OxBlog

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

# Posted 11:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DIDN'T DOWD IT: Spinsanity teaches MoDo a lesson in interpreting poll results.
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# Posted 11:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SADDAM IN A BOX: Mort Halperin thinks we should reinforce the status quo. Innocents Abroad knows better.
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# Posted 8:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG VS. ISRAEL? Yesterday, OxBlog praised the WaPo's in-depth account of a brutal firefight in the Gaza Strip.

Yet, as both reader IW and fellow blogger Judith Weiss pointed out, the same story that I praised has become the subject of a five-fingered fisking by Meryl Yourish.

What gives? After all, OxBlog is usually the first to denounce anti-Israel media bias. In this instance, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that while Meryl makes some good points, she is grasping at straws.

Here's why:

The article begins with the classic image of a Palestinian boy, 13-year old Mohammed Jibril, terrified by Israeli tanks and helicopters. That's cliche, but not exactly unfair. Moreover, Mohammed isn't all that innocent. For some reason, he is running around at night with his father, brother, and a number of other men, most of whom
"were shooting at [Israeli Lt. Col. Tal] Hermoni's tanks with AK-47 assault rifles...[Jibril] also saw some Palestinian fighters throwing hand grenades and others in black ski masks planting mines in the paths of the tanks."
Talk about lax parenting. Anyway, the Post's correspondent, Molly Moore, then interrupts her narrative to tell us the point of her article:
"That [this] has been the consistent pattern of the grueling standoff between Palestinians and Israelis: urban guerrillas armed with assault rifles and homemade explosives battling a military partially financed with U.S. money and equipped with some of the most lethal fighting machines in the world. The result is a startling imbalance in casualties."
Meryl thinks that this reference to US financing is bascially an implicit statement that US support for the Israeli government is responsible for Palestinian deaths. While references to US financing tend to have critical connotations, Moore's description of the Israelis' opponents as "Palestinian gunmen" and "urban guerrillas" suggest that the Israelis are hitting the right targets. If this were a story about innocent civilans lost in the crossfire, Meryl might be right. But it isn't.

Surprisingly, Meryl doesn't comment on the following paragraph, which seems to be lifted directly from the New York Times'anti-Israel repertoire:
"Approximately one of every four Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip has been a child or youth under the age of 18 who, in many instances, was playing, sleeping or standing in the wrong place at the wrong time, according to an analysis of tallies from three Palestinian human rights organizations that monitor deaths in Gaza.
While the Post doesn't question the validity of such reports, it is worth remembering that the focus of the Post's article is little Mohammed Jibril, who finds himself in danger not because he was "in the wrong place at the wrong time", but because he ran into battle along with his father and brother.

Another passage Meryl passes over is this one, which makes the Israelis look rather good:
"This [mission] would be different, Hermoni recalled telling his men -- the first time in the current uprising that an Israeli commander took his tanks into the heart of Gaza City. The mission, he warned them, would be difficult, dangerous and particularly sensitive because of the potential for civilian casualties in such a populous setting."
All in all, Moore does a good job of detailing Israeli views of what happened. This is a pleasant change from the Reuters and AP dispatches where the headlines reflect Palestinian accounts while the Israelis' views are buried in the next to last paragraph.

Meryl also focuses on the Post's apparent effort to downplay the significance of the Palestinian threat, via passages such as this one:
"You are wounded, you see your cousin die in front of you. All your friends are there, most from the resistance," Hussan said. "They are fighting with Kalashnikovs and hand grenades. It was like toys against a tank."
While the Post does not explicitly comment on Hussan's lack of credibility, it does provide its readers with this credible Israeli account of the dangers of Palestinian weapons:
"Ingrained in [Levinson's] psyche and training were the images of three Merkava tanks that were disabled when they rolled over Palestinian explosives during the past year. Seven soldiers died in the three incidents. They were a reminder that he was not invulnerable, no matter how crude the Palestinian weapons."
Next, Meryl takes issue with the Post's acceptance at face value of Palestinian claims that three of the Gaza fatalities -- aged 16, 17 and 20 -- had arrived at the scene for the sole purpose of caring for the wounded. Now, Meryl is right to point out that Palestinian eyewitnesses have a very poor record of reporting the truth and that the Post should be more critical of claims that dead Palestinians were non-combatants.

Still, the fact that these three victims chose of their own free will to enter a battlezone implicitly rebuts Palestinian human rights organizations' claims that young victims of the war are innocent bystanders.

Meryl ends her commentary by asking the Post to
"Spare us any more articles on the poor, downtrodden Palestinian 'resistance' fighters, who are forced to use inferior weaponry. Even when there is parity and beyond, the Arab armies have been defeated time and again by the Israelis."
Admittedly, the Israelis have a good record even when they are outmanned and outgunned. But when it comes to this specific article, it is hard to detect any real sympathy for the Palestinian tactics that produce such one-sided casualty figures.

If anything, the article seems to imply that the Palestinian leadership is callously sacrificing its children despite the relative hopelessness of such amateurs taking on professional and well-armed Israeli forces. There is an implicit agenda of sympathy in the Post's report, but it is for the Palestinian youths who have been tricked by their elders, not the Israelis who have no choice but to defend themselves.

As Golda Meir said, "We can forgive you for killing our sons, but we can never forgive you for making us kill yours."
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# Posted 7:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OIL=DICTATORSHIP: Is it inevitable? As one WaPo op-ed writer points out,
Nearly every country with an economy dominated by oil is corrupt and dictatorial, whether in Latin America, Africa, the Caspian, Southeast Asia or the Middle East. The notable exception is Norway.

Oil is unique. Great wealth, controlled by the government, is created without labor or risk. So rulers have no accountability to the people, because they do not need the consent of the governed.
The implications for postwar Iraq are self-evident. Fortunately, the author goes on to describe a number of simple, common sense ways to ensure that Iraq's natural resources benefit its people rather than its politicians. I hope Condi is paying attention.
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# Posted 7:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLIX NIX EURO TRICKS: "The principal problem is not the number of inspectors but rather the active cooperation of the Iraqi side." -- Hans Blix
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# Posted 7:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MY ENEMY'S ENEMY: If you think NATO has problems, then the Axis of Evil is really in over its head. The Post reports that Iran and the US are negotiating minimal cooperation agreements regarding a potential US-Iraq war.

OK, OK. So I am being sarcastic and taking a back-handed shot at the administration. I support talking to Iran about Iraq, but it does expose the absurdity of referring to it as part of an axis. Then again, 'informal association of evil' just isn't as catchy.

Oh, and as for the 'evil' part, that's right. Iran has indicated that it will start developing the potential to build nuclear weapons. They say you need a revolution...
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# Posted 6:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE PEOPLE SPEAK: A new WaPo poll says that Americans favor war without a UN resolution 57-40 provided that allies such as Britain, Italy and Australia come along. Without allies, the split is 50-47.

In its analysis of the poll, the Post asserts that
"most Americans are unwilling to commit the United States to the kind of postwar rebuilding effort that many inside and outside the administration say will be essential to bringing economic and political stability to the country."
This conclusion reflects the fact that 56% of the public says that America should not commit to rebuilding Iraq "if that means the United States would need to keep 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq for several years and would spend 15 billion dollars a year rebuilding Iraq."

But it's premature. As I've warned before, answers to stand-alone poll questions tend not to expose the complex reasoning process behind the answers to yes-or-no questions. Morevoer, stand-alone questions cannot account for the impact that a changing situation on the ground might have on the American public.

But before going there, let me just say this: the fact that 37% of Americans do support a nation-building effort that entails putting 50,000 troops on the ground and spending $15 billion a year is stunning. The last time so many Americans supported an effort of that magnitude was -- come on, you know the answer -- Vietnam.

Now what if the President had stated in a nationally televised address that the US ought to commit 50,000 troops and $15 billion to rebuilding Iraq? I expect the split would be better than 37-58.

And what if NATO and the UN pledged considerable manpower and resources of their own to the reconstruction effort, as they have in Bosnia and Kosovo? Again, the split would probably be a lot better than 37-58.

What it will come down to in the end is whether the President is willing to personally commit himself to the democratic future of the Middle East. If he tells us that the war and terror cannot be won and that America cannot live up to principles unless we rebuild a democratic Iraq, then the people will follow.

If Bush stays silent and accepts a democratic facade in Iraq, no one will object either. Mr. President, the ball is in your court.
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Monday, February 10, 2003

# Posted 10:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SADDAM NOT RATIONAL? That's not news, but Josh Marshall makes the case short and sweet. Make sure to check out the Cardinal Collective's comments as well.
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# Posted 10:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLOGGING THE DOLPHIN: CalPundit interviews Josh Marshall, providing a marvel of blogospheric introspection. Humor aside, the interview provides a lot more insight into the relationship between blogging and journalism than many of the other articles that have tackled the same subject.

CalPundit also deserves considerable praise for finally figuring out on behalf of us all how an amateur can earn himself a link on TPM.

Finally, don't forget to check out the many other great CalPundit posts that are now up, on subjects ranging from France, to gun control, to opinion polls, to the comprehensive case for taking out Saddam.
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# Posted 9:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DREZ TO IMPRESS: Daniel Drezner has a wealth of interesting posts up now, including his take on the Franco-German plan for avoiding war in Iraq, a delightful fisking of Guardianista views on Eastern Europe, a comment on the altruism of pundits, and some ideas about computer simulations might tell us about international relations. Enjoy!
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# Posted 9:37 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AIN'T JUST A RIVER IN EGYPT: Jackson Diehl never fails to impress me. He has done more than any other journalist to get Americans to think about promoting democracy worldwide and especially in the Middle East.

His latest column profiles Egyptian heir apparent Gamal Mubarak, who vistied the White House last week in search of an endorsement of his presidential aspirations. While Mubarak the younger presents himself as the sort of reform-minded, technocratic dictator that Fareed Zakaria praises, I say that a dictator is a dictator is a dictator.
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# Posted 9:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AND THE OSCAR GOES TO...Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei. These guys can be optimistic about anything. While that used to get under my skin, I now like it. No one will ever be able to say that the UN inspectors were carrying out Donald Rumsfeld's order.

On second thought, nix that. Someone will figure out a way to implicate the Pentagon. But not many will listen.

UPDATE: CalPundit points out that the Blix Boys may not be so naive, at least in this instance.
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# Posted 9:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BRUTAL FIGHT IN GAZA: An outstanding piece of war journalism. It speaks volumes for itself.
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# Posted 9:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EX-EXILES: Five of Hamid Karzai's ministers are Afghan immigrants to the United States who have returned to rebuild their homeland.
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# Posted 8:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANNALS OF ANTI-AMERICANISM: I thought I had a good point. When and if Saddam falls, US occupation forces will find the weapons he has been hiding, thus offering conclusive proof to all those who now suspect that the American case against Iraq is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

But no. According to Gary Smith,
"I was making the case that if we go into Iraq and discover weapons of mass destruction, then the world would come to realize we'd been right...And [this couple] told me, 'If that happens, it's only because the CIA planted them.' I was floored.""
What can you to say that?

The WaPo article in which Smith is quoted also cites another amusing albeit ad hominem attack on our friends across the Atlantic:
"Scratch an anti-American in Europe," Denis MacShane, Britain's minister for Europe said recently, "and very often all he wants is a guest professorship at Harvard, or to have an article published in the New York Times."
Aside from this pair of anecdotes, the WaPo article unfortunately has very little to offer. Like most articles on anti-Americanism, it is a compilation of pro- and con- statments, poll results and irresponsible speculation. It does not address the fundamental question at the heart of the Euro-American divide: How does one differentiate legitimate criticism of the United States from unjust criticism that reflects anti-American prejudice?

The article also fails to address the related question of whether the current wave of anti-Americanism is a passing trend, a reaction to American behavior, or the beginning of a new stage in Euro-American relations. Ideally, I would try to provide some answers to these questions, but for that I would need considerably more free time. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday soon...
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# Posted 8:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SUNDAY ON A BRITISH TRAIN: As I headed back from Cambridge on Sunday afternoon, I had the chance to sit down on the train with a proper British newspaper, rather than reading American papers online, as has become my custom.

While there were no great surprises in the Independent, there were some things of value one wouldn't find in an American paper. The first that comes to mind is this column by William Shawcross, entitled "Why This Paper is Wrong About Bush and Blair's Stance on Iraq."

Shawcross takes upon himself the responsibility of doing in 800 words what no American columnist dare would. In the United States, columnists have the luxury of being able to comment on only the latest developments of the current diplomatic drama rather than justifying it as a whole.

While the general content of Shawcross' article is familiar to American readers, I cannot think of case in which so much has been said in so little space. So read it for your own good. And if there is someone you know who needs to be set straight about the importance of confronting Saddam, just point them in Shawcross' direction.

While on the train, I also ran across the Independent's effort to fisk Tony Blair. In short, the paper's work was less than impressive. But it did force me to ask whether one can fisk a fisking. If so, can one fisk a fisking of a fisking? I don't know. I just don't know. It's all sort of a like an Escher drawing -- you don't know where it ends and where it begins.

Finally, the Indpendent provided me with my recommended daily allowance of righteous indignation, all in a single headline: "It's About Time the US Got Over 9/11."

What can you say to that? The column that follows is unremarkable. But the headline is a twisted knife in an open wound. I guess all I can say is this: We'll get over it when the Towers are standing again and when Bin Laden and Saddam are sharing a prison cell at the Hague, watching CNN report on the first elections in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

In London I switched trains, catching an outbound departure for Oxford. While there was much left to read, I ran into a good friend on the platform whom I hadn't seen since Novemeber. He told me he's getting married, so I spent the ride up to Oxford catching up with him (and talking some politics), all of which was a pleasant contrast to the headlines in the Independent.

DP, if you're reading this, I hope that you and JB enjoy every moment of your lives together. Congratulations.
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Sunday, February 09, 2003

# Posted 10:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AFFIRMATIVE (KARATE) ACTION: The President has warned us that we must rise above "the soft bigotry of low expectations." You know what I say to that? Hell no!!!

Low expectations are the one thing that preserved my dignity during this past weekend's karate match against Cambridge.

Upon arriving at the gym, the Oxford captain duly informed me that I had been promoted to the first team for kata (performance), since Oxford's fifth man turned out not to practice shotokan, but another style of karate instead. In so many words, I asked the captain "Are you out of your f$%# mind?"

First of all, I did not want my puny karate compared to that of the many mighty blackbelts on the Oxford and Cambridge first teams. Second, and perhaps more importantly, members of the first team have to perform two kata, rather than the one demanded of second team members. In other words, I would have to go on cold in the second round. All I had going for me was low expectations.

The captain didn't care and told me to just do it. And things turned out OK, although for all the wrong reasons -- mainly teammates who are much better than myself but lost it under pressure. I was safely fourth out of Oxford's first five. I was even ahead of one or two of the Cambridge five, as well, and they didn't have Bill Buckner moments. But we still lost. Bad.

Next came kumite (sparring). No surprise promotions here, a fact I was very glad about after watching the first team's matches. What was a surprise, though, was that the second team's matches were going be scored 'Ippon' (up to one point) rather than 'Sambon' (up to three). What that means in practice is that two punches (each worth half a point) can end the match.

I lasted around sixty seconds. I thought I had a chance at first because I was one belt higher than my opponent, which might have made up for his being a good six inches taller. But he scored on a kick, then a punch and that was it.

The punch was to my jaw and hard. I did not want to chew for the rest of the night. But what I really didn't like was that it ended the match. Getting smacked just made me mad. I wasn't tired. I wasn't hurt. I wanted to fight back. But that will have to wait for next weekend, when I go to the KUGB southern regional tournament.

So there you have it folks. Saved by the soft bigotry of low expectations. Time to head back to the dojo. Sayonara.
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Thursday, February 06, 2003

# Posted 10:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

24 FIGHTING CHICKENS: Light blogging for me this weekend. I'm going to be in Cambridge, representing Oxford in the annual varsity sports competition. My event is shotokan karate, both kata (performance) and kumite (sparring).

I am going to come home with a black eye. This is my first real fight and I am the least experieced member of the Oxford team. In fact, I'm only on it because there aren't ten good fighters around.

So, if I don't get back to posting on Monday, it may be because I am physically indisposed. In the meantime, check out my favorite karate site, Shotokan Planet, known informally as "24 Fighting Chickens." If you know any good shotokan sites, send'em in and I'll post'em.

Wish me luck.
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# Posted 10:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DREZNER VS. ZAKARIA on democracy promotion.
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# Posted 10:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FOUL LANGUAGE: Pejman adopts Josh's habit of using the word "snarky".
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# Posted 10:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

INSIDE FRANCE: Winds of Change takes you there.
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# Posted 10:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOT EVERYONE IS CONVINCED: Jim Henley notes that US statements of fact have an uneven record. But he doesn't seem to appreciate that the false claims he mentions did not reflect extensive evidence compiled by the NSA and CIA and then released for the explicit purpose of persauding both the American people and America's allies.

UPDATE:Kevin Drum makes a very similar point. Andrew Sullivan as well.
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# Posted 10:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE ON IRAQI CUISINE: Reader Stephen St. Onge makes an excellent point about Iraq's food distribution program. He begins by pointing to the following passage in the WaPo article I initially responded to:
"Iraqi officials note with pride that the entire rationing system is computerized, in a way almost nothing else is here. The Trade Ministry maintains a database that lists the name, address and identity-card number of every Iraqi who receives a ration.

"If a family moves, it must inform the ministry of the new address to keep receiving food handouts. If a new child is born, parents must submit a birth certificate to receive infant formula. If there is a death in the family, relatives have three months to notify the ministry, although officials said names often are automatically deleted from the database as soon as the Health Ministry prepares a death certificate.

"'It's updated all the time,' said Ahmad Mukhtar, a U.S.-educated engineer who supervises the computer center. 'Births, deaths, marriages -- it's all there.'

"Mukhtar said the database is primarily used to distribute food, but the information also is shared with other government agencies."
Stephen notes that "In short, the Iraqi food distribution system is used to keep tabs on the population's whereabouts. If you don't register with them, then you starve."

So much for being above politics.
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# Posted 9:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIES, DAMNED LIES, AND STATISTICS: Impressively, both WaPo/ABC and CNN/USA Today/Gallup produced overnight polls gauging America's response to Powell's speech.

Unfortunately, neither Gallup nor the Washington Post has any ideas what its numbers mean. According to Gallup, its poll "suggests that the speech had a limited impact". It backs up that position by noting that 81% of those interviewed did not change their position on the war because of Powell's speech. A more intelligent comment might have been that having 19% of Americans change their views on a major issue because of a single speech is an event of historic proportions.

As Gallup's numbers show, support for an invasion rose from 50 to 57 percent, while opposition fell from 22 to 15 percent. While the unsure category stayed about the same (28 down to 26), that stability masks the fact that a significant percentage of unsures have decided to support the war, while an equally significant percentage of opponents are now unsure of their position.

What neither Gallup nor a WaPo storyabout the polls points out is how remarkable it is that both Bush's State of the Union speech and Powell's UN address significantly increased support for an invasion. This sort of double-bounce has almost no historical precedents.

A general rule of thumb is that a major televised speech by the President leads to a short-term increase support for his views. That a speech by a cabinet member could have a similar effect is remarkable in its own right. The fact that the cabinet member's speech was only a follow up to an earlier presidential address makes its impact all the more remarkable.

Is there any way to account for this kind of anomaly? Absolutely. Very few presidential addresses are focused on courtroom-style issues of guilt, innocence and evidence. But in this case, Bush laid out a standard for judging evidence of Iraqi weapons development while Powell followed up with the evidence itself.

Since the resultant change in public opinion reflects a public assessment of evidence rather than a response to presidential charisma, there is every reason to believe that this change will be permanent.

Another major finding which both Gallup and the WaPo failed to report is that Powell's speech dispelled Americans' doubts about whether Saddam is cooperating and whether he has chem-bio weapons. In a poll taken before Powell's speech, around half of all Americans thought that Saddam has outlawed weapons and is hiding them from the inspectors.

According to last night's WaPo/ABC poll, more than 70% of Americans believe Saddam has weapons and is hiding them. According to Gallup, 60%+ believe that Powell made a "very strong" case for Iraq having weapons and hiding them while another 20%+ believe he made a fairly strong case. In light of the fact that just a few weeks ago 70% of Americans thought the administration needed to publicly present evidence of Iraqi violations, the new numbers represent a tidal wave of support for the administration.

Back then, 70% also supported giving the inspectors a few months or more to continue their work. But according to the WaPo/ABC poll, 59% of Americans think the inspectors should now have a few weeks or less.

The one issue on which America remains (somewhat) divided is whether the US should invade even without UN support. Two months ago, the split 37-58 against. Now the split is 49-46 in favor. That change reprsents the combined effects of Bush's speech, Powell's speech and the fact that most of Europe now supports an invasion.

But what is hard to figure out is why 46% still want UN support even if 75%+ believe that clear evidence of Iraqi violations constitutes a legimitate cause for war. Those numbers just don't add up.

My guess is that most Americans take it for granted that UN support will be forthcoming now that there is an iron-clad case against Iraq. But if the UN doesn't get on board, the American public may turn against it, and that turn may last a lot, lot longer than the war in Iraq.

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# Posted 9:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

POOLS OF BLOOD: I am for the war and have mixed feelings about the bombing pool.

As a private individual, I am not against the idea. I know that Josh's fully respects both our nation's soldiers as well as the inevitable innocent victims of a war with Iraq.

However, as someone who makes public statements about the war, I believe that it may be best for OxBlog not to have a pool. Reducing war to a game can be too easily misread as callous. While I tend to believe that those who misinterpret are responsible for their misinterpretations, in this instance I believe that the citizen's obligation to raise the level of public discourse outweighs such concerns.
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# Posted 1:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MEA CULPA: When confronted with Donald Rumsfled's periodic assertions that Iraq and Al-Qaeda have been working together, I tended to assume that the SecDef was grasping at straws. It seems that Colin Powell shared my suspicions. According to the NYT,
Until about three weeks ago, Mr. Powell was said to be reluctant to go before the Security Council with a case connecting Al Qaeda with the Iraqi leadership.
But now all that has changed. As the evidence shows
"Al Qaeda affiliates, based in Baghdad, now coordinate the movement of people, money and supplies into and throughout Iraq for his network, and they are now operating freely in the capital for more than eight months."
The best indications of how convincing the evidence are the brand-new justifications for avoiding war that the administration's opponents have rolled out. According to a NYT news analysis,
"Mr. Powell did not appear to make an airtight case that the Saddam Hussein regime is plotting with Al Qaeda to attack the United States and its allies."
If not, then what are Al Qaeda's forces doing in Baghdad? Back when there was no public evidence that Saddam and Al Qaeda were cooperating, it made sense to argue that there were no joint attacks being planned. To deny it now is absurd. In the same analysis, the author cites an arms control experts who says that
"Just because there is a terrorist cell in Iraq, [it] does not prove that Saddam Hussein is ready to transfer mass destruction weapons to Al Qaeda for use against the United States."
Alright. I can agree with that. But Al Qaeda did not rely on chemical or biological weapons on September 11th, either. Now who's grasping at straws?.

Last of all, we come to the NYT editorial board's justification for delaying an invasion of Iraq. It is that
Because the consequences of war are so terrible, and the cost of rebuilding Iraq so great, the United States cannot afford to confront Iraq without broad international support.
Yes, the consequences of war are terrible. But they will not be any less terrible if the French and Germans support the war. Yes, the cost of rebuilding Iraq will be great. But it pales in comparison to the cost of being on guard against Iraqi aggression for another decade.

What is most striking about these arguments is what they don't say. What has happened to the NYT's insistence that war cannot be legitimate without UN support? What has happened to its insistence that the arms inspectors have an actual purpose other than to delay a conflict?

If the Times had admitted that its opposition to the President -- as well as that of the Germans and French -- had been based on tenuous assumptions about the efficacy of inspections and the willingness of the Iraqi government to cooperate, I might have developed a newfound respect for its editorial board.

