OxBlog

Saturday, March 15, 2003

# Posted 11:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GRAD STUDENTS TALK BACK: Eric Tam (definitely) and Brett Marston (sort of) think my description of Yale grad students' attitudes toward undergraduates is a little one-sided.

They're right, but it seems that the attitude I described is the one that makes it into print far more than the one they describe. Would that it were not so!
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# Posted 11:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SMALL POX: Martin Kimel reminds us that the US government isn't taking some very basic steps to protect its citizens from biological warfare. Martin says,
"It amazes me that so many American bloggers and professional pundits can argue that Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction poses such a grave danger that we must be prepared to launch a pre-emptive war against Iraq, yet they remain vitually mute in the face of our government's failure to protect us against Saddam's potential use of smallpox against our cities. I agree that we must be prepared to disarm Saddam by force, but I am also convinced that our lethargic reaction to the smallpox threat places us all in great peril.

What makes this so maddening is that there is a fairly simple preventive measure here: the smallpox vaccine. The risks are relatively de minimis, the failure to act potentially catastrophic. (Anyone who believes that an outbreak will be contained after the fact, with all the ensuing panic, is kidding himself. Can you imagine people in high-density areas calmly making appointments to get themselves and their families inoculated once the first case has been diagnosed in their vicinity?) If the "first responders" in my area don't want the vaccine that's been offered them, I do -- and there are plenty of other ordinary civilians who share that view.

So, what to do? We can write letters to the White House, to our Congressional representatives, to local government officials, to anyone of influence. We can make this an issue in the blogosphere that draws the attention of the mainstream media. There are, I'm sure, a host of other things we can do. The war is just around the corner. Let's start defending ourselves at home.
If it's any consolation to our stateside readers, the UK is just as vulnerable...
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# Posted 2:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JEWS OF DIXIE: OxBlog's intrepid reades are on a mission to figure out why it is that Hebraic Northerners assume that anti-Semitism thrives in the states of the Old Confederacy. Gary Farber, the incisive mind behind Amygdala writes that:
I don't have any kind of statistics handy, and I'm a bit loath to do other people's online research without a darned good reason (that's a hint to try googling up some yourself), but first an observation: there are and particularly were in the Sixties and earlier, far, far, far, more "blacks" in the South than Jews. So I'm hardly surprised to see anyone testify what I'm sure is completely true: that they heard far more anti-black remarks than anti-semitic remarks, and witnessed far more anti-black acts, etc. It only stands to reason.

As an anecdote, my mother, who was quite brave, took a hitchhiking trip with a friend, down through the South to visit her brother, who was then training at an Army base, in 1942. When she allowed in conversation with a truck driver that she was Jewish, he asked to see her horns. Deadly serious, no joke, that's what he (and many people) believed. Not in NYC, of course, but that's a difference between being around zillions of Jews and never having met one.

I don't recall of any Jewish civil rights workers being shot up North (Goodman, Schwerner, Cheney, you've heard of them?). And in the Sixties, the KKK was a tad more popular down South. And many other people, of course, had lesser versions of their opinions, which had a lot to say about Jews. As does, for instance, still, David Duke and others today. Where was it David Duke was in office, again?

On the other hand, Congressman Moran is not from a Southern state.

It's almost certainly as worthwhile to distinguish between urban areas and rural areas when discussing anti-semitism, as it is "north" and "south," historically. NYC is an exceptional case, for instance, as are some other large cities, but it's not as if you couldn't find anti-semitism in rural northern states, to be sure.
I think Gary says it pretty well. And whereas his mother was asked about her horns in the 1940s, I have friends who were asked about their horns in the 1990s. (It probably didn't help that my friend's last name was Horn, but anyway.)

Reader BR, a Southern native, thinks that the premise of Southern anti-Semitism should take into account the difference between Catholics and Protestants. As he observes:
I grew up in Alabama -- Mobile to be specific. I attended Catholic grade and high school from 1948 to 1960. Not once did I hear a disparaging remark from the nuns or the brothers aginst the Jews. Oddly enought Mobile has a substantial Catholic, and I suspect, a respectablely sized Jewish populations.

Growng up, I never heard my father or anyone else saying anything bad about Jews, but the Blacks were another story. Also I do not recall any synagogues being defaced. I think the KKK was never very big in Mobile because of the relatively large Catholic population and obviously the KKK never welcomed Catholics, Jews, and Blacks with open arms (or sheets.)

PS Mobile is a seaport and it is my opinion that seaports are generally more tolerant about cultural differences.
Another reader -- one who happens to share the initials DH -- adds that all those who think of the South as more anti-Semitic should take into account the often more offensive racism and anti-Semitism of the North. As he recalls,
I lived in Atlanta, and traveled the across the deep south, but no further north than Richmond until I went to Hofstra U. ( Long Island ). I am 39, from a white, Southern Baptist upbringing. My experience is similar to the DH you quote, but coming along at the tail end of the desegregation struggle, I heard very few openly expressed anti-black comments either. Prejudice was not extinguished by any means, but race problems had become a source of regional shame. I remember being stunned to hear my roommate from New England unselfconsciously ask me, "How can you stand all the niggers down there?" The "N-word" was considered a hyper-obscenity in my southern circle of friends.

In college, my incompetence at identifying Jews by racial characteristics or surname was a source of amusement, as was my confusion of their term "JAP" with John Wayne's epithet for his enemy in old war movies. I had always thought of Judaism as a religious belief that one could not know of a stranger. The Jewish friends of my childhood were simply kids whose religion had an inconveniently unsynchronized, but recognizably similar Sabbath ritual.

White Northerners I met in college all seemed to assume that whatever racial prejudices they harbored were at least better than what went on down south, and thus excusable.
A point worth making. Last but not least, blogger Dan Gelfand adds that
among my father's generation (he's 52), the perception of southern anti-Semitism seems to have at least partly resulted from the murders of Cheney, Schwerner and Goodman. It's something that seems to have stuck in the heads of many people. That said, I don't really know how much of that perception is actually true.
In closing, I offer a thought and a joke. The thought: Northern Jews' strong identification with the civil rights movement has led them to assume that the racists of the South must have also been anti-Semites. Regardless of our white skin, we know that Teutons and Anglo-Saxons often consider us to be less than white.

And the (moderately offensive) joke:
In 1944, a lonely southern dowager sent a telegram to the local army base to let it be known that she would be glad to host two or three young G.I.'s for Saturday dinner. She requested, however, that only white soldiers be sent.

On the appointed day and time, the dowager's doorbell rang and she walked out onto her porch. Standing there were three of the blackest soldiers she had ever seen. Taken aback, she stammeringly asked them, "Are you sure your commanding officer sent you to the right address?"

Calmly, one of the soldiers responded, "I'm sure that this is the right address, ma'am. Lieutenant Goldstein never makes mistakes."
Cheers!
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Friday, March 14, 2003

# Posted 8:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IRAN'S NUCLEAR STRATEGY. Get the bomb, stop America.
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# Posted 8:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DAMN GOOD POST: Amygdala lays down the law of how to separate veiled anti-Semitism from legitimate criticism of neo-conservatives. Don't come back here until you're done reading it.


Judith Weiss' response is also well worth your time. Finally, don't forget Jonah Goldberg's devastating attack on those who attack neo-conservatives because they are afraid to admit they are anti-Semites.
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# Posted 8:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE BLOGGYFOTTOM: Ben Berman has a long and thoughtful post on the dilemma of the liberal hawks. One of Ben's best points is that
it is naïve to think that war in Iraq will not increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks during the conflict. However, increased terrorism would be a strategic decision on the part of Al Qaeda, and not a direct result of the US invasion. Those who want to do harm to the US and the West need no further incentive, but an invasion of Iraq will be an opportune time to strike.
If there's a backlash, it will be planned. Anyway, go and read the rest of Ben's post.
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# Posted 7:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE SOUTH RESPONDS: Unhappy with my observation that anti-Semitism is more common south of the Mason-Dixon line, reader DH responds:
I do not doubt that you and some of your friends may perceive that anti-Semitism is much more common in the South than in the North. However, in making statements based on such "perceptions" about groups of people, I think it's important to be careful that the perceptions stem from actual facts instead of stereotypes that themselves create the perception. To be more blunt, I think it's likely that the reason you and others perceive that Southerners are more likely to be anti-Semitic than Northerners is a general stereotype of white Southerners as bigoted. In this particular instance, I doubt that the stereotype has any basis in fact.

I grew up in Mississippi during the segregation era (I'm 49 and white) and although anti- black statements were as common as air, I can't remember ever hearing an anti-Semitic statement. It was not until I went north to law school (in Chicago) that I ever heard seriously anti-Semitic statements, all from Northerners. In the apartheid-era South that I grew up in, there were only two racial groups - whites and blacks. At that time, the key fact was that Jews were white. (Interestingly, the same was true for Chinese, who were declared "white" by law for purposes of segregation.) Even today, when I visit less enlightened relatives, I may hear anti-black comments, but I just don't remember any anti-Jewish remarks.

