OxBlog

Monday, May 12, 2003

# Posted 11:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLAIR (THE EVIL ONE): Not Tony. Jayson. Actually, he's not evil. Just ethically challenged. Anyway, Dan Simon provides a persuasive response to CalPundit, with Martin Kimel and Steve Sturm adding some good points as well.

Meanwhile, Boomshock compares the NYT to Le Monde. Sacre bleu!

UPDATE: CalPundit is not taking this all sitting down. He has a new post on Jayson Blair, an editorial on affirmative action and even a post on Oreos.
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# Posted 11:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TOTTEN ON A ROLL: The WSJ Online has now republished Michael Totten's provocative post on the downfall of liberal foreign policy as an op-ed with the same name, "Builders and Defenders".

In the blogosphere, the excitement surrounding Totten's ideas continues to thrive. Kieran Healy defends himself from my charge that Healy's original response to Totten avoided the main points of Totten's argument. Kieran says that Totten's description of liberals as "builders" and conservatives as "defenders" is so vague that it could easily be reversed.

Take, for example, this passage from Totten's argument:
The first priority of builders is the immediate surrounding environment, starting with the home and moving outward from there. Next is the community, followed by the city, the region, and the nation. The other side of the world is the lowest of all priorities. “Think globally” but “act locally” is a bumper sticker for the left. That we shouldn’t meddle in other countries if our own needs work is also a liberal idea.
Kieran responds by imagining a similar description applied to conservatives:
Conservatives are oriented to their own back yard. Their view is that if everyone took responsibility for their own problems then we wouldn’t need a nanny state or world government to solve them for us. In this sense Conservatives are Builders...

Conservative builders have little interest in managing the problems of others. As Governor Bush said during the second Presidential debate, “I think what we need to do is convince people who live in the lands they live in to build the nations. Maybe I’m missing something here. I mean, we’re going to have kind of a nation-building corps from America? Absolutely not.”
What Kieran misses entirely is that a tendency to look inward has characterized liberals and conservatives at different points in American history. As my post from yesterday elaborated in considerable detail, American liberalism embraced the outside world from the time of Wilson until the end of the Vietnam war. Then, at the same time that liberals began to turn inward, conservatives began to become preoccupied with events abroad. As for Bush's nod to humility and aversion to nation-building, the President's superficial commitment to such preferences has become apparent in the aftermath of September 11th.

Kieran also stumbles quite a bit when he tries to argues that liberals are "defenders" as well. He presents a hypothetical argument that liberals are
Defenders, always looking out for the rights of the supposedly oppressed, even if those they protect don’t really want to be defended. Looking at international political interventionism from the ill-fated League of Nations to the United Nations to the Marshall Plan to the European Union, we see Liberal thinkers and politicians behind all of these grand schemes — schemes which are anathema to the Conservative way of thinking.
In this case, Kieran is simply distoring Michael's argument. When Michael described conservatives as Defenders, he made it extremely clear that what conservatives defend are themselves, not others. As for the Marshall Plan and the United Nations, what better evidence could there be of liberals being great builders in the decades before Vietnam?

Next up, the Armed Liberal directly challenges my application of history to the present day. But before getting to that, I think it's worth noting that AL said this:
I have to publicly go on record that this is an exciting time for me; I've felt isolated from much of the Democratic party and what passes for liberalism for some time, and am constitutionally incapable of moving to the other side of the aisle. But now, I feel that there is some ferment in the Left both here in the U.S. and in the U.K., and that we're starting a process that could well result in an effective, moral, and progressive vision of the country and the world.
I hope AL is right, but I sense that there are precious few signs of such ferment among the Democratic candidates for 2004.

Moving on, we come to AL main point: that I am wrong to call George W. Bush a Wilsonian. Or as AL puts it:
Uh, sorry?? Wilsonians are typically defined as attempting to enmesh nations in a framework of democracy and the rule of law. Bush?? I'd have to make him as a Jacksonian/Hamiltonian in the Mead framework.
"Mead" refers to Walter Russell Mead, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World.

In Special Providence, Mead argues that there are four traditions that shape American foreign policy: the Hamiltonian, the Jeffersonian, the Jacksonian and the Wilsonian. For a brief definition of the four, see this review of Mead's book by Aaron Frieberg, who is the author of my favorite book on international relations.

When it comes to Special Providence, I am on unsure footing since I haven't read the book. Instead, I have had to rely on essays about the book, such as HW Brands' commentary in The National Interest. [All of NI's archive links are bloggered at the moment, so don't bother clicking through.]

That said, Mead's four categories are grounded in concepts familiar to most students of American foreign policy. So I will be somewhat bold in offering my thoughts about them. Basically, there are two main points I want to make: first, Mead seriously misunderstands Woodrow Wilson and his legacy. Second, there is no such thing as a Jacksonian foreign policy.

Both Mead and the Armed Liberal buy into the common misconceptions that Wilson was a multilateralist dove. As I wrote in my original post,
Today we associate Wilson's name with the naive and tragic multilateralism of the League of Nations. Those who insisted that United States had no right to invade Iraq without a second resolution from the United Nations often found themselves tarred as unrepentant Wilsonians. Yet I would suggest that Wilson would have done exactly what George W. Bush did had he been faced with a similar situation. He would've sought a second resolution but taken decisive action if he found it impossible to secure.
In earlier, unpublished version of my post (which -- believe it or not -- was even longer than the first) I referred to a number of important initiatives which demonstrated that Wilson's was not at all gun shy when it came to using force in order to promote American ideals. Throughout Latin America, Wilson sent in the Marines to impose his version of a democratic order. And strange as it sounds, Wilson was the only president ever to order American forces into combat with Soviet Russia.

While American forces foundered in the snows of Murmansk, their invasion of Russia -- in concert with British, French and White Russian forces -- bring to a light a different side of Wilson than the one associated with the tragic Peace of Versailles. In fact, the invasion was taking place at the exact same time that Wilson was negotiating at Versailles.

Thus, Bush's aggressive foreign policy in no way contradicts my assertion that he is a Wilsonian. It precisely because Bush fights so hard for American ideals that he is a Wilsonian. As I wrote yesterday,
In contast, President Bush has gone far beyond President Reagan in committing himself to democratic principles as the foundation of American foreign policy. While there are definite grounds on which to criticize the President's implementation of such policies, his commitment to promoting democracy in Iraq has consummated the role reversal that began in the Carter-Reagan era. Strange as it sounds, Bush is a Wilsonian.
Want a multilateralist dove? Jimmy Carter's your man.

Armed Liberal, of course, wants nothing to do with Jimmy Carter. AL is a self-proclaimed Jacksonian. What does that mean? I think I'll let AL speak for himself on this one:
First, and foremost we have to sell America...

Our foreign policy has to be based, not just in our mechanistic view of 'doing what's good for America', as one nation among many, but on the notion that we (along with many others) have something to offer the world. And what we have to offer the world – the reason why so many want to come here – is not only our prosperity, but our freedom, our belief in and respect for the individual, and most of all our belief in justice – that everyone is equal before the law, that everyone gets an opportunity, and that if we get it wrong once, we'll work and change and eventually get it right...

We need to make it clear that violence will be met with violence. Because we aren't ashamed to be Americans, we need not be ashamed of defending ourselves nor of taking threats to ourselves or others seriously. Out of a mixture of guilt and passivity, we've tolerated extremism and saber rattling and watched it turn into saber waving.
From where I stand, what AL is describing sound exactly like Wilsoniansim. Now, if AL wants to call that a Jacsksonian approach, I don't really mind. Given that Wilson is so widely misunderstood, it might be better just to take his ideas and attribute them to Jackson.

But that isn't what Walter Mead does. His Jackson is not a principled warrior, but a violent and unthinking nationalist. Mead wrote Special Providence not to glorify the Jacksonian tradition, but to prevent it its resurgence.

Less than one week after September 11th, Mead published an op-ed in the WaPo entitled "Braced for Jacksonian Ruthlessness". In it, he warned that the Jacksonians instinct for brutality might overwhelm the United States as it sought to wage its war on terror. Holding the Jacksonians' bloodlust responsbile for the death of 900,000 Japanese civilians in the Second World War, Mead suggests that
Like Pearl Harbor, last Tuesday's unprovoked sneak attack could rouse one of the great storms of Jacksonian war fever that periodically change both American and world history. And if so, some of Bush's most demanding challenges will come from the tensions between the kind of war many Americans instinctively want to fight and the kind of war forced on us by international realities.
After reading that, you'd be forgiven for confusing Mead with the irresponsible anti-war activists who predicted that 100,000 to 400,000 civilians would be killed as a result of the war in Afghanistan. Even when that prediction turned out to be profoundly wrong, the same activists went ahead and made similar predictions about the war in Iraq.

