Tuesday, January 07, 2003
# Posted 6:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
David Ignatius reminds us that Bush's diplomatic approach to North Korea isn't consistent with his doctrine of pre-emption. Haven't heard that one before. Ignatius also pulls out the shopworn fallacy that Bush's inconsistent pre-9/11 North Korea policy is responsible for the current crisis.
And finally, former DoD cheif Bill Cohen says that the US, "acting indirectly and discreetly, will inevitably need to address some of Pyongyang's concerns." Or as Cohen puts it, we'll have to offer "concessions by another name."
Props to him for using the C-word, but it still seems that he won't commit himself to actually naming any. Instead, Cohen just presents a list of demands, such as "international monitoring and verification far in excess of what has been in place to date", which are rather ambitious for someone who favors concessions.
This is going to sound nuts, but I can't wait til Iraq is in the headlines again.
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# Posted 6:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
That's good diplomacy. It shows flexibility by accepting North Korea's demands for face to face talks but preserves the US demand that North Korea has to disarm before its substantive demands are met. Hopefully, the North will go along with this plan.
Note that OxBlog was wrong when it predicted yesterday that the US was going to depend on back-room diplomacy to break the deadlock with North Korea. But you know what? I'm glad I'm wrong. This is a better idea.
It does raise the question, however, of why the Bush administration decided to be so accommodating? My guess is it wants North Korea out of the way so it can get down to business in Iraq. The clock is ticking... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The folks at Kesher Talk also cover more serious subjects, such as Israeli politics and Jewish culture. And for all you goyim out there, the real reason to visit Kesher Talk is all their links to Tolkein parodies. Does it get any better than this?
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# Posted 5:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Now why am I having such strange thoughts? Well, you see, the NYT ran a story yesterday on a PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) plan to boycott KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken, like you didn't know). PETA's demands actually seemed reasonable and humane, which I didn't expect.
But let me expose my own bias: I already boycott KFC. Not willingly. But after I got food poisoning at the local KFC a couple of years back, I feel it would just be stupid to go in there and ask for it again. Anyway, what struck me about the NYT story was this quote:
"If people knew what happened to those chickens, raising them in their own filth and then dumping them on an assembly line to have their throats cut when they're still alive, they wouldn't go to Kentucky Fried Chicken." -- Bruce Friedrich, PETA spokesmanI don't believe that for a second. The average person knows what happens to a chicken on an industrial farm, even if the details are not something you want to think about just before sitting down with your MegaBucket. Besides, I doubt that the Purdue birds you get in the supermarket are raised in such wonderful conditions.
Still, there probably are some people who really would not be willing to eat meat and poultry if they had to take it's life beforehand. That's why I want to hunt. To know if I can stand by my principles when push comes to shove. Besides, I want an excuse to wear a hat with earflaps.
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Monday, January 06, 2003
# Posted 9:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Redepolyment would also resolve an issue Wretchard pointed to earlier, which is that every time someone proposes moving US troops away from the border for tactical reasons, objections to the political significance of such a move get raised. But for now, politics may favor this strategically important decision. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The plan projects a military presence in Iraq for a minimum of eighteen months. That extended period will enable US forces to hunt down both rogue weapons as well rogue members of Saddam's government. More importantly, it means there will be real force behind Iraq's first civilian government, and it won't be challenged by warlords the way the Karzai government is in Afghanistan. The plan explicity calls for a unified Iraq.
In refusing to pledge support for a provisional government made up of Iraq exiles, the plan comes down on the side of State Department and against the Pentagon. Good choice. As OxBlog has long insisted, the exiles are selfish, incompetent, and unable to demonstrate that they command the loyalty of anyone in Iraq. For an in-depth profile of the leading exiles, see this cover story from TNR.
Still, doing the right thing in Iraq is not the same as supporting democracy throughout the Arab World. Tom Carothers has that story and others in what I consider to be the best article out there on the Bush administration's democracy promotion efforts. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The Blix Boys have been trying to show off their cojones, however, by shutting thousands of Iraqis into a research complex while investigating it. Good for them.
While the inspectors have done quite a reasonable job, all things considered, I don't believe for a second that they're going to produce any evidencethat Saddam has outlawed weapons. The President is just going to have ask himself whether he is so damn sure that Saddam has those weapons that the time has come to invade, allies or not.
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# Posted 2:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Regardless of the answer to that question, one would hope that Mr. Kim's browsing might take up enough of his free time so that he doesn't have to order the kidnapping of any more South Korean entertainers. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
In light of ElBaradei's statement and the Bush administration's considerable praise of the IAEA declaration, it seems clear that the IAEA's decision reflected a consensual effort to let quiet diplomacy have its fifteen minutes, thus giving the North Koreans a chance to back down without losing face.
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# Posted 2:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Sunday, January 05, 2003
# Posted 11:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Now, in the current issue of Foreign Affars, Carothers has given us the definitive account of the Bush administration's efforts to promote democracy abroad. A model of even-handedness, Carothers provides a comprehensive guide to what the administration has done about promoting democracy, as well as the best existing account of the conflicting ideas and interests that are responsible for America's inconsistency when it comes to promoting democracy abroad.
While Carothers is even-handed, I am not. Much of my admiration for Tom comes from the fact that I know him personally because I worked just down the hall from him during my year at Carnegie. In addition to being an innovative thinker of the highest caliber, Tom is living proof that you don't have to compromise your principles to get ahead in Washington. Every Junior Fellow at Carnegie looked up to him. Still, I believe that there is no one out there writing about democracy promotion who does it even nearly as well as Tom.
I consider it to be both a striking coincidence and an omen that Tom's office is where I was on the morning of September 11th. I was visiting Washington to do research for my master's thesis. I woke up and heard on the radio that two jets had crashed into the World Trade Center. I assumed they were small, that a few dozen people had died, that I could go on with my day. I showered and got dressed. I went to see Tom. I had an appointment for 10am. The Pentagon was hit. We tried to talk for a couple of minutes, but everything was becoming chaos.
Everyone rushed to watch the television in the staff kitchen. I didn't believe the towers would fall until I saw them collapse. I swore to myself that this would not stand. That I would devote my life to helping, in whatever way I could, make sure that this could never happen again. This is what promoting democracy -- in the Middle East and everywhere -- means to me. I am proud that I was in Tom's office that morning. That I was in Washington that summer researching democracy promotion.