I have no doubt that polls would show that white southerners are more likely to be biased against blacks than whites in the rest of the country. But I am not aware of such polls showing this is true with respect to anti-Semitism. Are you? Without such evidence, I think it's best not to make generalizations about groups of people.
DH is right. I don't have evidence, just experience. If any of you have thoughts on this one, let me know.
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# Posted 7:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GREED: Seems a French corporation has been smuggling military supplies to Iraq as recently as this January. While there's no reason to think that the government has anything to do with it, I figure an American company would probably have the decency to sell illegal arms to China instead.

Thanks to RB for the link.
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# Posted 7:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SMARTER THAN SMART: The inimitable Howard Veit thinks that Elizabeth Smart was never kidnapped in the first place. Howard was a private investigator once, so maybe it's a good hunch. Sure would explain a lot.

Anyway, while you're over at Oraculations, don't forget to enjoy some of the other bizarre, twisted and hi-f*****- larious posts. I think Howard may be even more evil than the Angry Cyclist.
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# Posted 7:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CLINTON ON BUSH: In a speech at New York's 92nd St. Y, the fomer Arkansas governor said that he would've done a better job of handling the economy and lining up allies than his successor.

On the one hand, Clinton's attacks weren't much better than cheap shots. But the simple fact that he does support the war shows that he has a certain minimal degree of integrity. Cough--cough--Algore--cough--cough...

(Thanks to reader JW for the link.)
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# Posted 11:57 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PROCRASTINATION: This is the end of the line. I've now descended from racial politics, to crime news, to internet quizzes to the controversy surrounding statues that resemble reproductive organs.

I've stayed away from that last one despite Andrew Sullivan's pronounced interest. But since Glenn asked whether there is a double-standard regarding such stautes on university campuses, I thought I'd add my two cents.

At Yale, there is exactly such a statue, known as the Women's Table. It was designed by Maya Lin, better known for her work on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC. The Table is the regular site of demonstrations and counter demonstrations about gender issues.

From this photo, it's hard to tell that there is anything even vaguely reproductive about the statue. But if you look at the Table from above, it looks exactly like an Oval Orifice. In fact, the Table has even been the victim of a "symbolic rape".

Anyway, it's time for me to go to the gym. Sensei Ohta is visiting, and I have the chance to move one step closer to being a black belt if I impress him enough. Cheers!
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# Posted 11:33 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MY ROLE MODEL is Franklin Roosevelt. At least according to this political stereotypes quiz. Could be worse. He did kick some Nazi a**.

I'm guessed that Josh would come up with Ronald Reagan, but I was wrong. He got Ralph Nader. Go figure.
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# Posted 11:10 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SENSATIONALISM: I know I should be more concerned about the Middle East, but this Utah kidnapping case is just too weird.
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# Posted 10:49 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MUSLIMS VS. ANTI-SEMITISM? We all know that James Moran (D-VA) is an anti-Semite. The real question, though, is "Will Arab-American groups say anything about Moran's remarks?"

Thanks to reader SR, we have our first answer. According to Khalid Turaani, executive director of American Muslims for Jerusalem (AMJ),
“Anti-Semitism is repulsive and intolerable. At the same time it is profoundly un-American to stifle discussion of the well-documented Israeli push for committing American troops to invade Iraq. Israel is a big factor in our decision to go to war...Israel Firsters want a war sooner than later, without regard for American interests or American lives."
Let me translate that for you in case you were having some trouble: "Anti-Semitism is bad, but American Jews are traitors who will sell out America on Israel's behalf."

The hypocrisy continues on AMJ's website. The highlight is AMJ's "Congress Watch", a comprhensive rating of all 535 congressmen's support for the Palestinians. At the end of the report is the AMJ "Hall of Fame" which includes (drum roll please): James Moran. Not to mention Dennis Kucinich and Cynthia McKinney.

There's a Hall of Shame as well, which includes hateful reactionary Arab bashers such as Hillary Clinton, Barbara Boxer, and Dianne Feinstein.

Also worth reading are some of the AMJ press releases, which do their best to pretend that Israeli soldiers show the same malicious disregard for human life as Palestinian suicide bombers. As is obligatory, the AMJ tries to compare Israeli crimes to the Holocaust.

After all, Auschwitz was nothing more than a justified response to fundamentalist Jews who strapped dynamite to themselves and wandered into Munich beerhalls. Right.

All this should really come as no surprise. As Daniel Pipes has shown, AMJ is nothing more than a moderate front for vicious anti-Semitic agenda. Sadly, the war on terror will have to confront enemies within the United States as well as abroad.
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# Posted 9:48 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE DEMOCRATIC LEFT: Social Democrats, USA "is the successor to the Socialist Party, USA, the party of Eugene Debs, Norman Thomas and Bayard Rustin and is a member of the Socialist International."

You'll have to admit, these aren't the sort of folks you think of as hawks. But they are. They support the war against Saddam. And -- more importantly -- they are stronlgy in favor of a serious commitment to building democracy in postwar Iraq. Click here for a copy of an open letter to the President on behalf of democracy in Iraq, signed by an SDUSA official as well as neo-cons like Robert Kagan. Strange bedfellows, I say...but all for a good cause!

UPDATE: Special thanks to readers MC and TM who point out that SDUSA is one of the splinters that resulted from the break up of the original American socialist party. Closer to the neo-cons than one might expect, SDUSA has often taken a hawkish line on foreign policy.
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# Posted 9:32 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MAD COWS AND ENGLISHMEN: The anti-war crowd here seems to be enjoying its civil disobedience. As Giants & Dwarfs reports,
I have just witnessed a mild form of the LA riots or the French Revolution. Around two o'clock this afternoon, a huge mass of school kids (I estimate about 500), most of whom seemed to be about 14, 15 years old, turned up in the main shopping street of Oxford (Corn Market Street) carrying anti-war posters and chanting "No to War!" Some were wearing T-shirts that said: "Let's bomb Texas. They have oil too." They hung around the city center for a good hour and a half. Eventually they stormed Oxford Castle. Then the mob turned violent. They began to hurl rocks at busses and innocent by-standers (such as your humble correspondent). Later they occupied Carfax, the very heart of the city, and blocked buses. Security guards and the odd police officer tried to protect a nearby mall, when the kids threatened to go there next. I spoke to a couple of them, and they told me that they had broken out of their classes, with the tacit support of their anti-war teachers. "The teachers can't let us go, because it's illegal and they'd get sacked, but they wanted us to go", a girl told me. Almost all were pupils from Cheney School (If only the Vice President knew what they are doing in his name), where I imagine some unpleasant conversations will have to take place with staff tomorrow morning.
Not to be outdone, Oxford's students (participating in a larger demonstration) broke into an actual air force base. The BBC reported this as a criminal activity. In contrast, I received the following message from Rhodes Scholars Against the War maillist:
Thank you to everyone who came to our events this week, especially those who came to lie in the cold street on Saturday for the die-in, and those who made the journey to RAF Fairford on Sunday.

Our action at Fairford was a great success, with Oxford students breaking into the base successfully and blocking the take-off of a C-17 transport plane, as well as supporters having a picnic near Gate 14 and the B52 bombers...keeping a vigilant eye on them while they ate. We received coverage on the BBC (both on the TV and on
their website), Radio 4, and in the London Metro....please don't forget about the presence of these bombers in our backyard.
While, in a literal sense, this is sabotage, I'm not going to get worked up about it. These protesters will convince themselves of their own righteousness, ignore the Iraqi liberation once it happens, and then go back to protesting globalization like they did before September 11. Ho-hum.
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Thursday, March 13, 2003

# Posted 10:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNBELIEVABLE: Thanks to RS for sending this my way. It is an
"Interesting video of the AC-130 Specter gunship in action. Note the ability of the crew to discriminate between combatants and non-combatants (not firing on the mosque, which was right next to the target). It is also important to remember there are Special Forces teams on the ground that spotted the target and determined that the Afghanis in the area are combatants."
[Note: The link above will directly open a wmv file.]

UPDATE: Here is some more information about the AC-130.
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# Posted 9:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANOTHER NEW BLOG: I wonder if any country will ever pass the one-blog-per-person barrier. All I can say is that I'm doing my bit. In addition to OxBlog, I belong to Nathan Hale, a DC-area blog started by some friends of mine. It has lots of long, thoughtful essays about US foreign policy.

