Monday, July 14, 2003

# Posted 8:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOT BIAS. JUST CONFUSION: Compare the headlines, both on the front page:
"Appointed Iraqi Council Assumes Limited Role" --Rajiv Chandrasekaran, WaPo, July 14.

"Iraqis Set to Form an Interim Council With Wide Power" -- Patrick Tyler, NYT, July 11.
What's even funnier is that you could switch the headlines around and both articles would still make just as much sense.
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# Posted 8:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE STRANGEST OFFER: Con-artists are getting more and more creative. Just take a look at this:

By making a small investment in the growing market for Nigerian blogs, you have the potential to become a major market force in West African communications.

As a leading American blogger, you surely recognize the value of getting into the revolution on the ground floor. With our experienced corps of professional spammers, we can use your blogospheric credibility to bilk millions of dollars from naive American consumers. Just imagine if we could unite our compelling model of online fraud with your tremendous credibility!

For a small additional investment, you can also purchase a share in the expanding Nigerian bridge-building industry.

Please be aware that we cannot offer you protection from the American Secret Service or Department of the Treasury. We can, however, defray the cost of bribes to local politicians.

Looking forward to hearing from you,
Patrick Beltonabene

"I now make more than $80,000 a year thanks to the Beltonabene business model!"
--Andru Sullivin
And to think most bloggers just have a tip jar...
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# Posted 8:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

VIVE LA REPUBLIQUE! Happy Bastille Day to one and all. While it is hard to resist the temptation to make some sort of snide remark about the vanity and hypocrisy of modern-day France, there is already enough of that out there. In the post-Howell era, even the NYT has begun to publish condescending and cynical essays about the French.

In today's paper, Walter Isaacson writes that Benjamin Franklin long ago discovered how best to deal with the French:
"always play to their pride and vanity by constantly seeking their opinion and advice, and they will admire you for your judgment and wisdom."
With all due respect to Mr. Hundred-Dollar Bill, that is pure bullshit. No resilient alliance can rest on a foundation of cynical condescension. Instead, we must constantly remind both ourselves and the French that our nations are founded on shared ideals.

Both "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" as well as "liberte, egalite, fraternite" are expressions of the same democratic ethos underlying both of our revolutions. (So what if the American revolution lasted for seven years while the French one lasted for eighty? What do you expect from a nation with a 35-hour work week?)

Anyhow, the better the United States is at living up to its ideals, the more persuasive it can sound when demanding that France live up to those same ideals as well. There will come a day, I hope, when the Tricolor, the Stars & Stripes and the Union Jack are recognized around the world as symbols of a single Enlightenment faith that has brought freedom and democracy to the four distant corners of the earth.
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# Posted 7:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH AND ANNAN HAVE FAILED to take any substantive measures to punish the Myanmar junta for its imprisonment of Aung San Suu Kyi and its violent crackdown on the Burmese democracy movement. The UN even elected Myanmar (as the generals call it) to serve as Vice President of the General Assembly during the upcoming session. Burma's neighbors are evading responsibility as well.
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# Posted 6:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

VICTORY FOR BOOMSHOCK: Robert Tagorda (aka Boomshock) cruised to victory in the most recent running of NZ Bear's New Weblog Showcase.

Robert won for his post on Arnold Schwarzenegger's bid for the California state house. Impressively, the Ah-nuld post won the endorsement of Glenn Reynolds and Andrew Sullivan as well as numerous others.

Embarrassingly, I forgot to vote in the Showcase even though I told Robert he should enter. So I'm glad that everyone else thinks as highly of Boomshock as I do. As I did once before, let me put it in terms an LA Dodger fan can appreciate: Folks, your looking at the Rookie of the Year. Next up, MVP?
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# Posted 6:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A SHEEP IN WOLF'S CLOTHING: While Will Saletan bashes the anti-Americanism at the heart of Howard Dean's foreign policy, Dan Drezner illustrates how Dean has clothed a mainstream Democratic foreign policy in the rhetoric of the radical left.

In some respects, Saletan and Drezner aren't far apart. Both recognize that the most offensive thing about Dean's foreign policy is not its substance, but the arrogance with which the candidate conveys it.

While Saletan and Drezner suggest that Dean's arrogance is a personal characteristic, I tend to think that it reflects the anti-Vietnam heritage of the Democratic Party's far left. While the overwhelming majority of American were anti-Vietnam by the time the war as over, the anti-war resentment of many protesters and activists became the foundation of a worldview that was automatically suspicious of American power to the point of being anti-American (in the foreign policy sense of the word.)

Since the end of the Cold War, only those Democrats who share this heritage resentment have been able to criticize American foreign policy with the same bravado dispalyed by Howard Dean. Whereas many other Democrats have offered thoughtful criticism of US foreign policy under both Clinton and Bush, they advance their criticism in the spirit of loyal opposition to a foreign policy that has done great things for the world.

In contrast, it often seems that Dean wants to tear down the accomplishments of his predecessors. The irony, of course, is that Clinton and Bush have slowly, sometimes unwillingly, brought American foreign policy around to the values vocalized so forcefully by the anti-Vietnam protesters.

Two decades ago, humanitarian intervention in Africa and nation-building in the Middle East would have been written off as hopeless causes. Admittedly, the US military has played a greater role in these endeavors than peace-loving protesters might be comfortable with. Still, the values animating the enterprise are the same.

In many ways, we are living in Howard Dean's America. The strange thing is that Dean himself isn't aware of that fact.
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# Posted 5:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IDIOTARIANS OF THE RIGHT: Dan Drezner adds considerable depth to my comments on Pat Robertson.
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# Posted 5:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH THE SOCIALIST: Andrew Sullivan writes that
President Bush's massive increases for such subsidies is yet another indicator that, in economic policy, he's much more of a socialist than he lets on. Big debt, deficit financing, huge new entitlements, and bigger subsidies: Bush's economic policy is a Democratic dream. So why are Republicans voting for it?
The answer is simple: Republicans are not economic conservatives. They are tax-cutting revolutionaries who will let nothing get in their way.

The Republican party has inherited its economic platform from the Reagan era. It insists that tax cuts will promote both economic growth and sound government finance. Of course, that idea was implausible in Reagan's time and discredited further by the Reagan deficit; according to a fellow named Bush, it was a classic example of "voodoo economics".

What made Reagan so successful as a tax-cutter, however, was that he knew not to touch the entitlements that Americans have come to depend on thanks to Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. This pragmatism continues to inform Republicanism today, giving it the debt-laden, welfarist character Sullivan rails against.

And so we now inhabit a strange world where the Democratic Party has become the most credible advocate of free trade and balanced budgets, i.e. economic conservatism.
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# Posted 8:59 AM by Dan  

SAFIRE ON TRUMAN ON UNDERDOGS. Very well put column about the newly released Truman diary. I agree that Truman should be criticised for his comments--why does he deserve a free pass simply because cultural anti-Semitism was common at the time? His decision to recognize the Jewish state 11 minutes after it decared independence is a seperate matter for which he should be commended.
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Saturday, July 12, 2003

# Posted 10:27 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FOER PLAY: If Frank Foer wrote an article called "My Butt", OxBlog would still link to it because Frank is such a great writer. Instead, Frank has written a WaPo op-ed arguing that the Democrats should draft Wesley Clark as their candidate for President.

I have to admit, it's pretty persuasive. I would've linked to it even if someone other than Frank had written it. But for the moment, I'm still wondering whether Clark's inability to generate his own momentum says something about him as a candidate. While my heart says "Lieberman in '04", my mind is very much open.

Also, make sure to check out "Everything is Illuminated", the debut novel by Frank's brother (and my friend) Jon. It's fantastic.
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# Posted 10:06 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANGLING FOR THE BIG FISH: The WaPo has an interesting cover story on the hunt for Saddam. Nice as that would be, one shouldn't overlook this week's capture of #23 and #29 on the most wanted list. Regardless of their importance as individuals, their capture demonstrate that Ba'athist guerrillas still lack one of the most important capabilities of an effective fighting force: the ability to protect their leaders.
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# Posted 9:51 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOT ENOUGH SOLDIERS IN IRAQ: Trent Telenko has just put up a first-rate post on this subject which explores different ways in which the United States can redress the shortage of military manpower that has become self-evident as a result of the occupation in Iraq.

After some very sharp analysis, Trent comest to a conclusion that I strongly disagree with: We need to reinstitute the draft. A draft is a very bad idea on both practical and political grounds. As Phil Carter has observed, the superior performance of our soldiers is a direct result of the fact they are part of an all-volunteer force. On the political side, I have a very hard time imagining that the American electorate wants anything to do with a draft, especially if its purpose is to facilitate nation-building.

So what are the alternatives? Patrick, Rachel and myself have talked about this and are slowly working our way towards the idea of a nation-building force that has the virtues of both the Peace Corps and the Foreign Service. Like the Peace Corps, it should be composed of idealistic young men and women who want to better the lives of impoverished nations. Like the Foreign Service, it should be composed of professionals whose expertise in local languages and cultures enables them to advance American ideals and interests.

Given that the Foreign Service accepts only an infinitesimal percentage of its applicants (and the Peace Corps is extremely selective as well), there is clearly an untapped reserve of American citizens who want to serve their country abroad. One should also note that the Foreign Service is extremely attractive because it offers what is, in essence, lifetime employment and excellent benefits. If we want to establish a professional corps of nation-builders, attached to the Department of State or any other, I think that offering similar terms will be absolutely necessary.

And extremely expensive. Without knowing much about military logistics, I still suspect that having combat divisions serve as nation-builders is far less cost effective than having a purpose-built nation-builiding corps. To be sure, there will still have to be significant combat forces deployed to protect our nation-builders. However, the nation-building corps should be able to perform those tasks which resemble the work of an American police department.

In other words, nation-builders should not be afraid of carrying a gun. If you are a pacificst, go to the Peace Corps. If you a warrior, enlist. But if you are prepared to face the maddening complexity of working on the margins of peace and war, then you are ready to build nations.

Admittedly, this is a role for which Americans are not naturally suited. Our political culture does not recognize that some nations must live neither at peace nor at war. If anything, this transitional state of being reminds us of Vietnam. The British, on the other hand, have a long historical memory of imperial service that bridged the divide between peace and war. Sadly, the purpose of such service was control, not liberation.

What America does have is a historical faith in the importance of promoting democracy abroad. Impressively, the Founding Fathers recognized the universal applicability of their values. They knew that there could not be democracy in just one country. And they believed in helping others to achieve the freedom that is the inherent right of man.

Thus, America has the necessary faith to engage in nation-building, even if it does not have the necessary experience. However, if this Administration maintains its commitment to a democratic Iraq, we will be on our way to having both faith and experience. Let the tyrants beware.
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Friday, July 11, 2003

# Posted 7:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OPIATE OF THE MASSES: A few days back, Josh declared that there are some definite reasons for optimism about the future of Afghanistan. While it is most definitely unfair (and perhaps even snarky) to take cheapshots at those who are on vacation, I can't help but wonder whether Josh's optimism reflects his possible consumption of Afghanistan's leading export.

Yesterday, the WaPo published an in-depth, front-page report on the pervasiveness of opium cultivation in Afghanistan. In part, this trend reflects pure desperation. Growing poppies is the only way to earn a secure living. The situation is so bad, in fact, that Muslim clerics are disregarding the tenets of the faith and entering the drug trade themselves.

On its own, however, desperation was not enough to fuel the massive spread of opium growth. Far more important is the impotence of the Afghan central government. The WaPo reports that
In the eastern province of Logar, convoys of trucks loaded with drugs and guarded by men armed with semiautomatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade launchers travel toward the Pakistani border at least two or three times a week. The police chief says that his men don't have the firepower to stop them and that some well-armed militiamen are in league with the smugglers...

Police across the country not only do not have the might to confront well-armed drug smugglers, they also lack such basics as cars, telephones and radios.

In mountainous Badakhshan, the police have just one vehicle, a pickup truck. When police at headquarters in the provincial capital, Faizabad, receive a tip about a smuggling operation in a far-flung district, Nazari often has to send an officer on foot. A round trip can take a month and leave an officer in trouble with no way to call for help.
While all that is bad enough, the real impact of the opium crisis may not be felt until Afghanistan holds its first elections. In the same WaPo report,
Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani called the drug trade "a threat to democracy" as Afghanistan tries to prepare for elections next year. "Elections are expensive propositions," he said in an interview last week in the capital, Kabul. "The liquid funds from drugs, in the absence of solid institutions, could corrupt voting practices and turn them into a nightmare instead of a realization of the public will."
Bad as that sounds, it is an accurate description of exactly what happened to democracy in Colombia. Given that Afghanistan is far more impoverished than Colombia, the influence of drug money will be even greater. Moreover, the Colombian military is fundamentally committed to preserving the constitutional order, something that cannot be said of either the (non-existent) Afghan army or the provincial warlords and their militias.

So, yes, things are better than they were under the Taliban. And they always will be, because you can't put a price on the right to vote or speak your mind. But if the warlords and the drug barons aren't brought under control, corruption and violence will soon rob most Afghans of the personal freedoms that democratic citizens are supposed to enjoy.
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# Posted 5:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SCHOLARSHIP GUILT: Thought it was only the Rhodes? Now the Truman Scholars are at it as well.
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# Posted 5:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

URANIUM-GATE: Josh Marshall is still all over this one. As things now stand, Powell has basically said he knew the uranium story was false from the get go and that that's why he avoided mentioning it at the UN. Meanwhile, Condi is explicitly holding Georget Tenet responsible for letting the story into the State of the Union address.

Josh himself is taking both Bob Woodward and the New York Times to task for playing down the whole story. While I agree that Uranium-gate says a lot about the irresponsible spin doctoring that is characteristic of this administration, Josh seems to think this story has the potential to become a major scandal. Why else would TPM focus so obsessively on every unfolding detail?

But the fact is, Uranium-gate will never become much more than a diversion from the more important issues of the day. Why? First of all, because Niger's alleged sale of uranium to Iraq was never more than a peripheral aspect of the case for going to war.

Perhaps more importantly, it was well-known two solid weeks before the invasion of Iraq that the documents describing Saddam's uranium purchase had been forged. Josh Marshall points this out himself, albeit without recognizing its significance.

The big accusation now floating around is that Bush misled the nation into going to war. For uranium-gate to matter, there would have to be evidence that concern about the alleged uranium sales played an important role in generating support for the war. Yet if we all knew before the war that the uranium story was a fabrication but still supported the use of force, then it is self-evident that no one was misled.

Now, instead of looking backward, let's look forward to 2004. It may turn out that Bush or Cheney knew before the State of the Union address that the uranium story was implausible or even flat out untrue. That may cost the President some votes. But unless the American public comes to believe that its sons and daughters gave their lives because of a lie, Bush will still be untouchable on foreign policy.
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# Posted 4:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PAT ROBERTSON, GODDAMNED LIAR: Turns out old Pat still thinks Charles Taylor is a swell guy. It's especially important to note, however, that many other Baptists and evangelicals have taken a firm stand against Taylor's brutality. Moreover, this stand reflects their sincere and enduring commitment to defending human rights. As one political scientist told the WaPo, Robertson's
comments really feed into the media critique of Christian conservatives, that they are not sophisticated, they don't care about others, all they care about are Christians around the world -- when in fact that is a caricature of the faith-based human rights movement.
While I admit to being highly suspicious of faith-based politics, I believe it is extremely important to work with its advocates when they embrace such worthy causes.
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# Posted 3:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IS FOX CHICKEN? Glenn Reynolds takes Murdoch Inc. to task for ignoring this week's massive pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
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Thursday, July 10, 2003

# Posted 8:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BEN & JERRY GO TO LIBERIA: Ryan Booth dismantles Howard Dean's comments on Liberia.
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# Posted 8:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG VS. NYT, PART II: I am now slightly less pissed off at the NYT. Perhaps reconizing how misleading and inaccurate its original article on the Rhodes Scholarship was, it has printed the following letter-to-the-editor, written by a pair of South African Scholars:
"Rhodes Scholars Are Split on a New Foundation for South African Awards" (news article, July 6) hints at opposition to the Rhodes Trust's efforts in South Africa. In truth, however, the letter to the trust cited in the article, signed by 115 current scholars, focuses on issues of internal management and transparency, while unambiguously expressing the signers' "full support for the trust's new commitment to South Africa" and applauding "the creation of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation." Nowhere does it complain that the foundation is diverting funds from the scholarships.

As Rhodes scholars and South Africans, we have a deep appreciation of the powerful symbolism involved in linking the names of Nelson Mandela and Cecil Rhodes, and firmly believe that the association is in the long-term interests of both the trust and our country. We would not have signed a letter that claimed otherwise.

Oxford, England, July 6, 2003

UPDATE: Kikuchiyo has some nice comments on my first post about the Rhodes Scholarship.
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# Posted 8:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNFAIR. UNBALANCED. UNMEDICATED. Yesterday was IMAO's blogiversary!
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# Posted 4:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REAGAN'S VISION: Just recently, Henry Yang sent me a long and thoughtful response to a post I put up on May 11th as part of a wideranging discussion on the nature of liberal foreign policy. (NB: The discussion was set off by Michael Totten's provocative essay "Builders and Defenders", which was later published by WSJ Online. For further comments from myself and others, click here.)

Henry writes that:
...Through OxBlog, I have learned that you have been working on your dissertation. As I said, I was reading the archives of your blog when I encountered a post you made on May 11th of this year when you characterized President Reagan as someone who battled isolationists and realists within the Republican Party as a finding in the course of your research. I write in to inform you of my disagreement with that perspective.

I would certainly agree that Reagan chose to take what one might call a “proactive” stance toward the Soviet threat that effectively silenced the isolationists in the party for a long time. (though not decisively crushed, as evident from the likes of Pat Buchanan before he left the GOP) What I disagree with is your assertion that Reagan represented idealism in combating the realist elements in his party. In my opinion, nothing can be further from the truth.

From your blog, I can tell that you are already aware of many exceptions to the “democratic idealism” that you ascribe to Reagan, though I’m puzzled by your failure to note the fact that there are so many “exceptions” to your theory that the "exceptions" are the rule, and that the examples supporting your theory are the real exceptions. In other words, Reagan was a realist who achieved realist ends occasionally (though infrequently) through idealist means (and often employing idealist rhetoric).

For a realist statesman, his primary interest is the interest of his country. As a realist myself, I am more interested in the actions of statesmen than their
words. (So, please, do not quote me his words as rebuttal since I’m quite familiar with them and will be dealing with that aspect later on.)

Reagan’s actions contributed to the collapse of the Communist system throughout the Soviet bloc and encouraged their replacement with democratic states.
Though that is obviously consistent with Wilsonian idealism, it also served US interests. Therefore those examples cannot decisively prove one argument or

You might say that Reagan’s view that Communism was an evil that must and could be defeated was an idealist view, since the realist view, as represented by the detente of Nixon and Kissinger, was that Soviet Communism was a force that could only be contained and that perhaps the 2 forces could reach a peaceful accommodation.

This view ignores a few facts:

1. The above view could only be an idealist view if detente was the complete realist solution to the Soviet threat. It was not. Quite the contrary, Kissinger viewed detente as nothing but a phase in his strategy to defeat Soviet Communism.

Kissinger’s memoirs, “Years of Renewal”, made that quite clear. We must remember how seriously the Vietnam War weakened the United States. Economically, the US was a train wreck. Socially, it promoted civil disobedience that destroyed internal cohesion. Politically, it caused the Democratic Party to adopt the idea of unilateral disarmament and destroyed whatever little bipartisan consensus the 2 parties had. (Consider, for example, the lopsided
Congressional vote on the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. In contrast, Reagan’s decision to deploy “Euromissiles” and his SDI were denounced thoroughly by the
Democrats) Diplomatically, it seriously weakened the United States’ prestige overseas. Most important of all, the American people lost confidence in their own country.

Nixon and Kissinger knew that the US was in no position to begin a campaign of confrontation against the Soviet Union. Therefore, detente was devised,
which was no more than a tactic of buying time for the US to recover so that it can resume on its grand strategy of bringing Communism to an end. As
Kissinger puts it: “I shared their [neoconservatives] distrust of Communism and their apparent determinationto thwart its aims. I thought once they realized that our goal was not to placate but to outmaneuver the Soviet Union, we would be able to join forces in a common cause.”

You might question the wisdom of putting one’s faith in the architect of detente whose policy was eventually revoked. You might make the argument that
this is nothing less than Kissinger’s attempt to rewrite history so that he might appear as a wise sage than a bumbler. [I would! --ed.]

I don’t believe that’s the case. First, surely Kissinger’s narrative was sound strategy, considering the context. Second, let’s remember Kissinger’s background. He was a Jew, and the memory of the Holocaust must have oppressed him. It is hard to believe such a person would so readily compromise with the likes of the Soviet Union.

Third, there’s also Kissinger’s acts, which showed that he was trying to hold as much ground as possible considering the miserable hand dealt to him by

Reagan’s realism in his handling of Latin America is a matter of record. (In other words, he followed the prescription of Dr. Jeanne Kirkpatrick in her
“Dictatorships and Double Standards”: Support any right-wing government, no matter how despicable their death squads may be, in the interests of attacking Communism.)

What is also instructive is the way the US dealt with the dictatorship of Mobutu in Zaire (or, shall we say, how Reagan continued the policy of supporting one of the most corrupt dictatorships in Africa) and supported the military government of South Korea.

My favorite example remains the Kwanju Massacre of 1980, when the South Korean military government massacred hundreds of protestors and students. During the conflict, the protestors and students managed to seize some weapons from the military and discovered that they were all made courtesy of the United States. Reagan continued the policy of supporting the military government of South Korea.

Also, the idealist quotient of President Reagan’s support of the proxy war in Angola, with the Soviets supporting the government and the US supporting UNITA (hardly a lily white lamb when it came to human rights) is questionable.

You might say that this criticism is unfair. That without US support, Angola would go over to the Soviets. However, surely the most humane (i.e.
fastest) way to bring that conflict to an end was a full scale American invasion? Or perhaps the US could have threatened UNITA with withholding aid if they
don’t become more humane? Of course, no such threat was issued. As long as UNITA was effective in checking the Angolan government, Reagan did not lose much sleep over their brutality.

What about all those beautiful speeches urging no compromise with the “Evil Empire”?

For better or for worse, the American people cannot be roused with a pure realist appeal to their best interests. It must also be combined with a call to
their ideals. (As someone once quipped: Just as realist can never convince the American people to follow the example of Metternich, liberals can never
convince the American people to always defer to Kofi Annan.)

Those speeches were rallying cries to motivate a nation that was spiritually drained after Vietnam War, Watergate, and the uninspired leaderships of Ford and Carter. (“malaise”, anyone?) The purpose of rallying the people was to serve the country’s interests, which was not an accommodation with the Soviet Union. The fall of the Communist order was seen to be in the best interests of the country.

Isolationism did not serve the interest of realism. Therefore it never became mainstream Republican thought. (Trent Lott’s statement on Operation Allied
Force notwithstanding, I should note that Sen. John McCain supported the operation once it got underway. So did Kissinger, Norman Podhoretz, Joshua

I hope you don’t misunderstand me and think that I’m an embittered Leftist e-mailing you a rant on Reagan and Bush. Quite the contrary, I’m a conservative
realist who applauds the realist policies of both administrations as I believe they have served American interests well. (I dare say the current president has
done more for the US in terms of foreign policy in his first 9 months than Bill Clinton had done for the country in all his 8 years.)

There’s a principle in logic known as “Occam’s razor” which states that the simplest hypothesis is always the best in explaining inexplicable facts. A theory
of idealism would have trouble accounting for any lack of restraint of UNITA or the South Korean military government or the likes of Mobutu, and would have to fall back upon complicated (and not necessarily accurate) factors such as bureaucratic infighting to account for Reagan’s foreign policy.

In contrast, the realist explanation is simple, straightforward, and requires no Kremlinology.

The best theories are not only descriptive but also predictive. Not only does realism account for a lack of attention to Afghanistan now, not only is the
realist paradigm being validated everyday as the US continues to refuse to expend the necessary energy and resources to reconstruct Afghanistan, I believe it will be validated by Election Day 2004 when the reconstruction of Iraq continues apace whereas Afghanistan, aside from garnering a few posts on
OxBlog and a few editorials in a few newspapers, would be entirely forgotten. I would not be surprised if most US troops would be withdrawn by then. (I heard a report suggesting that the Pentagon is trying to sub-contract security to some security firms.)

I apologize for this exceedingly long e-mail and look forward to any thoughts you might have.

Henry Yang
Well-said, Henry. Here's my response:
I am much obliged for your extensive comments on President Reagan. And I apologize for not responding sooner. In case you didn't notice my recent post on the subject, my e-mail has been down, thus preventing me from sending responses to all those who've been in touch.

Anyhow, moving on to more substantive matters, let's talk about realism. First of all, I take issue with your definition of a realist (or "realist statesman") as someone whose "primary interest is the interest of his country." Absent a clear definition of what the national interest is, this definition is nothing more than a place holder. It was precisely because Hans Morgenthau relied on such a vague definition that his work come under such heavy assault in the decades after its publication. While Ken Waltz sought to improve on Morgenthau's work, his work proved to be just as maddeningly evasive on the question of what the national interest is. In essence, Waltz insisted that the national interest consists of "security", which he does not define any better than Morgenthau did the national interest. [Note: Amazon's prices for the Morgenthau and Waltz books are outrageous. Any campus bookstore should used copies available for a tenth of the price. --ed.]

Before descending from this high theoretical plane to the world of actual politics, I think it's worth considering the ideas of John Mearsheimer and other "offensive realists". In essence, they attack Waltz for presuming that states tend to defend the status quo rather than expand their territory or resources. I hope you'll agree with me that the Waltz-Mearsheimer dispute has ended in a fundamental and unresolvable deadlock about state motivation. What's so interesting about this deadlock is how it EXACTLY REPRODUCES Morgenthau's distinction between "status quo" and "revisionist" states. In the final analysis, 60 years of realist scholarship has not moved the realist camp any closer to an account of state motivation any more specific than Morgenthau's original insistence that some states are aggressive and some states aren't.

So let's talk about Reagan. How can we assess whether or not he was a realist if we don't have a clear definition of the national interest? My answer: By examining his attitude toward the most important realist doctrine of statecraft, i.e. the pursuit of a balance of power. As Martin Wight and others have pointed out, the notion of a balance of power has proven just as hard to define as the national interest. In practice, however, realists have consistently defined it as the belief that stability results from balanced relations between the great powers and CANNOT be achieved through the pursuit of dominance. This, fundamentally, was the motivation for Kissinger's vision of detente. While I endorse your comments with regard to Kissinger (moreso, Nixon) recognizing the limits that Vietnam had placed on American foreign policy, the fact remains that Kissinger closely adhered to a historical vision which saw the civilized world in decline. To arrest this decline, the United States best hope was to accept the Soviet Union as its equal and avoid any sort of devastating conflict with it.

Reagan's historical and political vision could not have been further removed from the one advocated by Kissinger. Reagan was an eternal optimist who believed that the United States was destined to triumph over all adversaries and become the greatest and most powerful nation of all time and for all time. Rather than refer to Reagan's speeches to make this point, I refer you to the remarks he made in private to his colleagues throughout his political career. You can read more about them in the many memoirs such men have written. However, I think that the best account of Reagan the man is Lou Cannon's biography of him, which carefully demonstrates that there WAS NO DIFFERENCE between the public and the private Reagan. While I certainly accept your insistence that one must approach political rhetoric with a dose of skeptical disregard, Reagan made no attempt to persuade the American people of anything that he himself did not believe.

The natural corollary of Reagan's optimism was his belief that the United States must aggressively confront and triumph over the Soviet Union. In practice, this strategy may seem little different from the sort expected by "offensive realists". Given your standard of judging statesmen by their actions rather than their words, you would no doubt object that Reagan was therefore an offensive realist. However, one must be more precise about the nature of offensive realism. Whereas offensive realists predict that states will engage in aggressive behavior, they also accept that such behavior is ultimately self-defeating because of the inevitability of a restored balance of power. According to offensive realists, the only reason that statesmen pursue such self-defeating strategies is because they fail to recognize the inevitability of a restored balance of power.

Naturally, many realist scholars (both offensive and defensive) criticized Reagan on precisely such grounds. However, I gather from your letter that you think of Reagan as a masterful practitioner of the realist art. That, however, forces you to explain away Reagan's belief that the United States could triumph over the Soviet Union once and for all. (Moreover, if you are a committed realist, you will also have to deal with the attendant problems of explaining how the United States actually did manage to win the Cold War and establish the first ever unipolar international order in modern history.)

But if Reagan was such a realist, what then of all the ruthless forays his administration made into Third World politics? In fact, you were so concerned about the immorality of Reagan's policies that you hoped I wouldn't "misunderstand [you] and think that [you are] an embittered Leftist" ranting against the evils of Reagan and Bush. You can rest easy, however. I recognize that you are advancing a principled defense of unprincipled behavior in international affairs (which, I might add, constitutes an ideology, something that "realism" most definitely is.)

Getting back to Reagan, the critical thing to understand is that by describing him as an idealist or even a Wilsonian I do not mean to say that his version of American idealism was the same as that of his liberal critics. For Reagan, the United States ultimate commitment to a democratic and capitalist world order justified its ruthless efforts to destroy Communism in all of its many forms. Sadly, Reagan didn't appreciate the degree to which this sort of idealistic ruthlessness hurt the United States far more than it helped it.

With regard to Latin America, the issue was not that Reagan accepted the prevalence of right-wing death squads as an acceptable price to pay in exchange for preventing Communist takeovers. Rather, Reagan's appalling ignorance of the facts on the ground resulted in his delusional belief that the death-squad massacres were covered incessantly by the same liberal media that ignored the (allegedly) far worse crimes of left-wing terrorists. Given this sort of inexcusable detachment from reality, it is hard to describe Reagan as any sort of realist at all.

There are many other interesting issues you raise in your post which I have not addressed. However, I think my response is long enough for the moment. While our beliefs about what is wise and just in international relations are diametrically opposed, I think I can say without hesitation that I admire your consistency, your honesty, and your commitment to an all-encompassing vision.

For those of you haven't had enough, I suspect that there is more to come...

UPDATE: PS says that
I'm not going to weigh in on whether or not Reagan is a realist or idealist, but I do think you might be misinterpreting Mearsheimer-ian offensive realism. You state that
"Whereas offensive realists predict that states will engage in aggressive behavior, they also accept that such behavior is ultimately self-defeating because of the inevitability of a restored balance of power. According to offensive realists, the only reason that statesmen pursue such self-defeating strategies is because they fail to recognize the inevitability of a restored balance of power."
I think this is actually more true of defensive realists - see Jack Snyder's "Myths of Empire", in which he talks about self-encirclement as a result of foolish domestic ideologies of expansion (Van Evera and Waltz are other defensive realists who can strike similar tones). Mearsheimer (who I have had the pleasure of being taught by) doesn't think that balancing is under all conditions inevitable. States act offensively to gain regional hegemony,
which, if successful, eliminates the possibility of regional balancing. The US is his classic regional hegemon, and he defends Germany, Japan, and France's attempts at regional hegemony over the centuries. As Mearsheimer puts it, offense sometimes does pay and states can be acting quite rationally when they act aggressively. In at least Mearsheimer's offensive realism there is not "inevitability of a restored balance" nor is offense always "self-defeating." States and statesmen will act offensively not because they do not
understand balancing, but because it is possible to eliminate the threat of balancing through conquest. More often that not they fail to achieve hegemony, but they don't act as they do because they are foolish or short-sighted - they recognize all too well the likelihood of balancing and try to escape it by force, sometimes successfully.
PS is right that I have given short shrift to Mearsheimer's thoughts on regional hegemony. Prresumably, John M. lays out those thoughts in his new book, which I haven't yet had the time to read. Still, given the content of Mearsheimer classics such as "Back to the future: instability in Europe after the Cold War" (International Security 15:1, Summer 1990), one has to wonder if he has been revising his theories to account for his failed prediction of Europe falling apart in the 1990s.

More importantly, with regard to Reagan, potential arguments about regional hegemony cannot enable offensive realists to reconcile Reagan's views with their own since Reagan unabashedly believed in the inevitability of American global dominance.
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# Posted 4:02 PM by Patrick Belton  

IRAN UPDATE : News reports are spotty, and the print media has been shamefully asleep at the wheel, but here's a summary of what's appeared:

Armed Iranian Islamic vigilantes (the volunteers, or basj) seized three student leaders as they left a news conference where they announced they had cancelled protests to mark the anniversary of 1999 university unrest. (see NYT, also VOA). The three students were Ali Moghtaderi, Arash Hashemi and Reza Amerinassab, and were thrown into three separate cars by roughly 15 armed vigilantees. Moghtaderi's face was covered with blood, after his having been shoved to the ground by the volunteers.

Police fired tear gas at groups of students near Tehran University's campus, and Reuters reports three-way street battles being fought between student pro-democracy demonstrators, police, and the basj.

Iran's reformist newspapers, for their part, complied with government threats and didn't comment on the events of July 9th (from BBC). Reformist paper Yas-e Now writes today, "We apologise to all the people and our readers for not being able to write a word yesterday, 9 July, about this tragic and criminal event." And MSNBC, somewhat inexplicably, decides to blame the students.

Demonstrators in Oslo attempted to enter the Iranian embassy yesterday, and were dispersed by police (reports the Norway Post). Iran's ambassador was taken to the hospital for a heart ailment.

More dignified, DC's protest at the National Capital drew 400, including Sen. Sam Brownback (sponsor of the Free Iran Act currently before the Senate) and Reps. Rohrbacher and Cox (and, incidentally, Rachel, who was holding up half of the banner reading "Students for Democracy in Iran...." We've befriended the organizers of many of the local rallies, and are looking forward to planning together with them and with our blogosphere friends and readers new ways to build the democracy in Iran cause into a sustained movement...watch this space in days to come for more on this.....). (see press release by one of the organizing groups). Austin's event outside the Texas State Capitol also went off well.

We've received numerous reports from our correspondents and friends who attended different rallies yesterday - we'll post them shortly.... Thanks, and warm congratulations, for all of our friends who went out to stand for humanity and democracy against repression and coercion. But this must only be the beginning.
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Wednesday, July 09, 2003

# Posted 12:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SUDDENLY AFRICA MATTERS: The iron law of American press coverage is that whatever the President does is front page news. Thus, now that President Bush has touched down in Africa, both the NYT and WaPo have come up with long, thoughtful, front-page essays on US-African relations.

In the editorial that goes along with its front page essay, the Post spins the President's trip as an indication of Africa's rising importance as a strategic front in the war on terror. While it is right about Africa becoming more important, the Post is mistaking the forest for the trees.

Consider the closing sentences of the Post's editorial:
In a world where "failed states" and regions of perpetual conflict are breeding grounds for terrorism, Africa is no longer as far away as it once seemed. Like it or not, its conflicts are now America's problem, too.
Now try this: strike the word "Africa" from the first sentence and replace it with "Southeast Asia", "Latin America" or any other place on earth. The sentence will still make just as much sense as it did before.

Why? Because the war on terror is global. And in a world with one superpower, nowhere is off limits.

Consider this argument from the NYT editorial arguing for intervention in Liberia:
Liberia's turmoil also has a regional dimension. Continued mayhem there will feed further instability in neighboring Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Guinea. If the world fails to act now, the region's problems will probably grow worse, requiring more extensive, and expensive, intervention later. A multinational military force will provide no instant cure. But it can buy time for more lasting political solutions.
That sounds sort of like Lyndon Johnson's argument for going into Vietnam, doesn't it? Now, I'm all for intervention in Liberia. But we have to recognize that the logic behind our intervention is an updated version of the Domino Theory.

Even though it fell into disgrace after the war in Vietnam, the Domino Theory continued to express certain fundamental truths about the Cold War. Above all, it served as a reminder that no strategist -- not even the most dispassionate Kissingerian realist -- could decisively write-off even a single region as irrelevant to the outcome of the Cold War.

Thus, the lesson of Vietnam is was not that peripheral conflicts are unimportant, but rather that the United States must not invest all of its resources in the defense of a single domino. After all, some of them manage to fall without knocking over their neighbors.

In advance, it is often impossible to know which dominos matter. Thus, the constant reassessment of our commitments will be just as important as our initial decision to go in. Thanks to the war in Vietnam, the American media has become adept at constantly asking whether any given intervention has become a quagmire. If anything, the greater danger is that the United States will cut and run at the first sign of trouble.

Perhaps more than the success or failure of any given intervention is the way in which the United States conducts itself abroad. In the final analysis, the tragedy of Vietnam was not that the United States lost, but rather that in the process of doing so it demonstrated its brutal disregard for those it was trying to save.

At any given moment, there will be a temptation to sacrifice principle for short-term advantage in terms of security. It was that sort of thinking that led the United States to install the Shah of Iran, work with corrupt generals in Vietnam and with violent reactionaries in the jungles of Nicaragua.

In the long-term, however, the United States has far more to gain from living up to its self-image as the champion of freedom. It was that sort of enlightened self-interest that led us to promote democracy in Japan and accept membership in an Atlantic alliance grounded in partnership rather than subordination.

If we are to prevail in the war on terror, we must remain true to our selves, even at the moments when doing so seems to be most dangerous.

UPDATE: DN responds
You write:
"That sounds sort of like Lyndon Johnson's argument for going into
Vietnam, doesn't it? Now, I'm all for intervention in Liberia. But we have to recognize that the logic behind our intervention is an updated version of the Domino Theory.

Even though it fell into disgrace after the war in Vietnam, the Domino Theory continued to express certain fundamental truths about the Cold War. Above all, it served as a reminder that no strategist -- not even the most dispassionate Kissingerian realist -- could decisively write-off even a single region as irrelevant to the outcome of the Cold War."
The answer [to your quesiton about Johnson] is either "sort of" or simply "no."

The Domino Theory essentially argued that great powers could not let any peripheral state fall to an adversary. The argument was based on a number of assumptions, but I list the two most important below.
(1) Failure to defend one ally, no matter how insignificant, may destroy the credibility of a great power as an ally. In consequence, other, strategically important allies, will be more likely to accommodate or even bandwagon with an adversary.

(2) Each and every loss adds to the resources of the enemy, and thus increases their capacity to expand.
None of these arguments are at work in what you call an "updated" Domino Theory. Instead, the assumption is that in some areas -- and this is clearly true in western Africa -- instability in one country is likely to destabilize others. Since terrorist networks have, and likely will, make use of "failed states" it is a good idea to move quickly to prevent regional instability (e.g., the interventions in Bosnia and
Kosovo, despite what most neoconservatives argued at the time, were good things because they prevented them from becoming bases of operation for Islamicists).

Think about it this way: one need not agree with the Domino Theory to believe that political instability can cross borders. One need not
agree with the Domino Theory to believe that "failed states" often provide safe harbors and opportunities for terrorists. If you were
indeed discussing anything like the Domino Theory, you would argue that failure to _prevent_ terrorists from "conquering" or "destabilizing" one state would lead other states to doubt the resolve of the US (the logic in number 1), and (2) that each state they conquered brought them closer to conquering the homeland. While there is a superficial similarity, the arguments are not the same. Indeed, the reason most scholars reject the DT is because its mechanisms remain unpersuasive. States are not likely to respond to such losses by bandwagoning; if anything, such losses make them more likely to see a great power's enemy as a threat and to balance with the great power (consider ASEAN in the late 1970s and 1980s). States such as Vietnam had absolutely no real impact on the balance of power, and did not (nor would they be likely to) add to the resource base of the USSR. If anything, we now know that the marginal benefits of expansion in places like Cuba and Vietnam were probably net negatives for the USSR. I would venture to
argue that the net drain on the US from defending Vietnam was more deleterious to the overall balance of power than the loss of Vietnam was. There are a bunch of other reasons I won't go into. The point is, and I repeat myself here, that these are about different mechanisms than the ones involved the justification for intervention in Liberia.
My respone to DN:
I don't think we are all that far apart on the domino theory. If failed states facilitate terrorist organization, than the spread of regional instability would seem to fulfill the second assumption you list as critical to the domino theory. However, instead of "each state they conquered [bringing] them closer to conquering the homeland," each state destabilized brings them closer to launching another devastating attack on American territory.
Or perhaps French territory. Osama has a wicked sense of humor.
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# Posted 9:11 AM by Patrick Belton  

CARNEGIE ON ARAB DEMOCRACY: Carnegie's Democracy and Rule of Law Project (run by Carnegie's Thomas Carothers, who is a mentor to many of us who work in or study democracy promotion), has the first issue of its Arab Reform Bulletin out today. Their authors are quite good (including, for instance, CRS's Kenneth Katzman, who contributes a sobering piece on the risks of SCIRI ascendency within post-occupation Iraq). Other pieces profile Jordan's elections to its lower house (pro-government candidates won two-thirds of the seats, Islamist representation is trending downward, and casework-focused candidates predominated); and a survey of Arab human rights councils (Egypt's is new but is born at a time of oppression of independent political expression; Morocco's is fairly strong and is led by respected human rights campaigners; Tunisia's and Algeria's are both menacing and attempt to discredit independent human rights organizations; Yemen's and Jordan's are innocuous and education-focused.) Much more, too - it's wonderful to have this Bulletin joining the conversation.
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# Posted 9:04 AM by Patrick Belton  

LITTLE BLESSINGS - AT LEAST now my spam is offering me Glocks instead of Nigerian business deals, Russian brides, and free university degrees.

Okay, okay, I admit. I actually called the number for the free university degree. Nobody picked up, but there was a answering machine.
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# Posted 7:55 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOTE TO READERS: I am having some very serious e-mail problems at the moment. If I haven't responded to any of your messages, it is because my computer and my life are a total mess. David.
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# Posted 7:50 AM by Patrick Belton  

WELCOME TO THE BLOGOSPHERE to Crooked Timber, a needed addition to the too-small number of bloggers who focus on issues in political theory and ethics. (Others include Micah Schwartzman and Josh Cherniss, both good friends of ours.) They also have a quite nice blogroll of academic bloggers in different disciplines.
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# Posted 6:35 AM by Patrick Belton  

DEMONSTRATING FOR A FREE IRAN - D-DAY!!!: The Iranian students, who had been planning a significant protest today to mark the fourth anniversary of a brutal repression of pro-democracy student protesters at Tehran University, have been forced to cancel their planned demonstrations today after receiving warnings that a Tiananmen-like response was in the offings. A student leader told Reuters, "We received information that the other side wanted to heavily confront it and we didn't want to harm the movement and pay this heavy price." Foreign press were directed not to report on the event: in a fax to all foreign news organizations, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance wrote, "It is expected that you do not attend any possible illegal gatherings."

But that doesn't mean that those of us who live in free nations can't show our support for them. We've listed here a few demonstrations of support that are taking place in several US and European cities. And the first of these, in Dallas last night, has already begun. Here are pictures, and one of our readers wrote in last night:
The ... demonstrations are going on right now in Dallas. Can't be sure on the size from looking out my 31st floor window from about two blocks away, but I'd guess it's between 50 and 75 people. They are making up for their numbers with their volume. They've been going strong for a over an hour.

There are many more today - Rachel will be attending, and reporting back on, a demonstration at the U.S. capitol in Washington. Eve Tushnet will also be at the Capitol (look for each other?), and Asparagirl is planning to attend the event in New York. It would be wonderful if all of our readers and fellow bloggers could report back on the events they attend - this will accomplish a great deal toward keeping the Iranian cause in the public eye, and spurring on public support and coverage in other non-blog media. (Incidentally, also in Washington and timed to coincide with July 9th, Senator Sam Brownback's Iran Democracy Act, to increase funding for beaming pro-democracy radio programming into Iran, is coming up for a floor vote.)

On a purely personal note, I've been truly astounded by the extraordinarily generous degree of interest and support that's been shown for the brave pro-democracy demonstrators in Tehran. My inbox has been filled to the brim all week with messages from people wanting to show their support (and I'm very sorry if there's anyone I've managed to miss getting back to). In the blogosphere, InstaPundit and Andrew Sullivan have been devoting great space to the Iranian students and sympathy protests; Winds of Change, Pejman, and Jeff Jarvis have been continuing their usual excellent level of coverage and commentary; and Hoder and Iranian girl have been adding very poignant, personal perspectives.

With all of this interest and support, we'd be awfully interested in hearing your thoughts about how to begin cementing this groundswell of support into a movement in the US and Britain, one which can galvanize more widespread print coverage and lobby governments in support of the cause of Iranian democracy. It's starting to seem very possible.

First, though, for today and its important events - here's a quick run-down of a few sympathy demonstrations taking place today in the US and Britain:

New York: from 11-2 at the Ralph Bunche Park and Dag Hammarksjold Plaza, at 47th and 1st Avenue

Washington, D.C.: 10:00 am at the West Front of the Capitol (with the participation of several Senators and administration officials)

Los Angeles: 5:00 pm, times outside the Federal Building in Westwood.

London: 2:30-4:30 Wednesday, in front of Number 10

Austin: 6 pm in front of the Capitol

Dallas, 5 pm on July 13th, at the Intercontinental Hotel

Houston: 5 pm on July 13th, at the Hilton on Westheimer Road.

And finally in Tehran, there is at least one student group which in spite of the danger is still planning a sit-in in front of the UN's headquarters in Tehran. Godspeed, our friends.
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Tuesday, July 08, 2003

# Posted 7:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SLAVERY AND WOMANIZING: Eugene sets the record straight.
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# Posted 7:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

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# Posted 7:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RADIOACTIVE POLITICS: Josh Marshall and Kevin Drum have the run-down on Saddam's supposed uranium.
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# Posted 7:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHO'S UGLY NOW? Reporting from Italy, Matt Yglesias says that European tourists behave far more offensively than their American counterparts. Strangely, he has no thoughts on the British...
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# Posted 6:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SHARPEN YOUR KNIVES: The Guardian has plans to launch a weekly magazine in the United States.
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# Posted 5:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A SPADE A SPADE: Whereas everyone else is covering this war as if it were Vietnam, Newsday's Marvin Kitman has the guts to admit it:
It used to be that every time a U.S. soldier was killed in a traffic accident, it was a major news story. Now it's just "Another Marine got killed today..."

What does this remind you of?

I think what we are seeing now is the Vietnamization of the Iraq war news. And it's scary.
Much as I disagree with Kitman, it's always better to deal with someone who is introspective enough to recognize his own prejudices. That way, you can address the fundamental issues at stake rather than getting lost in the details.
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# Posted 12:43 PM by Patrick Belton  

A VERY WARM WELCOME TO THE WORLD to my new cousin Jacob!!!!!! (who, as we see, is already quite a handsome man....)

Jacob: I can't wait to make your acquaintance. May you take after your wonderful parents, and my treasured friends who share your name.
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# Posted 9:21 AM by Patrick Belton  

BAD NEWS FOR COFFEE DRINKERS: Lucky for Rachel that she doesn't touch the stuff. The rest of us, we can worry. Ozzy, who knows a thing or two about these things, says "I used to think they should legalize pot, but you know what? They should ban the lot," and then the worrisome bit: "One thing leads to another. Coffee leads to Red Bull, Red Bull leads to crank." Expresso to crack in three easy steps: you heard it here. (And for those of you not up on your Brit-slang, thanks to the South Carolina general assembly's handy guide to street jargon you can find out that crank means methamphetamine, and not turning into, say, Ian Duncan Smith or Howell Raines....)

For those of us whose life labor is the conversion of coffee into text (particularly political science scholarship, which I wake up each morning thinking there isn't enough of in the world), this last bit could be cause for some trepidation.

AND THEN A FAIRLY INSTANTANEOUS UPDATE: That, of course, requires a paean. (Hey, we do it for Manischewitz, fireworks and Irishmen, and a few of our friends in the Blogosphere; perhaps soon we'll be like the royals and have a whole set of OxBlog-approved, eco-and-hawk-friendly household products....) Pope Clement VIII, responding to mercantilism-influenced pleas from Spanish Jesuits to ban the drink when it migrated to the west from the Middle East (like, incidentally, algebra, Aristotle, the number zero, Jews, and a heckofalot of other very nice and useful additions to the west), famously responded saying: "This Satan's drink is so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels [note: OxBlog does not endorse the branding of members of other religions as infidels, even by members of other centuries] have exclusive use of it. We shall cheat Satan by baptizing it."

Coffee. Papally approved since 1592, OxBlog endorsed since 2002.....
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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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