Monday, October 04, 2004

# Posted 6:22 PM by Patrick Belton  

BIGGEST LAUGH IN AGES AWARD goes to this short film by Bruno Bozzetto describing, in side-splitting detail, the endearing differences between Europe and Italy.
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# Posted 5:16 PM by Patrick Belton  

TWO DEGREES OF OXBLOG CORNER: Longtime OxBlog friends will already know that I am two degrees of separation from the American Taliban, John Walker Lindh - who before any of the rest of us had heard of him, figured prominently in a friend of mine's 'you'd never believe my crazy roommate from when I was studying Arabic' stories. (Short version: white kid pops up from California, dressing in a white robe and turban, and introduces himself as Sulayman. Don't even ask what he was like in the bathroom.)

Well, interestingly, I've just become aware that I'm also two degrees of separation (and I'm not exactly sure I'd want to be any fewer....) from sniper John Muhammad. Remember when he called a church and left the message 'I am God'? Well...I just found out from a New York Times article that the priest on the other end was no other than a distant cousin of mine for whom I used to serve as an altar boy, Msgr. William Sullivan. Sullivan, the Times goes on to report, didn't think the phone call worth reporting to the police.

I'm not sure there's an edifying point here, but the possibilities for a more fully instantiated two-degrees of OxBlog game are fantastic (especially given that both David and I attended a DLC shindig at which Kevin Bacon was playing the...wait for it...harmonica in the corner).
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# Posted 2:36 PM by Patrick Belton  

ENGLAND HASN'T CHANGED MUCH IN 300 YEARS WATCH: BBC Radio 3 was just playing Purcell's ode to English weekend evenings, 'There are Pleasures Divine in Love and in Wine.' So not only have Friday nights of drunken sexual congress comfortingly not changed much in this country since the Baroque period, but we also find out from the same composer that the same is true about the nature of English roses. Purcell has two different pieces about different sorts of English women, 'She who lives for love, but finally discovers the joys of wine', and ' She who lives for love, but soon discovers the joys of wine'.

This all has me feeling strangely comforted. Though I don't believe Purcell did have an ode entitled 'She who nonetheless believes her midriff is worth showing.'
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# Posted 2:19 PM by Patrick Belton  

DID FOX NEWS PHOTOSHOP PICTURES TO MAKE BUSH TALLER? One of our readers writes in to say that's how it looks to him. Here's the evidence he sent in - a photograph which ran in AFP showing a substantial height difference (ed: so did the French make him look shorter?) and one which ran on Fox, with the two contenders seeing eye-to-eye. Both photographs are from the same moment - when the two shook hands - and don't seem at least to be from different perspectives.

Coming after a series of mainstream media mess-ups in the latter portion of this campaign (the Swift Gate memo, Fox's manicuregate story...), revealing biases and distorted reporting toward the left and the right on the part of the putatively objective media, it's no wonder that this has been the election of the blog....

If any of our readers have insights on one side or another of this question, please send them to me and I'll be happy to run them. And note to Fox: if this is true, could you perhaps make me just a bit taller too?

MAILBAG: Answer: probably not. One of our friends found the image Fox used in the AP's image database, and another friend (a research scientist in a real science who probably, ahem, should have been working on his dissertation) suggests that Bush may have been leaning in during the photograph in which he looks shorter. The interesting moral to the story (all OxBlog stories have edifying lessons - see above) is probably that each outlet took the photograph that made 'their' candidate look taller.
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# Posted 9:23 AM by Patrick Belton  

HERE'S ONE REPUBLICAN I CAN ENDORSE WITHOUT HESITATION: Lisa Marie Cheney, running to replace James 'I like to hit people' Moran in Virginia's 8th. It's hard to think of many politicians not sporting short mustaches I wouldn't support in preference to Moran....
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# Posted 1:49 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SWEEEEEEEEEEEET! (BY PROXY): Why hasn't Josh put up a euphoric post about the Astros' stunning victory in the NL wild-card chase? I don't know, but I'm guessing that he is wandering the streets of Houston in a drunken stupor right about now, overturning cars and lighting garbage cans on fire. (That was a joke, Josh, a joke.)

I'd also like to post a second "Sweeeeeeeeeeeet!" on behalf of Robert Tagorda, whose Dodgers clinched the NL West title. However, I can only hope that the 'Stros and the Dodgers lose in the playoffs so that neither of them has to suffer the indignity of losing to the Yankees in the World Series. With the D-Backs and Marlins out of the playoffs, the Bombers will be unstoppable.
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Sunday, October 03, 2004

# Posted 10:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MY FAVORITE PESSIMIST: Of all the armchair pundits (e.g. OxBlog) with a serious interest in Iraq, I think that Swopa is perhaps the best-informed member of the pessimist majority. If you want to be a serious optimist, you have to be able to respond to Swopa's arguments.

Commenting on Dexter Filkins' upbeat report in today's NYT, Swopa points to evidence within Filkins' story that suggests a possible alignment of Moqtada Sadr's interests with those of Ayatollah Sistani. The basic point of Filkins' story is that Sadr's intention to disband his militia and enter the electoral process will enhance the legitimacy of the January 2005 elections. Filkins writes that:
Mr. Sadr's overtures toward the political mainstream, if they develop into a full-blown commitment, would represent a significant victory for the American-led enterprise here, just a few months before nationwide elections are to be held in January...

Iraqi officials say they are encouraged by Mr. Sadr's recent overtures, and some believe that this time Mr. Sadr might be serious. The reason, they say, is the political and military defeat that Mr. Sadr suffered in Najaf, where the Mahdi Army was badly mauled by American forces and where Mr. Sadr himself was ordered to capitulate by Ayatollah Sistani.
Yet where Filkins sees capitulation, Swopa sees collaboration. Building on suggestions that Sistani fears the rigging of the January elections by the Shi'ite parties within the interim government, Swopa projects that Sistani will align with both Sadr and the Sunni insurgents to form an anti-occupation front that can either win the elections outright or destroy their legitimacy by refusing to participate.

As it so often does, this argument about Iraqi politics comes down to speculations about Ayatollah Sistani's perceptions and motives. First and foremost, I tend to disagree with Swopa's suggestion that Sistani feels "a bit left out in the cold" by the United States and the interim government. Having won every stand-off with the Americans in which he has participated, Sistani should understand just how much influence he has over American actions.

Second of all, I have serious questions about the possibility of any sort of extended cooperation between Sunnis and Shi'ites. In April, the Times and the Post ran major stories about emerging cooperation between Shi'ite and Sunni insurgents. Nothing came of it.

The cooperation of the non-violent Sistani with fundamentalist Sunni fighters seems even more improbable given the Sunnis' intense antipathy toward Shi'ite beliefs. Of course, nothing is impossible. Yet it was this same Sunni fundamentalism that Saddam relied in the last years of his reign to justify vicious oppression of the Shi'ites -- a fact that neither Sadr nor Sistani is likely to have forgotten.
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# Posted 8:44 AM by Patrick Belton  

LOOK, I'M NOT ORDINARILY FOR POLITICS being about this sort of thing, but hey, Senator Kerry does look pretty funny playing football....
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Saturday, October 02, 2004

# Posted 11:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STYLE IS SUBSTANCE: Sam Rosenfeld defends this unlikely point. At least he's honest about his motives.
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# Posted 11:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BREAKING FOR THE CHALLENGER: The Prospect provides evidence to back-up of the often-heard claim that undecided voters break for the challenger.
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# Posted 10:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNDER THE INNOCUOUS HEADLINE "U.S. Effort Aims to Improve Opinions About Iraq Conflict", the WaPo suggests that the administration has embarked on a new, desperate and deceptive effort to spin the war in Iraq. (As opposed to the old one, which wasn't desperate.)

The Post's evidence seems pretty good, although it still quite amusing to watch its correspondents write as if they are being detached and objective, rather than advancing their own (probably valid) interpretation of events.

But you know what? The administration is getting what it deserves. Even optimists such as myself can't defend the upbeat assessments coming out of the White House. While I stand by my previous definition of the word "puppet", it does look pretty ridiculous for American diplomats and even a Bush-Cheney spokesman to be involved in the drafting of Allawi's speech. Even in the midst of a re-election campaign, that's going too far.
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# Posted 10:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HEHEHE! From the WaPo editorial page:

WE RECEIVED THE following letter from a woman in Yonkers, N.Y.: "Dear editor: This debate made it clear: John Kerry is a leader we can trust to tell us the truth when it comes to our nation's security. George Bush has had his chance; I'm ready for a new direction."

Cogent, succinct, personal -- everything we look for in a letter. So why are we writing about it here, instead of publishing it in the columns to the right? Unfortunately, the letter, perfect in every other way, arrived in our electronic in-box Thursday afternoon, four hours and 14 minutes before debate moderator Jim Lehrer posed his first question.

As they say in Chicago, vote early and vote often!
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# Posted 10:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEJA VU c.2002? My cache as a political strategist isn't all that high at the moment, since I seem to have underestimated the impact of Kerry's victory in Thursday night's debate. Even so, I have my suspicions about the Kerry campaign's decision to capitalize on its victory by emphasizing their candidate's domestic agenda. The WaPo reports that:
The aftermath of the debate produced a strategic change for the Kerry campaign, which had used the two weeks before it to launch an argument about Bush's record in Iraq that was designed to take pressure off Kerry's often-contradictory statements on the subject. Heading toward the final two debates that will dwell on domestic policy, Kerry advisers said they will use a big advertising buy to help talk about Bush's economic record...

