OxBlog

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

# Posted 10:32 PM by Patrick Belton  

OF FASCES AND TIAN'ANMEN SQUARE: In this week's TNR (yes, Josh, I finally ponied up the $28 to pay an intern's salary...) Jasper Becker makes a good case that the relevant paradigm for understanding today's China isn't so much Maoist (or any other variant of) Communism, but Fascism - not Hitler's, yet that of Franco, Mussolini, and the young Japanese officers who cultivated the cult of the Shinto emperor. It's worth a read....
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# Posted 7:50 PM by Patrick Belton  

FRESH THINKING FROM LARRY SUMMERS ABOUT RESTRUCTURING UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION: President Summers's commencement proposals last week about restructuring undergraduate education at Harvard were gusty, idealistic, and far-reaching. Henceforth, a few greatest hits:

"First, in a project as ambitious as the curricular review now underway, it is easy to lose sight of the "knower" as we strive to agree on what should be known.... The only true measure of a successful educational model is our students' experience of it. I was thus moved and troubled by a recent letter from a science concentrator admitted to the top graduate programs in his field, which contained the statement: 'I am in my eighth semester of college, and there is not a single science professor here who could identify me by name.'"

" We regularly learn in senior surveys that our students are satisfied with and proud of their experience at Harvard. But both objectively and relative to their peers at other institutions, they are more satisfied with their outside activities than with their academic experience.....I hope that in any new curricular approaches we may adopt, we will think hard about how to incorporate aspects of our students' extracurricular experience that make them so meaningful"

".. it is not clear to me that we do enough to make sure that our students graduate with the ability to speak cogently, to persuade others, and to reason to an important decision with moral and ethical implications"

"I recently commented to one of our leading art historians that it would be terrific if Fine Arts 13 [a popular fine-art survey course, cancelled for lack of faculty willing to teach it] were still available as an introduction for students who would probably never take another art history course in their lives. Reacting with a mixture of consternation and hilarity, she wondered how I could possibly expect any self-respecting scholar to propel our students -- like a cannon ball -- from "Caves to Picasso" in one academic year. In this age of exploding and highly specialized knowledge, and justified skepticism about Olympian claims, it is not easy to figure out how we can legitimately address our students' desire for familiarity with the landscape of the major fields of knowledge. But I hope we will do our best to wrestle with this issue. "

This is fresh thinking, of the sort that can even conceivably overwhelm being dragged down by the combined weights of university committees, vested departmental and bureaucratic interests, and the seductive normative power of the factual. I wish President Summers well, and we will be watching with eagerness from the sidelines as he takes on a task of such odyssean proportions.

UPDATES: Innocents Abroad have thoughtful comments on the topic, including about the role of the classics in providing a bulwark for liberalism precisely by pointing out liberalism's shortcomings. And our friend Josh Cherniss makes the point that the central problem Summers is confronting in undergraduate education - namely, a noteworthy lack of attention given to the educative aspect of education - is particularly conspicuous at his own university. On the other hand, an optimistic take might be that this could make him all the more likely to come up with even bolder reforms - we'll see.
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# Posted 5:14 PM by Patrick Belton  

PROBABLY NOT LOOKING FOR HARDCORE POLITICAL ANALYSIS, This afternoon, someone (presumably a student who had recently finished exams) got to OxBlog by googling "massage parlor Oxford marston road". Gentlemen, your trenchcoats at the door, please.

UPDATE: At least it was better than this. Sorry to disappoint whoever came here looking for "women using vibrators clips". (We're result #12, and...it's not because of me...)
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# Posted 4:59 PM by Patrick Belton  

SEVERAL WEEKS AGO, OxBlog wrote about a 132-year old man in the Indian state of Rajasthan. His only unfulfilled dream? To make the hajj to Mecca, which at the time, seemed rather improbable given his age and impecunity. That is, until now: a UK businessman, reading about the BBC's profile of Habib Miyan, generously transferred $5,700 (270,000 rupees) to Jaipur to cover the costs of Mr. Miyan's pilgrimage, as well as those of two of his grandchildren to act as his guides. So he will be making his life's wish come true, after all.

There is still great generosity in the heart of man, even in the present age.
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# Posted 1:28 PM by Patrick Belton  

JAPAN, WE'RE PROUD: At a meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN ministerial, Japan's Foreign Minister instructed her Burmese counterpart that Japan's future relations with Burma will be dictated by whether or not Burma's government releases Aung San Suu Kyi.
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# Posted 1:19 PM by Patrick Belton  

AL QAEDA DANGER STILL HIGH: The director general of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, warned this morning that "It is only a matter of time before a crude version of a CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapon) is launched on a Western city." She went on to say, "If this is a war which can be won, it will not be won quickly. (CNN, Times)
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# Posted 12:42 AM by Patrick Belton  

IRANIAN QUESTION AND ANSWER: Come on, let's play a round....

Q: What did Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi tell reporters yesterday?
A: Alleging that the U.S. was behind the student protests in Tehran, and that Iran's students would never ever want to seek freedom on their own (to think such a thing!), spokesman Asefi told reporters, "Yesterday we lodged a protest with the Swiss Embassy here, which protects the U.S. interests in Iran. We have strongly protested U.S. interference" in the internal affairs of Iran, "and we reserve the right to pursue the matter through legal channels."

Q: What is the address of the headquarters of Iranian intelligence in Europe?
A: Third story, Godesberger Allee 133-137, Bonn, Federal Republic of Germany

Q: What are Iranian intelligence's other principal bases of operations in Germany?
A: Consulates in Frankfurt and Hamburg, and Imam Ali Mosque in Hamburg

Q: How many full-time operatives from Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security are based out of Godesberger Allee 133-137?
A: 20 full-time, with the rest of the 70 members of the embassy staff regularly used in their operations

Q: And what have the good employees of Godesberger Allee 133-137 done for us recently?
A: Murdered, at the Mykonos Restaurant in Berlin, three Kurdish dissidents and their translator, with the complicity of the highest levels of the Iranian government. A German court pronounced Iran and Iranian agent Kazem Darabi complicit on April 10, 1997.

Q: What is the number of front companies in Germany involved in procurement for Iranian intelligence of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons?
A: Approximately 100

Q: What other ways is Iranian intelligence currently intervening in the internal affairs of European states?
A: Besides hunting down dissidents abroad and acquiring technology associated with weapons of mass destruction: Iranian intelligence provides intensive support to Islamic extremist groups in Europe, using financial aid to influence targeted organizations and expand their operations in accordance with Iran’s interests, and placing Iranian-controlled agents in key positions within those organizations.

Q: Moving away from Western Europe now, how many Iranian agents have infiltrated themselves into Bosnian Muslim political and social circles, and into the US program to train Bosnia’s army?

A: More than 200.

Q: Has Iran also intervened in the affairs of countries within the Western Hemisphere?
A: Yes. In March 1992, 28 people were killed and 220 injured in an Iranian-backed bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires. In July 1994, 86 people were killed in an Iranian-backed explosion which destroyed the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association and the Delegation of Argentine Jewish Associations. According to a high-level defector from Iranian intelligence in the custody of the German government, President Carlos Menem of Argentina accepted a payment of $10 million from the government of Iran to keep Iranian complicity secret; Menem himself had received campaign support from Iranian intelligence back to his tenure as governor of La Rioja province, when Iranian agents decided reports of his anti-semitism made him a promising ally for Iran’s interests.

Q: What do the Hadith have to say about hypocrisy?
A: From the Bukhari, Hypocrisy in Deeds:

"The Prophet said, "Whoever has the following four characteristics will be a pure hypocrite and whoever has one of the following four characteristics will have one characteristic of hypocrisy unless and until he gives it up.

1. Whenever he is entrusted, he betrays.

2. Whenever he speaks, he tells a lie.

3. Whenever he makes a covenant, he proves treacherous.

4. Whenever he quarrels, he behaves in a very imprudent, evil and insulting manner"

Q: So you're saying, the Islamic Republic of Iran is exceptionally hypocritical, and really not very Islamic at all?
A: Exactly.
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Monday, June 16, 2003

# Posted 10:06 PM by Patrick Belton  

SHOULD THE ADMINISTRATION have drawn from the strategic petroleum reserve in the past year, with the Venezuelan oil strike and the War on Saddam decreasing U.S. supply? Paul Domjan thinks it should have.
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# Posted 1:47 PM by Patrick Belton  

AMERICAS ROUND-UP: In Argentina, kidnappings for ransom are up 16-fold since the beginning of the nation's economic crisis in 2002. And Fidel is going to war with the EU. But on a brighter note, Kirchner is calling for massive impeachments against the nation's (Menemist, and perceived-corrupt) Supreme Court, beginning with its president. And Secretary Powell is touring hemispheric capitals to mend neglected relationships with America's neighbors, with BA next on the list. Finally, Mexico signs into law a massive anti-discrimination statute which had been reputed to have low chances of passing.

So there: good news as well as bad news.
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# Posted 1:33 PM by Patrick Belton  

ON ORWELL'S CENTENARY BIRTHDAY, the Economist offers an essay on the essayist (and novelist)'s moral vision:
Camus was the better novelist, but their moral vision was remarkably close. Personal engagement and behaving decently mattered more to them in politics than policy or dogma. Neither was happy in party camps. They were distrusted by right and left alike. Both recognised the violence that could result from bad thinking and bad writing—a lesson Orwell put memorably into “Politics and the English Language”. Both believed in the boundlessness of our duty to resist injustice, yet took a bleakly limited view of how far any of us could succeed. Orwell, who was allergic to theory and speculation of all kinds, would have hated the word, but in a sense he was England's existentialist.

Preachy Orwell certainly was. But his anti-authoritarian sermons could almost always make you laugh. He was a master of the one-liner: “Good prose is like a window pane”; “At 50, everyone has the face he deserves.” Whether his weekly column was on writing clearly, resisting tyranny or making tea, he always made it sound like a matter of life and death.
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# Posted 1:24 PM by Patrick Belton  

NEXT YEAR, IN (WITH) LABOR?: Fox News is reporting a recent survey done by Dahaf Polling, indicating that Israeli public opinion is strongly in favor of the Road Map and for permitting Abu Mazen to establish himself as a credible alternative among Palestinians to the Islamists. Respondents favored ending Israel's occupation of Gaza and the West Bank by a surprising 67 percent.

Dahaf, incidentally, is recognized as one of the more trustworthy and unbiased public opinion polls in Israel; its head, Dr Mina Tzemah, conducts surveys frequently for Yedioth Ahronoth and Channel Two. On the other hand, public opinion polls in Israel have recurring problems with undercounts among three populations: Israeli Arabs, haredim, and immigrants from the former Soviet Union (see this piece on the subject).
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# Posted 1:04 PM by Patrick Belton  

STANDARD-IZING THE NEXT AMERICAN NEWSPAPER: Responding to Bill Kristol's critique (pre-regime change) of the New York Times, Yale computer scientist David Gelemter offers a few interesting ideas about what a creative newspaper that took advantage of the possibilities of the internet medium could look like.
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Sunday, June 15, 2003

# Posted 10:00 PM by Patrick Belton  

I GOT IT TOO, DAVID: and I thought it presumably was from having all those Kuwaiti men kissing me at an Arab party I went to last week in Arlington.....

However, if any of the rest of you care to watch "Head Honcho" in Arabic, I have no problem at all with it.
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# Posted 7:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ALTERNATIVE MIDDLE EASTERN LIFESTYLES: I just got this message in my inbox and I think someone is playing a joke on me:
Hi!

How are you? I came across your e-mail address on an Arab Gay themed web site and I hope to be doing you a favour by e-mailing you the url of a new and free Arab Gay community web site. The site is 100% free and it has galleries (users can upload their soft- and hardcore photos!), forums (English/Arabic), chat, personals, downloads, links, news, articles, stories, reviews and many more features.

This is the url of the site:

http://www.Arab-Gay.com

Please note that this is not spam. I only wanted to e-mail you the url of this Arab Gay web site, because I thought you would be interested. If not, then I apologise. I will not e-mail you again and you don't have to remove your e-mail address from any mailinglist because you aren't on any mailinglist :-)

I hope you will enjoy the site!

Regards, Kevin.
Thanks but no thanks, Kev. I'll assume you sent that message my way because gay Arabs are about as fond of Osama bin Laden as OxBlog is. However, having made the mistake of actually following the link to your site, I think our similarities may end there.
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# Posted 7:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GO, GREG, GO! The Sunday Times (London) has up a great column about the Wolfowitz fiasco at the Guardian. What makes the column so great is that describes how OxFriend Greg Djerejian exposed the Guardian's flawed reporting almost instantly by relying on nothing more than common sense and Google.

For some interesting comments on the Times column, see Greg's post about it from earlier today.

All I can add is that the Times column is some well-deserved publicity for a very intelligent blogger. But I wouldn't be surprised if Greg got more traffic from Instapundit's link to his exposee than from the Times!

PLUS: Greg has my back on the retaliation issue. Dan Simon disagrees with both of us, though. And Paul Jaminet isn't happy either.
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# Posted 6:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PAGING SISKEL & EBERT: Now it turns out that Maureen Dowd can't even write a coherent movie review.

There is one thing worth noting about today's column though: Dowd comes perilously close to criticizing a European. The almost-victim is sexy British chef Nigella Lawson, the "domestic goddess" who may or may not be subverting modern feminism by glorifying life in the kitchen.

I say "may or may not" because Dowd's column is far too incoherent for anyone to figure if she is actually criticizing Lawson or merely whining about something tangentially related to her.

However, I am sensing that a partial redefinition of Immutable Law #5 may be in order. Said law states that "Europeans are always right."

But are the British European? They refuse to replace the pound with the euro. Their Prime Minister has publicly allied himself with the President of the United States.

My guess is that Dowd wants to issue a warning to the British: start behaving more like the rest of the EU , or else I will flay you with my withering sarcasm. However, after living here for three years, my sense is that the British are not afraid of sarcasm.
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# Posted 5:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WISH GRANTED: Michael Jennings wonders why I haven't linked to him, since he has lots of posts about cricket.

Michael also has an interesting post about the Bilbao (Spain) airport, where the price of a drink is surprisingly reasonable. He asks why the stores there don't indulge in the sort of price gouging one would expect at an airport.

I don't know the answer to Michael's question, but I will say this: Bilbao is a well-run city with an award-winning underground system built in 1995. Thanks to Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum building, Bilbao has become a major tourist attraction.

Thus, I wouldn't be surprised if the city fathers decided that imposing reasonable prices at airport stores is good for the city, given the positive feelings that it generates among tourists.

In addition, Bilbao is the first city to recognize that capping airport prices is good for the city as a whole. For example, Dulles International Airport outside of Washington DC has banners up all around which advertise that its stores charge the same price one would pay in a Washington area mall. In fact, one can complain to the airport authorities if one has to pay more.

Somewhere, Ralph Nader is smiling.
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Saturday, June 14, 2003

# Posted 9:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNDER FIRE: My criticism of Ariel Sharon and defense of the NYT isn't winning me any friends in the blogosphere.

Adding to the pile-on, Dan Simon insists that Israeli retaliation will not undermine Abu Mazen's authority since Israeli retaliation did not undermine the US effort to sideline Arafat and install Abu Mazen in the first place.

From where I stand, the flaw in Dan's argument is that destroying credibility is far more difficult than reinforcing it. A combination of American and Israeli intransigence forced Arafat to back down. But that same combination cannot persuade Palestinians to embrace Abu Mazen.

Next up, GMU law prof David Bernstein asks (via e-mail)
It's been reported that [Abdel Aziz] Rantisi was in charge of coordinating Fatah, Jihad, and Hamas into one big terror group. The attack on Israeli soldiers in Gaza earlier this week was their first operation. If that's the case, would you really expect Sharon sit by and let such a terror organization, a comibnation of Arafat's minions and Hamas', sprout under his nose?
No, not really. But would an attempt to kill Rantisi change all that much? If Fatah, Jihad and Hamas want to work together, they will. Even if killing Rantisi would've damaged such efforts, did Sharon have to attack him right after the Aqaba summit, at a critical moment for Abu Mazen? Moreover, if Rantisi is that important, why didn't Sharon try to kill him earlier?

Anyhow, what matters far more than my opinion of Sharon is the President's, and it seems that Bush is backing off his initial criticism of the Rantisi attack. In the meantime, Israeli helicopter attacks continue even while Israeli and Palestinian negotiators continue to talk about implementing the roadmap. What will happen next? I don't know.
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# Posted 8:58 PM by Patrick Belton  

A TRAGIC STORY from Egypt.
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# Posted 8:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOES OXBLOG MALIGN THE FRENCH? Matt Yglesias definitely thinks so. He argues that
The notion that the "anti-war coalition" is under an obligation to demonstrate it's "ability to defend international order and human rights without relying on American firepower" is a mighty odd test for David to have made up.
Actually, I don't think it's a bad test all. Almost all opponents of the second Gulf War -- especially Europeans -- argued that the United States should respect international law and rely on multilateral mechanisms (such as UN inspections) to resolve its conflict with Saddam Hussein.

While the inability of the United States to find any WMD has restored the credibility of the UN weapons inspectors (at least for the moment), I still believe that there was no multilateral way to address the threat presented by Saddam Hussein. Beginning from that premise, it is fair to present the current situation in the Congo as a test of the UN/European approach to international order.

Matt supports his initial point by emphasizing that
...the UN is not some entity distinct from the United States...

The case for multilateralism in Iraq was never that the US shouldn't do anything about Saddam because some mythical UN-but-not-US entity was going to handle the situation. The UN is an organization through which we multilateralists thought the United States ought to have worked.
The fact is that the United States began to work through the UN, but came to a point where its was no longer possible to reconcile its preferred course of action with that of France et al. Thus, the question isn't whether the UN can handle situations instead of the United States, but whether the United States should limit itself to the problem-solving methods insisted upon by the United Nations.

That being the case, it is fair to ask whether those problem-solving methods have any prospect of success in Central Africa. Even so, I am tempted to concede Matt's point that
French-led UN efforts...[are]doing a hell of a lot more good than the nonexistent US-led efforts there
While Matt seems to ignore that the French are there because the US supported the Security Council's decision to send them, it would be nice for some high level US officials to express concern about the situation in the Congo.

Where I can't agree with Matt is his declaration that
When the United States undermines the international institutions the world has in order to accomplish something in Iraq it makes it that much harder to resolve all the other humanitarian crises out there.
How, pray tell, did the unilateral invasion of Iraq made it harder for the UN to deal with the situation in the Congo? Neither the United States nor any of the nations of Central Africa have challenged the UN's role as peacekeeper and peacemaker in the Congo. As such, the UN's prestige seems to be fully intact. The only question is whether the French and the other anti-war nations of the Security Council are willing to send enough of their own troops to get the job done.
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# Posted 7:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PEACEKEEPING DESTROYS MORALE: A major NYT story reports that
Two months after surging into Baghdad, the First Brigade's soldiers have found themselves enmeshed in yet another war — less intense, perhaps, but still exhausting, still perilous and, at times, still psychologically taxing.

Some are haunted by the deaths they caused — and suffered — and have sought counseling. All are tired and hot and increasingly bitter. Morale has plummeted as sharply as the temperature has risen.
While it's hard to discount the direct observations of a professional reporter, there are subtle indications that the NYT may just be crying wolf, as it did with its "quagmire" stories during the invasion.

Perhaps more importantly, the NYT story doesn't seem to fit with most other coverage of the occupation, which tends to show American soldiers adjusting to their new role rather well. You know, I'm really beginning to think that I won't figure out what's going in Iraq until I buy a one-way ticket to Baghdad.
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# Posted 7:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LOVE THOSE JEWS: Ran across this in the WaPo:
"I see this guy with funny-looking clothes on, mumbling," [Senator] McCain said. "I thought, my God, what's going on here? It was Joe [Lieberman], practicing his religion."
In context, the quote still sounds pretty silly, but isn't at all offensive. McCain was once with Lieberman on a transatlantic flight and woke up blearey-eyed, with a prayer shawl-clad Lieberman in front of him.

In fact, McCain respects Lieberman because he "is one of the few men I've met in my life who lives his religion." Albeit a religion that involves mumbling and funny-looking clothes.
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# Posted 7:29 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE HATFIELDS AND MCCOYS HAVE SIGNED A TRUCE: And this without a road map, even.
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# Posted 7:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE IMPERIALISM, PLEASE: Peter Beinart is scathing in his denunication of the Bush record on human rights. If Saddam's atrocities provoked outrage in the White House, why has the United States turned a blind eye to brutality in Liberia (a former US colony of sorts)?

While welcoming Beinart's call for a more aggressive foreign policy, Glenn Reynolds notes that intervention often consists of dispatching a token force that assuage the Western conscience while accomplishing nothing on the ground. Exhibit A: The Congo.

While there is no question that Beinart goes overboard in his criticism of the administration, his argument is solid. In contrast, Glenn avoids Peter's strongest point, which is that the prospects for a successful intervention are quite good in a country as small as Liberia.

As Peter points out, the British have restored order in Sierra Leone (a former British colony) and the French in Cote D'Ivoire (a former French colony) with just a few thousand troops. Sierra Leone and Cote D'Ivoire are, of course, Liberia neighbors and about the same size.

In contrast, the Congo is four times the size of France. While that doesn't excuse the United Nations' decision to dispatch a miniscule force, it does undermine Glenn's analogy.

The one thing Peter doesn't seem to recognize is that rampant accusations of imperialism in the run-up to the second Gulf War may, in part, be responsible for US disinterest in Liberia. Given that Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush are predisposed to ignoring Africa, they're probably thinking to themselves: "Why bother with Liberia? It has no strategic value. And the Europeans will only accuse us of unilateralist imperialism if we go ahead and act. Let them take care of it if human rights are so important."

Sadly, this perception is misguided. As in Kosovo, Europe welcomes American intervention when the protection of human rights is the United States' only possible motive. Moreover, in light of the British and French interventions in Sierra Leone and Cote D'Ivoire, no European government can portray itself as defending international law from American depredations.

Ideally, the members of the Security Council will take advantage of the situation in Liberia to repair their relations with one another by unanimously endorsing an American-led intervention.

UPDATE: West African mediators believe a ceasefire in Liberia is now possible. Sadly, the Reuters dispatch which reported this still describes Charles Taylor as an elected president.
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Friday, June 13, 2003

# Posted 11:56 PM by Patrick Belton  

I KNEW GRADE INFLATION WAS BAD THERE, BUT.... Currently fronting our sister school's website, "Harvard has the largest intercollegiate athletics program in the country, with 41 varsity sports. More than 1,500 varsity letters or freshman numerals are awarded annually." 1500? Sweet Christ, are you giving them away to tourists in Harvard Yard?

UPDATE: Okay, okay, I deserved it: Amanda fromCrescat Scententia tweaks my nose back.... :)
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# Posted 9:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BAD NEIGHBOORHOOD: Given its own brutal human rights abuses, the Thai government's failure to condemn the Myanmar junta for imprisoning Aung San Suu Kyi may not be all that surprising. (Thanks to PD for the link.)
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# Posted 9:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MEANER THAN A...Junkyard Blog has put up a nice post on US efforts to reach out to Iraqi Shi'ites.
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# Posted 9:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

VOTING WITH THEIR FEET: In response to yesterday's post about the situation in Iraq, RT writes
There's one set of "experts" about the post-war situation in both Iraq and Afghanistan about whom I've seen very little comment; and yet I personally respect their opinions more than all of the opinions of the "world affairs experts." (What can I say? I'm an ignorant engineer and have a lot of respect for the person actually on the scene!)

That group is the "refugees." All the reports I've seen have said that vast numbers of Afghans have been moving back into Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, and also that the flow of "refugees" has been INTO Iraq rather than out of it. I consider that to be a VERY significant comment upon the value of the changes wrought by the U.S. actions.

I'm not by this trying to excuse any errors that the U.S. may have made, but I think that the opinion of the former refugees is the most valuable one available as to the relative change in the situations. Those people both understand the situation at the level of the individual citizen far better than any "distant expert," and they are validating their opinions with their LIVES.

"Better" is, of course, not perfection, but it is, I think, a valid comparison of what has been accomplished. There's still work to do, but the mere fact that the net flow of people has been back into both of the countries in question, starting very soon after the completion of "major military action" (you'll notice that I'm not saying "after the countries were safe and secure") is something that deserves consideration and respect.
Well-said. Refugee flows are definitely important indicators of conditions on the ground. This is a subject I hope to learn more about in the near future.
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# Posted 9:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG DEFENDS NYT: Yesterday, I expressed surprise at my own agreement with this anti-Sharon editorial in the NYT.

In contrast, Martin Kimel decided that the editorial was so bad that it deserved a full-frontal fisking. (Martin doesn't have permalinks, so you'll have to scroll down. His post is the fourth from the top on June 12th.)

In short, I agree with absolutely nothing Martin says, even though his arguments are quite intelligent and well-composed. In fact, I even entertained thoughts of counterfisking Martin's post because it got me so riled up.

But for the sake of clarity and brevity, I think I'll just respond to a few of his points directly
  1. Martin defends Sharon from the charge of undermining Abu Mazen's authority by saying that Mazen had none in the first place. But that's just plain wrong. Until the recent attacks, the Palestinian government accepted Mazen's replacement of Arafat as its bridge to Israel and the United States. Now that status is threatened.

  2. Martin argues that Abu Mazen's refusal to use violence against Hamas is a violation of his commitment to stop Palestinian terror. Instead, Mazen has sought to negotiate an end to suicide attacks. What Martin doesn't consider is that Mazen hasn't had enough time to consolidate his authority to the point where he can launch a military assault on Hamas without provoking a popular backalsh.

  3. Martin mocks the NYT's call for Israeli restraint as nothing more than an assertion that "Israel should just sit back and watch its people get slaughtered." However, that argument presumes both that Sharon had no other option than to launch targeted assassinations and that such assassinations improve Israeli security.

    As Jackson Diehl points out, there was no security rationale for Sharon's decision to target Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi for assassination just six days after the Aqaba talks. Israel could have targeted Rantisi at any time in the past year, but chose not to.

    In addition, Diehl observes that Sharon has a habit of launching high-profile assassination attempts in the midst of every Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire. Sharon knows that the immediate response to such attempts will consist of more suicide attacks.

    While forgoing a violent response to Palestinian terror compromises the valid principle that one must punish the perpetrators of such barbaric acts, the fact is that a less violent response (border closings, etc.) would have saved Israeli lives.
Thanks to the United States, Israel was given its first chance in 15 years to negotiate with someone other than Yasser Arafat. Had Sharon recognized this historic opportunity and shown proper restraint, Palestinians might now think of Abu Mazen as the one man capable of protecting them from Israeli vengeance. At the same time, Palestinians might have begun to recognize that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al-Aksa are not defending them from Israeli brutality, but destorying all prospects of peace.

I say "might" cautiously and without great confidence. I recognize the validity of the hawks' argument that restraint often ensures further victimization. Thus restraint entails risk. But for the first time in many years, that risk was worth taking.

UPDATE: Michael Totten and Reason of Voice -- both of whom are often to my left on foreign policy -- agree with Martin that the NYT editorial is nothing more than a call for Israel to passively accept the murder of its citizens.

Sadly, the point may be moot since the prospects for peace are now so dim.
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# Posted 8:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CONGO CRISIS: Glenn Reynolds has posts up on the incompetence of both French and UN efforts to stop the slaughter in the Congo.

The question I'm trying to work out in my mind is whether the situation in the Congo is a fair test of the anti-war coalition's ability to defend international order and human rights without relying on American firepower.

Do the French and/or the UN leadership see this as a chance to demonstrate the falsehood of the United States' accusations of incompetence and amorality? Or are the French and the UN more interested in avoiding responsibility for an explosive ethnic war that may demonstrate to the world just how incompetent and amoral they are?

Answer: I don't know.
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# Posted 3:00 PM by Patrick Belton  

COULD THIS BE THE BEGINNING OF THE END? This, of course, being the fairly spontaneous growth of protests in Iran, which in their last three days have spilled over from students to their fairly pro-Western Tehranian neighbors, who are unhappy with the slow pace of reform Khatami's election was meant to herald in six years ago. See coverage from the VOA, FT, Reuters. This (and this timeline) is from the last time students protested in Tehran, during the hot summer of 1999 following the election of reformist but hobbled President Khatami.

UPDATE: Josh and I think alike.... :)
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# Posted 12:14 PM by Patrick Belton  

ON ARAB ISRAELIS AND JEWS VISITING AUSCHWITZ TOGETHER: Yossi Halevi has a poignant piece - now especially - in the TNR on this joint pilgrimage, organized by an Arab Catholic priest from Nazareth.
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Thursday, June 12, 2003

# Posted 9:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR? Blogosphere newcomer Boomshock is continuing to put up one good post after another. Right now, check out his comments on postwar Iraq and Aung San Suu Kyi.

And for you sporting types, don't miss Boomshock's posts on the LA Dodgers and Ba'athist Poker. Alas, he has no posts on cricket.

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# Posted 9:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

POSSIBLY A FIRST: I actually agree with this NYT editorial on Israel's reckless response to Palestinian terror.
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# Posted 9:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OUR SAUDI FRIENDS: Jim Hoagland slams them for negligent and hypocritical efforts to combat extremism.
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# Posted 9:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT, ME HUMANITARIAN? Matt Yglesias wants to disabuse liberals hawks of their dangerous illusion that there is a humanitarian strand in the Bush administration's thinking.

Matt writes that
The administration's actions in postwar Afghanistan and Iraq have, however, made it clear that humanitarianism — like everything else — is a banner to be picked up and then discarded according to the immediate needs of political opportunism.
First Iraq. This morning, both the NYT and WaPo ran long articles on evidence of a remarkable turnaround in Baghdad.

According to the Post,
After weeks of looting and unchecked criminal activity, the U.S. effort to improve security in Baghdad has helped bring signs of normality to this city of 5 million people. As the Americans deploy thousands more soldiers and assign many of them to neighborhood patrols, merchants not only are keeping their doors open longer, they also feel confident enough to stack televisions, air conditioners and other high-priced goods on the sidewalk. Cars zip around until the 11 p.m. curfew imposed by the U.S. military. Parents have begun to let their children walk to school in the daytime.
According to the Times,
Just over a month into his Iraq mission, Mr. Bremer described considerable progress in restoring basic services: electricity now flows 20 hours a day in Baghdad, all 12 hospitals are open, 8,000 police officers patrol the capital and commerce is reviving.
In addition, one has to consider the remarkable progress made in major provincial cities such as Karbala, Kirkuk and Mosul.

Now, Afghanistan. I'm not going to defend the Administration on that one. The prospects for democracy are not looking good. But on strictly humanitarian grounds, one has to give the US considerable credit for the massive shipments of food it sent after the war, shipments which prevented a famine that Oxfam and others had described as imminent.

(NB: There are no indications of famine in Iraq either, even though Matt insists that people there are continuing to die of thirst as well as cholera. Given the absence of a link, I suspect Matt is waxing rhetorical.)

All that said, Matt does make some good points in his post about humanitarianism. He is right that Cheney and Rumsfeld do not share Wolfowitz's idealism. But Matt is wrong to think that OxBlog or any of the other authors he criticizes are unaware of divisions within the cabinet. (See here and here for examples of OxBlog's comments on Rumsfeld's shortcomings.)

Matt is also right to criticize paleo-cons for insisting that humanitarian objectives should have nothing to do with foreign policy. Still, it is somewhat disingenuous for him to cite the National Review as the source of Rumsfeld and Cheney's -- let alone the President's -- attitudes toward foreign policy.

While Matt is right that no one -- especially not liberal hawks -- can afford to be complacent about the Administration's foreign policy, it is no less imperative for doves to overcome their their resentment of the President and recognize that, for all his flaws, he has done certain things very right.
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# Posted 8:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SYMBOLIC HOMOSEXUALS IN THE MILITARY: While we're talking about sex, why not take a look at this Michael Gordon dispatch about the Spartan Brigade, officially known as the Second Brigade of the Third Infantry Division in the US Army.

How ironic is that? Imagine if a literary society that excluded homosexuals called itself the Oscar Wilde Club. It just wouldn't work. So how, then, can the Second Brigade model itself on the Spartans?

(Bad joke interlude: What's the Greek army's motto? Never leave your buddies' behind.)

At least Canada is starting to figure that homosexuals are human beings, too. Thanks to a recent ruling by an Ontario appeals court, gay Canadians can now get married.

Just so you know that OxBlog has an open mind about the gay marriage issue, we will make sure to report all evidence that traditional Canadian families are falling apart as a result of gay marriages. We will not, however, report any instances of "man on dog". Leave that to the Senate.

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# Posted 8:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REYNOLDS SLEEPS WITH WIFE: His own wife, actually. No scandal here, folks.

In the past, I have chided Prof. Reynolds for his mildly exhibitionist postings. But no more. In fact, it's probably a good thing for people to see that sex and marriage are not mutually exclusive.

However progressive we think we are, the fact is that sex is still a taboo subject. Yes, we are seeing more of it on TV, at the movies and in the papers. But what we see is so distant from reality that it does nothing to promote more healthy attitudes towards the subject.

So good for Glenn.

Now, I have to admit that this post didn't come from nowhere. Amused by my chidings, the good Professor sent me a link to a post (not one of his) so disgusting and offensive that it made me realize that what Glenn is doing is most definitely a good thing.

And no, I'm not going to link to the post that changed my mind. (But if you want to read about more sex and love and marriage, I recommend the Onion.)

Now one last thing about Glenn: If the InstaKids ever come across his posts, they're going to ask some very interesting questions.
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# Posted 11:28 AM by Patrick Belton  

SAPPAGE (THAT'S ETONIAN SLANG, OR SO I'M TOLD, FOR INTENSIVE STUDYING) Yet another day passes in hiding for me, as I put myself to the task of writing my way back into the good graces of both an advisor and an editor. However, a few items which nonetheless I couldn't help but briefly comment on:

* Jim Hoagland writes a piece in this morning's Post on the sad travails of the Arab press. The principled, reformist editor Jamal Khashoggi of Saudi's al-Watan was canned recently for denouncing local causes of extremism and intolerance in the kingdom. And after being hit with far worse allegations than the Times (in its case, vending of coverage to Iraqi intelligence), al-Jazeera for its part has launched no public review, and provided no public explanation for the allegations which led to the sacking of the Qatari station's director, Mohammed Jasim al-Ali.

* Elsewhere on editorial pages this morning, the Times calls the recent cycle of violence by Hamas and allied Palestinian militant organizations inevitable at a moment when a real alternative to their absolutist Islamist vision is nearly tangible under the guise of the road maps's two-state solution - but says that strengthening Abu Mazen rather than undermining him is the best way for Israel to battle terror in the occupied territories.

* And he was, by all reports, a decent and clever man, and a good politician. But when Plaid Cymru politician Phil Williams met his end Tuesday night in a massage parlor, there was something novellish about the event. (By contrast, for an instance of true class, witness the New York Yankees franchise's sending of six bottles of champagne to the lockers of the Houston Astros after the latter's no-hitter against them, in which six pitchers had participated. Even in defeat, the Bronx Bombers find ways to make one proud....)

* But finally, a truly important item - which is our heartiest congratulations to our Oxford (and my Trinity) classmate Greg Behrman, for signing his book deal with Simon & Schuster! Greg will be writing on the global response to AIDS on the African continent; we for our part will be impatiently waiting in the bookstores....

That said, there's someone in New York who for her part is impatiently waiting to read something about American mosques...so off I go to think up something to say. Ma’assalama!
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Wednesday, June 11, 2003

# Posted 7:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE DEATH OF PREEMPTION: Dan Drezner has the story in TNR. Footnotes are provided on Dan's blog.
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# Posted 7:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ME THREE: Broder seconds Chafetz and Adesnik in calling for an ombudsman at the NYT.

NB: Four posts in one day attacking the NYT. I think it's a personal record. Or maybe I'm just dumbfounded by Josh's praise of Johnny Apple.
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# Posted 6:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SEINFELD AT THE NYT: Seinfeld was a show about nothing. Everybody loved it. Seeking refuge from the scandals wreaking havoc at the Times, Maureen Dowd has decided that she, too, should write about nothing. And I don't just mean that she's incoherent. Usually she's incoherent when writing about something. Now it's just nothing.

But what's truly miraculous is that Ms. Dowd continues to obey the Immutable Laws even though she is writing about nothing.

Law the First is "the People magazine principle: All political phenomena can be reduced to caricatures of the personalities involved." Dowd writes today that
It seemed perfectly natural when Dennis Kucinich had a dark brown stain on his light blue tie at a recent presidential candidates' forum.

Dishevelment — stains that indicate you had soup at your desk as you sorted through Social Security offset taxes, or that you are wearing a hand-me-down sportscoat your dad gave you at Harvard — signals that you're far too busy pondering the meaning of neoimperialism to look in the mirror.
Law the Second is that "It's easier to whine than to take a stand or offer solutions." Hence the incisive conclusion of today's column:
That's why men are from Mars, a planet where, strangely, it is possible to have too many pairs of black pants.
Law the Third is that "It is better to be cute than coherent." The men-are-from-Mars quote lets us tick off that box as well.

Law the Fourth is that "The particulars of my consumer-driven, self-involved life are of universal interest and reveal universal truths." Hence Dowd's column opens with a declaration that
I know this is an odd bias, but I really don't like to see a him-and-her shopping for clothing for her...

I hate to play into stereotypes, but when I see men following women around the couture departments of Bergdorf's on a rainy Saturday afternoon like trained poodles, it crosses my mind that they should be home on their Barcaloungers watching ESPN and eating a Jerry's sub.
Somehow, I don't think that me and the rest of the Macy's crowd are going to worry about what goes on at Bergdorf's.

Moving on, Law the Fifth states that "Europeans are always right." Which explains why
President Clinton raised eyebrows here when he began wearing showy Zegna ties and double-breasted suits with double-pleated pants designed by Donna Karan (DKDC). Was he going Euro?
To think: If only Bush dressed that well the French might have endorsed a second resolution.

So there you have it folks. A column about nothing that obeys the Immutable Laws. So let me make a recommendation that violates all five of the laws: Fire her. Now.
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# Posted 6:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANOTHER SUCCESS STORY: This WaPo front-pager ties together two important points I've made about postwar Iraq. The first is that American soldiers are more dependable than American diplomats when its comes to putting American values into practice. The second is that we should expect far more violent resistance to the occupation from Sunni Ba'athists than from Shi'ite opponents of Saddam.

According to the WaPo, the exemplary behavior Lt. Col. Michael Belcher has won him the respect of the people of Karbala. The WaPo reports that
In gestures large and small -- from reopening an amusement park with free admission to restoring electricity to twice its prewar level, from stopping looting with a rapidly reconstituted police force, to a conscious effort to respect religious sensitivities -- Karbala seems to have avoided the bitterness and disenchantment that has enveloped Baghdad and other cities.
This story belongs to a genre that is becoming increasingly familar: pragmatic US officer wins over suspicious locals. It's already happened in Mosul and Kirkuk.

What's different about Karbala is that it's in the south and that it is predominantly Shi'ite.
Unlike towns in restive regions north and west of Baghdad, U.S. troops in Karbala have yet to come under fire. They have entered fewer than 10 houses here to search for weapons. They patrol without flak jackets in an effort to make their presence less formidable.
I'd say that's a pretty good indication of the fact that Sunni, and not Shi'ite resistance is the real challenge facing the US.

That said, one shouldn't become complacent. (Although it is still OK to laugh when the NYT runs a headline like "G.I.'s in Iraqi City Are Stalked by Faceless Enemies at Night".)

American soldiers will continue to lose their lives in Iraq. They will fall prey to maddening and unpreventable guerrilla attacks rather than dying heroically during a lightning strike on Baghdad. But that is the inglorious nature of democracy promotion in Iraq. We have no choice.
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# Posted 5:59 PM by Patrick Belton  

A WEB FORM JUST CRYING OUT FOR ABUSE: Silflay Hraka is suggesting creative ways to abuse the Saudi religious police's on-line form conveniently provided for ratting on the misdeeds of one's neighbors. Go have fun....

(Yes, these, of course, are our friends the mutawwa'in who caused 15 young girls to die in March 2002 by preventing them from fleeing a blazing building in Mecca, because they were not propertly covered with abayas.)
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# Posted 5:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NYT CONTRADICTS NYT: Is the United States dangerously neglecting the Iraqi oil industry or agressively taking advantage of the occupation to help US oil companies best their French and Russian rivals? I have no idea.
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# Posted 5:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ALL IN THE NAME: Josh isn't the only one who can put up posts about GOP legislators' embarrassingly selfish shenanigans. Check out this front-pager on new Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), who collected $150,000 in campaign funds from Philip Morris and then tried to slip one of the corporation's pet projects into the Homeland Security Bill. That, my friends, is blunt.

UPDATE: The NYT joins Josh in bashing Larry Craig.
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# Posted 5:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SADNESS: Hamas suicide attack kills 16, injures almost 70 in Jerusalem.

UPDATE: Greg Djerejian and the WaPo have some thoughs on whether the peace process can survive.
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# Posted 4:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BURMA PETITION: 54 Monkeys has passed on the URL for an Amnesty International site where you can sign a petition demanding the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters.

The AI site also provides addresses at which you can write the Myanmar junta directly. Don't expect a personalized response.
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# Posted 10:58 AM by Patrick Belton  

SCHOO! MAKE WAY FOR GEN. SCHOOMAKER: Okay, not to fawn, but....naah, I'll fawn. Former special operations command head and Delta Force chief Peter Schoomaker may just be such a good candidate to lead the Army that it's hard to think of how he could even be any better. General Schoomaker enjoys a reputation as an agile, innovative thinker; his special operations background is in the portion of the army which most embodies the flexible, highly mobile army into which the Secretary of Defense would like to help transform the current conventional army. Here's a round-up: an article he wrote on the challenges facing SOCOM (special operations command), an article from 1999 focusing on him, a piece on mil-mil contact with China in which he figures prominently, the Welch Commision report he partly wrote on giving special operations command a larger role in the war on terror, reportage from Waco mentioning him, NYT , the Telegraph, his bio.

UPDATE: David just pointed out to me that Phil Carter has a thoughtful post on Secretary Rumsfeld's appointment of a retired general over the army's serving three- and four-stars as possibly portending another episode of power struggle between the civilian appointees (and army chief) who push a quick pace of defense transformation, and serving brass who favor a slower pace.
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Tuesday, June 10, 2003

# Posted 9:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES" is probably the best way to describe Phil Carter's prolific posting on military affairs. In case you aren't already a loyal reader, start with these great posts on Sec'y Rumsfeld's worldwide redeployment plans and the repositioning of US troops in South Korea. I predict you will soon find your mouse hovering over the "Add Bookmark" command...
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# Posted 9:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RACISM AND ANTI-SEMITISM: Cheery fun with Josh Cherniss. Plus, what may be the last-ever post on Strauss and the neo-cons.
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# Posted 9:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I-TOLD-YOU-SO REDUX: Andrew Sullivan on how the media invented the looting of Iraq's National Museum.
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# Posted 8:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OH, THAT SCANDAL: Last week, Josh Marshall asked, "Was the Pentagon's transcript of Sam Tanenhaus' interview with Paul Wolfowitz scrubbed of embarrassing details?"

The short answer: No. But to Marshall's credit, he has now put up a long post describng the esoteric but nonetheless intersting story behind the scandal he didn't find.
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# Posted 8:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

800-POUND GUERRILLAS: A front-page headline in the WaPo tells us that
U.S. Soldiers Face Growing Resistance; Attacks in Central Iraq Become More Frequent and Sophisticated
The NYT headline reads
Deadly Attacks on G.I.'s Rise
Matt Yglesias says that
the speed with which the "post-war" casualty figures are rapidly approaching the levels sustained before the end of organized Iraqi resistance give us, I think, good reason to worry that the situation won't be improving any time soon. If you ask me, this is the big under-covered story taking place right now.
Apparently, Matt is too busy with The American Prospect to glance at the front page of the WaPo...(Yes, that was a cheap shot.)

Also sounding the alarm is Matt's favorite conservative, Tacitus, who writes that
Blaming this on "Ba'athist holdouts" doesn't seem to cut it, really. It's more honest to admit that these are resistance movements with some measure of popular support that don't need Ba'athist ties to survive. The popular psychology of the Arab world is more than sufficiently motivated to violence by the perceived humiliation of occupation -- as we've seen in Palestine, where it trumps all rational concerns of self-preservation and communal well-being. I hope that the individuals formulating counterinsurgency strategy are being honest with themselves about this.
No wonder Tacitus is the left's favorite conservative. He's still living in Vietnam.

Frankly, I see no evidence of a self-sufficient resistance movement which can survive independent of Ba'athist ties. Nor does Tacitus provide any. Besides, the fact that almost all of the attacks on US soldiers have been in the former Ba'athist strongholds of Tikrit and Falluja demonstrates just how closely tied the attacks are to the fallen dictatorship.

Now here's some food thought: Remember the good old days when our big concern about postwar Iraq was the potential for Shi'ite resistance to the occupation?

Well, even back then OxBlog was pointing out that anti-American violence was coming from the Sunni community, not the Shi'ites. So? The bottom line is that only that small minority who benefited from Saddam's rule seems interested in resisting the occupation.

But don't worry, Matt. Guerrilla attacks on US soldiers will always be big news. While the WaPo and NYT articles were more subtle than Tacitus, the fact is that any military encounter even vaguely reminiscient of Vietnam will go straight to the front pages.

Does that mean I'm discounting the Ba'athist threat? The answer is "yes" if you think any significant amount of Iraqi real estate will ever fall to the ex-Fedayeen. The answer is "no" if you expect the Fedayeen to take the lives of dozens of brave American soldiers but ultimately prove nothing more than a reminder of the brutality of the man who ruled Iraq before Paul Bremer.
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# Posted 7:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JIMMY LOVES HAFIZ: A while back, I reported on the Carter administration's surprising affection for Saddam Hussein. Since the blogosphere seems to love nothing better than bashing America's greatest dove, I thought it might be worth reprinting the following quotation from the comments Carter made before his meeting with the Syrian president on May 9, 1977. Here goes:
It's with a great deal of pleasure and hope that I come to Geneva to meet with the great President of Syria, President Asad. As leader of one of the great countries in the Middle East, I look to him for guidance and advice and for support as all of us search for progress in achieving peace in that important and troubled part of the world.

President Asad has a great role to play because of his experience, the greatness of his country, his interest in and sensitivity about world affairs outside his region and because of his ability to bring together different peoples who in the past have been unfriendly toward one another and at odds.

This is a year when we are blessed with strong and moderate leaders in the Middle East...
Of course, if Carter had stuck around for a few more years he might have seen that strength and moderation in action at Hama, where the Syrian government massacred 20,000 citizens as part of its struggle against the Muslim Brotherhood...
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# Posted 7:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BREAKIN' THE LAW: At first, Glenn Reynolds agreed that John Ashcroft's records to defend Unocal's Burmese operations were misguided. But now he isn't so sure.

While I know next to nothing about law, it does seem fair to say that the 1789 Alien Tort Statute was not meant to become a human rights enforcement mechanism. On the other hand, if the law is now bringing criminals to justice why not?

I guess the tougher question (and one which I am in no way qualified to answer) is whether the moral value of misusing the 1789 Statute compensates for the procedural havoc it might create. At the moment, I'm leaning toward no. The real answer is to have the US government -- especially the current one -- take a more serious interest in human rights and democracy promotion.
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# Posted 7:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BIG DAY FOR GOD: How often do three separate columns on the NYT and WaPo all talk about the positive role of religion in political life on the same day? E.J. Dionne reminds us that "it's Bush's religious side that seems to draw him at least to the right words about poverty." Of course Mr. Dionne wants more, and justifiably so. Consider the following:
"Jewish prophets and Catholic teaching both speak of God's special concern for the poor. This is perhaps the most radical teaching of faith, that the value of life is not contingent on wealth or strength or skill, that value is a reflection of God's image."

Those thoughtful words are George W. Bush's. Is it too much to ask him to explain how his policies live up to that vision?
For inspiration, Bush might consider the positive example set by Alabama's Republican Gov. Bob Riley.
"I've spent a lot of time studying the New Testament, and it has three philosophies: love God, love each other, and take care of the least among you," [Riley] said. "I don't think anyone can justify putting an income tax on someone who makes $4,600 a year."
That's the kind of religious talk I like to hear. Not pious generalities, but specific humane proposals.

In contrast, Nick Kristof deals with the nasty side of religion, specifically a number of prominent evangelists' demonization of Islam. While breathing fire and brimstone at the demonizers, Kristof argues that "Vituperations about Islam are a throwback, not the trend." Evangelicas are getting more tolerant, not less.

Going further, Kristof puts aside all partisanship and declares that
Mr. Bush displayed real moral leadership after 9/11 when he praised Islam as a "religion of peace" and made it clear that his administration would not demonize it. He should now join the evangelical leadership in repudiating remarks by religious zealots who preach contempt for other religions — and then we should demand that Saudi and Yemeni leaders repudiate their own zealots.
Hell yeah.
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# Posted 3:28 PM by Patrick Belton  

FREE TRADE! GET YER FREE TRADE!: The U.S. has inked a free trade agreement with Chile. A friend who was close to the U.S. side of the negotiations says that the administration wanted to reward Chile's progress in governance reform - and to demonstrate to other countries in the region that they'll be rewarded once they implement comparable reforms.
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# Posted 2:57 PM by Patrick Belton  

CURIOUS WHAT'S GOING ON IN IRAN? Well, then, lucky for you, because Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has been doing a fantastic job in compiling news stories from inside Iran. Among the items of interest appearing in today's edition: (1) Sources close to the Iranian Islamic Revolution Guards Corps are reporting that Iran has expelled Suleiman Abu-Ghayth and several other Al-Qai'da operatives whom Iran had been sheltering in Tehran, Qom, and several other locations. (2) Iranian students have been denied permission to rally on the anniversary of an attack four years ago on a Tehran University dormitory by security personnel and vigilantees. (3) In the latest episode of a struggle for power between President Khatami and Ayatollah Rafsanjani (chair of the Expediency Council), Khatami is seeking to reconcile his views with those of the clerical Guardian Council on two key bills on elections and presidential powers, to prevent Rafsanjani's Expediency Council from having a go at them.

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# Posted 1:06 AM by Patrick Belton  

SUU KYI WATCH: The United Nations special envoy to Burma, Razali Ismail, has told reporters that he has been given permission by the junta to visit Aung San Suu Kyi. Mr. Razali was involved two years ago in brokering peace talks between Suu Kyi and the country's ruling junta, which later reneged on its promises. His visit, reportedly, will take place later today. (via BBC).
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Monday, June 09, 2003

# Posted 7:32 PM by Patrick Belton  

OKAY, TIME FOR A STUDY BREAK: And OxBlog makes no implicit endorsement of any illegal (or, far worse, procrastinatory) behaviors described...
There once was a number named pi
Who frequently liked to get high.
All he did every day
Was sit in his room and play
With his imaginary friend named i
There are more of them here, unfortunately.
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# Posted 1:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AUNG SAN SUU KYI UPDATE: Mort Abramowitz, former US Ambassador to Thailand (as well as uncle-in-law of OxBlog reader AG), argues persuasively in the WaPo that the United States must pressure Thailand to take a harder line on Burma. In his column, Abramowitz lists a good number of practical measures Thailand might take that would be far more influential than another round of US sanctions.

Also in the WaPo is a front-page story about Suu Kyi which contains the most details I've seen about her condition. US and other diplomats have concluded that it was nothing short of a bloody ambush that left scores of Suu Kyi's supporters dead in addition to resulting in her capture. The assault seems to reflect a power-play by the hardline faction in the ruling junta.

Also on the Burma front, Winds of Change says that conservatives should be up in arms about John Ashcroft's shameful effort to defend US corporations who exploit slave labor in Burma. Joe K. rightly credits Randy Paul for focusing on the slave labor issue and says that if conservatives want the right to criticize ANSWER, Galloway etc., they have to be just as ready to denounce those in their own ranks who betray American values. Damn right.

Finally, for background on Aung San Suu Kyi and the struggle for democracy in Burma, visit the Free Burma Coalition, an online international network of activist organizations trying to bring a measure of humanity to brutal land.
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# Posted 1:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KIM'S SOYLENT GREEN: Unsure of initial reports that cannibalism has become widespread in North Korea, Glenn Reynolds thinks today's Telegraph account, among others, is disturbingly reliable.

Perhaps more importantly, Glenn places the event in its proper context by reminding us of Nobel Laureaute Amartya Sen's wise observation that there has never been a famine in a democracy. So who says Instapundit doesn't think profound thoughts?
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# Posted 11:26 AM by Patrick Belton  

QUICK ROUND-UP: Me have article deadline. Me go and hide. Me come back tomorrow.

In the meantime, here's some of what methinks is worth reading on the web today. The foreign policy society I run in Washington had a meeting last night on the roadmap. While I'd like to say we solved all the problems of the Middle East in two hours of pizza, we did compile a list of readings that I think are relevant to understanding the current peace process and issues for the U.S. in "riding herd": they're here.

MEMRI offers a synopsis of Arab press coverage of the discovery of large mass graves in Iraq. Some of the venues are frequent repositors of self-criticism by Arabs of Arab governments, such as London's Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, but other sources such as Lebanon's Al-Nahar appear as well. The broad tenor of the coverage is a salutary realization by the Arabic-language press of the extent of Saddam's depravity. This conclusion is representative: "To prevent the reappearance of these graves, [we must] discuss why they [came into existence]... and these reasons concern tyrants' domination of the peoples' lives with dogma and slogans..." If run to its conclusion, this course of stories may have an effect of increasing popular displeasure with Arab governments in general - in turn, a displeasure which may be directed either toward liberal reform or Islamic militancy.

Staying in the region, Gary Gambill of the Middle East Intelligence Bulletin has an interesting piece on democracy promotion efforts in the Middle East that I'll return and post on later this week. The MEIB's interview with the UK rep of SCIRI is fascinating ("How big are your bases?" "Very big! I have been to some of these camps, they are huge, with thousands of fighters"), and another piece examines Syrian support for Hezbollah.

The WaPo is to be congratulated for running one of its stories, as it periodically does, that remembers there's a very large, interesting country right to the south of us! - but, predictably, its reporting generates sentences like this: "Panzo heard of a war this year in a place called Iraq -- a friend of a friend saw pictures of it on his boss's television." Note to the Post: my mother didn't even know there was a war in a place called Iraq. More to the point, the article discusses rural poverty in an isolated indigenous village without ever touching on, say, the local economy of the place, or how its fortunes have been affected by broader economic trends, national and state policies, or free trade. Instead, lots of poignant vignettes of rural poverty and human suffering, without terribly much political or economic context to illuminate how that poverty came about or the prospects for its eradication. (One thinks of Soviet-era stories about south Bronx: foreign correspondents far too often focus on the unimaginable poverty/racism/suffering in the Other Country - which are real and important parts of the picture, no question - but neglect the political, economic, or sociological trends which would make for thornier, more complex reporting.) B- for effort, guys.

Moving to Central Asia, the always-excellent Central Asia Analyst features a few interesting stories. For one, the radical Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir is making inroads in Kazakhstan, redoubling recruiting efforts and capitalizing on popular displeasure with the U.S. and Britain after the War against Saddam. For another, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is showing new signs of life, with a secretariat in Beijing and a counterterrorism center in Bishkek - a welcome development, since the thorniest security, economic, and resource-management problems in Central Asia require multilateral solutions. Key developments to keep an eye on: whether the SCO is too taken over by Chinese and Russian efforts to forestall US regional dominance to be able to address important regional issues, and whether practical efforts at economic integration result from the organization, or whether it is sidetracked by bilateral disputes between the Central Asian countries. And, speaking of bilateral disputes, Turkmenistan is reconsidering relations with Uzbekistan after seven months of high tension following a November 2002 assassination attempt against Turkmenbashi Niyazov, in which the increasingly erratic, isolationist, and Stalinist Niyazov imputed the involvement of Uzbekistani intelligence and the nation's ambassador in Ashgabat.

And lest we forget you, India: deputy PM Advani told SecDef Rumsfeld in Washington that his government is considering sending troops to Iraq. Pakistani PM Jamali is pushing forward with summit plans and promising normalized rail, road, and air links between the two South Asian countries by the end of the year, while the Pakistani Foreign Office is saying stability on the subcontinent can only be achieved with a strategic balance in nuclear and missile capabilities. Death tolls from the heat wave in Andhra Pradesh (the state in which Hyderabad lies) pass 1,300, with high temperatures hovering between 113 and 120 for the past three weeks.

Okay, me go away now....



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Sunday, June 08, 2003

# Posted 7:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE CABAL LIVES: In the NYT, Jenny Strauss Clay defends her father from the raft of conspiratorial accusations that have become attached to his name. For an extended and thoughtful commentary, see Josh Cherniss' take on Prof. Strauss Clay's thoughts.

In fact, if extended and thoughtful posts are your favorite kind, you should be visiting Josh Cherniss' site as often as you can. An impressive guy who also happens to be a very nice one...and has good taste in Scotch.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan is still following the Strausscapades as well.
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# Posted 7:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HAT TRICK: No, this isn't a post about the Stanley Cup. Still, wouldn't it be weird/cool if New Jersey took home both the NHL and NBA titles in the same year?

Anyway, this post is actually about the WaPo op-ed page, which came up with three big scores in a single day.

First off is a column by Physicians Without Borders that describes the horrors of hospital life under Saddam Hussein.

Next, Democratic consultant Mandy Grunwald points out the real reason that journalist become so defensive when they are the targets of investigation -- they simply have no idea what it is like to be judged instead of juding others. A simple point, but one that is all too true and often ignored.

Finally, Robert Kagan compiles a devastating list of Democratic and European politicians who said all the same things about Saddam's chemical arsenal long before Bush ever did. As Kagan wryly observes,
if all these people are lying, there's only one person who ever told the truth: Saddam Hussein. And now we can't find him either.
Ouch!
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# Posted 7:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

POETIC LICENSE: Whereas the Guardian has now apologized for its abuse of Paul Wolfowitz, Pravda is now fabricating Wolfowitz quotes out of whole cloth. Well, it always good to see a Soviet paper getting back to its roots.
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# Posted 7:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE PEOPLE HAVE HEARD: I want to thank all of you who responded to my call to arms in defense of Aung San Suu Kyi.

First of all comes Randy Paul, who demonstrated a serious interest in Burma even before Suu Kyi was assaulted. As Randy points out, the Bush administration has previously shown a disturbing lack of concern about human rights in Burma.

On the positive side, Glenn Reynolds thinks that the Myanmar junta's defensive response to the assualt on Suu Kyi and the NLD is a sign that they are concerned about international pressure. I hope so. The question is, will the President recognize the opportunity and add his voice to critics of the regime?

Kevin Drum points out that Burma has joined Zimbabwe and the Congo as the latest additions to crisis central. Like Matt Yglesias, Kevin wonders what the international community can do in such situations given that few have the will to use force while sanctions tend to be ineffective.

One post no one should miss is Boomshock's devastating account of other East Asian nations' -- yes, the democratic ones' -- embarrassing and hypocritical silence when finally given a chance to demonstrate that they are rising actors on the international stage.

Adding a small but important point is Jeff Hauser, who has reminded me (via e-mail) that the proper name of Aung San Suu Kyi's homeland is Burma. "Myanmar" is an invention of the generals.

Last but not least, I'd like to give a shout out to Atrios (yes, really!), who doesn't often visit this corner of the blogosphere but generously decided to publicize Aung San Suu Kyi's plight after I told him about OxBlog's concern.

All in all, I'm glad to see that the blogosphere has started to get its priorities in order. Besides, the NYT will probably appoint a replacement for Raines who is just as good a target for criticism...



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# Posted 6:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BACK IN BUSINESS: The Blogger blackout has ended. I guess it says something about my compulsive fixation on blogging that I began to feel cut off from the world within 24 hours of being separated from my website.

While shut out of the blogosphere, I happened to notice how rare it is nowadays for committed bloggers to rely on this server. Will it be long before OxBlog joins the Movable Type revolution? I just don't know...
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Saturday, June 07, 2003

# Posted 5:28 PM by Patrick Belton  

TODAY IS THE BIRTHDAY of Vatican City as a sovereign state, through the Lateran Treaty ratified on June 7th, 1929 by Mussolini and Papal Secretary of State Cardinal Gasparri. What I find particularly interesting about this anniversary is the reflection which it provides into how extraordinarily much journalistic norms have changed in the intervening years: the New York Times's coverage of the original event has very much the texture of a society column, with several pages of reporting along the lines of
Premier Mussolini was seated in the first car with Under-Secretary Giunta. He was followed in another car by Minister of Finance Mosconi, while Minister of Justice Rocco was in a third car.
They all wore their full-dress diplomatic uniforms with the characteristic three-cornered plumed hats. Signor Mussolini wore the collar of the Annunziata, which makes him rank as a cousin of the King, as well as the broad sash of the Mauritian Order and the insignia of the Sovereign Order of Malta.
and
The Vatican text was enclosed in a red velvet case with damasked edges and bearing the Papal coat of arms. The Italian text was contained in a white morocco leather case bearing the Italian royal arms
What doesn't appear in the Times's reporting is anything that could be construed as political - which seems to us unusual, given that the entire event was the entry into force of a treaty marking the emergence of a new polity into the world's society of states. We're not told anything about the actual provisions of the treaty - how security or logistical responsibilities were to be shared among Mussolini's Italy and the Vatican City, or the extent to which Italian police could enter St Peter's Squre under the treaty. Many of these provisions, indeed, were fascinating: under article 8, any "public insult" committed within Italian territory against the Pope, "whether by means of speeches, acts, or writings, shall be punished in the same manner as offences and insults against the King"; substantial extraterritoriality provisions are granted the Vatican over other churches and papal buildings in Rome; and under article 3, Italian police are granted the ability to enter into St Peter's Square, though it forms part of the nation of Vatican City. Instead of covering the actual stuff of diplomacy, though, the Times is seized by its ephemera, and the column reads like contemporary fawning coverage given to an idol from the popular culture, to a Tom Cruise or a (secular) Madonna. The only treatment of the actual treaty comes as an aesthetic afterthought, equal to the white morocco leather case in which the treaty was contained, or the three-pointed diplomatic garb of the Fascist Premier and his secretaries:


The document contained, among others, the following phrase:

"The high contracting parties at the moment of exchange of the ratifications of the Lateran treaties again affirm their desire loyally to observe in letter and spirit not only the treaty of conciliation in its irrevocable reciprocal recognition of sovereignties and in its definite elimination of the Roman question, but also are concerned at its lofty aims tending to regulate the condition of religion and the Church in Italy."
With all the contemporary, and just, criticism of the Times, it's useful to remember just how far the profession has come in providing analysis of foreign affairs, and in consigning fawning over celebrities' fashion to the back pages.
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# Posted 7:31 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AUNG SAN SUU KYI UPDATE: The Belmont Club has an excellent post up on the situation in Myanmar (posted before my call to arms, mind you.)

Also, many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for publicizing my call to arms over at Instapundit. Glenn also links to this VOA report which says that the State Department is trying to up the pressure on the Myanmar junta. Now it's time for the White House to get with the program.

Also deserving of a shout is Bill Sherman, aka the Tough Democrat, who agrees that 50 million Burmese are more important than two editors at the NYT.

More to come...
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Friday, June 06, 2003

# Posted 6:36 PM by Patrick Belton  

UND HIER, EIN PFOSTEN FÜR SHABBAS: UPI is reporting that Jews have been streaming into Germany to escape anti-Semitism elsewhere...
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# Posted 5:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SO HOW ABOUT THAT DUMB TEXAS UNILATERALIST COWBOY PRESIDENT OF OURS? Pejman waxes ironic.
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# Posted 5:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANOTHER FORGOTTEN CAUSE: Winds of Change has an excellent post on the current situation in the Congo.
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# Posted 5:48 PM by Patrick Belton  

HEAR, HEAR, DAVID! Burma, Southeast Asia's second most populous nation, has been living under the totalitarian governance of the SLORC generals since September 18, 1988. While bearing suffering with equanimity is the essence of Buddhism, the Burmese people have borne much more than their fair lot. And Suu Kyi is in this emblematic of her nation. Of right she ought to have been its leader, receiving an almost unbelievable 80 percent of ballots as the head of the National League of Democracy, in the 1990 Burmese general elections. But the generals showed their disrespect not only for the people, but for their chosen receipient of mandate, by placing her and other pro-democracy leaders under house arrest, where the Nobel Laureate has remained since. Yet Suu Kyi is not alone in chains; the people of Burma are imprisoned with her; and as lovers of freedom, we must make their cause ours as well.
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# Posted 5:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FLOOD THE ZONE, DAMMIT! Preoccupied with its celebration of Howell Raines' fall, the blogosphere has shown a disturtbing lack of interest in the Myanmar junta's assault on Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi. At the moment we don't even know where Suu Kyi is, although foreign diplomats have confirmed that she was injured during an attack on her entourage that left four of her supporters dead.

In case anyone needs reminding, Suu Kyi won a well-deserved Noble Peace Prize for leading the people of Myanmar in a peaceful struggle to overthrow their brutal government and establish a democratic order. However, after winning a landslide election in 1990s, Aung San Suu Kyi became the prisoner of Myanmar's generals who refused to give in to the public's demands.

Actually, it seems that the blogosphere is the only entity that needs much reminding on this count. Both the NYT and WaPo ran masthead editorials today demanding immediate action to ensure Suu Kyi's personal safety and reverse the crackdown on her National Democratic League.

Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle have rushed to Suu Kyi's defense and even American firms accustomed to trading with Myanmar are supporting Sen. Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) call for an import ban.

President Bush has joined other world leaders in calling for Aung San Suu Kyi's release. (Still, as Josh points out, the leader of the free world and the leading advocate of promoting democracy abroad should be doing much more to help Suu Kyi and her people.)

So come on, people. Forget about Howell Raines and start demanding justice for the people of Myanmar.

PS Some blogs, including AndrewSullivan.com, have put up a post on Suu Kyi. Now let's see more!
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