It might disturb Tom to read all this. He is too wise to believe that crusades make matters better rather than worse. But I am young and I still have a lot to learn and I have to fight. God save us all. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Even if Israel ceased to exist tomorrow, this would not affect in the slightest the tensions [within the Arab world]...It is helpful to remember that all of the dead in the Arab-Israeli wars of the past half century amount to only a tiny fraction of the million killed during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, the 100,000 killed in Algeria's civil war since 1992, or the 100,000 killed in Lebanon's civil war from 1975 to 1990.Or:
For the Europeans, championing the Palestinian cause allows them to assuage lingering colonial guilt by championing the aspirations of a Third World people who claim to be oppressed by Western imperialists--in this case, Israelis. It also allows Europeans to trumpet their moral superiority over pro-Israel Americans. And, last but not least, it allows them to curry favor with both oil-rich Arab states and their own growing Muslim minorities.Or:
All the Arab states combined donate less than $7 million to UNRWA [the UN body responsible for the refugee camps], just 2.4 percent of its $290 million budget. (Kuwait, Egypt, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates collectively contribute a grand total of zero.) By contrast, the Great Satan forks over $110 million, or 38 percent of UNRWA's budget. The Arabs prefer to spend their money to support Palestinian suicide bombers. Saddam Hussein alone has paid an estimated $20 million over the past two years to "martyrs'" families.And finally:
Arafat's wife Suha has generously said that there would be "no greater honor" than to sacrifice her son as a martyr. But she doesn't have a son. She has a daughter and they live in Paris.These things are sort of like potato chips. You can't have just one. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 3:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Previous posts in this series have focused on Algeria and Egypt. Now its the Saudis' turn. As before, my report will consist of a summary of and commentary on an essay in the Journal of Democracy.
In short, there is no good news about democracy in Saudi Arabia. But what's good about the bad news is the kind of bad news that it is. Dictatorship in Saudi Arabia is a product of greed and the struggle for power. It is not the final bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism.
So how bad is bad? For starters, there has never been an election in Saudi Arabia. There are no political parties. The press and judiciary are entirely subordinate to the regime. NGOs are all but forbidden. Arrests are arbitary. And women are treated like property.
While this sort of description suggests that the Saudi monarchy is an almost totalitarian dictatorship, it isn't. The royal family itself is an oligarchy, with thousands of princes participating in the struggle for power. Commoners play a leading role in the powerful oil, finance and commerce sectors, roles which the royals dare not challenge lest they provoke a rebellion. The commoners also dominate the bureaucracy.
Finally, conservative Wahabist clerics dominate the religious establishment. This domination is not a product of the recent fundamentalist surge in Middle East, but rather a traditional arrangement dating to the 18th century, when the royal house of Saud bought the loyalty of the Wahabist (or Al Sheikh) clan by granting it control of religious affairs.
The current balance between these three factions may not withstand the demographic revolution that has begun to engulf Sauid Arabia, however. Thirty years ago, there were fewer than 5 million Saudis. Now there are more than 15 million, plus 6 million foreign workers who are not citizens. Half the population is under 16.
Between 250,000 and 500,000 new workers enter the job market each year. Having failed to diversify its oil-based economy, Saudi Arabia struggles to provide jobs for this new generation. Even worse, employers prefer to hire Indian and Pakistani immigrants, who are just as well-educated as their Saudi counterparts but who can be paid much less.
In theory, the government should take advantage of its oil revenues to finance industrial diversification. But from a political perspective, that just isn't possible. The government's massive arms expenditures -- which could finance considerable diversification -- are in fact a subsidy to an industry dominated by the royal family. With no other source of income, the princes won't give up their share.
At the same time, the commoner-dominated bureaucracy refuses to facilitate diversification by means of deregulation, since the commoners fear that an economic opening would enable the princes to buy out commoner-owned industries, thus destroying the commoner elite's power base.
Finally, borrowing is not an option since the government has run budget deficits for more than two decades. As it well knows, the lethal combination of debt and deficit could destroy the kingdom's blue chip image and place it on the road to Latin Americanization.
An important question for advocates of democracy promotion is whether a growing Saudi underclass might embrace Islamic fundmentalism as the only available means of striking back at the regime. According to Jean-Francois Seznec, the Columbia University professor who authored the Journal of Democracy's article on Saudi Arabia,
The Wahabis themselves are very much divided: There are the traditionalist proponents of a "purer" Islam who support the regime [and] advocate reform by peaceful means...Then there are the "jihadis", who are generally younger, advocate change through violence -- they include the followers of Osama bin Laden -- and are widely disparaged as unstable hotheads. Their ideas frighten most Saudis, particularly the middle class. Despite Western impressions that a broad and deep stream of radical, anti-democratic Islamism runs just beneath the surface of Saudi society, the jihadis support is slim.I hope Seznec is right, though I am skeptical. Then again, my knowledge of Saudi Arabia derives entirely from the Western press. As I know from personal experience in Argentina, the Western media often provide a profoundly disorted -- and generally alarmist -- account of local politics.
Still, Seznec seems to err on the side of optimist too often for my taste (and I am an optimist). For example, he presents the creation of the Shura, or appointed advisory council to the king, as a major step toward political decompression. Its deliberations receive wide coverage in the Saudi media. But I am not impressed. Seznec presents no evidence that the Shura has actual influence. Nor is there any reason to believe that it could withstand an effort by the king to destroy it.
As I have said before, the best hope for democratization in Saudi Arabia is pressure from the United States. We have to make it clear that the long-term health of the US-Saudi alliance depends on the future of democracy in Saudi Arabia. Right now, that does not sound credible. But if Saudi Arabia found itself bordered by a democratic Iran and a democratic Iraq, it might no longer take American support for granted.
A critical turning point in Saudi politics will come with the appointment of a new king after the death of the ailing Fahd. While rumor has it that Crown Prince Abdullah favors holding municipal elections, he cannot pass reform without the support of the selfsame princes whose authority elections might challenge. Since the monarchy is not hereditary, Abdullah will have to negotiate with his fellow princes before assuming the kingship. During those negotiations, the United States has to make clear to the the conservative factions of the royal family that their long-term interests will be best served if they grant the Saudi people the freedom that they deserve.
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# Posted 3:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 3:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Based on his professional experience in South Korea, Sean-Paul observes that consensus is critical to decision-making in both public and private settings such. If the US fails to appreciate this, it will antagonize the South Koreans, whose support is critical to a resolution of the current crisis on the peninsula.
As Sean-Paul correctly observes, very few American officials or commentators have taken South Korean interests seriously when responding to the current crisis. He also kindly notes that I have come closest doing so in my posts on the topic, including this one and this one.
While I lack the expertise Sean-Paul has on Korean culture, I sense that the Korean/East Asian pursuit of consensus applies only to non-political conflicts. In fact, the Koreans are perhaps more nationalistic than any other East Asian people. The campaign rhetoric of President-elect Roh Moo Hyun hardly advocated seeking consensus with the United States.
Looking back in time, it is also hard to defend the idea that Koreans value consensus in the political sphere. Brutal dictators such as Park Chung Hee and Chun Do Hwan did not seem all that interested in consensus. Kim Il Sung didn't launch the Korean War for the purpose of achieving consensus. And in past weeks, the North Koreans have violated a treaty, expelled UN inspectors and declared that they want to negotiate with the US one-on-one rather than in a multilateral context. So much for consensus.
Beyond suggesting that Sean-Paul's specific point about East Asian culture is less than tenable, I think that it is important to make the general point that cultural arguments about political behavior often fail because culture can explain continuity, but not change.
