Tuesday, August 19, 2003

# Posted 2:13 PM by Patrick Belton  

WHAT NEXT FOR US POLICY IN THE MIDDLE EAST? Don't expect an answer (in this post, at least), but there's some thinking on this point in Foreign Policy. Contributors include Bob Kagan, Thomas Carothers, Marina Ottaway, Daniel Brumberg, and Vince Cannistrano. Other pieces deal with Iran and moderate Muslims. Kudos to Carnegie for their efforts in adding new meat to the conversation.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 1:17 PM by Patrick Belton  

(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 11:01 AM by Patrick Belton  

BURMA ROUNDUP: A flurry of events in support of the imprisoned democratic leader took place last Thursday, the 15th anniversary of a massacre of pro-democracy protesters in the Burmese capital of Rangoon, in which thousands were killed. The Japanese and Laotian foreign ministers expressed concern about Suu Kyi's release during a bilateral meeting they held that day. Meanwhile, Burmese students and sympathizers staged protests in New Delhi and Bangkok. The US and EU have announced sanctions. Slightly earlier (on June 28), the Burmese foreign minister said during a visit to Indonesia that his government did not intend to detain the pro-democracy leader indefinitely, but did not indicate when she might be released.

There has been some speculation that the intense criticism of Burma's ruling junta from neighboring Asia Pacific countries may result in Suu Kyi's release before a regional border committee meeting scheduled between Myanmar and Thailand on August 22.

At its summit ending June 17th, ASEAN issued a statement breaking with three decades of non-interference with member states' internal affairs and calling for Suu Kyi's release. Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad has since pressed farther, calling repeatedly for Burma's expulsion from ASEAN if Suu Kyi is not released.

Perhaps most important among regional condemnations of the SLORC has been that of Japan, previously Burma's chief donor (giving the country aid worth $17 million in 2002), which has frozen all aid to the country. Also expressing repeated disgust (and bringing rare credit on their institutions) has been Kofi Annan, who dispatched a special envoy to the country the week after Suu Kyi's imprisonment, and the EU, which responding to British pressure placed sanctions on the junta on June 16. Pepsi and other large corporations have also stopped doing business with the Burmese government in protest. Some corporations, however, have been less scrupulous - British American Tobacco, for one, which rejected calls by the UK government for the company to quit Burma, saying "We're not a government or an international statesman. We'll do business in countries if it's legal to do so." Not very praiseworthy, that.

On July 29, President Bush signed sanctions against Burma into law in the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, which had been shepherded through Congress by Senators McConell and McCain and Reps. Jim Leach and Tom Lantos (only three legislators voted against the sanctions). The law, which enters into force at the end of August, bans all imports from Burma (its textiles trade is crucial in keeping that country's economy from collapse), freezes Burma's assets and property in the US, authorizes the president to aid Burmese democratic activists, and widens the visa ban on junta officials.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained since May 30. Among other groups working to keep the Burmese people's cause in the world's eye, worthy of mention are the Free Burma Coalition and the Burma Campaign UK.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:11 AM by Patrick Belton  

MORE BEEBISHNESS: Belgravia Dispatch takes on the BBC - but this time, for bad writing.

(Which, to think of it, is even worse...)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Monday, August 18, 2003

# Posted 9:32 PM by Patrick Belton  

ALSO IN MEXICO, an American bounty hunter .... jumps bail. Funny, they look a lot better in the movies.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 9:24 PM by Patrick Belton  

MEXICO WATCH: The center-left PRD has a new head, after the resignation of Lic. Rosario Robles, who as the former acting mayor of Mexico City attained the highest post attained by any female politician in Mexico. Lic. Robles was forced out of office amidst concerns of financial mismanagement, although the party doubled its parliamentary representation in the July Camera elections. (See Reforma and related)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 6:18 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE LIGHTS AIN'T JUST OUT IN GEORGIA: Nope, Vatican too. See, the whole world wants to be like New York....
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 2:49 PM by Patrick Belton  

We have BlackBerrys that are also telephones and Palm Pilots that are also cameras and cellphones that also send text-message mash notes. We take it on faith that the power will come on when we switch on computers to send e-mail around the world instantaneously from our air-conditioned, well-lit, cable-TV-equipped, key-coded, A.T.M.-financed worlds, without ever knowing that our power might be originating in Canada — eh? — or looping eerily around Lake Erie. Now comes news that our foamy lattes are steamed by the antiquated, overloaded system at Niagara Mohawk? I thought we'd already seen the Last of the Mohicans.
Geesh. Even he does it better....
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 7:18 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE LITTLE PAPER-CLIP GUY on Microsoft Word looks innocuous....but watch out, he's actually spying on you.....

(I always knew it - it was something about the way he blinks.....)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Sunday, August 17, 2003

# Posted 7:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CHAFETZ IS #1: On Blogdex, that is. Josh's excellent analysis of the BBC has blown away the competition in terms of getting attention on the Net. OxBlog is now shepping infinite nachas.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 7:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH: BIG GOVERNMENT CONSERVATIVE? That's what Fred Barnes says, though I'm not buying it. Bush may behave according to the principles Barnes describes, but I get the sense that the President does so as a matter of political expediency.

Barnes also goes to great lengths to contrast Bush to Reagan, the supposed paradigm of small government conservatism. But Reagan did all the same things then that Bush is doing now, albeit with greater pangs of conscience. The bottom line is that Republicans maintain a rhetorical commitment to small government but tacitly admit that their cause is hopeless.

Finally, Barnes makes the untenable statement that "Neocons tend to be big government conservatives." While I can't speak as a neo-con, I think it's fair to say that many neocons have strong libertarian leanings which go against the foundational tenet of big government conservatism, i.e. that
"using what would normally be seen as liberal means--activist government--for conservative ends. And [being] willing to spend more and increase the size of government in the process.
In the final analysis, I think Barnes' essay falls into a well-known genre of opinion journalism, specifcally the attribution of a coherent political philosophy to officeholders who have strong instincts but are unable to articulate a coherent philosophy on their own.

In general, this genre tends to be considerably more popular among conservative journalists, since Democrats have a habit of nominating and electing egg-headed Presidents who can speak for themselves, whereas Republicans prefer men such as Reagan and George W. Bush. In fact, Barnes essay reminds one of the endless battles of the Reagan years in which conservatives spent as much time claiming the President's loyalty for their own Republican faction as they did responding to Democratic broadsides against the GOP as a whole.

You see, in a democracy it's entirely possible to be a 'C' student and a 'A+' president...as well as vice versa.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 4:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MODO SAYS EUROPE WRONG: You thought it couldn't happen. The Immutable Laws insist that it cannot happen. But Maureen Dowd has decided that a European is wrong and that an American is right.

The European in question is none other than Austrian-born megastar Arnold Schwarzenegger. MoDo says that the California frontrunner
is running on pecs and running away from peccadilloes...he's smoked marijuana and his father was a Nazi...
First of all, the Nazi reference is just plain offensive. I have vague recollections of other journalists asking questions about the elder Mr. Schwarzenegger's politics, but unless his son has actually said something that demonstrates insensitivity to the plight of the Holocaust's victims, there is absolutely no reason to blacken Arnold's name by mentioning him in the same breath as the Third Reich.

On the other hand, the Nazis were Europeans, so perhaps I should compliment MoDo for recognizing that they were evil. Or is this just the exception that proves the rule?

Anyhow, one still has to ask how Ms. Dowd could turn her back on a European candidate for American political office, given her fondness for all things from the Continent. I think I have an answer for this one, and it entails laying out a corollary to the Fifth Immutable Law. It is as follows:
Whereas under normal circumstances Europeans are always right, a European abandons the privilege of automatic rightness if he or she shuns his or her superior cultural heritage by embracing American popular culture and/or taking on American citizenship.
Given Mr. Schwarzenegger titanic role as a worldwide ambassador for Hollywood action flicks, his sins against the Dowdian way of life are unforgivable. Or perhaps it would just be simpler to say that Europeans are never right if they decide to become Republicans.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 9:54 AM by Patrick Belton  

AND WHO SAID THE UN TRUSTEESHIP COUNCIL WAS DEAD? NYT reports on an idea to revive it to govern Liberia.....
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Saturday, August 16, 2003

# Posted 6:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A MODEL IDIOT? Yes, another Zoolander reference. No OxPoints up for grabs, though.

For those of you who do not worship at the comedic altar, "A Model Idiot?" is the headline of Time Magazine's fictional cover story on Derek Zoolander. The purpose of that story was to demonstrate that a well-known and well-respected public figure was actually nothing more than a mindless hack with delusions of grandeur.

As you might have guessed, I am trying to suggest that Time's cover story was the inspiration for Josh's excellent, excellent cover story in this week's Weekly Standard. Its purpose, of course, is to demonstrate that a well-known and well-respected public institution, i.e. the BBC, is populated by mindless hacks with delusions of grandeur.

What is especially impressive about Josh's article is its ability to disentangle an extremely complex narrative and forcefully spell out its political implications. While most readers of this site may already have a negative view of the BBC, that is all the more reason to read Josh's article both carefully and thoroughly. Whereas quick posts here and elsewhere (for example, on Andrew Sullivan's site) often provide anecdotal evidence of the BBC's prejudice, Josh's article provides a in-depth portrait of the institution at work and play.

Finally, in case you were wondering, this is the same article Josh himself referred to earlier today. But he didn't play up it's importance nearly enough (or at all for that matter). If only the BBC were that modest...because in contrast to Josh, it has every reason to comport itself with greater humility.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 2:08 PM by Patrick Belton  

KRISTOF, VIRGIN BIRTH, AND THE INTELLECTUAL STATE OF AMERICAN RELIGIOSITY: Our close friend (and fellow Oxonian) Newman Nahas, in his inaugural post, disputes Nicholas Kristoff's argument this morning that American Catholic and Protestant intellectual traditions are withering at present. (For some reason, no one ever accuses Jewish or Orthodox intellectual traditions - the latter being Newman's denomination - of being in decline.) A very warm welcome to the blogosphere, Newman!

And it's fun to get to see two Arabic-speaking Rhodes scholars debate each other....
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 1:39 PM by Patrick Belton  

REAL LIFE OR THE ONION: Actor Rob Lowe, who played a political operative on "The West Wing," has announced he will serve in an active capacity in the gubernatorial campaign of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who played a hero in "The Terminator" series, "Running Man," and "Conan the Barbarian."

Lowe, a television actor since the age of 8, has played the role on television of a Princeton graduate and White House Deputy Communications director. Lowe remarked, "my extensive experience playing a television character arguing for education reform has given me able preparation and great desire to take that message to the television audience of California." Schwarzenegger, for his part, responded by commenting "as I said in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 'My CPU is a neural-net processor - a learning computer.' I look forward, with the help of the man who played Sam Seaborn in NBC's hit series The West Wing, to bringing those talents and desire to serve to the good people of California."
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 12:48 PM by Patrick Belton  

WANNA EMPIRE, II?: In a constructive piece, The Economist calls for greater U.S. investment of resources in what it impishly terms our dominion of "Iraqistan" - fair and good. While I don't necessarily subscribe to every claim in the article, sign me on the dotted line with regard to the conclusion:

In a paradox, those Americans now clamouring for an exit from Iraqistan should be pushing their government to do much more in its new dominions, not less.

America succeeded at “war lite”. But it would be an error to follow up with what a Canadian writer, Michael Ignatieff, has called “empire lite”. Even an unwanted empire is an empire, and hard to run on the cheap. Iraqistan requires the urgent application of more money, attention and ingenuity than America has invested so far. This need not mean staying for “the long haul”, as people say. It is possible that by doing more now, America may be able to pull out sooner. The key is to make enough of an effort now to ensure that these places will remain stable when the empire goes home.

The priorities for Iraq are to raise an effective local police force and put together a clear plan and timetable for a constitutional assembly and the election of a government that Iraqis will see as their own. Afghanistan needs more peacekeepers. In Bosnia in 1995, as soon as peace was agreed, America, Britain and France inserted 60,000 peacekeepers. By contrast, the whole of Afghanistan, a country 12 times the area with seven times the population, has only 5,000 or so troops providing security, plus another 12,000 or so mopping up the remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

For a superbly fleshed-out piece on this theme, see Dan Drezner's recent piece in TNR online.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 12:34 PM by Patrick Belton  

WANNA EMPIRE? Via today's Economist, print ed.: Londoners could do well to seek relief from the British summer in such cooler climes as Cairo (30C/86F at noon last Monday, compared with London's 38 C/100F) and Delhi (31C/87F).
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 11:06 AM by Patrick Belton  

(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 1:29 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PLAGIARISM PART THREE: Part one is here, part two here. Now here's the rest:
4) Constraints

a) Domestic Constraints:

i) First and foremost of all constraints is the 2004 election. At the moment, both polling data and a survey of the experts indicate that no Democratic candidate can come close to matching the President’s credibility on national security issues. Thus, the best hope of a Democratic victory may be a dramatic economic downturn similar to the one that unseated the President’s father. Alternately, a significant terrorist attack on US soil may destroy the President’s credibility and create an even playing field.
(1) Given the President’s credibility advantage, there is little reason to believe he will change much of his foreign policy in response to electoral pressure.

(2) While the media continues to highlight the prospect that increasing casualties in Iraq may provoke a public backlash, the polls show no indication of such a phenomenon, regardless of how many headlines each casualty gathers. In all likelihoood, cabinet infighting will have much more to say about the future of Iraq than electoral pressure.

(3) Even if a Democrat wins 2004, it is highly likely that the US will continue on the same basic course it has until now, albeit showing somewhat more deference to Europe.

(a) The one Democrat who may change US foreign policy considerably is former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. However, the chances of him winning the Democratic primary, let alone the general election are extremely remote.
ii) Congress: In the 1980’s, the Democratic-controlled Congress quickly became the President’s bete noir on all sorts of foreign policy issues. Two important changes have taken place since then, however:
(1) First is the return to Republican control.

(2) The second, and perhaps more important, is the reduction in partisan tension regarding foreign policy ever since the end of the Cold War. There are no longer any clear Democratic-Republican dividing lines, even if one can say that Republicans tend to be more hawkish. After all, it was Trent Lott who told Bill Clinton to "Give peace a chance."

(3) At the moment, Congressional criticism has focused on three main subjects: Homeland security, the State of the Union/uranium flap, and the occupation of Iraq. As mentioned above, Homeland security has not had much traction and will gain momentum unless another attack occurs. The uranium controversy is also dying out. With regard to Iraq, Congress mainly seems interested in ensuring a serious American commitment to rebuilding, rather than calling for a withdrawal as the media projected.
b) International constraints

i) Bush administration critics argued throughout the buildup to the invasion of Iraq that a unilateral policy would do lasting damage to transatlantic relations, the United Nations and the international system. Despite the continuing failure of the Administration to justify the invasion by locating any weapons of mass destruction, the US relationship with Europe and the UN seems reasonably stable.
(1) The main point of contention seems to be the occupation of Iraq, with most opponents of the war refusing to commit any forces to its reconstruction. On most other matters, cooperation is going ahead as usual.
ii) There has also been little reaction in the Arab world to the US occupation of Iraq, despite widespread predictions of a regional upheaval driven by anti-imperialist Islamic fundamentalism By and large, the United States authoritarian allies in the region have begun to spin out a new reformist rhetoric while giving few indications they intend to carry through on its implications.

5) Scenarios:

a) "Pax Americana" – Probability: 40%

i) As specified in your initial comments this scenario would entail significant success in Iraq and Afghanistan. Conventional wisdom suggests that neither is probable.
(1) However, I believe that assessments of the situation in Iraq have been marred by an instinctive pessimism. Thus, I consider it extremely likely that there will be an elected, civilian government within 24 months and that the overall state structure (police, judiciary, legislature, armed forces, etc.) will be at least as resilient as some of the relatively stable Latin American democracies.

(2) In contrast, Afghanistan cannot hope for much more than a continuation of the status quo, excepting the validation of the current government by reasonably democratic elections in the near future.

(3) An optimistic yet still realistic scenario for the Middle East should also include internally-driven regime change in Iran and a reduction of tension in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.
ii) The Pax scenario might also include a multilateral resolution of the North Korean nuclear crisis, with the North trading its nuclear program for a combination of aid and security guarantees.

iii) The absence of any further attacks on American soil is critical to this scenario.

iv) The re-election of President Bush is NOT essential to this scenario. If the US economy falls into recession once again, Bush’s successor may be a centrist Democrat with a foreign policy that emphasizes the status quo of rebuilding Iraq and negotiating with North Korea.
(1) If President Bush is re-elected, the rise of any given faction within his cabinet may not have great significance, since the positive trend in world events will reinforce the current ideological course.

b) "Manning the Barricades" – Probability: 40% The US suffers no major setbacks, but nor does the war on terror progress.

i) A new Iraqi state emerges but has its legitimacy called into question by a one-sided constitution, a failure to provide basic services, ethno-religious tensions or all of the above. Reform does not advance in neighboring countries. The Israeli-Palestinian peace process stalls.

ii) The Karzai government accepts de facto warlord rule outside the capital.

iii) There is no resolution of the North Korean crisis. New rounds of talks alternate with rhetorical escalation.

iv) Al Qaeda or other terrorist forces attack US military installations in the Middle East, inflicting moderate casualties. Small attacks on US soil also possible.

v) The outcome of the 2004 will probably have little impact on this scenario. However, if the President is re-elected, enough delay may enable realists in the administration to reduce the US commitment to Iraq and Afghanistan, thus increasing the possibility of major failure 5-8 years from now.

c) "Retreat and Rentrenchment" – Probability: 20%

i) As a stillborn Iraqi state begins to decay, realists and non-ideological hawks take control of the administration agenda. After a single flawed election, the US declares the occupation successful and withdraws. A similar scenario plays out in Afghanistan. Reform stalls throughout the Middle East and Israeli-Palestinian fighting flares.

ii) North Korea, possibly joined by a reinvigorated Iranian theocracy, mounts a serious challenge to the nuclear non-proliferation regime and returns the world to the brink of war.

iii) Al Qaeda launches a successful attack on American soil, with hundreds of casualties. Other smaller scale attacks take place regularly around the globe.

iv) The push for retrenchment at home is led either by newly-empowered realists in a second Bush administration, or Vietnam-era liberals in a leftward tilting Democratic administration.

v) Come 2008, America finds itself sharply divided between those who believe that the cause of the current chaos is the Administration’s timidity and those who believe that the sins of the first Bush administration are still provoking a violent backlash across the globe.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Friday, August 15, 2003

# Posted 11:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PLAGIARISM PART DEUX: Here's the next section of my comments (see below):
2) Objectives:
Given the absence of a coherent strategic vision, the best approach to assessing American objectives may be to look at the top issues on the agenda and examine how competing factions within the cabinet want to address them.

a) Iraq

i) Ever since his February speech on postwar Iraq, the President has maintained a firm rhetorical commitment to nation-building and democracy promotion in the Middle East. However, there has been little evidence that any part of the administration made much of an effort – either before, during, or after the invasion – to seriously explore how best to rebuild and democratize Iraq.

(1) Unsurprisingly, the firmest commitment to reconstruction has come from those with an ideological commitment such as Paul Wolfowitz.

(2) Rumsfeld and Cheney seem to have minimal interest in the topic, preferring to delegate authority to others with greater interest.

(3) Powell seems disinterested as well, given that Iraq was never his cause.

(4) Rice appears more concerned with defending her reputation from allegations of her responsibility for allowing misleading statements about Saddam’s nuclear program into the State of the Union address.

(5) All in all, there is fairly widespread concern among Iraq watchers that the President’s interest is too superficial to maintain much of a commitment to rebuilding Iraq should that task become much more daunting than it now is. On the other hand, if the President’s interest is more than passing, he may demonstrate the same stubbornness with regard to rebuilding Iraq as he did to invading it.

b) Afghanistan

i) Neither the President nor any of his advisers has shown much interest in this subject, even ideologues such as Paul Wolfowitz. As best as this analyst can tell, the strong international and domestic consensus behind the war on Afghanistan has given the administration a free pass on its responsibility to rebuild.

ii) The unknown in the Afghanistan equation concerns possible negative outcomes in the 2003 election, such as the installation of a warlord president or even rigged elections that destroy the credibility of the US backed government. In such an instance, the US response is very hard to predict, although one can expect the usual factions to advocate their preferred solutions.

c) North Korea

i) While you didn’t mention North Korea in your brief discussion of the three scenarios, I imagine it is very high on your list of concerns. Yet given the almost total lack of transparency of the North Korean regime, prediction is almost impossible.

ii) One of the few simplifying factors in the North Korean equation is that there is no real hawkish option for the US. It is simply not possible to sustain a get-tough approach when tens of thousands of South Korean and Japanese lives can be lost in a matter of moments. Moreover, there would be no easy win for the US armed forces regardless of US sensitivity to allied civilian casualties
iii) Of course, Pyongyang may make war inevitable. Similarly, a combination of North Korea recklessness and US confusion may result in war.

iv) Ideally, the North Korean situation will become a mini-Cold War, in which both sides eye other nervously, occasionally negotiate, and ultimately avoid serious provocation. Yet as the Cuban Missile Crisis showed, one can never truly be secure when there are fingers on the button.

d) Homeland Security

i) Sadly, Homeland security has had about as little prominence on the US agenda as the rebuilding of Afghanistan.

ii) The best way to approach this may be to consider the Administration’s neglect as a sort of strategic risk:
(1) If there are no further attacks on American soil, the Administration will continue to get a free pass on this issue.

(2) On the other hand, an Al Qaeda attack that takes hundreds or even just dozens of American lives may cause serious damage to the President’s re-election prospects. The electorate may even come to see the Iraq war a dangerous diversion that – as critics have long alleged – prevented the US from fighting the real war against terror.

3) Capabilities

a) Given the increasing length of these comments, I am going to try and be somewhat brief from now on!

b) As a percentage of GDP, US military expenditure is still far below its Cold War peak. Thus, in the face of a serious threat, there is almost unlimited potential for expansion.

c) If the threat level does not increase dramatically, however, it will be hard to secure funding for a major expansion of the armed forces, especially if the Administration persists with its deficit-inducing tax cut plans.

d) Thinking in terms of possible scenarios, the real nightmare concerns what might happen if the US had to fight North Korea or even just pursue a major buildup on the peninsula, as it did in Saudi Arabia before the invasion of Iraq.

i) In such a situation, one has to wonder how it would be possible to maintain significant forces in Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else.
To Be Continued...
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 11:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SHAMELESS SELF-PLAGIARISM: A friend of mine at a consulting firm asked for my thoughts on his firm's projections regarding the development of US foreign policy over the course of the next 2-5 years. Since I spent a good amount of time on it and actually had fun doing it, I thought I'd reproduce my comments here on OxBlog.

While I can't republish my friend's remarks, you don't need to know exactly what he said in order to understand what I'm saying. If something doesn't make sense at first glance, just read a few more lines and I'm sure you'll pick it up from the context. So here goes:
1) Grand Strategy: [Defined as] Objectives, Capabilities, [and] Constraints

a) I think this is a very solid overall framework. Of course, given that it strongly resembles the approach to strategic thinking I worked on with John Gaddis and laid out in my [earlier paper], my comfort with this approach isn’t all that suprising. ;)

b) I think it is very important that you distinguish between domestic and international constraints and take the latter very seriously, since traditional strategists often dismiss the former, especially the role of Congress, the media and public opinion.

c) In your comments, you raise the question of strategic coherence. I agree that this is an extremely important question. I suggest, however, that you approach it in terms of cabinet infighting and not just in terms of pure theoretical consistency.
i) In terms of both objectives as well [as] policy process, there is a strong resemblance between the current administration and that of Ronald Reagan. In fact, the current administration resembles that of President Reagan much more than it does that of the President’s own father.

ii) Above all, this similarity rests on the presence of a president with basically hawkish instincts but few fixed ideas about foreign policy. (Reagan partsians tend to insist [that] the 40th president had a very developed strategy, but it is hard to know what that consisted of beyond forceful anti-Communism. By the same token, the current President is an uncompromising opponent of terrorism, broadly defined.)

iii) Given the President’s lack of fixed ideas, he is extremely susceptible both to arguments presented by his advisers as well as arguments suggested by sudden upheavals in world politics.
(1) As is well known, the administration pursued a firm "realist" policy before Sept. 11th, with "realism" being defined as a focus on "great" powers and firm opposition to nation-building or other humanitarian projects. Then, as a result of the WTC and Pentagon attacks, there was a dramatic change in both the President’s world view and the influence of certain factions within his cabinet.
iv) ONE CANNOT SEPARATE THE INFLUENCE OF EVENTS AND THE INFLUENCE OF ADVISORS. While Condoleeza Rice retained considerable influence even after Sept. 11th, her foreign policy agenda was shunted aside and has not even begun its return to center stage. She has retained influence by virtue of her personal connection to the President and willingness to abandon her prior agenda. In contrast, world events validated the world view of men such as Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, thus increasing their influence with the President.
(1) It is extremely important to keep in mind the differences between those like Rumsfeld and those like Wolfowitz, in spite of the fact that the media tends to label them [jointly] as either hawks or neo-conservatives or both.

(a) Wolfowitz has a much clearer agenda as well a fierce ideological commitment to it. Wolfowitz believes in the inherent superiority of American democracy and the possibility/obligation of transforming the Middle East by introducing it to a democratic way of life. This principled ideological commitment ensures that Wolfowitz and his associates have both a comprehensive as well as a somewhat inflexible approach to foreign affairs.

(b) Rumsfeld and others like him (especially Cheney) are hawks rather than ideologues. They believe in the efficacy of force but seem to have few clear principles that indicate where and when force should be used (although international approval of such force seems essentially irrelevant). Thus, their reaction are much harder predict. Thus, they tend to have a much shorter attention and be much more susceptible to the pressures of electoral politics. Finally, Rumsfeld & Co. tend to share Rice’s aversion to nation-building and humanitarian action.

(c) The Powell wing of the administration tends to be extremely skeptical of both Wolfowitz’s ideological vision and the Rumsfeld/Cheney camp’s instinctive hawkishness. While Powell & Co. seem reliably committed to building international consensus, they do not seem to have any clear agenda beyond a desire to moderate the ambitions of the Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld camps. Again, this frustrates prediction and creates susceptibility to electoral politics.

(d) In sum, it might be said that whereas the Wolfowitz camp has a fixed agenda, the Rumsfel/Cheney and Powell camps have fixed tactics and an agenda dictated by unexpected events.
To Be Continued...
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 5:03 PM by Patrick Belton  

BRINGING BACK SCOOP JACKSON: Michael O'Hanlon, one of the smarter kids kicking around the Massachusetts Avenue think-tanks, has a piece arguing the Dems should work to make themselves more credible on national security. Hear, hear.

More on this topic shortly.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 4:56 PM by Patrick Belton  

EVER WONDER what it's like to be stuck on the Q train for two hours? (and not even get all the way to Brighton Beach?) Amy Langfield clues us in (via InstaPundit).
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 4:36 PM by Patrick Belton  

BRINGING C-SPAN TO IRAQ: Or D-SPAN, perhaps, in honor of its portion of the Syrian desert, and lack of sea other than a few kilometers of the Gulf... At any rate, Claudia Winkler presents an excellent argument in the Standard that the U.S. needs to pay more attention to creating a credible mass media presence oriented around spreading support for democracy - an argument which Max Kampelman made last week as well in an (offline) letter to the Washington Post.

The travails of the Iraqi media, both independent and U.S.-backed, have been covered in depth in pieces by Netherlands Radio, a report by the BBC World Service Trust (also this), and the Guardian; excerpts from the indigenous press are regularly catalogued here by MEMRI.

The Beltway received wisdom, at the moment, lays a fair portion of blame for the weakness of the US-backed media presence at the feet (or postal drops) of paralyzing bureaucratic battles between the government bureaucracies involved. Winkler and Kampelman couldn't be more right on, in saying that Washington must find a way to provide a media presence for the interim government, and that the focus of that media's broadcasting should be strongly on democracy - in Iraq, and in other democracies around the world. This isn't too much to ask for, and it's keenly needed.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 4:11 PM by Patrick Belton  

CHINA AND GEORGIA: PNAC published two statements today, criticizing Boeing for caving into Chinese pressure by rescinding an invitation the company had extended to Taiwan's vice president, and also reprimanding Georgia's Schevardnadze for giving signs he will back down on his promises to the U.S. to hold free and fair parliamentary elections.

The event in Georgia which PNAC is criticizing is this event, from two weeks ago, in which President Schevardnadze's faction in parliament voted down an election law that had been based on the U.S.-proposed "Baker Plan" - an event which receives excellent and more expansive analysis here by Eurasia Insight.

As regards Annette Lu's cancelled visit to Boeing, other versions of the story are circulating - most notably, in the China Post and Taipei Times, both of which allude to versions in which it was not Boeing or Beijing but rather Washington, annoyed by Taiwan's unilateral disclosure of Vice President Lu's travel plans, which vetoed the visit.

PNAC is a wonderfully talented organization, but still seems to be searching for a way to bring its weekly statements up to the high level of the group's letters and statements of principles. I, for one, will be watching and encouraging from the sidelines.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 3:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE FILES ARE INSIDE THE COMPUTER: Until just a few minutes ago, I was cut off from the outside world. But now I'm back, and have to take care of all of the s*** I was supposed to take care of before the blackout happened. On the bright side, now I can have pizza.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Thursday, August 14, 2003

# Posted 5:18 PM by Patrick Belton  

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST: Many victories in the war on terror are quiet, and will never be known outside the corridors of Langley and the NSC.

This is not one of them.

In an unnamed country (reportedly Thailand, according to Fox and other sources), key terrormaster Riduan Isamuddin was taken into custody earlier this week, where he is undergoing interrogation. Isamuddin, whose nom de guerre was Hambali, may well have been the mastermind behind the infamous attacks of September 11th which reminded our country that evil in the world did not die with the Soviet Union. Isamuddin is one of the faces of that evil: he was the principal operational commander in Jemaah Islamiyah, and the principal liason point between that organization and Al Qa'ida.

For coverage: CNN, SITE Institute, MSNBC, FOX, Washington Times.

And for those who must labor in quiet to protect freedom from doers of evil: we congratulate you, even though we will never know your names.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 2:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...Hansel! No, actually not. The winner is GB, who correctly identified Jacobim Mugatu (played by Will Ferrell) as the man who felt like he was taking crazy pills in Zoolander.

Boomshock also had the correct answer, as did RP and BS. I have decided to award each of them three OxPoints for effort. And I've also decided to award GB five bonus OxPoints for having a subject line that read "That David Adesnik is so hot right now".

Moreover, I'd like to address GB's contention that OxPoints "don't actually exist". In point of fact, they are no less real than Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Actually, I'm still trying to decide what OxPoints are good for. I was thinking that each one could be traded in for ten words on OxBlog, e.g. GB now has the right to post an 100-word message saying whatever.

Of course, there would have to be better prizes for those who save their points for a rainy day. 100 points could get any photo of your choice on OxBlog (since, after all, a picture is worth a thousand words.) And 1000 OxPoints could be traded in for sexual favors (not from me, though, I'm a prude. But Chafetz may be able to work something out with his OxBlog groupies...)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 3:11 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I FEEL LIKE I'M TAKING CRAZY PILLS!!! So I come back from San Francisco and the world has turned completely upside down. Maureen Dowd is praising all those blogs not published by candidates for the Democratic nomination. If you ask me, that sound like an implicit endorsement of the Immutable Laws...

Meanwhile, Tom Friedman is waxing Krugmanesque with ridiculous statements such as
To wait in line for 30 minutes and then be told you have to go across [Baghdad] to a different gate produces humiliation and rage, and eventually grenades tossed at Americans. I saw it in the eyes of those Iraqi women and their husbands as they drove away.
I guess Iraqis are less patient than Russians, since the latter stood on line for several decades without ever managing to throw grenades at the local commissar. Then again, I wouldn't exactly want Iraq to turn out like the Soviet Union (a position that puts me at odds with most San Franciscans!)

Perhaps more shocking than the turnaround on the op-ed page was the objectively pro-Israel coverage provided by the lead story on the NYT front page. After reading this article, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that Israelis are the victims of Palestinian terror (and not vice versa). Multiple anti-Palestinian quotations from Israeli citizens as well as officials (including Arik Sharon himself) pass by without any sort of critical response.

The Times' token effort at balanced reporting consists of a ridiculous bit of invective from Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi that does more to undermine his credibility than advance his cause. The Times doesn't even mention that Rantisi was the victim of an internationally condemned (and sadly unsuccessful) targeted Israeli killing.

However, there is a catch. The Times reported that
By tonight the Israeli military had not retaliated, as it often has after suicide bombings in nearly three years of renewed fighting here.
You see, if Israel wants favorable coverage, it has to let its citizens get killed. In contrast, the PA and Hamas get favorable coverage so long as Israel responds to terrorism the same way that the US, the UK, Germany and France always have: with force.

Moving on, the Times has also bothered to put some relatively favorable coverage of Iraq on the front page. The principal subject of the article is the obsession of Islamic militants with derailing the occupation of Iraq. While that sort of angle suggests a quagmire motif, the actual contents of the article come across as an accidental instance of patriotic cheerleading.

The case for promoting democracy in Iraq gets made by Kurdish leader Barham Saleh, who inspiringly observes that
Iraq is the nexus where many issues are coming together — Islam versus democracy, the West versus the axis of evil, Arab nationalism versus some different types of political culture...If the Americans succeed here, this will be a monumental blow to everything the terrorists stand for.
Then, the Times lets the local terrorists undermine their own credibility the same way it let Rantisi embarrass Hamas. According to the head of Ansar al-Islam
The resistance is not only a reaction to the American invasion, it is part of the continuous Islamic struggle since the collapse of the caliphate...All Islamic struggles since then are part of one organized effort to bring back the caliphate.
Talk about two birds with one stone. Not only does the Ansar spokesman makes himself look ridiculous, but he argues that American aggression isn't the real cause of Arab anger!

If this kind of coverage keeps up, I may actually subscribe to the paper edition of the New York Times!

PS Ten OxPoints to the first person (other than Chafetz) who e-mails in the name of the character who said "I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!"

CORRECTION: Make that five OxPoints, since I just discovered you can identify the quotation with just one try at Google.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

# Posted 6:48 PM by Patrick Belton  

ON THAT NOTE, here are a few favorite selections out of The Jokes of Oppression.....

Question: What is the necessary transitional stage between socialism and Communism?
Answer: Alcoholism.

Question: What's meant by an exchange opinions in the Communist party of the Soviet Union?
Answer: It's when I come to a party meeting with my own opinion, and I leave with the party's.

During the period of Stalin's Great Terror in the 1930s, this scenario was frequently heard.
"How long are you here for?" the prison guard asked the newly arrived inmate.
"Ten Years," the prisoner replied.
"What did you do?" asked the guard.
"Nothing," came the reply.
"That's not possible," said the guard. "For nothing, they give you
five years, not ten."

Question: What does friendship among Soviet nationalities mean?
Answer: It means that the Armenians take the Russians by the hand; the Russians take the Ukrainians by the hand; the Ukranians take the Uzbeks by the hand; and they all go and beat up the Jews.

And this one putatively actually happened: "At a political agitation meeting at government store that my grandma worked at in the 50s ... one of the shop-hands stood up and asked in complete sincerity the speaker "So are we in 'communism yet, or is it going to get worse?" ... Everyone tried to keep from laughing and the dumbfounded speaker at first tried to give an answer and then just went to the next question."

Find more here.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

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!
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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....).
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:33 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE THIRD ID CAME HOME today! We're glad you're back - welcome home.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

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.)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

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...
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:47 PM by Patrick Belton  

HAPPY BLOGIVERSARY, GLENN! We're all in your debt - thank you.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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....).
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Thursday, August 07, 2003

# Posted 12:33 PM by Patrick Belton  

HEADLINE OF THE DAY: The Three Tenors take Bath (CNN)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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).
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

# Posted 9:39 PM by Dan  

ANOTHER ARNOLD IS RUNNING. Well, Gary Coleman played one on TV.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 9:33 PM by Dan  

ARNOLD IS RUNNING. Details on Leno tonight.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

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."
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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.

(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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.)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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!
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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?)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

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".....
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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...
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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...
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

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.

(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# 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.]
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion