OxBlog

Sunday, May 25, 2003

# Posted 12:09 PM by Patrick Belton  

BIRTHDAY THOUGHTS: So it's really hard to think of a more perfect birthday than being able to spend it with my new bride and two of my closest friends in the world. So thank you, Rachel, David, Mel, very much.

Birthdays are egalitarian holidays, thus very low-stress. To celebrate, by contrast, a graduation or wedding, one needs to do something - even celebrating Christmas requires, perhaps somewhat technically, at least getting religion - but birthdays come to one and all, and in a wonderfully individuated manner, too. We're told they date, in shamanistic cultures, to fears that evil spirits presented greater dangers to people experiencing changes in their daily life, such as ageing by a year; by surrounding the person with laughter and joy, a person's family and friends would thus protect them from this evil. In less shamanistic and more medieval Western cultures, it was a perquisite of the aristocracy; hence birthday "crowns," in our more democratic age. Irish children (and others) receive "birthday bumps" on the floor while suspended upside down (Israelis get to do it seated, and right side up), Russians receive birthday pies, Argentines get their earlobes pulled (again, once for each year). Birthday cards are a Victorian invention, while the "happy birthday to you" song dates to two American sisters in 1893. The Scandinavians have a number of tender traditions, such as a Norwegian student's dancing in front of a class with a friend on his or her birthday, or a Dane being greeted by presents surrounding his or her bed; Swedes, by contrast, are more likely to get breakfast in bed; all three are wont to fly their national flag on birthdays.

None of this is to give my friends any ideas. I'm just happy to be able to share today with them.
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Saturday, May 24, 2003

# Posted 8:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HATE MAIL: I have written about controversial subjects such as homosexuality, Donald Rumsfeld, and professional wrestling. I have denounced my enemies and lavished praise on my friends. And yet, until now, I have not received hate mail. But then I chose to mock the virtues of the Macintosh. And so the vitriol began to pour forth.

Rather than respond to the charges levelled against me by Dr. BL, I shall simply reprint the accusations verbatim and let you, gentle reader, decide on their merits. The good doctor writes:
Mr. Adesnik,

I am outraged by your characterization of Macintosh computers as suitable merely for a "short term relationship." A mac given to me as a bar mitzvah present lasted seven years, well into my junior year of college. This longevity is scarcely seen among the shabby Windows-based machines.

Moreover, your statement that "it's the inside that matters most" implies that there's something empty about the processing power and interface of the mac. Instead of countering these puny charges, let me just say that
these allegations of inferior innards recall those of the phrenologists and racial purists in one of the darkest eras of modern history.

This brings me to an important point: mac usership has historically been relegated to small segments of society (at times as small as 3%), but this usership tends to occupy the highest positions in the worlds of education,
media, and the arts. Yes, macs are the Jews of the computer hardware world. Broadsides against macs may be considered to be anti-Semitic "in effect, if not intent."

Of all of the questionable actions committed on your blog-- including the callous derision of Col. Richard Head and taking bets on the start of the Iraqi war-- this is most offensive posting to date.
Please note that the author of this letter is a Zionist communist homosexual.

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# Posted 8:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CONFUSION: The Economist [subscription required] doesn't pulls it punches. It harshly condemns the USA for doing nothing to end the chaos in Iraq.

Even worse, The Economist thinks Paul Bremer's zeal for de-Ba'athification is distracting him from issues that really matter. In the meantime, Shi'ite clerics are doing a surprisingly effective job of restoring basic services, thus undermining American credibility and positioning themselves as kingmakers.

As is often the case, it's hard to know what to make of The Economist's coverage, since its news coverage is often argumentative in style. As I've pointed out before, the coverage of postwar Iraq in other publications is often contradictory.

On the one hand, I tend to have considerable faith in The Economist. On the other hand, its stories on the occupation don't even seem to acknowledge that American officials have done anything other than while away their time in Saddam's abandoned palaces. For example, its article on the overplayed the extent of both the thefts and of US responsibility.

Well, I guess I won't really have any answers for you until I make my way over to Iraq. Oh well.


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# Posted 6:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STORE BLOGGING: Thanks to Rachel & Patrick, I started my day with one of the best breakfasts I've had in years. It then took us another five-and-a half hours to digest and make our way off of the couch and out of the house.

So here I am in the Apple Computer store, blogging on a lovely 17" screen. Whatever your stance on the great Mac-Windows debate, you have to admit that Mac's designs are aesthetically brilliant. Even the store itself is designed in a way that makes you feel comfortable.

But I guess you have to approach computers the way you approach signicant others: However nice they are on the outside, it's the inside that matters most. On the other hand, if you're only interested in a short-term relationship, go for the Mac.
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# Posted 7:58 AM by Dan  

BILL ON BILL. If you have the time, be sure to check out this video of President Clinton's appearance at a University of Arkansas, Little Rock class about the Clinton Presidency. He speaks pretty cadidly about his life in public office dating back to the Gubernatorial days, telling some great stories along the way. It is either thoroughly enjoyable or extremely infuriating to watch him defend himself and his record, depending on your opinion of the man. Enjoy!
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# Posted 1:34 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JOINT BLOGGING: No, this post has nothing to do with the new medical marijuana law in Maryland. It's about David & Patrick's reunion right here in Arlington, VA.

Of course, it isn't just ours. It's been nine months since I have seen the lovely Rachel, whom I last saw as a blushing bride in August. And it's been even longer since I've seen 1st Lt. MT, who is back stateside after a tour of duty in Iraq.