This still leaves one mystery unresolved: If I reject cultural approaches to politics, why have I shown just as much interest in South Korean interests as Sean-Paul has? Becuase of my commitment to democracy and equality. The voice of a democratic people must be respected if its wishes are consistent with democratic principles. If South Koreans have a different view of how to resolve the current crisis, we must approach them with respect and try to persuade them of the importance of our views when necessary.
Moreover, on a tactical level, it will impossible to resolve the current crisis successfully without South Korean help. Thanks to the administration's measured response, the South Koreans are showing considerable respect for American interests, despite the pervasive anti-Americanism of the recent presidential campaign.
The WaPo reports that a South Korean proposal recommends that "the United States would guarantee North Korea's security and resume shipments of fuel oil in exchange for promises by North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programs."
The North has responded, via its official news agency, that "There is no reason why the U.S. should not accept the proposal, the best way for a peaceful solution." So much for those who said that Bush's talk of pre-emption had provoked the North Koreans to esclate the current crisis.
While I still believe that the US ought to secure UN backing for its position and demand an end to the North's illegal weapons program as a pre-condition for negotiations, I think that the new South Korean proposal shows just how much effective diplomacy can achieve even in a brief amount of time.
UPDATE: Seems both the Russians and South Koreans have moved closer to the US position. After talks between senior South Korean and Russian officials, South Korea's vice foreign minister said that ``North Korea should renounce its nuclear program and return to the situation as it was before the beginning of October...That move could pave the way for the resumption of dialogue with the United States.'' (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:27 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Still, I think Kevin is rushing to the conclusion that the time for negotiations and concessions has come. He says sanctions and isolation won't work because we might have to wait decades before anything happens. All the while, the North Koreans will keep on building more bombs.
Perhaps, but as the State Department has explained, the US isn't against negotiations per se. Rather, the precondition of those negotiations will be North Korea's renunciation of its illegal arms program.
Is that sort of precondition realistic? At the moment, no. But if South Korea, China and and the UN Security Council all endorse it, the North will find itself in a tough position.
Today, the head of the South Korean Foreign Ministry's North American Department said that "If North Korea announces its willingness to scrap [its uranium-enrichment program], that can set the stage for dialogue with the United States."
As for the UN, the IAEA's "directors [will] meet on Monday in Vienna to weigh a resolution that could lead to the imposition of sanctions against North Korea by the United Nations Security Council."
As Kevin says, what matters is not whether you negotiate, but whether you negotiate well. And this first part of negotiating well is negotiating under the right conditions.
All in all, I don't think Kevin and I are that far apart on the North Korea issue anymore. As he says, "North Korea precipitated the crisis, not us, and the administration's reaction so far has been quite measured. I hope it stays that way."
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Saturday, January 04, 2003
# Posted 11:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Living in the UK, it's hard to know what the American people are thinking. But since I haven't seen any polls on the subject, I sort of suspect that the Times'elitism has gotten the better of it. Anyone who reads a newspaper realizes that we can't attack North Korea because, if we do, the North Koreans will strike back by slaughtering tens of thousands of innocent South Koreans and/or Japanese. That is called deterrence. (Confused? Ask Tom Friedman.)
Fortunately, we still have the chance to stop Iraq before it becomes another North Korea. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Friedman starts off with this non-starter:
Why are they going after Saddam Hussein with the 82nd Airborne and North Korea with diplomatic kid gloves — when North Korea already has nuclear weapons, the missiles to deliver them, a record of selling dangerous weapons to anyone with cash, 100,000 U.S. troops in its missile range and a leader who is even more cruel to his own people than Saddam?Perhaps the NY Times' resident expert on international relations has heard of deterrence?
Yes, might America has been deterred. The real question is, do we want Iraq to be able to deter us as well once it has nuclear weapons?
Friedman's next stab goes like this:
The primary reason the Bush team is more focused on Saddam is because if he were to acquire weapons of mass destruction, it might give him the leverage he has long sought — not to attack us, but to extend his influence over the world's largest source of oil, the Persian Gulf."Now, if Tom were talking about Bush I and not Bush II, Tom would have a point. Oil played a critical role in the First Gulf War. This time, the critical issue is that Saddam has mocked the authority of both the US and the UN for over a decade. We realized on Sept. 11 that this had to end.
Next, Friedman offers some advice: "The Bush team would have a stronger case for fighting a war partly for oil if it made clear by its behavior that it was acting for the benefit of the planet, not simply to fuel American excesses." I see. If Bush were a good environmentalist, then the European left wouldn't suspect him of fighting an imperialist war for oil.
But the real point about oil is that if what Bush wanted was to ensure lower prices, he would've cut a deal with Saddam rather than antagonizing him. A war in Iraq will keep its oil off the market for a long time to come. The "No Blood for Oil" crowd just never seems to realize that war is bad for business. Then again, they probably never ran one.
Toward the end of his piece, Tom does offer some reasonable advice, however: "Should we end up occupying Iraq, and the first thing we do is hand out drilling concessions to U.S. oil companies alone, that perception would only be intensified." Yes. But if Tom knew about the oil business, he would also recognize that oil firms will probably form consortia in order to reduce their risk, rather than investing directly. So Bush probably won't even have a chance to cut all his bid'ness partners in on the deal.
The one really strong point that Friedman does make in his article is that if a brutal dictator did threaten the world's oil supply, resisting him would be justified. And that's exactly why dozens of nations signed on the first time we had to invade Iraq. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:06 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
PS TMI Glenn, TMI. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, January 03, 2003
# Posted 10:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
And while you're at, read Andrew Sullivan's post on Paul Krugman latest anti-American pronouncement. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
As Josh and Sean-Paul have pointed out, they are liberal internationalists who are not afraid of using force to accomplish principled objectives. Josh has often defended his views in print and Sean-Paul has done so online. I think Kevin might well fall into the same category, though he has not seen the need to say so explicitly.
That said, let's get back to North Korea. Today, the President's critics unveiled their newest argument: that Bush's pre-crisis rhetoric of pre-emption has provoked the North Koreans into dangerously raising the stakes of the current crisis. In addition, the administration's timid response to North Korea's defiance has convinced Kim Jong Il that he should go ahead and develop nuclear weapons since the United States will not launch preeemptive strikes against him.
With slight variations, this argument represents the views of Paul Krugman, Josh Marshall and the Democratic Leadership Council. As I see it, the argument has two main flaws.
First, the North Koreans have said over and over that what they want is not to develop nuclear weapons, but to negotiate a non-aggression pact with the United States. Krugman totally misses this. In contrast, Marshall and the DLC recognize that Kim wants concessions. Still, neither one explains what exactly the North Koreans would have done differently if Bush hadn't provoked them with his doctrine of preemption. Unless one really believes that an unprovoked North would've agreed to disarm instead of demanding a non-aggression pact, it's hard to argue that Bush pre-emption rhetoric had any impact whatsoever.
