Monday, May 19, 2003

# Posted 2:05 PM by Patrick Belton  

LETTER FROM DEARBORN: For the last several days, I've been avoiding my OxBlogging duties off in the burgeoning Arab and Muslim capital of the United States, the southwestern Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan. I came here to do interviews for a series of articles I've been commissioned to write, which may turn into a book about Dearborn and what it tells us about the future of the Arab and Islamic communities in the U.S. I've been reading this morning some of the media coverage of Dearborn, but all of it is simplistic, too broadly put, and frankly misses the real community, with its subtleties, its invigorating features, its complexities. It's generally the result of reporters jetting from out of town for an evening to collect an interview or two, then returning to write their pieces once they could drop some of the geographic referents, like Warren Street, to pretend they understood the place. But the real Dearborn doesn't appear in any of their pieces.

Quite simply, I fell in love with Dearborn. The largest concentration of Arabs or Muslims in the United States, it's a study in contrasts - in between miles upon miles of depopulated Detroit blocks now filled only with commercialized sex - Dearborn appears, a small thriving colony of Middle Eastern hustle, entrepreneurship, and colour. Where everything around them is bleak, they've created blocks upon blocks of Lebanese restaurants, social service organizations, Arabic newspapers, small businesses, the practices of Lebanese- and British-educated physicians, lawyers, and accountants. Its colour, its bustlingness, its creativity and entrepreneurship are hard to overstate.

While it's a commonplace to describe the Arab and Muslim communities in the U.S. as monolithic, this actually couldn't be farther from the case. Rifts are common and frequent, and continually being patched over or exploited by different would-be leaders seeking a panethnic or more particularist base. The factional difference between Sunni and Shi'a, however, is the smallest - at the Islamic Center of America, the nation's largest mosque, a Qom-trained Shi'a cleric named Imam Sayed Qazwini leads Friday services to a congregation that's principally Lebanese and Sunni; Shi'a cleric Imam Elahi preaaches to a congregation which is also principally Sunni, and so on. The real rifts are ethnic: the Lebanese date from the 1890s, when Henry Ford brought them to the U.S. as occupational migrants, to receive a mildly comfortable $5 a day to build the first Model Ts at Ford's Rouge plant in south Dearborn. They were principally Christian, but Muslims from neighboring villages followed soon after. The real immigration took place in waves; Palestinians after WWII, residents of the Bekaa Valley from 1975, and increasingly from 1982, and Shi'ites from Iraq after the failure of the Shi'a uprising. The social pecking order runs something like this: Lebanese from Beirut and Tripoli are at the top; then Lebanese from the Bekaa Valley; then Palestinians and the comparatively few Jordanians and Egyptians; afterwards, duking it out for last place, are the Iraqi Shi'a refugees, slightly edging out the rural Yemenis who continue to live in the poorest parts of town (which the Lebanese had inhabited on their arrival), and working in the lowest-skill jobs. A separate cleavage, at the level of leaders, runs like this: one group is principally concerned with the local and with securing greater political influence and meeting social needs of the community; in this category would go Ish Ahmed's social service organization ACCESS, former mayoral candidate Abed Hammoud and journalist Osama Siblani's Arab-American PAC, and a cluster of activity on the school board oriented toward building schools in the Arab neighborhoods which previous boards had entirely ignored. (Reflecting typical semitic patterns of social advancment in the US through education, 10 members of the class of 1998 from the Arab Fordson High School are graduating this year from medical school. Also, nearly all charitable monies raisd by the school district in past years have gone to fairly frivolous uses in the wealthiest, white public school, while Fordson and the other Arab schools have received nary a cent). Alongside the locally-oriented groups are the internationally-oriented commercial organizations, such as Ahmed Chebbani's American Arab Chamber of Commerce, which is quite active and creative in sponsoring trade opportunities with Lebanon and the Gulf. These people are attractive; they spin out ideas by the dozens, whether for international trade conferences (Bill Gates, King Abdullah, and King Fahd are all attending one this summer), or ethnic magazines, or business opportunities in Iraq - and they pursue all of them at once, and seemingly quite well. The third category is the mosque activity; they're not as interested in local issues (which they regard as small fish), but as regards politics are principally interested in foreign policy and Palestine (in the last respect unlike the traders, who are content to ignore Palestine until it has a stable government and rule of law propitious for doing business in). More on the last bit later.

Arab exclusion from city hall and the police force is rampant, and shocking. Mayor Guido won office in the 1980's running against "our Arab problem," and subsequently plays the race card in elections while spouting such gems as "if you want to help immigrants, teach them hygiene." He as a matter of unspoken policy does not hire Arabs into either municipal administration or into the police force (this in a city where clearly a quarter, perhaps much more, of the city is much more conversant in Arabic than in English, and where Arabic-speaking police officers would serve a public, not just communal good). He also takes no action to knit together the growing Arab and the declining Italian-American and other white ethnic communities. The inevitability, of course, is that within decades there will be an Arab mayor; and unprepared for this eventuality, the white community may follow Detroit's example with its black minority and flee the city to further removed white enclaves. White elected city officials, with the exception of several school board members with Arab spouses, tend to boast of their "good ties" to the Arab community, while complaining off the record of its growing influence within the city. There are no organizations - civic, religious, or otherwise - that bring together members of the rising and declining communities, with the result that unspoken suspicion and outspoken protests of support are generally from the white ethnic leaders the word of the day. The Arabs, on the other hand, feel marginalized by 9/11 - while whites brag about how well Dearborn weathered the terrorist attacks, the Arabs are quicker to remember the broken storefront windows, the threatening 2:00 a.m. telephone calls, and the highway graffiti insulting to the prophet.

There is a terrorism component to the story, of course, but it is not the only one - although it's sadly the only aspect of this complex story which receives national attention. This is a topic which, in order to deal with as responsibly and carefully as I can, I'll be holding off on for the most part until I address it in print. One interesting dynamic, though, is the incredible extent to which cognitive blinders and distrust of all government counterterror initiatives pervade both white and Arab Dearborn. Islamic charities linked openly to Hezbollah's spiritual leader, Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlullah, operate in the open; yet no one in Dearborn ever mentions the fact. Genuinely Islamophobic local politicians wish to avoid being labelled as such, and avoid the topic; and other quarters have no trust in domestic counterterror efforts, which they believe are all born of a scapegoating urge, and which they describe in the same breath as the awful racism and sickening attacks on Dearborn's Muslims which followed 9/11. The second point is that it is a very, very small number of people, housed quietly in a few mosque-based organizations, who are at all involved in it; the broader community, both Arab and white, is oblivious to its existence. The support in these quarters is for Hamas and Hezbollah, and perhaps to some extent smaller similar organizations like Islamic Jihad, but not to Al-Qa'eda. There is really no affinity of interest between any quarters of the local Islamic community and Al-Qa'eda; the Al-Qa'eda attacks occasioned a precipitous drop in Muslims' acceptance by their neighborhoods and in the fortunes of all of their broader political projects, such as doing away with profiling and securing greater political influence as a community; their interests are inimical.

The support for these groups, however, is a part of a complex larger story, and not the story itself. The broader story is what Dearborn portends for the future of the American Arab and Islamic communities, as the burgeoning capital of both. And I think the broader story is quite good. Compared with blight and poverty on all sides of them, the Arabs of Dearborn have made a thriving and prosperous middle eastern enclave, where they are weaving forth a spectrum of civil society organizations, international trade to enrich their region, and the inevitable desire to secure greater political influence for their community, shared by every other immigrant community in the nation's history. There are dark sides and complexities, shared by the Irish, the Kosovar Albanians, and every other immigrant group which has ever brought its own politics to the U.S. after leaving its own homeland as reluctant refugees, but the processes of reorienting to trade and normal ethnic politics are, I think, strongly advanced and promising. And driving down thirty miles of blighted Michigan Avenue massage parlors and hourly-rental hotels to see this thriving, bustling community, one might be forgiven for imagining the U.S. needs all the Arabs it can get.
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# Posted 12:55 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KARL MARX, ARCH-CAPITALIST: Haven't had your recommended daily allowance of irony? Then check this out. In 1864, Marx sent a letter to a friend in which he admitted that he had been
speculating -- partly in American funds, but more especially in English stocks, which are springing up like mushrooms this year...are forced up to quite an unreasonable level and then, for the most part, collapse. In this way, I have made over 400 pounds and, now that the complexity of the political situation affords greater scope, I shall begin all over again. It's the type of operation that makes small demands on one's time, and it's worth while running some risk in order to relieve the enemy of his money.
You know, if Marx had just written a book called "The Working Man's Guide to the Stock Market" everyone would've turned out rich and happy and we all could've avoided that whole unpleasant business with Lenin and Stalin.

(FYI I ran across this quotation in The Cash Nexus, the most recent book by Oxford historian Niall Ferguson, which I hope to review sometime this week. The quote is at the bottom of page 6 in the paperback edition.)
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# Posted 12:39 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AT THE STROKE OF MIDNIGHT, I marked the end of my 26th year on this humble planet we call Earth. However, I didn't actually notice the clock striking twelve, since digital clocks don't strike and since I was either on the phone or checking my e-mail at the time.

But, hey, I wasn't born until 8pm, so there's no reason to get all worked up at midnight. Anyhow, expect posts only during the day tomorrow so that I can go out and paint the town red at night.
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# Posted 12:17 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ONLY ON THE RADIO: In the cab headed back to Manhattan, I heard the following on the radio. 1010 WINS, actually. It isn't an exact quote, since it's from memory, but the point comes across:
After four recent suicide bombings in the Middle East, the Israeli army has decided to close down the West Bank in order to prevent further attacks.

And speaking of closing down, Les Mis will be ending its long, long, long, long, long run on Broadway, where it has grossed $400 millions dollars over the past 16 years.
Even Jayson Blair can't get away with that kind of free association.
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Sunday, May 18, 2003

# Posted 10:24 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GREETINGS FROM HEATHROW: So here I am at the airport, blogging from a stand-up e-mail terminal. I can't put in any links because you can only open one window at a time. OK, so I were really patient I could post some links. But that would still leave me with the challenge of using this bizarre metal keyboard that hurts to type on. Imagine trying to type on an ATM.

I should be able to post some stuff tonight (Eastern time) when I get back to NY. Yes, it's true, not a single OxBlogger will remain in Britain, at least for the next couple of weeks. Don't tell Howell Raines.
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Saturday, May 17, 2003

# Posted 9:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNTOUCHABLE: The WaPo reports that the Dems can't touch Bush on national security despite the fact that no WMD has been found. Even Nancy Pelosi
did not seem concerned about whether any are found. "I am sort of agnostic on it; that is to say, maybe they are there," Pelosi said. "I salute the president for the goal of removing weapons of mass destruction."
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# Posted 11:07 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE OTHER WOODROW: Russell Fox adds some historical context to my interpretation of Woodrow Wilson.
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# Posted 12:16 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EXPORTING TERROR: If you can a get a hold of this week's TNR, don't miss Michael Levi's article on why stopping North Korean plutonium is just about impossible.
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Friday, May 16, 2003

# Posted 11:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

...AND THE BAD NEWS: Even though Gen. Petraeus is standing tall in Mosul, Donald Rumsfeld still doesn't seem to understand the importance of making a long-term commitment to restoring order and promoting democracy in Iraq. And according to TNR, the real problem may not be the looting and rampant street crime of the past few weeks, but the fact that Iraq's political factions have begun to arm themselves for a civil war. May I remind the SecDef that hell hath no fury like an idealist scorned?

UPDATE: The always-optimistic Kos isn't concerned about a civil war in Iraq since Steve is pretty damn sure that everyone with a gun will join together to fight the Americans.

UPDATE: Phil Carter has some sharp words for Rumsfeld.
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# Posted 9:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CHARGING TANKS WITH CAVALRY: That's what the Poles used to do, circa 1939. (Actually, I've heard it's a myth, but a popular one.) Now Poland has elite special forces who can kick ass with the best of them.
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# Posted 8:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE LOOTING: In France. It's the United States' fault, of course -- they let the French hold elections 60 years too early. (Via Best of the Web)
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# Posted 7:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DID I MISS SOMETHING? Greg Myre from the NYT reports on what it was like to ride into combat in Gaza inside an Israeli armored personnel carrier. The Israeli lieutentant colonel in charge of the attack comes off as thoughtful and humane. To balance out his perspective, Myre provides criticism from some local Palestinians. In fact, this coverage is so balanced I'm beginning to wonder if it's intentionally pro-Israeli. So, my compliments to the NYT for a job well done.
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# Posted 7:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE 'BIG MAN CONCEPT': Following yesterday's praise-laden account in the Chicago Tribune, the WaPo now has its own paean to Gen. David Petraeus. As this example shows, it important to remember that the media's herd mentality governs its praise of the government as well as its criticism.

In other Big Man news, American forces have stepped up their arrests of both suspected Ba'ath loyalists and common criminals turned out of jail by Saddam Hussein in the months leading up to the war. In addition, the 1st Armored Division has arrived in central Iraq, adding 16,500 men and thousands of vehicles to the occupation force.

With that kind of force on the ground, it may be easier to enforce Jerry Bremer's recent order banning the top four echelons of Ba'ath officials -- an estimated 15,000-30,000 individuals -- from participating in the new government. As such, the WSJ is right to praise Ambassador Bremer for reversing Gen. Garner's hesitant de-Ba'athification policy. Let's hope this kind of success continues.
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# Posted 6:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SELF-LOVE: It's important to take articles like this one with a grain of salt. Now, the NYT is probably right that the Bush communications staff is among the best ever. But that doesn't mean that slick production values make the President's message any more persuasive.

Consider the last sentence of the article in question:
Or as Mr. Deaver said he learned long ago with Mr. Reagan: "They understand that what's around the head is just as important as the head."
This is a message that the media has been broadcasting ever since Reagan first took office -- that Reagan was a fool who compensated for his lack of insight with his good looks, charm and poll-tested rhetoric. Or, stated more generally, that the medium is the message, that image is more important than substance.

But it just isn't true. As the historian Michael Schudson has argued rather persuasively, Reagan earned his reputation as The Great Communicator as a result of hard fought legislative victories, ones which relied to only a limited degree on his telegenic presence. As the media saw it, however, his telegenic presence was responsible for his success.

Moreover, the media was somewhat alone in its perception of Reagan as more beloved than his predecessors. Whereas as polling data demonstrates that Reagan was one of the most divisive presidents of the 20th century, the Reagan-era media systematicallly misrepresented such data in a manner that portrayed the President as a charismatic unifier who transcended partisan politics.

Now, it is true that Reagan's media staff was better than any of those that came before it, with the possible exceptions the JFK and FDR operations. But it was Reagan's conservative ideology that made him so attractive to so many voters -- and so repulsive to so many others.

How, then, did the media get its story so wrong? Perhaps the most important reason is that the media constantly overestimates its own influence. Especially since Vietnam and Watergate, the media has cultivated an enduring belief in itself as the ultimate arbiter of national politics. Thus, when Reagan's communications staff began to outperform the media, journalists drew the "natural" conclusion, that Reagan's communication staff had taken over its role as judge, jury and executioner.

It is also important to consider the elitist ideology that has become so pervasive in the American media. As scholars such as Stephen Hess and Herbert Gans have consistently shown, journalists consider themselves to be the only citizens who are well-enough informed to recognize that political rhetoric is just a facade for ulterior motives. In contrast, the man in the street is nothing more than a potential victim of the spin doctors.

In fact, most Americans are not all that susceptible to manipulation. Most individuals possess fairly stable political preferences that lead to support one party or the other. And even those in the center are capable of judging whether this or that candidate will support the sort of programs that a given independent voter prefer. And regardless of what party they support, most voters believe that politicians are liars.

The media can still play a decisive role, however, especially in close-run elections or congressional votes. It is precisely because a 1-2% in voter preferences can decide the fate of an election or a legislative program that politicians invest so much in their communication staffs.

From a partisan perspective, this revisionist view of the media's role in politics has quite interesting implications, especially with regard to Reagan. Whereas Republicans tend to cherish Reagan's reputation for being a popular president and a Great Communicator, there isn't much evidence to back up such claims. On the other hand, Democrats don't have much of a leg to stand when it comes to their standard argument that Reagan's success was a product of wholesale deception (even if that was the M.O. of prominent officials such as Bill Casey and John Poindexter).

Whereas Republicans often become defensive when Reagan's intelligence is attacked, they should remember that Reagan's ideas were the foundation of his success -- even if he was no rocket scientist. On the other hand, Democrats tend to get defensive when confronted by the fact that such a profoundly conservative President was more popular than almost any other. But he wasn't.

More or less, the same arguments that apply to Reagan also apply to George W. Bush. His success rests more on substance than image, even if that same substance often antagonizes voters as well. The administration hasn't exactly shied away from deception, but such practices are not critical to its success.

Especially for bloggers, it is important to recognize that the media is not the ultimate arbiter of American politics. Since we spend so much of our time criticizing the media, we often start to buy in to its delusions of grandeur. Which isn't to say that we shouldn't invest so much effort in deconstructng the New York Times. On specific issues, media coverage does often have a decisive effect.

But in the broader scheme of things, ideas are what matter most. So let's argue about ideas.

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# Posted 4:59 AM by Dan  

IMAGE IS EVERYTHING. The administration is good. Really good.
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Thursday, May 15, 2003

# Posted 11:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OCCUPATION DONE RIGHT: How one American general has restored order and laid the foundation for democratic governance in Mosul.
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# Posted 11:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CHICAGO BOYS: Dan Drezner rounds up the Straussian neo-con debate in this post and this column.
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# Posted 10:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE MEDIA SHENANIGANS: CalPundit reports that the documents showing that George Galloway was being paid off by Saddam may have been forged.

But the media operation that comes in for much harsher criticism is the Pentagon, which may have fabricated essential facts about the rescue of Jessica Lynch. I'm not so sure what's going to come of this story, though, since almost all of the information in the Guardian is based on Iraqi eyewitness accounts.

For the moment, the Pentagon is refusing to release the unedited videotaping of Lynch's rescue. I guess the word is "Developing..."

UPDATE: JAT writes in to say that
Be careful reading that Mirror story about George Galloway to which Calpundit links. It's a little unclear (intentionally so, it seems), but the allegedly forged documents are not the ones that the Daily Telegraph found. Rather, the Daily Mail reported on other, probably forged, documents implicating George Galloway being offered for sale in Baghdad by a former Republican Guard general.

Mr. Galloway claims that the existence of these other forged documents is evidence that the original documents were also forged. The Mirror story is rather carefully written to make, on a hasty reading, it seem like the actual Daily Telegraph documents were shown to be forgeries.

There are a whole host of explanations for why one set could be real and another fake. In any case, you should follow the link in the article and read for yourself.
Point taken.
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# Posted 9:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TAKING CHARGE: Jerry Bremer wants people to know that there is a new sheriff in town. While Baghdad might bear a striking resemblance to the Wild Wild West, I still don't think that gunning down looters is a particularly good idea.

With considerable justification, Bob Herbert is up in arms about this new idea. (In fact, he seems to be so angry that the NYT has taken down his nice smiley photograph and replaced it with an angry and menacing one.) On the bright side, Herbert reports that the Army is already backing away from Bremer's idea.

While Herbert thinks that the shoot-on-sight proposal is just one more reason that the UN should be in charge of the occupation rather than the United States, the armed forces' immediate resistance to the proposal suggests that American authorities are fairly well able to separate the good ideas from the bad.

Moreover, Herbert ought to realize that the administration has now faced four weeks worth of intense criticism for its failure to be forceful enough in its efforts to restore order in Iraq. While Bremer's proposal was an overreaction, it's not hard to understand where it was coming from.

Even so, in the final analysis, the Administration cannot blame the media for its own shortcomings. If the President want to get things right in Iraq, the first principle of the occupation has to be "The Buck Stops Here".

UPDATE: Rumsfeld denies that any shoot-on-sight order is in the works.
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# Posted 8:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PREEMPTIVE CORRECTION: I put up the following post about an hour ago. Since then, four readers have already let me know that I made a very big mistake by assuming that Maureen Dowd quoted the President accurately. My compliments to Andrew Sullivan for exposing Dowd's dishonesty.

Yes, dishonesty. This time, she has really crossed the line from spin into fabrication. An apology is in order.

Anyhow, I hope you'll still read this post, since everything after the first paragraph defends the President from Dowd's false charges.

SAUDI EXPLOSION: In a surprisingly coherent column, Maureen Dowd takes the Administration to task for its arrogant dismissal of Al Qaeda's threat. While the President has been rather good about avoiding triumphalism, he should have known better than to say that
"That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated. . . . They're not a problem anymore."
When you put things in such blunt terms, one major incident -- such as the Riyadh attacks -- can leave you looking like a fool. But when it comes to drawing broader lessons from the attacks, Dowd gets things completely wrong. She argues that
Buried in the rubble of Riyadh are some of the Bush administration's basic assumptions: that Al Qaeda was finished, that invading Iraq would bring regional stability and that a show of American superpower against Saddam would cow terrorists.
You'd think Dowd would've learned something from Bush about drawing premature conclusions. Apparently not.

Sad as the recent attacks were, they may actually indicate just how successful the war against Al Qaeda has been. If Al Qaeda is targeting Saudi Arabia, that means that it has begun to turn against a regime whose charade of ignorance was critical to Al Qaeda's global expansion. What that means is either that Bin Laden no longer has the ability to launch attacks outside the Gulf region or that he no longer expects the House of Saud to protect him or both.

As for regional stability, Dowd's criticism is rather short-sighted. Events in Jordan and Syria have begun to show that the fall of Saddam is steering things in the right direction.

Much more importatnly, the administration has argued that the fall of Saddam would begin a process of stabilization in the Middle East -- rather than marking its culmination, as Dowd implies. Moreover, if one takes the neo-conservatives at their word, this process of stabilization will entail direct confrontations with those dictatorships whose willing negligence was responsible for the rise of Al Qaeda.

In fact, the embarrassing failure of the Saudi government to provide extra security for Western residential compounds reinforces the neo-conservative argument that the United States cannot win the war on terrorism if it avoids confronting those who pretend to be its allies. As even some Saudis have begun to argue, nothing short of massive internal reforms can prevent Saudi Arabia from raising another generation of terrorists.

Now, one can argue that the neo-con stabilization project is nothing more than an ideological crusade that will bring chaos and destruction to the Middle East. However, the alternative to such a project is not to bury one's head in the Arabian sand, but rather to advocate an aggressive diplomatic effort to improve our 'allies' anti-terrorism efforts.

Finally, we come to Dowd's assertion that the invasion of Iraq has failed to intimidate existing terrorists. Frankly, I don't think anyone expected the invasion to provide Al Qaeda fanatics with a newfound measure of sanity. The much more important question is whether the invasion provoked an anti-American, pro-terrorist backlash or whether it has led potential Al Qaeda recruits to conlude that there are better ways of confronting American power.

So, what I'd like to know is who were the man responsible for this week's attacks in Riyadh? Hardened operatives or fresh recruits? Given the Saudi habit of covering Al Qaeda's tracks, we may never know.
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# Posted 8:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REPLACING BLAIR: Maybe the NYT should hire Joel Elliot. And if you have any questions left about Blair, Mickey Kaus probably has the answer. If you want an outright attack on Howell Raines, then Andrew Sullivan is your man.
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Wednesday, May 14, 2003

# Posted 11:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ALIVE AND KICKING: Now in his 80s, George McGovern still has the wherewithal to defend himself from the charge that his dovishness destroyed the Democratic's party credibility as the guardians of American national security. McGovern explains that he was never afraid to use force in defense of the national interest.

Nor was McGovern ever an isolationist. Rather, the United States was
never more isolated from the international community than when our troops were deepest in the Vietnam jungle. A close second in isolating us from the international community was the invasion of Iraq, a largely defenseless little desert state that posed no threat to us and had taken no action against us.
For good measure, McGovern adds that
We don't measure a nation's internationalism by the number of troops it sends to other countries. By that test, Adolf Hitler would be the greatest internationalist of the 20th century.
And to think that the Democratic party doesn't want to associate itself with this man...

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# Posted 10:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUT DIDN'T YOU JUST SAY...The WaPo has an intersting article on crime and law enforcement in postwar Iraq. But there are some telling contradictions in the article which demonstrate how the media often portrays the occupation as being much worse than it actually is.

For example, consider the following items:
[Sauzen Khazi] runs a currency exchange shop and is poised to flee in that direction.

The shop didn't require armed guards in the past, when Saddam's government swiftly caught and punished thieves.
[In] the city soccer stadium, the 18th Military Police Brigade is recruiting former Iraqi policemen, but only those who worked at the lowest level. Many officers can't be trusted and are despised by the public. They were corrupt and enforced the law mainly through terror.
So which is it? Did the Ba'ath government catch and punish thieves, or were its police officers corrupt and brutal?

Driven by expectations of failure, the media uncritically assumes that everything that goes wrong now was not going wrong while Saddam was in power. But what I suspect is this: With the world so focused on the most brutal and horrific crimes of the Ba'athist dicatorship, no one paid much attentions to the lesser frustrations of life in a totalitarian state such as rampant crime and a total lack of law enforcement.

This isn't to say that everything that has gone wrong is Saddam's fault. It seems clear that the provision of electricity, clean water, and waste removal services were in much better shape before the war. But restoring such services is mostly a technical challenge, not an institutional one such as hiring honest and competent judges and law enforcement officials. The US should have invested much more in planning for the occupation, but some things are just beyond its control.
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# Posted 10:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RECONSTRUCTION WATCH: The United Nations is about to recognize the United States' preeminent role in the adminstration of postwar Iraq. Why? The WaPo suggests that the Security Council wants to avoid another public confrontation with the US. I'd guess that reports of chaos in Baghdad have persuaded the French, Russians and Chinese that they want nothing to do with the occupation.

As time goes by, I'm becoming more and more convinced that American planning for the occupation was lackluster at best. In constrast, SCIRI seems to have planned out almost every detail of its rise to power. Now, I don't think there's much chance that it will get all that far. But its preparations demonstrate how much the United States might have accomplished if it had combined its resources with that sort of effort.

[UPDATE: Larry Kaplan has evidence that the US may have a quiet plan to prevent Shi'ite dominance in Iraq.]

There are a couple of bright spots, though. The United States forced the new director of Iraq's Health Ministry to resign after he refused to disavow the Ba'ath (which the United States recently abolished). Also, in one of the first interviews he has given since the war's end, Paul Wolfowitz indicated that the US cannot accomplish its objectives if it does not make a long-term commitment to the rebuilding of Iraq.

So it looks like we're going to have to fight this one out in the bureaucratic trenches. Which means I should probably working on OxDem stuff instead of blogging...
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# Posted 5:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OVERSIMPLIFIED: While Patrick is getting busy at his motel, Rachel has been thinking about American foreign policy. She writes that
I just read through your Monday post--you may want to hedge a bit more before going on at such length about an unread book! Having read Mead a few months ago, I can tell you that his commentators, and thus you, have way oversimplified his ideas. In fact, he largely agrees with your points. His four "types" are NOT the classic IR types--they are much more socially rooted in the American psyche and history, and are much more complex. They also all have good and bad characteristics that he is quick to point out. Jacksonianism is thus not "bad", it is associated with various traits which have various effects on our national policy. His end assertion is that America is lucky to have all four traditions, because they are all needed to balance us from going too far in any one direction.

Wilsonianism, for instance, is equated with a U.S. based mission--from the missionaries, to wars for democracy--basically, it is about a great power linking its destiny to the spread of an ideology. He ties Wilsonianism to the democratic peace thesis and thus the need to spread democracy, AS WELL AS the desire to generally prevent war. In many ways, Bush would very much fall under Mead's Wilsonianism--particularly due to the religious motivation that inspires much of his worldview.

Jackson, on the other hand, is not seen as a bloodthirsty hick. Rather, Jacksonians are seen as motivated primarily by honor, and as having a much stronger "honor" gauge in international relations--as opposed to Hamiltonian's "interest" gauge or Wilsonians "democratic" or "human rights" triggers. Jacksonians do want to fight affronts to their honor--that was why Mead was worried about an unthought response to Sept. 11. sometimes, fighting for honor is a very good thing--you and I have enough Kagan to know that! He also sees Jacksonians as believing wars should be fought to the point of victory--not to the point of interest, or to the point of intruding upon civilian rights. Jacksons are also often isolationists in his mind. Basically, they have a code that highly respects honor, and sees different sets of rules as applicable to people within the community (America, allies) and outside (enemies).
Point taken. Time to read the book, eh?
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# Posted 1:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ROUGH CHILDHOOD: Earlier today, I mentioned an article from the April 1978 issue of Foreign Affairs. While looking over the table of contents, I happened to notice that there was an article entitled Technology and the Military Balance by Col. Richard Head.

Presuming this is not a hoax, I would like to extend my sympathy to the Colonel for the rough childhood he most assuredly had to endure.

UPDATE: Foreign policy professional BD reports that
I can attest to the fact that Colonel (General, when I met him) Richard Head exists. I met him at a Superbowl party on a military base in Vicenza, Italy sometime in the mid-eighties (the Redskins were in it, that's all I remember), and he introduced himself and then told everyone, "please, please call me Dick!" I swear this is true.
I wonder what his wife calls him?

UPDATE: While you might not guess it from a post about a man named Richard Head, this is a family blog. But it is. In fact, BD's mother has written to say that
"I knew Gen. Richard Head when he was the Commanding General of 5 ATAF, an Air Force Group in Vicenza, Italy in th 80's. He really exists."
Sadly, it also seems that condolences to Gen. Head for the loss of his wife are in order. As such, I feel like a pretty big heel, given the question at the end of the last update. You know, I once had a girl friend who warned me about making fun of people's names. I guess I should've listened to her.
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# Posted 1:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THEY NEVER LEARN: Walking around Oxford today, I noticed the sudden appearance of posters emblazoned with the a demand to "End the Occupation of Iraq". On the one hand, it's nice to see that the Left's return to anti-globalization activism hasn't led them to forget entirely about the people of Iraq.

On the other hand, when I took a closer look at the poster, I discovered that OSSTW (Oxford Students Stop the War) had invited quite an interesting speaker to address them this Friday (May 16th). That speaker is none other than George Galloway.

Yes, that George Galloway. The MP who was kicked out of the Labour Party for being on Saddam Hussein's payroll.

Now, as Josh has pointed out Galloway is probably not guilty of treason. But if the anti-war movement wants to show concern for the people of Iraq, it might consider having its next speaker be an actual opponent of the Ba'athist dictatorship.

UPDATE: The Oxford Town Hall has refused to let it's room be used for Galloway's talk.

CORRECTION: Josh Cherniss points out that New Labour sent Galloway packing for his incitement of other Arab nations to defend Saddam from the US and the UK.
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# Posted 9:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BY POPULAR DEMAND: A while back, Josh posted a comprehensive list of critical texts in political philosophy. Lately, I've been getting a lot of reader requests for a similar list of texts about international. Expect to see it posted in the next couple of weeks.
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# Posted 7:17 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION: We all become so indignant when we hear that Libya and assorted other dictatorships have become members of the United Nations' Commission on Human Rights. But isn't it time to recognize that this sort of thing has been going on for thirty years and that the surprise is wearing thin?

While doing some research from my dissertation, I came across the following article in the April 1978 issue of Foreign Affairs. Its title is "Human Rights and Economic Power: The United States Versus Idi Amin." The author is Richard Ullman, a well-known liberal academic. Ullman writes that
In any contemporary lexicon of horror, Uganda is synonymous with state-become-slaughterhouse. The most conservative estimates by informed observers hold that President Idi Amin Dada and the terror squads operating under his loose direction have killed 100,000 Ugandans in the seven years he has held power. Some estimates run as high as 300,000...

The scale of official murder in Uganda, its ferocious brutality, and its terrible capriciousness all place Idi Amin's Uganda in category of its own in which the nearest analogues may be Hilter's Germany or Stalin's Russia...

Thus far, however, Uganda has escaped the kind of censure exemplified by the U.N. Security Council's vote last November to impose a mandatory arms embargo on South Africa...Previously, in March 1977, the U.N. Human Rights Commission -- on which Uganda sits -- shelved a proposal that it should conduct an investigation into Ugandan conditions.
The practical purpose of Ullman's article is to argue for sanctions against Uganda. But he also considers other options:
If the [US] Congress wants to bring down Idi Amin, it might be asked, why not use force to do it? The answer, of course, is that Congress does not wish to expend American lives in order to save Ugandans...

International consciousness of a shared humanity may some day reach a point where supranational authorities or states acting at their command will maintain stirke forces -- larger versions of the Israeli force that landed at Entebbe or the German force at Mogadishu, each to rescue its own nationals -- for use against regimes that brutalize their own citizens. But that day is nowhere in sight. Until it comes, today's prevailing general proscription agains the use of military force is best preserved intact. It is a proscription which, by consensus, applies especially to the two superpowers. Although each has flagrantly violated it, it ramians a bulwark of a "moderate" international order."
Plus ca change, eh? For as long as the United Nations accepts sovereignty as an absolute principle, this is what we can expect.
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Tuesday, May 13, 2003

# Posted 10:59 AM by Patrick Belton  

GOIN' UP TO MOTOWN, GETTIN' ME A MOTEL ... and interviewin' some of the religious descendants of the Prophet MOhammed for the next few days, for my article on Islam in America. But I may not have a MOdem while I'm there, so one MO' OxBlogger thus goes temporarily on hiatus.
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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 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.


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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