OxBlog

Sunday, September 21, 2003

# Posted 11:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TREASON AND FAITH: The Army has charged a Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo with betraying his country. Phil Carter provides the analysis.
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# Posted 10:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ARAFAT'S ERRAND BOY: In July, the American media rallied to the defense of Palestinian academic Khalil Shikaki, who became the victim of a local mob after he planned to announce the results of an opinion poll which purported to show that Palestinians had no interest in actually exercising the right of return.

Online, Daniel Drezner put up comprehensive and well-written posts tracking the media's reaction to the Shikaki incident. And OxBlog linked to those posts.

And why not? It was a great story. Brave academic discovers that a negotiated peace is possible, but extremists try to shut him up. Liberals and conservatives could both love it.

But now there is serious reason to believe that Shikaki is a charlatan who never deserved our sympathy. According to an article written by a friend of mine at the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy, Shikaki's opinion polls relied on question and methods designed to elicit exactly the answers that he -- and top Palestinian officials -- wanted to hear. As Max tells it,
The problem is that the poll makes relocating to Israel an unappealing option for most Palestinians since it stipulates a priori that "only a small number" of refugees will be allowed to "return," and that the fortunate few may have to wait "several years"...

Conversely, the respondents who opted to settle outside of pre-1967 Israeli land were led to believe that they would receive unrealistically generous amounts of financial compensation...of those who opted for financial compensation over relocating to Israel, two-thirds of the respondents believed they were entitled to anywhere between $100,000 and half a million dollars.

In the text of his press release, Shikaki does acknowledge, "The estimates for a fair compensation were much higher than the estimates of what would actually be paid." Yet in publicizing his findings in the American and Arab media, he avoids mentioning this fact.
Good work, Max. Hopefully this will get some more press.

What still isn't clear is why Shikaki did what he did. On the one hand, a real desire for peace may have tempted to manufacture evidence providing hope for a negotiated settlement. On the other hand, Shikaki may have been Arafat's errand boy, helping to lull the Israelis into accepting a sucker's deal in which they acknowledge the right of returning -- believing that Palestinians won't take them up on it -- only to find Israel deluged with refugees.

As Shikaki himself told an audience at the Brookings Institution,
"We consulted very heavily with Palestinian negotiators as we planned the instrument, that is, the questionnaire...

"We worked with them, we asked them what questions they wanted asked, and we proposed questions to them, and the eventual final product was one that essentially tried to include as much as possible the questions that negotiators were interested in answers to."
That just doesn't sound good...
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# Posted 10:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT THE SOLDIERS ARE THINKING: As I said, I don't know. But here's an op-ed by one reservist, and some comments from a journalist friend of mine in Iraq:
Purely from anecdotal experience, American soldiers are very
disillusioned. From high ranking officers to grunts, they are incredibly
cynical (especially for Americans) about why they are there, hate being
there and take advantage of every opportunity they can to tell journalists
this, and that they want to go home.

Of course it varies from unit to unit, but the 3 month extension was a huge betrayal and destroyed whatever moral[e] was left. Eventually I'll write an article about that. I've been spending a lot of time with American military guys though, and
that's my impression. They also dislike the civilian CPA guys, who they
think are incompetent and ignorant, and I tend to sympathize with that view.
While I might conjecture that my journalist friend tends to attract soldiers with political opinions similar to his own, I am confident that he reports what he sees, no more and no less. So take it for what it's worth.
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# Posted 9:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IT'S ALL CHALABI'S FAULT: This is partisan sniping, but it has the ring of truth -- probably because I've never trusted Ahmed Chalabi.
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# Posted 9:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FREE MARKET OR FREE FOR ALL? The NYT has an interesting article on private security firms in Iraq. The basic message is that locals understand how to provide security whereas foreigners don't. If that's the case, then the free market in security is doing great things for Iraq.

But I still have questions. Most importantly, how do we know that these private guards don't use excessive force? Unless instructed to respect the rights of those they must confront, there is no reason to believe that their experiences under Saddam has taught them to behave in an appropriate manner.

Also, will private guards and their superiors cooperate with law enforcement officials? Or will they become a law unto themselves? Excited at the prospect of demonstrating that American incompetence is a reflection of American ignorance, the NYT forgot to ask if those who have local knowledge share the American vision of civil and human rights.
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# Posted 9:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AT WHAT PRICE, HERR SCHROEDER? In a NYT op-ed, the German Chancellor makes nice to America and says Germany will help rebuild Iraq. He doesn't say what Germany expects in return. In other words, caveat emptor.

UPDATE: M. Chirac hints at the price.
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Friday, September 19, 2003

# Posted 12:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HISTORY SPEAKS: Matt Yglesias has a column up on the unimpressive record of generals-turned-presidential-candidates.
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Thursday, September 18, 2003

# Posted 11:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SEEING RED (STATES): Kevin Drum has some interesting comments on the distribution of federal tax dollars at the state level. Plus, Megan McArdle responds and Kevin responds back.
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# Posted 11:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GOOD NEWS: As always, Glenn is collecting soldiers' stories from Iraq, with a very strong emphasis on good news. Today, the theme is soldiers getting angry at distorted news coverage that presents the occupation as a disaster.

While it's nice to read these stories, I still wonder whether the frustrated and disappointed GIs are holding back out of deference to their superiors. I know for sure that officers critical of the Administration are extremely reluctant to say anything at all.

Perhaps the truth will come out only after the troops have come home and are able to speak their minds. Of course, by that time the truth may be speaking for itself in Iraq.
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# Posted 11:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BAD NEWS: In Afghanistan and Iraq. Here's an idea: When the US finishes training the new Iraqi Army, send half of it to Afghanistan!
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# Posted 11:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LOTS AND LOTS OF CLARK: Both Ryan Booth and Howard Kurtz have extensive round-ups of the media's take on Big Wes' candidacy. I'd also recommend this WaPo profile of the candidate, which leans slightly toward the favorable.

For the latest news, see this story from tomorrow's Post. As the General told a Florida audience, he "probably" would've voted in favor of the congressional resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq.

"Probably"? Umm, excuse me for asking a stupid question, but shouldn't a four-star general have a more definite position on whether the war in Iraq was a good idea? How about a four-star general who later became a CNN analyst? While I'm wiling to give Clark a pass on his underdeveloped domestic agenda, this is a little much!
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# Posted 10:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IS DEMOCRACY PERFECT? No, of course not. Nor are the New York Yankees, but they just keep on winning and winning and winning. And, if politics were baseball, democracy would be the New York Yankees. And democracy would've won the last 20 World Series in a row, not just 5 of the last 10.

(I tempted to say that Communism would be the Red Sox, but that's an insult to Communism since it gave the Yankees more of a challenge than the Red Sox ever did.)

So, you might ask, why I am going on at length with this random analogy? First of all, because it's fun, and I've been feeling a little too serious lately. Said analogy is also a very indirect reply to John Coumarianos, who infers from my recent mention of Tocqueville that I am unwilling to admit that democracy has its flaws.

As I see it, John just can't tear himself away from a certain nostalgic attachment to era of Marie Antoinette. He writes that
However unjust aristocracy was, it never risked demagoguery because popular consent is not the ticket to rule in that kind of regime. Leaders or statesmen in aristocracies are more self-confident, more free to say what they think, and less apt to flatter.
Whoa there. Wasn't flattery often the essence of court politics? Think Louis XIV. Now old Louis certainly was confident -- as were many of royal colleagues -- but often to the point of demanding that their every whim become state policy.

As for demagoguery, what about Bismarck? Yes, Bismarck. He kept the German people in line almost entirely through demagoguery. When he wasn't just having his opponents (mainly Catholics and socialists) beaten and imprisoned, that is.

Now, you might say Bismarck is not the best example because the Second Reich was a mixed regime, sort of a semi-electoral military dictatorship. But I think the point is a general one: in the absence of elections, the ruling class often finds itself in permanent crisis, struggling to win the consent of downtrodden subjects who have little love lost for the government.

Now what about John's point that one of democracy's most noticeable defects
is the lack of training or educating a political class, including inattention to the ambition and desire to rule among potential leaders.
Frankly, I'm not persuaded that autocratic states ever did much in the way of educating a truly competent political class. The real exception to that rule seems to have been Imperial China, not any of the European aristocracies that John is thinking of. As I see it, no state has ever produced a leadership class to match the United States' scientists, cabinet secretaries, entrepreneurs, generals, scholars and (perhaps) artists.

