Monday, October 20, 2003

# Posted 12:40 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOW TO AVOID IMPLICIT HISTORICAL ANALOGIES: Don't call Iraq a quagmire. Call it a monkey trap.
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# Posted 12:29 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE USUAL EXCUSE: "I said I had sold a water buffalo to someone in Afghanistan and I needed to collect my money." That is how one Taliban fighter persuaded a border guard to let him in. As the WaPo explains, the Afghan-Pakistani border is completely porous. What I want to know is whether that's because Musharraf wants it that way or because it's inevitable.
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# Posted 12:11 AM by Dan  

SPACE RACING. Our good friend Jackie Newmyer has once again published an article on the topic of China and its technological/military goals. In June she wrote a piece in Policy Review. A regional paper in the Northeast picked up her most recent article. I dare repeat myself: Jackie is so hot right now. Jackie.
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Sunday, October 19, 2003

# Posted 1:46 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HYPOCRISY AT THE VATICAN: As Andrew Sullivan explains in the NYT,
The current pope is obviously a deep and holy man; but that makes his hostility even more painful. He will send emissaries to terrorists, he will meet with a man who tried to assassinate him. But he has not and will not meet with openly gay Catholics. They are, to him, beneath dialogue. His message is unmistakable. Gay people are the last of the untouchables. We can exist in the church only by silence, by bearing false witness to who we are.
Sad but true.
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# Posted 1:26 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NEVER HAS AMERICAN PRESTIGE IN EUROPE BEEN LOWER: That is a direct quote from this essay in Life Magazine, dated January 7, 1946. As you might have guessed, the essay's main point is that the American occupation of Germany had become a catastrophic failure.

What I want to know is how widespread this sort of pessimism was. I hope that someone out there is conducting a survey of US and foreign coverage of the occupation from 1945-1949. Until then, I guess the best we can do is keep an open mind.
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# Posted 1:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AS JOSH POINTS OUT, some of the Senators who voted for demanding repayment from Iraq are running for re-election. Perhaps more importantly, two of them are running for President: John Kerry and John Edwards. Meanwhile, Howard Dean is refusing to take a position on the issue because -- believe it or not -- he isn't running for Senate.
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Saturday, October 18, 2003

# Posted 3:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ARE YOU A NEO-CON? Greg Djerejian points to this amusing little quiz in the Christian Science Monitor. Greg reports that he was a realist at first, but then changed one answer he wasn't sure about and became a neo-con.

I just took the quiz myself and discovered-- to my complete surprise -- that I am a realist. My surprise abated, however, when I read the quiz's definition of realism, which has absolutely nothing in common with the capital-R realism of Hans Morgenthau, George Kennan and Henry Kissinger.

All in all, I'd have to say that the CSM definitions are fairly crude and are unfair to everyone except the (mis-named) realists. In short, the liberals are naive, the neo-cons are jingoistic and the isolationists have their head in the sand. This leaves us with the realists, who come across as sensible, pragmatic moderates.

But a sensible, pragmatic moderate is not what I am. Rather, I am a fierce advocate of basing American foreign policy on democratic principles. I am neither a liberal multilateralist nor a neo-con unilateralist. "-lateralisms" are means, not ends. Democracy is the end.

In fact, I think that there are a lot of liberals and neo-cons who would agree that we all share an interest in promoting democracy but disagree on how to achieve that objective. However, in the CSM and elsewhere, that disagreement has become the news, while the underlying principles get ignored.
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# Posted 1:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS? Or perhaps just $20.
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# Posted 3:35 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOT FORGOTTEN: The WaPo calls upon the President to speak out on behalf of Aung San Suu Kyi and the cause of Burmese democracy.
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# Posted 3:22 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SADR'S CHALLENGE: Brian Ulrich thinks I may be underestimating Moqtada Sadr's potential to become a major force in Shi'ite politics as well as a threat to American interests. With the tension between Sadr and the U.S. now coming to a head, it may not be long before we find out how much of a threat he is.
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# Posted 3:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IN GOLF WE TRUST: Reihan points to this ESPN column on anti-Asian prejudice in the world of golf. I'm going to have to agree that there is a double standard when it comes to tackling racism in public life. But with Howell Raines gone, who is going to make sure the prejudice in the world of golf is front page news?
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# Posted 2:56 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GOD BLESS HALLIBURTON! I can't put my finger on anything explicity wrong with this op-ed by Halliburton CEO Dave Lesar, but it just seems so damn suspicious.

UPDATE: Or maybe I should be more worried about what Halliburton is doing on the homefront.
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# Posted 2:44 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HATING REAGAN VS. HATING BUSH: If you take a look at David Brooks' over-the-top column in today's NYT, you'll see that the I Hate Bush debate is still at the top of the agenda. As such, I thought I'd reprint some comments sent in by readers who are old enough to remember the Reagan era and compare it to what we have today.

First, Kevin Drum writes that
For what it's worth, I've thought about the Bush/Reagan comparison a fair amount, and of course I have personal experience of both. I can't quite explain this, but my take is that you're exactly right but completely wrong.

That is, everything you said is correct, and a lot of liberals forget just how much we loathed Reagan at the time. Ed Meese was his Ashcroft, Weinberger was his Rumsfeld, the Soviet Union was his Iraq, etc. And there were all the same jokes about moving to Canada if he won again.

And yet....all I can say is that Bush really is different. I think part of it is the fact that Reagan at least seemed to earn the office. He was governor of CA for 8 years, he ran for president twice before winning, and he had serious ideological credentials (i.e., his anti-communism was serious and long established). By contrast, Bush seems like a frat boy with no experience and no real core beliefs who got elected on nothing but name recognition and the ability to woo lots of big donors. That drives everyone nuts.

And the fact is that Bush *is* more partisan. Despite his rhetoric, Reagan was rather famous for being pretty pragmatic, both as president and as governor. Bush, on the other hand, gives no quarter. Ever.

And, finally, there's 9/11. Reagan may have talked big, but he never did anything more serious than spend a lot of money and support a few guerrillas. Bush has actually fought a big pre-emptive war.

Finally, Reagan always seemed like a friendly guy. Even liberals saw that in him. However, Bush doesn't. In fact, I think he has a mean streak a mile wide and I wouldn't even want to meet him, let alone vote for him. I just flat don't like his personality, and I think that's pretty universal among liberals.

Anyway, I'm just guessing at the reasons here, but I think there really is a difference. Liberals don't hate Bush so much as they despise him, and I think it really is stronger than it was with Reagan. Just thought you might be interested.
Kevin makes a lot of good points, but I want to put one of them context and disagree with another. First, as I argued yesterday, Bush can afford to be more partisan because he has solid support on the Hill. Imagine what Reagan might have done with Congress behind him.

More importantly, I have to sharply disagree with the assertion that Reagan "never did anything more serious than spend a lot of money and support a few guerrillas." The fact is, a massive anti-nuclear movement believed that Reagan was about to blow the world to kindgom come. As members of the MTV generation may recall, there was a classic Genesis video in which a claymation version of the President wakes up in distress and tries to press the red 'Nurse' button next to his bed, but instead hits the one below it labeled 'Nukes'. In hindsight, the video is pretty damn funny. At the time, it was deadly serious.

Next up, we hear from KD -- who voted for Reagan twice but thinks Bush is an embarrassment. She writes that
Having lived in Washington during the period you describe, and having voted for Reagan (twice) as a freshly minted opinion from Graduate School, I might be able to provide some perspective. Reagan had earned his political oats in California. He was an able speaker. Obviously, Peggy Noonan didn't exactly hurt him, but in situations where he needed to stand his ground he did so effectively.

I beg to differ on Iran/Contra, however. Reagan survived the situation only because we couldn't take the stress of another Watergate. That would have broken our spirit at the time, and we looked the other direction. More damaging was his handling of the Air Traffic Controller strike, which to anyone of us who depended on the airports running well, was just kind of dumb.

George Bush is a completely different matter. If Reagan had seen a few million people protesting the war in Iraq, I really believe he would have said: this is part of the national conscience. We need to understand the problem. If it's a problem in perception, let's correct that. But, if it's a problem in policy, let's take some time and make sure we're doing the right thing.

You may not understand how the rush to war in Iraq infuriated many Americans, including myself. For Bush to call to call a significant block of the American people a "focus group," and by this analysis ignore them, is not acceptable from any leader. Yes, I believe Bush is far more partisan. And I believe he is an embarrassment to the office of President of the United States.
Finally, AG offers some bullet-pointed observations:
(1) Reagan got 8,420,000 more popular votes and 440 more electoral votes than Jimmy Carter. So he was installed in office by the American people, not by five reactionary Republicans.

(2) Reagan was as "scripted" as Bush, but didn't sound as scripted. So he didn't remind me how much I disliked him every time he opened his mouth.

(3) Reagan was a self-made man and had been at least moderately successful at everything he did. The governorship of California is a real job with
real power. The Texas governorship is a cipher. So you had to, grudgingly, perhaps, respect him at least a little bit.

(4) Reagan's tax cuts, as irresponsible as they were, were much more broad-based than the Bushies gift the the rich.

(5) Brezhnev did have weapons of mass destruction and had invaded Afganistan.
I think it's interesting that Kevin, KD and AG all emphasize how Reagan earned his way to the top, whereas Bush didn't. At the time, Reagan's critics almost universally believed that he lied his way to the top. They said that Reagan's victories at the polls meant little because he won by deceiving the American public.

As such, I'm going to stick to my argument that what sets Reagan apart from Bush is the fear he inspired in his opponents. You had to watch what you said about Reagan because his charisma enabled him to win without breaking the rules of the game. Thus, the hatred was greater but it was kept inside.

In contrast, it is easy to despise a second-generation President installed in the White House by a few thousand old Jews who voted for Pat Buchanan. The question is, if Bush gets re-elected with a strong majority, will critics begin to think of him as another Reagan, or will his tainted victory in 2000 continue to define his reputation?

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# Posted 2:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REAL ANTI-SEMITISM: The NYT deserves considerable praise for this editorial, which reminds me of an old joke, set in Berlin in the 1930s. There are two old Jews sitting on a park bench, both reading newspapers. One is reading a local Jewish paper that is reporting on Nazi anti-Semitism and the Jewish plight in Hitler's Germany. The other is reading a copy of Der Stuermer, the infamous Nazi propaganda rag published by Julius Streicher.

Alarmed, the first Jew turns to the second and asks how he could dignify Der Stuermer's vicious lies by reading it in a public place. The second Jew responds: "True, true. But I worry a lot less about Hitler when I'm reminded that the Jews still run this country."
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# Posted 1:52 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOLD THE LINE! Just in case any of you were getting ready to sign new cellphone service contracts, you should know that it may be worth your while to wait until November 24.
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# Posted 1:48 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AMERICA IS IN DECLINE: What? You didn't know that? Then I guess you haven't been reading the NY Times. As Jane Perlez reports,
More than 50 years of American dominance in Asia is subtly but unmistakably eroding as Asian countries look toward China as the increasingly vital regional power, political and business leaders in Asia say.

China's churning economic engine, coupled with trade deals and friendly diplomacy, have transformed it from a country to be feared to one that beckons, these regional leaders say.
Of course, the real news is that American dominance in the Far East was fully intact until earlier this year. As Perlez notes,
[The] new, more benign view of China by its neighbors has emerged in the last year as President Bush is perceived in Asia to have pressed America's campaign on terror to the exclusion of almost everything else.
I hardly know where to begin with this one. Perhaps I should mock Perlez for taking at face value the words of "political and business leaders in Asia". How naive does she think they are? Has one year of less-than-stellar American diplomacy persuaded all of China's neighbors to forget that the PRC is a dysfunctional and corrupt oligarchic dictatorship? Or perhaps -- just perhaps -- Asian businessmen and diplomats are smart enough to praise the Chinese in public before entering into negotiations with them at this week's economic summit?

My second recommendation for Perlez is that she talk to her colleague Nick Kristof before declaring that America's decline in the Far East is a twelve-month-old phenomenon. Perhaps Kristof can tell her he -- along with almost every other American expert on East Asian affairs -- spent much of the 1990s expounding upon the death of American hegemony and the inevitable rise of Chinese power. Thankfully, Kristof & Co. had the good sense to attribute such epochal changes to profound historical forces rather than the ineptitutde of William Jefferson Clinton.

Now, I'm not going to pretend that the Chinese economy hasn't made tremendous advances over the past twenty years or that the political situation there hasn't improved considerably since the Tiannanmen Massacre. But you have to keep things in perspective. Instead, the media tend to shoehorn every story coming out of China into a grand narrative of American decline.

What's happening here is similar, of course, to what's happening with media coverage of Iraq. There is no clear-cut political or partisan bias at work. Rather, the media produce news coverage that derives from a set of fixed narratives that have become a part of professional journalistic culture over the course of the past four decades.

If you think about it, there is actually a fairly close relationship between the Vietnam and China narratives: both are morality tales that purport to demonstrate the self-destructive nature of American aggressiveness and the inevitable victory of Third World challengers. The origins of the Rising China narrative are hard to locate. On the one hand, both American and British observers have been predicting the rise of China for almost two hundred years now. However, I'd guess that the Rising China narrative gained its current prominence in the journalistic repertoire as a result of the war in Vietnam.

But that is somewhat beside the point. The real lesson here is that if the media possessed a greater degree of institutional memory, it might not recycle its own stories in such a transparent manner.
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Friday, October 17, 2003

# Posted 12:31 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOW DOTH THE CITY SIT SOLITARY, THAT WAS FULL OF PEOPLE! How is she become as a widow, she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary. She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks; among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies. (Lamentations 1:1-2)

What other than a biblical lament can offer tribute to the despair of long-suffering Red Sox fans? Truly there in the 8th inning Boston was great among the nations. Yet now her tears are on her cheeks.

Why must Red Sox fans suffer so? As the Bible tells us, "Her adversaries are the chief, her enemies prosper; for the LORD hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: her children are gone into captivity before the enemy." (Lamentations 1:5) As Rabbi Joseph of Torre observes, "transgressions" refers to the sale of Babe Ruth in 1918 for thirty pieces of silver. (Adjusted for inflation, that comes to $100,000.)

But there is forgiveness in the heart of the LORD, so perhaps one day, once Pedro has learned to stop assaulting senior citizens, the Spirit of the LORD will return to Boston.
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Thursday, October 16, 2003

# Posted 8:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WE HATE WHAT WE CANNOT FEAR: A few weeks back, there was a lot of talk about Jonathan Chait's TNR essay entitled "Why I hate George W. Bush". Since I still haven't gotten around to subscribing to TNR Online, I didn't read Chait's essay until TNR sent it out (for free) to all those on its weekly update e-mail list.

Unsurprisingly, reaction to Chait's essay has been divided along partisan lines. Conservatives such as David Brooks tend to see it as evidence that even mainstream liberals have gone overboard with their resentment of the President. Liberals, of course, beg to differ, although some think that Chait's article played right into the hands of conservatives who want to paint all liberals as wild-eyed radicals.

From where I stand, however, the real problem with Chait's essay is its total lack of historical context. And I don't mean that Chait should spend more time writing about Andrew Jackson or Ulysses S. Grant. What's wrong from a historical perspective is Chait's absurd premise that liberals hate George Bush more than they hated Ronald Reagan.

While my memories of the Reagan are somewhat less than reliable, the overwhelming sense I get from my academic reading is that Reagan was a far more controversial figure than any of his successors. But perhaps more important than the hatred that Democrats felt for Ronald Reagan was their abject fear of him. Whereas Bush's upper-crust upbringing and foot-in-mouth pronouncements make him seem vulnerable, Reagan's All-American upbringing and flawless public persona struck terror into the hearts of all those Democrats who believed that no argument they made, no matter how sound, could prevent The Great Communicator from persuading the American public of just how right he was.

Thus, Chait is essentially right to begin his article by focusing on Bush's character. According to Chait,
[Bush] reminds me of a certain type I knew in high school--the kid who was given a fancy sports car for his sixteenth birthday and believed that he had somehow earned it. I hate the way he walks--shoulders flexed, elbows splayed out from his sides like a teenage boy feigning machismo. I hate the way he talks--blustery self-assurance masked by a pseudo-populist twang. I even hate the things that everybody seems to like about him. I hate his lame nickname-bestowing-- a way to establish one's social superiority beneath a veneer of chumminess (does anybody give their boss a nickname without his consent?). And, while most people who meet Bush claim to like him, I suspect that, if I got to know him personally, I would hate him even more.
Where Chait goes wrong is with assertion that Bush-hatred reflects substantive political opposition on the grounds that Bush is not just more ideological than Clinton, but also far more ideological than Reagan. In fact, Chait incomprehensibly describes Bush as "the most partisan president in modern U.S. history."

While arguing that Bush wants to dismantle the welfare state by privatizing Medicare and Social Security, Chait fails to note that Reagan talked of destroying both programs without offering much in the way of an alternative. And while Chait is correct that Reagan followed his massive tax cut with some concessions to his critics, he only did so because the economy went into a tailspin just after the tax cuts went into effect. Moreover, Reagan tried to fight off any protests against his tax cuts, but found it impossible to overcome the objections of both a Democratic House and a moderate Republican Senate. Thus, if Bush can sometimes afford to be more partisan, it is because he has what Reagan never did: solid support on the Hill.

Now what about foreign policy? Given their support of the war against Iraq and relative silence even after no WMD were found, it is hard to characterize Bush as all that much of a radical on this front. In contrast, Reagan drove his opponents up the wall with his constant antagonization of the Soviet Union and inexplicable obsession with fighting Communism in Central America. And then came Iran-Contra. Finally, the President's sterling reputation became tarnished. And yet he was able to emerge from the crisis without taking any personal responsibility for his subordinates' flagrant subversion of the constitutional order. So if you thought the Florida recount made Democrats mad...

Yet despite all their anger and resentment, Democrats often held back thanks to their fear of the President's charisma. This is clearly not the case with Bush. What did hold the Democrats back for a long time, however, was their fear of criticizing the President during the early days of the war on terror. Even in the run-up to the war on Iraq, it was hard to say more than "Gee, we should really be nicer to the French." And that is almost never a winning line in American politics.

But now that Bush is struggling to confront the challenges of occupation while also fighting off a bad economy, an intelligence scandal and the failure to find a substantial cache of WMD, his post-9/11 invulnerability has come to an end. All of the resentment that Democrats once had to hold back is now in the open. The question is, Will such intense emotions lead to victory in 2004, or just a marginalization of the party as a whole? Damned if I know.
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# Posted 7:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NEWS YOU CAN USE: In the odd event you should run into a member of the British royal family, please consider the following:
There are no obligatory codes of behaviour when meeting The Queen or a member of the Royal Family. Many people wish to observe the traditional forms. For men this is a neck bow (from the head only) whilst women do a small curtsy. Other people prefer simply to shake hands in the usual way. On presentation to The Queen, the correct formal address is 'Your Majesty' and subsequently 'Ma'am'. For male members of the Royal Family the same rules apply, with the title used in the first instance being 'Your Royal Highness' and subsequently 'Sir'. For other female members of the Royal Family the first address is conventionally 'Your Royal Highness' followed by 'Ma'am' in later conversation.
Of course, some Americans prefer to be less conventional. Consider the following passage from Michael Lewis' Liar's Poker:
A complete hush enveloped the Great Hall of St. James' Palace. As the queen mother drew near, the insurance salesmen bowed their heads like churchgoers. The corgis [a breed of small dog --ed.] had been trained to curtsy every fifteen seconds by crossing their back legs and dropping their ratlike bellies to the floor. The procession at last arrived at its destination. We stood immediately to the queen mother's side. The Salomon Brothers wife glowed. I'm sure I glowed too. But she glowed more. Her desire to be noticed was tangible. There are a number of ways to grab the attention of royalty in the presence of eight hundred silent agents of the Prudential, but probably the surest is to shout. That's what she did. Specifically, she shouted, "Hey, Queen, Nice Dogs You Have There!
Never let it be said that we Yanks aren't orignal.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2003

# Posted 12:57 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MIDTERM EXAM: Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez says the US may move forcefully against the armed militia of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada Sadr. If that happens, it will be a major test of whether US forces have enough credibility to move against one Shi'ite faction without provoking a general mobilization among defensive Shi'ites.

Of course, such action would also be a test of my argument that America is winning Iraqi hearts and minds. In some respects, however, it is a twofold test. First, there is a question of whether American forces can design their enforcement action in a non-provocative manner.

Nonetheless, it may be the case that no American action, no matter how well-planned, can win over the majority of Iraqi Shi'ites. Thus, such action would be a test of Shi'ite sentiment as well as American competence.

As I suggested before, Sadr lack of support among both Shi'ite clerics and the rank-and-file is his greatest liability -- and thus America's greatest advantage. Then again, you just never know. So keep your fingers crossed.
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# Posted 12:32 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LETTERGATE: This week's second-tier scandal involves the misguided efforts of Lt. Col. Dominic Caraccilo to spread the good word about American achievements in Iraq. First word of the story came from Olympia, WA's Olympian, which received a pair of identical letters-to-the-editor advertising the positive role of American soldiers had played in Kirkuk. The catch, of course, was that the letters were signed by different soldiers.

Unsurprisingly, both Hesiod and Josh Marshall suspected foul play, given that there is an entire industry devoted to creating "astroturf", i.e. fake grassroots support, for various and sundry causes.

Much more interesting was the fact that Glenn Reynolds immediately assumed that the letters were part of a malicious hoax. Glenn quickly backed down, however, when it became clear that an American unit in Kirkuk had been sending out form letters written by Col. Caraccilo.

In a later post, Glenn points out that all sorts of activists distribute form letters for their supporters to sign and circulate. Given that all of the soldiers in the 503d signed onto the letter willingly, there isn't much ground for condemnation.

What I think Glenn is missing here is that there is a difference between sending a form letter to your congressman and to your local newspaper. From what I can tell, there is an informal expectation that letters-to-the-editor must represent unique individual viewpoints. In contrast, congressmen expect a full mailbag. While the existence of such norms may seem arbitrary, I think that one would have to be fairly ignorant not to be aware of them. ("One" refers to Col. Caraccilo, not Glenn Reynolds, who presumably is aware of the norm but didn't articulate it.)

As Glenn rightly suggests, the soldiers would've had much more of an impact on public opinion if they had written personalized (albeit less elegant) letters. Yes, that is right. But Glenn is thinking too small. What a more savvy commanding officer would have done is distributed the letter in the form of a petition, with the signatures of all 500 soldiers who agreed with its conents.

If Col. Caraccilo had done that, he probably would've gotten some very positive press coverage in the front section of almost every major newspaper in the United States, perhaps even on the front page. The letters from the 503d would have been especially compelling because Kirkuk actually is one of the remarkable success stories of the occupation (despite the NYT's best efforts to pretend that it isn't.)

Instead, both the NYT and Josh Marshall are continuing to attack the letters as a fraud designed to cover up America's failure in Iraq. So, Gen. Petraeus, if you want the world to know that the 101st Airborne is doing a helluva job in Mosul, make sure to learn from Col. Caraccilo's mistakes.

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Monday, October 13, 2003

# Posted 1:31 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FAKE LEFT, GO RIGHT: On Friday, Matt Yglesias took something of cheapshot at me. In respone to Thursday's suicide attack on an Iraqi police station, Matt asks: "More knee-jerk negative coverage from the press corps, Mr Adesnik, or does this qualify as actual bad news?"

While I will respond to Matt's question directly (especially since there was another suicide bombing in Baghdad today), I'm also going to speculate that Matt's below-the-belt attitude is something he has conjured up to guard his left flank while quietly moving toward a more positive evaluation of the occupation's progress. In other words, Matt may not want good liberal pessimists to realize that he moving toward the acceptance of controversial arguments made by Dem-hawks such as myself, not to mention most neo-cons.

Don't believe it? Then consider Matt's new take on the situation in Iraq; the question isn't whether we are achieving success in the short-run (which we are), but whether those successes will still be there six, twelve, eighteen or twenty-four months from now. Or as Matt puts it:
Let it never be said that we're not making progress in the military campaign in Iraq. The problem, I think, is not that we're not making progress, but that we're not making progress fast enough. Not by the standard of some arbitrary time table I cooked up in my bedroom, but by the fact that it simply won't be possible to maintain the current level of manpower and financial commitment for very long.
Alternately, Matt observes that
The trouble is that we are simply expending resources -- money, and (especially) manpower -- at an unsustainable level... All indications are that if we keep up what we're doing for years and years we can hold things together, but all indications are also that we can't keep up what we're doing for years and years without bankrupting the country and doing incredible harm to the Army Reserves and National Guard.
I share Matt's concerns about the sustainability of US policy in Iraq. We will have to start rotating American soldiers out in February, we don't have much of an Iraqi force in place, and the Europeans seem to have neither the inclination nor the ability to have their troops man the barricades. These are issues we will have to look at very closely in the coming months.

But my point for now is that Matt's take is dramatically different from that of the NYT, for example. Sometimes, the Times just implies that the entire occupation has already become a fiasco by ignoring the good news staring it in the face. At other times it is more direct, writing in a masthead editorial that
The administration's wrong-headed insistence on maintaining exclusive control over Iraq has already proved costly. Attacks against American troops, international aid workers and Iraqi police recruits continue at an alarming rate. Separate incidents in and near Baghdad yesterday killed at least 10 people and injured more than 40...

Washington should be listening more attentively to proposals that promise to open the door to substantial international help. President Bush has repeatedly said that American forces came to Iraq as liberators, not occupiers. He should follow through on the logic of those words and begin arrangements for transferring power to an interim Iraqi government.
In short, we are losing the hearts and minds of Iraq as well as the bodies of American soldiers. Yet from where I stand, we are winning those hearts and minds while paying a tragic but necessary price.

In fact, approaching the occupation from a hearts-and-minds perspective is the best way to demonstrate how misleading Matt's question about the recent suicide car-bombings is. I am not going to go into my argument in great detail, because it is exactly the same argument I made after the attack on UN headquarters in late August.

First of all, this week's attacks as well as those on UN headquarters and the Shi'ite mosque in Najaf are undoubtedly bad news. However the implication of Matt's question is that such bad news reflects both the fundamental failure of the US nation-building effort as well as the ideologically-induced blindness of its supporters.

Yet as I said before, the decision of Ba'athist insurgents and/or Islamists to slaughter their own kinsmen demonstrates just how desperate they have become. They have either given up all hope of winning the people's hearts and minds, or are so blinded by their own fervor that they truly believe that half-a-dozen car bombs will persuade the people of Iraq that Saddam & Osama have more to offer than those American liberators who are about to provide $20 billion of butter, not to mention a lot of guns.

Even Matt admits that "the consensus among Iraqis certainly seems to be that their liberation from Saddam was a good thing." (Said consensus refers, of course, to the positive poll results that have started to come out of Iraq with surprising consistency.) It is because Matt is so aware of such evidence, that it is hard to interpret his occasional cheapshots as anything other than the classic New Dem/DLC strategy of "fake left, go right."

Six weeks ago, Matt was still pretty sure that the occupation was headed for an outright, in-the-here-and-now kind of failure. Just two weeks ago, Matt was still writing that
The fact is that things aren't fine, but if we and the international community act decisively they can be made fine. Bush needs to drop the pretense and level with people, even though doing that may well cost him his job. Otherwise, we're going to wind up holding the situation together with duct tape until November '04 only to see it all fall apart sometime in the near future with disastrous consequences.
But that was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. In other words, Matt, welcome to the club.
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Sunday, October 12, 2003

# Posted 9:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PHIL CARTER KICKS A**: It's really hard to say enough good things about Phil. Believe me. I try. So for now, just go and read his excellent posts on whether we have enough troops in Iraq,what the importance of Wesley Clark's military record is, and how the US should spending the $87 billion being appropriated for Iraq. Or you know what? Just start at the top and read everything Phil has to say.
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# Posted 4:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YGLESIAS '04? Matt says: "I don't think I'd be a great pick for commander in chief. I bet I'd do better than the current guy, as would all of the viable candidates, but that doesn't mean any of us would necessarily do very well." In case you couldn't tell, Matt is coming close to endorsing Wes Clark.
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# Posted 10:05 AM by Patrick Belton  

A NEO-CON IN PARIS: Mes amis, je me vais a Paris. I'm heading to Paris this afternoon for the week, to scribble in the Sorbonne library and be study-buddies with my friend Sarah as she preps for the oral segment of the French bar examination. Precisely because of my background as an American foreign policy specialist and democracy-promoter, I'm very much looking forward to getting a better sense of trends there, and speaking with some of the more thoughtful members of our generation in France. To that end, I'll be spending my evenings along the cafes of the Rive Gauche buying cups of coffee for young academics and Quai d'Orsay staffers, and will dutifully be reporting back my findings here.

Comme disent les anglais: Honi soit qui mal y pense!
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# Posted 9:32 AM by Patrick Belton  

WAPO ON DYNAMICS OF BUSH ADMINISTRATION foreign policy decisionmaking: although the title suggests it's a hit piece on Rice, this piece in the Sunday WaPo gives a fairly well-researched glance into this administration's internal decisionmaking dynamics. Worth a read.
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# Posted 1:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TOMMY HITS A HOMER: Friedman's column in today's NYT is that damn good. The WaPo's David Broder is also swinging for the stands with his column on Iraq.

Elsewhere, the Times' John Tierney notes that
After international sanctions were imposed on Iraq in 1990, [Saddam] started a program that now uses 300 government warehouses and more than 60,000 workers to deliver a billion pounds of groceries every month — a basket of rations guaranteed to every citizen, rich or poor.
Guaranteed. To every citizen. Rich or poor. Including the Marsh Arabs? Including the families of those slaughtered in Saddam's torture chambers? I don't want to take away from all of the wonderful things Saddam did for his country, but perhaps Mr. Tierney (and his editors on 44th St.) could be slightly more skeptical about Saddam's wisdom and benificence? Or does skepticism stop at the water's edge?
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Saturday, October 11, 2003

# Posted 7:01 PM by Patrick Belton  

A LETTER FROM SARAJEVO: OxBlog's dear friend Saliha returned recently to the Sarajevo of her birth, for the first time in years. She writes us with her impressions:
Hello my dear Washingtonians, current or former!
As most of you know, I've spent over three weeks in Bosnia recently. I've waited until now to send you a report because I wanted my impressions to form as well as because I've wanted to send you a few pictures -- which I still haven't found a good way of doing (suggestions welcome), as I didn't want to clog your email accounts, especially if you too are travelling.
My early days were spent resolving a bureaucratic mess (involving recalled passports such as mine and a lack of blank passports), so insert here a mental picture of me persistant, begging, frustrated, crying -- well, not quite, but almost.  Fortunately, the weekend came around, and I was forced to take respite from all that, at my grandmother's house in the most beautiful place in the world.  The mediterranean town of Stolac is on a landscape that looks a lot like Tuscany, an 1-2h drive from the Adriatic, (and would be much less if there were a straight highway to it), and I used to spend every summer there, until the war.  This was my first time back in 12 years. 
Another day I went to Prusac, a small town 2 hours away from Sarajevo.  A village near it on the hill is obviously still recovering, with the reconstrucion of homes still in process, and with its point of focus, an old Ottoman mosque, badly damaged.  As we looked around it, together with local community and international donor representatives, an old local lady walked up carrying a tray with Bosnian coffee pot and cups and home-made sugar cubes in her arms, welcoming us as if we were her personal guests.  It was a lovely day, one I imagine I will always remember, because the beauty of rural Bosnia, the tragic experience of the village, the scars -- the demolished mosque, the mining and the deforestation occurring illegally as people struggle to make ends meet and which mar an otherwise surreal landscape -- the kindness of a woman who didn't know us, where I'd expect only bitterness and distrust, caused different emotions to well up all at once, and I was filled with despair and hope at the same time. 
My birth city, Sarajevo, is usually rainy and cold this time of year, but I guess the record-high temperatures of the summer have carried over into this season, turning the last month into a most pleasent September.  As long as the weather is warm and dry, the city streets are filled in the evening with the young and the old alike.  Looking at this it is hard to imagine that the unemployment in this country exceeds forty percent. 
It was not easy to be in Bosnia, but leaving it was even harder.  It's amazing how many emotions I have surpressed, and have been surpressing for so long.  It's amazing how clear some things become from over there...  You realize the meaning of family and friendships, and in my case, you realize how difficult it can be to have your heart in so many different places.  I wish you were with me, but I'll write you instead.  I've arrived in Dubai a few days ago, and as soon as my impressons form, you'll hear from me, and I hope you'll do the same, at your leisure.  Take care, and think of me.
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# Posted 5:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DON'T RUSH ELECTIONS IN IRAQ: This top-notch essay is from the Sept. 28 edition of the San Jose Mercury News. The authors are both professors at Stanford, and one of them is Mike McFaul, whose work I have praised consistently on this site.

The money graf from the SJMN article is this one:
Snap elections in Iraq may serve the personal interests of Chirac, Chalabi and some American politicians. But history shows that premature elections in war-torn countries are disfigured by fraud, discredited by incompetence and rejected by the losers as well as much of the public. They rarely birth democracy. Instead, they often revive autocracies and, in the worst cases, lead to renewed war.
Damn right. What's especially intersting is that this point is almost identical to the one made by Tom Carothers, a far more dovish and skeptical advocate of democracy promotion. When it comes to elections, no one who thinks seriously about this issue favors the aggressive approach that seems to gaining ground at both the State Department and Pentagon, not to mention the United Nations.

Also, I'd like to make one less substantive point about the McFaul-Diamond essay: It demonstrates that regional newspapers often publish material that is just as impressive as the NYT or WaPo. Of course, the only reason I found this essay in the SJMN was because I am on the haute-exclusif McFaul e-mail list. And even if I don't have enough time to read the regional papers all that often (let alone many blogs that deserve my time as well), it is worth remembering that ideas are not only found in the Bos-NY-Wash corridor.
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# Posted 1:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PASS RUSH: Given that Mr. Limbaugh has been having some tough times lately, I thought I'd link to this defense of his McNabb remarks by Jeffrey Collins. JC is right that Limbaugh wasn't being racist in the limited sense of demeaning black quarterbacks. But Rush was saying that white liberals have created an illusion of black success by lowering their standards. Without more evidence to back up that kind of assertion, it basically comes across as racist.
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# Posted 7:13 AM by Patrick Belton  

KOIZUMI CALLS ELECTIONS IN JAPAN: The elections will be held on November 9, and Koizumi leaves the first day of campaigning to his young, popular LDP deputy, Shinzo Abe. MSNBC is reporting that the opposition Democrats are closing to eight points in the polls, half the distance from a month ago. See also the Economist's story, which points out that PM Koizumi's fiscally conservative reforms have more of a backing within the opposition party than within his own governing coalition.
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# Posted 7:08 AM by Patrick Belton  

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, VODKA! My, 500 years, and you haven't aged a bit..... (Okay, bad joke)
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Friday, October 10, 2003

# Posted 9:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOBODY'S BUSINESS BUT THE TURKS? Back when Istanbul was Constantinople, the Turks were in charge of Baghdad. So it is a good idea to invite them back into Iraq, or a very, very bad one?
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# Posted 9:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JUSTICE FOR THE GURKHAS! Some of Britain's finest are still treated as second-class citizens (or non-citizens as the case may be).
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# Posted 9:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I KNEW IT WAS A JOKE...I just didn't get it at first. Another classic Zoolander line with disturbing relevance to everyday life. When I put up this post on the political implications of the NYT decision to root for the Red Sox, I meant it entirely as a joke. Then I find out -- courtesy of MK, AS & LB -- that the NYT owns part of the Red Sox but decided against full disclosure in its anti-Yankee editorial. Moreover, there was nothing on the letters page about this despite the fact that the Times published four letters disagreeing with its point of view. Perhaps Jayson Blair has been rehired...
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# Posted 9:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THAT SHI'ITE MEME AGAIN: Back in April, there was a lot of talk about the potential for a Shi'ite backlash against the American occupation. The consensus among the experts was that Iraqi Shi'ites would show little gratitude to their ostensible liberators and instead mobilize en masse to throw the Americans out, presumably so that the Shi'ite majority could transform Iraq into a fundamentalists state.

Not known for its long memory, the NY Times is once again raising the spectre of a Shi'ite backlash. The occasion this time was an unfortunate incident in which American forces suffered two fatalities after an extended firefight in one of Baghdad's massive Shi'ite slums. As the NYT notes,
A confrontation with [radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-] Sadr, who is about 30 years old, and his followers, many of them poor young men without jobs, does not seem out of the question. American officials have long regarded him with concern, for his anti-American oratory, his close ties to radical clerics in Iran and his insistence on establishing an Islamic state in Iraq.
So what does the WaPo have to say about all this in its article on the firefight? Namely, that
A clash with Shiites could open a second front for troops already facing regular attacks in the Sunni heartland of central Iraq where Saddam Hussein drew his greatest support. Still, al-Sadr has very little support among the mainstream Shiite clerical leadership.
Sadr's lack of support within the Shi'ite hierarchy is a well-known fact. Thus, the NYT correspondent was either ignorant of the fact or somehow decided it wasn't worth mentioning.

All in all, this latest episode just adds to the point I made a couple of days ago in my response to Kevin & Matt, i.e. that there is a big difference between reporting on violent events and insisting that such events represent a general trend rather than an exception to a more positive rule.
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# Posted 9:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JIMMY CARTER'S VICTORY was the price we had to pay for Shirin Ebadi's Nobel Peace Prize. And you know what? It was a bargain.

Carter's victory was a political football that had no impact on current events. But Ebadi's prize may become one of the straws that will someday break the Teheran dictatorship's back. And long before that, it may bring about substantial improvement in the lives of women and children throughout the Middle East. (Btw, compare the NYT and WaPo articles on Ebadi. Very interesting.)

Speaking of Jimmy Carter, I spent an hour this afternoon reading an article in Diplomatic History about his Administration's Cambodia policy. In short, it made quite an effort to bury its head in the sand until public outrage forced Carter to admit that Pol Pot was "the worst violator of human rights in the world today".

But the matter didn't end there. Even after the Vietnamese drove the Khmer Rouge out of Phnom Penh and into the jungles, Carter & Co. kept hammering away at the Vietnamese with accusations that they were aggravating the widespread famine in Cambodia despite the fact that they were doing their best to provide some sort of relief to the victims of the Khmer Rouge genocide.

While that sort of disingenuity is unpleasant, its impact was far more than rhetorical. While holding up aid shipments to Vietnamese-controlled territory in central Cambodia, the Carter administration sent a considerable amount of aid to the Thai-Camodian border. While the ostensible purpose of such aid was to save the lives of Cambodian refugees who had fled in the direction of Thailand, the Administration knew that most of the aid sent to the borderlands would wind up in the hands of the Khmer Rouge.

Now, for tough-minded realists such as Henry Yang, there may be nothing objectionable about Carter's foreign policy. After all, its purpose was to advance the United States' national interest by preventing the expansion of Soviet influence in Southeast Asia. On the one hand, Carter didn't want to be too vocal about the Cambodian genocide lest it derail his effort to establish diplomatic relations with China. On the other, his Administration somehow arrived at the conlusion that the hellish graveyard known as Cambodia actually had geostrategic value.

To top it all off, Carter allowed the United Nations to recognize the Khmer Rouge as one of the legitimate occupants of Cambodia's seat at the United Nations. Less well-known is the fact that Carter quietly signed off on Chinese and Thai military aid to the Khmer Rouge. (A fact somehow left out of the citation that accompanied Carter's Nobel Prize.)

To be fair, Reagan did nothing to improve on Carter's policy and demonstrated that he was no less blind to the viciousness of the Khmer Rouge. Then again, that is hardly a point in Carter's favor, given that his reputation as a statesman rests on his moral superiority relative to Ronald Reagan.

That said, one possible way to end this post is to ask what the Cambodian people have to say about the Nobel Prize board's decision to grant such renown to Jimmy Carter. The answer is: "Nothing. Because they're dead."

However, indulging in that sort of clever repartee gets in the way of the substantive point raised by recognition of the Carter administration's relationship with Cambodia. Namely, that the 39th President did make a tremendous contribution to the promotion of human rights and democracy around the globe, but that his legacy has much more to do with the way in which the positive examples he set changed the intellectual and political climate that prevailed both during and after his term of office. The task now facing historians is to better understand how intellectual climates and, by extension, how such changes translate into the visible advancement of human rights.
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# Posted 8:51 AM by Patrick Belton  

MY FIRST DEARBORN ARTICLE is hitting the streets today (alhamdulillah), in a new urban studies magazine called The Next American City - an online version of my piece is here on my website (and I also wrote an impressionistic Letter from Dearborn here on OxBlog several months ago, after returning from my first research trip to Michigan).

I had a truly lovely time getting to know the Muslim community of Dearborn, and many of my sources have now quite happily turned into friends. So my many thanks to all who kindly helped me with this piece. (Also, the article's being turned into a book, so I'd be very interested in any feedback or comments that any of our readers might have.)
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# Posted 7:51 AM by Patrick Belton  

NIGERIA HAS ALWAYS SOUNDED like a rather nice place, but I think I'll be staying away from Gambia and Ghana for a bit, though.
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# Posted 7:22 AM by Patrick Belton  

MEMRI has an essay on progress being made in Iraq. Among other points I found interesting were these:

* Polling data: The Saudi daily Okaz polled the following statements in Iraq. First: "Iraq, and the people of Iraq, are today better off than they were in the past." 66 percent of the respondents "strongly agreed" and another 17 percent "agreed" with the statement. Only 17 percent disagreed. One hundred percent of respondents disagreed with the second statement: "It is possible that Saddam Hussein will return to govern Iraq because he is preferable to the Western coalition."

* Also, the Zogby polling shop found great optimism in Iraq, combined with a willingness to give the United States one to two years further to carry out political and economic reforms. Seven out of 10 say they expect their country and their personal lives will be better five years from now. 59 percent of respondents would give the occupation forces and the CPA the additional time of one to two years to initiate political and economic reforms.

* There are also very touching, daily changes. For the first time in over thirty years, Iraq has no torture chambers, and has no arbitrary arrests or executions. More than 100 dailies and weeklies are flourishing, writing from perspectives ranging from Khomeinism to Kurdish nationalism. Information is flowing freely, which it has never done before. For the first time, students will attend school without having to sing the praises of Saddam or recite Ba'ath party slogans. (An old, Saddam-era textbook includes a chapter entitled "Valuable Things," referring to valuable things students bring to school. One excerpt: "A girl brings a watch; a boy brings a picture of Saddam.")

Many problems remain, but there is progress being made, and I will cheer it.
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# Posted 5:07 AM by Patrick Belton  

WE HAVE A NOBEL PEACE LAUREATE: Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi has won the Peace Prize. (CNN)

This is a selection I'm enormously pleased by (though a Havel prize would have been quite nice, too). Famous as the first female judge in Iranian history, Ms. Ebadi had to resign her position in 1979 after the Iranian Revolution, and has since then been a quite brave activist in the cause of democracy and human rights in her country.

She came to particular prominence, and danger, in 2000 when as counsel she took up the case of Darious and Parvaneh Foruhar, two intellectuals and writers murdered by the Iranian government, together with her defense of a number of other persecuted intellectuals. For performing her work as a lawyer she was then herself arrested and faced with a closed hearing in July 2000. The particular attention of a letter-writing campaign directed by Amnesty International resulted in her being given a five-year disbarment together with a suspended sentence for the same period. Her other efforts have focused on Iranian women and children.

Pieces written about her before her selection include profiles in the Christian Science Monitor, and pieces by her include numerous pieces critical of the Iranian juvenile justice system (here, here, here, and here).

The Nobel Committee's biography of Ms Ebadi is here, and its citation and press release are online as well. This is a strong selection, in line with the Committee's 1991 selection of Aung San Suu Kyi and its 1983 selection of Lech Walesa (and drawing a strong contrast with some of the Committee's past choices which have not withstood the test of hindsight, such as Ms Menchu and Chairman Arafat).

May Ms. Ebadi's work, supported now by its proper attention, prosper and continue.
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Thursday, October 09, 2003

# Posted 8:16 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE TRANSCRIPT FROM Steven Pinker's lecture at AEI this week, on "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature," is up online now. Professor Pinker is not only one of current U.S. academia's most prolific and thoughtful figures, he is also a (actually, the) charter member of the "Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists," to which he links from his Harvard site. This from the LFHCfS website:
The initial list, assembled by a subcommittee comprised of seven members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was meant as a nucleating seed, from which a larger list could grow. Here is the initial list: Steven Pinker (note: Pinker's is the sole name on list).
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# Posted 1:21 PM by Patrick Belton  

JUST BECAUSE THERE ISN'T ENOUGH blogging on Guv'ner Arnold already (come on, people, we have to make this last at least two years!) - Michael Barone interprets Schwarzenegger's California win for a British audience in the Telegraph (and finds augury in it for Blair).
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# Posted 10:02 AM by Patrick Belton  

WINNER OF THE BAD IDEA OF THE DAY CONTEST: Urban Outfitters has begun selling in its stores a board game called "Ghettopoly," featuring properties including Harlem, the Bronx, and Westside Liquor, and squares with names including "Smitty's XXX Peep Show" and "Weinstein's Gold and Platinum." (A close friend of ours even gets a possible mention with Tyron's Gun Shop.) Cards read, inter alia, "You got yo whole neighborhood addicted to crack. Collect $50." Among mispelt historical figures are to be found "Malcum X" and "Martin Luthor King."

Black clergymen and other community leaders are not amused.
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# Posted 8:38 AM by Patrick Belton  

WALL OF SHAME: The Do Not Call list legislation wasn't merely an exercise in populism, it was a defense of a public interest. Voting against it were Reps. Bishop (Ut.), Meek (Fl.), Strickland, Cannon, Paul, Terry, Flake, and Ryan (Oh.) If any of our readers happened to live in one of their districts, and felt like giving them a call (perhaps ideally while their staffs are trying to eat), the Corner has their office numbers. (via Genoan Sailor)
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# Posted 5:17 AM by Patrick Belton  

NEWS ROUND-UP: Top news story of the day is the NATO ministerial in Colorado Springs, featuring scenario planning (with the sobriquet "Dynamic Response '07") and serious discussions about the interesting new NATO Response Force (CNN, WaPo, MSNBC). A prototype of the NATO Response Force will come online next week for testing, and it is intended to be ready for real-world use in October 2005, and fully operational by October 2006, with a core force of 5,000 troops and 15,000 additional support troops.

Lord Robertson raised the obvious and long-standing complaint: "We've [ NATO allies] actually got plenty of people in uniform," but because of structural shortcomings in European militaries, these soldiers cannot be deployed on foreign soil. "So long as you have so many unusable soldiers," Robertson noted, "the taxpayers are being ripped off." Of the 1.4 million non-U.S. soldiers among NATO countries, a paltry 55,000 of them are deployed on operations in the Balkans and elsewhere, yet the US's NATO allies feel overstretched. In other NATO news (and representing an overdue development), the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Aghanistan, with 5,000 German, Canadian, and U.S. troops currently stationed in Kabul, is preparing to add 2,000 to 10,000 more troops into Aghanistan's provincial cities.

Elsewhere in the papers, NYT is running a piece presenting Putin as torn between a KGB officer and a democrat struggling within him for equipoise. (Note to readers: great, Hamlet running the world's most sizable nation. One pictures him in the shower, muttering in a Boris Badanov accent "Oh, that this too, too sullied Grozny would melt away...")

And in the neat-but-no-cigar category, WaPo is running a piece on Virginia v. Maryland, an original jurisdiction case the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on yesterday, where the two states had recourse to 1632-vintage colonial documents from Charles I to contest whether Maryland or Virginia owned the Potomac. Maryland's case to full ownership, however, is shaky, as reflected in the decision of the special master and questions in oral arguments.

Finally, in the blogosphere, look for a fascinating new blog providing strong coverage of Central Asia on Afghan Voice, with recent posts up on Dostum, Chechnya, and the resignation of the US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and the expansion of the NATO force in Afghanistan. Slate is encouraging drunkenness to get through primary debate season. TNR is running a fairly thoughtful online debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And Weekly Standard has a piece on that foremost American cleric who began the Great Awakening, penned the essay "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," and now is immortalized chiefly by having a residential college named after him at Yale - admittedly, though, one with the motto "JE sux."

(OxBlog: riding herd on the daily papers since the Bush administration, focusing like a laser beam on democracy promotion since - okay, maybe not quite - the Clinton years. Or at least since Chelsea's years at Oxford)
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# Posted 1:27 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

INCHING TOWARD A POSITIVE OUTLOOK: Two days ago, I challenged Matt & Kevin to defend the conventional wisdom on Iraq, i.e. that the occupation is headed for failure. As expected, both of them raise good point in response to my challenge. And perhaps more importantly, it seems we share a fair amount of common ground.

First off, one thing that both Kevin (via e-mail) and Matt share in common is their insistence that there is little point in focusing on the pessimism of the mainstream media, since journalists almost always focus on dramatic and violent events. As Matt puts it,
After all, if you took the Washington Post Metro section too seriously you might think that 10 percent of DC residents have been murdered this year, since after all one article in ten seems to discuss a murder.
Now, I admit that drama and violence are the bread and butter of the mainstream media. However, that generalization does not have enough explanatory power to account for two critical facets of media coverage in Iraq.

First of all, a focus on individual dramatic or violent events does not necessitate coming to conclusion that drama and violent are the fundamental characteristics of a given situation. For example, the WaPo Metro section tends to balance reports of specific murders with articles charting the overall trend in the murder rate. If that rate is falling, as it was for most of the 1990s, the Metro desk won't report that the city is descending into chaos. In Iraq, however, the media interpret almost every Ba'athist attack as an indication of growing insurgent strength and sophistication. And they ask after every American soldier falls whether the United States can afford to hold out until it achieves its objectives on the ground.

Second, a general preference for violence and drama hardly explains how certain correspondents can miss good news that is staring them right in the face. For example, my post from two days ago compared comparable stories about the situation in Kirkuk published, respectively, in the NY Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Notice that neither story came in response to specific events. Both were atmosphere pieces meant to assess general trends in the city. And yet the NYT correspondent managed to come up with a narrative of chaos and failure while the PI reporter focused on the general calm in the city and the critical role of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in ensuring it. While one might say that the PI correspondent is simply naive and misguided, the fact that he was able to produce far better evidence than his counterpart at the Times suggests that that is not the case. (NB: The Chicago Tribune was already commenting on positive trends in Kirkuk back in may, but there wasn't much interest in the story except online.)

Now, to be fair, the fact that some mainstream journalists are reporting the kind of news that favors my position means that there is some sort of balance within the media as an institution. However, this "good news" is something of a recent phenomenon. More importantly, it tends to come from regional papers rather than the NYT or the (more balanced) WaPo.

As Matt notes, I have never been one to believe that this kind of negative reporting reflects either a conscious or unsconscious liberal desire to embarrass a conservative administration. Rather, it is the product of a historically-conditioned mindset that took hold of the journalistic profession as result of the war in Vietnam.

Now, this isn't to say that because Iraq isn't Vietnam it is therefore a success. Rather, my point is that historical blinders have prevented foreign correspondents -- both American and otherwise -- from paying attention or attributing significance to positive trends. Of course, the evidence sometimes becomes so overwhelming that denial is no longer possible. Hence, the invasion of Iraq was a quagmire on Day Ten but an unprecedented triumph on Day Twenty. By the same token, the media had to do rapid about faces after American successes in both the first Gulf War and Panama.

Since it is getting let and this post is getting long, I'm going to cut it off here. But when I get a chance, I will address two other important issues that Matt & Kevin raise. First, is there any reason to believe that short-term successes in Iraq will translate into permanent improvements, especially given the United States inability to maintain an 100,000-strong invasion force for more than a year or two? Second, is there enough information from which to draw firm conclusions about the state of the occupation, or is agnosticism the wisest option? Coming soon...
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Wednesday, October 08, 2003

# Posted 8:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ECONOMISTS' MORAL VALUES: Matt Yglesias provides some interesting commentary.
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# Posted 7:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

In Texas, thought to hold perhaps half the nation's backyard tigers, a string of attacks during the past four years underscores the threat to youngsters...

The day after the Las Vegas incident [involving Siegfried & Roy --ed.], New York authorities removed a 425-pound tiger from a fifth-floor Harlem apartment after it attacked and injured its owner.
Well folks, you can rest assured that there are no tigers on OxBlog. Only paper tigers.
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# Posted 7:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLAMING THE JEWS AND THE COMMUNISTS: This op-ed by the Russian ambassador to the United States is almost Saudi Arabian in its faux indignance. According to Mr. Ushakov, Americans' "Cold War mentality", i.e. their ignorant inability to differentiate Russians from their Soviet predecessors, is a leading cause of tension in the US-Russian relationship.

And then there's the Jackson-Vanik amendment, designed to punish the Soviet Union for barring the emigration of Soviet Jews. While "the amendment does not substantially damage Russian commercial interests", it represents a symbolic threat to Russian sovereignty. Huh? Unless Russia has plans to follow the Soviet precedent on immigration, I don't think Jackson-Vanik will do any damage to Russian commericial interests, substantial or otherwise.

Now here's a radical thought Mr. Ushakov might want to consider: there is continual tension in US-Russian relations because Russia's President is a lying thug and because some of us aren't happy that our President is closing his eyes to Putin's brutal and dictatorial methods of government.
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# Posted 7:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLEEDING-HEART LIBERALS: The NYT editorial board is actually rooting for the Red Sox. While acknowledging that
Cold reality favors the Yankees; warm sentiment, which is at the heart of baseball and to which we are always susceptible, favors one or the other of baseball's most reliable losers.
If it had any real moral fibre, the Times would call for a Red Sox win in the ALCS so that Boston fans might later face the maximum humiliation of losing the Series to the Cubs.

Perhaps worse than the Times' emotional attachment to a Red Sox victory is the superficiality of its commitment to the cause. In a classic extension of its limousine liberalism to the wide world of sports, the Times professes its deep sympathy for Red Sox fans, all the while knowing that "cold reality" will ensure that New York celebrates yet another victory. Thus, even as they bask in the glory of yet another World Series crown, the editors at the Times will be able to tell themselves that they are different and better than the rest of us because they are sensitive to Boston's true needs. How touching.
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# Posted 4:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OR PERHAPS Patrick meant to say "Joschka"?
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# Posted 11:45 AM by Patrick Belton  

THAT'S OKAY, we know how you spell your name, Josch.
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# Posted 9:11 AM by Patrick Belton  

(BAD) JOKE OF THE DAY: CNN, reporting on the assault, murder, and likely rape of Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi by Iranian intelligence, has this to say after the usual palather about Khatami's reformist credentials:
The Intelligence Ministry, which is controlled by reformists, have rejected the indictments of its agents and threatened to "expose all the facts" if the conservative judiciary do not withdraw the charges.
"Reformists": is the word losing all of its meaning?
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# Posted 7:21 AM by Patrick Belton  

THIS JUST IN FROM OUR FRIENDS THE SAUDIS: Saudi Princess Reem Al-Faisal, granddaughter of the late King Faisal, had this to say in a piece in the Saudi-based Arab News:
"It is time for the American nation to acknowledge its crimes and apologize and ask forgiveness from the many people it has harmed. Beginning with the Native Americans, followed by the Africans and South Americans, right through to the Japanese, who have suffered such horror by being the only race to know the true meaning of weapons of mass destruction.

"The U.S. should leave Iraq after apologizing for over a million dead after an unlawful embargo and a colonial war which at best is a farce and at worst a crime... Are the Americans willing to admit their mistakes? This is the most important question of the 21st century, since much of the world's safety depends on it."
"The Americans insist that most criticism directed toward their policies stems from a deep-seated anti-Americanism which the entire world has been suffering from since the founding of the U.S. In fact, I find that the world has been more than forgiving toward the Americans from the very beginning.

"If you take a quick look at American history, you will realize instantly that the atrocities committed by the Americans on their fellow man might be one of the worst in human history, and that's saying much - one, because humanity has reached levels of evil that no other creature on earth can compete with, and two, because the very short history of the American nation makes its crimes even more shocking when compared with other, more ancient lands.
Like Saudi Arabia, one assumes.
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# Posted 7:09 AM by Patrick Belton  

BRIEF BLEG (OR: IS THERE AN ECONOMIST IN THE HOUSE?): I've recently become involved with a working-group which will be working on writing a policy paper on trade policy, starting out from a commitment to increased opportunity. I assume we'll end up doing four things, probably in descending order of importance: (1) examining how gains from freer trade can be distributed to its losers without distorting market mechanisms, (2) examining the most successful programs for assisting displaced workers and affected communities adapt from the manufacturing to the service economy, (3) summarizing the evidence at hand for the relationship of past free trade initiatives to indices of opportunity (i.e., income, disposable income after purchase of goods, etc), (4) surveying the current landscape of free trade, and ideally offering some new suggestions for the executive's trade policy. I'd be very interested to hear from any of our readers who have backgrounds related to the subject. Thanks!
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# Posted 6:00 AM by Patrick Belton  

WEDGWOOD ON ISRAELI SELF-DEFENCE: My old professor, Ruth Wedgwood, has a piece in today's Journal, where she writes:
If you can't enjoy a good laugh, you shouldn't serve as a diplomat at the United Nations. One source of amusement is Syria's current membership on the U.N. Counter-Terrorism Committee. ... Any succor to terror groups that seek out noncombatant civilians for mayhem and maiming for "political" purposes might seem to be inconsistent with the Counter-Terrorism Committee's program.
... Unembarrassed by its obligations of membership on the Security Council, Syria has announced a rather different standard. In a little-remarked September 2002 Counter-Terrorism Committee filing, Syria reported that it could not regard as terrorism any acts committed in a "legitimate struggle against foreign occupation."
She also reminds us that there is a clear distinction between terrorism and guerilla insurgency: "The international law of armed conflict does not permit the deliberate targeting of civilians by suicide bombings, no matter what the occasion or cause for struggle." Again, "Terrorism is the deliberate use of force against protected persons. It is not defined by the political objectives of the actor." And she concludes memorably:
"The standards of international humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict are set by treaty and international custom. They make no exception for passionate liberators who wish, for an instrumental purpose, to target seaside cafes crowded with Arab and Jewish civilians. The identity of the suicide bomber points out the tragedy of this intellectual and moral confusion. The bomber was a young Palestinian woman, with a life ahead of her. She was also a lawyer."
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# Posted 5:33 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE PERENNIAL RECOURSE OF SCOUNDRELS: Despite President Bush's pledge of "full disclosure" in uncovering who in his administration violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, thereby imperilling US lives and interests in countless countries, administration officials are indicating they may seek to protect the felon with that perennial recourse of scoundrels, claims of executive privilege. (The president is also to be seen protesting that he has no idea whether the felon in his administration will ever be uncovered.)

I am growing very, very disappointed.
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# Posted 5:13 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE VOTE: Here's a roundup of the news coverage surrounding governor-elect Ahnold. NYT notes Schwarzenegger did not do significantly worse among women, even after repeated allegations of sexual misconduct. NYT also notes that, keeping with the Hollywood theme, Jay Leno introduced the governor-elect before his victory speech. LA Times notes that Schwarzenegger picked up 20% of Democratic voters (along with 40 percent of independents and 69 percent of conservatives). Cruz Bustamante received almost 60 percent of the Latino vote, and two-thirds of liberal voters. Davis scored best amongst blacks and Jewish voters. McClintock's conservative appeal won the support only of a fifth of conservative Republican voters. (The San Francisco Chronicle has more numbers, too.) Other California-related tidbits: Secretary of State Kevin Shell estimated turnout at 60 percent (or 9.25 million voters), the state's highest turnout in a nonpresidential contest since 1982. Jesse Jackson spent a considerable amount of time in California attempting to rally Democrats on behalf of Governor Davis. Arnold spent $10.3 million of his own money on his campaign (out of a total of $83 million being spent by all candidates, more than half of which was spent on TV ad buys in the final weeks). In the blogosphere, excellent coverage as usual from Politics and Frivolities, Kaus explains why he voted for the Terminator, Andrew kvells, and CalPundit's comments section is lit up like a Christmas tree.
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# Posted 4:55 AM by Patrick Belton  

EURASIA WATCH: Some very good pieces appearing this week on the Soros Foundation's EurasiaNet: on Kazakh-Uzbek tensions, opposition politics in Turkmenistan, and the U.S. cutting development aid to Georgia in response to the Shevardnadze government's lack of democratic reforms. (No, not that Georgia....)
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Tuesday, October 07, 2003

# Posted 11:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BROUGHT TO YOU BY NAVIGATOR: I've had enough of Explorer. Ever since I started up my new DSL service in Boston, it has been malfunctioning all the time. So I switched to Navigator. Unsurprisingly, everything works a lot better now. So if momentum is the only thing keeping you loyal to Explorer, take five minutes of your life and install Navigator now.
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# Posted 1:33 PM by Patrick Belton  

SMART FRIENDS WE'VE GOT: Congrats, Lisa!!! (okay, four months or so overdue, but hey, news travels slow over water...)
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# Posted 1:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TOTAL RECALL: Schwarzenegger guru Robert Tagorda will be Recall-blogging throughout the day. He already has a bunch of great posts up, so go over to his site and check'em out.
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# Posted 12:44 PM by Patrick Belton  

MORE ON NEW NATO SECGEN: A few weeks ago, when we were guest-blogging on Volokh, I posted on NATO's new secretary-general-designate, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. I was interested in Mr De Hoop Scheffer (and his formidable last name) not only because he will be taking the helm of the day-to-day workings of the U.S.'s principal strategic alliance, but also because, on a personal note, I worked for his soon-to-be predecessor, outgoing SecGen Lord Robertson. Lord Robertson was kind enough to write a note to Rachel and me at our wedding, in which he musingly compared the ongoing compromise of running a successful multilateral alliance of democracies with the one required to fashion a loving marriage. He is a classy act, and will be a difficult one to follow.

My post, incidentally, attracted this response from a journalist who has had the opportunity to interview Mr De Hoop Scheffer extensively:
With reference to your post on Mr De Hoop Scheffer, let me fill you in (I hold Dutch citizenship and had the honor of interviewing said Scheffer in the past): he is very typically a man of the European center-right. Undoubtedly what would be called an "Atlanticist" in the continental context, i.e. someone who is very friendly of the United States, and squarely opposed to the left-wing admiration of America's enemies. Before becoming Foreign Minister in 2002 (in the Fortuyn/Christian Democrats/Liberals government), his career wasn't spectacularly successful. In particular, he was considered to have been a particularly ineffective leader of the Christian Democrats, losing the elections in 1998 and being ousted as leader in a coup to be replaced by the man who is now the prime minister. From my own experience with De Hoop Scheffer --and you can use this if you want, but please don't attribute it to me by name-- I would have to say that he does not only have weak leadership/executive skills, but is also not the most intelligent of politicians. I interviewed him for an hour and a half shortly before he became leader of the Christian Democrats back in the mid-nineties and I really found him to lacking in knowledge and basic strategic insight. On the whole, I suspect De Hoop Scheffer is one of the few Europeans who can be expected to be supportive of the United States in the war on terror, but who lacks both the leadership potential, the charisma, and the intelligence to develop into a serious player as NATO SG.
Tough shoes to follow in, indeed.
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# Posted 12:05 PM by Patrick Belton  

SOME DARN GOOD WRITING coming out of PNAC these days: on terror financing in Southeast Asia, democracies in East Asia, Hong Kong, and, of course, Iraq. Good work, Kristol, et al.
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# Posted 11:08 AM by Patrick Belton  

BLATANT NEPOTISM: Hey, he may be my brother-in-law, but he's a dern good filmmaker anyway, and it's not just me who thinks so. So you readers who are (a) in Chicago, and (b) want something to do for Halloween, think about slipping on down for the Chicago Horror Film festival later this month to see Daniel Kleinfeld's adaptation of the Fall of the House of Usher.

(And speaking of nepotism, when do Josh, David, and I get to meet the chick who plays Madeline?)
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# Posted 9:53 AM by Patrick Belton  

PHOTOS FROM OUR IRAQ BUREAU: OxBlog's friend Jay Hallen, a recent Yale grad and member of a little foreign policy roundtable I helped start, is in Baghdad serving in the interim government - and, in his spare time, he's taking pictures. A few of them are up here. (You can also find his account of his first few days up on Tech Central Station, here).
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# Posted 9:36 AM by Patrick Belton  

POSSIBLY INTERESTING IF TRUE: A tipper (no, not that Tipper) writes in to indicate Hillary filed papers associated with a possible presidential bid with the FEC on late Friday, October 3.

An online record on the FEC website apparently reads

Office Sought: President
Election Year: 2004
State: Presidential Candidate
District: 03
Party: DEM (Democratic Party) (To get there from the www.fec.gov website: search "View Financial Reports" for "Clinton" and click on the blue number by her name.)
If this is true, I don't know to what extent filing papers of this nature represents a common precautionary tactic to keep options open. But it seems interesting if true.

UPDATE: Kathryn Lopez on the Corner has traced the record to a Draft Hillary committee, and not to Herself. (Sorry, Attorney Urman, didn't mean to get your hopes up.)

(Note: I should append sooner or later a blanket disclaimer to all of my posting on the elections - i.e., that in the next several days I'm accepting a position as overseas fundraising chair with the Clark campaign. I'll detail my reasons for doing so later - in a nutshell, they're that (a) Clark's candidacy seems to be showing greater chances for success than Lieberman's, and would (b) take the Democratic party toward a much stronger posture in foreign policy and centrism than would Howard Dean's candidacy; and while on the other hand I support much, if not most, of this adminstration's principle-driven foreign policy, I'm (c) disquieted by l'affaire Wilson. But, most importantly for me to establish from the start, I intend to keep my blogging role wholly separate from my role in that campaign.)
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# Posted 6:33 AM by Patrick Belton  

BACK FROM ERIN (no, the country, not a putative mistress): So I've just gotten back to Oxford after passing a lovely fortnight with Rachel on the secluded Irish-speaking island of Inishmaan, in Galway Bay off the west coast of Ireland. It was a lovely experience, on which I'll be posting more shortly - but first, I thought for the benefit of our Washington-based readers I might take a moment to publicize this Steven Pinker lecture at AEI this evening. The lecture is from 5:30 to 6:30 at AEI's building at 1150 17th Street NW. Pinker's own scribblings on what he's planning to talk about are these:
Why does talk of human nature inspire such fear and loathing in so many people? It challenges three deeply held beliefs: the blank slate (the mind has no innate structure), the noble savage (people are naturally good), and the ghost in the machine (behavior is not caused by physical events). These beliefs are thought to undergird indispensable moral values, and challenges to the beliefs are therefore thought to undermine the values. These orthodoxies, however, are flawed and should not have such influence on modern ethical principles. The meaning and purpose that people ascribe to life are not compromised by explanations of the ascribing process.

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# Posted 12:38 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE SPIDER AND THE FLY: On Wednesday night, the Red Sox will be fighting for their lives in the Bronx.
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Monday, October 06, 2003

# Posted 11:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GENTLEMEN, PREPARE TO DEFEND YOURSELVES: Splinters are beginning to emerge from the mainstream media consensus that the occupation of Iraq has been a tragic failure -- more specifically, a failure resulting from the Bush Administration's incompetence.

For example, Andrew Sullivan points to the absolutely shocking contrast between these two articles on occupied Kirkuk. The first is from the New York Times. It tells us that
[Saddam] expelled tens of thousands of Kurds and replaced them with more loyal Arabs imported from elsewhere. A secret police force was recruited within each group to spy on rival communities...

Mr. Hussein is gone, but the effect survives. Late last month, a sudden burst of ethnic bloodletting in Kirkuk and a neighboring town left 13 people dead. The United States occupation administration quelled the violence through a combination of military muscle and forced negotiations.

But the lingering question remains whether the multiethnic city government being glued together under American tutelage can channel sectarian hatred away from bloodshed.
The NYT correspondent goes on to admit that "If [ethnic reconciliation] succeeds in Kirkuk, many believe, then the effort to create an Iraq unscathed by similar fault lines may succeed, too." Yet it is rather clear from the article that one should not expect this to happen. In contrast, the Philadelphia Inquirer tells us that
Kirkuk, a multiethnic city of Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and Assyrians that is 150 miles north of the capital, may be the U.S. military's greatest Iraq success story. Attacks on soldiers are unusual, violent crime is low, and Iraqis have worked with Americans to restore basic services to prewar levels
Perhaps most shocking is that fact that American soldiers live in normal homes within the city rather than in fortified camps. In fact, the "soldiers of the 173d regularly eat and shop in local establishments and interact with residents." Given that the NYT and PI correspondents filed their stories within seven days of each other, the contrast between them is almost incomprehensible.

Perhaps even more surreal than this contrast is an article from the London Oberver (aka The Guardian on Sunday) which begins by blasting George W. Bush as the
head of a cabal that seeks to install a client regime in Iraq as a first step to bringing the region under American-Israeli control.
but then insists that
even in Baghdad, even with Saddam and his sons still at large, the sense of relief at the toppling of the regime was palpable.

A university lecturer living above a bakery where colleagues were burned alive told me: 'I feel as if I have been born again. Iraq was a prison above ground and a mass grave beneath it.'

Outside Baghdad, in the Shia south, the mood was overwhelmingly upbeat. In Basra, ordinary people gave the thumbs-up at the mere sight of a Brit. In Najaf, a waiter blew kisses.
Now the purpose of this isn't to make the same old point that the media hasn't been doing a good job of reporting on the occupation. It's purpose is to issue a direct challenge to intelligent pro-Democratic bloggers who still insist that the occupation is failure. The question is, will these liberal web giants wait until the media consensus on the quagmire has completely fallen apart, or will they get ahead of the curve and show that bloggers are consistently one step ahead of their dead-tree partisan allies?

Today, for example, Kevin Drum mocks the Bush Administration for rejiggering the bureaucratic hierarchy responsible for the occupation. While some might regard it as a sign of good things to come that the President is putting Condi Rice, his closest confidant, in charge of occupation oversight, Kevin regards it as a sign of total desperation.

Last we heard from Josh Marshall on this issue, he consdescendingly observed that those "right-wing columnists" naive enough to spin the UN bombing as a sign of progress were totally unable to comprehend just how bad things were going.

Matt Yglesias has been more effusive than most in advertising his belief that the United States has a compelling interest in establishing a lasting democratic order in Iraq. (Kevin has been pretty good about this too, though.) But he also argues tireless;y for bringing in the UN and multilateralizing the occupation (a strategy that OxBlog has never been fond of.)

So, Matt & Kevin (& Josh, if he has time) what do you say? Have we Iraq boosters finally persuaded you that media bias is more than a figment of the conservative imagination? Or is there a compelling case for the conventional wisdom that the occupation is a failure? En garde!

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