"This represents a very aggressive move to the domestic agenda," [Kerry strategist Tad ]Devine told reporters yesterday as he described a 15-state, $7.7 million ad buy.
The Democrats tried to run away from foreign policy in 2002 and paid for it dearly at the polls. Admittedly, Kerry position on the issue is much stronger than it was a few days ago and he is headed into a debate specifically about domestic issues. Even so, my (unreliable) instinct says that Kerry should hammer away at Bush on the national security front.
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# Posted 10:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SUCCESS IN SAMARRA? The Post's coverage of the recent battle in Samarra consists almost entirely of US and Iraqi officials describing their success. But even Glenn struck a cautionary note, citing this warning from StrategyPage:
The real battle for Samarra [will] take place in the next few months. The people fighting American troops at the moment, and getting killed, are the dummies. The smart guys just hide their weapons and wait for an opportunity to take over the town again. If the new police force cannot hunt down and arrest most of the smarter gangsters and terrorists in the next few months, Samarra will lapse into anarchy again.

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# Posted 7:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ALCOHOLISM + CONSERVATISM = LIVE-BLOGGING? As promised, I've taken a closer look at live-blogging to see if it really added anything to Thursday night's debate.

The first thing I noticed was how many live-bloggers were depending on alcohol to get them through the night. Unsurprisingly, VodkaPundit was the most committed drinker, with TLB and myself also raising our glasses.

The next thing I noticed was that live-blogging seemed to be an overwhelmingly right-of-center activity (with moderates such as myself and Prof. Drezner included in that category.) Marshall, Yglesias, the TNR boys, Tapped -- nothing. The exception to the rule is Kevin Drum, whose sparse comments suggests that he wasn't terribly excited about what he was doing.

Kevin did point out, however, that the NYT's Kit Seelye live-blogged the debate on the NYT website. I think that's really interesting because one of the few things that live-blogging does is force you to be share your perceptions before they are inflenced by other people's opinions.

Of course, I'm sure that Seelye was especially careful not to post anything that might compromise her reputation for objectivity. In fact, I thought her comments were probably too kind too Bush, almost as if she were concerned about coming across as overly critical.

Even so, I think if we began to see a broad array of professional journalists live-blog on a regular basis, we'll get some interesting insights into how the news is made.
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# Posted 7:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FROM THE JAWS OF VICTORY? Newsweek's latest poll has Kerry ahead. (Hat tip: Kos)
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# Posted 7:01 PM by Patrick Belton  

GET YOUR CHRISTMAS PRESENTS NOW WATCH: Today we feature the splendid line of products at www.giantmicrobes.com (whose motto triumphantly proclaims: 'We make stuffed animals that look like tiny microbes—only a million times actual size!'). To quote from their website,
Now available: The Common Cold, The Flu, Sore Throat, Stomach Ache, Cough, Ear Ache, Bad Breath, Kissing Disease, Athlete's Foot, Ulcer, Martian Life, Beer & Bread, Black Death, Ebola, Flesh Eating, Sleeping Sickness, Dust Mite, Bed Bug, and Bookworm (and in our Professional line: H.I.V. and Hepatitis).
This Christmas, why don't you help that little person in your life have exciting dreams all year round with their Ebola plush toy?
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# Posted 1:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FOX'S CBS MOMENT: Josh Marshall has a whole lot of posts up about an article on the Fox website that fabricated quotes by John Kerry. The quotes themsevles are mind-bogglingly ridiculous, for example:

"Women should like me! I do manicures."

"Didn't my nails and cuticles look great? What a good debate!"

"I'm metrosexual — [Bush's] a cowboy."

After being challenged, Fox took down the article and excused it as a bad attempt at humor. Not the most credible excuse, but what else can you say about something so bizarre? I just hope Dan Rather is glad to see that bloggers are also giving his competition a hard time.

UPDATE: Matt Yglesias takes exception to my characterization of the Fox episode as a "CBS moment":
It is, of course, no such thing. CBS was embarrassed when it was revealed that they had published a story containing an untrue element.
Heh. "Untrue element".
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# Posted 1:01 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IMAGINE if American citizens were beheading Iraqi insurgents instead of vice versa. Imagine if Americans intentionally slaughtered civilians in order to terrorize them into submission. Imagine if Abu Ghraib were not a national embarrassment, but an official policy.

If you can imagine all of those things, then you can imagine how lowAmerican credibility was with regard to promoting democracy in El Salvador in the early 1980s. The Salvadoran military did all of things described above -- and worse -- yet President Reagan not only insisted on providing the Salvadorans with weapons while denying that they committed such atrocities.

It is only by appreciating this contrast that one can appreciate how much greater American credibility is today than it was the last time that a tax-cutting cowboy embarked on a "crusade for freedom" designed to spread democracy to the four corners of the globe.

Earlier this week, I agreed with David Brooks that the success of American-backed elections in the midst of the Salvadoran civil war suggests that similar elections can work in Iraq. In contrast, three individuals with a very impressive knowledge of El Salvador have argued that the Salvadoran experience demonstrates exactly why next year's elections in Iraq are bound to fail.

The most important points of contention in this analogical debate are first, whether the 1982 & 1984 elections were, in fact, the success that America likes to remember; and, second, whether or not the elections were responsible, over the long-term, for the consolidation of (a still imperfect) democracy in El Salvador.

Marc Cooper, a journalist who covered the Salvadoran elections in 1982 and almost got killed in the process of doing so writest that:

There’s only one small problem with Brooks’ version of Salvadoran history: It’s false.

And one difference between Brooks and me when it comes to that Salvadoran election day of March 28, 1982 – I was there and he wasn’t.

Of course, Diane Sawyer was also there, along with a small brigade of network produces and anchors. All of them ready to document the miracle that the Reagan administration was producing: the supposed birth of democracy in the midst of a barbarously bloody civil war.

Cooper's accusation of media complicity in an American propaganda exercise reflects the prevailing sentiment of the American left in the 1980s, a sentiment best represented in the work of NYT correspondent Raymond Bonner and of Mark Hertsgaard at The Nation. Hertsgaard was particularly harsh, comparing the Salvadoran vote in 1982 to elections in Bulgaria.

What I have found in my research, however, was that the American media expected to cover the abject failure of the March 1982 elections, not their surprising success. In my dissertation, I write that

As election day approached, the press conveyed a sense of foreboding and distress similar to that of the administration’s critics on Capitol Hill. One New York Times headline read “Violence and Cynicism Mar Campaign for Next Month’s Vote”. The week before the election, a front page story in the Washington Post began by reporting that “Archbishop Arturo Rivera y Damas [of San Salvador] said today that ‘the violent propaganda’ of the parties involved in next Sunday's election has raised doubts about whether the vote can be ‘peaceful and free.’” Newsweek observed simply that “the voting seems likely to backfire.”

[NYT, 27 Feb 1982:A3; WP, 22 Mar 1982:A1; Newsweek, 1 Mar 1982:16.]

Democratic congressmen and academic experts shared the expectations of the national media. It was precisely because expectations for the elections were so low that their success resulted in such wildly positive press coverage. Sample headlines from the morning following the election -- all of them on the front page -- included:
“Turnout Heavy in El Salvador; Thousands Vote Despite Rebel Threats”

“Salvadorans Jam Polling Stations…Votes Cast Amid Gunfire”

“Rural Voters, Despite Fears, Hike for Miles”

[WP, 29 Mar 1982:A1; NYT, 29 Mar 1982:A1 – Col. 6; NYT, 29 Mar 1982:A1 – Col. 5]
Even so, Cooper is right to say, with regard to the violence, that,
It wasn’t just insurgents trying to stop voting. It was, instead, another day of battle in a country suffering in its third year of internal war.
More than anyone, President Reagan popularized the notion that most Salvadorans risked their lives in order to vote. For the next six years, he would answer questions about El Salvador by describing a woman who was shot guerrillas but refused to seek medical attention before being allowed to vote.

The woman was real, although she wasn't representative. However, the Salvadoran guerillas made a major mistake when one of their commanders announced to the Washington Post that the guerrillas were simply against elections and therefore would try to disrupt them with violence. In contrast to the Nicaraguan Sandinistas who won popular support, both at home and abroad, by paying lip service to democracy before taking power, the Salvadoran guerrillas didn't recognize the importance of downplaying their Marxist-Leninist ideology. (NB: According to the American left, the guerrillas were social democrats.)

So what is the lesson here with regard to Iraq? Cooper writes that:
Given the complete lack of physical security, how does anyone in their right mind believe there can be an open and democratic campaign over the next four months? With car bombs and ambushes multiplying daily, does anyone think someone is going to go out and canvass door to door?
As it turns out, liberal critics said exactly the same thing about El Salvador in 1982. The danger, however, wasn't from the guerillas but from the Salvadoran armed forces who made a habit of slaughtering opposing campaign workers. Among the harshest critics was Robert White, whom Carter appointed as ambassador to El Salvador, and whom Reagan promptly fired because he of strong support for human rights (White, that is, not Reagan). In 1982, White testified before Congress that:
Maj. D’Aubuisson [the right-wing candidate] enjoys the protection of a hardline military as he goes around the country spreading his gospel that he will napalm the country of all its Communists, whereas President Duarte [the center-left head of the interim junta], as I said, is a practically a prisoner and does not dare to go out to those places.
As White's comments illustrate, America's moral position in El Salvador was far worse than it now is in Iraq. Imagine if Allawi's henchmen murdered opposition activists on a regular basis while Bush said nothing, lest Allawi let up in his battle against the insurgents.

