Tuesday, April 15, 2003
# Posted 11:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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.I'm no expert on American museums, but there are certainly a few in Britain that have one or two artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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
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.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:33 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
(Sadly, I have to admit that my own academic standards are not what they once were, since I loved everything Gene had to say.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, April 14, 2003
# Posted 9:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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.''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!] (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:33 PM by Dan
# Posted 4:20 PM by Dan
# Posted 11:47 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:32 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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...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.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:19 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:00 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
[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.] (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, April 13, 2003
# Posted 11:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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....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 itsAs 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
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.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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:23 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 12:43 PM by Dan
# Posted 11:49 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 12:05 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:01 AM by Patrick Belton
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, April 12, 2003
# Posted 11:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:41 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:24 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 4:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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.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! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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
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:
Amen, brother. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:20 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 9:52 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:53 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 8:40 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Alterman, however, has been gracious enough to admit how wrong he was, along with Gary Kamiya. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, April 11, 2003
# Posted 12:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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...
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:43 AM by Patrick Belton
I stop in every now and again at Oxblog when I can take some time off from
Thanks! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, April 10, 2003
# Posted 11:19 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 10:58 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:21 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 10:52 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 10:49 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
"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! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:40 AM by Patrick Belton
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." (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:33 AM by Patrick Belton
Wednesday, April 09, 2003
# Posted 11:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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? (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:41 PM by Patrick Belton
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 3:31 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 1:13 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 11:32 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, April 08, 2003
# Posted 10:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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...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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, April 07, 2003
# Posted 11:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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.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.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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Sunday, April 06, 2003
# Posted 10:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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...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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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?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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion