Tuesday, February 18, 2003

# Posted 10:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KRUGMAN. If I hadn't spent two minutes reading his column, I could've re-brushed my teeth instead.
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# Posted 10:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEAD HORSE BEATEN: The NYT headline reads: "Israelis Arrest 3 Women in a Joke Gone Wrong."

Unsurprisingly, one of the arrested women claimed that the arrest was "a painful joke" while the Israeli army commented that intelligence reports had indicates the women might be potential suicide bombers. Typical.

But the Times doesn't even explain who supposedly played a joke on whom. Do Israelis soldiers arrest people for fun? Did one of the soldiers know the women being arrested? This coverage is closer to being surreal than it is to being prejudiced.

And to cap it all off, a Reuters dispatch added on at the end of the story informs us: "2 Killed in Gaza Clashes". So, even though two human beings actually lost their lives, the big story of the day was that the Israelis arrested someone by accident for unknown reasons?

Ah, humanity.
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# Posted 10:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BEHOLD THE QUAGMIRE: As is customary before each American military engagement, the NYT has begun to speculate whether it will become another Vietnam. As one scholar has observed, this is how the NYT and other media outlets imply criticism of administration policy when they are concerned about criticizing it directly, usually because it is so popular.

To give you some sense of how far the media will go in its search for quagmires, here are a couple quotes from 1989:
Panama “might end up looking far more like Vietnam than like Grenada." -- NYT

There is “the possibility of a long and decidedly unheroic slog through the jungles and mountains of the isthumus in search of Noriega” -- Dan Rather
[Cited by Jonathan Mermin, Political Communication, Vol. 13 No. 2, 1996, p.185]

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# Posted 8:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BRITAIN'S ANSWER TO A.N.S.W.E.R., PART II: After my initial, disappointig foray into the rumored conspiracy at the heart of the British anti-war movement, I decided that I ought to look for information about the Stop The War Coalition (SWC) and Socialist Workers' Party (SWP) in the most obvious place of all: their websites.

What I found there (or rather what I didn't find) seems to suggest that both organizations have something to hide. While the SWC website provides contact information for the hundreds of organizations that have affiliated with it, it provides virtually no information about SWC itself or how it is run.

Try as I might, I could not find a full list of the SWC's officers. It does have a steering committee of 30-plus individuals, but gives no indications of what this committee does, when it meets or how it was "elected". (And to get to the steering committee page you have to notice a small box to the left of SWC's statement of objectives on the site's index page).

If you follow the link called "press" on the SWC index page, you come to a list of press releases followed by dozens and dozens of photographs of past marches, which take quite some time to load. If you wait for them to finish and scroll all the way down to the end of the page, you finally come to a list of officers responsible for press relations. Their names are Andrew Burgin, Alistair Alexander, John Rees and Lindsey German.

If you then go back to the steering committee page, you can find out a little more about these four. Andrew Burgin works at a socialist bookshop in London. A Google search turned up this op-ed he wrote for the Guardian.

There is no information there, however, about Alistair Alexander. If you head over to Google, you find out that the Guardian has a technology correspondent by the name of Alistair Alexander and that a private individual by the same name has decided to post pictures of his piercings on the web, including his Prince Albert.

As far as I can tell, there is no reason that all three Alistair Alexanders aren't the same person. But who knows?

Finally, we come to Lindsey German and John Rees. Who do they represent? You guessed it: the Socialist Wokers Party. German, according to the press site, is also the "convenor" of SWC, a position entailing some degree of authority that the SWC website doesn't see fit to mention. If you look at the pressclips at the bottom of yesterday's post, however, you will notice that German seems to be the SWC spokesmen quoted most often by the British papers (and never identified as an SWP figure). The other leading spokesman is Andrew Murray of the railway union ASLEF.

The other officer mentioned on the SWC homepage is Jane Shallice, the treasurer. When I ran her name through Google I ran across an SWC press release on a small anti-sanctions site that actually listed German, Murray and Shallice, along with a few others, as officers of SWC. Interestingly, the site also contains a long rant about the authoritarian methods that the Socialist Workers' Party exploits in order to crush resistance to its leadership of the British socialist movement.

According to Google, Jane Shallice is also a regular contributor to the Socialist Review, the monthly magazine of -- you guessed it -- the SWP, which is edited by -- you guessed it again -- Lindsay German.

The last thing about the SWC webpage worth mentinoning is its statement of principles. According to the site, "The resolution below, setting out the Coalition's platform, was ratified at public meetings held in October 2001 in London." In addition, thes statement notes that "The Stop the War Coalition was formed on September 21st, 2001 at a public meeting of over 2,000 people in London."

Who was invited to these meetings? Who ran them? What was said? Where exactly were they held? What does ratification entail? What else did these meetings ratify? Who knows. The SWC certainly doesn't seem interested in sharing the answers to these moderately important questions.

(By way of contrast, the Socialist Alliance, another leftist organization whose website I ran across while surfing, published minutes of its executive committee meetings, has a copy of its constitution online and provides all sorts of other relevant information about its inner workngs.)

So there you have it. Somehow, I expect there will be more to come.

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# Posted 3:34 PM by Dan  

GARY HART has received quite a bit of heat for his comments in two speeches in the San Francisco area last week, which some in the punditocracy said might be criticism of Jews and immigrants.

He gave another speech at Oxford yesterday on "National Security in the 21st Century" which was very similar to the one he delivered here a few weeks ago. I had the opportunity to speak with him yesterday for a few moments before the speech about his comments, and he provided this answer:

"I didn’t have anybody in mind. My response was, I thought I would hear something from the Cubans. What is my argument in reverse? I did some interviews with the Jewish press, and I said I would find this very hard to argue the negative, that there are occasions where Americans should put their country of origin ahead of America? Absurd."

Tucker Carlson, who said: "He was talking about Jewish Americans" is, in my opinion, is wrong. How many Jews are originally from Israel? Sure, those of us from a certain wandering tribe are all "from" Israel at some point, but I would describe my original homelands as somewhere in Eastern Europe. I don't think Hart will win, but he certainly has a better chance than Al Sharpton, regardless of what NRO says.
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# Posted 11:08 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HATCHET JOB: This past Sunday, the New York Times' Magazine featured Robert Kagan -- FYI the conservative foreign affairs expert -- in its "Questions For... " column.

While the accompanying photo was quite flattering, the interview itself crossed the line from being tough to being a hatchet job. Instead of asking serious questions to a serious thinker, the Times' correspondent resorted to ad hominem attacks.

In four consecutive questions, the Times tried to get Kagan to admit that he was a chicken-hawk. In responding to this discredited charge, Kagan was polite enough not to ridicule his interviewer. But that's Bob for you. He's just a nice guy.

The Times' other line of attack consisted of a less than surprising but more than pathetic effort to tar Kagan as chauvinist, in both the sexist and nationalist senses of the word. The title of the interview, "Europeans are Sissies", says it all.

Kagan, of course, never used the words. He is far too sophisticated to resort to name-calling. And the Times should have known that, because the occasion for the interview was the publication of Kagan's new book, Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order.

I'll end this post with a caveat: Perhaps the "Questions For..." column is consistently tough on all its subject, not just conservatives. But there is no question that the Times has a bad habit of publishing soft bios of hardcore leftists such as Leslie Cagan and Bill Ayers. (Note the publication date on the Ayers piece.)

If the Times wants to protects its reputation as the paper of record rather than the paper of the left, it better clean up its act.
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Monday, February 17, 2003

# Posted 9:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BRITAIN'S ANSWER TO A.N.S.W.E.R.: For a million protesters turn out, someone has to do a lot of setting up in advance. As Americans discovered in the aftermath of the DC anti-war protests last month, those someones sometimes turn out to be Stalinists, organized under the umbrella of a front-organization knowns as ANSWER (an acronym for "Act Now to Stop War and End Racism") .

Unsurprisingly, the NY Times, Washington Post and other mainstream media outlets provided misleading and superficial coverage of ANSWER's role in the protests. Again unsurprisingly, the blogosphere was one step ahead of its professional cousins, thanks in large part to Instapundit.

In the aftermath of Saturday's protests in Europe, however, neither the mainstream media nor the blogosphere has shown much interest in who was responsible for getting people out on the streets. I didn't think about myself much until I sat down for a drink with an anarchist friend of mine who had led the Oxford contingent down to London for the anti-war march.

In to response to a few basic questions about his organizing efforts, my friend launched into a tirade against the Stop the War Coalition and its controlling member, the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP). According to my friend, the SWP has a long-running habit of setting up front organizations to control Britain's social movement du jour. Before 9/11, they used the front known as Globalise Resistance to control the anti-IMF/World Bank movement.

What makes the SWP truly objectionable, however, is not that it is opportunistic, but rather that it is authoritarian and manipulative (or as my friend put it, 'Bolshevist'). Even though its pretends to organize broad coalitions, SWP does its best to exclude all others from the planning process. Meeting times are never announced so that outsiders never have the chance to interfere with SWP proposals, which reflect the input of the same unelected executive committee that dominates all SWP activities.

SWP has also refined the art of co-opting other participants in its pet movements. Typically, it tries to flood participating organizations with its own publicity material, espousing idiosyncratic SWP views on all sorts of matters. This material includes items such as protest placards that amateur protesters would have to invest a considerable amount of their own time in making if they weren't given them by others. Thus, to the casual observer, it might seem that these protests are full of SWP backers.

A final practice that particularly irritates my friend is SWP's efforts to spell out which slogans will be chanted at every march. Thus, in London this past Saturday, my friend direct the Oxford anti-war marching band to drown out an SWP speaker who was trying to get the crowd to chant his slogans. Ahh, the beauty of the united Left.