Also visit the Ranting Rantionalist, a new blog which describes its aspriations as follows:
Hopefully, my rantings will at least vaguely interest those of you who crave rational discourse. I am similarly hopeful that you liberal, subjectivist, collectivist simpletons are roundly agitated and annoyed. The ideas expressed on this Blog will not be subject to any form of political correctness. Facts and thoughts, no matter how unpalatable or taboo, will be presented in an unflinchingly honest fashion. It is my belief that political correctness is a shocking and fetid fact of modern intellectual life; nothing to expand it's already ubiquitous presence will be fostered here.
Read some RR posts and you'll see that Nick means business.
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# Posted 9:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WATCH OUT, ANDREW: OxBlog's good friend The Agonist has had some bad luck lately. A fellow IR student, Sean-Paul found out that his university had cancelled his research grant, which would have enabled him to write his book on the Silk Road. Thanks to cuts in federal and state funding, Sean-Paul doesn't have any personal savings to put toward his research. So...

In a bold move reminiscient of Andrew Sullivan, Sean-Paul has decided to turn to the blogosphere for support. He doesn't need $100,000, only $2500. And instead of earmarking it for personal consumption, Sean-Paul will be spending the cash on a worthy intellectual endeavour.

If 100 people pledge $25 each, Sean-Paul can write his book. Or make that 99. This OxBlogger has put his money where his mouth is.
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# Posted 9:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WARMONGERING ILLUSTRATED is the name of a new blog run by two law students at the University of North Carolina. Some recent highlights include their comments on the unknown merits of the UN Security Countil and their very own fisking of Jimmy Carter's NYT op-ed.

And don't forget to check out WMI's gonzo journalism exploits, which include crashing anti-war rallies and a contest for silliest anti-war poster.
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# Posted 8:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANTI-WAR, ANTI-LOGIC: In a razor-sharp yet idiosyncratic essay, historian Perry Anderson exposes the untenable logic on which the anti-war movement rests. (Special thanks to reader AG for bringing the essay to my attention.)

Anderson's sharpest point is his refutation of the argument that a unilateral invasion of Iraq will undermine either the institution of international law or the trans-atlantic alliance on which it depends. As he observes:
Historically, the United States has always reserved the right to act alone where necessary, while seeking allies wherever possible. In recent years it acted alone in Grenada, in Panama, in Nicaragua, and which of its allies now complains about current arrangements in any of these countries? As for the UN, NATO did not consult it when it launched its attack on Yugoslavia in 1999, in which every European ally that now talks of the need for authorisation from the Security Council fully participated, and which 90 per cent of the opinion that now complains about our plans for Iraq warmly supported.
I might add that the unprecedented influence that the United Nations has at the moment is in part a response to American (and European) disrespect for its mandate. As I've said before, an invasion of Iraq is thus as likely to strengthen the UN as it is to destroy it.

The idiosyncratic side of Anderson's argument emerges in the form of warm praise for arch-realists Kenneth Waltz, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. Incomprehensibly, Anderson endorses Waltz's bizarre hypothesis that the spread of nuclear weapons will make the world safer. Perhaps Prof. Anderson has not heard of a man by the name of Kim Jong Il?

All in all, Anderson's essay is well worth reading. Yet, as always, caveat emptor.

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# Posted 6:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO CHARLATANRY: A while back, OxBlog linked to the Angry Cyclist's exposee of casualty counter Marc Herold's dishonest methods. Now, AC reports that Herold has a book-length version of his pseudo-scholarship coming out.

But the really great thing is that Jeneane Garafolo has become a casualty counter as well, and has begun to double Herold's figures! (Read the whole interview. It's absolutely hilarious.)

PS The Angry Cylcist took the Evil Test and it turns out he is very, very evil. I am not surprised!
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# Posted 6:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOLLARS AND SENSE (AND POUNDS): Reader KB reports that the BBC's commentary on the potential costs of a war with Iraq consists of many worst case scenarios and very little common sense.

As KB asked in a letter to the BBC, "What about the cost of NOT going to war?" Hard to put a number on that, but considering that Saddam Hussein will have an untouchable stockpile of chemical weapons if we don't disarm him now, I imagine military spending will rise to take that fact into account.

Anyhow, the really disappointing thing about the BBC's doomsday scenario is that it's so moderate. The BBC seems profoundly concerned that the UK may have to spend 10 billion pounds. Surely the BBC could've called Bill Nordhaus and gotten him to say that the cost of war will be 50 times that!

Frankly, the BBC's concern about this sort of pocket change reminds me of all the Oxford students who become indignant at the thought that they may someday have to pay a few thousand pounds a year for the privilege of attending their nation's best university. Show them a tuition bill from Harvard and they might realize that the British government is covering the costs of an education that will make them rich while the rest of Britain struggles to get by.
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# Posted 6:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STURM UND DRANG: Avid OxBlog reader Steve Sturm now has his own blog. We are proud to be one of three blogs on his roll, along with Instapundit and the Daily Dish.

In an interesting turnabout for a hawk, Steve lays responsibility for the UN's dithering on the shoulders of Bush and Blair. After all, if they are serious about Iraq, why are they letting incoherent French and German objections get in their way?

I definitely have some sympathy for this view, but I think sometimes Steve takes it a bit far, for example holding Blair responsible for depending on the British left in Parliament. Remember: Blair is the one responsible for transforming the Labour Party from a retrograde and unelectable socialist dinosaur into the monopoly party of the British center. It is because of this triumph that the United Kingdom has been able to stand by the side of the United States in opposing Iraq.

In another interesting post, Steve takes on all those bleeding-heart humanitarians who say you can't put a price on human life. Steve does, and he breaks down the price structure according to nationality and political beliefs.

Generously, Steve declares that a Frenchman is worth .8 of a Brit. What I don't get is why a Frenchman is worth five times as much as an Iraqi civilian. I mean, hey, the Iraqi people are actually Bush's strongest supporters outside of the Dallas city limits!

Keep it up, Steve!

UPDATE: Steve responds to my comments on Blair.
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# Posted 3:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHO'S A HOOSIER? As our Hoosier readers have pointed out, I incorrectly referred to Dick Lugar as (R-IA) instead of (R-IN). My apologies for the mistake. I can assure you of this much, however: I know Lugar is from Indiana. I just mixed up the Iowa and Indiana abbreviations. Now imagine if I'd written (D-IN)...
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Wednesday, March 12, 2003

# Posted 10:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THIS IS A JOB FOR OXDEM!!! Wouldn't it be nice if the entire Bush administration had a firm commitment to democratizing Iraq? Then Josh and I could actually spend time working on our dissertations. But before I get to the bad news, here's some good:

Daniel Drezner's brilliant column in TNR exposes the false premises of the nonstop talk about how hard it will be to bring democracy to Iraq. As he observes,
...it is intellectually fashionable these days to believe that local conditions always triumph over grand theory. But the local conditions argument overlooks a crucial detail: Over the past century, international factors have been more important than domestic factors in determining the success of democratic transition and consolidation. And the international factors surrounding Iraq are more favorable than one might think.
Read the rest of the column to find out what those factors are. (Tony Smith, if you're reading this, I know you deserve credit for the "international factors" argument as well.

The bad news is that international factor #1 (the US government) can't get it's act together. Also in TNR, Lawrence Kaplan provides a devastating account of the State Department's efforts to trade democracy for stability in postwar Iraq. [Full text for subscribers only.]

Foggy Bottom's strategy for ensuring stability is to leave most of the centralized Ba'ath power structure in place after the war, rather than signing off on a federal constitution that would give considerable authority to Iraq's provincial governments. As Jacob Levy explains in (guess where!) TNR, a federal state structure is the best means of balancing ethnic voting blocs as well as stopping authoritariansim from emerging at the center.

The main flaw in Kaplan's account is its whitewash of the Iraqi opposition-in-exile supported by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. As both TNR and OxBlog have argued, however, there is good reason to believe that the opposition-in-exile is power hungry, incompetent, and unable to command the loyalty of anyone actually living in Iraq.

Thus, an extended US occupation may be quite a good thing if it gives time for indigenous democratic forces to organize themselves and draft a workable constitution. If the State Department directs the occupation, that may never happen. However, there are signs that the Pentagon will insist on taking control if an extended occupation is what the president decides on.

So things may work out all right in the end, thanks to a strange sort of dumb luck that combines the best of the Pentagon and State Department's flawed proposals for rebuilding Iraq.
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# Posted 9:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MR. 100%: Jackson Diehl always comes through with a column that unmasks the idiocy of conventional wisdom and shows what real common sense is.

This time, his subject is the shopworn discussion of whether Bush is personally responsible for the marked rise in global anti-Americanism. Josh Marshall, E.J. Dionne and Richard Cohen all say yes.

Howard Kurtz argues, that criticism from such quarters is quite credible, since Marshall, Dionne, and Cohen have consistently argued that Iraq is a threat that must be dealt with. I don't think such criticism is all that suprising, however. For centrist liberals such as M, D and C, there is a tendency to recognize the importance of dealing with threats forcefully, but also a tendency to believe that American arrogance is the cause of any resentment our policies generate abroad.

Ironically, this fear of arrogance is itself quite arrogant, since it assumes that other governments are so beholden to their emotions that their reactions to US decisions depends not on such decisions' actual content, but on whether or not their presentation is "arrogant". As I've said before,
" A unilateral invasion of Iraq is simply unacceptable in Europe. No amount of spin can change that. What the US has to decide is whether invading Iraq is important enough to disregard criticism of it."
Now that I've said my piece, we finally comeback to Jackson Diehl's column, which is the first one I've seen to make a similar point. As he writes:
Some would argue that what increasingly looks like a severe rift in the Western democracies was entirely man-made -- and that clumsy and arrogant acts by the Bush administration started the trouble...

These explanations seem too simple -- deeper historical forces, and not just personalities, are prying old allies apart. For the past decade, France and Russia have tried to make the Middle East a theater for containing the growing global power of the United States. Both strongly opposed the Clinton administration's attempts to respond forcefully to Saddam Hussein; both undermined U.S. containment of Iran. In doing so, they satisfied themselves that the world remained "multipolar," to use Chirac's term -- at the price of letting a couple of rogue states off the hook.
Diehl goes on to argue, however, that this sort of conflict cannot account for the hesitation of Mexico, Chile and Turkey to support the US. In these three cases, bad diplomacy has made all the difference.

While I think that the administration did a reasonable job with Turkey, I am still extremely impressed by Diehl's subtle analysis. The question is, when will the NYT hire him to replace Maureen Dowd?

PS Mickey Kaus makes a similar point to Diehl's in his March 10 post. [Is it me, or does Kaus not have permalinks?]
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# Posted 8:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SAUDI REFORMERS: The Sunday WaPo had an article on conservative Muslims supporting democratic reforms in Saudi Arabia. Predictably, the US Embassy is doing nothing to build a relationship with them.

No less predictably, the article raises unsubstantiated fears about an Islamist victory were the Saudis to hold open elections. As always, the Post's correspondent makes no effort to distinguish peaceful Islamists from their violent counterparts. Yet as OxBlog observed some time ago, this is a critical distinction both in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Muslim world.

While peaceful Islamists are often anti-American, they often condemn terrorists as un-Islamic. As the conduct of the current Saudi government shows, a peaceful anti-American democracy may be preferable to a nominally pro-Western dictatorship.
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# Posted 7:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BREAKIN' THE LAW: Both the NYT and WaPo have had articles in the past couple of days on the challenges of law enforcement in Afghanistan. The coverage is welcome, even if the content isn't all that original.

More interestingly, President Bush called Hamid Karzai to apologize for his grilling by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In the hearing,
"Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) warned that if Karzai told the committee everything was going well, "the next time you come back, then your credibility will be in question. Hagel said later that he felt the administration had "coached" Karzai.
While it's hard to know exactly what Hagel meant, I sense that he wants to make sure the administration doesn't forget about Afghanistan. In the mold of Richard Lugar (R-IN), Hagel seems to be one of few Senators who understands the importance of addressing fthose foreign policy issues that may have a critical impact on American security but not attract much attention from the media.
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# Posted 7:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANTI-SEMITISM: Instapundit has the round-up of reactions to Rep. James Moran's (D-VA) anti-Semitic remarks.

I have to admit, I'm having a hard time getting worked up about this, since it is so cliche. Southerner says Elders of Zion control America. I'm the sure the Anti-Defamation League will deal with it. Then again, I thought nothing of it when Trent Lott made his infamous remarks. A racist from Mississippi. Shocking.

But here's an interesting question: Will Arab-American groups say anything about Moran's remarks? That would be impressive.

CLARIFICATION: A reader has sarcastically observed that my comment above about Southerners is just as enlightened as Moran's comment about Jews. I beg to differ. It simply my own experience and that of many Jewish friends -- yes, some of my best friends are Jewish! -- that anti-Semitism is much more common in Southern states than in the North. While most Southerners -- and almost all the Southerners I personally know -- are very open-minded, there are a disproportionate number that aren't. Thus, my comment entailed an observation. Moran told an out and out lie.
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# Posted 6:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MONEY TALKS: Has the Pentagon begun to accept that it alone can build a democratic Iraq? In a suprising announcement, it unveiled American plans
"to pay the salaries of 2 million or more Iraqi bureaucrats and soldiers to help stabilize Iraq after the fall of President Saddam Hussein, Pentagon officials said yesterday in revealing new details of a broad strategy to occupy and rebuild the country.

Soldiers in Iraq's regular army would be paid for construction work and such tasks as clearing rubble and land mines, officials said. Teachers, police officers, hospital staff and other government workers would collect salaries for delivering a measure of normalcy in the early months after a possible U.S.-led invasion."
I'd have to imagine that the Pentagon is taking on this incredible responsibility because it understands that a half-hearted approach to occupation cannot work. As a peacetime Powell Doctrine might have said, one goes in with overwhelming funds, or one doesn't go in at all.
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# Posted 6:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PREACH IT, SENATOR: McCain is an OxDem man:
Isn't it more likely that antipathy toward the United States in the Islamic world might diminish amid the demonstrations of jubilant Iraqis celebrating the end of a regime that has few equals in its ruthlessness? Wouldn't people subjected to brutal governments be encouraged to see the human rights of Muslims valiantly secured by Americans — rights that are assigned rather cheap value by the critics' definition of justice?
Let's hope that he shares out commitment to the hard work that comes after liberation.
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# Posted 5:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CANNON FODDER: No, this isn't another post about civilian casualties. It's a post about karate.

I'm beginning to sense that brown belts are the karate equivalent of World War I infantrymen. They go out there knowing they are going to be slaughtered. My first fight at last Sunday's tournament actually wasn't all that bad. My opponent was very conservative, and we spent most of the time trying to establish a better position to attack from, rather than simply attacking.

He got ahead 1-0, however, and then I had to chase him during the last 30 seconds of the match in order to try for an equalizer. I tried, but his fist "equalized" my nose. I actually bled, though not much. The only consolation was that my opponent went on to win his next three matches and qualify for the final round. At least I lost to someone good.

What hurts more than losing is losing without a fight, which is what happened in my second match. Around 30 seconds in, my opponent swept my front leg. I barely resisted. It was 5:30pm, I'd gotten three hours of sleep the night before, and I had been at the tournament since 8:30 that morning.

I just sort of floated with my opponent's leg sweep, feeling that it was almost natural to follow the force he generated rather than resisting it. Of course, turning my back ended the match. I didn't feel a thing. My opponent barely touched me. All he needed to do was show that he could've hit me had he wanted to.

When I got back on Sunday night, I started working on my presentation for today's OxDem panel discussion. And that is pretty much all I have done since then.

I haven't written one word of my thesis since last Friday. I've put up one real post on OxBlog. But now that's all behind me and I'm back in business.

The panel came off quite well in terms of audience reaction. Regardless of their political views, members of the audience seemed to believe that it was an enriching discussion. They also were very positive about our decision to have a student-centered discussion rather than a lecturing profession.

Later on, Josh or I may post some sort of summary or partial transcript. Don't expect any sound files, though. Our recording device was none other than the hand-held tape recorder I used to conduct interviews for my senior thesis in college.

In political terms, it's hard to know if the panel was a success or not. Naturally, we didn't expect anyone to change their views in the space of an hour and a half. I think our main concerns was to demonstrate that one can be very well-informed and still support both the use of force against Iraq and democratization afterward.

From my perspective, it was most important to demonstrate this fact to the significant number of Americans in Oxford who are very hesistant to make their views about the war known, since they do not want to bear the responsibility of justifiying their position if it comes anywhere close to supporting for the war.

On some level, I am uncomfortable with such individuals' unwillingness to take a stand and make an effort to become informed. On the other hand, one has to have a tremendous amount of information at one's fingertips in order to respond to accusations that a war will result in hundreds of thousands of civlian deaths, that it will undermine the United Nations and that it will provoke a terrorist backlash throughout the Middle East.

On behalf of all those who sense that these are simplistic and false arguments, Josh and I tried to show that there is a solid case to be made for confronting Saddam and embarking on a project of democratization in the Middle East. Beyond that, we're just keeping our fingers crossed.
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Tuesday, March 11, 2003

# Posted 9:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WISHFUL THINKING? Jacob Golbitz of Innocents Abroad is beginning to think about what sort of international order will emerge in the aftermath of the Second Gulf War. His thoughts are well worth reading. As Jacob himself suggests (via e-mail, no permalink), one might think of his work as a neo-conservative/realist approach to international politics.

In short, Jacob argues that the now-apparent lack of common interests within the ranks of democratic nations will bring to an end the brief era of international cooperation that lasted throughout the 1990s.

The central point on which I differ with Jacob is his exclusive focus on common interests and disregard for common ideas. As is always the case with realists, their realism shades into ivory tower abstraction when they insist on thinking of states as having only interests but not ideas.

To be fair, Jacob never explicitly states that ideas do not matter. But his analysis is clearly interest-driven.

From my perspective, the current conflict between the United States and Europe should not be read as the downfall of an outdated international order. Rather, it is a further demonstration that shared democratic ideals are not enough to ensure constant coordination between American and European foreign policy.

Remember that not one of the United States' dissenting allies has indicated that it would do anything to stop a US invasion or defend Iraq should war breakout. Realists take note: the balance of power is still dead.

In time, the current Euro-American rift will become yet another memorial to the unprecedented flexibility of alliances between democratic nations. It was that flexibility that ensured our victory in the Cold War, and which will ensure our victory in the war on terror.
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# Posted 12:57 PM by Daniel  

I SWEAR, I FREEDOM KISSED HER. You thought America's relations with France had already hit rock bottom? Order some fries on the hill.
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# Posted 8:25 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BACKLASH UPDATE: Will an invasion in Iraq provike a Muslim backlash? Martin Kimel says yes. I say no.

Today's evidence is on Martin's side, though, with the Washington Post reporting that scholars at Al-Azhar University (the Harvard of the Islamic world) calling for jihad in the event of an invasion.

The Al-Azhar declaration states that, "According to Islamic law, if the enemy steps on Muslims' land, jihad becomes a duty on every male and female Muslim." Funny how twelve years of US stepping on Saudi land hasn't provoked that kind of statement before. In light of most Arabs' negative views of Saddam, I sense that having US troops cross the border from one Muslim land to another won't make a lasting difference. But we'll see.
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Saturday, March 08, 2003

# Posted 8:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ARROGANT GRADUATE STUDENT: No, this is not an autobiography. ;) It's about the strike at Yale and Corey Robin, the former graduate student (now a professor in Brooklyn) whose rantings made the op-ed page in yesterday's NYT. Here's what he had to say: In 1991
graduate students went on strike. I did, too — reluctantly. But on the picket line, something happened to me. As we marched around the freshman quad, an undergraduate yelled out his dorm window, "Get back to work." For the first time in my life, I felt like a maid. And suddenly I realized that this was how other workers at Yale — in the dining halls, the labs, the offices — routinely felt. I kept marching, determined never to forget what it's like to work at a place like Yale.

The university's administrators like to claim Yale has changed. And it has — thanks in part to the unions, which do as much as any professor to teach students about the dignity of work. But old habits die hard. On Wednesday, an undergraduate columnist in Yale's student newspaper ended her essay with a message to Anita Seth, the leader of the graduate students' union: "Oh, and Anita? Go teach a section."

How do students so young exercise such breezy command? Where do they learn such imperial disregard, talking to teachers — and dishwashers and janitors — as if they were personal servants? I don't know, but I don't blame the students. They've just learned a lesson from Yale.
Typical. For whatever reason, pro-union grad students at Yale delude themselves into believing that Yale's undergraduates are the heartless scions of an American plutocracy, rather than the middle-of-the-road middle-class liberals that they actually are. (FYI Nader came within 20 or so votes of beating Dole at the Yale polling station when I was a sophomore in 1996. Clinton was far ahead of both of them.)

But I won't say any more, since a letter to the Times has said it best:
Mr. Robin does Yale students a disservice when he transplants the opinion of one conservative columnist onto the entire student body. As a Yale sophomore, I have noticed an attitude on campus that is quite distant from the "imperial disregard" of which he accuses undergraduates.

The vast majority of students have treated strikers with respect, whether or not they agree with union demands. In fact, most of the students I have talked with support Locals 34 and 35, and have become increasingly dissatisfied with the way Yale's administration treats its workers.
While I wouldn't say that students supported the strikers demands' all that strongly when I was there, respect for the members of Locals 34 and 35 and the tremendous amount they did for us was semething almost everyone could agree on.
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# Posted 7:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE POLITICS OF AL JAZEERA: Tom Brokaw (yes, that Tom Brokaw) has an op-ed in the NYT which argues that the rise of Al Jazeera is responsible for fierce anti-war sentiment in the Arab world.

If not for Al Jazeera, Brokaw says, the state-run Arab media might have been able to persuade the Arab street that US policy isn't so bad after all. I'm not so sure. Considering that the Arab media have long been filled with hateful anti-American, anti-Israeli and anti-Western diatribes, I have a hard time believing that Al Jazeera made any sort of difference.

That point aside, it is important to recognize Brokaw's argument as the current version of the liberal cliche that if the US was just better at explaining it policies, people wouldn't resent it so much. In his column, Brokaw sympathetically quotes a Pentagon planner who says that "We've done a terrible job out here explaining why we're going after Saddam Hussein." (For a similar view, visit Bloggy Fottom.)

But the real problems are the policies themselves. A unilateral invasion of Iraq is simply unacceptable in Europe. No amount of spin can change that. What the US has to decide is whether invading Iraq is important enough to disregard criticism of it. I, for one, say yes.

And I suspect that there will be much less criticism once we find Saddam's chemical weapons stockpile and show the French and Germans what they are pretending doesn't exist.
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# Posted 7:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SILLINESS: "Anti-French feeling has been carefully fomented by Republican officials, Rupert Murdoch's media empire and other administration allies." -- Paul Krugman
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# Posted 7:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TECHNO-OPTIMISM: Patrick Ruffini looks forward to the days when the US military will be able to knock off a dictator a month.
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# Posted 6:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

QUIET DIPLOMACY: Sean-Paul has a pair of excellent posts on diplomatic efforts to reduce tension with North Korea.

The one point I'm going to take issue with is Sean-Paul's description of these efforts as "appeasement" and "Clintonian". What they may indicate is that the US has recognized the futility of stopping North Korea from going nuclear. If that's the case, Clintonian appeasement may have been preferable.

(I can't believe I just said that! Then again, even Charlie K. thinks that "the time for appeasement may indeed have arrived.")
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# Posted 6:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STARVING CHILDREN: Yes, we're back in bad news mode. In response to my post on the UN estimate that 1 million childen will die of malnutrition in the event of war, reader PM told me to take a look at this article in Slate by Fred Kaplan, which exposes the highly questionable premises on which the UN study was based.

Kaplan's criticisms stung enough for CASI, the NGO which published the UN estimate, to post a response on its website.

I didn't find the response all that convincing, since its essential premise is that the US will completely disregard the effects of its warfighting strategies on Iraqi civilians. While there is no question that the Pentagon is less than honest about such issues, it's record in Afghanistan and Kosovo shows that it takes them quite seriously.

Last but not least, make sure to take a look at Brookings scholar Michael O'Hanlon's article on US and Iraqi military casualties in a second Gulf war. In urban fighting, the US may have to accept thousands of casualties. That is a very sobering thought.

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# Posted 5:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLOGGY FOTTOM is the name of new foreign policy blog launched by Benjamin Berman, previously known as the author of the second funniest OxBlog lightbulb joke.

Ben is a liberal hawk who has lots of very sensible things to say about foreign policy. Especially interesting is his Call to Unite in Disarming Iraq.

Read it and you'll see that Ben is much closer to the Kevin Drum model of liberal hawkishness than to my own. In other words, Ben's domestic politics are as aggressively liberal as his stance on foreign policy.

In contrast, I am a liberal hawk by virtue of my belief that America must promote liberalism -- in the form of democracy and human rights -- across the globe. We must do so because the liberal principles on which American was founded are universal.

However, I do not believe that these liberal values are identical to those that animate the Democratic agenda on social policy. Rather, both parties promote agendas that represent different variants of the same liberal values on which America was founded. As I see it, the choice between them is more often one of pragmatism than of principle.

So Ben, welcome to the blogosphere!
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# Posted 3:05 PM by Daniel  

THE JEWS. There has never been and never will be a consensus within the "community." There are many many voices in the community. Read Oxblog if you want examples of Jews disagreeing.

In his column today, Bill Keller quotes a Republican strategist who says: "If the policy (the Iraq war) succeeds in the war and the peace....you'll see a further tectonic shift of Jewish political support, both in terms of money and votes, toward Bush. That's not why it's being done, but it will be a consequence if they're successful." I agree that Jewish money will flow toward Bush--Jews who are interested in foreign policy tend to be more hawkish and active politically. But I disagree with the contention that Jews will vote in significantly higher numbers for Bush.

Broadly speaking, Israel is not the top issue on which American Jews vote. Like other Americans, Jews are deeply concerned with domestic issues like the economy, choice, education, the separation of church and state, health care, social security, and the environment. In polling from the 1990s, Israel did not make the top 10 of issues. With the second intifada and 9/11, one could argue that Israel and foreign policy in general has become a greater concern for American Jews. Still, I don't think matters pertaining to Israel will be the decisive factor for Jewish voters in 2004.







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# Posted 11:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PSEUDO-SCHOLARSHIP: A while back, I mentioned radical academic Marc Herold as author of a study claiming that US bombs killed 4,000 Afghans. My spider-sense said something was wrong with his work, but I didn't know what.

Now I do, thanks to the Angry Cyclist. Tech Central Station also has a column on Herold's absurd methodology. And the Weekly Standard points out that Europe's great newspapers have all taken Herold at his word, in addition to providing further evidence that Herold is charlatan.

For some extra amusement, check out the e-mails that went back and forth between Herold and the Angry Cyclist. Many thanks to Prof. Herold for reminding me why, exactly, I intend to leave the academy as soon as I get my doctorate.
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# Posted 10:43 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EXPAT: Another New Yorker marooned on this harsh desert isle? Yes! Hear all about it at Belgravia Dispatch.
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Friday, March 07, 2003

# Posted 11:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OIL SHOCK? According to CSIS expert Anthony Cordesman,
"there is a chance - 10 percent or less - that the war will take a significant turn for the worse. Damage to oil fields, high casualties, or effective use of WMD would send the price of oil surging to $80 per barrel, according to CSIS economists."
In contrast, Nordhaus never estimates the chance that the war will result in extensive damage to oil production facilities. While he acknowledges that things might turn out well, he describes such optimism as naive.

Reading his paper, you get the sense that the chances of a $500 billion spike in the price of oil are better than even. But he never says so explicitly. In short, I think Nordhaus is protecting himself. He wants to scare people about the cost of the war, but isn't confident enough in his own work to take a clear stand on the issue.

Also: after surfing the web for a while, it seems that no one has really tackled the issue of indirect costs other than Cordesman and the CSIS staff. But the CSIS folks have done a lot. The reports on their Iraq website are very in-depth. I won't say more than that until I get some sleep.

If you happen to know of any other experts who have responded to Nordhaus or come up with independent projections of the war's impact on global markets send an e-mail my way. Until then, g'night.
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# Posted 10:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOLLARS AND SENSE: Some of my anti-war friends have been hyping Yale economist William Nordhaus' estimate that a war would cost $1.6 trillion, if one takes into account its costs on stock and oil markets.

If one ignores, for the moment, indirect costs such as the impact of war on global markets, it is clear that the actual cost of fighting Saddam, including a military occupation, will come in at under $200 billion. That number reflects indepedent estimates made by the Congressional Budget Office, the Democratic staff on the House Budget Committee and the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a non-partisan think tank.

$200 billion ain't peanuts, but if the President thinks we can afford a $670 billion tax cut, $200 billion for national security doesn't seem like such a bad idea. But what about Nordhaus? He thinks the CBO, Budget Committee and CSBA estimates are optimistic, but doesn't suggest that fighting Saddam would cost all that much more than they say.

When it comes to occupation, Nordhaus says it could cost anywhere from $75 to $500 billion. The low end figure is the cost of keeping 75,000 troops in Iraq for five years. The high end figure is for 200,000 troops over 10 years. (See page 21 of Nordhaus' report.) Considering that Nordhaus is an alarmist, those figures don't strike me as all that alarming.

Nordhaus' estimate of the war's impact on oil markets assumes the "destruction of most of Iraq?s oil-production capacity along with one-quarter of the productive capacity of other Gulf states," pushing oil prices up to $75 per barrel or $3 per gallon of gas. If that happens, it would cost the US up to $500 billion. (P.29)

Another potential cost of war is a recession similar to that of 1991, which Nordhaus estimates at a cost of $200 to $500 billion. (P.35) If all of these things go wrong at once, the total cost to the US would be about $1.6 trillion. If things go as planned, the total cost will be only $120 billion. (P.39)

Frankly, Nordhaus' numbers don't seem all that realistic. But I'm not an economist. So I'll report back when I've found someone who knows more than I do.
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# Posted 10:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SILVER LINING: Finally, some good news (but still no permalinks). On 31 Dec 2001, the WaPo reported that
“The delivery of unprecedented amounts of wheat to Afghanistan over the past month has averted a major famine this winter, international and American relief officials said last week.

Although they are wary of claiming total victory, officials said they believe the overall food supply in Afghanistan is now sufficient and conditions are stable enough to deliver food throughout most of the country.

"There will be no famine in Afghanistan this winter," said Catherine Bertini, executive director of the United Nations' World Food Programme, which trucks the food aid into Afghanistan. "There will be deaths, because the country was in a pre-famine condition this summer before the war started. But it will be isolated, and not large-scale."
Not exactly a suprise. Unless, of course, you believed the NGO prophets of doom who declared that millions would die of famine because of the war. In case you don't believe that anyone would have predicted that sort of disaster, I thought I'd provide some sample quotes. Here's a Guardianr eport from 22 Sept 2001:
“Fourteen British charities, including Oxfam, wrote an open letter to Tony Blair yesterday warning that up to 5m people face starvation.”
Next, check out India's Hindu from 14 Oct 2001:
“…the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner (UNHCR), Ms. Mary Robinson warned of a looming humanitarian crisis if the aid effort was not stepped up. "There is a desperate situation for hundreds of thousands - perhaps up to two million - of the Afghan civilian population who desperately need food," she said.”
Back on the homefront, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that
“The Senate passed Wellstone's amendment [calling] for the United States to put as much effort into providing humanitarian aid as it is on the military front in its dealings with Afghanistan. Without more U.S. aid, Wellstone said, 100,000 Afghan children could die this winter from hunger and disease.”
On 5 Nov 2001, U-Wire reported that
“Sarah Zaidi, a director of the Center for Economic and Social Rights, said last Monday that "millions -- literally millions -- of Afghan civilians will starve to death this winter unless the U.S. military suspends its attacks and allows the U.N. to re-establish effective food distribution."
Fortunately for the people of Afghanistan, the US ignored this sort of absurd advice. The American victory in November 2001 brought with it the food that Afghanistan had been so desperate for. But consider this fact, from the 6 0ct 2001 issue of Britain's New Scientist:
“Afghanistan has suffered a three-year drought that has been largely ignored by the Western media. Many thousands died of hunger in the mountains last winter, despite a UN programme of food aid. This year's harvest was again half that of a normal year, and much less in areas such as Badakhshan in the rebel-held north-east. The UN warned of an impending "famine without precedent" just a week before the events of 11 September.”
In other words, if not for the war, there would have been a "famine without precedent". Believe it or not, the war saved countless Afghan lives. Yes, one thousand innocent civlians lost their lives to American bombs. But even the most jaded anti-war activits would have to admit that those thousand died to save tens of thousands of their countrymen.
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# Posted 12:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE GLOOM AND DOOM: My research on civilian casualties continues. (I apologize for the lack of permalinks, but I'm using Nexis-Lexis.) The most interesting conclusion from today is that landmines from Afghan's previous wars kill far more people every year than American airstirkes did in 2001. According to Agence France Presse (21 Sept. 2001):
“Explosions of landmines and left-over ammunition caused on average about 88 casualties a month in Afghanistan in 2000, and that was a sharp decline from the 1999 level.

About half of 2,812 casualties treated in an 18 month period were children and most were civilians, according to the ICRC, but it says the figure does not take into account those who die on the spot…

The United Nations and relief agencies in Afghanistan have cleared about 215,000 anti-personel mines in a decade, out of several million thought to be scattered over the Afghan landscape.”
Perhaps this isn't surprising considering that even Bill Arkin from Human Rights Watch reports that
“…what I've observed on the ground is that there was a battle against al-Qaeda that is actually more impressive than I thought. Here in Kandahar is an example. It's amazing how you can see one house that has bombed specifically because there were in Arabs in the house and yet the next door houses have not even been damaged at all. And all over the city, where there's very few civilian casualties in fact, it's amazing how you can pick out specific al-Qaeda houses that were bombed. And the neighborhood all knows that Arabs were there.” (CNBC -- Hardball, 22 Mar 2002)
Even the United States' notorious cluster bombs seem not to have caused much collateral damage. According to the Boston Globe (22 Feb 2002):
“The Pentagon, severely criticized for its widespread use of cluster bombs in Iraq during the Gulf War, has dropped far fewer of the munitions in Afghanistan and has largely avoided civilian areas, focusing instead on enemy troops, tanks, and airfields, according to initial investigations by the United Nations.

UN mine-clearing specialists, working with a Pentagon list of 188 sites hit by cluster bombs, have examined 20 so far and found only one site near a civilian area. The Globe has obtained the previously undisclosed site list.”
When comes to putting facts like this in context, I think Peter Beinart got it right in TNR (19 Nov 2001). Beinart starts with the assumption that Afghan civilian casualties may have reached the 500 mark in mid-November.
Then consider the events of August 8, 1998. On that day, the Taliban took Mazar-e-Sharif from the Northern Alliance. They entered a multi-ethnic city with a substantial population of Hazaras, a Persian-speaking, Shia minority clustered near the Iranian border. The Taliban despised the Hazaras --first, because the Hazaras had fiercely opposed their rule, and second, because the Sunni Taliban considered the Shia Hazaras to be infidels.

And so the conquering Taliban governor addressed the Hazaras from the loudspeaker of a city mosque. According to Human Rights Watch, Mullah Manon Niazi declared that, "Hazaras are not Muslim, they are Shia. They are kofr (infidels)... If you do not show your loyalty, we will burn your houses and we will kill you. You either accept to be Muslims or leave Afghanistan." With that, Taliban soldiers went door to door. They looked for people with Asiatic features, supposedly a Hazara characteristic. Hazaras were told to convert on the spot--and say a Sunni prayer as proof. Those who did not were killed immediately or taken to the city jail from which many were transported to the countryside and then executed. To teach the few remaining Hazaras a lesson, Manon Niazi decreed that the dead bodies remain on the streets for close to a week. Asiaweek estimated the dead at over 6,000.”
While the US may have invaded Afghanistanin order to stop Al Qaeda, its war of self-defense also became a war for freedom and human rights.
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Thursday, March 06, 2003

# Posted 10:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FISKING TIME: This NYT editorial just p****d me off. So here goes:
With yesterday's barely veiled French and Russian threat to veto a war resolution, the United Nations Security Council appears to be rapidly approaching a crippling deadlock over Iraq. That would be the worst of all possible outcomes. It would lift the diplomatic pressure on Iraq to disarm and sever the few remaining restraints that have kept the Bush administration from going to war with its motley ad hoc coalition of allies.
"Motley" and "ad hoc"? That makes it sound like our allies are Tanzania and Vanuatu, not Britain, Spain, Italy and sixteen other countries in Europe (counting Poland). In fact, the sudden emergence of this coalition might have something to with the fact that almost all of its members belong to a relatively well-established alliance that goes by the name of 'NATO'.

As for "Ad hoc", that's a better description of the anti-war coalition, comprising the quixotic French, a German chancellor mired in an economic crisis and assorted African dictators along for the ride.
The rupture in the Security Council is not just another bump in the road in the showdown with Iraq. It could lead to a serious, possibly fatal, breakdown in the system of collective security that was fashioned in the waning days of World War II, a system that finally seemed to be reaching its potential in the years since the end of the cold war. Whatever comes of the conflict with Iraq, the world will have lost before any fighting begins if the Security Council is ruined as a mechanism for unified international action.
First of all, I'd like to inject a dose or reality into conservative dreams and liberal nightmares about an unauthorized war with Iraq crippling of the United Nations. The past six months have made clear just how much the UN matters to Europe. 1441 played a critical role in persuading almost all of Europe's governments to support the United States.

If the US goes to war over a French and/or Russian veto, that will show that the French and Russian vetos are worthless, not that the UN is irrelevant.

As for "the system of collective security" that the NYT is so fond of, might I ask to whom it has provided security? I believe that the UN plays a critical role in international politics, but providing security is not something that it has ever been able to do. Ask the Bosnians. Ask the Kosovars. Ask the Rwandans. What the UN does do is help rebuild nations after dictators have wrecked them and/or the United States has overthrown those dictators with force.
The first casualty is likely to be the effort to use coercive diplomacy to disarm Iraq. The unity of the Security Council last November in backing Resolution 1441 without a dissenting vote, combined with the movement of American forces to the Persian Gulf region, changed the equation with Iraq. Though Saddam Hussein is far from full disarmament, he has given ground in recent months by permitting the return of arms inspectors after a four-year absence and, more recently, by beginning to destroy illegal missiles. With more time and an escalation of pressure, Mr. Hussein might yet buckle.
The Times has it exactly right: Saddam won't disarm unless someone steps up the pressure. The French and Russians clearly don't understand that. They insist on taking at face value Saddam's charade of complaince.

Thus, it seems there are two ways to go from here -- but both begin with the President declaring that he will go to war with or without the United Nations. If the President's declaration produces a compromise with the French and Russians, that might step up the pressure on Saddam. If it doesn't produce a compromise, Saddam will face a very clear choice of disarming or having it done for him in much less pleasant way.
...the French and the Russians are not the only ones who brought us to this point. Mr. Bush and his team laid the groundwork for this mess with their arrogant handling of other nations and dismissive attitude toward international accords. Though they mended their ways to some extent after Sept. 11, and initially tried to work through the Security Council on Iraq, the White House's obvious intention to go to war undermined that effort.
Ah, now I see. If the US had just signed on the dotted line at Kyoto, then the French and Germans would get behind the war effort. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.

As for the "arrogant handling of other nations", why have only the French and Germans taken such great offense while the rest of Europe supports the United States? Could it be that Gerhard Schroeder had an election to win? Or that Jacques Chirac dreams of multipolarity?

Finally, we come to "the White House's obvious intention to go to war". Perhaps the French and Germans would've been more cooperative if the US wasn't serious about disarming Iraq by any means necessary? Didn't the NYT admit just a few sentences ago that 1441 "combined with the movement of American forces to the Persian Gulf region" forced Iraq to make concessions?
There may be a few days more for diplomacy to play out on Iraq, but it is already clear that the great powers on the Security Council, particularly the United States and France, have brought the United Nations to the brink of just the kind of paralysis and powerlessness that they warned would be so damaging to the world.
Hold on. Is it the paralysis or Saddam Hussein we're worried about here?

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# Posted 7:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

COMMON SENSE: From a NYT article on Catholic attitudes toward the war:
"The rest of the world sees us as a big bully," said Lucas Gallegos, 80, a retired pastry chef who travels frequently to Europe to teach his craft. "But if we can come out of this and show the world that we didn't go in there to conquer and take the spoils, but to bring about peace, then we will show that it was a just war."
So much for the average American being ignorant.
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# Posted 7:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STRANGER THAN FICTION: Picking up on a recent Onion headline, Josh Marshall says the Korean spy plane incident is Kim Jong Il's way of trying to get Washington's attention.

Marshall adds that the administration has no policy whatsoever on how to deal with North Korea because the State Department doves are deadlocked with the Pentagon/Cheney hawks. Sounds plausible. If the NYT and WaPo showed more of an interest, we might know if that were really the case. But I'm going to withhold judgment for a bit, since it seems that both the hawks and the doves have an interest in keeping North Korea offstage until the Iraq situation is resolved.
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# Posted 3:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RUSSIAN EXPLETIVES: In his semi-pornographic anti-NYT rant, Josh somehow avoided mentioning that Russian pop stars Tatu are full-fledged members of the celebrity anti-war movement. As the NYT reports, Tatu explicitly defied Jay Leno's request to be apolitical by "wearing T-shirts that used a potent Russian expletive to denounce the possible war in Iraq."

I raise this point because the OxBlog readership tends to be both pro-war and pro-Tatu. But you can't have it both ways. While I know where my priorities lie, I do recommend that If your preference for Tatu wins out, you buy yourself one of their expletive-laden anti-war T-shirts. You can also get a Tatu thong, if that's what you're into.

(OxBlog thanks Dima from Overspill for bringing said apparel to our attention.)


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Wednesday, March 05, 2003

# Posted 2:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SADDAM'S CASUALTIES: He kills so many people it's hard to keep track of. According to Jan. 2003 HRW report, there have been between 250,000 and 290,000 disappearances in Iraq. This figure does not include genocidal attacks on the Kurdish population using chemical weapons.
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# Posted 2:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KOSOVO FIGURES: Just read the HRW report on the air war in Kosovo. Civilian fatalities numbered 500. To get a sense of what sort of accuracy that figure reflects, consider this:
In the first month of Operation Allied Force, NATO reported that it averaged around 350 sorties per day, with nearly 130 attack sorties. By the fourth week, it was flying nearly two-and-a -half times the number of attack sorties per day than it flew during the first three weeks. NATO reported in early July that it had flown a total of 37,465 sorties, of which 14,006 were strike and suppression of air defense (SEAD) sorties and 10,808 were strike-attack sorties. By the end of the conflict, NATO had attacked over 900 targets.

As more NATO forces were introduced and the attacks continued, the percentage of PGMs being used also declined. In the early days of Allied Force, "smart" weapons constituted more than 90 percent of the ordnance employed. By mid-May, this had declined to only 10 or 20 percent of the total, with guided weapons constituting about 35 percent of the 26,000 weapons employed throughout the course of the war
In short, the ratio of bombs to civilian fatalities was 50 to 1. If only Serb bullets had been as kind to the Kosovars.
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# Posted 2:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CASUALTY PREDICTIONS: The Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq (CASI) has published a set of confidential UN documents that project the extent of the humanitarian crisis in postwar Iraq. Sadly, 1.26 million children will be at risk of death from malnutrition, assuming that the war lasts 2-3 months.

