Monday, July 21, 2003
# Posted 9:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
This page opposed an invasion that lacked the endorsement of the United Nations Security Council, and it now seems clear the Bush administration exaggerated its central argument for the mission — the threat of Baghdad's unconventional weapons. Nevertheless, establishing a free and peaceful Iraq as a linchpin for progress throughout the Middle East is a goal worth struggling for, even at great costs. We are there now, and it is essential to stay the course. But if Washington is to retain the public support needed to see the job through, it can't pretend that everything is on track. The soldiers returning home every week in body bags make that plain.There is what to criticize in such a statement, but it is more important to recognize the potential for a bipartisan consensus on the rebuilding and democratization of Iraq. The potential for such a consensus is one of the principal reasons that Josh and I founded OxDem. Even in the midst of the intense partisan debate now raging over WMD, it is clear that simple and shared American ideals are still capable of uniting both Republicans and Democrats behind very specific objectives, such as sharing with the people of Iraq our own inalienable rights. I am thankful for that. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
To hold China's feet to the fire, a U.N. Security Council resolution proposing a sanctions regime on Burma needs to be introduced. While China would almost certainly veto it, Beijing does not like to use its veto, and the prospect of exercising it might cause China, at least quietly, to urge the Burmese government to free Suu Kyi.There you have it. Another good chance for the US and the UN to work together for a cause they both believe in. Besides, if Kofi Annan is willing to endorse Iraq's new Governing Council, it shouldn't be hard to get him behind a politically immaculate cause such as the protection of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Moving on, JAT reports that
Jonathan Mermin is the second cousin of my roommate, fellow Cornell math graduate student, and friend since 8th grade, Jeff Mermin. I've been over to eat dinner a couple of times at the house of Jonathan's father, recently retired Physics Professor David Mermin.Sort of reminds me of that scene in Spaceballs which goes something like this...
DARK HELMET: Before you die there is something you should know about us, Lone Starr.And while you're wasting time, make sure to check out this New Yorker article on the origins of the Six Degrees theory. Finally, expect a follow up post by Patrick, since his mother-in-law also published an article on the subject. Those Alaskans sure have a lot of time on their hands... ;) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Harrowing as the article is, there is also great consolation in the commitment of American occupation officials to working with women like Hanna to help her find the men who tortured her and bring them to justice. I wish them well. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
If such an attack were to take with it the lives of hundreds of American soldiers or civilians, it would provide considerable validation to the anti-war argument that an invasion of Iraq would undermine American security and set back the war on terror. But what is the chance of such an attack happening? Only God knows.
UPDATE: Pejman strongly disagrees. (Thanks to MD for pointing it out.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:02 AM by Patrick Belton
But any periodical which writes back "It's a nice advert, so we'll run it for free," when I try to buy an ad seeking an old-fashioned Oxford-style bike for my wife....thereby races to the pinnacle of my mountain of newsprint favorites.
ME: Dear LRB Classifieds Office,
Classy act, that LRB.
P.S. Perhaps no more posting for me for the day. The Caffe Nero on the High, whose Airport base station I've been taking advantage of, has been gradually taken over by continentals, who have managed to smoke even former-Latin-America-and-mediterranean-resident-me out. Wow!
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:05 AM by Patrick Belton
Noah Feldman will be on W-NYC, New York Public Radio, at 10 o’clock a.m. EST. (That would be 3 p.m. your time, I believe.) You can listen to the show in real time at www.wnyc.org. Just click on The Brian Lehrer Show under “On The Air Now” which is at the top right of the page. (Actually, the Brian Lehrer show will probably be displayed twice under “On the Air Now.” It doesn’t matter which one you click.)
Thanks! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:22 AM by Patrick Belton
Sunday, July 20, 2003
# Posted 9:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The hero of the NYT's story is, of course, Colin Powell, who often criticized administration hawks for wanting to show the public only that evidence which favored the administration's position. Fair enough. It is now apparent that the Pentagon often let its politics get the best of its intelligence.
