OxBlog

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

# Posted 10:24 PM by Patrick Belton  

ANYBODY RECEIVING the LRB in their mailboxes today can look for my (and Rachel's) personal. No, no, not that kind of personal, we were looking for a bike.... Lookie, mommy, I've made it onto the LRB's personals page!
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# Posted 8:36 PM by Patrick Belton  

CENTRAL ASIA is too often a neglected front both in counterterrorism and in democracy promotion, but my two favorite print magazines (and not just 'cause they employ Josh) are giving attention this week to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Ami Horowitz, however, treats Kazakhstan's choice between orienting itself with the democracies or with Iran as though it were a foreign policy matter that could be accomplished without actually making Kazakhstan a democracy - which seems to me fairly short-sighted. Looking across the region, it's precisely the Central Asian countries where autocratic capitals have oppressed all dissent - think Uzbekistan and its portion of the Ferghana Valley - where Islam has become most radicalized. In countries like Tajikistan (though it unfortunately, at the moment, lacks an economy - a real bummer), Islamist parties have been drawn into a comparatively more democratic government, with the result that they're now among the most moderate Muslim religious parties in the world. And this in a country that weathered a civil war through most of the last decade in which the Islamist party was one of the principal combatants, and which drew roving Islamist operatives from Iran, Chechnya, and Afghanistan. Not a bad record - and not a bad lesson to learn from Central Asia. One only hopes the administration is listening.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias has a thoughtful post up on the topic as well. While I'm not sure I'd want to agree that Karimov makes radical Islamists look good comparison, I strongly agree that Karimov's religious policy has driven a naturally moderate Central Asian religiosity into a radical path. More importantly, I fully subscribe to his point that neo-cons should take equal interest in the promotion of democratic freedoms and forms of governance in Central Asia as well as the Middle East. Along the other path lies short-sighted policy conduicing to worldwide cynicism about U.S. motives, and spawning radical religious oppositions which are much more of a security threat to U.S. interests than the temporary security alliances of despots could ever make up for.
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# Posted 8:27 PM by Patrick Belton  

ON THE OTHER HAND, "Liebererman" (thus spake TNR's Jason Zengerle) is leading the TNR primary, racking up A grades in intellectual honesty (which seems more of a courage metric to me), foreign policy (though for resisting protectionism, not for a strong national security posture), and domestic policy (though for grilling - or promising to grill - Bush's EPA appointee, not for the proposals on the economy or measures to expand opportunity). Not sure I agree with the TNR staff's bases for arriving at these grades, but I do think he's the best of the lot. Call it a concurring opinion (even though that's admittedly mixing metaphors....).
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# Posted 10:24 AM by Patrick Belton  

BLOGGING FROM THE SANDBOX: Lt. Smash provides a compelling round-up of U.S. military bloggers posting from Iraq (via InstaPundit). I've really enjoyed reading through their posts, particularly those of the ChromeDomeZone and Will.
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Monday, August 11, 2003

# Posted 10:55 PM by Patrick Belton  

ABDOMINAL SNOWMEN (HAVE HAIRY ABS): A team of Japanese explorers are heading out to scour the Himalayas for Yeti, the abominable snowman of some fame. People have tried this before.

But why wait? You can have a conversation with him now here. Heck, I did:
Patrick: Yeti, how's it going, man?
The Abominable Snowman: Are you really interested? Why?
Patrick: Errr, because you're the abominable snowman.....
The Abominable Snowman: Is that the real reason?
Patrick: umm, yes....
The Abominable Snomwan: Why do you think so?
Patrick: Why does that interest you?
The Abominable Snowman: Why do you ask?
Patrick: Why do you think?
The Abominable Snowman: Does that question interest you?
Patrick: Yeti, you are a bad, bad snowman.
The Abominable Snowman: What makes you think I am a bad, bad snowman?
Patrick: What is your sex life like, Yeti?
The Abominable Snowman: What is the best thing about your love life?
Patrick: Umm, sleeping with people who aren't snowpersons. Also, just having other members of my species to be romantically involved with is nice too.
The Abominable Snowman: (stumped)
Maybe you'll hit it off better than me.
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# Posted 10:33 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE THIRD ID CAME HOME today! We're glad you're back - welcome home.
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# Posted 6:55 PM by Patrick Belton  

BYE, BYE, PRESIDENT TAYLOR: So the world is finally free of Charles Taylor, at least in his pitiful and bloody-handed incarnation as a head of state. After formally handing over power this afternoon to vice president Moses Blah, the Liberian ex-president arrived in Nigeria where he will live in exile, albeit palatial exile. Critics continue to call for his prosecution for war crimes by an international tribunal. Three Navy ships - the amphibious assault vessel Iwo Jima, the dock landing ship Carter Hall, and the amphibious transport dock Nashville - with 3,000 Marines on board have moved within sight of the Liberian coast; this showing-the-flag action is intended to send a signal to the warring factions to adhere to the cease-fire as efforts continue to open the port of Monrovia to relief shipments. MGEN Thomas Turner came ashore to coordinate actions necessary to open Monrovia's port to permit aid shipments to enter. Liberia's largest rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, has declared their war to be over. LURD and other rebel groups have said, however, that they would not permit Blah to remain in office for longer than seven weeks. Several names for a longer-lasting interim head of government are floating at the peace talks in Accra.

The people of Liberia, though, and not Taylor, remain the principal losers of their nation's conflict. Water supplies are nonexistent, and aid workers fear a cholera epidemic. One million Liberians are internally displaced, and malnutrition is widespread.

Reuters, characteristically, writes an oddly poignant piece about Taylor's last moments in office:
On his last day in office, Liberian President Charles Taylor prayed, sang hymns, joked, defended his record and boarded a Nigerian plane to exile under a grey sky.

