Tuesday, April 22, 2003

# Posted 11:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS? Not exactly. Turns out the 82nd Airborne caught five Ba'ath terrorists and an Al Qaeda operative who had intended to bomb Shi'ite mosques in Karbala. Memo to Rumsfeld: Next time, deploy some of those guys from the 82nd around Paris' synagogues. (Via Instapundit)
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# Posted 11:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REAGAN REDUX: While I happen to be reading Alexander Haig's memoirs as part of my research project on the Reagan era, his book is well worth reading for anyone interested in the making of American foreign policy. Above all, there are disturbing parallels between Haig's recollections of divisive debates over foreign policy within the Reagan cabinet and the divisions that have emerged in the current one.

In both cases, such divisions have been played out in the public sphere rather than behind closed doors. As CalPundit points out, the inconsistency of the administration's stated policy on Iraq has reached an unacceptable level.

Of course, such observations are hardly original. And I don't just mean that OxBlog has made the same point before. In December 2000, I was relaxing on the beach in Thailand with CM, an Army Ranger, now stationed at Fort Drum with the 10th Mountain Division. An obsessive reader, CM had his head buried in The Prince while I had my head buried in the sand. Metaphorically, that is.

At one point, CM read out a passage in which Machiavelli describes the situation of a prince who lacks sufficient knowledge of public affairs to personally direct the affairs of his kingdom. Machiavelli notes that such a prince ought to entrust all important decisions to a single adviser, since the presence of multiple advisers would result in arguments that such a prince lacks the ability to resolve.

Of course, CM noted that The Prince's advice stood in direct contrast to the stated position of the Bush campaign, which was that the President-elect would compensate for his deficient knowledge of foreign affairs by surrounding himself with a broad array of expert advisors.

This is not to that history has proven the Italian right and the Texan wrong. In fact, Bush's surprising success as a foreign policy President suggests that old Niccolo may not have the final say on affairs of state. Nonetheless, I think it is fair to say that the internal divisions reported in the press have constantly threatened the integrity of Bush's foreign policy.

While one might argue that this sort of public debate is an admirable model of open deliberation in a democratic context, I think that such an interpretation is simply not tenable in light of the fact that the President's advisors disagree over what the United States' policy is, rather than what it should be. At times, one might even use the term insubordination to describe certain individuals' response to presidential decisions.

While I am most definitely an optimist on certain counts, I don't expect the President to impose any sort of discipline on his subordinates any time soon. The Reagan precedent suggests that such divisions only become worse over time.

In certain instances, a lack of presidential oversight can have dramatic consequences. In Reagan's case, those consequences became known as Iran-Contra. Regardless of whether one considers the actions of Poindexter and North to have been criminal, I think is fair to say that the Reagan administration suffered extensive damage as a result of the President's public admission that he had no idea what his own National Security Advisor was doing.

(Note to Republicans: I hope you don't feel I'm picking on your favorite presidents. As everyone knows, Eisenhower and Nixon were in firm control of their cabinets, while Carter had to confront divisions similar to that of his successor.)

For the moment, I am fairly confident that President Bush has enough control of the Cabinet to ensure that there is no second Iran-Contra. But that doesn't mean that existing divisions are not damaging. Given that there are any number of American adversaries waiting to take advantage of unexpected developments in postwar Iraq, the President would be well advised to discourage such adventurism by demonstrating that his administration cannot be led astray from its stated objectives.

UPDATE: Dan Simon defends the Presidents' mangerial style, at least with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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# Posted 10:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ARE THE NEO-CONS FRENCH? In his 1984 memoir, Alexander Haig, the one time Secretary of State to President Reagan, observed that the increasingly successful Republican party
has even attracted a class of intellectuals, called neoconservatives, who used to be liberal Democratic intellectuals and still sound like liberal Democratic intellectuals, as a Frenchman who learns English late in life will typically still sound like a Frenchman when he speaks our language. There are also some real conservatives in the party.
Keep that in mind next time you pick up a copy of The Weekly Standard.
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# Posted 6:55 PM by Patrick Belton  

THANKFULLY, SENATOR SANTORUM is garnering some of the condemnation merited by his recent prejudiced remarks which have no place in the polity, and debase the chamber to which he belongs.

HOWEVER, as I remember the modus ponens from a mostly-forgotten class in logic, I now have the permission of one of the most conservative Republicans to do, basically, anything....
If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.

Clearly the antecedent clause holds (well, okay, more precisely...in 1996 the Court struck down an anti-gay amendment to the Colorado Constitution on equal protection principles, and is considered likely to reverse its 1986 5-4 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, since only three justices from that ruling remain on the Court), so therefore I (and I assume of course he meant me) now have the right to anything, including...hey, a doctorate from Oxford (and, gee, why not a junior professorship at Yale, just while we're at it) without doing any academic work these days more substantive than blogging. (Hey, wait...no, never mind.)

Of course, Santorum has no credibility whatsoever at the moment to speak about moral issues, so this is all fairly, err, academic.
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# Posted 10:06 AM by Patrick Belton  

MANISCHEWITZ WATCH: On the seventh day of Pesach, my true love gave to me....dry, stale, stinking unleavened bread. Mmmm...let's try that again.

So at breakfast this morning, I noticed an extraordinarily skillful bit of marketing by Mr. Manischewitz. I admit - I was in desperate search of reading material, since Berkowitz's virtue book was in hiding somewhere underneath my bed with volume two of We the People - it's a really broad church down there. So I was reduced to reading a cardboard box. Anyway, I'm now the proud owner of a 50 cent coupon for any "Guiltless Gourmet" product. Splendid marketing - by labelling their chicken soup as blissfully guiltless, you're automatically made to feel vaguely guilty about eating all other brands. For instance, at the moment I'm sipping vaguely-guilty coffee and contemplating a moderately-guilty protein shake in an hour or so. That's remarkably skillfully done.

(Okay, I know, it's actually Rabbi Manischewitz - as I read on their history page. But I felt better dissing on a faceless, abstract, corporate "Mr." Manischewitz than a real-life Cincinnatian peddler and shochet from the nineteenth century. And yes, by now you've probably figured out that it was my intention through panning Manischewitz to write them a paean. So there.)

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# Posted 9:24 AM by Patrick Belton  

SHOTS ACROSS THE BOW OF STATE: Newt Gingrich, who currently serves on the Defense Policy Board, will apparently make a speech this morning at AEI to promote State Department reform. (See this story from the morning's WaPo.)

In the past, I've considered criticisms of the State Department here, because like any human institution, the State Department is inherently in continual need of reform. I simply happen, as a foreign policy hand, to know State best. (Incidentally, the idea of institutional sin, which received a compelling formulation in the anthropological assumptions of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, has been very influential in forming the intellectual worldview of most post-WWII foreign policy realists, from Kennan and Morgenthau to Kissinger).

What's needed, however, are creative ideas about how to reform and revive a human institution that's inescapably in need of continual reform, rather than merely another inning in the traditional Republican pastime of State-bashing. Hopefully the former Speaker will begin a process that will produce such needed creative ideas; we'll be looking on attentively, and eagerly.
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# Posted 8:46 AM by Patrick Belton  

PLOV WATCH: The Soros Foundation's brainchild EurasiaNet continues to be an absolutely stellar source of analysis and reportage on Central Asia and the Caucasus. It's definitely worth checking out.

Among pieces it's featured lately - Taliban author Ahmed Rashid warns that Taliban leaders have fled to Pakistan under the secret shelter of sympathetic ISI officers, and are using Pakistan as a base from which to launch operations against Hamid Karzai's government. Switching countries, Tajikistan has been something of a bright spot in the region, even as its economy attempts to recover from devastation, because since the end of its civil war in 1997, the Islamist opposition has been taking part in politics and elections, and apparently moderating greatly as a result, becoming a "normal" political party. However, in an interview, IRP chief Said Abdullo Nuri (whose political opponents charge him with untoward involvement with Iranian intelligence) decries President Imomali Rahmonov's current potentially-destabilizing efforts to amend Tajikistan's constitution to permit him to serve beyond his seven-year term, and join his neighbors in the region's ruler-for-life club.

Finally, this piece analyzes the overlap and divergence in interests between Iran and the New Iraq. Iran worries that a strongly pro-American New Iraq will not develop close relations with it, whereas a fragmenting Iraq will be an irritant to Iran's security situation. Iran's interests lie in seeing Iraq's Shiites, principally Ayatollah Hakim's Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution of Iraq, secure a key role in the new Iraqi politics; Iran will try to provide as much help, in ways both public and quiet, to this party as it can in the coming months. A prominent role for the Islamist party is clearly very much not in the U.S.'s interest; however, a resurgence of the Shi'a theological school in Najaf could conceivably provide a point of reformist theological criticism of Iran's mullahs (as there are signs Qom in Iran slowly may be becoming).
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# Posted 1:50 AM by Patrick Belton  

GETTING MARRIED? EVER? Then check out the Bad Bridesmaids' Dresses Compendium. You'll be glad you did.
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# Posted 1:38 AM by Patrick Belton  

WHAT MONTY PYTHON CHARACTER ARE YOU? And I'm not just linking to this only because it told me I was King Arthur. You can be the judge of the quiz's accuracy here:
You are an idealistic king, but not very bright. You hate the French and all those bloody peasants.... You also have the keen ability to distinguish between African and European Swallows.

Idealistic. Not excessively bright. Francophobic. Hmmmmmm..... Naaah.
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Monday, April 21, 2003

# Posted 10:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT DID I DO? A reporter made an innocent mistake. Well, not all that innocent.
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# Posted 10:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SLIPPERY SLOPE or just too much KY? Atrios is blown away by just how offensive Rick Santorum's views of homosexuality are. Damn right.
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# Posted 9:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MATT ON MY SIDE: Whodathunkit? Matt Yglesias agrees with my critcism of Josh Marshall. But Dan Drezner takes Josh's side. Strange days, my friends, strange days.
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# Posted 9:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE LOYAL OPPOSITION: I will be the first to admit that I am a passionate advocate of promoting democracy throughout the Middle East and that passion is not well-known for its contribution to patient and self-critical analysis. In theory, this sort of passion might lend itself to either an overly optimistic or an overly pessimistic frame of mind. (Such pessimism might result from impossibly high expectations for democratic reform, against which all actual reforms appear deficient.)

In practice, I recognize that I am much more of an optimist on this count than a pessimist. Thus, in order to prevent myself from discarding evidence that goes against my expectations, I have decided to appoint a loyal opposition to my optimistic views. I stumbled across this idea just yesterday, while reading the Daily Kos.

In the event that you aren't familiar with Kos, it is a blog firmly rooted in the left wing of Democratic politics. I read it for the first time around four months ago, but quickly lost interest because its approach to Iraq seemed to be motivated by such a visceral hatred for George Bush that its authors became incapable of serious analysis.

Since then, Kos has become a higher being on the left-wing of the blogosphere, right alongside Atrios, Josh Marshall, and CalPundit. Returning after four months, I also sensed that the quality of the site had improved even if its profound resentment of the President and his party is still there.

After reading a number of Kos' posts on the occupation of Iraq, it became evident that its creators (especially Steve Gilliard) are committed to the dual proposition that a democratic Iraq would be a very good thing but that the ignorant cowboys in the White House are to f*** things up. On the face of it, the opposing halves of this dual proposition are logically compatible.

However, it often seems as if Kos is more concerned with showing the world that it is right about Bush than ensuring that the people of Iraq have the sort of government they deserve. Nonetheless, there seems to be a genuine commitment on Kos' part to making sure that the development of Iraq stays front and center on the United States' political agenda.

I very much hope that is the case, since I have decided to appoint Kos, at least temporarily, as the loyal opposition to my own personal optimism. One might say that Kos is my mirror image: passionate about democracy but fundamentally inclined to pessimism. Therefore, it can be expected to focus on exactly those bits of information that an optimist might ignore.

Now, I haven't told the folks over at Kos that they have suddenly had a new set of expectations imposed on their writing. In time, I may decide to send an e-mail their way or post a few messages on their discussion boards. But for now, I don't think that a higher being such as Kos need be concerned about an interest taken in its work by one third of OxBlog. (Of course, if all of you start going over to Kos and leaving messages on its boards, its proprietors may begin to wonder what happened to its readership.)

So for now, let me just comment on a couple of Kos' posts. First up, Kos pulls no punches when saying that the sack of Baghdad was apalling, that the US had ample warning of what was about to happen but still did nothing, and that Rumsfeld's reaction to the riots and looting has shown just how small-minded and ignorant he can be.

Leaving some of Kos' more extreme rhetoric aside, I think one simply has to admit that the administration failed. Moreover, this failure seems to be a direct extension of leading officials' inability to admit that their President has committed them to nation-building and that they cannot persist with their self-defeating efforts to think outside the military box.

Moreover, accusations of failure regarding the sack of Baghdad are far from being the exclusive province of the far left. As Ken Pollack writes,
The looting and lawlessness that continue to prevail in large parts of Iraq were entirely predictable, and almost certainly preventable by the presence of coalition troops charged with keeping the peace. While this may seem like a minor problem, it is one that could have very severe consequences if not quickly resolved.
So if Ken Pollack and Robert Fisk agree, you have to wonder about those who don't. (Note to CalPundit: See, I am capable of reading Robert Fisk with an open mind. But he's still an idiot.)

Moving on, Kos has shown a marked interest in the role that SCIRI (The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq) will play in the reconstruction. In short, it is going to be a very, very dangerous one. While one has to discount some of Kos' pessimism, which often borders on the absurd, the premise here is pretty solid: the heavily-armed friends of Iran's mullah-led dictatorship have the potential to cause a lot of trouble.

It seems that we all have the terrible misfortune to live in interesting times.
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# Posted 2:38 PM by Patrick Belton  

IRAQI DEMOCRACY OP-ED WATCH: For now, just a compilation (with responses and analysis to come). Kenneth Pollack argues for a UN role, and a long horizon of international involvement; Michael O'Hanlon and Roberta Cohen see a humanitarian crisis looming; James Steinberg sees Asian support for the Iraq war as one of the untold stories, with important and complex implications for the U.S.'s security relationships with Japan, the two Koreas, and China; Bill Safire writes on France and Russia's blackmailing act over releasing UN sanctions on Iraq (as does IHT's Claudia Rosett), and urges more commitment to tracking down Iraqi financial assets worldwide.

Most significant, perhaps, is this timely piece by noted columnist Matt Spence on lessons to be learned in exporting democracy.

UPDATE: Our friend and blogger Zach Mears writes in to suggest a few additional pieces: a Foreign Affairs essay by Adeed and Karen Dawisha on several Iraqi assets which may facilitate democratization there; Stanley Kurtz on lessons to be drawn from India's experience (and Zach's response); Mark Fineman on rebuilding the police and judicial systems; and Fareed Zakaria on why bringing liberalization to Iraq will require much more commitment than simply bringing democracy (Fareed finds, however, that whiskey and sexy will likely be significantly easier to introduce).
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# Posted 1:13 PM by Patrick Belton  

MAZAL TOV to Kevin for his blog's dazzling new website. Quick question: do the two bodies of water represent (a) the Bay area, (b) the Atlantic and Pacific coasts (possibly with a red sun off in the direction of Japan - very internationally minded), or (c) possibly even the Arabian desert with several islands (oases? lighthouses?) of democracy? In any case, congratulations!

