Saturday, March 22, 2003

# Posted 11:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE CHARLATAN RETURNS: Our old friend Marc Herold is now counting civilian casualties in Iraq, instead of Afghanistan. Mr. Herold may get bored, however, since the Pentagon has been depriving him of much of anything to count.
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# Posted 11:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HUMAN SHIELDS REPENT: Glenn Reynolds has the story, here and here.
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# Posted 11:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

INNOCENT SOLDIERS: As this column reminds us, the life of an Iraqi soldier is also a valuable thing, one which we should not treat with contempt. Many of the young men forced into Saddam's armed forces are as innocent as their civilian counterparts.

Nonetheless, I find it hard to accept that American strategy should focus on minimizing Iraq's military casualties. Were that our approach, fighting a war would simply become impossible. While minimizing opposition casualties is a noble goal, it is one best achieved through the swiftest possible victory.
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# Posted 11:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOT WORTH FISKING: I tend to think of Bill Keller as being a cut above Nick Kristof and Paul Krugman when it comes to providing a balanced view of foreign affairs. But today's column consists of nothing more than shameless partisan sniping.

While I am inclined to give Keller one more chance, the next time this happens I will add him to my list of unreadables. For the moment, it includes Kristof, Krugman and McGrory on the left, Will and Krauthammer on the right. Dowd almost made it, but her special relationship with Josh makes reading her just a little bit more fun...
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# Posted 11:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IRAQ'S ENRON: The NYT has an in-depth report on the administration's plans to give American corporations the exclusive right to bid on reconstruction contracts for Iraq. While there are good reasons to believe that the private sector can get the job done more efficiently than either the US government, the UN, or the NGO community, the political and economic risks of a market-based strategy are tremendous.

As Enron demonstrated, American corporations are no strangers to massive fraud. If scandals emerge, the administration will be hard-pressed to defend itself from charges that corporate interests are running US foreign policy.

Even worse, American corruption may alienate the people of Iraq while also ensuring that dishonest business practices become part and parcel of the political culture in postwar Iraq. While the Bush administration has never been a fan of strong corporate regulations, that is it's only hope of ensuring that Iraq becomes a prosperous democracy rather than a failed state run by organized criminals.
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# Posted 10:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CHIRAC VS. IRAQ: The French president has declared that he will not support a UN resolution authorizing the British and American governments to administer postwar Iraq.

According to the WaPo's sub-headline, "Chirac Vows to Block U.S., British Attempts to Govern Post-War Iraq." But that is not what Chirac said. In fact, what he opposes is providing international legitimacy to the Anglo-American occupation.

There is no indication that the French will actually do anything to stop the US or UK from administering Iraq, since that might involve paying some of the costs of the occupation. And why pay if the US and UK are going to take care of the occupation on their own?

In a sense, Chirac's attitude toward the occupation is identical to his attitude toward the war: Let the British and Americans do what has to be done while the French insist that they could have done it better.
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# Posted 10:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BEYOND REGIME CHANGE: The Outlook section in this Sunday's WaPo features a series of five essays on the aftermath of the war in Iraq.

As the co-founder of OxDem, I found the essays thoroughly depressing. Taken as whole, the essays' message is that there is little hope for promoting democracy in Iraq or in the Middle East. Fortunately, the logic on which this message rests is absurd to the point of self-contradiction.

Wesley Clark spends most of his time explaining why Iraq is not Japan and why we cannot expect to transform it via military occupation. According to Clark,
The circumstances of Japan and its transformation bear so little resemblance to those of present-day Iraq that both the analogy and the pursuit of a new MacArthur are off the mark. Almost nothing from the lessons of postwar Japan can be applied directly to Iraq, and consequently, neither the approach nor the character of a MacArthur are appropriate for the mission in Iraq. Just consider the facts.

By September 1945, Japan was defeated militarily, culturally and economically...Its armed forces were whipped, with remnants scattered throughout Southeast Asia, China and the Pacific. Its major cities were flattened, its vaunted pride was broken, and its economy was in shambles. It had suffered millions of casualties...
Pardon me, General, but that description of Japan's total defeat seems to fit Iraq perfectly. Except that Iraq's casualties will have come mostly at the hands of Saddam Hussein.