A besuited man wept openly, scrubbing his eyes with crumpled tissue. "I don't want you to go. I don't want you to go," he cried, stumbling to keep up with Taylor's muscled entourage as they swept down the red carpet.

"I don't know about politics but I just know he was very nice to me," she [i.e., Liberia's other Taylor supporter] sobbed.
Compared to them, Guardian comes off disconcertingly sensibly in printing the AP's review of Charles Taylor's regrettable public life and bio of his hand-picked successor-for-now, and its history of Liberia. MSNBC also has a chronology of events in Liberia since Taylor's accession to power.
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# Posted 6:32 PM by Patrick Belton  

ON CONSERVING FREEDOMS: Peter Berkowitz gives a good rendition in Policy Review of the arguments that liberalism contains in itself the seeds of its destruction, by abolishing the preconditions which permit and constitute it. In his summative paragraph:
Our freedom encourages us to cast aside arbitrary authority and topple unjust hierarchy, but it also undermines the just claims of political order and moral excellence. It severs onerous bonds of association, but it also separates and isolates. It is the touchstone of our equality, yet it permits and indeed encourages competition, which results in vast disparities in wealth, power, and glory. It makes us responsible for ourselves and infuses us with a sense of the humanity and rights that we share with all people on the planet while loosening the claims of duty. It is bound up with the realization of our most cherished hopes while putting awkward pressure on and destabilizing them. It eloquently exalts choice and then falls crushingly silent concerning what actions and ends are choiceworthy, leaving it perilously close to teaching that the choice is all.

The promise and the dangers of our era are indissolubly connected. The more freedom we have, the more we want. And the more we get, the more we weaken freedom’s foundations in moral and political life.
His arguments are even on his own admission half of a larger dichotomy - but Peter is always readable, and a beautiful stylist.
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# Posted 4:51 PM by Patrick Belton  

HIZBULLAH WATCH: As the situation tenses up across Israel's northern border, Haaretz presents a good analysis of the elements of brinksmanship involved on all sides.
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# Posted 4:37 PM by Patrick Belton  

HEAR YE, HEAR YE: For you law buffs in the audience (and there may be one or two of you out there), the OYEZ project has just gotten a website running with the recordings and transcripts of oral arguments for important Supreme Court decisions (with unimportant Supreme Court decisions coming shortly too). (Some particular favorites: U.S. v. Nixon, Roe, Miranda, Bakke, and, for you readers surfing in from foreignaffairs.com, Hustler v. Falwell and US v. Playboy).

And Josh, you'll be happy that they've also included Oyez Baseball, which combines your two (non-blogging) hobbies so that you can "build Supreme Court knowledge through America's favorite pastime." Fun.
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Saturday, August 09, 2003

# Posted 1:19 PM by Patrick Belton  

JOIN US FOR PIZZA AND ANTI-MULLAH PLOTTING: Our little Nathan Hale foreign policy society's D.C. chapter will be meeting up tomorrow, to discuss U.S. policies toward democracy promotion in Iran. Please feel free to come out and join us!

We're meeting at the Bertucci's restaurant by the Clarendon metro stop at 8:00 pm, and we've assembled some readings on the subject (together with a few current foreign policy openings in Washington and abroad) here. (Also, we've got chapters opening up soon in New York, New Haven, Boston, Chicago, and Oxford, so please let me know if you'd like to join up or start up a chapter near you.)
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# Posted 7:27 AM by Patrick Belton  

HEIL FASHION: OxBlog's "too stupid to remain in the market economy" award goes to Izzue's Deborah Cheng, of Hong Kong. Ms. Cheng's company has drawn the strong complaints of Israeli and German diplomats recently for the minor bad taste of featuring in her store a line of Nazi-themed decorations and clothes.

In her defense, Cheng said the designer "wanted the clothes to have a military theme and did not realize that the Nazi symbols would be considered offensive."

Fortunately, though, where the company had lacked acumen about the quaint delicacies of public taste, it is making up for it with firm and decisive action now. Sort of. Ms. Cheng said the Nazi-themed line of decorations and clothes "may" be withdrawn. "We're seriously considering removing the displays. But before we take them off, we have to find a replacement," she said.

Good for her. Someone should give her an award. That is, like this one.
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Friday, August 08, 2003

# Posted 11:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MY DOG ATE THE WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION: Who says liberal bumper stickers aren't funny? Ah, San Francisco...
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# Posted 10:47 PM by Patrick Belton  

HAPPY BLOGIVERSARY, GLENN! We're all in your debt - thank you.
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# Posted 6:34 PM by Patrick Belton  

ARE YOU ADDICTED TO YOUR OXBLOG? Do you experience excessive anxiety or depression when you're away from our site? Well, that's okay, because CNN is all over internet addiction (with cute acronyms to boot....).
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Thursday, August 07, 2003

# Posted 12:33 PM by Patrick Belton  

HEADLINE OF THE DAY: The Three Tenors take Bath (CNN)
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# Posted 9:19 AM by Patrick Belton  

CALPUNDIT FOR GOVERNOR: "So one of my friends said to me, 'Are you a convicted felon?' " punk rocker Jack Grisham recounts. "I said, 'No, not convicted,' and he said, 'Well, then you can run for governor.'" So he is, along with apparently most of the other Californians who have 65 friends.

These include at the moment the Terminator, the Porno King, a fellow accidentally (his parents may differ on the point) named Michael Jackson, and Georgy - who, barring CalPundit's entry, we along with the WaPo are rooting for.

Somewhere, Tocqueville's loving this.
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# Posted 8:45 AM by Patrick Belton  

IN NEW YORK THIS MONTH? Well, lucky you. Because one of my favorite quirky little cultural traditions, the New York Fringe Festival, is starting up again. (I have multiple fond personal connections to the annual LES festival; my bro-in-law, playwright and director Daniel Kleinfeld, sported one of the best-received plays on the Fringe stage two years ago, and the OxWife was present at a party in the Village a few years ago when a young excited guy burst in talking in quick staccato sentences about this idea he'd just had for Urinetown.)

The NYT focuses on the Festival's supposed fall from fringe-theater innocence: "The festival's opening party...was held in Plaid, on East 13th Street, a swanky new club whose ideal clientele is probably more likely to be Britney Spears than the experimental director Richard Foreman." The Daily News beats on the same drum.

But hey, this is still some of the quirkiest, most creative theater to be seen anywhere, and good, clean fun (if at times also saran-wrapped and naked).
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# Posted 12:53 AM by Patrick Belton  

FRIENDS IN UNUSUAL PLACES, I: The editor-in-chief of the Syrian Ba'ath party newspaper is now calling for political reform in Syria.
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# Posted 12:52 AM by Patrick Belton  

FRIENDS IN UNUSUAL PLACES, II: The Ayatollah Khomeni's grandson is in Najaf, calling for democracy and the separation of religion and state in Iran.
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Wednesday, August 06, 2003

# Posted 9:39 PM by Daniel  

ANOTHER ARNOLD IS RUNNING. Well, Gary Coleman played one on TV.
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# Posted 9:33 PM by Daniel  

ARNOLD IS RUNNING. Details on Leno tonight.
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Tuesday, August 05, 2003

# Posted 10:20 PM by Patrick Belton  

NOTE TO SELF: Whenever I happen to win the Powerball, remind me not to leave a half million dollars in my car outside a strip club to get stolen....

UPDATE - which occasioned the following riposte from one of our friends,

Dear Patrick:

       Now that you have pledged NOT to leave half-a-million dollars of your Powerball winnings in a parked car in front of strip in order to be stolen, for what purpose WILL you leave half-a-million dollars in your Powerball winnings in a parked car in front of a strip club?

       All the best,

       Lester Czukor

       P.S.  My favorite example of the above question is (supposedly) due to Abraham Lincoln.  During the Civil War military officers from a variety of European countries came to America to observe the carnage.  Most were deeply impressed and frightened as to what would happen if the United States were to use such power against others than their fellow citizens.  A group of British officers had done the tour and were invitied to have lunch with the President at the White House (no record of whether they had to contribute to Lincoln's re-election campaign).  Lincoln asked them whether they had any observations they wished to report to him.  One of the British officers said:  "In the British Army generals do not polish their own boots."  To which the 16th President reponded:  "Really? Whose boots DO British generals polish?  In a similar vein there is the line attributed to, among others, Milton Friedman who once asked:  "If the ends don't justify the means, what does justify the means."

Lester then poses the question about whether there is a technical name for the rhetorical devise there applied. Readers?

UPDATE 2: Answering my plea, Tom Comerford suggests "squelch," "similitude," or the plain-vanilla "retort" - but also suggests a contest for the best rhetorical coinage. What's more, he offers up another one:

A, who never went to Oxford on finding out that B is an Oxford grad, says to B: "You don't look like an Oxford man."
 
B replies: "Funny, neither do you."
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# Posted 6:02 PM by Patrick Belton  

LETTER FROM SAO PAULO: A friend of OxBlog's, UPI Latin American correspondent Carmen Gentile, sent us a letter recently from Sao Paulo in which she writes about the human cost of Ivory Coast's civil war, as viewed through one refugee journalist now in Brazil. It's movingly written, so I'll post it in its entirety.
Talk of his capture and torture sets Bob Deenee's fingers into jagged arcs that clutch the edge of the table. He looks away, silent for a moment, then recounts the weeks of darkness and pain administered by hard-nosed soldiers.
"They took me from my home and imprisoned me in one detention center after another, constantly moving me around," said the 38-year-old former journalist for an opposition newspaper in the Ivory Coast, who now trolls the streets of Brazil's economic capital searching for work and purpose.
Deenee never learned exactly why he was picked up and detained, but he suspects it had something to do with his ongoing investigation into the government's use of South African mercenaries during its more than 10-month battle with rebel forces that aimed to topple the government of President Laurent Gbagbo.
"We were all 'captured' by what was going on," he exclaimed metaphorically, referring to his fellow reporters' examination of the killings and abductions by both sides of the civil war.
To Ivorians and resident journalists, the Sept. 19, 2002, coup attempt and subsequent outbreak of violence seemed a most unlikely scenario for a nation that was a relative model of civility in the region since its independence from France in 1960.
For the next 40 years, there was almost no political bloodshed in the West African nation, which is slightly larger than New Mexico. But the elections in 2000 that excluded an opposition leader from the majority-Muslim north sparked outrage and a subsequent backlash from Gbagbo's mainly southern Christian supporters.
And with that, the Ivory Coast had joined the world ranks of nations spilling blood along religious lines.
Resentment for the president simmered among the opposition until it exploded last September with the coup attempt, ratcheting up the danger factor for journalists such as Deenee who write for publications suspected of aiding rebels with information.
"I was asked what I had told the rebels, but when I said I hadn't said anything, they tortured me anyway," said Deenee, recalling how his captors administered electric shocks through his fingers, followed by long bouts of isolation in total darkness.
"Of course we (journalists) communicated with the rebels," he acknowledged, "we were trying to the whole story."
Government officials, however, suspected that Deenee was more than just field reporting, as he hails from the north, though denies ever aiding the rebels in their cause.
During his detainment, Deenee never knew what became of his home and family, a wife and their three children. Only later did he learn his house had been looted and his family had fled the country with the help of some friends.
His own fate was decidedly uncertain. Reporters are routinely taken into federal custody and beaten, their offices raided for signs of collusion with the rebels, according to international media watchdogs such as the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Deenee's newspaper Le Patriot was apparently on the government's list of suspected subversives bent on undermining its effort against the rebels. As a veteran reporter who'd covered conflicts in Angola, Congo and Rwanda, his profile loomed large in their sights.
Just when it seemed there was no end in sight, Deenee received a reprieve. The only catch: he was leaving the country, no questions asked. A military escort placed him on a ship that he was told would take him to Canada, where he had studied years before and had met his wife. There he hoped we would be reunited with his family and perhaps start anew.
But after three weeks afloat, Deenee landed on Brazilian shores in mid-February, a stranger in a strange land plunked down in the port city of Santos. It seemed the trip ended here, his family nowhere in sight.
Later he would learn they had fled with the help of some friends to Haiti where they stayed for a few weeks before heading to the Dominican Republic. Deenee's own saviors -- those that had arranged his passage -- remained a mystery until recently. While he wouldn't divulge their identities, he did acknowledge it was an opposition group that managed to win his freedom on the condition he leave the country.
That's about all the wiry Ivorian with no place to call home knows these days. His thin, sinewy frame is a testimony to his inability to earn a decent wage. He makes ends barely meet by teaching English to a handful of students and received the occasional donation for a local media union and foreign correspondents.
He's searching for a way to bring his family here, but with his bank accounts frozen at home and incoming barely enough to feed and shelter himself, Deenee fears it may be years before he can realize his goal.
"Now I'm 38 and in the middle of nowhere -- what am I going to do now?" he asks.
Back at home, the decision earlier this month by both sides to bring an end to hostilities provides Deenee with a glimmer of hope for his return, though he isn't certain he can. The government that detained and tortured him is still in control and the threat of renewed violence continues to loom.
And still there is the matter of earning enough to pay for passage home, send for his family, and in the meantime, ensure their well being.
"My dream is to go back ... but not until it is safe," he says. Until then, Deenee will remain stranded in Sao Paulo.

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# Posted 5:50 PM by Patrick Belton  

GET LEGAL: Hey, I'm only in Washington for a few more weeks, so I'm not exactly going to burn myself out if I do a goings-on about town column for the remainder of my time here in the federal city. So today's going-on: William Taft, the Department of State's Legal Advisor (and Yale '66, incidentally), will be speaking on Thursday from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the American Society of International Law's Tillar House, located at 2223 Massachusetts Avenue in Washington D.C. (I have the dubious honor of having woken up his predecessor at 4:00 am one morning.)
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Monday, August 04, 2003

# Posted 4:58 PM by Patrick Belton  

READERS IN HIGH PLACES: Did you miss OxBlog's coverage of the BBC's distortion of Tony Blair's comment last week about his "undiminished appetite" for serving in office? Well, lucky for you - now you can read about it in Andrew Sullivan's weekly WashTimes op-ed here.
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# Posted 4:13 PM by Patrick Belton  

WANT TO DRAFT WESLEY CLARK? (Question: He wouldn't have to go to boot camp, right?) The good folks in the Draft Wesley Clark movement have just let us know that they will be having a meet-up in Washington tonight at 7 pm at Stetson's Bar and Restaurant at 1610 U. Street. I won't be able to make it, but would be interested in hearing from anyone who goes. (Not to be outdone in the hierarchy of Democratic hawk cred, Rachel and I will be having dinner then with a Reagan DOD appointee.....)

UPDATE: The WashPost went.
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# Posted 11:22 AM by Patrick Belton  

NAME THAT NGO: So, being back in Washington (and more on this later – I flew back to the sunny Potomac last week and will be on stateside leave a month; after that, look for Rachel and me to be hanging our laptops in Oxford….), over the weekend I settled myself back into the federal city by strolling around Eastern Market and DuPont Circle with Rachel on Sunday. As pleasant and relaxing as our sunny strollings were, I couldn’t help noticing that for a city with very large white and black communities, how rare it was to see groups of whites and blacks walking down the street together or sharing meals as friends.

So I started wondering – what if you had an organization, springboarding perhaps off of churches, community organizations, and youth and professional groups - in which participating whites and blacks of roughly the same age would agree to spend time with each other socially and one-on-one, at least once every month? We already have Big Brothers/Big Sisters to pair up older and younger people , and help foster friendships between adolescents and adults - why not have an organization devoted to fostering friendships between race and ethnic communities? There are many ways a group like this could be structured - one might be to begin with mixing people who’d have more to talk about – i.e., evangelicals with evangelicals, dentists with dentists, plumbers with plumbers, English majors with other English majors. And a group like this wouldn't have to limit itself to forming friendships between white and blacks, either – though that might be a more common framework for the northeast and southeast, in the southwest, it might involve more of pairing Latinos and native Americans with members of other races; in metropolitan Detroit, Arab Americans; and so forth.

I would be very interested in moving forward with this, and would very much like to invite your comments, to hear from you if you might be interested, and your ideas – among other things, about what to call it. Any suggestions? Let me know!
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# Posted 10:47 AM by Patrick Belton  

SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ?: Sergeant Chafetz has recalled me to post (quite literally) after a lovely weekend leave of being reunited with my wife. Expect OxBlog restaurant reviews for the D.C. area to follow, but first off, keeping with the martial motif, let's look at personnel switch-ups contemplated for the administration’s national security team….

The New York Times speculates this morning about the positions of Secretary of State, Deputy Secretary, and DCI coming vacant in a second Bush term. Powell attributes this to a promise to his wife, and Armitage to his desire only to serve under his close friend the current secretary. The current horse race? It's Condi vs. Wolfowitz for Secretary, with Wolfowitz having short odds on National Security Advisor if Condi moves out of the Old Executive Office Building and into Foggy Bottom. Lugar and Gingrich round out the long list to be signing SecState on the cable traffic. For DCI, Rep. Porter Goss, a former case officer, is being batted around, along with DOD intelligence officials Stephen Cambone and Richard Haver, and the omnipresent Wolfowitz. Also being mentioned for Langley are current NSA director LTG Michael Hayden (USAF), former NSA director and Agency deputy director Adm. William Studeman, along with retired senators Warren Rudman and Fred Thompson - Thompson, incidentally, played DCI in a 1987 film, No Way Out. (I'm not a DCI, but I do play one on tv…) While the prospects of a Condian elevation to the seventh floor do make one’s pulse race, her writings do display a bent slightly more Kissingerian than idealistic; for my part, I'll be cheering in the peanut gallery for Wolfowitz, Lugar, and Goss.

UPDATE: Greg casts his ballot over at Belgravia Dispatch. (And whoever said you couldn't vote for appointed officials?)
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Friday, August 01, 2003

# Posted 6:31 PM by Patrick Belton  

HOPE STREET GROUP: The web page is up and running for The Hope Street Group, an exciting new non-partisan think tank that's dedicated to coming up with policy recommendations that further the ideal of equality of opportunity. The organization was begun by a group of my friends, mostly Yalies and McKinseyites, all of them idealistic, centrist, and pragmatic. Look for good things to come out of them. They've already come up with publications on the idea of opportunity, on reducing both corporate welfare and corporate tax rates, on repairing capital markets, increasing homeownership, and on improving education and retirement security. And much more to come.

UPDATE: Our friend Armed Liberal at Winds of Change comes up with some useful responses to Hope Street's first batch of white papers. The folks at Hope are serious, dedicated, good folks, and I'm sure they'll appreciate and take constructively all the thoughts and suggestions our readers want to lob their way.
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# Posted 6:06 PM by Patrick Belton  

MOROCCO THE BRAVE: (OR, HAVA-NARGILA….) On a personal note, courtesy of a fellow OxBlogger I seem to be the proud if temporary new owner of a hubbly bubbly (a.k.a. nargila - I would say hookah as well, except my wife and in-laws read this and I wouldn't want them to get any of the wrong ideas....). I'm not quite sure how it works, but after looking at the parts, I strongly suspect that once assembled I should be able to play bagpipes on it
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Wednesday, July 30, 2003

# Posted 2:05 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE BBC - NICE TO TYRANTS, NASTY TO DEMOCRATS: So, here's what Tony Blair said (as he responded to a question asking whether he would continue to serve as prime minister in a third Labour term in government): "There is a big job of work to do - my appetite for doing it is undiminished."

And here's what the BBC reported in its lede: "Mr Blair, who said his appetite for power remained 'undiminished'...."

And not to let a good distortion go, the website then links to the story thusly: "Tony Blair sidesteps questions on the David Kelly affair - but says his appetite for power is "undiminished"."

The Beeb: the (kind of) grown-up version of telephone.
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Tuesday, July 29, 2003

# Posted 6:14 PM by Patrick Belton  

BUT THEN AGAIN, the OED did take five years just to get to "ant".....
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# Posted 10:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OFFICIALLY ON VACATION: I ship out tonight for the West Coast, San Francisco to be exact. I've actually never been there before. While I may check in on OxBlog once in a while, my only substantive posts will address the subject of "medical" marijuana. Or if I happen to run into Mr. Schwarzenegger on the campaign trail, steroid abuse.

Hail and farewell! I'll be back on August 12th.
-David
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Saturday, July 26, 2003

# Posted 5:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CAMELS THREATEN ISRAELIS: Hamas and Jihad may be biding their time, but camels are now taking Israeli lives as a result of their invisibility in nighttime traffic. While I do recognize the suffering inflicted on camels by such collisions, I nonetheless condemn the equation of dromedary with Israeli lives as a form of anti-Semitic moral relativism.
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# Posted 5:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SAO TOME UPDATE: The coup is over and the government has been restored. Yet as Adam Sullivan points out, we don't know what sort of deal the government cut with the mercenaries who temporarily seized power.

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...
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# Posted 5:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ROCK THE CASBAH: I thought my brother was joking when he said that punk anthem "Rock the Casbah" was a protest against repression in the Muslim world. Turns out he's right.
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# Posted 9:04 AM by Patrick Belton  

TAILOR-MADE SPAM: My Nigerian spammer has taken to writing me with the subject line "SHALOM."

And they say you don't learn anything at conferences...
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# Posted 8:47 AM by Patrick Belton  

BOY DOES IT NOT SOUND LIKE FUN to be in a House minority. If this piece from the WaPo is accurate (and anyone from either side care to come up and testify?), then the House Republican leadership is as a matter of practice denying their chamber's Democrats the ability to offer motions or amendments on the chamber floor or in committee.

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.
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Friday, July 25, 2003

# Posted 6:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RELAXING NYC-STYLE: When I sat down at my desk last night, I intended to put up a light-hearted post about the simple pleasures of being back in NYC. Somehow, that post transformed itself in an autobiographical discussion of national identity. But this time, I mean business. No substance. Just fun.

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.

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# Posted 1:39 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GOING DOWN: No, this isn't another post about erotica. It is a post about leaving Oxford, an act known in Oxonian parlance as "going down".

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.]
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Thursday, July 24, 2003

# Posted 10:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS! In the aftermath of the Queen of Hearts' capture, Dr. Weevil tackles the deck from different perspectives. Highlight:
"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...
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# Posted 8:49 PM by Patrick Belton  

WOOLSEY ON DEMOCRACY PROMOTION: Hey, it ain't erotica, but after all, I am a married man. This article by Jim Woolsey in Sunday's Observer (London) is a nice rendition of a speech he's been giving for some time. The final section is particularly worthy of applause, and even citing:
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.

If one starts out from the proposition that this is a task for America, Britain or others to accomplish principally with military forces, we will fail. We have to take a much longer view, and, for example, pay attention to the brave newspaper editors - such as one in Saudi Arabia who recently took on the religious police and got himself fired by the Interior Minister Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz. There are similar brave reformers in Egypt and other countries who are effectively the green shoots springing up through the pavement, indicative of a growing approach, a growing openness in much of the Muslim world to democracy and liberty.

Some people seem to think that this is a hopeless task. Two points: first, the substantial majority of the world's Muslims live in democracies - Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Turkey, Mali, the Balkans. They may not be perfect democracies but they are democracies nonetheless. I am the Chairman of Freedom House, the oldest human rights organisation in America. Freedom House says that there are a hundred and twenty one democracies, eighty nine of them free - that is, they have parliamentary elections plus the rule of law. Another thirty two are partly free, like Russia or Indonesia, say, with substantial difficulties with respect to the rule of law, but nonetheless regular elections.

In the eighty-nine years since the guns of August 1914, the world has gone from ten or twelve democracies to over a hundred and twenty, and those ten or twelve in 1914 were democracies only for the male portion of the populations. Nothing like that has happened within a single lifetime in world history before. Anyone eighty nine years old has seen democracies multiply tenfold.

Most of those came about not through military force, but in all sorts of ways. During and after the Cold War, for example, in Iberia, the role of the German Social Democrats was important in working with their socialist colleagues to steer Spain and Portugal away from communism and totalitarianism and towards democracy. In the Philippines, it was people power. In Mongolia, Mali and countries all over the world, democracy has become a way of life.

These are places where, year after year, the smart, self-appointed experts have said, 'X will never be a democracy'. They said that the Germans would never be able to run a democracy, the Japanese would not, Catholic countries would not - because in the 1970s, Iberia and Latin America were non-democratic. They said it about people from a Chinese cultural background, yet the Taiwanese seem to have figured it out; maybe China will too. They said it about the Russians; after all, they missed the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Enlightenment - how could they run a democracy? But they seem to be getting started.

All along, the smart money has been wrong on this subject. It is not that there are no retrograde steps. There are in Venezuela and elsewhere, and in the Arab world, a portion of the Muslim world, there are some two hundred-plus million Arabs who live without democracy. This is an area where the transition will be difficult for a series of historical, cultural and religious reasons, many to do with the influence of the Wahhabis.

Nonetheless, it is not hopeless. It is the best path to peace, since democracies do not fight one another. They fight dictatorships and dictatorships fight each other, and democracies sometimes preempt against dictatorships, but they do not fight one another.

If we want to be successful in this long war, we will have to take on this issue of democracy in the Arab world. We will have to take on the - and I would use the word 'racist' - view that Arabs cannot operate democracies. We will need to make some people uncomfortable.

As we undertake these efforts in the Middle East and elsewhere, occasionally by force of arms but generally not, generally by influence, by standing up for brave students in the streets of Tehran, we will hear people say, from President Hosni Mubarak's regime in Egypt or from the Saudi royal family, that we are making them very nervous. And our response should be, 'Good. We want you nervous. We want you to change, but realise that now, for the fourth time in a hundred years, the democracies are on the march. And we are on the side of those whom you most fear: your own people.'
Hear, hear!
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Wednesday, July 23, 2003

# Posted 7:14 PM by Patrick Belton  

A SAD DAY FOR NEW YORK: Councilman James E. Davis, a 41-year old non-profit founder and cop who joined the NYPD after being assaulted by two white police officers, was mowed down in the city council chamber this afternoon by one of his primary opponents. Ironically, Councilman Davis's murderer bypassed City Hall's metal detectors by entering the building as the guest of the man he would murder - like the U.S. Congress, City Hall had extended that privilege to legislators and their personal guests, as subjecting them to a metal detector was seen to be inimical to their dignity.

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.
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# Posted 7:09 PM by Patrick Belton  

SAFE TRAVELS, DAVID!!!! Oxford won't be the same without you.
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# Posted 6:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LEAVING, ON A JET PLANE: As Patrick has already mentioned in passing, I will be spending the next academic year in Cambridge, MA. And, yes, I will still be posting on OxBlog just as regularly as before.

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!
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# Posted 6:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TONGUE-IN-CHEEK VS. FOOT-IN-MOUTH: I had hoped for the former but wound up with the latter. Yesterday's post on the death of Saddam's sons was meant as a sarcastic swipe at the media's obsession with portraying the situation in Iraq as a Vietnam-era quagmire.

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....

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# Posted 8:32 AM by Patrick Belton  

MEMRI has a round-up of Iraqi editorials assessing the new governing council.
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# Posted 6:18 AM by Patrick Belton  

INTELLIGENCE REFORM FOR THE CURRENT STRATEGIC ENVIRONMENT: Nathan Hale's Justin Abold has some creative thoughts about restructuring intelligence to deal with the U.S. military's current needs. Definitely worth a read.

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.....)
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# Posted 5:48 AM by Patrick Belton  

GOOD RIDDANCE: Feeling in need of a small indication of the sheer brutality of the tyrannical police state which, thanks to US action, is no more? Then read these profiles of Uday and Qusay. Here are excerpts:
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.

Iraqi exiles say Uday murdered at will and tortured with zeal, and routinely ordered his guards to snatch young women off the street so he could rape them. The London-based human-rights group Indict said Uday ordered prisoners to be dropped into acid baths as punishment.

But his tendency toward erratic brutality even exasperated Saddam, who temporarily banished Uday to Switzerland after the younger Hussein killed one of his father's favorite bodyguards in 1988.

Uday beat Gegeo [the bodyguard] to death with a club in full view of guests at a high-society party, according to some reports. Other reports said Uday killed Gegeo with an electric carving knife.

The London-based human rights group Indict said [Uday's Olympic Committee] once made a group of track athletes crawl on newly poured asphalt while they were beaten and threw some of them off a bridge. One defector told Indict that jailed soccer players were forced to kick a concrete ball after failing to reach the 1994 World Cup finals. Another defector said athletes were dragged through a gravel pit and then dunked in a sewage tank so infection would set in.

Army officers also were fair game for Uday's outbursts of violence. In 1983, Uday reportedly bashed an army officer unconscious when the man refused to allow Uday to dance with his wife. The officer later died. Uday also shot an army officer who did not salute him.

Uday's obsession with sex was evident everywhere: The house was adorned with paintings of naked women and photographs of prostitutes taken off the Internet, complete with handwritten ratings of each.


And now his dearly departed brother Qusay:
...he was a leading figure of terror in the [1991] conflict's aftermath, using mass executions and torture to crush the Shiite Muslim uprising after that war.

Qusay also helped engineer the destruction of the southern marshes in the 1990s, an action aimed at Shiite "Marsh Arabs" living there.

The marshes -- roughly 3,200 square miles (8,200 square kilometers) -- had provided the necessities of life for tens of thousands of marsh dwellers for at least 1,000 years. The area was destroyed through a large-scale water diversion project intended to remove the ability of insurgents to hide there.

[As part of Qusay's program of "prison cleansing," which killed thousands of prisoners in the last several years of the regime,] prisoners were often eliminated with a bullet to the head, but one witness told the London-based human rights group Indict that inmates were sometimes murdered by being dropped into shredding machines. Some prisoners went in head first and died quickly, while others were put in feet first and died screaming. The witness said that on at least one occasion, Qusay supervised shredding-machine murders.

On another occasion, a witness said, an inmate's foot was cut off in a prison torture room while Qusay was present. "The amputation had been carried out with a power saw during his torture under the direct supervision of Qusay," the witness told Indict.


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)
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Tuesday, July 22, 2003

# Posted 8:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE DAILY SCAPEGOAT: Now that George Tenet has declined the honor, NSC #2 Stephen Hadley has become the administration's whipping boy du jour. According to today's WaPo,
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.

As a result, Hadley said the offending passage was excised from a speech on Iraq the president gave in Cincinnati last Oct. 7. But Hadley suggested that details from the memos and phone call had slipped from his attention as the State of the Union was being put together.
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.
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# Posted 8:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE QUEEN'S ENGLISH: Earlier this evening, I had dinner with three fellow Americans. Two of them were my fellow OxBlog correspondents, Mr. Chafetz and Mr. Belton. The third was Mr. Sachs. As we walked down the street on our way out of the restaurant, we continued our animated conversation about the events of the day. Overhearing our distinct accents, a local resident decided to imitate them in a derisive and somewhat hostile manner.

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.
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# Posted 7:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE FRENCH CONNECTION: CalPundit has pictures of Paul Krugman on vacation in France. Strangely, Cal finds nothing suspicious about the fact that the objectively pro-French NYT columnist has chosen to spend his leisure hours in the embrace of Multilaterialist Marianne.
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# Posted 7:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SADDAM AT LARGE, QUAGMIRE DEEPENS: After a fierce gun battle in the northern city of Mosul, the US Army has confirmed the death of Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay.

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.
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# Posted 7:16 AM by Patrick Belton  

MILANI, DIAMOND, AND MCFAUL ON US IRAN POLICY: The three Hoover fellows have an interesting piece in the LA Times criticizing both poles of the current debate within the US over how to accelerate democratic reform in Iran (this via Priorities & Frivolities's Robert Tagorda, by email).

The summary bit:
Neither of these plans serves the long-term interests of the United States or the cause of Iranian democracy.

The first, confronting Iran, is an empty threat, since the U.S. does not have the military means and the American people do not have the will to invade Iran. The threat of American military intervention, therefore, only helps the conservative mullahs to rally people around the Iranian flag.

The second plan, engagement, might enhance U.S. security objectives in Iraq in the short run, but it would exacerbate an even greater threat to American security — an Islamic regime bent on obtaining nuclear weapons.


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.

In the last two Iranian presidential elections and in nearly a dozen parliamentary and local elections, the vast majority of the Iranian people voted for political and economic reform. Yet their voices are not being listened to by the unelected people who are the real rulers of Iran. Uncompromising, destructive policies have persisted, and far too little has changed in the daily lives of the Iranian people. Iranian students, journalists and Parliamentarians are still arrested, intimidated, and abused for advocating reform or criticizing the ruling regime. Independent publications are suppressed. And talented students and professionals, faced with the dual specter of too few jobs and too many restrictions on their freedom, continue to seek opportunities abroad rather than help build Iran's future at home. Meanwhile, members of the ruling regime and their families continue to obstruct reform while reaping unfair benefits.

Iran is an ancient land, home to a proud culture with a rich heritage of learning and progress. The future of Iran will be decided by the people of Iran. Right now, the Iranian people are struggling with difficult questions about how to build a modern 21st century society that is at once Muslim, prosperous, and free. There is a long history of friendship between the American people and the people of Iran. As Iran's people move towards a future defined by greater freedom, greater tolerance, they will have no better friend than the United States of America.


(Courtesy of Mike Daley and Brothers Judd)
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# Posted 6:55 AM by Patrick Belton  

ARAB DIPLOMAT ON CRISIS OF LEADERSHIP IN THE REGION: An Arab diplomat writing anonymously in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London) has written a series of articles criticizing: the leaders of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, for sacrificing Palestinian volunteers recklessly and without any sense of political objective which would benefit the Palestinian people; current Arab governments, for using the Palestinian cause to divert public attention from their own corruption and the collapse of education and public services; and Arab intellectuals for not providing an adequate alternative vision to that of the "turbanned ones."

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.
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Monday, July 21, 2003

# Posted 9:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PRAISING THE NYT: Mericless as I am when it comes to the men and women of 44th St., I don't hesitate to give credit where credit is due. And it is due once again because the NYT editorial board does understand certain fundamental things about the occupation of Iraq regardless of their terrible coverage of the subject. Today, the editors write that
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.
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# Posted 9:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SIX DEGREES OF BLOGERATION: Two items of note today. First, AG's uncle-in-law Mort Abramowitz has an excellent op-ed on Aung San Suu Kyi in the WaPo. Uncle Mort says that the international community has to focus its pressure on Burma's allies in Beijing:
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.
LONE STARR: What?
DARK HELMET: I am your father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate.
LONE STARR: What's that make us?
DARK HELMET: Absolutely nothing! Which is what you are about to become.
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... ;)
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# Posted 9:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE SEARCH FOR JUSTICE: The torture described in this article will make you sick. But you should read it as a tribute to the courage of Jumana Michael Hanna, one of the first Iraqi women willing to come forward and identify those who tortured her on behalf of Uday and Saddam.

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.
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# Posted 8:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SADDAM'S NEXT MOVE: This WaPo front pager begins by recycling the old news that, in October, the CIA said Saddam was most likely to launch chemical and biological attacks if the US invaded Iraq. However, buried toward the end of the article is the far more interesting and far more disturbing contention that a defeated Saddam may be reaching out to Al Qaeda and hoping to plan a joint chem-bio attack.

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.)
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# Posted 11:02 AM by Patrick Belton  

WHY I LOVE THE LRB, NUMBER 28: So we've already established by judicious use of the empirical method that they have the best personals ads (to wit, this, scroll down to Wednesday at 1:19 pm).

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,
Hello, I would be very grateful if I could place the following advert. I enclose my credit card information at bottom. With many thanks, Patrick Belton
Wanted: old-fashioned, black bicycle, with basket and in good condition. For wife, who lost hers. Patrick.Belton@trinity.oxford.ac.uk

THEM: Thanks for your e-mail. It's a nice advert, so we'll run it for free. It will appear in the 7 Augsut edition. Let me know how you get on.
 
David Rose
Advertising Manager
London Review of Books


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!
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# Posted 10:05 AM by Patrick Belton  

UPDATE ON NOAH FELDMAN PRESS SPREE: An anonymous mystery reader writes in to let us know that Noah Feldman will be speaking on WNYC, which is broadcast (and subsequently archived) online:
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.)
Brian Lehrer’s show is two hours long. I think Professor Feldman is the first guest, so he may come on at 10:06 or so. (You know how NPR affiliates almost always have a six minute new roundup before a show starts.) If you miss the show, it will be archived much later today.

Thanks!
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# Posted 7:22 AM by Patrick Belton  

BURPING STARS FILL THE COSMOS WITH DUST. They must be from Europe.
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Sunday, July 20, 2003

# Posted 9:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LA LUCHA CONTRA TERRORISMO: Randy Paul reports that Argentine President Nestor Kirchner is taking bold steps to solve the mystery of who bombed a Buenos Aires Jewish center in 1994, leaving scores dead. Kirchner is also aggressively moving to find and punish those responsible for the horrific human rights violations committed during the last Argentine dicatorship (1976-1982).
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# Posted 9:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REVISIONIST HISTORY?: The NYT has a long review of who knew what about WMD when. Basically, the article says that the administration seriously overstated the case for the existence of WMD. While one might criticize the article for not providing anything new, its greatest flaw is its systematic failure to mention any of the most compelling reasons to believe that Saddam had extensive stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

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".
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# Posted 1:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

QUAGMIRE! QUAGMIRE! QUAGMIRE! The NYT isn't letting up. Today's Week in Review section features a lengthy essay comparing the failures of the American occupation to the failures of its British predecessor 80 years ago.

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.

In the short-term, the untying of this Gordian knot may depend on the occupation forces’ ability to ensure a rapid increase in the Iraqi standard of living, since material advances tend to increase public patience with the gradual pace of political reform. And given enough time, the new Iraqi state may be able to take advantage of its most important asset in the democratization process: the desire of its people to ensure that they will never suffer again as they once did under Saddam Hussein.
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.
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# Posted 8:36 AM by Patrick Belton  

ABU MAZEN AND THE NYT: Abu Mazen gives his first interview to a U.S. paper to the New York Times this week.
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# Posted 8:31 AM by Patrick Belton  

MUSICAL CHAIRS: So David's packing his bags and getting ready to head to Harvard, and Josh is off vacationing in Ireland (and getting ready to change his d.phil. topic to an exploration of Belton sociology)....which leaves me - can it be true? - the only OxBlogger actually in residence at Oxford. Whowouldathunk?
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# Posted 8:29 AM by Patrick Belton  

NOAH FELDMAN IN DC: Several friends have been kind enough to point this out to me: namely, on Tuesday Noah Feldman will be speaking in Washington at the New America Foundation. Given that he's just departed his position as the interim Iraqi government's chief constitution-drafter, and the event is marked on the record, we can perhaps assume that we'll be hearing strong remarks, and criticisms, about the process of building Iraqi democracy. Feldman's departure, it's said, wasn't under the happiest of circumstances, but he's a bright, idealistic young man (and a Yalie Oxonian), so his criticisms, even if laced with a touch of bitterness, will surely be much worth listening to.

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.
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