Sunday, February 29, 2004

# Posted 9:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STANDARDIZED ART: The SAT will be getting an overhaul in spring 2005, including the introduction of an essay section. The official grading standards suggest that Hemingway and Shakespeare might not have been fit to study at America's best colleges. (Link via Pejman.)
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# Posted 9:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GERECHT-IGKEIT: Reuel Marc rages against those amoral realists who want to sell out Iran's democratic opposition in order to cut a deal with Teheran on nuclear weapons. While selling out the dissidents would be unconscionable, Gerecht doesn't seem to accept that there really isn't a "get tough" option available to President Bush when it comes to Iran.

The future of Iran is in the hands of its own people. Our role is to encourage them by making it clear time and again that their ideals are ours as well. Encouragement is no guarantee of success, but we did learn after 1989 just how valuable moral support is for those who struggle against totalitarianism.
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# Posted 8:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEFENDING GORE: Not Al Gore. Hollywood gore. Rob Tagorda says that The Passion has been subjected to unfair abuse. In fact, Rob says that "It's a deeply moving film -- one that leaves me wondering whether it ranks among the best I've ever seen." I'll suspend judgment for the moment since I haven't seen the film, but my gut instinct says that its detractors are the ones on the side of angels.

Finally, DK writes in with a response to my statement that "Having lived through September 11th, we have no need to watch the planes crash again and again. But are there Christians who might be inspired by this sort of film, which goes beyond the violence of gospel?" According to DK,
Yes, absolutely there are, and there has been a long tradition of this sort of thing throughout history:

1. William James' "The Varieties of Religious Experience" is in large part about exactly this issue, and he gives many examples stretching from the desert fathers of the early church to 19th century America. See [here and here] (look for Suso).

2. Catholics, Episcopalians, and others treat Good Friday as one of the most important days in the Church year, observed with 3 hour long vigil services focused on remembering the Crucifixion. Other than the graphic visuals, there is little in the film that doesn't fit traditional Good Friday and Stations of the Cross services...

4. I saw the movie with a group of people from my very liberal Episcopal church, which is very strongly in favor of gay bishops and active in pursuing ties with local Muslim and Jewish groups. And we all found it inspiring. Difficult to stomach, incorrect in a few places, but inspiring.
If you're still looking for more insightful comments about The Passion, Judith Weiss has a very comprehensive set of links up over at Kesher Talk.
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# Posted 8:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JOHN KERRY, MASTER OF NUANCE: Yet again, John Kerry has come forward with an extremely complicated explanation of why positions he has taken might seem inconsistent at first but are in fact part and parcel of a sophisticated and coherent worldview. The issue this time is gay marriage and the relevant facts have been provided by CJR's Campaign Desk. Here goes: In 1996, Kerry voted against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. This week, Ron Brownstein of the LAT asked Kerry whether his position on DOMA implied that the only way to ban gay marriage is by amending the constitution. Kerry responded to Brownstein by stating that he was wrong in '96 about the constitutionality of DOMA. Following Kerry's logic, Brownstein then asked whether Kerry would vote for DOMA if it up were put before the Senate today. Kerry evaded that question by saying that DOMA is already the law of the land.

Campaign Desk goes through all of this in order to demonstrate that a number of major media outlets have misrepresented Kerry's views on gay marriage. As far as I can tell, they have, albeit slightly. Even so, you have to have a lot of faith in Kerry in order to believe that his rhetorical acrobatics represent a sincere effort to explain his views rather than a calculated effort to explain them away. And even if the Senator's views are consistent, his decision to dodge Brownstein's final question is a pretty clear indication of the fact that Kerry does not want to let anyone know what his real views on gay marriage are.

But that's only the beginning. It also turns out that Kerry would support amendents to state consitutions that outlaw gay marriage provided that such amendents protect civil unions and the like. However, Kerry is against an amendent to the federal constitution which would do the same. These positions are consistent now that Kerry has revised his view of the constitutionality of DOMA. But what did he revise his view of DOMA? Has he changed his interpretation of the 14th Amendment, or did he misunderstand certain parts of DOMA?

Perhaps the more important question is whether it hurts Kerry more to reinforce his reputation for straddling the fence, or whether he should pay that price to avoid seeming too liberal (or too conservative?) on gay marriage. On the one hand, I sympathize with Kerry for having to make such a hard decision. On the other, I expect real answers from a candidate for President.
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# Posted 10:56 AM by Patrick Belton  

COMING ATTRACTIONS: This week, the administration will be pushing its Middle East democracy promotion program with a trip to the region by Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman, as well as upcoming discussions about the Greater Middle East Initiative with Nato allies, the G-8, and Turkey. The diplomatic push will be an attempt to win over the support of wary regional governments cautious of what they will be eager to label as American meddling. WaPo presents a summary of what it calls "the most ambitious U.S. democracy effort since the end of the Cold War": in short, it calls for the United States and Europe to press for and assist free elections, foster new independent media, help create a politically literate generation, establish a greater Middle East Development Bank modeled on Europe's postwar Marshall plan model, translate Western classics into Arabic, and give $500 million in loans to small entrepreneurs, especially women, according to the draft report. It is scheduled to be formally released in June, and it follows in broad outline the 1975 model of the Helsinki accords.

By shrewdly laying his Iraq quarrels with Chancellor Schröeder aside, President Bush has secured Germany's support for the intiative. In the opposing camp is Egypt's Mubarak, who has already been travelling the region to ask its autocratic rulers (beginning in Riyadh) for their opposition.
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# Posted 9:14 AM by Patrick Belton  

YIDS AND GOYS SIT DOWN TO POPCORN TOGETHER: A sympathetic, evangelical Matt Labash watches Mel Gibson's Passion with a mildly wary, jocular Jew. The most amusing, and human, piece to be written so far on this whole affair results.

(Greatest hits: "The narrative necessarily implicates Jews and Romans, since there weren't many Norwegians around at the time." "In the back of the theater, two cops are present, perhaps to make sure the Jews and Christians don't turn into the Jets and Sharks, what with all the talk of anti-Semitic overtones, or perhaps just to guard against the phone bully. "Don't worry," offers Norm, in the event of a Jewish uprising. "You're with me. You'll be okay.")
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# Posted 7:52 AM by Patrick Belton  

The Bush administration said it welcomed Aristide's departure and said it was in the best interests of Haiti. A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Aristide left at about 6:45 a.m. EST, accompanied by members of his security detail.

[One of his advisors] said Aristide, Haiti's first democratically elected president in 200 years of independence, was flying to the Dominican Republic and would seek asylum in Morocco, Taiwan or Panama.

Aristide left as fighters in a popular rebellion that erupted on Feb. 5 came within 25 miles of Port-au-Prince, the capital, and threatened to attack unless he resigned.
See also this piece from earlier this morning, on the administration's decision yesterday to increase its pressure on Aristide to leave, to leave open chances for a peaceful resolution in his absence:
Earlier in the day, senior administration officials said the United States did not want to seem to be pushing an elected leader out of office. But after a meeting of Mr. Bush's national security advisers on Saturday morning — run by teleconference from Camp David by Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser — the president concluded that Washington's strong hints to Mr. Aristide that he needed to resign must be stepped up to a strong shove.

During the meeting, officials said, Mr. Bush's advisers concluded that the rebel forces holding in position outside the city were unlikely to stay there for long. "If they go in and Aristide is still sitting there, it's not going to be pretty," a senior official said Saturday evening. "So the conclusion was that the only way to get to a political solution was to exert more pressure, an evolution of what we've been doing all week."
Rebel leader Guy Philippe, who had earlier boasted that he would be in Port-au-Prince today to mark his 36th birthday, had reportedly slowed his advance into the capital city in response to a request from Washington.

So who's left to pick up the pieces of power in Port-au-Prince? The Democratic Platform opposition coalition had been led by senior socialist member Micha Gaillard, Christian Democrat Marie-Denise Claude, and Paul Denis of the left-wing Organisation for the People's Struggle. Other key figures in the political opposition include Lionel Etienne, head of the Franco-Haitian Chamber of Commerce; and industrialist Edouard Peaultre. (See AFP). The Platform Democratique, in turn, includes the Convergence Democratique (a wide-ranging collection of political and civil society groups) and the Group of 184 (which represents Haiti’s business community; website). It's not yet clear whether a restoration in order in Haiti will now follow along the lines of the French peace plan, in which a multinational police force would deploy to Haiti along with relief aid, human rights observers, and a U.N. representative; a government of national unity would be formed among political parties; and new presidential elections would take place before the summer. (The alternative, CARICOM, plan had called for Aristide to remain in power heading a government of national unity.) And the State Department has already indicated that a multinational force will be sent to the Haiti soon.
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# Posted 6:52 AM by Patrick Belton  

NOT ON HAITI, but Harvard deserves to be congratulated on this program - it would be a very good thing if other universities (President Levin?) follow suit:
Aiming to get more low-income students to enroll, Harvard will stop asking parents who earn less than $40,000 to make any contribution toward the cost of their children's education. Harvard will also reduce the amount it seeks from parents with incomes between $40,000 and $60,000.

