Monday, December 23, 2002
# Posted 9:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
1) Bob Herbert on George Allen (R-VA) and Conrad Burns (R-MT).
2) TNR's Sarah Wildman on Jeff Sessions (R-AL).
3) Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-NC) on himself. (With a parting blow by Josh Marshall.)
While it makes for good copy, one has to ask whether this has all gone too far. One could argue that this trend has led to unfair attacks on Bill Frist by the NY Times and Josh Marshall. But the unfair attacks on Frist were shot down very quickly. It's not as if you can get away with anything just because Trent Lott is in hot water.
Even from a Repubican perspective -- and especially from a Republican perspective -- it's all for the best if this trend keeps on going strong. First of all, it has laid to rest false accusations that might have damaged Frist later on. It will also let the Republicans know whether potential candidates for Senate leadership positions have a past they are trying to hide. And if the trend goes too far, it can be used as evidence of liberal media bias. With two full years to go before the next election, the separation of the wheat from the chaff can only make the GOP stronger. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The Scholars behind the campaign are Antwaun Smith and Will Polkinghorn, both of whom are now in graduate school at Harvard. One thing I know about Antwaun and Will is that they are always looking for things to do besides their homework. That is one of the reasons they spent so much time with Hart when he was at Oxford a couple of years back. For those who don't know Antwaun or Will (or Gary), their enthusiasm for Hart might seem to be utterly ridiculous. Even if we are living in the "post-Clinon" era, it is hard to believe that America would forgive Hart for his involvement with Donna Rice. But because I've spent time talking to Hart one-on-one, I know why Antwaun and Will are so enthusiastic.
Gary Hart cares about America and cares about ideas. Rather than spending his time at posh dinners, he tried to learn as much as he could from other students. He was even nice enough to read my 30-page memo on US grand strategy and give me substantial feedback. (If you need a cure for insomnia, I'd be happy to send you a copy.) When you talk to Hart, you get the sense of talking to someone who has been out of politics for a long time and reflected thoughtfully on the lessons of his time in Washington. He thinks outside the box. When you talk to him, you understand how he and Warren Rudman could've realizedbefore September 11th that terrorism is the single greatest threat to American security and that we need a Department of Homeland Security to plan our defense.
Does this mean that Hart has a shot? I am pessimistic. His strength is his expertise on national security affairs. But as of now Bush is untouchable on that front. With good reason, most Democratic voters would probably be afraid that a Bush-Hart campaign would become a referendum on Clinton's sexual ethics. Which is why Joe Lieberman is now the leader of the pack, albeit not in a commanding position.
UPDATE: Amygdalapoints out that Hart was known for being an innovative, outside-the-box thinker even while he was in office. So I might be wrong that he has learned to think more creatively about politics by being away from it. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
UPDATE: Canada arrests Al Qaeda pizza boy.
UPDATE: Eugene Volokh observes: Canadians are generally indistinguishable from Americans. The surest way of telling the two apart is to say that to a Canadian. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:39 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
The Times described Bush's speech as a response to criticism of VOA's decision to replace political coverage with teeny pop. Strangely, the Times reported that this criticism was coming from VOA staffers and dissidents in Iran. It avoided any mention of the op-eds by Jackson Diehl and Jesse Helms which focused public attention on VOA. Which forces one to ask: Is the Times going soft on VOA because it got scooped, because it doesn't know what's going on, or because it has good reasons to believe that VOA will take the Presdient's advice seriously?
I'd say either 'A' or 'B' is right. As a Reuters report makes clear, the switch-over from politics to pop is going ahead right on schedule. In other words, it seems that Bush is covering for VOA rather than committing it to the cause of democracy in Iran.
UPDATE: Occam's Toothbrush observes that VOA's Arab language broadcasts have a solid track record precisely because of their emphasis on Britney, Christina, et al. Occam also links to Fouad Ajami's excellent article in the new issue of Foreign Affairs. In fact, a quick look over the table of contents suggests that FA may have put together one of it's best issues in years, which is saying a lot.
DOUBLE UPDATE: Both this post and Occam's have been picked up by Instapundit! I guess that calls for a response. Here's what I wrote to Moe Freedman (Mr. Occam) in an e-mail earlier today :
My brother's name is Moe, too! (Though he spells it "Mo") Turning to more substantive matters, thank you for the link to the NRO article. I recognize that my posts haven't mentioned the acheivements of Radio Sawa, which deserve to be mentioned. Still, I think Diehl makes a pretty compelling case for VOA's stupidity vis-a-vis Iran. Yet unlike me, he acknowledges the value of Radio Sawa in countries which don't have a pro-Western anti-Fundamentalist student movement. So it's a situational matter, more than a blanket comdemnation of Britney...(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, December 22, 2002
# Posted 7:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
UPDATE: Innocents Abroad exposes even more bad NYT reporting. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
But the real purpose of Dowd's column is to expose the Machiavellian calculations behind the President's subtle support for the Tennessee senator. Apparently, Bush still hasn't gotten over Lott's support for Jack Kemp in the '88 primaries. And, as Dowd bizarrely asserts, the President wants to set Frist up for a successful primary run against Jeb in '08. Why? Sibling rivarly.
Not once in Dowd's column does she even consider the possibility that Bush meant what he said about segregation being an embarassment to everything America stands. Nor does she consider that Bush may have recognized the threat that Lott represents to Republican chances in coming elections. No, it's all about personal vendettas. But don't forget the Second Law, that it's easier to whine than take a stand or offer solutons. What pray tell, should Bush have done with regard to Trent Lott? Unsurprisingly, Dowd never comes out and says Bush should've either supported Lott or even just said nothing. Better to whine.
All there is to say in Dowd's defense is that, contra Law Three, she does make a coherent point. But if you compare this column to her last one, the illusion of coherence disappears. At least she doesn't bother us with details of her personal life...
UPDATE: Instapundit isn't happy either. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
If one believes that Kim Jong Il is a competent diplomat, than his raising the stakes represents an assumption that the US will not be able to coordinate its efforts with the new South Korean government, thus enabling him to secure additional aid without disarming. If one believes that Kim Jong Il is a semi-educated shut-in, then his raising the stakes represents nothing more than traditional North Korean belligerence. Yet either way, the road from Washington to Pyongyang leads through Seoul. President-elect Roh has to vindicate his anti-American rhetoric by showing that he can be tough with the US. The Bush administration should take this into account, and accept that there is no point in a war of words. It may even be necessary to let Roh talk to Kim. What really matters is whether Roh is willing to offer Kim aid before he disarms. If Bush or Powell can win a commitment from Roh to withhold aid, then the US can continue to take a hardline against Northern violations of the 1994 pact.
Unfortunately, there is no pleasant way to deal with North Korea. Withholding aid may mean abetting the North's efforts to starve its own desperate population. But Kim alone bears the moral responsibility for that. If the North will not disarm, the US must ensure that no nation -- not China, not Russia and not South Korea -- sends aid to the North. Raising the stakes always benefits the gambler with the deepest pockets. Kim will recognize that he can disarm or watch his government crumble from within.
PS The Times has put up another embarrasingly bad op-ed on the Korean situation which asserts that "North Korea's behavior is not unpredictable" and that the real cause of tension on the peninsula is "an erratic United States policy that veers between neglect and overattention". I guess that's a reasonable conclusion if you just ignore the fact that North Korea was caught red-handed secretly violating an international treaty that its current government signed just eight years ago.
UPDATE: Rumsfeld is talking tough but holding out the prospect of a diplomatic solution.
UPDATE: In the WashPost, Maddie Albright's North Korea policy coordinator argues that we can't let the North divide us from the South. The tone of the argument is weepy and (liberal) guilt-ridden, but the basic argument is sound. On a related note, the Post's editors defend Bush for playing hardball with Kim Jong Il. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, December 21, 2002
# Posted 12:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The major misconception is that the ethos of achievement has led Ivy Leaguers, especially a new generation of confident young women, to reject traditional, romantic dating practices and instead resort to "hook-ups" that satisfy their momentary lust. The alleged logic behind the decision is that dating takes too much time away from work, so it isn't worth it unless marriage is in the offing (which it isn't for upwardly mobile student types).
The best I can say about this strange observation is that it is half right. Traditional dating practices are almost dead. But love and romance are not. Both in my own experience and that of my friends at other $30,000-a-year colleges, there are two behavioral patterns that have replaced traditional dating. One is, in fact, the hook-up. The other is the total commitment. After one or two dates, Ivy Leaguers who really get along well seem to establish an almost unbreakable bond and begin to spend hours and hours together almost everyday. Exhibit A: Josh Chafetz and the lovely Jenn.
These relationships are intense and romantic. Many of them end in devastating heartbreak. Mine did. Contra Brooks, Ivy Leaguers and their kin are not afraid to put their emotions on the line. There isn't always a clear rationale behind the decision to have such intense relationships. To a degree, it reflects the fact that at small colleges, total commitment is facilitated by being close by one's significiant other. If there is any social or political meaning behind such decisions, I think it is this: that our generation believes that one cannot expect a first relationship to go right. One cannot afford to get married and have children without first knowing what it is to love, be loved and have one's heart broken. We get hurt, but we hope to learn.
In David Brooks' world, extreme pressure to achieve great things threatens the traditional values on which social stability and personal fulfillment rest. But what I saw in my four years at Yale was a community devoted to strengthening traditional values in untraditional but still romantic and successful ways. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
UPDATE: And it gets worse... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
That's well and good, but why didn't the Bush administration try to figure out before inspections started whether or not it was safe to share intelligence? Answer: Because it simply doesn't think one step ahead when it comes with cooperating with the UN. While it is fair to differ on whether the US should be cooperating with the UN at all, I don't see how anyone could defend the decision to cooperate, but in an ad hoc and ineffective manner. It's not as if the administration is incapable of thinking ahead. It's military buildup is being accomplished with impressive speed and subtlety. Which demonstrates that the administration's dovish multilateralist critics are right when they assert that sometimes, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld just don't get it. So, while I don't have much good to say about Colin Powell in general, I am glad that that he plays a balancing a role.
Such criticism aside, one has to recognize that the administration's overall plans are moving ahead on schedule, with a decision for or against an invasion expected in January. As I see it, the challenge for the administration will be to avoid antagonizing potential allies for no good reason. If our intelligence about Iraqi weapons is as good as Rumsfeld keeps insisting it is, we should have no problems convincing others to go along or at least not hamper our efforts. There should be no need for another fight on the Security Council over whether Iraq is in material breach. While I don't favor a second resolution, the combination of Saddam's absurd denials and our comprehensive evidence should make it easy to secure one if it comes to that. Even better, the US should persuade the Council to issue a finding on the issue of material breach that provides a legal justification for the invasion without requiring another vote. This is a good compromise, and should help secure allied participation in postwar efforts to rebuild and democratize Iraq.
UPDATE: Reader PG has generously provided a link to this NYT article on early problems in the intelligence sharing relationship between Blix and the Security Council member states. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, December 20, 2002
# Posted 10:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
UPDATE: The NYT now (Sun.) has a news analysis piece which argues that the US has, in fact, antagonized the rest of the Security Council and that on the issue of material breach it is "far out ahead of the other Council nations, including Britain, its closest ally." But if you look carefully at the statements made by French, British and Russian ambassadors to the UN, you'll notice that none of them take issue with the American characterization of Saddam's report as an apalling lie. Instead, they are just working to ensure that the US doesn't invade without UN permission.
Interestingly, IAEA chief Mohammed El Baradei told the Times that "I do not see the Security Council exonerating Iraq" if it doesn't provide a serious report. I think it is pretty interesting that a UN official thinks of Iraq not as innocent-until-proven-guilty, but as a criminal in need of exoneration. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Huh? By "engagement" does Kristof mean that the US should have said nothing about North Korea's secret and illegal nuclear program? Or that it should have rewarded it with additional aid? As I see, it there was no better moment to confront the North Koreans. In the face of a UN resolution that condemns Iraq for its secret weapons programs, the North Koreans will have no choice but to concede that their actions violate all existing notions of acceptable state behavior. That puts them on the defensive when negotiations begin. For the moment, things are worse than they were before the US exposed North Korea's deception. But the only alternative was to wait for North Korea's secret nuclear program to succeed, at which point it would have been able to blackmail the West for better terms than it got in 1994.
The thing about Kristof is that he's a good reporter but a terrible columnist. His previous column was so bad I didn't even have the patience to fisk it. But if he's willing to do another stint abroad, the Times should send him back to the hunting grounds where he earned his Pulitzer.
For good advice on the Korean situation, the President should turn to an op-ed in the Post by Georgetown prof Victor Cha, who advises that the United States should not antagonize Roh Moo Hyun, the South Korean candidate who won by capitalizing on anti-American resentment. Kim Dae Jung, the current president, built his reputation the same way, but developed into a staunch ally of the United States.
With the South so dependent on the United States for security, periodic hostility is unavoidable. More importantly, no approach to the North can succeed without strong backing from the South, whose interests are immediately threatened by the North in a way that ours are not. Necessary as it is, getting tough with North Korea means raising tensions on the peninsula. If we have to threaten the North with force, such threats will only be credible if they have the unconditional support of the South, whose civilians will pay a heavy price if war breaks out. It is these same citizens who have made South Korea the strong democracy that it now is, and their opinion must be respected. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
...the self-defined neocons weren't the first conservatives to denounce Lott. Andrew Sullivan, Robert George, David Frum, Glenn Reynolds, Virginia Postrel, yours truly, etc., were much more prompt than the usual neocon suspects, like Krauthammer, Bennett, Kristol, et al. when it came to breaking with Lott...the more telling split among conservatives is a generational one. The bloggers claim it's a technological thing; the "blogosphere" is less beholden to the establishment and more rebellious. Well, that's true of younger conservatives generally, who actually believe that a colorblind society is the moral position. The fact that these conservatives (and libertarians) work disproportionately on the web speaks less to the uniqueness of the web than to the fact young people rarely have perches at the Washington Post or the New York Times.Goldberg has a point, but he takes it too far. Yes, the techno-cons were the first to demand that Lott resign. But after that, which conservatives put their reputations on the line after that? The neo-cons. (See Kristol's op-ed yesterday.) As for the mainliners, can anyone name one conservative senator who came out strongly for Lott's resignation? The President got tough, but refused to call for Lott's resignation.
Now what about Golberg's own National Review? Krauthammer says that NR's editoral on Lott is a clear indication that NR does not oppose racism on principle. Goldberg says that Krauthammer is badly misreading what NR wrote. But he isn't. The harshest condemnation NR can come up with for Lott is that he "misspoke." Even better, read the whole paragraph that quote was taken from.
Minority leader Tom Daschle's initial reaction (prior to his mauling by the Congressional Black Caucus) to Lott's remarks was essentially sound — Lott misspoke. But Lott misspoke in a particular way, one freighted with symbolic significance. Many southern whites of a certain generation have a shameful past on civil-rights issues. This doesn't necessarily make them reprehensible people, or mean that they are racists today. But, when they are public figures, it is reasonable to expect from them an honest reckoning with their past, and, of course, an awareness that a reckoning is necessary.It sort of makes Lott's absurd apologies seem noble by comparison, doesn't it?
But hold on a second. Let's step away from the immediate controversy and address the larger issue that Goldberg raises: Are Krauthammer and other neo-cons sowing division among Republicans by separating the principled neo-conservatives from the pragmatic mainliners? To dispel suspicions, let me state up fron that I am an uncommitted independent. My past is Democratic, but I can't decide if that should be a mark of pride or one of shame. But getting back to the question, one good answer is the one proposed by E.J. Dionne, that the real division is between advocates of "states' rights" and those with no attachment to them. In general, that division mirrors Krauthammers' division between mainliners and neo-cons. Still, it exposes the ideological underpinnings of that divide better than descriptions of one side as old and the other as new.
Now, I happen to agree with Dionne that the principle of states' rights has generally been invoked in order to defend inexcusable local privileges, whether based on race or other factors. In that sense, it is not much of a principle. In contrast, the neo-cons oppose big government because of what it is, not because of an illusory belief in states' rights. More broadly speaking, neo-cons embrace a true ideology rather than a set of precedents. That has its pro and cons. But it is honest, and I respect if for that. If the Lott affair has taught us one thing, it is that the GOP will suffer if it pretends to be one things but then inadvertently exposes itself as another.
UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan weighs in.
UPDATE: Ranting Screeds comments on my take on states' rights.
UPDATE: Innocents Abroad strongly backs the neo-con line while TNRbashes the NR editorial.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:09 AM by Dan
"Without a dramatic change in Israeli policy, the possibility of a two-state solution will be relegated to the history books. Yet despite international laws that prohibit the construction of settlements, despite a call to "freeze all settlement activity" by an international panel led by former United States Senator George Mitchell in 2001, despite Palestinian pleas to address the underlying causes of violence — occupation and settlement construction — the international community has done nothing to stop Israel. President Bush reiterates support for two states, yet he continues to support an Israeli government that makes the two-state solution an increasing impossibility."
Wrong. Did Erekat read the entire Mitchell Report? If he did, he would have sees that it calls for the PA to take "immediate steps to apprehend and incarcerate terrorists operating within the PA's jurisdiction" before calling for a freeze on all settlement activity The PA has done no such thing. Trust is a two way street, and I am glad that Erekat points out the destructive role settlements play. But solely focusing on the Israeli side will get us nowhere.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, December 19, 2002
# Posted 7:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 7:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
While some might regard these internal conflicts within the GOP as signs of political drift, I think that they are exactly the opposite. A willingness to publicly admit and confront one's own mistakes is a sign of mature confidence. If this is the face of the new GOP, it will find itself in a strong position to win a second term in the White House in 2004.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 7:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 6:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 6:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
…But while [Bush] adopts some of Wilson's loftiest ideals, [he] is also following some of his most fatal practices. Wilson's means were often highly unilateral. When he took the United States into the war, in 1917, he insisted that although it fought alongside France and England, it was not an ally but an "associated power." His entire approach to the war and its aftermath was to dissociate the United States from the sordid desires of its allies.
A surprisingly effective strategy!
Impatient with other countries' cultures and uninterested in their views, Wilson tended to issue declarations for the whole world. He believed strongly in the righteousness of his cause, and that was enough to allay any concerns he might have had about the reaction of foreign countries. In fact, he thought, their hostility was often proof of the revolutionary nature of his ideas. Some of this may have been true—just as some of Bush's frustration with European and United Nations diplomacy is understandable—but it insured that Wilson was a practical failure. Bush's high-handedness also promises to make his policies ineffective. Yet there is a way to conduct a robust and visionary foreign policy without triggering an avalanche of anti-Americanism around the world. It's called diplomacy.
This is where Zakaria's analytical relativism becomes most apparent. He presumes that other nations – including other democracies – will become fiercely anti-American if the United States disrespects multilateral norms regardless of whether it does so in order to realize Wilsonian ideals that both Americans and Europeans share. Yet if past behavior is an accurate guide, Europe will hem and haw if the US does an end run around the UN, but then forget all about it once Iraq is disarmed and democratic. On the other hand, if Iraq becomes what Iran was under the Shah – a brutal pro-American puppet state – Europe will become truly antagonized. No amount of diplomacy, i.e. spin, will change that.
…Roosevelt and Truman knew that to transform the world one had to engage in it. Roosevelt thought poorly of many of his wartime allies and their goals—he despised French and British colonialism, for example—but he understood that those countries had to be accommodated. Truman understood that the United States could best combat Soviet Communism by creating permanent, entangling alliances with other countries. As a result, these two Presidents and their successors created the conditions for the triumph of a world quite different from any that existed in the past. Today, there is an international consensus in favor of democracy, some version of open markets and capitalism, and some international norms, rules, and restraints. This has happened because of the inherent strength of these ideas but also because they have been hitched to American power.
Perhaps most important, Roosevelt and Truman, having lived through the nineteen-thirties, knew how fragile the international system was and believed that it needed support. Having reaped the fruits of this system—upheld by all successive Presidents of both parties—we have come to believe that stability is natural. But the world order put into place by the United States in the past half century—an order based on alliances, organizations, and norms—functions largely because of the respect paid to it by its superpower creator. Without that support, it will crumble into chaos.
Here, Zakaria clearly elevates the importance of means, i.e. “alliances, organizations, and [presumably multilateral] norms”, over ends such as the defense of capitalism and democracy. But did the US win the Cold War because of its “respect” for the system or because it dedicated its unmatched power to the pursuit of its ideals? If one recalls such unpleasant events such as France’s effective withdrawal from NATO in the 1960s or Reagan’s insistence on funding the Contras despite widespread European resentment, it becomes clear that what kept anti-Communist alliance together was not a respect for multilateralism, but a commitment to the ideals threatened by Soviet power.
…The Bush Administration is right to recognize that consensus is not an end in itself. And some American concerns about international organizations are valid. Within these organizations, America faces a special challenge: the United States has only one vote in most international organizations, and when other countries want to gang up on it they use these organizations to do so. But these are the kinds of problems that skillful diplomacy can resolve.
As my posts have indicated, I share Zakaria’s view that the Bush administration fails to recognize that it can often accomplish via diplomacy as much as or more than it can without it. Still, Zakaria overestimates the dangers of unilateralism.
…[via cooperation] American hegemony would gain the legitimacy that comes from operating through an international consensus.
Without this cloak of respectability, America will face a growing hostility around the world. During the Cold War, many nations disliked or disagreed with America—over Vietnam, for example—but they despised the Soviet Union. The enemy of their enemy was, in the end, their friend. But today, with no alternative ideology and no competitors, America stands alone in the world. Everyone else sits in its shadow. This doesn't mean that other countries will form military alliances against America; that would be pointless. But countries will obstruct American purposes whenever and in whatever way they can, and the pursuit of American interests will have to be undertaken through coercion rather than consensus. Anti-Americanism will become the global language of political protest—the default ideology of opposition—unifying the world's discontents and malcontents, some of whom, as we have discovered, can be very dangerous.
It is interesting that Zakaria refers to respectability as a “cloak”, as if it were hiding something more sinister. I think this reflects his refusal – much like that of Joe Nye – to recognize that America’s allies accept it for what it is, not for what it seems to be.
Also, note the contradiction between asserting that other nations supported the US against the Soviet Union because the “enemy of their enemy was…their friend” but that other nations will not support the US war on Al Qaeda. Yet even if no Europeans had died on September 11th, I think Europe would recognize that Al Qaeda is its enemy. Even in the case of Iraq, I have a sense that Europeans know which side they want to win. They just want that victory on their terms, not America’s.
"It is better to be feared than loved," Machiavelli wrote. But he was wrong. The Soviet Union was feared by its allies; the United States was loved, or, at least, liked. Look who's still around. America has transformed the world with its power but also with its ideals. When China's pro-democracy protesters gathered in Tiananmen Square, they built a makeshift figure that suggested the Statue of Liberty, not an F-16. America remains the universal nation, the country people across the world believe should speak for universal values. Its image may not be as benign as Americans think, but it is, in the end, better than the alternatives. That is what has made America's awesome power tolerable to the world for so long. The belief that America is different is its ultimate source of strength. If we mobilize all our awesome powers and lose this one, we will have hegemony—but will it be worth having?
No, Zakaria is not a moral relativist. I owe him an apology for once calling him that. But I believe I have made it clear that his idealism is strongly attenuated by his belief that only a fragile multilateral bond stands in the way of a chasm opening between the United States and its democratic allies.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:54 AM by Dan
Wednesday, December 18, 2002
# Posted 10:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Let me sum up the problem this way: If you search the text of the CFR report for the word "democracy", you won't find it. All you will find is a vague reference to a "government based on democratic principles." If you search for the word elections, you will find it once, in the following context: "The United States should also encourage Iraqi-led efforts toward a new constitution, census-taking, local elections, and convocation of a new parliament." Encourage? Encourage?
Perhaps someone should have told CFR that democratizing Iraq is not just an option, but rather the heart of President Bush's vision for the reform of the Middle East. A true "integrated, coherent post-conflict strategy" for Iraq would provide considerable detail about how exactly one might go about introducing democracy to a nation that has no experience with it. When will elections be held? Who will supervise them? What sort of party system can be expected to emerge? What sort of judicial and police institutions will be able to defend a democratic order? What can be done to ensure that the Iraqi army stays out of politics? A list of questions like this could go on and on. None of them are answered in the CFR report.
In addition to ignoring such questions, the report explicitly denies the relevance of America's experience in democratizing Germany and Japan. As it observes,
The continued public discussion of a U.S. military government along the lines of post-war Japan or Germany is unhelpful. After conflict, Iraqis will be a liberated, not a defeated, people. While considerable U.S. involvement will be necessary in the post-conflict environment, such comparisons suggest a long-term U.S. occupation of Iraq that will neither advance U.S. interest nor garner outside support.Why won't an extended occupation advance US interests? In light of the fact that the CFR report says nothing about how to ensure that Iraqi democracy survives its infancy, there is every reason to believe that a long-term American presence will be critical. And why wouldn't an American presence garner outside support? Admittedly, the Saudi and Syrian governments would not appreciate the presence of an American occupation force committed to creating an actual Arab democracy. After all, that might convince ordinary Saudis and Syrians that democracy in the Middle East is possible now.
While France and Russia tend to object to whatever the US proposes, there is good reason to believe that they would support an extended occupation as well, provided that their oil interests are taken care of. No one in Europe objects to the extended occupation in Bosnia or Kosovo, whose purpose is to prevent ethnic violence and restore democracy. That would be the purpose of an occupation force in Iraq as well.
Finally, the distinction between a liberated Iraq and the defeated Axis powers is misleading. While there it is probable -- but by no means definite -- that Iraqis resent Saddam more than the Japanese and Germans did their rulers, simplistic distinctions ibetween defeat and liberation ignore the fact that liberation does not just come from the fall of a hated dictatorship, but rather from its replacement with a functioning democracy. Like most Arabs today, the Japanese and (to a lesser extent) the Germans simply did not see democratization as a viable option. When the Americans imposed it on them, they realized that only then had they been truly liberated.
Another embarrassing aspect of the CFR report is the following passage:
It is possible that Saddam will be overthrown prior to the end of hostilities, with a new Iraqi strongman or a national salvation committee taking power in Baghdad. Assuming that such a government makes a clean break with Saddam's reign of terror and pursuit of WMD, the United States should be prepared to work with it and to help it establish the broadest, most favorable terms for post-conflict international involvement on disarmament and reconstruction.Prepared to work with a "strongman"? Strongman? What could be more glaringly hypocritical than getting rid of one dictator but working with his successor? While it might be possible to persuade a strongman or "national salvation committee" to commit itself publically to democratization, experience shows that unelected governments tend to focus on preserving their own power while doing almost nothing to advance the democratization process. Besides, would there be any reason to believe than an unelected government would actually give up all of its weapons of mass destruction?
While I could go on for quite a while about the report, I'm going to end with one last criticism: the report's failure to mention even once that the most critical determinant of Iraq's future will be a personal commitment by the President to ensuring that Iraq becomes stable and democratic. Nowhere does the report suggest that the absence of presidential interest in Afghanistan has resulted in a return of warlordism and chaos. Instead, the report endorses Donald Rumsfeld's assertion that Iraq's future government "is not for the United States, indeed not even for the United Nations to prescribe. It will be something that's distinctively Iraqi". In other words, Rumsfeld will work with a dictatorship if he has to.
Perhaps the only thing worse than the CFR report was the NY Times article about it. The Times reports that
The study, sponsored by the Baker Institute and the Council on Foreign Relations, warned that "a heavy American hand" would only convince the Iraqis, as well as "the rest of the world, that the operation against Iraq was undertaken for imperialist, rather than disarmament, reasons."Actually, the CFR report said that a "heavy American hand" specifically in the oil sector would validate speculations that this was another war for oil. To CFR's credit, the report does not say that a strong American presence in postwar Iraq would undermine the justification for war in the first place. It seems the NY Times paranoid fear of criticism from the left has been influencing its reporting. I'd call that liberal media bias if it weren't so touchingly naive.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
...but this view misinterprets history and misunderstands the unique place that America occupied in twentieth-century diplomacy. America was the most powerful country in the world when it proposed the creation of an international organization, the League of Nations, to manage international relations after the First World War. It was the dominant power at the end of the Second World War, when it founded the United Nations, created the Bretton Woods system of international economic coöperation, and launched most of the world's key international organizations. For much of the twentieth century, America embraced international coöperation not out of fear and vulnerability but from a position of confidence and strength. If the Bush Administration rejects this approach, it is indeed, as Richard Holbrooke has charged, making "a radical break with fifty-five years of a bipartisan tradition that sought international agreements and regimes of benefit to us."
Zakaria is right that Kagan’s approach can not explain the coincidence of American power and American multilateralism. But Zakaria cannot explain why America has now turned toward a more unilateral approach. The answer is that America prioritizes its ideals over the means of putting them into practice. Always Wilsonian (even before Wilson), America has pragmatically alternated between unilateral and multilateral methods to achieve Wilsonian ends.
…The fundamental questions about America's approach to the world are about ends. The Bush Administration has often used America's extraordinary power effectively, getting its way on a host of specific issues, from the A.B.M. treaty to Iraq's weapons production. But what do these issues add up to more broadly? What are the purposes of American hegemony?
The historical answer to that question is to be found in the British missionary movement of the nineteenth century, whose stated aims—to civilize developing countries, abolish the slave trade, act against human-rights abuses, and ostracize despotic governments—were adopted by the liberals, most prominently William Gladstone. In modern times, this Anglo-American vision of an idealistic foreign policy is most closely associated with President Woodrow Wilson.
Wilson was, in many ways, a failure as a politician. A stern man with few skills at negotiation or mediation, he was unable to get his own country to accept his most important project, the League of Nations. The Senate killed it, unwilling to commit America to the defense of something as vast and as vague as world order.
Zakaria shrewdly argues that Wilson’s unilateralism (vis-à-vis the Senate) was what prevented his ideals from becoming reality, thus implying that if Bush resorts to similar methods to achieve his ideals he will fail as well. Yet this argument reflects an outdated and inaccurate account of Wilson’s diplomacy. As historian Thomas Knock has demonstrated, the Senate did not resist Wilson because it would not “commit America to the defense of something as vast and vague as world order.” Rather, the Senate believed that the League charter imposed too many restraints on America’s freedom of action. Ironically, Wilson was too stubborn to recognize that his multilateralism would not prove acceptable to a more unilateralists Senate and public. Bush seems to have learned this lesson well. He has compromised at home but not abroad.
…Of course, like every powerful nation, the United States has pursued its own interests, often harshly—for instance, in Central America. And when the Cold War seemed most threatening—during the Vietnam War and amid rising Soviet expansion in the Third World—Americans turned to calculation and Realpolitik, carried out most intensively by Henry Kissinger. This raison d'état is still evident in our support of dictatorships from Saudi Arabia to Turkmenistan. But when the United States' position in the world has felt secure its goals have been the broad, idealistic ones that Wilson embodied. "We have it in our power," Ronald Reagan often used to say, quoting Thomas Paine, "to begin the world over again."
Rather than commenting on this paragraph, I will simply note that my master’s thesis is, in essence, a hundred page-long refutation of it. (You can look it up in Oxford's online library catalogue here.) If you happen to have a lot of free time on your hands, I will be happy to send you a copy via e-mail. But for the moment I will move on, since this point doesn’t bear all that directly on my analysis of Zakaria.
George H. W. Bush is often seen as a narrow-minded realist, and he would certainly not accept the label "Wilsonian." Yet, when searching for a way to describe his hopes for the world after the Cold War and the Gulf War, he grasped for one of Wilson's most famous ideas. "What is at stake," Bush said, "is a big idea—a new world order, where diverse nations are drawn together in common cause to achieve the universal aspirations of mankind: peace and security, freedom, and the rule of law." A few weeks later, in a speech to a joint session of Congress, Bush evoked "a world where the United Nations, freed from Cold War stalemate, is poised to fulfill the historic vision of its founders. A world in which freedom and respect for human rights find a home among all nations."
Bush is considered a realist precisely by those who confuse realism with unilateralism. Bush and other presidents have rejected the label “Wilsonian” because it carries connotations of a multilateralism so extreme that it led to the appeasement of Hitler. But Bush’s ends are consummately Wilsonian.
…in what was billed as an important speech, delivered in June at the West Point commencement, Bush began to outline a world view. He described the dangers of the new era and then asserted that "America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge, thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace." It is a breathtaking statement, promising that American power will transform international politics itself, making the millennia-old struggle over national security obsolete. In some ways, it is the most Wilsonian statement any President has made since Wilson himself, echoing his pledge to use American power to create a "universal dominion of right." This claim is at the center of Bush's new National Security Strategy document, which says on its first page, "Today, the United States enjoys a position of unparalleled military strength and great economic and political influence. In keeping with our heritage and principles, we do not use our strength to press for unilateral advantage. We seek instead to create a balance of power that favors human freedom."
Note the that Bush believes “American power will transform international politics”. That is the essence of Wilsonianism, not the multilateralism of the League of Nations.
To be continued...
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
UPDATE: Exit polls give victory to Roh. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 8:37 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 8:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
On the other hand, Dowd spends her entire column implying that Republicans actively court the Southern racist vote without ever coming out and saying it. In other words, she's coming close to obeying the Second Law of Dowd, which dictates that "It's easier to whine than to take a stand or offer solutions." Admittedly, Geroge Bush's tactics in the South Carolina primaries were disturbing. Still, Dowd conveniently ignores the fact that Trent Lott has fallen from power because his comments outraged Republicans and Conservatives. And, of course, that Democrats court the anti-white racist vote. Perhaps if she spent more time thinking about the issues and less time writing about her personal life, Dowd could defy not just the Immutable Laws, but her own political prejudices. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Tuesday, December 17, 2002
# Posted 10:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
JERUSALEM, Dec. 16 — Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip shot and killed three Palestinians early today. Two of the dead men were later found to have been carrying a large bomb and other weapons, the Israeli military said.This one is just so silly I can't even call it media bias. This may be naive, but I sense that the Times is bending over backwards to show that it isn't a kneejerk pro-Israeli paper. While I find that laughable, I also grew up in Jewish New York and know first-hand just how obsessed influential liberal Jews are with showing that they are not reflexive supporters of Israel.
At least the Post seems to have its head on straight. It asks: "So why is Mr. Sharon winning? One simple reason is that the Palestinians have utterly failed to control the terrorists in their ranks or put forward a leadership that could be a credible negotiating partner for Israel." (Of course, the Post isn't perfect.)
Sometimes it even seems like Arafat is a step ahead of the NYT. As he said, "Why is bin Laden talking about Palestine now? Bin Laden never, not ever, stressed this issue, he never helped us, he was working in another completely different area and against our interests...I'm telling him directly not to hide behind the Palestinian cause." Then again, that strategy has worked for Arafat for thirty years, so bin Laden may as well give it a try. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
…[In the 1990s] foreign problems, no matter how distant, seemed to end up in Washington's lap. When the crisis in the Balkans began, in 1991, the President of the European Council, Jacques Poos, of Luxembourg, declared, "This is the hour of Europe. If one problem can be solved by the Europeans it is the Yugoslav problem. This is a European country and it is not up to the Americans." It was not an unusual or an anti-American view. Most European leaders, including Thatcher and Helmut Kohl, shared it. But several bloody years later it was left to America to stop the fighting. By the time Kosovo erupted, Europe let Washington take the lead. During the East Asian economic crisis, East Timor's struggle for independence, successive Middle East conflicts, and Latin-American defaults, the same pattern emerged. In many cases, other countries were part of the solution, but unless America intervened the crisis persisted. During the nineteen-nineties, American action, with all its flaws, proved a better course than inaction...
American Presidents, however, were slow to embrace their imperial destiny. Bill Clinton came into office promising to stop worrying about foreign policy and to focus "like a laser beam" on the economy. But the pull of unipolarity is strong. By his second term, he had become a foreign-policy President. George W. Bush, in his campaign, reacting to what he saw as a pattern of overinvolvement in international affairs—from economic bailouts to nation-building—promised to scale back America's commitments. Today, the President who urged that America be "a humble nation" issues diktats to the world community, supports nation-building and bailouts, and is increasing America's foreign-aid budget by fifty per cent. The shift was made complete last month, with the publication of the White House's "National Security Strategy," an unapologetic acceptance of American hegemony.
In stating that “the pull of unipolarity is strong”, Zakaria implies that American power rather than American idealism led it to assume an active international role in the 1990s. Why then, did the United States pursue an active role in the 1940s? The pull of “bipolarity” perhaps. Still, this sort of power-based explanation cannot account for American activism in the 1890s or 1790s. Regardless of its weakness or strength relative to others, America has pursued an active role in the world because of it idealism. While often tempted to be no more than a model for others, the United States has always ended up using force to compel others to do right (and sometimes wrong).
As America's power became more apparent, foreign governments voiced their growing distaste for it. Clinton's chief economic advisers, Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers, and their de-facto subordinates at the International Monetary Fund were frequently accused of arrogance as they travelled in developing nations. Diplomats like Madeleine Albright and Richard Holbrooke were disparaged in Europe for acting as if America were, in Albright's phrase, the "indispensable nation." The French foreign minister, Hubert Vedrine, devised the term "hyperpower" to describe Bill Clinton's America.
Once again, Zakaria assumes that power determines behavior and that growing power produces an automatic backlash. Developing nations may accuse the US Treasury and the IMF or arrogance, but they continue to grant them ever broader rights to interfere in their domestic politics. As for Europe, Robert Kagan has compellingly showed how Europeans protest the 'excess' of American power when it feels secure, but becomes deeply concerned that America is not strong enough when Europe is threatened. (Kagan, "The Benevolent Empire", Foreign Policy, Summer 1998 [no permalink]) On a related note, how can Zakaria account for the Europeans’ interest in having America solve European problems such as Bosnia and Kosovo? The answer is that Europe trusts America’s ideals much more than it resents America’s power.
…Even when the [Bush] Administration has ended up pursuing policies multilaterally it has done so muttering and grumbling—as it has in taking its case against Iraq to the United Nations—so that much of the good will it might have generated has been lost. Some neoconservative writers assert that such rancor is an unavoidable by-product of hegemony. In an influential article published this summer in the journal Policy Review, Robert Kagan argues that European and American differences over multilateral coöperation are a result of their relative strengths. When Europe's big countries were the world's great powers, they cared little for international coöperation, and celebrated Realpolitik. Europe is now weak, he writes, so it favors rules and restraints. America, for its part, wants complete freedom of action: "Now that the United States is powerful, it behaves as powerful nations do."
This passage is critical to Zakaria’s argument. He is right to criticize Kagan (as I have) for justifying American behavior in terms of American power. But note that Zakaria uncritically adopts a vital but implicit assumption in Kagan’s work: that cooperation is the antithesis of Realpolitik. This, however, is a comparison of apples and oranges. Realpolitik entails the ruthless pursuit of one’s objectives by whatever means necessary. Multilaterialism prescribes cooperation as a preferable means regardless of one’s objectives. Interestingly, what Realpolitik and Multilateralism share is an agnostic approach toward one’s ends. In contrast, Wilson idealism believes one’s ends are paramount. Thus, the Wilsonian United States often rejects Multilateralism as a restraint on its ability to achieve its ethically defined ends. As such, the critical question for both Zakaria and myself is this: What is more important to Europe? Multilaterial means or Wilsonian ends? If the former, America’s soft power will turn out to be fragile. If the latter, America’s soft power will prove to be durable.
To be continued... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, December 16, 2002
# Posted 9:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
America remains the universal nation, the country people across the world believe should speak for universal values. Its image may not be as benign as Americans think, but it is, in the end, better than the alternatives. That is what has made America's awesome power tolerable to the world for so long. The belief that America is different is its ultimate source of strength. If we mobilize all our awesome powers and lose this one, we will have hegemony—but will it be worth having?I have to admit, that’s damn good evidence. I owe Dr. Zakaria an apology. The charge of moral relativism is a serious one and should not be made without careful consideration of one’s subject. As such, I would like to extend my apology to the three other authors whom I labelled as relativists along with Dr. Zakaria.
That said, I do believe that there are significant flaws in the four essays I cited. Without question, each one deserved more than the cursory treatment I gave it. Since the issues that each of the authors raised are still relevant, I will take time now to comment on their work in depth. I will begin with Zakaria's essay, covering it over the next four days.
Rather than moral relativists, it might be better to describe these authors as 'analytical relativists', since they come close to seeing international politics as an arena in which nations are judged according to their power, not their ideals. While some would no doubt resist that characterization, I believe that I can show it to be a meaningful one, even for Zakaria.
Before responding to Zakaria's essay directly, I think it is important to place these four authors in their proper intellectual context, as scholars rooted in the political science tradition known 'realism'. Historically speaking, realists have often been explicit advocates of moral relativism, both as an analytical as well as a prescriptive paradigm for the conduct of international relations. Prominent realists such as Henry Kissinger have often dismissed ethical restrictions on the conduct of foreign affairs, e.g. the consideration of human rights, as nothing more than impediments to the pursuit of a favorable balance of power.
In contrast, other realists have argued that the United States must respect human rights even though doing so might complicate efforts to safeguard our national security. Some realists take this position because they believe that the ethical significance of human rights demands that sacrifices be made in order to respect them. Others argue that since no foreign policy can succeed in the absence of domestic support, statesmen must take into consideration the ethical norms of their constituents.
What unites these kinder, gentler realists with the old guard is that none of them believe that strict adherence to ethical norms benefits the United States by convincing others of its good intentions. Believing international politics to be a domain in which power alone determines the welfare of nations, these realists see good intentions as nothing more than paving stones on the road to hell.
Against this background, it becomes apparent that Zakaria has departed significantly from mainline realism with his assertion that American idealism “has made America's awesome power tolerable to the world for so long…[thus] the belief that America is different is its ultimate source of strength.” Still I believe that there are significant elements of the old way of thinking still present in Zakaria’s work, especially his definition of what it means for America to be “different.” Through a detailed analysis of Zakaria’s essay in The New Yorker, I think I can show that his definition of difference has firm roots in the realist tradition.
Our Way: The Trouble With Being the World’s Only Superpower
By Fareed Zakaria
…a world with just one major power is unprecedented. For several centuries before 1945, European states of roughly equivalent standing dominated global affairs in a multipolar system. Many powers jockeying for advantage meant shifting alliances and almost constant war. It fixed in people's minds the image of international politics as Realpolitik, a ruthless, ever-changing game of might…
Most nations—including the United States—are still unsure of the character and the consequences of the unipolar world. The confusion has increased dramatically since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which for many Americans revealed the country's vulnerability: America's overwhelming military power cannot keep it safe. The attacks underscored the point that Harvard's Joseph S. Nye, Jr., made in his recent book, The Paradox of American Power, which argues that while American power is unmatched, it has its limits in a modern, globalized age.
I had the pleasure of meeting Joe Nye when he visited Oxford in the spring of 2001. Nye is an all-around nice guy and still thoroghly modest despite his towering achievements as both a scholar and a policymaker. Within the academy, Nye is best known for his introduction (along with Robert Keohane) of the phrase “complex interdependence”. In doing so, Nye became a co-founder of the school of thought known as neo-liberalism, which distinguished itself from realism by virtue of its insistence that nations’ growing interdependence could provide them with a purely rational, self-interested motive for avoiding conflict. This was a striking departure from the realists’ insistence that self-interested behavior makes conflict inevitable in international relations.
Outside of the academy, Nye is best known for coining the phrase “soft power” to describe the attractive force that the United States’ economic and cultural success has on other nations. In pre-publication lectures on “The Paradox of American Power”, Nye restated his earlier insistence that soft power is a fragile resource, since even limited unilateralist behavior can erase the goodwill that cultural and economic attraction creates. During the Q&A after the lecture, I unsuccessfully tried to persuade Prof. Nye that soft power is actually rather durable, since it rests not on goodwill, but rather on other democratic nations’ recognition that the United States shares their fundamental ideals, regardless of whether it occasionally misbehaves.
As becomes apparent later in Zakaria’s essay, he agrees with Nye that soft power is a fragile resource. As I see it, this view has reflects the strong influence of realism on neo-liberals such as Nye, despite their conscious rejection of it. In arguing that nations’ interdependence provides them with a rational, self-interested motive for cooperation, neo-liberals effectively adopt realism’s belief that the primary determinants of a state’s behavior are its interests, rather than its ideals. An implicit corollary to this assertion is the idea that nations judge their rivals primarily according to their interests rather than their ideals. If one adopts such a position, a logical extension of it is the belief that soft power is fragile, since its rests on goodwill rather than self-interest. While I was wrong to describe such beliefs as an example of moral relativism, I think it is clear to what degree such beliefs approach analytical relativism.
Much of the Western world has lived for some decades with the knowledge that terrorism can plague an open society. But the September attacks were more nihilistic, more deadly than any that had come before. And they were, in a sense, a consequence of the new unipolar world. Americans like to think that this country was attacked because it is free. But so are Italy and Denmark, whose cities stand undisturbed. America was attacked because it is the master of the modern world, deploying its economic, political, and military powers across the globe. Because America is "No. 1," it is also target No. 1.
In this provocative passage, Zakaria makes it clear that September 11th was a response to America’s power, not to its ideals. Absent in this passage is any hint of the leftist relativism that declares America’s ideals to be no more legitimate than those of Osama bin Laden. Nonetheless, Zakaria rules out the possibility that America was attacked because it has used its power in order to advance its ideals. Yes, Italy and Denmark are free. But it was the United States who defended the freedom of Kuwait and in doing so introduced degenerate infidel practices into the holy land of Islam.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
UPDATE: Japan is behind us. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Every day, student leaders would call by cell phone from the roiling campuses to the radio's headquarters in Prague and narrate the latest developments live. Each night the radio would broadcast a roundtable discussion, patching together students and journalists in Tehran with exiled opposition leaders to discuss where the reform movement was going. So instrumental to the rebellion-in-the-making did the radio become that pro-regime counter-demonstrators recently held up a placard reading "Who does Radio Azadi talk to?" -- a taunt taken by the station's staff as a badge of honor.Two weeks ago, Radio Azadi went off the air. The mullahs had nothing to do with it. The man responsible for Azadi's disappearance was Norman Pattiz, a major Democratic donor rewarded by President Clinton with a position on the VOA's Board of Governors. A devout advocate of Clinton-style engagement, Pattiz insisted that Azadi's "old-style propaganda" was alienating the Persian masses. The protesters have learned to survive without Azadi. The cost to the United States is unknowable.
One question Diehl does not address is how the hell the Bush administration let a Clinton holdover make such a stupid, stupid decision. I see three causes. First, the administration has never gone beyond lip service in its efforts to promote democracy in the Middle East. W. and Condi say the right things when asked, but they just aren't making sure that officals at State, Defense or elsewhere in the administration incorporate democracy promotion into their frame of mind. If the VOA had cut off a good service in Qatar or Sudan, I wouldn't be so incensed. But Iran is a pillar in the axis of evil. A spontaneous, democratic and pro-American revolution in Teheran would demonstrate to the world just how powerful our ideals are.
The Azadi affair also implicates the Bush administration's inability to think in grand strategic terms. This isn't just about promoting democracy, but about the war on terror. There is no better way to end Iranian support for Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations than by supporting a democratic revolution. But the administration is so focused on the military aspects of the war on terror that it has forgotten the importance of public diplomacy. This, in essence, is my third point. The Bush administration does not know how to reach out to anyone except during campaign season. Karl Rove deserves credit for his success, but the war and terror would be going a lot more smoothly if the administration had avoided antagonizing the UN before demanding a new resolution on Iraq. Would Hans Blix really hesitate to interview Iraqi scientists if he thought the Security Council was really behind US demands that he do so? By the same token, the administration just didn't think about the impact of appointing Henry Kissinger to head the 9/11 investigative commission. (As Glenn Reynolds points out from personal experience, the administration's insistence that it wasn't aware of Kissinger's conflicts of interests is patently absurd.) Or to pull an example from today's headlines, take a look at the Pentagon's absurd plans to covertly spread pro-American propaganda in countries friendly to the US. Perhaps DoD should worry about Iran before it worries about France.
One final reason that Jackson Diehl deserves credit for his column is that just two weeks ago the NY Times ran a puff piece praising the VOA's work in the Middle East, including its decision to send Britney off to do battle with the ayatollahs. In it, the ever-brilliant Norman Pattiz declares that "We can reap terrific dividends by talking to these young people directly in a way they understand." May I pause to savor the irony? To be fair, I have to admit that OxBlog was taken in by the Times. We praised the Times for praising Pattiz. I guess the moral of the story is that even the most dedicated critics of NYT bias aren't immune to its charm.
UPDATE: Fareed Zakaria provides the context in which to assess the prospects of the student protesters.
UPDATE: Ari Fleischer is already spin controlling the Pentagon's propaganda plans. According to Fleischer, ""The president has the expectation that any program that is created in his administration will be based on facts." I guess Fleischer forgot about the budget. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, December 15, 2002
# Posted 10:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
But as I drew closer to the end of Dowd's column, I realize that just might have achieved something she never has before: breaking out of the constraints of the Immutable Laws. According to the First Law, "all political phenomena can be reduced to caricatures of the personalities involved." But in contrast to Dowd's casting of W. as the Boy Emperor, all we get about Lott are facts. Facts!
The Second Law commands that "It's easier to whine than to take a stand or offer solutions." Admittedly, Dowd never explicitly calls for Lott to forgo election as Majority Leader. In fact, she even observes that "Democrats were publicly screaming for less of Lott, while privately wanting more, gleefully exulting that he could be a potent symbol." If we just replace the words "Democrats were" with "Maureen Dowd is", we realize that Dowd herself may be ambivalent about Lott's resignation since it would complicate her search for pre-fab column topics. Still, I'm going to go ahead and say that since everyone knows Lott should resign, Dowd can't be criticized for not saying it again.
Law the Third: "It is better to be cute than coherent." This one's easy. Dowd makes a simple case that Lott's apology was not sincere. Yes, we knew that. But it is a coherent point, supported by actual evidence.
Law the Fourth: "The particulars of my consumer-driven, self-involved life are of universal interest and reveal universal truths." True, Dowd does begin the column with a story about how she was at a Broadway show. But there's a real point to the anecdote. In the show, which takes place in the late 40s, the characters argue about Communism. Then, Dowd heads back to work to find that other 1940's issues are still on the table: segregation, cross-burnings and all-male golf clubs. Hard as it is, I think I have to admit she has a point.
Law the Fifth: "Europeans are always right." The only Europeans mentioned in Dowd's column are Trotsky, Stalin and Kissinger. They most certainly are not right.
So what are we left with? Clear exceptions to Laws One, Three and Five along with possible exceptions to Laws Two and Four. In order to resolve this apparent contradiction, I proudly announce Adesnik's Corollary to the Immutable Laws of Dowd. It states that: "When the correct stance on a social or political issue is so painfully obvious that Josh Chafetz finds himself in agreement with Al Sharpton, then the Immutable Laws of Dowd may be temporarily suspended." Wonder if it'll ever happen again. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:20 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Saturday, December 14, 2002
# Posted 11:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
If you want details, see The Power of News, an impressive collection of essays by Michael Schudson, a sociologist/historian of the American news media and winner of the MacArthur Foundation "genius" award. (Not that every word he says is the gospel truth. In fact, the introductory chapter to his book is all over the place. But keep reading. It's worth it.)
Anyway, there was one passage from today's review which stuck out in my mind. It read:
Over the last several months, as the administration talked first of attacking Iraq without further delay, but then with much foot-dragging agreed to consult with the United Nations and finally to give Saddam Hussein a chance to submit to the Security Council's tough new resolution, I sometimes imagined that it was all an elaborate charade following a well-constructed script. Woodward's account of the internal argument over attacking Iraq, a kind of coda to his book, persuades me it wasn't so. Far from being deeply hidden, what these men believed and wanted was so close to the surface that even the newspaper-reading public knew roughly how the argument was unfolding. Rumsfeld wanted somebody to hold his coat so he could start throwing punches, Cheney growled that inspections were a waste of time, Powell was distressed by his colleagues' apparent willingness to toss 50 years of American commitment to collective security out the window, while Bush, listening to the inner voice he has grown increasingly to trust, gradually tipped in the direction of regime change, and once he got there, said so loud and clear.While I don't know if this is a good reading of the book, since I still haven't found time to read it myself, it does suggest that I may have an edge on Josh in our long-running debate about whether or not the unpredictable behavior of the administration reflects a lack of firm leadership or coordinated strategy to throw America's opponents off-balance. Well, maybe since Josh is on vacation now, he can find some time to read the book and tell us. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
In my second post on the subject, I wrote that David Gilbert and Kathy Boudin "took up arms against their own government and murdered three men in cold blood." Yet as Chesa points out, "Neither of my parents was armed or even at the scene of the robbery. Their role was peripheral." While my research into these matters is not yet complete, I would like to present my provisional conclusions. The are based on information found in the Crime Library, a website maintained by Court TV.
Chesa is correct that neither of his parents was armed or even at the scene of the robbery. However, the reason they were not at the scene of the robbery was that they were supposed to drive getaway cars which could not later be traced to the crime scene. After attacking the Brinks truck, Gilbert and Boudin's associates drove to a prearranged rendezvous point where they abandoned their vehicle and entered the back of U-Haul truck driven by Boudin. Thus, the absence of Gilbert and Boudin from the scene of the robbery indicates not they were somehow less responsible for what happened, but rather that they were part of a careful planning process desgined to maximize the chances of their committing a successful crime. If anything, this adds to their responsibility rather than taking away from it.
While driving the U-Haul, Kathy Boudin was not armed. Yet interestingly enough, when she was pulled over by the police, she maintained her innocence and asked them to put away their guns. As a result, when the police opened the back doors of the U-Haul, they had little chance of defending themselves from the heavily armed men inside. During the shootout, Gilbert arrived in a second vehicle, a Honda, and drove away with a number of the gunmen. When the police gave chase, Gilbert crashed. When Gilbert emerged from the wreck, he asked the police officer present to help his injured associate. It later emerged that this was part of an effort to distract the officer so that Gilbert's associate could retrieve a gun from the wreck and kill the officer. In light of these facts, I understand why someone might characterize my assertion that Gilbert and Boudin "murdered three men in cold blood" as inaccurate. Nonetheless, in legal terms both were fully responsible what happened. Gilbert was convicted of murder. Boudin pleaded guilty to it. Thus, while I regret that my words might have indicated that Boudin and Gilbert were armed and/or the individuals who fired the guns that killed the victims of their crime, I have no regrets about the general characterization of them as outright murderers. Nor can I understand how one can assert that "their role was peripheral".
As for the assertion that Boudin and Gilbert "took up arms against their own government", I see no need to revise it. My post did not indicate that they took up arms on the same day as they committed the bank robbery that resulted in three murders. Rather, it was an indication that both belonged to terrorist organizations which sought, through the force of arms, to destroy the American government.
Should I find any new information that contradicts what I have written above, I will revise it. As for the suggestion made by Chesa and others that I should "do [my] research better next time", I disagree. The inclarities in my second post reflected unclear writing, not a lack of sufficient factual knowledge.
With luck, this will be my last post on this subject. Chesa, I look forward to meeting you. I do not and never have doubted that you are an exceptional individual who fully deserves the scholarship you have been given. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion