Monday, October 27, 2003
# Posted 11:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
In New York City, if a child is old enough to leave the house by himself, he is also old enough to instinctively sense the unspoken divide between white, black and Latin. Sometimes, that divide becomes more explicit. The Crown Heights riots were one such moment.
It is precisely because I have such vivid but clouded memories of New York's past that I was fascinated by Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities. With incredible detail, it evoked the confusion and fear of upper-middle class white New York.
However, Wolfe does not tell us much about poor, black New York. I believe that this decision is a reflection of Wolfe's honesty as an author. He will not write about that which he does not know. There is artistic value to this decision as well, since less impressive sections might have marred the exquisite observational writing that fills the rest of the book.
Still, being curious about that which I do not know, I decided to purchase of a copy of Code of the Street, by UPenn sociologist Elijah Anderson.
When browsing the shelves at the Harvard Bookstore, I didn't recognize the connection between Wolfe's writing and Anderson's. When I browse, I mostly look at those books that have been remaindered, since I am not inclined to pay full price for my casual reading. I suspect that because of this haphazard approach to book-buying, I didn't even notice what an impressive and surprising array of authors had chosen to publish their praise on the jacket of Prof. Anderson's book. A partial list includes Cornel West, George Will, Marian Wright Edelman and William Julius Wilson.
Having now read half of the book, I think I can see why it appeals to such a broad swathe of the political spectrum. Anderson's work is richly descriptive but subtly analytical. As the author explains, his purpose was to produce an ethnography of inner-city life. He seeks to document what is, rather than focusing on why it is so or how it should be. While one cannot charge Anderson with ignoring such issues, he certainly does not place them in the foreground.
In short, I think it would be best to place Anderson's work in the 'culture of poverty' tradition. Although I am not familiar with the classics of that canon, I believe that they emphasize how the greatest barrier to the advancement of the poor are not purely economic or structural, but are rather the product of a culture that they themselves embrace.
As such, it isn't hard to see why this tradition has considerable appeal for conservatives. If ethical failures are responsible for the perpetuation of poverty, than one can argue persuasively that increased welfare funding and expanded affirmative action programs are not the answer.
However, one can also argue -- and Prof. Anderson often seems to do so -- that increased funding or greater racial justice might be able to break the hold that the culture of the inner city has on its inhabitants. Even so, such sentiments comprise an undercurrent in Anderson's book, rather than its main stream.
As someone almost completely unfamiliar with the academic analysis of urban poverty, I must say that I have been profoundly shocked by what I have read. What Anderson describes is nothing short of a culture that glorifies uncontrolled violence and conspicuous consumption while forcefully disparaging the virtues of responsibility, modesty, and compromise.
Anderson says time and again that it is not wrong to fear a young black man walking towards you with a North Face jacket, Timberland boots and an unwelcoming expression. And it is not just white America that fears him. Decent black America fears him. Other young black men may fear him. And perhaps most disturbing of all, this is exactly the reaction that the young man in question wants to provoke.
Frankly, if this book didn't have endorsements given by West, Edelman and Wilson, I would not believe a word it says. How, in the absence of first-hand knowledge, could I possibly conclude that so many black men (and women) subscribe to a set of principles that I (and most black Americans) believe to be nothing short of perverse? How, in the absence of first-hand knowledge, could I accept a version of reality that seems designed to validate an extreme political agenda?
The most heartbreaking section of Prof. Anderson's book concerns inner-city attitudes toward parenting. For the young men Anderson describes, persuading the mother of your child to accept your total abdication of responsibility for its welfare is an achievement, a demonstration of masculine bravado. In contrast, supporting one's child -- either financially or through marriage -- is considered a weakness.
I found this so heartbreaking because it seems to go against the most fundamental source of human compassion, the parental bond. I found it so heartbreaking because the victims of this insanity are innocent children.
While disapproving of it, I understand why many young black women and women denigrate academic achievement, denigrate respect for the law, and denigrate respect for their elders. But to destroy one's own children is more than I can comprehend.
I am still afraid that someone will respond to this post and point out a glaring flaw with Anderson's work that I have missed. A flaw I did not detect because of my own ideological blinders. A flaw exposing a willingness to believe the worst, a willingness that is analytically indistinguishable from racism. But for the moment I am persuaded that this is real.
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# Posted 10:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
But more than lives have been lost. For more than a hundred years, the Red Cross has been a symbol of mankind's desire to lessen the carnage of even the most brutal war. In countless conflicts, the Red Cross has navigated treacherous political waters, succesfully establishing its neutral status so that it could minister to the fallen on all sides. But now, we must confront the sort of mindless cruelty that sees even the humanitarian aspirations of the Red Cross as a threat to its savage agenda. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:26 AM by Patrick Belton
Cole [a prominent local opponent to the U.N. locating in Greenwich, Connecticut] boasted years later of hiring two men to pretend they were Syrians. Each man donned a fez and walked through downtown Greenwich with surveyor tools, chattering away in pig Latin and spooking the shopkeepers.Atthay isway ettypray arnday unnyfay. Osethay illysay Ushesbay!
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Sunday, October 26, 2003
# Posted 6:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The attack [on the al-Rashid] demonstrated how resistance fighters are increasingly using explosive projectiles -- rockets and mortars -- to pierce supposedly secure American facilities. On Friday, two soldiers were killed and four were wounded in a mortar strike a military base north of Baghdad. Thirteen soldiers were wounded in another mortar attack on Thursday night.So is this bad news? Well, it certainly isn't good news. But the WaPo's correspondents think that we have to keep things in perspective:
The attacks marred a day when two events brought life in Baghdad closer to normal: the reopening of a major bridge across the Tigris River and the lifting of the nighttime curfew clamped on the capital since U.S. forces toppled Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.The NYT article on the attack also mentioned the reopening of the bridge and the lifting of the curfew, but preserved its correspondents' sense of detachment and objectivity by having an American general describe those events' significance. For those in a charitable frame of mind, the NYT correspondents' professionalism is something to be admired. Those of a more cynical cast might suggest, however, that NYT correspondents maintain an admirable commitment to professional norms precisely when doing favors their interpretation of events on the ground. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
While I answered Mark's question the best I could given my lack of philosophical training, I thought it would be a good idea to get some more feedback from what I wrote, which is as follows:
Briefly, I'd say that the simplest kind of truth is factual truth. Much of it is directly observational. This is a table. This a chair. Water is blue.How that's for starters? (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Saturday, October 25, 2003
# Posted 11:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 2:48 PM by Patrick Belton
It's Friday which, depending on how the moon looks to the relevant authorities, may be the last day before Ramazan begins in Kabul. We're hoping for another day's respite; tomorrow P. and I [note: this is not me - even if I have seemed oddly absent from Oxford lately - ed.] are heading up to check out one of the dams built under our project, and apparently there's a riverside hostel nearby that catches and grills fresh fish from the Panjshir river. It'd be a shame if it didn't start serving until after sundown. Plus, we've decided to honor the fast, judging that to be easier and more respectful than smuggling food into the office restroom (or tantalizing our observant co-worker and housemate Z. with large meals during daylight hours).(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I read your blog entry mentioning the Genesis video, shown on MTV and elsewhere, that depicted a Claymation Ronald Reagan accidentally launching nuclear missiles. You may be interested to know that the joke wasn't original to that video, and wasn't originally aimed at Reagan. During the reign of Yuri Andropov, the Soviet leader of the very early 1980s who was in poor health, a cartoon by the well-known French cartoonist Plantu ran in Le Monde that showed an IV-drip-connected Andropov in a hospital bed beneath two large buttons that read "NURSE" and "SS-20". The SS-20 was of course the latest model of Soviet nuclear-armed missile. So, the Genesis video in fact turned somebody else's anti-Soviet humor into an anti-American work.Oh the irony... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, October 24, 2003
# Posted 10:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Organizers and police expect the protest to draw upwards of 30,000 participants. While I don't know about crowd numbers, I do expect a deluge of sarcastic barbs from the blogosphere. It's sort of like shooting fish in a barrel. For example,
"I have two granddaughters," said Nancy Jakubiak, 54, a legal assistant preparing for a 12-hour trip to the District on a charter bus leaving Louisville tonight. "They're 3 and 1, and I do this for them. I tremble when I think of the world they're going to grow up in."Gee, Nancy, do you mean a world without Saddam Hussein? Isn't Kim Jong Il enough for your granddaughters? That's what I mean by fish in a barrel. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
An Unconventional Weapon:Now imagine if someone (say a three-star general at the Pentagon) had said that "Mystical belief, like disease and poverty, would seem to be an unyielding Arab curse." Then the NYT would write an editorial demanding that he be fired.
Look, I have no interest in defending Gen. Boykin. He should be disciplined. And writing one bad caption (or blog post) is obviously not in the same league as evangelical barnstorming. But some consistency would be appreciated.
Anyhow, I read the first sectionof the cannibalism article and I am sure my stomach can take the rest. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:11 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:51 AM by Patrick Belton
If you land in Dubai, chances are nine out of twelve times the first thing that will strike you after you leave the airport is how hot the weather it is. Immediately after, you'll begin to notice the sand, the cars (mostly Japanese and American), wide well-maintained American-style highways, and the diversity of people. Next you will probably start to get a feeling that driving here is really, really crazy.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:20 AM by Patrick Belton
Jesus actor struck by lightning: Actor Jim Caviezel [i.e., the movie's "Jesus"] has been struck by lightning while playing Jesus in Mel Gibson's controversial film The Passion Of Christ. It was the second time Michelini had been hit by lightning during the shoot.(Then again, we already knew God reads TNR, like any good Jewish intellectual....) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:42 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Yesterday, I took the NY Times to task for writing in a straight news article that
With Mr. Hussein still at large, with American soldiers dying here almost every day, with no unconventional weapons found, with America's allies reluctant to help, many supporters now justify the war on the grounds that Iraqis are better off and the nation is on the road to stability.In response, Matt asks
But what's wrong with [that]? Mr Hussein is at large, no unconventional weapons have been found, American soldiers are dying almost every day, our allies are reluctant to help, and many supporters of the war do now justify it on the grounds that Iraqis are better off and the nation is on the road to stability.The implicit premise of Matt's statement is that any factually correct statement has a legitimate place in the news. Yet surely a professional journalist such as Matt knows that editorializing is not just a matter of expressing subjective opinions, but emphasizing certain facts at the expense of others.
So let's take a look at the context in which NYT correspondent Ian Fisher wrote what he did. The subject of the article in question is Iraqi citizens' (allegedly) surprising desire to have American forces stay in Iraq for the time being. While the NYT deserves credit for reporting some news at odds with its editorial line, the whole premise of surprise reflects the Times' assumption that the Iraqi people ought to see American soldiers as destructive invaders rather than constuctive liberators. But as it turns out,
"We really feel good for the improvement in our lives," Samir el-Amili, 40, said cheerily as he worked to reopen his demolished jewelry shop on the ground level. "We got something very real from Saddam's going."Excuse me? Did an Arab just say that freedom is something "very real"? That the end of Saddam's vicious dictatorship was worth the price? How much did Condi and Rummy pay him to say that?
Of course, not everyone is as happy as Mr. Amili.
Saad Atta Mahmoud, 45, a former army officer, was more ambivalent. He grumbled that "the Americans have done nothing good," but said they should stay in Iraq for now.I don't know about you, but if some psycopath came into my home with a baseball bat and started f***ing sh** up, I wouldn't insist that he stay around any longer than he has to. Thus it seems that even Mr. Mahmoud belives that a continued American presence will do far more good than harm.
Now here comes the paragraph in question. Apparently, the NYT felt that it needed to expand on Mr. Mahmoud's suggestion the United States "has to clean things up." Thus, its correspondent observed that
With Mr. Hussein still at large, with American soldiers dying here almost every day, with no unconventional weapons found, with America's allies reluctant to help, many supporters now justify the war on the grounds that Iraqis are better off and the nation is on the road to stability.But what if Mr. Fisher worked for Fox News instead of the NYT? Perhaps he would've written that
Cleaning things up in Iraq seems to be at the top of the American agenda. Despite public and congressional resistance, the Bush Administration is fighting hard to appropriate $20.3 billion for the reconstruction of Iraq. In addition, the President has made an unconditional commitment to bring democracy to Iraq, despite the fact that American lives must be sacrificed on almost a daily basis in order to do so.I'm guessing that Matt wouldn't consider this hypothetical paragraph to be "fair and balanced" despite the fact that it contains no factual errors. Nor should he. Because even-handed journalism is just as much about emphasis as it is about accuracy.
To be sure, there is no objective standard according to which one can measure the fairness of an article's emphasis. That is why I offered a hypothetical alternative to the NYT's editorial comment. To show that there is an alternate (and valid) perspective on the occupation that the NYT glaringly omits. In other words, what the NYT was giving us in a straight news article was not news, but rather its private opinion.
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Thursday, October 23, 2003
# Posted 11:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Now I'm sure you've heard this argument before. It's called "engagement". And both liberals and conservatives spent much of the 1990s arguing that the more we engaged China, the more its government would embrace Western political and economic systems.
Yeah right. China is a vast nation, distant from the United States both geographically and culturally. We could only engage it at the margins. But Cuba is fundamentally different. Now, the President is probably right that if that the travel ban etc. is lifted, a significant percentage of the resultant income will go straight into the pockets of the Communist government. But that's not the point.
We are going to overwhelm Cuba with ideas. And we may be able to foster something of a private sector that has assets of its own. Moreover, even Castro's loyal bureaucrats may recognize that their cut of the goods is nothing compared to what it would be if liberalization went even further.
So I wish Congress all the best in its efforts to overcome the President's veto threat. But what do you expect? In 2000, the President's victory margin in Florida consisted of 3000 old Jews who voted for Buchanan. He can't afford to tangle with the Cubans. But Congress can. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:37 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I sort of wish I were a lawyer so I could figure out exactly what executive privilege is and what its limits are. Because doesn't it seem strange that Congress can read every document it wants from the CIA but can't look inside the White House files? Constitutionally, that makes sense.
You know, it might be nice if the Bush Administration just came and said, "Sure, we'd love to have the Senate Intelligence Committee look at our files. After all, who can trust the government if it isn't honest about what it's been up to." But this is the real world, so fuggedabowdit. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:36 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Since President Bush announced the end of hostilities in May, more than 100 American soldiers have become casualties — one or two a day have been killed in ambushes, shot by snipers and blown to pieces by roadside bombs.Actually, if one soldier were killed each day, there would have been approximately 160 fatalities by now. At two per day, 320. While the author may just have made an innocent mistake, I think it is a good reflection of how the media focus on casualty counting has led to exaggerated perceptions of how often American soldiers get killed.
Meanwhile, enjoy this tidbit from what is ostensible a straight news article on Iraqi public opinion:
With Mr. Hussein still at large, with American soldiers dying here almost every day, with no unconventional weapons found, with America's allies reluctant to help, many supporters now justify the war on the grounds that Iraqis are better off and the nation is on the road to stability.Maybe the NYT should change its slogan to "Fair and Balanced". (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:31 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 1:18 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
# Posted 7:47 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 7:28 PM by Patrick Belton
In the interim, though - and, after all, since I'm not quite climbed up on my high horse just yet - this Stratfor analysis of the dynamics likely to inform the next papal election, whenever it will be, is interesting.
John Paul II reportedly left written instructions several years ago on what should be done if and when his disease [i.e., Parkinson's] left him bedridden and silent for the rest of his life. Of course, Vatican officials never would confirm the existence of such instructions. However, if he becomes immobile, a successor likely will have to be chosen quickly.Place your bets. (Note: Despite the previous sentence, OxBlog does not condone betting, as it detracts from more important, meaninful, life pursuits, such as whisky and tobacco.) Paddy Power is placing best odds on Cardinals Tettamanzi, Ortega, Arinze, and Battista Re. (That's two Italians, a Nigerian, and a Latin, for those of you keeping score at home.)
UPDATE: Kieran at Crooked Timber is rooting for Nigerian Cardinal Arinze. This is principally because of the expanded Nigerian spam possibilities. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:19 PM by Patrick Belton
Personally, though, I'd much rather think about fluffy computers. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
# Posted 10:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I expect that this important event will get spun two ways: Liberals will present it as a demonstration of multilateral institutions' ability to resolve crises without restort to war. Conservatives will respond that Iran is only making nice because it was intimidated by our victory in Iraq.
Although it would be premature to reject either of these alternatives before having all the facts, I think that both of them underestimate the ways in which multi- and unilateral approaches to international problem-solving cannot just co-exist, but can complement one another.
First of all, the apparent success of the Anglo-Franco-German team in negotiating a deal demonstrates that the unauthorized invasion of Iraq neither undermined the effectiveness of multilateral institutions nor did it provoke an unbridgeable trans-Atlantic divide (both of which the President's critics expected). In fact, as this website predicted, the decision to invade without UN approval may well have a positive effect on the existing international order.
And when I say "Europe", that includes the United Kingdom, which very much hopes to minimize the number of times that it has to jeopardize cross-Channel relations for the sake of trans-Atlantic ones. Thus, the invasion of Iraq may have facilitated the recent agreement with Iran, not by intimidating Teheran, but by motivating London, Paris and Berlin to work as hard as possible for a peaceful outcome.
Admittedly, Teheran's motives remain unknown. Have they made a strategic decision to abandon their nuclear ambitions? Are they afraid of the domestic dissent an open conflict with the West might provoke? Do they believe that the elusiveness of Iraq's WMD arsenal indicates that hiding such a program is more doable than previously thought? Or are the Iranians just plain intimidated? I wouldn't be surprised if more than one of these factors were at play.
The one regret the Europeans might have about the current deal is that allows the Bush administration to have its cake and eat it too. In other words, the US got to invade Iraq without Security Council permission but still got the French and the Germans to invest their political capital in stopping Iran. Thus, I hope that if the current arrangement comes to fruition, the Bush Administration will recognize that its allies have extended a very valuable olive branch.
Finally, what all this goes to demonstrate is that the values and objectives that the United States and Europe share are far more important than any of the inevitable divides that emerge from periodic conflagrations.
UPDATE: MD points to this Reuters dispatch which quotes Iranian NSC chief Hassan Rohani to the effect that
"We voluntarily chose to [stop enriching uranium], which means it could last for one day or one year, it depends on us...As long as Iran thinks this suspension is beneficial it will continue, and whenever we don't want it we will end it."Also note that the French, British and German foreign ministers "greeted the agreement as an important step forward rather than a breakthrough." Apparently, Mr. Straw, Herr Fischer and M. de Villepin wanted to make clear that OxBlog has been overly optimistic. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
"The lyrics are stories no one would take as fact/They're an exaggeration of a childish act...Word to your mother. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
When it comes to soldiers' coffins, the Administration picked the worst possible time to make an otherwise sound decision. I'm all for protecting the privacy of the fallen, but in the middle of an open campaign to improve coverage of the occupation, it's hard not to believe that the Administration's decision reflected selfish political concerns rather than the legitimate interests of the soldiers' families.
As for Human Rights Watch, the WaPo article on its new report doesn't really make clear what the US military has been charged with. At the beginning of the article, an HRW officials suggests that US soldiers have behaved in an "over-aggressive" and possibly illegal manner. However, the incidents described at the end of the article make it sound like the fog of war is the real culprit.
If you have the time and the patience, I recommend reading the full HRW report. While the report's summary charges that American soldiers are "arrogant and abusive" and that there is a total lack of accountability for US forces in Iraq, the body of the report doesn't contain much to substantiate that conclusion.
Presumably, the case studies at the heart of the HRW report are meant to substantiate its general conclusions. While I definitely agree that the events described in these studies are tragic, they tend to revolve around confusion rather than neglect.
For example, there are multiple instances in which Iraqi cars were fired upon after running American checkpoints, apparently by accident. In one case, the driver had his internal lights on while also blaring music from his stereo system. Thus, it isn't all that surprising that he failed to listen to (or even hear) the soldiers who yelled at him to stop.
It's also worth noting that a significant number of the cases HRW describes ended in compensation being offered by Coalition forces. Moreover, as the report points out, compensation is not an exceptional event, but rather a standard feature of Coalition policy.
Finally, the HRW case studies are somewhat disturbing because they give the reader no way of determining whether or not any of the eye-witnesses and family members interviewed have anything credible to say. While some cross-checking between witness accounts seems to have taken place, many of the details in the report seem improbable at best. In contrast, the tone used to describe American soldiers' testimony suggests that it should be taken with a grain of salt.
That said, HRW probably is on solid ground when it says that American soldiers need more training in combat situtaitons. Moreover, its recommendations for how to reduce civilian casualties seem useful.
All in all, I'm glad that there are human rights workers aggressively monitoring American behavior. In most instances, such observations lends credibility to official assertions that US troops comport themselves in an exemplary manner.
In those instances where American behavior leaves something to be desired, such monitoring helps ensure that remedial action is taken.
Of course, it might be better if HRW and similar groups didn't always present their findings as scandalous, even when they don't have much to report. Moreover, the armed forces might prove more receptive to such suggestions if HRW & Co. held foreign governments and military forces to similarly high standards.
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# Posted 4:46 PM by Patrick Belton
The trip offers an opportunity to talk to Cubans unencumbered by fears that we might be overheard or that our conversation might be reported to the authorities. The dense network of Revolutionary Defence Committees - Cuba's steelier version of Neighbourhood Watch - is one reason there isn't much crime but it also helps ensure political orthodoxy. When we talked about political issues before we left Havana, many people refused to speak. Others resorted to miming, or referred to Castro simply by stroking an imaginary beard.What he finds is not surprising of a police state which spies on and imprisons its human rights workers and poets: "In less than two hours we give lifts to five Cubans, and the picture they are painting of Fidel Castro's Cuba is not attractive. While the ubiquitous roadside slogans urge sacrifice to defend the revolution, Castro seems to be losing the battle of ideas." (Lapper's ending sentence is particularly evocative: "In the gloom, I vaguely make out yet another fading party slogan on a roadside billboard. "Firmness and dignity", it reads.")
This should be required reading for the misguided collegiate fans of the regime, along with Human Rights Watch's extensive documentation of Cuba's repression of its people (including congressional testimony last month by OxBlog's friend Tom Malinowski, a Rhodes scholar from 1989) Although in its report on the latest wave of brutal political repression, Amnesty International curiously spends most of its words playing for the gallery and attacking the U.S. embargo and (quote) the "war on terror" - their scare quotes. (Amnesty's bias against actually looking at countries that repress their people, and instead concentrating with increasing exclusivity solely on criticizing the United States, has been well documented - a sad end to an organization which once stood for human rights.)
Bravo for the FT for, unlike Amnesty, actually going there - and speaking with people who actually live under the regime. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:27 PM by Patrick Belton
Date: Fri Sep 26 18:25:27 2003 Here's how it works: you come to my apartment in Astoria, pick up a heavy box or piece of furniture, move it to my new apartment in Greenpoint, then you disperse without saying a word.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
UPDATE: A survey of other blogs suggests that the answer is "a) Anti-Semites". (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:46 AM by Patrick Belton
So you all know: I got to Kabul safely, and have been here for a day and a half now. In some ways it feels very familiar (echoes of India and Nepal), in others very new and alien. The airport runway is lined with the rusted wrecks of other planes cannibalized for parts. A scattering of poppies have sprung up next to the tarmac. I waited for a couple hours at the baggage claim to find that one of my checked bags was still in Dubai. When I got out to the parking lot, the guy sent to pick me up was not the least put out by my lateness -- still very friendly, very cheerful.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:44 AM by Patrick Belton
At this point, I should also make note of how extraordinarily grateful I am to be luckily arrived safe and sound from an arduous, emotionally and physically draining week of working on my dissertation while sipping coffee at the Café de Flore on the Left Bank - with occasional breaks from writing to stroll down Saint Germain de Prés and meet various black-turtleneck clad rive-gauchistes who were very excited to tell me all about the wonders of Maoism, the commodification of contemporary European culture, and new art exhibitions going on around Paris. Thankfully, however, I am now safely back to Oxfordshire, where I can instead resume my accustomed comfortable habit of working on my dissertation while sipping warm beer at our village pub, while taking work breaks to trip over various tourists and drunken English girls. Much better.
Incidentally, I have many reflections on my experiences and conversations in Paris, which I'm looking forward very much to writing up shortly here. I did not always agree with all my interlocutors, but I do feel that now I understand them much better. Many thanks to all the many generous people who were kind enough to host me, who helped me to begin to get to know the city from the inside, and who explained to me current trends in the city's intellectual and literary currents over copious cups of cafe espres. Paris has a kindly heart indeed, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to be its lucky beneficiary. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:31 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
You can't really argue with that. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:14 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:29 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Monday, October 20, 2003
# Posted 12:40 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:29 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:11 AM by Daniel
Sunday, October 19, 2003
# Posted 1:46 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:26 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Saturday, October 18, 2003
# Posted 3:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 3:35 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 3:22 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 3:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 2:56 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
UPDATE: Or maybe I should be more worried about what Halliburton is doing on the homefront. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:44 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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.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.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.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
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." (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:52 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 1:48 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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.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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, October 17, 2003
# Posted 12:31 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
# Posted 12:57 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:32 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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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