"When only 10 percent of the students in elite higher education come from families in the lower half of the income distribution, we are not doing enough," said Lawrence H. Summers, president of Harvard, who will announce the financial aid changes at a meeting of the American Council on Education in Miami Beach today.

Dr. Summers said that higher education, rather than being an engine of social mobility, may be inhibiting it because of the wide gap in college attendance for students from different income classes.
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# Posted 1:45 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

The Administration's policy toward's Haiti is anything but coherent. Running the gamut from ignoring the coming crisis then rushing to negotiate a half baked "peace plan." Haiti under Aristide may be a lot things but a dictatorship is a bit much. Aristide has been a failure as a leader and needs to go but I remember Haiti under Duvalier and you can't begin to compare the two.

Haiti's problem is that governmental power is concentrated in the executive and in Port au Prince. Some of Aristide's critics have always hated him for a variety of Haitian reasons involving class and race and have been scheming to get him out for since he was reelected in 2000, through his incompetence and malfeasance his given them enough rope to hang him with. The "civil" opposition does not have much chance for survival as a coalition without Aristide as a focal point. Once he leaves it will fall apart. Even in his weakened condition, Aristide and his party Lavalas would still beat the opposition in a fair election. Which is propably why the political opposition doesn't want elections with Aristide around.

Many Republicans in and out of the Administration have hated Aristide since he was first elected in 1991 and won't be shedding any tears if he goes. The Administration has been instrumental in blocking Haiti from receiving loans totaling $500 million from the World Bank, Interamerican Development Bank, and other multilateral institutions since 2000. USAID, IRI and other American institutions have given millions of dollars to the opposition. Many members of the armed opposition were trained by the U.S. military and the CIA. This Administration has yet to craft a balanced approach when it comes to Haiti, for example when the opposition failed to agree, yet again, to a power sharing agreement with Aristide. The Administration immediately placed the blame on Aristide, not even mentioning the opposition's intransigence. Aristide's removal or resignation does not end the crisis. Now with the US actually pushing Aristide out, it is doing harm to Latin America's transition to a democracy.
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Saturday, February 28, 2004

# Posted 10:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SCATHING: The WaPo looks at Bush's rhetoric on taxes.
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# Posted 10:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NEWSFLASH -- HAITI A DEMOCRACY: In an interview with the NYT, John Kerry held the Bush administration responsible for the chaos in Haiti.
His message to the rebels, Mr. Kerry said, would be: "You're not going to take over. You're not kicking [Aristide] out. This democracy is going to be sustained."
According to Freedom House, Haiti
has become a dictatorship in all but name, as power has been monopolized by President Aristide and his Lavalas Family (FL) party.
Makes you wonder what kind of democracy Sen. Kerry would like to promote in Iraq. And if Bush called Haiti a democracy, you could bet that the next line in the NYT article would've read "According to Freedom House, Haiti is a violent dictatorship."
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# Posted 9:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ON THE RIGHT TRACK IN HAITI: I haven't read more than a half-dozen articles about the situation there, but it seems like the Bush administration is handling the situation fairly responsibly. Both Colin Powell and the human rights community seem to agree that the leaders of the insurrection are a collection of notorious thugs and murderers. At the same time, President Bush has clearly identified Jean-Bertrand Aristide as the individual whose corruption and selfishness are responsible for igniting the rebellion.

Bush is now stating pretty clearly that Aristide must go. Obviously, doing so raises the possibility that the rebels may take over. Yet having Aristide go now may result in there be a lot less violence than if the rebels had to invade Port Au Prince and haul him out. Morevoer, if Aristide resigns in response to American pressure, the rebels will be robbed of the legitimacy that comes from ousting a dictator (cf. "Sandinistas").

I don't how much chance there is that the democratic opposition to Arisitide can become an interim government in the event of the President's resignation. But if the US, UN and France all support a clear pro-democracy line, the worst may not come to pass.

Oh, and by the way, notice how neither the NYT nor the WaPo said anything bad about the rebels until the last couple of days. But that's the kind of oversight you should expect when big-name correspondents fly around the world from trouble spot to trouble spot rather than really learning about any of the nations they cover. For example, last week the WaPo identifed Louis-Jodel Chamblain as a "former army officer". The NYT described M. Chamblain as "leader of the rebel troops" and quoted him as saying that
"Cap Haitien is a symbol of Haiti's freedom. This fight is to liberate the Haitian people under the regime of Jean-Bertrand Aristide."
Today, the NYT describes Chamblain and Jean-Pierre Baptiste as
Two leaders of Fraph, the Haitian Front for Advancement and Progress. Fraph was an instrument of terror wielded by the military junta that overthrew Haiti's embattled president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in 1991. It killed thousands over the next three years.
You know, you'd think that American journalists would be more skeptical when someone claims to be waging a war of liberation. After all, a few months ago, someone or other at the Pentagon said something about liberating some country in the Middle East and caught hell for it from the media. But some two-bit gang leader gets press coverage that makes him look like George Washington. Go figure.
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# Posted 9:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ISN'T THE FRONT PAGE FOR NEWS? The NYT has a major story about the massive corruption that Iraqi officials embedded in the UN's Oil-For-Food program. Of course, it was on the NYT's own op-ed page -- ten months ago -- that WSJ correspondent Claudia Rosett argued that the Oil-For-Food program had become a total fiasco.

While the NYT cover story contains a lot of interesting information, its criticism of the UN's role in the affair is too light to even be described as a slap on the wrist. While Rossett's op-ed makes clear that widescale corruption was only possible because of ridiculously lax UN oversight, all the NYT gives us is a pathetic denial from the UN official in charge:
The director of the Office of Iraq Programs, Benon V. Sevan, declined to be interviewed about the oil-for-food program. In written responses to questions sent by e-mail, his office said he learned of the 10 percent kickback scheme from the occupation authority only after the end of major combat operations.
Yeah, right. Just this week, Rosett published another column which provides considerable evidence that either that the UN is hiding a lot of information from the public or that its accountants don't understand basic arithmetic.

On a related note, one also has to ask to what degree the French and Russians were involved in Saddam's massive kickback scheme. To its credit, the NYT raises the issue briefly at the end of its lengthy report. Hopefully, it will follow up on the issue, because even the little bit it has found is quite incriminating.
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Friday, February 27, 2004

# Posted 6:12 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE STATE DEPARTMENT'S ANNUAL COUNTRY REPORT OF HUMAN RIGHTS has been released - it's online on the Department's website, here. A transcript from Assistant Secretary Craner's q&a with the press is here. The document is critical both of allies and adversaries, accusing China of backsliding, with arrests of democracy activists and Internet essayists and bloggers, speaking of a "dramatic worsening" of human rights abuses in Cuba underlined by long prison terms handed down to 75 human rights activists, and very critical language toward Burma and North Korea ("one of the world's most inhumane regimes"). Several allies also received critical note, including Saudi Arabia and, to an extent, Israel. On the other hand, trends toward democratization were noted in Qatar, Oman, Yemen and Jordan, as well as the Kyrgyz Republic.

UPDATE: Matt Yglesias doesn't buy that Kyrgyzstan is trending toward democratization (and correctly points out that a good deal of quite execrable oppression is taking place in that country), while Brian Ulrich argues in Matt's comments that the Kyrgyz Republic is at any rate the most free of any Central Asian nation, and whether it is trending toward more or less democracy is open to dispute. Incidentally, Freedom House has two reports on Kyrgyzstan, here and here: their consensus is that corruption is rife, and initial hopes for a thriving Kryyz democracy have been dashed by growing presidential authoritarianism.

I'm not convinced yet, though, by Matt's criticism that the State Department country reports alter their analyses or pull their punches to cohere with broader government foreign policy goals. In fact, it's my fairly strong impression that the bureaucratic processes leading to the production of the human rights reports are staffed by people drawn in from the human rights community (like human rights lawyer Harold Koh from YLS, or civil rights lawyer John Shattuck), who remain in very close contact with the principal human rights organizations from whom they draw most of their reporting. The human rights groups, in turn, are generally laudatory of the human rights reports, while using them as an opportunity to criticise broader US policy - see Tom Malinowski from 2002 here, or Amnesty from this year here. This seems to me like a far more benevolent form of the common political phenomenon of bureaucratic capture - where a government agency is staffed principally by members of an industry, who continue to represent its aims and view of the world while working in the executive. And this seems to me, first of all, a good thing where the industry in question is the human rights community, and second of all, to be precisely in line with the legislative intent of Congress when late in the Nixon administration it created the Coordinator for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs in Section 301 of the International Security and Arms Export Control Act of 1976. The idea then was to create an entrenched bureaucratic interest which, even in the cynical course of promoting its own bureaucratic stature within the State Department, would also tend over time to promote the cause of human rights within US foreign policy. That said, I'm personally very fascinated by the Bureau, and would be very interested to hear whether any of our friends have more to say on the point.
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# Posted 4:31 AM by Patrick Belton  

OH, PRIVATISATSIYA: An interesting glimpse into the economic structure of contemporary Russia is in Forbes's just-released list of billionaires: once you scan past the palaver about Harry Potter, you get to this interesting bit:
New York was the home base of choice for the super-rich, with 31 of them living there. Moscow came in second with 23, followed by Hong Kong with 16 and Paris with 10.
Almost as many billionaires live in Moscow as in New York! That there would be comparable numbers of billionaires living in the financial capital of a nation with a PPP GDP of $1.409 trillion and that of one of $10.45 trillion is a stunning indication of the oligarchic character of a country where like medieval Western Europe there are only two true powers, declining oligarchs and a rising dirigiste state. The professional and commercial middle classes, so important for democratization, are in mother Russia dearly missed.
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Thursday, February 26, 2004

# Posted 11:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIFE IS SO COMPLEX: What ever happened to the good old days when the only issue you had to blog about was the invasion of Iraq? Now we're trying to deal with the Democratic primaries, gay marriage, The Passion, Haiti and Iraq all at once. Plus free trade. Tom Friedman has a good column on it today.
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# Posted 11:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CHUTZPAH IN CAIRO: Mubarak isn't happy with America's latest plan for promoting demoracy in the Middle East. The Egyptian President has stated that
"Whoever imagines that it is possible to impose solutions or reform from abroad on any society or region is delusional," Mr. Mubarak said on Wednesday. "All peoples by their nature reject whoever tries to impose ideas on them."
Wouldn't it be funny if Colin Powell responded by saying "Whoever imagines that it is possible to impose dictatorship or tyranny from within on any society or region is delusional. All peoples by their nature reject whoever tries to speak on their behalf while robbing them of their freedom."

The history of the Middle East is on Mubarak's side on this one, but the idea of freedom has a habit of ignoring history.
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# Posted 10:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE AMENDMENT: I don't think there's much I can add to the debate about the gay marriage. Andrew Sullivan has posted insightful e-mails from many, many readers. If you're feeling more on the bitter side, then this cartoon is the way to go. And if you're just plain against love and romance, then click here.
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# Posted 10:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PORNOGRAPHIC CHRIST: Andrew Sullivan says the following about Gibson's Passion:
The movie was to me deeply disturbing. In a word, it is pornography. By pornography, I mean the reduction of all human thought and feeling and personhood to mere flesh. The center-piece of the movie is an absolutely disgusting and despicable piece of sadism that has no real basis in any of the Gospels. It shows a man being flayed alive - slowly, methodically and with increasing savagery. We first of all witness the use of sticks, then whips, then multiple whips with barbed glass or metal. We see flesh being torn out of a man's body. Just so that we can appreciate the pain, we see the whip first tear chunks out of a wooden table. Then we see pieces of human skin flying through the air. We see Jesus come back for more. We see blood spattering on the torturers' faces. We see muscled thugs exhausted from shredding every inch of this man's body. And then they turn him over and do it all again. It goes on for ever. And then we see his mother wiping up masses and masses of blood. It is an absolutely unforgivable, vile, disgusting scene.
The same metaphor of pornography appears in this eloquent letter-to-the-editor from the NYT, which happens to be written by my very thoughtful uncle:
As a psychiatrist, I wish to state my profound concern about the mental anguish and suffering that Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ" is likely to cause not only to the young and impressionable but to anyone seeing it ("Tears and Gasps for "Passion,' " news article, Feb. 24).

Mr. Gibson's searing and prolonged depiction of sadistic violence is wrenching and traumatic. His meticulous and obsessive portrayal of torture, mutilation, bleeding and physical pain is a lurid, cruel and pornographic assault on the feelings and senses of the viewer.

The intensity and repetitiveness of this sordid and painful imagery are as traumatic to witness as watching the hijacked planes crash into the World Trade Center again and again.

In my opinion, this movie is not only blatantly anti-Semitic but is also anti-Catholic, anti-Christian and demeaning to the true meaning and message of kindness, love and compassion that are the real teachings of both Judaism and Christianity.
The comparison of the Passion to September 11th raises an interesting point. To what degree is an immediate inundation of the senses necessary to overcome the detachment that develops in time? Having lived through September 11th, we have no need to watch the planes crash again and again. But are there Christians who might be inspired by this sort of film, which goes beyond the violence of gospel? Or does a reliance on such fare suggest a spiritual failure on the part of the Church to inspire its members with the ideas that Christ stood for?

Of course, I have no answers. But I most certainly agree with the sentiments of one of the NYT's letter writers (not a relative of mine) who writes that "There is only one thing to be said about Mel Gibson's version of "The Passion of the Christ": Forget the movie, read the book. It's good." Agreed.
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# Posted 5:10 PM by Patrick Belton  

A LETTER FROM CAIRO: OxBlog's Cairo correspondent chips in with a witty and insightful letter from the land of Pharaohs and Nasser:
It is very pleasant to be back in Egypt again in spring, without having had to do any of that tiresome business of surviving the summer. Even the traffic fumes seem to be less overpowering than usual - reputedly one is a ten-cigarettes-a-day smoker here just by virtue of stepping outside the front door, which seems rather unfair to me. Anyway, I clean out my lungs three times a week by breathing in lots of steam in the sauna at the hotel gym, which is sheer heaven. I salve my conscience by not allowing myself to go there before making use of the exercise equipment, but even this has its compensations, since it is all positioned facing huge windows with a sunset view of the Nile - or, for those with slightly less elevated souls, large televisions showing CNN. The gym, I must confess, is a ridiculous extravagance, even in European terms, but it is also ridiculously luxurious. Attendants scurry to provide one with fresh towels at every opportunity - while working out, after working out, for the pool, the jacuzzi, the sauna, the (blissfully high-pressure) shower. They just have an awfully large laundry. Actually, if my landlady ever does throw me out, I think I might go and live at the gym. It is open 24 hours and provides every amenity (including toothbrushes, for no adequately explained reason) except food, which I am certain could be obtained by persuading Room Service to go a little out of their way...

Of course, the real reason for my presence in Cairo is not so that I can live the high life, but so that I can research my thesis, and I am doing that too, with grim determination. I have a wistful desire to be able to speak Arabic "properly" - though I know people who have been studying it for five years who still say the same, so I freely admit it is not a very realistic goal in my current circumstances. For the moment, I am compensating by spending quite a bit of time with non-English speaking friends, and improving my command of the colloquial language.

Last week, however, this apparently harmless pursuit nearly got me arrested. My Egyptian friend had phoned me up and asked if I would like to go with her to see the Agricultural College where she studies, and meet her fellow students. "Yes, please!" I said, thinking that it would be a fine way of spending the morning and I could always catch up on my work in the afternoon. So we met up and went on the Metro... then a taxi... then a two hour bus journey... then another taxi... It turned out that the College was in another town entirely. Our trip was enlivened by the film showing on the bus, which was called 'Mafia', all about an Egyptian who is led into bad company in Italy then arrested in Egypt and persuaded by the stern-yet-likeable detective and clever-yet-beautiful-and-yielding female police doctor to work for them. So they take him down the Nile to train him in karate and shooting-things and withstanding-interrogation and one-man-missions, and there is a comic sidekick who is fat and put-upon and nearly has to marry an ugly woman, and there is an eminent singer who explains the meaning of life to Our Hero, to the accompaniment of an all-singing, all-dancing chorus of Nubian peasants - and then we had to stop because the bus arrived. (It showed the same film on the way back, but only the first half again. I think I can guess, though, that Reformed Hero is going to bring down his erstwhile Mafia colleagues single-handed, reconcile with his Aged Father, and marry Beautiful Karate-Kicking Doctor. So I'm not worried.)

Anyway, I am getting distracted by the recollection of these glories from the anecdote at hand. When we finally got to the college, I was introduced to all my Egyptian friend’s friends (about eight of them), and the whole party headed off to explore the town. I was solemnly informed that it was a deeply historic town full of ancient monuments, but sadly we did not come across any of these during the course of our peregrinations - which did, however, take in a shopping mall and a pizza place. But at least they all talked at once with various regional accents, so it was definitely good language practice. After lunch, we headed off again, and were just wandering down a pleasantly shady street admiring the deeply historic trees (or so I was once again informed), when a large, angry plain-clothes policeman leapt out of nowhere and started shouting at us and demanding identification. (He had a difficult accent too, but this time I was rather less gratified at the opportunity it presented, and rather more concerned.) Apparently, the high wall on our left-hand side concealed a critical military installation, and one of our party was in possession of a camera. He wanted the film, the camera, and possibly our immediate attendance at the nearest police station as well. Fortunately, we had not actually been taking photos, we avowed our innocence repeatedly with shouts (from the boys), tears (from the girls) and an occasional demand in Arabic to be told what on earth was going on (from me), and eventually we were sent on our merry way. The phrase "and don't bother coming back" was definitely implied.

Of course from my point of view, this was all rather amusing, and I was certainly never at risk of anything more than inconvenience. But one of the girls was really upset. And it did bring it home to me how much, even in a relatively liberal country such as Egypt, the lack of fundamental legal rights does make confrontation with authority a risky business for the local population. Unless you happen to have credentials of some kind, you can't sit back and enjoy the spectacle of a mix-up such as this, secure in the knowledge that you have done nothing wrong. Because there is always the possibility that this will be the occasion when that is simply not going to matter...
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# Posted 11:21 AM by Patrick Belton  

TALKING ABOUT FOREIGN AID: The Washington chapter of our nationwide foreign policy society recently held a discussion on the milennium challenge account, and aspects of national development assistance strategy. Some notes are online, over on our Nathan Hale blog. Also, we've gotten a bit more of the website up for our associated young professionals' foreign policy think tank. More is coming soon!

Our foreign policy society has other active chapters in New York, Boston, Chicago, L.A., San Francisco, and Oxford - please do just drop us a note if you'd like us to keep you in the loop about our events and other activities!
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# Posted 10:46 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IS CONDI A MAN? Everyone seems to be up in arms about the racial aspect of Corrine Brown's remarks. But how about the sexism? In this day and age, people still try to undermine successful women by impying that they are not feminine enough. Calling Condi a white man just plays into that kind of prejudice.
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# Posted 10:23 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BRING BACK HOWARD! Not Howard Dean. Not even Michael Howard. I'm talking about Mr. Stern.

Stern should've immediately denounced his caller for using the word "nigger". And Stern's remarks about the monkey were definitely racist, but I don't think that taking him off the air is the way to go.

If Howard Stern were a member of Congress, I'd want to get rid of him ASAP. But he's a talk show host, so his opponents should take him on in public. If he says something racist, then anti-defamation groups should denounce him. And you know what? I bet that Stern would admit he was wrong. Because he is a pervert, not a racist.
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# Posted 5:21 AM by Patrick Belton  

GOOD ON HIM, PART TWO: New Tory leader Michael Howard continues to show that under his watch there will be no room for racial intolerance in his party, by sacking a Conservative MP who made an offensive and insensitive remark about the Chinese undocumented migrants who drowned while picking cockles on an English beach. While there are certain aspects of Mr Howard's programme I wouldn't want to endorse wholeheartedly, he does deserve immense respect for taking his party in a principled direction, and doing his bit to restore decency, comity, and decorum to UK public life.
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# Posted 5:21 AM by Patrick Belton  

TURKMENISTAN'S PRESIDENT NIYAZOV today declared the wearing of beards and goatees illegal. Rather than any connection to Islam, as might more ordinarily be suspected for an ordinance concerning beards, it seems much more likely that Niyazov simply doesn't approve of the current fashion of goatees proliferating among the young men of Ashgabat. And this is just the latest in a string of odd prohibitions imposed by a crazed autocrat: for instance, it is also now forbidden in Turkmenistan to listen to car radios or to smoke in the street; opera and ballet performances have also been banned, on the grounds that they are "unnecessary"; and the entire health care sector of the nation is about to be laid off, to be replaced by military conscripts.
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# Posted 5:21 AM by Patrick Belton  

BRIGHT COLLEGE YEARS, REDUX: Psychologist and current grad school dean Peter Salovey to replace Richard Brodhead as dean of Yale College; American religious historian Jon Butler will take over for Salovey as the dean of the Graduate School.
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Wednesday, February 25, 2004

# Posted 11:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

QUIET DIPLOMACY: Conservative critics of the human rights movement often insist that vocal denunciations of abusive governments are counterproductive because such governments refuse to compromise their pride by giving in to public criticism. Thus, conservatives suggest that the most effective method for advancing human rights is for the US government to make its objections known through private diplomatic channels.

There is some evidence that this quiet diplomacy approach is often preferable to public confrontation. For example, the Soviet Union reduced the number of Jews it allowed to emigrate once American activists began to draw attention to the issue. Previously, it had complied with American diplomats' request to let more Jews go.

On the other hand, there are plenty of instances in which quiet diplomacy amounted to no diplomacy. When the US government wanted to deflect criticism from anti-Communist allies, it simply said that it was going to engage in quiet diplomacy. After all, who could say that it wasn't?

I'm bringing this up because the issue of human rights came to mind with regard to Uzbekistan. As things now stand, the US is clearly in bed with the repressive Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov, who -- in spite of his name -- has a habit of doing very nasty things to those who advocate the establishment of an Islamic state.

In honor of Donald Rumsfeld's recent visit, Karimov let a prominent dissident out of jail. While that is good, the US should not make the mistake of confusing symbolism with substance. Now, Rumsfeld is probably right that cooperating with Uzbekistan is necessary at this stage in the war on terror. But that doesn't mean effective pressure can't be exerted behind the scenes.

The Soviet Union could resist pressure from human rights advocates because it was a superpower. But Uzbekistan is an American client. The situation here reminds me of the one in El Salvador in the 1980s. In that instance, the Salvadoran military had no problem figuring out that anything Reagan said about the importance of human rights was just for show, since he never sent a message to San Salvador saying he would actually cut off US aid if the human rights situation didn't improve.

Then, in 1983, in response to tremendous domestic pressure, the administration sent Vice-President Bush to El Salvador to make specific demands and lay out deadlines for compliance. His visit saved hundreds of lives. It also showed that quiet diplomacy can work, but only if the administration has a sincere interest in making it work. Suffice it to say, that isn't the impression Donald Rumsfeld gives off when he's in Uzbekistan.

For more on the Uzbek situation, read Brian Ulrich.
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# Posted 10:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOW WHO'S THE BENEDICT ARNOLD? You can't accuse the WaPo of going soft on Kerry. Just look at this:
Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, frequently calls companies and chief executives "Benedict Arnolds" if they move jobs and operations overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

But Kerry has accepted money and fundraising assistance from top executives at companies that fit the candidate's description of a notorious traitor of the American Revolution.

Executives and employees at such companies have contributed more than $140,000 to Kerry's presidential campaign, a review of his donor records show. Additionally, two of Kerry's biggest fundraisers, who together have raised more than $400,000 for the candidate, are top executives at investment firms that helped set up companies in the world's best-known offshore tax havens, federal records show. Kerry has raised nearly $30 million overall for his White House run...

When asked for the definition of a "Benedict Arnold" company or CEO, Stephanie Cutter, Kerry's spokeswoman, said: "Companies that take advantage of tax loopholes to set up bank accounts or move jobs abroad simply to avoid taxes." She pointed to a list compiled by Citizen Works, a tax-exempt nonprofit group that monitors corporate influence, as a source of the companies that fit the candidate's definition.

According to federal election records, Kerry has received $119,285 from donors employed at what Citizen Works described as the "25 Fortune 500 Corporations With the Most Offshore Tax-Haven Subsidiaries." The list does not include nearly all of the companies that shave their tax bill by moving jobs and operations overseas, so Kerry has actually raised substantially more from firms qualifying as "Benedict Arnolds."
As if that wasn't bad enough, here's Kerry's lame excuse for his hypocrisy:
On Monday, Kerry was asked why two of his biggest fundraisers were involved with "Benedict Arnold" companies. "If they have done that, it's not to my knowledge and I would oppose it," Kerry told a New York television station. "I think it's wrong to do [it] solely to avoid taxes."

Then he sought to clarify his position: "What I've said is not that people don't have the right to go overseas and form a company if they want to avoid the tax. I don't believe the American taxpayer ought to be giving them a benefit. That's what I object to. I don't object to global commerce. I don't object to companies deciding they want to compete somewhere else.''
Of course the real victim here is Benedict Arnold. It just isn't fair to associate his name with outsourcing, since he was a living example of how enterprising Americans could persuade foreign investors to create jobs on American soil. Did the British hire some cut-rate Indian espionage firm to spy on the Continental Army? Hell no!
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# Posted 3:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BRIGHT COLLEGE YEARS: The Yale Daily News has published an op-ed that recounts how John Kerry was a very arrogant and unpopular young man during his time at Yale.

The author of the article is a member of the Yale Political Union's Liberal Party, of which Kerry was chair during his time as an undergraduate. As a former officer of the Liberal Party myself, I can vouch for the fact that no one there has any fond memories of Kerry.

But does Kerry's record of incompetence as an undergraduate really have anything to say about his ability to serve as chief executive of the United States of America? According to the op-ed's author,
Personally, I would not let Kerry circa 1966 run a public toilet, let alone a country. Hopefully, today's Kerry is a different man. Perhaps his service in Vietnam changed him for the better. Perhaps time has changed him. But maybe he has not changed. Recently Kerry mentioned that George Bush remains the same guy he was in college. If Bush didn't change, why would Kerry?

I certainly do not think a hard-drinking frat boy of the George Bush kind is any better prepared for the presidency. Still, Democrats ought to consider other options. Edwards anyone?
I think the real message here is that members of the YPU still take the institution way too seriously. While the author begins his article with a self-effacing admission that "The political union is by no means a 'cool' organization," he proceeds to judge the character of a veteran Senator according to his behavior as a 21-year old.

To be fair, my own criticism is an example of the pot calling the kettle black. I took the YPU way too seriously during my two semesters as an elected official. But one thing that has become very clear since then is how much almost everyone I knew in the YPU has grown and changed in the years since I first met them.

As a freshman first getting involved in the YPU, I remember how much I valued the sense of belonging and identity that came with membership in one of the parties. Sometimes, I did some pretty stupid things because I thought they would make other people in the YPU like me.

Now, it seems like John Kerry did plenty of dumb things as well, except without much of a payoff in terms of social acceptance. Personally, I chalk it up to him being an awkward kid like the rest of off, not some profound character flaw that will make him anything less of a President.
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# Posted 1:35 PM by Patrick Belton  

ANALYZING TRENDS IN RUSSIA: Better than any other piece I've come across lately, this article from yesterday's FT casts insight into the trends taking place in the Kremlin behind the day-to-day political shuffle which often devours the headlines. And one of the most significant of these trends is the emergence in positions of crucial authority of the siloviki (lit: "men of power"), current and former officials in the intelligence, security, and military services. To wit,
According to a study by Ms Kryshtanovskaya, the proportion of siloviki in the uppermost echelons of Kremlin power has increased from 4.8 per cent under Mr Gorbachev to 58.3 per cent under Mr Putin. More than half of Mr Putin's 24-member informal "politburo" are siloviki. In the Kremlin one in three officials has a military or security services background, says Ms Kryshtanovskaya.

The growing presence of the siloviki has been even more startling regionally. Four out of seven presidential representatives in the regions are affiliated with the military or security services. Each of these "super-governors" has a staff of 1,500, 70 per cent of whom have a military or KGB background.
On the one hand, under the Soviet tyranny, the KGB was one of the Soviet Union's few meritocratic and functioning institutions, and its people represented many of the nation's best and brightest. On the other hand, their statist ideology leaves pauce room for democratic niceties, and to the extent they wield power, they may provide Russia with order, but little justice.
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# Posted 12:53 PM by Patrick Belton  

SOUTH AFRICAN DEMOCRACY: Will South Africa go the way of Zimbabwe? Our friend (and South African Rhodes Scholar) Murray Wesson doesn't think so.
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# Posted 12:34 PM by Patrick Belton  

MI5 TO EXPAND BY 50%, in response to the increased terror threat to the UK. Its staff will increase from 1,900 to 2,900, bringing the agency's numbers back up to World War II levels. Home Secretary David Blunkett will make the announcement in the Commons next week; both the Tory and Lib-Dem fractions have indicated their support for the measure.
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# Posted 12:25 PM by Patrick Belton  

700 LIBERAL SYRIAN INTELLECTUALS have drafted a petition calling for an end to Syria's 41-year old state of emergency, release of political prisoners, and reforms toward multiparty liberal democracy. Here is their petition:
On March 8, 1963, the Council of the Revolutionary Leadership declared a state of emergency in Syria. Although 41 years have passed since then, the state is still bowed under the yoke of the emergency laws, whose effect encompasses all areas of the life of society and citizens in Syria. As a result, society is under siege, its movement is halted, its potential is damaged, and thousands of citizens are thrown into prison because of their opinions, political views, or charges that do not constitute a criminal offense.

The ramifications of the emergency law (the military laws and the special courts) have engendered special military laws, that depend to a large extent on the whim of those carrying them out.

We, the undersigned, ask the Syrian authorities to remove the state of emergency and to abolish its ramifications and its effects (legal, political, and economic), including:
* Abolition of all the military laws and all the state-of-emergency laws;
* Ceasing all arbitrary arrests;
* Releasing all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and compensating the injured parties;
* Reexamining [cases] of revocation of citizenship (for political reasons);
* Returning the exiles to their homeland, with legal guarantees;
* Opening the case of those who have disappeared, revealing their fate, regularizing their legal status, and compensating their relatives;
* Giving democratic freedom, including the right to establish [political] parties and civil associations.

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# Posted 12:09 PM by Patrick Belton  

QUICK BLEG: Any of our readers spend time lately in the Kurdish region of Iraq? If so, we'd love to hear from you...

On a completely different note, I've returned from an absolutely lovely few days in Paris, and am looking forward a great deal to writing about my time once I've adjusted a bit more to being in my college's computer cluster rather than walking along St-Germain-des-Prés and the left bank of the Seine! (And incidentally - what's with this - just as soon as I go on vacation for a few days, we get 7,000 readers on a Sunday? It's okay, I won't take it personally.....)
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# Posted 11:47 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE NOOSE TIGHTENS: US military spokesman are hinting that bin Laden is at the end of his rope. Perhaps the tabloids knew what they were talking about.
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Tuesday, February 24, 2004

# Posted 10:44 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG LOVES FRANCE! In a recording addressed to President Bush, Al Qaeda chieftain Ayman al-Zawahri breaks new rhetorical ground by threatening France:
"France is the country of freedom which defends freedom to show the body and to be immoral and depraved. In France you're free to show yourself but not to dress modestly," [al-Zawahri] said in reference to the headscarf ban newly approved by parliament.

"This is a new sign of the Crusader hatred which Westerners harbor against Muslims while they boast of freedom, democracy and human rights," said the voice on the tape.
Now, OxBlog never thought that the headscarf ban was a good idea. But it's not as if Mr. Chafetz and Mr. Belton are about to strap dynamite to themselves and get on the next train for Paris. So, thank you, Mr. al-Zawahri, for reminding us -- not to mention our friends in Europe -- which side we're all on.
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# Posted 1:16 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SHUTTERBUGS: If you look at today's coverage of the Haitian uprising in the WaPo and NYT, you'll notice that both have photos of the same man-in-the-street, Jean-Bernard Prevalis. According to the photo credits, they were taken by different photographers.

The NYT also has a quote from Prevalis, who was arrested by the insurgents because of his suspicions he supported the governments. He says that he is just a bricklayer.

I guess I noticed the twin photos of Prevalis because of this post from Glenn, which catches the NYT quoting the same man-in-the-street Bush critic in separate articles published weeks apart. As Glenn says, journalists know exactly where to go to get the soundbites they're looking for. But with Lexis-Nexis, such backhanded practices are becoming more and more transparent.

So what is it about Prevalis that got the attention of so many photographers? That his face was bloody? I guess that's news. But somehow you have to wonder if the audience back at home is getting the whole story if we have multiple correspondents chasing the same victim.
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# Posted 12:57 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MY BOSS IN THE NEWS: As a peon at the Weatherhead Center, I know that if I don't have anything nice to say about Sam Huntington then I shouldn't say anything at all. One of the legendary scholars of his generation, Sam commands automatic respect from all of us who get our paychecks from the Center that he did so much to create.

Which is exactly why it is so delightful to see David Brooks rip into Huntington's latest book on all of our behalves. As Brooks aptly says, this is another book about the Clash of Civilizations, except this time the clash is on the homefront. And the enemy is from Mexico. Huntington's basic idea is that Mexican-Americans don't believe in the American dream. The more of the them there are, the closer they come to destroying the identity that made America great.

Now, I admit that I don't know the first thing about demographics or immigration. If Huntington has the evidence, he may be right. But it just sounds so cliche. In the early days of the Republic, they said the Germans couldn't be real Americans. Then they said the Irish couldn't be real Americans. Then the Italians. Then the Jews. Then the Chinese. Then the Koreans. And then the Pakistanis. But all of them seem to have adapted just fine and made America that much stronger. (OK, so I admit I'm not objective when it comes to evaluating the Jews.)

Anyhow, it will be interesting to see how all this plays out at Harvard. Will people challenge Huntington in the hallways? Will they remain silent out of deference? Or will they have the same reaction because of pity? I'll let you know.
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Monday, February 23, 2004

# Posted 1:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SADDAM'S LETTER TO HIS FAMILY: The Red Cross has visited Saddam in order to assess whether he is being treated properly as a prisoner of war. One of Saddam's rights as a prisoner is to send a message to his family. Since the Red Cross can't disclose the contents of Saddam's letter, I thought that I would creatively reconstruct them for your benefit:
Dear Family,

I hope that you are comfortable in your spider holes. Mine really wasn't that bad. You know sometimes, when Uday and Qusay weren't using them, I would climb down into those very small torture chambers we used to use to make our prisoners feel like they were inside a coffin. It was actually sort of fun being in there, since it reminded me of when I used to build little mud-brick forts as a kid in Tikrit.

I miss Uday and Qusay so much. Hopefully they're enjoying their 72 virgins right now. But those two used to go through 72 virgins a month back in the good old days. Of course, some of the virgins had to be shot when they didn't cooperate. Wouldn't it be funny if some of those virgins they shot were the ones Allah gave them in heaven? As Alanis Morrisette once said, "Isn't it ironic?"

By the way, have any of you spoken to Bashar lately? I know's he still angry about how I refused to give him all of my weapons of mass destructions before the Americans showed up. I don't know how many times I have to tell him, chem-bio is so passe. The future is all about laser death rays in outer space.

Besides, we had so much fun at the big party where we used up all of our WMD on those Kurds I had been saving since back in '88. The best was when I would go up to them, give them each a hot dog, and then say "Want some mustard gas with that?" You should've seen the looks on their faces!

As soon as the Americans are done with their interrogations, I'm going to start working on my next book. It's called Chicken Soup for the Dictator's Soul. You know there are a lot young, idealistic dictators out there who could use the advice of someone who's been through it all before. Even now, I really appreciate the calls I get from Slobodan and all of the Rwandan friends he's made at the Hague.

Anyhow, gotta go. They've got nachos in the mess hall tonight and if I don't get there early they'll all be gone.

.UPDATE: OK, so I wasn't the first one to have the fake-letter idea...
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Saturday, February 21, 2004

# Posted 4:21 AM by Patrick Belton  

HONI SOIT: I'm off to Paris! (Rachel and I are celebrating Valentine's Day a week late....) See you all soon, and please let us know if you'd like any psychoanalysis, tight black turtlenecks, or oddly shaped metallic buildings.
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# Posted 12:31 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HEHEHE: There's some imaginative vocabulary over at Winds of Change.
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# Posted 12:26 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEAD-TREE THOUGHTS: Phil Carter has a solid op-ed on the National Guard issue in the Chicago Tribune. (Registration required)
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# Posted 12:22 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EDWARDS VS. NAFTA: Terry Neal makes a pretty strong case that Edwards' anti-NAFTA stance is nothing more than shameless opportunism. I'm still pulling for Edwards' lost cause, but I don't want to see it regain momentum by catering to what is, for all intents and purposes, a special interest.
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# Posted 12:08 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PITCHING WINS BALLGAMES: Wayne Hsieh thinks I'm counting chickens before they've hatched. He writes that
Don't get too confident now that you guys have got A-Rod. Your starting rotation has some questions...What happens if a starter goes down? Your farm system is pretty barren, so you won't get any help in-house. You have the money to take on bad contracts which will help in a trade-situation, but who knows what will be available...In all due honesty, I'd take Schilling-Pedro-Lowe-Wakefield-Kim over your rotation...

[The Yankees'] offense is truly impressive, but filled with aging veterans...You can take me to task if I'm wrong, but I think the BoSox will challenge you for the division. Regardless, I think both the Yanks and the BoSox will go to the playoffs--its hard to see the AL wildcard coming out of any other division. And if the BoSox have paced Pedro so he isn't gassed come October, watch out.
More specifically on the subject of A-Rod, MF writes that
I'm a long-time Mariner fan who has always been impressed with pretty much everything A-Rod has done. That being said, despite all the money and the talent he was surrounded by in Seattle and the deep pockets of Tom Hicks in Texas, he has never led a team to the World Series. Maybe he will actually
hurt the Yankees because there will be "too many cooks" and he won't react appropriately. No telling how Derek Jeter will react to another young, handsome, talented Latino in NY...this has all the makings of a "what went wrong?" scenario.
I never thought Jeter was all that good-looking, but that's probably not the point.

CORRECTION: As AD and GJ point out, Jeter is not Latino but rather half-black and half-white. There also seems to be some dissatisfaction with my low regard for Jeter's good looks, but no objective evidence that I am wrong on this count. In fact, I suspect that if I had $40 million and five World Series rings, a lot of people would think I was pretty good looking, too.
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Friday, February 20, 2004

# Posted 11:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WILL EUROPE ACT? The European foreign ministers who negotiated November's agreement with Iran said that they would accept no more lies. Now we know Iran has lied again. The question is, will the Europeans show that multilateralism can work by getting tough with Teheran, or will they try to hold back the United States by making excuses for Iran's behavior?

Meanwhile on the homefront, some are beginning to wonder whether it's time for America to sharpen up the big stick.
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# Posted 11:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE NUCLEAR FALLOUT: It turns out that Malaysian factories were also part of Pakistan's nuclear proliferation network. It also turns out that Libya had begun to generate plutonium.
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# Posted 8:01 PM by Patrick Belton  

CLEANING UP DIRTY LAUNDRY: As part of Mexico's cleaning of its political house, and joining more fully over the past decade the community of democracies, former chief of domestic intelligence Nazar Haro has been arrested. Haro was also head of a covert paramilitary group called the White Brigade, which during Mexico's "dirty wars" of the 1960s and early 1970s was not always on the side of democracy or human rights, but generally was fairly predictably on the side of the governing PRI. The Washington Post has the story, and the National Security Archive has a truly fascinating electronic briefing book on Mexico policy in the Nixon and Carter administrations. (The briefing book is, incidentally, a collaborative effort between the National Security Archive and Proceso, a magazine which can best be described as Mexico's TNR.)
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# Posted 5:28 PM by Patrick Belton  

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# Posted 12:35 PM by Patrick Belton  

IF YOU CALL ME A NATTERING NABOB, WHO PRODUCES SECOND-RATE ACADEMIC WORK, well, then I'll take it as a compliment: nabob, from Hindi nawwab, refers to a governor in the subcontinent under the Mogul empire. (It derives from Arabic nuwwb, pl. of n’ib, deputy, in turn the active participle of nba, to represent.) In other words, not that bad work, if you can get it.

And in turn, second-rate, to (correctly) describe the precise level of my academic accomplishment, derives, like all good things, from the Royal Navy. British naval vessels of the 18th and 19th centuries were classed principally according to the number of guns they carried. A sixth-rate ship was a frigate (i.e., as in Lord Nelson's exclamation from the quarter-deck of the HMS Vanguard before the battle of the Nile: "Frigates! Were I to die this moment, want of frigates would be found engraved on my heart!"); frigates carried between 22 and 28 nine-pounder guns and a crew of about 150, and measured between 450 and 550 tons. The Sophie of the fictional Captain Jack Aubrey, and the Surprise of the real-life, and far more dashing, Lord Cochrane on which he was based, was a ship of the sixth rate. Ships of sixth rate and above were of sufficient size to qualify as ships of the line in naval battle. On the other hand, first-rate ships, such as Lord Nelson's HMS Victory (still, incidentally, in service), boasted a minimum of 100 heavy cannon (the Victory carries 104), carried a complement of about 850 (there were 821 on board Victory at Trafalgar), and were over 2000 tons Builder’s Measure. To place the Victory's scale in context: she was constructed from approximately 6000 trees, 90% of them oak (this equates to 100 acres of woodland), at a cost of £63,176 in 1765 sterling (the equivalent of a contemporary aircraft carrier in nominal currency), her hulls are two feet thick at waterline, and the total sail area of her 37 sails is 6,510 square yards.

On the other hand, the sixth-rate Sophie was good enough for Aubrey, and its equivalents for Nelson - so think I'd be quite embarrassed, actually, to be classed an unworthy four ratings higher. But in any event, being a second-rate nattering nabob sounds to my ears at least like a quite pleasant prospect.
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# Posted 6:33 AM by Patrick Belton  

SPEAKING OF POSTPONING ELECTIONS, the US is also considering responding to continuing violence in Afghanistan by postponing elections there which were currently scheduled for June. CS Monitor has a round-up - which includes an NYT piece on changing counterinsurgency towards sending small groups of soldiers to live in villages and gain the trust and cooperation of their residents, a BBC story about dramatic improvement in US-Pakistani cooperation, and the FT's speculations on whether increased violence in the south augurs a springtime insurgency there.
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# Posted 3:59 AM by Patrick Belton  

FAME!!! Our first and foremost groupie, our lovely Rachel Belton, has had the honour of having a virus named after her! It deposits a file named oxwife.scr on your hard drive, which (unlike Rachel) takes over your computer, makes you spend lots of time cleaning things up, and keeps you from doing any work. (The link is to a Chinese antivirus information site, by the way, and not to the virus itself). Thanks, guys! But hey, what about the rest of us?
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Thursday, February 19, 2004

# Posted 11:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE JOURNALISTIC ELITE: Try not to laugh too hard. (Link via TPM.)
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# Posted 11:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A PRECEDENT TO BUILD ON: Rob Tagorda reports on Bush's public recommendation that Tunisia open up its press and its political process.
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# Posted 11:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GORE INVENTED THE INTERNET, DEAN INVENTED THE BLOG: A senior adviser to Gov. Howard writes that
Along the way, Dean for America added a new word to [the] campaign lexicon -- "blog": It's a noun and a verb! The Dean Weblog, or Blog, helped inspire legions of young devotees. More than once I was reduced to tears when reading blog posts, as person after person told stories of how Howard Dean had inspired them to become involved in politics for the first time.
And I suppose that Glenn Reynolds invented sliced bread.
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# Posted 11:37 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE UNILATERALISM, PLEASE: Haiti had descended into a state of anarchy, "but the Bush administration would rather leave the answers to Caricom or the United Nations or France. It's an inexcusable abdication." I agree with the sentiment, but I can't see any reason not to let France or the UN handle the Haitian crisis. We should use our political leverage to influence the outcome, but the stakes are low, so why not let France or the UN show that they are able to promote democracy when given the chance?

UPDATE: Well, it might violate the Monroe Doctrine...
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# Posted 11:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THEY MUST'VE BEEN DRUNK: The Bush campaign team "has even prepared a couple of ad scripts targeting long shot Dennis J. Kucinich, an Ohio congressman."
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# Posted 11:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PLAYS WELL WITH THE OTHERS: The US and UN are getting along surprisingly well in Iraq, despite the high stakes at play in the transition process. For just a moment, all those who constantly denounce the UN (myself included)should recognize that it seems to be playing a genuinely constructive role as an honest broker in Iraq. By the same token, all those caricature George Bush as a reckless unilateralist incapable of working with the United Nations should give his administration credit for doing so right now.
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# Posted 11:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ENJOY THE SILENCE: Maureen Dowd is on vacation.
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# Posted 11:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEMOCRACY KNOCKS ON THE DOOR: Tom Friedman says that rather than antagonize Arabs, the invasion of Iraq has strengthened advocates of reform.
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# Posted 11:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PAYBACK IN SPADES: "A bad day is when (1) you get arrested (2) by the people who once worked for you and (3) they tell you exactly what they think of you." That's what happened to the Four of Spades, Iraq's former minister of the interior.
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# Posted 6:37 PM by Patrick Belton  

WAR IN IRAQ? KANT WOULD HAVE APPROVED. English thinker Roger Scruton (whom Martha Nussbaum calls "a Wagnerian romantic and a Thatcherite conservative") argues for the war in Iraq on Kantian grounds.
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# Posted 5:35 PM by Patrick Belton  

LOTS OF GOOD RESEARCH ON RECIDIVISM AND JUVENILE CORRECTIONS: Our good friend David Pozen, who's been a classmate in New Haven and Oxford, has released several new papers on the relationships between recidivism in juvenile offenders and privatisation (increases recidivism but lowers short-term incarceration costs) on the one hand and peer effects on the other (which he shows to increase recidivism, too).
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# Posted 12:42 PM by Patrick Belton  

ON THE EVE OF A CORRUPT ELECTION which will undoubtedly install a conservative majority and add the Iranian parliament to a trifecta of judicial, clerical, and now political institutions controlled by hardliners, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi announced today that she would not vote, in protest against the mass disqualification of reformist candidates. Abstention will be widespread, in fact - Agence France Presse's correspondent this morning found only one passer-by who was planning to vote, after speaking with three dozen.

Still, there will be an election, even if it has already been determined that its results will not reflect the preferences of the Iranian people, and the San Francisco Chronicle details the parties which will contest it. The Coalition of Builders of Islamic Iran, incidentally, is the party which has been designated to win, and it has said it will pursue a "Chinese" model of governance - presumably, economic development, authoritarian political control, and courting on its own terms of a West which does not truly care about human rights within its borders (see Kerry, below).

Here is the round-up of coverage: Washington Times, Agence France-Presse, Asia Times, Guardian, Radio Free Europe, Boston Globe, Al Jazeera, WaPo.
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# Posted 12:21 PM by Patrick Belton  

HAVE A WSJ SUBSCRIPTION? If you do, then you can read a good essay asking whether we have the backbone necessary for democracy promotion in Iraq, by Larry Diamond (and his research assistant). If you don't have a subscription, you can still read about a friend of ours who somehow landed on the WSJ front page after single-handedly rebuilding the Iraqi stock exchange. Oh, he's 24. (Yeah, I know - that's what my mother said, too.)
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# Posted 9:35 AM by Patrick Belton  

SOME OF OUR READERS are in Oxford. Some of our readers enjoy roast beef sandwiches. Therefore, (*) it may well be the case that some of our readers both are in Oxford, and enjoy roast beef sandwiches.

In that case, you may not want to go to the otherwise quite lovely people at the Alternative Tuck Shop. Everything else there, on the other hand, is quite good. On the other hand, you could just subsist on cookies from Ben's Cookies.

* Proof is by Soundness Theorem, and is to be found overleaf. Oh wait, blogs don't have an overleaf. Guess I got off easy.
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# Posted 8:23 AM by Patrick Belton  

CHICAGO POST: Dan Drezner has some awfully good posts up on the trade adjustment assistance program, the effects of the low dollar, and the fun of demographics.
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# Posted 6:53 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE IRANIAN STUDENTS FIRE A SHOT AGAINST KERRY: We just received a copy of an open letter sent to the Senator's office by the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran. Like all of the best Persian literature, it's fairly lengthy - but the substantive bit is in these paragraphs:
We have read how you refer to the theocratic regime in Iran as a "democracy;" we have heard how, if elected, as the president of the United States you intend to "engage" this barbaric regime; this very terrorist regime that your own State Department lists as the most active "State Sponsor of
Terrorism." Why is it, Senator, in all your statements, you don't, even once, mention the oppressed and suffering masses of Iran? Obviously, as long as there is such preoccupation with appeasing the regime the people of Iran don't even enter your equation!

But, Senator, on February 8, 2004, Tehran Times, Mehr News Agency, as well the newspapers in the United States reported that: "The office of Senator John Kerry, the frontrunner in the Democratic presidential primary in the U.S., sent the Mehr News Agency an E-mail saying that Kerry will try to repair the damage done by the incumbent president if he wins the election." [Note: the email the students are referring to is here.] And, includes your statement: "... America needs the kind of leadership that will repair alliances with countries on every continent that have been so damaged in the past few years, as well as build new friendships and overcome tensions with others." Adding further: "He believes that collaboration with other countries is crucial to efforts to win the war on terror and make America safer."

Sir, diplomacy does not mean strengthening totalitarian regimes at the expense and the agony of the citizens of that country. Protracting the Islamic Republic's survival in Iran would only prolong our pain and suffering.
It goes on for a bit (and on, and on, God love 'em), but the students' letter does raise the interesting question of what Senator Kerry's views are toward Iran, especially as he increasingly becomes the presumptive Democratic nominee - and, moreover, how these will evolve and change during the course of the campaign. Senator Kerry's spoken on Iran once before in a major foreign policy speech (at the candidates' obligatory courtesy call on the Pratt House):
Iran also presents an obvious and especially difficult challenge. Our relations there are burdened by a generation of distrust, by the threat of nuclear proliferation and by reports of al Qaeda forces in that country, including the leadership responsible for the May 13th bombings in Saudi Arabia.

But the Bush administration stubbornly refuses to conduct a realistic, non-confrontational policy with Iran, even where it may be possible, as we witnessed most recently in the British-French-German initiative.

As president, I will be prepared early on to explore areas of mutual interest with Iran, just as I was prepared to normalize relations with Vietnam a decade ago. Iran has long expressed an interest in cooperating against the Afghan drug trade. That is one starting point. And just as we have asked that Iran turn over al Qaeda members who are there, the Iranians have looked to us for help in dealing with Iraq-based terrorists who threaten them. It is incomprehensible and unacceptable that this administration refuses to broker an arrangement with Iran for a mutual crackdown on both terrorist groups.


And as president, I will engage Iran and I will renew bilateral negotiations immediately with North Korea, and I will seek a new international protocol to track and account for existing nuclear weapons and to deter the development of chemical and biological arsenals in the future.
I can see how that would give the student protesters heartburn. It will be interesting, though, to see how Senator Kerry's views evolve during the course of the campaign, especially as he's often shown an admirable willingness to bend them to respond to the rough-and-tumble of politics.

UPDATE: A reader just called the Kerry campaign, and was told that the Iranian news agency received the Kerry position paper by subscribing to his website:
One of his staff (Heather can't-recall-last-name) explained that Kerry's campaign website offers visitors the ability to sign up to receive email from the Kerry campaign. Someone at the Iranian news agency signed up and THAT is how they received the position paper from Kerry. The article in the Tehran Times made it sound as though Kerry had emailed them specifically. That was not the case.
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# Posted 2:57 AM by Patrick Belton  

LEX GALLICA: From NYT, on how the bureaucratic processes of the dirigiste state deal with the approval of marriages between the living and the dead: "Anyone wishing to marry a dead person must send a request to the president, who then forwards it to the justice minister, who sends it to the prosecutor in whose jurisdiction the surviving person lives."
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Wednesday, February 18, 2004

# Posted 6:35 PM by Patrick Belton  

ARAB REFORM: Carnegie has an awfully good February issue of their Arab Reform Bulletin out, with articles on Hizbollah, the Egyptian Brotherhood, and democracy in post-Islamist societies. Amy Hawthorne and Carnegie deserve ample praise for introducing such a consistently substantive and sympathetic addition to the public conversation on liberalization and reform in the Arab world.
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# Posted 4:20 AM by Patrick Belton  

WE'VE NEVER BEEN ENDORSED BY A WOODEN PUPPET BEFORE, BUT... Chicago- and foreign-beat-hardened reporter turned ventriloquist turned blogger Joe Gandelman - and his puppet John Raven - were kind enough to make us their blog of the day over at Moderate Voice. Thanks!
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# Posted 1:23 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE NEW NEO-CON REVISIONISM: In a column challenging Democrats to overcome their post-Vietnam confusion on foreign policy, David Brooks writes that
Democratic foreign policy in the 1970's was isolationist at worst, modest at best. Democrats eschewed flag-waving and moralistic language about the Soviets. Jimmy Carter talked about root causes like hunger and poverty. For many liberals, as Charles Krauthammer recently said, "cold warrior" was an epithet.
This is revisionism at its worst. Jimmy Carter is the one who restored moralistic language to the American dialogue with the Soviet Union. While Carter may have talked about hunger and poverty, he always talked about them in the context of human rights, a fundamentally American concept. As Carter memorably said, "Because we are free, we cannot be indifferent to the fate of freedom elsewhere."

Moreover, one must recall that it was Nixon and Kissinger who purged moralistic language from the US-Soviet dialogue in the process of pursuing an amoral realpolitik approach to all aspects of US foreign relations. Carter recognized the fundamental contradiction between this realpolitik and America's democratic ideals and used it to his advantage. While Carter's human rights policy may have lost its way on many occasions, there is no question that it restored idealism and morality to the American agenda. It is for exactly this reason that John Lewis Gaddis observes that
If you asked what was one of the distinctive features of Ronald Reagan's presidency as far as foreign policy was concerned, one of the most important aspects of it was that he actually agreed with Jimmy Carter on the promotion of human rights, that he was as serious about this as Carter was. That made human rights a priority on the conservative, Republican agenda, surely reflecting the early neoconservative influences on foreign policy.
Once considered a realist, Gaddis' has been approaching neo-conservatism since 9-11. Months before Bush's February 2003 pledge to promote democracy in Iraq, Gaddis praised the President for his bold vision of a democratic transformation in the Middle East. [NB: Link is to a .pdf file. Download with caution.] While Gaddis might not identify himself as a neo-conservative, his most recent comments resemble those of Kristol, Kagan and Krauthammer more than they do any other foreign policy school of thought. (If Gaddis were Jewish, he'd fit right in with the neo-con crowd. Yet as someone who has known Gaddis for some time, I can assure you that he is one of the most goyish people you will ever meet. On the other hand, he is married to one of the nicest Jewish girls around.)

The purpose of establishing Gaddis' neo-con credentials is to show that Brooks' revisionism doesn't even make sense from a neo-con perspective. However, there are serious flaws with Gaddis' observations as well. What Reagan understood was democracy, not human rights. In theory, democracy was supposed to serve as the ultimate guarantor of human rights. Yet when Reagan prioritized democracy promotion -- most notably in El Salvador and Nicaragua -- he did so at the cost of the local populations' human rights.

Almost inevitably, promoting democracy entails a short-term risk to human rights. A dictatorship in the process of being overthrown often tramples on its subjects. Yet Reagan didn't simply trade off democracy for human rights. Rather, he showed a revolting callousness toward the ramifications of his chosen policies. Most notably, Reagan constantly defended the integrity of the Salvadoran military despite overwhelming and public evidence that it was responsible for tens of thousands of murders. Yet even declassified documents from both the CIA and the State Department show that the relationship between the Salvadoran military and El Salvador's notorious death squads was well-known and well-documented.

Moreover, one cannot even say that Reagan defended the Salvadorans in public out of political necessity. Declassified documents also show that Reagan defended them in private. This should not come as a surprise, however, since Reagan was never a liar. He simply believed the lies that he told. For these reasons, I find Gaddis' description of Reagan to be simply indefensible. More importantly, this oversight in Gaddis' comments points to an important similarity between himself and Brooks: both men want to write Carter out of the history of US foreign relations. Brooks gets rid of Carter by denying his idealism. Gaddis gets rid of Carter by declaring that his idealism was redundant.

Apart from the abstract importance of getting history right, these twin revisionisms point to important differences between liberal hawks and neo-conservatives. As some prominent liberal hawks have suggested, the problem with neo-conservatives isn't with what they believe but with how they believe it. In short, they aren't self-critical enough. This, of course, is a purely ad hominem attack. But it may be called for in light of Brooks' and Gaddis' disturbing effort to cleanse neo-conservatism of its Reagan-era sins.

After all, it is only by washing away such memories that Brooks and Gaddis are able to embrace Bush's foreign policy almost uncritically. As Gaddis writes, the Reagan-era pro-human rights
Trend has continued into this administration, which has moved even more radically and more firmly in this direction. So, ironically, this conservative Republican administration is really the most radical American administration we have seen in years in terms of its promotion of democracy abroad in places that were earlier regarded as inhospitable to it.
I agree with Gaddis that the resemblance between Reagan and Bush is striking, but not always in a good way. Like Reagan, Bush seems to be far better at talking about his ideals than putting them into practice. Hence the troubled occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Thankfully, Bush has done nothing to compromise human rights in the manner of his predecessor. For that reason, I find it far easier to accept Bush than to accept Reagan. Yet when this administration praises the democratic virtues of Vladimir Putin and Pervez Musharraf, I begin to wonder if Bush really understands a damn thing he is talking about. That is why I am a liberal hawk and not a neo-conservative.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2004

# Posted 7:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FREE TRADE DEFICIT: Dan Drezner praises the EU's sensible approach to outsourcing, bashes its reactionary farm subsidy policy and says that the real issue here is technology, not the lure of low wage labor markets in the Third World.
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# Posted 2:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FATALITIES CONTINUE, BUT CASUALTIES FALL: Roadside bombs killed three American soldiers yesterday. Even so, the overall fatality rate has fallen this month, although not by much. In contrast, the casualty rate continues to fall, with weekly totals dropping below thirty.

Unfortunately, I have no idea why the fatality and casualty tolls are out of sync. Perhaps the insurgents are focusing their resources on fewer but better attacks. Perhaps it's all just a statistical anomaly. Anyhow, while victory and defeat can't be measured with a body count, it is nice to know that fewer of our soldiers are having to sacrifice their well-being.
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# Posted 1:03 PM by Patrick Belton  

WITHDRAWAL: AN EFFECTIVE METHOD? CS Monitor ponders whether the US will delay the transfer of sovereignty to Iraq out of concern for the security situation in the country and worries over the possibility of a civil war.

But unlike most commentators who've placed the onus on an on-time handover on the White House's desire not to carry the Iraq occupation into the autumn's elections, the Monitor argues it's the other way around - Bremer and the Baghdad-based contingent of officials are pushing a transfer of sovereignty on schedule in order to maintain credibility with the Iraqis (and with an eye to Sistani's response to a delay). On the other hand, it's the White House which is most wary of the prospect of a civil war, joined in this by the State Department. Secretary Rumsfeld, on the other hand, along with the ranks of the Pentagon (excepting the deputy secretary and officials in line with his line of thought), are reputed to be quite eager to pull out of Iraq, and hand responsibility over to Foggy Bottom in the bargain.

(Any southerners in the readership are welcome, if they like, to instead refer to a possible Iraqi civil war as a "war between the sheikhs.")
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# Posted 11:05 AM by Patrick Belton  

STRATFOR ON PAKISTAN: Stratfor's weekly analysis argues that Musharraf has consented to escalate the fight against Al Qa'ida within Pakistan's borders, after presented, allegedly, with an ultimatum from DCI Tenet that the US would do so itself if Pakistan did not.
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# Posted 10:10 AM by Patrick Belton  


As part of my own dissertation work at the moment, I'm reading through the Public Papers of the Presidents for the past two decades to see what various Presidents have said about China policy. I'm also doing the same thing in the Congressional Record - the idea is then in the end to be able to say something about how the President and Congress interacted in making China policy at important moments. (An early draft, if you're interested, is here).

So, over the next few days, I might be sharing a few funny moments with our readers out of the Public Papers and the Congressional Record. (The alternative is alcoholism.) So here's one amusing bit that appears in the "Remarks to the China and United States Women's Soccer Teams Following the World Cup Final in Pasadena, California, July 10, 1999," at p. 1185 of the second volume of presidential papers for 1999. I'd like to draw your attention in particular to the stage direction the editors include at bottom.
The President (to the China's women's soccer team). I want to say to the whole team how much we admire your performance in the whole World Cup. You were magnificent today, and we were very honored to have you in our country. You will win many more games.

[After greeting China's team, the President proceeded to the locker room of the champion U.S. women's soccer team.]
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