Tactically speaking, the sitation in Iraq is better in some respects and worse in others. In El Salvador, the military's official status meant it could operate in the open and attack opponents at will throughout the country. In Iraq, the insurgents operate openly only in a few select areas. However, the Salvadoran military's support for the electoral process ensured that the election itself would take place, whereas in Iraq the insurgent may be able to disrupt it.

The final point I want to raise about election day in El Salvador concerns the prospect of fraud. Salvadoran politicians later admitted that they inflated the official turnout numbers in order to heighten the perception that the Salvadoran people supported the election process. In a rare instance of consensual fraud, the three main parties agreed to increase the turnout in a proportional manner so that the underlying result of the election would be preserved. As a result of this consensus, none of the parties complained about the fraud, thus ensuring that when it was discovered three months later, the American public would pay far less attention to the fraud than they did to the election itself.

Nonetheless, the actual turnout -- 1.1 million as opposed to 1.5 million (in a nation with only 2 million-plus eligible voters) was still far greater than the 500,000 to 800,000 projected by American experts. More importantly, the voters interviewed by a wide array of observer missions expressed tremendous enthusiasm about the opportunity to vote.

On a related note, Bill Barnes, who has a doctorate in Latin American politics, points out [via e-mail] that
With regard to the 1982 constituent assembly election, it was considered to be dangerous to fail to vote. There was no registration. Soldiers and police would frequently ask to see the identity documents on which certification of having voted was to be stamped, in a context in which the FDR- FMLN had called for a boycott of the election, and death squads linked to the army and the police were killing on the order of 800 people every month for suspected links to the FDR-FMLN.
Barnes comments, based on the writings on numerous scholars, reflect what is close to being a consensus opinion in the field. However, there are two problems with it. The lesser problem is that Salvadoran voters never expressed as much fear as American scholars attributed to them. One might object, however, that Salvadoran voters were not inclined to reveal their true feelings to elections monitors.

The second problem is that there is no documentation of Salvadoran soldiers abusing or killing anyone because of their failure to vote -- in spite of the fact that 40-45% of the electorate failed to vote and that the Salvadoran armed forces killed thousands of people for other well-documented (if scarcely justifiable) reasons.

In sum, the El Salvador elections really did resemble the coming elections in Iraq because of widespread expectations of failure in the United States and the presence of a security threat that had the potential to disrupt the electoral process.

That is my position on election day 1982 in El Salvador. In my next post, I'll look at the long-term implications of the Salvadoran elections and whether or not there are similar reasons to be optimistic about Iraq.
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Friday, October 01, 2004

# Posted 9:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EVEN THE LIBERAL NEW REPUBLIC is trashing Bush's performance in last night's debate. The criticism I agree with most strongly is Peter Beinart's argument that Bush's attack on Kerry for demoralizing the troops is dishonest and undemocratic. Here's the money graf:
When critics said the Iraq war would embolden Islamists to attack the United States, Bush supporters scoffed that the terrorists needed no encouragement--they were already doing everything they could to kill Americans. But, if the terrorists can't be emboldened--if they are always doing their utmost to kill Americans-how can John Kerry be emboldening them now? At a recent rally in Columbus, Ohio, Bush said, "These people don't need an excuse for their hatred. I think it's wrong to blame America for the anger and the evil of the killers." But evidently, it's OK to blame John Kerry.
Next is up is Ryan Lizza's entertaining and insightful analysis of the post-debate spin. Long story short, the Bush folks barely had the confidence to pretend that their man won.

On a more substantive note, Spencer Ackerman dismantles Bush's assertion that the the United States has already trained 100,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen. Kerry wasn't ready to make Bush pay for that one last night, but he should hammer on it relentlessly in the weeks to come. If Bush changes his numbers, Kerry can call him a flip-flopper. If he sticks with his numbers, Kerry can call him a liar.

Now we get to the question of whether last night's debate will have all that much impact on the race. The formerly-pessimistic Jonathan Cohn is now optimistically hoping that voters are fed up with Bush:
Time and again, Bush retreated to the same old line of attack: that he would protect America because he had strong conviction, while Kerry would weaken America because he changes his positions. Whether or not the charge is true, by now it is simply getting dull. Maybe voters finally started noticing that Bush frequently had nothing else to say when it came to defending his record--because, in fact, that record is so hard to defend.
Sticking with my position from last night, I'm going to disagree with Cohn and agree with ex-TNR man Fred Barnes, who says that
It's the voters outside the Washington-New York-Boston axis who matter. And Bush's firm insistence on a few key points--notably the need for resolve in Iraq--and his repetition of these points, is likely to have appealed to them. Repetition is Bush's long suit.
First of all, who let Boston into our axis? (The axis of yuppie?) There may be a Bos-NY-Wash corridor thanks to Amtrak, but there is no axis. Anyhow, what I really want to see is how much last night's debate closed the gap between Bush and Kerry on whom voters trust to handle the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq.

