OxBlog

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

# Posted 11:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THOUGHTS: I just want to send all my best to SS, who's in the hospital right now. Here's to a quick and full recovery.
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# Posted 11:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SUICIDE AND IDEOLOGY: Scholar Martin Kramer has put up a very good response to Robert Pape's argument that suicide bombings are not an ideological phenomenon.
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# Posted 10:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIBERATING IRAQ...FROM TARIFFS: Dan Drezner says free trade is already benefitting Iraq tremendously. But Juan Cole thinks free trade is a Chalabist scam (and Josh Marshall agrees). I know which way my instincts go on this one, but I don't have any actual evidence.
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# Posted 10:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GRAHAM CRACKED? I haven't seen anything in the papers yet, but I think it won't be long before he drops out. Mid-level campaign staffers are losing their jobs and some of the upper-mid-level folks are already talking to the Clark campaign.
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# Posted 10:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NO DANGER OF THAT: Matt Yglesias kindly warns me not to confuse Harvard with America.
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# Posted 10:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CALLING TPM: Why isn't Josh Marshall all over Dick Cheney's ridiculous defense of his assertion that Saddam was involved in the Sept. 11th attacks? Probably because Josh is focused "like a laser" on the Wilson/Plame scandal. If you want the latest on "Wilsongate", TPM is the place to go.

Also, it seems that Josh doesn't have enough time to invest in good publicity photos. As we all know, TPM features a photo of unshaven hipster Josh, gazing dreamily throught geek-chic glasses at what seems to be an invisible computer screen. Compare that to the snapshot of Josh running in his most recent Hill column. He's wearing a suit and scowling like he's got indigestion. Plus, what happened to "Micah"? Everyone knows that middle names are cool. If you don't got one, you're nothing. Right, W.?
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# Posted 9:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MY SPIDER-SENSE IS TINGLING: The NYT reports that Bush's 2000 campaign manager has set up a lobbying firm devoted to helping corporations get reconstruction contracts for Iraq.

In theory, there's nothing wrong with that. There are lobbyists for everything. But wouldn't it help for the administration to have a bidding process that was a lot more transparent? It almost makes you wonder if Paul Krugman is coming back into touch with reality. (But notice the cheapshot Krugman takes at Bechtel; if you read the WaPo story his accusation is based on, you'll see it's pretty unfair.)

UPDATE: Josh Marshall was all over this one before the NYT. Scroll up for further details.
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# Posted 9:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BAD NEWS & DIRTY POLITICS: In yesterday's Best of the Web, James Taranto catches WaPo correspondent Dana Milbank admitting that the media is looking for bad news in Iraq. Presumably for reasons of space, Jim left out the following Milbank quote, which I thought was even more damning:
MILBANK: What happened with President Bush is he was doing well for so long because of September 11. I think there was a lot of pent-up frustration in the press corps. They were waiting for that moment when there was, No. 1, a scandal, or, No. 2, a major policy failure.

KURTZ: They were waiting to jump on the president, waiting for him to stumble.

MILBANK: Yes, and that's not Bush in particular. Any president would get that.
What's really surprising is that Milbank answered Kurtz's question in the affirmative. I assumed Kurtz was baiting him, daring him to say the media wanted to make Bush look bad.

Now Milbank is probably right that the media would do that to any president. Hey, even Jimmy Carter got mercilessly thrashed by his ideological teammates.

But it's still pretty warped to think that the media would want to take the President down just because of his success (or perception thereof). That's even worse than an ideological or partisan bias. At least in those cases it's a matter of principle or politics. But resenting someone for their success is just short-sighted and childish, not to mention a betrayal of journalists obligation to their audience.

Then again, it isn't fair to condemn the entire press corps on the basis of one statment from one correspondent. Besides, Milbank deserves credit for being honest, i.e. telling us how he does his reporting.

CLARIFICATION: The original version of this post referred to Dana Milbank using feminine pronouns. This was a reflection of my ignorance, not an insidious effort to undermine Mr. Milbank's masculinity. And thanks to RiceGrad for catching my mistake. Also, Josh reminds me (via e-mail) that Aziz Poonawalla is a woman, not a man.
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# Posted 9:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPEAKING OF CULTURE WARS: Maybe David Brooks should've have written about the one going on between Japan & China.
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# Posted 8:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THROWING THE BOOK AT BROOKS: I don't know why I have it in for this guy. He's intelligent. He's moderate. But sometimes it seems like the broad social trends he identifies are fantasies cut from whole cloth.

Today, David Brooks writes that the Culture Wars have been replaced by attempted assassination of the President's character. It happened to Clinton and now its happening to Bush. Brooks writes:
During the 1980's, when the culture wars were going full bore, the Moral Majority clashed with the People for the American Way. Allan Bloom published "The Closing of the American Mind" and liberals and conservatives argued over the 1960's.
Uh, hello? Does anyone remember Ronald Reagan and how much both mainstream Democrats and committed liberals hated him? In fact, Reagan played a critical role in the Culture Wars, with opponents charging that his cliche vision of America as a Norman Rockwell painting was a deceptive facade behind which Republicans hid a radical right agenda.

The big point Brooks seems to miss is that the current occupant of the White House is always at the center of debates about American culture. The American President is the ultimate celebrity. No other figures commands to close to as much attention from the media, even if the question of the day is "Boxers or briefs?"

Brooks is right that abortion and other issues of personal morality are not in command of the headlines the way they once were. But what do you expect after 9-11? We're still fighting culture wars, except this time the playing field is foreign policy.
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# Posted 8:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RUMSFELD LISTENS TO OXBLOG: Last week, the SecDef published a contentious op-ed in the WaPo. This week he has an almost identical column in the WSJ Online edition. Identical, except for the fact that every argument OxBlog criticized has been taken out. Maybe those "dod.gov" hits were coming from the Secretary's office...

Also, Rumsfeld notes that
In Iraq, virtually all major hospitals and universities have been re-opened, and hundreds of secondary schools--until a few months ago used as weapons caches--have been rebuilt and were ready for the start of the fall semester.
Around here, we're still using the secondary schools as weapons caches!

PLUS: The WSJ has some sensible comments about reducing Iraq's debt burden.
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# Posted 8:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

VASECTOMY DELAYS TUBE COMMUTERS: While breakdowns are standard fare for the British rail system, I never suspected that this was the cause. (Special thanks to JK for the link.)
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Monday, September 29, 2003

# Posted 1:15 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BROOKS YET AGAIN: I really want to go to sleep, but after seeing Glenn cite this post from Juan Non-Volokh, I just had to respond.

Juan writes that
When I was an undergraduate at Yale, I had several long discussions with my senior essay advisor about whether to pursue my PhD. My advisor, who was himself quite liberal, cautioned against it, largely because of my emerging, right-of-center political views. As he described it, succeeding in the liberal arts academy is tough enough as it is without the added burden of holding unpopular views. To illustrate the risk, he noted that one of his colleagues on the graduate admissions committee explicitly blackballed each and every candidate who had ever received financial support (scholarships, fellowships, etc.) from the John M. Olin Foundation because, his colleague insisted, the Olin Foundation only funded people who thought like they did, and Yale did not want any graduate students who thought that way. If I truly wanted to be an academic, he counseled, I was better off going to law school.
So I guess I must be pretty f***ed, given that I'm a fellow at the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies. Then again, I'm headed for DC, so it's no skin off my back.

But seriously...prior Olin fellows have an extremely impressive track record of finding tenure-track positions at top-tier universities. Moreover, we're very much part of the mainstream here at Harvard. And finally, I can assure you that the rest of the Olin Fellows don't share either the Foundation's political views or my own.

So, is there a message here? First, read the rest of Juan's post. He has some excellent insights into the hiring process which aren't quoted above. Second, I agree with the points Juan makes in the rest of his post, namely that anti-conservative sentiment is rarely a direct factor in the hiring process. However, it shapes the environment in a way that it makes it hard for conservatives to feel comfortable.

In so many words, Juan does a far more eloquent job than myself of arguing for the importance of self-selection in the hiring process.
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# Posted 12:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE ACADEMIC FASCISM: Yesterday, I discounted David Brooks' concern that the liberal academy persecutes conservative professors and graduate students. The question is, am I being naive?

JG says
I do not quite understand how you can argue that there partisan political ideas do not affect the hiring process. If that is the case, how do you explain the fact that America is divided roughly equally between conservatives, liberals, and independents, and yet the academy is 90% liberal?

I mean that as an honest question, not rhetorically...at my college and among most of my friends, the idea that you could vote for Bush is considered beyond the pale. I had a friend from college (now getting a PhD in physics at Cornell) who said, matter-of-factly, that someone he knew "opposed the war in Iraq - as any reasonable person would." Well, since I supported the war in Iraq, I objected to this. We ended up having a very good conversation about it (he's a very open-minded person), and he concluded that my position was rational and that conservatives weren't as crazy as he thought - and that he simply had been in an environment where no one had ever even bothered to understand conservative views.
So why are 90% of professors liberal? One answer might be self-selection. Given how liberal the academy is, how many conservatives would actually want to spend their entire professional lives there? There's a lot more respect available elsewhere, not to mention financial rewards and job security (after all, tenure is rather hard to come by).

Obviously, I don't have empirical evidence to back up my claim. But I am very skeptical of those who look at the numbers and assume that active prejudice is responsible for the divide.

By way of comparison, think about journalism. Most reporters are left-of-center. But that's because the left valorizes journalism in a way that the right simply does not.

Now what about the evidence of active prejudice that I dismissed as hearsay? Michael Ledeen writes that
Anecdotally, I have spoken to many young academics who are concealing their true political convictions because they know that they will never get tenure as conservatives, but only as liberals.
Adding fuel to the fire, AC describes a strange incident at the University of Michigan in which a Nigerian professor sued the University, charging that the lesbian feminist chair of his department denied him tenure because he wasn't a woman.

Now, what this all reminds me of is a column I wrote for the Yale Daily News a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. (Btw, many thanks to the YDN for continuting to archive all of my old columns online, along with those of my fellow columnists.)

Anyhow, in said column I took issue with student activists who argued that sexism was responsible for the predominance of men on the Yale faculty. While writing the column, I had the chance to sit down with two representatives of the Yale Women's Center who passionately believed that sexism was responsible for the gender imbalance.

I found their arguments unpersuasive, however, precisely because they rested on exactly the same sort of hearsay that Brooks and others rely on to demonstrate the anti-conservative prejudice of the academy. This is not to deny that some of this hearsay evidence reflects actual instances of prejudice.

Rather, I suspect that those who focus on the hearsay tend to ignore much more compelling arguments for the absence of certain sorts of professors, be they female or conservative. (With regard to women, I listed the other relevant arguments in my column.)

While I haven't researched the hiring process as it pertains to conservatives, I think one has address two big points before crying wolf: First is the issue of self-selection, as mentioned above. Has anyone actually documented the political preferences of grad school applicants? By the same token, what explains the decisions of so many conservative Ph.D.s to leave the academy? Was it prejudice or opportunity?

Second is an issue briefly mentioned in yesterday's post, i.e. the influence of esoteric methodological debates on hiring practices. Given the demonstrated importance of such concerns, shouldn't we look at them first before concluding that political concerns drive the hiring process?

I'm not saying that I have the answers to these questions. But I think David Brooks should've made a much more serious effort to address them before deciding that liberals are the one to blame.
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# Posted 12:14 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THIS: Never a fan of Ahmed Chalabi, OxBlog asked last week why the INC chief was echoing French demands for an immediate transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi council.

Well, we may now have an answer. According to an internal report by the Defense Intelligence Agency, all of the information provided by Chalabi & Co. before the war was completely worthless. Thus, Chalabi may have assumed that his days as a Pentagon protege were numbered, and figured that the sooner America is out of Iraq, the better for him.

After all, Chalabi only has a position on the Iraqi council thanks to American influence. If elections are ever held, he'll probably become nothing than a footnote in Iraqi history. But if the council becomes the first sovereign Iraqi government, Chalabi may be in a position to consolidate his power base despite having negligible popular support.

Of course, this is all speculation. But there is good reason to only expect the worst from Chalabi.
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# Posted 12:00 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE LESSONS OF (RECENT) HISTORY: The British have been involved a quiet nation-building exercise in Sierra Leone since 1998. The United States may want to consider the implications.
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Sunday, September 28, 2003

# Posted 11:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I WANT A RAISE! This morning's paper says that
Harvard, whose endowment was already the largest in the country, earned a 12.5 percent return on its investments in the 2003 fiscal year (which ended June 30) helping its endowment climb to $19.3 billion. Investment experts said the gain was not only one of the highest among colleges, but also among large financial funds generally.
I'd also like my own office, preferably with a window. And a pony.
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Saturday, September 27, 2003

# Posted 8:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DUELING HEADLINES: The WaPo says "Bush, Putin Urge Iran, N. Korea to Abandon Suspected Nuclear Weapons Programs". The NYT says "Russia Won't End Accord With Iran to Build Reactor"

I'm going to have to go with the NYT on this one. Putin is a lying thug. And what is going on at the WaPo? Last week, it ran an editorial saying Putin is a lying thug. Now they're making nice?

Well, at least W. isn't going on anymore about seeing into Putin's soul. Instead, he damns him with faint praise: "I like [Putin]. He's a good fellow to spend quality time with." They used to say that about Brezhnev, too.
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# Posted 8:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LEFT-WING FASCISTS: David Brooks says the liberal academy is making life impossible for aspiring conservative professors.

I don't buy it. First of all, Brooks' evidence consists mostly of hearsay statements made by those with axes to grind. Thus, I'm glad Brooks is fair enough to quote Volokh Conspirator Jacob T. Levy, who observes that
...some conservatives exaggerate the level of hostility they face. Some politicized humanities departments may be closed to them, he concedes, but professors in other fields are open to argument.
From where I stand, what matters far more to hiring committees (at least in polisci departments) are not their partisan political preferences, but rather the sides they have chosen in esoteric ivory tower civil wars.
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# Posted 8:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EVASION OR EFFICIENCY? The NYT reports that US Central Command is making it harder and harder for visitors on its website to get news about casualties in Iraq.

While the Times strongly implies that Central Command is hiding the bad news in order to make it seem like the occupation is working, I think there's a much simpler explanation to be had: The Pentagon doesn't want to waste energy publicizing casualty reports that the NYT is going to splash all over the front page anyway.
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# Posted 8:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"IT IS OK TO HATE GEORGE BUSH": That's one of the signs that today's protesters have up in Harvard Square. Another good one was "Lobotomies for Republicans -- It's the Law". Well at least they're promoting a positive agenda for social change, instead of just engaging in destructive partisan attacks.
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# Posted 9:37 AM by Patrick Belton  

IT'S A LONG WAY TO TIPPERARY but Galway's not so far off. My lovely wife and I are off to Ireland to pass our anniversary in the traditional style - i.e., cold, and with lots of busybodying fishermen neighbours poking their noses in our bedroom window when we wake up. We'll be off in Inishmaan, the middle of the three Irish-speaking Aran Islands in Galway Bay, where I've got some relations. Look for a Letter from Ireland to come.

In the meantime, we'll be reading Playboy to each other on the bus to Stansted (not Heffner's, sorry, but Synge's Playboy of the Western World - close as I could get us), as well as Ulysses to each other once we get there.

Slainte!
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Friday, September 26, 2003

# Posted 5:20 PM by Patrick Belton  

BRAVO TO THE WASH POST for having this to say about Russia's undemocratic efforts in Chechnya, and Russia's pure gall in comparing its operations there with US and allied opererations in Iraq and Afghanistan:
Mr. Putin likes to compare the four-year-old Russian war against Chechens seeking independence with the U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan; in a meeting with American journalists last weekend, he questioned whether U.S. forces were violating human rights on the streets of Baghdad. In fact the comparison is obscene. In Chechnya Russian troops have wiped out a democratically elected government, killed tens of thousands of civilians, forced others out of refugee camps and back into the war zone, reduced the capital and every major town to rubble, indiscriminately rounded up the entire male populations of dozens of villages for torture or summary execution and so shattered the country's civil society that previously marginal Islamic extremists now are a major force.
This war, remember, was launched purely to bolster Mr Putin's presidential ambitions. As the WashPost notes,
Putin was a strong opponent of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and now he says he is skeptical of U.S. plans for reconstruction. Any political transition, he insists, must be endorsed by the United Nations and Arab states around Iraq. So we can only imagine what Mr. Putin's reaction would be if, during their scheduled meeting at Camp David this week, President Bush were to confide that his official plan to return Iraq to representative government was a mere facade. Mr. Bush might say that Iraq's constitution actually would be written in Washington so as to permanently require the presence of U.S. troops and political control and that the United States would select a presidential candidate who would be allowed to install his campaign manager as supervisor of all Iraqi media. If any serious challengers dared to take on Washington's favorite in a U.S.-run election, the White House would simply force them out of the race."
Well put.
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# Posted 10:27 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE RACE FOR 2004: Kevin Drum rounds up yesterday's Democratic debate and says its time for the also-rans to let Dean & Clark get down to business.

Kevin also raises the important issue of Mrs. Clark's hairstyle. I have to admit, it may be even siller than Laura Bush's.
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# Posted 9:40 AM by Patrick Belton  

PARIS, CAPITAL OF FREEDOM: Today in the capital of Freedom (well, that would be the logical result of doing a massive cultural search-and-replace, converting "France" and "French" into "Freedom," wouldn't it?), a Frenchman named Thierry Meyssan took moral umbrage at the much-publicized deck of cards presenting ex-tyrant Saddam and his sub-thugs as the jokers they were. Said deck of cards had, of course, an illustrious lineage dating back to the Allies' efforts in WWII, but then again, come to think of it, the French weren't too much in favour of that, either. Thus Monsieur Meyssan: "I found it completely indecent to present a manhunt as a game." So he came up with his own deck, with members of the Bush administration prominently displayed therein. "We thought this card game would allow us to ... explain why we consider the government of George Bush a threat to international security."

M. Meyssan's seizure of the moral high ground, however, gets a little shaky when we remember that in a kooky book called 9-11: The Big Lie, he claimed that no plane ever crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, and that the attacks were plotted by a faction within the U.S. military. What's even more troubling is that his book was a best-seller in France (sorry, I meant Freedom).

As with culture, music, and revolutions, of course, Moscow's destiny has generally been to copy Paris, so we can now also buy a deck na-pycckii from Kommersant. Which, incidentally, attempted to take the high road with its. "We want to show our readers the various faces of the current U.S. political elite,...that it is a complex, living organism with varied and vivid personalities," said Azer Mursaliyev, foreign editor of the business daily Kommersant, which designed the cards. Danyet. Gimme a break.
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Thursday, September 25, 2003

# Posted 7:49 PM by Patrick Belton  

TEQUILA WARS: Half of Mexico's total Tequila output is consumed in the United states - 86.4 million bottles in 2002. That's a lotta Tequila. Of this, 83 percent is shipped to the U.S. in bulk form and bottled here. This, however, may change, and whether it is set to do so or not is the topic of a trade war currently...err, brewing...between Washington and Mexico City. Mexico is threatening to cut off the bulk exports, saying it needs to tighten quality controls on the namebrand which the Government of Mexico, in fact, owns. So the Mexican government is drafting a regulation to ensure all Tequila is bottled in Mexico, and is moving on a timetable of publishing the regulation in late October, with the aim of entering into effect as early as the start of the coming year. Meanwhile, American bottling industry officials are saying the Government of Mexico is simply making a grab for bottling jobs. Mexico's Tequila Regulatory Council is saying that purported bulk shipments have turned out to be sugar cane alcohol or grains spirits, or that U.S. bottlers were violating Mexican standards by mixing different varieties of Tequila together.

Maybe if they just all had a drink together....
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# Posted 7:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TEMPEST IN THE ACADEMIC TEAPOT: When I put up posts about theoretical and methodological issues in political science, I generally expect them to be ignored. After all, that kind of stuff is pretty distant from real politics.

But what I underestimated, I think, was how many bloggers have a dog in this fight. Thus, there were passionate responses to my post from both Dan Drezner and Chris Lawrence, as well as a pretty animated discussion in the comments section following Dan's post.

However, despite the rising temperature, I don't think I disagree with all that much in their posts. A few clarifications are in order, however. First of all, I was all but unaware of the "perestroika" movement in political science at the time of writing my post.

As a scholar of British extraction, nothing that happens on the far side of the Atlantic tends to enter my stream of consciousness. However, in the past three weeks at Harvard, I have heard some murmuring about "perestroika" without really knowing what it's about.

What I can definitely say is that after reading the article about the movment which Dan recommended, I think I can say that I am fundamentally sympathetic to its objectives. (On the other hand, I find it strange to agree with John Mearsheimer about anything.)

Next up: Dan surmises that
There's a very big difference between creating new data and using new statistical techniques to analyze old data. I strongly suspect Adesnik's source of irritation is the latter. The former is way too rare in the discipline, especially in international relations. Mostly that's because building new data sets takes a lot of time and the rewards in terms of professional advancement are not great, whereas relying on old data has no fixed costs.
Actually, I'm far more frustrated by the new data sets than the rehashing of the old ones. Just three days ago I was at a presentation in which a colleague described the data set she assembled on over 120 civil wars that have taken place since 1945. Since Latin America is the region I know best, I pulled the Latin American cases out of the data to set look at them.

What I found was that a very large proportion of the cases were "coded" in a misleading or flat-out wrong manner. Why? Because no one can study 120 civil wars. But pressure to come up with data sets leads scholars to do this anyway and do it poorly. Of course, since their work is evaluated mostly by other scholars who lack the historical knowledge to criticize their work, they get away with it. And so the academic merry-go-round spins merrily along.

Now for an actual disagreement: Chris Lawrence takes exception to my statement that "it is absolutely impossible to explain the tactics of Al Qaeda or Hamas without reference to their perverse ideologies." He responds:
It is? Actually, it’s pretty easy to explain their tactics—historically, they’ve been quite effective. What’s (slightly) more difficult to explain is why Al Qaeda and Hamas engage in terrorism while the Sierra Club and Libertarian Party don’t.
With apologies to Chris, his comment summarizes everything that is wrong with political science. Who but a political scientist could think that ideology is not a good explanation for the differences between the Sierra Club and Hamas?

Now, if Chris is still willing to talk to me after that cheap shot, I'd ask him where he's been spending the past month given that he
just came back from spending a month with people who told me that the absolute worst way to get a job in political science is to “invent statistics.”
Around Harvard, all one hears is that incorporating statistics into one's work significantly increases one's marketability (and I don't just mean at the p<.05 level -- we're talking p<.01 on a one-tailed test.) Obviously, Harvard isn't the be all and end all of political science, but all the visiting fellows from Stanford, Columbia, etc. agree. Also, consider the following, taken from the Perestroika article that Dan recommended:
In their study “Methodological Bias in the APSR” David Pion-Berlin, a political scientist at the University of California at Riverside, an outspoken perestroikan, and his student Dan Cleary assessed APSR content from 1991 to 2000, finding that 74 percent of its articles were based on empirical statistical analysis or formal modeling. Only 25 percent involved political theory, and just 1 percent were qualitative case studies of particular governments or institutions. In a “publish or perish” world where jobs and research funding are doled out according to APSR appearances on c. vitae, qualitative researchers, as Mearsheimer puts it, “are considered dinosaurs.”
Yikes. Btw, I do need to concede one point Chris made. It is ironic that my anti-polisci jeremiad was provoked by a study that had comparatively few statistics in it -- something I would've noticed if I'd looked at the American Political Science Review instead of the New York Times. Still, the words "comparatively few" are important here. The study in question makes exactly those mistakes I ascribe to political science in general, even if it is not the worst offender.

Finally, the Edward Said challenge. I obviously agree that many area studies experts with extensive language training add little to our collective knowledge because of their political prejudices. But I am firm in many conviction that many of the simple errors that political scientists make could be avoided through greater area expertise.

Take, for example, the flaws in the civil war data set mentioned above. I'm hardly a Latin America specialist, but even some knowledge of the region's history made it apparent that the data set was flawed. If political scientists had greater expertise in a given region, they would appreciate just how often in-depth study is necessary to get even the basic facts right. Thus, when putting together a global data set, no political scientist would even consider coding the data before consulting colleagues who are experts in the relevant regional subfields.

But is that enough? As Dan says,
I have no doubt that historians can, through closely argued scholarship, identify which groups are extremist -- ex post. The key is to find descriptive characteristics that can be identified ex ante. Without ex ante markers to identify proper explanatory variables, theories degenerate into tautologies.
It's sort of strange that Dan picked the identification of extremist groups as his example, since that's an easy case for me. Long before 9/11, almost everyone in the US government believed that Osama bin Laden was a menace because of his radical ideology. Included in that "everyone" are Steve Simon and Daniel Benjamin, NSC experts who published an article months before 9/11 arguing that bin Laden's ideology set him far apart from other terrorists precisely because he wanted to kill as many civilians as possible, rather than simply generating media coverage though small to medium-sized attacks.

Only now, two years after 9/11, does a generalist like Robert Pape come along and tell us that ideology isn't the primary cause of suicide terror attacks. Ah, political science.

Last but not least: I can agree with just about everything in Josh's response to my original post. That post was certainly more polemical than nuanced.
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# Posted 7:02 PM by Patrick Belton  

NOW THIS is just cool. What's even cooler is that one of my better friends at Oxford is working on the project. (And incidentally, she's gorgeous, single....and is singularly easy to date, since she comes with her own portable library of movies...)
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# Posted 6:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE DUROCHER MYTH: Multiple readers have let me know that Leo Durocher never said "Nice guys finish last." Actually, someone asked him about the Chicago Cubs and he said "Nice guys;...[they'll] finish last."

My real problem with this correction is that now you can't follow up Durocher's alleged remark with "Or not at all." Think about it.
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# Posted 4:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RUMSFELD AS PILATE: Josh is right that there were some strong points in Sec. Rumsfeld's op-ed in the WaPo this morning. But there was also much about his column that was disingenuous and disturbing.

First of all, I don't know how Rumsfeld can pretend that the US limited its role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan in order to prevent Afghans from becoming dependent on American largesse. Next he'll be telling us that we left all those warlords in place so that we don't deprive the Afghans of the good feeling that comes from building one's own central government.

Then, in a truly splendiferous display of chutzpah, Rumsfeld insists that the United States has consistently sought to treat Iraq no differently than Afghanistan by avoiding an excessive post-war presence. Hence,
We kept our footprint modest, liberating Iraq with a little more than 100,000 U.S. troops on the ground.
That's right folks, the real reason for limiting the size of the invasion of force had nothing to do with technology or military strategy. It was all about increasing Iraqi self-esteem.

But perhaps one ought to look past this sort of ridiculous rhetoric and accept that Rumsfeld simply isn't able to be honest about a lot of things. At least he's decided to get on board the President's plan for democratizing Iraq. As Rumsfeld writes,
The work in Iraq is difficult, costly and dangerous. But it is worth the risks and the costs...

If we succeed, we will deal terrorism a powerful blow, because a democratic Iraq in the heart of the Middle East would be a defeat for the ideology of terror that is seeking to take control of that area of the world.
Still, I can't shake the feeling that Rumsfeld is starting to lay the groundwork for American withdrawal for a nation-building process he never wanted to become involved in in the first place. Take the following passage, for example:
To help Iraqis succeed, we must proceed with some humility. American forces can do many remarkable things, but they cannot provide permanent stability or create an Iraqi democracy. That will be up to the Iraqi people.
In other words, once things begin to head south, we can blame the Iraqi people and bring the boys back home. Or we can declare democracy a failure and recognize a military regime.

No, Rumsfeld didn't say either of those things...explicitly. But can you really trust a man that has so little respect for the American public?
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# Posted 4:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE IMMUTABLE LAWS RETURN: Last month, Maureen Dowd told us that Arnold Schwarzenegger is
is running on pecs and running away from peccadilloes...he's smoked marijuana and his father was a Nazi...
But the Times they are a changin'. Today, MoDo is praising Arnold for his unmatched candor:
Later that night [after our interview, Arnold] called to say he hadn't given me properly reflective answers. Oh, boy, I thought, here comes the usual pretentious pap pols dish out about reading Winston Churchill and watching foreign indies. "I forgot to tell you," Arnold said eagerly, "my two favorite actresses are Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep. And my idol is Clint Eastwood. And I loved `The Lion King.' "
So what's going on here? How did Schwarzenegger go from whipping-boy to poster boy?

Answer: He made Dowd believe that he is a real European. And as The Fifth Immutable Law of Dowd states: "Europeans are always right."

Last month, Dowd thought of Schwarzenegger as nothing more than a product of Hollywood kitsch, i.e. pure America. But then, Arnold told Maureen that
"I love shopping for my wife...because wherever I go in the world, I think about her and I want to bring something back. So when you go to Europe, they have great stores. So I go and I get jackets, shirts, whole outfits, dresses. Because I know exactly the sizes!
So I guess I've learned my lesson. Dowd never departs from the Immutable Laws. It is just lesser mortals such as myself who fail to apply them properly.
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# Posted 3:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE READ OUR NEWSPAPER: From a NYT masthead editorial:
Mr. Bush and his aides also seem to go to great lengths to underline the degree to which the president closes himself off from the news media. In an interview with Fox News this week, the president said he learned most of what he needs to know from morning briefings by his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and his chief of staff, Andrew Card.

As for newspapers, Mr. Bush said, "I glance at the headlines" but "rarely read the stories."
Bush doesn't read OxBlog either, but we won't use that as an excuse to take cheapshots at Condi & Andrew!
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# Posted 12:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BASEBALL AND POLITICAL SCIENCE: The next book I'm going to read is Michael Lewis' Moneyball. It is the story of how the Oakland A's have managed to win more games than anyone else while spending less and less on players' salaries. But really it's a book about capitalism.

For a good review of the book, head over to TNR. According to Cass Sunstein & Richard Thaler, the remarkable success of A's manager Billy Beane demonstrates how unconventional thinking can expose and exploit massive inefficiencies in an open marketplace.

This is not a new idea for Lewis, however, who first made a name for himself with Liar's Poker, an inside account of Salomon Brothers' meteoric rise and fall reflected the damaging conventional wisdom and inbred culture of the bond-trading world. (I happen to be reading Liar's Poker right now and recommend it highly.)

Thus, to my mind, what really stands out about Moneyball is how its hero, Billy Beane, drew most of his ideas from the work of an obscure statistician by the name of Bill James.

Now, for some of us, James is not obscure. As an intellectual and inept eleven-year old, I thought of James as a godsend. Here's was someone who insisted that brains matter far more in baseball than raw talent. (Not that the kids at summer camp would stop laughing at my incompetence on the baseball diamond, but at least I could feel a little bit better about myself.)

In hindsight, it seems pretty self-evident that the relationship between myself and the jocks strongly resembles the current relationship between political scientists and policymakers. Like James, the professors blast the policymakers for subscribing to primitive myths that prevent them from doing their job as best they can. Like jocks, the policymakers laugh at the pointy-headed intellectuals who think they know how to draft good laws and negotiate with foreign governments.

The difference between James and the political scientists is that James' ideas are now proven to work. Meanwhile, political scientists continue to produce veritable avalanches of useless statistics that resemble pseudo-science more than anything else. Of course, what motivates political scientists (some might even admit it) is that one day, a man like Billy Beane will become President or Secretary of State or National Security Adviser and decide to put their ideas to work, finally vindicating all those years of hard academic labor.

My guess is that political scientists who read Moneyball will find it a source of renewed faith in their profession. That, however, is wrong the lesson to draw from it.

The starting point for a political analysis of Moneyball is recognition of the fact that baseball is an inherently amoral activity. As Leo Durocher said, "Nice guys finish last." Ty Cobb was selfish and cruel individual, but also perhaps the best hitter of all time. Unsurprisingly, the Detroit Tigers' management decided that Cobb's ethical deficiencies didn't reduce his value as player.

In contrast, politics is an inherently ethical enterprise. Of course, after watching politicians in actions, you may conclude that politics is an inherently unethical enterprise. But that is exactly the point. We judge politicians from a moral perspective, regardless of whether we are praising or condemning them.

Unfortunately, political scientists seem to believe that they can grapple with the most profound political challenges without approaching them from an ethical perspective. After all, the mission of modern political science is to produce objective analyses of political events from which one can derive rational policy recommendations.

Yet in the absence of values, there is no such thing as rational politics. Rationality is a means to an end. Only values can define the merits of one end as opposed to another.

In theory, there could still be room for a rational science for politics if professors recognized that their mission was to identify the most effective set of means to a given end. However, this will only be possible if political scientists recognize that political actors are fundamentall moral actors.

The great flaw of modern political science is its desire to imitate microeconomists (and share in their prestige) by developing theorems that explain and predict the behavior of rational actors. Of course, that is exactly the wrong way to go about things. It is only when political scientists recognize that ideas and values are what drive politicians and voters that they will begin to produce something worthy of the name "science".
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# Posted 9:29 AM by Patrick Belton  

KLEINFELDS ON A ROLL: A couple of days ago over on Volokh, I was pointing out my mother-in-law's new book on the significance of frontiers in American culture. Well, now I'll be darned if they haven't got a dern good piece out on Iraq, too. Wow - my in-laws are writing more than me, and they've got real jobs! Not too shabby!

A few morsels, to provide a taste of their argument:
As we try to institutionalize democracy and freedom in Iraq, we need to take a clear-eyed look at what makes them stick. Externally imposed institutions, like constitutions and systems of law, are necessary but not sufficient. What makes freedom put down roots is culture. The world is littered with tyrannies calling themselves democracies with paper constitutions like our own. As the great Judge Learned Hand put it, "Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women. When it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it . . . While it lies there, it needs no constitution, no court, no law to save it."

What can be transferred to Iraq are institutions that may go some distance in fostering a freedom-loving culture. Chief among these is the free-enterprise system, which creates economic incentives to protect private property, spurs individuality and creativity, and — of no small importance — fosters anti-authoritarian childrearing practices to adapt children to succeed in an entrepreneurial environment. Free enterprise would be greatly assisted by something like the Alaska Permanent Fund, so that a portion of the oil money goes from the oil companies to the people, instead of from the oil companies to the government. Not only is it absurd for the people to be so poor in one of the richest oil states in the world, but the money excessively concentrates power in the government. If more people have money, more will have an interest in personal freedom, in being left alone by the government, and people with money will furnish power centers independent of each other and government.

Federalism, as well as separation of powers in the national government, promotes freedom, by creating independent, competing centers of power. It is a natural fit with Iraq's existing cultural divisions. Americans can support and encourage an Iraqi culture of democracy and freedom by supporting Iraqi artists and intellectuals who celebrate individual liberty grounded in indigenous cultural traditions. We did this successfully in Europe after World War II, such as by funding publications where freedom-minded authors unwelcome in the Communist magazines could publish. Iraq needs its own free, individualistic heroes. Much of our own socialization into a culture of freedom comes from the stories, music, movies, and heroic romances we grew up with, celebrating strong individuals doing the right thing, and doing their own thing.
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Wednesday, September 24, 2003

# Posted 12:38 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HONEY, I SHRUNK THE BLOG: Wondering where we've all been the past couple of days? Actually, probably not, since Josh explained the situation rather clearly. Anyhow, we're once again in business here at OxBlog.

Actually, we're only half in business for the moment since none of our permalinks are working. #$%@& Blogger!

That said, the big news for the moment is that Wes Clark is far ahead of the pack in a new CNN poll, even beating Bush in a head-to-head competition. Then again, Dukakis was a 15-point leader back in the summer of '88...

Yet regardless of the fact that this poll doesn't say much about November '04, it does provide Clark with the kind of jet fuel he needed to avoid becoming just another Democratic hopeful. Things may get interesting, especially Clark can finally decide whether he was for or against the war in Iraq.

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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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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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