In the meantime, Mead seems to have gotten his head on straight. In a devastating op-ed in the WaPo this past March, Mead attacked anti-war activists for describing containment as a humane alternative to war. In fact, he argued, sanctions -- which only persist because of Saddam's refusal to disarm -- are responsible for far more deaths than any invasion would cause.

(In addition, it seems Mead is somewhat embarrassed about his initial warnings of a Jacksonian resurgence, since his Sept. 17th op-ed is inexplicably missing from the rather comprehensive list of publications on Mead's CFR homepage. Still, he did go on the record in Sept. 2002 to say that Bush is a Jacksonian.)

The point is that Mead has an entirely different definition of Jacksonianism than the Armed Liberal does. And I think it's safe to say that AL would not describe himself as a Jacksonian if he meant the same thing by it that Mead does. AL, my friend, you are a Wilsonian. Be proud of it! I'm one too and so is George Bush (even if we agree that he has corporate interests a little too close to his heart).

One of the fundamental problems with Mead's book is that it denies any sort of identity to individuals such as AL and myself who believe strength in the service of principle should be the foundation of American foreign policy. By imagining a Jacksonian tradition that is a repository for all violence in the American character, Mead prevents his readers from recognizing that the United States can use force without opening the Pandora's Box of mindless brutality. In fact, the measured use of force in the service of principle is what precisely what has enabled the United States to become the only dominant nation ever to persuade the world's other great powers that (even France) that the preservation of its strength is in their self-interest.

UPDATE: Matt Yglesias provides the ultimate in praise: "I'm not sure that I really disagree with anything David says." The question is, what did I leave out?
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# Posted 3:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BEHIND THE MAN: Who are the Democratic candidates turning to for foreign policy advice? The Boston Phoenix lets you know. (Link via Greg's Opinion.)
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# Posted 12:41 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GOOGLE DROPS INDYMEDIA and Judith Weiss says it serves them right.
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# Posted 12:34 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CANADA BORING? NO! Dan over at LDLS has the scoop.
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# Posted 12:30 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LITTLE MISS ATTILA tells you everything you wanted to know about American democracy but were afraid to ask.
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Sunday, May 11, 2003

# Posted 11:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE LEFT VS. ITSELF: An extremely important debate is taking place right now on the left-hand side of the blogosphere. It begins with this post by Michael Totten, who charges that liberals as a whole suffer from a serious deficiency in their knowledge of foreign affairs. According to Totten,
This is not a partisan point I’m making. I’ve been on the left forever, and I have no reason whatever to shill for the right...

[So] why are liberal intellectuals less interested in the history of foreign countries than conservatives are?...

I‘ve pondered this for a while now, and I think I have part of the answer.

Liberals are builders and conservatives are defenders. Liberals want to build a good and just society. Conservatives defend what is already built and established. This is what the left and the right are for.
I strongly recommend that you read the whole post. Totten's arguments are the result of considerable reflection, as one might expect from a liberal criticizing his own comrades-in-arms. Even so, they have set off a firestorm that has drawn in conservatives as well, including Joe Katzman and Patrick Ruffini.

Before adding my own to cents to this discussion, I think it is important to note that Michael's draws on Gary Farber's response to recent WaPo article by liberal sociologist Todd Gitlin. The first two-thirds of Gitlin's column consist of an attack on conservatives for demonizing the anti-war left. But that is just a set up for the final third, in which Gitlin charges that the left has no foreign policy whatsoever. It is simply anti-Bush.

The Totten and Gitlin arguments complement each other rather well. One is an argument that liberals have a deficient knowledge of foreign affairs while the other states that liberals have no foreign policy.

The most forceful response to Totten's post is from Kieran Healy, who argues that Totten depends far too much on vague generalizations and circular logic. Kieran scores a few points, but in the end he just avoids what Totten has to say.

One of the most interesting responses to Michael's post comes from Matt Yglesias, who agrees with Totten and notes that there a number of former Clinton administration officials who are doing their best to improve the situtation by developing a liberal approach to foreign affairs.

Pre-empting such efforts, I am going to try and define such an approach right here and right now. A critic might object that my self-identification as a centrist will prevent me from empathizing with liberalism well enough to elaborate a compelling liberal approach to foreign affairs. Yet I would counter that the policies I have advocated on this site over the past nine months have a solid foundation in liberal principles. If you disagree, then all I ask is that you hear what I have to say and judge it on its merits.

So where to begin? With history, of course. While a comprehensive discussion of liberalism ought to start with the Founders, I will begin by addressing the misunderstood legacy of Woodrow Wilson. (If you do want to know more about the Founders, consult Louis Hartz's 1952 classic, The Liberal Tradition in America.)

Today we associate Wilson's name with the naive and tragic multilateralism of the League of Nations. Those who insisted that United States had no right to invade Iraq without a second resolution from the United Nations often found themselves tarred as unrepentant Wilsonians. Yet I would suggest that Wilson would have done exactly what George W. Bush did had he been faced with a similar situation. He would've sought a second resolution but taken decisive action if he found it impossible to secure.

Why? If one explores the principles on which Wilson's multilateralism rested, one discovers that the modern-day United Nations is a poor reflection of it. As any compelling liberal foreign policy must be, Wilson's was founded on the idea of protecting individual rights. Having witnessed the horrors of the Great War, Wilson belived that such tragedies could be avoided if governments would only listen to the voice of their citizens.

Anticipating the democratic peace theorists of today, Wilson believed that no democratic government would commit acts of agression against any other. Thus he insisted that the German Empire be replaced by a German republic.

Yet Wilson also recognized that most governments at the time were not democratic and would not become so. Thus, he sought to project democracy onto the international stage by creating the League of Nations. Its purpose was to create a forum for "world opinion", which Wilson believed would be an unfailing opponent of war. While this approach has considerable merit, critics point out that the people of the German Reich overwhelmingly supported war when it was declared in 1914, as did the citizens of most other nations.

Confronted by the United Nations of today, I think that Wilson would conclude that it has done very little to project the democratic spirit onto the international stage. Rather, it is a forum in which semi-authoritarian states such as China and Russia exert a dangerous and disproportionate influence while the protection of individual rights is entrusted to a forum headed by Libya. Ironically, however, the voting public in both the United States and Europe identifies the United Nations as the greatest international expression of the democratic spirit.

In order to understand why the United Nations has become what it is, one has to understand how Franklin Roosevelt's realism altered the institutional design laid out by Wilson in the aftermath of the Great War. While I am no realist, it is hard to disagree with Roosevelt's assessment that no international institution could function without the consent of the great powers, including Soviet Russia. Thus, the Soviet Union had to be given a veto despite its fundamentally illiberal nature.

When Roosevelt died, the reigns of leadership fell to a true heir of Woodrow Wilson, namely Harry Truman. Exactly as Wilson did, Truman believed that American national security was inextricably bound up with the spread of liberal democratic ideas across the globe. Whereas realist critics described the United States as facing a choice between prudence and principle, Truman and Wilson believed that prudence was principle.

One of the little known facts about Truman -- one which I focus on considerably in my doctoral dissertation -- is that he did not abandon his commitment to promoting democracy regardless of how intense the American conflict with the Soviet Union became. Whereas Eisenhower did not hesitate to overthrow the left-leaning but democratic governments of Guatemala and Iran, Truman defended them to the hilt.

Following in Truman's footsteps, John Kennedy implemented a forceful liberal foreign policy that rested on the twin pillars of fighting Communism and promoting democracy. To this day, Latin Americans revere Kennedy for his commitment to an Alliance for Progress that sought to reverse decades of disinterest in the freedom of the Western Hemisphere.

Whereas Johnson remained relatively loyal to Kennedy's approach, Nixon and Kissinger were unabashed advocates of a realist approach to foreign policy that considered no dictator unworthy of an American alliance provided that his brutality was matched by his anti-Communism. And if a democratic nation elected a Communist -- as did Chile -- Nixon and Kissinger had no qualms about supporting a coup d'etat.

Thus, until the end of the Vietnam War, it was not at all had to identify the essence of a liberal approach to foreign policy. It was about the belief that American national security depended on the promotion of democratic principles. In contrast, conservatives found themselves divided between isolationists on the one hand and realists on the other. What united the realists and isolationsts, however, was their commitment to a defensive approach to foreign affairs.

Interestingly, this description of the divide between liberal and conservative approaches to foriegn affairs fits very neatly with Michael Totten's broader generalization that liberals are "builders" whereas conservatives are "defenders". Where Totten goes astary is in his assertion that,
The first priority of builders is the immediate surrounding environment, starting with the home and moving outward from there. Next is the community, followed by the city, the region, and the nation. The other side of the world is the lowest of all priorities. “Think globally” but “act locally” is a bumper sticker for the left...

Defenders, unlike builders, are on the lookout for threats. This is what conservatism is for. In the absence of civil war or revolution, threats exist abroad. Canada isn’t a problem, and Mexico isn’t really either. The biggest threats are on the other side of the world.
While Totten's observation has a certain plausibility when applied to today's partisan politics, that is only because modern liberalism has fallen away so dramatically from the Wilsonian vision, later embraced by Kennedy and Truman. As these great presidents demonstrated time and again, "builders" are no less interested in the world abroad. As Kieran Healy rightly says, only a builder could have come up with the Marshall Plan. (TR Fogey makes a similar point as well.)

So what happened to this compelling and successful liberal vision? Answer: Vietnam. I am extremely surprised that not a single response to Totten's post recognized Vietnam as the event that has done more than any other to shape modern liberal foreign policy (or lack thereof). In addition, almost no one mentioned the liberal approach developed by Jimmy Carter, who explicitly described his anti-interventionist multilateralism as a response to the lessons of Vietnam.

At the same time that Carter was directing the Democratic party away from the aggressive idealism of Kennedy and Truman, Ronald Reagan was busy destorying the realist and isolationist foundations of Republican foreign policy, instead insisting that it, too, must be based on principle. While Reagan often managed to persuade himself that whatever was good for the United States was also consistent with principle, the fact is that he established ideology as the foundation of Republican foreign policy.

Under Clinton, the role reversal of the Carter-Reagan era began to give way to traditional approaches to foreign affairs. When Clinton wanted to bomb Kosovo, Trent Lott responded that he ought to "give peace a chance." In the 2000 campaign, Al Gore vigorously defended the use of force to promote American principles while George Bush called for "humility" and Condi Rice expounded on the virtues of realism.

But times they are a changin'. Few conservatives regretted the absence of humility in George Bush's approach to Iraq. While Democrats tried to avoid the whole issue, critics on the left demonstrated a commitment to multilateralism even stronger than Jimmy Carter's. Carter himself never conditioned his policies on the approval of semi-authoritarian states such as China and Russia. Thus Carter never found himself going against the grain of Wilson's democratic multilateral vision. (Although Jimmy Carter circa 2003 most certainly did.)

In contast, President Bush has gone far beyond President Reagan in committing himself to democratic principles as the foundation of American foreign policy. While there are definite grounds on which to criticize the President's implementation of such policies, his commitment to promoting democracy in Iraq has consummated the role reversal that began in the Carter-Reagan era. Strange as it sounds, Bush is a Wilsonian. And his critics tend to sound like Kissingerian pessimists who fret that intervention in Iraq will promote instability in the Middle East, or even an Arab backlash against the Western world.

As you might have guessed by now, I believe that the foundation of a liberal vision for American foreign policy must entail a return to the Wilsonian vision that animated American liberalism from the First World War until the tragedy of Vietnam. Perhaps the greatest flaw of such a foreign policy is that it does not provide Democratic candiates with a credible means of differentiating their views from that of the current administration.

But over time, that can be done. As Tom Friedman has written,
If Democrats' whole analysis of this war is determined by whether or not it helps Mr. Bush, then they are never going to play the role they must play -- constructive critics of how we rebuild Iraq.

This is such an important moment in U.S. foreign policy. How people view American power is at stake in the outcome in Iraq, and Democrats can't be missing in action. They have to help shape this moment, and not leave it to the Bush Pentagon. But it won't happen if Democrats are sulking in a corner, just trying to point to everything that is going wrong in Iraq, and not offering their ideas for making it better.

Why should Democrats trust the Bush people to win the peace in Iraq the way they won the war? It is clear the Bush team had no coherent postwar plan in place. This administration, with its deep mistrust for diplomacy and diplomats, may be way too ideological and Pentagon-centric for nation-building. We need alternative voices. What is the Democratic view on the proper role of the U.N. or NATO in rebuilding Iraq? How much emphasis do Democrats believe the U.S. should put into the Arab-Israeli peace process to support peace in Iraq? Is a principled and muscular internationalism now the private property of the Republican Party?
In other words, the Democrats will have to establish their Wilsonian credentials by demonstrating that they have better ideas than the GOP does about how to put Wilsonian principles into practice.

Can the Democrats establish such credentials in time for 2004? I don't know. If the Bush Administration's intermittent hostility to nation-building produces an embarrassment in postwar Iraq, the Democrats may have their chance. Still, it will be extremely hard to match the credibility of an President victorious in war.

Ultimately, what the Democrats need is a successful president from their own party who can demonstrate the efficacy of a Wilsonian approach to national security. In that sense, Bill Clinton did his party a tremendous service. But his achievements in Bosnia and Kosovo have now been overshadowed.

The road ahead for liberal foreign policy will be long and difficult. But there is a Wilsonian light at the end of the tunnel.

UPDATE: If you think my response to Totten goes into too much detail, then take a look at Tristero's statistical analysis of it.
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# Posted 11:48 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

41 VS. 43: The President has demonstrated that he is an even greater warrior than his father. But is he as good at making peace?
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# Posted 11:45 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SMOKING GUN: Judith Miller isn't exactly Ms. Credibility these days, but she now reports that one of Saddam's mobile weapons labs has been definitively identified. If correct, this will mitigate the weapons inspectos' intense frustration, as described in the WaPo. If not, it's just one more false expectation to be buried along with the rest.
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# Posted 11:38 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MEA CULPA: The New York Times has an extremely long and apologetic article describing the work of Jayson Blair, a Times correspondent who perpetrated massive journalistic fraud. The article opens as follows:
A staff reporter for The New York Times committed frequent acts of journalistic fraud while covering significant news events in recent months, an investigation by Times journalists has found. The widespread fabrication and plagiarism represent a profound betrayal of trust and a low point in the 152-year history of the newspaper.
Even though I am a frequent and fierce critic of the NYT's reporting and commentary, I take no pleasure in reading of this deception. I never have and never will suspect the Times as a whole of distorting or inventing basic facts in order to provide evidence for its preferred point of view.

What I take issue with is the how the Times presents the facts and how it decides which facts are worth presenting. Such decisions are the subject of legitimate controversy. As I see it, there is no connection between what happened with Jayson Blair and what I find objectionable about the Times' coverage.

The New York Times is one of the great institutions of American life and will emerge from this scandal as a stronger paper.

UPDATE: CalPundit covers the racial aspect of the Blair story.
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# Posted 11:20 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RECONSTRUCTION BLUES: The WaPo has another front-page indictment of the occupation, which focuses on the reassignment of senior officials, including the probable departure of Jay Garner.

Inside the paper there's a report on American efforts to start up a broadcast news service for the people Iraq. This definitely sounds like something the US should've planned for in advance. After all, Iran already has a 24-hour pro-Shi'ite television channel in operation which splits its time between criticizing Saddam and criticizing the US.

There are some indications, though, that the United States' lack of planning reflects a definite fear of being perceived as an occupying power. The WaPo reports that
U.S. officials interviewed today said the U.S. presence in Iraq would likely become more assertive in coming weeks. The absence of strong leadership -- Iraqi or American -- is a subject of intense complaint among ordinary Iraqis, who are struggling with a lack of civil order after 35 years of authoritarian rule.

One senior American official in Baghdad said the U.S. team had been so concerned about being seen as an occupying power that officials were overly reluctant to exert their full authority.

"We came in here hands-off," the official said. "There was a bit of ambivalence between being an authority and being authoritarian. We were so concerned about being authoritarian that we didn't exercise authority."
Ironic, huh? But the fact is you just can't have it both ways. If you have soldiers on the ground you are an occupying power. If you try to pretend that you are not, things just get worse and you get blamed for it because, after all, you are the occupying power.

As I've said many times before, occupying forces win respect not by taking a hands-off approach, but by fulfilling their mission to restore basic services and promote a democratic political order. In short, the US occupation will be judged on the basis of what it achieves, not what its critics say during the first months of the occupation.

After all, if the US had been more assertive, the critics would now be saying that they are too assertive. Fact is, an occupying power cannot escape criticism. The euphoria of liberation cannot last. But we can wing enduring respect over time by giving the people of Iraq what they've never had before: freedom.
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Saturday, May 10, 2003

# Posted 10:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STILL MORE POLARIZATION: Boomshock explains that while the American electorate has not become more polarized, partisan activists have.
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# Posted 9:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ART UPDATED: A couple of days ago I questioned the WaPo's report that investigators have recovered 700 artifacts and 39,400 manuscripts stolen from Iraq's National Museum.

Now, the Times of London is reporting that 700 artifacts and 39,400 manuscripts believed to be missing were actually found in the museum's own vaults.

That's a pretty different story, huh?
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# Posted 3:14 PM by Patrick Belton  

WHO'S WHO IN IRAQ: Interested in the unfolding of Iraqi politics, but not sure who's who? Then OxBlog's viewer's guide to Iraqi politics is for you..... This is very much a work in progress, so please e-mail if you have suggestions or improvements....

The INC

The Iraqi National Congress was founded in 1992 in northern Iraq with the support of the two principal Kurdish militias (the KDP and PUK, see below) and several other Sunni, Shi'a, and Christian opposition groups. The meeting resulted in the election of a National Assembly. In March 1995, it attempted to overthrow the Ba'ath regime, but despite initial successes it was crippled by infighting within the opposition, particularly within the Kurdish factions (see below). (See their website.)

Ahmed Chalabi The chair of the INC's executive committee, the 58-year old Chalabi is a secular Shi'a from a prominent banking family. Dr. Chalabi established a government-in-exile in London following the INC's failed uprising in 1995 and the execution of many of the uprising's leaders the subsequent year. Chalabi's support within Iraq appears likely to have been fairly small before the invasion, although Iraqis supportive of the U.S. military offensive have welcomed him, possibly providing him with a natural constituency. Chalabi has been dogged, especially recently, by accusations of financial misdeeds; these stem principally from his 1992 conviction in absentia by a Jordanian court to 22 years in prison for bank fraud (in connection with the Petra Bank he founded in 1977, and which collapsed in 1990), but also from State Department questioning of the INC's accounting practices.

Kanan Makiya A secular professor of Middle Eastern studies at Brandeis and director of a Kurdish genocide project at Harvard, Makiya is popular in the U.S. media and has published broadly, including in TNR Online, and a 1989 book on rights abuses in Iraq, entitled Republic of Fear: The Politics of Modern Iraq. He directs the Iraq Foundation. (See his PBS profile, Salon's profile of him, some of his publications, and some more of them.)

Free Iraqi Forces About 700 Iraqis (including Dr. Chalabi) were airlifted by the US military on April 6 to the Nasiriya area, in an effort to help stabilize civil affairs in southern Iraq. There is some suspicion that the airlifted Free Iraqi Forces may have included Shi'a Muslims sympathetic or loyal to Shi'a Islamist groups.

Mohammad al-Zubaidi, who was recently forcibly removed as self-appointed mayor of Baghdad, is reported to represent a competitive wing to Chalabi's. Nicknamed "the wolf," he headed an INC intelligence team from exile.

Kurds

Iraq's Kurds have sought autonomy, with varying degrees of intensity, since their incorporation into the Iraqi state as part of the WWI settlement. Encourage to rebel in 1991 shortly after the first Gulf War, the Kurdish rebellion was unsuccessful and led to the exile of over 1.5 million Iraqi Kurdish refugees. The memory of the failed rebellion has seared Kurdish political consciousness and led to some suspicion on their part of the second Gulf War. The two Kurdish factions jointly have 40,000-60,000 soldiers. However, they struggled with each other fiercely in May 1994, over territory, revenues from customs checkpoints, and control over the Irbil-based Kurdish government.

Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Founded by Mullah Mustafa Barzini, now led by his son Masud Barzani. Barzani's brother Idris was killed while leading Kurdish units against Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war. The KDP received backing from Baghdad in its 1994 struggles with the PUK. At the last minute, the KDP pulled out of an INC offensive against Iraqi forces in March 1995, contributing to the offensive's defeat. (See the KDP's website)

Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Often described as more educated, cosmpolitan, and ideologically to the left than the KDP, Jalal Talabani's PUK split from the KDP in 1965. The PUK had recourse to Iran during its intersectarian struggles with the KDP in 1994. (The PUK's website)

Kurdish Islamist Parties

Islamic Movement of Iraqi Kurdistan (IMIK) The IMIK is led by Shaykh Ali Abd-al Aziz and based in Halabja. It has been aligned with the PUK since 1998.

Ansar al-Islam Ansar al-Islam is led by Mullah Krekar (who maintains his residence in Norway), and has its base in the north. Previously known as Jund al-Islam, it split from the Islamic Movement of Iraqi Kurdistan (IMIK) in 1998 and is suspected of linkages to Al-Qaeda, including giving refuge to Al Qaeda soldiers fleeing the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Mullah Krekar shares a spiritual mentor, the Palestinian theologian Shaykh Abdullah al-Azzam, with bin Laden. Jordanian Abu Musab Zarqawi, a veteran of Aghanistan who has been linked to Al Qaeda plots to spread ricin in Europe, is reportedly commander of Ansar al-Islam's Arab faction. Ansar's strength is estimated at 8,000 sympathizers and 600 fighters, concentrated in the Khurmal region, where its central base in that city was captured during U.S. operations in Iraq.

Shi'a Islamist Parties

Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) Began in 1982 as an Iranian instrument of influence over Shi'a opposition groups. The Ayatollah Khomeini selected its leader, Ayatollah Muhammad Baqr al-Hakim. Having fled to Iran in 1980 during a crackdown on Shi'a groups in Iraq, he returned publicly to Iraq on May 10. The SCIRI aligned with the INC in the early 1990s, then distanced itself progressively from the umbrella organization in the ensuing decade. Its strength consists of roughly 5,000 fighters in its Badr Corps (some estimates, possibly untrustworthy, place the Badr Corps' strength at twice or three times as large), led by Muhammad Baqr's brother Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim and funded and provided with weapons by Iranian intelligence. (See their website.)

Da'wa Party Aligned with SCIRI, Da'wa was founded in 1957 by another of Ayatollah Khomeini's associates, Ayatollah Mohammad Baqr al Sadr. Baqr Al Sadr was hung in 1980 for fomenting Islamist unrest in Iraq, and attempting to assassinate Tariq Aziz. Hezbollah's founders were strongly influenced by Da'wa, and linked release of U.S. hostages in Lebanon to the release of 17 Da'wa prisoners held by Kuwait for the attempted assassination of the Amir in 1985 and attacks in December 1983 on the U.S. and French embassies in Kuwait City.

Sadr Clan Clan members of the deceased Da'wa leader constitute another important Islamist force in Iraq. One young clan member, Moqtada al-Sadr, has a following that is particularly strong in the Shi'a portions of Baghdad, which renamed their district from "Saddam City" to "Sadr City." His strength is counterbalanced by his comparatively young age (30) and the repercussions from his involvement in the recent assassination of a competing and reformist ayatollah, Grand Ayatollah Abd al-Majid Khoi, on his arrival to Najaf from London.

Ayatollah Sistani Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a respected reformist Shi'a cleric based in the theological-school city of Najaf, is a potential kingmaker in intra-Shi'a struggles. Like Khoi, he opposes a clerical role in government affairs. The crude attempts of the Sadr clan at intimidating Ayatollah Sistani into aligning with their faction may succeed in pushing Sistani toward the competing SCIRI camp.

Islamic Amal Organization The smaller group Islamic Amal, led by Mohammad Taqi Modarassi, is aligned with SCIRI and has been active in Bahrain as well as Iraq.




Sources: Kenneth Katzman, "Iraq: U.S. Regime Change Efforts and Post-War Governance," CRS Report for Congress, April 23, 2003. PBS has a brief "Who's Who in the Iraqi Opposition." Other sources are linked to in the text.
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# Posted 12:11 PM by Patrick Belton  

ON THIS DAY, THE BOOKS BURNED: As the NYT's editorial page points out this morning, totalitarian regimes always begin by targeting their most articulate opponents.

To wit, it was on May 10, 1933 that the Deutsche Studentenschaft der Berliner Hochsculen, a Nazi student group and front at the University of Berlin, burned in the Opernplatz the works of Freud, Marx, Mann, Remarque, Zola, Jack London, and H.G. Wells, as well as (Goebbels's phrase) "the trash and filth of Jewish 'asphalt' literati." And the concentration camp at Dachau would be opened within the week, under SS officer Theodor Eicke's command.

Such villainy did not cease at Nuremberg, but continues wherever there are not democracy and the freedoms of speech, belief, economic opportunity, and physical security. Freedom House documents in its annual global survey the utter lack of these freedoms today in China, Cuba, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, North Korea, Somalia, Eritrea, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan; and despicably, the first six of these are permitted even to sit on the UN's commission charged with monitoring and condemning repressive governments.

And equally with respect to the task of extending these freedoms, and with regard to all those who suffered and continue to suffer their absence: we must never, ever, forget.
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# Posted 10:44 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SETBACK FOR ANTI-SEMITISM: The UK's Association of University Teachers has voted overwhelmingly to reject a boycott of Israeli institutions of higher learning. Advocates of the plan referred to Israel as "today's apartheid regime."
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# Posted 10:36 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOUBLE YIKES! Seven nuclear research sites have now been looted. What's missing? Nobody knows. Yikes!
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# Posted 10:28 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OLIVE BRANCH? The US starts to disarm the People's Mujahedeen while the Iranian ambassador to the UN says his government has no interest in developing WMD because
We also understand that developing nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction does not enhance Iran's security. That is why it is party to more international disarmament treaties than almost any other country in the region. As for recent complaints by the Bush administration, Iran would have no difficulty showing maximum transparency with regard to its nuclear energy program, provided that reciprocal guarantees for access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes can be provided by the international community, particularly the United States.
Keep your fingers crossed.
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# Posted 12:41 AM by Patrick Belton  

OH HIS PROPHETIC SOUL: The administration wisely takes Daniel Drezner's suggestion and proposes today a U.S.-Middle East free trade area, though it isn't clear yet whether it will be a club of democracies as Daniel suggested. Our favorite Chicagoan exercises right of reply here.
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Friday, May 09, 2003

# Posted 11:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

POLARIZATION: Boomshock has come up with a raft of statistical evidence to support my comments about political polarization in the US. Much obliged!
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# Posted 11:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT BLAIR should've said to Putin. What he actually said.
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# Posted 11:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BELGRAVIA DISPATCH IS BACK! Greg brings us Ken Pollack's thoughts on where the weapons are and Noam Chomsky's thoughts on where they aren't.
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# Posted 10:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JEWISH NEO-CON STRAUSSIAN CABAL: That's who controls US foreign policy according to the New York Times (aka the Jewish neo-lib Keynesian cabal). The problem is that the Times has no idea what a Straussian is, although Josh Cherniss clearly does.
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# Posted 10:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WILL TYSSE (who just finished his exams!) appreciates Maureen Dowd who appreciates Ali G. who is not appreciated by either Naomi Wolf or American neo-Nazis. Got that?
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# Posted 9:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOW'S THE RECONSTRUCTION GOING? I've got no idea. This front-page story in the WaPo says everything is a mess. Another front-pager on Tuesday said the same thing, specifically about southern Iraq. Columnist David Ignatius says that "Postwar reconstruction is pretty much where it was a month ago, as Baghdad was falling -- which is to say, nowhere."

On the other hand, Jay Garner (cited in the WaPo) announced at a press conference that More than half of Baghdad's police force is back on the job, 30 percent of the capital's schools are open and all 12 major hospitals are functioning, he said. About 50 percent of Baghdad's electricity demands are being met, he added, while Basra, the country's second-largest city, has 24-hour-a-day power for the first time in 12 years.In spite of its intense criticism of Garner, the WaPo article doesn't provide any reason to think that Garner's statistics are off-base. It also reports that "predictions of starvation and epidemics have failed to materialize." Not bad.

What might be bad is that Ba'ath party members are returning to high-level positions in the interim government. American officials seem to be doing their best to keep out anyone who committed human rights violations, but I'd prefer to see some indications that the US is getting ready for a comprhensive de-Ba'athification process.

What's definitely bad is that the administration -- well-known for its obsession with secrecy -- seems unwilling to share any of its plans for Iraq with Congress or the public. This is exactly what frustrates even those of us who think the administration is doing a pretty good job so far. How can you give someone the benefit of the doubt if you know they will refuse to admit their mistakes?
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# Posted 7:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I SCREWED UP: Two weeks ago, OxBlog expressed concern about the Bush administration's decision to sign a truce with the terrorist group knows as the Mujahedeen e-Khalq or People's Mujahedeen. However, after reading this story in today's WaPo, I realized that I got everything about the truce wrong.

In my initial post, I described the Mujahedeen as "pro-Iranian", when in fact they are an organization of Iranian exiles devoted to overthrowing the government in Teheran. So how did I manage to get things so precisely wrong? While the primary cause of this fiasco is obviously my own incompetence, I think Kos and Jim Hoagland -- both of whom I cited in my original post -- contributed as well.

Hoagland described the Mujahedeen as
an Iranian exile group with a long record of terrorism, banditry and support and direction by Saddam Hussein's regime. Under the reported terms of the capitulation, the Mujahedeen will stop fighting U.S. forces and be allowed to store much of the artillery and the antiaircraft guns they received from the shattered Iraqi regime.
Sort of makes it seem like they've been fighting the US on Saddam's behalf, huh? Actually, the Mujahedeen pretty much sat out the war and want to work with the US to oust the fundamentalist government in Teheran.

Because of these shared interests, the NYT portrayed the ceasefire as a self-serving and hypocritical willingness to work with terrorists when doing so benefits the United States. But as today's WaPo reports, the President has decided to demand that the Mujahedeen surrender. Why? Because the US officially lists them as terrorists.

According to Kos,
The People's Mujahedeen, an Iranian terrorist organization based in Iraq, is clearly one of the baddies...What should the US do? Eradicate them of course. They are terrorists, after all, and isn't that what we do with terrorists?
Now, I probably should've figured out that an Iranian terrorist organization based in Iraq must be anti-Teheran, not pro-. But I wouldn't've minded a tip from Kos, especially the last section of his post talks about Iranian infiltration of occupied Iraq, which makes it seem like the Mujahedeen are part of the effort.

Finally, it's not even clear that the Mujahedeen are terrorists. According to Patrick Clawson (as cited in the WaPo),
it was "silly to list them as a terrorist group," because they have not attacked U.S. targets since the shah of Iran fell in January 1979. "They are not engaged in terror attacks," he said. "They do armed attacks against Iran."
It seems Clinton put the Mujahedeen on the list in order to show Teheran that the US was not conspiring against. Even so, demanding their surrender is probably a good thing. Anyone who worked that closely with Saddam really can't be trusted.

So, to get the point and sum things up: I goofed. Bad.

UPDATE: Reader AB actually pointed my mistake out to me just after the initial post went up, but I didn't recognize the significance of what he was saying. Bad hair day, huh?
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# Posted 5:15 PM by Patrick Belton  

NOTE TO FRIENDS AND CLASSMATES: Namely, don't go into politics in North Carolina. That is, not unless you are both fond of NASCAR car racing (already going beyond two out of three OxBloggers; David, however, was an young afficionado after finding out at an early age he could set speed records due to the 4th Street-intersecting-11th Street-anomaly in the West Village) , and a better practitioner than North Carolingian Governor Mike Easley - who in an attempt today to impersonate a NASCAR racer, wrecked a racing car against a track wall while driving an estimated 165 mph.

"It was fun for about four or five laps, but the last part wasn't too good," said the Governor, adding "I was pushing and the car was running tight and it got loose on me and I wrecked," apparently attempting to salve his racetrack credibility by substituting competence in racing jargon for competence in the thing itself. Grasping a fading chance to commit yet one final paroxysm of gubernatorial judgment, he autographed the crumpled Chevrolet as it was towed away.
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# Posted 12:56 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE MAJESTY OF THE LAWS: The Lord Chancellor's Department, which overseas the British judiciary, has hired an "image consultant," who suffers from the mild occupational impairment that she is on crack. Ms. Henderson, director of a fashion consultancy, has produced a portfolio of suggested revisions in British judicial attire (currently ignonimously displayed at the bottom of the BBC's website). About 90 percent of the image consultant's suggested "improvements" look like the worst variants of Star Trek uniforms (i.e., think Star Trek: The Motion Picture - one can make these sorts of allusions in internet media), while the remainder resemble 18th century Puritan clerical garb. Ms. Henderson says, among other brilliant things:
The black gown is very threatening while the red is more vibrant, friendly and stands out more. (She also opines that the wig "has to go.")
Heaven forbid that the legal profession would strive to embody virtues other than being fun, friendly, and standing out in a crowd (the last of which I'd actually always naively thought wearing wigs and robes accomplished rather nicely). Here's hoping the natural sense of law's majesty possessed by the British bar and bench will outweigh these efforts at spring fashion remodeling.

UPDATE: Eugene agrees. Kevin likes red.

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# Posted 12:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLOGOSPHERE RE-RUNS: Just about every site except for OxBlog has posted a link to Noam Chomsky's commentary on the Lord of the Rings. However, I didn't have a chance to read it until now because my mind was focused on more important subjects like X-Men and adultery. But now that I have read it -- and laughed a lot in the process -- I think that you should, too!

(And don't forget Part Two. When Part Three shows up I'll link to that as well.)

PLUS: Andrew Sullivan on Hobgoblins.
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# Posted 11:56 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

POSITIVE THINKING: Daniel Drezner points to some good news in the Middle East. But the news in Afghanistan is bad, even if Donald Rumsfeld is embarrasingly unwilling to admit it.
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Thursday, May 08, 2003

# Posted 10:20 PM by Patrick Belton  

A GOOD PUBLIC FACE FOR NATO: Glenn was nice enough to point out this Norwegian blogger's page about Norwegian Minister of Defense Kristin Devold, who is one of the top two contenders to succeed my former boss, the venerable Lord Robertson, as NATO's Secretary-General.

Some of you might unfairly assume we were only talking about Ms. Devold merely because she's gorgeous, blonde, and has been seen in public in skin-tight leather pants emblazoned with American flags. You underestimate us pitiably. Here's an interview in which she describes her work boosting defense spending in Norway and establishing the relationship of Norway (a non-EU member state) with the EU and with the other allies. And her competitor, Portuguese EU commissioner Antonio Vitorino, is here; here's an interview where he discusses fighting organized crime (Vitorino is a former judge on Portugal's Constitutional Court, who appears competent but with less expertise than Ms. Devold in foreign and security affairs; he also appears bespectacled and balding, but that's incidental dicta, as the constitutional lawyers say). So there.

Of course (and even though she may look better than Rummy in tight leather U.S. flag pants), Her Excellency ain't nearly the most beautiful foreign policy hand in my book.
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# Posted 9:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLAME CLINTON: Face it, Patrick. Ever since Monica-gate, American adulterers have had lower standards.
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# Posted 9:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LINCOLN PLAWG answers some of the questions I raised about Fallujah.

Just to clarify a bit for those of you who are going to read LP's post: I argued that Shi'ites may not sympathize with the Fallujah victims not just because the victims were Sunnis, but because there are indications that those victims may still support Saddam and the Ba'ath. In fact, the first Falluja protest march apparently began as a celebration of Saddam's birthday.
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# Posted 8:49 PM by Patrick Belton  

NOT EXACTLY MATA HARI: Let's just say, for the purposes of argument, that after a long and distinguished career in counterintelligence, you for some reason decided to betray your country, wife, and profession, and commit adultery with a foreign agent. You know, the concept seems somehow unaesthetic to me, but hey, as they say in Brooklyn, de gustibus non est disputandum.... But, not to be petty, why would you pick her?

This is a legitimate question. Jim: we're waiting to hear from you, if you haven't used your one phone call yet.....
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# Posted 8:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

POKER UPDATE: CBS News seems to have the same as idea as Josh. Alongside this short description of the DIA's deck of cards, there is a pop-up link called "House of Cards" which allows you to scroll through the deck and check the current status of the officials on each card.

It turns out that selling replica decks has become quite a big business over the past few weeks. You can get the details from Forbes.
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# Posted 8:06 PM by Patrick Belton  

CITATION INDEX: Exciting news! So Rachel gets interviewed by Voice of America, and I... well, I get to find out that an article I wrote three years ago on migrant child labor is being used as an example of bibliographic citations in a Californian college. Hey, you take your breaks where you can get 'em. (And note to Kev: this is part one of the good coverage of California that you'd been asking for from out here on the east coast....)

A student hit me up for "showing bias because [I make] you feel bad for these children." Also, it's a non-scholarly item, since it wasn't hard to read....

The author of this piece is Patrick Belton.  The publisher is the Peace Review Journal.  It was written in 2000, but the there was so much information.  The information does show bias because it makes you feel bad for these children and get mad at the government for not doing anything.  It then later states how you can avoid all these foods that are picked by children.  So it is biased it's just not as aggressive as other books and articles are.  No advertising here.  The only topic covered is that we are not aware children are working for the food that we eat and how these children's lives are.  It offers information on just one region.  It doesn't go all over the place and not make anything specific.  This is a non-scholarly item because it just doesn't seem too hard to read.  In fact, it's very easy to read.  This is a secondary source because to get this information he had to go out there and talk to these children. 


Thanks, Jessica! Next time I'll be more scholarly, I promise.
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# Posted 7:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"RAIDERS OF THE LOST ART" is the first in a series of posts by Jim Miller which cuts through all of the myth that now surround the looting of Iraq's National Museum. Jim was actually far out ahead of everyone on this one, arguing as early as April 20th that the media were getting the story very, very wrong.

One of the most important points Jim tries to drive home is that much of the looting was done by high-ranking museum officials, rather than those who poured in from the street. Interestingly, there are also indications that some of the missing items were not stolen, but taken in order to protect them from looters and thieves.

(If you want to read all of Jim's posts, start here and work backwards.)

One question that still remains open is just how many items have, in fact, been lost. Yesterday, I posted the Chicago Tribune's suggestion that the number is 38. Today, the WaPo says that 38 "high value" items were missing and that over 700 artifacts have already been returned along with 39,400 manuscripts. That last number doesn't exactly make sense to me. Did someone return them in a truck?

Anyhow, KG aus Deutschland points out that the current list of missing items is far from complete, since so much of the Museum is covered in rubble. Or as DeutschlandRadio puts it,
Man hat noch keinen richtigen Überblick. Man war zwar im Keller des Magazins. Es gibt aber noch keinen Strom, so dass man nur mit Taschenlampen einen ersten Eindruck gewinnen konnte. Die genaue Zahl wird man erst nach einer exakten Inventur feststellen können, und das wird viele Monate dauern.
What? Didn't I tell you that reading German is a prerequisite of visiting OxBlog?

Moving on, the BBC reports that
The looting has been described as "the crime of the century" and the US military has been accused of not doing enough to stop it.

(Thanks to GD for the link.)
For a pretty good defense of the US military, see this post from Jim Miller, which I mentioned above. But how ironic is it that the BBC wants to speculate about this being the "crime of the century"? Surely one of the horrific tortures devised by Saddam & Sons is more worthy of that distinction.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2003

# Posted 9:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

X-MEN 2: Haven't seen it yet, but the reviews are pretty impressive. Jacob Levy has put up his thoughts on the film and on the X-Men general. Matt Yglesias liked the movie as well, but has decided to make fun of Jacob Levy for knowing too much about comic books.

Kevin Drum was less enthusiastic, saying the movie was good "if you're partial to that kind of thing." Which is like telling your gay friends they should see the newest Jenna Jameson flick "if they're partial to that kind of thing." But I guess Kevin is partial (to the X-Men, not Jenna), since he was geeky enough to criticize Professor X for having inadequate security systems installed at X-Men headquarters.

One last thing: read the comments attached to Kevin and Matt's posts. My favorite is this one, from Eric, who says:
I don't know where some of you are getting the idea that the X-Men are liberals.

Xavier's school is an exclusive private school. Liberals would put the mutant kids in public schools because it's more egalitarian.

The X-Men are not asking for affirmative action/preferential treatment for their favored minority group; merely that they be treated like other people.

Liberal X-men would be spending their time trying to understand the root causes of anti-mutant sentiment, blaming themselves, rather than fighting against their enemies.

In a liberal version of the first X-Men movie, the UN would have sent inspectors to the Statue of Liberty to successfully disarm Magneto without any violence, rather than having the X-Men attack unilaterally.

The same people who support restrictive laws on guns because guns are dangerous are obviously the same people who support restrictive laws on mutants because mutants are dangerous. The X-Men realize that, like a gun, a mutant power is bad when it is used for bad purposes, but good when it is used for good purposes.

Wolverine is hardly the posterboy for the anti-death penalty movement. And liberals think the EPA should be doing something about second-hand smoke from his cigar.
Actually, I think this all just goes to show that the X-Men are Jewish.
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# Posted 8:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIEBERMAN AHEAD IN OXBLOG POLL: In a recent survey of OxBlog contributors, Joe Lieberman commands a solid 33.3% support rating. This has put him far ahead of all other Democratic primary candidates except for Al Sharpton, who also stands at 33.3%. There is considerable reason to suspect, however, that Sharpton's support reflects a calculated effort by conservative OxBloggers to embarrass the Democratic Party, thus hurting it chances in the November election.

The remaining 33.3% of OxBloggers are undecided.

The critical factor accounting for Lieberman's impressive level of support is his principled dedication to promoting democracy in Iraq. On February 26 -- the same day that President Bush gave his first major address on postwar Iraq -- Lieberman delivered a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in which he described how the United States might go about achieving the objectives that the President would go on to elaborate later that evening.

Highlights of the speech included Lieberman's statement that our commitment to postwar Iraq
need[s] depth because our allies, the Iraqi people and the region need to know that our interest in Iraq and the region is not a fleeting fancy but part of a broad strategic and moral commitment to bring progress and security to the Muslim world.
Lieberman also stands out because of his commitment to rebuilding Afghanistan
where we fought and won a war but have not yet won the peace. As a result, what began as a lesson in the power and precision of the American military has devolved into a cautionary tale of the problems that result from engaging the world too haphazardly, too arrogantly, and too belatedly...

The transitional government's control over the country is now so weak, in fact, that some refer to President Hamid Karzai as the Mayor of Kabul. And non-governmental organizations working in Kabul report that coordination among their donors, the military, U.S.A.I.D., and the U.N. remains badly disorganized.
There does seem to be some concern however that Lieberman has excessive faith in a multilateral approach to the rebuilding of Iraq. As he remarked,
the Administration should begin working with our international allies to name an international civilian administrator—perhaps an experienced government official from an Arab nation—who will guide Iraq in the critical transition period between war's immediate aftermath and Iraqi self-rule.
An Arab official? I guess that would be OK as long as said official had extensive experience working for a democratic government. So does anyone know the name of those eight or so Arabs in the Israeli Knesset?

Speaking of Israel, Lieberman made some insightful remarks about achieving peace in that troubled nation. As he rightly observed,
It's no longer enough for the President to say he supports a democratic Palestine living in peace alongside a secure and sovereign Israel while doing nothing to help produce that outcome on the ground. America must re-engage without delay, expend political capital, and help Israel and responsible Palestinians move beyond the violent and debilitating stalemate that is devastating lives on both sides.

That must start with a 100 percent effort by the Palestinian Authority to stop terrorism against Israelis, and an Israeli commitment to react positively and concretely to such an effort. I believe there are ripening conditions for a very high-level American engagement to help both sides move toward the positive goals each has spoken of.
It's also nice to see that Lieberman has continued to be an outspoken advocate of promoting democracy in Iraq. On CBS' "Face The Nation", Lieberman argued that
one of the things we learned during the '90s in the Balkans, when we set a deadline, is that deadlines are arbitrary and don't make much sense, that the deadline has to be when the mission is completed.

And the mission is completed when real security is achieved and there's an Iraqi government that is stable, that represents the Iraqi people, that is in charge.
Damn right. Now it's time for the rest of the Democratic candidates to step up to the plate.
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# Posted 7:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GLOBOPHOBIA: The war is over. How do I know? Not because George Bush says so. But because Oxford's activist cabal has taken down its anti-war posters and replaced them with anti-globalization ones. In case you haven't heard, capitalist-led globalization is destroying the welfare state, taking power out of the hands of elected governments and giving it to multinational corporations.

Actually, it isn't. How do I know? Because OxFriend David Pozen has just published an article in a journal by the name of Parallax which argues very persuasively that welfare states on both sides of the Atlantic have held their own or even expanded despite the competitive pressures of international market integration.

Now, some of you are probably saddened by the thought that your welfare states are going to survive this corporate onslaught. But David says that there's good news for you folks as well. The welfare state will have to adjust to market pressures in order to survive in the coming decades. Which pressures are those, you might ask? I'm not saying. Because if I did, you might just take my word for it instead of reading David's excellent article which explains it all far better than I could. So go read it!
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# Posted 3:03 PM by Patrick Belton  

A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Brahms. Mentored by Schumann, on settling in Vienna he was greeted by many as the successor to Beethoven, and in contrast to the more heady romanticism of Wagner and Liszt, his romantic harmonic idiom was always blended with classicism, resulting in fresh and novel uses of the technical forms of counterpoints and variations on a theme. He moved away from the programmatic music of the romantics, toward reviving "absolute" music, existing on its own terms as interplays of sound rather than depiction of a scene or narrative; and wrote brilliantly across genres, from folk lieder inspired by Teutonic pasts with their beautiful marriage of voice and piano, to the finest ecclestical choral music that had been produced since Bach, and to excruciatingly challenging piano work and orchestral concerti and ensemble pieces for most instruments in the repertory.

Humm yourself off to sleep tonight (or this afternoon, for the more slothfully-inclined) with Valse No. 15 (i.e., Lullaby). Not sleeping? That's all right - try the Hungarian Dances, then.
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# Posted 2:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GOP GAMBLING HABIT: I don't begrudge Bill Bennett's critics their chance to thrash his just-about-hypocritical gambling habit. In fact, I never liked the guy much myself.

Still, all this criticism does sound sort of petty at a time when there are much more serious issues on the national agenda. Bennett's gambling falls, I think, somewhere below the Gary Condit story on the ladder of importance.

But if you want something to criticize Bennett for, try this: his views on homosexuality are about as sophisticated as Rick Santorum's.

On a related note, Stanely Kurtz isn't happy with the blogosphere's vicious abuse of his sober and reflective thoughts on why homosexuality is a threat to society. In Kurtz's defense, I will say that there really are no signs of hatred or homphobia in his argument. Even so, he can't come up with any arguments to support his points that aren't patently absurd.

What I think this really shows is that there simply is no coherent case to be made for outlawing homosexuality or banning gay marriage. As numerous readers have pointed out, the Supreme Court probably shouldn't strike down sodomy laws by invoking a right to privacy. But not one of those readers actually said that they favor such discriminatory laws. All in all, I have to agree with Andrew Sullivan. Conservative logic supports gay marriage 100%. Only conservative homophobia prevents the GOP from recognizing that.
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# Posted 2:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GREAT FISKINGS IN HISTORY: While one often thinks of fisking as a literary form brought into existence by the internet revolution, I have now discovered evidence that fisking was popular even in the age of bricks and mortar. While doing some research for my dissertation, I came across the following article in the March 1st, 1982 issue of Newsweek, entitled "Lyndon B. Reagan on Vietnam":
A reporter at last week's White House news conference asked if there was a "secret CIA plan" for El Salvador like the one to get the United States involved in Vietnam in the 1960s. The President denied there was such a Vietnam plan -- although the CIA did operate secretly there in 1954 -- and then gave his own skewed Vietnam history. Below, what Reagan said, and what really happened.

"If I recall correctly, when France gave up Indochina as a colony, the leading nations of the world met in Geneva in regard to helping those colonies become independent nations. And since North and South Vietnam had been previous to colonization two separate countries, provisions were made that these two countries could by a vote of all their people together decide whether they wanted to be one country or not."

Before French colonization, Vietnam was one country divided into three provinces -- Cochin China in the south, Annam in the center and Tonkin in the north. France reunited Vietnam under Emperor Bao Dai, but much of the country remained loyal to nationalist leader Ho Chi Minh. The 1954 Geneva conference called for a temporary partition of north and south until reunification elections were held two years later.

"And there wasn't anything surreptitious about it, but when Ho Chi Minh refused to participate in such an election and there was provision that the peoples of both countries could cross the border and live in the other country if they wanted to, and when they began leaving by the thousands and thousands from North Vietnam to live in South Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh closed the border and again violated that part of the agreement."

It was South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, after deposing Bao Dai, who refused to partiicipate in the elections. Senior U.S. officials favored delaying the vote because it appeared that Ho Chi Minh would win and that Vietnam wouId be unified under him. In 1954 the CIA began a covert operation to try to destabilize Ho Chi Minh in the north.

"And openly, our country sent military advisers there to help a country which had been a colony have such things as a national-security force, an army if you might say, or a military, ,o defend itself. And they were doing this. I recall correctly, also in civilian clothes, no weapons, until they began being blown up where they lived, in walking down the street by people riding by on bicycles and throwing pipe bombs at them, and then they were permitted to carry side arms or wear uniforms..."

Uniformed American military advisers trained Vietnamese forces in this period. Terrorist attacks against Americans had not yet become a serious problem.

"But it was totally a program until John F. Kennedy, when these attacks and forays became so great, that John F. Kennedy authorized the sending in of a division of marines, and that was the first move toward combat moves in Vietnam..."

President Kennedy did not send ground-combat units to Vietnam. He did authorize "combat support" of Vietnamese troops -- including armed-helicopter and fighter-plane units and, eventually, 19,000 advisers. President Johnson sent the first Marine combat brigade to Vietnam in 1965.
FYI, critics of US involvement in El Salvador constantly compared it to our involvement in Vietnam and insisted that the President had not learned the lessons of that earlier conflict. Well, perhaps not. But who has time to study history when busy fighting Communism?
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# Posted 12:42 PM by Patrick Belton  

ANY READERS IN DETROIT?: I'll be heading there for a few days to do research for a piece on Islam in America. Anybody want to put me up? (I'll promise for my part to provide a constant stream of pithy political commentary and amusing odd stories....)
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# Posted 11:50 AM by Patrick Belton  

EVERYBODY'S GONE SURFIN': AP reports that MSN's division in Britain is currently developing... an iLoo. This, of course, to be a portable toilet with Hotmail access built in as Microsoft's slight touch of value-addition. Cute closing detail 1: The keyboards, per the article, will be waterproof. Cute closing detail 2: MSN officials are currently planning toilet paper imprinted with web addresses users may not have tried.
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Tuesday, May 06, 2003

# Posted 9:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I WILL BE SO PISSED OFF if this turns out to be true. The Chicago Tribune reports that according to US Marines survey team, only 38 objects -- and not tens of thousands -- are missing from the Iraqi National Museum. (Although a considerable number of "small items not deemed suitable for display" have disappeared.)

Over at WSJ Online, James Taranto points out that while the media were playing up the Museum story, Qusay Hussein was benefitting from the proceeds of some much more serious looting. In fact, he stole so much cash from the Iraqi Central Bank (about $1 billion) in the last days before the war that it took three whole tractor trailers to cart it off.

Now why am I so pissed off? Because I thought the media would've learned a lesson from its premature criticism of the invasion plan. But no, it has decided to go ahead and wreck its credibility even more by showing that it is hunting for American failures rather than reporting the news. While this sort of fiasco may sound like a Republican wet dream, the fact is that we need a credible media because sooner or later something is going to go seriously wrong in Iraq and someone in the US government (possibly a Democrat -- lies, are after all, non-partisan) is going to try and cover it up.

Now let's go back to the Museum for a minute. It turns out that it was, in fact, the victim of serious looting. But those who broke in decided to steal the furniture and desks from the Museum's offices rather than take the antiquities. Huh? Does that mean that despite all their suffering were still too proud to steal what belongs to the people as a whole? Or were the looters so desperate that a chair had more significance in their minds than thousands of cultural artifacts that have no immediate, practical value? I just don't know.

By the way, it also seems that those objects which are missing were probably taken by professional thieves, not looters. So you can't exactly hold the US armed forces responsible that. Still, as a friend pointed at the pub a couple of hours ago, it still might've been a good thing to place some American guards outside the museum. Yeah, that's probably right. Still, grrrr!
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# Posted 9:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE PENTAGON PROPHET: I'm surprised I missed this WaPo profile of Paul Wolfowitz (aka "Wolfivitz") from a few weeks back. One of the most interesting things in the article is its observation:
Wolfowitz's preoccupation -- some say obsession -- with Saddam Hussein goes back to his first stint at the Pentagon, between 1977 and 1980, when he was asked to analyze military threats in the Persian Gulf region, particularly to oil-rich Saudi Arabia. Other officials focused on the threat from Iran, then in the throes of an Islamic revolution, and the Soviet Union. Wolfowitz thought the main threat came from Iraq, and called for the United States to pre-position military equipment in the region for use in a conflict.

A still-secret Pentagon paper Wolfowitz authored in 1979 included the line, "It seems likely that we and Iraq will increasingly be at odds."
Now some of you may be wondering "Just what the hell was Paul Wolfowitz doing at the Pentagon between 1977 and 1980?" Yes, it's true. Wolfowitz worked for Jimmy Carter. In fact he was even a registered Democrat at the time. (Which isn't to say that anyone at the Pentagon was listening to what Wolfowitz had to say.)

Anyway, right now, you're probably thinking to yourself either "Wow! Even Democrats can have great things to say about national security!" or "Anyone who knows that much about national security will eventually wind up becoming a Republican."

As for me, I'd like to think of Wolfowitz's political journey as an indication that your ideas are much more important than your party. Sometimes -- just sometimes -- politics can stop at the water's edge. (But when it does, the media takes over for the Democrats!) Of course, my interpretation is no less self-interested than either of the ones mentioned above, since my career may well depend on having others not care who I voted for in the last election.

The WaPo profile also contains this curious line:
In the Arab world, and much of Europe, Wolfowitz is often talked about as the leading light of a small band of neo-conservative thinkers who have allegedly hijacked U.S. foreign policy and launched it in dangerous new directions.
Uh, what about America, folks?
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# Posted 8:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SCOTSMAN TO RULE IRAQ: Some time ago, Josh noted that -- in the space of a single article -- the BBC managed to mock the President's "verbal infelicities" while referring to one of his principal advisers as "Paul Wolfivitz".

Much less offensive and much more amusing is the belief of an NBC stenographer that one of the leading figures in the Iraqi National Congress is a Scotsman by the name of "Connon McKeia". So don't be surprised if the new Iraqi flag turns out to be plaid instead of black, white and red.
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# Posted 7:04 PM by Patrick Belton  

RACHEL ON VOICE OF AMERICA: Rachel's interview on Voice of America (transcript), and the Real Audio version. You can read it before Rachel.
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# Posted 3:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOMINOS FALLING? Few ideas have been subjected to as much ridicule as the domino theory, which critics across the political spectrum hold responsible for the United States' most damaging strategic failures during the Cold War. Thus, it should come as no surprise that conservative idealists found themselves subject to a fair amount of ridicule and condescension when they began to propose that promoting democracy in Iraq might set off a reverse domino effect that would bring down one Arab dictatorship after another.

According to Thomas Carothers, the foremost expert, bar none, on democracy promotion on either side of the Atlantic, the reverse domino effect is nothing more than "magical realism, Middle East-style,''
How, [Carothers] wonders, would this chain reaction occur? Arab countries are stuck between autocratic governments and Islamist opposition, he says, and ''our invasion of Iraq isn't going to remove those political forces. They're going to be sitting there the next day.'' The war, which is vastly unpopular in the Arab world, is far more likely to improve the fortunes of the Islamists, he says, and provoke governments to tighten their grip, than to ventilate the region with an Arab spring.

(Carothers cited by George Packer in the NYT Magazine, 3 Mar 2003.)
But now there has begun to emerge the first evidence that a democratic domino effect may be taking place. In a front page story on Jordan's response to the American victory in Iraq, the WaPo reports that
With the Iraq war now over...the Jordanian government is out to restore public support by taking tentative steps toward liberalization, including elections, after freezing political reform in recent years.
As home to millions of Palestinians who are (were?) no less sympathetic to Saddam Hussein than their brethern in the West Bank and Gaza, Jordan was one of the countries that most feared a potential backlash against the US invasion of Iraq. Thus, King Abdullah had no reason to depart from his prior strategy of ruthlessly crushing all opposition to his personal dictatorship.

Now, Abdullah can afford to shoulder some of the risks associated with liberalization. In late April, Abdullah's foriegn minister published an op-ed in the NYT calling on the Arab world to promote reform from within. Given Abdallah's record, I thought it best to denounce the op-ed as an act of monumental chutzpah.

But now it is apparent that the op-ed was part and parcel of a diplomatic offensive designed to persuade the United States that Jordan is following its lead on democracy promotion. Now, don't imagine for a second that Abdullah is willing to let the whims of the electorate determine whether he holds on to the throne or not. What he expects is that American officials -- especially less-than-enthusiastic democracy promoters such as Cheney and Rumsfeld -- will exter no pressure for reform so long as they can plausibly argue that Abdullah is doing more for the democratic cause than his counterparts in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

But that is exactly the wrong approach to take. The fact is that those who take the first steps toward reform on their own are most susceptible to pressure. I don't doubt for a second that realists will oppose this sort of strategy on the grounds that it punishes America's friends while ignoring more dangerous regimes. To be sure, pressuring allied states will entail short-run sacrifices. But in the long-term, there is no such thing as a pro-American dictatorship.

On the bright side, there shouldn't be much of an immediate need to pressure Abdullah, since he may go so far as to implement the same broad reforms that his father, King Hussein, did during the heyday of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in the early- to mid-1990s. At the same time, there is good reason to believe that Abdullah, like his father, will not go further for as long the conflict in the occupied territories goes on.

From the King's perspective, this is a sensible approach. For as long as the intifada rages, the Hashemites have much to fear from radical Palestinian sentiment. The millions of Palestinians in Jordan have not forgotten that its government had made its peace with the hated Israelis. In contrast to other Arab dictators, Abdullah is not entirely cynical when he says that the conflict with Israel is a serious stumbling block in the way of internal reform. As Abdullah told the BBC,
We will always have the fear of what instability will happen between the Israelis and Palestinians looking over our shoulder if we don't solve that problem," Abdullah said in a television interview with the BBC two weeks ago. "Therefore, democratic reforms, economic and social reforms in Jordan will never go the way we want until we solve that problem."
What all this means is that the Bush administration cannot afford to ignore the intimate connection between the Israeli-Palestinian peace process of democracy promotion throughout the Middle East.

Whether the President recognizes this connection or not is hard to tell. He told the United Nations last September that
The people of Iraq can shake off their captivity. They can one day join a democratic Afghanistan and a democratic Palestine, inspiring reforms throughout the Muslim world. These nations can show by their example that honest government, and respect for women, and the great Islamic tradition of learning can triumph in the Middle East and beyond.
But in his February speech on promoting demoracy in Iraq and Palestine, Bush argued that the road to Jeruslem runs through Baghdad -- without suggesting that success in Jerusalem might open the road to democracy elsewhere in the Middle East.

While critics tended to dismiss the argument the Baghdad-to-Jerusalem argument as a transparent justification for war, toppling Saddam Hussein has made it considerably easier for Jordan to become an active supporter of the peace process. If the President is truly committed to democracy promotion throughout the Middle East, he must take advantage of that newfound support -- in Jordan and elsewhere -- to resolve the most enduring the conflict in the Middle East.

It would be a fitting legacy for the 43rd President to become known not just as the greatest warrior in the Middle East, but also its greatest peacemaker.
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