Monday, July 07, 2003

# Posted 9:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BBC=NYT? Andrew Sullivan suggests (hopes?) that the BBC will find itself as disgraced as the NYT was in the aftermath of the Jayson Blair scandal. For the moment, however, the BBC hasn't seen fit to change its ways.
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# Posted 9:00 PM by Patrick Belton  

A NEW CURRENCY FOR A NEW IRAQ: Bremer has announced a new national currency, an independent central bank, and a budget for the rest of the year in which the largest line item is earmarked for improvements in the nation's electrical infrastructure.

Good for him. Those bills with Saddam's picture were getting a little old.
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# Posted 8:54 PM by Patrick Belton  

THANK YOU, BRITISH PRESS, #135: from a story in The Scotsman entitled "Boys planned Matrix-inspired massacre,":
"The New Jersey trio were planning to kill randomly in the streets of Oaklyn, which has inhabitants."
(This, presumably, cannot be taken for granted with respect to mass teenage killing sprees in the Highlands....)
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# Posted 8:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TAKING THE FUN OUT OF HARRY POTTER: As only the British and the NYT can.
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# Posted 6:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YOU CAN'T BUY PUBLICITY LIKE THAT: Nothing has done more to make American soldiers look good than widespread fears of Saddam's return. Not long ago, all we heard about was the growing resentment directed at American forces. Now
The growing number of attacks on U.S. forces has also disquieted some Iraqis, who worry that rising casualty figures will prompt President Bush to start withdrawing troops before Hussein is caught and fighters loyal to him are rounded up.

"Inside every one of us there is the fear of what will happen if the American people start pushing their government because they are losing so many soldiers every day," said Fadhil Majid, an employee at a bridal shop in the Adhamiyah neighborhood. "If they decide to withdraw, what will happen to us? Saddam is still free. With all the [militiamen] around, what kind of life will we have?"
Ironically, though, it isn't the American people but rather the American soldiers who are interested in getting out of Iraq as fast as possible. (Ditto for the soldiers' wives.) I guess Mr. Majid has this war confused with Vietnam.

Speaking of which, another WaPo front pager has announced that US forces are
becoming enmeshed in a full-blown guerrilla war, military experts said yesterday.
While Colbert King is already calling for a roadmap out of Iraq, most of the individuals quoted in the WaPo and elsewhere seem to think that the real answer is to capture Saddam Hussein.

While I still think that the guerrilla threat is overrated, Phil Carter strongly disagrees. Given the tremendous respect I have for his opinions, Phil's post on the subject has led me to question my own beliefs.

Still, I think we are seeing more spin the substance -- except when it comes to our soldiers' morale. Their performance will deteriorate if they feel abandoned to a hostile population. Even if things aren't looking bad from on high, it is a rough existence on the ground in Baghdad. So let's give our armed forces the support they deserve by sending in enough troops and the right kind of troops to get the job done.
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# Posted 11:46 AM by Patrick Belton  

CIVIC DISCOURSE AT OXFORD: The toilet (sorry, cloakroom) in the Radcliffe Camera has gone from advocating "No War" to proclaiming "No Warthogs," presumably also a controversial political stand in some quarters.
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Sunday, July 06, 2003

# Posted 8:50 PM by Patrick Belton  

ARAB INTELLECTUALS AND DEMOCRATIZATION WATCH: Brett Marston finds us this thoughtful analysis by the Frei Universitat's Amr Hamzawy, who currently is teaching at the University of Cairo. Among Dr. Hamzawy's conclusions after surveying the comments of reform-inclined Arab intellectuals with regard to democratization and the west, is this: "Despite some critical remarks on the West’s Middle East policy, the reformers are beginning to realise that the countries in question are pluralist nations whose foreign policy actions are continually being questioned and monitored by state and civic control bodies."

Furthermore, the lesson - that western democracies are acceptable models of democratic participation, even for those who disagree with American Mid-East policy - is spreading beyond the reformers to the street, according to Hamzawy. He points as evidence to the Saudi initiative of January 13th, in which the Saudi government promised a new social contract respecting the right to criticism of the government, expansion of political participation, and freedom from violence. In comparison, the conservatives' message - that an apocalyptic battle between Occident and Orient is brewing, and the West, ever the colonialist and crusader, is conspiratorially seeking to annihilate Arabs (beginning with the children of Palestine and Iraq), and all they hold holy - gradually is becoming as dated as it is comfortable.
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# Posted 7:29 PM by Patrick Belton  

SOME PEOPLE have waaaaay too much fun with photoshop.....
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# Posted 7:00 PM by Patrick Belton  

THOMAS FRIEDMAN'S on vacation this week. They were going to rerun one of his old columns....but then they realized that's exactly what they do when he's not on vacation....

UPDATE: so this week, read this parody instead. (via Jeff Hauser, by email)
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# Posted 6:06 PM by Patrick Belton  

YLS BOMBING UPDATE: The YDN and Hartford Courant are reporting that a grand jury has been impaneled to investigate former students or employees who may have a grudge against the law school. (Rumor has it they're starting with the five students in Yale Law history to receive grades of "P" during their time in New Haven. Folks - ahem, senators, professors, sirs - you know who you are, so be prepared.)

A former compsci department employee, with guns and books about explosives found in his house, is apparently under investigation, as is a University of Wisconsin-Madison student who last year was convicted for stealing materials worth $2.5 million from Beinecke.
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# Posted 5:30 PM by Patrick Belton  

MEXICO TODAY UNDERGOES what are anticipated to be the second fully democratic national elections in the nation's history, as all 500 seats in the Camera de Diputados open for contest. (CNN, Reforma, WaPo, Brett Marston) Nuestros amigos y vecinos, les deseamos suerte y aún más éxitos en el futuro.
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# Posted 5:22 PM by Patrick Belton  

AND THE RESULTS ARE IN: It's the moment you've all been waiting for - yes, the finals of Finland's 11th annual carry-your-wife-in-a-race-to-win-her-weight-in-beer-contest.

Estonia won. The "Estonian Carry" technique once again proved invincible.

And for all of you out there who might feel inclined to make light of such serious and competitive international sport, we could note that it is safer than England's dangerous roll-down-a-hill-with-seven-pounds-of-cheese-contest, or, heck, any of these.
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# Posted 12:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG VS. NYT -- NOW IT'S PERSONAL: On Friday, I had the pleasure of talking to NYT correspondent Sheryl Wu-Dunn and her adorable daughter Caroline, age 5. Also roaming about Oxford was Ms. Wu-Dunn's husband, Nick Kristof, of whom I have said many things, both good and bad.

Given the fierceness with which I have criticized Mr. Kristof on occasion, I actually felt embarrassed about going up and talking to him. While some might say that business is business and that no one should take it personally, I still think that one dare not forget that one is criticizing actual human beings with actual emotions.

The point here isn't that Nick Kristof would be hurt by anything I say, but rather that I don't want to be the kind of person who criticizes in a hurtful way. Admittedly, I am always far nicer to fellow bloggers than I am to professionals, even to hardcore liberals like Kos and Atrios. Still, running into Sheryl & Nick reminded me that you never really know who you're going to meet. And since it doesn't hurt to be civil, why not?

Now, it would be nice if I could end this warm and fuzzy post by saying something nice about the NYT as a whole. But I won't, since they went and pissed me off by printing something misleading and insulting about me. The collective "me", that is, in my incarnation as one of 250 current Rhodes Scholars.

In this article about the Rhodes Centenary, the NYT presents current scholars as selfish brats because of our alleged resentment of the Rhodes Trust's decision to donate £10 million for the benefit of South African children rather than spending it on extending our stay at Oxford.

In fact, almost none of the Scholars oppose the decision to support South African children. I, for one, am behind it 100%. In truth, our resentment of the Trust comes in response to the arrogance, incompetence, condescension and neglect we have encountered in the person of Dr. John Rowett, CEO of the Trust and the Warden of Rhodes House.

For the moment, I am going to hold back on fisking the NYT article, since the Scholars may decide on a collective response to the NYT's Blair-esque reporting. (Blair as in Jayson, not Tony, of course.) The only thing to be said in the NYT's defense is that the Times of London [no link] and the Independent got the story completely wrong as well.

However, given that the NYT cited two Scholars' response to the Independent (in the form of a letter to the editor [no link]), there is no excuse for its negligence. I guess firing Howell Raines wasn't enough.

CLARIFICATION: A fellow Scholar thought it might be wise to point out that my comments regarding the Warden do not reflect the official position of those Scholars (including myself) who signed the letter protesting his conduct. At present, the contents of that letter have not been made public. Thus, I am not in a position to let the readership of this website compare my personal opinion with that of my fellow Scholars. For the moment, the best I can do is assure you that my sentiments are little different from those of the overwhelming majority of Scholars I have personally spoken to.
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# Posted 10:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE USUAL SPIN: The NYT declares that the current ceasefire in the occupied territories is a victory for Israeli intransigence. Damn Israelis. Considering peace a victory for themselves. Next thing you know, they'll be trading land for peace.
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# Posted 10:48 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SIGNS OF THE TIMES: At the moment, I'm sitting at a desk on the upper level of the EasyEverything internet center in central London (on Tottenham Court Road, for those of you who are interested.)

In addition to the usual signs informing users that no food or drink is allowed in the store, there is also a sign which says "No Sleeping Allowed". To its right is a sign which informs users that first aid is available at the Subway sandwich store downstairs. I guess that means that if someone is slumped over at one of the desks, they may be dead and not just resting.

I think I will go for a walk. By the way, this No Sleep and First Aid signs remind of my favorite internet center sign from Buenos Aires: "No Screaming Allowed". No, that wasn't for the benefit of those who had decided to sleep at their computers. It was a reminder to those playing Doom, Duke Nukem, et al. to stop disturbing the rest of us.
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# Posted 10:10 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MUSLIMS KILLING MUSLIMS: The Middle East is not at war with the West. Rather, there is a three-way struggle for power going on in the Middle East, pitting murderous fundamentalists against brutal dictatorships against besieged democratic forces.

In Pakistan, a suicide bombing by Sunni extremists resulted in the death of 44 Shi'ites. The attack was both the first suicide bombing and the bloodiest sectarian assault in Pakistani history.

In Iraq, Ba'athist guerrillas murdered seven police cadets who had just graduated from an American training program.

These attacks have emphasized yet again that anti-democratic forces in the Middle East have no more regard for innocent Muslim life than they do for innocent Christian or Jewish life, including the twelve concert-goers murdered by a Chechen suicide attack yesterday in Moscow.

While there is no question that the democratic forces are the weakest of the contenders for power in the Middle East, their possession of the moral highground is becoming tragically self-evident. This ethical difference ought to remind American policymakers that only brave allies from abroad can salvage the democratic cause in the Middle East.
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Saturday, July 05, 2003

# Posted 10:16 PM by Patrick Belton  

DEMONSTRATING FOR A FREE IRAN: According to the Iranian students, solidarity protests are being organized around the world for July 9th. In the US, these include one in New York from 11-2 at the Ralph Bunche Park and Dag Hammarksjold Plaza (47th and 1st Avenue); in Washington, one will begin at 10:00 am at the West Front of the Capitol (with the participation of several Senators and administration officials), two in L.A. (on July 8th at 5:30 pm, and July 9th at 5:00 pm, both times outside the Federal Building in Westwood).

Texas has several: in Austin, at 6 pm in front of the Capitol; in Dallas, at 5 pm on Tuesday in front of the Kennedy Memorial and Sunday the 13th at 5 pm at the Intercontinental Hotel; and in Houston at 5 pm on Sunday the 13th at the Hilton on Westheimer Road.

A solidarity protest in London is scheduled for 2:30-4:30 Wednesday in front of Number 10. (Other protests are scheduled in Bern, Brussels, Paris, Oslo, Rome, and the Hague- please email us if you'd like details. All of the times listed above are for the 9th if not otherwise noted.)

As the students write, "please bring your friend(s) along." Do.
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# Posted 9:26 PM by Patrick Belton  

DON'T SWEAT IT! Hot? Wishing you were, say, in a cool northern latitude like...Oxford... instead of sweltering it away in Washington, D.C. and other currently-tropical cities? Well, buck up! Others have it worse than you. (And finish your dinner, too, while you're at it - people are starving in Africa.)

That is, unless you live in Phoenix. In that case, actually, sorry: no one in America has it worse than you. This according to a recent study by Proctor & Gamble of sweat levels in different U.S. cities (so they can decide, among other things, where to market and stock higher levels of deoderant and cologne). The results?

In first place is Phoenix, Arizona; then come, in order, Houston, Miami, San Antonio, Fort Myers, Florida, West Palm Beach, and Tampa; rounding out the top ten are Waco, Austin, and N'Awlins.

So sorry, Chafetzes and Fishkins. At least you're not sweaty Phoenicians.
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# Posted 9:16 PM by Patrick Belton  

AN ARMY OF LOTS MORE THAN ONE, PLEASE: Fred Kagan calls for much, much more attention to the insufficient current level of American military manpower relative to the nation's military commitments.

A few salient facts: Of the 495,000 troops in the U.S. Army, 370,000 are already deployed around the world. Compared with the normal requirement to have two units at home resting, training, and tending to stateside tasks for each unit deployed, we currently have the equivalent of over five of the Army's eleven divisions deployed overseas. Finally, we've been calling on our reservists to do the work of full-time soldiers: not a very good way of thanking unusually committed and patriotic citizens, many of whom have been called up for between once and two years, to the detriment of their families and civilian professions. And a number of crucial roles needed in tasks such as providing an interim government for Iraq- civil affairs, for instance - are disproportionately (upwards of 90 percent) concentrated in the reserve component - so as it stands now, lots of people won't be going back to their families, companies, or law schools any time soon. A heckuva nice way to treat our selfless volunteers.

Kagan estimates the Army needs a manpower increase of 25 percent. This basically coheres with other estimates. We'll hope that Congress and the Secretary of Defense heed his, and others', call.
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# Posted 9:01 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE WEEKLY STANDARD'S AMIR TAHERI has a solid piece on democracy in the Arab world. After briefly surveying the principal canonical stages in Arab political development (monarchies, supplanted after 1948 by republics, which then evolved into authoritarian states relying to differing degrees on Islam to counteract the Khomeini-influenced oppositions who opposed their authoritarianism and corruption...), he offers this cogent analysis of prospects for democracy in Islamic political literature:
The failed model is the power state, known in Islamic literature as "saltana," whose legitimacy rests on the possession and use of the means of collective violence. In saltana, there are no citizens, only subjects, while the ruler is unaccountable except to God.

The only alternative to this failed model is what might be called the political state, whose legitimacy rests on the free expression of the citizens' will. Such a model could be based on what the 14th-century historian Ibn Khaldoun called "al-assabiyah," a secular bond among citizens. The key feature of this model is pluralism, known in modern Islamic political literature as "ta'adudiyah" and "kisrat-garai."

Both the Islamists and the secular authoritarians of the Arab world have persistently opposed the idea of bonding through citizenship. Nevertheless, Islamic political and philosophical literature offers a wealth of analyses that could be deployed in any battle of ideas against both the Islamist and secular enemies of pluralism. Both Farabi (d.950) and Avicenna (d. 1037), partly inspired by the work of the Mutazilite school, showed that there need be no contradiction between revelation and reason in developing a political system that responds to the earthly needs of citizens. On the contrary, because Islam places strict limits on the powers of the ruler, it theoretically cannot be used as the basis for tyranny.
One hopes our Arab brothers and sisters come to Taheri's conclusion, not that of Khomeini and his heirs.

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# Posted 8:46 PM by Patrick Belton  

OTHER ADDITIONS TO OXBLOG'S SUGGESTED READING LIST FOR THIS WEEKEND: Foreign Affairs (.org, not .com, which is also an interesting website) has several awfully interesting pieces out in their current issue. Brandeis's Yitzhak Nakash writes on the direction Iraq's Shi'ites are likely to take, with respect to America, Iran, and the nation's other communities. And Kenneth Pollack has a piece on new security challenges in the Gulf now that Saddam is gone.
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# Posted 8:40 PM by Patrick Belton  

ETHICS, FOREIGN POLICY, AND PRINCETON: I haven't yet had the opportunity to watch all of the webcasts from this conference on ethics and foreign policy that the Woodrow Wilson School hosted in April, but I'm looking forward very much to doing so. Their panelists include many of the people you'd most want to hear speaking on the topic - inter alia, Michael Walzer, Bill Kristol, Michael O'Hanlon, Dennis Ross, and Dick Ullman (a true elder statesman who made Rachel's and my night last night by sitting down with us in a corner of St Antony's and letting us pick his brain for about an hour...)
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# Posted 9:25 AM by Patrick Belton  

NEWS FLASH: RACHEL HAS LEFT THE BUILDING. (Sniff.) Posting from me therefore will resume momentarily.
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Friday, July 04, 2003

# Posted 8:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LOVE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME: Barry White passes on at age 58.
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# Posted 6:50 PM by Patrick Belton  

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# Posted 8:48 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIBERIA: It is ironic that on this Fourth of July, the front pages of America's great newspapers are devoted to the chaos and rampant violence in Liberia, the one nation on earth founded by Americans who recognized that our independence was not theirs to share.

I agree wholeheartedly with the President that Liberia's unique history justifies international expectations that the United States will devote some of its greater power and wealth to restoring stability in that war-torn nation.

At the same time, I share the concerns of a military friend of mine who thinks that if we are already neglecting Afghanistan, it is absurd to take on the responsibility of policing a potential Somalia. As Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution has argued, the United States Armed Forces have been dangerously overstretched by deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea and the Balkans.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that the President has made Charles Taylor's resignation a precondition of American participation in an international peacekeeping force. Moreover, the President (wisely IMHO) wants to avoid another nation-building project by ensuring that the objective of the American peacekeepers will be to establish a minimal level of stability and then turn matters over to an international force.

Now, some might ask, why the United States should do anything in response to Kofi Annan's request that it restore order in Liberia, given how unhelpful Annan and the United Nations were regarding Iraq.

Fair enough. But it would be wiser to take advantage of the situation in Liberia to rebuild our relationship with the United Nations while exacting an important quid pro quo in return for our deployment. As Jim Hoagland argues in the WaPo, Annan should facilitate American intervention in Liberia by persuading other nations to commit substantial forces to the occupation of Iraq.

As David Ignatius suggests, the European Union can demonstrate the seriousness of its common defense and security policy by providing an effective peacekeeping and reconstruction force for Iraq. Thus, all Annan has to do is persuade the Europeans to get their act together so that the United States can send the Marines into Liberia without undercutting its deployments elsewhere.

Going into Liberia is the right thing to do. And if the EU and the UN cooperate, going into Liberia can also serve America's national interest.
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# Posted 8:17 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MIRROR IMAGES: Since 1776, Americans have known that "because we are free, we cannot be indifferent to the fate of freedom elsewhere." The question remains, however, whether we can best share our freedom by serving as a model for others to emulate or, instead, by investing our wealth and power in the active promotion of freedom.

Often, American statesmen have sought to reconcile this contradiction between emulation and activism by asserting that freedom is a natural consequence of prosperity and that, therefore, trading with dictatorships will gradually result in the liberation of their subject-citizens.

Sadly, history has provided little validation for this optimistic belief. Instead, it is being challenged by one nation -- the People's Republic of China -- that is committed to demonstrating that the benefits of propserity and modernity can be enjoyed despite the total absence of political freedom.

While the dramatic growth of the Chinese economy has given substance to such assertions, there is not much reason to believe that the Chinese will be successful in the long run. However, rather than economic growth serving as a foundation for political freedom, I suspect that the absence of political freedom will ultimately undermine China's economic growth.

Perhaps the oligarchs in Beijing will be fortunate to stabilize the economy at a half-way point that provides their subjects with a decent way of life but no political freedom. What is more likely, I suspect, is that the Chinese state will come crashing down amidst the corruption, inefficiency and violence bred by the presence of dictatorship.

As such, the United States cannot afford to remain passive and look on as a spectator while the Chinese government conducts the most ambitious experiment in the history of social science. While the use of force is not possible, we must constantly speak out on behalf of freedom.

Thus, at this moment, if we are to celebrate this Day of Independence with a clear conscience, we must remember that as we speak, the Beijing dictatorship has begun to crush the freedom of that small outpost of civil liberty known as Hong Kong.

And so it must, because freedom cannot be contained. If Hong Kong lives free, the rest of China will demand nothing less. It is not prosperity that spreads freedom, but rather the exhiliration of knowing that others are free and prosperous.
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# Posted 7:31 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REFLECTIONS ON INDEPENDENCE: No matter how imperfect our implementation of it, the Founders' vision for the United States of America continues to inspire all those whose struggle for freedom has not yet been won.

As an American, I find few things more inspiring than seeing how the ideals laid out in the Declaration of Independence are able to reach out across time and space, across cultures and religions, to provide consolation and encouragement for all those whose peoples are not yet free.

In that spirit, I have decided to reprint a short message I received yesterday from a friend born in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). In the space of a few sentences, he gives life to America's ideals in a way that few of us ever can.
To my American friends,

Happy Independence Day!

I first learnt of this date when I was 14 years old, when the national programme of my country (D. R. Congo) started getting pupils' minds open to world history and geography. In that same year I got interested in the history of the French Revolution. I then realised that peoples of different countries and times have always fought for independence, for self-determination and self-rule, for justice and equality for all, for freedom and for truth. If the leadership and the people are determined, their dream comes true, but if, unfortunately, they have a poor and corrupt leadership their dream fades away and never comes true.

May this day remind you of your nation, its past and present, and of similar fights and struggles in various parts of the world.

Peace to you all!

Well said. Happy July 4th!
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Thursday, July 03, 2003

# Posted 9:27 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RUMSFELD, SULLIVAN AND OXBLOG: On Sunday, I explored -- and ultimately rejected -- the suggestion that the war in Vietnam and the occupation of Iraq are similar projects. On Monday, Sec. Rumsfeld made the same point. On Wednesday, Andrew Sullivan reiterated my point that the American media treats every American war as if it were another Vietnam.

So? Maybe all those ".mil" hits are coming from the Secretary's office...
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# Posted 9:16 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IRAQ UPDATE: Boomshock puts Kevin Drum's pessimism in perspective, as well as offering some thoughtful comments on Zimbabwe.
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# Posted 8:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REFLECTIONS ON A CENTURY: This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Rhodes Scholarship. To celebrate, the Rhodes Trust has organized four days of reunion events in Oxford and London, events that have drawn more than 1500 scholars (and their companions) back to the British Isles.

In general, I avoid commenting on the fact either that I am a Rhodes Scholar or on the significance of that fact to me. I do so because announcing that I am a Rhodes Scholar says very little about who I am or what I believe.

However, the Rhodes Scholarship is a recognizable landmark in American life. Thanks (or no thanks) to President Clinton and others, saying that one is a Rhodes Scholar has important connations, both positive and negative.

As my younger brothers never tire of reminding me, becoming a Rhodes Scholar entails a definite measure of self-promotion and self-aggrandizement. However, that is a very American perspective on the scholarship.

At Oxford, no one cares all that much if you are a Rhodes Scholar. There are 250 of us here at any given time, so everyone at Oxford has gotten used to seeing us on a regular basis. However, the culture of the Rhodes Scholarship entails constant reflection on what it means to have one's education paid for by the estate of Cecil John Rhodes.

Rhodes was the brutal imperialist who brought southern Africa into the British Empire and made his fortune on the broken backs of South Africa's native population. Thus, Rhodes Scholars never dare forget that their education is being paid for with blood-soaked cash.

Being a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford entails a burden of guilt and responsibility. Everytime we consider asking the trust for an increase in our stipend, the Rhodes e-mail list floods with messages discussing whether the necessary funds would be better spent on charitable works in South Africa.

Every time there is a formal dinner at Rhodes House, we ask whether we couldn't have fed hundreds of starving South African children instead of enjoying one more five-course banquet. No matter how many times we tell ourselves that we will redeem our scholarship through public service in the decades to come, we still ask whether we are doing enough right now to repair that damage that has already been done.

As such, one might expect that that the Rhodes Centenary would focus on this central dilemma of Scholarly life. But it has not. Last night in the Houses of Parliament, all 1500 guests at the reunion gathered for the privilege of being addressed by Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela, as well as brief remarks by the Chancellor of Oxford University, the Chairman of the Rhodes Board of Trustees, and the Chairman of the DeBeers diamond mining corporation (founded by Rhodes in the 1888).

All of the speakers were careful to point out that Rhodes was a very bad man who happened to do some very good things, such as endowing the Scholarship Fund. However, not one of them addressed the significance of that contradiction for those of us who have been educated at Rhodes' expense. Not one of them sought to explain how it is that a man whose wealth rested on the brutal exploitation of his workers could wax eloquent about the importance of encouraging young idealists to "fight the world's fight" and better the lot of all humanity.

While some might dismiss such concerns as anachronistic self-flagellation, the fact remains that such concerns still exert an overwhelming influence on the behavior of the Rhodes Trust. It is not just the Scholars but also the Trustees and the Warden who are in constant search of forgiveness.

Toward that end, the Trust has devoted £10 million to establishing the Mandela Rhodes Foundation, a charity focused on strengthening civil society in South Africa. As the Foundation's name implies, Mr. Mandela himself was deeply involved in its establishment and in setting its priorities.

While a number of the speakers at last night's event made passing remarks about how the names of Mandela and Rhodes is a sign of reconciliation and of "closing the circle" of South Africa history, none of the them addressed the fundamental perversity of naming the Foundation after both a brutal racist and the greatest living champion of racial justice and equality.

Given that Mr. Mandela himself has blessed the merger, it is hard to argue that joining his name with that of Rhodes' betrays Mr. Mandela's life work. Still, the question remains: What does the establishment of the Foundation say about those of us who continue to benefit from Rhodes' generosity but did nothing to liberate South Africa?

Are we forgiven? Can we now point to the Foundation and say that our obligation to the past has been fulfilled? Ideally, some sort of balance ought to be struck. On the one hand, it would be wrong to forget where the wealth of the Trust came from. On the other hand, we should be at least as comfortable with the Rhodes Trust as Mandela himself is.

Unfortunately, I don't know how such a balance can best be achieved. The constant hand-wringing of the Scholars currently on stipend is somewhat disingenuous, given that few of us will do much for South Africa except thinking about it.

All in all, I tend to prefer an American approach to the Scholarship. I applied for it believing that it is a Scholarship which rewards commitment to public service. It entails a commitment to the future, not to the past. If I devote my professional life to promoting democracy in the Middle East, that is no less valuable than promoting development and civil society in South Africa.

The lesson of Rhodes' life is not that I have some special obligation to the people of southern Africa, but rather that we still live in a world where vicious oppression destorys countless lives in Burma, in North Korea, throughout the Middle East, and in Central Africa, just north of Rhodes' erstwhile homeland.

Let's do something about that.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2003

# Posted 1:14 AM by Patrick Belton  

Saying distortions in the BBC's coverage of Israel rival the worst of Nazi propoganda, Israeli officials said that the Government Press Office, Foreign Ministry, and Prime Minister's Office would no longer grant BBC correspondents interviews or offer them services generally provided foreign journalists.
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Monday, June 30, 2003

# Posted 10:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NATION BUILDING: Yesterday, I referred in passing to Greg Djerejian's suggestion that the US military should train its own corps of nation builders rather than depend on international forces. Phil Carter also thinks that's a good idea, and point out that Fareed Zakaria agrees as well. Me three.

NB: Greg's permalinks aren't working, so scroll down to "Constabulatory Duties and the Warrior Ethos". Also, in yesterday's post on the occupation of Iraq, I exaggerated Greg's support for a greater UN role. He'd like to see more cooperation, but agrees that the US should be firmly in charge.
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# Posted 10:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPEAK OF THE DEVIL: Kevin Drum expressed his concern yesterday that the US is appointing too many Ba'athists to influential posts in occupied Iraq. Then today, American forces arrested the mayor of Najaf, a former military official, on charges of corruption and kidnapping.

So does that mean we're appointing Saddam's henchmen to high office, or that we're able to recognize and correct our mistakes with reasonable speed and accuracy? I tend to favor the second explanation, given that we haven't heard much about Ba'athists being appointed to high office.

Paul Bremer seems to be rather fixated on de-Ba'athification, so I imagine that lower-level officials are mindful of its importance as well. In Najaf, for example, the mayor's arrest apparently came in respone to public dismay with his Ba'athist past.

It also wouldn't surprise me if the WaPo's recent article on reinstated Ba'athists had something to do with the arrest in Najaf. In fact, the WaPo explicitly identified the mayor of Najaf as a former Ba'athist whose reinstatment had led to popular resentment.

While it would be better if occupation forces acted even before the media let them know what was wrong, it is still quite remarkable that a single article (probably) led to immediate action. Often, the government does nothing until it is avalanched with negative press coverage. Thus, the occupation forces's apparent responsiveness demonstrates a real commitment to promoting democracy Iraq.
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# Posted 9:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OUTSIDE IRAQ: While things in Iraq are going better than expected, the Administration is adrift almost everywhere else.

As a candidate, the President criticized his predecessor for his excessive personalization of US diplomacy, i.e. depending on single figures such as Yeltsin rather than building a strong overall relationship with Russia. Yet in Russia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Bush has fallen prey to Clinton's old habit.

When it comes to more peripheral regions such as Africa, Latin America and (for the moment) East Asia, the Administration seems to have no strategy at all. But that much is to be expected.

Few American presidents have ever developed a truly global strategy. Nixon and Kissinger did, but theirs was worse than none at all. So let's just hope that our ambassadors and assistant secretaries of state are ready to face regional challenges without much guidance from above.
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# Posted 9:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOWNSIDE UP: Yesterday, I commented with surprise on a strong preference for the GOP among small donors to political campaigns. Alas, my surprise has exposed my ignorance of campaign finance to the entire blogosphere.

As JAT points out,
It's not surprising that small donors are heavily favoring Republicans. They always do. This has been true since at least the 1910s. I remember my US History books specifically pointing out this fact.

People who actually are small donors still have to have enough excess cash to really consider contributing. The Republicans have always had a strong advantage among a broad section of the fairly rich-- the upper middle class, lower upper class, et al. The Democrats have generally had support from the broadly poor and a relatively small number of highly committed supporters among the superrich.

Even back in the 1920s, the Democratic Party funds were mostly financed from a mere handful of people. Eugene McCarthy's 1968 campaign was primarily financed by just a handful of people, such as Stewart Mort and Jack Dreyfus Jr. (This explains why he was also a plantiff in Buckley v. Valeo, challenging the campaign finance limits of the time. He still argues that being able to raise money from such a small group of people is much less corrupting than having to raise money from so many different interest groups.) By contrast, Barry Goldwater was the first politician to raise significant amounts of his presidential campaign funds in small amounts through direct mail. To be fair, George McGovern followed in his footsteps and was also very successful at this method.

The Republican Party has *always* had an edge in direct hard money contributions from many different individuals in small amounts. The Democratic Party has always been able to equalize only with massive soft money contributions from the very wealthy, such as celebrities. This why McCain-Feingold is so, so damaging to the Democrats, unless they find ways around it.
JVL adds
Not to quibble, but the only aspect of this story that resembles a yoga asana is the failure of the WaPo to notice the phenomenon [of GOP predominance] until now. Ever since the Reagan landslide of 1984, the GOP has scored the bulk of its hard money from small donors. Ron gave the RNC a mailing list that Terry McAu[liffe] would kill for. No fault of yours that this may be news. In 1984, you were creating in Legos, not blogs.

N.B. Not a hint of condescension there. I have yet to discover that having been born when Cal Coolidge was gearing up to run for re-election confers any eminence upon said dodderer.
Ah, Silent Cal. If only modern Presidents had the good sense to keep their thoughts to themselves more often.

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Sunday, June 29, 2003

# Posted 8:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FUBAR IN BAGHDAD: CalPundit and Tacitus think that the occupation has spun out of control. I don't.
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# Posted 8:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OBJECTIVITY: Daniel and Eugene comment on bias in the blogosphere.
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# Posted 7:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE GUERILLA MYSTIQUE: Criticism of the American occupation of Iraq is widespread. While much of it comes from those who have long insisted (or implied)that an American occupation must fail, some of it comes from those who are passionately committed to promoting democracy in Iraq but believe that the United States is not doing enough.

The editors of both the Washington Post and The New Republic fall into the latter category. Even though I am committed to hearing out both the constructive and the destructive critics, I have found it harder and harder and to take the latter seriously as a result of their Vietnam mindset. However, when the WaPo and TNR criticize the occupation I take their observations very seriously.

Recent criticism from the WaPo and TNR is all the more surprising because my own interpretation of the public record suggests that the occupation is going better than expected. Moreover, Josh is at least as optimistic as I am, if not moreso.

So what's going on? First and foremost, the rising casualty toll and persistence of guerrilla warfare has persuaded even supporters of the occupation that something is going seriously wrong. Second, the Pentagon's decision to have combat troops serve as peacekeepers suggests that one can trace much of the chaos in Iraq to the occupation forces' lack of appropriate training.

On the first point, I think that the WaPo and TNR may have fallen prey to media spin. The headlines coming out of Iraq are almost entirely negative. For example:And those are just the headlines from Friday's WaPo. By themselves, none of these headlines are inaccuate or misleading. Yet taken together, they indicate the inability of even top-flight journalists to put the military situation in a broader perspective.

As you might have guessed, I think the guerrilla threat is not all that serious. I tend to agree with this former Marine officer who argues that the Ba'athist insurgents have already demonstrated their incompetence as military strategists. In short, he argues that the Ba'athist offensive is extremely premature, given the overwhelming American forces still on the ground in central Iraq.

Without sounding like a kneejerk reactionary, I would like to suggest that the American media -- including moderate, mainstream, responsible publications such as the WaPo -- are still imprisoned in a Vietnam mindset. In contrast to those conservatives who constantly attack the mainstream media, I do not believe that this Vietnam mindset is part and parcel of a pervasive but unacknowledged left-liberal agenda.

Rather, much of this mindset reflects an honest but misguided effort to learn the lessons of history. If Vietnam were the only guerrilla war ever fought (in addition, perhaps, to those in El Salvador and Nicaragua) one might fairly conclude that American generals consistently underestimate the popular support and tactical sophistication of their opponents. Yet quite often, government forces destroy overconfident and unprepared insurgents.

Recently, I have been giving a lot of thought to the Vietnam-Iraq analogy thanks to Neil Sheehan's masterful work on the Vietnam War, A Bright Shining Lie. After confronting the depths of ignorance and incompetence that led to the fall of Saigon, it is ridiculous to suggest that the Ba'athist any surgents can mount any sort of challenge to American occupation forces.

In Vietnam, the United States was supporting a brutal regime that showed total disregard for its citizens' lives, economic welfare, and political rights. In contrast, the Viet Cong demonstrated an impressive concern for the people of Vietnam despite committing some appalling atrocities.

In Iraq, the United States has brought down a regime that strongly resembles the one its supported in Saigon. The occupation forces are also doing far more for the people of Iraq than even the Viet Cong did for the people of Vietnam. Even so, the unexpectedly swift fall of the Ba'athist government ensured that thousands of its supporters would fade into the woodwork, along with considerable amounts of military equipment.

Sad to say, even a flawless assault on the Ba'athist remnants will cost the lives of scores of American soldiers, even hundreds. No question, some of those lives might have been saved had Coalition forces launched their counterinsurgency campaign immediately after the fall of Baghdad. But in the long-run, a month-and-a-half delay is insignificant. With the postwar casualty toll standing at 23, it's hard to say that the US could be doing much better.

Which brings us to the second trend that has disturbed the democracy promotion advocates at TNR and the WaPo: the decision to employ combat troops as peacekeeping forces. Unsurprisingly, this decision has opened the Pentagon to ample criticism of its unpreparedness to face the realities of postwar Iraq. And such criticism is well-deserved. In fact, I agree wholeheartedly with Greg Djerejian's suggestion that the military should equip and train several divisions for the explicit purpose of peacekeeping and reconstruction.

Along with the WaPo and TNR, Greg think that our troops unpreparedness is an ex post facto vindication of those who insisted that the UN play a greater role in the occupation of Iraq. I wouldn't go that far. Yet while I stand by my argument that a strong UN voice would derail the occupation, I do recognize that peacekeeping damages soldiers' morale and that it wouldn't hurt to bring in UN or NGO officials with experience in Bosnia and Kosovo.

That said, I think that Coaltion forces have been doing an impressive job regardless of their insufficient training. Why? Because American soldiers instinctively put their democratic values into practive. Would further training improve these soldiers' efficiency and morale? Absolutely. Yet I suspect that chaos would still abound even with the best-trained forces in Baghdad.

What matters now is patience. If the President ensures that rebuilding Iraq stays at the top of the American agenda, we can overcome those errors that have already been made. While TNR and the WaPo are right to be concerned about the state of affairs in Iraq, the progress we have already made suggests that a long-term commitment to promoting democracy in Iraq will be well worth the effort.

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# Posted 1:41 PM by Dan  

SOME OF HIS BEST FRIENDS ARE JEWISH. The Telegraph and the London Times pick up the story of Oxford Professor Andrew Wilkie's rejection of Amit Duvshani's PhD application.
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# Posted 12:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SCALIA ON GAY MARRIAGE: Andrew Sullivan comments.
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# Posted 10:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SAYS WHO? You might have figured out by now that I like guessing games. So ask yourself who said the following:
1) "overshadowing the military achievement [in Iraq] is the failure -- so far -- to find, or explain the absence of, weapons of mass destruction that were the necessary and sufficient justification for preemptive war. The doctrine of preemption -- the core of the president's foreign policy -- is in jeopardy."

2) "Whatever legitimacy preventive war may claim derives from intelligence reliable enough to persuade responsible people, including allies, that the supposed enemy is really about to strike the United States. If no WMD turn up in Iraq, President Bush will lose a lot of credibility. It seems doubtful that he would be able to lead the American people into wars against Iran or North Korea simply on his presidential say-so."
Turns out the first quote is from George Will, the second from Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the erstwhile JFK advisor and inveterate Democratic mouthpiece.

The surprising resemblance of Will and Schlesinger's views underlines an important aspect of the WMD debate that has often been ignored. While there is little substance to accusations that Bush & Co. invented the Iraqi threat, the President will have to overcome much greater skepticism if he ever asks either the American people or foreign governments to trust his judgment on a matter of fact.

Even if no WMD is found, Bush will be safe at the polls. But America may have its hands tied abroad.
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# Posted 10:19 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UPSIDE DOWN: Bush is setting fund-raising records in California while small donors across the nation are heavily favoring Republicans over Democrats. What is the world coming to?
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# Posted 10:06 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AMERICAN DOLLARS FOR TERRORISTS: Jim Hoagland blasts the President's hypocritical embrace of Pakistan. Sadly, the Administration seems unable to recognize that Musharraf is not a provider of stability, but rather a corrupt and incompetent fool who promotes violent fundamentalism, launches terrorist attacks on his Indian neighbors and destroys democracy.

UPDATE: Greg Djerejian thinks that Americans fail to appreciate just how much Musharraf did for us right after Sept. 11th. Fair enough. Still, I think Greg substantially exaggerates the degree to which Musharraf risked his own political well-being in the process of aiding the United States. The people of Pakistan may resent "Busharraf" for his ties to the United States, but they resent him much more for being an incompetent and corrupt dictator.
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# Posted 9:02 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIKE A BLOG OUT OF HELL: Six days have passed since my last substantive post on this site. My inbox is overflowing. My ignorance is apalling.

Countless news cycles have spun by in my time away from the web. And yet life goes on. To my surprise, it is possible to live -- and live well -- without being constantly plugged in to the information superhighway.

The pinnacle of the past six days has been the Magdalen Commemoration Ball, an all-night celebration of indulgent excess that takes place only once every three years. Its atmosphere ranges from the elegant to the ridiculous, from white tie and tails to barbecue and bumper cars. Admission comes at the price of One Hundred English Pounds.

While I might have been tempted to skulk away from the cocktail bar and fireworks show to post my latest thoughts on the reconstruction of Iraq or peace in the Middle East, I did not have that option. Given the intense demands for electricity generated by three sound stages and all sorts of other entertainment paraphrenalia, the college authorities shut down the computer center in order to save power.

But now I am back and raring to go, ready to take on the world like a blog out of hell.
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# Posted 2:42 AM by Patrick Belton  

NEWS BULLETIN: Rachel's in Oxford - woo-hoo!
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# Posted 2:42 AM by Patrick Belton  

HA'ARETZ ON JERUSALEM'S 4-YEAR OLD ARABIC-HEBREW BILINGUAL SCHOOL: This is precisely the sort of thing all people of good will need to be supporting.....
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Saturday, June 28, 2003

# Posted 10:00 AM by Dan  

BILL KELLER ON DIVERSITY. He acknowledges the many shades of gray in the affirmative action debate and demonstrates that it does not follow left/right lines.

The column introduced a quote from Stanley Fish which I thoroughly enjoyed. Referring to the problem of stigmas (something Josh and Clarence Thomas disdain about affirmative action), Fish stated: "the low self-esteem that comes from wondering if your success was based on merit is probably preferable to the low self-esteem that comes from never getting a chance to succeed in the first place." In this sense affirmative action, despite its flaws, is the least worst option.
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# Posted 2:14 AM by Patrick Belton  

TROUBLING IF TRUE: Little Green Footballs point out this letter, in which - assuming it is authentic - an Oxford professor refuses to consider advising an Israeli doctoral applicant because of his Israeli citizenship:

From: "Andrew Wilkie" awilkie@worf.molbiol.ox.ac.uk
To: "Amit Duvshani"
Sent: Monday, June 23, 2003 9:58 AM
Subject: Re: PhD application

Dear Amit Duvshani,

Thank you for contacting me, but I don't think this would work. I have a huge problem with the way that the Israelis take the moral high ground from their appalling treatment in the Holocaust, and then inflict gross human rights abuses on the Palestinians because they (the Palestinians) wish to live in their own country.

I am sure that you are perfectly nice at a personal level, but no way would I take on somebody who had served in the Israeli army. As you may be aware, I am not the only UK scientist with these views but I'm sure you will find another suitable lab if you look around.

Yours sincerely,
Andrew Wilkie

Nuffield Professor of Pathology,
Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine,
The John Radcliffe,
Oxford OX3 9DS,

Tel (44)-1865-222619
Fax (44)-1865-222500

A FINAL UPDATE: Ha'aretz picks up the story, and Oxford's formal apology to Mr. Duvshani (though, somewhat inexplicably, they refer to him as seeking an internship).
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# Posted 12:59 AM by Patrick Belton  


Responses: Israel (skeptical), US (positive), France (supportive of Hamas no matter what), EU (pissy).
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Friday, June 27, 2003

# Posted 11:35 PM by Patrick Belton  

DEFINITELY WORTH A (FAR)READ: That is, Foreign Policy's new issue on rebuilding Iraq. Among others, there are pieces from Marina Ottaway, Tom Carothers, Bob Kagan, Husain Haqqani, and Minxin Pei.

These are all worthy of further comment, but for the moment I need to post quietly, because my happily-frequent roommate Josh is grabbing some shuteye in the other room. On the other hand, sunrise over the half-completed annex going up outside the window of his room in Merton is dazzling and beautiful. (Perhaps all the dust being kicked up into the atmosphere by the construction...)
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# Posted 11:22 PM by Patrick Belton  

SAUDI ARABIA LECTURES THE WEST ON HUMAN RIGHTS: From the Saudi Kingdom and its embassy in London, we now have a set of Questions and Answers about Human Rights. Occasionally, we in the west may get confused on questions of human rights - which, after all, are thorny and complex. Fortunately, we have the house of Sa'ud to explain all these knotty issues to us: (This via MEMRI)

Q: "Why is Saudi Arabia often criticized in the media for violating human rights?"

A: "Human rights, as a concept, did not suddenly [come into] the world in the form of a sacred revelation. The theory of human rights evolved slowly and is still evolving. A century ago, it was difficult to recognize in Europe anything like the human rights of modern Europe. Saudi Arabia does not see fit to accept the latest version of the West's version of human rights. Saudi Arabia has its own vision.

Q: "Why can women not travel freely and alone within Saudi Arabia?"

A: "This phenomenon is not limited to Saudi Arabia. This custom prevails in many Muslim countries. There is a religious basis for it: the Prophet Mohammad said that no women should travel for more than one night without her husband or a Mahram, for example, her father, son, or uncle. Some Muslim scholars believe that the Prophet's instruction was based on the unsafe travel conditions of the time. They argue that as travel is no longer risky, that injunction does not apply. However, religious scholars in Saudi Arabia do not accept this interpretation, and neither do the majority of the Saudi people. This is not a matter of government decree; it is a matter of deep personal belief."

Q: "....Now that you mention Islam, why is it that Saudi Arabia does not allow the followers of other religions the freedom to practice their faiths in Saudi Arabia?"

A: "Anyone in Saudi Arabia is entitled to his own beliefs and practices. But Saudi Arabia cannot allow the public practice of any religion which contradicts Islam. Saudi Arabia is a special place: it is the cradle of Islam and the Prophet Mohammad declared it a preserve of Islam. A lot of the so-called dissidents want all non-Muslims thrown out of Saudi Arabia. But the government takes a far more moderate stance.

Q: "....But Saudi Arabia's courts lack the basic minimum standards of justice."

A: "Britain is only familiar with the Western system of justice and cannot envisage any other. The West's judicial system is the result of its own historic evolution and so is Saudi Arabia's. According to Saudi tradition there are no juries, nor are there likely to be in the future. Lawyers are not an integral part of the system. One can bring a lawyer but that is optional. We don't consider the presence of lawyers a prerequisite for the delivery of justice."

Q: "But without a jury and a lawyer what guarantee to a fair trial does the accused have?"

A: "A good question. In Saudi Arabia the judge acts, in effect, as the defendant's lawyer. He challenges every piece of evidence presented by the prosecution. Unlike judges in the West who simply act as umpires leaving the prosecution team and the defense team to influence the jury, our judges consider themselves personally accountable to God for every judgment they make. If a judge condemns to death a man who is innocent – the judge faces eternal divine punishment and he knows that. Among God-fearing men this is a mighty safeguard."
I'm convinced. Dunno about you.
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# Posted 12:57 PM by Patrick Belton  

DON'T JUST DO SOMETHING, SIT THERE: CalPundit has a wonderful post on differences between the British and U.S. press relationships with senior officeholders. His gist: US politicians are permitted (i.e., by the press and the rules of their game) to dodge questions and avoid press appearances, while British prime ministers must skillfully handle hostile, well-prepared, and dogged interviewers.
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# Posted 12:44 PM by Patrick Belton  

A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT TO OUR READERSHIP: Every one of you, right now, and yes that means you there, need to go without any delay and register online in the Federal Trade Commission's new do-not-call registry, debuted today. Telemarketers who do not remove registrants from their rolls by October 1st may be fined up to $10,000 for their unwelcome calls at dinner. (More information: FTC, WashPost.) This is one populist bill I can heartily thank God, or at least the Congress for. Bloggers (and members of the press), spread the word....
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# Posted 12:49 AM by Patrick Belton  

SENATOR THURMOND died last night, at 100.

His politics were not my politics, but I had the pleasure of meeting him several times when I worked in Senator Chuck Robb's legislative office. He was a quintessential Southern gentleman who would always generously spare moments for a skinny 22-year old, a flirt who could often be seen walking to Union Station with female interns under each arm, and who once whisked two female colleagues away from a friend of mine with the promise to demonstrate how a gentlemen charmed the opposite sex. Such behavior would have been unthinkable from a younger man, but for Senator Thurmond, well, everyone understood he was being Ol' Strom, and played along. He was a segregationist, but his views changed, and people must be allowed the chance to change for the better - as he did.

An age dies with him. We are better without its worst aspects, and have fortunately learned to treat each other more fully as humans, and as brothers and sisters. But we would do well to recall, and perhaps to imitate, its charm, honor, and graciousness, as they were instantiated so well by the senior senator from South Carolina.
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# Posted 12:31 AM by Patrick Belton  

LOOK FOR mostly amusing ancedotes and such bits out of me for three or four days (i.e., soft-core OxBlog) while I finish up a few articles and bits of my thesis, then back right away to more substantive posting (hard-core OxBlog).

After all, how am I supposed to write or blog when I'm on the road, travelling...okay, in Oxford. As a personal note, it's incredibly nice to be back here, seeing many of my closest friends, and being reminded that this place really exists, and isn't merely a fiction of my delirium. At the very least, Oxford is a fiction which manypeople share.....

My first anecdote, however, isn't very amusing at all. It's about an incredibly disturbing incident that took place in Oxford, and was covered in the non-OxBlog Oxford student publication, Cherwell. Cherwell reports that Maxwell's bar in Oxford (37 Queen Street) served ground glass, mixed in a cocktail, to Oxford student Emma Phillips. She subsequently spent the night in John Radcliffe Infirmary, and in x-rays the bottom of her stomach was shown to be lined with glass. The only immediate action taken by the bar? To offer her two free jugs of cocktails. (Yeah, like she's going to drink those....) The manager on duty insisted there was nothing more he could do. However, after time passed, he relented and generously agreed to pay for a taxi to take Ms. Phillips to hospital. (For those of you who have lived in the UK, this will be instantly recognizable as an instance of Anglo-institutional rationality.)

Finall, the excruciatingly painful quote to carry around with you the rest of the day: "Philips had all but finished the drink before she realised that the crunching sensation in her mouth could not be ice."

Anyone in Oxford who reads this who doesn't immediately boycott Maxwell's, well, should.
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Thursday, June 26, 2003

# Posted 3:04 PM by Dan  

JOSH, YOU ARE RIGHT that I have no way of 100% knowing that affirmative action gave Thomas an opportunity he otherwise would not have had. You are far better versed in legal scholarship than I am, but here is some other evidence: if I am not mistaken, in 1991 the American legal community expressed apprehension about Thomas's clear lack of experience--he had only served two years as a federal judge. Would that allow me to say that he may have been qualified but not a likely candidate given the fact that several other prospective justices had far more experience than he?

My knowledge of history goes back to the late 1980s/early 1990s, so your antebellum reference did not register too well with me. Was there a program in place in the 1850s which looked at qualified black and white candidates and then chose white candidates based in part on the discrimination against them in the past and present? As far as I am concerned, the moral and political distinctions between slavery and affirmative action clouds any analogies.

I am not calling Thomas or our friend from the 1850s "barking mad." Of course black people can criticize affirmative action. When did I argue that they could not?