Clark is right to point out that Japan was ethnically unified whereas Iraq is diverse, in both ethnic and religious terms. Yet as Andrew Cockburn points out in his essay, uninformed Western observers have ignored considerable evidence that Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish Iraqis are ready to share a single state. Yes, he is referring to you, General Clark.

Adopting a regional perspective, Youssef Ibrahim insists that promoting democracy in the Middle East will accomplish nothing more than bringing violent fundamentalists to power. This, however, is an argument that OxBlog has been in the process of dismantling since December.

Ibrahim draws his evidence mostly from Egypt and Algeria. Had he taken the time to read over Oxblog's in-depth posts on Egypt and Algeria, he might have recognized that the evidence he focuses on is thoroughly misleading.

Ibrahim also mentions in passing both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, which OxBlog has also profiled as part of its ongoing series on democracy and Islam. Once again, Ibrahim's evidence is far from persuasive.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of Ibrahim's essay is the author's willingness to trust Hosni Mubarak's assertion -- made in private conversation with the author -- that democratic reforms in Egypt will provoke a fundamentalist backlash. Apparently, Ibrahim is so naive that he doesn't recognize how Mubarak and other dictators have systematically exaggerated the fundamentalist threat in order to prevent the United States from demanding democratic reforms.

Yet as OxBlog has insisted time and again, it is the dictators themselves who are holding back the establishment of democracy in the Middle East. While it might be foolish for Mubarak or Assad to suddenly resign and hold elections, there is no reason to think that a gradual transition to democracy would promote a fundamentalist backlash. Rather, a gradual transition will show the people of the Middle East that they do not have to choose between secular dictators and Islamic radicals. Instead, they can reject both and govern themselves.

The final pair of essays in the Post, by Robert Kuttner and Max Boot, provide left- and right-wing approaches to international order in the aftermath of war. What is sad about both essays is that neither focuses on the importance of democratic reform for preventing international conflict.

Kuttner's essay confirms that the anti-war left has no intention of speaking out on behalf of the Iraqi people once the war is over. Rather, it will focus on protesting against "the Bush administration's plans for global hegemony." Forget the starving Iraqi children that were a staple of the protesters' rhetoric. Let someone else take care of them.

While Max Boot's essay is as firmly conservative as Kuttner's is liberal, Boot rises above the simplistic UN-bashing that conservative commentators so often indulge in. His wisest advice to conservatives is not to abandon those allies who voice their resentment of American power. While rhetorical attacks are unpleasant, the behavior of such allies demonstrates that they expect the United States to be the ultimate guarantor of international security. Or as OxBlog put it,
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 9:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HALFWAY TO BAGHDAD: Congratulations, General.
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# Posted 9:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PIZZA VS. TERRORISM: Reader BR has sent in a link to this very clever site which lets you send pizza to Israeli soldiers. The soldiers BR adopted were kind enough to send him a digital photo of themselves, slices in hand.

Yes, the pizza is kosher.
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# Posted 8:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RANGEL WRANGLED? Reader GB thinks it was unfair for OxBlog to call Charlie Rangel (D-NY) a hypocrite. As GB points out, Rangel made clear that his initial support for reinstating the draft was a tactic designed to prevent the US from going to war.

As far as I'm concerned, that doesn't change a thing. Rangel opposes having a volunteer army on the grounds that it lets rich white congressmen send poor black citizens off to die for their country. Yet Rangel was one of just eleven congressmen who voted against a resolution expressing support for the troops but not for the war.

Why, pray tell, won't Congressman Rangel express his support for the selfsame troops whose selfless sacrifice he described as a justification for reinstating the draft? Answer: hypocrisy.

NB: Rangel is actually wrong about black soldiers dying for a white government. While there are more minorities in the army than in society as a whole, they tend to enlist in non-combat units.
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Friday, March 21, 2003

# Posted 11:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNION JACK: Yesterday I reported that my neighbors at 15 East Avenue are also adamant supporters of overthrowing Saddam. Today, they have chosen to follow the lead of 17 East by hanging a Union Jack in their window. Rule Britannia!
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# Posted 10:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BELGRAVIA DISPATCH is the name of a blog run by Gregory Djerejian. It's well worth a visit, especially recent posts on Tony Blair, the Turkish-Kurdish conflict and why the New York Times is still the home of great journalism. Enjoy!
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# Posted 10:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EXTREMELY DISTURBING if it's true. Via Instapundit.
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# Posted 10:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANTI-WAR ANTI-SEMITISM: Judith Weiss and Gary Farber dismantle Nick Denton's absurd posts. While Nick's posts are a waste of time, Judith and Gary's are top-notch responses that address an enduring and important issue in American politics. Read them now.
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# Posted 10:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOT IN MY NAME: OxBlog's Australian correspondent isn't happy with the total absence of rational thought that tends to characterize anti-war protesters. (See this video clip for some evidence.) What makes Patrick's frustration interesting is that he himself is against this war. Or, in his own words:
Slogans and cliches abound in the anti-war movement. One does not have to be Donald Rumsfeld to puncture the mindless litany of one-liners that protesters and activists intone.

"Public opinion says no" is one line. So? Opinion polls say lots of things at any given time. If all public policy were determined in Britain by counting heads rather than by persuasion and electing governments, the death penalty would be reintroduced and asylum seekers would be expelled. Would governments with mandates be expected to roll over at the behest of one million people descending on London to demand the return of hanging?

"War kills" was another. So does leaving brutal dictators in power. Whatever your opinion on this war, both military action or inaction entails the loss of lives. That is the tragedy of these kinds of crises, that we are all morally tainted, there will be blood on the hands of decision-makers whatever they decide. There are no pure or innocent choices - inaction too entails the tolerance of slaughter.

"No blood for oil", that old chestnut, does not so much argue as presume. It presumes an obscene motive that is unproven and simplistic. Kosovo lacks large reserves of oil. As does Afghanistan. If the Bush administration were so beholden to the dictates of oil companies, it could have lifted sanctions on oil years ago. The oil motive is not obvious, so we should stop pretending it is. Protests themselves often attract speakers whose intellect is on neutral and whose emotion is on overdrive. Jesse Jackson shouting Peace and Love and Justice is not persuasion, it is a series of mantras.

There are better arguments against the war. Inaction cannot bring peace and justice back to the people of Iraq. The only response is that this is not just about the people of Iraq, but the sovereign states and people of the world. It is about the threshold for war. The Archbishop of Canterbury, for example, warns of the dangers and instability of pre-emptive strikes as a precedent for world order. Striking a nation largely at the behest of great powers without the clear sanction of the United Nations could well liberate the people of Iraq, but also threatens to set a pattern less benign great powers of the future could emulate. You may not agree- its arguable. But it's an argument that does not presume an unproven motive, that does not pretend to moral purity, does not rely on cheap slogans, and does not insult the intelligence.
But if not for the pretensions of moral purity, cheap sloganeering and manifest insults, some of us hawks might actually have been persuaded by the protesters!!! Oh well...
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# Posted 9:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TURKS AND KURDS: The Cougars are getting worried about the presence of Turkish commandos in Northern Iraq. According to Reuters,
Turkey has spoken of not going beyond a "buffer zone" reaching some 20 km (12 miles) into northern Iraq but said it could go deeper if its national interests were threatened.
While that doesn't sound good, I sense that the Turkish refusal to host US ground forces will ensure that the US keeps Turkish interference to a minimum.

On a related note, the Cougars think that this CNN article constitutes evidence of an Arab backlash. But I'm not impressed. None of the protests mentioned by CNN had more than 10,000 marchers.

Perhaps more importantly, the Cougars ought to recall my statement that
even those [Arabs] 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.
A real backlash will have to entail more than ineffective protests.

CORRECTION: According to the AP, the Cairo protest hit 10,000 and the one Yemen hit 30,000.
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# Posted 9:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HYPOCRISY EXPOSED: Best of the Web points out that Charlie Rangel (D-NY) -- aka Mr. Reinstate-The-Draft -- was one of 21 representatives to vote 'no' on a resolution expressing congressional support for the troops.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a majority of African-American representatives refused to support the resolution. But two of those who did were Denise Majette (D-GA) and Arthur Davis (D-AL), both whom defeated far-left anti-Semites (Cynthia McKinney and Earl Hilliard, respectively) in last year's Democratic primaries.
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# Posted 9:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE AMERICAN ZIONIST OIL MAFIA: What exactly does Iraq have against Sicilians?
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# Posted 1:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

READER RESPONSE: Here's a classic from the NYT discussion board:
So you've started a war. Well done America. Hope you're ready for the consequences because your greatest threat now - is not muslim fundamentalists. It's the hatred of millions of white westerners.
I'm tempted to agree. But if this guy's right, should we start bombing France? Or would that lead to protests in the Muslim world?

Anyway, I'm a moderate, so what I recommend is for the US to hold off bombing Paris until the first French suicide bomber shows up in New York.
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# Posted 12:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEJA VU: Sarah Sewall is back with more comments on civilian casualtites.
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# Posted 12:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ARAB PROTESTS ARE PEACEFUL: That's an NYT headline, not a generalization. Read the story. You might begin to wonder about the anti-American backlash that's supposed to be happening.

As far as I can tell, the best evidence for a backlash is coming straight out of San Francisco.
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# Posted 12:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BACKSEAT DRIVERS: Hamas has called upon the people of Iraq to attack American forces with suicide bombs. What, isn't Saddam's strategy suicidal enough for them already?
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# Posted 12:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE POLLS: The WaPo reports that seventy percent of Americans back the war. According to Gallup, 60% support the war strongly, with an additional 16% supporting it somewhat.

There is some division, however, on whether the US will have won if it doesn't kill or capture Saddam. Also very interesting is that most Americans expect the war to last for months, not days or weeks. Strangely, 80% of respondents expect fewer than 1000 casualties despite the length of the war.

If you look at the raw data, there are a couple of other points worth noting. First of all, Bush's approval ratings -- both for general performance and for his handling of Iraq -- rose by 5-10% over the late February numbers. Not exactly a surprise.

The more interesting thing is that 67% of respondents thought that the President had done a good job of explaining his reasons for going to war. In light of the pundits' constant criticism of the president on that point, one has to wonder whether they were missing something.

My guess is that Saddam's transparent efforts to block inspections made it clear that he has a lot to hide and was not going to cooperate. Even if Bush was less than consistent in his public statements, he recognized that Saddam was playing games, which was what most Americans already knew.

Think of it this way: The pundits are like theater critics who will only applaud a brilliant performance. Everyone else is the audience. They know whether they like the film or not, but don't get worked up about the details.

PS I am a pundit. But I respect the audience.

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Thursday, March 20, 2003

# Posted 6:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEMOCRATS AGAINST DEMOCRACY: Larry Kaplan levels his guns at the array of prominent Democrats who have come out against promoting democracy in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East. What is especially sad and hypocritical about such criticism is that it turns its back on Bill Clinton's legacy of promoting democracy abroad, especially during his second term in office.

What Kaplan does not confront, however, is the fact that the GOP's commitment to Wilsonian ideals remains unproven. Precisely because Kaplan is well aware of this fact, his exclusive criticism of prominent Democrats rings somewhat hollow.
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# Posted 6:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KOSOVO, IRAQ & INTERNATIONAL LAW: Kosovo demonstrated that morality often compels avoidance of UN protocol. But was the attack on Yugoslavia legal in addition to being moral? Yes -- but only after the fact.
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# Posted 1:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ARAB WORLD ERUPTS IN FURY: Or so reads the headline of an AP wire on the WaPo site. Read the article and you'll learn that a few thousand Egyptians are now the sum total of the Arab world.

Also note the opening sentence: "Hundreds of thousands of people marched on American embassies in world capitals Thursday to protest the war against Iraq, including a violent clash in Cairo..." Turns out that the hundres of thousands were mainly in Athens, Rome and Milan, cities not known for being part of the Arab world.
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# Posted 12:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JEWS NAMED BUBBA: Lots more interesting mail from OxBlog's readers. DM writes that:
Read your posting on anti-semitism in the South with great interest. I can't really speak for other parts of 'Dixie' but as a South Carolinian I can tell you that I have seen very little of that in my lifetime in the Palmetto state. For many years (from the 50's through the early 80's one of the most powerful politicians in South Carolina was Salomon Blatt...Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives). In the 90's we had a Jewish Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court -- Julius 'Bubba' Ness -- and as a boy I remember meeting, during a class trip, one of the powers of the state Senate, Senator Hyman Rubin.

The first Reform congregation in the United States was in Charleston, South Carolina and the Secretary of State for the Confederacy was Jewish. Also many of the business leaders of South Carolina have been Jewish. I can't answer for other parts of the south (such as the 'deep south'- they're a breed unto themselves down in those parts) but anti-semitism is not something that I ever witnessed. We have been guilty of other forms of bigortry in the south in our past, but in the social circles in which I grew up I never saw anti-semitism. Just glimpse of things from the Palmetto state. Again, I can't speak for the entire south.
It goes without my saying it that the prominence of Jews within the SC elite is absolutley remarkable. Still, I hesitate to consider such prominence as evidence for the sincere acceptance of Jews as equal citizens. Throughout the 19th century, Jews achieved remarkable prominence throughout Western Europe, only to have those same Western Europeans turn against them later on. Regardless, this sort of strange co-existence raises sophisticated questions about what tolerance is and how it is experessed.

Moving on: Complementing DM's Palmetto report, WG writes in on behalf of the Deep South. He writes that
I may be a bit late to this thread but here is a little evidence for your files. My wife's father is a devout Episcopalian in his mid 60s. He grew up in Greenville, Miss. His best friend in the world is a gentleman named Ed Kostman who is Jewish. They grew up together in Geenville. If there is a deeper part of the deep south I don't know where it is. Sonny moved to Chicago and eventually Danville, VA where my wife grew up. Ed stayed in Greenville. Presumably antisemitism was not rife enough to prevent him from eventually own 4 car dealerships. I've never had a discussion with either of these guys about antisemitisim but they treat each other and their families treat each other the same way we would treat Baptists, Presbyterians or any of the other weird sects we Episcopalians find in the South. In Danville, VA my wife grew up with a number of Jewish kids, so did my first wife in Petersburg, VA,. Neither places are pillars of enlightened thought. In fact, they are both as full of red necks as any small southern town but those people are in a very distinct minority in my opinion. In the big city of Richmond, I also grew up with numerous Jewish kids and never considered their religion as anything other than their religion. Of course we made fun of each other and called each other names and befriended each other the way kids do, or at least used to do before PC made everyone so damn hyper sensitive. It is also true that the civil rights struggle was going on while I was growing up and I never had anything like the kind of interaction with African Americans that I had with Jews.
Finally we come to the thoughts of AT, an Oxonian from Arkanas. She comments that
I've been following your posts about Southern anti-Semitism with interest. I found it very amusing that you would not be surprised at Moran's and Lott's offensive remarks based on the fact that they are
Southerners. We get that a lot. A Northerner assuming that bigoted views are rampant down South?? How shocking! Fortunately for everyone, it's not quite that bad. I don't agree that the percentage of bigots in the South is higher than anywhere else--it may be that our bigots are more vocal (and automatically more noticeable because of everyone's expectations), but for the vast majority of Southerners, the bad old days are over. And there is a striking difference between urban and rural views in both North and South, for the simple reason that city dwellers are more exposed to diversity. (Of course, people sometimes react to such exposure by becoming more racist.)

I would like to make one observation about residual prejudice in the South and the way it is expressed. The way I see it, a lot of older Southerners may seem inappropriate, but as far as I can tell, this makes no difference whatsoever in how they actually treat people. My late grandfather would make some pretty unreconstructed comments from time to time--nothing mean-spirited, but definitely embarrassing in front of your non-Southern friends. Still, I haven't met many people who were kinder and more even-handed, or less racist in actual fact. My grandfather's verbal gaffes, and the ways of thinking they represented, came from having lived almost his entire life in the rural Delta, where
racial roles were still narrowly defined (white farmers, poor white and black sharecroppers, Chinese storekeepers). Growing up in a relatively diverse Arkansas city (Fort Smith), I didn't have the same sort of baggage. By this, I certainly don't mean to defend Moran and Lott--they should have known better. It's very easy for people to take those
remarks as corroborating evidence that most Southerners are racist. But appearances can be deceiving.

My point is that there is a long tradition of decency and respect in the South. Sadly, it has often been drowned out by less noble elements in our culture, but a true Southerner will cultivate and uphold it. People who subscribe to this tradition treat everyone with the same dignity, and they also understand that actions speak louder than words. Racisms and prejudice are not only wrong, they are improper and unworthy. To us, the term "white trash" refers to ignorant, prejudiced people, not poor people. I only knew one Jewish family growing up, and only one black family (though I knew plenty of Asians, and Catholics), but honestly it never would have occurred to me to treat them differently. I just didn't think about it.
All I can say is that if the spokesmen of the South were as civilized as AT herself, then all of America would look forward to the South rising again. For the moment, it may be worth considering the relationship between thought and action. How is it that certain individuals openly accept stereotypes but still act in a fair and color-blind manner? What role do such stereotypes then play in the behavior of those who are racists?

In light of WG's concern about political correctness, one recognizes that such questions have to be answered before one can object to speech codes on ethical grounds rather than libertarian ones.

Before signing off, a couple of quick notes: DH writes back with a link to this article about that brief moment in Georgian history when Jews were the majority in said colony.

AS recalls hearing a British version of the Lt. Goldstein joke. Appropriately, the British version was more subtle. On a related point, I have to confess that I went astray in telling the Lt. Goldstein joke. The dowager in question actually requests that no Jews be sent to her home for dinner, not no blacks. This correction actually adds a level of sophistication that places the Southern version of the joke on par with the British one. TTFN!

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# Posted 12:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEFINING TERRORISM: Here's one more reason to be proud of the US military. In a challenge to her students, Naval Academy ethics professor Shannon French asked each of them to clearly state the difference between themselves and the members of Al Qaeda. She then had her students exchange papers with a partner and write critical responses from the perspective of Al Qaeda.

The respones of both the students and their professor to this challenge are a powerful statement about what it means to be a professional soldier.
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# Posted 12:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE EXPATRIATE RETURNS: I am back in Oxford and have replaced my curtains with British and American flags.

For the moment, the balance on our block is 2 for war, 2 against. Along with the Union Jack/Stars & Stripes display at 17 East Avenue, someone at No. 15 has had a poster up that says "Appeasment is not an option. It is a suicide note."

Across the street, there is a window with a "No War on Iraq" sign. A few houses down on our side of the street there is a poster that shows a B-52 in action along with the words: "Stop Humaniterrorism!" Looks like someone hasn't been reading OxBlog...

PS Later on tonight I'll tell you all a little more about my time in Israel.
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Wednesday, March 19, 2003

# Posted 3:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JERUSALEM DISPATCH, PART II: Still alive, still well. But British Airways cancelled all of its flights so I had to switch to El Al for the way back. Otherwise having a great time. Seeing friends from high school as well as my family. Should be back in Oxford tomorrow afternoon.

Everyone here is pretty calm, though I've hard that things in Tel Aviv are a bit more tense. I think things will turn out all right. I hope.
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Sunday, March 16, 2003

# Posted 2:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JERUSALEM DISPATCH: Still alive. Four limbs, etc. Minimal internet access. Reading mail but not writing. Human shield mission successful so far. Suicide bombers effectively deterred.
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# Posted 12:26 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG=HUMAN SHIELD: I'm headed off to Israel in about half an hour. I will be there for four days. With any luck, I'll find some time to blog. Rather: With any luck, I'll come back in one piece. Peace.
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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."
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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 Dan  

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 Dan  

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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