The second major problem with the critics' new argument is that it does nothing to explain the fact that North Korea began its secret uranium-enrichment program long before Bush became president. Neither Krugman, Marshall (in today's posts), nor the DLC can bring themselves to even mention that fact. And why should they? If the North Koreans set off the current crisis by continuing to do exactly what they had been doing throughout Clinton's second term, there isn't much to hold Bush responsible for.
In addition to these flaws, the adminstration's critics are still a number of disingenuous things which I've pointed out before.
First, not one of them has suggested an alternative to the administration's current strategy. Krugman and Marshall say sanctions and isolation are unworkable. Yet just yesterday the South Koreans "stepped up diplomatic overtures to Russia and China to seek help in pressuring North Korea to compromise."
Incomprehensibly, the DLC has called upon Bush to abandon his unilateralism and work with other nations to end the crisis. The best explanation I can come up with for this one is that the DLC refuses to read either the NYT or the WaPo.
Marshall has also begun to accuse the administration of having no plan at all, which doesn't exactly fit with his previous accusation that their plan isn't working.
Second of all, not one of the administration's critics has suggested any alternative to publicly confronting the North once the US has compelling evidence of that it had a secret weapons program. As I asked yesterday,
What was the President supposed to do after the CIA provided him with compelling evidenfce that the North was pursuing an illegal uranium-enrichment program designed to produce nuclear weapons?The point still stands.
Now, if after all this criticism of what I disagree with, you want some sense of what I do support, take a look at Charles Krauthammer's column on the crisis. While he is convinced that sanctions, he emphasizes the important point that the US has an important card which it hasn't yet played: Japan. With the exception of an independent Taiwan, China fears nothing more than a nuclear Japan.
While one can't expect Krauthammer to footnote his columns, it's worth noting that his view coincides with that of Tom Christensen, perhaps the leading expert on Chinese military and security policy. After conducting extensive interviews with Chinese officials, Christensen concluded that the US has significantly underestimated both their fear of Japan and their appreciation of US efforts to preventing Japan from becoming too powerful.
As Christensen points out, it is not widely known that Japanese defense expenditures are far higher than the PRC's, even though they consume a much, much lower percentage of GDP. Thus, the Japanese also have an almost unlimited potential to increase their military spending in the event of a crisis. Colin Powell's protestsaside, we are now in the midst of a crisis.
Finally, I'm going to plug Josh Marshall's post on whether or not the North has nuclear weapons and why Powell keeps insisting that it does. While the administration's strategy for dealing with North Korea is the best one available, it seems totally unable to talk straight about the crisis with the American people. Now that is serious grounds for criticism.
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Thursday, January 02, 2003
# Posted 8:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
But what happens if and when our methods prove successful and a relatively stable pro-Western regime takes hold in Baghdad? Will the Europeans object even then? It's more likely that Europeans too will breathe a collective sigh of relief, and the current spasm of anti-Americanism that concerns so many opinion-makers will cease to be relevant.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The Agonist's most recent piece-de-resistance is an in-depth look at the Agreed Framework that resolved the 1994 crisis on the Korean peninsula. For those who not familiar with the details of the current crisis, the best place to start might well be Sean-Paul's Korean Primer.
Now, despite my gratuitously French-laden praise of Sean-Paul, I assure you that we stand far apart on some critical issues relating to North Korea. Most important of all is his insistence, drawing on Josh Marshall, that the President has embarassed himself by letting Kim Jong Il call his bluff on the nuclear issue.
Bush's critics are right that his administration has not had any sort of consistent policy regarding North Korea and that the administration's insistence that it won't launch a preemptive attack on North Korea shows just how superficial its commitment to its National Security Strategy really is. But neither of those facts mean that Kim has been (or will be) successful in resisting international pressure.
Another significant difference between myself and the critics is that they stand united behind their insistence that Bush ought to negotiate with the North. Yet while calling for negotiation, not one of them can actually bring himself to say that the US should reward the North Koreans with additional economic aid in exchange for their violation of the 1994 treaty. In fact, both Leon Fuerth and Josh Marshall say that rewarding the Norh for its deception is something that we definitely can't do.
In order to support their call for negotiations, the administration's critics avoid any serious consideration of whether its current strategy -- working with regional powers to isolate the North -- might work. Kevin Drum says that "we should either launch a military attack or else go to the table and negotiate" since all previous sanctions have been a failure. Might that be because we've been shipping fuel to North Korea since 1994?
According to Josh Marshall, "The administration says it has a plan: isolate the North Koreans economically and diplomatically. But how serious a plan is that?" Well, the UN, the Japanese and the Russians all think its the best idea anyone has had so far. Marshall dismisses out of hand that the Chinese will go along with it, but such judgment is premature.
The final trick in the critics' playbook is their insistence that it is the United States rather than the North Koreans who are responsible for the current crisis. In admirable effort to demonstrate the relevance of Star Wars to international relations, Kevin D. compares Bush's provocation of the North to the Emperor's provocation of Luke, which results in the Emperor being thrown down a bottomless energy shaft. (If you need this explained to you, call Pejman.)
Josh Marshall just asks "why in the hell did [the US] provoke this situation in the first place?"
Question for Josh and Kevin: What was the President supposed to do after the CIA provided him with compelling evidenfce that the North was pursuing an illegal uranium-enrichment program designed to produce nuclear weapons?
Inaction might have delayed a US-North Korean conflict, but that might have given the North time to mount its uranium warheads on a missile pointed at Japan. In addition, confronting the North now -- in the aftermath of a unanimous Security Council decision to condemn Iraq's nuclear program -- ensures that the UN will have to apply the same strict standard to North Korea as it has to Iraq.
I may not know how to resolve the current crisis, but I do know that no critic of the administration's approach has come at all close to suggesting a viable alternative.
UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: In response to my mail, I just want to say that I actively support the administration's approach, rather than simply accepting it because the critics haven't come up with anything better. I don't offer an alternative to the administration's strategy because I believe that it is doing what's best right now. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Wednesday, January 01, 2003
# Posted 6:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Christopher is the most civil of the three. He argues that "North Korea's startling revival of its nuclear program...presents compelling reasons for President Bush to step back from his fixation on attacking Iraq and to reassess his administration's priorities."
In a column entitled "Outfoxed by North Korea", Fuerth asserts that "when using words as weapons, a leader must be prepared to back up his rhetoric with force. The president's nomination of North Korea as a member of the 'Axis of Evil' in his last State of the Union message now looks like a bluff that is being called."
Marshall hits hardest, describing the crisis as "an administration screw-up of mammoth proportions."
In addition to their harsh criticism of the President, what unites all three authors is their total unwillingness -- or perhaps inability -- to suggest an alternative to the administration's current policy. Each one acknowledges that the situation on the Korean peninsula is complex and volatile and that there are no simple answers to the questions that Bush is facing. But if there aren't any answers, why spend so much time criticizing the President?