And why (other than having such a large population) has the US been able to produce constantly such outstanding inviduals in all of these categories? Because the meritocratic order taps the vast potential inhrent in that great unwashed mass once consigned to irrelevance by the old aristocracies.

Now, let me throw out a provocative idea to end this post with: One of the most important distinctions between neo- and paleo-cons is that the neo-cons have liberated themselves from the unjustiable nostalgia that leads paleo-cons to idealize the past.

While conservatism is often associated with an attachment to the past or a suspicion of change, neo-conservatives buck that trend and win their conservative stripes by making an unflinching commitment to a traditional set of core values -- traditional in the sense that they have hardly changed at all since being articulated by great thinkers such as John Locke and James Madison.

As Louis Hartz memorably observed, American radicals are fundamentally conservative and vice versa, thus producing a remarkable degree of stability and consensus in the American body politic. While I don't identify myself as a neo-conservative or a conservative at all, I have much greater respect for a conservatism built on a foundation of values than one built on the quicksand of a nostalgic attachment to the ever-changing past.

Go Bombers!!!
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# Posted 11:27 AM by Patrick Belton  

ISSIE THE HURRICANE VS. DC: Okay, so the federal government is closed (cheering libertarians everywhere), the subway is closed (cheering perhaps a few Saudi princes), and insurers are expecting over $1 billion from a hurricane which is anticipated to inflict more flood than wind damage. But on the bright side, Issie the Hurricane is making some wicked surfin' waves in New York (namely, on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, where physicist Richard Feynman grew up). (The five Queens residents who were regular surfers before Issie are kvetching about all the newcomers, saying by right of prior possession they should have the waves all to themselves...leading to ethico-legal questions about whether Queens surfers can surf in the same water twice....) Glenn links to the Axis of Isabel, which includes the excellent LT Smash although there aren't too many posts up on the subject yet. And in other news, phone and internet providers are readying technicians to deal with massive outages, the NRC is preparing plans to shut down nuclear reactors lying in the hurricane's path, and insurance share prices are taking a huge price hit. And powerline workers are being shipped east from as far as Wisconsin and Louisiana under existing cooperative deals between utility companies to deal with natural disasters.

But on the other hand, if rain makes you sleepy, you could take a nap and thereby learn something neat about your personality.
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Wednesday, September 17, 2003

# Posted 8:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GOD FAVORS SMALL GOVERNMENT: How else can you explain Hurricane Isabel forcing DC to shut down tomorrow?
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# Posted 8:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EXPERT SAYS TOO FEW JEWS: Always great to see a piece I agree with in the NYT.
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# Posted 8:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH SMACKS CHENEY UPSIDE HEAD: The NYT headline is: "U.S. Has 'No Evidence' Linking Hussein to 9/11, Bush Says". I have to admit, it's surprising to see Bush discipline Cheney in this sort of way. It means either that Cheney recognized he was wrong and wanted Bush to clarify the matter, or Bush recognized the threat to his credibility that Cheney's remarks presented.

I suspect it was the latter. Which is good, because you want to see the President fully in control of his own Cabinet and his own Administration. I might also add that it's nice to Rumsfeld coming out against Cheney as well. Again, a noteworthy event because the relationship between Cheney and Rumsfeld seems to have been extremely close up until now.

More broadly speaking, it's nice to see that the Administration is willing to demand honesty from one of it's own, because admitting mistakes has never been its forte. If this keeps up, the media may actually start being nice to George W.!
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# Posted 1:05 PM by Patrick Belton  

SWITCHING PLACES: Hey all, so I've resurfaced in England, after several weeks of looking suspiciously as though I'm stalking Josh across college towns (I mean it - Princeton, New Haven, now Oxford - when does the madness stop, I want to know?). More from me on the perils of British Airways and thoughts on being back in Oxford, as soon as I plop my feet up and recover from some jet lag.
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Tuesday, September 16, 2003

# Posted 9:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOWARD DEAN: TOO POPULAR? From Tapped, of all places.
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# Posted 9:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE CHALABI LOBBY: Confirming prior suspicions about his value as an ally, Pentagon favorite Ahmed Chalabi is now backing the French push for a near-immediate (some might say premature) end to the occupation.

Four other members of the Governing Council have joined Chalabi in his demands, but the WaPo unfortunately provides almost no detail about their perspectives on the issue or possible motivations. The WaPo article does strongly suggest however, that the Governing Council is functioning in an unhealthy and undemocratic manner thanks to its members selflishness. Bottom line: If the US turns over sovereignty to the Council within a month as per the French demand, all hell will break loose.

By the way, Michael Ledeen still has a high opinion of Ahmed Chalabi and writes that the media has been ignoring his achievements:
[Chalabi is] actually president of the Governing Council this month and has already two major accomplishments. First, he got an economic package approved that includes direct foreign investment, a flat tax and low tariffs. Second, he seems to have worked out an arrangement between the Kurds and Turks that will permit some Turkish military/security involvement.

I don't know anyone who is writing this, I quite agree that the media are all writing the opposite. But look at Chalabi's admirers: Perle, Hoagland, Cheney... and then look at his major enemies: Tenet, Powell...
I guess we now have to add Villepin to that list of admirers. Strange bedfellows, no?
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# Posted 9:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NYT CORRESPONDENT BLASTS CORRUPT MEDIA: In case you haven't already followed Glenn or Andrew's link, follow this one to John Burns' indictment of the Western media sycophantic and immoral behavior in pre-war Iraq.

UPDATE: Dan Drezner compares Burns' honesty to the hypocrisy of Christiane Amanpour.
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# Posted 8:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IRAQI WOMEN SUFFER: This NYT op-ed describes the harrowing ordeal of women in those areas of Iraq where law and order have broken down. It also makes the valuable point that focusing on women's rights and security can have an extremely beneficial effect on the democratization process.

But the NYT op-ed is also very frustrating because it briefly notes that no reliable crime statistics are available, then goes on to imply that the sort of brutal crimes it describes are pervasive -- and that under Saddam things were much better. Admittedly, that seems to be the trend in most big media articles on Iraq. Still not good.

The article also hurts itself by including such perverse comments such as "A formerly first-world capital [Baghdad] has become a city where the women have largely vanished." Well, at they're indoors instead of being beaten and raped by Saddam's henchmen.
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# Posted 12:23 PM by Patrick Belton  

FAREED IN THE WAPO TODAY: Urging the American Odysseus to ignore the French, German, and UN sirens arguing for an accelerated turnover of the Iraqi administration to a wholly elected government, Fareed writes: "Popular sovereignty is a great thing, but a constitutional process is greater still. The French know this. The French Revolution emphasized popular sovereignty with little regard to limitations on state power. The American founding, by contrast, was obsessed with constitution-making. Both countries got to genuine democracy. But in France it took two centuries, five republics, two empires and one dictatorship to get there. Surely we want to do it better in Iraq."

UPDATE: Ruel Gerecht has something similar to say in this week's Weekly Standard.
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# Posted 11:19 AM by Patrick Belton  

THIS looks bad. I think I'll go to England and get myself out of harm's way.....
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# Posted 11:01 AM by Daniel  

CLARK IS IN.
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Monday, September 15, 2003

# Posted 10:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FRIKKIN' IDIOTS AT THE NEW YORK TIMES: I try to keep my temper under control when it comes to politics. But take a look at this item in the New York Times:
Dr. Faiq Amin Bakr, director of the Baghdad Central Morgue for the past 13 years, reels off the grim statistics that confirm to Iraqis that they have entered what they see as a terrifyingly lawless twilight zone: 462 people dead under suspicious circumstances or in automobile accidents in May, some 70 percent from gunshot wounds; 626 in June; 751 in July; 872 in August. By comparison, last year there were 237 deaths in July, one of the highest months, with just 21 from gunfire.
Yes, the New York Times is actually trusting Saddam's coroner to provide it with accurate statistics about the number of "suspicious" deaths in Iraq. No wonder the same article -- a straight news piece, mind you -- informs us that
Iraqis, in general thrilled to be freed from the long, sinister rule of Saddam Hussein, had high expectations that the arrival of the Americans would utterly transform their lives.

