OxBlog

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

# Posted 9:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CHUTZPAH CONTEST: Josh gave first prize to Jimmy Carter's op-ed in today's WaPo. But just like the Nobel Peace Prize, Carter doesn't deserve this award, either. On the very same page of the WaPo, there is a column by Palestinian minister Yasser Abed Rabbo. If you don't have time to read it, just run a word check and see what you come up with for "suicide", "bomb" and "terror."

Random thought: Is the Post trying to embarrass both Carter and Rabbo by putting their columns on the same page?
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# Posted 8:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MOTHER OF ALL IRONIES: Check out this photo of a visiting anti-war protester in Baghdad. While Iraqi soldiers watch, he is holding up a sign that says "No to Racist War." That's really not smart. If any of those soliders read English, they might assume that the guy is protesting Saddam's brutal attacks on the Shiites and the Kurds. And then they might shoot the poor fellow, before recognizing that he's actually on their side. Oh, humanity.
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# Posted 8:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DELUSION OF THE DAY, via Nick Kristof:
If only President Clinton had instituted the 1994 agreement with gusto, flooding North Korea with diplomats, investors, traders and pot-bellied bankers who ostentatiously overeat — without exploding — then monuments to the Great Leader might already have been replaced by American-run Internet cafes.
Hmm. That strategy didn't exactly work in China, now did it? Just ask the Taiwanese -- they probably understand the South Korean's situation better than anyone.

By thew way, how is it that a columnist who won a Pulitzer for his reporting on China didn't recognize the obvious parallel? Sheesh.

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner is onto this one as well, and provides lots of solid evidence that Kristof has no idea what he's talking about.
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# Posted 8:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE AXIS OF JOSH: Marshall and Chafetz, that is. Whereas Marshall has been criticizing the administration from the left, Chafetz has been doing so from the right (I presume).

Even so, their respective perspectives have led them to identical interpretations of the American effort to start talks with North Korea: that it is an embarrassing climb down from our initial hard line.

While I wouldn't rule that out, I think it still far too early to judge. As I explained one week ago, the administration will not compromise its initial position unless it offers concessions before North Korea abandons its nuclear program:
The difference between "before" and "in exchange" is more than a matter of diplomatic semantics. If the North agrees to stop its program before being rewarded, it thereby acknowledges that the US is right on the matter of principle and forgoes the right to resume its program in the future. If such an agreement results from an exchange, then the North can always insist that the US has failed to live up to its side of the bargain, thus releasing the North from its obligations. In light of the North's constant habit of exploiting its nuclear program to demand foreign aid, the "before" vs. "in exchange" distinction becomes quite important.
At the moment, the administration has been very precise in its insistence that concessions will follow a North Korean renunciation and not come at the same time. According to James Kelly:
Once we get beyond nuclear weapons, there may be opportunities with the U.S., with private investors, with other countries to help North Korea in the energy area.
While we're talking about Korea, it's worth thinking about this quotation from Roh Moo Hyun for just a minute: "The South Korea-U.S. alliance was precious, is now still precious and will continue to be important in the future." Whereas Josh Marshall described Roh's election as one of many "hostile reactions to America's newly strident and confrontational stance in the world", OxBlog had no doubts that Roh would start backtracking on his campaign rhetoric the same way Gerhard Schroeder did. So, let me get this out of my system: I TOLD YOU SO!!!

UPDATE: CalPundit asks: Is anyone really fooled by this business of insisting that there's a difference between North Korea agreeing to give up its nukes before we agree to an aid package vs. giving up its nukes in exchange for an aid package? When the piece of paper eventually gets signed, after all, the agreements are all going to happen at one time. First of all, I wouldn't count on a simul-signing. Would the administration really give that kind of gift to its critics? Speaking more substantively, the difference between "before" and "in exchange" will affect the contents of the agreement -- see above.
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# Posted 4:37 AM by Daniel  

SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE....ISRAELI PRIME MINISTERS. Yes, Mr. Safire , we know that you are good friends with Ariel Sharon. And we do recognize that you even have his home phone number.

What struck me most from Sharon I mean Safire's column was the Prime Minister's moderate tone: "I won't put myself in the hands of any radical parties, neither of the left nor of the right. I can't have those who want to give up everything or those who want to keep everything. I need the center because we have to take painful steps." It might have been mere electoral positioning....but he has certainly governed more moderately than most expected.
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Monday, January 13, 2003

# Posted 9:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL: David Brooks' op-ed on Americans' paradoxical support for tax cuts has been generating lots of comments just about everywhere. Matt Yglesias, citing TNR blog &c., says Brooks is a charlatan. In contrast, CalPundit thinks Brooks has cut straight to the heart of the matter.

In short, Brooks argues that Americans' unflagging belief that they are (or soon will be) rich leads them to support tax cut plans that favor the rich. The best response to this is &c.'s point that if Americans really favored tax cuts for the rich, Bush wouldn't have to spend so much time pretending that his tax cuts benefit all Americans equally.