Last year at Oxford, we were an inseparable cabal, defending our table in McDonalds from all comers. Mainly, we had to fight off the overeager guy in charge of cleaning the floor, who decided after watching us for hours on end that we would have to get up so that he could clean our turf.

After a barbecue dinner at Red, Hot and Blue, the four of us settled in for a viewing of Eminem's critically-acclaimed performance in 8 Mile. I'd actually started watching the movie on the plane back from England, but didn't have time to finish it before we landed at Newark Int'l.

I was impressed, especially by Eminem, perhaps because of my low expectations. Everyone else admitted that they'd wanted to see 8 Mile but had been embarrassed to rent it alone. In hindsight, the embarrassment may have been justified. On a five-star scale, 8 Mile got the following:

Rachel: 1 Star.
Patrick: 2.5 Stars.
MT: 1 Star.
David: 3 Stars.

So why'd I like it so much? Because it avoided the sermonizing from a movie whose apparent purpose is to make Eminem look like an nice guy and a decent human being. The essential message is that words are better than fists.

But it says that by telling a story rather than by just saying it outright. To back it up, Eminem plays against type by not being a total a**hole. He was actually quite persuasive as a humble, reflective, aspiring rapper.

The movie also does an impressive job of persuading its audience that a white guy who lives with his mom in a trailer could win the respect of an inner-city audience. Frankly, I have no idea what anyone black thinks of Eminem. But within the fictional Detroit of 8 Mile, Eminem's success feels authentic.

The main shortcoming of the film is that is becomes an implicit glorification of Eminem. Not knowing anything about Mr. Mathers, you might think he is really as nice of a guy as his alter ego "B. Rabbit." Rabbit even makes a conspicuous effort to befriend a gay co-worker, as if to repent for his previous Santorum-like remarks.

If you have a night at home with not much else on the agenda, give 8 Mile a try. Peace out, yo!




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Friday, May 23, 2003

# Posted 1:37 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD MEN: In the Washington Monthly, Phil Carter (creator of the magnificent Intel Dump) launches a blistering attack on the naivete of Donald Rumsfeld's insistence that we can rebuild Iraq without committing American soldiers for the long-haul.

What makes Carter's argument so compelling is that he grounds it in hard-nosed military terms while leaving aside any ideological considerations. Looks like Phil hasn't forgotten what he learned in his Officer Basic Course. We all owe him one for that.

(Link via Josh Marshall)
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# Posted 1:09 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE POLLS: Kos notes that Santorum's negative numbers are rising because of his homophobic remarks, even though his positives have held their ground.

Meanwhile, Bush's wartime popularity is slowly giving way to a less exceptional state of affiars. Kos things the President's ratings will continue to fall because of the economic downturn. But the real question is, will they fall below where they were before the Iraq debate? I doubt it.
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# Posted 12:51 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IN MEMORIAM: Dr. BL (Congratulations!) has made me aware of the sad fact that Elizabeth Hulette, aka the WWF's "Miss Elizabeth" passed away just a few weeks ago.

We wish her family the best in this hard time and thank Ms. Hulette for the humor and grace she brought to squared circle.
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# Posted 12:44 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IGNORANCE AND POWER: Kevin Drum provides a different answer to the question I asked yesterday:
"But if Americans are so ignorant, how did the United States manage to become the wealthiest and most powerful nation on Earth?"

Come on. It's because we're bigger, that's all. If Switzerland had 290 million people and we had 7 million, the roles would be exactly reversed and they would be the wealthiest and most powerful nation on Earth.

I happen to agree with you that overall America has done pretty well, but I really don't think you can attribute our global success to our unique culture.
My question for Kevin is this: How exactly did we get so big, 290 million and all? It seems that talented immigrants from all across the world have chosen America as their home.

Whereas being Japanese or French or Saudi Arabian is about blood, being American is about believing in certain principles. That is the case precisely because we are a land of immigrants, founded by immigrants.

This aggressively pluralist democratic tradition has been responsible for such foreign policy innovations as the Fourteen Points, the League of Nations, the United Nations, and the Marshall Plan. While giving due credit to British influences on American thought, it is pretty fair to say that no other nation could have come up with such ideas.

Taking a longer view of history, one recognzies that America is the only dominant power ever to befriend the other leading states of its day rather than inciting them to form an anti-hegemonic coalition. Why? Because democratic nations recognize that the United States is not a threat to their existence.

For a more academic approach to the question of American exceptionalism, I strongly recommend Aaron Friedberg's "In the Shadow of the Garrison State", which shows how America's unique anti-statist culture preventing the Truman and Eisenhower administrating from militarizing American society in the opening decade of the Cold War. [See my review on the Amazon page for Friedberg's book.]

In some ways, the exceptionalist argument is offensive because it implies that America is morally superior to other nations. But that is not a position I want to defend. I fully recognize that United States foreign policy has often been the agent of wanton and immoral destruction. In contrast, the foreign policies of Denmark or Belgium have not (at least not recently).

What I am arguing is that American culture is responsible for a number of specific innovations that have amplified American power while benefitting other democratic states as well. While none of this would have been possible if not for favorable geographic conditions, it also would not have been possible without America's singular political culture.

Forgive me for waxing a bit patriotic. But if you can look past that, I think you just might be persuaded.
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Thursday, May 22, 2003

# Posted 7:21 PM by Patrick Belton  

A PRINCELY AGE: A man in Rajasthan, it emerges, has been collecting a pension for 65 years. This is not, it turns out, an instance of fraud in the princely state - instead, he's somewhere between 125 (bank records) and 132 (his own recollection) years old.

If he's lonely, there's a 125-year old gal in Mali he might be interested in meeting.....
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# Posted 4:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANTI-CORPORATE CONSERVATISM: Bill Safire has an interesting column up in which he attacks big media executives for their under-the-table efforts to do away with the FCC's anti-monopoly regulations.

The specific issue Safire addresses is a proposal to the lift the ban that prevents corporations from owning both newspapers and television channels in the same local market. But more imporant than the details of this rather complicated issues is the logic Safire relies on to reinforce his position. He writes that
The overwhelming amount of news and entertainment comes via broadcast and print. Putting those outlets in fewer and bigger hands profits the few at the cost of the many.

Does that sound un-conservative? Not to me. The concentration of power — political, corporate, media, cultural — should be anathema to conservatives. The diffusion of power through local control, thereby encouraging individual participation, is the essence of federalism and the greatest expression of democracy.
Exactly. As a centrist, that is the kind of conservatism that I like because it is pro-market rather than pro-business. While I haven't followed the issue as closely as I should have, I constantly get the sense that this Administration sees the government as an ally of specific firms rather than the protector of the marketplace.

As I see it, this approach runs counter to the small government philsophy that conservatives are so fond of promoting. From where I stand, the most effective and fair way to limit the size of government is to ensure that citizens are equals in the marketplace. In contrast, if the government take sides, the struggle for political influence will turn the capital into a corporate battleground.

While I am not 100% behind Safire's approach to the FCC, I do hope that his brand of conservatism is one that Republicans will began to embrace more openly.





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# Posted 4:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IT'S OURS. NOW WHAT? The Security Council has voted 14-0 to lift UN sanctions on Iraq and recognize the role of the US and the UK as occupation authorities.

Critics of the UN should note that the French, Germans and Russians were surprisingly supportive of the new resolution despite the fact that the US showed very little interest in compromise. Some might argue that this newfound spirit of cooperation has vindicated the Administration's tough approach to negotations. After all, there is no question that the French, Germans and Russians don't have the stomach for another knock-down drag-out fight.

But American belligerence is only half the story. Its critics on the Council seem to recognize that the content of its new resolution pales in importance compared to the presence on the ground of American and British combat forces. Why fight for favorable language if it won't make a difference in the end?

The better strategy is to give the US and UK the control they want, thus forcing them to accept responsibility if things go wrong. According to a letter to the editor written by a former UN official,
Washington's condescending effort to involve the United Nations in postwar reconstruction is, at one level, little more than an urgent and desperate attempt to resurrect a scapegoat. At first, the Bush administration did not want the United Nations to become involved at all.
While the author is probably wrong about American motivations, I think his fear of the UN becoming a scapegoat provides a valid insight into the organizations' mindset at this particular moment.

So, now that Iraq is "Our New Baby", what are we going to do with it?

Last week, the NYT reported that initial plans to create a transitional government in the coming weeks had been cancelled because a lack of confidence in existing opposition groups. But today, the Times reports that Jerry Bremer intends to call together a National Assembly sometime in July. However, Bremer hasn't made clear whether this Assembly will have the powers of a "government" or just those of an "authority."

Meanwhile in the Balkans, Paul Wolfiwitz has decided after a visit to Bosnia that premature elections are a recipe for disaster, since they tend to result in the legitimization of those extremists who rush to organize their supporters in the immediate aftermath of a conflict. What does Jerry Bremer think of that?

I don't know, but I can tell you that I agree with Wolfowitz. While I haven't had to time to learn as much I want about the Bosnia and Kosovo operations, it seems fairly self-evident that Saddam's brutality destoryed all moderate opposition to the regime. Thus, it will take some time for mainstream Iraqis to establish themselves in the political arena. With any luck, today's victory at the UN will persuade the Administration that the world is giving it a fair chance to show that America can, in fact, promote democracy abroad.

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# Posted 2:15 PM by Patrick Belton  

GENERAL TOMMY FRANKS TO RETIRE: CNN has the story.
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# Posted 1:29 PM by Patrick Belton  

GOOD SPY, BAD SPY: The partially-unclassified, and partially not, Studies in Intelligence journal, run out of Langley's Center for the Study of Intelligence, has a retrospective out on the life of former DCI Richard Helms. I have great respect for DCI Helms, as a consumate intelligence professional who accorded great respect to the profession and who was content to labor in quiet. I have only two reservations about his career: first, that he may have permitted excessive leeway to controversial counterintelligence director James Angleton; and second, that he acceded to President Nixon's request to supply Agency equipment to the President's "Plumbers," on the rationalization that had he declined, the president would only have replaced him with someone less ethically fastidious. (By contrast, I believe quite strongly that the principal duty of an officer of the executive branch is to the Constitution, and in DCI Helms's position would have chosen to resign my commission and office.)

I note Helms also as a way of recognizing his strong belief in the profession of intelligence, and consequently his strong conviction that the profession's analysis not be politicized. This is an inherently difficult proposition: intelligence is inevitably supplied into policy branches which are preoccupied with pushing visions and agendas, where dispassionate weighing of the latest intelligence briefs is in a realistic world hardly the norm. But the intelligence community suffers enormous losses to its credibility and independence when it moves away from its professional role. Currently, there's great unhappiness in the community of analysts that it is being told by appointees what it "should" come up with (see last week's NYT Week in Review piece by William Broad, abstracted here). It's difficult to assess from a vantage point outside the community how grounded these protests are, but they are troubling.
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# Posted 12:52 PM by Patrick Belton  

SIX BODIES UNEARTHED yesterday near the tourist attraction of Stonehenge. Authorities are investigating. Precise cause of death is unknown, but homicide sadly has not yet been ruled out. Tragically including two young children as well as four adults from the area, the remains of the six were discovered in a dangerous neighborhood near where last year another likely homicide victim had been found by investigators. The last victim has since that time been identified by authorities as an archer; all seven, yes, date from circa 2300 B.C.E.
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# Posted 11:29 AM by Patrick Belton  

THIS JUDGE MUST BE REMOVED FROM THE BENCH AT ONCE: In a sad, disgraceful incident of misconduct debasing the bench, Tarrytown, New York Justice William Crosbie repeatedly insulted a Lebanese-American woman who was contesting a minor parking ticket before him, and continually accused her of being a terrorist until at length the woman fainted from shock on the courtroom floor. As soon as Ms. Anissa Khoder's case came up to the docket, Crosbie - a disgrace who must promptly be removed from office - began to rail into Ms. Khoder, accusing her on the basis of her last name of being a terrorist, and asking why she was contesting a parking ticket if she had money to support terrorism. Justice Crosbie does not dispute the facts in the incident. Particularly sad is that afterward Ms. Khoder felt compelled to state to the press, "there's no Arabic music in my home. I have a 6-foot Christmas tree each year." This cannot stand: if we become a nation which insults or judges our citizens on the basis of their last names or ethnicity, we will have lost our soul as a principled country. We can never, ever permit that to happen, and to that end must protest incidents such as these firmly and without fail. Justice Crosbie, not Ms. Khoder, is the un-American party here; and this is a point which must be made clearly, and as often as needed.

I am writing in strong protest to the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, and recommend you do, too. The commission's address is 801 Second Avenue, New York, New York 10017.
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# Posted 10:56 AM by Patrick Belton  

BOMB AT YALE UPDATE: CNN is reporting that police sources close to the investigation are saying the device was likely a pipe bomb. Investigators are asking anyone who was near the explosion to please contact police. FBI investigating agents are saying that there have been no claims of responsibility. Linda Lorimer is saying that Yale had received no threats against it, well, ever....

UPDATE n+1: FBI agents have a sketch of a man they are seeking to identify in connection with the bombing yesterday. Initial guesses are that, given the choice of a time, the bomber may have sought to make a statement without hurting anyone. Some 300 rare books in the room underneath the explosion received water damage from water dripping through the floor from fire extinguishers - however, some deft timely freeze-drying has saved all of the books. (Thanks, Glenn!) And our friends over at Kitchen Cabinet got interviewed by the FBI during the last exams of their educational career (I was going to say here's hoping you get extra points for that, but this is Yale, after all - one assumes they can live with an H instead of an H+ if need be.... More importantly, though, a big mazal tov to the honorable Cabinet Members on their impending graduation!)

UPDATE f(n)^2+c (describing a Mandelbrot set - there's no reason updates have to be ordered linearly): The FBI has identified the man in the sketch, whoever he is....
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# Posted 10:03 AM by Patrick Belton  

URBAN STUDIES WATCH: CS Monitor deservingly puffs a developer in Maine, named John Chamberlain, who is constructing a new high-density subdivision with the idea of making it a pedestrian, village-style neighorhood built on a human rather than automotive scale, with the appropriate copious helpings of public spaces, parks, and tree-lined streets, with homes situated close to the streets, and with streetscapes which mix rowhouses, shops, and apartments.

The article raises an important point, argued often by those students of cities who argue for designing American communities more on the aesthetic, pleasant, pedestrian and public lines of Greenwich Village or the New England townships, while less on the sprawlish dimensions of Los Angeles, Detroit, or Northern Virginia. And in turn this point is often toted under the banner of New Urbanism, a school of urban development which has been led by people like Vincent Scully, James Kunstler, Peter Calthorpe, and Peter Katz. (Here's a bibliography, and a charter drawn up by one group of adherents. There's also a faq drawn up by another New Urbanist organization.) Generally speaking, New Urbanism seeks to increase residential density, mix up styles and types of buildings to a greater extent, and more broadly to create a greater number of more pedestrian, public spaces. A remarkably creative friend of ours from Yale, Adam Gordon, has launched a magazine called The Next American City dedicated to fleshing out and expanding on these, and related, ideas; his magazine is an extraordinarily exciting project, and I'm honored to be working on a piece for their next issue. One city which has been very influenced by this school of thought is Montclair, New Jersey - I remember returning back from England to a friend's back yard, then walking through the city's park over to its main street, and thinking that the pleasantness and human scale of the experience was making me revise my admittedly unwarrented low esteem for American suburbs.

That said, I'm admittedly much less expert on urban studies than many of my friends, and I'd be very interested to hear what they have to say on the subject. Rachel, Joey, Adam, Shayna?.....
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# Posted 8:40 AM by Patrick Belton  

LET'S PLAY...."BBC OR THE ONION?"!!!!! Now for today's mystery headlines.....

1. "Men 'happy with beer bellies'" (Accompanying photo depicts a decapitated, besuited midriff, fittingly encaptioned "Men appear happy to have big bellies.")

2. "Buddhists 'really are happier'" (this article's happy photo reveals a beaming bespectacled monk).

3. "Sticky moments in 21 years of Superglue" Quote: "Perhaps the most embarrassing visit to a casualty room caused by Superglue was the woman who needed her hands removed from her partner's private parts." (Okay, sorry, I know this is a family blog.....) Interestingly, Professor Kreible's invention was originally known as "liquid locknut" (hold your jokes) and he as "the man who beat vibration." It was much easier being a media celeb in the 50's.

4. "How atom spy slipped security net" All right, this isn't technically speaking a funny headline, but it nevertheless includes the wonderful tidbit that MI5, suspecting Fuchs's nasty tendency to pass secrets to the Soviets, decided to therefore....transfer him to the Manhattan Project, since "he is rather safer in America - it would not be easy for Fuchs to make contacts with communists there" - !

5. "Department of Homeland Security Deputizes Real Mean Dog" Okay, I admit, this one actually did come from The Onion....

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# Posted 3:10 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JAYSON BLAIR SPEAKS: And you won't believe what he has to say.
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# Posted 2:52 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A CARDINAL ERROR: Kevin Drum marvels at the ignorance of the American people, specifically their belief that 24% of the US budget is spent on foreign aid. As Kevin writes,
The ignorance of Americans about the real world never ceases to amaze me. Ask them what percent of the population is black and they guess it's about a third. Ask them how much they pay in income taxes, and they figure about 50%. Ask them how big the foreign aid budget is and they're off by a factor of 24.

Is it any wonder our political decisions are so screwed up?
While I'm pretty sure Kevin meant that as a rhetorical question, I'm going to answer it anyway. Why? Because condescending attitudes toward the American public have been responsible for some of the most misguided policies in recent history, most notably the Vietnam war.

But first, I have to acknowledge that Kevin's is right when he says that the American public lacks basic information about public affairs. Comparative studies have shown that Europeans consistently score better on factual tests. In fact, polling firms now shy away from 'pop quiz' style questions since they tend to embarrass respondents. [This information comes straight from academic journal articles on public opinion. When I'm back in England with all my old notebooks, I'll dig out the footnotes for y'all.]

But if Americans are so ignorant, how did the United States manage to become the wealthiest and most powerful nation on Earth? The Realist (in the polisci sense of the word) answer to this apparent contradiction is that American power is an accidental byproduct of America's favorable geography and boundless natural resources. But even the Realists admit that this explanation does not account all that well for the United States' success after 1945.

In the opening decades of the Cold War, leading Realists argued that democratic heads of state must ignore public opinion, lest it prevent them from defending the balance of power. In practice, this became a prescription for constant deception, as practiced by Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. Ironically, it was such deception that was responsible for the tragic war in Vietnam, since it was only Johnson's lies that persuaded the American public to stand and fight. [Footnote forthcoming.]

Because of the war in Vietnam, liberals and progressives came to believe that foreign policy must be made democratically. However, in response to the Reagan Revolution, liberals and progressives began to wonder whether the public was actually fit to steer the ship of state.

After all, how could a President who lied so early and so often maintain such constant public support? One theory is that Reagan was simply much more proficient than his predecessors at the art of deception. Yet at the same time it is hard to ignore the genuine passion he inspired. Thus, elitist condescension increasingly became a staple of liberal approaches to foreign affairs.

Liberal reactions to George W. Bush are almost identical to their reactions to Ronald Reagan. In short, they aren't sure whether to blame the President for willful deception or the public for willful ignorance. Of course, Republicans tend to ask the same sort of questions when confronted with a president such a Clinton, who can't even give a straight answer about the meaning of the word 'is' but still had a 60% approval rating.

Thus, one ought to ask how it is that politicians with such deficient records of public honesty manage to build support for their foreign initiatives.

Answering such a question becomes possible if one shifts one's focus from ignorance to values. While the American public may not have much factual knowledge about the world, they have an impressively stable set of preferences and values about how the United States should relate to the world around it.

One might ask how it is possible to have a reasonable opinion if one lacks basic information about world affairs. The best answer I can give is "culture". Americans simply pass on their values from one generation to the next. (Where did such values originally come from? England, mostly. But that's a whole 'nother story...)

The sum total of American values with regard to foreign affairs approximates a combination of the four traditions described by Walter Russell Mead: the Hamiltonian, the Jeffersonian, the Jacksonian and the Wilsonian. Americans tend to favor free trade, democracy promotion, and international law but accept that force is often a critical component of success abroad.

Unsurprisingly, that sort of vague description can't really predict what sort of policy the American public will support in any given situation. But it does explain why the American public never seems to be as far left as the Democrats or as far right as the Republicans. For example, the American public consistently thought that Jimmy Carter spent too little on defense but that Ronald Reagan spent too much.

More recently, the pragmatism of the American public explains why the Rumsfeld/Cheney argument for avoiding the United Nations fell on deaf ears, yet the American public supported the President's decision for war once he made an extended effort to win over the Security Council.

Thus, far from being "screwed up", American foreign policy tends to chart a rather moderate-but-inconsistent course that frustrates ideologues on both sides of the partisan divide (as well as ideologues of the center, such as myself). While it isn't hard to compile lists of American failures abroad, the United States' record has been, more or less, one of considerable success.

As I see it, this success reflects the American electorate's principled pragmatism. Rather than favoring an ideological line, the American public throws its support behind whichever party or politician comes up with the policies best-suited to a given situation.

The greatest limitation of this sort of pragmatism is that it applies only to the most pressing issues of the day. Given the United States' tremendous influence, its officials make countless decisions that affect countless lives abroad but get negligible coverage at home. That is why I plan to dedicate my professional life to foreign affairs. I believe I can make a difference.

But even if all of the starry-eyed idealists such as myself ceased to exist, America would get along just fine. Its people know how to protect themselves while also doing their part to make the world a better place. As such, even the brightest of the pundits should check their condescension at the door.

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# Posted 1:37 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

'DOUBLE D' ON A ROLL: Daniel Drezner is just putting up one solid post after another. In the past few days, he has taken on Donna Brazile, the myth of Al Qaeda's resurgence, the Administration's apathetic approach to postwar Iraq and -- most important of all -- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which he refers to as a "pathbreaking work of art."

I guess I can forgive Dan for his Buffy obsession. After all, I just spent the night with some high school friends watching a tape of Wrestlemani VII, where Hulk Hogan takes on Iraqi sympathizer Sgt. Slaughter.
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Wednesday, May 21, 2003

# Posted 8:58 PM by Patrick Belton  

ENOUGH HISTORY ALREADY! WE WANT SOME FARCE!!!! And thankfully The Onion finally does what was predestined and takes on Jayson Blair in an infographic of his best plagiarisms. (via Andrew). Picks of the litter: "Lead paragraph in story about Beltway sniper lifted wholesale from back of Cheetos bag," and "Wrote fabricated story about Iraq possessing massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction." Touché
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# Posted 5:32 PM by Patrick Belton  

EXPLOSION AT YALE: Several moments ago, it was reported that there was an explosion at the Yale Law School, which according to the FBI's terrorism task force and the city of New Haven took place in the mail room.

We nervously pray that all of our friends there are all right.

UPDATE 1: A good friend of mine writes in to say that the word on the street (literally) is that thankfully so far it seems that no students were hurt. Smoke is rising from the building; and someone saw a wall to the alumni reading room collapse, and a few classroom doors were reportedly blown out - but buildings can be rebuilt....

UPDATE 2: Reports continue to be that no students or faculty were hurt in the blast. Thankfully, the building seems to have been mostly empty because of exams period. The AP, CNN, and New Haven's NBC affiliate are continually updating their stories, but the New Haven Register is at the moment doing the best job at putting breaking details up. One student on the ground floor by the main staircase reported seeing a "fireball" blow down the stairs.

UPDATE 3: A Yale spokeswoman is confirming that no students were injured. She also is reporting that the blast took place in a classroom, not in the mail room as previously reported. Some reports are indicating that part of one floor may have collapsed. There will be a press conference at 6:30 to announce what is known so far. Channel 30 is broadcasting it live here.

UPDATE 4: Linda Lorrimer and Mayor DeStefano, speaking at the press conference, said that although a number of students and day-care children were in the building at the time of the explosion, no one indeed was hurt, and Yale so far expects the explosion was indeed caused by a bomb. According to the press conference, damage occured in two classrooms; one wall fell in, and it is asserted that the damage was "not structural, it was minimal," with water damage, but no windows blown out. (Glenn heard that one of the classrooms was number 127, but I think he heard the news coverage talking about 127 Wall Street.) The law school will be moved temporarily to another part of campus. There will be a second press conference at 10:00 pm.

UPDATE 5: Fisking time. Nearly every story on this subject has included between one and all of the following gems: that (1) President Bush was in New London, which is in Connecticut. Yale is in New Haven, which is also in...Connecticut. Suspicious? Actually, no. (2) President Bush attended Yale....but not the law school. (President Clinton, on the other hand, did attend the law school....but is no longer president). (3) Barbara Bush is a junior in Yale College....which, once again, is not the law school. (4) Yale is a top university with over 5,000 students (true: it has 10,000 students. 10,000 is indeed more than 5,000.) (5) The Unabomber seriously injured Yale professor David J. Gelernter in June 1993, but once again, not in the law school. The networks' swift detective work pans out at the fact that the Unabomber is...in jail, since 1998. Sorry folks, keep trying.

UPDATE 6: Lilly Malcolm from Kitchen Cabinet adds this wonderful point to the list o' fiskings:
Our early reaction to the bombing is that the news coverage, and the mayor's comments, seemed very uninformed. The NBC TV station here was showing a shot of the city skyline, with "smoke" supposedly rising out of the law school -- but anybody who knows anything about New Haven would know that wasn't even the law school building. They were showing a shot of steam coming off of the power plant across the street!
She also says that the wall that bit the dust in the alumni lounge was the one with Bork's portrait. Sigh. Who was it who said that conservatives always get the short end at the Yale Law School?

AND FINAL ROUND-UP: The AP's final update of the story for the night is reporting that the fallen wall was in actuality simply a partition which fell over, and the "fallen floor" consisted merely of fallen ceiling tiles, although on the other hand a Yale Office of Public Affairs statement referred to the damage as "considerable" to the classroom and the alumni lounge. (And CNN for its part finally got right the number of students who attend Yale.) Connecticut police are announcing that it will take two or three days to go through the building for evidence, during which time it will be closed. Police are currently suspecting a pipe bomb, and Joint Terrorism Task Force staffers are saying on background that they haven't seen any likely indicators to suggest international terrorism.

But most importantly, everyone's okay - and we're all really, really grateful for that.

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# Posted 2:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A RABBI IN OUR MIDST: Yesterday, I had the extraordinary privilege of attending my mother's graduation from rabbinical school. Her ordination follows a lifetime of commitment to Jewish learning and community service.

What made my mother's ordination so exceptional is that she has spent the past two decades teaching rabbinical students at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where she is a professor of Talmud, the foundational text of both ancient and modern Jewish law.

In fact, my mother was the first woman ever to receive a doctorate in Talmud. (I was in the audience when she got her Ph.D., even if I was too young to remember it all that well.) As a scholar, she has published groundbreaking work on the status of women in ancient Jewish law.

Why, then, did such a respected teacher decide once again to become a student? Because the study of Jewish law finds its highest expression in the living of a Jewish life. In addition to working within the ivory tower, my mother wanted to play an active role in helping others live Jewishly.

Thus, as a student, my mother focused her studies on the pastoral side of rabbinical life. While studying, my mother has served as the Jewish chaplain at a local hospital and also conducted healing services for a synagogue community whose members once lived in the shadow of the Twin Towers.

While I don't often write about my personal life on this site, yesterday was an event of such magnitude that it left me with little choice. Mom, you make us all so proud.
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# Posted 1:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CORRECTION: On Monday, I mistakenly described The Cash Nexus as Niall Ferguson's most recent book. In fact, that distinction belongs to Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons of Global Power.

Thanks to RS and PG for pointing this out.
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# Posted 9:10 AM by Patrick Belton  

MY QUICK BEST OF THE WEB for today, before I head off to hide in a library for the foreseeable future and write (¡híjole!) a dissertation, my first Dearborn article, and an article on Hizbullah operations in Latin America. (As someone in a similar situation once remarked to a family member: The glow-worm shows the matin to be near, and 'gins to pale his uneffectual fire: adieu, adieu, Hamlet: remember me)

So now for the round-up... The Economist makes a point I've been talking about for a long time: namely, that there are at least several promising signs from Central Asia that democracy tends to moderate Islamist parties, whereas state oppression drives pious moderates into the hands of radicals. To wit - Tajikistan, after an extraordinarily bloody civil war in the mid-1990's, now boasts one of the world's most moderate Islamic parties in the guise of its Islamic Revival Party, the only legal religious party in Central Asia. However, in Uzbekistan on the other hand, where all religious activity outside of state control is harshly repressed, lifelong moderates have told me that Tashkent's harsh religious policies against non-state-sanctioned Islam have made them sympathetic toward the radicalized Hizb-ut-Tahrir (a group which it is not in our interests to see gain any influence, anywhere). The prospect that participation in democratic mechanisms may promote moderation in Islamic parties may well give us reasonably strong grounds for hope; on the other hand, one cautionary note is that in the Tajik example, the IRP's most hard-core fringe split from that party (a la the Provo, and later the Real, IRA) when it remade itself as a democratic electoral party, a pattern which is likely to occur in many instances where democratic participation has been preceded by an armed Islamist insurgency.

In this morning's Journal, our friend Tim Bergreen (for whom we occasionally happily provide OxBlog's little-known web debugging services) co-authors a piece with Donna Brazil in which he recapitulates his core arguments that the Democrats should not cede the issue of national security to the Republican Party, and must take action to that end (thanks to Greg Wythe for e-mailing us with the link).

On a lighter note, the Standard has pieces this week on both Buffy and Matrix (in which Cornel West takes time out from his bruising academic schedule to cameo).

In Mexico, Reforma has several pieces (in Spanish; like German, it is a required language for reading OxBlog) seeking to put a new legal migration accord on the binational agenda, now that the administration is making signs it will focus more on the hemisphere post-Iraq. (We, of course, want it to focus both on the hemisphere and Iraq). Moves to shift migratory flows into legal status are in both nations' political and security interests, and are clearly in the humanitarian interests of all. Much more effective counterterror surveillance of the border may be introduced by legalizing and better controlling this inescapable migratory flow which absolutely no border control mechanism has ever succeeded in stemming. (Although Operation Hold the Line led to a massive increase in the numbers of injuries and fatalities suffered by migrants, all demographers agree that it did not result in any dimunition in the number of Mexican nationals entering the United States annually without documentation - only augmenting the suffering they would undergo in doing so.) By introducing "smarter," electronically unfalsifiable visas which clear long before the point of border control the most frequent, trusted border crossers and legalized economic migrants, the United States will free up more time at the border to check more intrusively and thoroughly the automobiles, trucks, and persons of less trusted crossers for narcotics or implements of terror. This is to say nothing of the humanitarian good involved in extending legal cover to an enormous swath of U.S. residents which currently lacks most of the protection of laws and state. (Although the Court has held that the Bill of Rights and due process guarantees, for instance, apply equally to all persons on U.S. territory irrespective of whether they are U.S. nationals, employers of undocumented laborers often cruelly use their undocumented status against them to force on them unsafe and brutally unfair working conditions. Down this path lies the example of Rome before the Social Wars, with its class of non-citizen laborers; that is not our way.) But steps which can be taken fairly easily to extend the cover of the laws to a population which has been fairly stable over time irrespective of our efforts to diminish it both serve a human good and permit us to improve our security at the same time.

Finally, CNN is reporting that Christine Todd Whitman plans to resign as EPA administrator (presumably to follow her good friend Ari into the sunset). And now it is my turn to fly off as well - the owl of Minerva does after all take flight at dawn.... Remember me.

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# Posted 8:30 AM by Patrick Belton  

PLAYING POKER: Leave it to David and Josh to point out which cards we're collecting in Iraq. Priorities & Frivolities is thinking strategically - i.e., in terms of poker hands. Good work.

(Incidentally, P&F author Robert Tagorda shares my fondness for our national sport and the, ahem, Brooklyn Dodgers. On the other hand, despite spending a year in Oxford, he's nonetheless tumbling inexorably toward our esteemed sister vocational school in Cambridge, Mass. Oh well. I'm sure they can use his poker skills.)
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Tuesday, May 20, 2003

# Posted 11:11 PM by Patrick Belton  

OUCH! Ha'aretz is reporting that Abu Mazen is getting 4 percent support in the most recent polls among Palestinians in the territories.
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# Posted 3:02 PM by Patrick Belton  

BIRTHDAYS AND THOSE HOT SUMMER NIGHTS: So yesterday was big D's birthday. Mine's coming up next Sunday. Our good friend Mel, currently making all of us proud serving in the 101st, had hers over the weekend. Given this unusual concentration of birthdays within one week (combined with Rachel's last month), I know what you're thinking: yes, there will obviously be an enormous OxBlog birthday bash in D.C. this weekend for all three of us...but more importantly, what the heck got into all of our parents in late August of our respective birthyears?

You don't have to answer that.
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# Posted 2:39 PM by Patrick Belton  

A CALL OUT FOR HAWKS IN THE PARTY OF TRUMAN, ACHESON, AND JFK.... Several bloggers (including Daniel Drezner and Josh Marshall) are linking to Democrats for National Security, an organization of hawkish Democrats recently founded by Timothy Bergreen, a former State Department official who served during the Clinton administration. First for the good news: people of both partisan persuasions will hopefully recognize the United States is best served when neither political party enjoys a monopoly on supporting well-funded military and intelligence services, or espousing a strong U.S. political engagement with the rest of the world on issues such as the promotion of democracy or freer trade. When both parties are equally trusted by the public on matters of foreign policy, then it is more likely for the party out of government to act in the role of a responsible opposition - enjoying more political capital to, say, criticize U.S. security alignments with authoritarian governments, promote greater U.S. engagement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, or call for a international economic policy more honestly committed to the pursuit of freer trade. (This to say nothing of, for instance, criticizing the present administration's handling of Iraq from the position of a commitment to democracy promotion in the Gulf and Arab world, rather from a less noble position of hopes the U.S. involvement will fail, tarnishing the current administration in the forthcoming election.) All of these are useful additions to a policy conversation which could be made by a responsible opposition parties with trustworthy credentials on letting politics stop at the water's edge.

Now for the bad side: in spite of sharing a common acronym with the internet's Domain Name System, the Democrats for National Security's website suffers from exceptionally bad web design, most notably spacing problems which make it almost unreadable. Oh well. One guesses the Dems have got to start somewhere.

UPDATE: Tim Bergreen writes in helpfully to say that only iMacs seem to be having problems with his template - thanks! Mac users should read it anyway, while all the while savoring carefully all the feelings of moral superiority that come from using a better-designed machine.

UPDATE 2: Our readers are the greatest! MM just wrote in with detailed instructions on how to fix the DNS's website, which we passed on to Tim. Thanks! So that's our contribution - now we hope OxBlog will be invited to the Democrats for National Security's parties!
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# Posted 1:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IGNORANCE OR HYPOCRISY? Thomas Carothers upbraids the Administration for preaching democracy and practicing realpolitik. While the Administration's actions are both stupid and counterproductive, they seem to reflect an ignorance of how to promote democracy rather than a hypocritical effort to deceive the public.
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# Posted 1:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BBC BEFUDDLED? Instapundit has the latest on BBC accusations that the Pentagon staged the Jessica Lynch rescue.

Glenn argues that the BBC has backed away from its story, but I think it would be more fair to say that the Beeb is trying to hold the line by avoiding questions about the reliability of its sources.
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# Posted 12:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BIRTHDAY ROUND-UP: I admit it. I said I would post before going out to celebrate last night, but I didn't. Why? Because the celebration began at lunchtime, of course. Nothing intoxicating, mind you. It was a family affair, but my family likes extended (and wholesome) celebrations.

The affair began with lunch at VP2, one of New York's best vegetarian Chinese restaurants. We followed it up with a visit to the Guggenheim, which has now been overrun by a single exhibit known as The Cremaster Cycle.

The exhibit is, to say the least, unusual. For example, there are numerous sculptures made out of vaseline, including a full-size bar. The guard barked at me after I touched the bar to see if it was actually soft like vaseline. It was.

Moving, we headed for dinner at The Box Tree. The food is good. But the decor is mindblowing. The restaurant is housed in a pair of converted brownstones on East 49th St. Inside, it has the feel of turn-of-the-(20th)-century New York mansion, including actual Tiffany windows.

Following the structure of the brownstones, the restaurant is divided into a labyrinth of small dining rooms, each giving the feeling of being an intimate private salon. Very, very nice.

After dinner I made way to the Upper West Side to get together with some very old friends (think kindergarten!) for margaritas at Mama Mexico's. Damn good. Quite alcoholic as well.

And if you stop by Mama Mexico's, you have to order the guacamole, which is made fresh at your table. That's right. The guacamole man comes over, splits open an avocado, adds all the right spices, and mixes your guac right in front of your eyes. Mmmmmm.

To close out the night we headed to a local pub where I enjoyed the fine taste of Brooklyn Lager, the best beer in New York. I stumbled home some time around 4am, by which point my birthday was long over.

Until next year...
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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."
Amazing.
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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.
And
[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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