I do disagree with you over affirmative action--I think that right now, the benefits of affirmative action outweigh the costs but do hope that we can reach the point where it is no longer necessary. We just aren't there yet, as far as I am concerned.
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# Posted 1:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ADESNIK AND CHAFETZ DOMINATE AMERICAN MEDIA: This article mentions Patrick as well. Read the whole thing!
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# Posted 10:55 AM by Patrick Belton  

NARCO AND TERRORISM: Time has a fairly good analysis of some of the dynamics relating to Hamas's ceasefire.

On a completely different note, upwards of 90 percent of banknotes in circulation in Europe betray traces of cocaine, from users having rolled up the notes at some point in the notes' history to form a tube for snorting. (Any readers who want to correct my technical description, please feel free.) The Spanish peseta and Irish pound, followed by the German deutschmark, had the most widespread levels of cocaine contamination in a test run by the EU shortly before the introduction of the euro. Now that the euro has been released, the concentration of cocaine on euro notes from Spain was found in a test to be one hundred times that on euro notes from Germany.
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Wednesday, June 25, 2003

# Posted 10:15 PM by Dan  

WHAT HORRORS? Josh, I don't think Dowd has a problem with the idea of black conservatives in general. She just has a problem with one in particular. Was her quote from Thomas' 1987 speech inaccurate?

Sure, the shot against Gonzales was unneccesary, since Gonzales might just be the most qualified man for the job, but I don't have a problem with her legitimate lambasting of Thomas. Why not look at Thomas as an example of the benefits of affirmative action--he was a qualified candidate for law school and later jobs who, because of affirmative action, was given an opportunity that he otherwise might not have had?
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# Posted 9:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG REUNION! Finally, Josh, Patrick and David all in the same place at the same time. The place is Josh's spacious apartments in the graduate annexe of Merton College.

The time is now.

United as one, we have performed the sacred Oxford ritual of purchasing chips & cheese at 1:30am from Hassan, the Lord High Commissioner of Kebab.

As we should have pointed out long ago, the British stopped referring to them as "French Fries" long before any Americans did. Moreover, they refer to it as "snogging" rather than "French kissing"

Contrary to the predictions of organizational theory, the presence of all three OxBlog contributors in one place has not led to any increase whatsoever in our collective efficiency.

(This may have something to do with the fact that Josh insists on watching over my shoulder as I write this post. You'd think Josh would know that Communism doesn't work.)

Anyhow, instead of blogging, we have done many productive things, such as eating in Kurdish restaurant and watching Harlem Nights, a Richard Pryor/Eddie Murphy flick from a few years back. (4 stars out of 5!)

So there. Don't our lives sound fun? Damn right they are.
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# Posted 3:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIGHT SWEET CRUDE: The Post's Outlook section has an in-depth explanation of why this war isn't about oil. The basic points will be familiar to readers of the TNR piece which OxBlog linked to a while back. In short, going to war for oil just doesn't make economic sense, either for individual firms or for the US government. The Post article has a few strongpoints, though, which the TNR piece doesn't. First, it's written by Daniel Yergin, who won a Pultizer for his book on oil and power in the Middle East. Second, it contains a lot more solid evidence, especially concerning Iraq's role within the global oil market. Happy wonking.
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Tuesday, June 24, 2003

# Posted 12:10 PM by Patrick Belton  

NOVELIST LEON URIS, author of Exodus among other notable books, died today at 78.
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Monday, June 23, 2003

# Posted 8:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A DECADE OF SUFFERING AND STRENGTH: Andrew Sullivan marks the tenth anniversary of his struggle with HIV.
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# Posted 7:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ROADMAP SCHOLARS: Intelligent updates from Reason of Voice, Kesher Talk and Belgravia Dispatch. [BD's permalinks are broken, so scroll down to "Roadmap Implementation Watch".]
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# Posted 7:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL: Better known to OxBlog readers as the creator of Boomshock, Robert Tagorda has just published a fascinating essay in The American Spectator on his experiences as a Filipino American confronting the idiosyncratic arbitrariness of affirmative action.

While my knowledge of the law consists of nothing more than common sense, I think that Robert's essay provides a compelling illustration of why the Supreme Court chose to strike down all affirmative action programs that treat human beings as numbers rather than complex individuals.
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# Posted 7:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: Commentary on the Court's rulings from Jack Balkin and Eugene Volokh.
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# Posted 12:15 PM by Patrick Belton  

ISLAM AND DEMOCRACY: Last night, our D.C.-based Nathan Hale foreign policy group hosted a discussion on the prospects for democratization in the Muslim world. Will Baude posts notes on our discussion here. (And here's what we'd been reading on the subject.) I'll look forward very much to hearing your thoughts!.

On a somewhat related note, there's a new free monthly bulletin Carnegie has just begun, to track and analyze reform and democratization developments in the Arab world. You can subscribe to the on-line version here.
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# Posted 11:33 AM by Patrick Belton  

BASHAR ON IRAQIS IN SYRIA AND THE PEACE PROCESS: Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad gave a recent interview on Al-Arabiyya. Some highlights:

On not cooperating with the US about Iraqi ex-officials from the Saddam regime presently in Syria: "One official entered Syria under a false name, but not from Iraq - from another country. We learned about him from the Americans, who asked that we extradite him, but we refused. I think he was captured later in Iraq. We did not turn over, and will not turn over, anyone to the Americans. There may be [Iraqi officials in Syria that we are unaware of]. Anything is possible. It's impossible to stop the movement of goods and people between the countries. [If we capture any of them], we'll send them back to Iraq. We won't do anything to them. We won't turn them over to anyone."

On Syria's non-cooperation with the peace process: "They (the U.S.) did not require Syria's presence, because Syria is irrelevant to the issue and because we do not agree to the proposals..."

On Syria's supposed benevolence toward the Palestinian people: "When we adopt the [Palestinian] problem, we do it in accordance with the desire of the Palestinian citizen, whose problem it is. We cannot agree to anything that contradicts it, even if we believe in it, and we cannot oppose anything the Palestinian citizen believes in."

Incidentally, the last point belies one of the unstated cruelties of the Arab world: Arab governments' treatment of their Palestinian refugees. Of the 3.5 million UNRWA-registered refugees in Arab countries, only the 1.5 million in Jordan are granted the basic rights of citizenship of the nation in which they reside. This act of humanity is particularly striking for Jordan, a country which is beset by a simmering question of competing Jordanian and Palestinian identities given the fact that Palestinians have come to constitute 60 percent of the Jordanian population. The 373,000 stateless Palestinians living in Lebanon are not allowed to attend public school, own property, or even improve their housing stock. The Lebanese government is even planning to revoke citizenship rights to Palestinians who were granted Lebanese citizenship in 1994. Marginalization of Palestinian refugees in the Arab world does nothing to diminish radicalism or improve the lot of a people whose human suffering has been great. Arab countries are quite happy to treat them as pawns, to clothe themselves in the symbolic legitimacy of their cause while acting in quite atrocious ways to the actual Palestinians, who often live (as in Lebanon) in refugee camps where they face horrific public health, minimal prospects of education or employment, and are instead maintained in as much of a marginalized status as possible to augment their stateless status and maintain pressure on Israel. If Arab governments were only as good as their people, they might remember with the Palestinians the meaning of the phrase "Ahlan wa Sahlan" - "When you cross our threshold you are one of our family, and you have stepped on even ground."
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Sunday, June 22, 2003

# Posted 11:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SON: We have not found weapons of mass destruction. Thoughtful critics have begun to charge the Administration with practicing pervasive deception. Much of the furor centers around an investigative report in The New Republic, which reaches the damning conclusion that President Bush
has engaged in a pattern of deception concerning the most fundamental decisions a government must make. The United States may have been justified in going to war in Iraq--there were, after all, other rationales for doing so--but it was not justified in doing so on the national security grounds that President Bush put forth throughout last fall and winter. He deceived Americans about what was known of the threat from Iraq and deprived Congress of its ability to make an informed decision about whether or not to take the country to war.
But compare TNR's allegations to the more precise criticism offered by Josh Marshall:
It's suddenly become acceptable to discuss what everyone knew for the last year or so: that is, that the administration was willfully misrepresenting the evidence both on WMD and a purported link to al Qaida.
At first, Marshall's criticism comes across as a repetition of the TNR allegations. But it isn't. Marshall is accusing the administration of engaging in deceptive salesmanship, not wholesale fabrication of an Iraqi threat. As Marshall observes in The Hill:
There were really two WMD debates. One was about chemical and low-end biological weapons. The other was about smallpox, nukes, al Qaeda and pretty much everything else under the sun.

On the former, the White House didn’t hoodwink anyone, since virtually everyone in the foreign policy mainstream figured that Iraq at least maintained a chemical and biological weapons capacity. I certainly thought so.

At a minimum, there was solid circumstantial evidence to believe that they did. Frankly, there still is.
If there still is solid evidence that Saddam had chemical and biological weapons, then Saddam was in material breach of Resolution 1441. Do those words sound strange to you? "Material breach"? "Resolution 1441"?

They should. Because the question everyone is now asking is "Did Bush lie?" rather than "Did the United States have good cause to invade Iraq without the express written consent of the Security Council?"

While I suspect that Bush himself did not lie, there is considerable evidence that high-ranking officials, possibly including the Vice President, knew in advance of the State of the Union address that Iraq had not purchased uranium from Niger. If so, all of the officials involved in that process of deception should be severly disciplined.

Nonetheless, this sort of deception has minimal bearing on the justice of the American cause. Just days ago, Hans Blix
said he remains deeply puzzled by the former Iraqi government's efforts to deceive and mislead U.N. inspectors for 12 years after the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

"Why did they conduct themselves as they did throughout the '90s?" Blix said in an interview last week. "Why deny access if you are not hiding something? What I am groping at now is whether pride was at the root of it."
For the moment, there are no answers to those questions. But if Saddam was refusing to submit to the will of the Security Council, then France and China and Russia had an obligation to ensure that Saddam would face the "serious consequences" mentioned in 1441.

Still, it is fair to ask whether the American people would have supported the President's decision to invade if it had been more fully aware of the salesmanship involved in the presentation of the Iraqi threat. TNR argues that
Had the administration accurately depicted the consensus within the intelligence community in 2002--that Iraq's ties with Al Qaeda were inconsequential; that its nuclear weapons program was minimal at best; and that its chemical and biological weapons programs, which had yielded significant stocks of dangerous weapons in the past, may or may not have been ongoing--it would have had a very difficult time convincing Congress and the American public to support a war to disarm Saddam.
While still within the realm of the possible, TNR's speculations directly contradict the results of multiple opinion polls: that if Saddam was hiding chemical and biological weapons, then the United States should go to war.

In the final analysis, there is nothing new under the sun. The case for war then is the case for war now. While front-page stories continue to hint at startling revelations of presidential lies, even those of us who supported the war knew that the President's rhetoric went too far.

What we are waiting for now is the truth in Iraq. Until we know for sure what happened to the WMD, we will not know whether the invasion of Iraq headed off a major threat to international security, or simply removed a megalomaniacal dictator who conned his opponents into believing that he was much more dangerous than he actually was.
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# Posted 9:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AUNG SAN SUU KYI: Enraged, the WaPo observes that
Southeast Asian foreign ministers, meeting last week in Cambodia with Mr. Powell, agreed to send a delegation to Burma no later than October. October? While one of the world's most courageous political leaders languishes in one of its most infamous jails? Where are Kofi Annan and the U.N. Security Council? Where are the executive orders that President Bush could issue today?
Your answer is as good as mine.
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# Posted 9:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EVIL FORCES: The inimitable Reihan Salam waxes nostalgic about high school life in NY, spins esoteric political rhymes, and comments on the lyrical subtlety of teenage Russian lesbians.
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# Posted 7:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ME VS. ME: In the first half of his column in today's NYT, Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson advertises his liberal credentials by offering a bleeding-heart utilitarian defense of affirmative action. In the second half, Patterson launches a devastating attack on the politically correct multiculturalist rationales offered in defense of affirmative action as it is currently practiced. The horse, my friends, is Trojan.

NB: If you are interested in the history of slavery and emancipation, head straight for Patterson's brilliant work on Slavery and Social Death.
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# Posted 6:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A GEM FROM SAFIRE: On freedom in Iran.

For more on the role of foreign broadcasts in supporting the protests, click here. And click here to read about flagrant Iranian violations of the profoundly flawed Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
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# Posted 6:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ALL YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT TERRRORISM...but were afraid to ask. Yesterday, I wrote that
If there were any hope of destorying Hamas, Fatah and Jihad by purely military means, I might well support it.
Yet as Greg Djerejian points out [via e-mail], Fatah is not an explicitly terrorist organization, even though it has spawned such offshoots such the Tanzim and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

In fact, Mahmoud Abbas himself is a member of Fatah. So it is pretty much here to stay. But Greg's real point is that we pundits need to be more precise when talking about different terrorist organizations, lest we say something we don't mean. To that end, Greg recommends consulting the "Terrorism: Questions & Answers" website, a project suppored by the Council on Foreign Relations. I, for one, have every intention of doing so.
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# Posted 5:13 PM by Patrick Belton  

INTIFADA IN GAELIC: In one of the more interesting manifestations of the IRA-Hamas linkages (which extend to symbology as well as cooperation in training exercises - Irish Republicans have begun flying Palestinian flags, and in response Unionists have started to display Israeli flags), a web page has appeared supporting the intifada, in Gaelic.

Small world, indeed.
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# Posted 11:29 AM by Patrick Belton  

MAN ON THE STREET RESPONSE TO BRITISH TOE WRESTLING: "No, Patrick, you do that much better than I do." - Eliana. "That looks like an exciting topic." - Rachel, newly returned from wedding travels. What is everyone talking about - at least at the OxBlog DC bureau office, this morning? It's the British triumph yesterday at toe-wrestling world championships.. "That's sad." - Rachel
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Saturday, June 21, 2003

# Posted 11:14 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

POWELL COMES, POWELL GOES: After a brief visit by the Secretary of State, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have become more optimistic about the prospects of a new security accord for Gaza. What stands in the way of an accord are continuting disagreements between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators about how to provide security for Gaza's main intercity road.

While denouncing Hamas in no uncertain terms, Powell also indicated that the United States and Israel had come to an agreement that targeted killings are out of bounds unless there are indications of an impending terrorist attack.

While this sort of minor advance is encouraging, serious questions about the viability of the Road Map still abound. Without sounding all that optimistic, Reason of Voice observes that the Road Map has forced both Israeli and Palestinian factions to clarify their positions on the prospects of peace.

While the first half of Dan's post amounts to a revisionist history of the Oslo process which declares that it never came close to achieving a lasting peace, I found the second half quite interesting, especially given's Dan's firm support for Likud. He writes that
Mahmoud Abbas' rise and Yasser Arafat's marginalization have forced Palestinian policy 'out of the closet'. The complaints of previous Israeli governments dealing with Arafat was that he would give one speech in English and another in Arabic. It is astoundingly clear how true that statement was in light of the last 3 months of 'roadmap' negotiation. Abbas's statement in Aqaba forced Palestinian terrorist groups to speak for themselves. We've seen Sheik Yassin and al-Rantissi of Hamas, previously unknown publicly, emerge with a firm voice of continued terrorist commitment. These men had previously hid comfortably in the shadows of Arafat's cloaks.
Without intending to do so, Dan seems to have admitted that the (temporary and uncertain) rise of Mahmoud Abbas represents a historic opportunity to negotiate with a Palestinian leadership actually committed to peace. From where I stand, that sounds like a very strong argument in favor of Israeli restraint when it comes to targeting Hamas officials for assassination.

Presumably, friend-of-Volokh Jonathan Zasloff disagrees. He writes [via e-mail]:
My sense is that it would actually ENHANCE Abu Mazen's credibility at this point to tell Hamas: "look, this guy Sharon--you know who he is. I can't control him. Like the Israelis says, he eats Arabs for breakfast. I can get the Americans to lean on him to stop the killings--but only if you commit to an unconditional cease-fire. And you'd better do so--because if you don't, you're all dead men. You know as well as I do that the Shabak is crawling all over Gaza City. They know where you guys are and will find you out eventually. And like I said, this Sharon won't care if he kills a bunch of civilians. He never has."
Given Jonathan's argument, I would counter that Hamas actually wants Sharon to kill as many Palestinian civilians as possible. Each innocent bystander that dies reinforces the Hamas message that Israel is too brutal to negotiate with.

While the killing off of its top leadership may intimidate Hamas, that seems to be a price its top cadres are willing to pay in order to discredit moderates such as Abbas. If that price were too high, Hamas would've declared a ceasefire after the Rantisi attack rather than launching even more destructive suicide attacks.

All in all, the critical question in the targeted killings debate seems to be "Why now?" Why risk destroying Abbas's credibility if he is the best negotiating partner Israel has had? If there were any hope of destorying Hamas, Fatah and Jihad by purely military means, I might well support it. But for as long as one believes that peace can only be had at the negotiating table, there will be no choice for Israel -- at certain critical points -- but to shoulder the risks associated with self-restraint.
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