As the occupation enters its sixth month, however, they are looking for something, anything, they can hold in their hands that assures them that the future will be better — and they cannot find it.
Well, if you let Saddam's coroner tell you how good life was under the old regime, it's going to be pretty damn hard to figure out why life under the American occupation might be just slightly better. Frikkin' idiots.
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# Posted 10:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NARROW-MINDED RIGHT-WING FUNDAMENTALISTS: Thought I was talking about American Christians? Shame on you. It's the Hindu right whose reckless behavior is providing recruits for Osama bin Laden.
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# Posted 9:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOING THE MATH: Boomshock points out that his recent Tech Central Station column (which I should've read before today) makes a point very similar to my own: that corrupt and incompetent allied forces can undermine American foreign policy. Robert's case in point is the Philippines, and he offers an excellent account of how graft is preventing the Filipino security forces from becoming an effective ally in the war on terror. And don't even remind me about Afghanistan...
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# Posted 9:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FALLUJA (A CLARIFICATION): CM points to this SF Chronicle article which contains something approximating an explanation for the friendly-fire incident that left 8 Iraqi police officers dead. According to the Chronicle,
The U.S. military issued an apology for the shooting and said an investigation had begun. However, military spokesman Lt. Col. George Krivo said the Americans only fired after they were "attacked from a truck by unknown forces."

"Coalition forces," he said, "immediately returned fire and the subsequent engagement lasted approximately three hours. Regrettably during the incident extensive damage was done to the (Jordanian) hospital and several security personnel were killed, including eight Iraqis and one Jordanian national."
Frankly, that doesn't sound like much of an explanation. How does one get into a three-hour-long battle with one's allies? Presumably, at some point the enemy would no longer be "unknown". For that matter, why did the Iraqis keep firing back for 3 hours? If they were on the US side, why not surrender and clarify matters afterward?

One other factor to consider is that the engagement happened at night. (Once again, thanks to CM for the link.) Yet as the article points out, the Americans had night vision equipment. And the Iraqis seemed to understand quite clearly that they were fighting their friends. It just doesn't add up.
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# Posted 9:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEFENDING BROOKS: I gave the NYT's newest columnist a big thumbs up for his first column and a big thumbs down for his second. However, John Coumarianos of Innocents Abroad thinks that I'm missing the point. John says:
I appreciate that it's not nice to be told you're part of a generation whose members exist to pad their resumes, but becoming more purely meritocratic has at least some disadvantages. There's really nothing to aspire to anymore, culturally or socially. Kids at better schools aren't social climbers anymore; and however distasteful it might have been when that sort of thing existed, at least there was a vision of a class to climb toward. Much better now to get your MBA than try to be a gentleman...

Additionally, although he's middle-aged, I don't think Brooks is part of the old generation as Adesnik implies; his generation is like the one coming of age now -- living in the wake of WASP-dom. I also think Adesnik overplays the "manliness" aspect of what Brooks seeks to remind us of. Brooks' larger point is that pure meritocracy has replaced a kind of faux aristocracy, and this has significant political and social consequences -- most of them good, but some of them not so good. He's not really talking primarily about prep school hazing rituals.
My response: At least since Tocqueville, American conservatives have insisted that mediocrity is the price of equality. But I don't buy it. Is it an accident that meritocratic America is both the most powerful nation on earth as well as the home of its most brilliant scientific and scholarly minds? I don't think so. As for having something to aspire to, I'm more interested in bringing democracy to the Middle East than getting an invitation to the local country club. Besides, I've heard that they don't accept applications from Jews and blacks.

UPDATE: Greg Djerejian has more.
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# Posted 9:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

POLISCI JUNKIES RESPOND: Among its readers, OxBlog is fortunate enough to have a number of experts on the theory of international relations. Thus, when I begin to ramble about the theoretical implications of current events, there is an informed audience waiting to challenge my arguments.

In this instance, PS writes that
...the second claim you make is that realists have become essentially pacifists who don't want the US to use its 'massive firepower'. I think realism has always been quite cautious about the use of force, going back to Morgenthau's opposition to Vietnam. Defensive realists look back at world history and see that the use of force often leads to self-encirclement, balancing, and eventually defeat. The Second and Third Reichs and Napoleon are their key examples.

Offensive realists like Mearsheimer are quite happy to make arguments about using force when necessary, but prefer an offshore-balancing role for the US. And defensive realists love Bismarck, who used force but in a way that didn't attract a backlash. Machiavelli only counseled the use of force under specific conditions, not indiscriminately.

So institutions can sometimes be helpful and relevant (realists don't discount the utility of NATO in the Cold War), and force is a good way to get yourself 'smacked on the snout' (as Mearsheimer puts it) if used improperly. A state is most successful if it doesn't need to use its armed might. Caution and pragmatism - sounds like realism to me. . .
My response to PT ran as follows:
Thanks for the comments, almost all of which I agree with. You're very right to point out that caution is an integral aspect of realism, one that I did not mention in my post but am well aware of. Yet rather than undermine my point, examining this caution demands that I broaden it.

Is it not ironic that realists from Morgenthau on have described force as the ultima ratio yet almost always argued against using it? Moreover, think of how many realists admired the Soviet Union for their supposedly judicious-yet-bold use of force. (Not that such gambits were succesful, mind you. The Realists figured that one out in hindsight.)

Rather, the fact is that realists have always admired force in others yet counseled against the United States using it suggest that there is something fundamentally disingenuous about the application of Realism to 'real life'. And now, with the United States more powerful than ever -- the first unipolar power since Imperial Spain, perhaps Imperial Rome -- the Realists are once again arguing against the use of force. Seems to me that if they took their own principles seriously, they would have to argue that this is the optimal time for the United States to use force, i.e. when no balancing coalition even has the potential to exist.

As critics have long pointed out, Realism fails as a practical doctrine because it has no ethical foundation. I am liberal hawk who believes that the use of force must be consistent with democratic principles. There are also liberal doves who argue for prioritizing the construction of international institutions above all else. While I disagree with the doves on that point, I acknowledge that their argument has a serious ethical foundation. In contrast, what Realism has is a disposition: self-critical pessimism. While this sort of disposition often plays a valuable role by provoking challenges to the reigning conventional wisdom (think Morgenthau on Vietnam), it cannot, in the final analysis, stand on its own.
Finis.
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# Posted 1:40 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE NINTH CIRCUIT DELAYS CALIFORNIA RECALL VOTE: Here. The basic argument seems to be that six counties (including L.A. and San Diego, and including 44 percent of California's registered voters) were still using punch-card systems (of the sort which led to such Floridian invocation in 2000 of the name of St Chad, martyr). Appeal to the Supreme Court is likely (and, indeed, virtually invited by the Ninth, which held off implementation of its court order for a week to permit appeals), and one already-gossiped scenario would see the recall vote postponed to March and California's next-scheduled primary election.
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# Posted 1:28 PM by Patrick Belton  

PLAYBOY PLANNING AN ISSUE ON THE WOMEN OF WAL-MART: Yup, that's the gist of this report from CNN. Not to be negative or anything, but given that the articles aren't worth reading anymore (with Tom Wolfe, Bertrand Russell, Vladimir Nabokov, and John Updike and their successors having moved on since the 1970's to the more tame pages of Atlantic Monthly and its ilk), I'm not really sure this is going to win Heffner any readers. But maybe I'm wrong....
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Sunday, September 14, 2003

# Posted 11:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HEADLINE NEWS: Andrew Sullivan catches the BBC red-handed.
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# Posted 11:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WILL BLOG FOR FOOD: Matt Yglesias is now getting paid to write about politics, something he used to do for free. In his second essay for The American Prospect, he argues that the networks carelessly let 9-11 anniversary coverage imply that there was a connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda.

While I'd say that Matt is focusing on some details that are less than significant, it is interesting that the networks weren't explicitly critical of Administration efforts to link Iraq and Al Qaeda.
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# Posted 11:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT WMD? Josh Marshall expects the Kay Report will be an embarrassment for the Administration.
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# Posted 11:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THREE IN A ROW FOR KEVIN! Given that most people read blogs from the top down and not the bottom up, this will probably be the first link to CalPundit you see on OxBlog today, not the third.

But I assure you that it is. Scroll down if you don't believe me. Anyhow, Kevin thinks that Paul Wolfowitz's sudden change of heart about the connections between Saddam and Al Qaeda was prepared well in advance.

I have to admit, I shrugged off Wolfowitz's correction of his intial statement figuring that it was a sign of honesty. After all, it isn't everyday that a Bush official admits making a mistake that big, no matter how glaring it is.

But Kevin's right: it looks bad. Even if I still tend to believe that Wolfowitz's mistake was an honest one, it is a powerful indication that what he wants to believe sometimes gets the better of what he knows to be true. We're all guilty of that, but only one of us is Undersecretary of Defense.

UPDATE: Why do I trust Wolfowitz? Because Cheney is so much worse.
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# Posted 11:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

COMING SOON: CalPundit actually went and interviewed Paul Krugman. Good for him. The full interview will be up soon. Meanwhile, here's a quick look at what Big Paul had to say.
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# Posted 11:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

INFIDELS FOR DEAN: CalPundit wonders whether Democrats have become too instinctively hostile to religion.
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# Posted 11:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS: Glenn has come across a rather interesting photo.
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# Posted 11:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

POWELL READS OXBLOG: Today, the Secretary told reporters
that more progress was being made in securing and rebuilding Iraq than had been emphasized in news reports, mentioning for example new parent-teacher groups at local schools.
If Cheney or Rumsfeld said that, I probably wouldn't have posted it. Yet thanks to his role as the opposition within, Colin Powell has developed a stunning sort of credibility on almost every issue on the foreign policy agenda.

That doesn't mean the rest of the Cabinet listens to him. Rather, it makes Powell a compelling spokesman for the government whenever he does happen to agree with its policies. That's why his February presentation at the UN won over fence-sitters on both sides of the Atlantic.

As such, I expect that Powell's current criticism of the French for trying to impose a premature end to the occupation of Iraq will ensure that the United States stands its ground. Mind you, the French aren't all that likely to change their position. But the Bush Administration can now count on domestic opinion agreeing that the French proposal is a bad idea.

One illustration of that point is the NY Times' description of the French proposal as "unrealistic". In an otherwise blistering editorial, that is just about the only point the NYT concedes to the administration.

Ironically, the US may still rush the democratization process even if it isn't as reckless as France wants it to be. According to Paul Bremer, sovereignty might be restored by the middle of next year, by which time Iraq would already have held national elections and approved a new constitution.

To my mind, that still sounds extremely unrealistic. We waited four years to give the West Germans a truly autonomous government and six more to return official sovereignty. The Japanese held national elections after a much shorter interval, but their postwar governments had severely limited powers in the first few years after the war.

Of course, when it comes to democratization the final word doesn't belong to history. It belong to Tom Carothers. Whereas it may not be surprising to hear an idealistic hawk like myself advocate a longer occupation, Carothers is a pessimistic dove in addition to being the foremost expert on democracy promotion in the United States and perhaps the world. As Carothers put it back in April,
Elections should not be rushed. In societies riven by ethnic or religious divisions, and where experience with democracy is absent, early elections are often perceived as a winner-take-all process and can aggravate rather than resolve political conflict. The administration should nurture a period of growing pluralism and participation in which the contending Iraqi groups have time to learn to work with each other in new institutions rooted in compromise and openness. In difficult political transitions, national elections are often best put off for at least several years.
Back then, pessimists like Tom were worried that Bush & Co. would rush the occupation, declare victory, pull out, and leave a mess behind. Now Bush is in it for the long haul and the French being reckless. Oh, the irony.
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# Posted 10:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DO THE MATH: According to the NYT,
The number of American troops in Iraq fell to 127,000 last week, down roughly 10 percent from a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, the Pentagon and L. Paul Bremer, the American administrator, envision Iraqi security forces totaling 186,000 by 2005. They already count 46,000 Iraqi police now on the job, heading toward a goal of 65,000 or 75,000. They want a new Iraqi Army of 40,000 (right now 1,000 are being trained) and 15,000 members of a civilian defense corps, though they acknowledge it could take five or six years to get there. They also want 3,700 border guards, twice the current number. And for every one of those Iraqis who step into the street or the desert, some American is supposed to be going home.
There's a big story here that very few correspondents or policymakers are focusing. Just how good are these tens of thousands of Iraqi security officials? Are they competent? Corrupt?

These questions are tremendously important for two reasons. First of all, it's become clear in recent weeks that the shortage of American manpower is the most important constraint on American occupation policy. If Iraqi security officers can actually do their job, then the whole "Should we go to the UN?" and "Should we expand the Army?" debates will be unnecessary.

Second of all, the (apalling) quality of our allies is perhaps the most overlooked factor in explaining American setbacks in Third World conflicts. For example, what is the lesson of Vietnam? One side says that America cannot win immoral wars. The other says that it cannot win wars with one hand tied behind its back. Others say America can't win Third World conflcits if it it doesn't understand foreign soldiers. Still others say America underestimated Vietnamese nationalism.

To be fair, almost everyone recognizes that South Vietnamese forces were less than motivated and less than competent. But almost no one lists that as the primary cause of American failure. Mostly, I think because American generals avoided acknowledging that fact by relying on more and more American soldiers and American firepower. For one account of just how devastating South Vietnamese failures were, take a look at Neil Sheehan's A Bright Shining Lie, specifically his account of the battle of Ap Bac.

[NB: My office mate, who's about to get his Ph.D. in the history of the Vietnam war, says that Sheehan's book, like most of those about Vietnam, suffers from an excessive reliance on American sources. I'm more than willing to acknowledge that point, but don't think it bears on my argument directly.]

The issue of allied forces is also very much on my mind because of my own dissertation on Reagan and Central America. In Reagan's time, arguments about El Salvador were very similar to those once had about Vietnam. The Administration kept insisting that it couldn't win with one hand tied behind its back. Its opponents kept insisting that America could never win an immoral war in which it backed brutal military officers against popular guerillas.

But as I see it, the real problem was the incompetence and corruption of the Salvadoran military. While it's brutality cost it heavily in terms of popular support, its incompetence and corruption cost it far more on the battlefield. When it comes down to it, you can't win a civil war when your officers are getting rich by selling American weapons to the guerrillas. The parallels to Vietnam are disturbing.

That said, one of my main concerns about Iraq is the quality of indigenous security forces. In Vietnam and El Salvador, it may not have been possible to come up with better allies, especially because the US was dealing with entrenched regimes. But Iraq is different. The past weighs heavily on the present, but little would stand in the way of an aggressive effort to ensure the honesty and competence of the new police and military forces. Thus, the real question is whether American policymakers will show enough of an interest in such issues to prevent another disaster.
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Saturday, September 13, 2003

# Posted 8:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

POP PSYCHOLOGY: It was going to happen sooner or later. David Brooks was going to trot out his hackneyed opinions about how in the good old days tough schools educated tough men, while today's schools produced indecisive relativists:
Unlike today's top schools, which are often factories for producing Résumé Gods, the WASP prep schools were built to take the sons of privilege and toughen them into paragons of manly virtue. Rich boys were sent away from their families and shoved into a harsh environment that put tremendous emphasis on athletic competition, social competition and character building...

As anyone who has read George Orwell knows, this had ruinous effects on some boys, but those who thrived, as John F. Kennedy did, believed that life was a knightly quest to perform service and achieve greatness, through virility, courage, self-discipline and toughness.

The Protestant Establishment is dead, and nobody wants it back. But that culture, which George Bush and Howard Dean were born into, did have a formula for producing leaders. Our culture, which is freer and fairer, does not.
As a product of "today's top schools", let me just say that Brooks has no idea what the #@$%& he is talking about. At both Yale and Oxford, I met countless young Americans with a fierce and principled commitment to making America a better nation, both at home and in its behavior abroad. These students spanned the political spectrum, left, right and center.

Moreover, America's top schools produce so many potential leaders precisely because they abandoned the cruel and unusual methods that Brooks seems to cherish. While still athletic and sociable, abandoning excessive competition in those fields has given today's students more time to focus on A) their studies and B) happy, fulfilling friendships and relationships. As a result, we now have students whose better adjustment to academic and social life gives them a stronger foundation on which to build their civic commitments. So don't worry, Mr. Brooks. When your generations runs out of momentum, ours will be ready to take the reins.
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# Posted 8:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FALLUJA: The funeral for 10 Iraqi security officers killed by US troops brought a large and angry crowd onto the streets of Falluja. Still no explanation from Army spokesman as to why US soldiers fired on friendly forces.
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# Posted 6:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KRUGMAN: CHAFETZ IS "PART OF THE MACHINE". In an interview with Buzzflash, Paul Krugman observes that
...a good part of the media are essentially part of the machine. If you work for any Murdoch publication or network, or if you work for the Rev. Moon's empire, you're really not a journalist in the way that we used to think. You're basically just part of a propaganda machine.
Whereas if you work alongside Howell Raines and Jayson Blair...
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# Posted 6:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ALL SORTS OF -LATERALISMS: Boomshock has some good observations about the US-North Korea talks.
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# Posted 3:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SEND IN THE EUROPEANS? Todd Bass points to an Economist article which says that the French and Germans couldn't send more than a few thousand troops to Iraq even if they wanted to. This fact doesn't seem to trouble Robert Hunter, though.
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Friday, September 12, 2003

# Posted 8:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DUMP PAKISTAN: This column in today's WaPo reminds us just how bad a "friend" Pakistan has been to the United States. It is a point that can't be made often enough, especially given the Bush Administration's naive belief that Pervez Musharraf is our "ally" in the war on terror.

Even though regime change is not an option, Musharraf is so hated by his own people that if the US publicly disavowed his government, it might fall within a matter of months. Mind you, that is not just the opinion of an outsider, but one voiced by many of the Pakistani students I met at Oxford. While theirs is not the final word on Pakistani politics, it is not one I would lightly dismiss. If only the Bush Administration would listen...

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# Posted 8:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A SECOND BLOGIVERSARY: This week, Dan Drezner marked the completion of his first year online. Looking back, he offers some interesting advice to aspiring bloggers. All I would add is "Read everything Dan Drezner has to say. He's one of the absolute best."
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# Posted 8:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HONEY, YOU FORGOT MY BLOGIVERSARY: I am almost forgot to mention it, but one year ago today was when I first posted on OxBlog. After introducting myself, I put up my first substantive post, in which I wrote that
Today's war on terrorism has much in common with the war on Soviet expansion. It will only end when our enemies cease to be who they are. While negotiations on specific points may be possible with certain of our enemies (Iran comes to mind), we can not negotiate an end to the war on terror. By the same token, we were able to negotiate specific arms-control pacts with the Soviet Union but never an end to the Cold War.

As such, it may be best to think of the war on terrorism as war in which our enemy is an ideas as much as it is a state or a terrorist network. We are fighting against the idea that violence against civilians is legimitate.
And so we still are. In my next post, I set the tone for the coming year by declaring my disappointment with the NYT and WaPo. I also had some very harsh words for President Bush, who marked the first anniversary of Sept. 11th with a NYT op-ed that came close to advocating an amoral sort of realpolitik that was almost Kissingerian in nature. Thankfully, the President seems to have learned a thing or two since then.

And I myself have learned a lot more than that. It has been absolute pleasure to be a part of OxBlog and I don't hesitate to say that I have learned just as much from contributing to OxBlog as I have from my academic research. I am deeply grateful to Josh for the opportunity to join OxBlog, and I owe many thanks to all those other bloggers and audience members who have inspired and challenged me with their original thoughts.

Here's to another great year!
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# Posted 7:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEAN/CLARK '04? CalPundit takes the WaPo report at face value. Josh Marshall says its a rumor spun out by Dean operatives desperate to discredit Clark, who seems just about ready to announce his candidacy.
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# Posted 7:37 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE SADNESS OF WAR: Today's NYT has a thoughtful article on soldiers' often frustrating efforts to adjust to American life after serving in Iraq. It documents many of the subtle and unexpected ways in which a parent's absence can disrupt a family's well-being.

My one criticism of the article regards from its implicit message that the destruction of soldiers' personal lives is a pervasive and almost inevitable byproduct of service abroad. To be fair, civilians often underestimate the stress that military service places on one's personal life. Yet the Times' article gives no sense that such challenges can be overcome, sometimes producing stronger families in the long run.

If I were to take my critique one step further, I would speculate that the Times' description of dysfunctional veterans is drawn directly from the stereotype of Vietnam veterans as disturbed and violent loaners, often with unacknowledged mental health problems. Still, such a conclusion would be premature since this is one of the few recent stories on the subject.

On a related note, Phil Carter recommends this WaPo article on those soldiers whose tragic job it is to inform the families of the fallen that one of their loved ones has died. It is a powerful reminder once again that it is not only soldiers', but also their families, who give up so much for the good of their country.
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# Posted 7:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

END FARM SUBSIDIES: Michael Lind says it's the right thing to do, but won't help poor third world farmers. David Ignatius, however, is more optimistic.
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Thursday, September 11, 2003

# Posted 5:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FLYPAPER: Greg Djerejian has some very sensible and justifiably harsh comments about Andrew Sullivan's take on the issue.

Greg also has some very intelligent comments up about the President's recent speech, especially his misuse of the term 'responsibility'. Finally, Greg recommends this excellent WaPo article on the cabinet infighting that persuaded President Bush to go back to the UN. The article ends on a rather interesting note:
"Rumsfeld lost credibility with the White House because he screwed up the postwar planning," said William Kristol, a conservative publisher with close ties to the administration. "For five months they let Rumsfeld have his way, and for five months Rumsfeld said everything's fine. He wanted to do the postwar with fewer troops than a lot of people advised, and it turned out to be a mistake."
Amen.
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# Posted 5:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REMEMBERING 9/11: Judith Weiss has a comprehensive set of links up over at Kesher Talk. Dan tells his own story over at Reason of Voice.
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# Posted 1:52 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SEPTEMBER 11th: In memory of all those who lost their lives. In honor of those who laid down their lives so that others might live. In tribute to the principles for which Americans have given lives for over two hundred years.

Even though my parents live in Manhattan and I have visited them often during the past two years, I resisted visiting Ground Zero until just a few weeks ago. I am a proud New Yorker and I simply did not want to come face to face with the living evidence that my proud city had been brought low.

Was this response an irrational but harmless defense mechanism? Or was it somehow a fundamental avoidance of the issues at stake in post-Sept. 11 America? I don't know.

What difference does not visiting the Towers' site make if I know that they have fallen? Is that sort of avoidance a measure of comfort that I deserve given the emotional cost of watching them fall? Or is it a self-destructive sort of repression that will prevent me from dealing with the issues and emotions that I will one day have to face?

What if the purpose of not visiting Ground Zero was to enforce on myself a certain level of humility? I never want to be the kind of person that says "You don't understand because you weren't there." I believe that we can share our experiences. I believe that September 11th was an attack on universal principles of freedom and tolerance.

By avoiding Ground Zero, was I avoiding the obvious challenge to my belief in the universality of such principles? Is it completely absurd to speak of universal principles when there are thousands of bodies under the rubble? After all, September 11th didn't make New York different. It made it the same as Beirut and Kinshasa and a thousand other places.

Toward the end of August, I met a friend for lunch in the financial district. Walking home afterwards, I found myself just one block away from Ground Zero. How could I not go?

Enough time had passed that I didn't expect anything dramatic to happen. I wouldn't be overcome with emotion. In fact, I don't think I would've been overcome with emotion if I had visited the site much earlier on. Still, I avoided it.

By now, Ground Zero doesn't seem like a hole. It is more of an oasis. A wide open space in downtown, but one you can't go inside of. It is a construction site. As a New Yorker, I've always loved construction sites. They are the best expression of the vitality of urban life. Of renewal.

When I was six years old, all of the students in my first grade class submitted posters to an I Love NY poster contest. I drew a construction site, with "I [Heart] NY" printed on the mast of a crane.

I am almost wish that nothing would be built at the World Trade Center site, that it would remain a construction site forever. I don't want a memorial. I don't want anyone to walk on that ground again.

I just want there to be a quiet place in downtown. A reminder that this city I love could have its heart ripped out of chest but still march onwards, stronger than ever before.
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# Posted 1:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NEO-CON CONFUSION: I agree with what Josh Marshall says about neo-conservatives. You heard me. I agree. With Josh Marshall.

Josh may harbor an antagonism towards the neo-cons that borders on the pathological, but because he really is interested in them, he often notices important things that other people don't.

Right now, the important thing is that neo-cons seem are very unsure of how to constructively criticize the Administration's laissez-faire attitude toward rebuilding Iraq. As Marshall notes, these attacks are coming from
the branch of neoconservatives who really take democratic imperialism seriously.
Marshall clearly understands something that almost no one else (especially not Maureen Dowd) does: that neo-cons are extremely principled and ideological and that few top officials in this administration are neo-cons. You may not like the neo-cons principles or ideas, but they do have them and other conservatives don't.

So what happens when neo-con paladin George W. Bush begins to act like either a paleo-con or a rubber-spined realist? For a good answer, take a look at Kristol & Kagan's comprehensive essay on Iraq in last week's Standard. (Also see Kagan's WaPo column.)

What you see is that Kristol & Kagan are doing their best to insist that the President and his top advisors are unsure of how to implement the neo-cons' agenda, rather than confronting the possibility that Bush & Co. may not share that agenda at all. This gambit, of course, is a variation on the classic Republican game of capture-the-President, which conservative pundits wind up playing almost every time the GOP captures the White House.

What I can't figure out about Kristol & Kagan is whether they really believe that the White House shares their ideals, or whether they think that the only hope of changing the Administration is through friendly criticism. On the one hand, Bush's recent speech makes it hard not to believe that he is a true believer in the cause of democracy promotion. On the other hand, there has never been any indication that Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice or Powell share the President's enthusiasm.

I guess this is all just leading me back to what I already said once today: that there is room in the center of the American political spectrum for a principled foreign policy that unifies left and right through reference to traditional American principles. Ah, pipe dreams.
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# Posted 12:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SHOW ME THE MONEY: In my last post on going to the UN for help, I asked whether other nations would actually contribute a substantial number of troops to the occupation even if there were another UN resolution. But I forgot to ask whether the French or anyone else would provide the financial aid that the Bush administration seems to be looking for.

On this one, I think Josh Marshall is right. Why the hell would any of the governments we antagonized decide to pony up? Does the Bush Administration really expect all that much help? At what price? So I'm still thinking what I was yesterday morning:
What I want to know is whether the Bush Administration has suggested approaching the UN because it knows that it can work out a good deal, or whether its own deficient planning has resulted in the sort of confused and ad hoc decisionmaking that the Bush campaign once identified as the cause of Clinton's foreign policy troubles.
I guess the only silver lining here is that the US can cover the financial costs of the occupation if we so choose. After all, there are plenty of tax cuts just waiting to be rescinded...

ALSO: Marshall is right that Donald Rumsfeld is a schmuck.
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Wednesday, September 10, 2003

# Posted 11:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE OTHER SEPT. 11: The NYT deserves considerable praise for telling a story not often told in the northern parts of the America.
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# Posted 11:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FOR POLISCI JUNKIES: I noticed the following in a too-long-to-be-fiskworthy NYT piece from today:
"In the cold war you could argue that American unilateralism had no cost," [U. Chicago] Professor [John] Mearsheimer continued. "But as we're finding out with regard to Iraq, Iran and North Korea, we need the Europeans and we need institutions like the U.N. The fact is that the United States can't run the world by itself, and the problem is, we've done a lot of damage in our relations with allies, and people are not terribly enthusiastic about helping us now."
For the uninitiated, Mearsheimer must come off as just another member of the liberal academic establishment. But he is actually the foremost advocate of "offensive neo-realism" whose reputation rests on anti-multilateralist works such as "The False Promise of International Insitutions".

Mearsheimer is also famous for predicting back in 1991 that the end of the Cold War would lead the EU to fall apart, thus returning Europe to the balance of power politics of the prewar era. Oops.

In short, this is a huge "I told you so" moment for neo-liberal and constructivist scholars. What's interesting about this for non-academics is that it is a powerful indication of how even the most tough-minded and cynical academics, i.e. neo-realists, have transformed their theoretical principles into an argument against the use of force.

The foundation of neo-realism is the belief that we live an anarchic world where armed might is the decisive force in world politics. Yet these same neo-realists expect the United States not to deploy the massive firepower that it has.

To be fair, a tough-minded realist can argue that the invasion of Iraq was a waste of valuable firepower that might be better employed elsewhere. But that isn't what Mearsheimer is saying. He's actually talking about the positive worth of international institutions. And we're hearing the same from other prominent realists such as Stephen Walt and Bill Wohlforth. (Fareed Zakaria pretty much belongs on the list as well.)

Journalists often confuse neo-realists and neo-conservatives. I've seen Kagan & Kristol referred to as both. And this sort of confusion makes some sense, because neo-realists were far more likely to support tough American foreign policies during the Cold War (although some were noticeably liberal).

But now a divide has emerged. Neo-conservatives believe in the use of force to promote American values. That position has almost no defenders in the academy today. It is considered primitive and naive. And that is why the reconstruction of Iraq is so important. If a stable and democratic Iraq emerges from the current occupation, the foundations of the academic study of international politics will have been shaken.

If the rebuilding of Iraq fails, the lesson drawn will be that idealistic rhetoric is nothing more than a cover for the short-sighted and self-destructive policies. While simplistic, that may be the right lesson to draw. I am hardly persuaded that Rumsfeld, Cheney, et al. have any broader strategic vision for the use of American power.

It is sad that there is no American political party that would have both waged war on Iraq and taken reconstruction seriously. I believe that the absence of such a party is more of a historical accident than a reflection of deeper currents in American political life. With proper leadership, a party espousing such an approach could demonstrate that the center-ground in American politics is not the home of abject compromise, but rather a vital and principled foundation for a unifying foreign policy derived from traditional American values. Someday.
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# Posted 10:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG VS. EVOLUTION: Just some evidence for you to think about.
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# Posted 10:58 AM by Patrick Belton  

LET'S SAY A MAGICIAN decides to spend 44 days with no food, all while encased in a transparent box suspended over the Thames. Whether this represents a wise decision or not is a separate matter. But what would the response of the local townspeople be? Well, if the town happens to be London - and in this case it is - then it would apparently be to regularly throw eggs at his box in an attempt to dislodge him, taunt him with the smell of fish and chips, and beat a drum underneath to wake him up while he is sleeping. ("We were watching him at home on TV and it was really dull so we thought we would come down and liven things up. I wanted to wake him up,'' the drummer told London's Evening Standard.) So much for London hospitality - betcha the tourist board is going to have a field day with this.
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# Posted 8:52 AM by Patrick Belton  

PHYSICIST OUTLIVES WRITER OF HIS OBITUARY: And by seven years, too. Edward Teller, creator of the hydrogen bomb, died yesterday at Stanford at 95. The author of his (pre-written) obituary, Walter Sullivan, former science writer for the NYT, died in 1996. Not too bad an achievement for Dr. Teller, eh?
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# Posted 12:18 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSTAMANTE VS. SCHWARZENEGGER: The race tightens.
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Tuesday, September 09, 2003

# Posted 11:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MATT ON THE MOVE: Mr. Yglesias is now writing for Tapped. His old site will live on, but focus on the non-political issues that aren't a part of Tapped's portfolio. So good luck to Matt at his new job and here's to reading Tapped!
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# Posted 11:37 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

READ MY LIPS: NO NEW TAX CUTS. It isn't everyday that OxBlog agrees with Paul Krugman. And while I don't speak for Josh or Patrick, I'm willing to speculate that they would agree with Krugman as well.

Leaving aside the partisan invective, Krugman's column basically says that it is embarrassingly irresponsible for the Bush Administration to push for massive tax cuts, run up a massive deficit and then ask for an $87 billion supplmental appropriation for Iraq.

In spite of its insufficient planning, the Administration should have known that the costs of war and reconstruction often outstrip pre-war estimates. I can't imagine that legislators on either side of the aisle would have objected if the Administration deferred its tax cuts pending the outcome of the situation in Iraq.

But that wasn't going to happen. This Administration has an ideological commitment to tax cuts and wasn't going to waste a golden opportunity to have them written into law.

So what now? Both George W. Bush and Karl Rove most certainly remember the damaging price that Bush 41 paid for breaking his promise of "no new taxes". They aren't going to admit they were wrong, although they may well limit their requests for further cuts.

As far as the nation's finances go, what's going to happen now is what happened under Reagan: the United States took advantage of its perfect credit rating in order to finance both tax cuts and military spending through increased debt. Thanks to spectacular economic growth in the 1990s, we never had to face the terrifying prospect of heading into a serious recession with a massive debt on our shoulders.

But there was one victim of Reagan's largesse: George Bush the Father. He had to break his "no new taxes" promise because there was simply no way for the government to go into further debt. That is a danger that the Bush the Son may have to face because of his current policies...in his second term. Thus if Bush the Son does have to reverse on tax cuts, then the Republican candidate in 2008 may be seriously damaged. The result? President Hillary.

UPDATE: CalPundit is also hitting Bush hard on the costs of the war/occupation.
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# Posted 11:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

QUAGMIRE! The death toll is rising. The government is trapped in its own incompetence. And the people are losing faith in their leaders. So isn't it fair to say that the French have sunken into a quagmire? (No wonder they didn't want to fight Saddam. They can't even beat the weather.)
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# Posted 12:48 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE PURPOSE OF BRINGING IN THE U.N. (SOME TENTATIVE THOUGHTS): I still have a lot of news to catch up on, but have come to a few speculative conclusions after going through a dozen or so news articles about the Bush Administration's turn to the UN for help in Iraq.

First of all, no one seems to agree on why the United States is (or should) ask for UN help in Iraq. As best as I can tell, the fundamental issue is that we simply don't have enough troops to man the occupation forces past next march. While there has been a lot of talk about training Iraqi police and paramilitary forces, I'm guessing that the Administration: A) Doesn't know if they'll be ready in time and/or B) Doesn't have all that much confidence that they will be effective once deployed.

According to Joe Biden,
"The costs are staggering, the number of troops are staggering, we're seeing continuing escalation of American casualties, and we need to turn to the U.N. for help, for a U.N.-sanctioned military operation that is under U.S. command."
Lest one think that Biden is making a partisan point, one should note that John Warner (R-VA) has said that
"These casualties are beginning to unnerve Americans, and it concerns me...As I traveled through my state last month, people in very respectful tones came up to me and said, `John, we have to do something.' "
In other words, Biden and Warner want the Security Council to draw up a new resolution so that other nations' citizens can die instead of our own. While it's good to know that Biden and Warner are looking out for their constituents, the parochialism of their viewpoint is disturbing. After all, what good is it for a Frenchman or a Belgian to die instead of an American?

The problem here, as Phil Carter so ably pointed out, is that Americans often confuse success with a low casualty rate. While every effort should be made to minimize casualties, our purpose in Iraq is to build democracy and stop terror. Will bringing in the French and Belgians accomplish that task? If you believe that a multilateral occupation is more likely to succed, then yes. But Biden, Warner and others like them don't seem to be willing to say that. Perhaps they simply assume it. Or, as I suspect, they are unwilling to confront powerful arguments against the efficacy of a multilateral nation-building effort.

The next big question which no one has answered is what kind of quid pro quo the UN will demand for its consent. Before the Bush Administration approached the UN, Kofi Annan held out the prospect of the US maintaining a leadership role while sharing "decisions and responsibility with others". But now the NYT is reporting that
several Security Council members, like France and Russia, have said repeatedly that they would not support a measure that allowed the United States to maintain full military and political control.
Which brings us to the real question: What is it, exactly, that France and Russia want to change about the occupation? According to Dominique de Villepin,
"It is time to move resolutely into a logic of sovereignty for Iraq. A true change of approach is needed. We must end the ambiguity, transfer responsibilities and allow the Iraqis to play the role they deserve as soon as possible."
You can't disagree with that. It sounds exactly like what Donald Rumsfeld has been saying about giving the people Iraq more responsibility for their future.

While my spider-sense indicates that the French have some other agenda, the fact may be that they don't expect much of a quid for their pro-quo because they just aren't going to give that much to the occupation in terms of either time or money. While the French military has drawn up plans for the dispatch of up to 10,000 troops, other officials are insisting that France is already overcommitted to other peacekeeping projects. Thus, the French may be satisfied with the already impressive public relations victory they have scored by having Bush come back to the UN.

But if the French won't send troops, who will? I doubt that too many other European hold-outs would reverse course because of a new UN resolution. The real manpower will have to come from India, Pakistan and Turkey. Now, the prospect of having Indian troops is a good one -- after all, they are from a democratic country with a pretty good human rights record. Turkey is democratic as well, but less so. And its shared border with Iraq means that the Turks may turn a blind eye to smuggling, etc. Pakistan? I don't even want to go there. As thanks for its help in Afghanistan, we're already putting up with an incompetent dictator who is holding up peace talks with India and probably letting his subordinates indulge their taste for jihad by harboring all sorts of Islamic radicals. That is, when they aren't busy sending nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea.

The last big question for tonight is whether turning to the UN is a good thing. In a surprisingly judicious editorial, the WSJ argues that it may be worth the public relations cost of looking foolish if a new resolution lets Indian or Turkish forces focus on peacekeeping while mobile and heavily-armed Americans hunt down Ba'athist insurgents. Provided, of course, that France and Russia really want to help Iraq govern itself, rather than just forcing a US withdrawal or establishing their own fiefdoms in Baghdad.

What do I think? I'm not sure. What I want to know is whether the Bush Administration has suggested approaching the UN because it knows that it can work out a good deal, or whether its own deficient planning has resulted in the sort of confused and ad hoc decisionmaking that the Bush campaign once identified as the cause of Clinton's foreign policy troubles. I can imagine Rumsfeld wanting to go to the UN because he is desperate for troops, Cheney going along because he wants someone else to his nation-building for him and Powell agreeing because he cares more about rebuilding trans-Atlantic relations than rebuilding Iraq. And who would disagree if Powell, Rumsfeld and Cheney are all on the same side? Wolfowitz?

That's where Bush's speech comes in. He sounded much more like a Wolfowitz than a Powell, a Cheney or a Rumsfeld. He really seems to think we can get things right in Iraq. But how does the UN fit into the President's plans? I just don't know.

UPDATE: In an impressive debut column, David Brooks suggests some answers.
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Monday, September 08, 2003

# Posted 11:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WE DIDN'T START THE SAFIRE: Yes, I pretty much agree with Bill Safire's point in today's column. But his presentation is so harsh and one-sided that I think he is doing more to hurt the cause of reconstruction than to help it.
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# Posted 12:07 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

COMING SOON...A lengthy post on the Bush Administration's efforts to get the UN involved in Iraq. So far, this looks like a big "I told you so" moment for liberal critics of the occupation. And conservatives seem to think it's pretty embarrassing, too. I'm gonna need some time to figure this all out. In the meantime, take a look at what Kevin Drum has to say here, here, here and here.
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Sunday, September 07, 2003

# Posted 11:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOT EVERYONE LIKED THE SPEECH: Josh and I may have liked what the President said, but I think it's only fair to post some critical views here as well. For example,
The speech was Mr. Bush's first extended address about Iraq since he declared an end to major combat operations in a May 1 speech. He was more triumphal then, asserting that "the United States and our allies have prevailed."

But 149 Americans have died in Iraq since then, compared with the 138 in the invasion itself. The United Nations headquarters in Baghdad was bombed last month, a low point in the United States' now five-month-old occupation...

In his 18-minute speech, Mr. Bush did not mention Osama bin Laden, who has so far eluded American capture in Afghanistan. He also did not mention the failure so far to find any unconventional weapons in Iraq, the major stated reason that the United States went to war. Nor did Mr. Bush dwell on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, which he once predicted would abate if Saddam Hussein was ousted from power in Iraq. That conflict has worsened."
Despite sounding like something out of The Nation, the quotation above is actually from a straight news piece in the NYT written by Elisabeth Bumiller. While I'm still not enough of a Times-watcher to differentiate all that effectively between its correspondents' individual biases, I've long considered Bumiller one of the most biased.

Of course, when it comes to outright ridiculousness, no one can match Howard Dean. While I may have been defending the man just over a week ago (and still stand by what I said), the good Doctor isn't going to score any OxBlog points by saying that Bush's speech is
"beginning to remind me of what was happening with Lyndon Johnson and Dick Nixon during the Vietnam War."

Asked to explain the analogy to Vietnam, Dr. Dean said: "The government begins to feed misinformation to the American people in order to justify an enormous commitment of American troops, which turned out to be a tremendous mistake."
So it looks like Dean has bought into the quagmire myth hook, line and sinker. His first comment demonstrates that he has very little ability to distinguish between "nation-building" in Vietnam and nation-building in Iraq. However, his second comment shows that he isn't exactly ready to go public with that view. Instead of actually commenting on the supposed failure of the occupation, Dean's responded with a non sequitur about Presidential deception. Yes, yes, we've all heard about the uranium. But tonight's speech wasn't about uranium. From context, it seems clear that Dean's initial use of the Vietnam analogy concerned the President's decision to commit ever more resources to a failing cause. But he didn't have the guts to follow up that line of criticism.

Now, you might ask, why do I invest so much effort criticizing a candidate whose foreign policy I already know I don't like? Because I still haven't made up my mind what I would do if it were Dean vs. Bush in November '04. It's a question Josh keeps putting to me: What incentive does Dean have to be responsible about national security if even the most security-minded Democrats (e.g. me)will vote for him on domestic grounds?

With comments like the ones he made tonight, Dean has come that much closer to persuading me that I just can't trust him on national security. I may not like Bush's instincts or truly, truly trust him. But it seems that Dean's instincts are even worse.
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# Posted 10:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SCHWARZENEGGER '08: The NY Times says immigrants should have the same right as everyone else to run for President. Yet strangely, the NYT's masthead editorial avoids any mention of Big Arnie. While that isn't exactly a sin, it does point to an important omission in the Times' remarks. Whereas the NYT says that letting immigrants run is the right thing to do, it fails to point out that there is also considerable room for bipartisan compromise on the issue precisely because both parties have important leaders born abroad. Welcome to Schwarzenegger vs. Granholm in '08.
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# Posted 10:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PROUD OF GEORGE W. Two years ago, I never thought I'd write those words. Yet in the face of intense criticism from all sides, George Bush has held fast to his ambition of bringing democracy to Iraq. I felt truly proud when the President declared that:
In Iraq, we are helping the long-suffering people of that country to build a decent and democratic society at the center of the Middle East. Together we are transforming a place of torture chambers and mass graves into a nation of laws and free institutions. This undertaking is difficult and costly - yet worthy of our country, and critical to our security.

The Middle East will either become a place of progress and peace, or it will be an exporter of violence and terror that takes more lives in America and in other free nations. The triumph of democracy and tolerance in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and beyond would be a grave setback for international terrorism. The terrorists thrive on the support of tyrants and the resentments of oppressed peoples. When tyrants fall and resentment gives way to hope, men and women in every culture reject the ideologies of terror and turn to the pursuits of peace. Everywhere that freedom takes hold, terror will retreat.
Naive as I am, I recognize that many of the President's critics will write off the above as empty rhetoric. In response, I have two things to say. First, there are striking differences between tonight's speech and the President's February remarks on the rebuilding of Iraq. Whereas in February the President said that Iraq and its people are "fully capable of moving toward democracy and living in freedom", he has now made it clear that the United States will ensure that the people of Iraq fulfill their democratic potential. This is a major commitment of presidential credibility. It is no different than a campaign promise. The President and advisers know that if he does not live up to his word, he will pay a heavy price.

My second point about the President's speech also concerns credibility. While almost every American president has spoken eloquently about fighting for the democratic cause, few have done as much for democracy as they have said. Yet George Bush is keeping 130,000 US troops on the ground in Iraq, where they are working extremely hard to build a democratic state amidst the ruins of the Ba'athist dictatorship. Not since Harry Truman and Douglas MacArthur has the United States taken such dramatic action on behalf of the democratic cause.

Also surprisingly, the President explicitly committed himself to promoting democracy in Afghanistan, a country whose name he did not even mention in his February speech. While the President's actions re: Afghanistan have not been all that impressive up to this point, this kind of public commitment may begin to change that.

The question I am left asking myself now is "When will the disappointment come?" Proud as I am of the President for saying what he has said, part of me still suspects that he does not truly understand either what he is saying or the magnitude of it. This was the selfsame President who ran against nation-building as a candidate.

To be fair, it is not in the nature of Presidential speechmaking for the President to engage in the sort of introspective and confessional discourse that might convince listeners such as myself that he has recognized his previous errors rather than just chosen to forget them. Nor can the Presidently openly disavow the anti-nation building position of advisers such as Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and (possibly) Powell. The best one can hope for is an explicit and unequivocal commitment to doing that right thing. And George Bush has given us that.
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# Posted 9:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG COMES, ABBAS GOES: Josh is on his way to New Haven and I have moved into my new office at Harvard's Olin Institute. I really don't have any idea what's been going on in the real world this past week, although I can recommend an excellent BBQ joint near my office. Even that ornery Texan by the name of Chafetz thought it was good.

Speaking of ornery, things aren't going well in the Middle East, with Mahmoud Abbas resigning and the unknown Ahmed Qurei ("widely seen as the only internationally credible alternative to Mr. Abbas" -- NYT) emerging as the front-runner in the race to replace him.

Also, thumbs up to Israel for avoiding civilian casualties by using fewer explosives in their effort to kill Hamas "spiritual leader" Sheik Ahmed Yassin. Yassin survived the attack thanks to the small size of the Israeli bomb. But I'm guessing that he won't be able to run far enough or fast enough to avoid the next attack, given that he's a paraplegic.

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Thursday, September 04, 2003

# Posted 12:40 PM by Patrick Belton  

I'M PACKING TODAY. David's up at Harvard unpacking. And Josh's in transit. However, if any of our readers would like to come by and pitch in with the packing, I'm sure any of the three of us would be very happy to blog orally to provide entertainment.....
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Tuesday, September 02, 2003

# Posted 10:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ARABS LESS ANTI-SEMITIC THAN HARVARD: At least in this one instance. (Thanks to MV for the link.)
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# Posted 10:17 AM by Patrick Belton  

THANK GOODNESS THERE'S A BBC, PART I: Thinking Negatively Really Does Make You Depressed (headline from this morning's UK edition)
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# Posted 10:16 AM by Patrick Belton  

THANK GOODNESS THERE'S A BBC, PART II: Jazz Greats Blighted by Drugs, Alcohol, and Mental Illness." Wow. Pretty soon they'll be saying the same thing about heavy metal.....
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# Posted 10:08 AM by Patrick Belton  

JESSE JACKSON ARRESTED AT YALE: Several minutes ago, as part of a sympathy demonstration in support of striking service and clerical employees, Jesse Jackson was arrested after blocking traffic at the intersection of Elm and College. (See NYT, Yale's side, and the unions' side). Incidentally, Jesse has been arrested in connection with civil disobedience in New Haven before: in 1993, he was cited for public disturbance in connection with demonstrations in support of striking health care workers at Yale/New Haven Hospital.
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# Posted 12:13 AM by Patrick Belton  

"DROP DEAD GORGEOUS" REALITY PARALLEL OF THE DAY: 40 of 100 semi-finalist contestants at the Miss Italy beauty pagent developed acute allergic reactions on their big night to a metallic decorative design used in their costumes, triggering massive rashes, puffy cheeks, and tearing. (Kind of gives the other 60 an advantage.)
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# Posted 12:08 AM by Patrick Belton  

"UMMM, RIGHT" QUOTE OF THE DAY: Via CNN: "For his part, Pollard contends that he was an Israeli patriot, spying not against the United States, but for Israel."
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Monday, September 01, 2003

# Posted 10:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ACK! Glad to see Patrick's had a chance to get online. My landlord still hasn't finished installing the new windows in my place, so I haven't been able to move in yet. Expect the hiatus to last a bit longer.
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# Posted 6:24 PM by Patrick Belton  

A LETTER FROM OXBLOG'S NEPAL CORRESPONDENT: It's not Labor Day over there, thanks to the wonders of the international date line...so OxBlog's friend Joel Hafvenstein is at the office, logging long hours to bring us some ....
Bad news from Nepal.

When I was there last week, the peace talks with the Maoists were at an obvious impasse. The rebels yesterday cancelled the ceasefire, and have since assassinated one military colonel in Kathmandu, wounded another, and knocked over multiple banks in the south -- attacks clearly well-planned during the months of the peace process. The government has declared them terrorists, and America may well follow suit. A conflict which had already escalated exponentially since 2001 looks likely to get much bloodier.

See this article from Nepal News.

This time, the Maoists may also be directly targeting political leaders, not just military, police, and low-level party hacks and development workers. An attack on former PM Deuba's convoy on Monday (before the cancellation of the ceasefire) was described by apologetic Maoists as a mistake:

See here and here.

But they just made a (perhaps successful) assassination attempt against Devendra Raj Kandel, the hard-nosed Home Minister under the last Deuba government, which suggests that this time, the gloves are coming off. (Here's an interview indicating why Kandel was so hated by the Maoists: ) And the house of another political leader (negotiator in the recent govt-Maoist peace talks) was firebombed.

One of the more striking changes about Kathmandu this time was the number of sandbagged military emplacements that had sprung up around every major crossroads and government building. It's really come to look like a country at war. Which, sadly, it once again is.

Joel
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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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