Saturday, November 30, 2002
# Posted 6:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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...
(2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 1:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 1:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
"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."
Well, at least Hooper isn't the first one to compare Bush to Hitler. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, November 28, 2002
# Posted 9:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:56 AM by Dan
Wednesday, November 27, 2002
# Posted 7:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, November 26, 2002
# Posted 8:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 8:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 8:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 8:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, November 25, 2002
# Posted 9:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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! (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:47 PM by Dan
# Posted 12:34 PM by Dan
Sunday, November 24, 2002
# Posted 9:03 AM by Dan
# Posted 7:19 AM by Dan
Saturday, November 23, 2002
# Posted 12:14 PM by Dan
# Posted 6:06 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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? (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, November 22, 2002
# Posted 9:02 PM by Dan
# Posted 8:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 8:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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.(1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 7:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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.
(2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 6:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
UPDATE: If you read the NYT piece on al-Nashiri, make sure to read TNR's response to it as well. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, November 18, 2002
# Posted 2:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 2:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Critics of the Bush administration consistently charge that preparations for the war on Iraq are diverting it from the war on terror. I disagree, but mostly from an agnostic perspective. I don't know if the war on terror is going well. According to what standard can the United States' efforts be judged? Does the recent attack on Bali show that the American homeland is now secure or that Al Qaeda still has the ability to murder hundreds of innocents? Since I don't know the answer, I haven't said much.
On the other hand, Josh seems to pounce upon every arrest of a suspected terrorist as an indication that the war on terror is going well. As an agnostic, I am no less skeptical of his intransigent position than I am of the administration's critics. So, Josh, I'm asking you to answer the questions laid out above: According to what standard can one judge American efforts? If the war on terror is, as you say, a "behind-the-scenes" war how can anyone judge its effectiveness? As any good investigative reporter would ask, how do we know that all this talk of behind-the-scenes war isn't just political cover for an effort that hasn't produced any impressive successes? And if it hasn't, shouldn't we assume that the administration's prioritization of the war in Iraq is responsible?
That's what's on my mind. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Diehl gives solid reasons why the administration should've backed up its rhetoric about promoting democracy by focusing on this conference:
1) Unlike most international forums, this one has defined democracy strictly, thus preventing states such as Egypt, Pakistan and Malaysia from attending.
2) Coordinated diplomatic efforts by the world's democracies can do significant things, such as kick terrorist states like Syria off the UN Human Rights Commission
Diehl's bottom line: it's time for the administration to put it's money where it's mouth is when it comes to democracy promotion... (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, November 17, 2002
# Posted 7:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
While it is tempting to compare Blix to that lovable fellow who tried to catch the Pink Panther, I have a hunch that what's going on now may reflect as much posturing as it does sincerity. As I asked yesterday, has US-UN cooperation already ensured that the inspectors will find what they are looking for? I'd say there's a chance that Blix is just trying to preserve his own image of impartiality so that neither France nor Russia objects when he reports on Iraqi violations of resolution 1441. If not, we're in trouble. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 7:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 7:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Now here comes some diversity: Yesterday, Josh challenged me to defend my constant assertion that internal divisions in the Bush administration have "wrought havoc" on American foreign policy. As Josh points out
Bush's diplomacy has gotten him just about everything he wants...It was only by alternatively showing the more hawkish and less hawkish sides that we could maneuver the other Security Council nations into agreeing to the resolution. Unless you have the default assumption that any good outcomes produced by the Administration are the result of dumb luck, it seems to me that you'd come to the conclusion that this was a pretty skillful piece of coordinated diplomacy
I agree with Josh that intentionality is the fundamental issue for those interested in assessing the administration's efforts. If Bush intended to take advantage of internal divisions by playing good cop/bad cop with the Security Council, he deserves recognition for his success. If not, one has to acknowledge the wisdom of Napoleon who once observed, possibly in reference to George Bush, that "it is better to be lucky than smart".
In one of my first-ever posts on OxBlog, I raised the idea that the Bush administration might be taking advantage of its reputation for belligerence to wrest a strong resolution from the Security Council. I concluded, however, that
While the Good Cop/Bad Cop idea is somewhat plausible, I don't even find it convincing myself. Why not? Because Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney just seem so sincere in their demands. One struggles to detect even the hint of an admission on their part that European demands are legitimate. Their sincerity is reinforced by the unabashed unilateralism of the Bush administration in the months before September 11th. Nothing the Bush administration has done on either the domestic or international front has suggested that it has either the imagination or the discipline to follow through on even the sort of moderately sophisticated public relations campaign that a convincing Good Cop/Bad Cop strategy would require.
As it stands, that statement provides no evidence for the position it defends. Rather, the statement rests on an assessment of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld's sincerity. I hope I can show that subsequent events have provided a more solid foundation for my initial hunch.
In my next post on the subject, I linked to a TNR article by Ryan Lizza whose careful reading of White House briefing books showed that explicit threats to use force against Iraq made it into very late drafts of Bush's September 12th speech to the UN. Lizza also points out that on September 14th, in a little-noticed interview with the US government's Arabic-language radio station, Rumsfeld refused to say that the US had committed itself definitively to seeking a new resolution calling for arms inspections. As Lizza concludes, and I concur, "the war between Secretary of State Colin Powell and the hawks seems to have continued right up until the moment Bush delivered his speech." In other words, there was no good cop/bad cop strategy, but rather a real divide within the administration.
Released today, an excerpt from Bob Woodward's new book "Bush at War" provides hard evidence to back up almost all of what Lizza said. At an NSC meeting in mid-August, Bush made a decision to go at Iraq through the United Nations. This decision, however, was not made public. Then, in late August Cheney publically and repeatedly attacked advocates of working with the UN, stunning Powell. Further meetings with the President revealed that his decision to seek a resolution was not firm. In fact, the actual, final, real decision was made so late that the relevant lines in Bush's September 12th speech were left out of the Teleprompter.
From my perspective, the most significant aspect of Woodward's account is the fact that Cheney publicly attacked a decision that the President had already made and eventually forced him to reconsider it. I see that as strong evidence supporting my assertion that the President is not in control of his own cabinet.
At this point, I will rest my case against the idea that the Bush administration sought to play good cop/bad cop with the United Nations. This brings up a second question, which I see as no less important. If "Bush's diplomacy has gotten him just about everything he wants" how can I say that internal divisions have "wrought havoc" on American foriegn policy? My first response to that challenge is that we don't know what Bush wants. Is he committed to seeing the UN resolution successfully implemented, or does he just want to show that he tried multilateralism before the US strikes out on its own?
Obviously, it won't be possible to answer that question until Hans Blix's inspections squad issues its report. Yet as Robert Kagan and William Kristol point out, it may be even harder for the US to justify unilateral action after the inspections are over. As these authors and others have pointed out, the inspections process may take so long that military action won't be possible until a year from now.
Now, if Tommy Franks is in Baghdad by March, I may have to eat my words. But there will still be other issues that the Bush administration needs to address before one can consider its foreign policy a lasting success. Two big ones are Afghanistan and Pakistan. While I haven't cited yet seen any evidence yet that the administration's half-hearted efforts to keep those nations on our side have been a result of internal divisions, I wouldn't be surprised if they were.
I hope everything goes right for Bush and for America. He's the commander-in-chief and his success or failure is ours as well. But sometimes I suspect the administration needs some prodding before it does the right thing.
If you are still reading this post, thank you for time. I suspect, however, it won't be the last of its kind. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:21 AM by Dan
Saturday, November 16, 2002
# Posted 8:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
So here's my idea: Each week, I'll find one medium-length article (3,000-5,000 words) on foreign policy and international affairs. Then, each day, I will provide a paragraph by paragraph commentary on an excerpt from it. I guess you could say that I'll be "fisking" the articles, but since my intention is not to criticize, the term doesn't really apply. Anyway, I'd be interested in your thoughts on this new feature. I will give it a go for a couple of weeks and then see if people find it useful.
FYI, the first articles I'm going to focus on belong to a series published by Robert Kagan in the mid-90's in Commentary. These are the articles that established Kagan as America's leading conservative idealist thinker on foreign affairs. Take my praise with a grain of salt, however. I had the chance to work for Kagan at theCarnegie Endowment for International Peace and have tremendous respect for him (his fashion sense excepted). But after reading these articles, I don't think you'll need me to tell you they're really, really good.
Signing off for now, David. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
At least the Post was enough to admit it's mistake and publish Rose's letter. If the Post really wanted to show that it cared, however, it should take down its links to the special advertising sections that feature mini-rogue states such as Angola and the Congo. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Anyway, I've been pontificating for quite a while now about the havoc wrought by divisions within Bush's cabinet. As such, I'm looking forward to Woodward's new book, entitled "Bush at War", which will be the definitive account of the administrations' inner workings and the effects of the Powell-Cheney divide. Maybe it'll turn out that I'm completely wrong about things. Who knows. Anyway, click here to order your advance copy. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Inspectors armed with American, British and other Western intelligence on Iraqi weapons sites plan to be in place well before the United Nations deadline, said the inspection chief, Hans Blix.As such, the real question to ask is to what degree US-UN cooperation has been effective in ensuring that inspections will turn up the weapons everyone knows Saddam has. To phrase it differently, is the Bush administration gambling that UN inspectors will find what they're supposed to, or has it known all along exactly what they are going to find? I sure as hell hope that the answer is 'B'. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
For an in-depth discussion of why Europe has come to aceept its dependence on the United States (while vocally insisting that it hasn't), see this article by Robert Kagan. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, November 15, 2002
# Posted 10:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Anti-war liberals have derided the prospect of a liberated Iraq serving as a model for Arab democracy -- and starting a domino effect that could liberate the Muslim world from the grips of petty despots and theocratic lunatics -- as fanciful. But for all their talk about the "root causes" of terrorism, my fellow liberals have spoken very little about how they plan to remedy the situation. Deterrence is not going to address the "root causes" of terror. It will likely make them worse. At best it will leave a madman in check and leave much of the Muslim world in an ongoing mood of simmering disdain for America. At worst it will empower a madman to bide his time in manipulating the Muslim world's ongoing disdain for America. It is not a policy of hope; it is a policy of little imagination and puny moral spirit.
Thanks to Matt Yglesias for the link. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Dionne goes on to savage the Democrats for having no coherent policy either. He argues that if the Democrats had taken a strong position on the need for a multilateral approach to Iraq during the campaign, they might have been able to avoid the embarrassment of seeming like unprincipled hacks and, possibly, the embarrassment of being manhandled at the polls by a President who had the guts to campaign for what he believed. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Two interpretations of her behavior suggest themselves. First, Pelosi might be one of those liberals who can only conceive of using force when American security is not at stake. Second, Pelosi might be one of those Congressfolk who only support war when their party is in the White House -- and thus stands to benefit from the rally-'round-the-flag effect that all wars have. Remember when Trent Lott said that in Kosovo we should "give peace a chance"? Position One is sincere but misguided, whereas Position Two is pragmatic and deceptive. I'm not sure which is worse, but I lean toward Two since I think integrity and honor are much more important than success. But either way, it seems Pelosi out of touch with the changes wrought by September 11th.
In contrast, TNR had this to say about Harold Ford, Pelosi's opponent in the race for Minority Leader:
Ford voted for the use-of-force resolution but, in explaining that decision last week, said something simple and profound: "September eleventh changed things for me." In other words, he recognized--as few other Democrats seemed to--that catastrophic terrorism requires a rethinking of how Democrats approach foreign policy.While Ford's numerous weaknesses as a politician justify the Dems decision to back Pelosi, he still does have something to contribute.
(1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 7:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Secretary General Kofi Annan said today that the United States seemed to have a lower threshold for going to war in Iraq than other nations on the United Nations Security Council.
We all know that Annan has never been good on the Iraq issue. But I think the remarks in the NYT are more of a political maneuver than they are actual criticism of the United States. Annan wants to preserve his credibility with all of the members of the Security Council whom he pressured to vote for Resolution 1441. Presumably, he had to tell them he would stop Bush from going cowboy once the resolution passed. Still, if Annan keeps this up he'll hurt his credibility with the US, increasing the chance that it will ignore the UN completely.
(2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
To a degree, Moore's book is very "September 10th". However, the fact that his publishers tried to stop publication of the book after September 11th demonstrates that there were, in fact, some efforts to supress legitimate dissent as a result of the attacks.However, according to an e-mail from Adam Bellow, executive editor at Doubleday,
While Michael Moore's publisher did try to cancel the book after 9-11, their action cannot be called an attempt to suppress dissenting views. Rather it was a well-founded business decision not to lose their shirt by publishing an anti-Bush book the same month that terrorists attacked the US. If they had, despite his cries to the contrary, Moore himself would not have been happy with the result. In the long run they did publish the book and made a ton of money (as did Moore). They were right to do both and were not motivated by political considerations except to the extent that current politics creates a favorable or unfavorable commercial environment.God Bless capitalism!
PS Adam also points out that Viking will soon publish a one-volume work by Donald Kagan on the Peloponnesian War. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, November 14, 2002
# Posted 8:09 AM by Dan
Wednesday, November 13, 2002
# Posted 8:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Come and talk about politics and world affairs while relaxing with a point. All are welcome.
Directions (from the Radcliffe Camera): Walk up Catte Street toward the main Bodleian building and bear right on New College Lane. Turn left into the alleyway just past the Bridge of Sighs. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:22 PM by Dan
# Posted 1:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
At a moment when slightly more pressing issues are facing the world, Maureen has given us a column on Britain's dowdy queen. (I'm sorry. I couldn't help it. Who knew Webster's would define "dowdy" as "lacking in smartness or taste"?)
In contrast, Tom has given us one of the best pieces I can recall on US relations with the UN and the role that each plays in validating the other. Still, I must register disagreement. While Friedman does not fall into the common trap of praising multilateralism as an end in and of itself, he does mistake it for the sina qua non of international legitimacy.
As I see it, other nations -- and especially other democracies -- will judge the United States according to the moral worth of its actions regardless of whether they are taken without UN or allied approval. In the end, a unilateral strike against Saddam will win respect for us because he is evil. It is only when we attack governments of which other democratic nations actively approve -- such as Allende's in Chile -- that we risk becoming a rogue superpower.
To my chagrin, I don't have time to make my case in greater depth. But expect more posts to come... (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Tuesday, November 12, 2002
# Posted 10:48 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Note: Don't expect the Iraqi opposition to make Tommy Franks job any easier. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:43 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:35 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:33 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
In the meantime, I will e-mail Prof. Kagan and ask him which one-volume commentary on the Peloponnesian War he recommends. Alternately, just read the first volume of his work, which by itself will enhance one's appreciation of Thucydides' significantly. Be warned, however. You may find yourself unable to resist the next three volumes once you start... (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:24 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
To a degree, Moore's book is very "September 10th". However, the fact that his publishers tried to stop publication of the book after September 11th demonstrates that there were, in fact, some efforts to supress legitimate dissent as a result of the attacks. Legimitate dissent should not be confused with intelligent dissent, however. First of all, the book is filled with unforgiveable factual errors, as documented by Spinsanity in Salon. (Example: Bush has proposed a $1.6 trillion increase in the Pentagon budget.) Even worse is the fact that Moore provides footnotes to sources which don't even come close to saying what he does in the book. The fact that Stupid White Men made an impressive run at the top of the New York Times bestseller list is a disturbing indication of just how unelite America's intellectual eltie are.
Even if one forgives Moore's poetic license with the facts, the book fails on the grounds that its arguments are incoherent. While Dan is right that there are ad hominem attacks on Bush throughout, Moore does not present his book as an anti-Bush polemic, but rather one against the dominance of white males. This is race- and gender-baiting at its most crude. In his chapter on why white Americans are to blame for the nation's troubles, Moore does little more than argue that whites are too eager to hold blacks responsible for the vast majority of crimes. Perhaps. But since Moore blames white Americans for everything from pollution to pork-barrelling, he needs to do a lot more than show that black people are statistically less dangerous than some might think.
As for women, Moore observes that America denied them the right to vote until 1920. Afterwards, white men tricked them into voting for white men who would continue to hold them down. So basically, Moore's argument is that women are too stupid to recognize what's in their own interest. Not impressive for someone who claims to be against sexism. Moreover, Moore declares that all of the women in Bush's cabinet are honorary white males. In other words, all women and non-whites should have political opinions identical to Moore's. Again, not impressive for someone who claims to be against racial stereotypes.
To sum it up in one word, Stupid White Men is an embarrassment. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:53 AM by Dan
Regardless of the inspection regime, the prospect of finding what he does not want us to find is very limited without help from those in Iraq who know where the most sensitive work is being done. And unfortunately, the message that partial disclosure will be tolerated is hardly likely to encourage them to step forward -- even if the inspectors can insist on talking to scientists and others without their Iraqi minders. (Bear in mind that Blix has already indicated that he sees problems with bringing such Iraqi scientists, officials and their families outside the country.)
I agree that letting Hussein get away with partial disclosure of his programs after 30 days could lead to disastrous consequences--it would send the signal that the UN is more interested in containment than disarmament. But how will we know if he is playing the cat and mouse game yet again? According to Ross, "President Bush has set the stage for disarmament. Now he must condition the French, the Russians and the rest of the world to understand that the moment of truth comes not with the inspectors' arrival but with the character of Iraq's disclosure on Dec. 8." Is there really a way to determine whether or not Iraq has fully disclosed its WMD programs? (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, November 11, 2002
# Posted 4:57 PM by Dan
Sunday, November 10, 2002
# Posted 7:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 6:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I have a feeling the Pentagon is aware of the issue. Expect the US to force the issue at the UN in January. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The article also provided considerable substantiation for one of my favorite points, which is that the President never instructed the whole cabinet to support a single strategy, therefore provoking semi-open warfare within the administration that the the unfortunate effect of undercutting the effort of both sides.
UPDATE: Compare the NYT article with the WashPost article on the same subject. The Post avoids the issue of Russia and France, but provides a far superior account of Powell's effort to persuade the hawks to go along. Would someone please explain, then, whey the NYT costs three times as much as the Post?
Unless you read them online, in which case they're both free! (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 3:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
In some ways, the mistaken murder of "innocent" Australians (and others) is an even more compelling demonstration of Islamic fundamentalists' brutality than their attacks on American citizens. The terrorists sincere belief that all Americans are "guilty" makes their violence comprehensible from a psychological perspective, if not from a moral one. The massive disregard for human life that led to the murder of the Australians and others in Bali shows how the all-consuming hatred of the terrorists leads them to abandon all concern even for the innocent, an ethical stance which exposes the unmitigated evil they represent.
PS If you still want to read more about Putin's incompetence, click here. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, November 07, 2002
# Posted 2:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The WashPost defends the administration in an editorial whose acrobatic logic is quite impressive. According to the Post
Military action makes sense only when it is impossible to work through law enforcement or local authorities. Yemen clearly falls into that category: Its authorities tried and failed to capture numerous al Qaeda militants operating in remote parts of the country, and now they appear to have acquiesced in the CIA's use of missile-armed drones.Does that mean Israel has to wait for Yasser Arafat to admit that his police forces are incompetent/complicit in terrorism and then invite the Sharon to help him kill the masterminds behind the suicide bombs? (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Nonetheless, Donald Rumsfeld said, in an interview with Jim Hoagland, that "U.S. troops [will] become more involved in civil-military projects that will create conditions for 'people to come home, to rebuild and resettle.'" I hope Rumsfeld recognizes that coming home, rebuilding and resettling will not be possible if Karzai can't wipe out corruption and warlord rule.
(2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Also, see Clinton NSC chief Anthony Lake's op-ed on North Korea, which responds in a measured, non-partisan manner to much of the unfair criticism of his North Korea policy which filled editorial pages after North Korea's recent admission that it had a secret weapons program. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, November 06, 2002
# Posted 9:02 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
weekly discussions of politics and current events. All are welcome.
Directions: The Turf is not easy to find. The best way to get there, starting from the Bodleian main entrance, is to walk under the Bridge of Sighs and then turn into the narrow alley on your left, right after the Bridge. Follow the alley to the end, and you're there. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, November 05, 2002
# Posted 10:54 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Spoiled Ballots: 0
Pregnant Chads: Their own damn fault.
Senate: Democrats -- 2, Republicans -- 1, Baath -- 97.
House: In permanent recess.
State by State Results:
Arkansas - W.J. Clinton (Baath)
Minnesota - Ventura (Baath)
South Carolina - Thurmond (R)
Missouri - Carnahan (D)
Georgia - McKinney (Baath)
Tennessee - A. Gore Jr. (Baath)
New Jersey - Torricelli (D)
Texas - Koresh (Baath)
North Carolina - E. Dole (Baath)
(2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:41 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Zakaria finishes his piece with a damning reminder that, as a candidate, Bush called for an end to aid for Russia on the grounds that "The nations of the free world [must] condemn the -- you know, the killing of innocent women and children."
All in all, Zakaria's column is a nice to counterpoint to his earlier essay in the New Yorker, which I criticized for its amoral realpolitik. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:28 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
US Commander Lt. Gen. Dan McNeill asserted that "for the near term, these regional leaders -- while they might appear unsavory to some, and some accuse them of having sordid pasts -- they are providing a degree of security and stability out and away from Kabul." In other words, if the Bush administration doesn't care enough about democracy to send US troops beyond Kabul, why the hell should McNeill give local dictators a hard time?
(2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:22 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
While hardly evidence of my wisdom, I will note that the NY Times supports my position on Turkish politics exactly. The Post was somewhat less enthusiastic. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:11 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:06 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Bonus fact for European history buffs: The German ambassador to NATO is named "von Moltke".
(2) opinions -- Add your opinion