Tuesday, April 13, 2004
# Posted 5:56 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:23 PM by Patrick Belton
Here are lots of nice leavened recipes, to help you celebrate: for Irish soda bread, crumpets, and lots of other nice yummy types of bread. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:17 PM by Patrick Belton
Also from RAND lately, recommendations on organising counterterror responsibilities within the executive branch. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:41 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 1:26 PM by Patrick Belton
The more salient and interesting question here is, did the United States act correctly here? The answer in the short term, most likely, is a clear yes. There are no friends to be won for the United States by its sticking around in countries where its presence isn't wanted. Basing represents as much a natural irritant to a relationship as a solidifier of ties, and it may well be that ties between Washington and Seoul will draw closer minus a few hundred adolescents away from home for the first time, and largely immunized against local prosecution for their misdeeds by a Status of Forces Agreement, along with the electoral irritant their presence often provides. And that troops of the 2nd Infantry Division might be safely brought home without prejudicing the nation's security is a view not only held among the South Korean electorate, warming toward their northern neighbour and chilling toward their nation's historical alliance partner, but also among such rather less sentimental and anti-American voices as, say, Michael O'Hanlon. Rumsfeld's plan to eliminate redundant command structures in Hawaii, Japan, and Korea makes eminent sense if it can actually be carried out in the face of service-level bureaucratic inertia. And that the present moment represents a particularly good time to draw down the American footprint in areas where it's outsized, in order to shift troops home or toward theatres where they're acutely needed, is as clear a proposition as they come.
It's the longer term that's somewhat more tricky. The drawing-down of American troops in Korea is clearly a very pleasant scenario for the Chinese, who for the past two decades have been pursuing a quiescent strategy in which they plan that a peacefully unified Korea will naturally fall into its orbit, along with Tiawanese reunification. In Beijing's post-normalisation calculus, this process will be nudged along as its economy and trade ties grow stronger in the Asia Pacific, while the United States grapples with unpopularity in the region stemming both from basing and the rise of opposition parties to unseat historically governing pro-U.S. parties, while at home it comes to face the domestic electoral and economic effects of overextension. While one recent War College paper suggests Guam as an alternate American basing site, however ideal Guam may be in logistical terms, as a politically symbolic ally it leaves a bit to be desired. But a drawing down of basing in politically problematic crowded Seoul and Okinawa, along with the construction of the groundwork of a new alliance with the foreign policy establishment of Roh's party - and the dramatic upgrading and restructuring of security ties with a Japan which looks ready to have outgrown its post-World War Two straightjacket - may represent as good a policy choice for the United States in Asia as is out there. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:30 AM by Patrick Belton
Rob's suggesting the UN call on Sistani to crack down on Sadr, since Sistani seems to have deferred to it in the past. Meanwhile, Crooked Timber points out far-right tabloid speculation that Europe will become a province of Islam is utter demographic scaremongering, and touches on jurisdictional challenges in prosecuting spam.
Josh Kurlantzick points out that the internet has not been the death knell to authoritarianism that enthusiasts in the optimistic 1990s had hoped: the reasons why - principally the individual nature of web-surfing (but then again, what about such electronic political phenomena as blogging and meet-ups?), and the suppression of sites with political content (successfully "nailing jello to the wall," is his quote with regard to China). Still, in countries which unlike China and Singapore don't actively suppress independent electronic fora for political conversation, it sounds from this piece that there's likely a great deal of potential in spreading internet-mediated political technologies such as blogging and meet-ups to young populations that already frequent cybercafes, if only at present to download - merciless google troll coming - naked pictures of Brittney Spears and Paris Hilton kissing topless Osama Bin Laden while listening to free ringtones...
Christopher Hitchens points out, mercifully, that Iraq isn't Vietnam. Also in Slate, and equally mercifully, Lee Smith points out that Al-Jazeera's tendency of late toward conspiracy theories about the U.S. is unprofessional and silly. (Also awkward and silly is Bob Dylan in a bra, a phrase which is likely to win us substantially fewer google hits.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:25 AM by Patrick Belton
UPDATE: A former Oxford amnesty member emails in
OK, admittedly it's not as thorough as one would like (and dated 3 February so they are taking their eye off the ball) but still a step up from "ignoring" it...Thanks! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:41 AM by Patrick Belton
Monday, April 12, 2004
# Posted 4:59 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 11:04 AM by Patrick Belton
UPDATE: But that doesn't mean it doesn't have its detractors nonetheless:
Although I don't always agree with you, I usually find your posts worthwhile or at least inoffensive. (Ed: new OxBlog slogan - "usually worthwhile or at least inoffensive!") In this case you are spreading psuedoscientific nonsense that could have serious detrimental effects on an entire class of people. The nutritional benefit of Guinness has been systematically exaggerated by corporate propaganda for a century. As more recent research has shown, Guinness is beneficial only as part of a balanced diet. Please see this link for proof.The link goes on to note "So, to fulfill all of your daily nutritional requirements you would need to drink a glass of orange juice, two glasses of milk, and 47 pints of Guinness." (I actually know a bloke in Galway City who does that.) Personally, in this genre of biased, malinformed detractor literature, my preferences run toward the classic "Young Scientist Proves Guinness Not 'Good for you'" (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:36 AM by Patrick Belton
Also, warm thanks to Robert Tagorda in Los Angeles, Eric Hassman in San Francisco, Will Baude and Amanda Butler in Chicago, Justin Abold in Washington, Allen Dickerson and Roger Schonberg in New York, Tom Petrick in Houston, Marc Schulman in Miami, and now Lindsay Hayden at Yale for their kind efforts in starting up chapters of our foreign policy society around the country. If you'd like to get in touch with our friends in a city near you, please feel free to drop them a note! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:25 AM by Patrick Belton
Incidentally, a friend and I are planning to start up an ngo soon to foster cross-racial understanding and friendships in cities in the US and UK - I'll be asking for your suggestions, and more on that to come shortly. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:07 AM by Patrick Belton
UFO SIG: an international Mensa e-SIG for serious discussion about unidentified flying objects. (Ed: SIG="Special" Interest Group)And unlike, say, much cooler clubs like the Illuminati, Skull and Bones or Freemasons, or even your average trip to the Madame in Magdalen, I think I'll be haunted by these folks for years to come.