Christopher thinks that if the Bush administration leaves Iraq alone for a while, it could spend more time figuring out how to resolve the Korean crisis. On the one hand, ignoring Iraq would waste all the politicam capital that the United States has invested in focusing Security Council attention on the issue. On the other, how exactly would spending more time thinking about Korea make things any easier? Christopher says that diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis will be complex and time consuming. And yet the administration has already made significant progress toward winning both UN and regional support for isolating North Korea.
Fuerth justifies his criticism by saying that "it would be wise for the administration to reverse course and engage with North Korea." Yet he also writes that "if the president negotiates, he will send a message that the key to respectful attention from his administration is blackmail." So what Fuerth is basically saying is that he wants Bush to give in to North Korean demands regardless of how embarrassing such a decision is. Now does that make any sense at all? Actually, yes -- if your ulterior motive is to show that Clinton's embarrassing 1994 concessions to the North Koreans were inevitable.
Marshall takes a third approach, alleging that Bush's failure has to be publicized because it has been "inexcusably ignored in the American press." Except in the NYT, on whose pages both Nick Kristof and Bill Safire have savaged the administration. Even the editors chipped in with some mild criticism. (NB: OxBlog took a few shots at Bush as well.) And all that was before the Times published Christopher and Fuerth's columns.
Admittedly, Marshall promises "more details soon", instead of just closing with his observation that "Tough talk sounds great until your opponent calls your bluff and everybody sees there's nothing behind the trash talk. Then you look foolish." Still, I find it extremely ironic that Marshall is now denouncing the administration for its weakness when just yesterday he was denouncing it for its dangerous unilateralism.
For constructive commentary on the Korean situation, its best to turn to the Washington Post, where Robert Gallucci -- the man who negotiated the 1994 accord on Clinton's behalf -- argues (along with Sandy Berger), that engagement won't work and that North Korea "must be willing to step forward to resolve its past nuclear history and open its future behavior to comprehensive and verifiable international scrutiny." The Post's editors agree. It's good to see that some observers can put partisanship behind and tackle the current crisis head-on.
UPDATE: Reader B observes that my zoological metaphor is slightly off-base. Non-predators such as doves are sometimes more brutal in their attacks because predators have instincts which prevent them from going to extremes. I guess you could apply that metaphorically as well. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The compliment is much appreciated, but methinks it won't be generating much traffic. Those looking for intellectual sustenance should turn to Pejman's response to Josh Marshall's anti-W. rant, which complements my own. Pej offers several good reasons -- which I missed -- as to why the victories for Schroeder and Roh say nothing about anti-Americanism as a force in world politics.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, December 30, 2002
# Posted 10:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
"Schroeder in Germany, Lula in Brazil, now Roh's victory in S. Korea…[this is the] latest 'wake-up call' to [the] U.S., but [it's] not clear what's being heard." Marshall notes that each of these election outcomes had "deep local determinants" and was fundamentally "multi-causal." Fair enough. But, Marshall concludes,
...add these and other election results up and you start to see that hostile reactions to America's newly strident and confrontational stance in the world are becoming an important force in world politics and an important force in the domestic politics of many of our allies.Not so fast. First of all, Lula's victory in Brazil is an indication of the strength of American values, not a backlash against them. Lula was once a true working-class radical who campaigned in denim and spoke of socialism. As a result, he lost three consecutive presidential elections. This year, Lula decided to wear a suit, accept a binding commitment to IMF economic policies, and pledge to fight inflation and budget deficits.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the WaPo ran the following headline : "Brazil's Leader Seeks to Ease U.S. Concerns About Policies". After appointing a moderate cabinet and shutting out pro-Cuban radicals, Lula met with W. to assure him that Brazil is going to be a good citizen.
Now I admit that what happened in Germany and South Korea was disturbing. But in contrast to Lula, who won in a massive landslide, both Schroeder and Roh won by razor-thin margins. Fearing for their political lives, they took the low road and sought to increase leftist turnout by bashing the US. But does that mean that anti-Americanism is becoming "an important force in world politics"?
Not by a long shot. What Marshall doesn't ask is whether anti-American rhetoric results in anti-American actions, or whether it is just a diversion from fundamentally pro-American foreign policies. Take Schroeder's latest speech for example. While he talks about searching for alternatives to war, he also refuses to rule out German support for a UN-authorized invasion of Iran. And Schroeder adds that: "We Germans know from our own experience that dictators sometimes can only be stopped with force."
Now what about Roh? Marshall writes that
Roh is the first Korean head of state since the partition to be elected on a platform which called into question key aspects of the US-ROK security allianceAnd yet Roh is already showing signs of moderation.
Leaving all this aside, it's still worth considering what Marshall asserts is the answer to America's problem. Carefully dissociating himself from the Blame-America-First chorus, Marshall says that there is a "thoughtful middle ground" for the US to stand on. If you click on the words "thoughtful middle ground", you will be taken to Fareed Zakaria's essay in the New Yorker on the subject of multilateralism.
This essay was, of course, the recent subject of a four-part OxBlog fisk-a-thon. Now, I don't hold Josh responsible for not reading my posts. He has better things to do with his time, like taking down Senate majority leaders.
But if Josh were to read my posts, I think he might agree that the best way to address concerns about American greed and belligerence is to pursue an ethical foreign policy rather than searching for a consensus that will only come at the price of accommodating the greed and belligerence of Russia, China and (sometimes) France.
Now Josh is of course right that the Bush administration has needlessly antagonized a lot of people as a result of its ham-fisted diplomacy. Hell, I've spent almost all of my time on OxBlog criticizing every detail of the Bush administration's foreign policy. But all in all, I've come to recognize that things are going more than just alright.
In the end, I don't think Josh and I are all that far apart on the issues. As he points out, he thinks we should use force against Iraq. If I've been a little harsh, it's because I'm worried that a lot of very intelligent and well-intentioned individuals have begun to see multilateralism as an end in itself rather than a means of promoting democracy and human rights across the globe.
UPDATE: More on German backtracking. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
There isn't all that much new in the article, though it does report on the contents of recently declassified documents from the Reagan administration. While there is no mention of who filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the documents' release, I'd have to imagine it was the National Security Archive, which is the national leader in FOIA requests related to foreign policy. I spent six weeks there doing research on Reagan's El Salvador policy for my master's thesis.
FYI, the Bush administration has been doing all that it can to delay the release of documents whose publication would have no adverse effect on national security, but might prove to be quite embarrassing to both members of the current administration as well as the President's father.
Anyway, the real issue here is how supporters of American foreign policy can address the perennial argument that America's record of immoral actions in the Cold War invalidates any aggressive initiatives the United States plans today. The argument becomes especially complicated when one considers that current members of the cabinet were responsible for those actions. The WaPo, for instance, reports on Rumsfeld's intimate relations with Saddam at a time when the State Department knew that Saddam was using chemical weapons on an "almost daily" basis.
I think the proper response is to admit what the US did wrong and shift the discussion to the merits of its current policy. As Ken Pollack tells the WaPo, what we did in the 1980s "was a horrible mistake then, but we have got it right now." The worst thing to do is come up with defensive justifications of immoral acts. For example, David Newsom, a former ambassador to Baghdad, told the WaPo that
"Fundamentally, [our] policy was justified...we were concerned that Iraq should not lose the war with Iran, because that would have threatened Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. Our long-term hope was that Hussein's government would become less repressive and more responsible."Talk about low standards. All Iraq had to do to become less repressive was massacre thousands of innocent men and women instead of tens of thousands.
The reason such arguments backfire is that they imply a continuity between the moral standards of the past and of the present. But the fact is, the US has learned from its mistakes. For all Bush Sr. and Clinton did wrong when it came to foreign affairs, they did uphold a moral standard higher than any of their predecessors since Harry Truman. (Yes, including Jimmy Carter.)
That is no small accomplishment considering that Bush and Clinton were the first presidents of the first lone superpower since Roman times. Lord Acton observed that "Power corrupts...and absolute power corrupts absolutely." That may have been true once. But the United States took advantage of its unprecedented power to raise its moral standards and those of other nations as well. That is what makes America exceptional. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
But then you read the article and you realize that the headline should've been: "Economic Ties Between North and South Korea Minimal, Irrelevant." What is the annual value of inter-Korean trade? $600 million. Now, it might've been helpful if the Times put that figure in context by giving figures for South Korean trade with other nations. But they don't, so I will. The statistics are available here, from South Korea's National Statistics Office.
Exports to the US: $26.8 billion; To Japan: $12.4 billlion. Germany, the UK, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong all clock in at over $3 billion as well.
Oh, and one more fact buried near the end of the NYT article: North Korea's dysfunctional political system has screwed up almost every foreign investment project in North Korea.
Bottom line: Economic interests are not going to get in the way of imposing sanctions on North Korea. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
But first, a brief recap. As I said before I want to present a comprehensive, empirical case for the viability of democratization in the Middle East. The previous round of this debate focused on the cultural incompatibility of democracy and Islam. This time I want to focus on the situation on the ground in the Middle East. As I see it, a strong case for democratization must respond to what I called the "Iranian paradigm", or the belief that reform promotes both terrorism and fundamentalism.
So what about Egypt? It made headlines last month when the government broadcast a vicious anti-Semitic television program based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Going back somewhat further, Egypt is best known for the brutal attacks by Muslim fundamentalists that resulted in the murder dozens of Pyramid-bound tourists. Thus, at first glance, the Mubarak dictatorship seems to be the only thing standing in the way of an Islamic revolution. Even so, leading analysts such as Fareed Zakaria have asserted that
If we could choose one place to press hardest to reform, it should be Egypt. Jordan has a more progressive ruler; Saudi Arabia is more critical because of its oil. But Egypt is the intellectual soul of the Arab world. If it were to progress economically and politically, it would demonstrate more powerfully than any essay or speech that Islam is compatible with modernity, and that Arabs can thrive in today's world. (Newsweek, 24 Dec 01 [permalink expired])Perhaps. But Colin Powell isn't listening. Just after September 11th, he described Mubarak's brutality as a model for the war on terror. Or, as Powell put it,
Egypt, as all of us know, is really ahead of us on this issue. They have had to deal with acts of terrorism in recent years in the course of their history. And we have much to learn from them and there is much we can do together.Recognizing the significance of what Powell said, Mubarak later responded that "There is no doubt that the events of September 11 created a new concept of democracy."
But suppose for a moment that Powell & co. wanted to get serious about Egyptian democracy. Would they just be opening the floodgates of fundamentalism? I think not. In an article in the most recent issue of the Journal of Democracy, Princeton doctoral candidate Jason Brownlee reviews the prospects for democracy in Egypt. Put mildly, Brownlee is not optimistic. But the problem isn't fundamentalism. It's Mubarak.
While consolidating his power in the years after Sadat's assassination, Mubarak spoke of administering "democracy in doses". Thousands of NGOs sprang into existence, as well as professional organizations for lawyers, doctors, etc. The opposition even began to gain ground in the Assembly. Once Mubarak consolidated his position, however, he shut down all avenues of dissent. Newspapers were closed, human rights activists jailed and political opponents given military trials.
To be sure, Egypt has faced a threat of Islamist violence. The annual death toll from its guerrilla conflict reached 1,000 in 1993. But by 1998, the government had crushed the armed opposition. While the memory of slaughtered tourists lives on, it does not reflect the realities of Egypt today. Now Mubarak is focused on crushing non-violent Islamic dissent as well. And he has no intention of letting other dissenters organize either. The regime has rejected the application of every political party that sought to organize over the past decade, including an explicitly pro-democratic party made up of both Muslims and Christians. Clearly, Mubarak's main interest is in preserving his own absolute power, not defending Egypt from fundamentalist Islam.
In a surprising announcement in November 1999, Mubarak informed the public that the next year's elections to the Assembly would be "subject at all stages to supervision by the judiciary." The legislation implementing this announcement made clear, however, that the President's announcement was nothing more than a publicity stunt. Nonetheless, the Egyptian judiciary seized on the President's announcement as justification for its decision to launch an ambitious election monitoring program, which included placing monitors at each of the country's 15,000+ polling stations.
While the monitor did ensure that no fraud occurred at the polling stations, the government's control of the ballot counting process enabled it to produce results that it found amenable. Still, the results were surprising. Less than 40% of the government's official candidates won their races. Another 40% went to candidates from the ruling party who failed to gain official backing and ran as independents. The secular opposition disgraced itself by winning only 3.5% of the races. The Muslim Brotherhood, which operated without official party status also won 3.5% even though it put up candidates in only 10% of the races. The remainder of seats went to independents.
The significance of the 2000 is hard to place. Angered at the results, Mubarak immediately moved to crush the judiciary's autonomy so that it would never pull a similar stunt again. While it is hard to know how much the regime managed to influence the final results, it seems clear that the Islamist opposition would not dominate at the polls if given the chance. On the other hand, there is no true democratic force that has the potential to prevail either.
Brownlee concludes that American influence is the best hope for Egyptian democracy. In addition to $2 billion in annual aid, the US has played a critical role in securing multilateral loans for Egypt as well as granting it an extra $2 billion to compensate for tourism revenue lost after September 11th. As Powell's words indicate, however, the US is not interested in taking advantage of the influence it has to promote democratization, even though there is no danger of an Islamic revolution.
So far, the most that the Bush administration has done is announce that it will limit aid to $2 billion per year if Egypt's human rights record does not improve. As I see it, that doesn't exactly seem like much of a threat. The administration must recognize that there can be no final victory in the war on terror until the governments of the Middle East rests on the consent of the governed, rather than the same brute force which gives terrorists their influence.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, December 29, 2002
# Posted 6:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 6:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
All these things will be made possible thanks to a single technology known as UWB, or UltraWideBand. I only came across it because I live with an electrical engineer who is going to be presenting on UWB at a conference in a few weeks. Since the focus of his presentation is military applications, he wanted a politics person to give him a hand. So here I am.
The battlefield potential of UWB is stunning. Right now, urban settings enables less sophisticated forces to match their superiors by taking advantage of the complex and confusing battlefield environment. Within a decade, individual soldiers will all have portable radar devices that let them locate opposing forces in urban environments without ever having to confront them face to face. The US Army is poised to test prototypes of the individual radar should it have to conduct operations in Baghdad this winter. Other applications include searching below the ground for hidden tunnels and bunker complexes (as well as land mines). Tracking devices based on UWB would faciliate communication and tactical planning on the battlefield.
For a whole set of downloadable articles explaining how UWB works, click here. The basic idea is that instead of using continuous radio waves to communicate, UWB relies on short pulses of radio energy. Released at intervals so precise that they can be measured in trillionths of a second, one can only detect such pulses if one knows in advance the schedule of their release. Whereas as high-frequency radar waves bounce off walls or other solid objects, UWB pulses can be emitted on much longer wavelengths which go right through solid objects.
The peacetime applications of UWB are no less important. Its main commercial application will be the creation of wireless local area networks (LANs) which can handle 10 megs or more per second. UWB may also enable significant improvements of cellphone networks, which are now limited by the scarcity of available bandwidth. Moreover, UWB should finally let cellphones work indoors. From a humanitarian perspective, UWB would be critical in locating victims of earthquakes or other disasters, who may have been buried under mountains of rubble. Alternately, parents could easily locate children who have become lost in public places or even kidnapped. The possibilities are endless. But first we need peace. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Josh and I have debated this issue before, and even though there is no clear evidence yet, I think the Chechens tactics speak for themselves. Even if Russian brutality is the moral equivalent of Chechen bombings, the United States cannot defend anyone who embraces terrorism. Sadly, we will have to wash our hands and let fate decide who lives and who dies. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
It's hard to know exactly why the President chose to let the people have their way, but it is a significant step forward. According to an article in the April 2002 issue of the Journal of Democracy, the only reliable indicator that a country is on the road to reform is that the opposition has triumphed in democratic elections. In those states where former dictators won elections, no real reform has taken place. Let that be a lesson for those who will decide the fate of the Middle East. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
So what do we do? The NYT reports that the US has a plan designed to raise pressure on Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program. What is the plan? Who knows. The Agonist observes that any serious plan ought to recognize that "China fought us in the fifties to keep Korea divided...a divided Korea is one of China's vital national security interests."
But do the Chinese believe that possessing nuclear weapons will strengthen Kim's regime, or just raise the risk that the United States will launch a preemptive war to unify the peninsula? According to a former State Dept. official, "While China is opposed to North Korea having nuclear weapons, they are also opposed to chaos in North Korea. They are reluctant to apply any kind of sanctions unless they have to." Which means it won't be easy to get China on board if we actually have to try and punish North Korea for its illegal weapons program.
And what about the South? Will it go along? OxBlog reader JK points to an LA Times article which says that most South Koreans hold American belligerence responsible for both the current crisis as well as the Northern retaliation it may provoke. While I can't vouch for the accuracy of that report, it is interesting to note the inconsistency in this alleged majority view. If Kim Jong Il bears no grudge against the South, why are South Koreans so afraid that his artillery will slaughter them by the tens of thousands if the United States bombs the reacor at Yongbyon?
The only good news on the North Korean front is that the NYT has finally run an intelligent column on the subject. According to Georgetown prof Victor Cha (who had a column on the same subject in last week's WaPo),
The engagement policy the United States followed in 1994 would be ineffective and unfeasible today. Indeed, if the North does not come clean, the true "moderate" position for both Washington and Seoul is isolation and containment.Cha is no hawk, so this is a serious statement coming from him. Nonetheless, Cha is an optimist, arguing that North Korea will cooperate because "it now has much more to lose than it did in 1994." I wouldn't go that far. Kim could care less about new ties to the EU. If he comes around, it will be because he knows that cannot last any longer without Western aid. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, December 28, 2002
# Posted 12:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Friday, December 27, 2002
# Posted 10:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Both Bill and Glenn think the Donna Rice issue is irrelevant in the post-Clinton era. I disagree. Rather than lowering the bar, Clinton raised it. America is resolved never to have another president like him again. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 6:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Ooh, how clever. Ooh, how ironic. Using anti-imperialism and democratic principle to justify a thinly disguised threat to abandon the South if it doesn't give in to American demands. But as a former Nixon speechwriter and veteran of the Cold War, Safire should be the first to know that democratic allies will always have to weather the rhetorical storms set off by electoral politics. He complains that President-elect Roh wants "a repeat of Clinton's fruitless 1994 cave-in." Well, nothing would force the South to cave in faster than an American retreat that leaves it exposed to Northern blackmail.
The South did not vote to expel the United States. Rather, it lashed out at what it perceived as American high-handedness. While we may not be imperialists, we should be smart enough to recognize that South Korea's dependence on the United States makes it highly sensitive to all perceived sleights. Given time, it will recognize the danger of compromising with the North.
Having patience, however, is not the same as giving up with out as fight, as the editors of the NYT recommend. They say Bush should sit down to negotiate before the North pledges to give up its weapons. But that accomplishes nothing.
What Safire gets right is that we have to put pressure on China to confront Kim Jong Il. But how do we influence China? One way, is to have Japan do what it can. Well aware that North Korean missiles can devastate its cities, the Japanese are desperate for both a peaceful solution and American support. It also seems that the US has the support of the UN, since IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei has strongly condemned North Korean behavior.
Now, I admit that this all beginning to sound like the sort of mulitlateral strategy that was so controversial when applied to Iraq. But the President knows we can't risk the lives of tens of thousands of South Korean and Japanese citizens unless a North Korean attack is imminent. So for the moment, we'll have to swallow our pride and send in the diplomats.
UPDATE: The diplomats are being been sent. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 8:54 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
On the first point, I'm not giving in. The desire for freedom is universal. On the second point, I myself have asked whether the President really cares about promoting democracy in the Middle East. I want to keep an open mind on the issue, but isn't easy when even the Weekly Standard is blasting Bush for his hypocrisy. Damn it, what happened to Wolfowitz? (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:46 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 8:38 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
ANTWERP, Belgium -- In the dim fourth-floor walk-up, past the wrestler-turned-bodyguard, the leader of the Arab European League sat in silence. Before him were a batch of newspapers bearing his image and a flier informing Belgian police that his group was "watching" them.
Last month, Dyab Abou Jahjah's group fielded unarmed patrols to follow this northern Belgian city's police officers in what the group called an attempt to prevent abuse of Arab youth.
