Thursday, April 17, 2008
I'm going to be a little busy this week
Blogging will be be light for the next two days, as I'll be running a conference here at the Fletcher School on the Past, Present, and Future of Policymaking:
2007 marked the 60th anniversary of the founding of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff. This agency, housed in the State Department, is unusual in two respects. First, it will forever be associated with its first director, George Kennan, and the successful doctrine of containment that he originated. Second, the mission of Policy Planning is, according to its own website: “to take a longer term, strategic view of global trends and frame recommendations for the Secretary of State to advance U.S. interests and American values.” This goes against the grain of a 24/7, real-time, rapid-reaction era when government policymakers define the long term as two weeks from the present.Click here for a look at the conference program. The event is open to the public, so Boston-based readers can register their attendance by clicking here.
For those of you not in the Bosto area, don't fret -- if all goes well, all of the sessions will be webcast in real time.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
A random elitist question
Given the media firestorm over Obama's "bitter" statement, and given the overwhelming commetariat consensus that this episode would hurt Obama in the polls, and given the polling results clearly indicating this not to be the case in either Pennsylvania or across the country, what can be inferred?
A) Gun-toting, small-town Jesus-worshippers are so bitter that they don't watch cable news outlets;
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
The oldest theme in the business
I'm beginning to wonder if there's a cognitive tic in my system that causes me to "not get" Jacob Heilbrunn's published output.
This month, Heilbrunn has an essay in World Affairs that bemoans the decline of the public intellectual:
For all the heat it has generated, for all the moments of good theater it has provided, the debate over the War on Terror has also called into question the role of public intellectuals today. In a prior time, these intellectuals could be judged by their output; today it is by the noise they make and the comment they generate....Having battled this meme for several years now, I'm beginning to observe a few pathologies in the standard "decline of the intellectual" essay:
1) Provide as little evidence as possible for your argument: Heilbrunn tries to persuade by asserting that, "Most of the intellectuals who stepped up to the mics at FOX News spent more energy wondering if they were the next George Orwell than writing books that would cast light on what the country faced in a time of terror." This is truly odd for two reasons. First, the only effort Heilbrunn makes to substantiate his argument about intellectual decline is to look at the trajectories of Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens. This would be fine, except that neither Sullivan nor Hitchens have been shy in writing books on this topic.The decline-of-the-public-intellectual trope has been repeated so often -- and so baselessly -- that I'm going to make a request to readers, even though comments are down. Is there any way to objectively measure the quality of current public intellectual output?
E-mail me if you have ideas, because I'm getting tired of swatting these kind of articles down.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Trade politics and embarrassing biographical details
You can hear me talk about the merits, demerits and politics of the proposed free trade agreement with Colombia on PRI's Fair Game with Faith Salie.
As an added bonus, embarrassing biographical details of your humble blogger are revealed at the very end of the discussion.
UPDATE: Wow, I had no idea who Faith Salie was when this was recorded -- and a good thing, too, or I would have been way more nervous and way less coherent.
Through the prism of history, it's the "quiet diplomacy" of the Bush administration that will stand out
I see that NSC advisor Stephen Hadley doesn't think much of a boycott of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics:
It would be a "cop-out" for countries to skip the opening ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics as a way of protesting China's crackdown in Tibet, President Bush's national security adviser said Sunday.Hadley goes even further in the New York Times' version of the story: "[Hadley] suggested that the recent public protests, particularly in the chaotic Olympic torch processions, would only backfire."
Three thoughts on this:
1) Is Hadley seriously suggesting that the Tibet issue was going to crop up in "quiet diplomacy" in the absence of public protests? I suspect that, absent the news coverage, the only way it would have surfaced would have been in a completely pro forma way, with the inevitable "go away sonny, you're bothering me" reply from Beijing.