While that response has merit, I think it's too simple. My guess is that most Americans are willing to swallow the administration's rhetoric without thinking twice because they are optimistic about their personal welfare. &c. is right that no one would support a tax cut the President described as a reward for the rich. But since Americans are pretty happy with their standard of living, they also won't invest the time it takes to figure out whether the Democrats or the Republicans have better statistics. I guess that's democracy.

UPDATE: Matt says thinks this is a pretty good explanation.
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# Posted 8:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HAMAS NOT BACKING SHARON: It seems that almost every Palestinian terror organization is taking credit for last week's bombings in Tel Aviv. However, "authoritative Israeli observers now believe that it was Tanzim, another of Fatah's militias that actually shed the blood." It's Arafat, not Hamas, who's backing Sharon. This time, however, Arafat's help may not be enough.

Looking on the bright side, at least there's something which Fatah and Hamas can agree on.
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# Posted 8:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SENTINEL OF DEMOCRACY: You can always count on Jackson Diehl to tell the stories about democracy promotion that others ignore. This time, his subject is Cuba.
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# Posted 8:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STILL INTERESTED IN NORTH KOREA: Josh Marshall has plenty more commentary up today, with some interesting background about US negotiator James Kelly.

I'm not going to respond in detail, since I really want to get back to writing about the Middle East. My intention is to jump back in again when we know whether the President is going to try for a truly innovative and comprerehensive deal with the North Koreans, or just climb down from its hardline rhetoric and cut a deal with the North.
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# Posted 7:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I'M CONFUSED: The WaPo has a moderately interesting story on the steady stream of foreign anti-war protestersarriving in Baghdad. According to one of them, "We're here out of no love for the current regime, but we're also opposed to the arrogant American position that we know what's best for the Iraqi people."

Where to begin? First of all, America's proposal to democratize Iraq means that the Iraqi people will be able to decide for themselves what's best for them. While there is no question that some of them will die as a result of the American attack, the fact that thousands of Iraqis have taken up arms against Saddam shows that they are quite familar with the Western concept of sacrificing one's life in the name of freedom.

Second, aren't the protesters insisting just as arrogantly as the US government that they know what's best for the Iraqi people? They're certainly not doing anything to help the world figure out what the average Iraqi really thinks.

Third, why are the protests so focused on the US? Doesn't the fact that the entire Security Council told Iraq that it has to disarm suggest that it, too, has pretentions of knowing what's best for the Iraqi people?

Fourth, if the opinion of the 300,000 Iraqi immigrants in the US counts for anything, then the US should tell the UN to go to hell and liberate Iraq right now.

There isn't much point in arguing, though. I'm just venting. The only real test of the protesters commitment to their ideals is an impossible one: whether they could observe first-hand what happens in Saddam's torture chambers and come out still insisting that the US and the UN don't know what's best for the Iraqi people.
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# Posted 7:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"WORLD ON FIRE" is the title of a new book by Yale Law Professor Amy Chua. According to this review in Salon, the book's main point is that promoting democracy too aggressively can provoke a dangerous backlash. Or as the book's subtitle puts it: "How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Violence and Global Instability."

I must admit I am skeptical, but I will approach the book with an open mind. Who knows. Perhaps I will come away as a convert, determined to ensure a gradual transition from dictatorship to liberation. Prof. Chua's recent op-ed in the NYT wasn't all that bad and provides a good summary of her basic argument.

Chua argued that the current crisis in Venezuela reflects tensions between the white business elite and the darker Pres. Chavez. She also condemns the Bush administration for supporting a business-led anti-Chavez coup last November. On the second point, I stand behind Chua 100%. The United States should never seek to oust an elected leader who respects the basic principles of democracy and human rights. Chavez wasn't great on those points, but he is hardly the worst elected leader out there.

Chua's decision to hold racial tension responsible for the Venezuelan crisis seems somewhat strange, though. Has she considered the fact that Chavez's scattershot socialist ideology and heavy-handed governing style are responsible for the chaos in Venezuela? The problem there isn't that the markets are too free or the politics too democratic, but rather that Venezuela's markets and politics are not free enough. But I may be wrong.
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# Posted 6:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IRAQ'S TALIBAN: The NYT has in-depth coverage of Ansar al Islam, the fundamentalist guerrilla organization that has imposed its brutal variant of Islamic law on the villages of Northern Iraq which it controls.

Ansar al Islam has connection to Al Qaeda and recieves arms from the government of Iran. But if America stands behind its commitment to promoting democracy in the Middle East, Ansar al Islam will not be Iraq's future.
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# Posted 6:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I HAVE A DREAM that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
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# Posted 6:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AAAUUUGGGGHHHH!!! Even Charlie Brown's baseball team comes through in the clutch more often than the Jets. Final score: 30-10. The Jets gave up 17 points off of turnovers. Face facts: There are just some teams that aren't tough enough to survive in the playoffs.

But let's think about the big picture. The team that really matters is Team USA. We're the team that wins where it really counts: in the battle of ideas. And we're the only superpower, a sort of global amalgamation of Montana's 49ers, Jordan's Bulls, and Joe Torre's Yanks.

Knowing that it was not a good idea, I shared this thought with a friend who was watching the game with me. He's American alright, but he makes Susan Sontag look like Jesse Helms. And ironically enough, he's a New England Patriots fan. Though, of course, he doesn't find that ironic. Well, I guess sorta felt like picking a fight since I was pissed off about my team losing. That's disturbing, because means it means I really am picking up British habits. Or perhaps I'm just the only football hooligan who follows the NFL.
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Sunday, January 12, 2003

# Posted 3:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MARTYRS OF THE FAITH: In just an hour and a half, I will march off to my college's rec room to watch the Jets battle Oakland for a shot at the AFC title. But what does that mean? What does it really mean? I think Mike Vaccaro puts it pretty well in today's NYP (That's the New York Post, dammit! Just because OxBlog doesn't link to it every doesn't mean it any less important than any other newspaper.) As Vaccaro says,
You are a Jets fan, raised on heartbreak, reared on futility, nourished by 34 years of abject failure. You are trained to expect the worst, to understand that prosperity is only a mirage, to be wary of the next calamity lurking around every corner...

You are the king of pain. You watched the end of that Giants game last week, saw the world turn upside down, and smiled knowingly. Hell, you know a vintage Jets moment when it happens, even when it happens to someone else...You have waited an entire lifetime for this, or at least since that windswept day at Shea Stadium in December 1968 when Joe Willie Namath led the Jets on that late drive to win the AFL title...

[Raiders fans] have no idea the sense of relief, and release, that accompanied every second of that 41-0 victory over the Colts last week. They have no idea about the awful, nagging sense that something was bound to go wrong. And they certainly cannot appreciate the odd way things have broken for the Jets across the last three weeks. Only you can understand that...

You don’t want to call this a dream scenario because all dreams end eventually. And you want this to last for a good, long while. You should. You’re a Jets fan. God knows, you’ve earned it.
My prediction? Raiders 28, Jets 20. Call me a traitor, but I'd rather suffer the slings and arrows of your criticism than jinx our best shot at the Super Bowl in 34 years.
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# Posted 2:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HAWKS ATTACK BUSH: I'm still behind the President on this one, but if you think we have to be tougher with the North Koreans, then check out these articles by Kristol & Kagan, John McCain and a pair of right-wing think-tankers.
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# Posted 2:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE DANGERS OF PATRIOTISM: Believe or not, the Weekly Standard has declared that excessive patriotism is a threat to America's cultural integrity. The evidence: the Motion Picture Academy's refusal to give Oscars to brilliant foreign films such as The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.

Cute. Very cute. While we're at it, why not argue the underrepresenation of elves and orcs among studio executives demonstrates a racial bias? Face it. The Two Towers won't win because it was two-thirds boring.
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# Posted 2:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FRONT PAGE "NEWS": The WaPo headline shouts: "U.S. Decision On Iraq Has Puzzling Past; Opponents of War Wonder When, How Policy Was Set"

The article then begins with this surprising revelation:
On Sept. 17, 2001, six days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush signed a 2½-page document marked "TOP SECRET" that outlined the plan for going to war in Afghanistan as part of a global campaign against terrorism.

Almost as a footnote, the document also directed the Pentagon to begin planning military options for an invasion of Iraq...
The article then says that Bush hid his intentions from the public for more than three months, until the Axis of Evil speech demonstrated that Iraq was on the President's mind. But even then, we didn't know what the President had in mind for Iraq.

Then, a ways into the article, we get this quote from John Ikenberry, a Georgetown prof fond of lambasting American imperialism:
The external presentation and the justification for [Bush's Iraq policy] really seems to be lacking...[but] the external presentation appears to mirror the internal decision-making quite a bit.
In other words, there is absolutely no "puzzling past" behind the administration's policy on Iraq. Only if you start from the premise that Bush has a secret plan does it seem like the administration's stance is puzzling.

In fact, the administration's Iraq policy is a straightforward reflection of political struggles within the administration that have made the front page of every national newspaper for almost twelve months now. All Glenn Kessler had to do to discover this fact was read "Bush at War", the inside account of administration politics produced by Kessler's WaPo colleague Bob Woodward. Then again, perhaps he didn't have time.

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# Posted 1:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: Pardon the adjective, but in a somewhat hysterical editorial, the NY Times denounces the Bush administation's pro-life agenda as nothing more than a hypocritical attack on Roe v. Wade.

Alarmism aside, the Times makes some good points. If saving unborn lives were truly the administration's priority, it would increase the availability of sex education and contraceptives. After all, you can't get an abortion if you don't get pregnant. (And while I admire the ambition of those who preach abstinence, I think it's about time for conservatives to admit that no one is ever going to stop America's youth from getting its groove on.)

But here's an even more radical solution to the GOP's struggle to reconcile its secular pro-life stance with religious conservatives' aversion to latex: support gay rights. After all, how many lesbians have abortions? How many gay men ever got their partners pregnant?

Then again, that idea probably won't get all that much support from the Christian Coaltion either. But it is time for the religious right to start thinking strategically. If conservatives are serious when they say abortion is murder, than they should subordinate the rest of their social agenda to the struggle against abortion.

Besides, the campaigns against homosexuality and premarital sex are never going to succeed. While I am strongly pro-choice, even I recognize that banning abortion is one of the few Christian Right causes that has a chance to become law.

If the fundamentalists will not subordinate these other causes to the struggle against abortion, it will only confirm what moderate and non-Christians have long suspected: that what the Christian right elevates above all else is not the sanctity of human life, but rather the struggle to establish the law of the Bible as the law of the land.

PS I came up with the phrase "Blog Cabin Republicans" all by myself, then ran it through Google to see who else had come up with it before I did. As far as I can tell, the only mention of it was back in September 1999 over at a site called The BradLands. In addition, the Georgia branch of the Log Cabin Republicans has a section on its website called "Blog Cabin", but never puts the whole phrase together.
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Saturday, January 11, 2003

# Posted 6:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLOG TOO MUCH? Glenn Reynolds writes:
I was dozing just now while my daughter was playing with her dolls. I dreamed I was in a Denny's-like restaurant where the menu items had a blogger theme. The Egg McMuffin equivalent was something called "The English Idiotarian," and featured a menu blurb stating that "Robert Fisk himself would be proud to order this hearty. . ." I wish I'd slept long enough to read the whole menu!
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# Posted 6:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FEELING LIKE MY OLD SELF AGAIN: Having spent the last couple of weeks defending the Bush administration's North Korea policy from liberal depredations, I'd begun to wonder whether I had become physically unable to criticize the President. What happened to the David of yore, whose unflagging criticism of the administration's incompetent diplomacy led Mr. Chafetz to throw down the gauntlet and demand that I provide evidence to back up my charges?

Well, that David is back. Take a look at this story about the NSC's hesitation to share intelligence with the UN inspectors in Iraq. I think sharing intelligence is good, even if the Blix Boys haven't shown themselves to be latter-day Sherlock Holmeses.

But the real question is this: Why didn't the Bush administration work out an intelligence sharing plan as soon as the UN passed Resolution 1441? As I said the last time this question came up, the answer is that the administration just can't think one step ahead when it comes to working with the UN. With Powell spending all his time convincing the President to work with the UN and Rumsfeld & Cheney spending all of their time trying to stop Powell, there is no one left to think about how to make US-UN cooperation effective.

Now, was it reasonable to ask that the administration recognize in advance that a lack of intelligence sharing might become an obstacle to effective inspections? Well, OxBlog pointed out the problem almost two months ago. And while one can't expect Condi to read OxBlog, my concerns were based on a report in the NY Times.

Next question: Does intelligence sharing matter? Absolutely. The French and British are now calling for further inspections, since Blix hasn't found a smoking gun. In other words, they don't want Bush making a final decision about whether or not invade at the end of this month.

But what will the inspectors find if given more time? In addition to the hawks who have always dismissed inspections as pointless, there are moderates who have long insisted that finding a smoking gun simply isn't possible.

Bush himself insisted way back in October, "Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud." On the other hand, he hasn't shown that he is willing to act unilaterally regardless of how much he talks about it.

Now, to be fair, things haven't spun out of control just yet. Jan. 27 is still a couple of weeks away. And the US buildup is set to reach 150,000 troops in the coming weeks. But the clock is ticking and the game is afoot.
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# Posted 6:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE FOR MORE: At the end of long column that seems to be going nowhere, the Times' Bill Keller suddenly makes very solid point about North Korea. It begins with this question:
Does anybody have a plan that makes sense?

Actually, yes. Back in 1999 the National Defense University assembled a team of Asia experts to draft a strategy for dealing with North Korea. It came to be known as "more for more": we would expect more from the North Koreans, including rigorous inspections, a full accounting of their nuclear history, and an end to missile exports. We would offer more in return — financial aid (including speeding construction of the two promised light-water reactors, which are stalled), guarantees that North Korea will not be attacked if it keeps its promises, and eventually normal diplomatic relations. The plan contained a dash of testosterone — intercepting missile exports, even a cautious mention of "pre-emption" if all else fails — but mostly it depended on lots and lots of, pardon the expression, negotiations and quid pro quo. The proposal was comprehensive, hard-nosed, multilateral and level-headed.

Maybe President Bush should hire the guy in charge of that report.

He already has. It's Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Maybe what Mr. Bush should do now is listen to him.
Now, I still think that North Korea should have to renounce its nuclear program before we start offering them anything in return. But once we do get down to business, I think we have trade more for more. If we don't, we'll just have to face this problem again and again.