Rather than exempting itself from the critical analysis to which it subjects public figures, the Times must acknowledge that its own behavior ought to be subject to investigation. In short, it is time for the appointment of an Ombudsman.
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Wednesday, February 05, 2003

# Posted 5:37 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KURDS SHOW THE WAY: Barham Salih, co-prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan, declares that the Iraqi people are ready for democracy if the West is wiling to help them.
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# Posted 5:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEAFENING SILENCE: Ted Barlow observes that conservative bloggers haven't spoken up at all to defend the administration's budget. This centrist doesn't plan on speaking up either...nor does he endorse much of the nonsense critcism that has mocked the administration's efforts.
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# Posted 5:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ACTUALLY, JOSH, what I was trying to say is that I want us to be judged on the merit of our work, rather than having dazed admirers confuse our good looks with our charm, wit, intelligence and humility.
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# Posted 5:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THOUGHTS ON GROUP BLOGGING: Eugene Volokh says "YES!" Kevin Drum says "NO!"
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# Posted 4:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE TRUTH ABOUT HARVARD: Matt Yglesias reports that before sitting down to watch Colin Powell's UN address -- and discovering that none of his Harvard classmates were interested in it whatsoever -- he
"would have thought that America's best and brightest would take more than a passing interest in the critical events in world affairs, but I've long since learned my lesson on that score. If it won't help you get into law/medical school or get a consulting/I-banking job the kids just don't care."
Ironically, two local sanitary workers (who Matt refers to simply as "janitors") decided to take some time off the job to watch the Secretary of State deliver his speech. It's good to see that Princeton alumni are interested in the world affairs.

PS Can you guess where I went to college? (No rewards for correct answers.)
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# Posted 4:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIBERAL SELF-INDULGENCE: Now Matt Yglesias has a picture of himself up as well. OxBlog has no intention of following suit. While we at OxBlog most certainly are not relativists, we must admit that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
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# Posted 4:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

APPEASING NORTH KOREA? I've defended the President's North Korea policy, but I may soon have to admit that the critics were right when they said that Bush has no plan and is going to negotiate without preconditions.

UPDATE: North Korea seems determined to take advantage of the US focus on Iraq.
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# Posted 4:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE LATEST POLLS: Can a brief series of multiple choice questions accurately gauge how Americans think about the complex issues of war and peace? Having explored the nuances of public opinion polling in the process of conducting research for my dissertation, I would have to say "It depends".

No, that is not a very exciting answer. But it is a good one. Before the 1980s, it was taken for granted that the American public had volatile and incoherent opinions about politics, both foreign and domestic. By extension, this volatility and incoherence rendered Americans vulnerable to manipulation by both the media and the government.

In the 1980s, scholars began to discover that the premise of volatility and incoherence had led public opinion researchers to rely on methods that created an impression of volatility and incoherence even when there was none. In contrast, the United States had a rational public that derived its opinions on current events from a fixed set of values and updated its opinions when new information became available to it.

The revolution in public opinion research led scholars to recognize that simple yes-or-no questions about individuals likes and dislikes failed to show how decisions whether or not to support a given policy or politicians reflected a complex process of reasoning.

With that in mind, I turn to the results of the latest Gallup polls on Iraq. As of Feb. 3, 58% of Americans support an invasion while 38% are against. Of the 58%, 31% have firm views whereas 27% have open minds. In contrast, only 13 of the 38% that oppose war have fixed views while 25 have an open mind. (4% have no opinion.)

Now, then, what is likely to change peoples' minds? 86% percent say that if Iraq has ties to Al-Qaeda, an invasion is justified. If it has chemical and biological weapons, 85% support an invasion. If Iraq is obstructing UN inspections, 76%.

What, then, do Americans believe is the state of affairs in Iraq? 39% percent believe Iraq has ties to Al-Qaeda, whereas 48% think such ties are possible and 10% rule them out. 50% believe Iraq has chem-bio weapons, whereas 44% think it probably has such weapons and 4% insist it doesn't. 52% believe Iraq is obstructing inspections, 38% believe it probably is and 8% believe it isn't.

So what does all this mean? First of all, that real opposition to war consists of only the 13% who have are firmly against it, since these 13% seem to be the same individuals who believe that even if Iraq is obstructing inspections, has chem-bio weapons and also ties to Al-Qaeda, war still isn't justified.

As for the 25% who are uncertain in their opposition to war and the 27% of those who are unsure of their support for it, the main issue seems to be UN approval, which 40% of respondents say is a necessary prerequisite for war. However, I sense that these 40% take it for granted that the UN will support an invasion if the US presents evidence that Iraq has outlawed weapons and/or ties to Al Qaeda.

The even division of this unsure 40-50% into tentative supporters and opponents of an invasion seems to reflect the even division of the American public on the dual issues of whether it is Iraq or the inspectors that bear the burden of proof and, consequently, whether the inspectors should have more time to search.

The one scenario which Gallup's poll doesn't explore is whether Americans would support a war if the UN opposed an invasion despite its recognizing that Saddam is blocking inspections and has chem-bio weapons. That situation would provide a true test of America's commitment to multilateralism.

If the French respond positively to Colin Powell's UN address, push may not come to shove. If it does, I expect unilateralism (defined as the US plus eleven European allies not including Germany and France) to win out.

Powell simply provided too much evidence that Iraq has engaged in the outright and effective deception of US inspectors. (Even the eminent CalPundit agrees!) When the next poll comes out, expect 70%+ to be for an invasion, with 50%+ firm in their views. In short, I strongly disagree with Cal, whose interpretation of the recent poll is that "the American public is still deeply conflicted about the entire question". (Note the new picture of CalPundit [aka Kevin] that is up on his website. He now looks like a real adult instead of a congressional intern.)

The only thing Americans are unsure about (and not all that unsure) is whether Saddam is guilty as charged. Gallup's polls have effectively shown that beneath the simple 58-38 yes-no split on Iraq, there is a stable and coherent set of preferences according to which Americans will judge the performance of both their own government and of the United Nations.

Saddam, if you are reading this, I advise you to disarm very, very soon.

UPDATE: Reader JV points out that, according to Tom Friedman, Americans will only support a quick and easy invasion and are not interested in its occupation and reconstruction.
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Tuesday, February 04, 2003

# Posted 9:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REBUILDING NEW YORK: A while back, I posted a link to the website run by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which is responsbile for selecting an architect to rebuild the World Trade Center.

While I didn't say so at the time, I found all seven of the designs under consideration to be deeply disappointing. They were lifeless, even deformed. Sadly, the damage of September 11th has scarred New York and the United States forever. But that is exactly why we need a new World Trade Center that represents our highest ideals, not our broken spirits.

Since the initial unveiling of the designs, two new ones have been added to the list. They are not much different. From the nine, two have been named semifinalists. But before the final decision is made, I'd ask you to take a look at a design proposed by a 23-year old amateur architect who has only visited New York twice in his life.

In its simplicity, Robert Thompson's design is far superior to that of the professionals. Of all its elements, the one which struck me most was the recommendation that the new World Trade Center have just a single tower. A circular tower of glass with vertical bands of aluminum. I think it is a perfect symbol of the unity that September 11th has left in its wake. Its circular shape invokes the tradition of associating circles with regeneration and wholeness.

These simple lessons are what is missing from the complex designs of the professionals. While I don't know if there is time left to reconsider the official designs, there is always hope.

Robert, thank you and good luck.

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# Posted 9:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE MYSTERY DEEPENS: The WaPo reported on Monday that Saddam's food distribution program is a model of honesty, efficiency and non-partisanship. Yeah, right. This was a job for the web's number one debunkers, Spinsanity.

In response to my anguished cry, Spinsanity's Brendan Nyhan sent over a pair of very interesting links which suggest that there is a lot more to this story than the Post is letting on. First up is a link to a January 2001 CNN interview with Denis Halliday, the former UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq.

According to Halliday, the sanctions have
"led to the deaths of possibly more than one million people in ten years. Now that is a tragedy. And that begins to meet some of the definitions of the United Nations Convention on Genocide."
That last word was not an accident. Halliday's observation was a direct response to the CNN moderator's demand that he justify his earlier description of the sanctions as genocide.

As far as Saddam's long term record is concerned, Halliday says this:
"Before the [Gulf] war, all Iraqi children were given breakfast and lunch in the school system. So, the fact is that we, the United Nations of the West, have demolished the human rights of the Iraqi children. There's no history of the Baath Party not meeting the basic human rights of Iraqi children. In summary, I think we have no basis to be suspicious of Baghdad’s approach to its own children."
Hmmm. When it comes to weapons of mass destruction, Halliday also has a somewhat unusual perspective. As he notes,
"According to some of the experts, including Scott Ritter, Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction capability today. Even Hans Blix...has said that he does not believe that Iraq has redeveloped weapons of mass destruction.

