OxBlog

Monday, October 21, 2002

# Posted 2:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPEAKING OF INSPECTIONS, one ought to read today's WashPost op-ed by Mohamed El Baradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (and therefore the top international official responsible for arms inspections). Expecting a predictable defense of inspections that would sound convincing only to those who already agree with the author, I was pleasantly surprised by El Baradei's lucid writing and sharp observations.

El Baradei first reminds us that the President himself (in his Cincinatti speech) has recognized that "Before being barred from Iraq in 1998, the International Atomic Energy Agency dismantled extensive nuclear weapons-related facilities." Even though I wrote a long post on the Cincinnati speech, I hadn't noticed that line. In short, I missed the fact that the official position of the Bush administration is that inspections can work.

El Baradei then lists the conditions necessary for success. In short, the inspectors will need unfettered authority backed by strong Security Council support. He also argues that success demands "active cooperation by Iraq". I can't figure out if El Baradei really means this, or if he is protecting himself from the likely failure of inspections in the face of Iraqi resistance. But if you just look past this one red flag, El Baradei's article is solid.
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# Posted 11:45 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AN INSPECTOR CALLS: Suddenly the US is concerned about implementing a rapid timetable for weapons inspections in Iraq. Time is of the essence because military action will be all but impossible once the winter ends.

As I see it, this is something the Bush administration should have thought about long ago. Instead of waiting until the last possible moment to cooperate with the United Nations, it should have made a decision early whether cooperation was desirable or not. Now, it faces the worst of both worlds: negotiating partners resentful of American high-handedness and a lack of time to launch military operations if necessary.

Why is the Bush strategy for Iraq lost at sea? The answer is one that OxBlog has mentioned often before: First, internal divisions within the administration. Second, an inability to think in grand strategic terms.
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Sunday, October 20, 2002

# Posted 8:27 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CALL BUSH A HYPOCRITE: If that is what you want, the time is now. When Saddam tries to develop weapons of mass destruction, we threaten to invade. When North Korea does, we send diplomats. Yet even top officials in the Clinton administration recognize that a more flexible stance on North Korea reflects strategic necessity, not hypocrisy. The bottom line is this: We can fight Saddam deep inside his own territory. Fighting North Korea means launching a war that would leave tens of thousands of South Koreans dead. At minimum.

The only real casualty of the North Korean crisis has been the administration's new National Security Strategy. Raising pre-emption to the level of official doctrine seems somewhat absurd if we can't apply it to two out of three of the members of the axis of evil.
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# Posted 7:56 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PITY JOSH CHAFETZ. Now that he has become the nation's foremost critic of Maureen Dowd, he has an obligation to read each one of her columns and provide a thoughtful response. In contrast, I can simply ignore anything she writes and spend my time reading the work of informative writers such as Tom Friedman. While I am still of the opinion that The Lexus and the Olive Tree was an exercise in self-absorbed pseudo-scholarship, Friedman has provided more insight into world affairs than most other columnists in recent months. Take today's column for example, which begins as follows:
A funny thing happened in Iran the other day. The official Iranian news agency, IRNA, published a poll on Iranian attitudes toward America, conducted by Iran's National Institute for Research Studies and Opinion Polls. The poll asked 1,500 Iranians whether they favored opening talks with America, and 75 percent said "yes." More interesting, 46 percent said U.S. policies on Iran — which include an economic boycott and labeling Iran part of an "axis of evil" — were "to some extent correct."...you can imagine what happened next. Iran's hard-liners shut down the polling institute and threatened the IRNA official who published the results.
So if the government isn't responding to the people's wishes, why is it still in power? As Friedman observes:
The transition from autocracy to real democracy in Iran [has] dragged out much longer than in Europe for many reasons, but the most important is because the hard-line mullahs control Iran's oil wealth. What that means is that they have a pool of money that they can use to monopolize all the instruments of coercion — the army, police and intelligence services. And their pool of money is not dependent on their opening Iran's economy or political system or being truly responsive to their people's aspirations.
What does this mean for the United States?
If we really want to hasten the transition from autocracy to something more democratic in places like Iraq or Iran, the most important thing we can do is gradually, but steadily, bring down the price of oil — through conservation and alternative energies...Ousting Saddam is necessary for promoting the spread of democracy in the Middle East, but it won't be sufficient, it won't stick, without the Mideast states kicking their oil dependency and without us kicking ours.
And there you have it. A model column. It begins by reporting little-known facts, proceeds to analysis, and concludes with strong policy recommendations. Perhaps Ms. Dowd might take note. And if not her, than perhaps a number of congressmen should, since they seem more interested in talking about national security than doing anything about it. As the WashPost points out today, Congress' failure to pass the budget has forced
the nation must do without 570 new Border Patrol agents, 110 new FBI intelligence analysts, new bomb detectors at airports, security improvements at U.S. embassies, modernization of the Coast Guard fleet, and bioterrorism research. Ironically, many of the same members who abandoned their legislative responsibilities are running around their districts trying to convince voters that homeland security is dear to their hearts. In fact, it is pretty clear from congressional behavior that getting reelected trumps the war on terrorism.
While most of those who criticize Bush for putting the war of Iraq ahead of the war on terror fail to recognize that fighting Iraq is fighting terror, the President must also bear responsibility for Congress' failures. As commander-in-chief, he has to use his influence to fight the war not just abroad, but on the homefront as well.
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Thursday, October 17, 2002