MAILBAG: JH from Dallas notes "I joined long enough to get a Mensa Credit Card from
MBNA. I hand it to snotty waiters." Hey, good idea, can I get one? (a credit card, not a snotty waiter). And "Anon" from an academic email address takes a different tack entirely and writes: "Forget about all that Fallujah nonsense, what we all want to know about is the Madame of Magdalen. Does every college have one, and is there is an equivalent of the Norrington table?" No, but now we do have a slightly better idea where all those hits from "Oxford massage parlor" were coming from. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:04 AM by Patrick Belton
Right now I'm leaning towards thinking that a human-translated "best of blogs" roundup might be looking like the more attractive option, given the inaccuracies in web translating software at this stage of the game, but I'm also happy to keep looking into both possibilities. For my part, our think tank'd be very happy to host and help administer the project with help, and create a movable type blog for the purpose. I'd be particularly interested in hearing from any of our readers who speak Arabic or Farsi, and who might be willing to help translate posts, perhaps once or twice a month. If you have any other suggestions or would like to help out, please drop us a note! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, April 11, 2004
# Posted 8:18 PM by Patrick Belton
I mean, come on - he looks like a ren-faire geek, just if possible even less manly. How he ever convinces random Euro-femmes to commit adultery with him proves, I think, just how easily sex is to come by in post-Christian Europe. He got his wife's name tattooed on his arm in Hindi - but it's spelt incorrectly. He has allowed himself to be seen in public in a sarong, never a wise fashion choice for any English male. And as far as his hair - shaved off, cut into a Mohawk, long and wild and carefully done into plaits, he's always looked basically like a geek. Yes, yes, he slipped one past Greece in 2002 to draw and keep England in the World Cup, but he got stood up by Lisa Simpson, when the show's producers decided he wasn't well known enough in the States to receive a cameo role. And he named his kid Brooklyn? What, so he can develop a fondness for America and be playmates with Prince Michael II?
His and Posh Spice's three-week publicity tour of the States in June was, well, basically ignored. But perhaps there's another side to this, that we're missing. Which is that Beckham shows all of us that you can be an effeminate, geeky looking, and style-challenged English male, and still have a chance of pulling when you go to the Continent. Which perhaps is worth letting the bloke hang around, after all.
UPDATE: After early mistaken attempts involving Arab democracy and gay rights, OxBlog finally hits on the secret for filling up our inbox. Randy Paul from Beautiful Horizons writes in amusingly, "I'm an Arsenal and FC Barcelona fan, so my antipathy towards Beckham is well grounded, but in fairness to him he did name his oldest kid Brooklyn because he was conceived there. Thank God he wasn't conceived say in a hotel near LaGuardia in Flushing for example." (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:34 AM by Patrick Belton
[W]hat really struck me was that the whole thing was so short - considerably shorter than your average op-ed column, in fact - and written at about a high school level. This is an intelligence briefing prepared at the request of the president of the United States and he was apparently satisfied with it? Eleven paragraphs of pabulum considerably less authoritative than an average article in Foreign Affairs? Sheesh.Actually, I'm not really sure I agree with Kevin here. If you look through administrations at documents prepared for the president (the National Security Archive has one fairly nice collection online), they're as a rule never over two pages. And while I strongly support inquiries into and subsequent reforms of both the analytical process and the current sad shape of information sharing among bureaucracies, where there's an awfully lot of good work to be done - what strikes me about this particular briefing, having spent some portion of my life reading sterling samples of bureaucratic argot, is that it's clear, concisely written, and packs a good deal of information into a short memo. If you'd like to see something that's none of these things, look around most government documents.
MAILBAG: A graphic designer points out how the PDB, which he notes disapprovingly "looks like it was done in Word," could be made more effective as a way of presenting information. Hey, we have a substantial readership in the EOP and national security agencies - for what it's worth, we're all for making the daily briefing as effective (and pleasant-looking) a tool as possible! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:57 AM by Patrick Belton
(SIDENOTE: Reuters, more colloquially, notes "Pop appeals for peace in Easter message." Which, semantically, is correct too - il papa) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, April 10, 2004
# Posted 11:43 PM by Patrick Belton
The direct Iranian presence in the Shi'ite areas of Iraq in the political, security, and economic affairs can not be ignored anymore. This presence is accompanied by a vigorous Iranian effort to create bridges with different forces in Iraq; first, by material and logistic aid to parties other than the Shi'a, and secondly through the traditional Iranian influence in the religious seminaries [hawza] and in the Marja'iya [religious Shi'a authorities] institutions.Al-Sharq Al-Awsat:
[former Iranian intelligence official in charge of activities in Iraq, who recently defected from Iran] Haj Sa'idi told Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that the Iranian presence in Iraq is not limited to the Shi'ite cities. Rather, it is spread throughout Iraq, from Zakho in the north to Umm Al-Qasr in the south, and the infiltration of Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Al-Quds Army into Iraq began long before the war, through hundreds of Iranian intelligence agents, amongst them Iraqi refugees who were expelled by Saddam Hussein in the 1970's and 1980's to Iran, allegedly because of their Iranian origin, and who infiltrated back into Iraq through the Kurdish areas that were out of the Iraqi Ba'th government control.Also in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat:
A source in the Quds Army of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard revealed to Al-Sharq Al-Awsat information relating to the construction of three camps and training centers on the Iranian-Iraqi borders to train elements of the "Mehdi Army" founded by Muqtada Al-Sadr. The source estimated that about 800-1,200 young supporters of Al-Sadr have received military training including guerilla warfare, the production of bombs and explosives, the use of small arms, reconnoitering and espionage. The three camps were located in Qasr Shireen, 'Ilam, and Hamid, bordering southern Iraq which is inhabited largely by Shi'a Muslims.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:28 PM by Patrick Belton
But then it turned out that they were just looking for freelancer pundits, and were only going to pay 15 cents a word.
