OxBlog

Sunday, March 28, 2004

# Posted 6:17 PM by Patrick Belton  

I IMAGINE IT WOULD BE UNGENTLEMANLY to say we was robbed, so let me instead just warmly congratulate the 'tabs on their victory at Henley this afternoon.
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# Posted 5:48 AM by Patrick Belton  

NASRALLAH IS ATTEMPTING to draw Hezbollah and Hamas closer together: at a memorial in Beirut's southern suburbs for Sheikh Yassin, Hezbollah's Secretary-General told Hamas's Khaled Meshal,
We in Lebanon are with you. Be sure that your blood is our blood and your sheikh is our sheikh. We share the same destiny and this means that our fight is one
Hamas, on the other hand, is widely being considered by analysts to be working at its maximum capacity already, making claims of accelerated activity against Israeli targets principally rhetorical. (And for Palestinian voices calling for peaceful intifada, see Palestinian intellectuals' ad, Muslim WakeUp, and Palestinian Catholic priest Raed Awad Abushlia.)

UPDATE: Dan Drezner has more on Palestinians calling for nonviolence.
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# Posted 4:39 AM by Patrick Belton  

HAPPY SPRING FORWARD DAY, EVERYONE!

UPDATE: Yanks have to wait a week.....
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Saturday, March 27, 2004

# Posted 12:31 PM by Patrick Belton  

HINDI GRAMMAR QUOTE OF THE DAY: If you want to request food, khana, the failure to produce aspiration will result in kana. That is, you will end up asking for a one-eyed person.

UPDATE: Our beloved Adrienne points out that Tamils have no aspirations.
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# Posted 10:03 AM by Patrick Belton  

DIPLOMACY OF IRISH PM AHERN HAILED in restoring direction to sidetracked talks about the EU Constitution. There's more on the Irish presidency here, and on the constitution here.
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# Posted 7:58 AM by Patrick Belton  

PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE'S SASHA ISSENBERG ably, but a bit harshly, takes down David Brooks's red state-blue state distinction by poking holes in it.

After challenging individual assertions by Brooks about, say, Nascar, QVC, and Doris Kearns Goodwin audiences, Issenberg draws the conclusion that Brooks is feeding into prejudice under the guise of public intellectualism,
There's even a Brooksian explanation for why he has become so popular with the East Coast media elite. Blue Americans have heard so much about Red America, and they've always wanted to see it. But Blue Americans don't take vacations to places like Galveston and Dubuque. They like to watch TV shows like The Simpsons and Roseanne, where Red America is mocked by either cartoon characters or Red Americans themselves, so Blue Americans don't need to feel guilty of condescension. Blue Americans are above redneck jokes, but they will listen if a sociologist attests to the high density of lawn-abandoned appliances per capita in flyover country. They need someone to show them how the other half lives, because there is nothing like sympathy for backwardness to feed elitism. A wrong turn in Red America can be dangerous: They might accidentally find Jesus or be hit by an 18-wheeler. It seems reasonable to seek out a smart-looking fellow who seems to know the way and has a witty line at every point. Blue Americans always travel with a guide.
Leaving aside the obvious fact that Issenberg can't help invoking the red state-blue state distinction even in the act of criticizing Brooks for coining it, I wonder, more broadly, whether he might perhaps discount just a bit too drastically the reliability of lived experience - the "does it ring true?" test - as a guide for an essayist: even if most Marylanders or New Jerseyans are in fact Nascar watchers, and if there are substantial coastal enclaves like Austin, Texas solidly ensconced in red America, Brooks isn't necessarily purveying stereotypes to his buying audience when he seizes onto status details, Tom Wolfe-like, to summon up the distinction between a secular, educated, suburban (and gentrifying-urban) liberal America on the one hand and a godly, more traditional America on the other. This is distinction most readers and commentators would, based on their lived and reflected-upon experience of American social reality, place more evidentiary faith in than in particular demographic points of information about the moment's sales of No Ordinary Time on Amazon.com. As, I think, they should.

Nor is this to say that considered lived experience of social reality can't contain prejudices and biases which can and should be battered down by cannonades of evidence - only to say that something like Scottish enlightenment philosopher and epistemologist Thomas Reid's notion of common sense should also guide us in steering a path between the assumptions we live by and points of information which are adduced to challenge and demolish them.

One last point before leaving the topic: Issenberg (in what I do want to acknowledge again as a witty, provocative essay) depicts Brooks as an ersatz, faux public philosopher, and quotes approvingly an academic who bemoans the tempora and mores which in the place of a public space which once had "Holly Whyte, who got Jane Jacobs started, Daniel Bell, David Riesman, Galbraith," has now given us "David Brooks as your sociologist, and Al Franken and Michael Moore as your political scientists." That, though, is clearly the fault of academics - the serious sociologists, political scientists, and ethicists whose presence in public debate the author laments - who have not risen to addressing a public audience in a creative way which captures the imagination and frames sensed realities in new ideas, language, and distinction. That pundits and reporters have seized the ground only indicates that scholars in the social sciences have in our generation been more preoccupied with academic politics and narrow disciplinary disputes than in fulfilling the role of public intellectuals (or, like Cornel West, have sought fame in the public eye without carrying with them insightful or creative ideas) - and this is a true trahison des clercs.

UPDATE: Wonkette and Easily Distracted both have takes on the piece, too.
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# Posted 7:54 AM by Patrick Belton  

GEE, THANKS, DAD: Father of a deploying medic, about his son: "In war, as we've learned through all our history, who gets killed and who doesn't is just happenstance. But if I can raise the odds, then I'll feel better."
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# Posted 7:43 AM by Patrick Belton  

RIGHT TO COUNSEL WATCH: In south Texas, a judge had to reprimand the prosecuting and defending attorneys in a sexual assault trial after both of them took to referring casually to the defendant in open court as "this monster".
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# Posted 6:00 AM by Patrick Belton  

THESE ARE PROVING ADDICTIVE: Today's selection of Jewish humour is brought to you by the blogosphere's resident ventriloquist, Joe Gandelman.

I flew El Al Airlines. They have two stewardesses. One serves the food, the other says, eat...eat...

I tried selling a Jewish game show to NBC but they didn't like it. I thought it was a great title: The Price Is Too Much.

Brooklyn radio station: This is KTV radio broadcasting at 1600 on your dial..but for YOU 1550.
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# Posted 5:21 AM by Patrick Belton  

LOTS OF STUFF GOING ON OVER AT OUR FOREIGN POLICY SOCIETY: Our vice president, and my good friend, John Ciorciari will be moving back from Asia in order to join our foreign policy society's Washington chapter; and, since he needs a day job to support him while in Washington, he will also be entering government as the senior advisor to the assistant secretary for international affairs at Treasury. Our warm congratulations, John - you've done us awfully proud!

This morning, our Africa program director, Zach Kaufman, has a letter to the editor in today's New York Times about the anniversary of the Rwanda massacre.

Also, we're running a national high school and college foreign policy essay contest, in our chapters in New York, Washington, Boston, Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Miami, and Houston. Our essay contest asks students to "Place yourself in the position of the President's National Security Advisor, with the opportunity to propose a new initiative or a substantial change in an area of American foreign policy. What proposal would you submit to the President, and how would you argue for it? Your memo should consist of two single spaced pages, and will be judged on the merits of the quality of argument you display in arguing for your chosen proposal." Our timeline is:
April 30 -- deadline for submission of entries to local chapters
May 15 -- local chapters to determine local winners and pass along the grand prize entry to the national pool
May 28 -- announcement of national grand prize winner amidst a massive press frenzy by the President in the Rose Garden, and having the consequence of rendering all of our contest winners instantly irresistible to the opposite sex.
For more information, you could look at the essay contest page of our website, or e-mail our essay contest chair, Connie Chung.

And finally, our Los Angeles chapter is meeting this Sunday to discuss grand strategy, and our Chicago chapter will be meeting up next Sunday for a discussion of the media in foreign affairs. Do drop by if you can - the discussions should be awfully interesting! And please drop us a note if you'd like to be added to our newsletter.
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# Posted 2:28 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPIRIT OF '76: I'm heading down to Philadelphia for the weekend. Back on Monday.
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# Posted 2:24 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YES, GENOCIDE: Nick Kristof reports on Sudan.
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# Posted 2:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A HARD MONTH IN IRAQ: After a significant drop in fatalities and casualties in February, the numbers for March have returned to higher levels. During intense fighting yesterday in Fallujah, American forces suffered their 400th combat death. Our thoughts go out to the soldiers and their families.
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# Posted 2:06 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WaPo CLIMB DOWN: Without admitting they ever got the story wrong, the WaPo correspondents on the Clarke beat are backing down from their initial assessment of Clarke's criticism. In a News Analysis column entitled "Bush, Clinton Varied Little on Terrorism", Dana Milbank and Dan Eggen (with an assist from Walter Pincus) write that the
[9/11] commission's determination that the two policies were roughly the same calls into question claims made by Bush officials that they were developing a superior terrorism policy. The findings also put into perspective the criticism of President Bush's approach to terrorism by Richard A. Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism chief: For all his harsh complaints about Bush administration's lack of urgency in regard to terrorism, he had no serious quarrel with the actual policy Bush was pursuing before the 2001 attacks.

Clarke did not respond to efforts to reach him for comment yesterday.
Ouch. Anyhow, compare that passage from the WaPo to the Eggen/Pincus front pager from Thursday which reports that "The two [9/11 commission] staff reports issued yesterday appeared to confirm many of Clarke's key allegations and criticisms." Also on Thursday's front page, Dana Milbank wrote that even "Though more prominent personalities testified in the commission's two-day public hearings, the longtime foreign policy bureaucrat [i.e. Clarke] stole the show." And you thought John Kerry was prone to flip-flops...
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# Posted 1:39 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BEFORE THE SHOE DROPS: In this morning's installment of the Clarke saga, the WaPo highlights Bill Frist's charges that Richard Clarke's recent statements contradict his July 2002 testimony before Congress' joint intelligence committee. Since Clarke was under oath both times, any contradictions that emerge would prove extremely damaging. Whether such contradictions will emerge is an open question. Democrats who have read the July 2002 transcript say that none exist. But the public should be able to judge for itself soon enough, given both sides interest in having the transcript released.

In the meantime, I'd like to address something that has been said by a number of Clarke's defenders. Regarding contradictions between Clarke's recent statements an August 2002 briefing he gave for the press, Dan Drezner says that
I'm not terribly persuaded that this should weaken Clarke's credibility. As anyone who's worked in government should know, what's said in an official capacity will read differently than what's said when one is allowed to be candid. Clarke was acting as a dutiful bureaucrat in 2002, and not as an independent agent.
Since Dan isn't exactly a friend of either Clarke or his Democratic partisans, the fact that Dan is sticking up for Clarke on this particular point has added significance. Conceptually, I think that Dan is right to point out the obligations of an appointed official to defend his administration. Yet as Rich Lowry has pointed out, there is a difference between interpreting facts in a positive light and simply making them up from whole cloth. In the August 2002 briefing, Clarke mentions the following facts:
1) The Clinton administration did not have a specific plan for confronting Al Qaeda that it handed over to the Bush administraiton.

2) The Bush Administraiton decided in January 2001 to continue the implementation of the Clinton Administration's anti-terror policies.

3) In the spring of 2001, the Bush Administraiton decided in principle to support a five-fold increase in CIA funding for anti-Al Qaeda actions.
According to Lowry, none of these points made it into Clarke's book. Why not? It is hard to argue that these points were just a matter of spin, since they consist of facts, not interpretations. It is not as if Clarke simply said "The Bush administration worked extremely hard in its first months in office to stop Al Qaeda." That sort of statement is essentially meaningless and it would be hard to fault Clarke from backing away from it after leaving office. But what Clarke gave the press were facts.

Or were they? There is some room for interpretation regarding such terms as "specific plan", "continue the implementation of" and "decided in principle". (These are my paraphrasings, not Clarke's original words.) But if we have to pick apart Clarke's words in this counterintuitive manner, then is is rather hard to treat him as a credible witness, let alone a heroic whistleblower.

Even so, the question remains: Why didn't Clarke make any mention of the fact that he once defend Bush's anti-terror policies? If Clarke meant his statements on the administration's behalf as a form of hollow praise, why doesn't he say that? In the final analysis, I don't think Clarke intended to deceive anyone. IMHO, he comes across as quite sincere. If anything, he seems to have deceived himself.
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Friday, March 26, 2004

# Posted 4:30 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE MILITARY'S LESSONS LEARNED from the war in Iraq....

With that said, I'm off to go settle down to the Odyssey and some ice cream with my wife. (Friday nights at the Belton household get pretty wild.) Incidentally, I just had the opportunity to hear Seamus Heaney speak - I'll write up some reflections comparing him and Paul Muldoon after I sleep off the ice cream.

UPDATE: Okay, I couldn't resist. Odyssey, or Monty Python?
I hope you ... will explain to any one of your chief men who may be dining with yourself and your family when you get home, that we have an hereditary aptitude for accomplishments of all kinds. We are not particularly remarkable for our boxing, nor yet as wrestlers, but we are ... extremely fond of good dinners, music, and dancing; we also like frequent changes of linen, warm baths, and good beds, so now, please, some of you who are the best dancers set about dancing.
(The answer's here)
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# Posted 11:38 AM by Patrick Belton  

YOU'D HAVE TO BE CRAZY TO BUY IN WASHINGTON, INSTALLMENT 583: Hamas has been investing millions of dollars in real estate in the U.S., including in the southern Maryland market, according to the Washington Times.

On a related note, the EU has selected its first antiterrorism official, a former Dutch official born in New York.
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# Posted 10:30 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE VENEZUELAN GOVERNMENT'S OMBUDSMAN has released a report citing seven cases of torture and 17 more of "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment" by security services against opposition protesters at the end of February, during demonstrations that followed the invalidation of 1.57 million signatures from a recall petition by Venezuela's elections commission. It is reported that detained pro-democratic protesters were subjected to severe beatings, burnings, electric shocks, and mock executions. Opposition leaders have responded by attacking German Mundarain's report, saying it did not go far enough - it denies, for instance, that detained protesters were political prisoners. (See Officina del Defensor del Pueblo, BBC, VenezuelAnalysis, VHeadline.com, Country Report on Human Rights Practices)

UPDATE: Our friend RP writes in to add that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has also got a report on the Venezuelan situation.
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# Posted 6:42 AM by Patrick Belton  

IN LOS ANGELES? LIKE TO HANG OUT WITH US THIS WEEKEND? Rob Tagorda and our other friends in our foreign policy society's Southern California chapter will be having their first meeting this Sunday, at 5:30, at
Acapulco Restaurant
385 N. La Cienega
Los Angeles, CA 90048-4117
Phone: (310) 659-6831
1 block north of Beverly Center
Map
Among other things, they'll be discussing the concept of grand strategy, and its different forms and useful applications. Rob has a list of suggested readings and other background materials over on his website. Our San Francisco chapter had their first meeting last weekend, so now there are all kinds of places you can go to in California for friendly and bipartisan discussion of foreign affairs!
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# Posted 6:35 AM by Patrick Belton  

DISSERTATION ART: This goes out with warm wishes and sympathy to all the academics, doctoral students, and writers out there.
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# Posted 4:29 AM by Patrick Belton  

CFR WATCH: Those global conspiratorial muffins over at the Pratt House also know how to put out some pretty good scholarship when they're not busy running the world on behalf of small green aliens.

Henry Kissinger and Larry Summers co-chaired a task force on trans-atlantic relations (they identify the democratization of the Middle East as one of the principal three common interests tying together the trans-Atlantic partnership, the remaining two being nebulous-sounding and rather banal, like "maintaining our common traditions" - presumably Nato will now open a Centre for Morris Dancing at its next ministerial).

Thomas Pickering and James Schlesinger co-chair a report on Iraq one year later. Recommendations: members of both parties should nurture a consensus around staying the course in providing aid for reconstruction, military, and democracy building after the return of sovereignty to the Iraqi people; FSOs and other government officials should receive enhanced incentives to learn Arabic and serve in Iraq; IFI assistance to the oil sector should be conditional on enhanced transparency and auditing; appointing an on-the-ground assistance coordinator to serve after June 30. Surprising fact included: the CPA never received more than at most 70 percent of the personnel it was initially authorized to hire, and most have served in such short-term billets that their productive time of service was quite low.

And several more moderate unionist politicians from Northern Ireland (because heaven knows republicans never travel to New York....) spoke recently on trends there and prospects for devolution. Salient points there: the Mitchell agreement no longer has support in the unionist community, and the prospect of participation in Stormont has not been enough to induce paramilitaries to lay down their guns.

There's more, but I'm off and running to an Illuminati meeting. (I really wish those aliens would stop probing me; David and Josh never get probed.)
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# Posted 2:26 AM by Patrick Belton  

SECRETARY POWELL gave the Kennan Lecture lecture last night which, unusually, rose above the Foggy Bottom drafting bureaucratese argot to lay out thoughtful suggestions for principles undergirding a hawkish diplomacy, and the relationship between power and authority:
Power has a reputation as well that walks before it into the future, affecting what others think about us and what their reactions will be to future events. America never looks for opportunities to exercise power except in defense of our vital interests and the vital interests of our allies. We don't use force just to burnish our reputation or to enhance our credibility. As every president knows, it's better, whenever possible, to let the reputation of power achieve policy goals rather than the use of power, especially military power itself. And it's diplomacy that deploys power's reputation to do this in the form of political influence. One of my predecessors and Madeleine's predecessors at the State Department, a great American by the name of Dean Acheson, captured this idea when he wrote that "influence is the shadow of power."

But there is no disagreement in principle about the relationship between power and persuasion in American diplomacy. Everyone who understands that power is necessary, but not always sufficient for foreign policy success knows, too, that force and authority aren't the same. Not all use of force is created equal in diplomatic terms. Others will grant authority to the use of force if it falls within bounds of justice and reason. Some have recently argued that Libya s recent decision to turn away from weapons of mass destruction is an interesting thing, but they see it in terms that remind me of an old beer commercial: "tastes great/less filling, tastes great/less filling." Did they do it because of force? Did they do it because of diplomacy?

And of course, in almost every situation I deal with, it's not either/or. Diplomacy isn't the opposite of force. Diplomacy without power is just naked pleading. Power without diplomacy is incomplete. Libya's change of heart, in my judgment, wouldn't have happened in the absence of American power as a backdrop. But policy success also required American and British skills at persuasion.

A second basic principle of diplomacy follows from the first: Policy success comes easier when more actors work with you to achieve it than work against you to prevent it.

One of diplomacy's main jobs is to arrange coalitions so that one's power and one's reputation are multiplied. The fact of power alone cannot do this because power repels as well as attracts. A wise diplomacy magnifies power's attractive quality by using power to benefit others as well as oneself.

Success in diplomacy is often most advantageous when it's incomplete.... Another way to put this principle is that an adversary needs an honorable path of escape if we're to achieve our main policy goals without using force.
I'd like to come back to comment more on this speech (the complete text is here) after my coffee, but for now what seems interesting is the middle ground this speech strikes, both defending, against the left, the legitimacy of using the shadow of power in negotiations, and against the right, the legitimacy of negotiations themselves.
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# Posted 2:16 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE ECONOMIST has good pieces this morning on changes in counterterrorism policy on both sides of the Atlantic following Madrid and the Clarke testimony, gloomy Germans, lessons learned from Rwanda, HK watching China watch Taiwan, and Israelis and Palestinians. (Bagehot's newspaper also touched on blogging economics last month, for those of you who missed it....)
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# Posted 2:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NO MORE MR. NICE GUY: Is there any hope of getting past partisan antagonism and coming up with a fair evaluation of what Richard Clarke has to say about the Bush administration? No, not really. At least for now. I think a big part of the problem is that the newspapers have been portraying Clarke as an immaculate hero and the President as a black-hatted villain.

Exhibit A consists of the WaPo's two front-page stories on Clarke from Thursday morning. The first is by Dan Eggen & Walter Pincus, the second by Dana Milbank. Milbank's news analysis essay casts Clark as an selfless public servant whose eloquence enables him to silence those Republicans desperate to demonstrate that he is a hypocrite or a liar. The Eggen & Pincus article presents Clarke as a prophetic whistleblower and does nothing to question his credibility.

Now, if Clarke were so persuasive, why did Charles Krauthammer, Rich Lowry, and Romesh Ratnesar (of Time) have such an easy time coming up with compromising material?

One reason is that the Bush administration has been remarkably forthcoming with once-classified material that helps discredit Clarke. Above all, the contents of Clarke's August 2002 background briefing for the press suggest that he only became so critical of the President after leaving office. As Rich Lowry sums up,
Clarke said, "I think the overall point is, there was no plan on al Qaeda that was passed from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration." His book seems to confirm that, but nowhere puts it so starkly.

In his 2002 briefing, Clarke said that the Bush administration decided in "mid-January" 2001 to continue with existing Clinton policy while deciding whether or not to pursue more aggressive ideas that had been rejected throughout the Clinton administration. Nowhere does this appear in his book.

He said in 2002 that the Bush administration had decided in principle in the spring of 2001 "to increase CIA resources . . . for covert action, five-fold, to go after al Qaeda." Nowhere is this mentioned in his book.

In 2002, Clarke emphasized that the Bush team "changed the strategy from one of rollback with al Qaeda over the course [of] five years, which it had been, to a new strategy that called for the rapid elimination of al Qaeda." This is mentioned in his book, but - amazingly - as an afterthought.

Clarke in 2002 knocked down the idea that there was irrational animus toward the Clinton team on the part of the Bushies that blinded them to the necessity of strong counterterrorism. He offered himself, kept on as a holdover from the Clinton administration, as a refutation: "That doesn't sound like animus against the previous team to me." In his book, he suggests there was such an irrational animus.

Finally, in his 2002 briefing, Clarke made it clear that there was no "appreciable" change in U.S. terror policy from October 1998 until the Bush team began to reevaluate policy in the spring of 2001 and get more aggressive. His book implausibly argues the opposite, that Clinton was on the ball and Bush dropped it.
Kevin Drum has already admitted the contents of the briefing are pretty damning, although he is reserving judgment until he finishes reading Clarke's book. However, even if the Bush administration had held back the August 2002 transcript, there are plenty of other public statements Clarke made that come across as pretty damning. As Charles Krauthammer recounts, PBS asked Clarke in March 2002 whether
...failing to blow up the [Al Qaeda] camps and take out the Afghan sanctuary was a "pretty basic mistake."

Clarke's answer is unbelievable: "Well, I'm not prepared to call it a mistake. It was a judgment made by people who had to take into account a lot of other issues. . . . There was the Middle East peace process going on. There was the war in Yugoslavia going on. People above my rank had to judge what could be done in the counterterrorism world at a time when they were also pursuing other national goals."

This is significant for two reasons. First, if the Clarke of 2002 was telling the truth, then the Clarke of this week -- the one who told the Sept. 11 commission under oath that "fighting terrorism, in general, and fighting al Qaeda, in particular, were an extraordinarily high priority in the Clinton administration -- certainly [there was] no higher priority" -- is a liar.
Now if all this material was out there, why did the WaPo ignore it completely? (As Greg Djerejian points out, the editors of the NYT haven't exactly been critical of Clarke either.)

Now, at the same time that it has been lionizing Clarke, it has been tearing apart the administration. In a front page story today, Mike Allen describes how the White House has launched an unprecedented effort at character assassination. Allen devotes two short paragraphs to the August 2002 briefing and gives only the slightest hint of how much it does to undermine Clarke's reputation. If your only source of news were the WaPo, you'd come away from Allen's article thinking that the only motive behind the administration's attack on Clarke was a partisan desire to cover up evidence of its own incompetence.

Now, this isn't to say that the White House has done a terribly good job of character assassination. In fact, the rampant contradictions embedded in its effort to discredit Clarke deserve a major share of the blame for the bad press it has gotten on this issue. Consider the following (from the WaPo, of course):
Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage contradicted Rice's claim that the White House had a strategy before 9/11 for military operations against al Qaeda and the Taliban; the CIA contradicted Rice's earlier assertion that Bush had requested a CIA briefing in the summer of 2001 because of elevated terrorist threats; and Rice's assertion this week that Bush told her on Sept. 16, 2001, that "Iraq is to the side" appeared to be contradicted by an order signed by Bush on Sept. 17 directing the Pentagon to begin planning military options for an invasion of Iraq.

Rice, in turn, has contradicted Vice President Cheney's assertion that Clarke was "out of the loop" and his intimation that Clarke had been demoted. Rice has also given various conflicting accounts. She criticized Clarke for being the architect of failed Clinton administration policies, but also said she retained Clarke so the Bush administration could continue to pursue Clinton's terrorism policies.

National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack defended many of Rice's assertions, saying that she has been more consistent than Clarke.
If that's not enough to convince you that Condi Rice is evil, just take a look at the photo published alongside the WaPo article. Moreover, adding insult to injury, Matt Yglesias says that Condi isn't even qualified to be National Security Adviser. Maybe that's why the WaPo has begun to report that Condi will be gone by the end of the year. (Condi may not be qualified, but I don't agree with Matt's argument about why.)

Now, getting back to the point, does all this mean that we shouldn't listen to anything Clarke has to say? I don't know. On Tuesday, I wrote that
I didn't mean to suggest that what Clarke said was false or that it doesn't cast doubt on the competence of the Bush administration...

[And] I don't put much stock in the administration's efforts to discredit Clarke or cover its exposed posterior
I'm going to stick by the latter half of that statement since the administration's response was utterly incompetent. They're lucky that the conservative punditocracy saved their (ahem) posterior. But as for the first half, even if Clarke didn't tell any outright lies, his accusations seem to have been profoundly misleading.

Looking back at my original post on the subject, I seem to have been far more focused on what Clarke said about Bush's response to September 11th rather than his lack of preparation for it. In that respect, I think his comments do reflect poorly on the administration. But that's beside the point because I missed the real story: that Clarke was rewriting the history of what happened before September 11th.
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# Posted 12:43 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ABANDONING OUR SOLDIERS: An Army survey conducted last summer reports that the suicide rate among soldiers in Iraq was far high than that of the Army as a whole. This unfortunate trend seems to reflect a lack of preparation to care for the mental health of soldiers taking part of the invasion. The same survey found that a majority of soldiers in Iraq described their morale as low and a disturbing three-fourths felt that they had been poorly-led by their officers.

It is possible that this situation has improved since last summer, when the survey was conducted. At that time, soldiers had to endure intense heat without the benefit of some of the amenities that began to arrive as the occupation progressed. Regardless, I think it is important to recognize that each and every soldier in Iraq has made substantial sacrifices on behalf of the nation.

According to the officer responsible for the survey, "This is the first time we've ever gone into an active combat theater and asked soldiers how they are doing, so we have no comparative data." One hopes that the compilation of such data will help the army address soldiers' concerns, which are no doubt extremely serious.
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Thursday, March 25, 2004

# Posted 8:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THERE HE GOES AGAIN: Evan Coyne Maloney continues to stalk the man (and woman) in the street. Pay close attention so you don't miss the sign that says "Jesus Hates Bush". I think Mel Gibson was holding that one.
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# Posted 5:18 PM by Patrick Belton  

AMPUTATIONS AND FLOGGINGS ARE NOT VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS: and other revelations from Saudi Arabia.
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# Posted 4:53 PM by Patrick Belton  

TIME WARP: I enjoy reading the YDN from time to time. This is partially because the news specials box hasn't been updated since I was a student there, so whenever I like I can step into a time warp and indulge my nostalgia for those bright college years.....
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# Posted 4:38 PM by Patrick Belton  

COURTING A GROUPIE: Our lovely and Kazakh-bound friend Amanda Butler - who happens to also be co-president of our foreign policy society's Chicago chapter - camped out outside the Supreme Court to listen to oral arguments in Newdow - her notes are here!
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# Posted 1:18 PM by Patrick Belton  

BUSH IS A LIBERAL: That's what a column in the Christian Science Monitor claims today, pointing out that under this administration's budget request foreign aid will rise to $23 billion from $13 billion in fiscal 2003. Unenlightened views on gay rights and the objection that the increase includes a fair chunk of reallocated funds aside, the Millennium Challenge Account and emphasis on greater Aids funding to Africa is a very striking side effect of the greater role of foreign policy in the United States budget. Our foreign policy society's Washington chapter had an extensive discussion of the Millennium Challenge Account several weeks ago, which included a number of discussants who worked in or studied the MCA; at the moment, at least, I can't think of anything to add to their admirably nuanced discussion of the reform in foreign aid spending.
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# Posted 1:13 PM by Patrick Belton  

I'M ONLY PRINTING IT BECAUSE IT'S FUNNY: From a reader: In light of recent events, France has raised its terror alert level from "RUN" to "HIDE." The only 2 higher alert levels available in French domestic security are "SURRENDER" and "COLLABORATE."
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# Posted 12:03 PM by Patrick Belton  

CUBA SPRING: It has been a year since Castro arrested and sent to prison seventy-five of his nation's independent journalists, intellectuals, teachers, and human rights workers. The Washington Post commemorates the anniversary, and notes the political prisoners' continued imprisonment.

And this regime still manages to have its defenders.
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# Posted 11:32 AM by Patrick Belton  

IN YET ANOTHER INDICATION that the Palestinian people are infinitely more sensible than any of their leaders, there's been an extraordinary backlash lately in the West Bank and Gaza against militant groups following the apprehension of a 14-year old suicide bomber at a roadblock in Nablus. Hussam Abdu, say reporters, had been bullied at school, and told army interrogators that he decided to commit suicide "because nobody liked me." Similar widespread Palestinian condemnations had also occurred in November and January, when Hamas dispatched mother-of-two Reem Al-Riashi at the Erez Crossing as a suicide bomber from the Gaza Strip into Israel, and when Al-Aqsa sent a youth of 17, Sabih Abu Saud, to an Israeli guardpost near the West Bank city of Kalkilya. As sad as it is that extremist organizations would place so little value on the lives either of vulnerable Palestinian adolescents or Israeli civilians, it inspires some hope that their fanaticism is seen for what it is among the Palestinian people. Incidentally, seventy prominent Palestinian intellectuals have signed a newspaper advertisement rejecting Hamas's recent call for violence against Israeli officials, and calling instead for a "peaceful intifada."

If the Palestinian people were actually permitted to run the place, rather than either the Islamists of Hamas or the corrupt coterie surrounding Arafat, it might not actually turn out half bad.

UPDATE: Brian Ulrich has more on Palestinian public opinion, and reports on a lecture by Palestinian political scientist (and track two negotiator) Khalil Shikaki. Noteworthy points: 1. over half of Palestinians support a two-state solution (including 40% of Hamas supporters, who probably give the organization their support mostly because of its success in providing public services and its lower level of corruption compared to the PA); 2. a large plurality (40%) of Palestinians don't like any of their political choices (with 35%, concentrated in Gaza, supporting Hamas, and only 20% backing Fatah); 3. even in Gaza, Hamas would probably not poll much above 35%, suggesting it would be useful to hold elections in Gaza before the Israeli withdrawal: this would prevent a complete consolidation of power by Hamas in Gaza after the Israeli pull-out, publicly reflect the proportion of Gaza's population who do not support terror, and place a great deal of pressure on Fatah to reform or risk losing support.
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# Posted 11:22 AM by Patrick Belton  

ANOTHER JEWISH-THEMED JOKE OF THE DAY, this time in honor of my blogiversary. So Yeshiva University decides to field a crew team, but unfortunately, they find themselves losing race after race. Though they even decide to begin practicing for hours each morning and evening, they never manage to finish better than dead last in any competition. Finally, wanting to safeguard his university's reputation, the Rosh Yeshiva at length decides to send Yankel to spy on Harvard's team at practice. So Yankel schleps off to Cambridge, and hides in the bullrushes off of the Charles River, from where he carefully watches the Crimson team as they practice. Yankel afterward returns to Yeshiva, and announces "I have figured out their secret." "They have eight guys rowing, and only one guy shouting...." (This courtesy Sonnny Schwartz; thanks, incidentally, for all of the kind blogiversary notes - especially to Pej and Scott!)
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# Posted 4:19 AM by Patrick Belton  

IT'S MY BLOGIVERSARY! And while you all really don't have to get me anything (no, really, you don't), I thought I would take this chance, though, to thank Josh and David for so generously letting me hang out with them here in our little cyber pied à terre, which has given me not only the chance of having some very searching and rewarding conversations with two of my closest friends and with our friends and readers, but where the three of us have also managed to have a great deal of fun together, and I hope that shows.

Writing here on OxBlog has also given me the chance while writing my dissertation to do a great deal more thinking about, say, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Muslims in Dearborn, chilly Christmasses in Alaska, really big squid, and Odysseus and the dirty hands problem, among other things, and all in the company of friends in a blogosphere which I think, for civility, fair-mindedness, and quality of argument, is one of the best areas of public space in the United States at the moment.

So a warm thank you to all of you! And personally, I'm looking forward very eagerly to many, many happy returns of the day.
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# Posted 3:37 AM by Patrick Belton  

GET LOVED, THANK YGLESIAS: In his blogads, Matt's linking to a dating website for activists which boasts the memorable motto "Take Action, Get Action."

This hypothesised causal relationship, incidentally, is precisely why one unnamed middle-aged New Yorker of my acquaintance took part in the Freedom Rides. Then he ran into someone with a face only a mother could love. He also discovered along the way that Virginia wasn't much for lovers, either. So in the end he went to law school, instead, to meet girls.
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Wednesday, March 24, 2004

# Posted 4:37 PM by Patrick Belton  

POLLS SHOW U.S. POPULACE WANTS TO STAY THE COURSE IN IRAQ: Karlyn Bowman and Todd Weiner review the evidence in Roll Call:
The early March NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 24 percent want U.S. troops out as soon as possible and 26 percent within 18 months. But 48 percent said they "should stay as long as necessary to complete the process even if it takes five years." None of the polls provides evidence of a desire to cut and run. All recent polls show that majorities of Americans believe the United States did the right thing in going to war. Fifty-seven percent gave that response in the March 18-19 PSRA/Newsweek poll.
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# Posted 3:37 PM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG JEWISH-THEMED CARTOON OF THE DAY INVOLVING A ROBOT: In the words of its author, Ben Baruch: "ShaBot 6000 is the continuing cartoon saga of a pious Jew who purchases a robot to work as Shabbos Goy for his household. The inquisitive robot, ShaBot, decides that he is Jewish, and is therefore unable to fulfill his duties as a servant." I ran across it just now while googling for the estimable Forward, and decided I would fulfill my Bot Mitzvah by sharing it with our friends and readers. In particular, I'd encourage you to procrastinate with me by seeing what Baruch and the ShaBot get up to here, here, and here.
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# Posted 1:25 PM by Patrick Belton  

ALL OF OUR READERS IN OXFORD, or within driving distance, should make some time to get out to the Oxford Literary Festival which the Sunday Times and Blackwell's are cosponsoring, and which is being organized by a good friend of mine. Seamus Heaney is speaking on Friday at 5:30 at the Sheldonian; also on Friday, Orlando Figes is socialising with students and talking about Tolstoy at the Union. On Saturday, Fiona Shaw reads Andromache's speeches from the Iliad and Euripides, at the Holywell Music Room at 5. On Sunday, Karen Armstrong talks about religion at noon, at Town Hall, and a film of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard will be screened at the Phoenix at 4:30, with its producer present to discuss Chekhov and the play after. These are only a few of the events going on; it really is a marvellous festival, and Brenda Garvey, of whom I'm quite fond, is to be congratulated enormously for having brought it to Oxford.
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# Posted 12:10 PM by Patrick Belton  

I KNOW ALL OF THE DISPUTANTS, so I'll merely take note of an interesting debate which has just been joined, and one in which I think there happen to be quite good points to be made on both sides. Jim Fishkin and Bruce Ackerman are about to release their book Deliberation Day, in which they argue for establishing a public holiday to set aside time each year for civic discussion of issues affecting the American republic. (There's an article version of their proposal in February's Legal Affairs, if you're interested.) The Public Interest's Brendan Conway responds this morning in the Wall Street Journal, ably arguing the classic libertarian response that among the liberties held by the American citizen, among the more significant should be counted "the liberty--most of the time--to pay more attention to, say, a child's soccer game or the NCAA tourney than to John Kerry's latest nuanced position on Sarbanes-Oxley."

I've been following idea behind "deliberation day" for some time - at Yale, I worked as a research assistant for Professor Ackerman on an early version of the book, and I've had the opportunity to attend a few of Jim Fishkin's town hall discussion events, which I found quite interesting. (Incidentally, at one recent "deliberative poll" on foreign affairs held in Philadelphia, my road trip companion and friend Adam Gordon wrote about his observations on the weekend over at the American Prospect.) My impression is that in the deliberative polls that have been held to date, there's generally substantial motion of participants' opinion toward the center ground; it's also always seemed to me that Dr Fishkin and the other organizers take great pains to prepare materials and invite guest experts covering the breadth of at least mainstream opinion on the issues at hand (Richard Haas and Madeline Albright, for instance, were both guests in Philadelphia, as were Anne-Marie Slaughter and a fellow from Heritage). And finally, unlike, say, jury duty or the draft, there's nothing coercive about this service, just a day off from work and a payment (of course, on the other hand we are in debt as a nation) for people wishing to participate.

Still, the Deliberation Day proposal is interesting enough to rise or fall on its merits, and I think Brendan has done a quite able job in presenting us with the counterargument.
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# Posted 11:42 AM by Patrick Belton  

AND THEY SAID ENGLISH PEOPLE WERE NO FUN: In the BBC's comments session this morning, commenters are writing a short story, line by line, using only English cliches. I can't believe this worked, but - believe it or not, when it's all said and done, it's the best thing I've read today. Here's the first bit - it begins "Giles flew in on the red eye from the Big Apple, knowing he was caught between a rock and a hard place." (BBC, starting off)...
He'd been drinking like a fish the night before; still, in for a penny... (Drew Jagger, UK) ..in for a pound, so he thought he'd better wet his whistle. (Dave Brannon, England) He left the airport to find it was raining cats and dogs. Unimpressed he spotted a well-known pub chain - not his favourite, but "better the devil you know" he thought. (Lucy Feather, England) The Aussie barmaid didn't beat about the bush. "You look dog-tired, mate. Been burning the candle at both ends?" (Madmarce, UK) "Is the Pope Catholic? Basically I've been working 24/7", Giles said. "Well there is no rest for the wicked," replied the barmaid. A high-flying salesman entered the bar. (Mike Taylor, UK) He paused by the entrance, speaking into his mobile phone: "Have your people call my people and they'll get it together. Gotta run now, cheers." Flipping his phone shut he looked at Giles and smiled. (Andy Tickner, UK) Well, look what the cat's dragged in, thought Giles. (Claudia, UK) "Long time, no see," smirked Roger. "How's life in the slow lane?" (Peter Snow, UK )"Well, at this moment in time, to be perfectly honest..." Giles is cut short as his mobile phone rings. He flipped it open. "Yes, that should be okay, just make sure we are all singing from the same hymn sheet!" "Who was that?" asked Roger. (Linda, UK) "The old ball and chain," Giles replied, rushing out of the bar. "Needless to say, I've got to get home PDQ, or there's trouble in store." (Alan Barford, UK) When Giles got home his wife was fuming. "I wish you'd touch base more often," she complained. "What I gain with you on the swings I lose on the roundabouts and I don't want anymore of it," she shouted angrily. (Adam Hewitt, UK) She stood before him, eyes blazing. "Listen up, buddy, you're way out of line, quite frankly, if you really want to know, you're dead meat. I've met someone who really rings my chimes. Know what I mean? And he's no stranger to love." The doorbell rang. (Kerry Dignan, UK) "And here he is now. C'est la Vie, basically we're on a learning curve you know what I mean, so this is the end of the line." (Marion Samson, UK) "I hear what you're saying," Giles shot back as he marched into the hallway, "but the bottom line is you've never been one to think outside the box." He opened the door. It was Roger. Well, Giles thought knitting his brows, it wasn't rocket science. (Margaret Storey, UK) Giles let Roger into the house. "I see you know about us," Roger said. "Cheer up, it's not the end of the world. It's better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all." (Simon Corkhill, UK) "Oh and I suppose you will tell me next that there are plenty more fish in the sea" yelled Giles. (Victoria Chambers, UK) "Now don't blow your top!" said Roger, "Just keep your chin up and I'm sure we can make this all work out fine in the end." (Roddy Fraser, UK )"Besides, you've still got your health and you're too young to be tied down. Lets say, me and you go and paint the town red?" laughed jolly Roger. (Graham West, UK)
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# Posted 7:27 AM by Patrick Belton  

CRICKET COVERAGE: For those of our readers who'd like to follow today's match, BBC has got a good site with frequent updates. (We've had questions, incidentally, from readers looking for a good place in New York to watch fixtures, particularly ones on at odd hours in the east coast. If anyone has any suggestions, I'll be happy to pass them on here!)

And for the ruggers fans in the audience, I'll take this moment to note that the Ireland side is doing rather well at Six Nations..... (And in what other sport, incidentally, would the France coach, preparing to square up against the England side at Stade de France, be quoted in the papers as saying about his opponent "England are the best team in the world, they are like a machine....it is always a great pleasure to face the English"?)
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# Posted 3:13 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE DAY'S NEWS, OFF PAGE ONE: A City College professor is pushing a brand of "philosophical counseling", telling the NYT "you don't have to be clinically depressed or burdened by childhood guilt to want help with the timeless questions of the human condition -- the persistence of suffering and the inevitability of death, the need for a reliable ethics." (Other philosophical counselors, offering the Socratic examined life to their patients, say that Lou Marinoff is not the best trained or most representative member of their field; he is, though, author of ''Plato, Not Prozac! Applying Eternal Wisdom to Everyday Problems.")

In deshi news, India is rebuffing an American offer to extend Major Non-Nato Ally status to it as well as to Pakistan. Also, in the lead-up to Lok Sabha elections, BJP is running a series of adverts cataloguing the country's nationalist leaders, and then, cutting to a shot of Italian-born Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, warning ominously "and now there is a conspiracy to hand the country over to a foreigner." (BJP is also running on an India "feel-good" campaign of national pride.)

Next door, Uzbek militants, possibly from the IMU, have been found among Al Qa'ida fighters in their hive of villainy in tribal Wana; Uzbekistan's Karimov has requested their extradition to deal with them himself. (He has, after all, had lots of practice before now with his own people.) Also, MMA's general secretary is decrying the incursion of federal troops into tribal areas, as an act threatening to the country's territorial integrity and something which the Brits never even succeeded in doing.

The Boston Globe reports further on the Harvard med-trained star surgeon who left a patient on the table to cash his paycheck (and then the pederasty fell out of the closet). A Claremont McKenna professor vandalized her own car with racist and sexist slogans, organized protests against the perpetrator (erm, herself - but self-hatred has never been that unusual a thing in an academic...), then was caught in the deed. WaPo looks into the world of Olympic ping-pong ("A mild game for geeks? Rather, think big-time steroid scandals, Byzantine romances, groupies, and a lot of glue sniffing"). And The Nation (see, who complained we never linked to them?) details the Camus-Sartre break-up, portraying Camus as the more sympathetic and nuanced character, and Sartre as the more flawed, simplistic, and dogmatic. (Sartre was, however, capable of seeing before his generation the need for French withdrawal from Algeria, and coming up with put-downs such as, to Camus, "I have at least this in common with Hegel: you have not read either of us.")
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# Posted 12:15 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I AM DETERRED: This morning, two Finnish businessmen were slain in Baghdad. Their death raises to ten the number of humanitarian and reconstruction workers slain over the past two weeks.

Until now, I have been giving very serious consideration to spending next year working in Iraq. From the beginning, my parents didn't want me to go. But now the warnings are coming from all sides. In a long discussion with a member of the NSC staff, I was explicity told that there is no point in going to Iraq to become a target.

To a certain extent, I am embarrassed by my lack of resolve. If our soldiers are risking their lives to secure Iraq, why shouldn't I assume some of that same risk in the process of rebuilding it? But the difference is that they are trained professionals and I am a rank amateur. Moreover, our soldiers are not just protecting Iraq but leading the reconstruction effort.

At this moment, humility seems to demand that I recognize my the relative of unimportance of any decision I make for or against working in Iraq. Yes, the Coalition needs more civilians willing to engage in public service. But even if the civilians are driven off, the Army will still be there. And the people of Iraq are as committed to reconstruction as ever. I may be deterred, but that is hardly a victory for Ba'athist terror.
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Tuesday, March 23, 2004

# Posted 11:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE? There isn't much sympathy for Ariel Sharon's decision to kill off Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. The WaPo and NYT both have editorials up condemning the Israeli action. Both editorials ask the same essential question: What will Yassin's death accomplish in terms of making Israel safer?

On the other hand, why would Yassin's death make Israel any less safe? The NYT writes that
Hamas will now redouble its efforts to send human torpedos into Israel. The Palestinian Authority will be even less inclined to confront terrorists in its midst and less able to coax Hamas into observing a cease-fire.
But when did the PA ever accomplish much in terms of controlling Hamas? And isn't Hamas already trying its hardest to kill Israeli civilians? The WaPo argues Yassin was moving in the direction of accepting a long-term truce with Israel in exchange for withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza.

To his credit, David Ignatius explains why Sharon thought that killing Yassin would make Israel safer. In short, Sharon wanted to demonstrate that Israel's coming withdrawal from Gaza does not represent a victory for Hamas. Given how Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon emboldened Hezbollah, Sharon's logic isn't exactly off base. Still, Ignatius raises the important question of whether killing Yassin will make it that much harder to restore order in Gaza after Israel pulls out.

In the short term, there is no question that Israel will be less secure. The killing of Yassin was a direct challenge to Hamas (and Fatah) to show that they are not impotent in the face of Israeli violence. Unsurprisingly, Israelis have chosen to stay home rather than risk becoming the victims of the next terrorist strike. Yet while 81% of Israelis believe the death of Yassin will lead to more attacks against Israel, 60% of them support it nonetheless. After all, what is the difference if the bombers detonate themselves this week in honor of Yassin rather than next week in honor of someone else?

And there will be a someone else. Hardline statements by Israeli officials suggest that more targeted killings are in the works. For its part, Hamas has chosen two of its hardliners to replace Yassin. (But how moderate are its sofliners anyway?)

Frankly, I wish there were an upbeat note on which to conclude. But there isn't. Instead of peace, the most we can look forward to is a wall.
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# Posted 11:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HEARINGS AND LISTENINGS: In the course of my dissertation research, I've learned how important it is to read the transcripts of congressional hearings rather than relying on newspaper summaries. If I were in the habit of taking my own advice, I would then read the transcript of today's hearing before the 9/11 commission rather than letting the NYT and WaPo do my intellectual work for me. However, after spending three and a half hours today looking at microform transcripts of Reagan-era hearings on human rights in El Salvador, I no longer have the will to read any further.

So here are my impressions of the summaries: Not much happened because both the Clinton and Bush administration officials called to testify refused to either admit their own failures or accuse others of taking their eye off the ball. Depending on one's perspective, the preliminary findings released by the 9/11 commission were either restrained in their criticism or forceful in their accusation of incompetence.

Surprisingly, it's the WaPo which presents the report as more damaging than the NYT. But regardless of one's take on the issue, nothing all that damaging came out. Personally, I thought that revelations in early 2002 about the failure of the FBI to follow up evidence of Al Qaeda activity in the United States said a lot more about the administration's nonchalance.

Anyhow, things may get more interesting on Wednesday when Richard Clarke testifies. What I'd really like to see are copies of the memos he sent to his superiors warning about the threat from Al Qaeda. Without a close look at the language he used -- and the response that it generated -- it will be hard to know whether his warnings were stunningly prophetic or just business as usual. Surprisingly, even the NYT's editors write that
Mr. Clarke's central complaint -- that the president failed to respond to his urgent request for a cabinet-level meeting on terrorism until days before 9/11 -- is far from conclusive evidence that the administration failed to take the threat seriously until disaster struck.
On a harsher note, the NYT adds that
The most persuasive part of the critique by the former anti-terrorism czar concerns the administration's obsession with Iraq. Mr. Clarke says he and intelligence experts repeatedly assured top officials -- and Mr. Bush himself -- that Iraq was not involved in 9/11 or in supporting Al Qaeda. This fall, when the public has to judge Mr. Bush's decision to invade, voters will know that the president's own counterterrorism adviser had warned him that he was on the wrong track.
That last sentence is a remarkable non-sequitur. In spite of speculation that Saddam might provide chemical or biological weapons to anti-American terrorists, the bread and butter of the Administration's case against Iraq was always that it had failed to disarm. What does that have to do with Clarke's comments about 9/11?

For a more persuasive indictment of the Bush administraiton, take a look at Matt Yglesias' new column in TAP. Matt makes a solid case that terrorism was far from being a Bush administration priority before 9/11. On the other hand, he goes overboard by insisting that the administration tried "to deny that terrorism is a serious threat" and that it favored "abandoning [Clinton's anti-terror strategy] in favor of doing, well, nothing." (Emphasis in original).

So where does this all leave us? Pretty much where we started. There isn't much to praise about Bush's handling of the anti-terror issue before 9/11, but there is still nothing out there solid enough to inflict serious damage on the President's re-election campaign.
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# Posted 6:09 PM by Patrick Belton  

PROMOTING DEMOCRACY IN THE MIDDLE EAST: Carnegie and an ad hoc trans-Atlantic roundtable sponsored by the German Marshall Fund have both released interesting pieces on the subject of democracy promotion in the Middle East. They're worth closer comment, but for now, I'd like to just extract a few ideas from the Marshall Fund piece:
  • as institutional innovations, McFaul and coauthors call for the establishment of a Department of Democracy Promotion, headed by an official of cabinet rank; a trans-Atlantic Forum for Democracy Promotion to coordinate bilateral and multilateral democracy initiatives; and a Trust for Democracy in the Middle East to which both the United States and Europe would contribute funds;
  • in the area of security, they suggest an OSCE-like regional security regime for the Greater Middle East, and an expansion of Nato's Partnership for Peace programme into the area;
  • they call, too, for massive increases in the democracy promotion budget, to the level of $400 mn in the States and 500 mn Euro in the EU;
  • and finally, the authors would like western diplomats to greatly expand their attention to local imprisoned democracy activists, and for human rights and democracy to be raised by every visiting head of state on every trip to the region.
These are all good ideas, it seems to me, but they could be augmented by an effort to restore some form of a bipartisan consensus to this aspect of American foreign policy - a commitment to assist usefully in the democratization of the Middle East would at the very least need to be sustained at a high level of funding and political attention for a large number of administrations, and a new centrist grand strategy of democracy promotion would have to be guarded not only against realists on the right and isolationists on the left, but against the inevitable desire to associate a policy with the party of the president who originated it.
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# Posted 1:58 PM by Patrick Belton  

WITTY RESPONSE TO THAT HEADLINE CONTEST: Via BBC, Mice grow human breast tissue.

Entries? (Example: "Dr Rosenberg, what are you doing in there? Dr Rosenberg! Put that mouse down!")
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# Posted 1:26 PM by Patrick Belton  

ANSWER TO DAVID (SEE BELOW): Of course. Why else would it be a crime?
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# Posted 10:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A QUESTION FOR PATRICK: If drinking Coca-Cola is like drinking the blood of Colombian workers, is eating croutons like eating the brains of British children?
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# Posted 9:05 AM by Patrick Belton  

BENJAMIN SMITH COVERS LAST WEEKEND'S ANSWER PROTEST IN NEW YORK:
The mass of demonstrators, who streamed in a 40-block loop around the grottier southern chunk of Midtown, weren't all as hard core as their leaders. But the crowd has changed, and shrunk, since the huge protests last spring. Last year there were more parents with children, more neatly dressed forty-somethings, more mainstream city Democratic politicians. Saturday, from Madison Square Park to Times Square, I only saw one Dean for America fleece and one Kerry button on the thousands of protesters. More common was a Star of David, connected with an "=" sign to a swastika.
The rally was, in ANSWER's plans, a warm-up to this summer's Republican National Convention:
In August, New York City will be flooded with people like Teresa Gutierrez, a squat woman in a red beret and sunglasses who faced the crowd squarely to deliver an important message: "One of the corporations that we hate so much is Coca-Cola," she told the protesters. "Never ever drink Coca-Cola again. Drinking Coca-Cola is like drinking the blood of Colombian workers." If these people didn't exist, Karl Rove might have to hire actors to play them.
Of course, on the other hand there are lots of unemployed actors floating around the West Village....
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# Posted 5:20 AM by Patrick Belton  

ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF NHS-RATIONALITY AT WORK: One of Britain's leading vascular neurosurgeons, Terence Hope of Nottingham, was suspended yesterday over allegations that he took an extra serving of croutons from the hospital canteen. All of the operations that he was scheduled to perform have been postponed, and thanks to his alleged crouton thievery, the neurosurgeon is currently at home tending to his garden (wearing, according to reports, a long ginger wig, in response to the now-constant presence of newspaper reporters outside his house). One paper notes:
The waiting time for brain operations in Nottingham is 39 days for out-patients. A report in 2000 by the Society of British Neurological Surgeons said patients were dying needlessly because of a shortage of surgeons and specialist beds.
UPDATE: Our friend Scott Burgess points out that the Telegraph has released pictures of the stunningly ginger-wigged Dr Hope, who in a close judge's call manages to overtake Sasha as the winner of this week's OxBlog's OxBabe of the week prize.
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# Posted 2:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OUCH! Matt Yglesias has some pretty harsh words for OxBlog because of its declaration that there isn't much new about Richard Clarke's allegations. Now, I didn't mean to suggest that what Clarke said was false or that it doesn't cast doubt on the competence of the Bush administration. But Clarke doesn't add much to the story that the media has been telling for quite some time now about the way this Administration works. Thus, I think it's interesting that Matt
detect[s] a lot of optimism that the latest Richard Clarke stuff may drive the stake through Bushism. Certainly, I hope so. Then again, by my lights Bush should have been done for long, long ago. Personally, I've gotten my hopes up far too many times that one thing or another would -- at last -- finish off the man's reputation and support. Nevertheless, nothing ever really seems to stick. I hope I'm wrong, but fear otherwise.
Actually, lots of things stick. The media has been very consistent in portraying Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc. as militant ideologues with only a minimal interest in the facts (a portrayal that I think has a lot of substance to it). And there seems to be a consensus that the Bush Administration is fundamentally incapable of telling the truth about its tax or budget programs. (Ditto.)

But what I think Matt is driving at when he says that "nothing ever really seems to stick" is that Bush has pretty good approval ratings and is pulling even with Kerry in the polls. If things stuck, the average American voter would have an overwhelming desire to punish Bush in November. But that's just not the case. Why? One might point to the fact that voters trust the Republicans far more than they do the Democrats when it comes to national security. But that just begs the question. Why don't revelations such as Clarke's lead voters to trust the Democrats instead? I don't have a definitive answer for that one, but I think it has to do with the fact that the Democrats don't seem to know what their own foreign policy is.

Anyhow, I'm sure we'll have lots more chances to discuss the issue since the White House has now launched an aggressive counterattack against Clarke. For more on Clarke, take a look at TPM, where Josh Marshall is blasting both the NYT's soft coverage of his allegations and Condi's improbable account of what was really going on at the NSC.

Now, I don't put much stock in the administration's efforts to discredit Clarke or cover its exposed posterior. But when it comes down to getting votes, I think there are only two questions that really matter: Did Bush ignore (and then withhold) compelling evidence that Al Qaeda was preparing a major attack? And did Bush knowingly lie about Iraq's possession of chemical and biological (not nuclear) weapons? Unless Clarke can answer one or both of those questions in the affirmative, his revelations won't amount to much more than a very loud footnote.
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# Posted 1:46 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NEW JERSEY VS. IOWA, THE REMATCH: My friend from Chicago seemed to have discovered a chip on the collective New Jersey shoulder. JM writes that
I can see how your friend came to the conclusion that
Iowa was the New Jersey of the midwest. A few quick facts seem to bear this out:

Population per sq. mile:
Iowa: 52.4 N.J: 1,134

Hispanic
Iowa: 2.8 N.J.: 13.3

Foreign-born
Iowa: 3.1 N.J.: 17.5

Black
Iowa: 2.1 N.J.: 13.6

White
Iowa: 93.9 N.J.: 72.6

Asian
Iowa: 1.3 N.J.: 5.7

Clearly your friend has spent a lot of time in both
states.

Sincerely,
A baffled NJ resident
Actually, my friend spent the first 18 years of his life in New Jersey and is fully aware of its ethnic diversity. What his comment was really driving at is the fact that both Iowa and New Jersey natives are almost magnetically drawn to the nearby metropolises of Chicago and New York. On a related note, MH writes:
Hey! Hey!

My grandparents were from Iowa and I'm in NJ, so you insulted me twice! :-)
OxBlog didn't mean to offend anyone. I've got lots of friends from New Jersey and a select few from Iowa (including the fabulous PH -- you go girl!). On the other hand, I won't be moving to Des Moines or Newark anytime soon...
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# Posted 1:24 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JACK KELLEY VS. JAYSON BLAIR, PART II: Joe Gandelman weighs in on this subject and adds some interesting comments to my own. As Joe points out, Jack Kelley doesn't seem to have had well-placed advocates within the editorial staff, a la Jayson Blair. Whereas such advocates defended Blair despite initial indications of his deceptive behavior, no one seems to have gone to bat for Kelley. Thus, there are grounds for arguing that the Kelley scandal resulted from the dishonesty of a single reporter whereas the Blair scandal reflected the presence of institutionalized ethical deficiencies at the New York Times.

Now what about the blogosphere's response to the Kelley scandal? Calpundit (Can I still call him that? --ed.) and Atrios have argued that conservative critics have demonstrated far less interest in the current scandal because it doesn't further their ideological interests. On the other hand, Ed Driscoll reports (after consulting Technorati and Memeorandum) that 25 blogs, many of them conservative have been following the story.

Now, I wouldn't go as far as to say that there is no ideological dimension here. But the real issue is that USA Today just isn't the New York Times.
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Monday, March 22, 2004

# Posted 6:37 PM by Patrick Belton  

HAPPY SPRINGTIME! Today, incidentally, is the first day of the Hebrew month of Nisan; in Mexico, crowds surround the ancient Aztec temple at Teotihuacan to celebrate the onset of springtime.
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# Posted 6:18 PM by Patrick Belton  

ROUND-UP: Haaretz has a number of good pieces about the removal this morning of Sheikh Yassin: Shin Bet chief Dichter argued against Yassin's removal, saying that the strategic risks outweighed benefits; Yassin's strategic, moral, and organizational leadership was such that no one will be capable of filling his shoes; one commentator sees the possibility of fracture, with some splinter wings of Hamas perhaps aligning with Al Qa'ida. Thus one reporter:
Among those who will be in the new collective leadership are Mahmoud a-Zahar, who survived an assassination attempt last year and has kept a low profile since; Ismail Haniya, Yassin's bureau chief in recent years and another of the pragmatists who have been in close contact with the Palestinian Authority; Rantisi, who leads the hardline in the organization, is opposed to any cease-fire deal with the PA and rejects proposals by pragmatists to turn the movement into an international political organization, preferring to emphasize its military activities.

Rantisi, who has survived an Israeli assassination attempt, is the closest of the current leadership to the military wing, and his position has been greatly strengthened over the past few months, particularly without Abu Shnab as a counterweight. Indeed, as of now, there is no real counterweight to Rantisi.
Shimon Peres announced his opposition to the action against Yassin. WaPo offers up a passable review of Yassin's life. NYT draws attention to the different US and European responses to the action; while Europeans considered Yassin's removal (to my mind, dubiously - has anyone seen a fleshed-out argument?) as a violation of international law, the Americans limited their response to an indication it was "troubled" by this morning - the last, given that it followed by only hours an unreserved vote of support on television by the national security advisor for Israel's legal and political right to take out terrorist leaders, was undoubtedly a response to head off Arab and European criticism of the United States as being too solidly in Israel's camp.

UPDATE: Our friends at Crooked Timber give me grief for using the word "removal," wondering "And what does this new usage imply about companies who carry out furniture removals?"

I do balk, though, at referring to the killing of Sheikh Yassin as an "assassination." While I have great sympathy for Palestinian liberals, and I want always to be loudly in support of those who work toward a Middle East in which two reformist liberal democracies can live and prosper in peaceful trade with one another, Yassin brooks no sympathy from me. He was a terrorist, not an official of any properly understood political party or the Palestinian para-state, and the question of whether Israel was right to kill him lies only in the realm of strategic, not moral, debate. And so I balk at referring to him as assassinated. I do think we could all agree, though, on the somewhat more clinical and objective, and equally true, "dead."
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# Posted 10:31 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR:
"We are a people not afraid of death, and when one of us dies, it's like a wedding day for him," Yassin said. "One who is martyred attains a very high spiritual level, and so his death is like a celebration -- we offer candy, sweets and cold drinks, because we know he'll be so high in heaven."
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Sunday, March 21, 2004

# Posted 6:06 PM by Patrick Belton  

AND ON THE SEVENTH DAY, they rested.

(In the meantime - and until the eighth day rolls around - you might check out our foreign policy think tank's policy paper on North Korea.....)
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Saturday, March 20, 2004

# Posted 8:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NYT BLASTS MUSHARRAF: And he damn well deserves it.
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# Posted 8:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IOWA IS THE NEW JERSEY OF THE MIDWEST. That's what my friend from Chicago says. I'm not sure who should be more insulted.
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# Posted 8:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPEAKS FOR ITSELF:
A year ago, it would have been inconceivable for a citizen of Syria, run by the Baath Party of President Bashar al-Assad, to make a documentary film with the working title, "Fifteen Reasons Why I Hate the Baath."

Yet watching the overthrow of Saddam Hussein across the border in Iraq prompted Omar Amiralay to do just that. "It gave me the courage to do it," he said.

"When you see one of the two Baath parties broken, collapsing, you can only hope that it will be the turn of the Syrian Baath next," he added, having just completed the film, eventually called "A Flood in Baath Country," for a European arts channel. "The myth of having to live under despots for eternity collapsed."
My compliments to the NYT for putting this story on the front page. The Times also ran an excellent front page story yesterday looking back at the past year in Iraq through the eyes of a single family. I thought this passage was particularly interesting:
Three weeks after the bombardent, the [Imaris] returned to Baghdad. American soldiers were cruising the streets.

"They looked young, they looked strong," Abu Abbas said. "We wanted to give them food and flowers, but we were embarrassed by what we had to offer."
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# Posted 7:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HYPOCRISY TEST: Kevin Drum expects that the paladins of the right-wing punditocracy will ignore the Jack Kelley/USA Today scandal because it won't afford them the chance to attack the liberal NYT. Kevin writes:
I know that everyone — and I mean everyone — is probably tired of this comparison even before it's made, but, um, Kelley's fabrications are actually a lot worse than Jayson Blair's, right? And they went on for a much longer time, right? And there are a lot more of them, right?

But, er, um, Kelley is white, isn't he?

I really don't think it's unfair to ask Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan when they're planning to start their 24/7 coverage of this affair. Surely, at the very least, they should start baying for editor Karen Jurgensen's resignation, shouldn't they?
I don't really expect the Kelley affair to get that kind of attention either. But ask yourself the following questions: How often do you read USA Today? Does anyone consider USA Today to be the United States' paper of record and its standard-bearer of journalistic integrity?

(You don't have to answer those questions. They were rhetorical. Oh, and one bonus question for all you bloggers out there: How many times have you linked to a USA Today story in the past six months?)
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# Posted 7:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IS IT NEWS? Ex-NSC counter-terrorism director Richard Clarke says that the Administration was already thinking about Iraq in the immediate aftermath of September 11th. As Pejman correctly points out, we knew that almost two years ago thanks to Bob Woodward.

What Clarke adds to that story is the allegation that Rumsfeld wanted to go after Iraq instead of Afghanistan. According to Woodward, "everyone agreed that destroying al Qaeda was the first priority". If a second, credible source confirms Clarke's allegation, it might begin to get some serious play. Otherwise, Clarke will become just another Paul O'Neill.
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# Posted 3:44 PM by Patrick Belton  

SUSHI REDUX: A few days ago, I posted that Kim Jong Il's Sushi chef, now in retirement, had written that his boss particularly enjoyed eating fish which were still alive, and moving around on the plate, which he consumed "with gusto." Now by including this tidbit, I'd meant to imply that Kim was first of all, weird, and second of all, most likely kind of a nasty fellow. Then, I was disabused from my dogmatic slumber when I got this from one of our friends and readers in a cold college town in Massachusetts:
This is pretty standard in Asia - when I was working there last summer we had to eat fish that were fried in the middle but not at the head or tail, and were still alive when brought out to the table. This is a huge nouveau riche type specialty in Asia, and everyone pretty much "ate it with gusto"...so I don't know what that quote was about, really. If the intent of the quote was to prove somehow that Kim is a monster, then it's really a bit short-sighted. But who knows - maybe you were commenting on his status as multimillionaire, who are generally the only people who can afford to eat live fish in good restaurants in Asia.
Thanks, Zoë! (Though I've got to admit, it still sounds a little weird to me....)
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# Posted 7:12 AM by Patrick Belton  

INTERESTING: A pan-African Parliament was launched this week by the Organization of African Unity, modelled on the European Parliament. There are aspirations that it will play a role in continental integration and in the harmonisation of laws of member states. The principal problem at the moment is funding; member states, most of which are strapped for cash, are being assessed to pay for the costs of maintaining the assembly.
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# Posted 6:02 AM by Patrick Belton  

JUST NOTICING: I was just looking for a US-UK plug adapter to replace one which had broken. Not to criticise, but isn't it odd that the International Gays travel accessories online store only features photographs of heterosexual couples?
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# Posted 12:30 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE SPANISH IMBROGLIO: This issue got big while I was out West and out of touch, so I've been playing catch up the last few days. From what I can tell, the heart of the debate revolves around whether it was the Madrid bombings themselves or the Aznar government's incompetent effort to lie about evidence of Al Qaeda's involvement that led to the Socialists' victory in last Sunday's elections.

The question of whether or not Aznar's government lied about the evidence seems to have been answered in the affirmative. Still, it is more than possible that the Socialists' would have won the election regardless. That is the point made in an excellent essay by Timothy Garton Ash (link via TPM):
Rightwing American commentators charge Spanish voters with "appeasement". This is crass. More than three-quarters of the Spanish electorate turned out for a massive defence of democracy in the face of terror. Every single Spanish voter was a soldier in the "war on terror". They voted different ways for all sorts of reasons. Historically, high turn-outs have favoured the left. Some of the former communist electorate voted tactically for the socialists. Many swing voters punished the conservative government of Jos? Mar?a Aznar for initially attributing the attacks to the Basque terrorist organisation Eta. And, yes, some emotionally blamed him for having made Spain a more likely terrorist target by supporting Bush's war on Iraq. But to say that this vote adds up to "appeasement" is a stupid slur.

So far as the Spanish voters' intentions are concerned, the election result was not subjectively a victory for al-Qaida. But it is, as Marxists used to say, an objective victory for al-Qaida. The Madrid bombings look likely to do exactly what a message posted on a radical Islamist website months ago said they should do: exploit the election moment to knock Spain out of the "Crusader-Zionist" coalition in Iraq. Conclusion: terror works.
So now what? According to Robert Kagan,
The Bush administration needs to recognize it has a crisis on its hands and start making up for lost time in mending transatlantic ties, and not just with chosen favorites. The comforting idea of a "New Europe" always rested on the shifting sands of a public opinion, in Spain and elsewhere, that was never as favorable to American policy as to the governments. The American task now is to address both governments and publics, in Old and New Europe, to move past disagreements over the Iraq war, and to seek transatlantic solidarity against al Qaeda.
That kind of advice is very, very surprising coming from Neo-Conservative #1 -- and all the more important because of it. On the other hand, Kagan seems to have written his column before becoming aware of the backlash against Aznar's deception. Would he still describe the Spanish elections as "al Qaeda's most significant geopolitical success since Sept. 11, 2001" if the elections results were a reflection on the Spanish Prime Minister's dishonesty rather than the Spanish public's supposed receptiveness to blackmail?

Then again, as Garton Ash points out, the precise cause of the Spanish conservatives' defeat may simply be irrelevant. We need to demonstrate that terrorism simply does not work. The best way to do that is to capture Osama bin Laden. In the meantime, we do have to improve relations with Europe and work harder than ever to promote democracy in Iraq.
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Friday, March 19, 2004

# Posted 11:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TPM CALLS KETTLE BLACK: Greg Djerejian seems to have caught Josh Marshall throwing some hypocritical accusations in the direction of Richard Perle. I'm no fan of Perle, but I think Greg is right about this one. And I'm not surprised that Josh Marshall has lost his step. His overwhelming resentment of the neo-cons has begun to damage his otherwise sharp sense of when to follow a story.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall defends himself, albeit indirectly.
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# Posted 11:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A PSEUDO-ECONOMY FOR A PSEUDO-DEMOCRACY: TM writes in to provide some context for my earlier comments about Russian economic growth:
I worked as a banker in Russia from 1997-2000 and can give some missing perspective. Russia's current "boom" is due entirely to $38-per-barrel oil. Each $1 rise in the oil price adds $1B to the Russian state's foreign reserves. Though structural demand and supply conditions may well keep oil prices high long-term, it's useful to think of the Russian economy as another version of Nigeria: an oil-addicted primitive economy in which basic market institutions are either stunted or non-existent. 
 
Today's Russia is not capitalist. Capitalism requires a vast infrastructure of laws, mechanisms, practices designed to channel savings into productive investments, and Russia's banking system is so corrupt and primitive that the majority of Russian savings are either spirited abroad (as in the case of most of the "oligarchs"' ill-gotten profits) or stuffed under mattresses.
 
When I worked at Citibank, our emerging markets development matrix put Russia in the same category of market development as Nigeria and Indonesia: the banking system is a shambles, with very little credit available to firms and households; foreign direct investment outside of the oil sector is minuscule (Poland has attracted many times the amount of FDI that Russia has--even when one INCLUDES the oil sector); and the amount of daily trading on the local capital marketslocal  market capitalization barely exceeds the size of a single top-tier US high net worth brokerage account.
 
Secondly, to the point about inequality, I haven't seen the data or the methodology behind the "inequality coefficient" Shleifer references, but there's one data point that suggests a different picture. On the most recent Forbes List of Billionaires you will find 31 New Yorkers and 23 Muscovites. Note that there are fewer than 20 billionaires in France and the UK combined, and only a handful of billionaires in countries such as Brazil and Mexico that have similar population size as Russia and that also have spectacular concentrations of wealth...
 
Finally, about the productivity improvements that Khodorkovsky et al. have supposedly made with their oil companies: Given the extreme incompetence of soviet management, and the dearth of capital investment during the last 30 years, it would be impossible for anyone but a moron not to raise the return on invested capital in Russian firms.
 
The real challenge for Russia is to create a rudimentary banking system. Khodorkovsky like most oligarchs has his own "bank", called Menatep, and his record here is one of fraud, incompetence and outright theft of depositors' assets. The banking and currency crisis that he, other corrupt "bankers" and the Yeltsin regime perpetrated in August 1998 destroyed the lifetime savings of millions of Russians. For this felony alone the man should go to prison.
 
The oligarchs have looted Russia and destroyed any hope of that country entering the ranks of the leading economies of the world for at least two generations. For anyone but a Geneva jeweler or a London or Costa del Sol estate agent, there is no silver lining to this cloud.
I'm no economist, but I wouldn't be surprised if Russia's economy was no more substantive than its constiutional order. As Mike McFaul has noted, that sort of relationship between growth and democracy is the norm in Eastern Europe.
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