# Posted 10:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AXIS OF OOPS! Two weeks ago, OxBlog took Bush to task for ignoring North Korea. Now the North Koreans suddenly announce that they have been secretly developing nuclear weapons for almost a decade. At the moment, it isn't clear whether this program has produced an actual weapon. While shocking, this isn't necessarily a setback for the United States. In fact, it may be Kim Jong Il's dysfunctional way of coming clean. Strangely enough, US diplomat James Kelly accused the North Koreans of having nukes, met with flat denials, but thengot a full admission the next day. What next? According to Joe Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment -- one of the best nuclear weapons analysts around -- the administration has two choices: "They either play 'gotcha' and cut off relations, or they can justifiably claim that their tough approach produced exactly the change in North Korean behavior we had been seeking." I'd say option number two is the way to go.
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Wednesday, October 16, 2002

# Posted 12:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TNR AFFIRMS OXBLOG SUSPICIONS: Just after the President's recent speech in Cincinnati, OxBlog called attention to Bush's apparent effort to water down the definition of "regime change" so that the US could accommodate allied objections to our declared policy. Two days later, TNR's Ryan Lizza reported that this apparent watering down had, in fact, taken place and that it was an indication of Colin Powell's staying power within the administration. Depending on one's assessment of the Iraqi threat, this may or may not be a good thing. But it underscores a critical point that I have sought to hammer home in the past month: that Bush is being pulled back and forth by competing advisors with competing agendas, rather than setting a clear course for American foreign policy.

The rest of Lizza's article is also well worth reading, especially the discussion of French motives for backing a two-resolution inspections regime at the UN. In light of the apparent inability of the Bush administration to decide what it wants from Iraq, the French have good reason to ensure that the US returns to the Security Council before invading, so that American hawks can't use minor instances of Iraqi non-compliance to bulldoze the doves. While I don't have all that much sympathy for the doves in this case, I have to admit that the French are behaving in a moderate and responsible manner, especially given their interests in avoiding war. In contrast, the US seems to be exhibiting the sort of temperamental behavior one usually associates with the French. Omigod, did I just say the French were rational? Next thing you know I'll be burning the flag. ;)
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# Posted 12:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I TOLD YOU SO: With the US intelligence establishment still reeling from revelations of incompetence before and after September 11th, it's good to know that it was at least able to predict the attack on Bali. The fact that listening to the United States could have saved hundreds of lives and billions of dollars should suggest to other Middle Eastern and Asian nations that supporting the war on terrorism might not be such a bad idea.

On the other hand, one cannot hold Pres. Sukarnoputri solely responsible for Indonesia's unpreparedness. With the brutal and corrupt military and security forces discredited after decades of dictatorships, there was little incentive to give such forces the sort of authority needed to reign in terror. As one expert on Indonesian politics observed in the NY Times, Sukarnoputri's rush to pass anti-terror legislation after the Bali attack has scared many Indonesians who know that internal security laws have become nothing more than a pretext for political repression in neighboring states such as Malaysia.

The bottom line: If the Bush administration wants Indonesia to become a firm ally in the war on terror, it has support civilian authority and democratic reforms within Indonesia. The war for democracy and the war on terror are inseparable. Just as tens of millions of Arabs believe the US and Israel destroyed the Twin Towers in order to justify a war on Islam, tens of millions of Indonesians believe the Bali attack was the work of the CIA. Why? Because where there is no freedom of expression, prejudice rules. In the democracies of the world, there was universal sympathy for the United States after September 11th and near-universal support for the war in Afghanistan. The truth works against Bin Laden.
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# Posted 8:26 AM by Daniel  

TOM AT HIS BEST. Friedman's column from today should be read along with Dershowitz's essay to which Josh referred about two weeks ago. Friedman's is better because he addresses both sides of the issue in an extremely sensible manner. He is right that settlements are not the reason for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but they certainly exacerbate it and make the occupation more permanent.
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Tuesday, October 15, 2002

# Posted 9:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUT NOT THAT SMART: George Bush may be smarter than Osama bin Laden, but US foreign policy still finds itself without a secure foundation in democratic principles. Ethical points aside, this failure is simply dangerous. As the WashPost argues, Bush's failure to control Pervez Musharraf's dictatorial nature led to an extremely strong showing for Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistani elections. At the same time, the administration has done little to bring Indonesia into line with US foreign policy. With any luck, the Bali attack will change that.
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# Posted 8:44 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYPE: When Paul Krugman writes about the US economy, he writes as a professor, as an expert who pays careful attention to facts and figures. This is not to say that he is neutral by any account. Rather, he is up front about his political positions and then reinforces them with evidence. When it comes to foreign affairs, Krugman descends into the realm of irresponisble speculation. Today's column is a case in point. Consider the following quote:
In case you haven't noticed, the people running Al Qaeda are smart. Saturday's bombing in Bali, presumably carried out by a group connected to Al Qaeda, was monstrously evil. It was also, I'm sorry to say, very clever.
Krugman may be right that Al Qaeda chose Indonesia as a target in order to radicalize a vast Muslim nation. However, Krugman ignores the fundamental stupidity of an attack that killed approximately 200 tourists but only 2 or 3 Americans. If Al-Qaeda had any hope of resisting American firepower, it was the prospect of separating the United States from it allies in the war in terror. Killing Britons, Australians, and EU citizens does exactly the oppositie. Moreover, robbing Indonesians of one of their most lucratives sources of income -- tourism -- will breed opposition to Al Qaeda, not support as Krugman asserts. When it comes to radicalizing Indonesia, it will not be hard for the US to outbid Al Qaeda in the war of ideas. All we need is a White House committed to that objective.

If one broadens one's perspective, the absurdity of describing Al Qaeda's leadership as brilliant becomes even more apparent. Given its presumed objective was to eliminate US influence in the Middle East, the absolute worst strategy it could have chosen was the one it did choose: to attack the American homeland. Had the leaders of Al Qaeda possessed even the most limited knowledge of American politics and history, they would have known that nothing has a greater potential to unite Americans behind their president than a second Pearl Harbor.

If I were Osama bin Laden, I would have focused all of my efforts on attacking US forces stationed in the Gulf Region. If Al Qaeda could attack New York, it seems that it should have been able to attack targets in the Middle East as well. True, the absence of civil liberties makes such attacks harder to execute, but the homefield advantage of a sympathetic population should have more than made up for that.

But enough specuation. The bottom line is this: Al Qaeda attacked the United States, which then ousted the Taliban, forcing Al Qaeda to operate on the run and pursue desperate strategies such as killing toursits. I never thought it was possible, but someone has finally made George Bush look like the smart one.
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# Posted 6:41 AM by Daniel  

YES OR NO. It should be a nailbiter in Iraq, where voters go to the polls today.
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Monday, October 14, 2002

# Posted 7:30 PM by Daniel  

GOOD PIECE about American hegemony by Max Boot. His assertion that "power breeds unilateralism" goes a bit too far, however. Using Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq as examples to put Clinton in the same boat as Bush misses the fundamental differences between the two administrations with respect to the international community.
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# Posted 10:00 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOOM ON THE EUPHRATES: MIT prof Barry Posen has a disturbing article on the hardships involved in taking Baghdad. The article is especially impressive because of its attention to detail, but nonetheless slips too comfortably into the assumption that the Iraqi people will risk their own lives to resist a US-led occupation. For an opposing view, also from a scholar with impressive credentials, see Michael Rubin's article on Iraqi morale in The New Republic.

There is also some good news from Afghanistan, whose government has apparently won the respect of international donors for its budget and development plans. Still, the government is so poor that unpaid soldiers and police officers are resorting to looting and robbery. The solution is obvious, Mr. President: Hire Afghan officers to find the DC sniper...
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Sunday, October 13, 2002

# Posted 2:28 PM by Daniel  

Stephen Ambrose passed away today. He made history exciting and will be missed.
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Saturday, October 12, 2002

# Posted 9:41 PM by Daniel  

I'M BACK after a long and wonderful vacation. Hello David and Josh. I watched Bush's speech last Monday and it was by far the best one he has given on Iraq in terms of content and delivery. I'm pretty jetlagged but have to say this: Like Frank Rich I am completely disappointed with the Democrats. Wanting to "move on" is no excuse for ducking out of a debate. We'll see how this plays out on November 5th.
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Friday, October 11, 2002

# Posted 11:51 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SADDAM TO JOIN HITLER AND HIROHITO: The Bush administration has drafted a detailed plan for setting up a US military government in Iraq after its liberation. If this plan wins formal approval, the American commitment to promoting democracy in Iraq will become unequivocal. As the NY Times noted, the occupation of Iraq will be "modeled on the postwar occupation of Japan". Thus, perhaps it is time for the debate on democracy and Islam to begin anew...

For a look at State Department efforts to prepare exiled Iraqis for their role in reconstructing their homeland, click here.
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# Posted 11:34 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPIES BEHAVING BADLY: The President finally wins official support from Congress for the use of force against Iraq even though the CIA doesn't share his perception of an immediate Iraqi threat. While it's hard to know whether Saddam would or wouldn't supply terrorists with weapons of mass destruction before an Allied invasion, the President seems unable to break his habit of making bold assertions about Saddam's intentions only to find that he has to revise them afterward. While Americans haven't found that disturbing, there is no question that such flip-flops undermine US efforts to win allied support as well as hurting Tony Blair's efforts to keep Britain at the forefront of the war on terrorism.
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Wednesday, October 09, 2002

# Posted 11:14 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YES, AMERICA FIGHTS PREVENTIVE WARS. Michael Kelly makes an important point in today's WashPost: That the U.S. has never hesitated to fight preventive wars in the name of justice and freedom. As Kelly writes:
"..evangelism for the freedom of men impelled America to what can fairly be called "preventive wars," or armed interventions, in the Persian Gulf, in Haiti, in Bosnia and in Kosovo. Actually, only the Persian Gulf War rises even to the justification of preventive war. The others -- all launched by a Democratic administration with the support of liberal Democrats -- enjoyed no justification under the logic of imminent threat. They were primarily about nothing but the freedom of men.

So, "preventive wars" are not new, and neither is the American impulse to better the world by air power. But we have not had a president embrace this impulse so largely and clearly, and as a matter of grand doctrine, since Sen. [Ted] Kennedy's brother called a generation to arms."

And since preventive wars tend to be followed by nation-building, here are a pair of articles, by Mark Danner and Fawaz Gerges, on the fate of postwar Iraq. Both should encourage those skeptics who do not believe we can build a democratic Middle East. But I like Danner's description of why a democratic Middle East would matter so much to US security:
Behind the notion that an American intervention will make of Iraq "the first Arab democracy," as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz put it, lies a project of great ambition. It envisions a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq — secular, middle-class, urbanized, rich with oil — that will replace the autocracy of Saudi Arabia as the key American ally in the Persian Gulf, allowing the withdrawal of United States troops from the kingdom. The presence of a victorious American Army in Iraq would then serve as a powerful boost to moderate elements in neighboring Iran, hastening that critical country's evolution away from the mullahs and toward a more moderate course. Such an evolution in Tehran would lead to a withdrawal of Iranian support for Hezbollah and other radical groups, thereby isolating Syria and reducing pressure on Israel. This undercutting of radicals on Israel's northern borders and within the West Bank and Gaza would spell the definitive end of Yasir Arafat and lead eventually to a favorable solution of the Arab-Israeli problem.

This is a vision of great sweep and imagination: comprehensive, prophetic, evangelical...It means to remake the world, to offer to a political threat a political answer. It represents a great step on the road toward President Bush's ultimate vision of "freedom's triumph over all its age-old foes."
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# Posted 11:08 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH LISTENS TO OXBLOG! It might be more accurate to say that Bush listens to Tony Blair. On Monday night, the President told the nation that
Some citizens wonder, "After 11 years of living with this problem, why do we need to confront it now?"

And there's a reason. We have experienced the horror of September the 11th. We have seen that those who hate America are willing to crash airplanes into buildings full of innocent people. Our enemies would be no less willing, in fact they would be eager, to use biological or chemical or a nuclear weapon.

Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.
Three weeks ago, OxBlog observed that:
The British prime minister is the only hawk who recognizes that the real reason that the United States and its allies cannot tolerate the continuing existence of Saddam's regime is that ever since September 11th we have become aware of the need to preempt terror. As Blair said:

"Suppose I had come last year on the same day as this year -- Sept. 10. Suppose I had said to you: There is a terrorist network called al Qaeda. It operates out of Afghanistan. It has carried out several attacks and we believe it is planning more. It has been condemned by the U.N. in the strongest terms. Unless it is stopped, the threat will grow. And so I want to take action to prevent that. Your response and probably that of most people would have been very similar to the response of some of you yesterday on Iraq. There would have been few takers for dealing with it and probably none for taking military action of any description."


Thus, I say without reservation that Bush's Cincinnati speech was an improvement over his previous efforts in numerous respects. As usual, I agree with more than 80% of what the President says on foreign policy. Now if you have been reading my posts this past month, you might wonder how I can characterize myself as someone who tends to agree with the President on foreign policy, at least since September 11. The answer is this: I criticize the president not because I disagree with him, but because I believe he has demonstrated a certain incompetence in his efforts to achieve objective that he, I and almost all Americans share. Convincing me isn't hard. What I'm concerned about is whether Bush rhetoric and decisions will elicit the right response from our allies as well as our enemies. From that point of view, there were still a number of problems with the Cincinnati speech.

1) Bush said that:
In addition to declaring and destroying all of its weapons of mass destruction, Iraq must end its support for terrorism. It must cease the persecution of its civilian population. It must stop all illicit trade outside the oil-for-food program. It must release or account for all Gulf War personnel, including an American pilot whose fate is still unknown.

By taking these steps and by only taking these steps, the Iraqi regime has an opportunity to avoid conflict.

These steps would also change the nature of the Iraqi regime itself. America hopes the regime will make that choice.


These sentences imply that Bush is moving away from a strict definition of regime change, which entails replacing Saddam's dictatorial order with a democratic one. While disarming, reducing persecution and stopping illicit trade are all good things, none of them demands the removal of Saddam Hussein from power, i.e. the sina que non of regime change.

Such a change of course would be disturbing. In light of the fact that Bush has expended so much of his political capital establishing the legitimacy of regime change -- both at home and abroad -- one wonders why he is backing off from it now. Has something changed? As far as I can tell, his words on Monday night represent a poorly designed effort to reconcile the demands of regime change with the more moderate position of the United Nations, which is only demanding Iraqi disarmament. If Bush wants to cooperate more closely with the UN, however, he should acknowledge his differences with it and agree to collaborate for the purpose of achieving common objective. To do otherwise is to damage his already questionable credibility.

2) Bush also stated that:
Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable. The resolution will tell the United Nations, and all nations, that America speaks with one voice and it is determined to make the demands of the civilized world mean something.


While I myself have emphasized the importance of a united front, framing the resolution as an effort to achieve a united front seems somewhat deceptive. As I understood, the purpose of the resolution is to respond to the immediate threat to US national security posed by Iraq. In light of such an immediate threat, the President much have the authority to use force without waiting for congressional approval. Yet nowhere in Bush's speech was there an explicit statment that Iraq presents an immediate, i.e. within-the-next-few-months, sort of threat to the US. In fact, the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq suggests that Saddam will not use chemical or biological weapons unless attacked first by the United States. Thus, it seems that the President has finally backed off from his untenable argument that Saddam might attack at any moment. While that decision is for the best, it still highlights the fact that this administration has a lot to learn about establishing its credibility on the world stage. Moreover, if the Iraqi threat isn't immediate, the President could have waited until after the upcoming elections to submit his resolution to Congress, thus avoiding the partisan wrangling that has undermined the President's own efforts to negotiate with the UN.

3) Finally, Bush still hasn't mastered the art of demonstrating that "Iraq is unique". According to the President:
I said that those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves. Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists and the instruments of terror, the instruments of mass death and destruction, and he cannot be trusted.

If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, he could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year.
It seems to be that if one substitutes the word "Iran" for the words "Saddam Hussein", the above sentence would still make sense. What Bush seems unable to say is that Saddam is unique because he remains in violation of the disarmament accord that ended the Gulf War. He is an international outlaw. And on September 11th the United States learned just how far outlaws are willing to go to destroy us.
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Tuesday, October 08, 2002

# Posted 9:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SOMETIMES YOU JUST CAN'T WIN: The President delivered his speech last night from Ohio. Why?

According to the WashPost: "The White House selected the location for the speech -- Ohio -- because there were no competitive races in the area that would make Bush appear to be playing politics with the war."

According to the NY Times: "...the president's paramount focus this evening was the people, and he spoke not from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue but from Ohio, a swing state vital to his own electoral prospects two years from now."
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# Posted 8:34 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CLOSING RANKS: Bush has succeeded in defusing the opposition within his own party which I noted last week. Sen. Richard Lugar cited compromises in the text of a congressional resolution authorizing the use of force as the reason for the withdrawal of his objections.

Public opinion seems to be moving toward the president as well. While the NY Times published an editorial entitled "A Nation Wary of War" and the WashPost observed that only a "bare majority" supports invading Iraq, both failed to note that having any sort or majority favor military action before the President announces it is extremely rare. The Post did note, however, that public support for military action has always risen sharply after the US commits itself.

Opposition among Democrats seems limited to those who do not seem tor recognize that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction are a material threat to international law and security. As Ted Kennedy observed: "What the administration is really calling for is preventive war, which flies in the face of international rules of acceptable behavior." Perhaps someone should remind the Senator that Saddam accepted UN demands for disarmament in exchange for an end to hostilities in the Gulf War. His constant violation of multiple UN resolutions are therefore grounds for renewed inspections backed by the threat of force.
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Monday, October 07, 2002

# Posted 10:56 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HEART AND SOUL. As Frank Foer reports in the New Republic, Kofi Annan has become a regular presence at the Bush White House, where the President has declared that the Secretary-General has a "good heart". All this despite Annan's embarrassing efforts to prevent the imposition of a serious inspections program on Iraq. While all presidents make mistakes in sizing up their negotiating partners, Bush's comments are disturbing in light of his statement -- made after meeting with Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin -- that he had "looked the man in the eye [and] was able to get a sense of his soul." (WashPost, May 23, 2002 [no permalink]). Bush went on to praise Putin, only to find himself embarrassed thereafter by Russia's brutal campaign against Chechen independence and clear interest in better relations with Iraq.

Perhaps one should not be surprised by Bush's reliance on his personal assessments of foreign officials, since the President himself declared that "Good diplomacy really depends on good personal relations." (WashPost, May 23, 2002 [no permalink]). Personally, I'd prefer a president who focused his diplomacy on advancing American interests, American security and American values. Especially if his glaring lack of expertise in international relations causes him to mistake others' empty promises for actual commitments to helping the United States.

By the way, I find it interesting that Josh also linked to Frank Foer's article on Annan's sympathy for Iraq without any reference to its criticism of Bush's naivete. A hanging curveball, my friend?
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Sunday, October 06, 2002

# Posted 9:54 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TAKING DEMOCRACY SERIOUSLY. The New York Times bashes the President for committing himself to democracy in postwar Iraq while doing nothing to promote it in allied Muslim states such as Turkey and Pakistan. If you followed the recent debate here on democracy and Islam, you should read the Times' editorial. If one believes that Islamic culture is a fundamental barrier to democratization, then it would make sense to prioritize democracy promotion in Turkey and Pakistan over democracy promotion in Iraq, since the former have much more secular cultures as well as significant experience with democratic governance. If one believes that culture is not as important as US efforts to promote democracy abroad, then it would make sense to promote it in allied nations such Turkey and Pakistan as well as postwar Iraq.

Also on democracy and Islam: David Ignatius takes Bush to task for not laying out plans for postwar Iraq, while profiling some of those Iraqi dissidents who are.

Also check out William Buckley's contribution to the debate on democracy promotion and nation-building, which comes at the end of an article on US diplomacy at the UN. Thanks to CalPundit for finding it.
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# Posted 9:24 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOWD STRIKES AGAIN. As if to demonstrate how insightful Josh is, Ms. Dowd has published a column today that gives pride of place on the second and third of the Immutable Laws: "It's easier to whine than to take a stand or offer solutions" and "It is better to be cute than coherent". I have no doubt that Josh will post a compelling deconstruction of today's masterpiece in a matter of hours.

The point of Dowd's column is to show that the conflict with Iraq may have a lasting impact on the balance of power in American politics because it has facilitated the construction of a coalition between evangelical Christians and mainstream Jews, both of whom are deeply concerned about Israel. Yet unsurprisingly, Dowd spends most of her column inches mocking Jerry Falwell for comments that are mock-worthy but no different than anything he has said before. All we get about American Jewish perspectives on Israel is this:
Influential Jewish conservatives, inside and outside the administration, have been fierce in supporting a war on Saddam, thinking it could help Israel by scrambling the Middle East map and encouraging democracy.
My first problem with this comment is that it implies that "influential Jewish conservatives" derive their recommendations from US policy in the Middle East from a narrow consideration of Israel's interests. That is both insulting as well as just plain wrong. It is insulting because it implies that "influential Jewish conservatives" (IJC's) place their loyalty to Israel ahead of their commitment to the United States' values and interests. That sort of assertion is not all that different from saying that committed Jews cannot be good Americans. That sort of assertion is wrong because I have worked for, met and read the work of many IJC's and can testify that they are no less committed to American values than they are to Jewish ones. In fact, many of the individuals Dowd criticizes -- such as Robert Kagan and William Kristol -- are experts on American politics and policy who happen to be Jewish. Thus, it is not even clear why their ethnicity is relevant.