If you trust the Post's account, Jahjah sounds like Gandhi. Visser observes: One of the more notorious activities of the AEL is sending surveillance teams, clad in black uniform, onto the streets of Antwerp to "monitor" the police, who are accused of discriminating against Muslims. The Belgian prime minister, in turn, has accused the AEL of aiming to create "police-free zones", where criminal activity can then take place unchecked.
Later in the month, he was arrested and held for five days for allegedly inciting two days of riots in Antwerp that followed the fatal shooting of a young Moroccan teacher by an elderly white neighbor whom the police called deranged.
The face of Abou Jahjah, 31, has flashed across Belgian television screens often in recent months. Dressed in sharply cut suits, he gives a fresh voice to the rage felt by many Arabs in this country and across Europe. He is also forcing Belgium into a deeper conversation about whether the country welcomes immigrants and, more broadly, just who is a Belgian.
To ask those questions is to incite a fiery, complex response from the Lebanese-born Abou Jahjah, who in the days after his release remained holed up in his spartan apartment in a largely immigrant section of this port city.
"My family in the U.S. are Arab American, and they feel [American]. I'm Belgian, and I don't feel it," he said in an interview. "Belgians are unable to be multicultural, because to them, to be Belgian is to be white. So we say we're 'Arab European,' because Europe itself is multicultural and Arabs aren't new in Europe; we helped make Europe what it is today."
That's a lovely quote. Here's what Jahjah says when he isn't talking to the Western press: "We are opposed to the war of Bush and Sharon. We are opposed to the sanctions [against Iraq] and the inspections. This is not the last time we will be on the streets. If war breaks out, we will demonstrate everywhere in the world: in Brussels, Paris, and Baghdad. We have to arm ourselves to continue our struggle. We need to arm all those who want to resist the United States. Because everywhere in the world there is one fight: against the United States. Today and in the future. We support the resistance in Palestine and in Iraq. We support everyone who battles today against zionism and imperialism." (Translated by Mike)
The 1,000 or so core members of his movement are mostly young Arab men disillusioned with Belgian society and high unemployment in their communities. White Belgians, he said in an interview, "can't look at us as equals because, in their minds, we're guests. We have to shut up and obey."
Rhetoric like this has made the country sit up and listen. There has long been anti-immigrant sentiment among many Belgians, said Badra Djait, a professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Leuven whose father emigrated to Belgium from Algeria in the 1960s. "Now, there's a real face, a real target, and it's Abou Jahjah."
One of Abou Jahjah's biggest critics is Belgium's third-largest political party, Vlaams Blok. Like maverick parties elsewhere in Europe, it is tapping sentiment that newcomers are overpowering local society and bringing a rise in street crime, and perhaps terrorism. Across the continent, these feelings appear to have grown since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.
"Our cities have changed into, well, Islamic neighborhoods, with mosques instead of churches, like it's some kind of Islamic state," said a spokesman for Vlaams Blok, Philippe Vander Sande. He denied the party was racist. Its point, he said, is that immigrants can "choose to assimilate with the Belgians, and if they do, they're welcome. If they don't, and say Islamic law and Islamic religion are above our Belgian law, our Western lifestyle, then we say, that's not possible. They must go."
Vlaams Blok wants Abou Jahjah to be stripped of his Belgian citizenship.
Which, as Mike points out, he came by dishonestly. A one-time member of Hezbollah (yes, that Hezbollah), Jahjah emigrated to Belgium in 1992 and claimed that he sought asylum from his former comrades-in-arms. When the Belgians sought to expel Jahjah, he arranged a bogus marriage to a Belgian woman which lasted just long enough for him to get his citizenship.
In the middle is the coalition government of Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt. He once avoided discussing immigration, but following the Antwerp riots, he declared on Belgian television that the Arab European League is a "threat to our society" and thrives "on confrontation and provocation."
In the last two months, the group has staged two large street protests in the capital, Brussels, against U.S. aggression toward Iraq and Israeli policies toward Palestinians. In the next year, it plans to open chapters in the Netherlands and in France, which is home to about 4 million Arabs, the largest such population in Europe.
Because people of Middle Eastern descent comprise about 5 percent of Belgium's 10 million people, he has suggested that Arabic be made the country's fourth official language (Flemish, French and German are the first three) and said he might field candidates in next year's national elections.
In Antwerp, which has a sizable immigrant population, police are sent in force to break up groups of young men of Arab descent who gather on the streets; government leaders view the Muslims who shadow police patrols as illegal vigilante groups and say they frequently curse and spit on officers carrying out routine duties. Many political analysts say the national government's tough new policies are motivated at least in part by hopes of reducing support for Vlaams Blok, which controls about a third of the seats on the Antwerp city council.
Abou Jahjan was born in Beirut and said he joined the Lebanese resistance as a teenager to fight Israel's occupation of Lebanon, and dreamed of studying at the University of Michigan, close to where his relatives live.
Hmmm...What might the name of that Lebanese resistance group be?
The 1991 Persian Gulf War, he said, led him to cancel those plans, and at 19, he moved to Belgium, obtained citizenship through marriage, divorced, mastered the Flemish language and earned degrees in international politics. He is now working on a doctorate, focusing on post-Cold War security.
Funny how the Post ignores the relationship between citizenshiip and marriage.
He observed what he considered to be Arabs being marginalized in Belgian society, and the muted response from established, government-subsidized Arab groups led by first-generation immigrants who came in the 1960s and 1970s as guest workers. "It was obvious the real problems weren't being addressed," he said of these groups, whose leaders have widely dismissed him a radical.
Antwerp remains tense. It is common to see young Arabs with hands raised leaning against storefronts, being frisked vigorously by police. Arabs say the officers often call them makukah, or "white ape"; the phrase is so familiar to youngsters , they've begun calling each other "makukah."
Abou Jahjah said that his Nov. 26 arrest, along with 160 youths allegedly involved in rioting, sent the wrong message to the Muslim community. "Some people in this organization are, shall we say, less patient than I am. So if they eliminate me, what will you have?"
Wait, I recognize that argument! It's usually made by Arafat in reference to Hamas...
A few last notes: One topic which Mike addresses but the Post doesn't is where the AEL's money comes from. AEL refuses Belgian government subsidies, which suggest that it's money comes from abraod. The organization admitted that its lawsuit against Ariel Sharon in Belgian courts was financed from abroad. And parents of young Arab rioters reported that they were offered mobile phones and other gifts in exchange for their participation. That way, perhaps, they can call the Saudi government directly...
UPDATE: Steve Sachs has been kind enough to point out that Time Magazine also ran a profile of Abou Jahjah recently. It's much more balanced than the WaPo piece, but still has some flaws.
For example, Time writes that Abou Jahjah "is not anti-American; in fact, he admires anti-discrimination laws in the U.S." Presumably such laws would help Abou Jahjah carry out the armed struggle against against American imperialism he is in the midst of planning.
In Time, Abou Jahjah also asserts that he "is not a fundamentalist." Perhaps he is right about that. His fondness for European life suggests that he isn't exactly ready to be bound by state-enforced Islamic law.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion