Tuesday, August 26, 2003

# Posted 1:24 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IRAQ -- LOOKING BACK AT THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER: In yesterday's posts on the occupation, I set out for the record those positions which both OxBlog and its critics had taken vis-a-vis the occupation of Iraq during the months of April, May and June. This post will pick up where the last one left off. (If you want to know why I am investing so much time and effort in this project, click here.)

In the last days of June, I elaborated at length on my argument that the American media had become fixated on the superficial resemblance of the occupation of Iraq to the war in Vietnam. Surprisingly, certain liberals agreed with my conclusions as much as did conservatives.

In July, the big news in Iraq was the death of Uday and Qusay Hussein. To my surprise, even those invested in demonstrating the existence of a quagmire recognized an American victory when the saw one.

In August, it was all quiet on the Middle Eastern front until the double bombing of Jerusalem and Baghdad. Then I put up this post which led to an avalanche of criticism followed by this four-part series on the state of the occupation as it is right now.

So there you go. Thankfully, this post has turned out to be shorter than expected. So now I can stop navel-gazing and get back to current events. TTFN.

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# Posted 12:52 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG -- INTROSPECTION AND HISTORY: What began as a response to my critics became an unexpected exploration of my intellectual development over the past five months.

While compiling material for yesterday's posts on the occupation of Iraq, I became more aware than ever of how blogging enhances one's self-awareness and forces one to take responsibility for one's thoughts and actions.

For dedicated historians of the self, it has always been possible to gather together journal entries, personal correspondence and other documents in order to assemble an intellectual self-portrait. However, thanks to blogging, the investment of time and effort necessary to become aware of one's own political development has fallen to the point where it has actually become an inviting prospect.

In our heads, we tend to keep an informal score of our own rights and wrongs on the issues of the day. Unsurprisingly, such informal scores tend to ignore losses and emphasize wins, thus suggesting to ourselves that we have far more insight and credibility than we actually do.

At the same time, such informal scores tend to reduce the value of actual wins, since all one can to say to one's opponents long afterward is "I'm usually right and you're usually wrong." And they can say the same thing right back. Or just make fun of you for your groundless self-confidence.

However, in the blogosphere, one must hand over to the reading public the right to measure the worth of your latest post against the value of your older ones. If a blogger is not consistent in his or her views, the reading public (especially other bloggers) will impose consistency from without.

Even professional journalists rarely have to endure this sort of scrutiny. While a record of their work is available in every public library, who actually spends their spare time burrowing through stacks of old newspapers? (Nexis-Lexis is beginning to change all that, but subscriptions are not yet priced for the general public.)

In the process of compiling material for yesterday's posts on Iraq, I found it disturbing to read hundreds of paragraphs that I myself had written but whose contents I would not have recognized in the absence of a byline. Thus, to take either the credit or the blame for the contents of those paragraphs seems rather strange.

At the same time, there were discernible patterns of thought that gave a distinct personality to what I had written. On the other hand, I would not have recognized such patterns if not for the convenience of the OxBlog archive.

In my next post, I will finish off the project that I began yesterday. Yes, it is a response to my critics. But much more importantly, it is a process of learning about myself. And it enables me to recognize that which is so distinctive about belonging to a community of individuals -- a.k.a. the blogosphere -- that has made a similar commitment, more or less formal, to learning about themselves.

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# Posted 12:05 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AFTER CHAFETZ EXPOSE, HEADS ROLL AT BBC: Andrew Gilligan will no longer be reporting for the network. Instapundit has more.
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Monday, August 25, 2003

# Posted 8:04 PM by Patrick Belton  

THREE NOT-SO-EASY PIECES, CONT'D: This month's issue of the RAND Review includes pieces by senior RAND analysts James Dobbins and James Quinlivan.

Dobbins's piece extracts lessons from the U.S. experience in building democratic nations after wars, from Germany on. The most pertinent:

"Unity of command is as essential in peace operations as it is in war. This unity of command can be achieved even in operations with broad multilateral participation when the major participants share a common vision and tailor the response of international institutions accordingly."

"There is no quick fix for nation-building. None of our cases was successfully completed in less than seven years."

"Multilateral nation-building is more complex and time-consuming than a unilateral approach. But the multilateral approach is considerably less expensive for individual participants.

"Multilateral nation-building can produce more thorough transformations and greater regional reconciliation than can unilateral efforts."

"There appears to be an inverse correlation between the size of the military stabilization force and the level of casualties. The higher the proportion of troops relative to the resident population, the lower the number of casualties suffered and inflicted. Indeed, most of the post-conflict operations that were generously manned suffered no casualties at all."

And as though the point weren't driven home yet: "Many factors—such as prior democratic experience, level of economic development, and social homogeneity—can influence the ease or difficulty of nation-building, but the single most important controllable determinant seems to be the level of effort, as measured in troops, money, and time" (emphasis added).

Quinlivan focuses more on the ratio of policing officers to residents in historical experience:

"Peaceful populations require force ratios of somewhere between one and four police officers per thousand residents. The United States as a whole has about 2.3 sworn police officers per thousand residents. Larger cities tend to have higher ratios of police to population."

"Although numbers alone do not constitute a security strategy, successful strategies for population security and control have required force ratios either as large as or larger than 20 security personnel (troops and police combined) per thousand inhabitants. This figure is roughly 10 times the ratio required for simple policing of a tranquil population."

" The British are acknowledged as the most experienced practitioners of the stabilization art. To maintain stability in Northern Ireland, the British deployed a security force (consisting of British army troops plus police from the Royal Ulster Constabulary) at a ratio of about 20 per thousand inhabitants. This is about the same force ratio that the British deployed during the Malayan counterinsurgency in the middle of the 20th century.

More recently, successful multinational operations have used initial force ratios as large as the British examples or larger. In its initial entry into Bosnia in 1995, the NATO Implementation Force brought in multinational forces corresponding to more than 20 soldiers per thousand inhabitants. After five years, the successor Stabilization Force finally fell below 10 per thousand. Operations in Kosovo during 2000 showed the same pattern; the initial forces were sized at somewhat above 20 per thousand."

"The population of Iraq today is nearly 25 million. That population would require 500,000 foreign troops on the ground to meet a standard of 20 troops per thousand residents. This number is more than three times the number of foreign troops now deployed to Iraq.... For a sustainable stabilization force on a 24-month rotation cycle, the international community would need to draw on a troop base of 2.5 million troops. Such numbers are clearly not feasible and emphasize the need for the rapid creation of indigenous security forces even while foreign troops continue to be deployed."

Quinlivan's implication is that the U.S. should draw as much as practicable on an indigenous policing force, which would require a smaller footprint (instead of, i.e., the five nondeployed uniformed soldiers required for each soldier in theatre). Both authors' arguments conduice too towards bringing foreign troops onto the ground in Iraq - but under unified, U.S.-led command and control, and a clear commitment by the U.S.'s partners to establishing a democracy in Iraq and staying for as much time as that takes.
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# Posted 12:59 PM by Patrick Belton  

A SAD DAY IN INDIA: Two powerful car bombs exploded today in Bombay, killing 46 and injuring over 115, with initial suspicion resting on the Kashmiri separatist group Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Students' Islamic Movement of India. This is the fifth bombing in Bombay since December 2002. See CNN, Times of India, BBC. Hawken Blog has thoughts and is paying an eye to developments.

According to the Times of India, the bombs exploded in the boots of two taxis, one near Mumbadevi temple in Bombay's jewellery district, and the other in a parking lot near the Gateway of India. The bombs occasioned immediate calls from the BJP and Shiv Sena for the resignation of the Congress-led state government.
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# Posted 12:38 PM by Patrick Belton  

SCOTS GAELIC FOR VIETNAMESE SPEAKERS: and you think I'm joking....
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# Posted 11:46 AM by Patrick Belton  

L'HOMME NIKITA: Writing in the pages of the LRB, Neal Ascherson gives us a remarkably well-rounded portrait of a remarkably complex man, Nikita Krushchev:
His personality was horribly deformed; his crimes were unforgivable. And yet his lust for the new was disarming. I will never forget a story Taubman tells about his London visit in 1956. What, he asked his Foreign Office escort, was that odd 'oo, oo!' noise coming from the back of the crowd? The diplomat explained that people were booing, an expression of disapproval. Khrushchev grew thoughtful. In the back of the car, he said experimentally to himself: 'Boo!' And then again: 'Boo!' He liked it. For the rest of the day, he went around exclaiming 'Boo!' to all kinds of puzzled people. He had learned something.
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# Posted 11:11 AM by Patrick Belton  

THREE NOT-SO-EASY PIECES: This Weekly Standard piece by Bob Kagan and William Kristol is worth noting. The authors begin by repeating - correctly - that "American ideals and American interests converge ... a more democratic Middle East will both improve the lives of long-suffering peoples and enhance America's national security." They then applaud statements to that effect by Condoleezza Rice and President Bush calling for a "generational commitment" to Iraq and the Middle East comparable to the U.S.'s commitment to Western Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War. And in this, the security advisor and the president are also indeed applauseworthy: the intertwined task of promoting democracy and pursuing counterterror in the Middle East is as obviously central to U.S. security today as creating a secure, commercially prosperous free Europe was then.

Rather than basking solely in admiration for the president's bold, long-term vision, however, the authors are quick to measure current performance in Iraq up to its metric. They point to the successful performance of the U.S.'s mission at hand requiring two more divisions in Iraq - divisions which, thanks to the prior administration's short-sightedness, the nation simply does not have. But most interestingly, they then offer these two criticisms:
[Show me the money:] There has also been a stunning shortage of democracy assistance, at a time when, according to surveys taken by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, Iraqis undergoing an explosion of political activity.... The price tag [for everything], which may be close to $60 billion, will provide fodder for opportunistic Democratic presidential hopefuls who are already complaining that money spent inIraqwould be better spent in theUnited States. But, again, the time to bite the bullet is now, not six months from now when Iraq turns to crisis and the American campaign season is fully underway

[And show me the diplomats:] Until recently, only a handful of State Department employees have been at work in Iraq. The State Department, we gather, has had a difficult time attracting volunteers to work in Iraq. This is understandable. But it is unacceptable. If the administration is serious about drawing an analogy with the early Cold War years, it should remember that the entire U.S.government oriented itself then to the new challenge. We need to do the same now. The administration must insist that the State Department pull its weight.

This paragraph, though, seems both their most stirring and their most correct:
Make no mistake: The president's vision will, in the coming months, either be launched successfully in Iraq, or it will die in Iraq. Indeed, there is more at stake in Iraq than even this vision of a better, safer Middle East. The future course of American foreign policy, American world leadership, and American security is at stake. Failure in Iraq would be a devastating blow to everything the United States hopes to accomplish, and must accomplish, in the decades ahead.

I could not agree more completely, and endorse everything that I have quoted, as far as the authors go. However - and although they are two writers I respect deeply on the subject - I think they might be too quick to reject out of hand the prospect of looking overseas for soldiers. The authors seem to think of the matter as a choice between two options: simply asking our dedicated soldiers to do more of what they have been doing so well, or giving the entire enterprise over to the internationals - in which case either Kofi and Jacques Chirac will be the ones to determine the pace of Iraq's democratization, or still worse, we may suffer "the possibly unfortunate effects of turning over the security of Iraqis to a patchwork of ill-prepared forces from elsewhere in the world."

Hmmm. Though I agree with Kagan and Kristol on their other points, this particular bit seems a bit of a false dichotomy. Without doubt, the army's current deployed force is woefully insufficient for the task (this in numbers alone, not training or personal devotion). But first of all, we can't simply send more U.S. troops over, because we don't have them. A friend in the Office of the Secretary of Defense told me over lunch last week that bringing additional divisions online - as are indisputedly needed at the moment - would take five to ten years, with emphasis more on the ten than the five. (An important lesson from U.S. history: don't throw your armies away. you might need that.) As far as extending the current pace of deployment - anyone considering this as a viable notion should flip back a few issues in one of my favorite magazines to a piece by another talented Kagan who writes on national security matters (this time Fred). Kagan begins by noting that of the 495,000 troops in the U.S. Army, 370,000 are deployed at the moment. And this already represents a substantial overdeployment relative to the normal requirement to have two units at home in "yellow" and "red" stages - training, tending to base duties, recovering psychologically from overseas service in a combat zone, and rescuing families from divorce - for every one unit serving overseas. At the army's current size, following this rule would allow us to sustain an indefinite deployment of three and two-thirds divisions between different theatres. At present, we have the equivalent of over five out, in Iraq alone, and they aren't enough. Equally seriously, massive overdeployment of the reserve component has ceased to make service in the Reserves any longer an attractive path for amateur patriotic professionals with families and civilian careers. Speaking personally, I know at least several OxBloggers were giving serious consideration to service in the Reserves after 9/11 - but at the current deployment pattern, the price would simply have been too high to balance with beginning families and civilian national security careers. The damage this may have inflicted on the reserve component may in fact be incalculable.

On the other hand, bringing in Allied forces does not mean surrendering U.S. command and control, or democracy promotion aims. Indeed, both would be strengthened by having more feet on the ground to further consolidate security in Iraq. This is not to underestimate interoperability problems with even NATO allies, or the caution that we should take in the drafting of a UN resolution to permit the entry into theatre of peacekeepers from other democracies, like India. And a careful balance will have to be struck, between giving countries sufficient operational control over their own forces to secure their deployment of those forces, while retaining a preeminent role for U.S. leadership in the theatre to make sure that democracy promotion and order is what in the end results. But such complexities must be dealt with, as it is the path which must be taken.

That bit excepted, I heartily endorse everything Kagan and Kristol have said. More, please.
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# Posted 2:33 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RESPONSE TO MARSHALL, PART TWO: (Part one is here.) In early May, I confessed that contradictory coverage of the situation in Iraq made it hard to know whether the occupation was head for success or failure. Since then, my confusion in the face of conflicting press reports has been a running theme of my commentary on Iraq.

While confident that the pessimists consistently get the story wrong, I haven't been willing to say that things in Iraq are necessarily going right. The point? That even in the midst of this extended I-told-you-so, I'm not willing to say that Iraq will become known as an American success story anytime soon. But I am very sure that the pessimists Cassandran pronouncements reflect fundamental misperceptions rather than a balanced assessment of the evidence at hand.

Of course, OxBlog gets things wrong as well. I really didbelieve that American negligence led to the sack of Baghdad's National Museum. Then again, the pessimists didn't exactly get that one right...

It may also be worth noting that I have criticized the US occupation policy at times, even if I haven't pronounced it a failure. Examples of such criticism include my response to rumors of the US implementing a shoot-on-sight policy to deal with looters, my criticism of a US ceasefire with the Mujahedeen e-Khalq, and my blasting of ignorant comments made by Donald Rumsfeld. I admit that I'm an optimist, but I'm sure as hell no Republican cheerleader.

Moving on, OxBlog continued in late May to argue that American GIs were up to the task of befriending the Iraqi people and serving as the embodiment of the United States' democratic values. While there seem to be serious morale problems inside the American camp, I think it is fair to say that the soldiers have still done an admirable job of interacting with those around them. I can't think of any reports of serious misconduct, and even the NYT is getting all teary-eyed about the GIs reaching out to appreciative locals.

In mid-June, OxBlog was gratified to see both the NYT and the WaPo running stories on the restoration of order and basic services in Baghdad. While things are still not great on this front, it might be worth noting that criticism on this front tends to ignore just how far things have come since the end of the war.

Mid-June also marked the beginning of the quagmire debate that has raged on ever since Ba'athist insurgents began to pick-off American soldiers in Baghdad. OxBlog's comments at the time remain surprisingly valid two and a half months later:
I see no evidence of a self-sufficient resistance movement which can survive independent of Ba'athist ties. Nor does Tacitus provide any. Besides, the fact that almost all of the attacks on US soldiers have been in the former Ba'athist strongholds of Tikrit and Falluja demonstrates just how closely tied the attacks are to the fallen dictatorship.

Now here's some food thought: Remember the good old days when our big concern about postwar Iraq was the potential for Shi'ite resistance to the occupation?
Well, even back then OxBlog was pointing out that anti-American violence was coming from the Sunni community, not the Shi'ites. So? The bottom line is that only that small minority who benefited from Saddam's rule seems interested in resisting the occupation.
If resistance had spread outside the Baghdad triangle, I would gladly accept that this prediction was wrong. But it hasn't so I won't.

Early on in the quagmire debate, OxBlog also pointed to one clear empirical indicator of whether or not the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people were on the American or the Ba'athist side. That standard was to judge whether or not the people were protecting the 55 men on the Pentagon's most wanted list. My answer then was no and my answer now is still no. 38 of the 55 are dead or in prison because the Iraqi people are helping us find them.

To Be Continued...
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# Posted 1:23 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MARSHALL CALLS OUT OXBLOG: In response to the comments that Ralph Peters and I made after the bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad, Josh Marshall wrote that
There's a basic principle in scientific theory: an hypothesis, to be a real hypothesis, must be capable of disproof. In other words, for an hypothesis to be a valid basis for research, there must be some data which, if found to be true, would prove the hypothesis was false. Otherwise, there's no way to test it.

Now, foreign policy is no science. But some looser version of this principle must apply here as well. To be a policy, as opposed to a theological position, there must be some potential results that would show the policy was not working. The proponents of the policy should be able to say ahead of time that if this or that result happens, the policy has failed...

So I think it's time for the hawks to give us a few examples of events that would show that our policy was not working or at least facing setbacks. You know, just so we can put down some benchmarks, so we can know what we're working with...
If Josh Marshall had been paying closer attention to my constant stream of writing on the occupation of Iraq, he would know that I have held to a single, observable standard for measuring the success or failure of the occupation. Instead of spending his time in the OxBlog archives, Josh chose to direct a small-minded accusation at my work: that it is a product of ideological blindness.

Given that caustic condescension is one of Mr. Marshall's trademarks, I'm not going to take his comments personally (even though I may hit back once in a while.) In fact, since I know that Josh meant well, I will do his homework for him and evaluate the evidence at hand according to my standard for measuring success and failure in Iraq.

In short, I want to know one thing about Iraq: Who is winning its hearts and minds? Strictly speaking, one cannot provide a definitive answer to such a question. Thus, one has to search for proximate indicators from which one can infer a defensible answer. In the following paragraphs, I focus in greater detail on the indicators I have chosen and evaluate the degree to which their reliability has held up over time.

In the opening days of the occupation, I spent a good amount of time asking what standard foreign observers should rely on during the course of the occupation to measure its success. In Foreign Policy, a pair of top-flight scholars argued that the struggle for women's rights would become the decisive front in the democratization process. I disagreed.

In fact, the standard I chose -- that of hearts and minds -- reflected a continuation of my prior interest in the Arab world's reaction to the invasion of Iraq. Most experts predicted a widespread backlash against American imperialism throughout the Arab world.

However, OxBlog insisted firmly and explicitly that the popular reaction in the Arab world would amount to nothing more than scattered and short-lived protests. Exactly as Josh Marshall would've wanted, this site laid out explicit criteria for what sort of evidence would confirm its interpretation. As a result, OxBlog took home all the bragging rights when its prediction turned out to be right.

Anyhow, the real point here is that OxBlog chose the hearts-and-minds standard because of my initial conclusion that the United States' reservoir of good will on the Arab street was far greater than most talking heads cared to believe. While critics mocked the phrase "liberation" during the opening weeks of the war, those who had faith in Iraq resentment of Saddam Hussein ultimately had the final say on the matter. (For those keeping score, Josh Marshall was on the losing side of that one, too.)

During the second week of the occupation, I had an extended discussion with Kevin Drum about whether or not the United States needed to enhance the legitimacy of the occupation by granting a leadership role to the UN. As I saw it, Iraqis wouldn't care about whether the US or the UN were in charge, but rather about whether the US lived up to its promise of letting Iraqi citizens have a taste of the freedom and prosperity that Saddam denied them. Given that opposition to the US occupation consists of Ba'ath loyalists and migrant Islamists, I think it's fair to say that I laid out a clear standard for judging this one and that the evidence came down on my side.

Also during the second week I reviewed the state of homefront support for the United States' occupation policy. While American citizens haven't shown much enthusiasm for the occupation, they haven't come across as resentful either. So let's call this one a tie and take a rain check.

In week three, the first signs of Shi'ite unrest led pundits to speculate that the euphoria of liberation had worn off and that the US would not be welcome in Iraq for long. Ever the dissident, OxBlog responded that
Thankfully, US officials don't seem prone to rush to conclusions as fast as the media has. As Jay Garner said,
"I think the bulk of the Shia, the majority of the Shia, are very glad they are where they are right now...Two weeks ago they wouldn't have been able to demonstrate."
Exactly. There is every reason to believe that most Iraqi Shi'ites are greatful for their liberation. In fact, many indigenous Shi'ite clerics are open to working with the United States. What we have to watch out for are the ambitious men with friends in Teheran.
Given that Sunnis have been responsible for almost every attack on US forces since the occupation began, I think it's fair to say: Score for one for OxBlog. (So now it's three-zip. But who's counting?)

Week four was marred by a disturbing event that led some critics to assert that American soldiers were too violent to win over Iraqi hearts and minds. The event in question was the death of Fallujah-based protesters at the hands of American G.I.s. While dismayed, OxBlog insisted that "peaceful co-existence is possible with all those except the remaining partisans of Saddam." Make that four-zip.

To Be Continued...
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Sunday, August 24, 2003

# Posted 7:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A LESS-TOLD STORY: Click here for an interesting article about CIA operations in Iraq. It's from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and was written by an old friend of mine who is well on the road to establishing himself as a foreign correspondent.
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Friday, August 22, 2003

# Posted 9:05 PM by Dan  

MR. SUMMERS, DON'T TEAR DOWN THAT SNOW PENIS. You'll see what I mean when you read this highly enjoyable piece about Larry Summers and his time as President of Harvard. Read to the end and find out why Summers and Al Gore have more in common than one might assume.
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# Posted 4:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HEARTS AND MINDS AND BOMBS: As mentioned before, I have come under attack from a wide array of critics for arguing that this week's bombing of UN headquarters was not a triumph for anti-American forces, but a sign of their desperation.

Especially noteworthy is the fact that my critics include the blogosphere's entire center-left brain trust, i.e. Josh Marshall, Matt Yglesias and Kevin Drum. Gentlemen, it's an honor. Now let's get down to business.

There are two principal lines of attack against the 'desperation thesis': First, that Islamic fundamentalists rather than Ba'athist renegades were responsible for the attack. Second, that "conservative columnists" have been so blinded by their partisan and ideological commitments to success in Iraq that they are incapable of acknowledging any sort of setback for American interests.

I'm going to address the first point first since it is a more direct and factual objection to my analysis. Pointing out that no one knows the true identity of the bombers, Matt Yglesias writes that
Maybe all the various attacks we've seen in Iraq were organized by a single, loosely-affiliated group of people. Maybe these people really are deeply unpopular Ba'ath Party remnants. Maybe they've started targeting infrastructure because they're on their last legs and no longer capable of targeting US soldiers. Honestly, though, I just don't see how anyone could know these things.
While Matt never explicitly states why it is important whether Ba'athists or Islamists were responsible for the attack, I think his implicit logic is fairly clear: that if Islamists are responsible, one cannot conclude that the UN attack represents a failure of the Ba'athists initial strategy of focusing their attacks on American forces. Rather, the UN attack may represent one of the first blows in an entirely new insurgency against the occupation government. By extension, there is no reason to believe that the attack represents any sort of desperation.

This assertion begs two questions: First, what do we actually know about the identity of the bombers? Second, must one believe that the appearence of an independent Islamist force in Iraq represents a success for anti-American forces?

The first question is basically matter of evidence and still has no clear answer. I admit that in my initial post on the UN bombing I did not give sufficient consideration to the possibility of Islamists being responsible for it. For a forceful argument in favor of Islamist responsibility, take a look at Michael Ledeen's recent column in the Telegraph. (Also, special thanks to Michael for taking the time to send in his thoughts on my original post.)

While Michael makes some good points, his argument is basically contextual and doesn't establish whether or not Islamists were responsible for this specific attack. The evidence against Islamist responsibility consists of two main facts: First, that the explosives used in the attack were standard components of Saddam's military arsenal. Second, that the former Iraqi secret service agents guarding the UN compound may have been complicit in the attack.

While US officials think that the Ba'athist hypothesis is much more plausible, they haven't ruled out the possibility of the attack being authored by Islamists. There are also those individuals who suspect that the Ba'athists and Islamists are working together, but there isn't any solid evidence to back that up just yet.

Now on to the second question: So what if Islamists were responsible for the attack rather than Ba'athists? I wrote yesterday that evidence of Islamic responsibility
hardly contradicts my main point: that if our enemies are attacking the UN, they have no hope of winning the minds and hearts of the people of Iraq.
Let me elaborate on that a bit. Liberal critics have been arguing from the moment the occupation began that the key to success would be to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, both by restoring basic services and delivering on our promise of democratic self-rule. That, after all, was the lesson of Vietnam: that no amount of firepower can win a guerrilla if the people are on the guerrilla's side.

Thus, I find it rather ironic that they see the UN bombing as a setback. I think the most straightforward version of the liberal argument has been made by blogopshere newcomer Jon Gradowski, who writes that the UN attack was a show of force which may well scare Iraqi citiznes into abandoning their (temporary) support for the occupation government. In short, hearts and minds don't matter.

Yet why should a handful of car bombs lead the people of Iraq to abandon their aspiration of a establishing a democratic, non-Ba'athist order? Especially when the United States has more than a 120,000 troops on the ground and continues to apprehend leading Ba'athist figures such as Chemical Ali and former Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan?

(If you are a fan of Vietnam comparisons, you might ask why a handful of car bombs would terrorize the people of Iraq into submission if hundreds of thousands of tons of high explosives couldn't terrorize the people of Vietnam into abandoning their hopes of soveriegnty and independence?)

If Islamists were responsible for the attack instead of Ba'athists, one has to modify this argument somewhat. If this were a wholly Islamist operation, it may represent the first (second, actually -- see "Jordanian Embassy") in the wave of devastating suicide attacks. But how many attacks will it take to persuade the average Iraqi citizen that he or she is better off without American forces on the ground?

In answering this question, it is important to consider the nature of the target in the UN attack. Ralph Peters writes that
for al Qaeda and associated terrorists, the United Nations is a Western-dominated tool of Christians and Zionists - despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
But the people of Iraq are not al Qaeda. According to the Deputy Director of Physicians for Human Rights,
In the aftermath of the tragic bombing in Baghdad...many have speculated that Iraqis do not welcome United Nations involvement in reconstruction.

Physicians for Human Rights recently asked Iraqis about the United Nations' role there in a population-based survey of more than 2,000 households.

When asked if the United Nations should play a lead role in the reconstruction process, more than 85 percent said that it should play the lead role, and close to 90 percent felt that international assistance in reconstruction was very important.

The Iraqi people are the ones who suffer the most from acts of terror like the bombing in Baghdad. These attacks only set back delivery of basic needs and rights like electricity, clean water, food, health and the development of civil society in Iraq.

The American-led coalition should allow the United Nations a stronger and more independent role in Iraq.
Given that PHR is hardly a pro-Bush organization, I think its word carries a fair amount of weight. Besides, the people of Iraq would have to be ignoring all of the information now available to them in order to conclude that the UN is just a US henchman in disguise.

If you're still with me at this point, you might ask why Islamists would embark on a strategy that is so obviously self-defeating? The answer, of course, is that to them it isn't so obvious. As Peters observed, they are so blinded by ideology and by the Mogadishu analogy that they simply don't believe that either the US army or the people of Iraq are willing to fight for what they believe in.

As such, "desperate" may not be the best way to characterize the Islamist strategy if, in fact, Islamists were responsible for the UN attack. The Islamists are simply unable to switch gears despite the fact that up until know their suicide strategy has resulted in devastating failures, including the destruction of their base in Afghanistan and the apprehension of many Al Qaeda leadership figures.

Again you might ask, "Are the Islamists really that stupid or that unwilling to confront reality?" Well, the Americans were in Vietnam. The Soviets were in Eastern Europe. Further examples aren't hard to think of. Given the Islamists' extreme ideological commitments and the closed nature of their organizations, there is little reason to believe that they will prove any better at coming to grips with reality.

Alternately, the Islamists' may well recognize that they are losing their war against the United States but still have no idea how to win it and no ability to question their tactics. In essence, that was the situation of the United States in Vietnam. We simply didn't know how to win hearts and minds despite knowing that without hearts and minds we couldn't win the war. (It was more complex than that, but I'm not going to go into it here.)

In the final analysis, it is unlikely that Islamist terrorists in Iraq are as desperate as their Ba'athist counterparts, since the Islamists have an international support structure that the Ba'athists lack. Yet if the Islamists are responsible for attacking the UN (or worked in tandem with the Ba'athist underground to organize the attack) then they are strategically desperate and have no idea how to get the people of Iraq to join them in their crusade against the American Satan.

PS I know I didn't get to Josh Marshall's criticism. But it'll have to wait until I get back on Sunday.
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# Posted 10:35 AM by Patrick Belton  

OKAY, ONE MORE THING: This, incidentally, is a very, very good thing. Hade Soleimanpour - who served as Iran's ambassador in Buenos Aires in 1994 when Iranian intelligence conspired with Hizbullah to bomb the city's Jewish community center, an event which killed 85 members of the Argentine Jewish community and followed by a year the destruction of the Israeli embassy in that city by Iranian intelligence and Hizbullah - was served an extradition warrant yesterday in Durham, and will appear today before a magistrate in London. Menem and his cronies subsequently accepted a bribe of $10 million from Tehran to obscure judicial investigations of Iran's role in the bombings (the bribe was placed in Menem's personal bank account in Switzerland, and among other substantiating accounts, a defector from Iranian intelligence has testified profusely on the extent of collaboration between Menem's corrupt government and the secret arms of the Iranian mullahs). However, now that the Argentine judiciary is being swept clean of Menem's corrupt hacks, a judge issued a warrant last week for Soleimanpour and seven other Iranian intelligence and foreign ministry officials.

Justice, justice shall you pursue.
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# Posted 10:22 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE EGYPTIANS WANT THEIR GOLD BACK: Make of this what you will. A group of Egyptian jurists, their tongues (hopefully) somewhat in cheek, discussed bringing suit against the Jews to recover the gold taken from the Pharoah at the time of the exodus. Some problems have reportedly been encountered with statutes of limitations.

And with that, I'm off for the week! I'll be in Princeton, humbly attempting to serve as a good best man by throwing the party of the century (it's a new century, so the bar's lower) for my good friend Vi. Details are classified at the moment, but look for a full account from David and me on Monday. Happy weekend!
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# Posted 3:57 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PHIL CARTER IS FRIKKIN' AWESOME: While this post is especially excellent, everything Phil has put up the past few days has demonstrated once again what a superb blogger he is. Enjoy!
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# Posted 3:54 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STAY ON THE LINE, WE WILL BE WITH YOU SHORTLY: I'm going to bed now. After I get up, I'll make good on my promise to respond to Josh Marshall's criticism of my original post on the UN attack. I will also respond to Matt Yglesias, Kevin Drum, Dan D. and John Gradowski.

In case you couldn't tell, no one seemed to like a single thing I had to say. However, Ralph Peters does have a column in the NY Post which he published at around the same time I put up my initial post. With the exception of Peters' comments about the flypaper theory, I think Peters' column is brilliant. (For more on flypaper, click here and here.)

As you can tell, I have a lot on my plate and need some time to digest it. But don't worry. Reverse peristalsis is imminent.
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# Posted 3:40 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MINDBOGGLINGLY STUPID: No, that isn't a description of Bob Herbert's latest column. It's a description of the UN's faith in the willingness of former Iraqi secret service agents to provide "security" for their Baghdad headquarters.

Don't believe it? Well, I was surprised, too. I doubt that any Pentagon propagandist could've come up with a better way to demonstrate that the UN was (and is) embarrassingly unprepared to head up the occupation of Iraq. But that is exactly what Bob Herbert thinks should it should do. According to Bob,
As quickly as possible, we should turn the country over to a genuine international coalition, headed by the U.N. and supported in good faith by the U.S.
As far as I'm concerned, good faith support means not turning the future of Iraq over to an organization that trusts Saddam's henchmen to protect the lives of its employees.
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# Posted 2:22 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SATAN GOES ICE SKATING: Hawken has the details.
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# Posted 2:15 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET: A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far way, SH babysat for a future OxBlogger. The experience persuaded him not to have children of his own.

Moving on, SH responds to my recent post on Schwarzenegger and the Nazi past by noting that Arnold
ignor[ed] significant evidence of the complicity of Kurt Waldheim in war crimes (evidence significant enough for the US government to ban him from coming to the US while he was president of Austria), has been a staunch defender of Waldheim.  I have no reason to believe that Arnold hates Jews or subscribes to Nazi ideology -- although, you know, there is some of that in the Kennedy background -- Ambassador Kennedy was a well-known Naziphile -- in fact, I doubt that either is true, but I did think the Waldheim issue should be brought to your attention.
Interesting. I wonder what will come of it. I guess that if Arnold loses the recall election the President could always nominate him to be Secretary General of the United Nations. After all, the UN never seemed to have any problem with Waldheim's past.
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Thursday, August 21, 2003

# Posted 4:20 PM by Patrick Belton  

BEFORE THERE WERE UGLY AMERICANS...there were ugly Britons....

(For a kinder expression of transatlantic bonds, go see Mark Twain. He would have been a heck of a blogger.)
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# Posted 10:15 AM by Patrick Belton  

LEDEEN ON STAYING THE COURSE IN THE MIDDLE EAST: Michael Ledeen pens a superb piece in yesterday's Sun (another version of which appeared in the Telegraph), reminding his readers that the nation confronts a stark choice - between continuing to work, despite Tuesday's attack, to bring freedom to the Iranians, Syrians, and Saudis whose ruling elites are the paymasters of the region's terrorists; or demonstrating to the partisans of terror that those of freedom can always be sent home by a well-placed bomb of adequate size.

The entire piece is worth reading, but to highlight one favorite passage:
The U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and his British counterpart, Jack Straw, often speak as if they believe we could actually enlist Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran in the war against terror, which is rather like Roosevelt convincing himself that he could enlist Hitler and Mussolini in a war against Japan following Pearl Harbor.
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# Posted 9:15 AM by Patrick Belton  

ERRR, he's from my side of the family.....
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# Posted 9:01 AM by Patrick Belton  

WE'VE GOT CHEMICAL ALI: Ali Hassan al-Majid, Saddam Hussein's cousin and the officer who ordered a massive chemical weapons attack against Iraq's Kurds in 1988, has been taken into U.S. custody.

For an idea about what this means, read this Chemical Ali quote from Human Rights Watch's dossier: "I will kill them all with chemical weapons! Who is going to say anything? The international community? F_ck them! the international community, and those who listen to them!... I will not attack them with chemicals just one day, but I will continue to attack them with chemicals for fifteen days."

And more from that dossier:
Ali Hassan al-Majid, as secretary general of the Northern Bureau of Iraq's Ba'th Party, held authority over all agencies of the state in the Kurdish region from March 1987 to April 1989, including the 1st and 5th Corps of the army, the General Security Directorate, and Military Intelligence. This included the period of the "Anfal" genocide against the region's Kurdish residents. One of his orders, dated June 20, 1987, directed army commanders "to carry out special bombardments [a reference to chemical weapon use]...to kill the largest number of persons present in...prohibited zones."

Named after a Koranic verse, justifying pillage of properties of infidels, the "Anfal" campaign unfolded as the 1980-1988 Iran/Iraq war was winding down. The Anfal campaign, under al-Majid's command, resulted in the murder and "disappearance" of some 100,000 noncombatants, the use of chemical weapons against non-combatants in dozens of locations, and the near-total destruction of family and community assets, including agricultural and other infrastructure, throughout the rural Kurdish areas. Documents captured from Iraqi intelligence services demonstrate that the mass killings, "disappearances," forced displacement, and other crimes were carried out in a coherent and highly centralized manner under al-Majid's direct supervision. Ali Hassan al-Majid was subsequently in charge of Iraq's military occupation of Kuwait and led forces that suppressed the popular uprising in the south of the country in March 1991. All of these campaigns were marked by executions, arbitrary arrests, "disappearances," torture and other atrocities.

According to Iraqi opposition activists and refugee testimony, al-Majid also played a leading role in the campaign against Iraq's Marsh Arab population in the 1990s, a campaign that included the systematic bombardment of villages, torture, "disappearances," forced displacement, which reduced a community that once numbered over a quarter of a million people to less than 40,000 today.
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# Posted 5:59 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SADDAM AND FRIENDS: Matt Yglesias suggests that I am being rather complacent in my assessment of the UN bombing in Baghdad. Matt is right that I didn't address the possibility that the UN bombing was the work of Islamic fundamentalists working independently of the Ba'ath underground. But that hardly contradicts my main point: that if our enemies are attacking the UN, they have no hope of winning the minds and hearts of the people of Iraq.

UPDATE: I just noticed that Josh Marshall is mocking my arguments as well. I will respond later on today.
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# Posted 5:40 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEFENDING THE BBC: Kevin Drum takes his best shot at Josh's cover story in the Standard but isn't all that convincing.

Kevin's tries to argue that Josh hasn't come up with anything more than a few trivial examples of the BBC's anti-war/anti-American bias. For a in-depth dismantling of Kevin's post, check out Bill Herbert's comments on COINTELPRO.

But first, you might want to give Josh's article another read. Frankly, Kevin seems to be ignoring all of the most compelling points Josh makes. For starters, Kevin acknowledges that the BBC
obviously lied to make it appear that their source [regarding the Blair dossier] was more highly placed than he was.
That alone is an extremely serious violation of journalistic ethics, especially considering that the BBC lied repeatedly and intentionally.

Next, Kevin dodges the fact that the BBC was patently wrong when it accused Blair advisor Alastair Campbell of being the individual responsible responsible for sexing-up the WMD dossier. Instead, he insists that the accusation was legitimate because BBC source David Kelly made it twice, in separate conversations with separate reporters. Yet Kevin also admits that one of those reporters ignored the accusation becuase she judged it to be nothing more than a "gossipy aside". And the Beeb went ahead with the story. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the BBC's standards, huh?

But what really seems to be behind Kevin's criticisms of Josh is Kevin's admission that
"I would be very cautious about accepting views of the BBC from American hawks, who seem to view any deviation from the war party line as an anti-American, pro-Saddam tirade."
In other words, since some American hawks are unfair to the BBC, Kevin assumes that Josh is being unfair as well. That kind of ad hominem logic is worthy of, well, the BBC.

The one good point Kevin makes is that Josh isn't suspicious enough about the veracity of statements made by now-dead weapons expert David Kelly. Kevin is right that Kelly had a strong incentive to lie about what he told the BBC in order to hide his own violation of his employers' trust. However, Kevin goes too far in describing Josh as "credulous". Rather thank simply taking Kelly at his word, Josh compares three versions of what Kelly allegedly said and then relies on his own judgment to decide which version was best.

While Kevin Drum almost always offers up thoughtful and balanced criticism from a liberal perspective, this time he has fallen far short of his usual high standards.

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# Posted 5:05 AM by Dan  

As I watched Gray Davis' speech at UCLA yesterday, I couldn't help but think: you aren't Bill, so stop trying to be. When Gray Davis adopts Clinton's tactics, especially when speaking about his Republican rivals, it's just....awkward. It is pretty hard to play the victim when your approval ratings are in the low 20's.

However, I do think the recall is ridiculous--voters had their chance to oust Davis last November. Dianne Feinstein may take the lead in reforming California's recall process.
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# Posted 4:43 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND ALIENATE PEOPLE is the name of a gut-wrenchingly funny memoir by British expat Toby Young. I bought a copy at Heathrow Airport on my way back from the UK and had read 200+ pages by the time I got off of the plane.

While I had thought about quoting a few of the best passages here on OxBlog, I unfortunately decided to lend the book to a friend before I had a chance to do that. Rest assured, the quotes will appear sometime in the indefinite future.

Another gut-wrenchingly funny British book I've been busy with is Nice Work by David Lodge. An emeritus professor of English at the the University of Birmingham, Lodge has taken academic satire to new heights. He is also a prolific writer, with more than 10 novels to his name.

In addition to the providing the standard attributes of an outstanding novel, such as a compelling story and characters one actually cares about, Lodge's work stands out because of its unparalleled ability to hoist jargon-laden post-modern academe on its own petard.

The basic premise of Nice Work is that Robyn Penrose, an expert in the 19th Century British "industrial novel", has to confront the divide between theory and reality when she finds herself forced to work with Vic Wilcox, the managing director of a local factory. Now, while I would probably enjoy a novel that mercilessly satired post-modern thought without granting it any sort of redeeming characteristics, Lodge persuasively presents Dr. Penrose as a genuinely good human being who uses her theoretical knowledge in productive ways despite her often ridiculous behavior.

While I haven't yet lent my copy of Nice Work to anyone, I thought I'd pull out a quotation or two from another one of Lodge's novels instead, this one called Small World. On page 113, we learn that literary critic "Michel Tardieu sits at his desk and resumes work on a complex equation representing in algebraic terms the plot of War and Peace." The glorious absurdity of that one line had me in stitches.

Small World also happens to provide one of the the best descriptions of blogging I have ever come across, despite the fact that it was written in 1984. On page 99, Lodge comments as follows on the philosophy of undersexed Oxford don Rudyard Parkinson:
The highest form of writing is a book of one's own, something that has to be prepared with tact, subtlety and cunning and sustained over many months, like an affair. But one cannot always be writing books, and even while thus engaged there are pauses and lulls when one is merely reading secondary sources, and the need for some release of pent-up ego on to the printed page, however trivial and ephemeral the ocacasion, becomes urgent.
That is exactly the feeling I have when I go through the paper every morning. Nothing I say is going to be as well-thought out as what I put into my dissertation. But I just have to say something in response to all the ridiculous things I read, otherwise I'd go insane.

As an academic, one tends to think that one's life exists outside the reality which one writes about. One rarely considers the fact that the Ivory Tower is its own sort of reality, with customs and folkways that would befuddle the most conscientous anthropologist. In fact, one tends to assume that academic life is so boringly rational that it isn't worth commenting on. But after reading a novel by David Lodge, you won't make that mistake again.

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# Posted 4:35 AM by Dan  

FAT CHANCE. Martin Indyk outlines his idea for a trusteeship in Palestine, which is promising on paper. My bold prediction: not going to happen. Would we (would Bush?) actually commit forces to fight terrorists alongside Palestinian forces? Would Bush take on another nation-building effort?
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Wednesday, August 20, 2003

# Posted 11:55 PM by Patrick Belton  

IT'S SO BIG: Get your mind out of the gutter, that's the name of the virus currently circulating - the one that's been declared fastest spreading virus of all time. One estimate is that right now the virus accounts for one out of every 17 e-mail messages being sent at the moment. And when combined with the Blaster and Nachi internet worms, it's slowed down the very backbone of the internet. (See, e.g., Reuters, WaPo, Bloomberg, Internetnews.com, The Register (UK), Market Wire)

But that's all beside the point. Which is, I've received 126 e-mails with this virus in the last two days. And even I'm starting to get a little ticked.

UPDATE: 208 (9:00 am)
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# Posted 11:44 PM by Patrick Belton  

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# Posted 4:36 PM by Patrick Belton  

THOSE RAMADAN NIGHTS: There's a lovely piece on Qur'anic exegesis in the August 7th LRB (registration or print ed., but well worth picking up a copy for).

Some favorite bits:

Faced with the challenge of modernity, many Muslims today, rather than accommodate themselves to the age-old fudges that have prevailed in so many Muslim societies, have resorted instead to a kind of textual Puritanism. Instead of referring to the way things were done in, say, colonial Morocco, or Ottoman Turkey, or, much further back, under the Abbasid caliphs, they prefer to return to the 'simple truths' of the Koran. The Koran, however, is not simple..... Naive literal readers are soldered onto modern preoccupations with the menaces of Zionism, globalisation and feminism, and this third-rate religious education is one of the things that fuels fundamentalist violence. I have a sense that for some hapless, underemployed and spiritually ill-schooled young Muslims, the Koran is a style accessory that goes hand in hand with martial arts training and watching videos of aeroplanes being blown up. On the other hand, there are those Western infidels, whose reading background is mostly in fiction, who pick up an English version of the Koran expecting to be shocked by its exotic barbarism. There have been many, like Fay Weldon at the time of the Rushdie affair, who...are just as shocked as they expected to be."


"Although Qutb was a fervent Muslim, he did not favour an unduly literalist reading of the text. Metaphors could be identified as such. Other Muslims, however, particularly those aligned with Wahhabism, have favoured a narrow, rather pharisaical adherence to surface meanings. Even so, a narrow reliance on the text is not without its problems. For example, Wahhabis and other Islamicists insist that the penalty for fornication is stoninng, even though the Koran prescribes no such penalty. (Flogging is ordained instead.) Again, the Koran does not actually prescribe the veiling of women's faces, it only ordains that their bosoms should be covered. (So the dress code is no more strict than that currently enforced at Harrods.)


"It is in (the translator) Arberry that one gets the strongest sense of something speaking to us from beyond the visible world--something transcendent, yet very near:

We indeed created man; and We know
what his soul whispers within him,
and We are nearer to him than the
jugular vein.

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# Posted 12:29 PM by Patrick Belton  

TWO CUBAN ATHLETES DEFECT AT WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: Even though large portions of the United States and our generation in particular may hold the dubious notion that Cuba represents a socialist paradise free from capitalist greed, borgeouis boredom, and noxious parental supervision, a different story comes across from actual Cubans who have lived in that unfortunate country under its police state. This was the case this weekend, when two Cuban athletes defected to the United States in the course of a world championships competition held in California. "We don't have a future there," said one of the two athletes to a reporter.

And, contra the half of the Yale junior class who go there each spring break, he adds: "and there's no way to have fun over there."
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# Posted 10:42 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE DAY AFTER: The Washington Post places yesterday's attack on the U.N. in historical context - except there've been few such attacks on senior U.N. personnel, and hardly any attacks of such significance against U.N. installations in the organization's history. A senior U.N. Middle East mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte, was assassinated by the Stern group on September 17, 1948. (Bernadotte had advocated the disarmament of Jerusalem and the Palestinian right of return. The event led to the outlawing of the Stern organization by Israel, although the suspects in the murder were granted general amnesty on February 14, 1949.) (CNN covers past attacks on UN mission personnel, as well, and agrees that this attack against UN staff is unprecedented in magnitude.) The Post also memorializes the slain diplomat, Sergio Vieira de Mello. The NYT assesses the military munitions used in the attack. The UK press points to reports of thousands of Saudi militants crossing into Iraq (Scotsman), and suggests the coalition had done an insufficient job to protect the UN building (The Times). (And even the Guardian is calling for some sanity over the unfolding dossier brouhaha, saying the dossier's importance in Britain's decision to go to war has been far overrated, and the real reasons for entry into the war were a mixture of arguments, some good and some bad; the Guardian bemoans only the lack of a UN resolution.) (Fortunately, Fisk's Independent article saying the attack "underlines America's crumbling authority and shows it can guarantee the safety of no one" is pay-for-view, so many of you will be spared the pain of reading it.)

In Israel, Abu Mazen is attempting to salvage the peace process by cutting off all contacts with Islamist militant leaders and ordered the arrest by Palestinian security services of the perpretators of yesterday's bombing. Wounded, the usually pro-road map Ha'aretz runs pieces this morning on the failure of hudna, the government's impotence in dealing with terror, and proclaiming there is no right of return. Forced into a greater prudence, however, Israel's policy arms are holding off on a massive military response, permitting Abu Mazen some time to act against the perpetrators first.

In the blogosphere, Glenn links to a NY Post piece wondering whether the UN will take a stand against terror or retreat and take refuge in the comforts of anti-americanism; the Post piece concludes by saying "the lesson the U.N. must take away is that no one can be neutral in the struggle with evil." Salam Pax was there shortly after, and contributes a first-hand account. Matthew Yglesias urges caution in attributing the attack too quickly to Ba'athists or Islamic militants, and thus to drawing overly hasty conclusions from it. Dan Drezner suggests that in pushing the US and UN closer to one another (contra Fisk above), the attackers are tactically inept as well as morally nihilistic. Josh Marshall reflects on the images of the attack. Volokh's David Bernstein attempts to plot out a way forward from here, with effective PA action against Al-Aqsa and Hamas, and Israeli pulling back of settlers. (Bernstein's pragmatism and dedication to principle is touching, as his girlfriend, a U.S. official, was mere yards away from the bombing of the bus).

Slate reviews some of the press coverage of yesterday's bombings, noting that NYT did its best to keep them distinct, while USA Today and several others conflated them as one attack. As regards the culprit, attention is focusing principally on Ansar al-Islam (see profiles of the organization here, here, and here).

Other losses in yesterday's attack include the U.N.'s chief Arabist, Rick Hooper, roughly twenty members of Mr. Vieira de Mello's staff and other offices, and five members of the World Bank staff. In the think tank family, CFR's Arthur Helton was scheduled to meet with Mr. Vieira de Mello at the time of the bombing, and is missing.
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# Posted 3:20 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DAY OF TERROR: In terms of moral depravity, there is no difference between the separate bombings that took place yesterday, one in Baghdad and one in Jerusalem. In political terms, however, the attacks bear little resemblance to one another.

The sensless destruction of UN headquarters in Baghdad demonstrates just how desperate the Ba'athist underground has become. For as long as the Ba'athist remnants held fast to their strategy of assassinating American soldiers, they could plausibly represent themselves as rebels against a foreign occupation.

Now, having murdered 17 representatives of the United Nations, the Ba'athists have made it clear to the people of Iraq that they are still the same brutal thugs who served as loyal enforcers of Saddam's dictatorship.

Unsurprisingly, no one at the New York Times seems to have noticed that the attack on UN headquarters is a sign of desperation rather than ingenuity. A masthead editorial entitled "A Mission Imperiled" argues that the attack is evidence of the United States' failure to restore in Iraq. Maureen Dowd makes the same misguided point, albeit with more of an anti-Bush spin.

Most disappointingly, Thomas Friedman writes that
The bad guys in Iraq have been gaining so much momentum in recent days -- with their attacks on pipelines, US forces, and UN headquarters -- that they are steadily eroding the sense of partnership between US forces and the Iraqi people.
That is absurd. By attacking the UN or even by attacking local infrastructure, Ba'athist forces demonstrate their total disregard for the welfare of the Iraqi people -- which isn't that surprising given that they have been practicing that sort of disregard for over thirty years. (A similar point is made by a security expert in the NYT's news analysis piece on the Baghdad attack.)

The one positive message sent by the NYT staff is that the only acceptable response to the attack in Baghdad is to increase the US commitment to rebuilding Iraq in both military and economic terms. Surprisingly, Dowd writes that "We can't leave, and we can't stay forever. We just have to slug it out."

What happened to "Bring Our Boys Home" or "Give Peace a Chance"? While leftist groups in NYC and San Francisco have been busy posting handbills and stickers which advocate a similar point of view, mainstream liberals will never be able to sympathize with such a point for as long as the US remains committed to promoting democracy in Iraq.

In short, the President has his critics in a rhetorical vise. There is no way they can advocate the abandonment of the Iraqi people without coming across as retrograde isolationists. On the downside, this situation also diminishes criticism of the Administration's lackluster effort to rebuild and democratize Iraq. But with enemies as incompetent as those who attacked the United Nations, the United States and the people of Iraq may succeed despite their unpreparedness to nation-build in the Middle East.

Now Israel. Regardless of whether it was Hamas, Islamic Jihad or both who were responsible for yesterday's attack, the bombing was not senseless from a political perspective. On the one hand, there is no question that the violent death of 18 Israeli civilians will force the terrorists to shoulder most of the blame for ending the ceasefire, assuming that Israel moves aggressively to retaliate against those responsible for the attack.

But Hamas and Islamic Jihad -- or at least their military commanders -- never had much to gain from the ceasefire. While it may have given them time to re-equip, it also gave Mahmoud Abbas time to prepare his strategy for consolidating power in the hands of the PA.

What is hard to know is why Hamas and/or Jihad attacked first, rather than waiting for Abbas to attack them. Had the Prime Minister done so, Hamas and/or Jihad would have been able to represent themselves as righteous victims of an Israeli errand boy.

One explanation for the decision to pre-empt Abbas is that Hamas and Jihad were afraid that they could not recover if Abbas had the opportunity to strike the first blow. But I doubt it. The greater threat may have been that Abbas would have done nothing at all for five or six months, maybe more. Each day without violence raised the political cost of breaking the ceasefire. If Abbas attacked his opponents five or six months from now, they may not have been able to mount the most effective possible response: killing Israelis.

Thus, recognizing that Sharon and Abbas actually were committed to peace and able to cooperate with one another, Hamas and/or Jihad decided that the optimal strategy available to them was to undermine the ceasefire before its roots took greater hold.

It is possible, of course, that this strategy will backfire. The desire for peace on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide may be too intense. But I am not going to get my hopes up. Unless Abbas is willing to move hard and fast against the terrorists, Israel will do it for him. Negotiations will break off and the people of Israel will inch ever closer to accepting that the closest they can come to achieving real peace is to build another Berlin Wall and hide behind it.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds says it's hard to know whether pro- or anti-Saddam forces are behind the UN attack. If it were the latter (which I doubt) my analysis above would be, well, wrong.

Matt Yglesias think the good Professor has his tongue buried well inside of his cheek, but I'm not so sure.

Also, Josh Marshall links to footage of the attack.
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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.
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# Posted 1:17 PM by Patrick Belton  

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# 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.
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# 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...)
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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.
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# 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)
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# 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....
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# 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....
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# 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.....)
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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.
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# 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.
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# 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.
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# 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.....
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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.
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# 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....
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# 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."
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# 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.
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