Monday, December 09, 2002

# Posted 4:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FISKING THE NEW KID: I have to admit I feel bad about what I’m going to do. A hard-working idealist wins a Rhodes Scholarship. His name is Chesa Boudin. Instead of welcoming him to Oxford, the previous years’ scholars subject him to a humiliating fisking. Could it be jealousy? Do Josh and David wish that the NY Times had chosen to profile them instead?

Chesa, if you are reading this, I want you to know that I have nothing against you. We went to the same college. We ate in the same dining hall. This fisking isn’t about you. It’s about the NY Times. It needs to be taught a lesson.

From Radical Background, a Rhodes Scholar Emerges
By Jodi Wilgoren

CHICAGO, Dec. 8 — As with the other triumphs of his young life, Chesa Boudin was unable to celebrate with his parents on Saturday afternoon when he was named a Rhodes scholar. He could not even share the good news.

As maximum-security inmates in the New York State prison system, Katherine Boudin and David Gilbert are barred from receiving telephone calls or e-mail messages. Though Mr. Boudin has rigged his dorm room at Yale University to override the block on collect calls, neither parent was able to connect with him today. They will read of their son's accomplishment in the newspaper, instead, and it may be days before they can congratulate him.

Mr. Boudin, 22, is used to it. His parents, members of the 1970's radical group the Weathermen, have been in prison since he was 14 months old, for roles in a 1981 Brink's robbery in Rockland County in which two police officers and a guard were killed. They missed his Phi Beta Kappa award, high school graduation, Little League games.

"Roles?" This description of Boudin and Gilbert's crimes is pretty much a whitewash. (Thanks to YalePundits for the link.)

"When I was younger, I was angry," Mr. Boudin, a tall, clean-cut young man said in an interview here Saturday evening, looking comfortable in the navy pinstriped suit he had worn for the Rhodes interview, though the tie was long gone.

"Now I'm not angry," he said, "I'm sad that my parents have to suffer what they have to suffer on a daily basis, that millions of other people have to suffer as well."

Yes, that’s very sad. But isn’t the death of three innocent men – because of your parents criminal brutality – a lot more sad? Yes, every child deserves parents. But what about the children of the police offers and bank guard your parents murdered? And what exactly do your parents have in common with the “millions of other people” who suffer every day? Are you implying that your parents are innocent victims of a repressive government?

Chesa, I believe that your words were taken out of context. I cannot believe that you are as heartless and self-centered as this quotation suggests you are. Perhaps your wiser words were cut by an editor interested in saving space. Perhaps the Times reporter took for granted that you sympathize with the victims of your parents’ crimes. But as things stand, there is no way of knowing that.

Raised by two other Weathermen leaders, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, in Chicago's Hyde Park, he is one of 32 American winners of this year's Rhodes scholarships. It is a remarkable achievement for a boy with epilepsy and dyslexia who did not learn to read until third grade and spent much of his childhood in temper tantrums. His selection also reflects the changes in the nation's premier academic award in its 100th year: once an exclusive club of Ivy League athletes, the Rhodes in recent years has rewarded an array of students who have overcome striking challenges.

This is just bad reporting. The Rhodes was never an “exclusive club of Ivy League athletes.” First of all, the myth that Rhodes Scholars are all athletically gifted and physically fit is just that, a myth. I am living proof of that. Perhaps more significantly, the scholarship stopped demanding evidence of athletic prowess more than three decades ago. But it’s hard to dispel illusions perpetuated by the paper of record. As for being an Ivy League club, how exactly does the selection of a Yale graduate such as Mr. Boudin discount that notion? Anyway, the Rhodes Trust has sought throughout its existence to search for talented individuals outside the Ivy League who “have overcome striking challenges”. For details, see Cowboys Into Gentleman, a history of America’s Rhodes Scholarships.

Among the other winners announced today are Kamyar Cyrus Habib, a Columbia University student from Kirkland, Wash., who is a black belt in karate, a downhill skier and a published photographer — as well as blind; Marianna Ofusu, who attends Howard University in Washington and is a Latin American dance champion; and Devi Shridhar of the University of Miami, who at 18 has mastered five languages, published a book on Indian myths and been admitted to medical school.

Thirteen of the winners are from Ivy League schools, four from Harvard, but the class also includes the first Rhodes scholar from the University of Central Florida, and students at state universities in Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota and Utah.

Established by the will of the British colonialist Cecil Rhodes in 1902, the scholarship offers a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree at Oxford University, a value estimated at about $30,000 a year. Bill Clinton, Bill Bradley, Byron White and Dean Rusk are among the 2,982 Americans from 305 colleges and universities who have won the award.

Mr. Boudin is not the first child of convicts to be chosen; Adam Ake, the son of a gynecologist convicted of raping patients, was in the Rhodes class of 1997. But the political pedigrees of Mr. Boudin's parents, biological and adoptive, present a contrast with that of the British imperialist who established the prestigious scholarship in his will.

I think Mr. Ake deserves an apology from the Times. What purpose does it serve to embarrass him publically?

"Cecil Rhodes, I don't know what would he think if he were alive today; he'd probably be horrified," Ms. Dohrn, a professor at Northwestern law school, said, laughing, in her office, where snapshots of her children at play are interspersed with the memorabilia of a radical life.

First of all, Rhodes made a point of judging individuals on their own merit, not that of their parents. What would truly horrify him is the idea that the scholarship had been awarded to a pair of inferior Jews such as Mr. Chafetz and myself.

Dennis Hutchinson, a law professor at the University of Chicago who headed the Midwest selection committee, said Mr. Boudin's family did not come up at the Friday night cocktail party or the 20-minute interview Saturday morning, as the winners were whittled from 98 finalists. Those finalists had been selected from 981 university nominees.

"That's one of the wonderful things about institutions, they adapt to the times," Professor Hutchinson, a Rhodes scholar in 1970, said. "This is a guy who talks not only with passion but with mature, thoughtful information about the things he cares about. Those are the sorts of qualities that separate good résumés from the people who are willing to fight the world's fight, as the will says."

Mr. Boudin, who has spoken widely about being the child of inmates and has led antiwar efforts at Yale, plans to study international development at Oxford, expanding on his experiences in Guatemala and Chile. Last week he won the Marshall scholarship, a similar award financing study in Britain, but he plans to accept the Rhodes instead. "As a child, I relished my personal freedom and tried to compensate for my parents' imprisonment," he wrote in his application. "Now, I see prisons around the world: urban misery in Bolivia, homelessness in Santiago and illiteracy in Guatemala."

While the metaphor is charming, I am somewhat disturbed by Mr. Boudin’s failure to mention any of the actual prisons that exist in the world. Naturally, the dungeons of Baghdad are the ones that first come mind. I suspect that illiteracy is much less painful that what inmates in Baghdad must endure. Yet even if Mr. Boudin wanted to avoid tarnishing his antiwar credentials, the least he could’ve done is described the brutality of prison life in China. Hell, even prisons in the US and UK can be brutal. And come to think of it, a savvy antiwar activist should’ve at least come up with something to say about the mistreatment of Palestinians in Israeli jails.

Chesa, once again I have to believe that the Times is presenting you as someone you are not. Was the quotation from your application essay taken out of context? Something has gone wrong.

Mr. Boudin's mother was denied parole in 2001. His father is serving 75 years. Each writes to him nearly every day. His adoptive parents were engulfed by controversy when Sept. 11 coincided with the publication of Mr. Ayers's memoir, "Fugitive Days," which celebrated attempted bombings on the Pentagon.

"We have a different name for the war we're fighting now — now we call it the war on terrorism, then they called it the war on communism," Mr. Boudin said. "My parents were all dedicated to fighting U.S. imperialism around the world. I'm dedicated to the same thing."

I’m confused. Wasn’t the Soviet Union the aggressive imperialist of the Cold War? Mr. Boudin’s comments are especially strange coming from an indvidual who majored in history at Yale. Back when I majored in history at Yale, I had the privilege of being taught by John Lewis Gaddis, the foremost historian of the Cold War. Without evading American failures -- both moral and strategic -- Prof. Gaddis made it very clear that there is no place for Mr. Boudin’s moral relativism in assessments of the era.

As for the so-called war on terror, I have to wonder whether it is Osama Bin Laden’s vision of a totalitarian Islamic world-state rather than the American vision of a democratic Middle East that counts as imperialism.

Oh, and as for Mr. Boudin’s parents dedication to fighting imperialism, would someone care to explain how robbing banks in New York is relevant to that objective?

"I don't know that much about my parents' tactics; I'll talk about my tactics," he added. "The historical moment we find ourselves in determines what is most appropriate for social change."

Chesa, I’m losing faith in you. Are you trying to excuse what your parents did? Are you suggesting that the ethical imperatives which guide your activism today were not relevant in your parents’ time? While I can understand that you might not want to investigate painful episodes from the past, if you are going to make such statements you should know a lot more about your parents’ tactics. In case you do want to know what your parents and step-parents were involved in, click here for a summary. For a longer account, read the book your step-father wrote.

Mr. Boudin said that with four loving parents, he was always surrounded by high expectations, unlike many other children of convicts. He sees his name — Swahili for "dancing feet," chosen because he was born breech — as a metaphor for his approach to life (though actual dancing is among his few weaknesses).

For a career, Mr. Boudin plans to focus on international problems because criminal justice is "too close to home." He plans to finish his own memoir this summer. "It's about growing up with parents in prison; it's about growing up in America," he said. "It's about two very different worlds, one of extreme privilege and opportunity, and the other of degradation and humiliation."

Mr. Boudin shunned questions about his parents' prospects for parole, and Mr. Ayers and Ms. Dohrn repeatedly tried to steer the conversation onto the next generation. A red-star revolutionary pin on his jacket, his Weatherman tattoo (and 17 others) hidden from sight, Mr. Ayers smiled as he watched his adopted son, fresh from his Rhodes interview, in the suit that Ms. Dohrn had helped pick.

"You know what I love about listening to Chesa?" Mr. Ayers said. "He confirms the natural cycle that your kids are always so much smarter and better than you."

When your parents are terrorists, being better and smarter isn’t all that much of an achievment…

Chesa, I’m sorry.
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# Posted 3:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BILLION DOLLAR CHEAP SHOT: American prejudice damage US relations with the UN as much as UN intransigence does. Josh asks what good the UN is if it shamelessly asks for American cash while its inspectors withhold critical information from the US government. Then, when the inspectors back down and share that information, Josh frames it as a surrender to tough but justified American demands.

Well, that's not the real story. Two days ago, Hans Blix asked the US government to provide him with intelligence about Iraqi weapons programs in order to facilitate UN inspections. It's no secret that the Bush administration has done virtually nothing to ensure the inspections' success. As I see it, Blix threatened to withhold his own inside information in order to let the US know that it should treat him fairly. When Blix "backed down" today it wasn't because of American demands. It's because all he ever intended to do was send a message.

Now consider this: Blix let the US have the only existing copy of Iraq's declaration. While the permanent members of the Security Council will get to see full copies, the rest of the Security Council won't. Expect to see the usual complaints in the European media about American domination of the UN. Of course, such accusations are no more valid than trite American dismissals of the UN's merit as an institution. But such constant accusations from both sides do considerable damage to the UN and its ability to be a functional mediator in international disputes. Remember, this is not the perspective of the left. Rather, it is America's president who declared himself committed to working with the United Nations despite his full awareness of all its drawbacks.
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# Posted 3:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IRAQ ALREADY DEMOCRATIC: In the Kurdish north, that is. Or to be more exact, the north is moving in the right direction. But compared to the rest of Iraq, it is a veritable utopia. Today's WashPost column by the Kurdish prime minister lists the impressive achievements made over the course of the past decade, despite the enforcement of UN sanctions. While the identity of the author detracts from the column's credibility, almost all of the details match a similar piece on the north which TNR ran a while back. Why not read'em both?
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Sunday, December 08, 2002

# Posted 10:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLEEDING HEART CONSERVATIVES?: Christina Lamb, a correspondent for Britain's Daily Telegraph, has a column on Afghanistan in the NYT. The combination of the Telegraph's right-of-center perspective with Lamb's personal experience in Afghanistan results in a unique point of view that might be described as bleeding heart conservatism. While Lamb indignantly describes how, "in the general ward of Kabul's main children's hospital sick children lie three to a bed...[and] have died on the operating table because the oxygen failed when the power went out," she doesn't hold the tight-fisted Bush administration responsible. Rather, it's the UN officials and aid workers whose illogical spending habits direct foreign cash away from those that need it most.

For a brief moment, Lamb sounds like a correspondent for the Guardian (for those unfamiliar with the British press, imagine a daily edition of the Nation) when she declares that "after the overthrow of the Taliban and imposition of a Western-backed government, there has been little improvement in the lives of most Afghans...[who] spend their days struggling to feed their children on an average annual income of $75." But she also recognizes how desperate most Afghans are to strenghten the Western presence in their nation. As one man said to her, "Throughout history we Afghans have always fought outsiders. Now we are frightened they will leave us."

If there is one point Lamb drives home, it's that warlord domination of Afghanistan is the single greatest barrier to its recovery, both politically and economically. What the Karzai government needs isn't more butter, but more guns. Now did somebody say that NATO was looking for a job?
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Saturday, December 07, 2002

# Posted 9:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IF A RADIOACTIVE SPIDER could transform mild-mannered over-achiever Peter Parker into the Amazing Spider-Man why shouldn't a black widow spider be able to transform mild-mannered over-achiever Josh Chafetz from an independent conservative into a pawn of the liberal media? "What?", you're probably asking right now. "That sounds about as plausible as the fact that Gary Condit planned 9/11 to distract everyone from Chandragate." But consider the facts: Josh reports that he has been shopping at a supermarket infested with black widow spiders. Suddenly, his posts take a strikingly liberal turn. He calls for "Stupid Trent Lott" to step down as majority leader. Then he praises a Tom Friedman column that bashes the President for using "his mandate to drive a hard-right agenda and indulge in more feel-good politics" even though this will cause "the world will become an increasingly dangerous place for every American."

But what I really want to talk about is Josh's take on Iran. I generally agree with his support for a "hearts and minds" approach to Iranian reform. But the NYT article Josh quoted also made a subtle but dangerous point: that America must choose between including Iran in the Axis of Evil and winning the support of Iranian dissidents. According to one expert the Times cited, "The people of Iran have seen that fundamentalism doesn't work. Appealing to them with cooperation and reasoning, rather than `axis of evil' talk, is a virtually risk-free proposition for the U.S." No alternative point of view is given.

Now consider this: What if Iran's dissident students have drawn strength from Bush's attack on the Iranian government as a repressive terrorist regime? While I am not a fan of the phrase "Axis of Evil", I do believe that there are few benefits to engagement with Iran. We need to win hearts and minds in Iran not just by showcasing the American lifestyle, but by showing that America stands up to dictators and terrorists. Period.
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# Posted 9:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG DOUBLE-SCOOPS NYT: Four days ago, OxBlog declared that Elliot Abrams' appointment as NSC director for the Middle East would have a big impact on US policy. Today's the NY Times follows up with a long profile of Abrams. The profile focused on Abrams' attitudes toward Israel while ignoring the critical fact OxBlog pointed out, which is that Abrams is one of the strongest supporters of promoting democracy across the globe. The Times more concerned with Palestinians than democracy? Surprise!

Three weeks ago, OxBlog took Nicholas Kristof to task for his naive views of Chinese education. He said Chinese students' work ethic will result in China overtaking the US someday as a superpower. OxBlog said that China's authoritarian educational system prevents students from developing the independent thinking skills that have made American students great. Today, the Timespublished an op-ed by a Chinese professor (now in the US) who recounted just how the Chinese system crushes independent thought. OxBlog 2, NYT 0.
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# Posted 9:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ALONG CAME A SPIDER: Josh announced today that he is switching supermarkets. Perhaps the lack of inherent newsworthiness in such an announcement kept you from following the link in Josh's post. But it shouldn't have. As Josh found out from a British tabloid, his supermarket had been using black widow spiders instead of insecticides to control insect populations at their fruit farms. No one noticed until the black widows started showing up in supermarkets.

While the shock value of the story alone was worth it, you really have to ask who the hell came up with the idea of using poisonous spiders -- and why. The answer: "The spiders, which have red markings on their backs, were introduced to Tesco vineyards in California as an alternative to pesticide, following customer demand for 'natural' food." While one might be satisfied that organic food enthusiasts are getting what they deserve for their naive and dangerous attitudes, there is a point of global significance here: one aspect of the European crusade for natural foods is a continent wide protest against any products that have genetically modified (GM) compoenents.

While the lack of scientific knowledge responsible for such views is a problem in and of itself, there are serious policy implications. For example, the Zambian government has rejected American aid despite a devastating famine because the aid consisted of GM food. Are the Zambians insane? Not by a longshot. They know that if GM seeds and grains get into the country, farmers will start using them. This will destory Zambian exports to the EU, because Europe won't buy Zambian products.

As is so often the case with the anti-globalization crusade, its successes have only hurt the selfsame impoverished Third World nations it claims to want to protect. (Oh, and in case you were curious, the anti-GM crusaders argue that GM food aid is nothing more than an American corporate conspiracy. Oh those corporations. Nefariously advancing their purposes by saving starving Africans.

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Friday, December 06, 2002

# Posted 8:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNDERSTANDING PAKISTAN: Sumit Ganguly reviews three new books on Pakistani history and politics. The lessons of the past seem clear: the military's incompetence has continually provoked violence and strengthened extremists. Musharraf has already shown that he is no different from his predecessors. The good news is that the United States underestimates its influence with Pakistan's generals and can help guide the country in the right direction. Now all we need is for the Bush administration to pay attention.
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# Posted 7:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CONFESS AND BE FORGIVEN: The NY Times is incapable of self-criticism. What its readers deserve is an ombudsman.
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# Posted 7:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

COSERVATIVE MEDIA BIAS, PART DEUX: E.J. Dionne has a column on it. But Spinsanity's is much, much better.
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# Posted 7:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KRAUTHAMMER NOT STUPID: Regular readers know that I'm no fan of Charlie K. But today's column is right on the money. Its main point is that the debate over whether Islam is or is not an inherently peaceful religion is futile. No religion is inherently anything. Scripture can serve any political agenda. Thus, what matters is how religious individuals act. And Islam has given its answer.
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# Posted 6:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RAMADAN MOONLIGHTING: Of the ten dead in last night's fighting in Gaza, one was a Palestinian teacher employed by the UN. Hamas claims that the woman was a member of that organization. While the Hamas statement has not been verified, I wouldn't be surprised if the woman worked for both the UN and Hamas. The UN employs 10,000 Palestinians in the occupied terrotiries. I wonder if the UN runs background checks in the territories that are as thorough as the ones they run on the staff at headquarters in New York.

By the way, note the Times and Post headlines: "Israeli Forces Kill 10 Palestinians in Gaza" and "Israeli Army Kills 10 in Gaza Refugee Camp". It makes it sound as if the IDF went looking for people to kill, not that it was in the process of hunting down suspected terrorists when its troops came under fire and sought to defend themselves.
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# Posted 6:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PLAYING HARDBALL: The Bush administration now wants Hans Blix to take full advantage of his right to interview Iraqi scientists outside Iraq. As the Times observes, Saddam would expect his scientists to leave their families behind as a show of good faith. But if the US demands that the families go as well, Saddam would have his back to the wall. Thus, if the US can get Blix to go along, it may finally have its chance to expose Saddam's deception.
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# Posted 6:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RECYCLING WASTES PAPER: Recycling arguments, that is. Kissinger biographer Walter Isaacson tells us that old Henry might decide to be honest now that his historical reputation is on the line. OxBlog exposed that argument as patently false a while back.

On a side note, Isaacson describes the intense conflict between Kissinger and the Cheney-Rumsfeld axis during the Ford administration. This lends quite a bit of credibility to OxBlog's early speculation that Condi was behind Kissinger's appointment.
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Thursday, December 05, 2002

# Posted 9:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANOTHER SAUDI EMBARASSMENT: The cash still flows to terrorists, even as government spokesmen deny it. Now you might ask, why don't the Saudis hire American lobbyists to make their case for them instead of telling the lies themselves? Because their lobbyists have gone into hiding to avoid congressional subpoenas. Well, you never could trust lawyers.
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# Posted 8:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MA-MA-MA-MY SHARON: The hawk of hawks has now declared that there will be a Palestinian state. As Sharon's predecessors insisted, it will be a demilitarized state. But the real question is whether it will be a democracy. On that point, Sharon was silent.
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# Posted 8:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I AGREE WITH SADDAM that the UN's inspectors demanded access to one of his palaces for the sheer purpose of showing that they could. Good for them. After all, the purpose of the pre-Dec. 8 inspections is to establish ground rules, not to find weapons. Perhaps Charlie K. should have held back before condeming Hans Blix as an incompetent coward.
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Wednesday, December 04, 2002

# Posted 9:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AND CONSERVATIVE MEDIA BIAS: Spinsanity tells it much better than I can.
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# Posted 9:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CONFIRMING THE WORST: I was in the library today and ran across on article on post-9/11 political cartoons in Middle Eastern newspapers. They ranged from standard anti-war criticism to outright anti-Semitic propaganda. No surprises there. But what I found interesting was they ways in which mindless conspiratorial thinking produces dilemmas which may have serious policy implications for Arab states. Rather than having a coherent view of Western policy, the cartoonists found themselves totally unable to decide whether America is run by the Jews or whether America uses Israel to advance its imperialist interests. Since there is considerable evidence that Arab policymakers are confounded by the same "dilemmas", we should not be surprised that their policies seem absurd from our perpsective.

(Apologies for not providing a link to the full text of the article. I myself had to submit to the shameful practice of reading a paper-and-ink version of it.)
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# Posted 9:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IMITATING KRUGMAN: David Broder attacks the President for hypocrisy on the budget. We're used to hearing it from Krugman, whose repetitions have damaged his credibility. But it's hard to disagree with Broder. Bush said that he was cutting back on raises he'd offered to federal employees because the raises "interfere with . . . the war on terrorism". The raises have a total cost of $1 billion. The administration's new farm bill has a price tag over six years of $248 billion. The Bush tax cut will have a total cost of over $1 trillion and benefit those with high incomes. Now, if federal salaries were cut back in order to fund special forces operations or cruise missiles, I'd shut up. But if you live on Park Avenue, you should be the first to recognize that America has given you the opportunity to succeed and that you must sacrifice in order to provide for the common defense.
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# Posted 9:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AMERICA THE STUPID: Bill Clinton has informed his colleagues on the Democratic Leadership Council that "When people are feeling insecure, they'd rather have someone who is strong and wrong rather than somebody who is weak and right." Translation: George Bush is a moron, but since most Americans are morons as well, they don't mind; that being the case, the Democrats should improve their political standing by lying to the public. Perhaps those are the lessons that Mr. Clinton took away from an impeachment scandal which wrecked his image but left him with 60% approval ratings. Nonetheless, it shows that Clinton has no appreciation of the role which trust plays in political life. Even if Mr. Bush and the GOP leadership are often "wrong", they believe in what they say. That sincerity inspires trust, which leads people to give the president and his colleagues the benefit of the doubt. That is leadership.

PS I must admit that I cannibalized the Clinton quote from Maureen Dowd. Strangely, she ignores its implications. Is it because she takes it for granted that Clinton is cynical, or because she shares his cynicism as well?
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# Posted 8:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIBERAL MEDIA BIAS, PART TROIS: Howell Raines, executive editor of the NYT has been busy confirming conservative biases with his heavy-handed coverage of segregation at the Augusta golf club. While interesting, I can't say I really care about golf or how it's reported when we're on the brink of war.

As usual, real evidence of media bias comes from NYT coverage of the Middle East. Today's headline reads: "Israeli Troops Shoot at Taxi, Killing Arab Woman, 95." At the beginning of the article we find out that an innocent woman died. Ten paragraphs later we find out that another woman injured in the attack has provided contradictory statements about what exactly happened while Israeli sources insist that the taxi's driver sped toward IDF soldiers even after instructed to stop. Maybe the Times' reporter should have actually tried to verify some of the facts reported.
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# Posted 12:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ME FIRST! ME FIRST! If I wait, Josh or Dan will post a link to this Tom Friedman column. It is a profile of Hashem Aghajari, the bold Iranian reformist scholar at the center of the current wave of protests in Teheran. Read what he has said, and you'll know why he was sentenced to death. Friedman hopes that Aghajari can become an Islamic Martin Luther, starting the revolution from within that is the only hope for the salvation of Islam.
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# Posted 12:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOVES, HAWKS & VULTURES: Conventional wisdom tells us that doves like Powell are fighting against hawks like Cheney to control US foreign policy. But does this simple division leave out the most important figure in the policy process? No, not George Bush. Karl Rove. This column argues that Bush is letting Saddam twist in the wind, only to take him out just before the 2004 election. The purpose of this strategy is to ensure that W. does not repeat H.W.'s mistake of winning a war so early on that his momentum is lost before election day.

Disclaimer: I think that this argument is a lot of hooey, poppycock, balderdash and, to get to the point, bullshit. It present no actual evidence that Rove is behind US foreign policy decisions. It's author is credible however -- a fellow at a British insitute for defence studies. And, of course, the column was published in The Guardian. Still, thinking outside the box isn't such a bad thing.
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Tuesday, December 03, 2002

# Posted 8:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ELBOW IN THE RIBS: Josh blasted me for arguing that the Chechens are nationalists and not fundamentalists. But TNR has my back. There's some consolation for Josh, though: TNR agrees that John Kerry is a total yutz.
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# Posted 8:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EVER HEARD OF SPARTA? Studies now show that nations who accept gays in the military do not suffer from reduced effectiveness. If only Thucydides had a blog...
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# Posted 8:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OK, THIS IS BIAS. The WashPost headline reads: "Merchant's Son Slain As Israelis Open Fire At Busy Jenin Market." You think: "Opening fire at a busy market? That's what Serb forces used to do in Bosnia." Then you read the article and find out that the victim's family claims he was an innocent bystander while Israeli forces say that the victim tried to climb on an Israeli armored personnel carrier. There are a few quotes from "witnesses" to back up the family's account, but no verification that these witnesses have any reliable information. Come on WP, do a better job.
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# Posted 7:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I LAUGHED, I CRIED...It was better than "Cats". Yes, there is really nothing as entertaining as listening to the imaginative lies that issue forth from the mouth of Adel al-Jubeir, de facto spokesman for the Saudi embassy. Al-Jubeir has announced that the Saudi government has now taken a dramatic step to stop Saudi charities from financing terrorists: it will create a government agency. Well, in light of the sterling reputation that the rest of the Saudi government's agencies have, I guess we can expect the financing to stop sometime before Osama bin Laden marries Jenna Bush.

While you're waiting, take a look at this article on Saudi charities by Stephen Schwartz. Even though it's a litlle short on evidence, the article makes the critical point that focusing on a single possible indiscretion made by one Saudi princess is irrelevant. The real issue is the existence of an entire system of indirect financing which actively encourages princesses to distribute tens of thousands of dollars to individuals who may well have connections to terrorists.

This is also an opportune moment to thank Adam Bellow at Doubleday for sending me a complimentary copy of Schwartz's new book, "The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa'ud from Tradition to Terror." I will report back ASAP.
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# Posted 7:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KISS(inger) OF DEATH: Now that Kissinger-critic Bill Safire has proclaimed his support for the old man's appointment as head of the 9/11 commission, I don't think there will be much more debate on the point. As Safire points out, he has impeccable credentials as an anti-Kissingerian. But Safire's arguments for applauding Kissinger's appointment are misguided. Safire's basic point is that Kissinger has matured and is "working for his historic reputation now, not his clients." The same point was also made (earlier) by Innocents Abroad, which posted that Kissinger "is a man to whom reputation and prestige is everything, so he has everything to lose by not doing [his job] right."

The fundamental problem with this argument is that it equates a desire to improve one's reputation with a repentant drive to do right instead of wrong. But that is not how Kissinger has gone about working for his reputation. As Robert Kagan's careful reading of Years of Renewal -- the third volume of Kissinger's memoirs -- shows that Kissinger has resorted to active distortions of his own record as a diplomat in order to mitigate his reputation as an amoral realist while also creating the illusion that he was somehow responsible for the end of the Cold War. (Kagan's review was published in TNR in June 1999, but is not available on their website.) But if you're interested in a review of Kagan's review, click here.)

So if we know that Kissinger is willing to lie in public in order to polish his reputation, why should we trust him to head an investigative commission charged with finding out the truth the intelligence failures that faciliated 9/11?
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# Posted 6:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PISSED OFF AT KRISTOF: After telling us last week that millions of Chinese will die from AIDS because their government is apathetic and incompetent Nicholas Kristof announced today that the United States is "not doing much to prepare for perhaps the most important long-term trend in the world — the rise of China." There is only one possible explanation for the utter inconsistency of his columns: every Monday morning he flips a coin. If it's heads, he writes about the inevitable rise of China to world power. If it's tails, he tells about the tragic crisis that is wrecking millions of Chinese lives. Perhaps Kristof should learn from Maureen Dowd and adopt some Immutable Laws.
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# Posted 6:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AMBASSADOR TO UTOPIA: NSC official Zalmay Khalilzad is now the United States' "ambassador at large for free Iraqis". Elliot Abrams, until now the NSC's director for democracy and human rights, will take Khalilzad's place as NSC director for the Middle East. This is very good news because Abrams was one of the few Reagan administration officials who demonstrated an uncompromising commitment to promoting democracy abroad. Having him as director for the Middle East means democracy will have a voice. If you want evidence of Abrams' views, think of it this way: Robert Kagan keeps an autographed photo of Abrams in his office. (Kagan worked for Abrams at the Reagan State Department.)

One should note, however, that Abrams is a divisive partisan figure who played a significant role in the Reagan administration's efforts to cover up the Iran-Contra scandal. Off hand, I can't remember if he was convicted or just indicted for lying to Congress. I guess you might say Abrams needs to work on promoting democracy at home as well as abroad.

UPDATE: Israpundit provides a slightly different perspective, focused on -- you guessed it -- Israel.
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# Posted 6:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LONE WOLFOWITZ: Stopping in London on his way to Ankara, Paul Wolfowitz made a strong case for admitting Turkey into the EU, while also recognizing that such a decision is Europe's to make. As Wolfowitz observed, "Turkey offers a valuable model for Muslim-majority countries striving to realize the goals of freedom, secularism and democracy...those who would criticize Turkey for its problems confuse what is challenging with what is fundamental. They focus too much on the problems Turkey is struggling today and ignore where it is heading." The British agree. The French don't. No other administration official has made a strong case for promoting democracy in Turkey. Will the surprises never end?

PS Looks like the Turks will participate in a war against Iraq.
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# Posted 6:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REDUNDANT BUT NECESSARY. After its exposure of the Pakistani and North Korean governments fsecret collaboration for the purpose of producing nuclear weapons, there wasn't much need for the NY Times' editorial board to point out that such collaboration is a very bad thing. Still, it's good that they now have.
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# Posted 6:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THAT'S NOT A KNIFE. Australian PM John Howard has announced that the UN Charter should be amended to recognize the legitimacy of preemptive attacks against terrorists. Unsurprisingly, Australia's neighbors have begun to accuse Howard of being a unilateralist. While Crocodile Dundee may not be the ideal representative of Australian political culture, I think that no one should be surprised by the "cowboy side" of Australian foreign policy. When Dundee pulled that massive knife and scared off a NY mugger, that was preemption. Britian has a similar side to it's personality as well. While commentators have often fallen into the habit of describing America vs. its allies on issues of war and peace, the fact is that the real divide is between the English-speaking democracies and the rest. The language divide does not correlate exactly with the current political divide, but it does reflect a cultural difference that has significant political implications.
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# Posted 7:06 AM by Dan  

DEMOCRATS, LOOK DOWN. John J. Pitney Jr says only Gore and Edwards have a chance. I agree that Americans are again focusing on military issues, but my hunch says that the next election will be decided by domestic issues--even in last month's midterms, the economy ranked above terrorism as a voter concern.
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Monday, December 02, 2002

# Posted 2:13 PM by Dan  

NOT IN MY BED. William Safire parts ways with Maureen Dowd, Oxblog, and Christopher Hitchens over the Kissinger appointment. Why will Kissinger avoid conflicts of interest? He is "working for his historic reputation." Rudman and Hart should have been chosen to head the commission. Maybe Gary doesn't want to get bogged down as he plans his run for 2004.
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Sunday, December 01, 2002

# Posted 8:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

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# Posted 8:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CAPTAIN AMERICA RETURNS: It's not everyday a comic book character is featured on the NYT editorial page.
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# Posted 8:37 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: Maureen Dowd has joined OxBlog and Christopher Hitchens in bashing the President's decision to appoint Henry Kissinger as head of the 9/11 investigation commission. While being on the same side as Dowd has tempted me to renounce my original position, I'm just too plain stubborn to do that. Instead, I will disavow Dowd's arguments as a cliche byproduct of the Immutable Laws.

The NYT and WashPost have offered subtle but still unequivocal criticism of the President's choice. One might even say that such criticism is more effective, since Dr. K has already taken the Times'advice and promised to sever ties with any clients whose interests might be affected by the outcome of the investigation. Still, such a promise is irrelevant. There is no reason to thnk that financial interests will affect Kissinger's judgments. The real problem is his total lack of respect for the public's right to know what their government does, a right he disrespected time again while serving as Secretary of State and National Security Adviser.
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# Posted 8:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TURKS GIVE KURDS THEIR WAY: Demonstrating once again that it is not your average Islamic political organization, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development party lifted a 15-year state of emergency the Turkish military had exploited to brutally suppress the Turkish Kurds. Muslim democracy: One. Cultural relativists: Zero.
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# Posted 8:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GUESS WHAT I SAUD: Here are some highlights from the NYT report on Saudi "charities":
"More than a year into the war against terrorism, Saudi officials continue to actively support organizations that finance international terrorism," -- Matthew Levitt, fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and former terrorism analyst for the Federal Bureau of Investigation

"Federal prosecutors said a charity was used to provide cover for plotting the bombings of the American embassies in East Africa in August 1998..."

"Evidence linking Saudi money to Al Qaeda has continued to mount. Last month, federal prosecutors in Chicago charged the head of Benevolence International Foundation, an Islamic charity with financial roots in Saudi Arabia, with running a criminal enterprise that supported Al Qaeda."

Yet as Josh might add, there is no reason to disbelieve the Bush administration's assertion that it has the situation under control. After all, "when a Congressional committee asked Kenneth Dam, the deputy secretary of the Treasury, whether the Saudis had taken the steps they had promised, he replied: "That's a sensitive question, and my answer would be sensitive. All I can say is that we are pleased with Saudi cooperation."
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Saturday, November 30, 2002

# Posted 6:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: Two weeks ago, I announced that OxBlog would begin to post in-depth commentaries on landmark articles from the past decade. I had hoped to post the first commentary the day after making the announcement, but things got in the way. Now, however, I am in a position to make good on my word. So, without further ado, here is the first installment of Robert Kagan's "The Case for Global Activism", published in the September 1994 issue of Commentary magazine.

FUTURE historians will record--perhaps in astonishment--that the demise of the Soviet Union ushered in an era of American worldwide engagement and armed intervention unprecedented in scope and frequency. Despite a widespread conviction that, in a post-cold-war world, the American role would diminish, in a brief four years the United States has: launched a massive counteroffensive against the world's fourth largest army in the Middle East; invaded, occupied, and supervised elections in a Latin American country; intervened with force to provide food to starving peoples in Africa; and conducted punitive bombing raids in the Balkans.

Perhaps even more surprising than the fact of American intervention in the post-Cold War era was the purpose of it: defending international law while promoting democracy and human rights. Lord Acton once observed that whereas power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. If so, how can one explain the fact that once the United States triumphed over the Soviet Union and became the dominant force in world affairs it increased its commitment to ethical action abroad?

Nor is this all. The United States has sent troops on another humanitarian mission in Africa, and volunteered troops to serve as peacekeeping forces in the Middle East and in the former Yugoslavia. It has worked in the UN Security Council to enact punitive sanctions against at least a half-dozen international scofflaws. It has seriously considered extending military protection to several important nations of Eastern Europe that have never before been part of an alliance with the United States. And it has interceded in disputes among the former republics of the Soviet Union.

How is this increased activity to be explained? The answer is rather easily found in the new relations of power in the post-cold-war world. The fall of the Soviet Union removed restraints on foreign leaders unhappy with the order imposed by the cold war and unleashed new struggles for power in areas hitherto under the former superpower's thumb. Some would-be challengers of the old order were encouraged by the belief that the United States would not step in. The United States, however, itself freed from the restraints of the cold war, began to fill the gap left by the absence of Soviet global power and continued a historical tradition of using its influence to promote a world order consistent with its material needs and philosophical predilections.

Kagan is being somewhat evasive here. The real question is to what degree one can expect America to prioritize its material needs over its philosophical predilections as it often did during the Cold War. This evasiveness, however, points to an important development in Kagan’s thought that would become apparent over time: his belief that nations will always seek to maximize their own influence while reducing that of others. Whether the expansion of such influences is a force for good or evil depends on the character of any given nation.

But if the course America has followed has been natural enough, to many American strategists, policy-makers, and politicians it seems also to have been unexpected--and unwelcome. Today, a scant two years after the intervention in Somalia, three years after the Gulf war, and four years since the invasion of Panama, foreign-policy theorists continue to write of the need for a 'global retrenchment" of American power. Before and after each venture abroad, they have argued that such high levels of American engagement cannot be sustained, politically or economically, and that a failure to be more selective in the application of American power will either bankrupt the country or drive the American public further toward the isolationism into which, they warn, it is already beginning to slip.

Looking back from the present, Kagan’s assertion that most experts opposed an activist American foreign policy strikes one as the hysterical warning of a superhawk. Even before September 11th galvanized popular support for an activist foreign policy, there was a definite consensus among the experts that America had consolidated its position as the “lone superpower” in a “unipolar” world. Yet in fact, Kagan’s characterization of expert opinion circa 1994 is fully accurate. Despite the almost self-evident dominance of the United States in material and ideological terms, scholars insisted that this was nothing more than a “unipolar moment”. Kagan’s recognition of American strength at such an early date has become the foundation on which reputation as an leading thinker rests.

This political judgment has found intellectual buttressing in the so-called "realist" approach to foreign policy, which asserts that the United States should limit itself to defending its "core" national interests and abandon costly and unpopular efforts to solve the many problems on the "periphery." During the cold war, realists fought against efforts by Presidents from Truman to Kennedy to Reagan to equate American interests with the advancement of a democratic world order. In the post-cold-war era, they have gained new prominence by again recommending a retreat from such ambitions and the definition of a far more limited set of foreign-policy goals.

Kagan’s characterization of realist prescriptions for American foreign policy is essentially fair. Nonetheless, one should note that his efforts to establish Truman, Kennedy and Reagan as representatives of a common idealist approach to foreign affairs is both a conscious choice as well as a misleading one. Its conscious purpose is to link the controversial Reagan to two other presidents whose legacies have been embraced by both Democrats and Republicans. In short, it is an effort to erase the memory of the Iran-Contra scandal and Reagan’s terrible record on human rights. From the perspective of the historian, the selection of Truman, Kennedy and Reagan as paradigmatic idealists is misleading because it neglects the intense idealism of Lyndon Johnson. The motive behind this selection is clear: Kagan wants to dissociate idealism from Johnson’s failure in Vietnam as well as avoiding the unpleasant fact that within the community of experts, only self-professed “realists” opposed American policy in Vietnam before 1967-68.

Yet the realist view remains inadequate, both as a description, precisely, of reality--of the way the world really works--and as a recommendation for defending America's interests, either on the "periphery" or at the "core." When Americans have exercised their power in pursuit of a broad definition of interests--in pursuit, that is, of a more decent world order--they have succeeded in defending their "vital" interests as well. When they have sought to evade the dangers of global involvement, they have found themselves unexpectedly in a fight for national survival.

Again, this borders on the polemical. Kagan’s words were prescient in that they anticipated the resurrection of Truman’s reputation as the architect of American victory in the Cold War thanks mostly to John Gaddis’ 1997 work, We Now Know. Nonetheless, realists such as Eisenhower and Nixon promoted the national interest more effectively than idealists such as Johnson or Carter.

THROUGHOUT this century, the United States has faced the problem of its expanding power--and has responded with ambivalence. Americans are perhaps more suspicious of power than most people on earth, but just like others they have nonetheless sought it, guarded it, and enjoyed its benefits. As products of a modern, nonmartial republic, Americans have always tended to cherish the lives of their young more than the glories to be won on the battlefield; yet they have sacrificed their young for the sake of honor, interest, and principle as frequently as any nation in the world over the past 200 years. Again, as the products of a revolution against an imperial master, Americans have always abhorred imperialism; yet where their power was preponderant, they have assumed hegemony and have been unwilling to relinquish it.

Kagan accurately describes America’s strange habit of first approaching power with suspicion, then embracing it unself-consciously. For Kagan, this habit constitutes evidence on behalf of his more general assertion that no nation can resist the temptation of exercising power. Also note the use of the word ‘hegemony’ with no apparent negative connotations.

The common view of American foreign policy as endlessly vacillating between isolationism and interventionism is wrong: Americans in this century have never ceased expanding their sphere of interests across the globe, but they have tried to evade the responsibility of defending those interests, until they had no choice but to fight a war for which they were unprepared. The American conception of interest, moreover, has always gone beyond narrow security concerns to include the promotion of a world order consistent with American economic, political, and ideological aspirations.

Although Kagan doesn’t mention it, the “common view of American foreign policy as endlessly vacillating” is a product of realist principles applied to American diplomatic history. Whereas such interpretations were dominant in the first decades after the Cold War, they have begun to suffer a serious loss of legitimacy. This changing interpretation has not had much impact yet on either political scientists or Washington analysts with an interest in US foreign policy. At the moment, Kagan is working on a book that exposes the dominant role of ideology in American diplomatic history.

It was Theodore Roosevelt, paradoxically a President admired by realists for his shrewd understanding of power politics, who first grafted principled ends to the exercise of power. Roosevelt insisted that it was America's duty to "assume an attitude of protection and regulation in regard to all these little states" in the Western hemisphere, to help them acquire the "capacity for self-government," to assist their progress "up out of the discord and turmoil of continual revolution into a general public sense of justice and determination to maintain order." For Roosevelt, American stewardship in the Western hemisphere was more than a defensive response to European meddling there; it was proof that the United States had arrived as a world power, with responsibilities to shape a decent order in its own region. When Woodrow Wilson, the quintessential "utopian" President, took office later, his policies in the hemisphere were little more than a variation on Roosevelt's theme.

Kagan attaches special importance to Roosevelt’s foreign policy because it demonstrates that America exercised its power in service of ideological ends long before the Cold War began. Realists have traditionally asserted that America did not commit itself to internationalism until the Soviet threat became too great to ignore. Roosevelt is also significant for Kagan because of the similarities between his ruthless use of force and that of Reagan.

The same mix of motives followed the United States as it reached out into the wider world, especially Europe and Asia. Growing power expanded American interests, but also expanded the risks of protecting them against the ambitions of others. After the 1880's, America's navy grew from a size comparable to Chile's to become one of the three great navies of the world. That increase in power alone made America a potential arbiter of overseas conflicts in a way it had never been in the 18th and 19th centuries. Greater power meant that if a general European war broke out, the United States would no longer have to sit back and accept dictation of its trade routes. It also meant, however, that the United States could not sit back without accepting a diminished role in world affairs.

Nor could Americans escape choosing sides. Although German- and Irish-Americans disagreed, most Americans in the 1910's preferred the British-run world order with which they were familiar to a prospective German one. Wilson's pro-British neutrality made conflict with Germany almost inevitable, and America's new great-power status made it equally inevitable that when the German challenge came, the United States would not back down.

It was the growth of American power, not Wilsonian idealism and not national interest narrowly conceived, that led the United States into its first European war. A weak 19th-century America could not have conceived of intervening in Europe; a strong 20th-century America, because it could intervene, found that it had an interest in doing so.

Again, Kagan seeks to emphasize that growth in American power led inevitably to greater involvement on the world stage. Regardless of the historical merit of the idea, it is especially noteworthy because it brings Kagan very close to realist interpretations of international politics which insist that the changing balance of power determines each nation’s role on the international stage. Because Kagan’s support of an aggressive and ideological foreign policy has earned him a solid reputation as an idealist and hawk, no one has yet to notice this important realist strain in his thinking.

After World War I, Americans recoiled from the new responsibilities and dangers which their power had brought. But they did not really abandon their new, broader conception of the national interest. Throughout the "isolationist" years, the United States still sought, however half-heartedly and ineffectually, to preserve its expanded influence and the world order it had fought for.

Although they refused to assume military obligations, Presidents from Harding to Franklin Roosevelt tried to maintain balance and order in Europe and in Asia through economic and political agreements. In Central America and the Caribbean, the Republican Presidents found themselves endlessly intervening, occupying, and supervising elections only so that they might eventually withdraw. (Only FDR decided that the best way to be a "good neighbor" in the hemisphere was to allow dictatorship to flourish.)

Kagan is on very strong ground here, opposing standard interpretations of American foreign policy in the interwar era as isolationist. While realist political scientists still take for granted that isolationism was dominant in interwar America, historians have shown that America embraced activist and even expansionist policies on almost every international front with the exception of great power relations in Europe.

To be continued...
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# Posted 2:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OIL AND DEMOCRACY: Side by side, those words make us think of...Venezuela!. It would be nice to see the Bush administration take Venezuela's current crisis seriously. An effort to resolve the crisis just might restore the credibility which the administration lost after its embarrassing support for a failed right-wing coup in Caracas in April 2001. If Bush is serious about democracy in the Middle East, then he should be serious about it in our own hemisphere as well.
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# Posted 1:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STARBUCKS BEWARE: The House and Senate have passed resolutions calling on the United States to "adopt a global strategy to respond to the current coffee crisis." Glad to know they have their priorities straight.
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# Posted 1:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE, with apologies to Andrew Sullivan:
"We're trying our darndest to prevent [a conflict] but every day it's looking more and more like it's heading in that direction. . . . It really is getting a bit frightening. At some times I feel like a member of the Jewish community in Germany in the latter stages of the Weimar Republic."

-- Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations

Well, at least Hooper isn't the first one to compare Bush to Hitler.
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# Posted 1:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GOOD NEWS IN THE WAR ON TERROR: We don't often think of Colombia as a front in the war on terror, but its right-wing paramilitaries and leftist guerrillas are on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations. Thus, the paramilitaries unilateral declaration of a ceasefire is very good news. There isn't much good to say about the guerrillas except that they are not as bad as the paramilitaries.

The Times doesn't say much about the reasons behind the ceasefire, but I think it should've recognized the most important cause: the election of hard line conservative president Álvaro Uribe. Just as only Nixon could go to China, only Uribe could get concessions from the Colombian right. Does Uribe's success carry a message for the United States? Yes. That the most effective way of stopping Al Qaeda will be to have Muslim leaders disavow it. Imagine the effect on Arab public opinion if Iran's ayatollahs of the imams of Hamas declared Al Qaeda to be an evil, un-Islamic organization. Well, we can always hope.

UPDATE: The Postagrees with OxBlog.
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# Posted 12:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STILL CRAZY: Click here to read a column by one of the gay Arabic language specialists expelled by the US army.
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# Posted 12:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PAPER TIGER: Kristof scores again. His column reports on the devastating effects of AIDS in China and the even more horrific effects it will have in coming decades. While drug abuse and prostitution are responsible for much of the crisis, the most unforgivable aspect of its the government's denial that a problem even exists.

If all that is true, then why doesn't Kristof go ahead and draw the obvious conclusion that China is far from being the rising tiger that both journalists and scholars so often make it out to be? Perhaps because just one week ago Kristof told us that China is destined to outperform the United States because of its high educational standards. When Kristof followed up on that misguided column with a compelling discussion of police brutality in China, I began to wonder why the quality of his work was so inconsistent. I have to admit that I still have no answer. But I will keep reading what Kristof writes because it might just be gold.
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# Posted 12:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHITEWASH OR JEALOUSY?: Having read the NYT and WashPost book reviews of Bush at War, I find myelf asking whether the reviewers even read the same book.

The one point which both Michiko Kakutani (NYT) and Fouad Ajami (WP) agree on is that Woodward makes a compelling case for Bush's gifts as a leader. His confidence, caution and boldness enabled to him to take firm command of America's war effort. There is no hint that the President behaved at all like the frat boy or dunce that critics have made him out to be. I find this portrayal of Bush a decisive leader particularly interesting, since I read the first published excerpt of Woodward's book as an indication that Bush was not in firm command of his cabinet. In Josh's absence, I feel compelled to suggest that I may have sought evidence to confirm my own prejudices rather than apporaching the book on its own terms. As such, I intend to read the book ASAP and report back on what I find.

Getting back to the NYT vs. WP conflict, the main point of difference between Kakutani and Ajami is the degree to which Woodward's made selective use of evidence. Ajami dismisses the consideration out of hand at the end of his review, remarking that "A historian or two may quibble about his working methods and his way with the sources, but readers keep coming back for more." Kakutani, in line with Fred Barnes at the Weekly Standard, asserts that Woodward's account strongly favors those cabinet officers who gave Woodward more access to their thoughts. Thus, even though Woodward had minimal access to Cheney, Rumsfeld or Wolfowitz, he does not hesitate to present them as simplistic hawks. Strangely, Ajami doesn't comment on this at all.

Now, picking up on a point I raised earlier, what does all this say about "liberal" media bias? First of all, Woodward's admiration for the president -- as well the reviewers confirmation of it -- suggests that the media's own political preferences do not necessarily prevent them from interpreting reality in a manner favorable to those whose preferences are quite different. Second, one has to take institutional rivalry into account when exploring media prejudice. Is it an accident that the Post published a glowing review of its star reporter's book? Or is the Times guilty of trashing Woodward just because he works for its main rival? Perhaps neither position has merit. Perhaps Ajami just read the book uncritically. Or perhaps both Barnes and Kakutani have an axe to grind. Until I read the book, I guess I won't really know.
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Thursday, November 28, 2002

# Posted 9:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOT AIR VS. HARD FACTS. While the columnists polemicize, TNR does its best to establish what we know and what we don't when it comes to accusations that the Saudi ambassador's wife funded terrorists linked to September 11th. As TNR points out, there are no clear answers yet. But the real question is, why has the Senate been pursuing the issue while the administration remains silent?
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# Posted 9:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SADDAM GOES SHOPPING: Some prefer Paris, some New York, some Milan. But if you are shopping for nuclear weapons, Ukraine is the place to go.
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# Posted 9:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

INSPECTORS, SHMINSPECTORS: The WashPost reports that a desire not to offend Iraq has prevented the selection of numerous experienced weapons inspectors. What the article says almost nothing about is the role of the Bush administration in the selection process. But this is the critical issue: If the Bush administration is serious about making inspections work, how could it have allowed the selection process to be derailed? Even if only Colin Powell wanted real inspections, how could he not have done more to ensure the selection of competent inspectors? This isn't going to be pretty folks.

On a ligher note, the Post discovered that one of the inspectors has an impressive record of leadership in sexual fetish organizations. While I don't find this disturbing per se, the accompanying photo of the individual in question suggests that the members of such groups select their leaders on the basis of character, not appearence.
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# Posted 8:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I AM NOT THANKFUL. Israelis and Kenyans have been murdered in an attack in the Kenyan port of Mombasa. Israeli voters have been murdered while exercising those democratic rights that are so scarce in the Middle East.

Terror and democracy are irreconciliable opposites. As Ariel Sharon shouted at a television correspondent, "It doesnt matter who you support. Don't allow terror to frighten you! Go and vote! Go and vote!"

While am thankful for all that I have, there will always be an emptiness within that thanks for as long as others suffer senseless cruelty.
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# Posted 7:56 AM by Dan  

KISSINGER. I would hardly call Christopher Hitchens an unbiased observer, but like David he is a bit skeptical about trusting Dr. K. Hitchens makes a good point about how this decision will be spun by our critics abroad. And just in case you want to learn more about Dr. K, Slate posts an advertisement to purchase "The Trial of Henry Kissinger" by none other than Christopher Hitchens at the bottom of the article....
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Wednesday, November 27, 2002

# Posted 7:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIBERAL MEDIA BIAS, PART DEUX: A while back, I recommended reading Bob Woodward's new book entitled "Bush at War". While I stand by the recommendation, anyone reading the book should also take into consideration the points raised by Fred Barnes in his review: Above all, that the book reflects Powell and Rice's perspectives much more than those of Cheney and Rumsfeld since the latter refused to give Woodward confidential information. Unsurprisingly, Woodward is kinder to Powell and Rice.

One might add that Woodward has a record of favoring his sources. As Bill Keller pointed out in his NYT Maganize profile of Paul Wolfowitz, Woodward made Wolfowitz look like an idiot in his WashPost account of decisionmaking just after September 11th.

Thanks to Linda Cooke for finding the link to the Wolfowitz profile.
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# Posted 6:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CALLING DEEP THROAT: Who the hell came up with the idea of appointing Henry Kissinger head of the 9/11 investigation commission? While I'm glad that Bush finally accepted that the public has a right to know what went wrong, I don't trust Kissinger to conduct an honest investigation. Along with Nixon, Kissinger authorized countless immoral covert operations at home and abroad. He is the last one who should be entrusted with the task of shining the light of truth on the FBI and the CIA.

Now to get back to the question: Who came up with the idea of appointing Kissinger? I think it's pretty clear: Condi. During the campaign and during the first months of the administration, Condi preached realpolitik in a devoutly Kissingerian manner. For a sample of her thinking, see her January 2000 article in Foreign Affairs. I also detect the hand of Papa Bush in this matter. Whereas the Reagan administration unequivocally rejected the immorality of Kissingerian realpolitik, 41 never had the same aversion.

What I want to know is whether Kissinger was the first choice or whether he was a compromise choice. I can see Cheney and Rumsfeld accepting Kissinger since they share his penchant for secrecy even if they are not hardened realists. As for Powell, I don't think he cared enough to fight hard for a candidate to his liking. And the Democrats hardly have the credibility to reject an administration choice.

Now, who should have been the head of the commission? John McCain. Someone America trusts.
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Tuesday, November 26, 2002

# Posted 8:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CONFIT DU CANARD: According to Webster's, a "canard" comes "from Middle French vendre des canards à moitié to cheat, literally, to half-sell ducks" and refers to "a false or unfounded report or story; especially : a fabricated report." Thus, I am confident in referring to the belief that war will destabilize the Middle East as a canard. To learn why, read this.
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# Posted 8:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PULITZER PUZZLE: The Times' Nick Kristof won a Pulitzer for covering the Tiannanmen uprising in 1989. That's means he's the best of the best. If so, why are half his columns brilliant and half of them terrible?

Today, Kristof tells the horrifying story of a Christian woman tortured in China. The woman's courage is an inspiration and her suffering is a reminder that terrorism is the foundation of Chinese Communist government. In fact,
Secret Communist Party documents just published in a book, "China's New Rulers,"...say approvingly that 60,000 Chinese were killed, either executed or shot by police while fleeing, between 1998 and 2001. That amounts to 15,000 a year, which suggests that 97 percent of the world's executions take place in China.
Even though I am not opposed in principle to the death penalty, I have no doubt that "execution" in China is just another word for "murder".

So if Kristof can be this good, why do some of his columns do nothing more than spout cliches? Damned if I know.
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# Posted 8:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SECOND IN THE MOTION: Josh already linked to this article on US foreign aid. But it's so good, I thought I'd write more about it. The main idea is that the Bush administration has proposed a $5 billion incentive fund for poor countries committed to democracy and market-based reform. As I see it, the key aspect of the plan is this: "To qualify for a piece of the $5 billion pie, applicant nations have to do well in each of three different categories, and to demonstrate that they have cracked down on corruption." In other words, no free rides for capitalist nations who just pretend to be democratic.
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# Posted 8:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RETHINKING DIVERSITY: It's hard to sum up an article this in one sentence, but I guess you could say it's a brief and insightful statement about what it means to be American.
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# Posted 8:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIBERAL MEDIA BIAS: Does it exist? I've spent the past couple of weeks going through academic literature on the issue. I haven't made any firm conclusions yet, but from what I can tell the media seem to be good at antagonizing liberals and conservatives equally. When articles come out looking biased, I think ignorance may be the cause more often than not.

Take today's WashPost piece on Saudi views of the US, for example: Unsurprisingly, a lot of Saudis are angry at the US. They feel like we assume they're all part of Al Qaeda. The Post even quotes a former US diplomat who believes that
"We're treating all Saudis as if they're terrorists. Our inability to distinguish between who is a friend and an enemy turns everyone into an enemy. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy."
There isn't one mention in the whole article of things the Saudis have done to promote Islamic fundamentalism or undermine anti-terrorists efforts. Does this mean that the Post and/or its correspondent are either ignorant of such things or excluding them consciously? No, of course not. This is just bad reporting. Someone came up with an idea to do a story on Saudi attitudes toward the US. Then a reporter did some interviews, got some quotes, and filed a story. No thought was given to context. And so it all comes out looking like Susan Sontag wrote it.

The question I'm left with is this: How often do things go this wrong? I have a high opinion of the media in general, but some element of quality control is just missing. Any ideas?

UPDATE: Mickey Kaus post his latest missive on the NY Times' hopeless committment to a liberal agenda. I think Kaus is right on the specific issues he raises, but am still unsure there is a general bias in the media.
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Monday, November 25, 2002

# Posted 9:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YOU AND WHAT ARMY? Ask Hamid Karzai that question and you won't get much of an answer. But don't worry, the Pentagon has promised to send 200 soldiers to watch over the countryside...
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# Posted 9:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEAD HORSE BEATEN: Fred Hiatt has a good column on how dictators use the war on terror to justify attacks on the free press. And Bush still welcomes them to the White House.
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# Posted 9:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MAN WITH A PLAN: With all due respect to the Socratic method and its advocates, I believe there is an obligation to present an alternative to those ideas and policies which one tears down. When it comes to grand strategy, I think the Bush administration might benefit from more time spent reading the work of Mike McFaul.

In the Sunday Times, McFaul demonstrates how the absence of strategy for dealing with Soviet disintegration led to significant failures which still damage US interests today. If the Bush administration is seroius about creating a new Middle East, it will have to learn the lessons of the post-Soviet experience. Lesson No. 1: The US must leverage its military dominance to ensure full democratization of post-totalitarian states. NATO has expanded, but a lack of democracy in Russia and Central Asia is holding back the war on terror. In the new Middle East, there must be a US-led security organization which provides nascent democracies with security in exchanges for a guarantee that they will consolidate domesitc reforms.

For those of you who want to know more about how McFaul thinks, check out his article in Policy Review entitled "The Liberty Doctrine". I recommend it highly.

I am also quite enamored of the following point made by McFaul, which supports my pet argument that all cultures are compatible with democracy:
Thirty years ago, experts believed that Slavic nations and Communist regimes could never become democratic. They were wrong. Experts now warn that Arab nations, particularly aristocratic or despotic regimes in North Africa and the Middle East — and perhaps Muslims generally — just cannot join the democratic world. They should go back and read what Sovietologists were saying as recently as the 1980's.
Boo yah!
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# Posted 8:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TOOTHLESS HAWKS: According to conventional wisdom, one can divide the Bush administration into hawks, e.g. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, etc., and doves, e.g. Powell, Armitage, etc. But when it comes to US relations with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other Arab dictatorships, there seem to be only doves. While the Senate has had the guts to say that the Saudi government is behaving in a despicable manner that endangers US national security, no one in the administration has. And what was the last time anyone got tough with Pakistan, even though it bears primary responsibility for supplying the North Korean nuclear program?

The logic behind the administration's embarrassing stance is simple: The doves are too busy getting the UN ready for a confrontation with Iraq. The hawks are too busy getting America ready for a confrontation with Iraq. Why antagonize nominal supporters of the war on terror such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan if they are behind us right now? Answer: Because their actions lead to nasty surprises that derail US efforts to achieve priority objectives such as disarming Iraq. Wouldn't it have been nice if North Korea hadn't had a nuclear program to disclose in the middle of UN deliberations about Iraq? Wouldn't it be nice if Islamic fundamentalist parties weren't in control of the Pakistani provinces which border Afghanistan?

When it comes down to it, the administration's failure to address the Saudi and Pakistani situations reflects an inability to think big when it comes to foreign policy -- to think about grand strategy. Or, to put in terms that might resonate with a Bush, it comes down to a problem with "the vision thing".

UPDATE: I forgot to repeat myself. Both the doves and the hawks have gone soft on Arab dictatorships because they aren't serious about promoting democracy. They say the right things when asked, but they don't back up their words with actions.
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# Posted 12:47 PM by Dan  

HOWARD DEAN. I will be posting links to articles about Democratic contenders for '04, and here is one of them. Like other pundits, Howard Kurtz cannot avoid the Jimmy Carter comparison. The nomination is still Gore's if he wants it, and we should know his plans within two months. Let's see how he does on Saturday Night Live on December 14th.
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# Posted 12:34 PM by Dan  

NOW OR NEVER. Fareed Zhakaria rightly points out that Saddam is no dummy--Iraq will probably "comply and cooperate" with the inspections process enough to please the French and Russians. Look for a drawn out process....
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Sunday, November 24, 2002

# Posted 9:03 AM by Dan  

SCOTT RITTER. The NY Times Magazine features him this weekend in a piece worth reading. It is pretty clear that Ritter's desperation to stay in the limelight, rather than any ideological conversion, drives his current position (which itself is difficult to pin down). Sometimes he seems to hate the U.S. government as much as he hates Sadamm.
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# Posted 7:19 AM by Dan  

CLIVE DAVIS reviews Michael Moore in today's Washington Times. Oh, and he also mentions a blog.
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Saturday, November 23, 2002

# Posted 12:14 PM by Dan  

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# Posted 6:06 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

VERSUS CULTURAL RELATIVISM: This morning the NY Times published an op-ed by Bao Tong, whom it identifies as
former director of the Office of Political Reform of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, was the highest party official imprisoned for opposing the Tiananmen Square crackdown. He was released from prison in 1996 and remains under constant police surveillance.
The words in his column that struck me were:
Mao and Deng both advanced the view that the Chinese national character was something easily differentiated from one that might be called Western. The last three party congresses have all continued to label democracy as too "Western" and therefore unsuited to China. Yet what does the division between "Eastern" and "Western" ideas mean in a post-communist China that has accepted the W.T.O.?

One might add: What did the division between "Eastern" and "Western" mean in communist China, a society based on a philosophy developed by a German exile in London?
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Friday, November 22, 2002

# Posted 9:02 PM by Dan  

GARY HART. There has been some buzz about him running in 2004, and why not--he is from a Mountain West state, and holds foreign policy credentials. Jules Witcover adds fuel to the fire.
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# Posted 8:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PELOSI UPDATE: E.J. Dionne thinks she's a principled defender of human rights. TNR's Michael Cowley shows that she's willing to talk out of both sides of her mouth when it comes to Iraq. Neither revelations should come as a surprise. As OxBlog observed last week, Pelosi's foreign policy seems driven in equal parts by liberal principles and shameless partisanship.
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# Posted 8:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STUPID WHTIE (EUROPEAN) MALES: While we're on the topic of prejudice, why not mention Europe's refusal to facilitate Turkish membership in the EU? As Fareed Zakaria observes,
Europeans often complain that America's strategy in the war on terror is one-dimensional. It's all military might with little effort to engage the Islamic world in a constructive way. They point out that unless we help Muslim countries prosper, all the F-16s and Predators in the world won't stop the flow of terror. It's a valid criticism, but the single biggest push that could shift events in this direction lies not in America's hands but in Europe's. And Europe is about to blow it.
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# Posted 8:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANOTHER CHAFETZ INSPIRED POST: Correct me if I'm wrong, but Islamic fundamentalists are often impolite towards homosexuals. Therefore, there is little danger that homosexual intelligence analysts might be tempted to sell military secrets to Al Qaeda or Saddam Hussein. Then why the hell have the US armed forces fired seven gay Arabic linguists? Perhaps it is because there are so many Americans proficient in Arabic that the Pentagon can afford to pick and choose. Or perhaps it is because no one in the armed forces has the guts to stand up to the reactionary homophobes who make stupid decisions that damage US national security.
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# Posted 7:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"IRAQI OPPOSITION GROUPS have squabbled for months over..." How to oust Saddam Hussein? How to develop Iraq in the aftermath of war? How to support secular rights in a Muslim nation? No, no and no. As the WashPost reports
Iraqi opposition groups have squabbled for months over when, how and where to hold the[ir next] conference -- and, despite the administration's enthusiasm, reports continued yesterday that the feuding has not ended.
I'm glad I'm not Tommy Franks, but I'm sure as hell glad Tommy Franks is.
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# Posted 7:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH: CYNIC OR STATESMAN? As the NY Times points out, Bush can restore his credibility on democracy promotion by moving aggressively to spend the $3 billion in Afghan reconstruction funds that Congress has authorized. Then again, the fact that Congress authorized more funding than the White House asked for suggests that the President never intended to go to bat for Afghan democracy. Frankly, I think Bush should get serious about democracy promotion for the simple reason that I am tired of hearing from Oxford leftists that his embrace of the issue is a rhetorical trick to get Americans behind the war. My response? Wolfowitz in '08!

PS Even the Army thinks Afghan reconstruction is a priority. Maybe the President is only one who hasn't recognized that Afghans are creative and hardworking to invest US aid rather than becoming dependent on it.

UPDATE: The Weekly Standard's David Brooks comments on creative and hardworking Afghans, and how the liberal press only wants to see misery where it should see opportunity. But he manages to avoid any mention of the aid bill before Congress and what it says about the Bush administration and Afghanistan.
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# Posted 7:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH: SUCKER OR STATESMAN? David Ignatius argues today that Bush's wartime leadership is comparable to that of Lincoln and Roosevelt. If so, then why has Bush endorsed Vladimir Putin's brutal response to the Moscow hostage crisis? Bush even went as far as to compare the attack in Moscow to the attacks of September 11th. The left should have a field day with that one, arguing that US imperialism provoked September 11th the same way that Russian brutality provoked the Moscow attacks.

Now, if Putin were to endorse US foreign policy in exchange for Bush's support, I would understand, though not agree. But the fact is, Russia has continuously sought to undermine our efforts at the UN. In fact, during the same meeting at which Bush made his remarks, Putin spoke out against US unilateralism. Once again, Putin has played Bush for a fool.
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# Posted 7:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AXE TO GRIND: I have spent a lot of time working on Latin American politics, so when the NY Times opens its big mouth on the subject, I tend to get pissed off. In an editorial today, the Times argues that
Free-market economic prescriptions pushed by Washington have been discredited. Leftist and populist alternatives are gaining support, as evidenced by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's election last month to the Brazilian presidency.
Really? While Lula was once a leftist and populist, that stand cost him three consecutive presidential elections. Only this year, after cutting a deal with the IMF and campaigning in a suit instead of denim did he manage to pull off a victory. If free markets were discredited, you might actually see countries closing their markets off to the world. But even in Argentina, which is suffering its worst crisis since the Great Depression, no one thinks that the economy can survive in isolation.

I hope you enjoyed that. Maybe once we get rid of Saddam, OxBlog can post more Latin American news and commentary.
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