OxBlog

Sunday, August 31, 2003

# Posted 8:48 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JOURNEY TO THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC...of Cambridge, that is. I'll be on the road today, headed up to my new place. Chances are no blogging tomorrow, either. With Patrick and Josh also in transit, expect light posting until after Labor Day. Happy BBQ!
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Saturday, August 30, 2003

# Posted 1:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPEAKING OF BIRKENSTOCK LIBERALS...Kevin Drum writes in [via e-mail] that
I actually thought "Birkenstock liberal" was a perfect term.  In two words it brought forth a whole slew of connotations and describes perfectly a certain kind of person.  I knew exactly what she was talking about.
Yet as RO points out, Dean himself has rejected the phrase "Birkenstock liberal" as an unfair cliche that the media relies on to marginalize him. RO writes that
Howard Dean used the phrase "Birkenstock liberals" during the Portland
stop during the "Sleepless Summer" [tour].

The Portland stop was two days before the New York stop that Jodi Wilgoren was reporting on.

Dean used the phrase as an example of something the press had been calling supporters of his campaign. I believe this makes the use of the phrase by Jodi Wilgoren all the more outrageous and seriously moots Kevin Drum's disagreement with your assessment.

Kevin seemed to believe it was nothing more than an "evocative" turn of phrase, in fact it would appear to me an example of a reporter using a loaded term she or he knew was objectionable to the subject of his or her article for no more reason than to poke a sharp stick at the subject and see what would happen.

At any rate, the audio from Portland still seems to be available in
the list at the bottomg of the main www.deanforamerica.com page. Dean may
have used the phrase in Falls Church the day before that, indeed he may
have been using it for some time before I became aware of it, but he
was definitely using it before Jodi Wilgoren used it to "review" the
Bryant Park speech.
Responding from the right, the ever-insouciant EP observes that
Please inform your readers, that the NYT not withstanding, there are many people who wear Birkenstocks who are not only not liberal, but rabidly conservative.  I am one such myself.  Not only that, but I lived in Vermont, yes Vermont, for many years before coming to my senses and moving to Florida...[D]uring those many years, I wore these extremely comfortable shoes (the sandal variety -- easily the most telltale politically and even occasionally with rag socks)  knowing full well that I was taken for one of 'them' even though I knew I was just funning them.
At risk of setting myself for a "yo-mama" joke, I'll add that my own mother wears Birkenstocks and is a centrist Democrat who voted for Giuliani and against Bloomberg.

On a more serious note, Rabbi MB -- a supporter of Howard Dean -- writes that
I think you identified an important factor in what drives media bias and why even institutions that are typed as liberal are often damaging to liberal and progressive causes.  To the jaded NYT, any one who claims to speak for the people or involve them in Democracy is playing the political game.  The more earnest they are, the more they must be knocked down. 

The elitist bias of a paper like the NYT not only leads to the dismissive tone that marked Wilgoren's article, but also makes the paper less likely to do the journalism necessary to document the abuses of the system perpetrated by some conservatives or Republicans.  Its only newsworthy when a  Republican crosses the stereotype and cares about social issues or when a Democrat can be exposed as a fraud or irrelevant. 

Unfortunately other mainstream news sources are not interested in seeing the nuanced picture you present and take every opportunity to bash "liberal bias" as a purely ideological phenomenon. All of us -- conservative, progressive, libertarian, or liberal -- with a serious commitment to resolving iddues and revitalizing the democratic process are done a disservice by elitism and media bias.
In contrast, Kevin Drum [same e-mail] asks
You completely lost me with the Julius Caesar stuff.  How did you draw all those conclusions from a simple paragraph saying that Dean's crowds were remarkably high this early in the campaign?  The "elitist liberal intelligentsia distrusts the common man"?  Isn't that a bit of a stretch from a fairly unexceptionable paragraph?
 
Anyway, I'm not trying to hammer you.  I'm just curious why you reacted so strongly to an article that seemed fairly ordinary to me.
Kevin is right to ask that sort of question. Wilgoren's article alone is not sufficient evidence to demonstrate an anti-populist bias in the mainstream media. I reacted so strongly because, in the course of my research, I have come into contact with a significant body of scholarship that assaults the mainstream "liberal" media for its anti-populist/anti-radical bias.

Thus, I was not deriving a conceptual framework from a single NYT article. Rather, I was applying a pre-existing conceptual framework to it. In that light, I think Wilgoren's word choices are extremely significant.

(For those interested in further reading, the classic work on this subject is Todd Gitlin's The Whole Word is Watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left)

Last but not least, a factual correction: Both Kevin Drum and VC -- an editor at a major metropolitan daily -- point that correspondents do not write the headlines for their own articles. As VC incisively observes,
One should not attribute a headline, bad or good, to the reporter who writes the story under the headline, since she almost certainly had nothing to do with
it and very likely never even saw the headline until, like you, she picked up a
paper the morning it was published.
Point taken. That's all for now, but if you're looking for more, surf on over to the Sarcastic Southerner for more on Dean.

UPDATE: Aziz over at Dean2004 (the unofficial Dean blog) is glad to have a "righty" on his side.
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# Posted 12:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BOMBING UPDATE: Four suspects in the Najaf bombing have ties to Al-Qaeda. See Tacitus and Instapundit for some more details.

Also, Michael Ledeen writes in that
Sometimes I think that there is a real death wish in the West, which simply will not look at our greatest enemy in the Middle East, namely Iran.  Anyone looking at the devastation in Najaf, as at the UN hotel/office building in Baghdad, has to think automatically of Imad Mughniyah, the Iranian-created operational chieftain of Hizbollah.  

In the eyes of the Iranians, Hakim was guilty of treason, since they had fed him and supported him for twenty years, then sent him into Iraq, only to have him turn out to be altogether reasonable and even pro-American.  He said at a meeting about 12 days ago that Iraq would never have peace so long as Iran kept sendng terrorists into the country.
 
He was on an Iranian hit list that includes the grandson of Khomeini and other moderate Shi'ite clerics.
 
Many are saying that no Shi'ite would commit such an act at the Shrine of Ali.  But Iran feels that the Shrine of Ali is theirs.  It is, after all, where Khomeini lived in exile.  And Iran claims control over the Najaf clerics.
 
Of course the Iranians would not send their own people directly to the site to do the deed, and of course the Iranians would have Baathist or Sunni "suspects" all ready for the police.
 
Meanwhile they are organizing the extraction of Saddam from Iraq to Iran.  I suppose fairly soon there will be a banquet of chiefs of state in Tehran, with Osama, Mullah Omar, Hekmatiar, Saddam and Khamene'i....
I know this is extremely serious, but doesn't that sort of banquet remind you of the opening scene in The Naked Gun, where Leslie Nielsen bursts in on a meeting of Qaddafi, Khomeini, Arafat and then rubs the birthmark off of Gorbachev's head?
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# Posted 1:43 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IRAQ BOMBING: Ninety-five men and women, including Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, lost their lives in Najaf today. They were the victims of a car bomb placed outside the Imam Ali Mosque by unknown terrorists.

The death of Ayatollah Hakim is a major setback for American efforts to cultivate and cooperate with a moderate Shi'ite leadership. Perhaps the best one can hope for is that Hakim's martyrdom will enshrine his non-violent and pro-democratic approach to reconstruction as the reigning standard for Iraqi Shi'ites.

The prime suspects in the Najaf bombing are renegade Ba'thist forces. After the bombing, Najaf police officers arrested four men in connection with the bombing, all of them former members of Saddam's intelligence services. According to scholar-blogger Juan Cole,
this bombing was the work of Saddam loyalists. Baqir al-Hakim had waged a long terrorist and guerrilla war against the Baath. He cooperated with the Americans. When Saddam called on Shiite clergy to declare jihad on the US a couple of weeks ago, Baqir and others rejected the call forcefully and attacked Saddam as a tyrant. No believing Shiite would blow up a huge bomb right in front of Imam Ali's shrine. The truck bomb has become a signature of the remnants of the Baath, as with the attack on the United Nations HQ. The Saddam loyalists may hope that Shiite factions will blame one another and fall to fighting an internal civil war, adding to the country's ungovernability for the Americans.
I myself am wondering whether the Ba'athist were hoping to provoke a Shi'ite-Sunni conflict rather than a Shi'ite civil war. After all, it is hard to imagine that Iraq's Shi'ite wouldn't unite in the face of an external attack. And this afternoon, a Shi'ite protest march made its way into a prominent Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad after a Shi'ite imam called for vengeance. Fortunately, there was no violence.

It is hard to know how the bombing will affect the relationship between Coalition forces and the people of Iraq. Matt Yglesias writes that
One thing the hawks are right about, is that Iraq is not another Vietnam and it's not going to be one in the future, either. On the one hand, the US has gotten much better at avoiding things like the slaughter of innocent villagers. On the other hand, our military opponents do things like blow up mosques that will almost certainly not endear them to the broad mass of Iraqis. But as I said before, each unhappy intervention is unhappy in its own way. The risk in Iraq is not that things like blowing up mosques is going to drive us out of the country. Rather, the risk is that mosques (and oil pipelines, and police stations, and UN buildings, etc.) are just going to keep getting blown up because the occupation authority is understaffed, underfunded, and led by a group of men in Washington DC who've evinced an utter inability to manage public policy. Infrastructure may continue to degrade and central authority may become utterly ineffective. Just like in the last country we invaded.
Kevin Drum shares Matt's concerns about security, writing that
I wish we had a better idea of just how strong these remnants of the Baathist movement are these days. For all the talk about how we're making progress, they sure seem like they're still able to cause an awful lot of damage.
I suspect that this will not be the last attack on a Shi'i holy site. As the NYT noted about the shrine in Najaf,
There were no American forces in the vicinity, as senior Najaf clergymen had made it clear they did not want troops patrolling anywhere near the holy site. A compromise proposal to train a 300-member local police force has been awaiting financing, a Marine officer said.
As was the case with the UN bombing, it seems that Ba'athist insurgents have become adept at locating high-profile targets that are not protected by American forces. Perhaps that is an indication that the Ba'athists no longer believe they can achieve significant success against Americans, with success defined as inflicting more than a handful of casualties at once.

Of course, the security of American forces will provide little comfort to vulnerable Shi'ites. In the aftermath of the bombing, it became apparent that some Shi'ites held the United States responsible for the lack of security. Thus, the challenge ahead is for the occupation government to forge an agreement with Shi'ite leaders that can ensure the security of their gathering places without relying on either an intrusive American presence or an independent Shi'ite military force.

Will that happen? According to an NYT news analysis, today's bombing exposed a disappointing lack of leadership ability on the part of both the occupation government and the Iraqi interim council. The article makes a strong case that a stalemate has resulted from both the Americans insisting that the Iraqis become more assertive while the Iraqis counter that the Americans haven't given them enough power.

Regardless, I think this bombing demonstrates the need for greater Presidential leadership on Iraq. It is time for President Bush to deliver a simple and powerful message to the people of Iraq: "We share your desire for an end to the occupation and the return of self-government. The faster that you demonstrate your commitment to democratic ideals and institutions, the sooner our day of departure will come. The harder you work to fulfill Ayatollah Hakim's vision of an Islamic democracy, the sooner you will be able to honor his memory through the establishment of a free Iraq. God bless and good night."
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Friday, August 29, 2003

# Posted 9:58 PM by Dan  

COME AND RIDE MY ONE TRICK PONY. Ian Buruma provides an excellent overview of America's relationship with Israel and explains why conventional wisdom about "Jewish interests" driving American foreign policy toward Israel simply doesn't match up with the historical facts. He did not talk about AIPAC (the primary American lobby group on behalf of Israel) and its transformation in the late 1970s/early 1980s, or the cultural ties (value affinity) that bind America and Israel. I think those are two very important factors to consider.

One line with which I disagree: "It may well be that Israel's interests coincide with those of the United States for the moment, but this should not be a given, never to be examined or reassessed." America continually examines and reassesses its relationship with Israel, but in the broadest sense, there are certain parameters beyond which no President will go. AIPAC's reorganization and increased national power in the past 25 years as well as the cultural bond/value affinity argument helps explain these limits.
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# Posted 7:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AIR FORCE SHAME: Winds of Change rounds-up the history of the Air Force academy's epidemic of sexual harrassment and rape.
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# Posted 3:37 AM by Patrick Belton  

WORTH READING: So after a pleasant and somewhat long cigar- and bourbon-accompanied premarital guys' night out between best man and groom, Vi and I have returned to the maid of honor's house to do what's only appropriate....blog on US foreign policy.

To wit: Thomas Donnelly has a very good piece on long-term strategies for Iraqi democratization being laid down in the UK MoD. Donnelly's praise for the MoD is effusive and, it seems, justified: while the Office of the Secretary's comparable report omits "not only broader strategic questions but operational and tactical issues that might raise awkward questions about the Bush administration's planned defense program," the UK effort "represents one of those rare occasions when a government grades itself with some rigor." The special relationship, it would seem, is alive and well.

Also worth reading is a piece by Michael Novak in which he points out the lengths the press has undertaken to exaggerate U.S. casualties in Iraq: "In the 118 days between May 1 and August 26, there were 63 American battlefield deaths in Iraq. About two weeks ago, the left-wing press recognized that this did not sound as dramatic as they wished. So they started totaling all military deaths in Iraq, including those from accidents, which happen in military life every day, everywhere. This brought the total up by another 78. They're more comfortable with that total number, 141. But the true battlefield number is 63. ... In the first stage of the war, from March 19 until April 30, 112 Americans died in combat, and 29 in various accidents. In those first 42 days, that meant almost 3 combat deaths per day. In the 118 days since then, there has been about one combat death every other day--63 in 118 days. (The accidental deaths have been fairly consistent: 29 in 42 days early on, and after May 1, 78 in 118 days.)" The challenge for responsible, national-security minded Democratic contenders is to offer helpful suggestions, and yes, criticisms about the U.S.'s commitment of time and money to making Iraq a pivotal functioning democracy for the region and validating America's status as a principled foreign policy actor - this, of course, instead of seizing on (even exaggerating) each suggested mis-step of U.S. policy simply to attack a President with every criticism with which the left would take pleasure in seeing him attacked. Responsibility, idealistic patriotism, and a commitment to seeing politics stop at the water's edge were a trademark of both parties for the vast majority of the Cold War...and they should be once again.
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Thursday, August 28, 2003

# Posted 4:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOWARD DEAN, VICTIM OF THE LIBERAL MEDIA: That's right. I'm about to stick up for Howard Dean. Not because I particularly like the guy, but because the NYT should hold its correspondents accountable for their slanted reporting.

The correspondent in this instance is Jodi Wilgoren, the very same one who did her best some months back to whitewash the terrorist murders committed by David Gilbert and Kathy Boudin. So, one might ask, why would the same correspondent who defends the Weather Underground give Howard Dean a hard time?

As far as I can tell, Wilgoren is following one of the unwritten rules of the trade: romanticize Vietnam-era leftism as much as you want, but don't make nice with the aggressive leftists of today. After all, they might provoke a conservative reaction that threatens low-key mainstream leftists like the ones who work on 44th Street.

Up front, Wilgoren is pretty good to Dean, giving him a favorable headline that reads "In a Long Presidential Race, Dean Sprints". Positive as it is, the headline is accurate because Dean really is campaigning a lot harder than his opponents.

The first hint of of what's going comes in the second graf, where Wilgoren describes Dean's supporters as "rabid". As if being excited about Dean were some sort of violent pathology. While I think the Doctor's supporters are often misguided, such comments belong on the editorial page, or at least in a news analysis column.

Later on, Wilgoren informs us that "the feisty crowds were filled with Birkenstock liberals whose loudest ovations always followed Dr. Dean's anti-war riff -- there were few union members, African-Americans or immigrants." There is a lot of substance in that sentence, but it's hard not to notice a ridiculous phrase like "Birkenstock liberals" that belongs on the pages of the National Review.

While most of us are aware of the vague correlation between footwear and political preferences, invoking this sort of stereotype in the news is both counterproductive and misleading. As best as I can tell, "Birkenstock liberals" refers to those liberals who are not black, not union, and not immigrants. Does it refer, then, to middle-class white liberals? Young liberals?

Perhaps all this guesswork isn't worth the time, since the term "Birkenstock" might just have been thrown in to provide some color. Yet at the same time, it carries the sample sort of implication as the term "rabid" -- that Dean's supporters are outside the mainstream, so caught up in their idiosyncratic lifestyle that their views aren't worth taking seriously.

First of all, is that really the case? I doubt it. My sense is that Dean's campaign -- and especially his fund-raising -- isn't getting its momentum from granola-crunching Berkeley undergrads. As far as I can tell, there is a sizable portion of the American public that was firmly anti-war and is forcefully anti-Bush. They have to be taken seriously.

In another telling passage from the article, we hear that
"He's not running a campaign, he's running a movement," [according to] Natasha C., one of four people the Dean campaign invited to chronicle the trip on their Web logs. "These are protest-size crowds, these are not politics-size crowds, and that's the critical difference."

But it is unclear what the movement is for.
Holy unwarranted editorializing Batman! I may not like what Dean is for, but you've got to pretty thick not to recognize that his supporters have a socially liberal, fiscally conservative, and Jimmy Carter-emulating agenda. But why the cheapshot if most NYT correspondents like that kind of agenda?

Because the elitist liberal intelligentsia distrusts the common man, even when he is on their side. Toward the beginning of the article, Wilgoren writes that
The staggering, seemingly spontaneous crowds turning up to meet [Dean] — about 10,000 in Seattle on Sunday and a similar number in Bryant Park in Manhattan last night — are unheard of in the days of the race when most candidates concentrate on the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire and would seem formidable even in October 2004.
Not just unheard of, but unwelcome. Taking their cues from Julius Caesar, correspondents fear that the latest incarnation of Marc Antony will turn the mob to his own ends. Howard Dean one day, Rush Limbaugh the next.

Strangely, this is one issue on which the academicians are far ahead of the correspondents. Beginning in the late 1980s, a veritable flood of books and articles began to demonstrate that the American public is actually a moderating force, drawing politicians back from the ends of the ideological spectrum. Even on foreign policy, which scholars long considered the issue area in which the public makes the worst choices, it became clear that American voters recognized that they wanted something to the right of Jimmy Carter and the left of Ronald Reagan. (Click here to read more about the Rational Public.)

In short, it's time for the Times to get with the times. It may be true that
the people buying the "Doctor is in" buttons [at Dean's rallies] were mostly aging flower children and the tongue-studded next generation.
But that sort of provocative details shouldn't pass for serious political reporting. In all fairness, there is a lot of interesting information in Jodi Wilgoren's article, much of it not reprinted here. But at just those moments when Wilgoren needs to provide more depth to her initial observations, she wanders off course and provides us instead with substandard cliches.

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# Posted 2:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEMOCRATIC DOMINOS: MA further elaborates my earlier point about the role of Austria and West Germany in opening up the Eastern Bloc. He writes that:
Although the details of the story have been rather forgotten here in Britain or the US, it was very precisely a series of planned, deliberate acts by the West Germans and Austrians that brought about the end of communism in Europe.

First some background: In the constitution of West German state the right of East German citizens to become West Germans was automatic and guaranteed.

Every single DDR citizen who succeeded in getting out - and, as you state, it became harder and harder - was automatically a West German - as soon as they crossed the border they got a passport, some money, help finding a job, accomodation etc. All W German governments, left and right, were equally punctilious in fulfilling this.

Furthermore, during the 1970s and 1980s East Germans living near the border and near Berlin (you will remember that West Berlin was an enclave in the middle of East Germany) could receive West German TV automatically. (Of course, the West Germans boosted their signal as much as they could in those areas).

By the mid 1980s, it had become so difficult for the DDR government to persuade people to live in areas that couldn't get the signal that they were actually forced to retransmit it, rather than attempt to jam it, to cover the whole country.

Thus practically everyone in East Germany had access to West German and they could not only get uncensored news, but could see for themselves just through the medium of ordinary everyday programming that life in the West was materially richer, freer, safer and just more exciting than their own.

In 1988 the W German government, deciding to test Gorbachev to the limit, came to an agreement (money changed hands) with both the Hungarians and the Austrians, that the Hungarians would announce that, on a given date, they were going to allow people to leave Hungary and go to Austria without exit visas. This meant that anyone in Hungary after that date, Hungarians or any other of the Warsaw Pact nations could leave the country. Now, this didn't affect the Hungarians and others too much, because they would still need visas, work permits etc to stay in Austria or anywhere else, but obviously everyone in the DDR knew that they COULD stay in West Germany. In effect, because the whole border between East and West was an extension of the Berlin Wall, by making the announcement the Hungarians announced that they were opening a gate through which anyone could pass.

So, in March 1989 (I'm not at the home, so can't check the exact dates) [the] Hungarian Govt did announce that they were going to open their border to Austria on a given date in August. Of course, this got huge play on W German TV, the implications were spelled out in black and white, and so that August literally millions of East Germans booked their annual holidays in Hungary and succeeded in crossing the border. By the time the DDR government realised what was happening it was too late, because although they had built the wall between East and West, there was only basic border security between the countries of the Warsaw Pact. Even when they tried to stop people going directly to Hungary, all anyone had to do (as many did) was go to Czechoslovakia, and then cross into Hungary.

The fact that the DDR had, almost at a stroke, lost the core of its "middle class" led to the panicked decision to open the Berlin Wall, which led to the collapse of the state, and to a ripple effect which spread to Czechoslovakia, Romania and eventually to the USSR itself.

So, as I say, although the mere existence of West Germany did not lead to the collapse of communism, the fact that the it was there, and the (too often unacknowledged) courage and determination of Helmut Kohl and other West German leaders did indeed lead to the collapse of communism.
Very well said. Finally, in response to my observation that
"As for Cuba, it's an island. Its residents would all be in Miami now except for the fact that it's a helluva lot harder to survive a rafting trip across the Gulf of Mexico than a subway ride to West Berlin."
BB wisely responds that
The fact that when we catch them attempting it, we drag them back to Castro's warm embrace, doesn't [that] have anything to do with it? At least if somebody made it across the Berlin wall we didn't toss them back over...
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# Posted 2:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BODY COUNT: Phil Carter has some insightful comments on the fate of American soldiers in Iraq. He also has quite a good post on Ashcroft up.
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# Posted 12:55 PM by Patrick Belton  

ADMINISTRATION TAKES OXBLOG'S ADVICE, YET AGAIN: CNN is reporting this morning that the administration "is considering having a multinational force in Iraq to be sponsored by the United Nations but under U.S. command." The network quotes Deputy Secretary of State Armitage as saying that among several ideas being explored, "one is a multinational force under U.N. leadership, but the American would be the U.N. commander." They must have been reading this this (and this). Glad to hear OxBlog's record in setting U.S. foreign policy remains strong.

With that said, I'm off now for a few days of Labor Day blogcation in Rochester, where I have the happy pleasure of serving as best man as my close friend Vi Nguyen (the handsome guy to my left there) weds his lovely fiancee Amanda Houppert. OxBlog threw him a stately weekend-long bachelor's party last week, which included a black-tie dinner Friday night at the Harvard Club hosted by David and myself, and an ensuing weekend up in the Catskill Mountains alternating between athletic TR-esque hiking and subsequent restful snacking on Eggs Belton and grilled chicken. (We in OxBlog were seeking to patronize the Borscht Belt, even if we didn't patronize the Borscht). See you guys Monday!
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# Posted 12:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WAS IT OVER WHEN THE GERMANS BOMBED PEARL HARBOR? In honor of the 25th anniversary of Animal House, the NYT has an essay charting the film's influence on the countless frat-house flicks that have followed in its wake.

It's a good essay, but I'd like to expand on one point. Film critic Elvis Mitchell says that the lovable misfits of Delta house won us over because they were rebelling against an American establishment with authoritarian habits. Mitchell even quotes director John Landis saying that the creators did their best to make the bad guy frat come off as Nazis.

Now, back when I was in college, I had a hard time convincing my friends that there was any political content in Animal House. Sort of the same way that my friends now aren't willing to believe that there is any political content in professional wrestling.

To be fair, I'm not going to pretend that AH was a political film, rather than one about college. But it's message is very clear, and it isn't just about rebels vs. fascists. It's about the World War II generation vs. the Cold War generation that sunk the United States into the quicksand of Vietnam.

It's no accident that campus enforcer Doug Niedermeyer is in charge of the ROTC unit, or that the Dean threatens to notify the draft board that the men of Delta house have been expelled are no longer entitlted to deferments. In spite of AH's happy-go-lucky charm, the characters' lives are on the line. That is an important reason why AH is so much more compelling than recent knock-offs like Old School, in which the main characters are running away from adult life rather than resisting death.

So what about the WWII vs 'Nam symbolism? Again, it's no accident that Delta has a motorcycle riding member named D-Day who wears a vintage Army helmet, or that John Belushi tries to inspire his troops by referring to Pearl Harbor. Perhaps the most telling Vietnam symbolism in the film comes at its end, when the camera freeze-frames on each of the main characters and reveals their future. Niedermeyer goes to Vietnam and gets killed by his own troops. His buddy Greg becomes a Nixon White House aide and is later raped in prison.

A murder and a rape. In context, they seem downright hilarious. They are punishments that these men deserve. But here, in a essay focused on politics, it becomes clear just how brutal these punishments are. Hidden in humor, they are indication of just how deadly serious Animal House was.

Today, the WWII generation has become the "Greatest Generation", known for its unmatched sacrifice and courage, not to mention its hard work and family values. But before Tom Brokaw took advantage of the vets' fading memories to recast their image, the men of WWII were once a symbol of how a melting-pot nation came together to face down an authoritarian menace.

The men of WWII were not Boy Scouts. They were a little bit wild, a little bit like the men of Delta House. They were the embodiment of democratic freedom. They were individuals. They broke the rules and they had a good time. But when push came to shove, they were willing to put it all on the line and lay down their lives for the freedoms they cherished.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2003

# Posted 3:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GILLIGAN AND THE SKIPPER: Kevin Drum says Instapundit and others have been misintepreting a recent story about Andrew Gilligan losing his position at the BBC and being exposed as a liar.

I think Kevin has a point about how Glenn, myself and the British media have been confused about what Gilligan's alibi actually was. But from Kevin's post, you get the sense that he actually believes Gilligan's alibi and wants to ignore the multitude of evidence which points to Gilligan's malicious incompetence as a correspondent. With any luck, Josh will clear this all up next time he logs on.
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# Posted 3:05 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WEDDED TO MY PRECONCEPTIONS: Tacitus thinks I'm refusing to accept reality. To back up his point, he provides a list of about a half-dozen (recent) fatal attacks on Coalition forces outside the Sunni triangle and in Shi'a majority locales, which I described as free of anti-American resistance.

Tacitus most definitely has a good eye for detail, but are ten or so fatalities supposed to persuade me that there is real resistance outside the Sunni Triangle? Also note that Tacitus assumes Shi'ites were responsible for the attacks outside the Triangle. I didn't see any evidence of that in the news articles he links to (Daily Telegraph excepted since I couldn't open the links.)

Tacitus also points to intra-Shi'ite conflicts, some violent, to demonstrate that things are not going well. Hmmm. A strange point to make given that upstart Shi'ite clerics such as Moqtada Sadr are attacking their more established elders for being too pro-American.

Finally, Tacitus isn't happy that I accused him of still living in Vietnam. Actually, I'm willing to take that one back. I don't read Tacitus on a regular basis, so perhaps I should've been less harsh in my judgment.

Now, while I won't give the NYT or WaPo a free pass for their Vietnam mindset, I am willing to let history go when it comes to fellow bloggers. And frankly, Tacitus is providing a much more interesting challenge to my views on Iraq than left-wing pessimists such as Kos.

Also, Tacitus' comments section on this post has a very sophisticated debate on the course of events in Iraq, with both sides well-represented. In short, I'm perfectly happy to agree to disagree. Tacitus is now on my regular reading list.
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# Posted 2:30 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE DICTATOR NEXT DOOR: Matt Yglesias isn't happy with NRO's Jed Babbin for arguing that democracy in Iraq will bring down the dictatorships next door. Matt writes that
you hear this (or something like it) all the time, but is it true? What's the evidence supposed to be? Certainly the establishment of democracy in West Germany and Austria didn't exactly topple the dictators in East Germany. A democratic USA's been just a hop a way from a dictatorial Cuba for a bit over 100 years. Or does Babbin just mean that the Saudi (or Syrian or whatever) regimes can't persist indefinitely? Clearly, it's better for a regime to be situated near other like-minded regimes, but dictatorships and democracies sit side-by-side all the time for decades.
Note to Matt: The East Germans had to crush a nation-wide rebellion in 1953 and build a wall around West Berlin in 1961 to keep their entire population from walking away. Lucky for them, the Soviets were there to bail them out on both occasions. My question: Will anyone be there to bail out the Syrians, Saudis or Iranians?

As for Cuba, it's an island. Its residents would all be in Miami now except for the fact that it's a helluva lot harder to survive a rafting trip across the Gulf of Mexico than a subway ride to West Berlin.

Finally, what about the fact that "dicatorships and democracies sit side-by-side all the time for decades"? As Samuel Huntingon has aruged, democratization comes in waves. In contrast to Huntington's dumber arguments (See "Clash of Civilizations") this one has some real substance to it. (And problems, too, but that's another story.)

So far, no democratic wave has hit the Middle East. But if Iraq goes that way and Iran follows, would you want to be in Mubarak or Assad's shoes?

UPDATE: To be fair, Matt's been putting up a lot of good posts on Iraq, for example here, here, and here. There is no question that Matt takes the importance of reconstruction seriously. He just happens to be more critical of the situation on the ground than I am.

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# Posted 2:08 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANOTHER POST NOT ABOUT IRAQ: Back in the September 10th era, the Weekly Standard ran a cover story [no permalink] lamenting the absence of patriotic themes in post-Cold War professional wrestling. (Hey, it's not Bill Kristol's fault. It wasn't easy to come up with good cover stories before Chafetz started writing them.)

Anyway, I'd imagine that Kristol and Kagan would swell with pride if they knew that Vince McMahon had given the Tag Team Championship to Rene Dupree and Sylvain Grenier, aka "La Resistance."

Representing the Good Ol' USA are D-Von and Bubba Ray, the Dudley Boys. The Dudley are crude, ignorant, violent and much-loved by wrestling fans across the world. Apparently, when it comes to certain aspects of world politics, unilateralism pays off.
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# Posted 1:54 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A POST NOT ABOUT IRAQ: Instead, a post about drinking beer, watching football and having bikini-clad models jump up and down on trampolines. A day in the life of Patrick Belton? No! It's The Man Show on Comedy Central. New hosts, new season. Lowest common denominator. God, does it get any better than this?
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# Posted 12:30 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IRAQ -- READERS RESPOND: Prof. DN thinks I have been making a mountain out of molehill. He writes that
This doesn't seem all that complicated to me. Whether Islamicists or Baathists were responsible for the UN bombing, the US is fighting a guerrilla war in Iraq. The aim of the enemy is to disrupt reconstruction and lesson the effectiveness of the occupation at
delivering goods and services to the Iraqis. There's no evidence either way that the US is "winning" or "losing," just that the occupation is difficult and probably requires a lot more resources than the Bush administration initially earmarked.
A reasonable point. If the occupation were a football game, we'd still be in the first quarter. But even after a few minutes of play, you begin to get a sense of what the opposing sides' respective strengths and weaknesses are. If DN is right and the occupation demands far more resources than initially planned, than it is fair to say that the United States is "losing".

On the other hand, if anti-American forces have given up on the struggle for hearts and minds (as DN strongly implies) than the US may have a decisive advantage. It's as if the Ba'athists and fundamentalists have given up on short-yardage plays in the first quarter and are already throwing Hail Mary passes.

On a related note, BG writes that
I'm afraid I just don't buy the example you use as an empirical example of how we are winning the "hearts and minds." You said

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.
Isn't it entirely possible for an Iraqi to despise both Saddam and America? Just because someone hates the Ba'athists doesn't mean they accept the occupation. Take a guy like Moqtada Sadr, the radical Shia cleric. He hates/hated Saddam. He's clearly not on the Ba'athist side. Does that mean he's on our side? Would he protect Ba'athists in his midst? Of course not. He'd probably kill any senior Ba'athists without thinking twice. But how can you claim that his hatred
of Saddam equals an acceptance of American rule? How can this be seen as anything close to empirical?
BG is right that I didn't elaborate on my point sufficiently. If you take a look at my original post on the subject, however, you may get a better sense of what I'm driving at. In it, I wrote that
If you read the WaPo's latest report on the capture of the Ace of Diamonds, you begin to get a sense of how desperate the top leadership of the deposed government has become.

Abid Hamid Mahmoud spent his last hours as a fugitive in the house of a couple who didn't even want him there. Mahmoud had no significant weapons, cash resources, nor means of transportation...

Mahmoud's desperate condition suggests that the Ba'ath has not been effective in organizing resistance and that it's support among the population is rather shallow. With any luck, such conditions will result in the ultimate capture of Saddam Hussein, who has been pronounced alive (if not well) according to US experts.
While this sort of evidence does not imply an "acceptance of American rule", it shows that most Sunni in Iraq (not to mention Shi'ites and Kurds) have decided that an American occupation is far better than Ba'athist rule. That is a critical part of the struggle for hearts and minds. In fact, it is a form of conditional acceptance.

I grant BG's point that certain Shi'ite clerics may resent the US almost as much as they did Saddam. But take BG's own example of Moqtada Sadr. Even he seems willing to accommodate a temporary American presence. While Sadr advocates the establishment of an Islamic republic, he has not said that it should be an authoritarian rather than a democratic one.

In the end, what matters is not whether the people of Iraq accept American rule, but whether they accept democracy.

On a more theoretical note, "C" writes that
I have been following your debate with Josh Marshall. FWIW, I am predisposed to your side of the debate, so you can take the following with a grain of salt.

The problem with establishing a benchmark in social science, as opposed to the physical sciences, is that success is also measured against alternative "universes" defined by paths not taken.

For instance, are Bush's economic policies successful? Looking at economic performance in terms of the real data is insufficient; one must determine whether Bush's policies are better than alternatives. Looking merely at the fact that unemployment rates have risen does not mean Bush's policies are unsuccessful; they might actually be better than alternatives under which unemployment would have risen further.

So, too, trying to establish a benchmark for success with Mideast policy must make an estimate of where the U.S.'s position would be if alternative strategies had been followed. In other words, it's not enough to establish benchmarks to measure a policy; you must also argue that the path the administration has taken is better than what might have occurred had
the administration taken alternative paths.

This is a long-winded way of saying what Dan Drezner has been saying all along: it's not that pre-emption is a good policy, it's that it is better than the alternatives.
Most definitely a valid point (although I'm not sure that Bush's economic policy is the best illustration of it!)

The last comment of the night comes from Michael Ledeen, who continues to make time for OxBlog despite his professional commitments. Michael writes that
on the "hearts and minds" question, I think that the mullahs and the Assads believe that if they drive us out of Iraq -- which is their intention, as they have said all along -- they will thereby win fealty from the masses.  As Lyndon Johnson once famously said, when you've got them by the balls, the hearts and minds usually follow...[Let's hope the mullahs and the Assads are as successful as LBJ was in 'Nam! --ed.]
 
It is certainly desperation in the sense that the Terror Masters are fighting for survival;  if we win, they're doomed.  But don't try to read the minds of Iranians with a logical Western decryption device.  They are very cunning and very devious.
 
Finally, on the "Iraqi secret service" theory.  Maybe, maybe.  But as soon as I heard the story I said "the guards were obviously paid off."  You don't need the secret service; it's enough to have people who want/need money, or are blackmailed to accept it. 

When I was a correspondent in Italy years ago, and people asked me how it could be that Italian terrorists broke out of jail so often, so easily, I said, "Well, what if you were a guard and somebody came to you and said, 'Look here, if you will just arrange not to be in Cellblock 4 at midnight, we'll pay you three years' salary, and will promise NOT to murder your daughter...'"
 
It works, believe me.  Just about every time.
Fair enough.

To conclude, I guess I should mention that there were actually lots of positive responses to my post as well, including this one from Steve Sturm, who takes the critics to task for applying inconsistent standards when judging the progress of the occupation. He is right. But that's their job!
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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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