While I haven't had the chance to read up on this sort of thing much, I get the sense that the UN produces these short of shock figures before all conflicts. With any luck, I will be able to compare the Afghanistan projections to the postwar reality.
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# Posted 1:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE BENEFITS OF DIVERSITY: Still more from Human Rights Watch: (Their website has a ton of stuff. You should visit it!)
On October 7, 2002, UNICEF stated that “child malnutrition remains a major concern, with almost one-third of all children in the south and center of Iraq suffering from chronic malnutrition.”
South and center, huh? What about the rest of Iraq? Ah, yes. Here we go:
The northern Kurdish population has fared better than those in the central or southern areas. WFP [the UN World Food Program] supplies food to the north, recent harvests have been good, and the local population has been able to retain much of what it grows because the central government refuses to purchase grain from northern farmers.
Who knew? Human Rights Watch spreading capitalist propaganda...
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# Posted 1:37 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THOSE DAMN UNILATERALISTS: According to Human Rights Watch,
Unlike other conflict situations where refugees are able to cross international borders in search of safe haven, Iraqis could become trapped in the midst of a conflict in their own country. Iran, already host to the world's largest refugee population, has sent mixed messages about whether it will allow Iraqi refugees into its territory. Turkey has unequivocally stated for months that it will not honor its international obligation to allow refugees to enter its territory and will set up camps inside Iraq. "Turkey must open its borders to refugees fleeing an emergency at home," [HRW refugee protection expert Alison] Parker said.

Outside of the immediate region, western governments have also prevented Iraqis from seeking asylum in their territories. Europe in particular has policies already in place specifically geared to block Iraqis. These measures include visa restrictions and policies that return Iraqi refugees to "safe third countries" such as Turkey, or to places inside Iraq that are allegedly "safe," such as northern Iraq. All such restrictive policies should be lifted for Iraqis fleeing now and as a consequence of war, the briefing paper urges.
People, haven't you heard of international law? It's not a joke!
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Tuesday, March 04, 2003

# Posted 10:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CASUALTIES FROM THE FIRST GULF WAR: Via Human Rights Watch:
Middle East Watch concludes that the number of Iraqi civilians killed as a direct result of injury from allied bombs and missiles will ultimately be calculated in the thousands, not the hundreds. At the same time, we are reasonably confident that the total number of civilians killed directly by allied attacks did not exceed several thousand, with an upper limit of perhaps between 2,500 and 3,000 Iraqi dead. These numbers, we note, do not include the substantially larger number of deaths that can be attributed to malnutrition, disease and lack of medical care caused by a combination of the U.N.-mandated embargo and the allies' destruction of Iraq's electrical system, with its severe secondary effects
To put this in context, consider that
Repeatedly during the bombing campaign allied commanders suggested that in urban areas where civilian populations were likely to be found, allied air forces were using the most sophisticated munitions at their disposal to minimize the risk of collateralcivilian harm. The U.S. Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Merrill A. McPeak, estimated that some 90 percent of these so-called "smart" weapons hit their targets.

Yet according to Gen. McPeak, precision-guided bombs accounted for only 7,400 of the 84,200 tons of munitions dropped by the allies during Operation Desert Storm, or a mere 8.8 percent, some of which was used to attack hardened targets in the Kuwaiti military theater. The remaining 91.2 percent consisted of unguided weaponry -- so-called "dumb" bombs -- with a reported estimated accuracy rate of only 25 percent.

While downtown Baghdad was said to have been attacked with only precision weapons, the Pentagon and its allies have remained silent about the type of munitions used in other urban areas. It appears likely that at least some of the munitions used in urban areas outside of downtown Baghdad were unguided -- "the same dumb iron bombs that fell on Berlin, Pyongyang and Hanoi," in the words of one former U.S. army officer. For example, Basra, which was largely off-limits to foreign reporters during the air war, appears to have suffered considerably more damage to civilian structures than Baghdad, where a small international press force was present.
84,200 tons of munitions, only 8.8% of which were precision-guided and the US still only 2500-3000 civilian casualties. Somewhere, a Russian is smiling.
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# Posted 10:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EVIDENCE FOR SEWALL: From the 31 Oct 2001 issue of Salon:
Continuing in the tradition of the Gulf War, the most press-managed conflict in history, government officials have attempted to control information through spin control, with tightlipped briefings, vague official statements and praise for "highly accurate" and "precision-guided" weapons that still occasionally miss. Instead of preparing the public for the inevitability of civilian casualties by explaining how American soldiers are trained to avoid them and describing what went wrong when they occur, the Bush administration and the Pentagon have instead created expectations that can't be met. Disappointment, if not anger, is the inevitable result.
Plus:
Studies conducted after the [Gulf] war proved the [negative] expectations to be far-fetched. Human Rights Watch, the most trusted source for civilian casualty data, found that the number of civilian deaths in the Gulf War was "historically low" -- but more that 3,000 civilians were still killed.

"Considering the extent of the campaigns, these numbers are very low," Kohn says. But because the Pentagon led people to believe that there would be virtually no civilian casualties -- showing only pictures of successful targets hit at briefings -- the numbers seemed disturbingly high, he adds.
Of course, the US looks good compared to certain other members of the UN Security Council:
While U.S. military actions over the past 12 years have demonstrated dramatic improvements in keeping noncombatants from harm, other major wars have shown just the opposite. Russia's 1994-1996 war in Chechnya was excoriated by human rights organizations, the State Department and other governments. Russian armed forces made few attempts to focus exclusively on military targets, using scorched-earth tactics harking back to Vietnam and the Second World War. They completely leveled Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, killing, according to Rachel Denbar of Human Rights Watch, "conservatively 15,000 to 20,000 civilians."
What was that about everything on grand scale???
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# Posted 9:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AFGHAN CASUALTIES: In February 17, 2002, the Boston Globe ran a front page story on its somewhat-comprehensive study of Afghan casualties. The study included strong data on 830 civilian deaths, plus a projection of a few hundred more. (Sorry, no permalink -- stil using Nexis-Lexis.)

What's interesting about both this study as well as the one by the LA Times which I cited before is that both are presented as revelations of brutatlity that the US government has refused to acknowledge. The following quote gives a sense of how the Globe spins the issue:
Along with faulty intelligence and the imprecision of aerial warfare, a large number of deaths can be attributed to the selection of targets in civilian areas. One high-profile example occurred during the war at Tora Bora when a US warplane hit the home of an associate of Osama bin Laden at the suggestion of Afghan commanders who knew he was not there. That attack in Pachir Agam killed an estimated 70 villagers.

The conflict's very nature, analysts said, played a role as well. When the war shifted from the dispatch of the Taliban to the narrower hunt for bin Laden, Mullah Mohammed Omar, and a few top cohorts, the task became more difficult. In at least three such targeted attempts, US bombs killed scores of villagers - many children among them - who had no connection to the top terrorists or their associates.

In past weeks, the Pentagon has faced questions from the media as well as some Afghan officials about the military decisions that resulted in civilian casualties.

General Tommy R. Franks, the commander of the war in Afghanistan, defended the campaign as "the most accurate war ever fought" in US history. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has steadfastly maintained that the war has cost relatively few civilian lives.

"If one were to take this activity in Afghanistan and rank it as to the number of civilian deaths" and the care taken by US forces to avoid them, Franks said, "I can't imagine there's been a conflict in history where there has been less collateral damage, less unintended consequences."

But one need look no further back than the estimated 500 civilian deaths in the 1999 Kosovo war to undercut that claim.
My first reaction to this is that Sarah Sewall was right about how bad the US military is at dealing with civilian casualty issues. If I were confronted with hyperbolic statements like the one by Tommy Franks, I'd also go looking for injured children.

On the other hand, the attitude of the Globe and LAT correspondents makes a mockey of Marc Herold's accusation that they are corporate stooges. God bless John Peter Zenger!
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# Posted 8:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BAD ATTITUDE: Sarah Sewall, a program director at Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights and a former Clinton State Department official, has some harsh words for the US military regarding its attitude toward collateral damage. In a Boston Globe op-ed (PDF available here), Sewall writes that
Operation Enduring Freedom showed that senior US officials remain ill-equipped to manage expectation and consequences of collateral damage. American responses to civilian deaths in Afghanistan remain ad hoc, reactive and defensive.

Rather than publicizing their efforts to avoid civilian casualties, the US military avoids such discussion. Officials express generic, passive-voiced regrets about civilian deaths. When faced with allegations about American responsibility for civilian casualties, officials often have little information to share; this allows initial reports and exaggerated allegations to shape public perception. Even when the United States does investigate such allegations, the findings are rarely publicized, leaving the impression that the American forces have whitewashed problems or ignored an opportunity to learn.
I don't know if Sewall is right about all this, but her advice sounds good. And one reason is trust her is that Marc Herold has accused her of being a corporate stooge.
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