Saturday, July 26, 2003
# Posted 5:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 5:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
JAT adds that
You might want to notice that US mediators were apparently involved in the signing of an accord allowing the president of Sao Tome and Principe to be reinstated. So too were the UN and the African Union -- everyone appears to be trying to take some credit.Finally, EC notes that the New Yorker published an in-depth look at Sao Tome last October. An in-depth look at Principle is expected to follow... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:04 AM by Patrick Belton
And they say you don't learn anything at conferences... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:47 AM by Patrick Belton
Granted, the House Democrats treated the GOP largely the same way before 1994 - but that doesn't make it right. And while you can't deny a majority party the ability within reason to use parliamentary tactics and rules to increase its power, to completely lock out the minority party - irrespective of which party that is - distorts the constitutional purpose of having an elected assembly in which all of the people's chosen representatives may sit, and, with comity and in an orderly fashion, debate. Mr. Hastert, the American political tradition expects much better of you than this. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, July 25, 2003
# Posted 6:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
So, the first thing I do when I come back to New York City is head straight for the legendary 2nd Ave. Deli. Within an hour of dropping off my luggage at home, I was out the door and on my way to enjoying the best chopped liver in town along with a mountainous center-cut tongue sandwich.
After dinner, I set about enjoying the finest entertainment that UPN has to offer: WWF Smackdown. Now, it actually isn't hard to find pro wrestling on television in the UK. But since it's on on Friday and Saturday nights, you have to give up either going out or getting adrenalized. But that's a little much, even for a Hulkamaniac like myself.
Often, those who know me can't figure out how a New York intellectual like myself can get so excited about watching muscle-bound, Speedo-clad warriors beat the living s*** out of each other. My answer: What's not to like?
If that's not a good enough answer for you, than you might find some consolation in the fact that once Smackdown ended I started going through back issues of the New Yorker so that I have a look at all the cartoons I missed. My favorite of the week has one sheep telling another that
"Sure, I follow the herd -- not out of brainless obedience, mind you, but out of a deep and abiding respect for the concept of community.Heh. Like pro-wrestling, the New Yorker is also available in England. Once in a while, I would go to the college library to look at the cartoons. But how can you sit in a stiff wooden chair and read the New Yorker? What it's really all about is lying down on the couch after dinner and forgetting that there's any other way to spend your time.
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:39 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
First and foremost, let me say this: Thank God I am home. It feels really damn good. Because it isn't just a visit. I am now back in the United States for good (unless Paul Bremer decides that OxDem ought to establish a chapter in Iraq ASAP).
For the first time in three years, I truly feel that I am where I belong. I am not a guest. I am not an observer. Three years ago, I did not fully understand what it meant to belong. Nor did I understand what it meant to be out of place.
Before coming to Oxford, I had visited foreign countries ranging from Canada to Germany to Hong Kong to Argentina. Perhaps because I never intended to live in any of those places for more than a matter of months, I never felt that I had overstayed my welcome. I never felt that I had to fit in.
But fitting in is the challenge laid before us at Oxford. We are warned that Britain has a very different culture from the United States in spite of having striking similarities. We are told that our response to this difference should not be to retreat into the protection of the American community, but to reach out and truly learn what it means to live in Britain.
Instead, I learned what it meant to live in America. The longer I spent in the UK, the more out of place I felt. This is not to say that all the differences are negative. Much of Britain is incomparably charming and civilized in a way that America simply cannot be. But I never felt that I was a part of that Britian either.
It was not a lack of British friends that made me feel separated. In fact, I had more British friends than many of the other American Scholars. But in the presence of every bus driver, every homeless man and countless other strangers, I preferred to put on my Australian accent.
Because every encoutner is an international relation. Because the curiosity, awe and resentment that American provokes transforms every encounter into a social experiment. Like it or not, every American has to stand in for America.
Not every. But enough that it begins to feel like every. It reminds me of the paranoia that our teachers so conscientiously instilled in us in our Jewish elementary school. Every time we stepped out of that building, we became representatives of the Jewish people. Our teachers told us that if we were loud or obnoxious that those around us would decide that the Jewish people are loud and obnoxious.
Interestingly, I don't remember ever being told that if we behaved as model citizens that those around us would come to see the Jewish people as model citizens. We had nothing to gain and everything to lose.
Looking back, it is painfully evident that we were being taught to systematically underestimate the intelligence and open-mindedness of our fellow Americans. In fact, it made it hard to even think of them as our fellow Americans. While no one questioned that 20th century America had been better to the Jews than any other time and place on earth, it was never thought of as a final destination.
Nor was Israel. It was uncivilized. It was dangerous. A nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there. The Israelis were far tougher than their American cousins and they wouldn't let you forget it. They had survived five wars and countless terrorists attacks but didn't have cable television. (That was in the 1980s.)
So perhaps I was being disingenuous when I wrote above that until now I did not understand what it meant to be out of place. Because I was never in it. Then in college, America became my unequivocal home. When making friends, it didn't matter what state we were from, how much our parents income was, or whether we were black, white, Hispanic or Asian. Of course those things mattered. But if you found out that you both liked skiing or history or Led Zeppelin, then those things started to matter a helluva lot less. It was precisely because Yale was so diverse that I was able to see how little one's identity mattered.
I felt in place because I no longer had to decide between being Jewish and being American. Yet at the same time, it was no longer apparent that I had to decide between being American and being anything else. In college, I spent two summers in Germany and never felt that being American was a bad thing at all.
After graduating from Yale, I spent a year working in Washington at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In the fall of 1999 and spring of 2000, globalization was everything. Hundreds of thousands of protesters were against it, even though most of us at Carnegie were for it.
But so what? On both sides, we were American. The question at hand was to what degree we should also be international or global. In that sense, being American was a good thing, since it meant being national.
As a pundit-in-training, I decided to write an op-ed about the protest movement. According to conventional wisdom, globalization bore more than a passing resemblance to Americanization. Therefore, protests against one were tantamount to protests against the other.
I disagreed. If the protesters were against American power, why were they more concerned with transparency at the IMF than with the fact that the United States had just bombed Milosevic into submission? Since the protesters were explicitly for human rights, they silently decided to recognize that the United States was fighting their battles for them.
Before sending my column off to the editors, I decided to run it by my supervisor, who happened to be Robert Kagan. While generally supportive of my writing projects, Bob thought that this one should go in the garbage. It was pretty clear that Bob was asking himself how someone relatively smart could have written something that was much more than relatively stupid.
The answer was naivete. I just didn't understand that the anti-globalization movement had within it the potential to become an anti-American movement just a few years later. Not that protesting against the war in Iraq was, in and of itself, anti-American. But the simplistic and cynical arguments made by so many of those protesters demonstrated that their opposition to the war was an extension of their anti-American worldview (and not vice versa).
While I had the good sense to throw my op-ed in the garbage after getting Bob's comments on it, I was still a long way from recognizing how wrong I was. Even September 11th was not enough to change that. After all, Le Monde's headline the next day was "Nous Sommes Tous Americaines". Who says one has to decide between being American and being anything else?
The attacks on New York and Washington coincided with the beginning of my thesis research. Thus, the growth of my own knowledge of American politics paralleled the growth of the anti-American hostility around me.
The political differences that divided Britian and America after September 11th helped me to place all sorts of other Anglo-American differences in context. For example, my occasional Australian accent was a product of my first, pre-Sept. 11 year at Oxford. But the anonymity it provided became something entirely different after the Towers fell.
The more I read about America, the more I identified with its historical sense of mission. I began to recognize that I had always had that sense of mission, but did not understand the degree to which it was part of my American heritage. Over the past two years, that degree became apparent precisely because there was no comparable sense of mission on the far side of the Atlantic.
Again, one cannot reduce the question of invading Iraq to cultural differences. But that was a part of it. Even before Sept. 11, I had begun to sense Britain's nation discomfort with the concept of a mission.
At Yale, the President and the Dean could not give a speech to any number of assembled undergraduates without waxing eloquent about their role as the leaders of the next generation and about their obligation to give back to the society that gave them so much. While the rhetoric was sometimes excessive or hollow, the students seemed to take for granted that it was the expression of a shared ideal.
In contrast, Oxford seemed to have no message for its undergraduates. When I told my British friends about Yale, they said that no one at Oxford would take that sort of rhetoric seriously. Oxford encouraged intellectual excellence. But the purpose of such excellence was not apparent. Personal fulfillment? Social sophistication? A job at an investment bank? I don't know. My friends didn't either.
I have come to believe that Americans' frenetic obsession with taking action is inextricably tied up with our sense of mission. We have to always be making everything better. It goes without saying that we often fail and that our obsessive activism is the cause of our failure. That might even turn out to be the case in Iraq. But without that activism and that sense of mission, we just wouldn't know what to do with ourselves.
God, I'm glad to be home.
[NB: This post could really use some editing, but I'm jet-lagged and losing it, so sleep is going to have to come first.] (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, July 24, 2003
# Posted 10:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
"Whoever decided to make serial rapist Uday Hussein the Ace of Hearts was either careless of secondary implications or had a sick sense of humor."Rumor has it Gary Condit designed the deck... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:49 PM by Patrick Belton
My most controversial point may be about what needs to be done to fight this war in the Middle East. We will have great difficulty bringing peace to the region without changing the nature of governments there - without bringing democracy.Hear, hear!
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
# Posted 7:14 PM by Patrick Belton
Councilman Davis sounds to have been an idealistic, energetic young politician, the likes of which his city could be proud. All New Yorkers everywhere will mourn the senseless cutting short of a promising career which would have done much good for the fellow residents of his district and his city. May he rest in peace. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:09 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 6:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
There are two reasons I'm going to Harvard: library resources and stipend funding. In the UK, even at Oxford, it is extremely hard to write a document-based dissertation on modern American foreign policy. At Harvard, I will either find what I need in Widener Library or be close enough to travel to other archives.
Also, given that I am about to finish my third year as a Rhodes Scholar, I thought it best to turn elsewhere for funding. There is limited fourth-year funding available, but for various and sundry reasons, I decided not to apply for it.
Instead, I owe my thanks to Harvard's Olin Institute of Strategic Studies, where I will be in residence as a pre-doctoral fellow. Alongside the much more common "post-doc" fellowships, there are a number set aside at various institutes for advanced graduate students who would benefit from being in residence at a university other than their own.
While I recognize that Harvard is an utterly inferior university when compared to first-rate institutions such as Yale, I am still extremely excited about heading to Olin and believe that both the city of Cambridge and the university itself will be wonderful places to work. However, since the academic year doesn't begin until September, I will be spending most of August on vacation, some of it in New York and some of it in San Francisco. I actually depart Oxford for New York tomorrow morning. And, so, until I log on from the other side of the Atlantic, au revoir! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Notice that there is no explicit opinion given in yesterday's post. Each sentence consists of either a simple fact, or a vague statement which has critical connotations, but no explicit meaning with which one can disagree. For example,
Four American soldiers were injured in the battle, raising the already steep cost of the occupation in human terms.The four injured soldiers are a matter of fact. But what counts as a "steep cost...in human terms"? Anything and everything. Still, the phrase suggests that too many soldiers have died, and for no good reason.
By relying on facts and cliches, the media can embed its prejudices in its published work while hiding behind a facade of objectivity. Sometimes this process is sub-conscious one. By imitating this practice in yesterday's post, I had hoped to suggest how even the post possible news can be presented as a failure.
FYI, in the first version of Josh's response to Matt Yglesias' post on the death of the Hussein brothers, Josh noted that I was "obviously joking". But then I asked Josh to phrase his comments in a way that wouldn't let the cat out of the bag. Hence:
Heaven knows I don't like to criticize the opinions of my co-bloggers, so, seeing as how Matt Yglesias seems to agree with David on the implications of Uday and Qusay Hussein's untimely demise, I'll criticize Matt instead....That, too, was meant to be sarcastic. Spend some time in the OxBlog archives, and you'll get a sense of how much criticizing one's co-bloggers is part and parcel of being on OxBlog.
But that's enough navel-gazing for the moment. While I was hoping that my faux coverage of Uday and Qusay's deaths would resemble the actual coverage provided by the Guardian or the Independent, it turns out that even the most implacable critics of the US government have found it hard to see the demise of the Hussein boys as anything other than a major triumph for the United States. Even Robert Fisk began this morning's column by remarking that
So they are dead. Even Baghdad exploded in celebratory, deafening automatic rifle fire at the news, a delight of matchstick-snapping sound and red tracer bullets.So perhaps I shouldn't be so critical of the professionals' work. Then again, nah....
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:32 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 6:18 AM by Patrick Belton
Incidentally, with the shuffling of OxBloggers to come at the end of this summer, look for the Nathan Hale foreign policy discussion society to sprout a chapter in Oxford, as someone else takes the helm in DC. Any readers up for starting more local chapters - say, in New York, or other cities? Let me know! (And note to David: Harvard could use some sound foreign policy discussions, for a change.....)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:48 AM by Patrick Belton
As head of the paramilitary Fedayeen Saddam paramilitary unit, Uday helped his father eliminate opponents and exert iron-fisted control over Iraq's 25 million people.
And now his dearly departed brother Qusay:
...he was a leading figure of terror in the  conflict's aftermath, using mass executions and torture to crush the Shiite Muslim uprising after that war.
In requiem: Consider not that Allah is unaware of that which the wrongdoers do, but He gives them respite up to a Day when the eyes will stare in horror. And you will see the criminals that Day bound together in fetters. Their garments will be of pitch, and fire will cover their faces. (Qur'an, Surah Ibrahim) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
# Posted 8:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Hadley, in a rare on-the-record session with reporters, said that he had received two memos from the CIA and a phone call from agency Director George Tenet last October raising objections to an allegation that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium ore from Africa to use in building nuclear weapons.Once again, the administration's latest apology raises more questions then it answers. Did Hadley simply forget that Saddam hadn't sought to buy uranium from Niger? Or did the final draft of the SotU get okayed by the NSC without Hadley having read it?
In addition, the removal of the uranium allegation from the Oct. 7 speech suggests that Rice herself was aware of the CIA objections. Unless, that is, no one ever explained to Rice why such an important allegation was taken out of a nationally televised speech. Yet presuming Rice was aware, did she also "forget" about the CIA's objections when it came time to draft the SotU?
While I don't claim any special expertise on the inner working of the Bush White House, it sure as hell seems like everyone is trying very hard to protect Condi Rice from taking the fall for Uranium-gate. First of all, I seriously doubt that either Tenet or Hadley offered his apology without first informing the President of his intention to do so. And given that Condi had to publicly embarrass Tenet before he offered his apology, one gets the sense that Tenet was ordered to apologize rather offering to do so of his own free will.
Now, is it any more likely that Hadley offered to go public of his own free will? I doubt it. If he were really in the wrong, he should've said so up front and not let Rice force Tenet to talk the fall (albeit temporarily). According to White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett, the President
"has full confidence in his national security adviser, his deputy national security adviser and the director of central intelligence."Translation: Hadley won't have to pay for his mistakes, Tenet will get away with withdrawing his apology, and no one expects Rice to apologize at all.
Also according to Bartlett, the 16 words survived the drafting process because "the process failed". Ah, yes, the passive voice. The last refuge of the scoundrel. Perhaps Bartlett will tell us next that "mistakes were made".
PLUS: Josh Marshall fisks Bill Kristol's defense of the adminstration. Marshall's criticism of Kristol is solid, but Kristol's attack on the Democratic response to Uranium-gate is also quite damning. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Naturally, the four of us were taken aback. As we all know, our pidgin dialect lacks the elegance and grace of the Queen's English. Yet for the duration of our time at Oxford, we have sought to comport ourselves with dignity in spite of our inability to overcome the self-evident ridiculousness of our manner of speech. Even so, when confronted by the self-evident civility of the Queen's English, it is hard for us not to be ashamed of our backwater upringings.
However, on this particular night, none of the four of us felt particularly taken aback when said local resident decided to mock our dialect. We were not taken aback because we sensed that this particular local resident lacked the necessary credibility to comment on our lack of cultural sophistication. This absence of credibility stemmed from the fact that said local resident was in the process of urinating on a wall in broad daylight at the same time that he was busy offering his condescending rendition of the American voice.
Perhaps there is some larger message buried in this commonplace tale. Perhaps it is a metaphor for the irony of imperial decline and post-colonial jealously. On the other hand, one ought to recognize the recklessness of generalizing about a national state of affairs on the basis of a single individual's behavior. After all, how many Englishmen urinate on public walls in broad daylight? Having lived now for three years on this sceptered isle, I believe that I can say with considerable confidence that most Englishmen have the good sense to wait until after dark. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 7:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Four American soldiers were injured in the battle, raising the already steep cost of the occupation in human terms. More importantly, Saddam himself was neither killed nor apprehended.
Further attacks on American soldiers are expected in coming days. Last week, high-ranking generals in the US Army acknowledged that the US is engaged in "classical guerrilla warfare" with Ba'athist forces. The conflict has already done serious damage to the morale of American soldiers in Iraq and forced the American public to confront unpleasant memories of prolonged guerilla warfare in Vietnam. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:16 AM by Patrick Belton
The summary bit:
Neither of these plans serves the long-term interests of the United States or the cause of Iranian democracy.
What are they asking for, then? Mainly, a major presidential speech on Iran, outlining a U.S. strategy "to provide moral and political assistance to the internal movement for democracy in Iran, not to anoint a future leader." Secondarily, that the US make clear it will only deal with a democratically elected regime, and (somewhat nebulously) that we accelerate the flow of accurate information and democratic ideas through broadcasting, confront the regime on its nuclear weapons program and violations of human rights, and support Iranian reformers "intellectually and practically." (Incidentally, on the broadcasting point, see this article on Cuba jamming the new daily Persian-language broadcasts of VOA and a private Iranian exile group in L.A..)
Sounds fine, but I'm not (yet) convinced that this isn't, in spite of itself, a call for extending the status quo of US policy, albeit perhaps with more administration attention. Which may be fine, but is markedly less ambitious than the wholesale new policy the authors promise at the outset.
UPDATE: Sounds, in fact, like they wanted something like this. (Statement by the President, July 12, 2002). Looks like Milani et al. get all their wishes, even before asking for them. Lucky them!
We have seen throughout history the power of one simple idea: when given a choice, people will choose freedom. As we have witnessed over the past few days, the people of Iran want the same freedoms, human rights, and opportunities as people around the world. Their government should listen to their hopes.
(Courtesy of Mike Daley and Brothers Judd) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:55 AM by Patrick Belton
It is reassuring to know that Arab statesmen of the ilk of the pseudonymous "Abu Ahmad Mustafa" are willing to advance hard-hitting criticisms of the current governments of the region. It will be even more reassuring, of course, when the day wil come when they feel capable of doing so under their own names. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
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