Pity. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:41 PM by Daniel
# Posted 2:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
[Prof.] Courtright was not the first to find Oedipal overtones in the Ganesha story. But his book became a rallying point for devout Hindus in the United States who say the academic study of their religion is completely at odds with the way they experience their faith.The academic study of Christianity and Judaism also tend to be completely at odds with the way tens of millions of Christians and Jews experience their faith. For that matter, the academic study of politics is entirely at odds with the way most Americans experience politics.
As the son of a religious studies professor, however, I endorse the academic study of religion wholeheartedly. It constantly provides thoughful perspectives on one's faith that, at minimum, provoke informative debates. At best, such perspectives enrich the faith with their insights. And in the absence of contrarian perspectives, the faith tends to become inbred and stagant.
If you don't like what the academicians have to say, you can always treat their work the way actual politicians treat the work of political scientists: Just ignore it. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:54 PM by Patrick Belton
Matzos are ideal for those who prefer low fat diets. With no added salt Matzos can help reduce your sodium intake. Unlike other crackers, Rakusen's Matzos are simply a wholesome blend of fine English wheatflour and pure water. Each matzo is flame-baked in a traditional long oven for just sixty seconds to give them their incomparable crispness and subtle nutty flavour. Plate-sized Matzos contain no added salt or fat, making them a healthy, satisfying snack or lunchtime partner for toppings galore. Matzos - the original cracker that generations have enjoyed.Note the studious avoidance of any mention of Passover or anything Jewish whatsoever. Nope, no Jews over here, just regular old English people enjoying a wholesome subtle nutty flavour - cheers, mate!
UPDATE: One of our friends wrote in to suggest this was because we hadn't bought the Kosher for Pesach matzos, which have Hebrew on the box. This may well be the case. But given the choice between a true and boring explanation, and an interesting but untrue one, you know which one I'll always pick...
They could change the brand name to something a little less, you know, ethnic, like...(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:10 AM by Patrick Belton
So my question is, does anyone out there have any ideas about how we might generate automatic Arabic (or Chinese, Farsi, Russian, or even Spanish and French) translations of English-language blogs from across the political spectrum? A number of writers have noticed a great thirst for political information and commentary in the Middle East, China, Russia, and other areas suffering under illiberal governance, and even in Latin America and francophone Africa it seems to me that making the American political debate readily available would increase understanding both of the United States and of the breadth of opinion within it.
I've been experimenting with Altavista's Babel Fish translation site (which offers Russian, Chinese, Spanish, and French translation), and while it thought our foreign policy society was a "cerveza inglesa," and couldn't even load OxBlog, InstaPundit, or Robert Tagorda, it did a fairly good job in translating both Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias. My conclusion is that it must only read left-of-center blogs.
If anyone has ideas about whether this idea might be feasible, and how we might go about making it happen, I'd really love to hear from you. For my part I'm happy to help out however I can, and if it's helpful, our foreign policy society would be very happy, for instance, to host mirror sites of blogs from across the political spectrum on our server. Please let me know your ideas!
UPDATE: This has generated a lot of interest already, which I'm very grateful for. I think that one promising idea may be to rely on a handful of volunteer translators to translate into Arabic and Farsi a "best of the web" roundup, which would represent blogs from across the spectrum, and could appear, say, once or twice a week. For my part I'd be very happy to create a movable type blog for the purpose. I'd be very interested in hearing from any of our readers who speak Arabic or Farsi, and who might be willing to help translate posts. If you have any other suggestions or would like to help out, please drop us a note! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:01 AM by Patrick Belton
SOFIA (Support Our Friends in Iraq and Afghanistan)(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:35 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:48 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 7:55 AM by Patrick Belton
The Information Warfare Site (UK) has got a quite nice website up, most notably including a compilation of all CRS reports as they're released, and news archives on subjects ranging from Al-Qaa'eda to cyberterrorism.
(Just disregard the Halloween-ish computer bug that makes all of the news stories appear to have been released on Friday 13 December....) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:00 AM by Patrick Belton
My inclination is to agree with his argument that, absent the demobilization and disarmament of the militias, every step of the transition to democracy in Iraq - the formation of parties, registration of voters, election campaigns, casting and counting of votes - will be done under the shadow of militia intervention. And that sounds like a recipe more for democracy à la pakistanaise than anything we'd like to impart to the Iraqi people, if we could possibly avoid it. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:47 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 1:42 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
While Nakash comes across as somewhat naive, he makes one extremely persuasive point: that what Sadr wants even more than to end the occupation is to establish his dominance within the Shi'ite community. If Sistani brokers a settlement, it will re-establish his preeminence among Shi'ites and put the transition process back on track.
What Nakash fails to acknowledge is that negotiating with Sadr elevates him to level of respect that he hardly deserves. Yet doing so may be worthwhile, if Sadr consents to the verifiable demobilization of his militia while pledging to respect both the process and results of Iraq's first national elections next winter. Without a verifiable demobilization, however, there is no point in demanding Sadr's lip service to a democratic process he wants to destroy.
The case against negotiation is made rather well by David Brooks. There is good reason to believe that the great majority of Shi'ites, both clerics and parishioners, want nothing to do with Moqtada Sadr. We have to be patient now, rather than accepting at face value the unsubstantiated assertion that Sadr is leading a nationwide revolt.
Of course, the paper that Brooks happens to write for is reporting exactly the opposite: "Account of Broad Shiite Revolt Contradicts White House Stand". While I think it's premature to compare the Times' reporting to Drudge, its reliance on unnamed sources in the US intelligence community is somewhat problematic.
The sources in question provide no specific information to reinforce their claims. Moreover, there is no indication of whether the Times' sources represent a majority or minority opinion within the intelligence establishment. If it is a majority opinion, I expect to see other news outlets confirm the story while providing additional sources. If it is a nationwide revolt, we will have no choice to negotiate. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:50 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
All of them were second-term presidents, re-elected by a landslide. None of them learned the lessons of the past, thus condemning themselves to relive it. And now George W. Bush has brought himself to the brink of another major embarrassment because he has refused to learn from the mistakes of his predecessors. The editors of the WaPo observe that
The testimony of national security adviser Condoleezza Rice before the federal Sept. 11 commission justified President Bush's decision to authorize her exceptional appearance.In other words, if Bush had dispatched Rice to Capitol Hill before being forced to do so, her testimony would have become a footnote, not a banner headline. Even though nothing that Rice said was new or interesting, her simple presence in the spotlight has motivated the administration's critics to pick up charges that had once been dropped.
We have known for almost two years that Bush was warned in August 2001 about Al Qaeda's intention to launch a major attack on US territory. Even back then, Condoleeza Rice didn't want to give an honest account of the the warning's exact contents. The WaPo reported at the time that
New accounts yesterday of the controversial Aug. 6 memo provided a shift in portrayals of the document, which has set off a political firestorm because it suggested that bin Laden's followers might be planning to hijack U.S. airliners.Perhaps because she wasn't punished for misleading the public the first time around, Rice has chosen to do so again. She told the 9/11 Commission that the August briefing consisted of "historical information based on old reporting. There was no new threat information. And it did not, in fact, warn of any coming attacks inside the United States." Yet
Several Democratic commissioners said in yesterday's hearing that the briefing also includes significant details about suspected al Qaeda sleeper cells and their plans to carry out domestic hijackings. The commission has demanded that the briefing be made public, a step that White House officials said yesterday was likely. "We hope to be able to make it available," communications director Dan Bartlett said.And the WaPo is already reporting as fact that the Aug. 6 briefing contained specific information about Al Qaeda plans in progress. Even so, the publication of the full contents of the briefing may not embarrass the President:
Republican John F. Lehman, a former Navy secretary, is one of seven commissioners who have seen only a summary of the PDB. He said the current information within it is not particularly specific.Why was the administration so restrictive? Simple. Because it has learned nothing from the examples set by Nixon, Reagan and Clinton. The cover up is always worse than the crime.
But more important than the similarity between Bush and his predecessors is the difference: Bush is up for re-election. What if 2 or 3 percent of the electorate -- independent voters, not Democratic partisans -- stop trusting the President's because of his unwillingness to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth? What if Thomas Kean, the Republican chairman of the 9/11 commission declares that the attacks on New York and Washington could have been avoided? Reagan and Clinton had nothing to lose but their reputation. Bush may lose his job.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, April 09, 2004
# Posted 10:52 AM by Patrick Belton
The wounded surgeon plies the steelSee also Eliot's teacher Donne, in his metaphysical sonnets addressing, as always, theological mystery with wit:
Who sees Gods face, that is selfe life, must dye;(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:18 AM by Patrick Belton
The Army has attracted a bit of publicity lately by offering a direct enlistment option into special forces. The option permits enlistees to attempt the Special Forces Qualification Course immediately after finishing basic training, AIT, and jump school, rather than serving a number of years in the ranks and then attempting the course as an E-4 The wash-out rate for the course, however, is rather high - and enlistees who don't successfully complete the course will likely be heading to Iraq as 11B infantrymen. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:42 AM by Patrick Belton
That the nation's diplomats must hew to the instructions of the president they represent is beyond question the president's prerogative; that Washington give into Beijing's pressure in the personnel which it sends to Taiwan, however, is both kow-towing and reprehensible beyond measure. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:32 AM by Patrick Belton
Today at 1200, Coalition Forces initiated a unilateral suspension of offensive operations in Fallujah in order to hold a meeting between members of the Interim Governing Council, Fallujah leadership and leaders of the anti-Coalition forces, to allow delivery of additional supplies provided by the Iraqi Government, and to allow residents of Fallujah to tend to wounded and dead. During this suspension period, Coalition Forces retain the inherent right of self defense, and will remain fully prepared to resume offensive operations unless significant progress in these discussions occurs.In other Iraq news, while Japan has stood strong against the insurgents' despicable seizure of three citizens, with the threat to burn them if Japan does not withdraw its forces in the Iraqi theatre - Thai PM Shinawatra has ordered his nation's troops to stay in their camp in Kerbala until fighting ceases.
UPDATE: Ceasefire over after 90 minutes. WaPo: "Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne, the commander of the U.S. Marine unit in southeast Fallujah, told reporters on the scene in Fallujah that offensive operations were being suspended to allow women and children and men too old to fight leave the battered city en masse in response to pleas from religious leaders in Fallujah." CNN, though, has reports that it's still on.
UPDATE 2: Amusingly, a friend in the CPA was reading this and writes:
I jumped on your blog briefly and wanted to let you know that the suspension of offensive actions against Fallujah are still on, as of BG Mark Kimmitt’s briefing about an hour and a half ago. We unilaterally suspended any actions at noon today for all the reasons the press releases lists and actions remain suspended at this time. The Marines do retain, however, the right to self-defense if fired on. My guess is that this is where the misleading reports are coming from – a media outlet hears a couple of shots and assumes we are resuming actions.Thanks!
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:28 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:22 AM by Patrick Belton
AP, Reuters, CBS, MSNBC, and WaPo all either flatly state in their reports that there is no sign of the insurgence becoming widespread, or don't discuss it (as in WaPo's case). The NYTimes has descended into Drudge Journalism.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:58 AM by Patrick Belton
Thursday, April 08, 2004
# Posted 7:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
To ensure a definitive answer, I decided to ask Harvard linguistics impresario CH for an answer. (Asking him was a good idea, since I would've given you a wrong answer otherwise.) So here goes:
The middle syllable of 'Qaida' is a long 'e', which most linguists write out as 'i'. CH speculates that the alternate spelling 'al Qaeda' emerged because experts in Persian (of whom there are many) prefer to write out long 'e' as 'e'.
Now, if one is going to invest the effort in understanding how to spell the name of the terrorist organization founded by Mr. bin Laden, one may as well learn how to pronounce it as well. First comes the 'al', meaning 'the'. Most people seem to know that this part is pronounced like the first syllable in the word 'olive' and not like the first name of Mr. Gore.
It's the 'Qaeda' that most people get wrong. Usually, it gets pronounced either 'al KAY-da' or 'al KY (rhymes with 'sky')-da'. Both are wrong for the same reason: they assume that there are two syllables in the word, not three. Actually, it's more like 'al KAA-i-da'.
The double 'a' is very important. In Arabic, a 'long' vowel actually has to sound longer than a short one. When writing out Arabic words in English, one indicates the presence of a long vowel either by doubling the vowel or putting a horizontal bar over it.
Now what about this whole 'Q'-instead-of-'K' business? Well, in Arabic there are two letters that have a 'K' sound, but one of them is aspirated, which means that a burst of air comes out along with the sound. Sometimes this gets written out as 'kh' instead of 'q' because the 'sound' of 'h' is really just an aspiration.
Finally, we come back to the long 'e' that started this whole discussion in the first place. There is actually an invisible consonant which precedes it, but which is unpronounceable in English. The letter is called 'ayin' in Arabic and sounds sort of like someone clearing their throat. When written in English, ayin becomes an apostrophe.
So, in the final analysis, the most precise way to write 'al Qaida' is actually 'al Qaa'ida'. (Of course, you don't have to capitalize the 'Q' since there are no capital letters in Arabic.)
If you've read this far, you'll probably also want to know why 'Taliban' also gets spelled as 'Taleban'. As CH points out, 'Taliban' is actually a Persian or Dari word, not an Arabic one (although there is an Arabic cognate for it which also means 'students'). And since long 'e' is written as 'e' when transliterating Persian, the proper spelling is 'Taleban'. However, English speakers are more likely to pronounce the long 'e' correctly if it is transliterated as 'i' in this context.
And since Kevin asked: There is no good reason for American newspapers to drop the 'al from 'al Qaeda' in order to save space in headlines. No Arabic newspaper would do that.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:33 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 12:49 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:31 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Most progressive Christians would NOT reinterpret the Gospels to mitigate anti-Semitism. In fact, most of the "progressive" Christians I know wouldI'm down with that. My only concern is that the percentage of Christians willing to embrace excision is not that high. (Although MF indicates that it may work out for the Orthodox.) Anyhow, DK adds that
Furthermore, many Protestants would disagree entirely with your comment that the Gospel's "[place] collective blame on the Jewish people for the death of Christ ... [as] an integral aspect of [their] theological agenda."That also sounds about right, even though I hardly know enough about Protestantism to say so decisively. At the same time, I have vague recollections of Jews being called 'Christ-killers' even by American Protestants. Was I just not paying attention to who was accusing me of killing their Savior? Or has theological consistency sometimes been subordinated to the politics of anti-Semitism? I really don't know. Moving on, DC says
You wrote:This point again leads me to turn inward and ask if the perils of persecution have prevented Jews from learning enough about Christianity to help overcome the divide. I hope that DC's perspective has gained widespread acceptance among Protestants. Yet when confronted with an unfortunate cultural artifact such as The Passion, my instincts take over and sometimes all I can hear is "Christ-killer." (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
# Posted 11:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I thought Nirvana would be forgotten after a while. Sure, we all believed that Nevermind had changed everything about what it meant to be a teenager in America. But teenagers always believe that what they care about is profound and historic. Toward the end of college, however, I began to notice that there were just as many Nirvana-clad kids wandering around Greenwich Village. They had the same angry and sensitive look we sought to perfect back in high school.
I always figured that if Nirvana survived, it would be a product of nostalgia. Those of us who remembered high school fondly would wear their Nirvana t-shirts on weekends. But I was completely wrong, and thank God for that. The music has survived the cultural moment in which it was created. Kids who were seven years old when Cobain died now think he's the greatest thing since sliced bread. I just hope that in another ten years it will still be the same way. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
"John Kerry's newfound interest in fiscal discipline is a political gimmick that defies his 20-year record in the Senate and stands in stark contrast to his reckless and expansive promises of new government spending on the campaign trail," said Steve Schmidt, a Bush campaign spokesman.If only George Bush had discovered that gimmick for himself before racking up a $400 billion deficit. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
On the homefront, the politics of the occupation are getting louder. Joe Biden and John McCain are reminding the administration that responsible voices on both sides of the partisan divide wanted a larger occupation force from the outset. John Kerry is keeping his powder dry by offering vague criticism of the President while insisting that the United States must stabilize Iraq. However, Robert Byrd is doing his best to undermine Kerry's responsible stand by declaring that
"Surely I am not the only one who hears echoes of Vietnam in this development," said Mr. Byrd, referring to the possibility of an increase in troops. "Surely, the administration recognizes that increasing the U.S. troop presence in Iraq will only suck us deeper into the maelstrom of violence that has become the hallmark of that unfortunate country. Starkly put, at this juncture, more U.S. forces in Iraq equates more U.S. targets in Iraq."While Ted Kennedy, Pat Buchanan and Maureen Dowd might agree, Coalition forces come across are fairly confident.
"We will attack to destroy the al-Mahdi Army," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, a military spokesman, told reporters today. "Those attacks will be deliberate, precise and they will succeed.I hope that such confidence is well-grounded. At minimum, I'm glad that Kimmit placed just as much emphasis on the political dimension of the struggle as the military. On a related note, the question of civilian casualties and collateral damage has begun to reemerge as a result of a rocket attack in Fallujah. The WaPo reports that
Witnesses told Arab journalists in the city that as many as 40 people were killed in the bombing, although the U.S. military said it had no reports of any civilian casualties.In contrast, the headline of the NYT article about today's fighting is "US Rockets Reportedly Kill Over 2 Dozen Iraqis in Falluja". The Times goes on to report that
American marines fired rockets at a wall surrounding a mosque in Falluja, west of Baghdad, killing more than two dozen people, news agencies reported, quoting witnesses who said the death toll could be as high as 40.I'm guessing that the "news agencies" referred to by the Times are the same as the "Arab journalists" mentioned by the Post. More importantly, I hope that as few civilians as possible were killed. As always, it comes down to hearts and minds. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Lam Nguyen's job is to sit for hours in a chilly, quiet room devoid of any color but gray and look at pornography. This job, which Nguyen does earnestly from 9 to 5, surrounded by a half-dozen other "computer forensic specialists" like him, has become the focal point of the Justice Department's operation to rid the world of porn.I agree with Glenn. This is completely ridiculous. Those prosecutors and FBI agents should be hunting down terrorists. But Ashcroft is Ashcroft, so what can you do?
Well, here's a modest proposal: Let some of the Taliban guys out of Gitmo early on the condition that they volunteer for DOJ's anti-porn task force. They should do a good job, since they tend to share Ashcroft's militantly anti-porn stance. Moreover, they should work for peanuts since they're used to Afghan wages. And then the FBI guys can focus on Al Qaeda.
The biggest drawback to this plan is that it will antagonize opponents of outsourcing. After all, why should we be giving jobs to the Taliban when there are hundreds of thousands of unemployed Americans who want nothing more than to look at porn all day while getting paid by the government? (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:11 AM by Patrick Belton
a shrewd and highly un-American observation that was included among the aphorisms in Either/Or: "The melancholy have the best sense of the comic, the opulent often the best sense of the rustic, the dissolute often the best sense of the moral, and the doubter often the best sense of the religious." The discussion that morning fully vindicated the majesty of the chamber, as legal themes gave way to metaphysical themes and philosophy bewitched the assembly. But something strange happened. Almost as soon as philosophy was invited, it was disinvited. It seemed to make everybody anxious, except the respondent. I had come to witness a disputation between religion's enemies and religion's friends. What I saw instead, with the exception of a single comment by Justice Souter, was a disputation between religion's enemies, liberal and conservative. And this confirmed me in my conviction that the surest way to steal the meaning, and therefore the power, from religion is to deliver it to politics, to enslave it to public life.His ensuing reflections on the relationship of belief, unbelief, and the search for truth within a polity are worth reading. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:46 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 4:10 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 1:03 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Well, I'm going to hold off for now, first and foremost because I have an Arabic test at 9AM tomorrow. But also because there are some broader questions that I want to take the time to think over.
First of all, can what is going wrong in Iraq now be traced to what the media asserted was going wrong in Iraq all along? Over the past few months, the media has mainly been saying that the United States' great mistake was not to take Ayatollah Sistani's demands more seriously earlier on, since he commands overwhelming support among Iraq's majority Shi'ites. Did American hesitance to compromise with Sistani increase Moqtada Sadr's support, or did the media simply drop the ball on this one?
Second, what will happen if the media's most persistent critics go back and read the specific stories that we criticized for being one-sided or pessimistic? Do current events demonstrate that the flaws we detected in those stories were actual strenghts? Or are such flaws still present and unrelated to recent violence?
My guess is that I actually will go back and do some of the research necessary to answer these questions, if only because I'm a little taken aback by the sneering tone of the almost always affable Calpundit. What will I find? Who knows.
UPDATE: Compared to Kevin, Matt Yglesias is rather sanguine about today's violence. On the other hand, Matt has some tough but fair comments about a recent gauntlet I threw his way on the media bias issue. To clarify, I don't believe that moderate liberals see the media as fundamentally objective. Rather, they see the media's subjectivity as politically neutral. In contrast, Matt asserts that the media (inadvertently?) favors conservatives.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:40 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Now, it may just be a coincidence, but should we be surprised that George Bush is at war with grammar? (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:34 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:28 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Are these losses the unfortunate price of victory? Or are they an indicator that something has gone wrong on the battlefield? Honestly, I don't know. The Marines say that they have secured Fallujah, where four American civilians were killed and mutilated this past week. It seem to early to say whether the struggle against Sadr's militia is going well or not.
Reports place the strength of the Sadr militia at anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000. Whether those are trained fighters or simply hangers-on I have no idea. As such, it is hard to say how strongly motivated Sadr forces are. Are they ideologically committed to establishing a Shi'ite theocracy? Or will they fall back when confronted with Coalition firepower and the condemnation of mainstream Shi'ites?
Speaking more broadly, does the recent outbreak of violence represent a serious threat to the stability of Iraq? As the NYT aptly put it,
One of the biggest questions at day's end was the role of most of the majority Shiites previously thought to be relatively sympathetic to American goals.While Ayatollah Sistani has issued a decree urging Iraq's Shi'ites to remain calm, Moqtada Sadr is positioning himself rhetorically as a supporter of the Ayatollah. To that end, Sadr announced that "I proclaim my solidarity with Ali Sistani, and he should know that I am his military wing in Iraq." It is hard to know whether Sadr actually expects to win the Ayatollah over to his cause or whether he simply wants to draw as many mainstream Shi'ites as possible into his fold.
Another emerging question is the degree to which Shi'ite and Sunni radicals may unite against occupation forces. In one Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad, residents marched alongside the Shi'ite followers of Moqtada Sadr:
"What Moqtada Sadr did simply woke up the people," said Sarmad Akram, 36, who owns the small food shop next door. "Now the people have the guts to resist."Well, I hope not. And I expect not. Every sign until now has pointed to a broad Shi'ite preference for Ayatollah Sistani's strategy of taking control of Iraq through democratic means. The current uprising may provide a chance for a significant number of Shi'ites to vent their frustration, but unless mainstream leaders throw their support behind it, I don't see how it can gain momentum. On the other hand, those who know Iraq far better than I do are concerned. According to John Burns,
In effect, the militia attacks confronted the American military command with what has been its worst nightmare as it has struggled to pacify Iraq: the spread of an insurgency that has stretched a force of 130,000 American troops from the minority Sunni population to the majority Shiites, who are believed to account for about 60 percent of Iraq's population of 25 million.Incidentally, Burns was briefly taken prisonerby Shi'ite radicals earlier today. In contrast to Burns, the editors of the WaPo have chosen to see the silver lining behind the hovering clouds:
For months it has been evident that it will be impossible to stabilize Iraq under a transitional government, much less stage the democratic elections planned for next year, unless factional militias are disarmed and disbanded. Mr. Sadr's Mahdi Army is the most dangerous among them. For weeks there has been a debate inside the occupation administration about whether and how to confront Mr. Sadr; by ordering attacks on coalition troops Sunday, the cleric may have ensured that a painful but necessary battle will go forward...I tend to agree. There is nothing to be gained by cooperating with anti-democratic extremists. The faster that the United States crushes them -- while minimizing civilian casualties -- the faster it will demonstrate that there is no alternative to the interim constitution and the coming elections. In theory, one might call upon the United Nations to help resolve the current conflict. Yet at the moment, even its fiercest partisans have begun to admit that the UN's credibility has been severely damaged by the Oil-for-Food scandal and the incompetence of the first UN mission to Iraq in providing for its own members' security.
So here we are between a rock and a hard place. I've got my fingers crossed. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, April 06, 2004
# Posted 7:47 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 6:49 PM by Patrick Belton
This year we are slaves; next year, free. May slavery give way to freedom, ignorance to wisdom, despair to hope: next year in Jerusalem. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:44 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 10:17 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:00 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:00 AM by Patrick Belton
A man walks into Central Park from the West 85th street entrance, sits down by the Lake, and takes out his lunch - which, being passover, included a fair bit of matzoh.Chag sameach! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:39 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 4:10 AM by Patrick Belton
For more, see Brookings on Beijing's attempts to subordinate Hong Kong's wonderfully clean and efficient civil service to its lackeys, Economist on Beijing's anti-subversion law and character assasination labelling democratic legislators as unpatriotic, and Senate Foreign Relations taking the testimony last month of Hong Kong legislators and democracy activists. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, April 05, 2004
# Posted 5:49 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:25 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 4:46 PM by Patrick Belton
Rubins goes on to argue that the CPA's well-intentioned evenhandedness is being interpreted as support for Islamists, in a society weaned on conspiracy theories:
While Sens. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and Carl Levin of Michigan demand yet another government audit of the Iraqi National Congress (previous audits have found no wrongdoing), radical clerics find their pockets full, their Iranian sponsors more interested in mission than political cannibalism. Last month, I visited a gathering of urban professionals in Najaf. They repeatedly asked why the CPA stood by while followers of firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtader Sadr invaded homes, smashed satellite dishes and meted out punishment in ad hoc Islamic courts. We may dismiss Sadr as a grass-roots populist, but his rise was not arbitrary. Rather, his network is based upon ample funding he receives through Iran-based cleric Ayatollah Kazem al Haeri, a close associate of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.More here. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:00 PM by Patrick Belton
Anonymous OxBlogger, to be called "PB": Wait, Ali G is Jewish? (from your wikipedia piece....)(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:47 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:42 AM by Patrick Belton
The government of Sudan is currently engaging in genocide against three of its country's black western tribes, the Reziegat, Salamat, and Ta'aisha. Women of those tribes are being systematically raped; roughly one thousand people are being killed each week; and with seven hundred thousand driven from their homes, Sudan's army is bombing the survivors.
The Pentagon is monitoring the situation closely, but with American might deployed already in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Haiti, America's military cannot be asked to be the only one to respond. The UN's response has been significant, but not enough - the Security Council has not addressed the issue by invoking Chapter VII, although UNHCR in cooperation with the government of Chad has done a great deal to alleviate the immediate human plight of refugees by establishing refugee camps far from the Sudanese border, where refugees in Chad were still being attacked by the Sudanese military. Still, the response by the undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, Jan Egeland, was talmudic, and ridiculous: "I would say it is ethnic cleansing, but not genocide." Still worse, the human rights industry has kept its head equally in the sand: Amnesty International doesn't even mention the genocide in the Sudan on its front page, preferring as usual to pander to its donors with pieces criticizing the United States for the clearly equal crime of executing a dual murderer.
Our friend Zach Kaufman, and director of our think tank's Africa program, wrote in the New York Times recently that "One lesson that should be drawn is that if it is true that the current Sudan resembles 1994 Rwanda, then the United States government should join with others to initiate a humanitarian intervention, assist victims and hold perpetrators accountable. If not, our demands for and promises of 'never again!' will have failed yet again." While the United States cannot bear the sole principal role in counteracting this atrocity at a time when its divisions are already deployed to combating the inhumanity of Fallujah and the Taliban, the responsibility of the international community to make good on its promises of "never again" is clear. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:59 AM by Patrick Belton
UPDATE: We get results. They fixed it. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:35 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
CLARIFICATION: Glenn has declared that OxBlog is "officially bored" with Kos-gate. Well, sort of. This whole affair is something of a tempest in a tea cup. However, my "Yeah, whatever" comment above was directed primarily at Kos' paranoid response to his critics. Glenn, Kevin et al. were right to criticize Kos, although the whole thing did get somewhat out of hand. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, April 04, 2004
# Posted 11:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
If you read the WaPo, you will conclude that there is no clear answer to the questions posed above. Coalition forces' discomfort in a foreign environment is just as likely to have been the cause of the violence as are radical Shi'ite provocations. If you read the NYT, there is no doubt that today's events were planned. The first sentence of John Burns' article on the subject reads:
A coordinated Shiite militia uprising against the American-led occupation rippled across Iraq on Sunday, reaching into the heart of Baghdad and the sprawling Shiite slum of Sadr City on the capital's outskirts and racking the holy city of Najaf and at least two other cities in southern Iraq.Burns' use of the words 'coordinated' and 'uprising' were no accident. Lower down in the same article he writes that
On Sunday, [Moqtada] Sadr's veiled threats to stir public disorder erupted into carefully orchestrated violence, with potentially dire implications over the long term for the Americans, and for Iraq.Furthermore, Burns lets us know exactly what we should think of Mr. Sadr's efforts. He reports that
Mr. Sadr, the son of a powerful Shiite ayatollah who was assassinated by agents of Mr. Hussein in Najaf in 1999, has been a menacing presence in the shadows of the American occupation. He has refused to involve his organization with the American attempt to construct democratic institutions, calling them a ruse intended to place the country under permanent American control. He has threatened to establish an alternative government, and to send his militia, known as the Mahdi Army, into battle with American troops...In contrast to Burns' conviction, the WaPo correspondents responsible for this story have used all of the standard conventions of the journalistic trade to convey their unsurety about the cause of the violence. For example, explanations for the violence offered by Sadr's disciples are juxtaposed with explanations from American officials, implying that the credibility of both explanations is roughly equivalent and that the truth lies somewhere in between:
Sadr, 30, delivered a sermon in Kufa on Friday calling on supporters to challenge the occupation.Toward the end of the WaPo article, however, there are some more tangible hints that today's violence was not intentional but rather a product of unfortunate coincidences:
Sunday's protests were sparked by reports that Mustapha Yacoubi, an aide to Sadr, had been arrested...Protests and violence involving Sadr's supporters have been increasing since the closing of the cleric's newspaper a week ago.These same events are explained very differently by the NYT, however:
The scene for the uprising was set a week ago, when American troops raided the Baghdad offices of a popular newspaper, Al Hawza, that was the mouthpiece for Mr. Sadr, and chained its doors under an order by Mr. Bremer closing the paper for 60 days. American officials said Mr. Bremer had acted because of inaccurate reporting in the paper that incited hatred for the Americans, including a February dispatch that an explosion that killed more than 50 Iraqi police recruits was not a car bomb, as occupation officials had said, but an American missile.The differences between the NYT and WaPo could not be more stark. The former describes an intentional assault on Coalition forces organized by a radical Shi'ite cleric who associates with murderers and may be one himself. The WaPo describes confusing events for which no one in particular was responsible.
Why are these accounts so different? Politics don't seem to be the issue, since the NYT tends to be far more critical of the occupation than the WaPo. My hunch is that John Burns is simply far superior to his counterparts at the WaPo. He sees what they do not. Moreover, I suspect that the WaPo will soon revise its account in order to reflect what was written by Mr. Burns.
The broader lesson to be taken away from this episode is one that this third of OxBlog never tires of repeating: That correspondents routinely employ the conventions of journalistic objectivity in order to convey subjective interpretations of the events that they witness. While subjectivity is an integral part of the human condition, the American media have the potential to dramatically improve their coverage by admitting to both themselves and their audience that they are not nearly as objective as they like to pretend.
To critics of the 'liberal media', such accusations are nothing new. Yet moderate liberals, including OxBlog favorites such as Drum and Yglesias, still tend to dismiss charges of media bias as little more than the carping of conservatives unwilling to face the truth. However, the example described above has nothing to do with politics. My criticism has nothing to do with the fact that I like one newspaper's political preferences more than I like the other. That is why this episode is such a powerful demonstration of how journalistic conventions create the illusion of objectivity.
CLARIFICATION: Seven American soldiers were killed in Baghdad. An eighth American soldier died elsehwere, as did a Salvadoran.
UPDATE: The AP report on today's violence resembles that of the WaPo. USA Today splits the difference while Reuters and CNN come across as relatively agnostic about the cause of the violence. The Guardian subtly implies that the heavy-handedness of the occupation was to blame. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion