OxBlog

Monday, December 15, 2003

# Posted 9:18 AM by Patrick Belton  

SECRETARY POWELL TO UNDERGO surgery for prostate cancer. All of us here at OxBlog wish him a very speedy recovery.
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# Posted 7:05 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE ECONOMIST has a piece on the potential of UAVs:
According to a UAV road map from America's Department of Defence, by 2012 UAVs the size of F-16 fighter aircraft are likely to exist.....By 2020, the Pentagon estimates that one-third of America's combat planes will be robotic....The world's smallest UAV is currently the 15cm-long, electrically powered, Black Widow. It can fly for 30 minutes and download live colour video to the ground via its onboard camera. Many such craft are being developed for “over the hill” work, when soldiers need scouts in dangerous areas....The biggest breakthrough in civil aviation, though, would be the invention of the aerial equivalent of the motor car.
Kudos to Bagehot's newspaper for a systematic exploration of the military, urban studies, and environmental implications of what portends to be a revolutionary new technology. And it is difficult not to end this post by quoting the piece's most memorable line: "There is a joke in the airline industry that the future crew of an airliner will consist of a pilot and a dog: The pilot's job is to watch all the computers, and the dog's job is to bite the pilot if he tries to touch anything." Can I assume from this that the days of British Airways stewardesses are therefore blissfully limited?
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# Posted 2:40 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CALIFORNIA BLOGGIN': I have left behind the high-stress dog-eat-dog rat-racing money-making East Coast. I am out here where we eat organic foods, listen to new age music, lie on the beach and ride the waves.

Actually, I'm out here to do some research at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and take part in a mini-reunion with five of my close friends from college.

But tonight, to kick off the festivities, I attended a lavish dinner at Chez CalPundit. It was a sumptous Italian banquet for which I owe Kevin and Mary Ann many thanks. I also had the chance to converse with the creme de la creme of the blogosphere, including Pejman, Robert Tagorda (as well as his lovely wife Noemie) and Mark Kleiman.

The conversation was hard to match. It isn't everyday that I get to converse with so many well-read, intelligent and articulate people -- all around one table.

The only less-than-perfect thing about California is the 56k connection I'm blogging from. If I find something faster, I'll let you know. Until then, expect no more than a few judicious words from this third of OxBlog.
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Sunday, December 14, 2003

# Posted 7:01 PM by Patrick Belton  

IN LIGHT OF THE DAY'S EVENTS, can we start wondering whether this google bomb will go away? (This one can stay, though.)
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# Posted 2:40 PM by Patrick Belton  

FROM A FRIEND IN NASIRIYAH:
It took about 30 seconds for THE rumor to spread through our compound. THE rumor, if true, would be the biggest story in Iraq: we had Saddam.

It took about 60 seconds for the first celebratory gunfire to begin. It hasn't stopped. It is now so constant that all of our workers--who had already stopped working and forced their way into our normally off-limits kitchen (where our TV is)--came in to watch the news. Its probably better that way...the sky is raining bullets. I gladly stepped aside for them to watch--this is their day.

It took about 5 minutes for every car in Nasiriyah to grind to a halt, horns honking, people getting out and dancing in the streets. I kept thinking to myself "I hope this one turns out to be true..."

It took about 20 minutes for an official here to get through to Baghdad and confirm that the news was true."

This is the last bind to their terrible, recent history, and that bind has now been cut. The people here are ecstatic. People are dancing in the streets, honking their horns, firing weapons non-stop, smiling, hugging, and lord knows what else.

There's still a lot of work to be done here, but for the first time since I've been here I think I'm going to take a lengthy break in the middle of the day, and just kinda enjoy myself with the Iraqis that work here. I feel so very fortunate to be here, among them, as they celebrate.
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# Posted 1:26 PM by Patrick Belton  

HERE are the president's remarks on the capture of Saddam Hussein. This is the statement from Downing Street, and here is the statement from Chancellor Schröder. Administrator Bremer's remarks are here.
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# Posted 7:08 AM by Patrick Belton  

MY GOVERNMENT SOURCES IN WASHINGTON are confirming personally to me, as well....
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Saturday, December 13, 2003

# Posted 7:20 PM by Patrick Belton  

RULE BRITANNIA: Under a UK-advanced compromise proposal just adopted by the EU, the EU will get a defence planning cell separate from Nato - which, thanks to the UK, will be based out of none other than Nato headquarters.
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# Posted 12:38 PM by Patrick Belton  

MEDIA WATCH: Enjoying the weekend? Sipping on some early eggnog and looking for some good reading? Great! Here are some of our best picks from the magazine world this week...

In the pages of the Atlantic, Harvard's Samantha Power describes life in Mugabe-ville, Tobias Wolff examines his new novel on East Coast boarding-school life, and P.J. O'Rourke drinks his way through the War to Free Iraq. Over at TNR, James Wood looks at religious comedy in Erasmus and Alberti, Anne Hollander reviews Virginia Postrel's book on aesthetics in America, and on the TNR website our friend Dan Drezner writes on the unfolding future strategy of the developing world in global politics. And at the Standard, Bill Kristol, Bob Kagan, and Gary Schmitt talk China and Taiwan policy, while Dave Skinner does his bit in sticking up for Texans.

At Slate, Steve Chapman says America's elderly have gotten spoiled, Joel Simon takes aim at the Rwanda genocide tribunal, and Jeremy Khan writes from the Ivory Coast. In Policy Review, Marc Plattner points out that the EU constitutional debate is thus far fairly silent on democracy, Kevin O'Connell and Robert Tomes write on reforming intelligence for the war on terror, and Reginald Dale says we're missing the point in Europe.

In the pages of Foreign Affairs, Evan Medeiros and Taylor Fravel marvel at China's newfound diplomatic acumen, Josh Micah Marshall reviews Daalder and Lindsay's book on President Bush's foreign affairs revolution, and the editors run a contemporary piece by Allen Dulles on the Allied reconstruction of Germany.

Moving over to Britain, Sylvia Plath continues her stellar media year with an appearance in the TLS. In the Prospect, Lord Owen analyses Cabinet government and Michael Lind sticks up for Texans. Over at the Spectator, Rachel Polonsky calls on the West to stop flattering Putin, Stephen Glover criticises the dumbing down of the BBC, and Peter Jones says Epicurus would want you to be virtuous this Christmas. LRB shines as usual with pieces on terrorism and sea transport, underworlds during WWII, and a criticism of US North Korea policy. And finally, in the New York Times book review, Magdalen fellow Oliver Taplin remembers the Greek gods, and Alfred Kazin remember's America's, perceiving American literature as having embarked on a centuries-long search for an ever-receding God.

Happy reading! Caveat lector!
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# Posted 9:34 AM by Patrick Belton  

FEEL BETTER SOON, MA'AM.
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# Posted 6:23 AM by Patrick Belton  

GEE, THANKS, GUYS!
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# Posted 12:24 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

VIP BLOGGING: Pejman can't tell you what Noam Chomsky told him, but he can tell you about it. But whatever you think of goings on at MIT, student democracy is alive and well in the West Bank.
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# Posted 12:21 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE POND: Greg Djerejian thinks the Guardian is going to have some trouble substantiating its claims that the Israeli are training US assassination squads for missions in Iraq.
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# Posted 12:09 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YIPPEE! ANOTHER RECALL! In Venezuela. Is Gray Davis running?
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# Posted 12:06 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

POTTY MOUTH: I never thought a real newspaper would use that phrase without putting it in quotes. The rest of the article about FCC obscenity debates is pretty funny, as well. You should just send some these censors into the average junior high school, so they can learn that we are protecting television from children and not vice versa.
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# Posted 12:01 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PARTIAL METAL JACKET: In a moment of truth-is-stranger than fiction, the WaPo reports that the new Iraqi army is having discipline problems because the instructors aren't rude or authoritarian enough. I guess when you're used to being bossed around by Saddam's thugs, that's what happens.

The article also talks about how low pay, shoddy equipment and ethnic tensions have led to serious problems, and that makes a lot more intuitive sense.
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Friday, December 12, 2003

# Posted 11:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DRUM CALLS CLINTON A HYPOCRITE: In so many words.
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# Posted 11:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JUST CLICK AND SCROLL: Glenn Reynolds has tons of posts on the media's strange aversion to reporting anti-terror protests in Iraq. CalPundit thinks that charges of media bias are absurd, since most conservative media outlets failed to cover the protests as well. But, he says, Fox and CNN picked it up because protests result in good footage. Come on Kevin, you can't have it both ways...
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# Posted 11:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THAT IS JUST SOOOO FRENCH: In Paris, sophisticates scoff at the United States' delusional faith that armed invasions rather than cross-cultural dialogue can win over the hearts and minds of the Islamic world. In Paris, a blue ribbon panel appointed by President Chirac has just recommended that the French state ban Muslim girls from wearing headscarves in public schools. Also prohibited would be other "conspicuous" example of religious attire, such as Jewish yarmulkes and Christian cross-emblems.

There is something touchingly innocent about the French aspiration to promote tolerance by imposing conformity. Perhaps Tocqueville should have cast a glance homewards as he warned his American hosts about the dangers associated with the tyranny of the majority.

While the average American man-in-the-street could have told M. Chirac that religious repression only promotes resentful backlash, there is a more subtle point that American might not appreciate because they take religious toleration for granted. When I spent a summer in Germany a number of years ago, the papers there were filled with a similar debate about Muslim headscarves and the effort of some school or other to ban them. (Characteristically for German federalism, the headscarf debate arose out of a local ordnance, rather than a central government plan a la francaise.)

As I read more about the debate, one of the most interesting points that came out was how the woman in question who had been asked to remove her headscarf was actually a very progressive Muslim who favored both greater equality for women and greater integration of Islam and secular society. Such beliefs were not at all accidential. After all, who but a progressive Muslim woman would prefer to work in a German institution rather than a Muslim one?

I suspect that in France, a similar trend exists. The girls in public schools who wear headscarves are probably the ones most likely to learn to love and respect French civilization. If taught that French civilization is willing to respect them as well, such women would have tremendous potential to share French ideals with those members of their families and communities who are not so enlightened.

Perhaps it should not come as a surprise that France has a resentful, violent and poorly integrated Muslim immigrant community whereas Muslim immigrants in the United States seem to be thriving no less than Jews, Hindus, or Chinese -- and giving back to their host country.

In other cultural news, the Academie Francaise, the body charged with protecting the French language from Anglo-American pollution, has finally reached the letter 'R' after six decades devoted to producing the definitive French-language dictionary.

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# Posted 9:35 AM by Patrick Belton  

DEAN GETS A BOOST out of Gore endorsement.

On other fronts - Josh, count me in! (especially if I can still get charter member privileges.....I can think of one or two yummy kosher and halal joints where I'd love to have a discount card....)
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# Posted 7:33 AM by Patrick Belton  

THINKING AHEAD: The National Intelligence Council's triennial Global Trends projects collectively represent some of the most wide-ranging, strategic, and neat thinking being done within the U.S. government. Robert Hutchings, the Council's chair, is fond of saying that with so much of the nation's intelligence community focused on the next car bomb, it's crucially necessary to have at least someone looking at the decennial trends that will shape the world in which the U.S. will be acting, to permit policy to take into account ways to prepare to anticipate and adapt to trends, and to look for lever-points at which it can attempt to shape them.

As an analytical exercise, future-forecasting requires looking both at trends (i.e., it is 2020, and America, Europe, and Japan are struggling to maintain a decent quality of life for masses of elderly people, China is facing a choice between belligerence and joining Western nations as an economic superpower, and India, Brazil, and Indonesia are becoming emerging powers) and at wild cards (a nuclear exchange, for example, or the emergence of new technologies, or worldwide pandemics), as well as points at which U.S. policy could attempt to influence these trends. Global Trends 2015 and Global Trends 2010 have already been released, and make for provocative (and recommended) reading.
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# Posted 6:38 AM by Patrick Belton  

JUST WONDERING.... If the United States is supposedly being run by Jews and (now) Muslims, then how in the name of Hashem/Allah did we end up with a budget so full of pork?
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# Posted 12:17 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EYES ON THE PRIZE: What are Glenn Reynolds and Andrew Sullivan thinking? Playing politics with reconstruction contracts is a terrible idea.

But all of those who are against the Bush administration's wrongheaded decision also seem to be missing something. The first question that should come to mind when thinking about the contracts is not "Is this good for the United States?" but "Is this good for the people of Iraq?" If a French or German company can generate more electricity or pump more oil, then that is what the Iraqi people deserve. (Somehow I doubt that Russian corporations can contribute all that much to Iraqi well-being.)

The people of Iraq have suffered enough for the crimes of Saddam Hussein and shouldn't have to suffer at all for the pettiness of Chirac, Schroeder or Bush. The people of Iraq suffered through more than a decade of devastating sanctions for the sake of Western security. Now we owe them.

Frankly, I am appalled at the President's statement that
"Our people risked their lives. Friendly coalition folks risked their lives, and therefore the contracting is going to reflect that, and that's what the U.S. taxpayers expect."
Those are the words of a corporate mercenary. Those are the words of a man without vision. America earns it wealth from the creativity of its entrepreneurs, not the blood of its soldiers. Many European nations supported the invasion of Iraq because they share our vision of global security, not because they wanted a handout.

Moreover, why should an American corporation benefit from the sacrifices of an American soldier? The 82nd Airborne was fighting for freedom and security, not for Halliburton. Thus, the President owes it to the 82nd and to all of America's fighting men and women to what is in the interest of freedom and security.
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Thursday, December 11, 2003

# Posted 11:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FIGHTING CRIME, BLOOMBERG STYLE: It's all about the Benjamins.
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# Posted 11:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HONEY, WHY DIDNT YOU CALL? Richard Cohen thinks Al Gore could've found a more sensitive way to break up with Joe Lieberman. David Broder thinks Lieberman is better off alone.
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# Posted 11:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EXACTLY RIGHT: The WaPo endorses the Supreme Court decision on campaign finance reform.
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# Posted 11:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOT READY FOR DEMOCRACY: Tsk, tsk. Engaging in peaceful protests? Demanding elections? Uniting different interest groups? Who do these Iraqis think they are? If they had any sort of respect for the Western punditocracy, they would at least say something about how food and shelter are more important than freedom or how order has come before justice.

So now it's time for the occupation authority to wake up and recognize that local elections are the way to go, with a national poll following later. It isn't a new idea, folks.
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# Posted 10:27 AM by Patrick Belton  

AND I WROTE IT ALL MYSELF: A copy of a paper on the role of Congress in Sino-American relations in the post-Cold War period, which I presented here at Oxford last Friday, is online here. (Also, a paper I gave last week on the intellectual history of the concept of progress, this one at the Oxford intellectual history seminar, is here.)
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Wednesday, December 10, 2003

# Posted 11:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PUTTING THE "LIBERAL" BACK IN "LIBERAL HAWK": It's a reversal of the classic Nixon-in-China strategy. Hillary Clinton is using her impeccable liberal credentials to attack Bush from the right on Iraq without offending her Democratic base. I hope Hillary gets the attention of Howard Dean and the rest of her wayward co-partisans, not to mention that of the White House. Everything she says about Iraq is 100% right.
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# Posted 11:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE ROMANCE OF IRAQIFICATION: Lawrence Kaplan exposes the strange faith behind certain conservatives insistence that we should turn over more responsibilities to Iraqi security forces as quickly as possibly. Also worth a look is the debate between Kaplan and Jim Phillips of the Heritage Foundation, who tries to defend the administrations' policies. Phillips gets a couple of shots in, but Kaplan is the winner, hands down.
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# Posted 10:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AN OXBLOG RARITY: How often does OxBlog criticize others for their naive insistence that democracy promotion is the answer to every political dilemma? Almost never, since we're generally pretty busy defending ourselves from those who throw similar charges at us.

Today, however, the tables are turned. In a masthead editorial, the WaPo is blasting President Bush for siding with China in opposing Taiwanese President Chen Shui-Bian's proposed referendum on independence. As the WaPo would have it,
Yesterday President Bush essentially placed the United States on the side of the dictators who promise war, rather than the democrats whose threat is a ballot box.
Admittedly, having to side with the Chinese is never pleasant. However, the proposed referendum would achieve nothing more than sticking a finger in China's eye without doing anything to enhance democracy in Taiwan.

Frankly, the referendum seems like a cynical attempt by President Chen to make China talk tough so that he can win a second term by posing as the Taiwanese David standing up to the Chinese Goliath. That's just reckless, so there's no reason the US should support the idea. It would be better for both Taiwan and the United States if Bush acts as a peacemaker so that if China starts trouble, the United States can both side with Taiwan and take the moral high ground.
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# Posted 10:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SHI'ITE BOOMTOWN: The WaPo has an in-depth look at the situation in Najaf, where religious freedom is driving a major economic expansion by attracting thousands and thousands of pilgrims. Interestingly enough, the expansion is racing forward despite limited supplies of electricity and water.

Unfortunately, the article perpetuates the WaPo/NYT habit of providing vague but menacing indications of Shi'ite attitudes towards democracy. Still, one has to wonder whether the economic revitalization of the Shi'ite spiritual capital is one of the reasons that Shi'ite have shown no interest in joining the Ba'athist struggle against the American occupation. Insteads of hearts and minds, this may be a case of hearts and pocketbooks.

Also in Iraq: The Americans have decided to let the Iraqis prosecute their own war criminals and the Europeans aren't happy about it. While the Europeans' preference for an international tribunal has merit to it, it is somewhat ironic that they constantly warn the United States about imposing its will on Iraq but then turn around and want to do the same.
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# Posted 12:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PENNY WISE, POUND FOOLISH: After finally laying to rest some of the more ridiculous accusations about its handling of reconstruction contracts for Iraq, the Bush administration is now doing its best to confirm widespread suspicion of its motives.

First, I just can't figure out why DoD would do something as transparently vindictive as barring French, Russian and German firms from bidding on reconstruction contracts. Whatever financial benefit comes from this will be more than outweighed by the storm of domestic criticism it will bring down on the administration (not to mention foreign reaction.)

Besides, those who get the contracts are allowed to subcontract out to French, Russian and German firms. Thus, the financial impact of the ban will be minimal despite its massive political costs.

Moreover, awarding contracts to American firms doesn't seem so smart when there are continuing reports that Halliburton is swindling the administration by overcharging for imported fuel.

Coming from an administration that is usually so good about looking for its own self-interest, it is hard to know why no one seems to be watching out for Iraq as the election approaches and voters show more and more concern about the lack of visible progress on the ground.

The best I can figure is that the administration is so preoccupied with the military situation that it can't bother questioning the integrity of its good friends at Halliburton.

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# Posted 7:04 AM by Patrick Belton  

THINK TANK WATCH: Bruce Hoffman and Kim Cragin coauthor an interesting RAND study on the counterterror and other implications of small arms trafficking in Colombia, in a piece commissioned by the DIA. They conclude American military assistance to Colombia under the auspices of Plan Colombia had the unintended consequence of increasing small arms trafficking, and bringing about an escalation in violence as non-state actors competed for control of trafficking routes, as well as spill-over effects in other black-market economies in the region (Foz do Iguacu, Leticia, Colon).

Also at RAND, James Dobbins testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the U.S. has been too slow in incorporating lessons learned into its doctrine, training, and planning, and in making use of the expertise of professionals with past experience in post-conflict situations. Dobbins also notes favourably proposals for revamping the way the US deals with post-conflict situations - tasks that are at present eschewed by both DOD and State - by the possible creation of a new government institution for the task, and the passage of an act on Goldwater/Nichols lines which would accomplish for post-conflict reconstruction and stabilization missions the clarification of responsibilities within an enduring arrangement that the Goldwater/Nichols act accomplished for the creation of unified warfighting commands.

Over at CFR, Dennis Kux and Mahnaz Ispahani write a piece on revamping South Asia policy, calling for the US to move toward a security partnership with India, and conditioning US aid to Pakistan on progress in fulfilling its nonproliferation responsibilities, denying its territory to militants, and pursuing a democratic-reformist agenda, while orientating the cast of that aid slightly away from security assistance and more toward education, projects in ethnic-Pakhto areas, and building of democratic and judicial institutions. They also call for a broader U.S. role in shepherding the de-escalation of the Kashmir conflict through expanded trade relations and confidence building measures on each side. Also in the Upper East Side, Pete Peterson chaired a task force on addressing America's image problem, recommending the administration do this through greater presidential support of public diplomacy efforts (through a PDD and creation of an interagency coordinating structure), doing more overseas polling, and taking overseas public opinion into account at an earlier stage in the policy process.

Elsewhere in think-tankery, both Brookings and CFR hosted meetings on the Geneva Accords, featuring Yossi Beilin, Yasser Abed Rabbo, and their own luminaries (and making the transcripts available online). Brookings also has a paper on revamping intelligence for homeland security tasks, and Michael O'Hanlon is spearheading an Iraq indices project, keeping track of trends in battlefield casualties, public opinion in Iraq and the U.S., reconstruction, and other facets of the reconstruction effort. AEI has hosted thoughtful events (with transcripts available online) on aiding democrating reform in Iran, Leo Strauss's perspectives on modern politics, and the future of Franco-American relations. And Carnegie has pieces on Arab democracy, NAFTA ten years after, and how Chechnya has affected Russian foreign, domestic, and military policy.
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Tuesday, December 09, 2003

# Posted 10:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ONE-STOP SHOPPING: Dan Drezner has some good comments about the reliability of recently unveiled stats on unemployment and worker productivity in the US. He also has some very insightful comments about Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean, as well as a comprehensive round up of other bloggers reactions to it.
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# Posted 10:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE ART OF JUXTAPOSITION: Forgive me for being a week late with this one, but I think it's worth pointing out. Last Tuesday, the WaPo ran this Fareed Zakaria column, which does a good job of making the usual case against Bush's unilateral instincts. The anchor for Fareed's column is his observation that Chinese President Hu Jintao has been getting standing ovations throughout Asia while George Bush gets the cold shoulder.

Below Fareed's column, the Post ran this op-ed by Robert Bernstein, a founder of Human Rights Watch. In it, Bernstein discusses the media's tragic lack of attention to massive slave labor camps and widespread police brutality in China. Running alongside Zakaria's column, it makes a devastating point about the moral confusion of those who applaud Hu Jintao while lashing out George Bush. (Greg Djerejian made the same point quite effectively a short while back.)

While criticism of George Bush is certainly deserved, the intensity of the anger directed at the American President demonstrates that his critics abroad have internalized a dangerous double standard that judges aggression against dictators to be a far greater crime than the vicious abuse of millions of one's fellow citizens.
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# Posted 9:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEAN IS INEVITABLE: Matt Yglesias says so both here and here. Matt is also backing Al Gore for Vice-President, since he has so much experience on the job and performed it so well.

Also worth reading are Bill Kristol and Glenn Reynolds' thoughts on why Dean will be anything but the next McGovern.
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# Posted 9:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FOREIGN POLICY (THE MAGAZINE): When in DC, I always make a point of stopping in at the offices of Foreign Policy, the bimonthly journal of "global politics, economics, and ideas" sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The staff there is friendly, hard-working and creative. Thus, it should come as no surprise that "FP" took home this year's National Magazine Award for General Excellence in the under-100k circulation category. (Although it's probably worth noting that The Nation somehow picked up a "Maggie" for its commentary and opinion columns.)

A sample of FP's high-quality work includes: the best article I've read on European anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, an in-depth look at the whether the Indian economic model is more sustainable than its Chinese counterpart, and a trenchant defense of free-trade from the myth of anti-globalization activists.

Admittedly, FP produces some duds, much like any publication. For example, its forum on post-war Iraq could've been lifted from the op-ed pages of a half-dozen newspapers. (Robert Kagan's contribution is definitely worth a look, however.)

In general, I'd say that FP does its best work when it explores in-depth those issues that newspapers can only treat anecdotally. Take the India vs. China article for example. Foreign correspondents are constantly producing spot reports that one country or the other. But they rarely compare the two. Moreover, the authors of the FP essay are well-versed in the expert literature on the subject, which journalists tend to ignore, thus reinforcing their selective perception and cultural predispositions.

In contrast, shorter essays in FP tend to provide a somewhat one-sided look at a given issue. Whereas newspaper op-eds do the same, you can generally rely on a given newspaper to run opposing opinion columns. Yet when FP runs opposing columns, it has to plan them months in advance so they aren't timely as those on the op-ed page.

On the other hand, FP needs to run short articles so that readers don't get turned off by the challenge of reading a 3,000 word article or nothing at all. Still, there are other kinds of short articles than can get readers hooked, such as FP's "Prime Numbers" and "Think Again" columns.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that FP takes a pretty firm multilateralist line on US foreign policy. This is both a product of its left-wing heritage as well as its more recent emphasis on globalization and the importance of transnational cooperation in a global era. While there's nothing wrong with taking that sort of position, it often results in FP running some less-than-insightful articles that reiterate the multilateralist conventional wisdom. (For balance, FP relies on Bob Kagan to function as the in-house neo-conservative, a responsibility he can't avoid because he's on the Carnegie payroll.)

So there you have it. FP is a damn good magazine. It isn't perfect, but it is definitely worth taking a look at everytime it hits the newsstand.
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# Posted 9:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

17 BLOGGING DAYS 'TIL CHRISTMAS: I need a vacation. My trip to DC really wore me down. But it was a very educational experience. The interviews I conducted fell into two basic categories. The first category consisted of interviews with Carter administration officials whose professional records I am already familiar with. As a result of this familiarity, I was able to ask them extremely specific questions that helped me push beyond the contents of published documents in order to get a better sense of the inner workings of American diplomacy.

Admittedly, I didn't push all that far beyond the contents of the printed material that is already out there. Often, the interviews were most useful in terms of confirming some of the working hypotheses I had already developed. From what I can tell, the limits of human memory make it very hard for interviews to supplement the extensive public record that comes into existence thanks to the relatively transparent nature of American diplomacy. Moreover, the popularity of US-Nicaraguan relations as a subject of inquiry in the 1980s ensured that all of those I spoke with have already gone on the record multiple times with their version of events.