UPDATE: Kevin informs me that you can only see the fabled lovely "second ocean" if you're using a Mac. Others may call it a bug, I say it's yet another instance of enhanced Mac functionality.
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# Posted 12:26 PM by Patrick Belton  

WHAM, BAM, SHUKRAN: Okay, so I know that doesn't really rhyme. Our friend, the Hauser Report's Jeff Hauser, just emailed me this troubling piece from the morning's WaPo, on which Josh Marshall has also commented today.

The tenor of the piece is that a number of well-placed officials are already looking for excuses to pull the U.S. out of Iraq as soon as possible, whether or not there's a functioning democracy left there when we leave. The WaPo cites several unnamed officials at the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid as expecting to measure their time in Iraq in "months, not years"; in a similar vein, OMB director Mitchell Daniels recently prognosticated that Iraq "will not require sustained aid."

Possible optimistic interpretations? One may be that the WaPo is attempting to generate a public outcry at the start over the possibility of a quick withdrawal, therefore ensuring that the political environment inside the Beltway is strongly in favor of a sustained, honorable commitment to the Iraqi people. Another might be that these numerous statements on background could be trial balloons from the administration, plumbing possible public responses to different levels of post-war commitment. Of course, there's also the more disheartening third possibility, which is that many segments of government and the military are sufficiently unsympathetic to tasks falling under the rubric of "nation-building" that they are already beginning to look for any excuse to leave, irrespective of the consequences for the U.S.'s credibility as a promoter of democracy.

On the good guys' side, it's emerging, are an unlikely coalition of the willing - USAID administrator Andrew Natsios, Under Secretary of Treasury for international affairs John Taylor, former SecDef Schlesinger, and such voices from think-tankery as CFR's Rachel Bronson and RAND's James Dobbins. And there are glimmerings of hope from the highest levels of the administration: President Bush, in a February 26 speech at the American Enterprise Institute, promised "a sustained commitment" and drew the appropriate analogies to the duration of American commitments to Germany and Japan. General Garner, for his part, commented in an interview over the weekend that the United States would persevere until democracy was established.

As, of course, it must. Our international credibility for the foreseeable future hinges on as much, as do the very crucial questions of stability and democratization in the Middle East and Gulf. And God help us if we don't make good on our promises to the Iraqi people:

lisaanon min rutab wayadon min khashab: a tongue of ripe dates and a hand of wood.
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# Posted 11:31 AM by Patrick Belton  

IRANIAN JOURNALIST AND BLOGGER ARRESTED: A friend of OxBlog's from North Carolina writes to draw our attention to this tragic story about well-known Iranian writer Sina Motallebi, who was arrested yesterday, apparently for giving interviews to Persian-language radio services outside of Iran. His blog WebGard (now inactive) was among the five most popular Persian-language weblogs.

Blogger Jeff Jarvis is keeping tabs of the story here. Meanwhile, Glenn Reynolds has made the commendable suggestion that we all contact the Iranian mission to the UN to protest Mr. Motallebi's arrest; the mission's email address is iran@un.int. Written letters to your congressional delegation drawing their offices' attention to this would also be very much in order.

UPDATE: I've just put my money where my mouth is and written my congressional delegation - if any of you would like to do the same, please feel free to draw on (or add to) this letter:

Dear Senator:

I am a foreign policy professional in the Washington, D.C. area, and I am writing to you in a personal capacity to express my great concern at the arrest this weekend of Iranian journalist Sina Motallebi for granting interviews to Persian-language radio services outside of Iran.

I would be very grateful if your office could please forward my letter with your own letter of concern to the Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs. I would also be very grateful for any resolution of support for Mr. Motallebi which your office may be willing to introduce in this session of Congress.

With many thanks and all best wishes,

Patrick Belton
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# Posted 10:47 AM by Patrick Belton  

"SEAL" OF APPROVAL: Okay, so even if the Beeb can't do news, at least on occasion it can succeed in being cute.

This morning, the BBC reports on "Andre," a seal stranded in a fresh-water river in Scotland who was eating up several thousand pounds of salmon (hey, can't fault his taste) and causing great concern among the area's professional fishermen. Finding themselves unable to catch the seal, the local fishing authority finally issued him a permit - saying "the least we could do until he is caught, is to make it legal."

An accompanying letter to the seal read "We have decided to issue you with a fishing permit for the season. This will allow you to fish in Loch Lomond and the River Leven. It will also allow you to fish in the River Fruin and the River Endrick."

On second thought, it just occurred to me that it actually isn't the Beeb at all being cute here, but instead it's the bubbling up from less stuffy heights of the irrepressible dry, benevolent British sense of humor that self-important institution so rarely actually embodies....

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Sunday, April 20, 2003

# Posted 8:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RUMSFELD VS. REALITY? Daniel Drezner reports.
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# Posted 5:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ONE MORE THING to add my very long response to the NYT Magazine: Lt. Col. Bryan McCoy, I am proud of you and your service to our country.
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# Posted 5:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BRITISH CINEMA: You know what makes a movie funny? Five shots of Jack Daniels before you go inside! Actually, for Shanghai Knights you don't even need it. A great laugh and a great action flick. A worthy successor to Shanghai Noon.

(Yes, I know it opened in February in the United States. But we're still catching up on this side of the pond.)
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# Posted 12:33 PM by Patrick Belton  

GLIMMERS OF HOPE: (courtesy A&L Daily) Apparently some signs are now emerging that at least some of the precious holdings of Iraq's National Museum may have escaped looting in a hidden basement vault. See this, and this.
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# Posted 12:26 PM by Patrick Belton  

RIP to the Partisan Review - the granddaddy of the New Republic and New York Review of Books, which has now passed into American intellectual and literary history after 68 often glorious years.
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# Posted 11:59 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HACKNEYED STEREOTYPICAL CLICHES: We talk a lot about the media and its biases. We compile evidence and publish indignant criticism. But we don't often ask whether all of this one-sided coverage actually has an impact on its audience. After all, it stands to reason that if we know better than to believe what we read, so does everyone else.

In my academic work, I've come across a fair amount of literature that covers the influence of mainstream media on public opinion. Its conclusions support both sides of the argument. On the one hand, most individuals are fairly resistant to new information that calls into question their established beliefs. If presented with both sides of an argument, most individuals can evaluate their relative merits.

But if presented with only one side of an argument, we are surprisingly susceptible to persuasion. What no one seems to know is exactly how one-sided a source of information has to be in order to become persuasive. By the same token, no one seems to know at point the one-sidedness of an argument becomes so self-evident that it proovkes suspicions of bias.

Naturally, I don't have any answers to these questions. (Although I will recommend my favorite book on the subject, whose title is "Reasoning and Choice: Explorations in Political Psychology".)

So, then, where is this post heading? I'm not sure. My original intent was to comment on the less-than-subtle anti-military prejudice which runs throughout one of the major articles in this week's NYT Magazine. It really p****d me off.

On the other hand, I am beginning to wonder whether such constant criticism of the New York Times serves much of a purpose. If we all know to read the Times critically, what exactly is the point of saying so again and again? That's why I began this post with my comments about assessing the impact of the media rather than just its contents.

But you know what? NYT bashing can be fun. After all, if we don't vent, we'll explode. And maybe one day our backlash against the Times will force it to either raise its standards or to admit that the Washington Post has now become the United States' paper of record. But for the moment, let's talk about 'Good Kills' by Peter Maass.

The table of contents warns us that
To get to Baghdad, the marines of the Third Battalion fought the old-fashioned way — by shooting as many of the enemy as they could. Their victims weren't all soldiers.
So, is this another My Lai? Has the United States lost its moral compass? Let's find out.

Up front, we find out that
The Third Battalion had a consistent strategy as it moved toward Baghdad: kill every fighter who refused to surrender.
Oh, that Third Battalion. Coming up with new and brutal strategies that might offend the sensitivies of ignorant America. Where did this whole idea of killing the enemy come from? Why didn't we learn anything from the Native Americans, who believed that the greatest act of courage in battle is to touch one's enemy without hurting him? Surely that would have brought down the Ba'athist dictatorship as fast as an actual military strike.

Or at least wound the enemy instead of killing him. Aim for the arms and legs. Sure, it might have taken a little longer to get to Baghdad, but think of the moral triumph it would have represnted. Instead of telling us that the invasion had stalled in its second week because of fierce Iraqi resistance, the media should have reminded us of how ineffective the mighty Repubican Guards actually are. Then we could've gone easy on them instead of pursuing this nonsensical strategy of killing them instead.

Moving on, we find out that
The unit's commander, Lt. Col. Bryan McCoy, had a calm bearing that never seemed to waver as he and his troops made their way through Iraq...

When I spoke to him on the southern side of the Diyala bridge soon after the battalion arrived there on the morning of April 6, he was in a serene mood. ''Things are going well,'' he said. ''Really well.''

When Colonel McCoy told you that things were going well, it meant his marines were killing Iraqi fighters.
Now I get it. It is the brutal Col. McCoy who has brainwashed his soldiers into thinking that war involves death. If McCoy had any conscience at all, he never would have said that things were going well. Intead, he would've delivered an agonizing and self-critical appraisal of his personal responsibility for the devastation of Iraqi society.

Later on,
[McCoy] was sitting in the front seat of his Humvee, with an encrypted radio phone to his left ear. He had the sort of done-it-again pride in his voice that you hear from a business executive who is kicking back at the clubhouse as he tells you he beat par again.
You see, what's really disgusting about McCoy is not that he's a killer, but that he is so non-chalant about it. But is it really his fault, or is McCoy's depravity just the byproduct of a capitalist order that fails to differentiate between the ethics of business and the ethics of war?

In the heat of battle, McCoy radio's his commander in order to inform him that
''We're killing them like it's going out of style. They keep reinforcing, these Republican Guards, and we're killing them as they show up. We're running out of ammo.''
Oh my God! A direct quote! Surely this is incontrovertible evidnece of McCoy's brutality. In theory, one might say that McCoy's words are a sort of black humor, a desperate attempt to mask his own fear of dying in a hail of Iraqi bullets. Or worse, a hail of friendly fire. No, no, that is way too far-fetched. McCoy is a killer.

For McCoy
This war was not about hearts and minds or even liberation. Those are amorphous concepts, not rock-hard missions. For Colonel McCoy and the other officers who inflicted heavy casualties on Iraqis and suffered few of their own, this war was about one thing: killing anyone who wished to take up a weapon in defense of Saddam Hussein's regime, even if they were running away.
Though a killer he may be, McCoy is no fool. He sees right through all of the politicians' talk about hearts and minds and liberation. How could violence have anything to do with freedom? As M. Chirac has so often reminded us, war never solves anything.

In an attempt to educate his military hosts about the perils of war, the author of this trenchant essay
suggested to Colonel McCoy one morning that Iraqi civilians might not appreciate the manner in which his marines tended to say hello to the locals with the barrels of their guns raised...

[But] ''They don't have to like us,'' he said. ''Liking has nothing to do with it. You'll never make them like you. I can't make them like me. All we can do is make them respect us and then make sure that they know we're here on their behalf. Making them like us -- Yanks always want to be liked, but it doesn't always work out that way.''
Just like George Bush and the French. If only McCoy had tried to be nice, surely things would've have turned out differently.

Perhaps the greatest moral dilemma facing McCoy and his troops was how to deal with the threat of suicide bombers. How does one tell if an approaching vehicle contains fanatical militia or just desperate civilians who won't stop for warning shots or anything else? After the battle, McCoy's soldiers discovered that innocent men and women had been killed along with the armed militiamen. Lest the Marines fail to recognize the tragic nature of the situation
A journalist came up and said the civilians should not have been shot. There was a silence, and after the journalist walked away, a third marine, Lance Cpl. Santiago Ventura, began talking, angrily.

''How can you tell who's who?'' said Corporal Ventura. He spoke sharply, as though trying to contain his fury. ''You get a soldier in a car with an AK-47 and civilians in the next car. How can you tell? You can't tell.''
Of course, it is always the journalists who have the last word. As the author informs us,
When I visited the kill box down the road from Diyala bridge the morning after the battle, I noticed that the destroyed cars were several hundred yards from the marine positions that fired on them. The marines could have waited a bit longer before firing, and if they had, perhaps the cars would have stopped, or perhaps the marines would have figured out that the cars contained confused civilians. The sniper [from the Third Battalion] knew this. He knew that something tragic had happened at the bridge. And so, as we spoke in Baghdad, he stopped defending the marines' actions and started talking about their intent. He and his fellow marines, he said, had not come to Iraq to drill bullets into women and old men who were just trying to find a safe place.
Finally, the confession. Confronted by the New York Times, even the most hardened soldier cannot fail to recognize that he is a war criminal. Just like Vietnam. We sent American boys overseas to become merciless killers. But there's more:
Collateral damage is far easier to bear for those who are responsible for it from afar -- from the cockpit of a B-1 bomber, from the command center of a Navy destroyer, from the rear positions of artillery crews. These warriors do not see the faces of the mothers and fathers they have killed. They do not see the blood and hear the screams and live with those memories for the rest of their lives. The grunts suffer this. The Third Battalion accomplished its mission of bringing military calamity upon the regime of Saddam Hussein; the statue of Saddam fell just a few minutes after the sniper and I spoke. But the sniper, and many other marines of the Third Battalion, could not feel as joyous as the officers in the rear, the generals in Qatar and the politicians in Washington.
As we all know, bomber pilots, naval officers and artillery crews are far too ignorant to recognize that their actions may result in the death of innocent civilians. Just like innocent civilians in the United States, they remain blissfully unaware about the true nature of war.

But let's not forget the generals in Qatar and the politicians in Washington. They should know better. How dare they be joyous? What they should have done is obvious. They should never have started this war. Then they would have had a right to rejoice.

They could have basked in the praise of the New York Times editorial board while Saddam Hussein went about his business, stockpiling chemical weapons and murdering those who resisted his tyrannical rule. That is the true nature of peace.
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Saturday, April 19, 2003

# Posted 10:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

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# Posted 9:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FIRST TIME AS TRAGEDY...As Paul Kennedy would have it, the lesson of history is that the United States is foolish to expect that it can transform the Middle East. As Matt Yglesias would have it, the lesson of history is that Paul Kennedy has a habit of making extremely pessimistic predictions that turn out to be extremely wrong.
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# Posted 12:37 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AN ANSWER FOR KEVIN: Revealing quite a bit about the premises on which his wordview rests, Kevin Drum asks
Now, it's true that the UN has its problems, and I certainly know that conservatives just generally despise the UN, but this got me thinking. What exactly do they have against letting the UN have a say in rebuilding the Iraqi government? How would they mess it up? By proposing tax rates that were too progressive?

What's the deal here?
Kev, where do I start? How about with this op-ed from the NYT which explains how the UN Oil-For-Food program is the living embodiment of opacity, bureaucratic incompetence, greed and one-sided politicization? Now, I myself have pointed to some of the problems one might run into if American coporations dominate the reconstruction process. But very, very few those corporations could match the UN bureaucracy vice for vice (except when it comes to greed, of course.)

Even when it comes to opacity, American corporations tend to be far more transparent than the UN, the IMF or the World Bank. And if working on government contracts, it won't be hard at all for the occupation authorities to demand a full accounting of corporate behavior.

In a later post, Kevin raises some other questions about the occupation and the importance of multilateral legitimacy. He writes:
[Fred] Barnes, I think, is absolutely correct that establishing a decent successor state in Iraq is a long process that requires considerable commitment from the United States. If we're serious about it, we'll stay put for a while.

But the critics are also right: a long and substantial occupation by the United States is just begging for trouble. Not only will it leave the unavoidable taint of neo-colonialism, but it also acts as a magnet for terrorist recruiting. The kind of young Arab who leans toward terrorism will almost certainly be easier to recruit if the local al-Qaeda representatives have an occupying force of Americans to point to year after year.

I suspect there's no really good solution to this, but there's an obvious one that could at least help: the United Nations. Or, more to the point, the United Nations with the full backing and commitment of the United States. Properly constituted, a UN force could provide the stability and guidance Iraq needs without the symbolic provocation that the United States military represents.
First of all, let's think about the logic of the terrorist recruitment point. What Kevin is saying is that the simple presence of American armed forces -- regardless of whether they are promoting democracy and rebuilding infrastructure or hijacking the oil industry and installing dictators -- will lead young Iraqis into the arms of Al Qaeda. This argument suggests, as so many backlash arguments do, that Arabs are incapable of evaluating the actual impact of American behavior simply because they have reasonable suspicions about American motives.

The same criticism applies to Kevin's point about the "taint of neo-colonialism". What exactly is neo-colonialism? A temporary occupation whose purpose is political and economic reconstruction, or the installation of a puppet government that will faciliate foreign exploitation of Iraqi natural resources? I think the people of Iraq won't have all that much trouble differentiating the one from the other.

Now what about the UN? The Oil-For-Food program already demonstrates why the United Nations may not be a source of "stability and guidance". But I'd like to provide a few more. First of all, major decisions regarding the occupation will be subject to Security Council approval. Given the drawn out and ultimately failed bargaining process that prevented the emergence of any sort of consensus on the invasion of Iraq, there is every reason to believe that conflicts over occupation policy will be no less intense.

Instead of focusing on the interests of the Iraqi people, the Security Council will approach all decisions in terms of whether they steer Iraq in a pro-American or anti-American direction. Moreover, no one will have serious concerns about what might happen if the occupation fails, since such an event could always be blamed on the other members of the Council. (One might even say that three of the members have an incentive to promote failure, since it would discredit the invasion.)

Now, if only the US and UK run the occupation, it will almost definitely be steered in a pro-American direction. BUT, if the US and UK direct the occupation, their reputations will be invested in its success. Moreover, since the United States and United Kingdom have already defined success as the emergence of a stable and democratic Iraq, their interests are closer to those of the Iraqi people than any of the other Security Council members.

On some issues, there will be considerable conflict. When it comes to awarding contracts, there is no question that an American occupation will favor American corporations, probably unfairly. But that is a small price to pay for an occupation authority with a single-minded commitment to success.

The one serious concern I have is that the US will provide political and economic support to Iraqi political parties that are explicity pro-American, regardless of their merits or shortcomings. But even that sort of misconduct is better than a situation in which each of five powers is searching for proxies who will advance its interests on the playing field of Iraqi politics.

Kevin, I hope can persuade you on this one. If we can establish a bipartisan consensus on the importance of an American-led reconstruction effort, then Gen. Garner & Co. can focus on getting their job done instead of worrying about politics back on Capitol Hill and in Turtle Bay.
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# Posted 11:32 AM by Patrick Belton  

ANOTHER OF THE HONORABLE MEN PASSES: Sterling Professor Emeritus Franz Rosenthal passed away this week in Branford. Professor Rosenthal, who fled Berlin after Kristallnacht, then became a U.S. citizen and contributed his skills as an Arabist to his new country and to the OSS during the Second World War.

Returning to the academy - and luckily for Yale, to New Haven - there was no portion of Arabic studies he did not touch, from a monograph on "Humor in Early Islam"(later works dealt with "Gambling in Islam" and "The Herb: Hashish Versus Medieval Muslim Society") to meaty, comprehensively annotated translations of Ibn Khaldun's Muwaddimah and the histories of medieval historian at-Tabari.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhirajioon. May Allah give him the reward of his labors.
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# Posted 11:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

INTELLIGENT IRAQ: According to a NYT report on Gen. Jay Garner, head of the Coalition's reconstruction effort,
The general appeared confident that, with help from talented Iraqis, he would succeed.

"Arabs are very proud people," he said. "Proud as we are." In particular, the Iraqis are "pretty sophisticated" and have a "lot of wealth, it's just not been shared among them."

"There's an intelligentsia," he added. "The Arabs are great traders, they're organized." He believes, he said, that the Iraqis are "motivated, even though they've lived under a mushroom for 25 years."
Even discounting the inexplicable reference to Saddam as a mushroom, Gen. Garner's remarks seem pretty formulaic and unconvincing. The funny thing is, he knows what he's talking about.

UPDATE: Many of you have written to say that living under a mushroom is best understood as living like a mushroom, i.e. being kept in the dark and fed manure. There is even one former mushroom farmer out there (MD), who can verify that that actually is the best way to raise the fungi in question.
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# Posted 9:21 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CHILDREN'S PRISON: Reader BG suggested that I link to the following story about Palestinian teenagers in Israeli detention centers. It's a sad story and one well worth reading.

What I take issue with is BG's suggestion that I post this story in order to balance out previous mentions of the children liberated from Iraqi prisons. While I condemn all Israeli violations of Palestinian rights, the suggestion that such violations constitute a parallel to what has happened in Iraq is without any justification whatsoever.

First and foremost, the overcrowding and lack of due process in Israeli jails pales in comparison to the filth and torture of their Iraqi counterparts. There are a hundred other nations whose jail systems should be criticized before one turns to Israeli violations.

Second, there are considerable indications that the teenagers in Israeli prisons are actually guilty of crimes, in contrast to the innocence of the Iraqi 'inmates'.

Finally, one ought to note just how many of the Palestinian detainees are represented by Israeli/Jewish lawyers, many of who represent Israeli human rights organizations that are fiercely critical of the government. Pray tell, where are the Ba'athist lawyers fighting for the welfare of Saddam's prisoners?

Compared to every other Western nation that has found itself or its armed forces besieged by a relentless opponent -- whether the US in Vietnam, the French in Algeria or the British in Kenya & Northern Ireland -- Israel has comported itself in an exemplary manner. Moreover, these other nations almost always encountered such threats overseas, far from the homeland where their fellow countrymen worked and lived.

Only the people of Israel face an existential threat on an everyday basis. And yet their commitment to the principles of democracy and human rights does not waver.

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# Posted 8:37 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AFGHANISTAN: The good news and the bad news.
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Friday, April 18, 2003

# Posted 8:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HEY, I KNOW THOSE GUYS! Take a look at this Daily Standard piece about two lonely anti-Syria protesters at the White House. Both of them were a couple of years behind me in high school and were (still are) good friends with my brother. I may not favor war with Syria, but these guys are definitely entertaining.
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# Posted 3:34 PM by Patrick Belton  

A SAD INCIDENT for Harvard this week.
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# Posted 3:24 PM by Patrick Belton  

HOMEWORK!!!: (Dissertations don't count, for those of you who were curious.) The Presidential Commission on Bioethics has added to their website a thoughtfully selected electronic bookshelf of selections drawn from classical and modern literature and philosophy, all broadly bearing on bioethics. More precisely, the selections deal, mostly through literature, with the questions of what it means to be a link in a branching chain of generations; to pursue scientific discovery; to search for perfection, excellence, and human flourishing; and to experience vulnerability, suffering, and ageing. It's an excellent set of selections, which bridge Homer, Ovid, Tolstoy, and Richard Feynman - and for those of you somewhat hungrily experiencing bread and/or meat deprivation today and looking for some searching readings to situate it all within, I heartily recommend them.
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# Posted 2:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YOU DID NOT TELL ME SO: Josh Marshall thinks that conservatives are getting a little uppity with all of their "I Told You So"s. With tens of thousands of Muslim protesters calling for an end to the occupation, Josh thinks conservatives shouldn't get too smug just yet. Summing up, Josh writes that
Like it or not, the fate of America and Iraq are now fastened together for at least several years. I don't pretend to know how it's going to turn out. But the one thing I think we can be confident of is that none of us are going to emerge from this with our hubris intact.
My guess is that's about as close as TPM is going to come to an admission of how wrong it was about certain aspects of the war. Might it not be more accurate to say that one side of the debate has already had its hubris obliterated, whereas the other will probably take some hard shots over the next couple of months but still look pretty good in hindsight?

Now, if you are a fan of TPM (and I very much, am despite my constant efforts to throw elbows in Josh's ribs. In fact, it is precisely because I have so much respect for TPM's role as the #1 blog on the center-left that I am constantly throwing elbows in its ribs) you should take a careful look at Josh's recent posts on North Korea. He makes a pretty strong case that the US has backed into exactly the kind of bilateral talks that it insisted for so long on avoiding. While Josh thought just a couple of days ago that the Bush administration might have come up with a partial victory by persuading the North Koreans to engage in multilateral talks, that doesn't seem to be the case anymore.

What this all means, of course, is that OxBlog (more specifically, David) was very wrong about the administration's handling of the Korean issue and that Josh (Marshall, not Chafetz) was right. See? That wasn't very hard at all...
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# Posted 1:38 PM by Patrick Belton  

A BIT OF HUMILITY ON GOOD FRIDAY: I enjoy Joseph Bottum's columns, but I have to take issue with his Weekly Standard piece yesterday where he takes a bit too much pleasure out of a recent churlish, juvenile incident in which Sioux Falls, South Dakota's Catholic bishop wrote to Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and attempted to order Senator Daschle to stop identifying himself as a Roman Catholic in his congressional biography.

Both Dashle's office and Bishop Robert Carlson's quickly issued statements downplaying the communication as personal correspondence, intimating that the correspondence had leaked. Carlson, however, has been quoted as crusading publicly against Senator Daschle in the past, urging his flock to vote against the senator, and intimating it was sinful to do otherwise.

As is of course his right, both as a citizen and as a religious leader. Religious leaders, like any other citizens, should be able to apply political pressure to elected representatives to attempt to compel them to act according to their own personal ideas of the good. However, to threaten a legislator with excommunication solely because of a disagreement with his voting record confuses religious and political roles to too great an extent. A bishop taking that step is not acting as a cleric-in-the-polity, applying political pressure within the political sphere to bring about, as a citizen and civic leader, political results in keeping with his own religious aspirations. (Religious leaders who act in this way enrich substantially the political conversations of the republic by contributing viewpoints culled from centuries of ethical and philosophical reflection within their traditions. And it is this latter, commendable, prophetic tradition of American religious leaders which has given us Martin Luther King's beautiful writings about nonviolence not as sterile passivity, but as a powerful moral force for social transformation; stirring Catholic encyclicals on the economic needs of the poor; and important ethical contributions to American politics by America's rabbis and imams.) However, Bishop Robert Carlson is acting along a less American and much more medieval model of the relationship of Church to prince, a model in which excommunications were bandied about lightly to compel officials to submit to Rome's (often quite venal) authority at the peril of losing their souls - a far cry from the much more difficult, and American, route of using religious arguments to convince a majority of your fellow citizens to vote with you.

The bishop of Sioux Falls has if he chooses every canonical right to call on United States Senators to stop identifying themselves as Catholics in their official biographies; however, I might suggest to the Catholic bishop of Sioux Falls that he in turn should revise his official biography to stop calling himself a U.S. citizen.
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# Posted 10:25 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CIVILIAN CASUALTIES: Building on my comments and Josh's article in the Daily Standard, Phil Carter has some interesting thoughts about civilian casualties and the future of American military operations.

Also make sure not to miss Phil's excellent post on the upcoming after action review for this war. And finally, make sure to read Phil's comments on American forces' use of body armor as well as the first firefight encountered by the 4th Infantry's 1st "Raider" Brigade, which was Phil's old unit.
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# Posted 9:07 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RALLY-ROUND-THE-[BURNING]-FLAG: Daniel Drezner explains why anti-Americanism will never become a lasting part of electoral politics in the democratic states of Europe, Asia and Latin America.
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# Posted 8:55 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WAR HERO AND PRESIDENT: Almost. In the NYT, Kerry campaign manager Jim Jordan observes that
Unless the Democratic nominee can make a compelling and convincing case--a case built on story and persona instead of just rhetoric--that he can keep Americans safe in a dangerous world, we're looking at McGovern-like results.
&c. responds:
It's certainly true that biography matters somewhat when it comes to establishing foreign policy credentials. But can it completely make up for a dovish position? Here's one hint: In 1972, the Democrats nominated a World War II hero for president. The results, as Jordan would put it, were McGovern-like.
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Thursday, April 17, 2003

# Posted 8:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BIASED POLLS: I don't think I have ever seen a question as biased as this one:
8. How do you feel about the possibility that the United States will get bogged down in a long and costly peacekeeping mission in Iraq? Would you say you're very concerned about that, somewhat concerned, not too concerned or not concerned at all?
Given the considerable attention which polling firms devote to asking neutral questions, I have absolutely no idea how this one got through. Even if you look at the rest of the questions in the same survey, you see that considerable care was taken to ensure neutrality.

The answers given to the question above are hardly surprising: 31% are "very concerned" and 42% are "somewhat concerned". In an article on public opinion, the WaPo naively reported that
A darker undercurrent of American opinion is the growing majority of those who say they are at least somewhat concerned about becoming bogged down in an expensive peacekeeping mission in Iraq. Fully 73 percent expressed this view, compared to 62 percent last week.
I actually read the WaPo article before looking at the raw data and assumed that it was unfairly paraphrasing the actual question that was asked. In fact, it was just parroting it .

To get some idea of what Americans actually think about the occupation, talk a look at this Gallup poll from last week: 33% of Americans expect a significant number of troops to remain in Iraq for six to twelve months, while 28% expect the occupation to last more than twelve months and 21% expect the occupation to last more than two years.

In addition, 51% of respondents believe that it will be somewhat difficult to create a stable democratic government in Iraq while 31% believe it will be very difficult. Perhaps that's why so many Americans expect a long occupation.

Moreover, there is evidence -- this time from the WaPo/ABC poll -- that Americans don't simply expect a challenging occupation, but are committed to one as a matter of principle. When asked how important it is to "help establish a new government in Iraq", 47% said that it is "absolutely essential" while an additional 41% said that it was "very important but not essential".

The striking contrast between this data and the answers to the biased question above show just how important it is for polling firms to maintain a neutral stance.

Thus, despite all of the pundits' carping about the President's failure to prepare the American public for a significant commitment to reconstruction, these poll results show that he has done quite a reasonable job.

Another very interesting finding in the polls is the American public's enduring respect for the United Nations and their belief that it is an important source of international legitimacy. To see what I mean, take a look at the following results:
5. For each item I name, please tell me who you think should be in charge of that - the United States or the United Nations?

4/16/03 - Summary Table

United United Both Neither No
States Nations (vol.) (vol.) opin.
a. awarding contracts to companies
for rebuilding the infrastructure
in Iraq 41 51 3 3 2
b. helping establish a new government
in Iraq 39 55 4 1 1
c. maintaining civil order in Iraq until
a new government is established 45 49 4 1 1
This kind of data provides considerable support for OxBlog's earlier argument that the 'unauthorized' invasion of Iraq would not and has not done much damage to the United Nations. Also consider the following results, this time from the Gallup poll:
How important do you think it is for the U.S. to restore good relations with France, Germany and other western nations that opposed U.S. military action in Iraq -- very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not important at all?

Very important 51%, Somewhat important 24%, Not too important 11%, Not important at all 12%, No opinion 2%.
What this shows is just how resilient the transatlantic relationship is. At least on one side of the pond, the public recognizes that the community values which unites the democratic West is far more important than than the temporary conflict that has divided it. As this pundit once observed,
In time, the current Euro-American rift will become yet another memorial to the unprecedented flexibility of alliances between democratic nations. It was that flexibility that ensured our victory in the Cold War, and which will ensure our victory in the war on terror.

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# Posted 4:10 PM by Patrick Belton  

GEN X MEETS HEROISM AND SELF-SACRIFICE: Glenn links to this piece by Victor Davis Hanson on this generation's military, and its Gen X variant of heroism; the most memorable (and poignant) paragraphs are up on InstaPundit.
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# Posted 2:26 PM by Patrick Belton  

SAD THAT YOU'LL NEVER GET TO READ YOUR OBITUARY?: Be consoled (after all, you're not even dead!!!) - The Smoking Gun ran across portions of CNN's pre-prepared obituaries for world leaders on their website during a Google search. Now you don't have to wait until your favorite head of state (or, alternatively, Fidel Castro) dies to see what they were like. Inexplicable downside - many of their obits seem to make the not-yet-decedents bear a distinct resemblance to Ronald Reagan.
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# Posted 1:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HE'S BAAAAACK: Actually, I can't say who "he" is. But he is an Oxford-based blogger who departed the blogosphere for a short time before returning as a member of Giants & Dwarfs, where he has some interesting comments up on Frank Fukuyama and Pim Fortuyn. [Note: Permalinks not working for the moment. May God smite Blogger as he did the Egyptians.]
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# Posted 12:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RIGHT SAID FRED: I like hearing what Fred Barnes has to say, but I don't often agree with it. This time, however, he has hit the nail right on the head:
The president will be under enormous pressure from Europeans, Middle East leaders, and top advisers in Washington to withdraw American troops and civilian officials from Iraq within months, not years. He shouldn't. The military occupation of Japan after World War II lasted seven years, and Japan is homogenous, not divided as Iraq is among three often hostile ethnic groups. American forces won't need to stay that long, but it will take at least a year, maybe two or more, to restore order, foster a viable economy, and establish democratic institutions with roots deep enough to survive.
Barnes might have added that the pro-withdrawal voices will insist again and again that with each passing day, more and more Iraqis will come to view the American presence and an unjust and imperial one. Unless there is hard evidence to back up such claims, however, one should regard them with the same distrust as one did the premature declarations that the people of Iraq had no interest in an American-led liberation.

What I expect is that Iraqis' reactions to the occupation will be conditioned on the success of the Coalition's reconstruction efforts and its willingness to cooperate with local leaders. No doubt there will be some degree of growing discomfort with the American presence. No proud nation wants to be constantly reminded of its dependence on more powerful friends. But if democratic governments emerge at the local and provinicial levels and are complemented by a reasonably competent bureaucracies in the capital, then Iraqis will accept the postponement of their return to full sovereignty.

Finally, I am very glad to know that an influential conservative such as Fred Barnes is committed to an occupation that will last long enough to establish the viability of democratic government in Iraq. In light of my research into the Reagan administration's democracy promotion policies, I have long been concerned that conservatives would pay lip service to democratization while disavowing it in practice. (I know JVL disagrees with my interpretation of that administrations' intentions, but we have agreed to disagree.)

When the current administration began to talk about democracy promotion while refusing to provide any details about the postwar settlement, I became rather suspicious. In contrast, Josh had more faith in Condi & Co. (even if it was motivated in part by his schoolboy crush on Ms. Rice.)

In time, I have come around to Josh's point of view (on the democracy issue, not the crush issue). Ever since the President openly committed himself to a democratic order in his February 26th speech at AEI, I have been willing to trust the administration on this point. So far, it has been doing an admirable job. Here's to more of the same.

PS I disagree with everything in Barnes' editorial except for the passage I cited.
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# Posted 12:53 PM by Patrick Belton  

A CHICKEN MAKING THE ROUNDS: Couldn't resist. I'm happy to attribute if anyone cares, or dares, to claim ownership:

Why did the chicken cross - okay, you get the picture....

SADDAM HUSSEIN This was an unprovoked act of rebellion and we were quite justified in dropping 50 tons of nerve gas on it.

MOHAMMED ALDOURI The chicken did not cross the road. This is a complete fabrication. We do not even have a chicken.

SECDEF RUMSFELD Now at the left of the screen, you clearly see the satellite image of the chicken.

PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH The chicken is either on our side of the road or not. There is no middle ground here.

PAT BUCHANAN To steal a job from a hard-working, white, American. Of course.

JERRY FALWELL Because it was gay! Isn't it obvious? That's what they call it, "the other side." I say we boycott all chickens.

MARTHA STEWART Hey, I had a standing order at the farmer's market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level....

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# Posted 11:42 AM by Patrick Belton  

A SAD DAY FOR BRITAIN: This morning Sir John Stevens releases the third report of an official investigation into collusion between loyalist terrorists in Northern Ireland and rogue elements within UK military intelligence and the RUC's Special Branch (see BBC article here). The report finds that rogue government employees - apparently including a currently serving Brigadier and British military attache - aided and abetted UDA paramilitary henchmen in the 1989 murder of Catholic solicitor Pat Finucane and the 1987 killing of Protestant student Adam Lambert (which is thought to be a case of mistaken identity), and also subsequently obstructed the efforts of official inquiries up to the present.

This news is sad, and even sadder when considered against the history of collaboration between London and Dublin against operations of both republican and loyalist terrorists in troubled Ulster. The record of the two governments in jointly combating all forms of terrorism in the province is perhaps not spotless, but it is strong nevertheless. However, if currently serving figures in the Army and police conspired in the recent past to turn the world's oldest democracy into a state sponsor of terror, then they will justly deserve every punishment and ignominy incumbent upon them under the law.
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# Posted 8:32 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OUCH! Anne Applebaum slams the UN Human Rights Commission in one of the most devastating columns I've read lately. Yes, yes. We all know that it's hard to take the UNHRC seriously when it is headed by Libya, and when its annual activities involve blasting Israel and praising China.

But Applebaum goes much further and shows how the Commission has become one of the primary vehicles for providing multilateral legitimacy to brutal and systematic violence in places such as Sudan and Checnya. And it isn't just the dictatorships (or even the French) who are to blame. The US is one of the main reasons that the Commission has made such pitiful efforts to censure Russia.

In short, the UNHRC is a vehicle through which the United Nations' commitment to protecting national sovereignty can ride roughshod over the UN's much weaker commitment to human rights. While conservative critics of the UN tend to laugh off the Commission as just another manifestation of misguided and ineffective idealism, the fact is that it is a highly effective and dangerous body that threatens a transatlantic interest in protecting human rights.

Considering how entrenched the interests represented by the commission are, it is hard to accept the suggestions of thoughtful reformers who assert that the United States' victory in Iraq offers both the UN and its critics to reshape the institution in a way that will enable it to become a serious defender of human rights. The fact is that the UN will never take on that role for as long as its commitment to state sovereignty prevails over its lip service to human rights.

Now, this doesn't mean either that the UN has no productive purpose to serve or that it will find itself irreparably weakened by the "unauthorized" war in Iraq. As I've argued before, the UN will be strengthened in certain ways even if it is weakend in others. But when it comes to taking action against unrepentant dictators, whether in the Balkans or the Middle East, the United States will have to lead the way.
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# Posted 8:09 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHEN "I TOLD YOU SO" GETS UGLY it becomes Schadenfreude. (I'm not going to translate that, since fluent German is a pre-req for reading OxBlog.) Not that ugly is bad. In fact, I enjoyed every line of Noemie Emery's and Jonathan Last's Schadenfreude compilations in the Daily Standard.

At some point, though, one has to recognize that scoring debating points at the expense of The Nation and Indymedia has its limits as a serious genre of political discourse. Now I don't mean to say that either conservatives in general or the Daily Standard in particular have forsaken serious political analysis for the sake of taunting the left. But it has become a little much, especially in the blogosphere.

As someone living in Oxford with both a Union Jack and the Stars & Stripes hanging in his window, I know that a lot of us had to put up with a lot of taunts from the left before and during this war. And we needed to get that frustration out of our system. But now its time to get serious.
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# Posted 1:57 AM by Patrick Belton  

ONE OUT FOR THE AXIS...BUT HOW WILL IT PLAY IN TEHRAN?: Mixed metaphor. So sue me. Switching regions now to the mid-east (surprised?), an important signal coming out of Iran nowadays may well be an interview by former president Rafsanjani (via MEMRI), in which the conservative leader suggests Iran can follow a more pragmatic policy of accomodation toward the U.S. without compromising the ideals of the Islamic revolution. He also indicates that the traditionally conservative Expediency Council, which he chairs, may be willing to take action on the issue (thereby bypassing the at any rate reformist Majils, but perhaps with a higher chance of carrying the acquiescence of Supreme Leader 'Ali Khamenei).

One particularly apropos quote which captures the tenor of the interview is this one: "Our ideology is flexible. We can choose our expediency on the basis of Islam. Still, to put the country in jeopardy on the grounds that we are acting on an Islamic basis is not at all Islamic."

Rafsanjani's statements likely reflect a tentative pro-U.S. probe on the part of Iran's conservative establishment. If this is the case, then it was undoubtedly triggered by the fall of Baghdad, and a subsequent recalculation of Iran's international position by at least a portion of the mullahtocracy. If the Bush administration can parlay its toppling of the tyrant of Tikrit into a more pro-western line by Tehran (and an end to Iran's support for Hizbollah, worldwide meddling, and terrorization of dissenting Iranian emigres) - and that's still a big if - then chalk it up as two important wins for the Wolfowitz crowd.
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# Posted 1:21 AM by Patrick Belton  

BUT DID THE IRAQI SPIES LIKE BORSCHT? .... The Moscow Times picks up on this AP story indicating Moscow's involvement in teaching surveillance and eavesdropping techniques to Iraqi intelligence agents on Russian soil, including at least five agents who received training in September 2002. Documents currently being unearthed by U.S. personnel in the Mukhabarat's former headquarters in Baghdad are shedding light on the precise form and extent Russian-Iraqi intelligence cooperation took under the Hussein regime.

By way of personal sidenote: My last few posts on the subject notwithstanding, anyone who knows me can vouch for my credentials as a long-standing and ardent Russophile. But my admiration for the culture which within a century produced Dostoevsky, Pushkin, Akhmatova, and Bulgakov contrasts sharply with my disappointment with a government which helped to sharpen the covert talons of this hidious regime. Perhaps my feelings toward Russia broadly parallel my sentiments toward France: a wholly magnificent and cultured nation, the vast majority of whose political manifestations over history have to greater or lesser extents been evil.
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# Posted 1:03 AM by Patrick Belton  

NEXT YEAR IN TASHKENT: Stephen Blank of the Army War College has this interesting short piece in SAIS's Caucasus/Central Asia Analyst. More and more analysts of the former Soviet Union are speculating about the involvement of Russian intelligence in November's attempted coup against Turkmenistan's President Niyazov. Russia has apparently been making ample use of U.S. and world involvement with Iraq to push Russian air bases into Central Asia, and the U.S. military presence out. This nostalgia-informed enterprise, which has so far seen participation of the military, diplomatic, and intelligence services, is not in the U.S.'s interests, nor the region's, nor Russia's. Drug cartels and domestic oil interests are pushing Russia's efforts in the region on their government contacts to serve their own interests, but Russia has neither the economic nor the military capability to sustain a Warsaw-type security domination over Central Asia. The likely outcome will be instead to create further pockets of anarchy in the region, while stealing away Russian resources which could better be deployed in the furtherance of longer-term Russian interests.

The header, by the way, is only the first in a series of bad Pesach allusions to come.... The rhythms of this beautiful holiday have a way of resounding in your head.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2003

# Posted 1:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DA MAN: Within the academy, there is no advocate of democracy promotion either as passionate, as clear-thinking or as well-spoken as Mike McFaul. Whereas most other scholars of comparative politics and US foreign policy take for granted that American intervention is either irrelevant or counterproductive by its very nature, McFaul has carefully sought to document the conditions under which American involvement can advance the democratic cause.

For all those reason -- and because Mike is a really nice guy -- don't miss his excellent column on democracy promotion in today's WaPo.
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# Posted 12:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FOOLS AT THE PENTAGON: If you haven't already, go read Josh's Daily Standard article now. As Josh and I have shown before, anti-war activists make irresponisble predictions about civilian casualty figures before the US goes to war and then inflate the body count once the war is over.

Yet for some unknown reason, the Pentagon is refusing to take advantage of its critics' embarassing failure by conducting an authoritative study of civilian casualty figures in Iraq. As Josh points out in the Standard, the media -- both American and European -- respond to this silence by publishing the absurd figures provided by anti-war activists.

Unfortunately, this total incompetence when it comes to public relations is nothing new at DoD. As OxBlog noted before the war began, Pentagon spokesmen tend to alternate between hyperbolic bragging about the accuracy of American weapons and evasive, superficial responses to media interest in the actual performance of such weapons on the battlefield.

The apparent cause of the Pentagon's self-destructive behavior is its paranoid belief that being honest with the media will only intensify journalist's negative portrayal of the military. While the history of animosity between the military and the media is well-known, the fact is that the media have always been kinder to the military when they believe that it is being honest. That was true at the height of the war in Vietnam and it is true today.

While no amount of honesty could have prevented some negative coverage of setbacks in Vietnam, the fact is that the military is now covering up its success. Yet its rationalizations for doing as absurd as ever. The WaPo quoted one Air Force general who argued that
it has been more cost-effective to pour resources into increasingly sophisticated weaponry and intelligence-gathering equipment...

He suggested that once the Pentagon started down the track of studying collateral damage caused by bombs, it could lead to endless assessments.

"I do wonder if we're going to do this every time the Army fires an artillery shell or every time a Special Forces soldier fires a 50-caliber" gun, he said.
Of course weapons development is more effective when it comes to saving civilian lives. But if no one can show that this objective has actually been accomplished, unfounded accusations of military cruelty will continue to abound.

As for the prospect of "endless assessments", that just doesn't seem credible. NGOs such as Human Rights Watch have conducted excellent studies of civilian casualties figures everywhere from Gulf War I to Kosovo despite running on a shoestring budget.

While such reports go some way toward countering the disinformation distributed by anti-war activists, the latter still get considerable play in the media. The only way to level out the playing field is for the military to take its head out of the sand, the fork out of its tongue and talk straight about what actually happens on the battlefield.
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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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