(Of course, negotiations may be futile if what Kim wants most really is a nuclear bomb.)
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# Posted 4:57 PM by Daniel  

AMERICA'S IMAGE. Our friend Matt Spence writes about perceptions of America abroad. He argues that we are "losing the war in public diplomacy." I do agree with him--but how do we win it? Changing "how we talk about our policies" is woefully insufficient. Our best friends really becoming out best enemies due to our rhetoric? Increasing foreign educational, democratic, technical, and humanitarian aid is a start toward improving our image abroad. We want other countries to want what we want.

A member of Congress said that America needed to take time to explain, not discuss, its position to the world and was criticized for doing so. What would "discussions" produce?
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Friday, January 10, 2003

# Posted 10:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PEJMAN GETS MEDIEVAL ON THEIR A&*%$: Pej defends Tolkien on the charge of being an escapist Luddite.

Pej says that, in fact, the defenders of Helm's Deep made reasonable use of technology in holding off the orc hordes. Yet you don't have to be Advanced Dungeons & Dragons expert (which I once was, circa 1991) to know just how awful the defenders' tactics were. If you read the first reader response to Pej's post, you get a pretty good idea of just how many simple medieval technologies might have helped Aragorn etc. hold off the hordes.

But the real Luddites are the ones who built Helm's Deep (or Peter Jackson's version of it). Who the hell puts just one door on the main gate of a massive fortress? But if you read this, you'll see that old Pete isn't all that interested in being faithful to the reality of Middle Earth.

CLARIFICATON: Reader AH e-mails to remind me that there were, in fact, two doors at the main gate to Helm's Deep. The second door is the small (weak, unreinforced) one that Aragorn and Gimli slip out of. So, to be clear, what I meant to say is that I expected the architects of any decent fortress to have two doors one behind the other at the main gate, so that if the first were broken down, the second could be defended.

Moreover, the positioning of the doors makes a big difference. If any of you have visited the Old City of Jerusalem, you will notice that the gates to the City have outer doors that are perpindicular to their inner doors. If that's hard to imagine, just think of a small, covered L-shaped passageway connecting the two. Now why go to all that trouble? Because if someone (orcs, Babylonians, whoever) tries to use a battering ram, they can't fit it inside the passageway that leads to the inner doors. Oh boy. If the widows of Rohan read this, Aragorn is going to get slapped silly.
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# Posted 10:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IS SLEEP DEPRIVATION TORTURE? Ask your average investment banker. They should know. But seriously, take a look at this CalPundit post on reports that US is using interrogation methods that come close to being torture. Kevin is right that this should be a bigger issue. This is a war for hearts and minds, and hypocrisy will cost us dearly.
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# Posted 9:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TURNING THE TABLES ON TPM: In his first ever post at Winds of Change, Trent Telenko says that Josh Marshall has opened a pandora's box by focusing on what Clinton's national security team knew about North Korea's weapons program.

While Marshall says that outgoing Clinton officials briefed their incoming Bush counterparts on the North Korean uranium program, Telenko links to this article which says that the Clinton team knew while negotiating the 1994 pact that North Korea may have had already developed nuclear warheads. It's hard to know what will come of that charge though, since the evidence seems to consist entirely of statements by North Korean defectors. Then again, it was defectors who led UN inspectors straight to Saddam's hidden cache.
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# Posted 9:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FOREIGN AIDS: Nick Kristof reports that "the U.S. is now donating only 300 million condoms annually, down from about 800 million at the end of the first President Bush's term." Presumably, then, domestic demand for condoms shot up by 500 million units per year during the Clinton era.
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# Posted 9:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MEMO FROM CLINTON TO SHARON: Lying only works before you've been caught. It looks like only Hamas can save Arik now...
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# Posted 8:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOMELAND "INS"ECURITY: If there's one agency that should overhauled before joining the Department of Homeland Security, the INS is it. Its officals must be the only law enforcement agents who can't even get racial-profiling right.
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# Posted 8:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ON JOSH'S BEHALF: David Ignatius says that the US has Al Qaeda on the run despite top officials focus on Iraq.
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Thursday, January 09, 2003

# Posted 9:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A POST NOT ABOUT NORTH KOREA. The rebellion has begun. My brain has demanded the right to think about something other than the mind-boggling intricacies of US-North Korean relations.

As everyone knows, when thoughtless relaxation is called for, there is only one answer: Professional wrestling. Some of you may know that what was once called the WWF had to change its name to the WWE because some panda-hugging granola-munchers decided that they the name WWF could not be shared.

Back when I lived in DC, I'd watch Raw and Smackdown every week. Nothing made me happier than a Triple HHH title defense or hearing Mick Foley say "Have a nice day!"

Without a television of my own at Oxford, keeping up with the fast-paced world of pro wrestling hasn't been easy. At first, I turned to the ever dependable Rajah to keep me updated. But if you can't watch the show, it just isn't the same.

Last week, however, I managed to catch around half-an-hour of Raw on Sky cable. It was then that I met Chris Nowinski, one of the most hilarious characters the WWF has ever come up with. Chris' gimmick is that he is "very proud of his degree from Harvard". He wrestles in crimson trunks with a big white 'H' on his ass.

Where did any come up with an idea like that? Actually, I would think it's self-evident. Everyone hates Harvard. Nowinski is sure to become a legendary villian, right up there with the Iron Sheik and The Million Dollar Man.

What's really great about all this is that Nowinski actually went to Harvard. If you click here, you can even see him give a tour of the Harvard campus. (Click here and then click on the box that says Videos") In the ring, Nowinski does things hit the other wrestlers with books.

So, for all those people who told me that my interest in pro wrestling was stupid and childish, I say this: Who cares?

UPDATE: Josh Heit, aka Mr. Reality TV, reminds me that the WWE did not create Chris Nowinski's character, but rather that Nowinski used the gimmick while still a contestant on MTV's Tough Enough. In real-life, though, Chris claims to be a down to earth midwesterner who learned how to be a snob by watching other students at Harvard. Big surprise there. (Ooooh! Yale cheap shot!)

UPDATE: Reader SG writes: "I'm just as glad Mr. Nowinski doesn't wear blue with a Y on his rear, aren't you?" Yeah, I guess not. But if Nowinski had gone to Yale, he might give me free tickets!!!

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# Posted 8:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WARMING UP TO KIM JONG IL: CalPundit asks: "Do we have a leg to stand on when we claim that they 'violated our trust'"?

Now, it wouldn't be very interesting if someone who supports the administration's North Korea policy, i.e. me, answered Kevin's question in the affirmative. But what if he got a 'yes' from The Agonist, who has endorsed almost everything Josh Marshall has said about Korea?

If you don't believe me, take a look at The Agonist's close reading of the 1994 Agreed Framework. (NB: The link to the post itself is not working, so I've linked to the page on at www.agonist.org. Just search the text for "Agreed Framework") So in case you doubted it, yes, North Korea violated our trust.
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# Posted 8:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SOMEONE ELSE VS. JOSH MARSHALL: TPM's conservative-bashing continues with this post about proposals to withdraw US troops from North Korea. Marshall says the idea is too clever by half, that we shouldn't be threatening to abandon our allies.

He also points out that abandoning South Korea would only expose it to nuclear blackmail from the North. An excellent point. Which is why OxBlog made it two weeks ago.

Daniel Drezner responds that the idea of a withdrawal isn't as absurd as it sounds, since we ought to at least ask ourselves whether the demands of South Korea's citizens are legitimate. Another good point. As OxBlog has said, "It is these same citizens who have made South Korea the strong democracy that it now is, and their opinion must be respected."

So is OxBlog trying to straddle the fence? No, not really. I agree with Daniel that wanting the US out isn't what South Koreans really want. As I said before, "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."

Now let me add this: South Koreans are willing to protest to vehemently precisely because they know that the US will not withdraw. As is the case in Europe, US security guarantees make those we protect confident enough to criticize us. While conservative often feel that such behavior reflects ingratitude (and it often does), it is precisely this ability to let off steam that makes our alliances work.

NATO has lasted for five decades because all of it members could speak their minds even if they couldn't always have their way. Speaking more broadly, what makes democratic states such good allies for each other is that the norm of respecting free speech leads them to tolerate criticism from their alliance partners. It may not always be easy, but its a helluva lot better than winding up the way the Soviets and the Chinese did.
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# Posted 6:31 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOONESBURY HAS HART: Garry Trudeau weighs in on the ex-Senator's prospects. Seems like he has Antwaun and Will all figured out... (Thanks to KJ for spotting this.)

PS How about this for a match-up in '08: Gary Hart and Bret "The Hit Man" Hart vs. Condi Rice and Donna Rice? Voter turnout would go through the roof!
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Wednesday, January 08, 2003

# Posted 8:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CALLED OUT BY CALPUNDIT: Kevin asks how I could criticize all those who demanded negotiations with North Korea, then turn around and endorse Bush's decision to talk.

There's a fairly straightforward answer to that. Cited verbatim on Kevin's site is my statement that Bush's decision "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." The key word there is before.

In contrast, Kevin and other critics have demanded negotiations without preconditions in which the US offers North Korea concessions in exchange for stopping its nuclear program. (It is my privilege, of course, to point out for the umpteenth time that only Kevin has actually admitted that negotiating without preconditions entails concessions.)

The difference between "before" and "in exchange" is more than a matter of diplomatic semantics. If the North agrees to stop its program before being rewarded, it thereby acknowledges that the US is right on the matter of principle and forgoes the right to resume its program in the future. If such an agreement results from an exchange, then the North can always insist that the US has failed to live up to its side of the bargain, thus releasing the North from its obligations. In light of the North's constant habit of exploiting its nuclear program to demand foreign aid, the "before" vs. "in exchange" distinction becomes quite important.

Now, Josh Marshall has argued that the administration is in the middle of an embarrassing climb-down which will end in its accepting North Korea's preconditions. If that turns out to be the case, then I'll eat my words. If not, I'll expect some reciprocal penance from my honorable foes.
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# Posted 8:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MARSHALL ROLLS THE DICE: Up until now, I have been an unforgiving critic of Josh Marshall's one-man war on the Bush administration's North Korea policy. But today, Marshall comes up with some evidence that may turn the tide in his favor.

Citing the Nelson Report, Marshall says that outgoing Clinton administration officials briefed incoming Bush appointees about the existence of North Korea's illegal uranium-enrichment. This fact is expected to make the transition from rumor truth when the Clinton officials in question testify before Congress on the current crisis.

Citing the Nelson Report again, Marshall says that the administration had no idea that it might provoke a crisis when it confronted the North Koreans about the uranium program. For the moment, this point remains undocumented as well.

Put these two facts together, and you come to Marshall's conclusion that the administration's current effort to open talks with the North is not a well-planned strategy to secure a better deal than Clinton did in 1994, but an emergency face-saving maneuver designd to end a confrontation it never wanted to provoke in the first place.

In the coming days, we'll see who's right. In the meantime, take a look at Fareed Zakaria's column on North Korea. Marshall praises it highly becuase Zakaria also intimates that the administration is trying to save face after realizing that it has no strategy for dealing with North Korea. But Zakaria also says that if the US negotiates well, it could "significantly improve on the Clinton deal" of 1994. And that may happen because Bush chose to stand up to the North rather than rushing into negotiations.
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# Posted 7:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIEBERMAN GORES BUSH: I expected better from Senator Joe. In a WaPo op-ed, he blames the North Korean crisis on Bush's decision to confront the North after discovering its secret weapons program. Instead, he says, we should've negotiated right away.

Like every other critic of the administration (except the honorable CalPundit), Lieberman refuses to say we actually should've rewarded the North's violation of our trust.

There is a more serious flaw in Lieberman's argument, however. As Michael Kelly explains, negotiating right away is exactly what the North wanted. They have a long record of exploiting their nuclear weapons program to get foreign aid. Negotiating right away would've shown them that the US will let them get away with it.

As I understand it, the administration wants to emerge from this crisis with a guarantee that the North will not pull any more fast ones. If Bush's comes away with less, I'll be disappointed. But at least he tried.

Final question: Why would Lieberman want to challenge Bush on national security issues after supporting him so firmly on Iraq? Perhaps to show his fellow partisans that he is not an elephant in donkey's clothing. But who really thought that?

It seems Lieberman, like his former running mate, just doesn't understand that credibility on national security issues is not something that a Democratic candidate can take for granted.
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# Posted 7:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

VIVE LA GUERRE! French Pres. Jacques Chirac has begun telling his troops that they may have to fight. The WaPo says it's because Chirac was dismayed by Iraq's evasive report to the UN last month.

Of course, France will only fight if the UN authorizes military action. Frankly, I'm getting a little tired of hearing that one. If France backs a war, Russia and China will follow. France knows that it is the swing vote on the council.

Then again, Chirac has a domestic audience to play to, so we can't expect too much from him before Iraq does something provocative. Let's see what he says on Thursday, when the UN inspectors are expected to criticize Iraq for withholding critical information.
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# Posted 6:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE IRAQI EXILE SQUABBLING: No surprise here. It just goes to show that Condi was right to side with the State Department and deny the exiles any official role in US occupation plans.
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Tuesday, January 07, 2003

# Posted 6:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RECYCLING THE NEWS. Three op-eds on North Korea today. All the same as last week's. Nick Kristof says we have to negotiate. Yet just like every other administration critic except for CalPundit, he can't bring himself to say that we should actually make concessions.

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  

PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS: In a surprise move, the US, Japan and South Korea have declared that it is "willing to talk to North Korea about how it will meet its obligations to the international community," i.e. get rid of its nuclear weapons program.

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...
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# Posted 5:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JEWS AND LIGHTBULBS: Kesher Talk has the low down on this controversial subject. For example, how many Orthodox Rabbis does it take to change a lightbulb? Click here for the answer.

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  

EXERCISE YOUR 2nd AMENDMENT RIGHTS! I was thinking of taking up hunting. Not because I support the NRA (which I don't), but because I think it is important to recognize that animals do not simply become food.

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 spokesman
I 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  

A CREATIVE IDEA from OxBlog reader Wretchard: The US could respond [to North Korean demands] by remaining silent on "nonagression" but by redeploying the US troops in South Korea away from the border. This would effectively appear to be a peaceful move [even though] removing [the] 2nd Infantry from the border would actually be an offensive deployment [because it would increase the mobility and striking power of US troops].

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.
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# Posted 3:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH GETS SERIOUS ABOUT DEMOCRACY: In Iraq. The NYT has a long article today on plans for the postwar occupation.

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.
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# Posted 2:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPIES LIKE US: Saddam now says the UN inspectors are spies. If so, they must be some of the most incompetent spies ever. They haven't found anything, and they let their cover get blown!

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  

IS ATRIOS KIM JONG IL? The WaPo has published a profile of Kim Jong Il, full of the usual amusing anecdotes. It seems Mr. Kim browses the web for around two hours per day, thus leading to the obvious question: Is Atrios really Kim Jong Il?

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.
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# Posted 2:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BE VEWY, VEWY QUIET!!! The IAEA has decided not to forward its condemnation of North Korea to the Security Council, but nonetheless described the situation as "urgent". IAEA Mohammed ElBaradei stated that "I hope (North Korea) will seize this opportunity. Complaince and not defiance is the way towards a solution."

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  

IN MEMORIAM -- THE VISSER VIEW (2002 -2002): Born in a land below sea-level, Dutchman Michael Visser quickly rose to prominence in the blogosphere by giving us the news that that mainstream media wouldn't. With much work ahead of him in the next six months as he prepares for (surprise, surprise) more graduate school, Michael has decided to cast off his virtual coil, condemning the Visser View to the netherworld of the Netherlands. Farewell.
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Sunday, January 05, 2003

# Posted 11:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE DEFINITIVE ARTICLE ON US DEMOCRACY PROMOTION: Thomas Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment is the leading authority on democracy promotion. His book, Aiding Democracy Abroad, is a must read for every Washington resident with an interest in promoting democracy abroad. Less well known -- but no less impressive is his first book -- which covers US democracy promotion in Latin America under Reagan.

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.
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# Posted 10:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WILD CARD GAME: No, not in the NFL. In East Asia. The Council on Foreign Relations addresses the common question of whether China will help the resolve the North Korean crisis. Answer: Maybe.
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# Posted 10:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PREACHING TO THE CONVERTED: Is it OK, if sometimes, instead of reading to learn, you read out of spite? I sort of felt that way while reading this Weekly Standard piece about the Palestinians. It didn't say much new, but it said it well. Here is a sampling of some of the goodies:
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.
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# Posted 9:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MULTIPOLARITY IS BETTER. At least in the NFL. Now say it with me: J-E-T-S...JETS, JETS, JETS!
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# Posted 3:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ISLAM AND DEMOCRACY: SAUDI ARABIA. I admit it. I've been somewhat derelict in providing the posts on Islam and democracy which I promised both long ago and just last week. I blame Kim Jong Il.

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  

HAMAS BACKS SHARON: Sucide bombers kill 19 in Tel Aviv. It's as if Hamas (or Fatah?) wanted Sharon to emerge from this month's elections with an even stronger mandate.
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# Posted 3:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AND A PSYCHIC AS WELL: It turns that Sean-Paul, the Renaissance Man and jack-of-all-trades known as The Agonist, is also a psychic. He told me he has a new post up on North Korea and that I would like even though I wouldn't disagree with it. Well, he's right.

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.''
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# Posted 12:27 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WISH THEY ALL COULD BE CALIFORNIA: Kevin Drum, aka CalPundit, has the guts to say what no other critic of the administration has: that negotiating means rewarding the North Koreans for their deception.

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  

I PROFESS IGNORANCE: According to the NYT's editors, "The American people are confused by the contradictions between their government's approach to North Korea and Iraq, and frustrated by the sudden lack of clarity in their government's foreign policy."

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.
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# Posted 11:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CONSCIENCE ACTING UP AGAIN? In an effort to build bridges to the cynics, Tom Friedman tries to explain why some part of this war is about oil. Unfortunately, he can't seem to figure out which part.

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.
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# Posted 8:06 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CONSERVATIVE EXCESS: Eugene Volokh, who happens to be at a conference right now with Glenn Reynolds, put up this post before heading out for the weekend.

PS TMI Glenn, TMI.
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Friday, January 03, 2003

# Posted 10:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHY IRAQ BUT NOT NORTH KOREA? The Wall Street Journal explains. Thanks to Pejman for the link.
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# Posted 9:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STILL ANTI-AMERICAN? Daniel Drezner takes an innovative and balanced look at the charge that the Bush administration is aggressive, unilateralist and tone deaf. Also see his related posts here and here.

And while you're at, read Andrew Sullivan's post on Paul Krugman latest anti-American pronouncement.
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# Posted 9:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHEN DOVES ATTACK, PART III: OxBlog is in hot water. In my posts on North Korea yesterday and the day before, I referred to a number of fellow bloggers, including Josh Marshall, CalPunditand The Agonist as doves. I was mistaken and I take it back.

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?

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.
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  

THAT IS, LIKE, SO SUPERFICIAL, DUDE: Patrick Ruffini takes a look at why anti-Americanism in Europe is only skin deep. Here's the clincher:
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.
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# Posted 7:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHEN DOVES ATTACK, PART II: "The Agonist" is the nom de blog of a fellow student of International Relations who has traveled the world in search of truth, enlightenment, and investment capital. Sean-Paul has even taught English in South Korea, which perhaps explains why his posts are so much more intelligent than those of the elder Democratic statesmen who polemicize in the NY Times.

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.
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