I believe that today we see a huge demonization of Iraq, an exaggeration of Iraq's threat "to the neighborhood" and a huge capacity for military aggression amongst the neighbors of Iraq. Today, in fact, it is Iraq that is disarmed and surrounded by countries, such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which are heavily armed by Europe and North America. This is not a situation that encourages Baghdad to cooperate."
Folks, you can't make this stuff up. Anyway, getting back to the food program, Halliday comments that
"The Baath Party -- as led by President Saddam Hussein, of course -- handles the entire oil-for-food program. That means they do the contracting; they do the handling and processing of, for example, wheat into flour; and they handle distribution of these foodstuffs in the country. According to my current successor in Baghdad, who is an expert on the world food program, Baghdad does an extremely efficient job of food distribution."
Well, what did you expect him to say? Somehow, I sense that the WaPo shouldn't have trusted the current UN coordinator to provide an objective evaluation of the Iraqi program.

Moving on, we come to the second link sent over by Brendan, which takes you to an 1999 WaPo op-ed by Clinton NSC chief Sandy Berger. He pointed out that
"Currently, the United Nations allows Iraq to spend up to $5.2 billion in oil revenue every six months for humanitarian purposes. Saddam is so indifferent to the suffering of his people that he still refuses to make full use of this allowance. But the food supply in Iraq has grown, and soon will provide the average Iraqi with about 2,200 calories per day, which is at the top of the United Nations' recommended range.
Assuming Berger has the calorie figures right (and if you met the man, you'd know he's no stranger to calories), there shouldn't be anyone starving in Iraq. Yet two years after Berger published his op-ed, Halliday cited UNICEF data which recorded that "some 4-5,000 children are dying unnecessarily each month."

Is there any way to resolve this inconsistency? Perhaps. According to reader LK,
It's actually a common misconception that the main problem with the sanctions regime is malnutrition and starvation--which, though still a major problem, does not compare to the massive malnutrition and starvation that characterized the period before the oil-for-food program was initiated. The program, for all its faults, has helped. A lot. The current problem has to do with Iraq's inability to fix water treatment plants, electrical systems, and other kinds of infrastructure that we who live in developed nations take for granted. Without clean water and
quality health services, tens of thousands of Iraqis die from easily preventable illness every year.
LK also provides this comment from another former UN huminatarian coordinator, Hans von Sponeck, who said that
"What really continues to be a severe problem, with implications for health treatment, healthcare, for electricity and water supply, is [the blocking of] anything that has to do with chemicals, laboratory equipment, generators, chloride, any water purification inputs, communication equipment. For example, it took over a year to release ambulances because they were blocked since they contained, as they should – in America you don’t have an ambulance without communication equipment inside - but they had communication equipment and they were blocked. So the Iraqis did not have access to such an important thing as an ambulance. So it is a saga that is really unbelievable."
That's all I have to report right now. Send in more info if you have it. My spider-sense says that the story isn't over yet.
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# Posted 7:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A BRIEF HISTORY OF SMOKING GUNS: John Mueller points out that the now-infamous satellite photos of Soviet missiles in Cuba showed nothing more than a set of cylindrical objects in an open field. According to RFK, no one in the cabinet had any idea what the photos were of, but trusted the CIA.

That's why Colin Powell is right to say that there won't be a smoking gun, but rather that the US will provide evidence from "which any sensible person can deduce that [the Iraqis] are hiding something and that they are going to great lengths in foiling the work of the inspectors."

NB: The NYT might consider hiring John Mueller as a fact checker.
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# Posted 7:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NEIN! According to Christian Democratic leader Angela Merkel, the crushing setbacks suffered by Schroeder Social Democrats in recent state elections indicate that the Chancellor "was not successful [for] a second time in exploiting the fears" of the electorate and that his party's rejection is "a very important signal for [Germany's] allies."

At first, I wrote Merkel's statement off as optimistic spin, figuring that Schroeder lost because the Germany economy is in serious trouble. But today I had lunch with a German friend who assured me that many, many Germans are deeply concerned by Germany's isolation from Europe (and the US) and that the Chancellor's conscious effort to play the anti-war card failed for that reason.

That was good to hear, but I'm still not sure. Was the voters' message that Schroeder simply shouldn't be focusing on foreign policy when there are hard times at home? I recall one American president who learned that lesson the hard way...

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# Posted 6:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"POOR AND UNEDUCATED" is what America's soldiers are NOT.
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# Posted 6:37 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SADDAM NOT A RELATIVIST: In an interview broadcast on Iraqi television, Hussein declared that "there is only one truth" regarding the state of Iraqi weapons programs. His observation fits in nicely with our President's declaration that if Iraq's use of torture "is not evil, then evil has no meaning."

While this happy philosophical consensus won't do much to resolve the current crisis, it's better than having Saddam say that nuclear weapons are nothing more than a social construct. Imagine trying to draft a UN resolution to deal with that...
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# Posted 3:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WE CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH: Responding to Chris Mooney, Kevin says bloggers are rarely honest enough to admit their mistakes.

I don't have numbers on this one, but I sense bloggers actually are pretty good about admitting mistakes, since they know that their credibility and their readership will disappear overnight if they are no better than their competitors.
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# Posted 3:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

INSIDE THE PENTAGON: Sean-Paul reports on his conversations with an officer in the US air force. (Click here for the second half.) The news is interesting, but it isn't good.
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Monday, February 03, 2003

# Posted 8:45 PM by Daniel  

GARY HART. A few clarifying points on Hart's speech. Regarding the four questions Bush needed to answer, Josh said that for the first question, Hart did not mention a single time the now 11 allies who co-authored an op-ed expressing support for the US position. That is true--but the complete version of Hart's first question was, "Who will go with us beyond the nominal stuff? Which nations will contribute boots on the ground?" What concerns Hart is the idea of rhetorical support from other nations without a significant military commitment. Hart's third question referred to the costs of the war. In his words, "Larry Lindsay said it would cost $100 to $200 billion, and he was fired."

Hart all but guaranteed another attack on the U.S., referring to the 21,000 containers arriving at our 361 ports, 1 to 2 percent of which are inspected. He predicted a shift toward Israeli style security measures (bags inspected everywhere, and so on) when America is attacked again.

I agree that his answers about the UN were hopelessly vague, but let's give him a chance to brush up on his knowledge.
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# Posted 7:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE UNREALISM: Innocents Abroad exposes the flawed logic at the heart of the belief that Iraq can be deterred even after developing nuclear weapons. (For OxBlog's views, click here.)
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# Posted 7:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KISSINGER'S LOST CHILDREN: Bill Kristol on how Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz found their way from the realpolitik of the Ford Administration to the idealpolitik of George W. Bush.
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# Posted 6:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SULLIVAN VS. RAINES: Andrew takes the NYT to task for its Iraq coverage.
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# Posted 6:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CALLING SPINSANITY: There is something very wrong with this WaPo article, but I don't know what.

It says that Saddam's food distribution program is a model of honesty, efficiency and non-partisanship. While it is hard to doubt Hussein's intelligence, I have a hard time believing that a brutal totalitarian regime would rise above politics when it comes to an issue as crucial as food rationing.

Anyway, what follows is a list of questions, which I hope that some of you will send me answers to.

1) The article cites widespread praise for the program from common Iraqis. Presuming that the Post's correspondent was only able to talk to such individuals in the presence of a government minder, is there any reason to believe what they say?

2) The article quotes a UN food inspector, who is deeply impressed by Saddam's efforts and declares that he has not encountered any corruption. In contrast, Iraqi exiles say that rations are withheld from dissidents. Is there any reason to believe that this UN inspector is any better at finding out what Iraq is really up to than Hans Blix and Co.?

3) Aside from a brief reference to malnutrition, the article reports that Saddam's food program has kept all Iraqis well-fed, especially after the UN oil-for-food program began. What happened to all the desperate, starving individuals which critics of UN sanctions have talked so much about?

4) 50,000 Iraqi merchants function as distributors for the food program. Who are these individuals and how did they get their jobs?

Happy hunting.
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# Posted 6:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE ANTI-DICTATOR: Hamid Karzai has indicated that he may not run for president in next year's Afghan elections. He said
"I want leaderships in Afghanistan, a multiplicity of leaderships. I want the Afghan people to have choices. I don't want them to be stuck with one man...because of a lack of choice."
Karzai's example will bring the Islamic world one step closer to freedom.
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# Posted 6:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BACKSTAGE POLITICS: Bill Safire tells the story of how the Gang of Eight managed to come together on the pages of the Wall Street Journal.

Safire notes that conducting diplomacy via op-ed is a striking departure from tradition. But IMHO, what's even more striking is that a rift between the US and France is being resolved not, as usual, by backroom diplomacy, but by the forceful public statements of nations once considered bit players on the world stage.
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Sunday, February 02, 2003

# Posted 8:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE UNREALISTS: Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer are at it again. Back in November, these towering scholars of international relations argued that the United States has nothing to fear from a nuclear-armed Iraq. I dismantled their argument then and stand by my position now.

You'd think that Walt and Mearsheimer might have learned something from the ongoing stand-off with North Korea: that the US has a very limited ability to influence dictators who can threaten the lives of tens of thousands of civilians in neighboring states allied to the US. If we give Saddam enough time, he will develop a missile that can take out Istanbul or Tel Aviv.

Most disturbing of all for those who call themselves realists, Walt and Mearsheimer propose no alternate course for dealing with Iraq. They say we're safe as long as the inspectors are on the ground. But the inspectors will have to come home sometime. And then what?

UPDATE: Links fixed.
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# Posted 8:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TOM FRIEDMAN ASKS: Why do Europeans refuse to eat genetically modified foods but consume tobacco in massive amounts? And what does that say about their politics? Read the column. It's worth a laugh.
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# Posted 8:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STICK TO BASKETBALL, BILL: Sen. Bradley weighs on the invasion of Iraq. Included below are the highlights of his column, along with some slightly sarcastic comments.

1. "Young Muslims around the world will see U.S. action without U.N. approval as neocolonialist, motivated more by a desire for Iraqi oil than Iraqi freedom." Whereas young Muslims great admiration for the other four ex-imperialist powers on the Security Council will persuade them that the invasion of Iraq is a justified expression of altruism.

2. "Bush did not acknowledge that a unilateral invasion risks destabilizing Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Egypt." Pakistan perhaps. As my posts on Saudi Arabia and Egypt have suggeted, their dictatorships are far too dominant to be challenged in the short term. As for Pakistani fundamentalists, I'm not sure they really care what the Security Council thinks.

3. "The major foreign policy job of the American president is to maintain healthy relations with the great powers -- Europe, Russia, China and Japan." That's funny. I thought foreign policy was about promoting American security and ideals. And wait. Did Bradley just say that Europe is a great power? What's its telephone number?

4. "Bush's strong remarks ignored the fact that military actions often have unpredictable consequences." Whereas Security Council assent will make the consequences of war predictable?

5. "To act without specific consultation [from Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey] on the structure of postwar Iraq invites their alienation and their adventurism among Iraq's ethnic groups, making it that much more difficult to establish a multiethnic, democratic Iraq." Pray tell, Mr. Senator, what lessons about democracy we can learn about democracy from the governments of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

6. Here's what Bradley doesn't say: "Being able to display vats of anthrax or rail cars full of chemical warheads should silence those who now criticize President Bush for undue haste and recklessness. It could compel international cooperation that is lacking now." Thanks to Jim Hoagland for the quote.

Oh well. It's not as if the Democrats had much credibility on security issues to lose anyway.
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# Posted 7:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SEMESTER ABROAD IN QATAR? The progressive emir is moving to implement educational reforms designed by the Rand Corporation. Less Islam, more English. Once the lessons on constitutionalism begin, then I'll really be impressed.
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# Posted 7:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LOVE THOSE COMMUNISTS! Alisa in Wonderland weighs in on the Fascism vs. Communism debate.
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# Posted 6:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT IS ANTI-AMERICANISM? More precisely, how does one differentiate legitimate criticism of the United States from unjust criticism that reflects anti-American prejudice? As things now stand, Europe's role in military affairs is that of obvserver and critic. As such, its influence rests on the perception of its criticism as sincere and constructive, rather than disingenuous and resentment-driven.

Identifying prejudice demands a definition of prejudice. Webster's provides some guidance on this matter, but not much. It offers multiple definitions including both "an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge" and "an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics".

At first glance, the dependence of such definitions on controversial concepts such as 'sufficient knowledge' and 'irrational hostility' suggests that prejudice is in the eye of the beholder. But from experience, we know that it isn't. As an American, the first example of prejudice that comes to mind is that of racial prejudice. The segregation of schools, water fountains, public buses and swimming pools offered concrete evidence that prejudice can be very, very real.

In the case of Europe and the United States, we have no such evidence to rely on. Instead, Americans notice prejudices in the words and concepts through which Europeans express themselves. The reverse pattern is evident as well, with Europeans often detecting a definite closed-mindedness in American thought and speech.

This contrast, however, does not reduce the value of drawing on examples such as racial prejudice in the United States, since physical manifestations of prejudice such as segregated housing are reflections of prejudiced thoughts. In fact, one might say that segregation was not an example of prejudice, but rather an example of discrimination that reflected the prejudice known as racism.

Thus it comes as no surprise that the end of segregation has not brought an end to prejudice. What has changed is that we now must argue about whether an specific instance of mistreatment reflects prejudice, or instead the simple lack of concern that one stranger often shows to another.

In a recent experiment, researchers sent out pairs of resumes which were identical except for the fact that one of them had a "white" name on it, where as the duplicate had a "black" one. Perhaps not surprisingly, the researchers found that employers were considerably more likely to offer interviews and jobs to applicants with white names. (For the moment, I'm going to take it for granted that the results obtained from the experiment were valid. Eve Tushnet isn't so sure.)

Even if one assumes that this experiment documents a clear instance of discrimination, it is hard to know exactly what was going through employers' minds while the resumes were being read. In fact, it is extremely unlikely that any of the readers consciously said to themselves that because an applicant had a black sounding name, he or she was less likely to be competent regardless of what the resume indicated.

Instead, it is probable that the presence of a black name subconsciously raised the standards to which an applicant would be held. Thus, while reviewing black applicants' resumes, employers believed that they were making an objective, rational decision based on tangible evidence.

Before applying the lessons of this example to the trans-atlantic divide, it is worth considering for a moment the possibility that there were some employers who consciously decided to turn down applicants because they were black. Even then, it is hard to demonstrate that this decision reflected prejudice, defined as a belief that is irrational or based on insufficient information.

I would guess that if there were employers who consciously decided to turn down black applicants, it is not because they consciously resent blacks or believe that they are inherently inferior. Rather, they may believe that since there is a greater statistcal probability that a black individual has committed a crime, it is rational for their firm to reject black applicants in order minimize the probability that they are hiring lawbreakers.

Such behavior is, of course, illegal. The law preventing it, however, reflects a moral imperative rather than logical one. Yet what if the employer in question believed that his firm should avoid hiring blacks because they are, on average, taller? In that case, the employer would be damaging his own interest in finding competent employees. In that sense, he is irrational. But is he prejudiced? For all we know, he is simply a fool.

Now what if an employer rejected black applicants because he believed that they are, on average, shorter than others? We could even stipulate in this case that the job in question is best performed by tall employees, e.g. filling shelves in a bookstore. Again, it is hard to know if the employer is racist rather than simply a fool.

Wisely, the law bars all racial discrimination regardless of motive. Why is that? After all, the market might benefit if fools lost business because of their irrationality. I think the answer here has to do with the cultural context in which decisions are made. Because of the history of racial prejudice in America, it makes sense -- both moral and economic -- to assume that the mistreatment of black job applicants reflects prejudice, defined as per Webster's.

With regard to European anti-Americanism, there is no such historical context to faciliate observation or decision-making. Rather, it might be more accurate to say that the prevalence of pro-American sentiment alongside anti-American sentiment in much of Europe prevents one from relying on historical context as a decisive indicator.

Even if one were to focus on the short span of time separating September 11th from the present, one would have to acknowledge that pro-American sentiment is no less strong than its negative counterpart. As Le Monde's banner headline declared on September 12th, "Nous sommes tous des Américains." -- "We are all Americans."

In the face of such compelling empathy, one has to have an extremely sensitive method of detecting anti-Americanism if one wants to assert that it exists. To that end, it is worth reconsidering the most probable explanation for the outcome of the resume experiment described above: subconscious prejudice. To be more specific, the prejudice consists of a subconscious belief that blacks are either less competent employees, more prone to criminal activity or something along the same lines.

The specificity of such prejudices is extremely important, since it enables them to co-exist with general attitudes toward a given group that are not necessarily biased or even negative. As Eve Tushnet points out, some of the employers profiled in the resume may well have been black.

Clearly, such individuals are not prejudiced against blackness itself, but rather against specific traits they associate with elements of the black population. Thus, it might not be accurate to refer to such prejudice as racism. A wealthy and highly-educated black employer might associate black-sounding names with "gangsta" behavior that he considers embarrassing to black Americans as a whole and thus a tangible threat to the struggle for equality.

For all its misguided nobility, this is still prejudice. However, it reflects an intricate mixture of cultural, socio-economic and racial biases. If one is searching for the essence of anti-Americanism, one has to develop methods sensitive enough to detect even this sort of prejdice, the kind that reflects the best of intentions.

TO BE CONTINUED
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Saturday, February 01, 2003

# Posted 9:06 PM by Daniel  

THE SHUTTLE. Very sad article in the Washington Post about Israel's reaction to the news about Ramon.
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# Posted 5:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE FINER ASPECTS OF BOMBING: A friend at the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy has an interesting brief up on US-Israeli military cooperation.

CORRECTION: Sorry for the bad link. To access the policy brief, follow the link above THEN click on the "Policy Watch" link and scroll down just a bit to "#702: Easy on the Stick".
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# Posted 2:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MATTHEW YGLESIAS IS BACK! He's disillusioned with Howard Dean and outright mad about the administration's double talk on the deficit, which may well be wrecking the economy.
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# Posted 2:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HYPE-HYPE-HYPE: Here's a Newsweek exclusive that gives a preview of the evidence Colin Powell will present to the UN. So much for not raising expectations.
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# Posted 10:56 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT DID THEY KNOW and when did they know it? The WaPo has a cover story on the history of US intelligence regarding North Korea's violation of the 1994 accord. While the report raises important questions about the administration's strategy for dealing with Kim Jong Il, it hardly justifies Josh Marshall's hyperbolic criticism of the administration. (Btw, if you follow the link to Marshall, be sure to check out his sensible comments on Iraq as well as his interview with Ken Pollack, the leading expert on Iraq's WMD program.)
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# Posted 10:34 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AYATOLLAH YOU SO: Ayatollah Ali Montazeri, the premier critic of Iranian theocracy, has emerged from house arrest and returned to the political stage. He has already said that, "Chanting death to this and that is not the way to run a country. We have lost our prestige in the world. We are constantly falling behind."

In a direct challenge to Islamic authorities, Montazeri declared that "Ayatollah Khamenei was 'not infallible' and could be challenged by Parliament." Montazeri was once Ayatollah Khomeini's heir apparent, but had a falling out with him. As befits a close ally of Khomeini, he was firmly anti-American. How much of that sentiment remains is unknown. Regardless, Montazeri is a force for democracy.

For more background on Montazeri, see Pejman's Tech Central Station column from December. Pejman's post on the State of the Union has also led me to wonder whether Bush's firm support for Iranian democracy had something to do with Montazeri's release from house arrest.
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Friday, January 31, 2003

# Posted 6:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DID SADDAM GAS THE KURDS? A former CIA analyst, one who was in charge of reporting on Iraq in the 1980s, says there is no hard evidence. Disturbing if true, but the author is wrong to say that if not for the Kurdish incident, Saddam would have a good human rights record.

UPDATE/CORRECTION: WSJ's Best of the Web says that the CIA analyst in question has a long record of distorting evidence in order to defend Saddam. Thanks to JL for pointing this out.
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# Posted 6:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AXIS OF COJONES: Josh is not happy with the phrase of Axis of Vassals. He has a point.

And besides, I now have a better idea, thanks to Bob Kagan's column on our European friends. Introducing, the "Axis of Cojones". (Click here if you need a translation, and here if you want to put the translation in context.)
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# Posted 6:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DUELING HEADLINES: "Palestinian Deaths Mount in Israeli Raids" -- Washington Post, Jan. 31. "Ambushed Israelis Kill Assailants" -- David's proposed alternative. Read the article and see which you think fits better.
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# Posted 5:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JUST ANOTHER '-STAN': US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has sought to allay concerns that the challenge of reconstructing Iraq will lead the United States to forget Afghanistan. As the WaPo reports, Khalilzad
told an audience that included senior officials from Kabul that he has become aware of worries that the United States will "forget" Afghanistan.

"I can unequivocally tell you that will not be the case. Our commitment to the future of Afghanistan is unshakable. Iraq will not reduce that commitment," Khalilzad said.
As the President noted in the State of the Union address, "In Afghanistan, we helped liberate an oppressed people. And we will continue helping them secure their country, rebuild their society, and educate all their children -- boys and girls." If I were Hamid Karzai, I'd say that Bush's statement isn't a bad start. Though one might wonder whether Bush's failure to use the word 'democracy' means that he isn't all that concerned about whether it is Karzai that presides over a rebuilt Afghanistan.
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# Posted 5:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNDER OUR NOSES: North Korea has taken the next step toward producing weapons-grade plutonium. They know that with the US-Iraq confrontation coming to a head, the US cannot divert its attention from the Middle East.

The real question is this, however: If we don't take Saddam out now, will North Korea take advantage of each future crisis to enhance its weapons program? And will Saddam move to advance his each time North Korea causes trouble? I think you know the answer.

UPDATE: ElBaradei has taken a tough stance regarding North Korea, but the Administration has declared his conclusions to be premature. I think ElBaradei is right, but the Administration may not want to divert its attention from Iraq. There also seems to be a good old-fashioned scandal brewing in the South.

UPDATE: The WaPo contradicts the NYT and says the administration is taking North Korea's actions seriously. Possibly, these conflicting accounts represent a difference of opinion between the State Dept and the White House, with the WaPo taking its lead from the former, the NYT from the latter.
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Thursday, January 30, 2003

# Posted 10:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE GAME IS AFOOT: CalPundit has responded to my challenge with quite a sensible post.

Expect a response here sometime this weekend. In the meantime, read what Time and The New Republic have to say about anti-Americanism.
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# Posted 10:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MANDELA THE STRATEGIST: Our friend Nelson has asked whether the US is ignoring the UN because the Secretary General is a black man. Actually, I think the real reason is that the US no longer trusts any nation or organization headed by a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Incidentally, Mandela does not describe his strategy for getting rid of Saddam or protecting the Iraqi people from him. My guess would be that it goes something like this: George Bush should spend twenty years in prison until the moral force generated by his noble self-sacrifice convinces the international community that it must impose sanctions on Iraq that ultimately force it to embrace democracy.

UPDATE: Considering that Mandela is getting on in years, maybe I shouldn't be so hard on him.
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# Posted 10:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THOSE WACKY CANUCKS: I was trying to pick out the juiciest line in this article, but I just couldn't. Read the whole thing.
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# Posted 10:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EU-NILATERALISM: The Washington Post reports that [The European] Parliament adopted 287-209 with 26 abstentions a non-binding resolution saying: "Breaches of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 currently identified by the inspectors with regard to weapons of mass destruction do not justify military action."

Funny, I didn't know that the EU had a right to decide when international law applies and when it doesn't. Then again, it's a non-binding resolution, so maybe the EU is just pretending to be unilateralist becaues what it really wants to do is show America what it feels like to be abused a mean old bully on the other side of the Atlantic.

Even funnier, the NY Times managed to report the EU resolution without mentioning that it contradicts 1441. According to the Times, "the European Parliament voted 287 to 209 in Brussels to urge the United States not to take unilateral military action against Iraq, because Baghdad's dealings with the weapons inspectors did not 'justify military action'." "Dealings", huh?
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# Posted 10:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIFE IMITATING ART: On Wednesday morning, the Weekly Standard wondered when Europe would get around to condmening Bush's anti-AIDS program as American unilateralism. Answer: Thursday. As the old saying goes, "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it."
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# Posted 9:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AXIS OF VASSALS: While "Axis of Weasels" may be a much cleverer (albeit inflammatory) invention, I think that America's eight newfound European friends deserve a similar nickname of their own: the Axis of Vassals.

I came up with the name after reading that Elmar Brok, a German legislator had remarked on Blair and Berlusconi's visits to the White House by observing that ""The race of the vassals has begun."

Now, a vassal isn't necessarily a good thing to be. Webster's defines a vassal as:
1: a person under the protection of a feudal lord to whom he has vowed homage and fealty: a feudal tenant
2: one in a subservient or subordinate position
Now, I don't believe that the Gang of Eight (the old nickname for our European friends) are vassals of old Uncle Sam. As they themselves point out, "The real bond between the U.S. and Europe is the values we share: democracy, individual freedom, human rights and the rule of law."

But by referring to them as the Axis of Vassals, it should remind those on both sides of the Atlantic how intolerant the alleged spokesmen of Europe can become when forced to recognize that the rest of Europe is more interested in the values its shares with the United States than the interests that it doesn't.
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Wednesday, January 29, 2003

# Posted 10:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"OCCUPY US -- PLEASE!" That was the demand that one Kurdish man made to an American visitor in northern Iraq, who has gone on to describe her experiences on the WaPo op-ed page.

While the details provided in the column are quite interesting, the main message is nothing new: That sanctions have not prevented northern Iraq from becoming both more prosperous and more free than it ever was before. This fact demonstrates beyond a shadow of doubt that it is Saddam Hussein and not the West which is responsible for impoverishing and brutalizing the rest of Iraq.

Finally, one point I haven't thought of before: None of the major media outlets seems to have ever published a news item or even an op-ed claiming that life in northern Iraq has not improved dramatically over the past decade. That may be the best evidence out there for what Iraq would be like without Saddam Hussein.
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# Posted 9:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DISTURBING SILENCE: Tom Friedman says the US should help Arab leaders convince Saddam to step down. Everything Friedman says makes sense. It's what he doesn't say that's disturbing.

Nowhere in Friedman's column does he explain how it will be possible to promote democracy in Iraq if Saddam is replaced with a cooperative general. This silence is striking in contrast to Friedman's assertion last week that the only hope for ending terror in the Middle East is a democratic transformation.

But perhaps we should go easy on Tom. Self-contradiction seems to be pervasive on the pages of both the NYT and the WaPo.
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# Posted 1:30 PM by Daniel  

SOTU. Overall not bad, but his last few lines seemed to push the limits of the Establishment Clause:

"Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity.

We Americans have faith in ourselves but not in ourselves alone. We do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history.

May He guide us now, and may God continue to bless the United States of America."

So....the President tell us to place our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history. Bush also asks asking him to guide us--is that official government endorsement of religion? What about those pesky non-believers?

I am far from an expert on these matters, but those are some of my thoughts.
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Tuesday, January 28, 2003

# Posted 11:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MY, HOW (THE NEW YORK) TIMES CHANGE: On Sunday, Howell Raines told us that
"The inspectors alone will never disarm Iraq. But they can slow Mr. Hussein's weapons programs, leaving more time for diplomatic efforts to remove him from power and for Washington to mobilize the international support it now lacks."
Just two days later, Raines has informed us that Hans Blix's findings
"argue strongly for giving the inspectors more time to pursue their efforts and satisfy international opinion that every reasonable step has been taken to solve this problem peacefully."
If one were being generous, one might say that Mr. Raines wants the inspectors to find a smoking gun so that the rest of the Security Council will back an invasion. But it sure as hell sounds like he's saying that the inspectors can't disarm Iraq, so we should give them more time.

CLARIFICATION: Josh points out (via e-mail, no link) that while Howell Raines has the final say on editorial matters, it is Gail Collins and co. that actually write the NYT editorials.
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# Posted 10:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MY OLD BOSS ON THE WARPATH: Before heading to Oxford, I worked at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, or CEIP for short.

My thesis advisor in college used to make fun of CEIP's name. "'International Peace', huh? They're a little behind schedule on that one, aren't they?" And, in fact, CEIP has quite a history, at least in the pre-WWII of taking some terribly naive stances on world politics.

Now, before I say what I'm going to say next, I'd like to point out that all of the Junior Fellows at Carnegie, including myself, were afraid of nothing more than the president of Carnegie, Jessica T. Mathews. Thus, when it came time to put on the annual Christmas comedy show, most of us were hesitant to say anything about Jessica. But in the end, she seemed to take it all pretty well.

Hopefully, Jessica will demostrate the same merciful attitude toward what I am about say, which is this: Her op-ed in today's Post sets a new standard for incoherence and naivete.

To my knowledge, Jessica is the first person to have argued that the US shouldn't enforce 1441 even though Iraq is obviously in material breach. Huh?

But at the same time, she says that inspections should go on for another year, even though there is no reason to believe Saddam will cooperate. Huh?

The reason for going to all this trouble is because the "aim of U.S. policy must be to put the onus on each of the permanent members of the Security Council, in particular, to place its complete commitment behind the intent of Resolution 1441 to disarm Iraq."

Uh-huh. So the purpose of US foreign policy should be to get the rest of the Security Council behind a resolution that has no chance of accomplishing anything.

Based on my experience at Carnegie, I'd have to say that what's really going on here is a spectacular demonstration of verbal acrobatics designed to provide some sort of justification for not doing anything to offend Europe. This is pathological multilateralism.

If even Jessica Mathews knows that Saddam is in material breach but Jacques Chirac won't acknowledge it, then what is multilateralism worth?
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# Posted 10:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YOUR OWN MAN SAYS SO: According to the WaPo, Hans Blix's report to the UN provides all the evidence that the Security Coucil needs to declare that Saddam is in material breach.

The Post is right, of course. And now that you think about it, aren't you glad that Hans Blix has been so incompetent and uncooperative up until now? I mean, absolutely no one can say that Blix gave such a damning report because he is an American frontman. As such, Hans Blix has given the Bush administration exactly what the French and Germans fear most: credibility.
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Monday, January 27, 2003

# Posted 10:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CALPUNDIT VEERS LEFT: Here's Kevin on America bullying Europe:
Lincoln Plawg asks: The question for the US is, of course, what position could the Europeans take up, short of supine submission to each and every US proposal, that the Administration would approve?

I've been wondering that myself. Are Europeans even allowed to disagree with U.S. policy anymore?
That's the whole post, word for word. Kevin, I've praised your work very highly before. You put up more thoughtful, in-depth posts than almost any other blogger. So why is it now acceptable to bash America without a solid argument to back the bashing up?
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# Posted 9:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FAREED ZAKARIA, OPTIMIST: Zakaria thinks a US invasion of Iraq will benefit the Middle East. A definite surprise coming from the man who gave us "The Rise of Illiberal Democracy" and "Our Way: The Trouble With Being the World's Only Superpower." Then again, anyone who endorses OxBlog has to have a bit of the naive idealist in them.

Even so, I almost expect Newsweek to declare that this column is a fabrication, a subtle reminder of Time Magazine's unmasked incompetence. But why look a gift horse in the mouth? Here is Zakaria striking conclusion:
There are always risks involved when things change. But for the past 40 years the fear of these risks has paralyzed Western policy toward the Middle East. And what has come of this caution? Repression, radical Islam and terror. I’ll take my chances with change.
Damn right.
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# Posted 9:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CHUCK HAGEL, MAN OF PRINCIPLE: I don't agree with a word Hagel says, but you have to give him credit for opposing his own party's President at a time when the nation is opposing the brink of war.

One might argue that Hagel's words are nothing more than a cynical effort to track polls which show a majority of independent voters opposing a war without UN approval.

But why oppose a President who demonstrated just two months ago that he is willing to fight hard for his party's Senate candidates and then lead them to victory? Principle. Or perhaps Hagel is an idiot. One of the people I trust most when it comes to foreign policy, someone who happens to share Hagel's affiliation with the GOP, has firmly insisted for years that Hagel is, in fact, an idiot. Only time will tell.

At the moment, John Kerry seems to be chasing the idiocy crown. In the same WaPo article which quotes Hagel, Kerry accuses the Bush administration of "alienating our longtime friends and allies, alarming potential foes and spreading anti-Americanism around the world" through its "blustering unilateralism." Isn't one supposed to alarm one's foes? More importantly, didn't Kerry learn what happens to democratic contenders who blame America for anti-Americanism? Campaigning for the primaries may cost Kerry come Novermber.
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# Posted 8:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SAFIRE UNBOWED: Among the first to insist that Saddam has significant ties to Al Qaeda, Bill Safire says that time has proven him right and that Colin Powell knows it.
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