Interviews with those on the other side of the Cold War divide are often quite illuminating, however. The example that immediately comes to mind is Robert Kagan's interview with Sandinista military commander Humberto Ortega. Conducted shortly after the Sandinistas' fall from grace in February 1990, Kagan's interview brings out a story that was simply never told because of the limits of Nicaraguan politics and American journalism. (NB: There is no published transcript of the interview, but many of the most illuminating quotes can be found throughout Kagan's excellent work on US-Sandinista relations, entitled A Twilight Struggle.)

The second set of interviews I conducted were with Reagan administration officials and lobbyists and congressional staffers. I relied on these interviews to provide me with an introduction to some of the policies that I have not studied in as much depth as I have those of the Carter administration. I also used these interviews to broaden my range of contacts so that I can conduct a more comprehensive set of interviews when I return to Washington.

Finally, I'd like to thank two individuals who were extremely helpful and generous with their time. The first is Bruce Cameron, who really want out of his way to help me get in touch with as many individuals as possible who were part of the policymaking process in the 1980s. The second is Cindy Buhl, who sat down with me for an hour and half and provided me with a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at congressional politicking despite the fact that she has a million things to do because she is still an congressional staffer.

By and large, almost everyone I talked to did their best to help me with my research. (Except for one arrogant prick who shall remain nameless because I sense that he is vindictive enough to try and screw me over if he found out I had insulted him on my website.) While Washington DC doesn't exactly have a reputation as a the most friendly place to work, I think there a lot more good-hearted people out there than the city gets credit for.
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# Posted 5:45 PM by Patrick Belton  

THIS IS REALLY STUPID: Namely, eliminating funding for Radio Free Europe, as this year's Omnibus Appropriations measure has done. RFE/RL boadcasting to Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia will end Dec. 31. The WaPo points out just how short-sighted a move this is:
THEY PROVIDE what one Lithuanian politician calls "neutral, solid, Western programming" reflecting Western values. They give an American point of view but are not generally regarded as propaganda. They have millions of listeners across the new democracies of Eastern Europe as well as a long tradition. They cost, by U.S. budgetary standards, very little: The overall funding, for 11 countries, is $11 million a year. Yet if congressional appropriators have their way, one of the cheapest, most effective and most popular tools of U.S. public diplomacy -- the foreign language services of Radio Free Europe -- will soon cease to exist. Seven languages are to be cut altogether, including the services to Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Croatia and the Baltic states. Several more, including services to Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Serbia, will be cut by 25 percent.

The logic behind the cuts -- which have been heavily pushed by the administration and opposed by many in Congress -- is allegedly financial: More money is now going to radio services in the Middle East, and budgets are limited. But the omnibus appropriations bill awaiting congressional approval is hardly austere. As we've said before, it is proving to be yet another example of lax congressional spending, funding everything from a rain forest museum in Iowa to Alaskan fishing communities.

Like the relatively low funding for the newer but equally effective services of Radio Free Asia, the cuts to Radio Free Europe do not, therefore, really reflect a new administration push to control spending. Instead, they are yet another example of the administration's poor choice of foreign policy priorities. With a short attention span and little understanding that allies, too, require attention and diplomacy, the administration seems to have let whole chunks of the world fall off its diplomatic radar screen altogether. No iron law says that new democracies will remain democracies or even remain American allies. In this unstable part of the world, the sober presentation of an American point of view is still necessary.
Instead of spending $11 million to present an American point of view in Eastern Europe, what are our tax dollars going to? Funny you asked:

* $1.35 million for the Clearwater Economic Development Association for implementation of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial plan to assist small communities in North Idaho in preparing for the anticipated influx of tourism during the Bicentennial years.

* $450,000 for Trout Genome Mapping. $600,000 to a project called "Web Wise Kids." $200,000 for Renovation of the First National Bank Building, Greenfield, Massachusetts. $250,000 to Martha's Village and Kitchen, Indio, California. $6,000,000 to construct a Treasure Island Bridge. $725,000 to the Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. $225,000 for "Construction of Blue-Gray Civil War Theme Park, Kentucky"

* And the Congressional Pig Book 2003 has a more complete list, identifying $22.5 billion of pork in the appropriations bills - so much, they've been heard squealing on their way across the Capitol from the House to the Senate.

Now, I'm sure all of these are worthy projects. But I'm not yet nearly convinced that building, say, a "Blue-Gray Civil War Theme Pack" in Kentucky is more deserving of the tax dollars of the nation than making the case for American policies to foreign audiences. In fact, I think it's fairly silly and short-sighted.
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# Posted 5:06 PM by Patrick Belton  

LEBANON - IT'S GOT ISSUES: The Middle East Intelligence Bulletin has a special issue out on Lebanon, with pieces on PM Hairi's impending showdown with Damascus, on student politics as an augur of what a future Lebanese politics might look like, and on the overratedness of Lebanese powerbroker Issam Fares. Good fare, as always.
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# Posted 12:55 PM by Patrick Belton  

BOB TAGORDA'S GOT NEW DIGS: They're at http://www.tagorda.com/ - go pay him a visit!

UPDATE (March 24th, and do you know how much digging I had to do in Blogger to fix this?): I meant Rob, of course - sorry, fingers slipped up!
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# Posted 12:51 PM by Patrick Belton  

DAN DREZNER gives an even-handed roundup of a blogosphere debate on the relationship between Islam and economic growth.
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# Posted 12:42 PM by Patrick Belton  

SILLY, AND STUPID: David over at Volokh links to this Ha'aretz piece from today, about two Arabic speakers in U.S. army intelligence who were dishonourably discharged at Fort Huachuca after they absented themselves from the classroom to attend Yom Kippur services. A Marine colonel commented, "The military can bar a religious observance only in case of military necessity," and indicated that attending a stateside class was typically held to be far beneath that bar: "Even in Vietnam, I was commanding an artillery battery along the [demilitarized zone] and was able to return to Danang for high holiday services."

UPDATE: Phil Carter has another take on the fracas.
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# Posted 12:15 PM by Patrick Belton  

UN RECOMMENDS HUMAN RIGHTS reforms in Mexico, the result of an invitation President Fox issued the United Nations human rights body on his first full day in office. I haven't read the report yet, but know several of the Mexican academics who were involved in the drafting personally, and they are trustworthy people.
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Monday, December 08, 2003

# Posted 1:50 PM by Patrick Belton  

PAKISTAN, PAKISTAN.... OxBlog's Karachi correspondent calls this NYT article to our attention, writing "very negative...but then it is probably naive at the moment to write a positive or lukewarm piece on Pakistan." Incidentally, one surprise for me in reading this piece is that I know the family of Malik Zafar Azam, the minister of law in the mullah-driven parliamentary coalition Muttahida Majils-e-Amal - who holds a U.S. green card and owns several Italian restaurants in Arlington. Such is the humour of life in the Washington suburbs.
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# Posted 11:22 AM by Patrick Belton  

JUSTICE. Richard Welch, rest in peace.
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Sunday, December 07, 2003

# Posted 6:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ACCURSED WINTER WEATHER: US Airways has now cancelled three consecutive flights on which I had a reservation. The first two were cancelled because of snow in Washington. Now the problem is snow in Boston. With any luck, I'll be on a flight back home tomorrow at 11:30am. My internet access is still extremely limited, so further posting will have to wait.
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# Posted 7:08 AM by Patrick Belton  

I'M SO PROUD of my universities!
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Saturday, December 06, 2003

# Posted 5:29 PM by Patrick Belton  

GOOD GENES: Miss Ireland crowned Miss World today in Sanya, China. OxBlog gives major cool points to Miss Canada, Iranian-Canadian Nazanin Afshin-Jam (conferring, among other things, the benefit of the right to a date with a single OxBlogger, if she so chooses....).
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# Posted 5:35 AM by Patrick Belton  

BUZZ ALDRIN CALLS for a launch platform near the moon as a port for future missions to the moon, Mars, and the asteroid belt, and recourse to the private market for development of a future orbital space plane. He also complains that the dominance of orbital contracts to Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman has been squeezing out smaller, entrepreneurial companies which are more creative and less risk-averse than the large contractors.

Sounds like a strong argument. (And it doesn't seem to be compromised, actually, by the fact that Dr Aldrin is chair of one such small company.)
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# Posted 5:28 AM by Patrick Belton  

OKAY, EVERYONE'S GOTTA HAVE THEIR LOYALTIES: So go Army, beat Navy.
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# Posted 5:15 AM by Patrick Belton  

NEWS OF THE WEIRD: namely, weather better in Oxford than in Washington
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# Posted 5:13 AM by Patrick Belton  

QUOTE OF THE DAY: On the Army's facing the lowest level of readiness since 1991: "It's sort of like the New York Yankees in January," O'Hanlon said. "Their readiness is lower because they haven't gone back to spring training. But they're still a damn good baseball team." (NYT)
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Friday, December 05, 2003

# Posted 5:15 AM by Patrick Belton  

THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH, but if you're in Oxford, you can have something close to one this afternoon by coming to hear me present a paper on Congress and the Sino-American relationship in the post-Cold War period, at Nuffield at 12:45. Be there or be the Ming dynasty.
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Thursday, December 04, 2003

# Posted 9:06 PM by Patrick Belton  

WHEW: Sorry, Josh, I thought you were talking about my dissertation there in your last two posts!
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# Posted 9:59 AM by Patrick Belton  

WINNER OF THE HEADLINE OF THE DAY CONTEST, VIA CNN: "Panda heads to Tokyo for hot date"
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# Posted 4:28 AM by Patrick Belton  

A CONSPIRACY TO DEFRAUD: Personally, I prefer my conspiracy theories to be ones featuring Jews, CFR members, members of Yale secret societies, and operatives from secret government agencies. Frankly, they're the sorts of people you can enjoy being at a party with. Conspiracies by long-distance operatives to systematically overcharge customers unless they call to complain (and vehemently), however, are just plain dispicable. After all, nobody wants to be at a party with an AT&T customer service representative.
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# Posted 3:43 AM by Patrick Belton  

HAVING A CHRISTMAS TREE EQUALS PROSTITUTION: No, this isn't a (somewhat odd) radical eco-feminist rant tailor-made for the holiday season. It's actually from the Virginia state code.

Both having a cut tree in an apartment lacking a sprinkler and offering money or its equivalent to another for the purpose of engaging in sexual acts and thereafter doing any substantial act in furtherance thereof are class one misdemeanors under the Virginia code. Both can get you hit with a $2,500 fine and six months in the slammer (where you won't have a Christmas tree, either).

This doesn't mean they're equal in the eyes of your wife, though.
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Wednesday, December 03, 2003

# Posted 2:11 PM by Patrick Belton  

LRB GETS CHEESEY: On a day when TNR goes drooling over a reality-TV blonde, LRB salivates over something more our speed: Camembert. Of course, it does justify its enclosure in the money-losing side of the press (as opposed to the NYT food section) by using Camembert production as a microcosm of modernity; but on the other hand, the author has the class (and humour) to sign his biographic line: "Steven Shapin, who teaches sociology of science at the University of California, San Diego, was raised on cheese and baloney sandwiches." Nice.
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# Posted 12:26 PM by Patrick Belton  

CHINA ARITHMETIC: In the advent of Wen Jiabao's visit to Washington, Bill Kristol and Gary Schmitt are concerned that the administration is signalling to Beijing that it will not defend Taiwan if China were to launch an attack in response to a provocation:
[NSC senior director for Asia, Jim] Moriarty's second proposal is even more worrying. He proposes the United States declare that it will not defend Taiwan if Beijing launches a military attack on the island in response to a "provocation," i.e., some action or statement by Taiwan that Beijing determines moves in the direction of independence. This proposal, if adopted by the administration, could prove disastrous on several grounds. First of all, it would appear to run counter to the Taiwan Relations Act passed by Congress in 1979. Indeed, it may constitute an effort by the Bush administration in effect to repeal that law by executive fiat. The Act makes it U.S. policy that there should be a peaceful resolution of the dispute between China and Taiwan. But, by suggesting that there may be "legitimate" grounds for China to take offense, this new declaration would condone the very action the law intends to prevent. This would be all the more remarkable given that less than two years ago President Bush reaffirmed the American commitment to Taiwan by declaring that the United States would do "whatever it took" to defend Taiwan.

Second, this proposed policy shift would make war in the Strait more likely, not less. If the United States tells Beijing that it will not defend Taiwan in the event of a "provocation," this can only serve as an inducement to Beijing to threaten to use force, or perhaps actually to use force, on any occasion that Beijing deems Taiwan's behavior "provocative." After all, what constitutes a "provocation"? Beijing believes Taiwan's current status of de facto independence is already unacceptable.
For my part, I’m curious whether the administration is attempting to deter Taipei from proceeding with a referendum on independence - which would definitely cross what China has clearly indicated to be its red lines and would likely bring about a military conflict in the Straits - by signaling that the US would not defend Taiwan in such a circumstance. This is, however, a risky gambit as well as a high-wire maneuver, for the very breadth of the message – and the language “a provocation,” and not the narrower “declaration of independence” – not only goes far beyond that circumstance, but also places exegetical authority in the hands of Beijing, and not in world’s gaze at a fairly objective fact.

A second possibility is to place this within the long tradition of secret executive promises to China with regard to Taiwan during high-level summitry, which are generally reported by journalists and historians years after the fact. Jim Mann reports President Clinton’s secret promises to oppose Taiwanese independence in his book About Face (as well in as his more contemporaneous foreign affairs reporting for the LA Times), and most presidents seem to have made similar sorts of compacts with their visiting opposite numbers from Beijing.

Few in our days share Wilson’s complete rejection of executive understandings with other governments apart from those which are open and openly arrived at - much useful assistance is, for instance, provided to the United States by governments which would be embarrassed were the fact to be discovered publicly by their people, and the aversion of wars between nuclear powers has often depended upon such “gentlemen’s agreements” as Robert Kennedy’s assurance to Ambassador Dobrynin at the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis. However, while the aversion of conflict in the Straits requires careful negotiation by every President, not only would it be clearly contrary to the United States’s democratic principles to forget its commitment to a democratic people, enshrined in its federal statute books, but a second audience must be kept in mind here. This is after all the Asia Pacific region, where it is not yet in the United States’s interests to show itself to be deterred by a China that would like itself to be perceived as the rising power to Washington’s widely predicted (especially by the Chinese) wane.
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Tuesday, December 02, 2003

# Posted 3:01 PM by Patrick Belton  

UNESCO-FUNDED EGYPTIAN LIBRARY DISPLAYS COPY OF 'PROTOCOLS' NEXT TO TORAH: See MEMRI.
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# Posted 4:54 AM by Patrick Belton  

ECONOMIST ENDORSES HAVING A MISTRESS: At least for wartime presidents. In a highly laudatory review of Lord Black's one-volume biography of FDR, the newspaper's editors conclude with the following paragraph:
After his death, their daughter Anna had to explain to her mother that he had been, at the last, back in the company of his mistress Lucy Rutherfurd, whom Eleanor thought she had banished more than 25 years before. Such is the private life of those who have to live with Atlas as he holds up the burden of the world.
This is simply silly. That FDR was inimitably great as a president is beyond refute. But having a mistress is either wrong (principally because it involves promise-breaking, a delict in most ethical systems; my personal view), or it isn't (the view often attributed to the French, though interestingly, generally by jealous Anglo-Americans). What simply isn't the case is that elevated office, irrespective of its demands however Atlas-like, could transfer the incumbent's personal (and sexual) conduct into a different moral universe from the rest of us. To think so is a dangerous and common tendency, and generally implied rather than baldly stated - but Pinochet lies that way, as do many other instances of the abuse of privilege. The other way lies civic republicanism as first enunciated by the classics: for Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics, eudaimonia - happiness, or human flourishing- is a complete and sufficient good because it satisfies all desire and has no evil mixed in with it. And while the exercise of political virtue and the ability to be, say, Roosevelt may not be distributed equally across a population, phronesis - that is, the practical wisdom to distinguish ethical conduct from contrasting vices - is something which all human actors have an equal need to acquire in order to flourish. Wartime presidents and prime ministers, too.
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Monday, December 01, 2003

# Posted 9:38 AM by Patrick Belton  

NEWS OF THE WEIRD: NYT is reporting that the Upper East Side is now sporting some of the most easily affordable apartments in Manhattan, after a decade of the lowest percentage rent increases in New York. The recent slump in the real estate market has also been more pronounced in the Upper East Side than elsewhere. Doormen, anybody?
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# Posted 9:25 AM by Patrick Belton  

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST: Boeing's CEO resigns this morning.
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# Posted 9:15 AM by Patrick Belton  

WINNER OF THE OXBLOG "QUOTE OF THE DAY" CONTEST: "Police became suspicious because he was carrying a rocket-propelled grenade." Owen Bennett Jones, Pakistan, Yale University Press, p. 23 (and my current bedtime reading, on which I'll be posting as soon as I finish).
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# Posted 6:56 AM by Patrick Belton  

SORRY GENTS, THE PARTY'S OVER: Israel's left-of-center Meretz party has decided at a convention on Sunday to dissolve itself in order to join with Yossi Beilin's Shahar movement in forming a Social-Democratic party, to be called Ya'ad. Update your rolodexes, and check Haaretz if interested in more.
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Sunday, November 30, 2003

# Posted 2:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A REAL DOWN-TO-EARTH KIND OF GUY: In about ten minutes I'm going to head out to Penn Station in order to catch the 4:05 train to Washington. I'll be there for a week, conducting research interviews with former US government officials and independent experts on US-Central American relations. Depending on what kind of internet access I wind up with, I either will or won't be blogging.

Anyhow, before going down, I decided to get in touch with my friend Max from Oxford, who spent last year as a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy (WINEP).

Max is a good guy, and he often sends me interesting stuff about the Israeli-Palestinian situation, some of which I've put up on OxBlog. I always sort of figured he led the same work-a-day sort of research life that I did. But then I go to the WINEP website to get his e-mail address, and here's what I find in his profile [no permalink, just click on "Staff" and scroll down to "Associates"]:
Mr. Abrahms has published numerous articles in Ha'aretz (English), Jerusalem Post, Los Angeles Times, Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, Middle East Quarterly, and National Review Online, and has appeared as a commentator on ABC, al-Arabiyya, al-Jazeera, BBC1, BBC 24, CBS, CNN, CNN Financial, CTV (Canada Television), FOX, NPR, PBS, Radio Free Europe, SKY News, and Voice of America.
Holy Schnikes! And Max didn't say a word about it. Talk about humility. A lot of people in Washington could learn from this guy.

And let me tell you, the humility is real. Max was always one of the most down-to-earth people in an Oxford IR program filled with loudmouths and hotshots (I'm mostly thinking of myself, but Urman wasn't much better.) So here's to Max: someone we should all remember when we get too high on ourselves.
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# Posted 3:10 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"THE TURKEY HAS LANDED": That was the headline run by the London Independent about Bush's visit to Iraq. Robert Tagorda and Kevin Drum think it was pretty tasteless.

But you know what? I laughed. Sure, Kevin is right that no serious broadsheet should run a headline like that. But from where I stand, it's nice to see that the Independent can admit that it's foreign affairs coverage is a joke.

Now, for some real commentary on Bush's visit, head over to Dan Drezner's website.

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# Posted 2:51 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PEJMAN'S WAYWARD YOUTH: I'd like to believe that Pejman was a KISS fan. But if he was, he should know that the guy with the tongue was Gene Simmons. Reed Richards was the leader of Marvel Comics' Fantastic Four.

Presumably, Richards' rubber-like body would have enabled him to stretch his tongue out to Simmons-esque proportions, had he wished to do so.
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# Posted 1:42 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HALF-RIGHT: Matt Yglesias writes:
I think it's fair to say that Howard Dean, and many other liberals-but-not-pacifists, who opposed the war allowed their detestation for the Bush administration to blind them to the merits of the arguments in favor of the war. At the same time, those of us who were more open to military action appear to have allowed our appreciation for the merits of the pro-war arguments to blind us to the utterly despicable nature of the Bush administration.
Call me stubborn, but I'm not about to spend my time going through Matt archives looking for posts in which he gave the benefit of the doubt to the Bush Administrations.

Interestingly, Kevin Drum has also engaged in a subtle bit of personal revisionism. Today, Kevin writes that he briefly supported the war but then became convinced that Bush & Co. weren't serious about rebuilding Iraq.

Note, however, a subtle difference in the meaning of the word "serious". Today's post equates revision with competence. Yet Kevin's original post from March argues that Bush isn't even committed to rebuilding Iraq, competence aside.

Why does this sort of trifling semantic difference matter? After all, you can't expect bloggers to consult the Oxford English Dictionary before publishing every post. However, these small differences matter because they say something about the mindset of their authors.

Kevin misses how his cynicism regarding Bush's motives has been transformed into a resentment of Bush's incompetence. In a President, both flaws are dangerous. But on a moral plane, sinister motives are far worse.

Matt wants to believe that he only could've supported the war (however briefly) by blinding himself to the Bush administration's "utterly despicable nature". Yet Matt goes on to say that what's wrong with the Bush Administration is not that it's evil, but that it's incompetent. (UPDATE: In this post, Matt says the administration is still evil because it's lying about it's commitment to democracy in Iraq.)

In the end, both Matt and Kevin are left pondering the same question: How could the Bush administration ever have believed that the reconstruction of Iraq would go smoothly despite a total absence of planning?

In isolation, that question makes a lot of sense. But it is important to put that question in context. Planning for the occupation was going on at the same time that the Bush Administration had to face down critics who thought that it was evil because of its decision to invade Iraq. The White House was consumed with responding to criticism of its motives, not its abilities.

Does this excuse its negligent planning for the occupation? Hell no. I've blasted the administration's negligence on the planning front since long before the invasion. But OxBlog did recognize after Bush's February speech on democracy promotion that the President had invested his reputation in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Before the February speech, however, OxBlog joined both liberal and conservative advocates of democracy promotion in questioning the President's commitment to that objective.

The bottom line here is that liberals like Matt and Kevin did not (briefly) support the war because of momentary ignorance. They supported it because it was the right thing to do. And they stopped supporting it because they underestimated the President's idealism. That matters, because the President's idealism is the only thing that may compensate for his incompetence.

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# Posted 1:30 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RIYADH, HOME OF TERROR: A dissident speaks. Will America listen?
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# Posted 1:24 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE HYPOCRISY OF VICTORY: David Brooks is right. The Republicans have learned to govern by buying off the electorate with expensive entitlements.

Brooks thinks that this will make the Republicans as unbeatable as the Democrats once were in the House and Senate. But Brooks forgets something: When the Democrats created the welfare state, they were being true to their ideals.

If the Republicans persist in behaving like Democrats, they will either have to abandon their small government philosophy or face a barrage of unanswerable criticism. And then things will get really interesting.
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# Posted 1:10 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JUST THE BAD NEWS, PLEASE: The headline says: "Once World Leader in Traffic Safety, US Drops to No. 9." That is a fact, plain and simple.

It is also a fact that traffic safety in the US had improved more than 40% since 1985 -- 70% since 1970 -- in terms of accidents per mile driven. However, the gains in other industrialized nations have been even more dramatic, often because they started off with a higher accident rate.

Now, you might ask, is the US far behind it's competitors? In the US, there are 1.52 deaths per 100 million miles driven. World leader Britain has a score of 1.21, #2 Norway, 1.33. Germany comes in at #10 with a score of 1.81.

To be sure, each hundredth of a point represents 278 American lives lost on the road. I hope we can do better. The answer? Wear seatbelts.
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# Posted 12:40 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A SALUTE TO FALLEN COMRADES: America honors the Spanish soldiers and Japanese diplomats who gave their lives earlier today in the struggle against dictatorship in Iraq.

Fortunately, if current trends persist, there will be fewer sacrifices made in the name of freedom. The US military reports that
attacks on American soldiers across Iraq had dropped by almost a third in the last two weeks. [Gen. Sanchez] said those attacks, which as recently as two weeks ago were averaging 35 a day, had dropped to a daily average of about 22.

The general said the drop in attacks on American soldiers was being accompanied by an increase in attacks on Iraqis. Yet even when such attacks were included, he said, the activity on the part of the guerrillas had dropped sharply.

The general suggested that the insurgents were beginning to feel the pressure brought to bear by the sustained operations of the American military. He said their activity had declined most sharply in the areas where American military operations have been most intense. In Baghdad, for instance, where the First Armored Division has mounted a number of large raids in recent weeks, the number of attacks on American soldiers has declined by 70 percent.
Perhaps this is only the calm before the storm. Perhaps not.
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Saturday, November 29, 2003

# Posted 7:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHO IS AYATOLLAH SISTANI? Both Thursday's lead story in the NYT and a front page news analysis column from today focus on the tension between American plans for installing a semi-elected government and the Shi'ite cleric's preference for a full-fledged democratic process.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, there is a glaring omission in all these stories about the Shi'ite vote. We hear again and again that Ayatollah Sistani wants the new Iraqi state to have "a clear role for Islam" and that he wants to translate the Shi'ites demographic dominance into political power.

But what does Sistani believe about democracy as a political system? Will he endorse democracy as a way of life rather than a transitional process?

Another problem with these articles is their constant repetition of the American argument that elections are impossible before a census is taken. Is that just a stalling point designed throw off Sistani, or do Bremer and the White House really believe what they're saying?

Frankly, I'm suspicious. El Salvador climbed out of its own civil war by holding its first free elections before a census could be taken. The Reagan administration backed that effort enthusiastically and the result was validated by impartial monitors. There were some charges of corruption, but they were directed at the officials responsible for tabulating the votes by computer, not at the problem of having unidentified voters.

At the moment, it seems rather hypocritical for the US to be resisting Shi'ite demands for real elections -- provided that they are sincere. Memo to Bill Keller: Get your correspondents to find out what Sistani believes, instead of assuming that they know.
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# Posted 7:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PALESTINIANS KILLING PALESTINIANS: It was nice to see the NYT run a front-page article on the murder of Palestinians who cooperate with Israeli authorities. According to the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, there have been 70 such murders over the past three years, not to mention those collaborators executed by kangaroo courts run by the PA.

During the first intifada, hundreds of collaborators were murdered in the streets. Of course, the press focused on those Palestinains who were killed by Israelis, even though such killings were often a matter of self-defense, rather than cold-blooded murder.

Interestingly, the European Union complained about the PA's executions of Palestinian collaborators (on what charge? obstruction of injustice?) and, in response, Arafat stopped them. Instead, Arafat had Al Aksa take care of the killings, shall we say, extra-judicially.

Frankly I'm quite curious about this Palestinian human rights group. Who allows it to operate? Are its casualty estimates low? What do Amnesty and Human Rights Watch say about it? More to come...
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Friday, November 28, 2003

# Posted 11:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

INJUSTICE ON THANKSGIVING: While there would never be moments of celebrations if we constantly contemplated the injustices of the world, I do want to take this moment to tell you about a great miscarraige of justice that has done harm to a friend.

Nitin Gopal Jutka, a leading contributor to Hawken Blog recently posted about the way that his family has been victimized by ruthless malpractice lawyers.

Nitin's mother is a doctor, and when she was accused unjustly of malpractice she decided to fight rather than settle out of court. Yet thanks to the unpredictability of juries and rhetoric of malpractice lawyers, the plaintiff was awarded a $5.2 million settlement.

Nitin's mother may never practive medicine again. This is a personal and professional blow to her and her entire family. It is an injustice that I hope is soon corrected. Yet victory always comes at a price, both emotional and financial. So at a time when I have much to be thankful for, I want to remember that many others must struggle for what is rightly theirs.
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Thursday, November 27, 2003

# Posted 7:46 AM by Patrick Belton  

'EID MUBARAK: A very blessed 'Eid-ul-Fitr to all of our Muslim brothers and sisters, at this the end of the month of Ramadan. We are one today with all Muslims of good will, especially those struggling for the values of humanity against advocates of hate, despair, and terror. Particularly worthy of support are the Islamic Supreme Council of America (who have spawned the hopeful ngo Muslims Against Terrorism), its head Shaykh Kabbani and executive director Hedieh Mirahamadi, and all other Muslims who seek to remain true, even in these days, to the humanistic and moderate values within the Islamic tradition.

Ramadan is a time of hard striving and purification, enjoining good, forbidding evil, and heightening the consciousness of Allah's presence, or Taqwa. Taqwa is a protection both against the schemes of evil and the suffering of the world: "Whoever keeps his duty to Allah [has taqwa], He ordains a way out for him and gives him sustenance from where he imagines not." (Qur'an, 65:2) Our thoughts are with all of those who strive hard this 'Eid to purify one of the world's great humanistic religions against that determined minority who would reduce it to an ideological apology for terror and hatred, and who strive to restore it to its proper great stature as a great faith of tolerance, brotherhood, and peace. 'Eid mubarak to you all.
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Wednesday, November 26, 2003

# Posted 8:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIEBERMAN-MCCAIN '04: Why the hell not? Senator Joe has already said he wants McCain as his SecDef (because another arrogant loudmouth is just what we need at the Pentagon.) And his latest commercial in New Hampshire consists of McCain voters saying they'll vote for Joe.

All that would be missing is the support of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

PS: For a solid round-up of the latest batch of campaign commercials, click here.
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# Posted 8:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOT EXACTLY FOR THE, WELL, SORT OF MAYBE FOR THE...war. Who? Howard Dean. After battering his opponents for signing the blank check that let Bush go to war, Dean now has to face the fact that he endorsed a slightly different version of the blank check that Sens. Biden & Lugar hoped to substitute for the actual one. In the end, of course, Dean came out against the invasion. But that may have been a new position for him, rather than an old one.

Does this matter? Optimists might see it as evidence that Dean isn't so dovish. Pessimists will see it as evidence that Dean has neither the backbone nor the integrity to take on the Bush war machine.
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# Posted 12:33 PM by Patrick Belton  

MATT YGLESIAS IS GRACIOUS in the wake of Saturday's football result:
How do you like them apples? Sadly, however, unless Wesley Clark manages to stop Dean in the primaries, Yale's reign of terror in the White House is guaranteed to continue. If only Gore had run again. Schumer '08?
Hmm, but I thought the Democrats had already pencilled in Hillary (YLS '72) for '08?
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# Posted 9:04 AM by Patrick Belton  

ELECTIONS TODAY IN NORTHERN IRELAND: Analysts are predicting a low turnout, thanks to execrable weather and disillusionment on the part of voters. This, in turn, is predicted to favour the more extreme parties, Sinn Fein and Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists Party. (The latter party has refused to negotiate with Sinn Fein, and has promised to review the Good Friday Agreements if it wins a majority in Stormont. Its head, furthermore, is a lunatic who rants in political speeches that the Pope will come to Northern Ireland to govern if the Catholics are permitted to have their way.) The Northern Ireland assembly has been suspended since last October, after allegations of IRA spying. Two thousand additional officers are being deployed in the province to deter threatened attacks by paramilitaries of both sides. See appeals by PMs Blair and Ahern, coverage by Telegraph, CNN.
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# Posted 7:59 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE US ROLE IN GEORGIA'S 'ROSE REVOLUTION': This piece in today's CS Monitor makes clear the effect the US can have when it acts to promote democracy - as it has done in Georgia over the last decade, giving over $1 billion and substantial diplomatic support to support democratization in that nation:
From Paris to Pakistan, Americans have grown used to television footage of American flags going up in flames or being trampled under foot by angry crowds.

But in Georgia, a handful of American flags have been held high among the sea of opposition banners that protesters used to usher in their revolution - waved in gratitude for Washington's role in facilitating democratic change here....

Senior US officials pushed diplomatic buttons before and throughout the crisis - in concert with Russia and others - making clear to all sides the dangers of a forceful crackdown or street violence. But untidy as the opposition's seizure of power has been, analysts say that billions in Western aid - and steady prodemocracy brow-beating - proved a key to regime change, one achieved without a shot being fired.

"The US government has gone to great lengths to back a [democratic] process and institutions, and to be very careful - amid big pressure from both sides - not to back certain individuals," says Mark Mullen, head of the Georgia office of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), funded by the US government, which has engaged in democracy training here since the mid-1990s.
More, please.
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# Posted 7:44 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE QUEEN'S SPEECH was today: bills to be introduced by the government in the coming year will include ones aimed at traffic disruption, asylum reform, and moves to abolish the remaining hereditary peers and the Lord Chancellor, and create a Supreme Court. This last measure, though a fairly massive constitutional change, has not received much public deliberation before being announced, leading to criticism for being hasty and ill thought out.

The full text of the Queen's Speech is here.
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# Posted 6:54 AM by Patrick Belton  

SENATOR CALLS FOR KEEPING BELTON FREE FROM TERRORISM: Gee, thanks, guys:
"Senator Kit Bond does Rumsfeld one better, wishing the fight to commence in Baghdad, 'rather than Boston or Boise or Baldwin, Missouri, or (emphasis added) Belton, Missouri.'" (Via Weekly Standard)
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# Posted 2:28 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG SPIRTITUALLY SECURE: David Brooks writes that
"anybody who has several sexual partners in a year is committing spiritual suicide."
I don't know what the opposite of spiritual suicide is, but for the last twelve months I have most certainly been committing it. Still, I have some questions about Brooks' claim. First of all, do you have to go all the way with several partners, or is third base enough? How about third base with one partner and all the way with another? Or second base with four partners?

Furthermore, which definition of "several" does Brooks rely on? Merriam-Webster lists it as meaning both "more than one" and "more than two but fewer than many". If Brooks meant "more than one" why didn't he just say that? Does he have something to hide?

Also, when Brooks refers to several partners in a year, is he referring to a single year or a lifetime average? Do my many years of chastity mean that I can get with multiple honeys this year without endangering my spiritual well-being? If I get with too many honeys this year (an unlikely event), can I make up for it by being chaste later on? Or is spiritual suicide irreversible?

Next up, what about someone who gets divorced and married in the same twelve month period? Wouldn't it be OK for him or her to have more than one sexual partner?

And what about cultural diveristy? Can Muslims have sex with a new partner after 354 days because their years are shorter? Do Jews have to wait 13 months during lunar leap years?

Finally, what will happen when human beings begin to live on other planets? Can residents of Mercury have sex with someone new every 88 days? Do residents of Jupiter have to wait for 11.86 years? (I don't even want to think about Uranus.)

Anyhow, go read Brooks column. It offers a compelling conservative defense of gay marriage. My criticism of it is entirely tangential.

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# Posted 1:47 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNRESERVED: The Army has announced a shortfall in its recruitment of reservists. Phil Carter provides some thoughtful commentary. Plus, Phil draws on his own experience as an MP to assess the role of female MPs in the line of fire in Iraq. As usual, great stuff.

Sadly, however, Phil will not be sharing his thoughts on Michael Jackson (the pop star, not the British general).
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# Posted 1:35 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"WE ARE ONE STRESSED OUT RESERVIST AWAY FROM A MASSACRE": This column [free registration required] is on the alarmist side, but it may point to a problem worth considering. It would also help if the author pointed out that American forces in Iraq have shown tremendous restraint and respect for human rights despite considerable provocations from war-criminal Ba'athist insurgents. (Hat tip to NR)

UPDATE: Here's a striking example of US Army humanitarianism -- from 1945.
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# Posted 1:16 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LETTER FROM BAGHDAD: Usually a solid thinker, Les Gelb has packed more bad and misleading ideas into a single op-ed column than any author I've seen in a long time. In short, he thinks the US should divide Iraq into three ethnic states so that it can end the occupation ASAP.

Rather than respond myself to Gelb's argument, I thought I'd post some excerpts from a response drafted by a friend of mine who is a correspondent in Iraq. With any luck, the Times will run my friend's article in the next couple of days. For now, here are some of the highlights:
Iraq is unique in the Muslim world as a country where Sunnis and Shias, both secular and religious leaders, have often collaborated against internal oppression and external aggression, and have not engaged in the vicious sectarian bloodshed seen in Pakistan, or the Wahabbi view of Shias as heretics and polytheists. Shia Ayatollahs supported Sunni opposition movements, and a radical Shia movement like the Da’wa party had a Sunni membership of ten percent...

Iraq’s Sunnis and Shias are related by common history and often common tribal relations, since Iraq only became a majority Shia state after Sunni tribes converted to Shiism in the 18th century. Even the most extreme Iraqi Shias are Iraqi nationalists and view Iran with suspicion. Iraqi Shias believe their country is the rightful leader of the Shia world, since Shiism began in Iraq, most sacred Shia sites are in Iraq and the Hawza, or Shia clerical academy of Najaf, dominated Shia thought until recently. Iran is a rival for them. Iraqi nationalism and unity were proven when all members of the Iraqi Governing Council unanimously rejected the American proposal to introduce Turkish peacekeepers into the country...

Kurdish leaders from all political parties have called for inclusion in the new Iraq, and while many may dream of an eventual Kurdish state, all recognize that it is quixotic at this juncture. There is only a light American presence in Kurdistan anyway, and it is not the reason troops are meeting resistance elsewhere. A Kurdistan without US troops is the greatest
fear of most Kurds today who live under the ominous shadow of their Turkish, Iranian, and even Syrian neighbors. There is no clear border for Kurdistan. Kurds covet Mosul and Kirkuk, where many Arabs, Assyrians and Turkmen would violently oppose secession...

Gelb’s proposal is the singularly least democratic suggestion offered to solve the Iraq crisis to date. Moreover, no neighboring country would accept the idea of dividing Iraq. How many small, artificial and unviable countries (like Jordan and the Gulf countries) does the west wish to create in repetition of its post Ottoman errors? Unlike Yugoslavia, Iraq’s different
groups have no history of separate existence and they have no history of mutual slaughter. It is true that Iraq was to a certain extent an invention. But all states begin as an imagined idea. A state succeeds if its people believe in it. Iraqis believe in Iraq. If anything, the American occupation is only uniting Iraqis in resentment of the foreigners and non Muslims who
rule them, and increasing their desire to be “free, independent and democratic” as the graffiti says on walls throughout the country. Iraqis believe in Baghdad, an extremely diverse capital city, where Shias, Sunnis and Kurds live together and even intermarry.
So those are the good parts. If the Times decided to run the whole article, you'll get to see the not-so-good parts as well...and I will fisk them.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2003

# Posted 9:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE MUD HAS BEEN SLUNG: Via TPM, I came across this NYT article on an RNC commercial for Bush that will start running in Iowa. According to the NYT, the new commerical
shows Mr. Bush, during the last State of the Union address, warning of continued threats to the nation: "Our war against terror is a contest of will, in which perseverance is power," he says after the screen flashes the words, "Some are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists."
That is low, misleading and flat-out wrong. Unsurprisingly, the White House has tried to distance itself from the commerical and say that the RNC was in charge. But how credible a defense is that?

If this is what we can expect from the Bush campaign, count me out.
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# Posted 9:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BOOOORING: Dan Drezner has an excellent post on the new Medicare bill which begins with Matt Yglesias' statement that bloggers (including himself) should learn to pay attention to critical issues such as Medicare no matter how boring they are.

That's why I'm putting up this link to Dan's post. We can't pretend that foreign policy and the war on terror are separate from domestic issues. If Medicare and Social Security and tax policy keep us in the red, we won't be able to devote the necessary resources to fighting terror. It's not a choice of butter vs. guns. It's a challenge to be reponsible and efficient in our consumption of both so that choices don't have to be made.

Anyhow, when reading Dan's post, do you know which link was the only one I followed? This one. So much for practicing what I preach...
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# Posted 8:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

@#$*%&! In a pre-Thanksgiving display of blogospheric love, Dan Drezner is cursing out James Lileks for cursing out Salam Pax. The whole thing started because Salam said some pretty dumb things in the Guardian, to which Lileks responded with some good points that were pre-empted by stupid insults. Rather than bring everyone back to the substantive side of things, Dan lost his temper and decided to chew Lileks out for being a jerk.

As far as the bad blood goes, I think it should be water under the bridge. Salam, Lileks and Dan have contributed so much to the blogosphere that no one should hold it against them if they lose it once in a while.

However, I would like to respond to what Salam said, since I think it deserves a serious response. At the core of SP's open letter to George Bush is his sarcastic frustration with the US-led reconstruction effort:
To tell you the truth, I am glad that someone is doing the cleaning up, and thank you for getting rid of that scary guy with the hideous moustache that we had for president. But I have to say that the advertisements you were dropping from your B52s before the bombs fell promised a much more efficient and speedy service. We are a bit disappointed. So would you please, pretty please, with sugar on top, get your act together and stop telling people you have Iraq all figured out when you are giving us the trial-and-error approach?
Given that Salam lost numerous friends and relatives to Saddam's brutality, it is surprising to see him triviliaze the value of liberation. Moreover, as Lileks suggests, it would be nice to see some recognition on Salam's part that American soldiers are giving their lives day in, day out, to prevent a Ba'athist resurgence and facilitate the reconstruction.

But leaving all that aside, let's look at what Salam is really asking for: a more credible guarantee that the United States will not cut and run, but rather stay in Iraq as long as is necessary to ensure prosperity and freedom. The hesitant and sarcastic way in which Salam gets this message across reminds of something that Tom Friedman said a while back [no permalink]. Friedman reminded us how dependent and helpless it must feel for the people of Iraq have the United States army liberate them and supervise their recovery from three decades of dictatorship.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that Salam puts up an aggressive and critical facade to mask his desire for cooperation. Moreover, the United States has a compelling interest in learning to distinguish between constructive critics and corrupt subversives. We have to be 'big' enough to get our emotional satisfaction elsewhere while rebuilding Iraq.

If we do our job right, than twenty or thirty years down the line, Iraqis will think of the occupation the way the Germans and Japanese think of theirs. It won't become an excuse for wholesale submission to everything the US wants, but it will establish an unbreakable bond that lets citizens of both nations know that they are on the same side regardless of how fiercely they disagree.
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# Posted 8:51 PM by Patrick Belton  

A BAD MAN GOES TO JAIL: Mohammed Hamdi al-Ahdal, a senior Al Qaeda leader who was involved in the terror attack of the USS Cole, was arrested today by Yemeni security forces. (CNN) Al-Ahdal had been reported to be in hiding in the Marib province of Yemen, perhaps under the protection of armed local tribesmen. The previous deputy to Al Qaeda's director of operations in Yemen, Abu Al-Harithi (also known as Abu Ali), Al-Ahdal took over the organization's operations in Yemen when the CIA successfully detonated two Predator-launched Hellfire missiles into Abu Ali's convoy in November, removing the chief operative and several other leaders from the scene. (ABC)

Online Islamist sources indicate that Al-Ahdal was among the first Mujahideen to enter Bosnia, fighting in the Battle of Tishin (August 1992) against the Serb army and losing one leg and use of an arm in that battle. After making Hajj in 1998, he was arrested by the Saudi government in Makkah on suspicion of plotting against the government, and was interrogated by the Saudis in the Ar-Ruwais Concentration Camp, Jeddah. On support for Al Qaeda in the Yemeni hinterlands, see BBC and EurasiaNet.
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