Now, presumably, my friend's comments on SWP and its tactics aren't the final word on the matter. After all, he has a very personal interest in ensuring that others see SWP for what it (allegedly) really is.

So what does the British press say? The Guardian, it seems, isn't saying much at all. Even in its Special Report: The Anti-War Movement, information on the Stop the War Coalition and the SWP is hard to find.

One correspondent reported that "British marchers have spurned isolation for solidarity, and fear for fury. Their momentum came almost from nowhere...they bore no social or political barcode." Hmmm...

Another commented that "There were, of course, the usual suspects - CND, Socialist Workers' Party, the anarchists. But even they looked shocked at the number of their fellow marchers: it is safe to say they had never experienced such a mass of humanity."

The Guardian's editorial page asserted that "This weekend's march in London was both pluralistic and altruistic. Those opposing a war included not only lifelong dissenters and those who view American foreign policy as the root of all terrorism but also deeply unradical adults and children of all colours, faiths and ages. It was, in the words of one television reporter, the "mother of all focus groups".

Finally, in its round-up of web-reporting on the anti-war protests, the Guardian does link to this informative piece about the far left's dominant role of American protests. But when it comes to SWP, I'm still looking...

Now, surely if the Guardian has something to hide the Telegraph will expose it. But the Telegraph seems to agree that
The centre of the capital was paralysed by noisy but peaceful people from many political backgrounds. Former members of the Armed Forces, clergymen and young children all joined the march to Hyde Park.
While it takes a few cheapshots at the unreconstructed Communists in the crowd, it also quotes Stop the War Coalition spokesmen at length.

Well, it getting late and I'm getting discouraged. But I will be back on the story tomorrow.

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# Posted 8:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ISLAM AND DEMOCRACY: PAKISTAN. Welcome to the latest installment of OxBlog's series on democratic reform in the Islamic world. Earlier posts have covered democratic reform (or the lack thereof) in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Algeria. And so on to Pakistan:

This morning, the Washington Post reported that "Despite Pakistan's reputation as a hotbed of Islamic radicalism, its economy is projected to grow this year at a respectable rate of 4.5 percent."

The second half of this sentence is, of course, a total non sequitur. While Islamic fundamentalism is hardly a source of economic growth, a 4.5% increase in GDP is not all that remarkable for any given country unless such growth persists over the long-term. Even basket case economies have good years.

What this strange sentence from the WaPo actually demonstrates is the sort of prejudices that tend to inform coverage of Islamic politics. Correspondents assume that poverty is the cause of Islamic fundamentalism while economic growth is a precursor of democracy. From an empirical perspective both of these statements are highly problematic. Moreover, their application to the situation in Pakistan demonstrates a fundamental ignorance of that country's domestic order.

The Post's first premise is a reference to the ever-popular and still discredited theory that the best way to fight terrrorism is to address its so-called "root causes": poverty, low education and lack of economic opportunity. One clear illustration of how tenuous the link between poverty and terrorism is one UN relief worker's observation about the Palestinian suicide bombers she studied:
"None of them were uneducated, desperately poor, simple-minded, or depressed. Many were middle class and, unless they were fugitives, held paying jobs. More than half of them were refugees from what is now Israel. Two were the sons of millionaires."
So what of Pakistan? The Post is right that it has a reputation as a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism, albeit as a result of bad reporting like that of the Post.

Regardless, the fact is that Islamic parties won an unprecedented share of the vote in the 2002 parliamentary elections in Pakistan. While their 15% share is not all that impressive, if their support continues to grow, they could become a significant political force.

The prospect of an Islamic victory at the polls suggests, of course, that democracy in Pakistan will have the same impact that it did during its initial trial run in Algeria: it will provoke a vicious civil war, but this time the winner will have access to a nuclear arsenal.

The problem with the Pakistan-Algeria analogy is that Islamist victories in Pakistan were the direct result of Pres. Musharraf's efforts to destroy mainstream democratic parties that might challenge his rule. Incompetent and corrupt as Pakistan's democratic governments were in the 1990s, their failures never led to rise in Islamist sentiment. Only Musharraf has done that, thus following the precedent set by Pakistan's Reagan-era dictator, General M. Zia.

Unsurprisingly, the WaPo reported that Islamist election victories reflected a reaction to the US invasion of Afghanistan.

Anyway, in addition to stoking the embers of Islamic fundamentalism, Musharraf has also been providing Kim Jong Ill with considerable support in his quest for nuclear weapons. With friends like this who needs enemies?

Speaking seriously, Musharraf's behavior forces us to revise the Cold War era conventional wisdom that the United States must sometimes support right-wing dictators in order to hold off the great evil of Communism. As Lawrence Kaplan has argued, the US will have to support not a few unpleasant regimes in order to win the war on terror.

But as Musharraf's behavior shows, Islamic dictatorships may be greater threats to American security than Islamic democracies even in the short-term. Unfortunately, the Bush administration seems to be completely oblivious to this fact, especially as far as Pakistan is concerned.

So then, is there any hope for getting rid of Musharraf? When Musharraf overthrew Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999, the people of Pakistan filled the streets cheering for their new president. Numerous Pakistanis truly believed that Musharraf would give Pakistan its first honest, efficient government. Working in Washington DC at the time, I met one World Bank official who decided to give up his job and take a 90% pay cut in order to move back to Pakistan and works for the government. I was impressed.

Such delusions did not last long, however. The depth of anti-Musharraf sentiment became extremely apparent to me at a recent lecture hosted by Oxford's Pakistan Discussion Forum. The speaker was opposition MP Sherry Rahman.

Ms. Rahman went on at length about the corruption and decadence of Pakistan's military elite, with the audience -- consisting mainly of Pakistani students at Oxford -- nodding assent. Thus, I was surprised at the hostility that the audience demonstrated once the post-lecture Q&A began. As I suspected and later confirmed, these students were respectfully attacking Rahman for her abject failure to admit that Pakistan's secular parties demonstrated throughout the 1990s that they are no less corrupt and decadent than the military is now.

Rahman's lack of political self-awareness, whether calculated or sincere, seems to be somewhat pervasive in Pakistan, at least according to friends' accounts. I myself heard former PM Benazir Bhutto speak last summer, only to be disappointed with her obsessive self-glorification and total unwillingness to address any criticism of her record.

Thus what prevails now in Pakistan even among the educated is a sense of hopelessness about politics. There simply are no legitimate options. There are only dictators, thieves and fundamentalists. The sole consolation for Western advocates of democracy promotion is that the people of Pakistan want better.

Should an honest and committed leader emerge, the people will follow him in building democracy.
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# Posted 1:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YOU WIN SOME, YOU LOSE SOME (PART II): Turns out that while I was fighting for a lost cause at the Reading tournament this past weekend, the rest of the Oxford team was having a field day at the BUSA (think British NCAA) championships.

While official results aren't up on the web yet, my teammate Vincent took home gold medals in both kata and kumite, while the men's team won a bronze medal in the team kumite competition.

Go Oxford!
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# Posted 9:03 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GARRY KASPAROV weighs in on Deep Blue and the purpose of computer chess.
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# Posted 8:52 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG CAUGHT LYING: In a recent conversation with an eminent scholar, I was asked how it is that the Washington Times can claim that all of the OxBloggers are in their early 20s.

In order to protect the privacy of this eminent scholar she will be referred to, from this point on, only by her initials, MOM. As MOM pointed out, there is at least one OxBlogger who is already 25 years old. I responded that 25 still counts as early 20s and that until I turn 26 in May, the Times quote will remain as is.

Moreover, if the pot may be so bold as to call the kettle black, it may be observed that MOM herself is about to reach an important birthday, one that may or may not rhyme with the word "shifty". Congratulations!
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Sunday, February 16, 2003

# Posted 10:43 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YOU WIN SOME, YOU LOSE SOME. That's a pretty good description of my time at yesterday's shotokan tournament. Except, of course, for the part about winning some.

One of the rough things about these tournaments is that both the kata and kumite sections are done elimination style, so you are out after one minute if you don't win. Not that I object to this method. With hundreds of competitors, there isn't any other efficient way to do it. But it is pretty damn frustrating for the 50%+ of participants who show up and then go home after getting three minutes of fight time.

As one of those frustrated 50%+, I'm now going to take advantage of this forum to rant. Here goes: I am sick of excuses. Last week, "the soft bigotry of low expectations" provided me with a considerable degree of comfort after my mediocre performance against Cambridge. But not this time. This time, getting knocked out of the tournament just makes me want to go back and win. Bad.

The men's kata event was the first of the day. I knew my chances weren't good, because as a brown belt, I was know thrown into the same bracket as all of the black belts. In the first match in my bracket, a brown went up against a black with the expected result. The good thing about it was that I could see that this guy (the brown) was at least as bad as I was. So the embarassment of losing would be mitigated. But a few matches later, a brown belt took down a black. Then came my match. It wasn't even close.

There are three judges in elimination round kata matches, each voting for you, your opponent, or a tie. I don't even know what the vote in my case was. I didn't look and I didn't ask. I was bad, even by my own standards. On the next to last turn before the end of the kata, I lost my balance and had to interrupt my rhythm to stabilize myself. Not that I really have any rhythm in the first place.

At the end, the head judge raised his white flag, indicating that my opponent had won. (I was the "red" team, for scoring purposes.) And that was that.

I now had a couple of hours before my kumite match, so I had a chance to watch everyone else. The first thing I saw was the kata competition for adults of kyu (rank) 4 thru 6. I am third kyu, which is one higher than fourth since the progression runs backwards. In other words, I was watching those who had anywhere from three to nine months less experience than myself, who's been doing karate for two and a half years.

If there was one word that summed up what I saw, it was schadenfreude. Of the 20 or so people in the 4-6 bracket, I easily could've beaten 15 of them. Not that this was saying much. You often hear that promotions are given out too easily at karate clubs, and while I have no doubt benefited from this fact, it's impact on the 4-6 bracket was self-evident.

At the same time as the 4-6 kata matches, there was a brown/black kata competition for children going on in the next ring over. These kids were fantastic. And when I say kids, I mean really little kids, 6-8 years old. Maybe they weren't as good as adult black belts, but they were a helluva lot better than me. I have the utmost respect for their teachers.

From my own time as a classroom volunteer, I know that getting kids to sit down, shut up, and pay attention to anything (except Pokemon) is all but impossible. As I learned last Friday night, when I taught my first karate class (another total accident resulting from the fact that a half dozen novices didn't know that our club's training session had been cancelled), even teaching adults karate is very hard. They pay attention, but it just isn't an easy subject.

A little later on I got to watch the team kumite competitions. Basically, this was a chance to size up my competition before the individual kumite matches. A few things seemed pretty clear. First, the brown belts were totally dominated by the black belts. But even the black belts had technical flaws so glaring that they were evident to someone with as little experience as myself.

Seeing this basically confirmed what Rob Redmond says, which is that Shotokan's unflagging emphasis on karate form entails a total neglect of karate applications. The most significant flaws I saw were a failure to keep one's guard up and a reckless willingness to use kicking techniques even when competitors clearly lacked the speed or proficiecy to use them effectively.

These were the weakness I hoped to exploit in my own matches. If you kick before you're good enough to do it, you basically turn yourself into a slow-moving, off-balance target that is about as hard to hit as the side of a barn. Thus, my strategy was to wait for my opponent to do something stupid so I could take advantage of it. Call it Bill Buckner thinking.

(On a side note, addressed mainly to those of you who practice dynamic martial arts with an emphasis on application, I'd like to point out that form is the theoretical foundation on which all application is based. At the expense of the short-term development of fighting ability, shotokan prepares its students to function at a much higher level later on.)

It turned out that my strategizing didn't matter all that much. My opponent in the kumite was a 2nd-degree black belt who was smart enough not to try anything stupid. On the other hand, he lacked both the natural talent and training to dominate me despite having a half-dozen years more experience. In this sense I was lucky, since some of the other brown belts in my bracket were beaten in under 15 seconds, literally.

I felt especially bad for one of them. He was a skinny guy, around 30, with bad teeth and a harmless look on his face. The ref said go. His opponent lowered himself into fighting stance, then suddenly launched his leg into a crescent sweep, surprising Mr. Brown Belt and throwing him off balance. Before he could recover, or even look up, he had been punched three times and the match was over.

My match began slowly. Since one solid point (or two half-points) wins, everyone was playing conservatively. We moved back and forth, feeling each other out. After a minute or so we began to get more aggressive. Then he scored a half-point, but I had time to make up.

I remember vividly one point in the middle of the match where I was throwing punch after punch, with my opponent blocking but unable to counter. I could feel that I had him. It was my time. If my punches were just that much faster, that much better timed, that much closer to the target, I could've dominated him. It was that feeling of being so close but so far that is now driving me, making me want to win more badly than ever.

The thirty-second bell rang. I was still down one-half point to none. I had to attack or give up any hope of winning. But I haven't trained enough to mount a forward offense, which is much harder than defending and taking advantage of your oppoents mistakes.

Like an NFL team ahead by 10 with a minute to go in the fourth, my opponent gave up ground rather than staying close and risking a big play. I went after him, had him in the corner, but got wild with my attack. It was off target and he had no problem countering back to my exposed side. I felt it cleanly, felt how far I was from blocking it or even seeing it coming. And that was it.

As etiquette demands, I stayed around to watch the rest of the matches in my bracket. The black belts were better than the ones I had seen at first, but the browns were underwhelming. I think I could've taken any of them. Having come so close but so far in my own match, I was dying for another chance. But that will have to come some other time.

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Friday, February 14, 2003

# Posted 7:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS! Off to another karate tourament. Will check back in sometime on Sunday. In the meantime, will contemplating Rob Redmond's guide to sparring.
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# Posted 7:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DREZNER VS. MARSHALL: Dan takes apart Josh's accusation that the US is at fault for the bad blood in NATO.
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# Posted 6:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EXPAT IRAQIS FAVOR WAR: Not exactly news, but this is example is so acidly bitter it's worth noting.
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# Posted 6:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IRAQI ANTI-SEMITISM: Not exactly news, but this example is so stupendously offensive it's worth noting.
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# Posted 6:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NUMBER CRUNCHING: CalPundit exposes the lengths that the National Review will go to in order to excuse Bush's reckless deficit politics.
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# Posted 6:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH SCREWS AFGHANISTAN: I like to give the President the benefit of the doubt on democracy promotion issues, but when a budget cotains all of $0 for rebuilding Afghanistan, you have to suspect that his rhetoric is empty.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall is on the case as well.
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# Posted 5:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNPREDICTABLE: Josh and I seem to agree what makes the WaPo op-ed page so much better than its NYT counterpart is that the columnists at the WaPo are not so damn predictable. The latest indication that we are right: E.J. Dionne's defense of a Republican president's habit of filling his speeches with the language of God.

I'm firmly against God talk in politics, but Dionne has me convinced.
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# Posted 5:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GRIN AND BEAR IT: Promoting democracy in the Middle East will mean working with Arab reformers whose positions on foreign policy are anathema to the United States. For example, Yusuf Qaradawi. He supports both Palestinian suicide bombings and the right of women candidates to stand for office in Bahrain's municipal election.

During the Cold War, the United States sold out democracy in the developing world when foreign democrats showed the slightest signs of straying to the left. Our reward was the rise of Khomeini.

However unpleasant men such as Yusuf Qaradawi are, their challenge to fundamentalist authorities is one of the rare sources of criticism that devout Muslims perceive as legitimate. And sometimes, there are signs that reformers such as Qaradawi will support reforms that benefit moderate Islam.

In his case, the fact that that each of his three daughters has a PhD from British universities indicates that Qaradawi's brand of moderate Islamism may well give birth to a new generation that is educated enough to demand for itself the democratic rights that all Muslims deserve.
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# Posted 11:31 AM by Dan  

BLIX MIXED. Both sides will get ammunition from this presentation. Syria's presentation was especially persuasive, especially when they called American policy racist and focused entirely on all of the injustices committed by Israel. I also appreciate Iraq's new law banning nuclear weapons programs. I think France just surrendered, but my French isn't so good.
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# Posted 7:09 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HAPPY FIRE EXTINGUISHER DAY! According to an executive order just signed by the President, today has been renamed Fire Extinguisher Day. The President has asked that Americans celebrate this special holiday by walking the streets with fire extinguishers and spraying anyone (or anytwo) engaged in public displays of affection. When spraying, please remember to offer your friends the traditional Fire Extinguisher Day greeting: "Get a room!"
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Thursday, February 13, 2003

# Posted 9:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HORNET'S NEST: "Why must the United States attack Saddam Hussein if that will only anger much of the Islamic world?"

The WaPo has one answer to this question: that the United States unwillingness to back a decisive intervention in the Middle East is precisely the reason why lesser attacks such as the first WTC bombing, the Khobar towers explosion, the twin embassy explosions and the attack on the USS Cole led to the climactic terrorist assault on 9/11.

Rather than offer a second answer, I'd like to challenge the question's premise, i.e. that an American invasion of Iraq will provoke a harsh fundamentalist response. This premise rests on twin assumptions that fundamentally contradict one another.

The first is that the Arab man-in-the-street is so firmly anti-American that he will be confuse the liberation of Iraq with the reimposition of Western imperial rule. The second is that the Arab man-in-the-street is not so firm in his anti-American convinctions, but that American agression against the Arab world will provoke him to violence.

You can't have it both ways. Naturally, there are different degrees of anti-Americanism in the Arab world, and it is hard to know exactly what different subsets of the Arab population believe. As such, it is hard to provide a definite answer to the question of how a US-Allied invasion of Iraq will affect public sentiment in the Arab world. Nonetheless, I'd like to make some tentative observations.

First, I believe that most Arabs are open-minded enough not to rush to judgment immediately. No doubt, even those who are not firmly anti-American will be deeply suspicious of American motives. Thus, there may well be riots or other disturbances. However, if it becomes clear that the West has replaced Saddam with a government more democratic than any other in the Middle East, the initial outburst of anti-Americansim will abate. While the Arab may be able to tell whatever lies it wants about the Zionist entity, it will be much harder to deceive the public about the true nature of postwar Iraq, about which they will learn from fellow Arabs and Muslims.

If my scenario provides a ballpark estimation of Arab reaction to the invasion, then there is little reason to fear that forceful US intervention will provoke a mad rush of enlistments at Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas headquarters. While these organizations will no doubt take advantage of the initial chaos to launch attacks and win political and financial support, their gains will pale in comparison to the credibility that the US wins if, and that is a very definite if, the US wholeheartedly commits itself to rebuilding a democratic Iraq.

Now what if I am wrong? What if most Arabs already are so firmly anti-American that even the sudden establishment of a Norway on the Euphrates will not disabuse them of their anti-imperialist sentiments? If that's the case, then their support for terrorist organizations and willingness to overthrow conservative dictatorships is probably already at a maximum. It's hardly something that could be made worse.

And what if Arabs are more open-minded than I project? Then there isn't all that much reason to fear a sudden and devastating turn to fundamentalism, since such Arabs will be open-minded enough to judge the American occupation of Iraq on the merits, albeit from a suspicious vantage point.

As a final bit of support for my view of the Arab street as more open-minded than that derogatory term makes it out to be, I'd like to cite a couple of facts I picked up from Stephen Schwartz's book The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa'ud From Tradition to Terror. (Btw, big shout out to Doubleday for sending me a complementary copy.)

Even though I have serious reservations about Schwartz's credibility as an author, there is the occasional bit of prose that seems well-documents. The one that impressed me was Schwartz's description of the reaction of Balkan Muslims to the American war effort in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Naturally, one might expect the direct beneficiaries of American intervention to have kinds words for it. (This implies, of course, that liberated Iraqis will be well able to recognize that American intervention has changed their lives dramatically for the better.) Even so, the degree of Bosnian and Kosovar enthusiasm for the US was surprising. Here are some samples:

"The world has split into a modern civilization and one of barbarism and terrorism. Bosnia-Hercegovina has chosen to ally itself with the civilized world. It has decided to part of the solution, not part of the problem." -- Bosnian Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija
While the Saudis have also offered similar (if far more equivocal) endorsements of US policy, the Bosnians have backed up their rhetoric by aggressively routing out Al Qaeda affiliates in their own backyard. In March 2002, for example, government raids in Sarajevo produced evidence that helped tie the Chicago-based head of a major Islamic charity to Osama bin Laden.
"Every Albanian in Kosovo knows that without the help of the United States we would have been devastated by Serbian imperialism." -- Daut Dauti, Kosovar journalist.
Despite occasional descriptions of the Kosovar KLA as Muslim terrorists, both the KLA and the Kosovar religious leaderships have taken the American side in the aftermath of 9/11. And there are indications that Turkish Muslims know where there interests lie as well. According to one journalist and former diplomat,
"The United States, [after] it could not convince our European friends, stopped the Serbian aggressors with a military-intervention in Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Now, mind you that neither Balkan nor Turkish Muslims are Arabs, who have a political history and culture that is much more conducive to anti-American fundamentalism. Even so, there is hope that the Islamic ties between these nations will foster a recognition that the US may be in the process of doing more for the cause of Arab freedom than any Arab leader has ever done.

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# Posted 7:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

McGRORY RECOVERS: After briefly leading us to believe that she more than just an aging Maureen Dowd, Mary McGrory returned to form today with her usual mixed-up logic and cheap shots at the administration.

But why am I even putting up links to a column I think no one should read? Because all of you should suffer through the column the same way I did!
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# Posted 7:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NO, THIS IS 91....2! The WaPo reports that Edward Roland
"suffered a heart attack at home after his release from the hospital following treatment for bone and liver cancer. His mother said her family called 911 for help. The medics were dispatched at 6:01 p.m. But -- get this -- the medics' shift had ended at 6 p.m., one minute earlier, so they drove back to the firehouse to hand off the emergency call to the next team coming on duty. The new team didn't arrive at Mr. Roland's home with intravenous medications and heart-monitoring equipment until 6:26 p.m. Kept waiting for help for 25 minutes, Mr. Roland, 51, was dead by the time the medics arrived."
And you thought Chief Wiggum was fictional.
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# Posted 7:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GREEN(SPAN) WITH ENVY: Ever-impotent in their quest to publicize the absurdity of the administration's budget, the Democrats must be just a little bit jealous of Alan Greenspan's ability to destory the administration's credibility in a single hour.
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# Posted 7:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

[While I'm not going to put up all my posts in both Spanish and English, this one seemed to be fit for translation:]

DERECHOS HUMANOS EN COLOMBIA: Aunque sea necesario ayudar a las fuerzas armadas Colombianas, hay que ensenarles respetar los derechos humanos de la poblacion. En este momento, me parece que los Guerreros Frios de la administracion Bush no han aprendido nada de los conflictos latinos de los 1980s, cuando se demostraba que no se puede vencer el terrorismo guerrillero sin asegurar que las fuerzas armadas de gobiernos aliados merecen el apoyo de la poblacion local.

HUMAN RIGHTS IN COLOMBIA: Although it is necessary to support Colombia's armed forces, the US must teach them to respect the human rights of those living in combat zones. At this moment, the unconditional support of the Bush administration's Cold Warriors for the Colombians indicates that they didn't learn the most important lesson of the Latin American conflicts of the 1980s -- that one cannot defeat guerilla terrorism without ensuring that allied forces win the hearts and minds of locals by respecting their human rights.
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# Posted 7:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

COLD CASH OR COLD TURKEY? A guarantee of considerable economic aid played a critical role in persuading the Turkish parliament to support the basing of US troops in that country. When doling out the aid, the US should take a page from the IMF playbook: make each installment contingent on good behavior, especially Turkish cooperation in supporting Kurdish rights in northern Iraq.
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# Posted 7:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CULTURAL INSENSITIVITY: Max Boot adds a solid article to the growing collection of works explaining why this war is not for oil. It turns that even Jimmy Carter has said that this war has nothing to do with oil.

But what was really noteworthy about Boot's column was this quote: "Europeans are projecting their own behavior onto us. They know that their own foreign policies have in the past often been driven by avarice...After more than 200 years, Europe still hasn't figured out what makes America tick."

Now, how often do you hear that the problem with American foreign policy, or even Americans in general, is that they don't know enough about foreign cultures? And while I'm all for learning more about other cultures, no one ever seems to recommend that other nations learn more about us.

While Americans themselves often insist that America has no culture, it does. And that culture has a lot more to it than McDonalds, Coca-Cola and MTV. Not that those other things are all good. As one Vietnamese immigrant observed, the cardinal elements of American culture are money, God, sex and guns. (That statement wasn't meant to be entirely negative. Said immigrant became a millionaire, occasionally had good sex, and was a devout Buddhist.)

Thus, when one thinks about the cause of the current tensions between the United States and France, it is important to recognize that cultural misunderstandings are at play. But Europeans are not the only who misunderstand American culture. In fact, numerous Americans do as well, especially that branch of the American left which believes that this is a war for oil.

The lesson here is that before one assumes responsibility for learning about other cultures, it is of supreme importance to learn about one's. As the Delphic Oracle said, "Know thyself." This lesson applies to nations as much as it does to individuals. While it will never possible to learn about all, or even most of the foreign cultures with which the United States interacts, it is possible to know ourself well enough to be aware of recurrent, sometimes self-destructive patterns in our behavior.

Yes, Mr. Chirac, that lesson applies to France as well.

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# Posted 6:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT'S A FEW MILES BETWEEN FRIENDS? It's hard to know what to make of the latest Iraqi breach of 1441. On the one hand, it was Iraq's own 12,000 page report that provided the Blix Boys with enough evidence to demonstrate that Iraq has missiles whose range exceeded UN guidelines. (Thus emphasizing once again that the inspectors cannot find anything Iraq doesn't let them find.)

So, did Iraq want its missile program to be discovered? That wouldn't be so unreasonable. The Iraqis claim that the outlawed missiles, once loaded with explosives and guidance systems, would have a range within the UN limit. Did Iraq want to provovke a split between the US and the rest of the Security Council by tempting Cheney and Rumsfeld to declare that missiles with a range 30 miles too long are an excuse to go to war?

On the other hand, the whole missile affair may be a serious Iraqi screw-up, with the entire Security Council soon demanding that Saddam turn over large numbers of missiles he has already deployed in the field. If he doesn't, it would be very hard for anyone to argue that he is not in material breach of 1441.
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# Posted 6:35 AM by Dan  

INSPECTIONS. This shows why they simply will not work. Blix doesn't notice a thing.
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Wednesday, February 12, 2003

# Posted 8:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BASHAR BASHING: &c. fisks David Ignatius' profile of Syrian president Bashar Assad.
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# Posted 8:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE COST OF VICTORY: Joseph Biden, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee "said Bush must remain committed to the rebuilding effort if he launches a war, even if it means limiting his proposed tax cut or curtailing his domestic agenda."

On the one hand, Biden's statement is a disingenuous effort to assert that Bush ought to let the Democrats run the show in Washington until the United States finishes its job in Iraq. On the other, I really will be disappointed with Bush if he stops focusing on Iraq after the war in order to work on his domestic agenda.

Then again, W. learned from his father that victory in Iraq is worthless if the voters believe that it has taken priority over their demands. That is why the Oxford Democracy Forum exists -- to make sure that electoral politics don't preempt America's mission to promote democracy abroad.

UPDATE: The Iraqi opposition-in-exile certainly isn't making Bush's job any easier.
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# Posted 7:44 AM by Dan  

STICK TO PAINTING. The NY Times offers us a sentimental and sympathetic look at Nelson Mandela and his new role as an artist. The article offers a one sentence reminder that "last month, he made headlines by sharply assailing President Bush and the American push for war with Iraq." Yes, I know--this article is about his painting career, not his politics. But I am still disturbed by the Mandela's comments and unsure about just how much of a free pass he deserves.

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# Posted 1:05 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HATING AUSTRALIANS: The Bali attack was not random.
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# Posted 1:03 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MICHAEL LERNER BANNED: Now even Tikkun and The Nation think International ANSWER has gone too far.
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# Posted 12:45 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SULLIVAN SLAMS PROFLIGATE PRESIDENT: Andrew has nary a kind word for the 2003 budget.
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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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