More interestingly, the Times avoids praising Powell for his emphasis at the United Nations on intelligence profiling Saddam's comprehensive effort to prevent UN weapons inspectors from uncovering information relevant to his weapons programs. This evidence was and still remains unchallenged. Saddam was both hiding something and in clear violation of Resolution 1441. You remember 1441, don't you?
Another glaring oversight in the NYT article is the failure to mention (let alone explain) the fact that even the most prominent opponents of the war believed that Saddam had chemical and biological weapons. If, as the NYT suggests, the administration had to spin the intelligence to persuade the American public that Saddam had WMD, why did independent and skeptical figures such as Hans Blix come to the same conclusion?
In short, the NYT tries to leave the impression that the nation was misled into war. If not for the political connotations of the phrase, one might be tempted to say that the Times is in the process of writing "revisionist history". (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The most glaring oversight in the NYT essay is its willful blindness on the question of democratization. The essay notes that in response to a violent rebellion in 1920, the British held a rigged plebiscite in which King Faisal got 96% of the votes. Impressive, huh? Just 4% short of Saddam's total in the most recent Iraqi election.
Unsurprisingly, the Iraqis didn't take well to the rigged plebiscite. Thus,
In response, the British turned to technology, with their air force commander, Arthur (Bomber) Harris, boasting that his biplanes had taught Iraqis that "within 45 minutes a full-sized village can be practically wiped out and a third of its inhabitants killed or wounded."Hmmm. Carpet bombing of innocent civilians. That does remind me of American strategy in a certain war. Could it be...could it be...could it be...VIETNAM?
Now, if you're looking for realistic commentary on the situation in Iraq, the WaPo Outlook section has an excellent forum on the subject. First off, retired Army officer Ralph Peters reminds us that the situation in Germany in July 1945 was far worse that the situation in Iraq in July 2003. Peters then goes on to blast press coverage of the occupation, writing that
the breathless media reporting of each American casualty in Iraq implies that the occupation has failed.Sounds like someone has been reading OxBlog...
But let's get off our high-horse for a moment. As one of my friends in the military shot back when I criticized the media's coverage of the occupation, the fact that Iraq isn't Vietnam hardly makes Iraq a success. Point taken. So what next for the occupation? Tom Carothers that the US has to keep hammering away at the restoration of basic services and the augmentation of state administrative capacity. Otherwise, elections will only raise expectations while providing a government incapable of meeting them. In short, "The engine of democracy is useless without the chassis of the state to put it in."
While Carothers is absolutely right, it is worth keeping in mind that Paul Bremer will get hit hard regardless of whether he speeds up or slows down the transition. I put the problem this way in a forthcoming report for OxDem:
Conflicting pressures to both accelerate and decelerate the transition to an elected government illustrate the fundamental paradox of occupation: satisfying immediate demands for autonomy may threaten the prospects for democratization in the long-term, while a refusal to satisfy such demands may provoke an immediate backlash against the democratization process. The best illustration of this paradox is the way in which Bremer initially suspended the transition process in response to widespread criticism of his predecessor’s efforts to rush it forward. After winning initial praise, Bremer came under fire for not pushing the process forward fast enough. And now that he has responded to that sort criticism by appointing a Governing Council, experts such as Carothers are dissatisfied with his efforts to rush the process too much.As such, it isn't particularly helpful when Kofi Annan demands a timetable for the American withdrawal. If the guerrilla war gets worse and fundamentalist Shi'ites show little respect for democratic norms, will Annan still insist on meeting the timetable's objectives? (Don't answer that question.)
Moving on, the last two articles in the WaPo forum each make one solid point and then take it to ridiculous extremes. Historian Niall Fergusion writes that American underfunding of the reconstruction effort is extremely perilous, because
Without jobs and wages, many of the young men of Iraq will find the temptations of violent crime and guerrilla warfare impossible to resist.Mind you, Ferguson knows from personal experience that money talks. After all, that's why he left Oxford for NYU. But would Fergusion have become an academic guerrilla if he were unemployed? That, of course, it is an absurd question. But how much more likely is it that all Iraqi youths -- especially Shi'ites and Kurds -- will join the Ba'thist guerrillas is they lose their jobs? Still, crime is a serious problem, along with the general dicontent that comes with poverty. Ferguson is right that the US has to spend more and not wait for the Europeans to get on board.
Finally, we come to Lesley Abdela passionate argument that having just three women on Iraq's Interim Governing Council will help perpetuate the brutal variant of sexism that has already taken hold in Iraq. Abdela writes that
As someone who has worked with Kosovo Albanians, Sierra Leonians and Afghans in rebuilding democratic institutions after devastating wars, I have heard local men and the international community alike excuse the exclusion of women from political power with weak arguments about "cultural sensitivities" and "custom and tradition." And yet, the introduction of pluralistic democracy itself is a clear break with the past -- a break from systems in which rights over others are based on gender, class, tribal affiliation or heredity.Exactly. Exactly. But does that mean that there should be 14 women on the Governing Council instead of 3, as Abdela suggests? I don't know. It was hard enough to find three prominent women in a male-dominated society. Seems to me the real issue is to ensure that the men in charge are sensitive to women's rights and concerns.
So, leaving all the rhetoric aside, where are we know? I have to admit that I just don't know. While things certainly are not as bad as the media make it seem, their misguided reporting has made it all but impossible to know what is actually happening on the ground. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:36 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:31 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:29 AM by Patrick Belton
The event will be at the New America Foundation at 12:15 pm this Tuesday, and the announcement says, significantly: "A special note to the media, Noah Feldman resigned his U.S. government position last week from his Baghdad position and has much to say on the subject of Iraq as well as on the very broad subject of Islam and constitutional democracy. THIS MEETING IS ON THE RECORD." I'd encourage any of our readers who can, to go, and report back what he has to say. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:14 AM by Patrick Belton
It occurs to me suddenly that the reason that Vietnam gets brought up so often in conjunction with any kind of American military incursion is that the war stories field reporters told about their experiences and their mission in Vietnam were better and more compelling than any job-narratives since. I've just been rereading Dispatches, by Michael Herr, which John le Carre called "The best book I have ever read on men and war in our time."(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, July 19, 2003
# Posted 10:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
On the 17th, Matt gave his qualified endorsement to my argument that the American media has locked itself into a Vietnam mindset. While Matt refers to this argument as David's theory, I really shouldn't take all the credit. For those of you who have the time, check out the work of Jonathan Mermin, who studies media coverage of US military interventions.
While I haven't had a chance to read Prof. Mermin's book, his 1996 article [no permalink] in Political Communication makes a very detailed argument about the misleading comparisons between Vietnam, Panama and the First Gulf War which the media made in the early days of those conflicts. The main difference between myself and Mermin is that the good professor attributes a narrower scope to his argument. Rather than say that this sort of coverage is characteristic of a media establishment that came of age in Vietnam, he argues that it simply reflects the media's willingness to criticize even popular military endeavors (by comparing them to unpopular and unsuccessful ones).
A harsher critic might say that Mermin doesn't recognize the implications of his research because he can't see beyond the ivory tower belief that the American media has a strong pro-conservative bias. (Yes, you heard right. "Pro-conservative". Talk a look at either this textbook or this one to see what I mean.)
Getting back to Mermin, I think he is holding back in the article because he recognizes the sort of critical firestorm he'd bring down on himself if he contradicted the prevailing paradigm in his discipline. As a young professor with one book to his credit, I don't think he can afford to offend the top scholars in the field. But that's just my instinct. Perhaps after reading his book I'll know for sure.
Now, the second time Matt Yglesias had a kind word for OxBlog was when he wrote today that even though
"a lot of hawkish bloggers seem to have a real distaste for discussing domestic policy issues that can't be reduced to mocking radical academics...Though I note that OxHawk David Adesnik is getting pretty darn caustic on the subject of Bush's tax cuts. Maybe it's time to start liberating another country before the hawk crowd starts focusing it's mind on other issues."I guess the question is whether Matt would still be praising my diverse interests if I were an ardent defender of Bush's tax cuts. Regardless, I think I'm going to have disappoint Matt and say that I know a lot less about taxes than I do about foreign policy. When I write about economics, I do so as a layman tackling issues with which he is unfamiliar. By putting my opinions out there, I hope to get responses that introduce me to the basic facts of political economy.
In contrast, when I write about foreign policy, I am testing myself to see if I can apply my academic knowledge and doctoral research to current events and issues. That's why most of my posts focus on foreign policy and why I'm willing to go to the mat (no pun intended) to defend my views on the subject. So, if you want to see more domestic policy posts on OxBlog, write in if I put up even a single post on the subject and you'll have my attention. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
NB: One of the Chief's associates pointed out to me, the Chief does not GUARD the prisoners, as I wrote earlier. That kind of work is for "the average boot". The Chief is responsible for debriefing the POWs and other related tasks. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, July 18, 2003
# Posted 10:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The occupying coalition talks of transitional justice. But how can it explain the absence of an Iraqi court to deal with the affairs of its citizens? Other than a new, relatively powerless governing council, why are Iraq's people — inheritors of the cradle of human civilization itself and arguably some of the most sophisticated and advanced in the Arab world — having to watch while others impose their will and their plans on the country?At this point you might be thinking to yourself, "So what? Trite anti-American banter is par for the course on the NYT op-ed page." But hold on just a second. What makes Prince Hassan's comments so delightful is that the Times has run his column side-by-side with this essay by Fawaz Gerges, in which the author blasts the monarchs and dictators of the Middle East for their shallow and hypocritical embrace of democratic rhetoric. I can only imagine the look on Hassan's face when he picked up his copy of the paper this morning...
Anyhow, Gerges main point (one that OxBlog made two months ago...) is that the emergence of democratic rhetoric in the Middle East is part and parcel of cynical strategy designed to placate the United States for long enough to ensure that the Bush Administration forgets its declared interest in promoting democracy in the region. Gerges observes that
Shamefully, President Bush and his senior aides spent most of their meeting last month with the leaders of Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia pressing them to fight terrorism. What they should have been talking about was the importance of promoting democracy and reform. This emphasis sends the wrong message to Arab rulers and citizens by reinforcing the widely held perception that the United States uses democracy as a whip to punish its enemies, like Iraq, while doing business as usual with its autocratic allies.Even I have to admit that Gerges is going a little too far. There is no question that the President and his senior advisors had to focus on terrorism in their meetings with Middle Eastern heads of state. But what Bush and his advisors apparently failed to do was make it clear to those heads of state that (as Gerges says) promoting democracy and fighting terror are all part of the same war.
While that sort of rhetoric may sound nice on a website or on the NYT op-ed page, if the President of the United States is willing to make the exact same point in closed door meetings with Middle Eastern heads of state, it can have a tremendous impact. Much as the people of the Middle East seem to want greater freedom, their governments will not give it to them unless they have no other choice. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Am I concerned? Yes. Not because Sadr has the necessary legitimacy within the Shi'ite community to effective challenge its pro-Council leadership. (He doesn't). But because this is the moment the skeptics have been waiting for. The people of Iraq have finally been called to the banner of anti-American fundamentalism.
Will they rush to it, or will they prefer to focus on "democracy, security, services and food on their plates" (as one Shi'ite cleric on the Governing Council put it)? I know what my answer to that question is. So now it's time for OxBlog to put its money where its mouth is. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Here's an alternative hypothesis. The Bush II administration's objective function has one and only one domestic argument -- the average marginal tax rate on the 1,000 wealthiest taxpayers -- and the first and second derivatives of this function in this arguement are large and negative. They'll adopt whatever other policies it takes to decrease the expected future value of this variable through all time. Trade? Who cares as long as we can get tax cut votes out of the Missouri and Michigan delegations. Farm subsidies that keep Africans impoverished? Who cares as long as get concurrence from the Iowa and Nebraska delegations. Free abortion on demand? Maybe, if we really have a chance of getting Hilary and Chuck to help eliminate estate taxes.Nor have I, nor have I. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:43 AM by Patrick Belton
Thursday, July 17, 2003
# Posted 8:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 7:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
"...we now inhabit a strange world where the Democratic Party hasI have to admit, JAT's logic is pretty solid. I'm not sure, though, that there is such a clear incentive for Presidents to offend their base in the process of reaching out to the center. After all, it is the base that votes in the primaries and sends in donations. As such, I think it is still fair to say that Clinton had a real commitment to free trade while Bush simply doesn't. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 6:40 PM by Patrick Belton
The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness, a group of former OMB officials, has a white paper out on the fradulent diversion of pharmaceutical drugs from their intended recipients - a problem they find to be large, growing, and troubling.
Brian Ulrich has posted some interesting thoughts on Afghan-Pakistani relations.
And our friends at MEMRI note Al Hayat's coverage of Iraqi intelligence's plan for insurgence operations in the event of the fall of the Iraqi regime, recently unearthed in the Mukhabarat's former building. (Here's the original Arabic, for those of you who can use the practice). (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 6:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 6:28 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
According to Maureen Dowd,
More and more, with Bush administration pronouncements about the Iraq war, it depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is.Josh Marshall is taking the slightly different tack of posting Bush's best-known attacks on Clinton's credibility side-by-side with the embarrassing excuses now being offered for the infamous 16 words. For example:
"I will bring honor to the process and honor to the office I seek. I will remind Al Gore that Americans do not want a White House where there is 'no controlling legal authority.' I will repair the broken bonds of trust between Americans and their government."For the moment, I still think it's extremely premature to compare the White House spin on Uranium-gate to Clinton's outright lies regarding his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. (No, I don't think anyone should ask the President about his sex life. But if he is testifying about it in court, then a lie is a lie is a lie.)
Even so, the Administration's inability to get its foot out of its collective mouth is making it harder and harder not to ask just what the White House has to hide. Just a few days ago, George Tenet took the fall for the administration after Condi Rice insisted that the CIA was responsible for letting the '16 words' into the State of the Union.
Now Tenet says his staff never asked him to evaluate the 16 before they went into the President's speech. Not only does that contradict Tenet's good soldier act from earlier in the week, but it seems implausible given yesterday's NYT report that Tenet called Stephen Hadley before the President's October speech in Cincinnati and insisted that he take the uranium-from-Niger story out of the text.
What this sort of Cabinet-level chaos calls to mind is not the mendacity of our 42nd President but the incompetence of our 40th. Throughout the 2000 campaign, the Republican line was that Bush would surround himself with experts on foreign affairs. But now he seems unable to control his cabinet.
By the same token, the much-lauded White House press machine has been unable to offer any sort of convincing explanation of what exactly went on in the days leading up to the SotU.
Ideally, this will all come to end when the President decides that the excuses being offered in his name are doing far more damage to his reputation than the truth itself. But I'm beginning to wonder, does Bush even know what happened? What I fear is that Bush will have to come before the nation and declare in a Reagan-esque manner that he has no recollection of how policy was made in his own White House.
I hope I'm wrong. Not because I have an interest in protecting the President's reputation. But because I don't want to believe that no one is in charge in the White House.
AFTERTHOUGHT: Andrew Sullivan and the WSJ have cited last October's National Intelligence Estimate for Iraq in order to show that the CIA had, at one time, considered the Niger story to be thoroughly reliable. But if the NYT report I mentioned above is to be believed, George Tenet explicitly told Stephen Hadley not to believe those sections of the NIE dealing with the uranium from Niger. Both Andrew and the WSJ also point out that the British are still standing by the uranium story. Yet given that the UK has excellent intelligent services, why doesn't anyone in the White House want to defend the actual content of the 16 words? (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:46 AM by Patrick Belton
One of Nafisi's recurrent "jokes"--not unlike the joke about the Rule of the Bus--is her account of the official censor, whose job it was to guard against insult to religion in film, theater, and television. What made him highly suitable as a judge of the visual arts was that he could not see what he condemned--he was virtually blind. The sightless censor is Nafisi's metaphor for the Islamic Republic: it declined to see, and in not seeing, it was unable to feel. This blind callousness--Nafisi rightly terms it solipsism--ruled every cranny of the nation's existence. The answer to governmental solipsism, Nafisi determined, was insubordination through clinging to what the regime could neither see nor feel: the sympathies and openness of humane art, art freed from political manipulation--the inchoate glimmerings of Fitzgerald's green light, Nabokov's "world of tenderness, brightness and beauty," James's "Feel, feel, I say--feel for all you're worth."
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:29 AM by Patrick Belton
Just look at that - Congress passing a measure imposing tough sanctions on a regime brutally abusing human rights, and a Bush administration is backing rather than vetoing the move. Perhaps we've come a long way, baby, since Tiananmen. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
# Posted 9:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 8:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Nearly all of the arguments about multilateralism, unilateralism and whether the United States should have allies need to be framed differently. For we do have allies -- it's just that they're allies who want America to fight the war on terrorism while their citizens, simultaneously, denounce the United States for fighting the war on terrorism. What we have, at the moment, is not a coalition of the willing, in other words, but a coalition that dare not speak its name.You know, you'd think I'd feel better about having a moderate WaPo columnist say exactly what I want to hear. But now I'm so paranoid about the media, that if it says what I want, then I think I must be wrong! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
UPDATE: Josh Marshall gives reason to think that Hoagland is hardly an impartial judge when it comes to the intel wars. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
But French anti-Semitisim is deadly serious. The incidents described in today's WaPo are both so brazen and so violent that it is almost beyond belief. In one instance
A gang of 15 North African teenagers, some of them wielding broom handles, had invaded the grounds of a Jewish day school on Avenue de Flandre in northeast Paris the previous evening. They punched and kicked teachers and students, yelled epithets and set off firecrackers in the courtyard before fleeing.In broad daylight in the heart of Europe. Unthinkable. Or rather, in the United States such behavior would be unthinkable. I myself am the graduate of a Jewish day school in Manhattan. If this sort of violent attack took place at my school or at any other day school in New York, it would become the focus of all student activity for months, if not years, to come. Hundreds of thousands of Jews would march on the Capitol and demand an end to anti-Semitism and all other forms of primitive racism.
But what if this sort of attack were not an isolated incident, but rather part of a disturbing pattern. Would American Jews be able to mobilize the same anger if they knew that this sort of attack were inevitable? Consider the following:
Police forensic experts in Lyon, France, investigated an attack on a synagogue in March 2002, in which assailants used a car outfitted with battering rams to smash the doors and then set fire to the building.The degree of calculated malice involved in that sort of attack is absolutely shocking. It is an act of war. At minimum, there is something comprehensible about the decision of 15 North African teenagers to overrun a Jewish school. Their behavior bears some sort of resemblance to the Crown Heights riots of a decade ago, during which an outraged mob vented its anger on innocent Jews.
But to outfit a car with battering rams? That is not aggravated assault. It is premeditated murder. Perhaps because of such shocking events, the French authorities have begun to take anti-Semitism more seriously. Better late than never. I am afraid, however, that no amount of law enforcement can prevent such motivated criminals from doing their worst. What must ultimately change is the mindset of the Muslim communities from which the attackers come.
In the WaPo article mentioned above, the leader of a Muslim organizaton in Paris attributes the attacks to the disaffection of young Muslims and the influence of television.
"For these kids, television is enormous," he says. "It conditions their minds. Before, they had respect for their parents and their roots. Now with this new generation, the respect is gone. The roots are cut."I don't buy that for a second. I simply do not believe that either rising unemployment or news broadcasts could provoke anti-Semitic attacks if the teenage assailants were not brought up on a steady diet of anti-Semitism at home and at school.
While anti-Semitic attacks do rise and fall in response to the temperature of politics in the Middle East, one still has to ask why young French Muslims respond to events in the Middle East by terrorizing Jews rather than participating in the French tradition of strikes and protests. Thus, the WaPo was right to headline its report "For Jews in France, a 'Kind of Intifada'". The same inbred, inter-generational hatred that motivagtes suicide bombings in the Middle East has begun to rear its head on the European continent.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:09 AM by Patrick Belton
So, first of all, a few quick links to today's best of the web:
My DC foreign policy posse, the Nathan Hale gang, drives home just how superfluous I am by having - while I'm away - a splendid and searching discussion examining US policy options toward North Korea.
MEMRI has a quite good summary of the current situation facing the pro-democracy student demonstrators in Iran.
Eurasianet has added some typically insightful analyses to their website: on Turkish and US interests in Iraq, military-civil tensions again within Turkey, and Hizb ut-Tahrir. With regard to the last, the ICG's caution that more democracy, rather than more repression, is the appropriate way to deal with Central Asian extremism is extraordinarily welcome and timely.
Via my friend Alexandra, here are two round-ups of the recent Mexican legislative elections: here and here too.
Rita Katz and Josh Devon, whom I'm privileged to know slightly, have a quite good piece in NRO on terrorists' use of the internet. And Stratfor has a good, non-subscription piece on the strategic challenges posed in pursuing counterinsurgence operations in Iraq.
That's it for now - happy reading. I'll be off scribbling. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
# Posted 9:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
8. How do you feel about the possibility that the United States will get bogged down in a long and costly peacekeeping mission in Iraq? Would you say you're very concerned about that, somewhat concerned, not too concerned or not concerned at all?Sadly, none other than David Broder, the vaunted "Dean" of political journalism has been taken in by the answer to this one-sided question. According to Broder, the most recent WaPo/ABC poll
"found a dramatic reversal in public tolerance of continuing casualties, with a majority saying for the first time that the losses are unacceptable when weighed against the goals of the war.Now, before getting in to what the data actually showed, it is worth noting that Saturday's WaPo ran a front page headline that read "Support for Bush Declines As Casualties Mount in Iraq." In other words, Broder is simply echoing the same quagmire theme that both his own colleagues and countless other journalists have been harping on since the second week of the war.
Unfortunately, the American people are refusing to play along. When asked
Do you think the United States should keep its military forces in Iraq until civil order is restored there, even if that means continued U.S. military casualties; or do you think the United States should withdraw its military forces from Iraq in order to avoid further U.S. military casualties, even if that means civil order is not restored there?72% said the US should stand its ground. Lest anyone think these 72% are naive, a similar number (74%, to be exact) answered in the affirmative when asked
Do you think there will or will not be a significant number of additional U.S. military casualties in Iraq?To some degree, that answer conflicts with the one given to the following question:
Again thinking about the goals versus the costs of the war, so far in your opinion has there been an acceptable or unacceptable number of U.S. military casualties in Iraq?44% said acceptable and 52% said unacceptable, the reversal of the 51-42 split from three weeks ago. But what exactly does it mean to say that the casualty count is unacceptable? Here's one explanation:
"I don't think any [casualties] are acceptable, but they're necessary," said Chris Eldridge, 29, an electronics technician from Louisville. "They're a lot lower than I expected. I expected there would be more during the initial fighting. I expected a lot more killed. Fortunately there hasn't been."Answers like that demonstrate just how important it is to be precise when designing poll questions. Still, one shouldn't jump to the conclusion that Americans are enthusiastic about the occupation. When asked
All in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States, do you think the war with Iraq was worth fighting, or not?the Yes-No split was 57-40, down from 64-33 in late June. Frankly, it's hard to know whether those sort of numbers reflect the absence of any major WMD finds, the uranium-from-Niger debate, or the rising casualty count. Given that 72% of Americans support the occupation, it is reasonable to infer that the WMD and uranium issues are more important.
Of course, that isn't what the WaPo wants you to believe. As they have it, "Support for Bush Declines As Casualties Mount in Iraq." What's so interesting about that sort of spin is that it has no clear relationship to journalists' own self-interest. With regard to the uranium, the media can plausibly argue that their investigative reporting helped expose the President's mendacity. So why not suggest that Bush's falling approval rating reflects the success of their investigative reporting?
With regard to WMD, it makes sense to argue that some Americans feel betrayed by the Administration's inability to validate its firm prewar assertions that Saddam had impressive stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. While the media couldn't take any direct credit for exposing the apparent absence of WMD, the failure of an American president to deliver on his word is exactly the sort of story that journalists love to play up.
Yet in spite of these compelling alternatives, the WaPo decided to favor the least plausible explanation of Bush's falling numbers: the supposed quagmire in Iraq. It is precisely this sort of indefensible decision which highlights the lasting impact of the Vietnam mindset on American journalists. Our media is so invested in the Vietnam narrative of hit-and-run guerrillas, disappointed GIs and homefront dissent that it turns every war into Vietnam.
At times, this Vietnam mindset results in coverage that is decidedly liberal. Yet in this instance, the quagmire prism favors those conservatives and realists who believe that America has no business rebuilding war torn nations and promoting democracy abroad. Thus, it isn't politics in the partisan sense of the word that determine how the media cover foreign affairs. Instead, there is an unconscious ideology -- derived from a self-absorbed interpretation of American political history -- that leads journalists astray.
Thankfully, the American public is not following that lead.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
"may be morally comforting to all of us who wish the world were more democratic, but have they been or are they likely to be effective? What the United States has been doing is to drive the Burmese back onto themselves and more closely into the Chinese sphere of influence...Like most supporters of Mrs. Suu Kyi, I am well aware that strident protests may have no effect on a junta led by ignorant and violent men. Yet what reason is there to believe that "engagement" would work any better?
Stunningly, Prof. Steinberg doesn't list a single incentive that might induce the Burmese junta to improve its record on human rights and democratization, in the event of a more conciliatory approach by the West. If I were a member of the junta, I would interpret Western diplomatic openings as a clear indication that the United States, the EU , Japan and ASEAN will continue to do business with the junta regardless of how brutal it is.
Now mind you, "engagement" is not a dirty word. It is not necessarily the same as appeasement. Take China, for example. While I have serious misgivings about engaging its leadership, Chinese society is far more open than its Burmese counterpart. Because there are businessmen, labor leaders and local politicians who have an important say in what happens, at least at the lower levels of government, engagement has the potential to strengthen pro-democratic forces in China.
In contrast, Burma is the most primitive form of dictatorship, in which hapless generals rule over an impoverished and resentful population with no means of resisting government violence. In short, there is no one in Burma to engage.
If the United States, the EU, Japan and ASEAN take a consistent hard line with the junta, the Chinese may decide to accept Burma as a satellite. On the other hand, a united US-EU-Japanese-ASEAN front may well convince the Chinese that taking on another backwards henchman (cf. North Korea) may entail far more trouble than it's worth. If so, the Myanmar junta will recognize that they have no choice but to compromise with pro-democracy forces or hope that their more resentful subjects don't launch a bloody revolution first. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, July 14, 2003
# Posted 8:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
"Appointed Iraqi Council Assumes Limited Role" --Rajiv Chandrasekaran, WaPo, July 14.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
MAKE MILLIONS WITH YOUR BLOG!And to think most bloggers just have a tip jar... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 6:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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? (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 5:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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
Saturday, July 12, 2003
# Posted 10:27 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:06 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:51 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, July 11, 2003
# Posted 7:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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...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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 5:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Thursday, July 10, 2003
# Posted 8:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 8:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
"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.Well-said.
UPDATE: Kikuchiyo has some nice comments on my first post about the Rhodes Scholarship. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 4:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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.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.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 thatPS 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."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,
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion