Tuesday, November 18, 2003
# Posted 9:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Alternately, the French could let the Turks into the EU and ask them to share some of their remarkable tolerance for Judaism with their French counterparts. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Monday, November 17, 2003
# Posted 11:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I would not be so sanguine, however. If you listen to The Score or The Carnival, you might figure out why Howard Dean thinks all Southerners have the Stars & Bars in their pickups.
One of Wyclef's big messages is that the black man must wear a mask of respectability until he is powerful enough to overthrow the white order. Needless to say, I appreciate Wyclef for his talents as a musician and storyteller, not his advice on social policy.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
When Clark finally decided to show some foresight by saying that it's time to lift the embargo on Cuba, he quickly backed off the statement and hypocritically added that candidates shouldn't make "foreign policy announcements" in the middle of a campaign (except on such important subjects as the giving the UN control of Iraq.)
On the bright side, it turns out that Clark may not be as arrogant as we all once thought. Then again, walking around with one's foot in one's mouth is conducive to humility.
Clark also seems to get in shape rhetorically when facing off against the right. Yet even Clark supporter Kevin Drum, who proudly asserts that Clark knows more about foreign policy than both Glenn Reynolds and Kevin's cat, admits that the General has a habit of saying some very stupid things about foreign and domestic affairs. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
As a result of this new policy, Kevin has decided to declare the NYT more blog-friendly than either the WaPo or LAT, since both of them move their content behind a firewall after a fixed period of time. However, I think the WaPo deserves a lot more credit than Kevin is giving it. If you go to the WaPo webpage for any given topic or country, you can usually access 100 recent stories about it, sometimes going back more than a year. That's a tremendous amount of information that you can't get out of the NYT. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:51 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
What I don't about like the article is the way it argues by implication that Iraqi Shi'ites just want power and don't understand and/or care about democracy as a system of government. For example, WaPo correspondent Anthony Shadid describes some pro-Iranian graffiti outside the office of Sistani's spokesman before letting us hear the spokesman's endorsement of constitutional government.
Is this supposed to be a tip off that Iraqi Shi'ites want an Islamic state? If so, why not just ask Sistani's spokesman about Iran? Why not ask him whether he sees democracy as a permanent system or just a transitional process? And ask those same questions to all the other man-in-the-street types whose opinions fill out the second half of all these articles.
We've known since day one that the Shi'ites have a lot of incentives to support democracy just long enough for them to take control of postwar Iraq. Now it is time for the media to stop repeating that fact endlessly and figure out whether the Shi'ite leadership means what it says about democracy or whether it just talks about democracy to advance its own interests.
By the same token, the American occupation authorities should be hammering away at a similar point when talking to the Shi'ite leadership: The more of a commitment that you show to democracy as an institution, the faster we can transfer power to an elected government in which your representatives will have a majority. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, November 16, 2003
# Posted 5:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:35 PM by Patrick Belton
Tuesday 2 December - Oberlin, OHApart from London, I'm not sure where they're performing in each city, but their publicists'll know. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:53 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Saturday, November 15, 2003
# Posted 5:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 5:30 PM by Patrick Belton
Turkey's Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Haleva said he had warned Turkish police before that car traffic posed a threat to the two synagogues (News 24, South Africa). Mossad had also passed warnings about threats to the two synagogues onto Turkish intelligence on two occasions in the preceding months. (AP) One blast, in Neve Shalom synagogue, took place during a Bar Mitzvah (Guardian). Reuters includes a history of the Sephardic community in Istanbul.
Eli malei rachamim sho-khein bam'romim, hammtzei m'nukhah n'khonah al kanfei hash'khinah. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 2:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Of course, our thougths also go out to the families of the non-Jews killed and injured in the attack. Initial reports suggest that there were 14 passesrby and 6 synagogue-goers killed. In Istanbul, those passersbys were most probably Muslism. And so the irony of September 11th recurs: in an effort to slaughter the Zionists and their American allies, innocent Muslims lives are taken. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Something just seems wrong. Why has the information turned up now? Why would the White House sit on information that would vindicate its decision to invade Iraq? The Standard article says the information was compiled in response to a request by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Why the heck would the administration wait until the Senate showed an interest before doing some serious research on the Saddam-Osama connection? I thought that was the kind of research that they'd been doing all along.
Another set of concerns are raised by Matt Yglesias. The information in question is contained in a memo from Doug Feith's office at the Pentagon. Given Feith's connection to the controversial Office of Special Plans (OSP), one has to wonder. Even if you don't accept Matt's premise that the OSP is an operations center for partisan hacks intent on distorting the intelligence process, it is fair to ask why this memo didn't come from a source with greater public credibility.
In short, I think we are waiting for the other shoe to drop. My guess is that someone in the government feels very strongly about this report, and is trying to get the White House to stand behind it by indirectly going public. But if the case can't be made on its own merits within the government, then something may be very wrong. We'll find out exactly what that is when the Washington press corps gets a hold of the story and starts telling us far more than the Weekly Standard's source wants us to know.
PS: How convenient is it that this information is coming out now, at a moment when Howard Dean is threatening to wrap up the Democratic nomination? A proven Saddam-Al Qaeda link would blow his campaign out of the water. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:04 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 12:18 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:10 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:03 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Friday, November 14, 2003
# Posted 11:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
While endorsing the standard multilateralist critique that Daalder and Lindsay advocate, Marshall takes them to task for underestimating the neo-con influence on Bush's foreign policy. As Marshall writes,
The "neocons," they say -- referring to them as "democratic imperialists" -- may be powerful at magazines such as The Weekly Standard and think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, but key movement figures such as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Pentagon adviser Richard Perle actually missed out on the top appointments. Those plums went to people such as Cheney, Rice, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who the authors claim are more properly classified as "assertive nationalists."I think "assertive nationalists" is a pretty good way to describe them, with the exception of Rice, who is a dyed-in-the-wool realist. While Marshall shares that assessment of Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al., he counters that
The defining characteristic of the Bush administration's foreign policy, in fact, has been the way the neocons in and out of office have been able to win so many of the key battles -- if not on the first go-round, then on the second or the third...And what is it that differentiates a neo-conservative policy from an assertive nationalist one? Marshall's answer is that,
Although it is the sworn enemy of realism, neoconservatism has never been and is not now limited to one particular foreign policy school. It is a protean construct centering on a belief in the righteousness of American power, the wonder-working qualities of bold gestures, and an unwillingness to muddle through.Righteous power? Bold gestures? That sounds like....assertive nationalism. According to the conventional wisdom on both sides of the aisle, what separates neo-conservatism from assertive nationalism is its hopeful vision of a global democratic revolution. Yet Marshall dismisses this distinction on the grounds that too many neo-conservatives showed too much sympathy for too many right-wing Third World dictators back in the 1980s.
That point is a fair one. Yet it completely ignores the transformation -- better, purification -- of neo-conservatism that began during Reagan's second term and accelerated during the aftermath of the Cold War. Moreover, it prevents Marshall from emphasizing the best evidence for his theory of neo-con dominance, i.e. the ideologically-charged occupation of Iraq.
Strangely, Marshall insists on
the essential continuity of the administration's policy before and after September 11, 2001. The attacks on that day allowed President Bush to refashion American foreign policy in a far bolder and more audacious fashion than otherwise would have been possible, the authors argue, but in fact the administration's essential goals, premises, and assumptions changed very little.But what about the pronounced aversion to nation-building that defined Bush's foreign policy on the campaign trail? Surely the simplest explanation for his about face on this issue is the influence of the neo-conservatives.
Ultimately, Marshall's hands are tied by his unwillingness to acknowledge that intellectually dishonest neo-conservatives could be the driving force behind a morally progressive international agenda such as global democracy promotion. While there is no direct evidence of this in Marshall's review of America Unbound, it is a point that will be familiar to those who have read "Practive to Deceive" Marshall's anti-neo-con polemic in the Washington Monthly or to those who visit his website on a regular basis.
When it comes down it, Marshall is right that the neo-cons credibility is on the line in Iraq and that its success or failure will have a tremendous impact on their reputation. Yet that suggestion only makes sense if one gives the neo-cons credit for giving the occupation of Iraq its moral foundation, regardless of whether the implementation of their vision was competent enough to ensure its fruition. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Apparently, the headline writers think Sachs has to be reined in, since they took her 99% positive story and titled it "Joy, and Jeers, as New Police Patrol Baghdad." The jeer referred to in the title comes from one citizen who asks the new Baghdad cops, "What took you so long?" Of course, that is just about the last question anyone would ask when Saddam's uniformed thugs came knocking at the door. But why should OxBlog point that out when Sachs does it herself?! As she writes,
Such a happy scene would have been unimaginable a year ago. The Iraqi police force was as tainted as the rest of Saddam Hussein's security forces, feared for its casual brutality and powers to spy, residents said.It can't be long before she's working for Fox. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
isn't just a fabulous seagoing spectacle. It's one for the ages. Not only does Peter Weir's film give you an atmospheric feel for the agony and ecstasy of early 19th-century sea warfare, it's a rollicking good story.On the other hand, Stephen Hunter says the film
feels weirdly overstuffed, as stories keep stumbling into and over one another or are buried beneath the arrival of other stories. The worst example is the film's narrative framework...While film reviews are obviously a matter of taste, it's a little strange to hear two-highly paid professionals disagree about virtually every aspect of a film (except the opening battle sequence, which they both think is great.)
Sadly, I must admit that my impulse is to distrust the positive review. In other words, I'm an optimist when it comes to Iraq, but not when it comes to Hollywood. There is something of the beret-clad art-house critic in me, so I tend to believe that there really is such a thing as taste in film and that most of what comes out of Hollywood is recycled trash.
On the other hand, I love Jet Li and Jackie Chan and all sorts of far-out action flicks that don't pretend to offer you anything but a good time. So while I tend to trust bad movie reviews, I was also taught at a young age how the permanent presence of a stick in most film critics' hindquarters (especially at the NYT, my adolescent paper of choice) means that they will poo-poo any film which offer its viewers a good time rather than a sobering intellectual odyssey.
Speaking of which, what does the NYT have to say about Master & Commander? According to A.O. Scott,
This stupendously entertaining movie, directed by Peter Weir and adapted from two of the novels in Patrick O'Brian's 20-volume series on Aubrey's naval exploits, celebrates an idea of England that might have seemed a bit corny even in 1805, when the action takes place.Hmmm, so you start out thinking it's a compliment but then it turns out to be somewhat backhanded. Later on, Scott tells us that
The Napoleonic wars that followed the French Revolution gave birth, among other things, to British conservatism, and "Master and Commander," making no concessions to modern, egalitarian sensibilities, is among the most thoroughly and proudly conservative movies ever made. It imagines the Surprise as a coherent society in which stability is underwritten by custom and every man knows his duty and his place. I would not have been surprised to see Edmund Burke's name in the credits.So is this a good thing or a bad thing? Burke: Intellectual and European. But also conservative. Cleverly, Scott also points out that the date of the action in the film has been moved back a few years from 1812 to avoid the unpleasant fact that at the time, the Anglo-American special relationship was not all that special. At least they don't let Krugman do movie reviews... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:28 AM by Patrick Belton
Central Asia Analyst has an interesting analysis of Uzbekistan's repression of its outlawed opposition parties (which the analyst argues has grown milder since the U.S. presence began; the opposition parties enjoy widespread domestic support). The site also analyzes Kyrgyzstan's antiterrorist units and their commander's strategy of seeking security assistance from any neighbor who would offer it. Georgian parliamentary elections drew stunning participation, and represented a strong rebuke for the governing party. In the Moscow Times, India is setting up bases in Tajikistan.
In the Americas, Columbia's AUC is beginning to disarm, unrest brews in the Dominican Republic, and Mexico is complaining of a relationship of "convenience and subordination" with its northern neighbor on the eve of the cabinet-level Binational Commission's meeting. (And incidentally, joining us later in the afternoon in the OxBlog studios will be our ex-girlfriends, to speak further on this theme of relationships of convenience and brutal subordination.)
In East Asia, reporting has centered on China's sexual revolution (the most shocking finding: "half of the urban males in their thirties say they have had more than one sexual partner." ed: oooooooh. half of urban males in graduate school haven't had more than one sexual partner), and the party is making limited gains in attempting to coopt Chinese entrepreneurs. China is also indicating it will shortly take up a more hawkish policy toward Taiwan. (And in OxBlog's consular affairs department, check your credit card receipts next time you're in Hong Kong.) (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:26 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 2:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 1:52 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Thursday, November 13, 2003
# Posted 7:58 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 6:44 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:22 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:18 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:02 PM by Patrick Belton
The old advertising slogan "Guinness is Good for You" may be true after all, according to researchers.Well...sláinte - to your health - which seems appropriate! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:13 AM by Patrick Belton
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
# Posted 11:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
(NB: I have no evidence that the UN is exaggerating. But it has chosen sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict no less firmly than the United States has.)
Now, Israelis officials have insisted repeatedly that the wall is not a political barrier and would not affect the status of land on either side. Even so, it seems clear that neither individual Palestinians nor the Palestinian authority will exercise any effective control over land on the Israeli side. And that may be a good thing.
For the moment, Israel has very little new to offer the Palestinians at the negotiating table. While I am firmly of the opinion that the Israelis offered more than enough at Taba and that Arafat's rejection of that offer was criminal, I recognize that something will have to change for negotiations to work.
As it happens, President Arafat is calling for negotiations again, now that he has installed another Prime Minister who controls neither the Cabinet nor the security forces. Perhaps if Arafat recognized that the wall had cut off some of his precious West Bank, he will try to get it back by actually doing something about suicide bombings.
Of course, the chances of that sort of thing working aren't high. On the other hand, waiting for a plan with a good chance of success would mean waiting indefinitely. (Or until the Palestinian Authority get serious about internal democratic reforms. In other words, indefinitely.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Departing from convention, Paul Bremer explicitly endorsed the CIA report, which was the apparent cause of his sudden decision to return to Washington for consultation. It was during those consultations that Bremer and the Bush administration principals decided to schedule Iraq's first national elections for early to mid-2004, rather than the end of the year. Rather than waiting for the emergence of a constitution that would govern the electoral proces, the government elected early next year will have a mandate to define the constitutional drafting process.
According to the WaPo,
Th[is] decision represents a major shift in U.S. political strategy. Mirroring the U.S. military strategy of "Iraqification," Washington now wants to hand over as much responsibility for the political process as is feasible, as fast as it is feasible.When you read something like that, your gut says that the Administration is getting ready to cut and run. I don't believe that just yet, but the prospect is going to gnaw at me.
As Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias have been quick to point out, Bill Kristol & Robert Kagan have already decided that the Bush Administration won't match its soaring democratic rhetoric with a real commitment on the ground. The development that most concerns them is the Pentagon's mad rush to train Iraqi security forces without any apparent concern for their preparedness, either militarily or politically. As I said a few days ago, that is a concern with which I wholeheartedly agree.
(NB: I fully expect an I-told-you-so post from Matt Yglesias in response to this post, since he's already put one up in response to Josh's post on the Italian bombing earlier today.)
Also relevant right now are speculations that electoral motives are behind George Bush's decision to rush the political transition in Iraq. The timeline is certainly plausible. Elections at mid-year make him look good and keep the Democrats quiet during the campaign. Then if Bush wins, he has a free hand to either declare victory and withdraw or use his new mandate to fulfill his democratic pledge.
In the meantime, I would hope that the Kristol/Kagan editorial puts Bush on notice that he may begin losing support on his own side of the aisle if he doesn't demonstrate a concrete commitment to building democracy in Iraq. While I don't think that editorials (even in the Weekly Standard) have all that much effect on this White House's foreign policy, Kristol/Kagan may get a lot of nods on Capitol Hill, enough to force the administration to pay attention.
Finally, the silver lining. The NYT reports that
Elections have been demanded by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shiite religious leader. Experts assume that Shiites, who predominate in Iraq, would win a commanding majority of seats in any election.Now that doesn't sound like good news. Even if fears of an elected Shi'ite theocracy are often exaggerated, they should be on the table. Still, I find Sistani's demands encouraging. Would he be that forceful if he didn't see elections as a legitimate political institution, rather than a one-shot grab for power?
Admittedly, Sistani has a motive to be cynical. The real question is, what will happen if Paul Bremer draws him out on his approach to democracy? Is Sistani willing to say not just that he demands elections now, but that elections -- real elections for real power -- must be a permanent feature of Iraqi political life? If yes, that would have a very powerful impact on Iraq's Shi'ite community, as well as credibly signaling to the United States that the Shi'ite clergy have an appreciation of democratic politics far richer than a short-sighted insistence on "one man, one vote, one time."
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:59 PM by Patrick Belton
One of the many ways for bored expats driving around Kabul to pass their time is to speculate about which of the foreign restaurants are actually brothels. All new restaurants immediately fall under suspicion, especially those attached to new guesthouses. Chinese restaurants draw a wildly disproportionate share of hearsay. I've heard rumors from several sources about the curtained Croatian place across the street -- including from my housemates, who have managed not to eat there in the entire year they've lived on Taimani Street. My disappointment at discovering these particular rumors to be false was more than outweighed by discovering what is almost certainly the best calamari in Kabul. The welcoming yet slightly dictatorial proprietress (probably the inspiration for many of the rumors) starts off every table with a tray of dough balls fried according to an old Dalmatian recipe; and her chocolate walnut crepes are the best dessert I've had in this town.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
While it is hard to get bloggers -- let alone most Americans -- interested in Latin America these days, I think Randy does a great job of making the region interesting. While my own posting will probably stay focused the occupation of Iraq and the war on terror, I know that Randy -- and now SE -- is there when I need informed commentary on a region whose politics are continually distorted by the mainstream media. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
According to the Sunday Herald's homepage, it's investigation has "provoked an international storm". If you follow the link on those words, you get to another page listing the eminent news organizations that have picked up on the story, including The Palestine Chronicle, Indymedia, Antiwar.com, and Sullywatch.
There are two reputable organizations on the list, however: ABC News and New York's Jewish weekly, the Forward. While neither one substantiates any of the ridiculous suggestions made by the Herald, there was an interesting story behind the hype.
It turns out that the FBI picked up five Israelis on the afternoon of September 11th, thanks to a tip from a New Jersey housewife who saw the men acting strangely and filming the burning towers. When arrested, one of the men had thousands of dollars of cash in his sock, while one of the others had mutliple passports. Most ominously, one of the men had a boxcutter.
Upon further investigation, it turned out that the moving company the five men worked for was a front, probably for the Mossad. In custody, the men were subjected to repeated lie detector tests.
According to the Forward, the real story seems to be that the five men were Israeli intelligence agents spying on radical Muslims in the United States. Since Israel (and other US allies) are supposed to coordinate such activities with the US government, a thorough investigation had to be conducted.
Given that it will be another fifty years before we know all the details of the case, it simply won't be possible to disabuse conspiracy theorists of their more bizarre notions. Then again, it is that sort of undisprovability that it is the bread-and-butter of true conspiracy theorists.
UPDATE: According to a Scots journalist,
The Sunday Herald is a genuinely curious newspaper - it's increasingly red-green and anti-American for one thing - but even by its standards this was an extraordinary piece. One thing woth noting is that within Scottish journalism circles the author of this article, Neil McKay, is notoriously flaky (the editor Andrew Jaspan also gets a little too carried away on occasion). There are, I know for a fact, a number of editors in Scotland who would never ever even briefly consider employing him. He has a record of extravagant "scoops" that subsequently are revealed to be much, much less than they seem.Full disclosure: The author of this comment works for one of the Herald's rivals. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
# Posted 7:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Monday's election was also the most peaceful in recent Guatemalan history. It also had the largest turnout. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
while Afghan officials have largely achieved the benchmarks of the Bonn agreement, which established the interim government and a timeline leading to national elections in 2004, "the conditions necessary for a credible political process are not yet in place," Mr. Pleuger [the German representative] said.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 7:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
First up is Dan's recent article in Slate. After reading that, check out the extra material -- all of it well worth reading -- in this post on Dan's website. Finally, OxBlog is proud to say that it told the world how great Dan Drezner's work was three whole days before David Brooks decided to share it with the NYT's seven-figure readership. Go us! But more importantly, congratulations to Dan. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:25 AM by Patrick Belton
Well, I'm happy to report that we've got a few more local chapters starting up: in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and New Haven, with two more to come shortly in Boston and L.A. as well. Each group will be meeting twice a month to discuss a topic in U.S. foreign policy - early topics will probably include our relationships with China, Russia, and Europe, and lessons to be learned from the U.S. experience in democracy promotion, development, and the war on terror. Our more established groups, in D.C. and Oxford, always warmly welcome new participants too.
So please drop me an e-mail if you'd like to come out and talk with us! I think we'll have fun. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:29 AM by Patrick Belton
Instead, you might think about accompanying your popcorn (sorry - don't read that) with a quite good Irish art film called in America, which is by Jim Sheridan of "My Left Foot" directorial fame. It's a very well done film, with ample untaken plot twists touched on very lightly and deftly. It also includes a dextrously handled recurrent theme of depiction and representation (introduced by the young girl's camcorder), and presents one of the strongest black masculine roles in a recent cinematic history generally given to superficiality and type-casting. (Don't believe me? Try googling black men movies.) Much of what it does could have been heavy-handed in a less skillful treatment, and it is in this that Mr Sheridan's adeptness of his craft truly shows. So go see it; at the moment, it's playing in Oxford at the Phoenix, in LA (in the Egyptian), and one assumes it will probably be out in the east coast before too long as well.
And your date will like you for it, too. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:22 AM by Patrick Belton
Does Iraq bring back memories of Vietnam? The president's critics say yes, and they are right. Vietnam came to mind when we saw Saddamites torturing their captives on camera. Do President Bush's opponents grasp that those are (or were) real people getting beaten to a pulp, mutilated, tortured, murdered? (If they did, wouldn't they be overjoyed now that the smug murderers have been thrown out, and radiantly proud of America?) Our moral obligations as the world's most powerful nation come strongly to mind when we hear about rape rooms and children's prisons; when we read about captives fed into industrial shredders, and swaggering princelings dragging women off the street to the torture houses.His full article is here. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:53 AM by Patrick Belton
Britain comes to a halt today for two minutes at 11:00, as do her Commonwealth allies, among them Canada and Australia, which relative to its population suffered more losses than any other in the First World War. Here in Britain, the Queen unveiled a monument to Australian war dead, and the BBC dedicates a page to remembrance. Oxford has a page dedicated to poetry from the Great War.
They ask me where I've been,(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:25 AM by Patrick Belton
Monday, November 10, 2003
# Posted 6:39 AM by Patrick Belton
The Daily Star (Lebanon): "Good Rhetoric and Goals Need Good Follow-Up Policies"
Hafez Abu Se’da, head of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights:
"It is an historical speech, and I agree with what the president had to say, and this is the first time....It is a new vision from the United States now because they focus on democracy. For a long time, they focused on economy and commercial interests. It is historical because the United States is talking about democracy and the interest of the people in these countries.”
AGAINST: NYT, GUARDIAN, AND THE LEFT -
Guardian: "It Would be Laughable, Were it Not So Pathetic" (which, incidentally, includes only one quote from an Arab source)
MSNBC: "Arabs to Bush: Mind Your Own Business" (virtually the entire story, by the way, is made up of quotes from Iranian government sources - who, as OxBlog has often controversially pointed out, aren't Arab)
Ditto NYT: "In Mideast, Reaction to Bush Speech is Dismissive," where the only actual dismissive reactions come from official Iranian sources, and, of course, from the reporter.
World Socialist: "Bush Vows Decades for War for 'Democracy' in the Middle East'"
(And the Times of India, by contrast, simply reports the speech this way: "Pak Not a Democracy: Bush") And who says there's no objectivity left in journalism? (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:29 AM by Patrick Belton
Instead, says O'Hanlon, Democratic candidates are dwelling on three misgrounded premises:
The first mistake is to argue that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were not a serious concern before the war. The second is that somehow Bush administration unilateralism has been the principal cause of our current problems on the ground in Iraq. And the third is the assumption, explicit or implicit, that the Iraq mission will remain just as difficult as it is today right through general election time next year.Michael's piece is a refreshing breath of good sense, both for those of us who still want to call ourselves Scoop Jackson Democrats, and also for everyone who simply values a fair public debate on matters of foreign policy. His whole piece is here.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, November 09, 2003
# Posted 5:29 PM by Patrick Belton
They shall not grow old as we grow old;(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:09 AM by Patrick Belton
Despite the phenomenological complexities of his philosophy, Sartre managed to make it exciting. Anybody could become an existentialist, especially the young. The teutonic dread of Kierkegaard and angst of Heidegger gave way to Sartrean fun. In the underground caves of St. Germain-des-Prés, jazz dancing was deemed the highest expression of existentialism. Never has a serious philosopher had such an impact on nightlife.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:26 AM by Patrick Belton
Whatever the problems—and I’ll get to them—as a speech it stands as one of the most intelligent and eloquent statements by a president in recent memory.... If it marks a real shift in strategy, it will go down in history as Bush’s most important speech.Then,
Sometimes I think that President Bush’s critics need to put up a sign somewhere in their rooms that reads: “Some things are true even if George W. Bush believes them.” A visceral dislike for the president is boxing many otherwise sensible people into a corner because they cannot bring themselves to agree with anything he says.Read the whole thing. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:18 AM by Patrick Belton
The prime minister's hair, however, has yet to play a major role in the election. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:15 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 2:09 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 1:59 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Two years ago, Mr. Bearden published an essay in Foreign Affairs entitled "Afghanistan, Graveyard of Empries". In it, he warned that
It is more than doubtful that the Northern Alliance forces could capture bin Ladin and his followers, and there is no reasonable guarantee that they could dislodge the Taliban. On the contrary, the more likely consequences of a U.S. alliance with the late Masoud's fighters would be the coalescing of Afghanistan's majority Pashtun tribes around their Taliban leaders and the rekindling of a brutal, general civil war that would continue until the United States simply gave up. The dominant tribe in Afghanistan, which also happens to be the largest, will dominate; replacing the Pashtun Taliban with the largely Tajik and Uzbek Northern Alliance is close to impossible. The threat of providing covert assistance to the Northern Alliance might be a useful short-term strategy to pressure the Taliban, if it is handled delicately, but any real military alliance to Masoud's successors will backfire.Without pretending that the American-led reconstruction of Afghanistan has been a success, I think it is pretty fair to say that Bearden's prediction of a US military failure was far off the mark. Also of special interest is his misguided belief that there would be a Pashtun backlash if the United States chose to side with the Northern Alliance.
During the first months of 2003, OxBlog patiently documented the widespread belief that a potential US invasion of Iraq would provoke a massive backlash throughout the Arab world. And yet the peoples of the Arab world stayed home, rather than flooding the streets and toppling their governments -- just as the Pashtuns have not declared war on the US-backed government in Afghanistan.
The point here is that those who expect failure on the part of the United States almost always underestimate the ability of Middle Eastern and other "non-Western" peoples to distinguish between imperialists, e.g. the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and liberators, e.g. the United States in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
This is not to say that the establishment of a democratic order in either Afghanistan or Iraq is even close to being guaranteed. But if we commit ourselves to working honestly toward that goal, the people we work with are likely to recognize that their best interest is ours as well, and vice versa.
UPDATE: It seems that Wes Clark is also in the habit of overestimating Iraqi resentment of the United States. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:27 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 1:21 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
So, you might ask, who is the culprit? Answer: efficiency. Now it's true that some jobs are leaving the United States for lower-wage markets. But as massive factory job losses in China, Brazil and elsewhere in the developing world show, protectionism is not the answer. With any luck, public awareness of this trend will increase support for making the Western Hemisphere the largest free trade area on earth. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, November 08, 2003
# Posted 8:56 PM by Patrick Belton
(More on our past vocal support for Suu Kyi and for the cause of Burmese freedom is here, and as a cautionary note, we've noted here that she's been released in the past under international pressure, only to be reimprisoned shortly thereafter - after the junta had garnered trade and other benefits for releasing her.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 1:43 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Anyhow, I thought I'd break the monotony by linking to this story about Tenacious D's abortive hunger strike, which the band had hoped would last "for 45 days or until their DVD went platinum, world hunger came to an end or there was peace in the Middle East." Now that's what I call social activism. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:33 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
I keep wondering why I see conservative writers saying the Democratic candidates want to cut and run from Iraq and that the great thing about George W. Bush is that he wants to stay the course. My best guess was that they're just liars. After reading this from David Adesnik, though, I'm not so sure, since David's no liar.While Matt's compliment is somewhat backhanded, I'm proud to accept it. A reputation for honesty is very hard to come by. But we all say dumb things about politics sometimes.
Still, I'm not about to disavow my criticism of Howard Dean. As Matt goes on to note,
David explains that we can't get too focused on little things like Dean's "official position" on the war. David, apparently, was able to gaze into Dean's heart and see that he has a secret plan to end the war.In other words, Matt thinks that "official positions" are more credible when they come from Howard Dean than when they come from George Bush. But I'm not so sure.
Bush & Co. may have said a lot of misleading things, but they have been consistenly clear about where the stand on the two biggest issues of the day: taxes and Iraq. In contrast, Dean is the kind of guy who publicly asks
"Where do you get this 'I'm a strong supporter of NAFTA'?" -- though in fact he had described himself as "a very strong supporter of NAFTA" on that same network [ABC] eight years earlierOf course, the NAFTA incident doesn't mean that Dean isn't being up front about Iraq. While that is my sense of the matter, I recognize that the issue is a controversial one. For example, one of the comments appended to Matt's post (by Swopa) points to the following statement by Howard Dean in a the Oct. 9 Democratic debate:
Now that we're there [in Iraq], we can't pull out responsibly. Because if we do, there are more Al Qaida, I believe, in Iraq today than there were before the president went in. If they establish a foothold in Iraq, or if a fundamentalist Shiite regime comes in, allied with Iran, that is a real security danger to the United States, when one did not exist before when Saddam Hussein was running the place.That's a pretty firm statement, so I'm going to have to do some more research on the issue before I convince anyone that I have a strong case. Still, what is clearly absent from either this statement or the one from Dean that I initially criticized is that he really cares about building democracy in Iraq. For him, the occupation is a mounting cost without any possible benefits -- which leads me to think that he will not respond to unexpected events in the Middle East the way that a liberal hawk might want him to. What he wants is to avoid entanglements, not fight a war of ideas.
UPDATE: This persuasive Peter Beinart column (recommended by HTY) makes a point about Howard Dean very similar to my own. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:55 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Frustrated by the lack of quick progress on the ground and fading political support at home, Washington is now latching on to the idea that a quick transfer of power to local troops and politicians would make things better. Or at any rate, it would lower American casualties. It was called Vietnamization; today it's called Iraqification. And then as now, it is less a winning strategy than an exit strategy...In short, Zakaria's column covers all the bases of the Josh Marshall Weltanschauung. There is the Bush administration's ignorance of history, its preoccupation with electoral concerns at the expense of the national interest, the devious and self-destructive influence of the neo-cons, and a reckless disregard for allied opinion.
The funny thing is, that despite all of these hyperbolic attacks on the administration and comparisons to Vietnam, Zakaria's message is almost identical to that of the President himself, i.e. we must stay the course in Iraq, come hell or high water, because our national security depends upon it. If you click over to Zakaria's column, you'll see that after denouncing the Bush Administration for "refus[ing] to share power with the world", Zakaria writes that "Now there can be only one goal: success."
Moreover, the point of his Vietnam analogy is not that American has entered a quagmire, but rather that we cannot depend on incompetent local allies. In fact, drawing a sharp contrast to the US effort in Vietnam, Zakaria believes that we have the fundamentals of victory in place the insurgents lack popular support and external sources of supply.
In policy terms, Zakaria's is also the opposite of what one might expect from the quagmire camp. His answer to what's going wrong right now is not a faster exit, but a more patient one. And I wholeheartedly agree. Zakaria is absolutley right that
The desperation to move faster and faster is going to have bad results. Accelerating the training schedule (which has already been accelerated twice before) will only produce an ineffective Iraqi army and police force. Does anyone think that such a ragtag military could beat the insurgency where American troops are failing?...The question Zakaria didn't ask but should have is whether all of the pressure to "Iraqify" the occupation as quickly as possible is the result of premature pessimism about its outcome. By making it seem that Iraqification is the Administration's preferred option, Zakaria avoids asking whether the Administration has begun to drift toward such a reckless strategy in response to widespread, often exaggerated perceptions that the United States is achieving nothing on the ground.
What it all comes down to is a question of rhetorical strategy: Does Zakaria's harsh criticism of the administration increase his credibility as an advocate of intensive nation-building? Or is he making it even harder for the US government to support the nation-building process by packaging his support in criticism that reinforces the arguments of all those who want to us to end the occupation as soon as possible? (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:17 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
However, that kind of coverage may have proven to be CPI's undoing. Curious about what CPI had to say, Dan Drezner decided to take a closer look at their work. What he found was a lot of bad math and false accusations.
Then, in this impressive post, Dan goes on to answer another big question on the reconstruction front -- Even if it's true that the Bush Administration awarded major contracts to firms that weren't friends or donors, don't the contracts given to KB&R and Halliburton show that favoritism still matters?
According to Dan, the answer is once again 'No'. It turns out that there were very good reasons behind the administration's decision to give major contracts to KB&R and Halliburton. Plus, those companies seem to do a very good job of what their hired for.
Dan does point out, however, that we still don't know enough about Pentagon outsourcing to pronounce it an unmitigated success. The fact is, there aren't that many companies ready to step up and perform the services that KB&R and Halliburton offer, so competitions remains dampened. But for the moment, it is safe to throw out some of the unsubstantiated charges that are casting suspicion on the American effort to rebuild Iraq.
UPDATE: MF points out that the WaPo ran this op-ed in response to the CPI report. It's by a Clinton Administration procurement officer who thinks the current administration isn't handling Iraq well at all. Still, he's 100% confident that there has been no cronyism or dishonesty in the process of awarding reconstruction contracts.
While MF is right that this op-ed balances the WaPo's coverage, one has to wonder why their initial coverage completely failed to uncover so much of the logic and evidence in this one op-ed. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion