OxBlog

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

# Posted 10:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REAL-TIME COMMENTARY: The WaPo's Robert Kaiser is answering questions online at the moment. I think it's a testament to the WaPo's readership and to internet news junkies in general that their questions tend to be a more interesting than his answers. Here are a few samples:
Toledo, Ohio: Doesn't losing both NW and Iowa doom Dean? 13 out 14 nominees have won at least one of these critical first states.

Robert G. Kaiser: Maybe, but I don't believe in historical determinism, and I have never seen a year like this one.

Washington, D.C.
: In the recent past, has any Democratic candidate lost the first position in Iowa and New Hampshire but won the nomination.

Robert G. Kaiser: Bill Clinton did not run against Tom Harkin in Iowa in '92, and came in second to Paul Tsongas in NH. In fact, none of these results from the past "prove" anything about the future...

Boston, Mass..: Paul Tsongas won South Carolina in 1992 by a wide margin -- does this bode well for Kerry down there? Thank you.

Robert G. Kaiser: Well, it suggests that South Carolina won't gote against Kerry on the grounds that he comes from the wrong state. But I'm not sure it means any more than that...

Ames, Iowa: Do you think that the media is so much against Howard Dean because they are owned by the big corporations who would lose if this sort of campaigns built on $100 a little person succeeds?...

Robert G. Kaiser: ...Dean was the big phenomenon of this election. He naturally attracted a lot of attention. He didn't handle it very well. I think that's his problem. [OK, so not all online newshounds are that smart, but the percentage is high. --Ed.]
Now, if you're willing to follow a tangent, take a look at Kaiser's response to a question about the media's role in the election:
Washington, D.C.: Mr. Kaiser, as the fourth arm of government, how would you rate the performance of the media during this primary season?

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to say that "the media" is a club neither I nor any of my colleagues at The Post ever applied to join. We work, proudly, for The Washington Post, which has, once again, covered national politics with great distinction last year and this, in my insufficiently independent opinion. Television now does a poor job on politics year round. many papers around the country don't pay enough attention to political coverage. Commercial radio has died. NPR is doing a fine job. Etc Etc. "The media" is a catchall that doesn't really catch the reality of the news business.
While there's no disputing the high quality of the WaPo's coverage, Kaiser's answer is still profoundly misleading. Few journalists spend their entire careers at a single papers, especially not the WaPo. Rather, journalists circulate constantly, a process that results in the establishment of a set of professional norms that is almost identical at every major news outlet. In this sense, there truly is a profession known as "journalism" and a collective of professionals known as the "media".

The opinion expressed above reflects the work of numerous scholars, my favorite of whom is Stephen Hess. In fact, while divided on many issues, scholars interested in the media almost all agree on the uniformity of journalistic norms. This finding has endured now for more than twenty years. In the process, it has been confirmed by opinion surveys (of journalists), hundreds of interviews, and many sociological studies in which scholars have spent weeks or even months in the newsroom as observers.

In fact, Kaiser's comments back up another important finding on which media critics have reached consensus: that even journalists at the most prestigious publications are only dimly aware of the norms that bind them to their colleagues. Rather, journalists often perpetuate stereotypes that have little basis in fact, such as the supposedly low quality of TV journalism in comparison to print. Unsurprisingly, most scholars believe that the first step toward the improvement of American journalism is greater self-awareness on the part of American journalists.
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# Posted 9:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NO SURPRISES IN NEW HAMPSHIRE: With the half the votes in, it looks like tonight's results will turn out almost identical to the projections of yesterday's tracking polls. Kerry is running slightly ahead of the projections of the and Edwards slightly behind, but the major story is in place: Kerry sustains his momentum, Dean consolidates second place with a double-digit lead over Clark and Edwards.

The more interesting questions about the race actually come at the bottom of the ballot. If Clark finishes fourth (or a distant third) in New Hampshire after avoiding Iowa, is his candidacy on the ropes? By the same token, will Edwards lose the invaluable media attention of the past seven days as a result of his somewhat lackluster finish?

My guess is that the subtleties of the Edwards-Clark finish won't matter much, since both are depending on a strong showing in the South. That, of course, brings us to the fact that 2/3 of New Hampshire primary voters described themselves as anti-war. Presumably, that statistic favored Dean and, to some degree, Kerry. In pro-war democratic states, will Edwards have an advantage? Or will Clark and Kerry's military records substitute for their having clear positions on the war?

Finally, Lieberman. The NYT suggests (in a straight news article, of course) that Senator Joe's 9% showing "could doom his candidacy". At the end of the same article, it reports that
Some analysts have said that if Mr. Lieberman does as poorly as the pre-primary polls indicated, he will be finished as a realistic candidate.
But given that Lieberman was expected to get 5-6%, doesn't 9% look relatively good? Double digits would look especially nice, suggested that Lieberman is running neck-and-neck with Clark even though the Senator is a supposed also-ran.

With 9-10%, it almost pays for Lieberman to fight it ought until the convention, since those kind of numbers might allow him to play kingmaker.
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# Posted 5:57 PM by Patrick Belton  

MEETING AN AMBASSADOR: And a Russian one, at that. Grigory Karasin, the Russian ambassador to the Court of St James and a former deputy foreign minister, stopped up at Oxford this afternoon. I typed up a transcript of the discussion, but haven't had a chance to proofread it, so it contains some typos. (Sorry!)

Some of the more interesting selections are quoted below. You can read this text in one of two ways - as presented and without definite and indefinite articles, in which case you'd have to read it aloud and ideally with a marked Russian accent; or with them, as I've optionally supplied. I hadn't meant to only extract unusual (or risible) comments, as his general presentation was articulate, intelligent, and often quite candid. However, there were a few bits - call them, "Karasinisms" - that I just couldn't let slip by without comment....

on the Holocaust
When we think of anti-Semitism, we shouldn’t overemphasize that part of [the] Holocaust. At [the] same time, some people tried to put anti-Semitism into [the] Middle East to discuss [a/the] Middle East settlement. That is [a] different thing, entirely.

on Iraq, and impersonating Madonna
We think that what happened was not optimal, but we recognize that we are living in a material world, and we think the best thing that can be done is to bring back the U.N.

on imaginative construals of what it means to have free and fair elections
Russia is a multiparty democracy with elections, plus and minuses with them, for examples – but take [the] last Duma election, roughly 23 parties took part in that, generally well organized, honest and fair. I can argue with those who think it was not like that.

on having your next presidential election be a foregone conclusion, in a multiparty democracy with elections
also, on the virtues of going to work each day
On march 15, there will be the election of the President, not many people hesitate to predict the result, and it is not because we live in a society where everything is predictable, it is because the personal record of President Putin is absolutely obvious. People trust him, they see that he is really a working President, that every day he tries to handle in a really constructive way some questions with the government.

on optimism
Because Britain is traditionally the land of very good and positive inventions, so let us hope it will invent something to allow us to prosper as an economic power.

on Chechnya (or, having your eggs and breaking them too)
But to try to take an upper hand in political discussions, that can be done later, but establishing that people can go to work and take their children to school, that is priority, and later we can discuss what was optimal.

on Russia, as a new cuddly neighbor
Even if you take the recent Americans’ announcements, not only in Georgia but certainly, Secretary of State says that he thinks, the intonation of the statement was that Russia should be friendly with neighbours, etc., we don’t have to be reminded about that. We’re not pretending to be the patrons of everybody who is neighbouring to Russia. And that is example of Cold War mentality – when Russia is still seen as former Soviet Union. But we should keep in mind that our security, and our national interests, are observed. And we should keep in mind that Russia is either a partner, a full partner, or no partner at all.

on what free speech means to him
It is not yet the end of the road, but people feel themselves living in free market conditions, where they have no limitation to express their views, and where the media represents different views and, fortunately for the state, and fortunately for Russia, it is no longer in the hands of the oligarchs, who like very much to defend, so-called, their own rights, among them, the freedom of speech. It was not freedom of speech, it was the freedom of speech of those who own the news channels.

on those good old days
We can’t say that the former experience of Soviet power was totally negative for my country, there were a number of positive experiences in education, science, and other fields.
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# Posted 5:48 PM by Patrick Belton  

...AND A BIG WIN FOR BLAIR: The top-up fees bill passes the Commons, 316-311. BBC for more.
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# Posted 11:07 AM by Patrick Belton  

WHAT WE PAY THEM FOR, PART DEUX: The State Department releases several documents, including Secretary Powell's op-ed criticizing the lack of democracy in Russia in Izvestia; the selection of the first class of Iraqi Fulbright scholars from free Iraq; Deputy Secretary Armitage's interview on Egyptian television about democracy promotion in the Middle East; and a synopsis of the U.S. government's efforts with regard to female and juvenile refugees.

More, please.
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# Posted 7:14 AM by Patrick Belton  

MY PREDICTION, PROBABLY WRONG: The last NH polls show a tiny bit of movement away from Kerry, whose post-Iowa surge is starting to cool, and towards Dean, who is solidifying his position as the clear alternative to Kerry. On the other hand, the weather in New Hampshire, while not so great, isn't so bad to depress turnout (i.e., no snow): and lower turnout would have further favored Dean over Kerry, since Dean has a much broader get-out-the-vote organization in the state. So Kerry and Dean move out of New Hampshire tonight to battle it out in the South, with Lieberman (my quijotic candidate), Clark, and Edwards sticking in it until Super Tuesday. Advantage: strongly Kerry, with Dean nipping at his heels to gain on him if he stumbles.
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# Posted 3:30 AM by Patrick Belton  

CAMPAIGN FLAGGING, CLARK CAMPAIGNS AS THE NON-YALIE CANDIDATE: At a diner in Keene, N.H., Clark assured a group of voters that "I didn't go to Yale." Kerry, Dean, Lieberman, and President Bush all hold Yale degrees. Edwards and Kucinich quickly picked up on Clark's brilliant idea, and announced they too would help to form a "non-Yalie coalition," which would revive the presidential hopes of the three doomed candidates with flagging campaigns. The three university goyim indicated they would first concentrate their attacks on Senator Lieberman, who holds two Yale degrees, and is therefore thought to be most vulnerable.
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# Posted 2:43 AM by Patrick Belton  

POLLY WANNA RUN FOR PRESIDENT? A captive African grey parrot, named N'kisi, is quite astounding researchers by displaying verbal inventiveness, an ability to deal with novel ideas, and a wisecracking sense of humour. Seeing Jane Goodall, after having seen her photograph, he wisecracked to her: "Got a chimp?"

Hearing about N'kisi's verbal suppleness, ability to confront novel ideas, and affable wisecracking sense of humour, there have been last-ditch efforts by U.S. Democrats to attempt to convince N'kisi to enter into the New Hampshire primary. No word yet, however, as to whether the parrot will say yes, or merely string the Democratic party along for an interminable series of crackers.
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# Posted 12:56 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CLARK TAKES EARLY LEAD: Dixville Notch chalks up eight votes for the General. Kerry follows with three, Edwards with two. Last time around they took Bradley, four votes to two.
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# Posted 12:37 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HAPPY BLOGIVERSARY, GREG! Belgravia Dispatch turns one.
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# Posted 12:28 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEFENDING THE NEW ECONOMY: The WaPo tells Democratic candidates to stop blaming Indian techno-geeks for the supposed jobless recovery.
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# Posted 12:19 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE 20th HIJACKER: And the man who stopped him.
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# Posted 12:16 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE ORIGINAL JOHN KERRY: Via Garry Trudeau via Instapundit.
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# Posted 12:15 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STOP JUDICIAL ACTIVISM! In Afghanistan.
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# Posted 12:08 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PROBLEM? ANSWER.

Problem:
The procedures in place for choosing [the new Iraqi] government are insufficiently democratic and excessively complex. Unless the transition goes well, Washington's chances of extricating itself from the day-to-day political and security problems of Iraq could fade.

The system for choosing a new government is built around a convoluted sequence of caucuses in which appointed officials are supposed to solicit and then screen nominations from local dignitaries. The process allows no direct participation by ordinary Iraqis and provides no assurance that all important elements of the population will be appropriately represented.
Answer:
Whatever is decided on, not all Iraqis will be happy. That is why any plan needs the international legitimacy U.N. involvement can bring. The current dispute might have been avoided if the U.N. had been included at an earlier stage. Instead, the agreement that set up the flawed caucus plan was drawn up last fall without U.N. participation. It is encouraging to see Washington, however belatedly, now trying to correct that mistake.
Huh? Iraqis deprived of their democratic rights will somehow be happy if the UN sanctions a less-than-democratic transition plan? Or if the UN had drawn up an undemocratic transition plan in tandem with the United States? By the same logic, one might be led to believe that 44th St. would've accepted the result of the Florida recount four years ago if Kofi Annan had told them to.

I think the real problem here is the NYT's inability to recognize that the people of Iraq know what democracy is and value it. And that the people of Iraq, unlike the editors of the NYT, don't see undemocratic international organizations as a source of democratic legitimacy. Perhaps Ayatollah Sistani will accept the American plan if the UN endorses it unconditionally. But then Shi'ites will be accepting the American plan because of their respect for Sistani, not their respect for the UN.
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Monday, January 26, 2004

# Posted 11:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PLAYING HARD TO GET: You've got to wonder about all these undecided voters in New Hampshire. After two months of having all the candidates parade back and forth across the state, what exactly are New Hampshire's voters waiting to discover in the last hours before the polls open?

If they're all so thoughtful and civic-minded, why didn't they read about the candidates when they had time? Frankly, I sorta think that all those folks in Concord and Manchester and Nashua are just so used to having their butts kissed by politicians that they refuse to decide until the absolute last minute just so that they can milk the primary for all its worth.

But you know what would make them real humble real fast? Moving the first primary to another state. Then watch the New Hampshirites complain about the Nebraskans or whoever and how they think they have some sort of special right to get personal attention from the candidates while the rest of us get nothing more than 30-second commercials.

(Yes, I am in a bad mood.)
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# Posted 11:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HITTING BELOW THE BELT: According to a financial analyst from Nashua, NH:
It hurts to vote this way, but I think George Bush has been a disaster, and if my cat had the best chance of winning the election, then I'd vote for my cat.
If the cat gets enough votes, it will be Pussy vs. Bush in November.
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# Posted 11:25 AM by Patrick Belton  

TRANSATLANTIC DIFFERENCES: The Oxford, Pennsylvania franchise of LA Fitness offers weights and training facilities. My own LA Fitness chapter, in Oxford, England, offers "dating." I have a number of responses here: first, does this make working out more or less of a meat market? second, if the point of weights and training facilities is to facilitate dating anyway, is it then a good or bad idea to simply cut out the intermediate steps? third, and most importantly, is this because English people can't do the "dating" bit on their own after they've done the "go to the gym" bit?

UPDATE: A reader points out: "if you check the boxes on the dating service though, as a male seeking a male, it only comes up with males seeking females. Does this mean that gay men in England don't need the help with dating that straight men do?" Heh - perhaps!
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# Posted 10:44 AM by Patrick Belton  

IS THE ROYAL NAVY STILL FIGHTING THE COLD WAR? Prospect Magazine argues that it is:
The most significant threat our ships face is air attack. The only utility of frigates in air defence is as sacrificial shields, and our current destroyers [which are capable of launching surface-to-air missiles: ed] are obsolete. Our fighter screen is cleverly improvised but only works in cold weather. New destroyers may be available in a few years, but we will be without fleet fighters for some time, and will be very weak in airborne radar, which could solve so many of our problems.
In response, author Lewis Page calls for a massive reduction in Britain's frigate and dated destroyer fleet, and a reinvestment in nuclear submarines and an unmothballed third carrier.
With the money saved, we could build effective armed forces and be the terror of the world's dictators and ethnic cleansers, as we should be. Britain would have a capability independent of the US, a situation more dignified than relying on the Americans, while moaning about how they manage each crisis.
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# Posted 10:32 AM by Patrick Belton  

STRAIGHT IS BETTER: We at OxBlog have never been stingy in our support for gay rights. However, this post from our friends at Crescat Sententia reminds us that there's nonetheless one thing in life which, even we'd have to admit, is much better off straight: and that's whisky.

UPDATE: Our friend John Gould points out that I shouldn't neglect distinguished Irish variants on the whisky theme. Quite correct, and duly noted!
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# Posted 9:34 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE WASHINGTON POST runs a quite good editorial this morning criticizing the President's remarks on gay marriage in his state of the union address last week.
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# Posted 9:25 AM by Patrick Belton  

UZBEKISTAN RELEASES 3,000 prisoners in an amnesty to mark the anniversary of the nation's constitution. Many of the prisoners were accused of being members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, although Karimov's government is also known for using the threat of radicalism to imprison political opponents and Muslims from any branch of Islam not directly controlled for the state. No key dissidents (such as Ruslan Sharipov or Muhammad Bekjonov, brother of the exiled opposition leader Mohammad Solih) are to be released.
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# Posted 9:21 AM by Patrick Belton  

POWELL PUSHES PUTIN ON DEMOCRACY: In a front-page piece run in Moscow's Izvestia, Colin Powell expressed grave American concern with the decay of democracy in Russia, said Russian politics were not sufficiently subject to the rule of law, and indicated there were limits to the U.S.-Russian relationship in the absence of shared values. (There - we knew we paid the Department of State for something....)
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# Posted 8:46 AM by Patrick Belton  

PUZZLE WRAPPED IN A RIDDLE SHROUDED IN AN ENIGMA: Amb. Sandy Vershbow, a Yalie Kremlinologist for whom I had what was really a great pleasure to work for several years ago in Brussels at the US Mission to Nato, spoke last week at Carnegie on political trends in Russia. The transcript is online, and definitely worth glancing through.
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Sunday, January 25, 2004

# Posted 11:34 PM by Patrick Belton  

TNR HAS A SHORT piece on terrorism in the Americas, by the CS Monitor's correspondent in Bogota.
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# Posted 9:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MAN IN THE STREET: Hey, Dan, did you meet this guy in New Hampshire?
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# Posted 8:09 PM by Patrick Belton  

WOW: More images this evening from Mars, more spellbinding than the last, and reflecting a side of the Martian landscape we'd never quite glimpsed before.
Mars and she played even and odd.

- George Peele (1559–1596), "The Hunting of Cupid," at l. 36.
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# Posted 7:37 PM by Daniel  

REPORT FROM THE FRONTLINES. No, not Iraq. New Hampshire. I just got back from a nice weekend in the Granite State during which I surveyed the Democratic primary scene. Quite a place.

I spent my first day with a friend who was helping out the Clark campaign by “canvassing” homes in Bedford. This consisted of knocking on Democrats’ doors and handing them Clark literature as well as his 18 minute DVD, "American Son."

In almost every home I visited (sample size: around 30), people said they had watched the previous night’s debate but had not yet made up their minds. On the whole, Bedford residents were very friendly and concerned about us staying warm.

One couple invited me inside and the wife spoke for almost 20 minutes. She said that she was a Democrat and had voted for Bill Clinton. She said she had no problem with “the gays” (which made me think that she does—think of people who say, “I’m not racist, but you see….”) but didn’t appreciate that they could get health care for their partners without having to pay the marriage tax. She also said that she hated paying taxes. This was related to her second point: she could not understand why immigrants didn’t have to pay taxes and why she had to support them with her money. I was not sure what she meant, but she continued, saying, “you know, the people who own the gas stations, the Arabs (pronounced A-rabbs), the Iraqis, you know.” I didn’t know, but I tried to force a smile and said, “I’m pretty sure that immigrants do pay taxes, but maybe you can check the Clark website for more information.” She and her husband said that “five families of immigrants live in one house, you know? And we have to pay for them.” Her husband said he liked Clark but his wife said she had not yet made up her mind.

At another home, a woman yelled at us and accused us of not paying attention to her “Beware of Dog” sign. Actually, we had. I had just mentioned to my friend that the sign reminded me of one of my all-time favorite Far Side comics: the one entitled "Beware of Doug."

I began to wonder what kind of dogs she had, and if they were scary, and what mailmen or invited guests did, but before I could paint the mental picture, out of nowhere two German shepherds came charging toward us. Fortunately, they ran past us. “Who are you?” an older woman asked. “We are here to give you information about General Clark” my friend replied. She shooed us away and told us, “No, I’m for Dean.” Then, she said, “Well, anyone but Bush.” As we walked away, she reined in her dogs and told us to be careful.

I spoke with one voter who said he traditionally voted Republican, but didn’t like what Bush was doing and could potentially vote for a Democrat. He was particularly peeved by Bush’s “damn amnesty program with the illegals.” His solution: we should put up a fence and keep them out for 5 years, so we can catch the ones who are already here. He asked if Clark was the guy who “hated guns.” I told him that I was pretty sure that Clark did not hate guns, but that he believed in enforcing the gun control laws we had, including a limitation on assault weapons. I mentioned that such weapons did not seem to be very necessary for hunting. He agreed that AK 47s are not too important for hunters like himself, but that he also used guns for protection of his property. If the government did try to seize people’s guns, he told me there was going to be “a battle.” Then he said that he liked a lot of Kucinich’s ideas.

The entire experience was a lot of fun, and it was pretty amazing to see how much time and effort hundreds of people volunteer for one candidate. Some volunteers complained that rival campaigns stole their signs, and apparently the local police quietly dealt with many incidents like this, preferring to keep them under wraps. Edwards, Kerry, and Clark "visibility" volunteers (people holding signs and waving to cars passing by) were out late on Saturday night for in sub-freezing temperatures for hours on end. Very impressive. I was also pretty taken aback by fact that so many voters had not yet made up their minds. I guess we will see what happens on Tuesday!

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# Posted 7:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HYPOCRISY IN A SMALL PLACE: Why is George Bush praising a dictator in Azerbaijan?
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# Posted 1:59 PM by Patrick Belton  

YOWSERS, it's amazing how even after you're happily and faithfullly married, how dern long it takes to live down one's reputation from New Haven bachelorhood.....
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# Posted 1:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SHOULD KERRY WITHDRAW? Andrew Sullivan reminds us of last month's conventional wisdom.
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# Posted 1:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TALK SHOW ROUND-UP: I spent an hour this morning in front of a 60-inch television (not my own) flipping back and forth between Meet the Press, Face the Nation and This Week. For the first time, I actually saw the primal scream instead of just reading about it. And I thought to myself, "This is news?" Actually, the whole story is total bullsh**.

As one of Chris Matthews' guests pointed out, journalists in the hall with Dean didn't think twice about the scream (or "squawk", whichmight be more accurate) . It was a loud, energetic event. Only the after-spin turned the scream into an issue. But after seeing interviews this morning with Kerry, Clark, Edwards and Lieberman, I have to say that none of them had the energy that Dean displayed in the moments leading up to the scream. Watching Dean was actually exciting, even inspiring. Here's was someone who really cared about politics, whose passion seemed authentic.

Does that mean I'll vote for him? Hell no. But I think it speaks to how the press is spinning Dean's anger management issues. As the LAT's Ron Brownstein pointed out, candidates always get punished for doing something that confirms negative stereotypes about them. If Bill Clinton misspelled potato, no one would've noticed. Then again, perhaps the media should ignore such pseudo-events. Especially in this instance, where I don't think what Dean did says anything about his character.

So, moving on. None of the other candidates particularly impressed me. Whatever you ask them, they have a pleasant sounding answer. Many of those answers are truthful, but still less than informative. The one candidate who seemed to have trouble offering vague platitudes was Wes Clark. When George Stephanopolous asked him about the inconsistency of the war, his answer seemed desperate, as well as misleading. Clark said that his April op-ed was taken out of context.

Actually, as Steve Sachs has shown, the context is the most damning part of it. Any single sentence in Clark's op-ed could be spun as somehow anti-war. But all together, they add up to a clear pro-war message. Which is probably why Clark looked so pleading and defensive during his interview. There's just this look in his eyes that says "Please stop ruining my resume! I'm supposed to look presidential!"

Finally, the comedy highlight of the week: Howard Dean's cameo on Letterman, presenting a Top 10 list poking fun at himself. He really delivered the lines well, with the right timing and the right attitude. But will Howard Dean's sense of humor become next week's meme? No, of course not.

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# Posted 1:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PATRICK BELTON, AKA "MYSTERY"? Reading about this Casnanova, I couldn't help but think that I'd met him somewhere before...
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# Posted 9:55 AM by Patrick Belton  

FACT-CHECKING THE DAILY MAIL'S, WELL....: The Daily Ablution points out that even British tabloids can't be trusted nowadays. O tempora!
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# Posted 5:15 AM by Patrick Belton  

IF ONLY THEY HAD SUED BA: David Bernstein has been posting over at Volokh on a hateful early American variant of the "eenie, meenie" counting rhyme- and a fairly frivolous lawsuit against Southwest Airlines that resulted from it.

The etymological site Word Origins includes an interesting survey of the evolution of the rhyme across British and American history, finding that "chicken" and "tinker" occur in early contemporaneous British versions:
The rhyme was not recorded until 1855, with that early version using the words eeny, meeny, moany, mite. Another version, also published in 1855 but said to date to 1815 begins, Hana, mana, mona, mike. Various versions appear in the mid-19th century in both Britain and America, as well as in many different European languages.

Early American versions of the rhyme tend to contain the line catch a n____ by the toe. In early British versions, chicken or tinker are used instead. With rhymes such as these, there is no "original" version and there are countless early variants. The use of n____ is just one variant among many.
For more pleasant etymological stories, see Etymologically Speaking, for starters. (Ex: biscuit from fr. "cooked twice", "Big Apple" from the New Orleans race track, "barbarian" from the sound Greeks thought they were making (ie, bar-bar-bar-bar) - and these are just for the letter "b".....)
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# Posted 1:37 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLOGGING WITH THE PROS: As mentioned last week, the Columbia Journalism Review has started up a blog devoted to evaluating campaign coverage.

From I've seen so far, it's posts are very, very thorough. Specifically, I went through the "Spin Buster" thread devoted to, well, busting spin. Perhaps because it has been such a rough couple of weeks for Howard Dean, most of the posts are devoted to defending him from unfair attacks. The tone of the posts is very protective of Dean, but I think it's too early to say the site is playing favorites.

One post I tended to agree with (unsurprisingly) argues that the whole primal scream angle is a product of the echo chamber. I also like this post tearing into NYT correspondent Jodi Wilgoren, who criticizes Dean for following advice that she herself gave him.

One post that goes over the line begins by asking: "Does the political press have a vested interest in slowing down the Howard Dean juggernaut?" It goes on to warn that the press has begun to manufacture a "Dean is slipping" meme. Of course, the post is dated January 14, so what it really indicates is that the press got one of Iowa's big stories 100% right an entire week before the vote. Does CJR admit its mistake? Of course not.

Another post that almost sounds like a campaign ad for Dean argues straight out that the press is wrong to brand him a radical, when in fact he is a moderate. (After all, Paul Krugman says so.) Actually, I think the press has been pretty good about noting Dean's moderate record as governor. But his both his message and his support come from anti-war activists in the so-called "Democratic wing of the Democratic party." The fact that Dean casts his opponents as faux-liberals who've been suckered by the administration makes it hard to call him a moderate.

Criticism aside, I'm going to keep reading CJR, since it tends to either hit the nail on the head or make a strong argument for what it believes in. A worthy addition ot the blogosphere.

UPDATE: I just did a little more reading on CJR, and it seems like they're pretty protective of all the candidates, whom they see as victims of a scandal-driven media that ignores substantive issues. In this post, for example, CJR reasonably defends Clark for his supposed "guarantee" that there would be no more 9/11's. Yet in this post, CJR actually defends John Edwards (my homey) for shamelessly dodging a controversial question about gay marriage on the grounds that it forces him to address a thorny issue. But isn't that exactly what the press is supposed to do?
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Saturday, January 24, 2004

# Posted 8:41 PM by Patrick Belton  

DISCUSSING ISSUES IN HOMELAND SECURITY: The Washington, DC, chapter of our nationwide Nathan Hale foreign policy society met up this week to discuss current and upcoming themes in homeland security. The conversation was insightful and interesting, and we have some notes from it up online here.
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# Posted 3:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A TASTY MORSEL OF IRONY: I know OxBlog has been a little heavy on the irony late, but this one is top good to resist. According to this column in Slate (which I found via Volokh), Michael Moore is not just Wes Clark's biggest fan, but also one of his most vicious critics. Apparently, Bowling for Columbine (which I had no interest in seeing) plays up Kosovo as an example of mindless American violence and carpet bombing. I'm guessing Wes Clark didn't see the movie. But how exactly can Michael Moore endorse an alleged baby-killer?
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# Posted 3:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: Left-liberal FP has published an excellent article by Max Boot that debunks a lot of myths about the neo-cons. While the most recent neo-con moment has passed, this article will be an important resource for the next time that the Wurlitzer gets going.

IMHO, the only point at which Boot comes off as too much of a neo-con apologist is his insistence that neo-cons don't oppose multilateralism. Sure, unilateralism isn't a hard and fast neo-con principle. But neo-con antagonism toward the UN/Old Europe runs so deep -- and overlaps so much with most Republicans' anti-UN sentiments -- that unilaterallism usually turns out to be the preferred option regardless of the situation.l
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# Posted 2:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

INSIDE THE ECHO CHAMBER: Josh Marshall has a great post up on what it's like to cover a presidential primary debate. (Plus some solid insights into the Kerry and Edwards campaigns.) Josh writes that almost all the correspondents at the debate were:
in a big room somewhere nearby with a bunch of long school room tables arranged as they might be for an SAT test in high school. And space after space at those tables is occupied by journalists with laptops open, a phone at each station, perhaps some other paraphernalia nearby or a parka, watching the debate on a series of big TVs.

In other words, they’re watching the debate on TV just like you are. Only they’re doing it in a big room with all the other journalists.

Now, this can be kind of fun, because you get to see a lot of other people you know, and a number you haven’t seen in a while. And you get a very good sense of how other reporters think everybody did. But that can be a pretty skewed view, an echo chamber in the making in ways you can probably imagine, even if you don’t spend much time talking to the really egregious above-it-all conventional wisdom types.
So when they talk about a herd mentality, they literally mean that there is a herd. Historically speaking, one of the most important interventions by the herd was during Jimmy Carter's final debate with Gerlad Ford in 1976. In that debate, Ford deep-throated his own foot by insisting that Poland was not under Soviet domination.

According to polls taken immediately after the debate, there was no clear winner. However, media coverage that night focused on the Poland gaffe, and polls taken only hours later showed a dramatic shift in perception, with Carter becoming the clear winner in the public mind.

Now, there's a strong argument to be made that Ford got exactly what he deserved. A public opinion poll in Warsaw would certainly have shown considerable disagreement with Ford's description of Soviet benevolence. The irony, of course, is that Jimmy Carter suddenly looked like the toughest anti-Communist on the block, a reputation which didn't last all that long once he took office.

But was this an example of media bias? Perhaps, but not partisan bias. While Republicans might have felt that their man was getting picked on, the fact is that the media always plays up the candidates' foot-in-mouth moments. The real question is whether the public is poorly served by a media that focuses on such relatively unimportant incidents.

Ideally, voters would know to discount some of the hype around such gaffes, e.g. Dean's primal scream. But no one can tell the voters how to think. The real lesson is for candidates, who should appreciate just how much trouble they will get themselves in if they don't watch what they say.
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# Posted 2:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NYT SOFT ON GOP? TPM thinks so. If you compare this NYT story to its Boston Globe counterpart, there's no question who's being tougher. But the Times certainly covers the facts, albeit in less depth. Is this evidence of "The further decline of a great paper"? No, but this is.
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# Posted 8:12 AM by Patrick Belton  

AFTER DAVID mentioned the Soviet national anthem, it was all I could do to link to this page with lovely choral renditions of every Soviet national hymn (including Central Asian SSRs), for those of you who might feel nostalgic for a day when the evil we were fighting came at least from the land that produced Dostoyevsky.
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# Posted 6:44 AM by Patrick Belton  

IN IRAQ, the first Iraqi brigade of the Iraqi army is nearly ready for service, with three battalions of 750 soldiers and officers having been graduated since October. The first battalion is currently in Kirkuk serving with elements of the 4th ID; the second battalion is with the 1st AD in Taji; and the third, slated to graduate this week, will deploy in Mosul. The plan is to have nine divisions with 27 battalions, acording to MGEN Paul Eaton, who commands the coalition military assistance and training team.

Also, welcome home, Screaming Eagles! We've missed you.
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# Posted 6:29 AM by Patrick Belton  

RITA KATZ has this week's terrorism and counterterror headlines.
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# Posted 4:32 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CIA WARNS OF CIVIL WAR IN IRAQ: Both the Bush and Bremer have been notified. (Link via Mark Kleiman)
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# Posted 4:18 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GETTING MEDIEVAL ON THE AMERICAN A**: As a little kid, I was always a little disappointed by the fact that modern-day soldiers never got to wear armor. But disappointed I am no more. It seems that 160,000 suits of body armor are on their way to Iraq. Each suit costs $1585. In contrast, a suit of blackened steel chainmail costs $179.99 (plus $29.99 shipping and handling). If you're short on cash, just go for the chainmail bikini.
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# Posted 4:02 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STATE OF THE UNION'S ARMY: Phil Carter was disappointed by the national security aspects of the President's speech. And for good reason. Phil also has serious concerns about the state of the Army Reserve. And just in case you need to hear it again, Phil reminds us that Wes Clark was not "relieved" of his command. Forced into early retirement? Given the boot? Thrown on out the street? Perhaps. Just not "relieved".
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# Posted 3:36 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EDWARDS' SPECIAL INTEREST: Robert Tagorda thinks that John Edwards was pushing his luck when he said in last night's debate that he doesn't take money from Washington lobbyists. Rob also thinks that George Soros could benefit from a little more honesty, whereas the Iraqi police already have.
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# Posted 1:07 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE MAN YOU LOVE TO HATE: The top story right now on CNN.com is that Ahmad Chalabi has come out in favor of direct elections in Iraq. Until I found that out, I was leaning towards elections. But if Chalabi is for them, something's gotta be wrong.
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# Posted 1:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BIG F***ING DEAL: For a while, I thought I was the only one who didn't give a sh** about Howard Dean's primal scream. Not a good political move, not exactly "presidential", but still pretty trivial. So now I'm glad to know that the WaPo agrees.
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# Posted 1:01 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY? It's hard not to suspect that stories like these create news rather than reporting it. On the other hand, stories describing Kerry and Edwards' late surge in Iowa were pretty accurate. Still, looking at the story, you basically hear about one Wes Clark campaign event that failed draw an audience. And that you get some poll numbers favoring Kerry which aren't exactly news. However, I think the poll numbers are key, because journalists can always defend their work as objective if it says the same things as the polls.

Personally, I'm not sure how I feel about Clark's supposed stagnation. If Kerry dominates Iowa, that accomplishes objective #1, which is to beat Dean. But in November, I'd prefer to see Clark vs. Bush. Of course, what I'd really like to see is Edwards pull it out. If you haven't already, check out his recently unveiled Strategy for Freedom. It's an aggressive and well-thought plan for promoting democracy across the globe and especially in the Middle East.

More importantly, I don't think Edwards is just saying the right things. One of his top foreign policy advisers is OxBlog favorite Mike McFaul, who's feels at least as strongly about democracy promotion as we do. For some recent articles by McFaul, click here, here and here.
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# Posted 12:36 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT A REAL INSPECTION LOOKS LIKE: Libya has given international inspectors access to a treasure trove of disturbing information, much of which implicates Pakistan. The most disturbing find is that the international black market for nuclear parts and information was so well developed that there were factories who sole purpose was to produce goods for it. Also, I think it is worth pointing out the dramatic difference between Libya's cooperation with international inspectors and Saddam's documented efforts to deceive them. As we already knew, any nation which truly wants to abandon its WMD programs, e.g. South Africa, works with inspectors rather than against them.
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# Posted 12:26 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FAITH VS. EVIDENCE: Say what you want, I still don't believe that Pakistani scientists would've sold nuclear secrets to Iran without someone very high up in the military approving the sale. Moreover, I found it quite interesting that
The leakage of nuclear weapons technology to Iran, officials said, apparently originated in 1987, when former president Mohammed Zia ul-Haq secretly approved a long-standing request from the Iranian government for cooperation in non-military nuclear programs.
Hmmm...
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# Posted 12:20 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KAY RESIGNS, SAYS NO WMD IN IRAQ: This is definitely a page one story, but it's still quite amazing how different the NYT and WaPo describe it. After a few paragraphs that get out the basic facts of what Kay said, the NYT observes that
Dr. Kay's statements undermined one of the primary justifications set out by President Bush for the war with Iraq. Mr. Bush and other top administration officials repeatedly cited Iraq's possession of chemical and biological weapons as a threat to the United States, and the lack of evidence so far that Saddam Hussein actually had large caches of weapons has fueled criticism that Mr. Bush exaggerated the peril from Iraq.

Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said the administration stood by its previous assessments that Mr. Hussein had both weapons programs and stores of banned weapons.

"Yes, we believe he had them, and yes we believe they will be found," Mr. McClellan said. "We believe the truth will come out."
Message: Bush lied. McClellan still lies. Now, if you scroll down another ten paragraphs or so, you'll find McClellan saying something about UN Resolution 1441 and how Saddam was in material breach. But who really cares about that?

Over at the WaPo, the money graf also comes after some basic introductory facts. It says:
The transition from Kay to [new team leader Charles] Duelfer underscores a change in emphasis in the U.S. hunt for banned weapons. While Kay began his search with expectations of finding stockpiles, Duelfer has said the mission now is to discover when and how such stockpiles were eliminated.
A good argument can be made that the WaPo is going a bit soft on the administration here. McClellan's quote is so ridiculous that it should have shown up in the WaPo article, albeit toward the end. At minimum, you'd think McClellan would say something like "There is no evidence yet that Saddam had a stockpile of WMD, but we refuse to rule out that possibility until we know exactly what happened to the weapons he had in 1998." Lest you think the WaPo is going too soft, it does report in its second paragraph that
The CIA announced officially yesterday that Charles A. Duelfer, a former senior U.N. weapons inspector, will succeed David Kay, who is resigning after nine months of unsuccessful searches for banned weapons in Iraq. Duelfer, who as a private academic said the Bush administration's prewar allegations on Iraq's weapons were "far off the mark," said yesterday that his goal is to reconstruct Iraq's "game plan" for its weapons and weapons programs.
It's interesting to note that one of the two authors of the WaPo article is Walter Pincus, a veteran national security correspondent not known for pulling his punches. For those of you old enough to remember Mr. Pincus (or have written dissertations on the role of the media in US foreign policy), you'll know that he is the one who turned American production of the neutron bomb into a major controversy in the late 1970s. More specifically, the controversty resulted from Pincus' profoundly misleading description of the bomb as a weapon that killed people but left buildings standing.

Actually, the weapon (if used) would have destroyed a tremendous number of buildings and other physical structures, but less than would've been destroyed by standard nuclear weapons. The purpose of this modification was so that the weapon would do moderately less damage in heavily populated areas such as Central Europe, thus making the process of reconstruction somewhat easier. Until Pincus turned the neutron bomb into a front page story, it had consistent bipartisan support and was considered entirely uncontroversial. Incidentally, Pincus worked at the NYT while all this was going on.

I guess the message here is either that Pincus mellowed with age or that the NYT is trying to be fair and balanced, just like Fox.
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Friday, January 23, 2004

# Posted 10:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HULKAMANIA RUNNIN' WILD! Combustible Boy observes that
Today is an important anniversary: It's been 20 years since Hulk Hogan won the WWF world title for the first time, defeating the dreaded Iron Sheik, who you knew was evil because he had the word 'IRAN' written really big on his pants and frequently teamed up with the mad Russian Nikolai Volkoff, who insisted on singing the Soviet National Anthem before his matches while the fans loudly booed and pelted him with trash. Hogan became the first wrestler to break out of the Sheik's dreaded "Camel Clutch" hold, then went for the pinfall, getting a roar from the crowd that nearly caused Madison Square Garden to collapse down into Penn Station. Thus began Hogan's first three-year title reign and the sociologically important "Hulkamania" of the mid-1980s.
Brother, just remember to say your prayers and eat your vitamins.
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# Posted 5:19 PM by Patrick Belton  

THANKS, JOSH, for the chance to clarify! I drew the "seventh" comment from this sentence in the article: "The poll, which interviewed 1,007 people in England, Scotland and Wales, found that 18 percent disagreed with the statement, "A British Jew would make an equally acceptable prime minister as a member of any other faith." (I assume that the disparity comes from the poll's use of a Likhard scale, so 18% fully disagreed with the statement, and, errr..., 29% somewhat disagreed....) I haven't found the actual poll online, so I don't have a basis of judging on that basis whether 1/7 or 1/2 of Brits are raving anti-Semites - so I was merely deciding to be optimistic on Shabbas. :)
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# Posted 10:23 AM by Patrick Belton  

SOME POSTCARDS FROM THE RED PLANET: Europe's space probe also notes that the mountains are beautiful at sunset, and asks if we can please check on the pets while it's away.
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# Posted 9:36 AM by Patrick Belton  

I LOVE THIS COUNTRY DEARLY, but it does appear that it has got a good deal of anti-semitism left in it:
Nearly half the respondents (47 percent) did not fully agree that a Jewish prime minister would be as acceptable as a non-Jewish one. (...) 15 percent of those surveyed agreed the scale of the Holocaust has been exaggerated.
Of course, the vast preponderance of Britain isn't anti-Semitic; this merely suggests there's some core seventh or so of the country which is. Incidentally, the question is slightly less than theoretical as present, as current Tory leader Michael Howard is Jewish.
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# Posted 8:57 AM by Patrick Belton  

DAVID IGNATIUS looks at the contemporary Iranian political situation as a struggle between two poles, one centred around reformist, neo-Enlightenment intellectual Khatami and the other surrounding streetwise wheeler-and-dealer Rafsanjani. The idea is hardly new, but Ignatius's characterization of the two sides (drawing mostly on Khatami's recent performance at Davos) is memorable. The same goes for his conclusion - that the intellectuals and partisans of the Enlightenment will win out in the long run, but the day is Rafsanjani and Hezbollah's.

Hezbollah, incidentally, is by far one of the most interesting (as well as organizationally complex) terrorist organizations of our time. Worthwhile analyses include MEIB's, the State Department's annual survey of terrorism, and ICT's. (Please let me know if you'd like me to add any significant ones I'm missing.)

UPDATE: Our readers are wonderful! Zach Mears suggests Adam Kushner's piece from the Columbia Political Review last May. I promise a more substantive Hezbollah post before too terribly long, in an attempt to summarize what's known about key trends, dynamics, and proclivities in the organization at the moment.

UPDATE ^2: And Pejman, who probably knows Iran better than anyone in the blogosphere, elaborates on how Khatami has let Iranian reformers down.
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Thursday, January 22, 2004

# Posted 8:44 PM by Patrick Belton  

DAILY ROUND-UP: Richard Shultz writes in the WS on why the US didn't use Special Operations forces against Al Qaeda before 9/11. Kevin O'Connell and Robert Tomes offer ideas in Policy Review on reforming intelligence. Slate's Josh Levin points to a NYT Magazine piece showing you don't have to go to Cambodia to find sex slavery. Atlantic marks Emerson's 200th birthday. New Yorker profiles man-of-the-hour Kerry. NYT Book Review takes on Jung, the Church, and terrorist turned author Gerry Adams.

EurasiaNet comments on the Turko-Pak anti-terrorism agreement, prospects for Iranian reformists, Georgia, and the sad state of human rights in Central Asia. The Central Asia-Caucasus Institute offers up pieces on the Xinjiang province of China, India's new drive into Central Asia (come to think of it, Curzon tried that, too....), and promising economic trends in Kazakhstan.

LRB follows al-Muhajiroun activists around London, and looks back at Tacitus and Bonnie Prince Charlie. New York Review of Books looks at the history of the relationship between the US and Israel, Bosnian refugees, and has a piece by Oliver Sacks on whether consciousness is like Borges's river. Wilson Quarterly remembers the two-hundredth birthday of Marbury, says ideas matter even in pragmatic America, and recalls Britain's earlier go at making a democratic Iraq.

Economist, meanwhile, eulogizes a Geisha, despairs about the Chinese and Japanese economies at the beginning of the year of the monkey, looks into human rights in Morocco and education in the Arab World, and peers into Iran. CS Monitor profiles Al Qaeda's super-terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi, covers rural-urban migration in China, and an op-ed says the wars on terror and against Saddam are changing Korea and Japan deeply.

In the major op-ed pages, Thomas Friedman is calling Iowa a victory for hawkish, sensible, i.e., Tony Blair Democrats (hey, that's us!), Jim Hoagland is optimistic about a settled peace in Kashmir, and David Brooks is optimistic about moderation and optimism in the Democratic party. Maureen Dowd is plumbing new depths. The Post applauds Bush's quiet (but, they point out, unilateralist) war on AIDS, and decries a hugely porky omnibus appropriations act that was rushed through the legislative process.

Happy reading!
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# Posted 8:40 PM by Patrick Belton  

WINNER OF OUR HEADLINE OF THE DAY AWARD: Rover Plays Dead (CNN)

Distinguished Runner Up: Dean's "I have a Scream" Speech (Easterblogg)
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# Posted 7:42 PM by Patrick Belton  

READING THUCYDIDES IN CARS WITH BOYS: Or, reading him online and with OxBloggers. Along with furiously dissertating, this year I've decided to try to lead a more humanistic and well-rounded life by rereading Thucydides and Aristotle's Politics as my bedstand reading. I'll look forward to having many pleasant conversations on both texts with our readers and friends in the blogosphere as I go along, and I'll try to post on both periodically (much as David did when he reread the Republic last April). Incidentally, The History of the Peloponnesian War is online here, and the Politics is here.

(In a similar spirit, I'm attempting to torment my college's piano more frequently nowadays, along with the memories of Ludwig and Johann; and, in the venerable OxBlog tradition of always having one blogger ready to defend Oxford's honor in a martial art, I'll be futzing about in what may well be a misguided though surely comedic attempt to represent our beloved institution in pistol.) (ed: duck, he's got a gun!) (yes, but it's still fairly unclear whether he can hit anything with it....)
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# Posted 6:23 PM by Patrick Belton  

HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR! The year of the monkey is meant to be a quite auspicious one in which to conceive. But not for me, thanks.

Instead, here are some nice funny pictures of monkeys.
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# Posted 2:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AFTER JOHN PAUL II: Foreign Policy (subscription required) has published a memorandum for the College of Cardinals laying down some guidelines on how to select the next pope. The memo addresses important issues I hadn't thought of, but not in a way with which I necessarily agree.

For example, author Scott Appleby suggests that the next pope must lead the way toward a productive dialogue and possibly even alliance with Islam. According to Appleby, the foundation of such a partnership would consist of Catholics' and Muslims' shared opposition to a secular worldview that disregards the sanctity of life through its support of reproductive rights.

Yet such a proposal seems rather small-minded from an author who also writes that
Advocacy of human rights, including the crucial right of religious freedom, must remain the central message of Roman Catholicism to the world.
If to the world, then why not also to Islam? To be worthy of John Paul II's legacy, his successor must show the Muslim world that Islam, like Catholicism, can thrive by advocating respect for both religious tolerance and human rights.

I would go even further and suggest that the next pope embrace a cause that Appleby does not even dare to mention in his memorandum: democracy. This pope never shied away from identifying himself with the struggle against dictatorship. From Poland to Nicaragua, John Paul II cast his lot with the democratic opposition.

In fact, the College of Cardinals might choose to elevate Archbishop Miguel Obando y Bravo of Nicaragua, who already knows a thing or two about the struggle for democracy and freedom of religion. Besides, Obando would probably be happy to work with his Islamic counterparts to limit access to abortion and birth control, given his archconservative views on those subjects.
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# Posted 12:55 PM by Patrick Belton  

IT'S HARD TO WALK NAKED ACROSS BRITAIN.

Of course, it's even harder to walk naked around the coastline of Britain - since not only is that infinite, but you'd have to step on lots of fractals along the way, and that would hurt.
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# Posted 12:14 PM by Patrick Belton  

WHAT A CHANGED RACE IT IS! Rasmussen Reports finds Senator Kerry enjoying a nine point lead over Governor Dean, 25% to 16%, with Senator Edwards coming in third at 15% and General Clark fourth at 12%. Reuters/MSNBC/Zogby find Kerry leading Dean by a smaller margin of 27 percent to 24, though in a poll which began the day of Iowa and so may understate Kerry's bounce; they are followed, for Zogby and co., by Clark (15), Edwards (8), and Lieberman (7). Kerry has also erased Dean's once-commanding New Hampshire lead, again according to Zogby and friends.; New Hampshire's WMUR statewide tracking poll similarly registers Kerry has caught up to a statistical dead heat with the good doctor.

Want to be able to tell them apart? CFR has opened for business its traditional website on the foreign policy statements and views of the candidates.
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# Posted 12:03 PM by Patrick Belton  

A NOTE FROM THE NORTHERN COUNTRY: Karl Francis, a Fairbanksian whom I've had the great pleasure to meet, has an amusing piece in the LA Times today on polar bears and life in the wilderness. Most memorable line: "Cooked right, bears taste really good. Apparently the feeling is mutual."
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# Posted 10:52 AM by Patrick Belton  

INTERNET VOTING TO GET ITS FIRST TRIAL RUN IN PRIMARIES: In what could eventually turn into a very good development for expatriate Americans (like, for instance, OxBloggers...), the Pentagon is planning to enable an online voting system for overseas American citizens on February 3rd for its first test run, in time for the South Carolina primary. Known as the Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment, the Pentagon program is unfortunately limited to voters from certain counties in Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, North and South Carolina, Utah, and Washington, but it will represent the most widespread effort yet at internet voting in America. (The primary contractor working on developing the project is Accenture; subcontractor VeriSign is involved as well with attempting to solve some of the more key authorization and security challenges.)

As exciting as this development is (especially for my own selfish reasons - personally, I have yet to vote at an actual stateside election location on an actual election day), internet voting with current technologies has aroused fairly negative responses from scholars of security issues. In July, Avi Rubin, Adam Stubblefield, Tadayoshi Kohno, and Dan Wallach coauthored a paper on security limitations of an older electronic voting system which had been developed by Diebold Elections.

Other studies of internet voting include ones by the State of California, and a Brookings-Cisco conference last January. Brookings devotes an entire page to the subject. An Oxford Union debate on the subject last summer was, fittingly enough, broadcast online. (Several more resources on the subject are available as well on the Election Center's webpage.)

An NSF panel recommended that internet voting begin only slowly, starting with dedicated kiosks which could be made passably secure with currently existing technology. This might be the prudent course - but in the meantime I will be looking forward embarrassingly much to having the opportunity to blog the casting of my first online vote.

For the rest of us not lucky enough to be Floridian, Utahn, Carolinean, Arkansan, or Hawaiian (and question: do we really want the first major experiment in online voting to involve Florida?), the Federal Voting Assistance Program exists to help expatriate citizens exercise their right to vote, and Democrats Abroad and Republicans Abroad are also very active in helping overseas voters to vote.
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# Posted 1:59 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BRING BACK GEPHARDT! Matt Yglesias writes:
If Gephardt had somehow won the nomination, I think there would have been a serious question as to whether or not I could support the Democrats in good conscience in November. Any of the remaining alternatives would be pretty good as president.
It would be almost worth giving Gephardt the nomination just to see if Matt would actually vote for Bush. Imagine if he did. Four years of merciless taunting...
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# Posted 1:26 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NYT COLUMNIST WHORING IN CAMBODIA: Nick Kristof writes
I put out the word that I wanted to meet young girls and stayed at the seedy $8-a-night Phnom Pich Guest House.
In his next column, Kristof writes that
After I decided to buy the two teenage prostitutes, as recounted in my column on Saturday, I swore them to secrecy for fear that the brothel owners would spirit them away.
Did I mention that Kristof has photos of the girls up on the NYT website?

Now, as you might have guessed, I've taken Kristof's quotes ridiculously out of context. As you also might've guessed, Kristof was in Cambodia investigating modern-day slavery, which often takes the form of forced prostitution. While Kristof's approach is unconventional, I think it pays off both in terms of dramatic effect and in terms of understanding the problem.

Incidentally, it must've been pretty funny when Kristof told his wife that his upcoming business trip consisted of spending time with underage hookers. On the bright side, if that's what you tell your wife, she probably won't worry about what your going to do with your free time in Phnom Penh.
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# Posted 1:05 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE MYTH OF THE NEW ANTI-SEMITISM: You figure The Nation had to give it a try. To admit that there has been a resurgence of anti-Semitism is to discount much of the fierce criticism of Israel that has recently emerged, especially in Europe. It even suggests that there may be a darker side to the anti-Americanism that has been on display over the past eighteen months. And yet, Brian Klug tells us up front that
There is certainly reason to be concerned about a climate of hostility to Jews, including vicious physical attacks. On one Saturday this past November, for example, two synagogues in Istanbul were truck-bombed during Sabbath services, while an Orthodox Jewish school in a Paris suburb was largely destroyed by arson. Some researchers report a 60 percent worldwide increase in the number of assaults on Jews (or persons perceived to be Jewish) in 2002, compared with the previous year. At the same time, something is rotten in the state of public discourse. Anti-Jewish slogans and graphics have appeared on marches opposing the invasion of Iraq. Jewish conspiracy theories have been revived, such as the widely circulated "urban legend" that Jews were warned in advance to stay away from the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001. And recently, certain public figures on both the right and the left have made negative generalizations about Jews and "Jewish influence."
No question, Klug gets points for honesty. And he also deserves credit for providing historical background to the current debate that is quite interesting regardless of whose side one is on. Klug also poses the interesting question of what is new about the new anti-Semitisim. And it is here where our opinions depart.

According to Klug, those who believe that there is such a thing as the new anti-Semitism tend to define it as hypocritical and anti-Semitically motivated attacks on Israel that hide behind the facade of "legitimate criticism". However, I believe that there are two other phenomena that play a critical role in defining the new anti-Semitism. Klug touches on both of them, but either overlooks or explicitly discounts them.

The first issue is the social acceptability of anti-Semitism. While few individuals will go on the record with statements about "the Jews", it has become almost fashionable in certain European circles to think of the Jews as a crude people and to resent the political correctness that prevents one from saying so in public. In a sense, this phenomenon is not new because sophisticated condescension toward upstart Jews was the status quo for much of modern European history.

But we wanted to believe that this sort of parlor anti-Semitism was dead. Moreover, its death was the ultimate guarantor that Europe could never return to the overt anti-Semitism of old. It is also hard to avoid the conclusion that sophisticated anti-Semites do not care much about the violent attacks on Jewish individuals and institutions perpetrated by lower-class European Muslims. After all, they had it coming.

Which brings us to the second point that Klug misunderstands. A second critical aspect of the new anti-Semitism is the way in which the wrongdoings of the Israeli government have become an accepted justification for the assault on European Jewry. While Klug denounces such violence as "repugnant", he nonethless writes that
Israel does not regard itself as a state that just happens to be Jewish (like the medieval kingdom of the Khazars). It sees itself as (in Prime Minister Sharon's phrase) "the Jewish collective," the sovereign state of the Jewish people as a whole. In his speech at the Herzliya Conference in December, Sharon called the state "a national and spiritual center for all Jews of the world," and added, "Aliyah [Jewish immigration] is the central goal of the State of Israel." To what extent this view is reciprocated by Jews worldwide is hard to say. Many feel no particular connection to the state or strongly oppose its actions. On the other hand, in spring 2002, at the height of Israel's Operation Defensive Shield, Jews gathered in large numbers in numerous cities to demonstrate their solidarity, as Jews, with Israel. Many Jewish community leaders, religious and secular, publicly reinforce this identification with the state. All of which is liable to give the unreflective onlooker the impression that Jews are, as it were, lumping themselves together; that Israel is indeed "the Jewish collective."
Unreflective? Unreflective? How about hateful? How about anti-Semitic? Imagine if Russians were being beaten up on the streets of Paris, Marseilles and Lyon because of French sympathy for the Chechens. Would anyone describe the assailants in such attacks as simply "unreflective"? Of course not. In doing so, Klug unintentionally validates that new anti-Semitism which supposedly doesn't exist.
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Wednesday, January 21, 2004

# Posted 9:42 PM by Patrick Belton  

CATCHING UP ON MY HOLIDAY BACKLOG OF FUNNY STORIES: So on New Year's Eve, having just gotten back into New York after a 30-hour journey from Alaska, I headed straight to Chelsea, to join my buddies (and fellow New Haven exiles amidst the blogosphere) Josh Cherniss and Jacob Remes for caffeination in the environs of a fairly esoteric combination coffee shop/deli/antique store. After a few minutes, I decided that I wanted to eat more than peanuts that day (do follow that link), so I went up to the counter, and, relishing being back on Manhattan island and the ground zero of Western Civilization, triumphantly ordered a bagel with lox and cream cheese. What I got was about four dollars cheaper - a bagel with lots of cream cheese. Much more than a schmear, in fact (the precise quantum, of course, of cream cheese to be applied to a bagel of an ordinary size). Mental image: think Big Mac, with cream cheese in place of the meat. I should note that, at this point, Josh noted my pitifully crestfallen look and decided to personally instantiate another yiddish word: yes, greater love hath no man, that he lay down his lox for his friend. So all lox is well that ends well.
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# Posted 9:03 PM by Patrick Belton  

WHITHER AFRICA? The Economist sees good things in the continent's future:
Angola and Sierra Leone are at peace. The pointless border clash between Ethiopia and Eritrea has stopped. Congo's war, the worst anywhere since the second world war, is formally over. Liberia's warlord, Charles Taylor, has been driven into exile. Even in Sudan, which has known only 11 years of calm since 1962, government and rebels are on the verge of signing a power-sharing deal.

In the 1960s and 1970s, no African ruler was voted out of office. In the 1980s, one was. Since then, 18 have been, and counting.... Under most of the military regimes of the 1970s and 1980s, independent newspapers and radio stations were simply not allowed. Today, they are as numerous as they are irreverent.

The main reason the continent is so poor today is that Mugabe-style incompetent tyranny has been common since independence (see our survey). The most important question for Africans now is whether Mr Mugabe represents not only their past, but their future as well. There are encouraging signs that he does not.
The entire article is worth reading. A particularly sad blue note in this chord, however, is the heavy reliance of the continent's two natural leaders upon resource extraction - never a good role for a government seeking to shake off corruption and forge ties of accountability with its citizens (and taxpayers). Think the Gulf, and Mexico in the oil boom of the 70's. Nigeria's economy, like those, is based on the extraction of oil - and Nigerian political economy is in turn based on the distribution of oil rents. South Africa's is a more delicate situation, because the resource being extracted there is the tax dollars of the white population.

But, nonetheless, there are continent-wide trends of democratization and the spread of security and the free press, which are very much on the side of those who would wish its people well - this Economist piece does well to draw our attention to them. And our role in the spread of democracy and conditions of human dignity to Africa over our lifetimes, of course, must be much more than cheering from the sidelines.
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# Posted 8:10 PM by Patrick Belton  

NEW HEADS FOR THE RHODES SCHOLARSHIP, AND OXFORD: Colin Lucas, currently Oxford's Vice-Chancellor (and a former history department chair at Chicago), will be taking up duties as Secretary of the Rhodes Trust; in turn, the vice-chancellorship - effectively, the position of head of the university - will be assumed by the antipodean John Hood (himself Secretary of the Kiwi Rhodes Committee - conspiracy theorists, take note....).

Incidentally, while on the subject of Oxford, there's a J.R.R. Tolkien Professorship in English Literature and Language which is coming open here....
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# Posted 6:22 PM by Patrick Belton  

SUDANESE PEACE AGREEMENT LIKELY: A tip just in from one of our friends in Washington says chances are high a peace deal might be reached any day now to bring a close to the 20-year Sudanese civil war. The conflict has led to the loss of over 1.5 million lives there since 1983, displacing an additional four million as refugees. There are potential snags still to be dodged, but the implications of a peace deal would be enormous for the Sudan's future political and development prospects.  The U.S. and German governments are leading the effort to facilitate the peace deal; the secessionist animist and Christian SPLA based in the south has been battling the Muslim and Shari'a-inclined government in Khartoum; synopses of the conflict are here and here. Sudan.net collates all breaking news stories on the Sudan, and is a good source to follow if you're interested in following the sealing of this monumental peace deal.
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# Posted 6:15 PM by Patrick Belton  

GIVE THAT TEACHER GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE AN APPLE: Just since some of our readers might be interested in this, and might not know about it - I just read Apple offers discounts (typically hovering around 10 percent) for all purchases for the personal use of federal employees (here defined expansively, to include federal civil service, contractors, active duty military and their dependents, veterans, and employees of state and local governments). People in these categories also have the ability to "sponsor" six purchases annually, i.e., passing on their discounts to anyone they choose to. The website's here, if any of our readers are eligible for the discount and were about to buy an Apple product anyway....
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# Posted 2:20 PM by Patrick Belton  

COME DISCUSS HOMELAND SECURITY WITH US! If you're in Washington, why don't you swing by our Nathan Hale discussion tonight on homeland security? It's going to be held at Bertucci's in Clarendon (orange line) at 7:30 pm - look for the gang in the back room - and there will be participation by a number of people currently serving in the Department of Homeland Security. (Of course, our discussion sessions are always by Chatham House rule.)

And if you're in another of the cities in which we have a chapter (New York, New Haven, Boston, Chicago, LA, San Francisco, and Oxford/London), please drop us a note to be added to our mailing list, if you haven't already done so!
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# Posted 12:46 PM by Patrick Belton  

I DON'T OFTEN DISAGREE WITH DAVID, BUT: Pats not going to the Superbowl. Pats got a dissertation. Pats going to the library, therefore.

On the bright side, though, Pats just gotten his Airport working in his flat. (And no, I've never actually gone by Pat, but couldn't resist...)
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# Posted 2:21 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IRAQI ELECTIONS ARE VIABLE BY JUNE: At least that's what the British are saying. Juan Cole (link via Kevin Drum) says the Brits' about face is payback for American condescension. Simple fear of the Shi'ites may also have played a role.

But what if the Brits actually believe elections are the right thing to do? What if elections are the best way to promote a democratic and orderly transition? No question the British are respoinding to Shi'ite pressure. But that may be a good idea.
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# Posted 2:05 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH IS THE REPUBLICAN BILL CLINTON: Stephen Green explains.
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# Posted 2:02 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE FIGHT IS FOR DEMOCRACY, PART II: In the first installment of my review of George Packer's new collection of essays, I focused on the inability of its authors to distinguish a principled liberal foreign policy from a principled (neo-)conservative one. Today, I want to focus more on the conceptual underpinnings of principled foreign policies rather than the specific initiatives of which such policies are composed.

The two big think-pieces in Packer's book are Susie Linfield's anti-relativist polemic and Paul Berman's attack on Islamic totalitarianism. Both essays direct themselves at the profound intellectual disabilities the authors hold responsible for liberal confusion in foreign affairs. In both cases, I strongly sympathize with the authors' respective messages. Yet again, I found myself asking what distinguished Linfield and Berman's views from those that are supposedly conservative.

The vocabulary of Linfield's essay borrows extensively from the lexicon of conservative culture warriors. Talking about multiculturalism, Linfield writes that "shame [has] spread too far, mutating into guilt and then ossifying into cowardice." (p. 167) Linfield then observes that "judgment is the linchpin on which the health of the culture depends." (p. 173) In the final analysis, this non-judgmental cowardice facilitated the liberal left defense of Stalin and even Pol Pot.

Linfield is right that there is nothing in liberalism inherently averse to pride or judgment. She writes that
We are forced to see that by severing ourselves from our own proud tradition of judgment-as-freedom, we allowed conservatives to "own" the realm of judgment" (just as some black students, in a perverse paroxysm of self-defeat, have relegated intellectual achievement to whites.)
Well, so much for political correctness. Moving on, Linfield runs into trouble when she tries to distinguish a liberal version of judgment-as-freedom from its conservative counterpart. Much like Michael Tomasky, Linfield is only capable of identifying that which is liberal by differentiating it from a conservative strawman. Thus she describes conservatives as being enamored of "cultural hierarchy and 'sacred order'" before tartly observing that
Osama bin Laden, from what I understand, is also an ardent fan of the past's hierarchies and its sacred orders.
Aha! The only problem is that American conservatism has demonstrated little interest in hierarchy, much interest in the sacred, but little interest in order. For more than two hundred years, American conservatives have defied political labels by espousing a revolutionary conservatism. Unfortunately, Linfield never addresses this all-important paradox.

Paul Berman departs from the liberal mainstream by insisting that there is no rational defense of terrorism and there that there should be no effort to empathize with terrorists or assign responsibility to root causes. With regard to violence perpetrated by French Muslims against French Jews, Berman writes that
Liberal-minded thinkers, reluctant to believe that a strictly doctrinal and irrational hatred is at work, have instinctively regarded the violence as a natural and resonable response to Israeli policies in still another part of the world, the Middle East, thousands of miles away...

There has been a temptation likewise to believe that anti-Americanism must similarly reflect genuine greivances against the United States. Yet what has America ever done to, say, Morroco and Algeria -- except help liberate those countries from the Nazis?
In spite of such passages straight out of the National Review, Berman constructs a sweeping historical argument on behalf of semi-pacifist view of democracy promotion. In under twenty pages, Berman summarizes and extracts the essence from two hundred years of Western intellectual history. While I could keep up with what Berman was saying, the breadth of his references and analyses made it all but impossible for me to provide informed criticism of his views.

Yet on those occasions when Berman touched on my areas of expertise, I found myself violently disagreeing with him. His paragraph on the origins of World War I demonstrates a total unfamiliarity with the combatants motives. Berman then writes that
Final victory in World War II was not achieved by troops rolling into Berlin. Final victory was achieved by de-Nazification, which took several decades and perhaps in some respects is still going on. (p. 279)
But the fact is that victory was achieved by force of arms. De-Nazification was a complete fiasco that embarrassed the US occupation authority and angered low-level Nazi officials while ignoring most significant Party officials. What persuaded Germans of the evils of Nazism was not the shining ideal of Western democracy, but the shocking realization that Nazism had brought Germany nothing but death, devastation and despair -- thanks to the Allied armed forces.

I go on at length about Berman's idiosyncratic interpretation of the Second World War because it effectively illustrates how he bends the past to serve his anti-interventionist message. Thus, it rings hollow when Berman says that "America's president has decided to withdraw from the war of ideas". (p. 288) One can argue that Bush's rhetoric is less than persuasive. Yet actions often speak louder than words. More than any speech, the President's bid to democratize Iraq will become the yardstick according to which his intentions are one day measured. As was the case with Germany and Japan, the use of force has been integral to defining America's position in the war of ideas.

The remaining essays in Packer's collection demonstrate just how great a chasm must be bridged in order to unite Linfield and Berman's broad-brush conceptual liberalism with the specific policies favored by their co-authors. Jeff Madrick's discussion of economic inequality in the United States concludes that "Our democracy is no longer working as it should." Presumably, this implies that we have no right to lecture the developing world about freedom until our own house is in order.

William Finnegan's essay on "corporate globalization" is a meditation on the beauty of indigenous cultures, the rapacity of multinational corporations,and the hypocrisy of the IMF and its member governments. If there was one essay in Packer's book that Noam Chomsky could wholeheartedly embrace, this would be it. Speaking more substantively, the problem with Finnegan is that he completely ignores important arguments by first-rate thinkers that globalization promotes growth and even protects indigenous cultures. While the pro-globalization case is far from impregnable, the one-sided nature of Finnegan's attack undermines Packer's aspiration to get away from the kneejerk liberalism of the past.

The contradictions exposed by "The Fight is for Democracy" come across vividly in anti-war patriarch Todd Gitlin's essay on patriotism. On the one hand, Gitlin describes how his decision to hang an American flag from his terrace after 9/11 became an authoritative justification on the Left for accepting the flag as a positive symbol. Yet only weeks later, Gitlin and his wife took down their flag because "the hardening of American foreign policy and the Democratic cave-in produced a good deal more triumphalism than [they] could stomach." (p. 134) This pattern of action and reaction ably stands in for the position of almost all the contributors to Packer's book; they recognize the imperative of breaking away from the guilt-ridden liberalism of the past but can't accept-- let alone comprehend -- the majority's embrace of actual American foreign policies.
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