Tuesday, April 15, 2003

# Posted 11:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CULTURAL BORROWINGS: Reader AJ has an interesting idea for how the US can help rebuild Iraq's National Museum and demonstrate its good intentions at the same time. He writes that:
Like most people, I'm saddened by the loss of many priceless exhibits from Iraq's National Museum of Antiquities. It's unfortunate that the U.S. was unable to prevent what happened there.

Still, if the U.S. government is smart, it might be able to use this unfortunate event to garner some goodwill. I imagine that there have to be many items of Persian or Iraqi origin in various U.S. museums. The government ought to contact such museums and see if they might donate or at least loan exhibits until the lost items are recovered or replaced.
I'm no expert on American museums, but there are certainly a few in Britain that have one or two artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia...
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# Posted 10:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CUBIN INTERRUPTED: The representative from Wyoming has a vocal corps of supporters who have been writing in to defender her good name. The rallying point for Cubin's supporters is the fact that she never got to finish what she was saying. So how can you call someone a racist if you don't even know what they said?

Here's how: First of all, consider Cubin's actual words --
"My sons are 25 and 30. They are blond-haired and blue-eyed. One amendment today said we could not sell guns to anybody under drug treatment. So does that mean if you go into a black community, you cannot sell a gun to any black person, or does that mean because my--"
Cubin finished her thought about selling guns in black communities and was moving on to explain the relevance of this point to her sons. Cubin herself said that much.

Now, I will agree with Tim Noah that Rep. Watt (D-NC) should've let Cubin finish what she was saying, since there's no telling how much more absurd her statement would have become if the thoughts behind it had seen the light of day. But I have no idea how Tim can say that "Cubin never did explain how she'd intended to finish that sentence." [Emphasis in original]

With that point taken care of, we can move on to the actual substance of Cubin's remarks. James Taranto has slyly observed that Cubin was actually defending the rights of the disabled. Given that the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act includes drug addicts among the disabled, how can one prevent such individuals from buying a gun. I'm no lawyer, but I'll guess that the state has a compelling interest in preventing blind Americans from carrying firearms. The same logic applies to drug addicts.

James' more serious point is that
No one, racist or not, could possibly think that a law barring gun sales to people in drug treatment would mean, in the words of Cubin's rhetorical question, that "if you go into a black community, you cannot sell a gun to any black person." Besides, Cubin was arguing against this amendment. If she were a racist and she thought the amendment would keep the guns out of the hands of blacks, wouldn't she endorse it?
Close, but no cigar. (Not even a Cubin...hehehe.) The plain meaning of Cubin's words is that a logical extension of a ban on selling guns to drug users would consist of a ban on selling drugs to blacks.

As for the the suggestion that if Cubin were a racist she would endorse the amendment I say this: Cubin is a passionate defender of Second Amendment rights. What her remarks suggest is that she accepts African-American gun ownership as a constitutional right that one cannot compromise without endangering the rights of all Americans to bear arms. The logic underlying such a position is quite familiar: all of us accept the right of the Ku Klux Klan to say whatever it says in order to ensure that the rest of us can speak our minds.

Next up, Andrew Blumson takes note of how ironic it is that Josh and I have descended to the level of the "witch-hunt[ing]", "politically-correct" left. With regard to the substance of Cubin's statement, Andy argues that it
can be read as a suggestion that all blacks are drug users. It can also be read as an attempt (rather infelicitous, but she was speaking extemporaneously) to draw an analogy between laws that target 'all people in drug treatment' and laws that target 'all blacks'. It seems plain to me from the evidence cited in the post linked above that the latter was at least much closer to Rep. Cubin's intent.
Well, it seems pretty plain to me that the first interpretation is the correct one and that the second one is fairly unrealistic. How can I be so sure? Let me explain.

Cubin first said that "One amendment today said we could not sell guns to anybody under drug treatment." Her next sentence begins with the words "So does that mean if...", which clearly indicate that the scenario described after the word "if" is a scenario that would exist in a hypothetical world where said amendment had become law. As we all know, the scenario Cubin was describing runs as follows: "if you go into a black community, you cannot sell a gun to any black person."

Clearly, Cubin is not comparing the amendment in question to a hypothetical amendment that targets all blacks. She is arguing that the amendment in question might have the actual effect of targeting all blacks. Which leaves us exactly where we began: calling for either an immediate apology from Cubin, or active condemnation by her fellow partisans.

Finally, reader JAT points out that "the very liberal Barney Frank and David Obey were among several Democratswho explicitly voted with the Republicans not to censure her remarks...
It is of course possible that Barney Frank and David Obey are merely insensitive to cries of discrimination, but I doubt it." Point taken. If any of you know exactly what Frank and Obey were thinking, please share.

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# Posted 8:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEFINING "CAKEWALK": The conservative way and the liberal way.

Plus last year's definition and Josh Marshall's comments. (NB: It's a long post from TPM, so you may just want to scroll down to the final paragraph, where the relevant comments are.)
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# Posted 10:33 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EUGENE VOLOKH, GENDER THEORIST: One might expect the eminent Prof. Volokh to devote his scholarly writings to pithy observations about our nation's proud constitutional heritage. Instead, the eminent Professor has decided to jump on the academic bandwagon of gender theory and indulge himself in unfounded speculations about the social construction of biostimulant technologies.

(Sadly, I have to admit that my own academic standards are not what they once were, since I loved everything Gene had to say.)
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Monday, April 14, 2003

# Posted 9:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT IS PAST IS PROLOGUE: While doing some research for my dissertation, I came across the following pair of quotations, both in The New York Times.

The first is the more dramatic. In a Week in Review essay from March 8, 1981, Bernard Gwertzman reported that
In a toast at the end of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's recent visit, Mr. Reagan said it was necessary to have the ''vision'' to see there would be a time when there would be no Communists. Just as Winston Churchill after Dunkirk had prophesied that Hitler would someday be gone, so, Mr. Reagan said, it was time to ''begin planning for a world where our adversaries are remembered only for their role in a sad and rather bizarre chapter in human history.''

Back in the present, however, the Administration has been slow getting machinery together to deal with very real Communists. The first interagency discussion on strategic arms was only held last week and the director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency has not been named; the main candidates seem best known for their hostility to arms control. The Administration suffers from internal lack of coordination...
Just as the abolitionists once dared to believe that slavery would one day end, so Reagan prophesied the end of Communism. And today we should not doubt that there will be an end to dictatorship and terrorism as well.

The second quotation is also from the March 8, 1981 edition of the Week in Review. It is taken from the transcript of a debate between former US Ambassador to El Salvador Robert White and US Ambassador to the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick. During the debate, White observed that
The idea that Latins [sic] are not capable of democracy is just racist nonsense. The Latin Americans are perfectly capable of democracy if we want to assist democracy, but if we place ourselves against democracy and on the side of an oppressive military, then democracy is going to fade away. And this is the great contribution of the human rights policy of the Carter Administration which I will defend forever. That policy gives you a litmus test to distinguish between people who are anti-Communist only because it serves their purposes to stay in power and people who share authentic Western values...
If you replace the words "Latin Americans" with "Muslims" and "Communist" with "terrorist", then the Ambassador's warning is no less applicable today than it was two decades ago.

[And no, there are no permalinks to NYT articles from more than twenty years ago. For the full text, see Lexis-Nexis. Or better yet, visit a library!]
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# Posted 4:33 PM by Dan  

BYE BYE YASSIR. In a well argued essay, David Makovsky demonstrates why Arafat is done and how European and Arab leaders can help make this a reality. However, if history teaches us anything, it is this: Arafat will find a way to hold on longer than conventional wisdom predicted.
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# Posted 4:20 PM by Dan  

DEMS GETTING READY TO RUMBLE. Rob Brownstein's thoughts on the 2004 Democratic presidential race.
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# Posted 11:47 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A SCHOLAR'S LAMENT: Even though no human life was lost during the sacking of Baghdad's National Museum, I feel that I have lost a part of myself after learning of the theft and destruction of so many priceless monuments to the brilliance of ancient civilization.
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# Posted 11:32 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LEARNING FAST: Yesterday, I taunted Gulf News editor Abdul Hamid Ahmad for implying that Iraqis are not Arabs. At the same time, I expressed a certain hope that images of the Iraqi people celebrating an American victory would "force Arabs throughout the Middle East to reconsider their definition of Arab identity."

That it would happen this fast I couldn't've imagined. Writing in today's Gulf News, the selfsame Mr. Ahmad observes that
With the stunning and shameful collapse of the Iraqi regime and its Baathist reign, another Arab era has vanished, turning the pages of contemporary Arab history and opening a new chapter...

When the winds of change started to blow, it was not only the regime that came tumbling down, but all the institutions as well. And a stark reality was revealed: that these institutions were virtual phantoms as far as the people were concerned. They were under the complete command of the regime. The people were not allowed to participate in the establishment and running of these institutions...

This situation should no longer be prolonged or repeated in other Arab countries. Single party monopoly suppresses all types of political participation and only leads to the suffocation of people, politically and socially. Political and social turmoil reach a boiling point - a pressure cooker waiting to burst...

Democracy should not merely be exercised superficially - displayed without any substance. Instead, it should become a part of public life where every Arab citizen is virtually a partner in any development process instead of just remaining marginalised. This is the change that should replace totalitarianism and monopoly of power by a single party...
While I don't want to overplay the conversion of a single editor to the democratic cause, I think that such an event is still worth noting. With any luck, it won't be the last.

(For more on Arab media reaction to the war, take a look at today's column by Jefferson Morley.)
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# Posted 12:19 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IRAQIS STILL NOT ARABS: "The morning after Baghdad was liberated, Abdul Hamid Ahmad, editor of The Gulf News, wrote, like so many of his colleagues: 'This is a heartbreaking moment for any Arab, seeing marines roaming the streets of Baghdad.'" -- Tom Friedman, 13 Apr 2003.

While such statements are good for a laugh, I think there is a more serious point to be made here as well. By celebrating their liberation from Saddam by Western forces, the people of Iraq will soon force Arabs throughout the Middle East to reconsider their definition of Arab identity.

As indicated by both the statement above and others like it, opposition to all manifestations of Western or American power has become a part of modern Arab identity throughout much of the Middle East. (Fascinating, isn't it, that neither the Iranians nor the Turks are ethnic Arabs...)

Before the fall of Baghdad, no American president, no matter how eloquent, could have persuaded the Arab world that an American presence in the Middle East would benefit its inhabitatns. But a picture is worth more than a thousand words. It says things that words cannot say.

Let us hope that a decade from now, the images projected by the people of Iraq will still be as inspiring as they are today.

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# Posted 12:00 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEMS ON WAR: The Brothers Judd have compiled a list of the Democratic presidential candidates' responses to the war in Iraq.

[Apologies for the dead link above. As far as I can tell, there is a temporary access problem with the Brothers Judd April archives. But you can still go straight to their homepage and scroll down to the Dems post.]
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Sunday, April 13, 2003

# Posted 11:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHY NO BACKLASH? An Arab journalist tackles the question.
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# Posted 11:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CUBIN REVOLUTION: Yesterday, I called on principled conservatives to condemn Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY) for her racist remarks on the House floor. While Josh proudly answered the call, a number of readers have sent in passionate defense's of Cubin's conduct. In fact, one of them suggested that I apologize to Cubin for calling her a racist.

According to this line of thought, such accusations of racism reflect the misinterpretation of Cubin's statement on the House floor. According to JAT,
Rep. Cubin's position, agree or not, is that while drug addiction may in fact be correlated with violence at some level, and that those who use drugs are more likely to be people to engage in gun violence, that there is not a causative relationship. Therefore, she argues that it is an arbitrary and irrational basis to deny someone the right to buy a weapon....

To illustrate her point, she pointed out that it is a well-known fact that, deplorably, gun violence is higher in the inner city and (related to that) among blacks. No one denies this sad fact. Therefore, there is a clear *correlation* between being black and being more likely to engage in gun violence. Therefore, Rep. Cubin pointed out
that under the same logic of the amendment she was opposing, one would make gun sales illegal to blacks. EVEN THOUGH, as she stressed, this was an ILLEGITIMATE INFERENCE, as there WAS NO CAUSATION, and that this was something that OUGHT NOT BE DONE.

Her argument is an obvious reducto ad absurdum. She's attempting to claim that her opponents' argument, when logically followed, naturally leads to the restriction of sales of weapons to blacks. This being ridiculous, she asks that one of the premises be discarded-- that it is right to restrict gun sales based on correlation like drug use.
While JAT has an interesting point about causation vs. correlation, I think his interpretation of Rep. Cubin's remarks is far too generous. What Cubin said was that
One amendment today said we could not sell guns to anybody under drug treatment. So does that mean if you go into a black community, you cannot sell a gun to any black person, or does that mean because my -- "
From what I can tell, this is not a sophisticated argument about the nature of causation, but rather a crude suggestion that drug addiction is a black problem. Even if there is statistical evidence that per capita drug use is greater in black communities , there is no question that it is a pervasive problem in other communities as well. [NB: This is not my area of expertise, so I have no idea what sort of statistical evidence exists.]

For Cubin to suggest that a ban on selling guns to drug users might result in a ban on selling guns to black Americans is disturbing evidence of her belief that drug addiction is a black problem. While one might consider this simply to be a mistaken belief, it is hard to know how any non-racist individual could make such a mistake.

This conclusion raises the question of whether one should condemn not just Cubin, but also those congressmen who voted against censuring her. As JC asks,
How would you deal with the solid phalanx of Republicans who voted against taking down Cubin's remarks? Doesn't this vote suggest an insensivity, to use a polite word, widespread in the ranks of the party whose presidential candidate in 1964 voted against the Civil Rights Act? Whereupon the party began its
surge of support in the South? A party whose core view of the remaining large disparities between the races is that they are now the fault of cultural deficiencies among blacks who don't take advantage of the opportunities afforded them, and not a matter of national concern?
As far as I can tell, what happened on the House floor was that representatives on both sides of the aisle witnessed an intense cofrontation between a Republican representative (Cubin) and a Democratic one (Mel Watt). In the midst of such confrontations, congressmen tend to close ranks and support their own regardless of the merit of the issue.

In this case, however, such partisanship is unacceptable. Thus, I hope that the GOP will quickly recognize its mistake and condemn Cubin. If it does not, then one might have to answer JC's questions in the affirmative.

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# Posted 10:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE CHALABI LOBBY: After landing in Nasiriyah, the INC's Free Iraqi Forces are headed for Baghdad to help restore order. This suggests, of course, that the Pentagon is preparing INC chief Ahmed Chalabi for bigger and better things.

As I've written before, I have serious reservations about the decision to support Chalabi and his ambitions. And I am having a hard time finding anyone who seems to disagree.

Some of Chalabi's critics, for example the CIA, are politically motivated. Others, such as Foreign Affairs editor Gideon Rose, are veteran analysts with no apparent axe to grind.

Perhaps most surprising are the words of caution from Robert Kagan, who writes that
some Bush officials may want to support the political fortunes of people they have known and trusted for many years, such as Ahmed Chalabi.

It's understandable, but it's a mistake. Chalabi is undoubtedly a good man. While in exile, he labored long and hard against Saddam Hussein. If he can now muster genuine support in Iraq, through his own exertions, then the world should wish him well. But the United States must not give him a leg up over other potential leaders, and especially those who may now begin emerging from within Iraq. As Paul Wolfowitz put it last Sunday, "You can't talk about democracy and then turn around and say we're going to pick the leaders of this democratic country." Exactly right, so the United States shouldn't help Chalabi or anyone else position himself as Iraq's Charles de Gaulle in the waning days of the war. If it ever starts to look as if the United States fought a war in Iraq in order to put Chalabi in power, President Bush's great success will be measurably discredited.
Given Kagan's prominence among neoconservatives, one begins to wonder if anyone other than Richard Perle believes that Chalabi should play a leading role in postwar Iraq.

Wolfowitz's position on the Chalabi issue is hard to discern. While Kagan does cite Wolfowitz to support his argument, the vagueness of Wolfowitz's comments suggests that, for the moment, he is still undecided. And Kagan knows it.

By citing Wolfowitz's public statements as evidence against Chalabi, Kagan is trying to remind Wolfowitiz that he will seem hypocritical if he decides to set Chalabi up as head of a provisional government. What Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush think of Chalabi is even less apparent. My guess is that they are waiting for a consensus to emerge from below, even if they tend to favor the Pentagon on such matters.

Taking this lack of clarity into account, one ought to revisit Josh Marshall's argument that this is going to be an "AEI occupation". Chalabi's departure for Baghdad supports that point. The question in my mind is whether the Pentagon will let him do anything once he gets there.

Finally, on a related note, take a look at Stanley Kurtz's response to Josh's recent article in the Washington Monthly. Josh defends himself well from some of Kurtz's criticism, but I think that much of it is right on.
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# Posted 10:23 PM by Patrick Belton  

WELCOME HOME to our rescued POWs. We missed you.
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# Posted 12:43 PM by Dan  

HERE'S SOME OUTRAGE. Yes, former Reagan Assistant Press Secretary Dale Petroskey (who has since admitted that he made a mistake) had the right to do as he pleased, but have Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon's comments really put our troops in further danger? I didn't recall Bull Durham's political undertones, but Jim Caple watched it again and helped me refresh my memory.
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# Posted 11:49 AM by Patrick Belton  

NEATEST ARTICLE FROM THE WaPo WEEKENDER: Richard Harrington's piece "When Klezmer Met Salsa" is just plain cool. My personal favorite quote: "When asked why Jews loved the music, Tito Puente once said, 'The minor keys, man, the minor keys.'"
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# Posted 12:05 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE DEFINITION OF "VS.": Ampersand has respond to my post entitled "Feminism Vs. Democracy Promotion?"

Ampersand suggests that
The "vs." in David's title makes no sense: Whether gender egalitarianism is a precondition of democracy (as the Foreign Policy article suggests) or democracy a precondition of gender egalitarianism (as David argues), in both cases the interests of feminism and democracy are aligned.
As both a feminist and an advocate of democracy promotion, I believe that the interests of feminism and democracy promotion are in fact aligned. However, the authors of the Foreign Policy essay imply that one cannot promote democracy unless one first promotes feminism. As such, they are insisting that one must delay the promotion of democracy until after the successful promotion of feminism. Hence the use appearance of "vs." in the title of my post.

Let me be clear: I do not believe that one must choose between feminism and democracy promotion. As Ampersand suggests, the interests of both may be best served by pursuing both at once. Let us hope that all feminists recognize this point and decide to throw their weight behind the efforts of the United States and the United Kingdom to promote democracy in Iraq.
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# Posted 12:01 AM by Patrick Belton  

ONE SIGN THE U.S. IS GIVING a needed increase in political commitment - and bureaucratic heft - to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is this article out of Ha'aretz. According to the article, DCI Tenet has created a heavily-staffed new department within the CIA to support the implementation of the "road map" process as it unfolds, and also hopefully to build confidence between Israel and the PA by monitoring both parties' compliance to any agreements they may make within that process. In addition, one team within the Agency's new department will be involved in the much-needed reform and reorganization of the Palestinian security services. The U.S. has, perhaps justly, come under criticism for disengaging from the peace process - this last move, however, represents a substantial and welcome commitment to seeking a political solution if one can even possibly be found.

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Saturday, April 12, 2003

# Posted 11:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TRENT LOTT JR.: This past week, Rep. Barbara Cubin made some extremely offensive racist remarks during a debate on the floor of the House of Representatives. And she has refused to apologize. As both the WaPo and Josh Marshall ask, "Where is the outrage?"

To be sure, there is a war going on which has distracted just about everyone from idiocy on the homefront. And Cubin isn't exactly a power player like Trent Lott. However, the fact that she isn't Majority Leader should make it that much easier to punish her for her misconduct. Moreover, Cubin is from a very safe Republican district, so there is almost no risk that punishing her will benefit the Democrats.

So here's what I propose: I'd like to all prominent conservative publications and websites to insist that Cubin apologize immediately or have the GOP run a strong candidate against her in the 2004 primary. Hopefully, that will give the issue enough weight to get mainstream attention and force Frist, Hastert, etc. to condemn their fellow partisan.

I'll let y'all know if this happens.
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# Posted 8:41 PM by Patrick Belton  

RECONSTRUCTING IRAQ WATCH: I'm compiling a working list of articles and proposals relevant to building democracy in Iraq. I'll read over the ones I have so far tonight and comment tomorrow: please let me know if there are articles and other materials that aren't here that you'd suggest I include!
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# Posted 8:24 PM by Patrick Belton  

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Jim Woolsey, explaining to an astonished lunchtime audience why he is an environmentalist: "Even hawks need somewhere to nest"
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# Posted 4:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LETTER FROM EGYPT: OxBlog's correspondent in Cairo is not as optimistic as I am about the political significance of Mohammad Saeed al-Sahhaf. He writes that:
As a resident of Egypt, I suspect that the problem is not simply one of a few bad governments hiding the truth from their people. The Arab people are complicitous in this process as well. Here in Cairo virtually none of my very well-educated students and friends see al-Sahhaf as a liar even now. As recently as a few days ago, many Egyptians were telling me that the U.S. couldn't even defeat Iraq, and is now finished as a superpower. They asked me how I could stand living in the West, where the media lies to its people and receives no objective truth.

The optimistic scenario is that regime changes in the region will change the mindsets of the populace and make it easier for them to engage in badly needed self-critique. But I fear that there is a cultural dysfunctionality here and not just a political one. There is a tendency here to use statements not as propositional truths, but as bargaining positions. When one's bargaining position becomes untenable here, instead of modifying it, one simply changes the subject. In the 1967 War, after it became clear that Nasser's media had lied about the supposed conquest of Tel Aviv and even about the supposed American bombing attacks on the Egyptian Air Force, there were no consequences for the government. Sure, it was a highly authoritarian state, and one wonders whether a _true_ regime change would alter things. Maybe. But I continue to hear the wildest conspiracy theories in the Arab world about the most indubitable realities, and am reluctant to blame that entirely on the governments.

This may be sounding like some sort of "the Arabs aren't ready for democracy" argument. It's actually not-- I'm in favor of democracy throughout the region. But I also know that I'm going to go back to school tomorrow and hear highly westernized and pro-democracy/anti-Mubarak Egyptians tell me that Baghdad hasn't really fallen, that the Jews are behind 9/11, that U.S. Special Forces are stealing baby food from warehouses in Iraq and taking it back to America, and other nonsense of this kind.

Anyway, I hope that you're right and I'm wrong. It would be wonderful if the utter falsification of al-Sahhaf's claims were a show-stopper for absurd Arab media rhetoric.
I think the most interesting thing reported by our friend in Cairo is the way in which Arabs criticize the lies and subjectivity of the Western media. While such assertions may be nothing more than a "bargaining position", it suggests that the Egyptians have a certain understanding of difference between truth and falsehood, spin and reality.

For a broader look at the culture of truth and fiction in the Middle East, OxBlog's Tel Aviv correspondent, BM, recommends David Pryce-Jones' "The Closed Circle".

OxBlog: Where the Arab-Israeli peace process has already succeeded!
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# Posted 4:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FEMINISM VS. DEMOCRACY PROMOTION? In an unusual article in Foreign Policy, a pair of top-flight scholars of comparative politics argue that
A society’s commitment to gender equality and sexual liberalization proves time and again to be the most reliable indicator of how strongly that society supports principles of tolerance and egalitarianism. Thus, the people of the Muslim world overwhelmingly want democracy, but democracy may not be sustainable in their societies.
At the same time, the authors rely on data from the World Values Survey to argue that
...democracy has an overwhelmingly positive image throughout the world. In country after country, a clear majority of the population describes “having a democratic political system” as either “good” or “very good”...in the last decade, democracy became virtually the only political model with global appeal, no matter what the culture. With the exception of Pakistan, most of the Muslim countries surveyed think highly of democracy: In Albania, Egypt, Bangladesh, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Morocco, and Turkey, 92 to 99 percent of the public endorsed democratic institutions—a higher proportion than in the United States (89 percent).
As far as I can tell, what this data shows is that there is no significant relationship between democratic values and "less permissive [attitudes] toward homosexuality, abortion, and divorce." If those were serious problems, then Texas would probably be a dictatorship.

But seriously, I think the authors make far too much of the existing correlation between women's rights and democratic government. To be fair, they do admit that women's rights were a late development even in the world's most democratic nations. This suggests that democracy may be the cause of women's rights and not vice versa.

Still, the authors seem to ignore the greatest potential flaw in their data: that the correlation between dictatorship and a lack of gender equality is spurious. Fifteen years ago, the existence of a dozen or more Communist nations in which women had equal rights (in principle if not usually in practice) would have prevented quantitative studies from detecting any relationship between democracy and gender equality.

Thanks to political forces that had nothing to do with women's rights, the nations of the Soviet bloc (Central Asia excepted) made a tentative transition to democracy. One unexpected side effect of this transition has been the emergence of a (probably spurious) relationship between sexism and dictatorship in the Muslim world. It would be foolish to let such a statistical anomaly stand in the way of efforts to bring democracy to the Middle East.
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# Posted 1:49 PM by Patrick Belton  

POISON IVY: Some of the comments made by distinguished professors during this recent anti-war rally at Yale were, frankly, disgusting. Professor Paul Gilroy, chair of African-American studies, felt it necessary to trot out that old canard, that "the geopolitical interests of Israel" had determined the U.S. course of actions; Sterling Professor of Law Bruce Ackerman (disclosure below) personally insulted the president's intelligence and continued the identification of "Sterling" with "Partisan Democrat" by saying "if we, and by that I mean the Democrats, had won the election in November, we wouldn't be at war right now."

Personally, even though I was cautiously in support of the war, and cheered its progress, I acknowledge there were many good reasons to have questioned it, and many good people did. (Furthermore, although I support many of this administration's foreign policy initiatives, I maintain my registration in the Democratic party, albeit in its centrist and more hawkish wing.) But making allegations of Jewish conspiracies and mocking the president's intellect, however, is not only not the way to criticize U.S. policy, it's outside the bounds of civil political discourse. It's also, incidentally, against most if not all of the values for which Yale as an institution stands.

To back up: I cherish my connection with Yale, much more than I do my affiliation with any other institution - and this for reasons which go beyond crass considerations of academic prestige, and which have instead to do with the deeply ethical, healthy attitudes toward life that I find associated with that university. I continually find in that beautiful place a truer idealism than I'd found in Catholic seminary, a nurturing fondness of quirkiness and individualism, and an exhilerating sense of the potentialities of human existence. Of the truly excessive number of universities amongst which I've shlepped, it is the one which I consider my alma mater; and more than during any other time in my life, it was as a student there that I (for better or worse) grew into who I am now. I've furthermore been happy to work periodically as a research assistant for Professor Ackerman - who is an exceptionally nice man, whose work on constitutional law and social theory is rigorously argued and almost poetically written, and who relishes a love of no-holds-barred intellectual argument like no man or woman I've ever come across.

However, it was with shame that I read about the descension of Yale political discourse to the level of the ad hominem and anti-semitic remark to which these noted professors let themselves be a party. Doing so violated the standards both of Yale and of the nation. Ph.D. candidate David Goldenberg summed it up quite nicely:

"I thought that their speeches were crafted very carefully to draw whimsical chuckles from jaded leftists in the crowd," Goldenberg said. "It was long on wit, short on wisdom. It was rhetoric without content, opinion without foundation, but worst of all, it was above all an ego enhancement session for a group of smug intellectuals. In short, [it was] a session of group intellectual onanism."

Amen, brother.
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# Posted 1:20 PM by Patrick Belton  

WHY TONY BLAIR ROCKS, NO. 386: It wasn't enough that he brought the special relationship to new heights by being the United States's most steadfast ally all the way from September 11 to V-I day: now he's going to star on an episode of The Simpsons. As though we needed more reasons to love this guy.
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# Posted 9:52 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THOUGHTS FOR SEAN PAUL: Until now, I have said nothing about the misconduct of Sean-Paul Kelley, who committed serious acts of plagiarism in his role as editor of The Agonist. I consider Sean-Paul a friend, and was thus saddened to find out what he had done.

In light of the significant praise that I have given Sean-Paul's work in the past, I feel compelled to make some sort of statement about the situation in which he now finds himself. First of all, I am extremely disappointed to find out that the success of a friend was a product of deception. I was very proud of what Sean-Paul had achieved, both for himself and for the blogosphere.

Most disturbing of all is the fact that Sean Paul refused to acknowledge the impropriety of his actions until they were well-publicized. Rather than admit wrongdoing, he shamefully sought to accuse his critics of duplicity.

For the moment, Sean-Paul has continued to serve as a collator of war-related news. Perhaps that is appropriate, at least until the end of the current conflict. Afterward, however, I would like to see Sean-Paul return to his pre-conflict role as a voice of informed opinion. My initial praise for him was a response to the intelligence of his commentary. Regardless of the impact that the current scandal has had on his credibility as a presenter of facts, I believe he is still well-qualified to comment on those facts' significance.

Finally, with regard to the impact that Sean-Paul's situation will have on the credibility of the blogosphere, I believe that it will -- and should -- have a negative effect. We work in a medium that is susceptible to manipulation and must acknowledge that fact.

Meryl Yourish is right to observe that the presence of plagiarism in the mainstream media does not mitigate its presence in the blogosphere. When a mainstream journalist commits an act of plagiarism, it is often another mainstreamer who exposes his misconduct. As Meryl observes, this does not and should not repair the damage done to the mainstream media's credibility, regardless of the pride it can take in effectively policing itself.

Thus, while we should all acknowledge the integrity and effort that Strategic Armchair Command invested in exposing Sean-Paul's misconduct, SAC's achievement should not make the rest of us complacent. What we can be proud of, however, is that we are beginning to develop a capacity for self-regulation which parallels that of the much more established mainstream media.

As Ken Layne rightly points out, it was the mainstream media that offered unstinting praise for Sean-Paul without making any effort whatsoever to verify the appropriateness of his methods. Thus, our elder cousin may have something to learn from us.

(For a comprehensive set of links to other bloggers' comments, please see this post by Dan Drezner.)

Sean-Paul, I am sure that this experience has been very hard on you. But I am sure that if you learn from it, you will be able to rehabilitate yourself in the eyes of all but the most unforgiving critics.
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# Posted 8:53 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CNN SCANDAL: Glenn has this one covered, with posts here, here and here.
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# Posted 8:40 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"I TOLD YOU SO", PART II.: Andrew Sullivan is leading the charge with "I Told You So" compilations here and here. Highlights include Eric Alterman and Edward Said, in addition to the usual suspects at The Guardian.

Alterman, however, has been gracious enough to admit how wrong he was, along with Gary Kamiya.
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Friday, April 11, 2003

# Posted 12:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BRICKS AND MORTAR: For the first time ever, I am going to meet the bricks-and-mortar version of someone I have only known as a blogger. That someone is London resident Greg D., author of the Belgravia Dispatch.

Now that I think about it, it really isn't all that weird. I've had to arrange various interviews and meetings online without ever meeting my counterparts in person. And, way back in the day, there were people I only knew via telephone who I then went on to meet in person.

Anyway, since I am in London and unable to blog much, why not check out some of Greg's very interesting posts, especially on Ahmed Chalabi, humanitarian aid in Umm Qasr, and the unilateralism of Woodrow Wilson.

And if you want some laughs as well, take a look at Greg's posts on Howell Raines' self-defense. Oh that Howell...
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# Posted 10:43 AM by Patrick Belton  

BANDWAGON. JUMP. REDUX. The lovely and always insightful EG writes in this morning from the Lower East Side:
I stop in every now and again at Oxblog when I can take some time off from
grad school (ie, when I can justify utter procrastination.) As I'm not a
foreign affairs expert, I usually don't feel the need to argue. However, as
a New Yorker I do feel fairly confident in responding to your post about the
recent, and anomalous, "pro-war" rally at Ground Zero. I'd see the rally
more as an interesting case of local political factions using highly
symbolic, contested turf as a staging ground for domestic struggles over (at
most) state-wide financial issues. My read: "the war" is a red herring [for
the union members who staged yesterday's rally in support of the war]. The
real issue is, as usual, the money. Pensions, health insurance, and budget
cuts are in danger, and the union wants to remind Pataki -- a far more
doctrinaire Republican than Bloomberg -- that he in part owes his reelection
in largely Democratic New York to union endorsement. What better way to
drive the message home than with a public demonstration in favor of a cause
that most New Yorkers are at best lukewarm about? Two weeks ago, New York
was recovering from huge, diverse (120,000 plus) anti-war protests that saw
protesters and bystanders alike indiscriminately hauled off to jail. While
it's true that some New Yorkers support the war, before this union rally
there's been no institutional efforts (like, say, the Clear Channel rallies
in Texas) to create public pro-war spectacle. Big rallies require immense
amounts of planning and coordination. I'd argue that many of the traditional
pro-war factions don't see any local political benefit to staging a rally in
New York. Only people who need to reinforce their ties to Albany have the
motivation. Ergo, the union rally.

Yours from the ambivalent left,

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Thursday, April 10, 2003

# Posted 11:19 PM by Patrick Belton  

VIVE la démocratie, le whiskey, et le sexy!: Looking for something happier after the previous two postings, I ran across Andrew's new motto, which did the trick quite nicely. Bravo!
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# Posted 10:58 PM by Patrick Belton  

SHAMEFUL: An FBI counterintelligence officer had an affair with a Chinese agent (who became a prominent California Republican fundraiser in the 1990s), and provided her with classified U.S. material for over a decade. Not only is this treasonous, it's damned bad manners.
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# Posted 8:21 PM by Patrick Belton  

SEE BANDWAGON. JUMP. New York has a pro-war rally today which attracts 25,000. Not to criticize, but - where were all these New Yorkers two weeks ago, when our troops were on the verge of a dangerous conflict in which many of them expected chemical weapons to be unleashed on them?
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# Posted 10:52 AM by Patrick Belton  

MORON WATCH: Anti-Semitic Virginia Democrat Jim Moran tumbles farther toward his political doom with ridiculous comments last night that Jewish organizations were planning to direct and take over the campaign of his next electoral challenger. (The meeting unfortunately ended before he could begin distributing copies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.)
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# Posted 10:49 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IRAQIS ARE NOT ARABS: According to Egyptian political scientist Diaa Rashwan,
"The Arab street is very frustrated, and to America, I repeat, I repeat, I repeat, the real war hasn't started yet. We have to be careful with such euphoria. It will only increase the feelings of anger in the Arab world. No Arabs want to welcome an occupying power."
One can safely infer from Rashwan's final words that Iraqis are not Arabs. Right?

Perhaps the more interesting question is whether the Egyptians themselves are Arabs. According to one man quoted by the WaPo,
"If the U.S. really wanted democracy, they would have taken out just about every Arab leader we have. This is very suspect."
If such sentiments are representative of Egyptian public opinion, then one can safely infer that Egyptians aren't Arabs, either. They're neo-cons!

BTW: The headline of the WaPo article cited above is: "TV Images Stir Anger, Shock and Warnings of Backlash." Surprise!
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# Posted 10:40 AM by Patrick Belton  

RORTY AS A PRAGMATIST: Cambridge philosophy don Simon Blackburn situates Rorty's work here within the pragmatist tradition of Dewey and James - i.e., the mostly American philosophical tradition which seeks to bypass arguments about whether statements are indeed truly representative of the world by substituting a criterion of whether they are useful for human projects (though the human project of pragmatism does however turn out to have its problems).

Personal sidenote: disappointingly enough, I discovered crestfallen on my arrival at Oxford that my donnish advisors did not adequately appreciate the humor in being called "Don Yuen" or "Don Paul."
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# Posted 10:33 AM by Patrick Belton  

FAREWELL TO CONCORDE: After concerns about financial viability loom, the good ship Concorde will be standing down come autumn.
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Wednesday, April 09, 2003

# Posted 11:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANOTHER BLOGCHILD: This one has multiple parents, but OxBlog is one of them. So take a moment to visit Zach Mears.
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# Posted 11:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE ON IRAQ IN THE 1980s: After reading OxBlog's recent post on the Jimmy Carter-Saddam Hussein connection, Randy Paul brought to my attention this online collection of documents about US-Iraq relations in the 1980s.

The collection was put together by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, which has done more than any other institution to ensure public access to information about United States foreign policy. I spent six weeks at the Archive in 2001, and Josh has written about some of the issues they are now working on.
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# Posted 11:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REACHING OUT TO IRAQ: A good friend has suggested that that the people of the United States and Great Britain reach out to the people of Iraq by contributing to the resolution of Iraq's humanitarian crisis.

One organization that has done especially good work for the people of Iraq, even during the war, is the Red Cross. Its most impressive achievement was the restoration of water and electricity to Basra while it was surrounded. To get more information about the Red Cross's efforts in Iraq or to make a donation, click here.

Another option is to support the work of UNICEF, which helped position aid supplies on the Iraqi border so that it could react quickly in the event of war.

Finally, if you are a blogger, why not post these links on your site and help spread the word?
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# Posted 10:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A HERO FISKED: Until now, I have been unstinting in my praise of Jackson Diehl, who has devoted column after column to the cause of promoting democracy across the globe. But Monday's column has an unpleasant side to it, one that subtly and condescendingly mocks both Israeli and American hawks without ever challenging their arguments head on.

Taking matters into his own hands, Martin Kimel has subjected Diehl's arguments to a trenchant fisking. NB: Martin is still working on his permalinks, so you will have to either scroll down to the relevant post or use the Find command.

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# Posted 5:41 PM by Patrick Belton  

BELOW THE BELT(ON): Have you ever noticed the world is full of pundits who put their own words in other peoples' mouths and then criticize them? Calpundit's Kevin Drum just helpfully provided us with another sterling example of this. Ordinarily one of the better and more enjoyable liberal members of the blogosphere (together with a personal favorite, the well written and always entertaining Hauser Report), Kevin very forgivably slipped up the other day and, after rather airily advising his readers "don't worry about the substance" or context of what I'd actually written (which, for the record, was to praise US Ambassador Sandy Vershbow as "one of the few gems of the Foreign Service"), he then rather groundlessly put words in my mouth and incorrectly accused me of being "contemptuous of government agencies and government employees." First of all, since I personally make a habit of slipping-up most days - fairly continuously, actually - I really don't mind at all. Second, though, since Kevin was nice enough to express interest in my views of the U.S. Foreign Service, I thought I might as well develop them in further detail. Gratuitous misreadings of my post notwithstanding, I have no negative views of "government agencies and government employees" in the abstract, although having worked in the State Department and agonized over whether to enter the Foreign Service, I do have some sociological comments about that particular service and things it does well, as well as things it does badly.

Between Yale and Oxford I spent a summer working at the U.S. Mission to NATO in Brussels, and I passed several months of my first year at Oxford in deciding whether or not to accept a position I'd been offered in the Foreign Service as a political officer. Based on my first-hand experiences, my personal reflections on the Foreign Service are these. The people it attracts are generally competent, often even attractive in their breadth of interests and adventurousness. However, as an institution it tends to socialize its youthful, talented members toward (to generously paraphrase Kennan, its most noted alumnus) irony wrapped in sarcasm and shrouded in bitterness; depreciation of the experience or insights of individuals outside that particular bureaucracy; and a disposition toward anecdotal rather than analytical thought, characterized by a reliance on the argument from "well, I was there," which is somewhat analogous to the 19th century Catholic Church's overindulgence of the argument from authority.

My impression, at least, is that many of these norms represent a social response to the experience of stultifying in the middle levels of a large bureaucracy - if joining they expected their profession to confer them status and the ability to provide intellectual contributions to the process of diplomacy, they then however encounter work which is anonymous, routinized, and more bureaucratic than diplomatic. These socialization pressures are certainly very strong, and the only people who seem to escape them are those who, by virtue of talent conjoined with luck, and perhaps connections of mentorship, rise quickly to the upper echelons of the service, and thus bypass the normative pressures of its middle levels - Toria Nuland, Thomas Pickering, and the aforementioned Vershbow being prime examples. Ambassador Pickering , a famously kind man, was nice enough to speak to me about my decision whether or not to join; it was clear that he approached all of his tasks at the junior and middle levels with an entrepreneurial disposition to make his work matter, however routinized or menial. Thus as a vice-consular officer he made sure to discover who in the society in which he was serving would make useful contacts for the embassy, and he ensured he would be the officer adjudicating their visa applications whenever they applied for visas; in this way, as a FS-03 he generated useful contacts for the embassy in the commercial and political elite of the nation in which he was serving. But the Pickerings, Vershbows, and Nulands rise up quickly through the stratosphere of the Foreign Service, leaving behind a cynical, ironic remnant of their A-100 classes who often gripe at everyone: the political appointees who occupy the top tier of the department's offices, the administrations whose naiveté they deride, and which ultimately exercise executive power, the non-diplomats (generally derided as kooks or fools) who dare to comment on the issues on which they work.

It was not always this way: these particular bureaucratic delicts are common to diplomatic and intelligence services (and to some extent officer corps) everywhere since the old boys' networks that had taken the places of aristocratic remnants in these professions (a transition which in the U.S. dates broadly to the Rogers Act of the 1920s) in turn yielded to anomic bureaucracy and impersonal, rule-based administrative structures in the 1970s. It differs among bureaucracies and nations: the British Diplomatic Service is still quite cohesive and relatively unbureaucratic, perhaps because it maintains a fast track and all sub-ministerial posts may be aspired to by career diplomats (as opposed to the U.S., where generally only one Under Secretary of State and several assistants and deputy assistants are drawn from the career ranks); within the United States, the CIA's directorate of operations, with its emphasis on mentorship and apprenticeship in the learning of tradecraft, remains closer to the old-boy than the bureaucratic model; and the strong normative commitments present in the officer corps give it a normative cohesion not present in civilian services. There are some things the Foreign Service does well: while officers are not trained or encouraged to think strategically rather than anecdotally, at the tactical level their work is generally quite competent. Some things it does not: personnel from the directorate of operations, for instance, are by the nature of their socialization and training much more open to useful information and perspectives coming from non-official channels than Foreign Service officers who are socialized only to really respect the opinions of the diplomatic caste. This creates noticeable blind spots. Their cynicism generally makes them less pleasant to deal with, and less ideal representatives of the country, than, say, the action-oriented gregarious officers of the DO or the touchingly loyal officers in uniform. There are of course always exceptions.

So that's my two paragraph anthropological dissection of the Foreign Service, and some of its strengths and pathologies. I'm happy to admit that portions of it may be gloriously wrong, but having been close to the subculture for extended periods of time it strikes me as generally accurate. But now more important activities call than the dissection of diplomats - most notably at the moment, dinner.
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# Posted 3:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANOTHER DEEP THOUGHT from John McCain: "The sea lamprey does not, in my opinion, pose a clear and present danger to our national security." But if it did, the Marines would kick its a**!
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# Posted 3:31 PM by Patrick Belton  

BOB KAGAN'S COLUMN in today's WaPo is worth a read. Briefly, he argues that the U.S. should avoid three temptations with respect to New Iraq: first, overly seeking to punish Europe, Russia, or China for their opposition to the war (which would complicate Blair's attempt to reknit Britain's ties to Europe, and drive an isolated Germany into the welcoming arms of neo-Gaullist France); second, overly promoting Ahmed Chalabi as a democratic leader of New Iraq (a good man who nevertheless has questionable credibility and support back in Iraq, where he hasn't lived in decades), instead of allowing democratic leaders to come to the fore under their own power; and third, abandoning public diplomacy, instead of publicizing Saddam's depravities as more are discovered, and working to convince Europe and the Arab world that our war was just.
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# Posted 3:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A BLOG OF NOTE: In light of the blogosphere's recent obsession with the very British humor of Monty Python, I thought I would take this opportunity to introduce Setting the World to Rights, a blog that also has a sense of humor appropriate to those who live on a small island off the coast of France.
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# Posted 1:13 PM by Patrick Belton  

SORRY SORRY SORRY for the slow blogging from my end the last few days - the confluence of several universities' spring breaks temporarily turned the Belton household into a hotel operation out of a bad joke. But Messrs. Schwartz, Mogg, and Desai having all safely survived the experiment with no (permanent) bodily injuries, now back to blogging.....
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# Posted 11:32 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"I TOLD YOU SO" WATCH: The time has come for those who had faith in American war plans to mock those who didn't. All I add is a note of caution, lest those who now mock become overconfident and leave themselves open to having the tables turned.

Right now, the NYT website is running a headline which says "Jubilant Iraqis Swarm the Streets of Capital; U.S. Says Hussein Has Lost Grip on Baghdad" That would seem to resolve the 'liberation' question. (And if the NYT isn't good enough for you, check out the Guardian for similar reports.)

Moderation aside, I have almost no sympathy for those who predicted an indifferent or even hostile response to Coalition forces by the people of Iraq. Believing that an entire population would prefer Saddam's brutality to a foreign occupation is unjustifiable. What's especially nice is that even some of the Arab media are broadcasting images of the liberation to audiences in the Middle East.

On the military front, Andrew Sullivan has been outing all those who spoke without hesitation about the coming quagmire. The list of the outed includes Johnny Apple, Robert Wright, Josh Marshall and, of course, Robert Fisk.

All in all, being wrong is a forgivable thing. In the best of cases, such errors reflect the imperfection of human judgment. In others, partisan preferences are responisble for false expectations. Of course, many of those who were right about the war were only right because of their own partisan prejudices.

For the moment, what I am most interested in is whether those who were wrong will have the decency to admit that they were. Unsurprisingly, Maureen Dowd seems to have failed this test already. Oh well...

UPDATE: Cheney himself has broken his wartime silence in order to to indulge in a round of 'I told you so'. Also, the WaPo has an in-depth look at Arab media reaction to the occupation of Baghdad.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2003

# Posted 10:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPARTAN TRIUMPH: Andrew Sullivan wryly notes that the stunning British victory in Basra is evidence of how effective an army that respect homosexuals can be.

Sullivan asks: "How did [the British] manage not to collapse as a military force? After all, they allow openly gay soldiers in their units, thus undermining unit cohesion, destroying morale, wrecking troops' privacy and making it impossible to fight. A miracle against all the odds, I suppose."

I guess now we know why the Republican Guard failed to demonstrate all that much unit cohesion, morale, or battlefield effectiveness: they just didn't have enough homosexuals.
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# Posted 10:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE ARABIAN ORWELL: Thus far, both the mainstream media and the blogosphere have held up Iraqi Information Minister Mohammad Saeed al-Sahhaf as an object of ridicule. In fact,
During al-Sahhaf's denials on Monday, an Arabic translator for one of Britain's global satellite TV stations couldn't control himself and broke out laughing on the air.
Fair enough. I'm not going to defend al-Sahhaf the way I did Peter Arnett. Even Robert Fisk is struggling to find a good word to say about the man.

But I want to do is think seriously for a moment about the political implications of al-Sahhaf's performance as the public face of Iraqi resistance. The first commentator to think seriously about al-Sahhaf's role has been Slate's Tim Noah, who made a compelling case that al-Sahhaf says what he says to order to turn back the wrath of Qusay Hussein and other Saddam henchmen who might have his head if he faithfully reported Iraqi defeats. (Thanks to Josh for the link.)

Presuming that Noah is correct, al-Sahhaf's behavior bears a striking resemblance to that of high officials in both Stalinist Russia and Maoist China, who faced the simple choice of fabricating the truth or being killed. According to one historian, the death of 30 million Chinese during the Great Leap Forward stemmed in great part from a nationwide effort to provide Beijing with false reports of agricultural and industrial success that confirmed its predictions of national greatness. Acting on such reports, Mao and his inner circle made further predictions of success, and so on.

While the dysfunction of totalitarian regimes is now a matter of conventional wisdom, this was not so until well after the end of the Cold War. Realists such as George Kennan and Henry Kissinger long insisted that the Politburo's immunity from public opinion enabled it to carry out foreign initiatives far more daring and sophisticated than those of the United States. Given the apparent success of the Soviet Union in military affairs, such conclusion were hard to resist. Thus, in the mid-1980s, policy intellectuals found themselves enraptured by Paul Kennedy's "Rise and Fall of the Great Powers", which foresaw American becoming a victim of 'imperial overstetch'.

As critics are fond of saying, Kennedy got things half-right; the Cold War did end when one of the superpowers fell prey to imperial overstetch. Kennedy just failed to guess which one. While I would still hesitate to say that the Coalition victory in the current war has come at less cost then expected, the low cost of that victory surely reflects the dysfunction of the Iraqi regime.

The analysis of al-Sahhaf's lies must not end with the fall of Baghdad, however. While such lies may be an indication of the Ba'ath regime's dysfunction, they may now become a direct cause of other regime transitions in the Middle East.

I expect that al-Sahhaf will soon become a symbol for all those Arabs who have long suspected that their own state-run media tell nothing but lies. Instead of wondering whether the endless repetition of such lies reflects the kernel of truth at their core, Arabs will become more confident that such lies can be unmasked when confronted with force.

It is hard to know what effect this changing awareness will have on Middle Eastern politics. In an optimistic scenario, it will force unmitigated dictatorships such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia to give a greater voice to civil society and nascent opposition groups. In a less optimistic scenario, the crumbling facade of state propaganda will heighten both public anger and government repression, resulting in widespread human rights abuses and even civil war.

The clearest beneficiary of al-Sahhaf's self-pardoy is Al Jazeera. Now more than ever, Arabs will know that only an independent news source can provide them with reliable information. The fact that Saddam expelled Al Jazeera from Iraq during the war will only heighten its credibility. Of course, this market for information may well result in the establishment of competitors who will challenge Al Jazeera role as the pre-eminent non-Western news source.

Perhaps the most surprising beneficiary of al-Sahhaf's charade will be the United States. At minimum, his lies will remind American citizens that we still face opponents who will lie straight through their teeth in order to justify their own brutality. In the two decades or so since the death of Mao and Brezhnev, that point has often been forgotten, even if there are those such as Milosevic who effortlessly built on their precedent.

But there is also the chance that the exposure of al-Sahhaf's lies will force Arabs to confront the inadequacy of their own knowledge about the United States and its motives. For the moment, there still may be millions of Arabs who believe what al-Sahhaf has to say. But as Al Jazeera and others broadcast news of the American victory, even the most faithful will be disillusioned.

While countless residents of the Middle East have no doubt enjoyed al-Sahhaf's no-holds barred rhetorical attacks on the United States and Britain, these same residents will recognize that such boldness comes with a price. This sentiment was intimated by one man quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle:
"He's the comic relief of the war," said Salwa, a 59-year-old Egyptian teacher. "At the same time, he's the voice of victory that we want to believe."
Some might say that the more compelling voice of victory belongs to Al Qaeda, that Saddam's fall will benefit only those who offer an even more radical alternative. But I disagree. I suspect most Arabs will recognize that both Saddam and Bin Laden are examples of what happens to those who act the Arab world's fantasies of violent revenge.

In order to consolidate the gains made thanks to al-Sahhaf, the United States must now show that American ideals follow the American flag. Remembering al-Sahhaf, the people of the Middle East will demand credible accounts of life in occupied Iraq. If that life becomes evidence of democracy's viability in the sands of the Middle East, then the alternatives will become clear: Act on one's pride and become a martyr, or admit that what one's enemy has to offer is the best option available.

UPDATE: Dan Simon comments on Orwell's pessimism and its application to al-Sahhaf.
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# Posted 1:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FILL IN THE BLANKS: I came across an interesting article from a few years back while doing research for my dissertation. Let's see if you can guess whose names I've left out of its opening sentences:
The drums around Washington have begun to beat out faint but persistent signals heralding what could become the strangest diplomatic seduction scene of this troubled political year. Judging by the drift of pronouncements of knowledgeable commentators, and the cautious entreaties of National Security Adviser [BLANK A], the [BLANK B] admiistration is adopting a distinctly flirtatious attitude toward Iraqi strongman Saddam ("the engineer of revolution") Hussein. Coming at a time of increased tension between Iraq and Iran on the one hand, and the US and Iran on the other, the US feelers are not likely to be ignored by the pragmatic Hussein, whose strategies for Iraqi hegemony in the Middle East are well known.
Tough one, eh? Perhaps making this a multiple choice test would be better. The choices are (for Blanks A/B):

a) Henry Kissinger/Gerald Ford
b) Zbigniew Brzezinski/Jimmy Carter
c) Robert MacFarlane/Ronald Reagan
d) Brent Scowcroft/George H.W. Bush
e) Anthony Lake/Bill Clinton

Did that help at all? It's hard to say, since all of the answers are fairly plausible. The easiest of the five to eliminate is actually choice 'c' (MacFarlane/Reagan), since why would I bother with guessing games about an administration that everyone knows was in bed with Saddam Hussein?

Actually, I wouldn't even bother you with guessing games if the answer were anything except 'b' (Brzezinski/Carter). Who knew? Mr. Nobel Peace Prize himself warming up to the Ba'athist butcher. The article cited above is from the The New Republic's May 3, 1980 edition. The author was Amos Perlmutter, whom one would have to describe as almost prophetic.

Here are some other highlights from the article:
Already stories have appeared in the New York Times and Washington Post painting pictures of a moderate and benign Iraq as the logical successor to Iran as the dominant power in the Persian Gulf and a likely candidate for closter ties with the United States...

"We see no fundamental incompatibility of interests between the United States and Iraq," [Brzezinski] said...

To the administration, Iraq and Hussein now loom as the protectors of Saudi Arabia and its oil...

A gesture of friendship with the West and the United States seems rife with opportunity for Iraqi action against Iran, action that the US might be forced to sanction...

Hussein's involvement in the brutalities and violenc eof recent Iraqi political history is first-hand and continuous...

Last and most ominously, Iraq is the only Arab country attempting to develop a nuclear capactiy -- with the active help of Italy and France...

Our policymakers, particularly Brzezinski, should take off their blindfolds and look at Iraq for what it really is: a state inimically hostile to US interests, under a regime steeped in bloodshed and violence.
As Yogi Berra once said, "It's like deja vu all over again." Or perhaps it would be better to recall the words of Karl Marx, who said that history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. But the third time is always the charm.
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Monday, April 07, 2003

# Posted 11:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

READING OXBLOG, PART II: The mainstream media are beginning to notice that the prospects for an Arab backlash have been somewhat exaggerated. The Economist is now asking:
If secular nationalism has failed the Arabs, will they turn to violent Islamism instead? It is unlikely. Over the past 20 years, Arabs have watched the Islamic revolution in Iran, which once hoped to export revolution to the Arabs as well, fail in war against Iraq and then fail in economics too. In countries where radical Islam turned violent, such as Egypt and Algeria in the 1990s, it has succeeded mainly in scaring the middle classes and secular intellectuals, who might otherwise have pushed for political reform, into accepting ruthless state repression. A few pious and violent hearts, offended by the spectacle of infidel intrusion, will no doubt respond to the Iraqi war by taking up arms alongside al-Qaeda. But though some Arabs admired the attack on the twin towers, most know that religious war against the West is no answer to their difficulties. The chances of Iraq igniting such a war is slim.
Did someone once make similar points about Egypt and Algeria. Nah, couldn't be...

Moving on, Tom Friedman writes that
To read the Arab press is to think that the entire Arab world is enraged with the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and to some extent that's true. But here's what you don't read: underneath the rage, there is also a grudging, skeptical curiosity — a curiosity about whether the Americans will actually do what they claim and build a new, more liberal Iraq.

While they may not be able to describe it, many Arabs intuit that this U.S. invasion of Iraq is something they've never seen before — the revolutionary side of U.S. power. Let me explain: for Arabs, American culture has always been revolutionary — from blue jeans to "Baywatch" — but American power, since the cold war, has only been used to preserve the status quo here, keeping in place friendly Arab kings and autocrats.
Arabs able to patiently think and evaluate empirical evidence? Nope, never heard that one, either.

(That last link was actually to my first ever post on the backlash myth. I've been working on this same rant for almost two months now! Man, will I luck dumb if the backlash starts tomorrow. But if you're a pro-wrestling fan, you know that the Backlash begins on April 27th with the return of Goldberg!)

Last but not least, we come to the WaPo, which seems to be distancing itself from its earlier insistence that the backlash is well underway. On the front page of yesterday's paper, Glenn Frankel reported that
For Muslims throughout the world, the war in Iraq has set off a wave of anger, sadness, frustration and despair.

What it hasn't done, so far at least, is produce a flood of jihadist recruits willing to die for President Saddam Hussein's cause, or a backlash strong enough to topple Arab governments with close ties to the West, according to interviews conducted over the past week with Muslims around the world.

The televised daily scenes of civilian casualties, humiliated Iraqi prisoners of war and triumphant American warriors rolling through southern Iraq have left a bitter taste in the mouths of millions. But political Islam, a potent if divided force, appears torn between its fear and suspicion of the West and its long-standing hatred of Hussein, who is perceived as one of the most secular and totalitarian of Arab leaders.
Resenting Saddam more than they fear the US? No way! [The OxDem FAQ linked to a Yahoo! news story on this point, but the link has expired.)

Now, you'll have to excuse for a minute while so I can get all of this righteous indignation out of my system. Of course, f you're really sure that a backlash is coming, make sure to visit the NYT, which is still turning up evidence for it all over the place.
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# Posted 10:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

READING OXBLOG? Following our precedent, Slate rips into the NYT's R.W. "Johnny" Apple for his turnaround on the war. (Thanks to Dr. BL for the link)
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# Posted 10:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BBC'S CHARLATAN: Daniel Drezner reports that the BBC is uncritically citing Marc Herold's civilian casualty counts for the current war.
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Sunday, April 06, 2003

# Posted 10:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FEELING LAZY? You are not alone.
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# Posted 10:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

POWER OF THE PURSE: So far, the struggle for power in postwar Iraq has played out as a battle between the Pentagon on the one hand and a coalition of the State Department, the British government and the United Nations on the other.

But now there's another gunslinger in town who links it his job to play sherriff. They call him Congress. We learn today that
Congress has already rewritten the emergency request for $2.5 billion in reconstruction assistance that Bush submitted last month, with the Senate barring the money from use by the Pentagon. The House has insisted that it go through the traditional State Department aid agencies. "The secretary of state is the appropriate manager of foreign assistance, and is so designated by law," said Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz), a House Appropriations Committee member, expressing a view widely held across party lines.
While $2.5 billion may not sound like enough to warrant congressional concern, that isn't the point. When Congress wants to influence American foreign policy, it does so by taking advantage of its power of the purse. While the executive branch controls almost every aspect of foreign relations, the appropriations process is a bottleneck at which Congress can stop almost any initiative it deems undesirable.

For a concise and incisive overview of Congress' powers in the realm of foreign relations, see James Lindsay's "Congress and the Politics of US Foreign Policy."

In the process of conducting research for my doctoral dissertation, I have become well aware of how Congress can face down the executive no matter determined he is. Even though Reagan asked for negligible sums to aid the Salvadoran armed forces and Nicaraguan contras, Congress forced him to invest a massive amount of political capital in a battle that lasted throught Reagan's entire time in office -- and which he eventually lost.

Information -- distributing it, hiding it, interpreting it -- was the tactical focus of the interbranch struggle to dictate policy toward Central America. As today's WaPo report indicates, the same is true with regard to the Bush administration and the struggle over postwar Iraq:
Despite repeated requests for more information and for a meeting with Garner, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) said he and his staff have received only "inconclusive and not very comprehensive views" on Garner's plans. The Pentagon has refused requests from Lugar and other committees to meet with Garner. With Garner's team awaiting entry into Iraq, the Defense Department "has refused requests by the staff of the Appropriations Committee to brief us, and has its people sitting around a swimming pool in Kuwait drawing up plans," said a senior congressional aide...

In what members said was an unprecedented move, Bush asked for the $2.5 billion reconstruction fund to be appropriated to the White House itself, presumably to be distributed through the Pentagon. A memo prepared by senior GOP staff for the House Appropriations Committee noted that the arrangement would erect a "wall of executive privilege [that] would deny Congress and the Committee access to the management of the Fund. Decision-makers determining the allocation . . . could not be called as witnesses before hearings, and most fiscal data would be beyond the Committee's reach."
It's worth noting that the Bush administration has already provoked Republican congressmen to the point where they are willing to break ranks and oppose the administration's plans. It took Reagan quite a while to let things slip that far.

All in all, initial reports suggest that the Bush administration's well-known obsession with secrecy and awkward managment of legislative affairs will shape its approach to the occupation. (NB: Josh disagrees on the legislative affairs point.)

For the moment, it is unclear where the President himself stands on hte occupation issue. My guess, however, is that he will broker a compromise which favors the Pentagon.

As a matter of principle, I like to Congress win when the executive tries to undermine its oversight of foreign relations. But in this case, I think Congress favors an inferior policy while the secretive Pentagon has a much stronger case. So what is to be done?

Hopefully, the Pentagon will open up and give Congress the information that it both wants and deserves. The public deserves this information as well. There is every reason to believe that Congress will go along with the administration's preferred policy provided that the administration shows respect for congressional opinion.

If it doesn't there is good reason to believe that Congress will fight tooth and nail to stop the administration, regardless of the impact that such a conflict would have on America's interests abroad. When Congress feels that it has been slighted, it tends to put all practical concerns aside and focuses on punishing those who have slighted it. Assuming the White House fights back (as it did under Nixon and Reagan) the usual outcome is a compromise that is worth than either of the original policies under consideration.

In light of America's compelling interest in the democratic reconstruction of Iraq, the administration ought to work with Congress rather than against it. Congress has a long record of favoring democracy promotion, and there is every reason to believe that it will want to entrust that task to the Pentagon rather than those who support the United Nations.
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# Posted 9:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE SOCIAL CONTRACT: The more I read of the Republic, the more ignorant I know I am. From Socrates' perpsective, I guess that makes it the perfect book.

By posting my thoughts on OxBlog, I hope that I can draw more of you into this coversation about Plato so that you can help me appreciate his work. The more I read, the more I recognize that I cannot begin to understand Plato's significance without being able to place him within the context of the Western philosophical tradition.

Unfortunately, in contrast to Josh, I did not participate in Yale's Directed Studies (DS) program, which introduces a select lot of freshman to the great works of Western civilization. Therefore, I want to take advantage of the fact that the readers of this website have a wealth of untapped knowledge. What I post will consist more of questions and speculations than of answers.

Then again, turnabout is fair play. Instead of blogging to advertise my opinions to the world, I will now take advantage of my blog to learn from it. Here goes:

In Book II, Sec. 358-59, Glaucon observes that
They say that to do injustice is, by nature, good; to suffer injustice, evil; but that the evil is greater than the good. And so when men have both done and suffered injustice and have had experience of both, not being able to avoid the one and obtain the other, they think that they had better agree among themselves to have neither; hence there arise laws and mutual covenants; and that which is ordained by law is termed by them lawful and just. This they affirm to be the origin and nature of justice; --it is a mean or compromise, between the best of all, which is to do injustice and not be punished, and the worst of all, which is to suffer injustice without the power of retaliation; and justice, being at a middle point between the two, is tolerated not as a good, but as the lesser evil, and honoured by reason of the inability of men to do injustice. For no man who is worthy to be called a man would ever submit to such an agreement if he were able to resist; he would be mad if he did. Such is the received account, Socrates, of the nature and origin of justice.
To the modern reader (or at least to this modern reader), Glaucon's observation presciently anticipates the work of Locke, Rousseau and others on the social contract. A footnote to the Penguin edition of The Republic (Pp. 45-46) observes that Enlightenment philosophers were more interested in providing a legal justification for state sovereignty, whereas Glaucon's interest is in the moral foundation of obedience to the law.

That seems fair. But what I find much more striking about Glaucon's words are the way in which they prefigure Rawls' description of the 'original position' which exists behind the veil of ignorance. Justifiably, Rawls has been attacked for describing the original position in a manner so abstract that it becomes impossible to derive any sort of ethical precepts from it. In contrast, Plato (through Glaucon) seems to deal with a more concrete situation in which actual victims of injustice engage in an effort to draw up a constitution for civil society. Will Socrates later explain why this approach to the law is deficient?

I imagine so, since the Republic is famous for its identification of the sovereignty of the philosophers as ideal. On the other hand, some have argued that Rawls' original position is nothing more than an elaborate disguise for the rule of the one philosopher, namely Rawls.

For the moment, I'd like to contrast Glaucon's description of the origin of the law with Socrates' description of the origin of society later on in Book II, Sec. 369. It reads as follows:
A State, I [Socrates] said, arises, as I conceive, out of the needs of mankind; no one is self-sufficing, but all of us have many wants. Can any other origin of a State be imagined?

--There can be no other.

Then, as we have many wants, and many persons are needed to supply them, one takes a helper for one purpose and another for another; and when these partners and helpers are gathered together in one habitation the body of inhabitants is termed a State.

--True, he [Adeimantus] said.
And they exchange with one another, and one gives, and another receives, under the idea that the exchange will be for their good.

--Very true.
Then, I said, let us begin and create in idea a State; and yet the true creator is necessity, who is the mother of our invention.
What I find especially interesting about this passage is its description of a society that has come into existence not because of a social contract, but because of mutual needs. If memory serves, Locke argues that the state of war between man and man only comes to an end with the conclusion of a social contract. Yet here, a peaceful and cooperative society exists in the absence of a social contract.

Alternately, one might say that it is exists in the absence of a conscious social contract. Rather, it seems that an implicit recognition of the value of cooperation has led to the creation of an informal social contract. Perhaps the more formal one described by Glaucon above is the one that communities institute in order to resolve those conflicts that are not amenable to resolution via the cooperative division of labor.

These different models of conflict and arbitration seem to prefigure some of the game theoretic models of international cooperation developed by political scientists. From what I know, the sophistication of such models pales in comparison to the game theory applied by economists. But that is the sad fate of international relations; to recylce the detritus of other social sciences. (What, me melodramatic?)

In short, Glaucon's scenario accounts for the resolution of zero sum conflicts, whereas Socrates' describes the natural outcome of positive sum games. Is it going too far to suggest that Plato had some fundamental awareness of these different scenarios, even if he was not able to apply the language of modern game theory? I guess I will have to read on and find out.

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# Posted 8:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CONGRATULATIONS! All the best to JA and MP on their engagement! Jon and I were roommates for three years in college and one year thereafter. We've been through it all together. We go way, way back.

I haven't met the bride, but I am fully confident that anyone who has won Jonathan's respect and love is someone it that I will be proud to know for decades to come. I wish the bride and groom a wonderful life together, a wonderful family, and all the happiness in the world.
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# Posted 4:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE RUMSFELD REVOLUTION: A noted historian writes that the Secretary of Defense's dominant role in strategic decision-making is unprecedented -- with the exception of Robert McNamara's dominance in the age of Vietnam. So maybe that Marx guy was wrong about history repeating itself. We'll see.
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# Posted 12:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CAN'T FIND A VEDDER MAN: As a die hard Pearl Jam fan, I wasn't all that happy to read about Eddie Vedder's sophomoric anti-Bush protest. (NB: If he had gone after Gavin Rossdale, that would've been justified. But I'm talking about President Bush.)

But as Josh always says, we'd never be able to appreciate great art or music if we spent time worrying about their creators' politics.
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