the elderly? Again, no surprise.
I'll maintain that South Carolina is another notch in an argument I made in Newsweek ten days ago:
In a pleasant surprise, negative campaigning has not worked. Part of the explanation for Huckabee's rise in the polls has been the relentlessly upbeat quality of the campaign and the man. Mitt Romney, in contrast, has not gained much from attacking either Huckabee or McCain. Obama's optimism on the campaign trail worked well for him, until women thought Hillary was being unfairly attacked and rallied behind her. In South Carolina, however, Clinton will likely pay a price for statements made by her, her husband, and her surrogates impugning Obama in particular and, in some instances, the civil rights movement in general.
I think this thesis still holds up. Romney did well n Michigan because he stopped pandering to social conservatives and started pandering to scared auto workers campaigned on his economics and business expertise.

My real test will come in Florida on the GOP side, however. Yesterday John McCain went negative on Romney in a pretty misleading way.

If my hypothesis is correct, Romney wins Florida.

As Drum wryly observed in a previous post, "As long as negative campaigning works — and it's worked pretty effectively ever since Og defeated Ug 56-55 for the presidency of the Olduvai Gorge Mammoth Hunting Alliance — we'll keep seeing it." Drum is likely correct, but so far this year, negative campaigning has been a stinker of a campaign tactic.

posted by Dan at 09:56 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)