My second objection to Dowd's comment is her implication that the alleged ulterior motives of IJC's invalidate the proposition that toppling Saddam might enhance Israeli security by changing borders in the Middle East and encouraging democracy. Since the current borders in the Middle East seem largely conducive to conflict, I can't imagine what's wrong with changing them. And as for encouraging democracy, Dowd makes it sound about as wholesome as a conspiracy to rob Middle Easterners of their cherished authoritarian governments. Of course, one might give Dowd the benefit of the doubt and say that encouraging democracy is not immoral but simply foolhardy, a position taken by many during recent blogospheric debates on democracy and Islam.

On that note, I'd like to give a long overdue shout out to Winds of Change, which has assembled a user-friendly set of links that draw together all the main contributions to the democracy and Islam debate by OxBlog, Michiel Visser and others. Thanks!
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Saturday, October 05, 2002

# Posted 12:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CREDIBLE THREATS: The US continues its build-up of forces in the Gulf, ensuring that Saddam Hussein takes its threats seriously...and that the UN Security Council understands that it cannot expect the US to stand down as it did in the 1990s. Even better, the Bush administration has avoided making the build-up a focus of its rhetoric, so that the UN cannot accuse it of blackmail.

In other good news, both Kofi Annan and inspections chief Hans Blix have endorsed the need for a new resolution. If one passes, that would help ensure Turkish support for US military operations, a significant advantage in light of that nation's position adjacent to Iraq.
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Friday, October 04, 2002

# Posted 7:20 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE STRUGGLE FOR POWER in postwar Iraq has begun. As the WashPost reports, the Iraqi National Congress has already begun to press for the authority to head the postwar government. The State Department has set up exploratory committees to deal with lesser issues such as law enforcement and health-care, but high-level issues are not on the table. If the United States wants to maximize its influence in postwar Iraq, the time to make a clear statement of its preferences is now, before the INC and its various competitors have formed themselves into hardened factions whose mutual resentment will prevent them from working together to build a democratic Iraq.

This morning, Rep. Mike Thomson (D-Cal.) -- you know, the guy who went to Iraq with McDermott and Bonior but didn't make a fool of himself -- wrote in the Post that "The strongest military power in the history of our planet isn't enough to protect a New York transit bus from a suicide bomber. As Americans, our strength has always been our ability to help others experience the benefits of freedom." Let's prove him right by focusing now on the future of a democratic Iraq.
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Thursday, October 03, 2002

# Posted 5:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CHRISTMAS IN BAGHDAD: Josh asserts that Bush administration plans for Iraq are running on schedule. Yet as David Broder points out, the administration intially hoped to have the confronation with Iraq reach its climax this fall, not early next year. After being forced to shift its timetable, the administration then found out that it had to alter its justification for attacking Iraq as well.
In the summer, Vice President Cheney and others said it was the imminent threat of Iraq's acquiring nuclear weapons that required action. But when international agencies and allied intelligence services said they were skeptical that Iraq had the materials for such weapons, even if it had the desire, other explanations were forthcoming.

The president gave the United Nations a list of Iraq's offenses, down to and including its failure to account for prisoners taken during the Persian Gulf War, and indicated that Iraq would have to make amends for all of them to avoid military punishment.

And finally, when Democrats including Al Gore and Edward M. Kennedy suggested that a war with Iraq might cost us allies and energy for the war against terrorism, the administration discovered and publicized links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

If the current negotiations at the UN last longer than the Bush administration expects, don't be surprised if the justification for Iraq shifts once again -- in a manner that perfectly complements the administration's new timetable.

And while we're on the issue of insufficient preparation for a war with Iraq, take a look at this op-ed in the WashPost, which points out that no one has considered how Saddam's use of chemical and/or biological weapons will affect the Kurdish allies we will be depending on to help topple Saddam and rebuild Iraq.

Also see today's NYT op-ed on the absence of administration plans for how to deal with Iraq's Shiite majority, which is in no way represented by the dissident groups with which the State and Defense Departments are accustomed to working, namely the Iraqi National Accord and the Iraqi National Congress.
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# Posted 2:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A HANGING CURVEBALL? Josh thinks my criticism of the President for failing to win the support of Republican senators is premature. After all, doesn't debate within the GOP show the world that America tolerates criticism from within? Yes, of course. But shouldn't this sort of internal debate have taken place before the administration declared that Saddam Hussein is an immediate threat to American security? If we need to deal with Saddam now, then the President should have called senior Republicans into the Oval Office long ago to negotiate their support for his policies.

There are two possible reasons Bush failed to address congressional criticism of Iraq -- both Republican and Democratic -- before taking his demands to the United Nations. First, Bush fundamentally underestimates the importance of securing congressional support for US foreign policy. Second, when the President declared the threat from Iraq to be immediate, he didn't mean "immediate" in the sense of this month or this year. Or both.

So all in all, I think Josh has given me a hanging curveball to hit out of the park. Perhaps if Josh had praised Al Gore and Jim McDermott for their criticism of the administration -- because it isn't a "bad thing" that our decision-making process looks messy to outsiders" -- then I might have conceded the point. But all things considered, the dissent of Lugar and Hagel from Bush's foreign policy is evidence of bad implementation of administration policy.
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Wednesday, October 02, 2002

# Posted 5:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOLY JETLAG, BATMAN! I am back in Oxford and -- after 48 hours of semi-consciousness -- ready to blog. May God's wrath rain down upon Lufthansa. On the 12 hour flight from Buenos Aires to Frankfurt they forced me into the last row of a cabin, where the seats don't lean back to let you get comfortable before you sleep. Our flight then arrived too late in Frankfurt for me to make my connection to London. I then had to wait in line for 2 hours at Lufthansa's incompetent travel office -- thus missing the next flight to London -- so that they could arrange another flight. And, of course, one of my suitcases was missing when I got to London. Now that I have vented, on to news you might actually care about...

DIPLOMACY 102: Presenting a united front to one's allies as well as one's enemies is critical to a successful foreign policy. One might hold the Democrats responsible for not accepting the President's initial draft of a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. But now that Republican senators are challenging the President, one has to question his capacity to lead. As Chuck Hagel observed, "Diplomacy is essential for creating the international political environment that will be required for any action we take in Iraq, especially how we sustain a democratic transition in a post-Saddam Iraq," Hagel said. As postwar Afghanistan has shown, the United States has refused either keep the peace or take charge of the process of reconstruction. Yet if winning the peace is as important as winning the war, the United States will needs it allies to support is efforts.

Now, if Bush can't get Republicans to support his efforts, it shouldn't come as a surprise that he has done nothing to shore up the support of firm allies such as Tony Blair. Lacking support within his own party, Blair had to accept a resolution at a Labor Party conference pledging the government to participate in an invasion of Iraq only "after the exhaustion of all other political and diplomatic means." If the United States has to invade Iraq without even British support, it will become all but impossible to secure other nations' support for the war on terrorism. As such, Bush has to consider not just what Americans think of his public statements, but also what Britons think.

In order to increase the credibility of his public statements, the President has to take positions that remain conistent over time. Yet as David Broder points out in the WashPost, Bush has abandoned almost all of the fundamental positions he has taken over the course of the past year. In January, Bush gave us the 'axis of evil'. Yet now he has sent a high-level envoy to negotiate with North Korea, is ignoring Iran and demonizing Iraq. While critics of the President may have been wrong to dismiss his State of the Union speech as empty rhetoric when he gave it last January, recent actions have given substance to such views. By the same taken, Bush's initial insistence that Iraq represents an immediate threat to American security has been exposed as hollow by his newfound willingess to navigate the intricate process of securing support from the United Nations.

The most recent statement that may come back to haunt the President is his insistence that "you can't distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror". If credible threats of force convince Saddam Hussein to disarm, Bush will have to postpone indefinitely his plans for regime change in Iraq -- an implicit acknowledgement that Saddam is not bin Laden. Ultimately, Bush will only be able to restore his credibility -- especially on the international stage -- if he considers the long-term viability of his public statements before he makes them. Restoring credibility matters because the words of an American president have the potential to sway world opinion. As Bush's speech to the UN showed, even a president with damaged credibility can recapture the initiative with nothing more than words.
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Wednesday, September 25, 2002

# Posted 5:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH'S DEFICIENT INTELLIGENCE. Intelligence is our first line of defense against terror. Yet as Mark Riebling points out in the National Review, the Bush administration's new National Security Strategy fails to recommend a single way of improving our ability to anticipate attacks such as those of September 11th.

Then again, what should we expect from a President whose control of the intelligence services has degenerated to a point where he can't even get them to produce an "NIE", or National Intelligence Estimate, for Iraq? Instead, Defense Department hawks and CIA "doves" (relatively speaking) produce competing analyses for the President. While debate is good, this one has degenerated into nothing more than a war of prejudices that is endangering the quality of US contingency plans for war with Iraq.

PS And in case you still don't believe Afghanistan is engulfed in chaos, read this.
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# Posted 4:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PLEASE CRITICIZE AL GORE!!! I demand that President Bush issue a decisive response to Al Gore's embarrassing speech about Iraq. Instead, the President has lowered himself to partisan sniping by charging that Senate Democrats "are not interested in the security of the American people." Once again, Bush has shown that he simply does not understand how to establish a bipartisan basis for American action abroad.

PS For a history of Al Gore's flip-flopping on Iraq, see here.
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Tuesday, September 24, 2002

# Posted 4:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SILENCE AND WISDOM. Josh defends the Bush adminstration for not addressing the issue of how to rebuild postwar Iraq. He thinks silence might be the best policy for three reasons:

First, "it's entirely possible that we just don't know enough" about Iraq to plan for an occupation. I find that to be a disturbing thought. First of all, the administration has an obligation to establish clear expectations about the nature of postwar Iraq before committing itself to regime change. While nothing could be worse than the current government, that is hardly an excuse for not wanting the best possible government to replace it.

Moreover, how can one defend ignorance on the part of our intelligence organizations, which are allegedly the world's most sophisticated? As Nicholas Kristof has discovered while reporting from Iraq, there are self-evident divisions among its population which led to horrific violence after the Gulf War and which will do so again if the United States doesn't plan for the occupation. The fact that Kristof is aware of such divisions also suggests that the administration has no excuse for ignorance.

Josh also asserts that "laying out a formula in advance may not be the most effective way of democratizing Iraq". As in wartime, communicating one's tactics to the enemy may result in a catastrophic defeat. I would argue otherwise, however. Since there is no question that the most important influence in post-war Iraq will be the United States, it has much to gain by establishing firm expectations about what sort of behavior it expects from the numerous religious, political, and geographic factions vying for power. If we are to avoid the horrific violence Kristof describes, then signalling our intentions to the potential perpetrators of such violence is a must.

Third, Josh suggests that the moderate successes achieved in occupied Afghanistan are reason to trust the administration's ability to handle whatever situation arises in postwar Iraq. I think that such an approach reflects an excess of optimism with regard to Afghanistan. As The New Republic reported in May, the US has let Afghanistan descend into warlord rule once again despite Bush's extravagant promises of a Middle Eastern Marhsall Plan. But what should one expect if the US has still not accepted the idea that peacekeeping forces have to operate outside of Kabul?

Even more damning, from a both an ethical as well as a strategic perspective, is that the administration has slashed aid to Afghanistan by 60% for fiscal 2003 while creating bureaucratic fictions to prevent the disbursement of aid Bush personally promised Hamid Karzai. Unsurprisingly, farm subsidies have fared better when it comes to administration budget plans.
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Monday, September 23, 2002

# Posted 5:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UPDATE/CORRECTION: The following post appeared yesterday in three parts because of bandwidth problems. This version contains all of the content of the previous posts, which have been taken down to save space. (PS Be sure to read Josh's response).

Grand Strategy is a term which foreign policy analysts use to describe a strategy which integrates military, diplomatic and economic efforts to achieve one's objectives. If you read one book about grand strategy, it should be John L. Gaddis' Strategies of Containment. While the words 'grand strategy' don't often make it onto the front page of the NY Times or WashPost, it is pretty much standard for incoming national security advisers and secretaries of state to write an article in Foreign Affairs taking apart their predecessors' strategy. In January 2000, Condi attacked the Clinton administration for having no strategy whatsoever, a criticism which wasn't all that far off the mark. While most such attacks are usually little more than campaign rhetoric that gets discarded once the election is over, one might have had some hope that Condi would actually listen to her own advice. After all, her essay talked about the importance of realism, a Kissingerian school of thought which has long emphasized the importance of grand strategy.

While the essence of grand strategy is common sense, taking a common sense approach to something as complex as US foreign policy and the war on terrorism is never easy. One of the most basic common sense clichés of the grand strategist is that you have to think long-term. At the moment, that means thinking seriously about what Afghanistan and Iraq should look like five or ten years from now. There is no reason to think that the Bush administration is doing this, however. As the WashPost pointed out this morning, Powell and Rumsfeld's inability to offer anything more than vague comments about the future of Iraq suggests that they will treat it the way they are Afghanistan: by talking about the importance of democracy and then doing nothing about it.

While the administration has talked a good line about how promoting democracy helps create governments fwho are both friendly to the United States and against terrorism, there is little indication that they are serious about it. As Mike McFaul points out in an op-ed in the Post, the adminstration has been neglected the cause of democracy in the former Soviet Bloc as much as it has in the Middle East. This is exactly the kind of mistake a grand strategy is designed to avoid: neglecting a critical issue just because it isn't in the headlines. By clearly laying out one's objectives, a grand strategy prevents policymakers from being caught up in the headlines -- exactly the mistake which Rice accused Clinton of in her article in Foreign Affairs.

Another important aspect of grand strategy is its ability to help integrate different aspects of one's foreign policy. For example, how should the United States' (official) commitment to promoting democracy in the Middle East relate to its attitude toward the UN? Regardless of what one thinks in principle of unilateralism or multilateralism, the Bush administration should recognize that both the UN and our European allies will almost inevitably play a critical role in building democracy in any nation that the US liberates from dictatorship. Remember, it isn't the US who is keeping the peace in Afghanistan. And it won't be our troops who stay behind in Iraq, either. If building democracy is so critical to US national security -- which I believe it is -- then perhaps we shouldn't be so eager to antagonize the UN before we even get rid of Saddam Hussein.

Here is one common sense way the Bush administration might reconcile its skepticism of the UN with its critical role in postwar reconstruction: Yesterday, the Iraqi government announced that it would reject any new UN resolution on inspections. That is unilateralism. Thus, it is something that the US can use to get the UN on its side instead of Iraq's. If Saddam is going to reject a new inspections program anyway, then the US can secure UN and European support for war with Iraq without even risking the possibility of having to go the inspections route. All we have to do is pass a resolution, have Saddam reject it, and invade with UN support. While I have argued that coercive inspections can work, this suggestion makes sense even if you think otherwise, as the Bush adminstration clearly does.

Can the US get back on track and fight the war on terrorism in accordance with a well-planned strategy? I'm not optimistic. If you can't get your secretary of state and secretary of defense to agree on the basics of foreign policy, having a strategy is all but impossible. And the only way to get cabinet members to work together is to have a strong president who can force them to get in line. Yet as Bush repeated so often during his campaign, the success of his foreign policy will depend on the expertise of his cabinet. During the campaign, Bush avoided the question of how he would resolve controversies within the cabinet if he himself lacks either extensive knowledge or a firm stance on US foreign policy. The apparent answer is that he can't.

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Sunday, September 22, 2002

# Posted 11:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REPLACED with corrected version.
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# Posted 11:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

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# Posted 11:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

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