Regardless, the debate was a high-water mark for Kerry. While David Skinner tries to argue that Bush came across as more presidential because he "had an air of superiority" that was "above Kerry's nitpicking", Skinner highlight precisely that evidence which demolishes his own argument; on eleven separate occasions, Bush said that "this" -- meaning the presidency -- is "hard work".

Said with confidence, such a statement might come off as presidential. But when Bush's relies on it as a plea for sympathy, it's just pathetic.

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# Posted 9:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WE ARE COMMON KNOWLEDGE: Tonight was the final night of Jeopardy's Tournament of Champions. The winner took home a quarter of a million dollars. But what's really surprising is that one of the categories in Double Jeopardy! was "Blogs".

So now it's official. Educated Americans are supposed to know what a blog is. The first question -- excuse me, answer -- in the blogging category was what 'blog' is short for. (If you don't know, then close this browser right now.)

The only political blogger who got his name mentioned on the show was Lawrence Lessig. The answer question to the $2000 question answer was Margaret Cho. I didn't even know she had a blog. [And now that I've taken a look at it, I'll have to revise my statement that Lessig was the only political blogger mentioned.]

The only question is, what next for bloggers? Glenn Reynolds hosting Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

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# Posted 8:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MAKING AN OFFER YOU CAN'T REFUSE: You can't line a catbox with a webpage -- that's why you should subscribe to the paper version of the Washington Post.

Right now, new subscribers can get 12 weeks of home delivery for just $1.50 a week. Pay attention now: $1.50 isn't the delivery charge. It's the price of seven papers plus delivery. The cover price of seven papers at the newstand (six weekdays plus one Sunday) is $3.60.

Even though I'm a blogger, I'll take paper over pixels any day. You can carry it from room to room, you don't have to plug it in, you can flip back and forth from page to page, you can read it from any angle, you can spill coffee on it. What's not to love?
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# Posted 1:27 PM by Patrick Belton  

MISS THE DEBATES? Because, say, they were on at 2 in the morning where you live? Then you can watch them here.
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# Posted 6:48 AM by Patrick Belton  

WEEKEND READING WATCH: Don't be put off from the National Security Archive at George Washington University just because they spin each document they release (the latter in nearly every instance providing a fascinating fine-grained glimpse into American diplomatic history) to be about: (1) US hypocrisy in Latin America, or (2) generally, see (1). (Note: Lest this post reesurface in any future confirmation hearings involving me by any committee of the US Senate, I am for the record also opposed to US hypocrisy in Latin America, as well as hypocrisy and the seven mortal sins worldwide, with the possible exception of one or two I haven't yet made up my mind about.)

Because, with a degree of success unparalleled really in the internet world, the Archive's staff manage to declassify and place on their website more spellbinding soundbites of foreign policy actually in the making, per ounce of bandwidth, than anywhere outside of Condi Rice's hotmail inbox.

Cases in point (and only selecting two from among the more recently posted documents): first, this telephone transcript of Kissinger being informed of the fall of Saigon by a wire service reporter, and second, Kissinger's personal goodbyes after Ford's loss to Carter from Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin (in which Kissinger tells Mr Nyet 'I will miss you too. If it is possible to have a Marxist friend....'). Hunt around the website for more - all of it makes fascinating reading.

UPDATE: OxBlog's friend Randy Paul writes to add: 'Not to mention that the National Security Archives also has the best collection of Elvis meeting Nixon photos here.'

The handwritten letter (on American Airlines stationery) from Elvis to President Nixon is endearingly awful, as is Haldeman's scribbled response to staffer Dwight Chapin's memorandum line 'In addition, if the President wants to meet with some bright young people outside of the Government, Presley might be a perfect one to start with': 'You must be kidding'.
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# Posted 6:21 AM by Patrick Belton  

BAD RESEARCH WATCH: The Malthus award, for unthoughtful extrapolation of present trends into the future, goes to no other than our own university's researchers who extended into the future the comparative rates of improvement of male and female sprinting world records - neglecting to note that women have not been competing in the 100 meters as long or with as broad a base of competitors as men - and lo and behold, arrived via an Excel worksheet at the conclusion that women would beat men at the 100 meter sprint by 2156!

Also, in the papers this morning:

A wonderful review of the history of Granta magazine. Best quote, describing 1979 on the banks of the titular river at Cambridge: 'as far away from me and this office in north London, to which we moved from Cambridge in 1989, as the email message from the penny black.'

Non sequitur headline award... goes to the Independent for: 'Tony Blair was heading into hospital for heart treatment today - as The Independent can reveal that he has bought a Georgian house for about £3.5m in central London' (cynical comment from cynical reader: aha - obviously he has been stressing over the UK housing market bubble)

Ig Nobel awards released, at Harvard. They include:

Medicine - to Steven Stack and James Gundlach, for revealing through analysis of US radio playlists that as the amount of country music played went up, so did the white suicide rate

Public Health - to high-school student Jillian Clarke, for disproving the validity of the five-second rule about the safety of eating food dropped on the floor (which 70 percent of women and 56 of men believe. And they say we're slobs.)

Engineering - to Donald Smith and his father, the late Frank Smith, for patenting the comb-over

Economics - to The Vatican, for outsourcing prayers to India

Peace - to Daisuke Inoue, for inventing karaoke in 1971

Recipients receive, in the words of the official announcement, 'prizes made of extremely cheap materials and a medallion that's pretty awkward to wear'. The most amazing discovery is that you're actually allowed to quietly decline an Ig - everyone who has ever publicly been awarded one has consented.

UPDATE: I WAS GRIEVOUSLY WRONG, GO AHEAD AND EAT IT!: OxBlog's readers write in in droves to defend the five-second rule. The complete body of research is here, and shows that most floor surfaces are remarkably bacteria-free. Matt Boulous from MIT adds 'I do not believe that the 20-second rule (for fancy chocolate) was tested.' OxBlog is happy to stand corrected (as soon as I'm done licking up that spilled Glenmorangie, that is).
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Thursday, September 30, 2004

# Posted 10:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IS LIVE BLOGGING A WASTE OF TIME? Live blogging embodies everything that professional journalists say is wrong with the blogosphere. Live blogging involves the publication of every thought that crosses your mind with almost no censorship. But perhaps there is something good about getting the raw reactions of hundreds of well-informed viewers without hindsight getting in the way.

So, what I'm going to do now is go read some of the just-finished live-blogging and see what it adds to the debate. (But don't expect me to live blog about live-blogging. I'll report back tomorrow.)
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# Posted 10:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE OF THE SAME: Kevin Drum writes that "Bush is just relentlessly on message. The same phrases over and over and over...." That's why he's doing so well, Kevin. He's consistent.
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# Posted 9:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIVE BLOGGING, BROUGHT TO YOU BY PABST BLUE RIBBON: The candidates just walked in. I don't expect all that much in the way of entertainment, so I'll have plenty of PBR by my side.

9:01 PM: Kerry says he can make us safer by leading stronger alliances. Not what I would've said. How about the war in Iraq is diverting resources from the war on terror? After all, alliances don't really make us safer, per se. Their role -- as Kerry himself just said -- should be to absorb casualties and costs in Iraq. [9:30 -- To clarify, I don't think that that's what their role should be.]

9:05 PM: President Bush, will America be more vulnerable to a terrorist attack if John Kerry wins on November 2? Bush is completely dodging the question and rambling about all sorts of things. But you know what? The question was a trap, trying to get Bush to say something offensive.

9:07 PM: Kerry says Iraq represents a "colossal error of judgment". I think he needs to hit harder. I think he needs to brand Bush as a liar and a hypocrite, the way Bush branded him as a flip-flopper. But nice shot about outsourcing the hunt for Bin Laden to Afghan warlords. Misleading, but sharp.

9:10 PM: Nice job by Bush of citing Kerry words to support the decision to invade Iraq. Notice Kerry nodding in assent when Bush cites him -- in order to show that he is confident hasn't been caught flip-flopping.

9:13 PM: Bush is trying to explain why the occupation of Iraq is part of the war on terror. He keeps saying "freedom" and "democracy". But he already has the neo-con vote.

9:16 PM: Kerry says that what makes him different from Bush is that he can bring in the allies. That is not enough. The polls show voters trust Bush more on national security. Kerry won't change that by reminding people that Europe likes him.

9:20 PM: Bush is rambling again, trying to explain what he did for homeland security. Kerry sounds much more confident. Bush: "Of course we're doing everything we can to make America safe." He sounds desperate.

9:22 PM: How will you know when it's time for America to bring its troops home? Bush's answer is mostly about Iraqification.

9:25 PM: Ouch! Kerry says Bush Sr. knew that an occupation would meet with Iraqi hostility. Bush insists on a response and says that a commander-in-chief shouldn't discourage the troops. That sounds naive.

9:26 PM: Kerry says, unequivocally, that invading Iraq was a mistake. The Republicans will try their best to make him pay for that.

9:30 PM: Bush hit the nail on the head. Allies won't send troops to fight what the US President calls the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. To bad Bush didn't sound confident when he said it.

9:31 PM: Cheapshot. Kerry did not denigrate the contribution of our soldiers. Plus, Bush sounds desperate.

9:36 PM: Talk about a softball. Lehrer asks Kerry to give examples of Bush being a liar. And Kerry then insists that Bush hasn't lied, only been less than candid. Josh Marshall must be kicking himself.

9:38 PM: Bush goes back to Kerry's own words. Solid.

9:42 PM: Bush tells the story of praying with the widow of a fallen soldier. A first-rate performance.

9:47 PM: What a strange argument. Kerry thinks that the biggest problem with the occupation is that he hasn't made it clear that we want to leave Iraq and that we don't have designs on Iraqi oil. It sounds to conspiratorial.

9:50 PM: Have we really trained 100,000 troops in Iraq? That seems like a fact Kerry should be able to dispute.

10:05 PM: Every time Bush is in trouble he talks about "freedom" and "democracy" as the way to win the war in terror. How many times has Kerry used either of those words? What is his vision for winning the war on terror?

10:21 PM: I was hoping that Bush would connect the dots and say that democracy in Russia is critical to acheiving a global victory in the war on terror. If democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan is critical why not in Russia?

By the same token, why didn't Kerry challenge Bush to be consistent? Why not ask him why he demands democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan but not Russia? I think it is because Kerry doesn't believe there is an integral relationship between promoting democracy and winning the war on terror.

10:24 PM: "The future belongs to freedom and not to fear." If so, why doesn't Kerry talk about promoting democracy in the Middle East.

10:26 PM: Good closing statement from Bush. I bet he memorized it.

So, where are we now? I don't think anything changed tonight. But when nothing changes, the leader in the polls is the one who benefits.

10:30 PM: It's John Edwards! ( On NBC.) He really is too handsome for his own good. And I had no idea he had such a strong southern accent. Serves me right for not watching television enough.

Brokaw reminds Edwards that the French and Germans want nothing to do with Iraq. Edwards says John Kerry could do it.

Now it's Giuliani time. He's says John Kerry is destorying the troops' morale. That's low. But he is right that Kerry has provided absolutely no rationale for why we should stay in Iraq.

Brokaw asks Giuliani to comment on Musharraf's insistence that the war on Iraq is hurting the war on terror. Why didn't Lehrer ask something about that in the debate? Anyhow, Giuliani is providing the ridiculous answer (often given by George Bush) that we need to go on offense against the terrorists. But how does the war in Iraq relate to that? Much as I support it, building democracy is not the safe as hunting down terrorists planning attacks on American territory.
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# Posted 8:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SOMETIMES SPIN IS GOOD: Citing Krugman and Kurtz, Kevin Drum laments that
The thing to watch is less the debate itself than the post-debate spin war. In 2000, for example, most viewers thought Al Gore did fine, but over the following week, as more and more journalists jumped on board the spin bandwagon, opinion finally morphed and Gore's performance was officially declared dismal. Expect more of the same this year as reporters start talking to each other after the show and adopting each others' views out of fear that they've missed the crucial storyline that everyone else picked up on.
It's not hard to detect Kevin's slight resentment of the fact that intelligence proved to be a considerable disadvantage in the 2000 debates. But I don't think that Kevin should differentiate between the true content of a debate as watched by viewers and the post-debate spin influenced by journalists and campaign operatives. Consider, for example, what happened in 1976 (summary courtesy of Howard Kurtz -- from the same column Kevin cites):
The classic example of a debate that morphed into a debacle was Gerald Ford's Oct. 6, 1976, faceoff with Jimmy Carter. A Washington Post story the next morning relegated to the 32nd paragraph Ford's statement that there was no Soviet domination of countries such as Poland. But the next day Carter called the remarks a "disgrace" and "very serious blunder," and on Oct. 8 a Post front-page story began: "President Ford's observation that 'there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe' poses an immediate problem for him." The media furor lasted for days until Ford acknowledged the obvious, by which time the damage had been done.
Ford should have been punished for his incomprehensible statement, but he wouldn't've been if the media didn't step in. Audiences often need to be told what the significance of what they're watching is.
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# Posted 11:33 AM by Patrick Belton  

AFGHNISTAN BLOGGING: OxBlog's Afghanistan correspondent follows up on his recent insightful contribution about the elections in Afghanistan:
Let me add a few qualifications to my cautious optimism about the Afghan situation. Afghanistan is still a country two or three disasters away from collapse. If the assassination attempt on Karzai last week had succeeded, the election would have been thrown into total disarray. If two or three of the major local warlords decide to take up arms against the president, the Afghan National Army might fall apart, and with it any pretense of a national government. If many Afghans continue to feel that their personal economic situation is in decline -- the most troubling bit of the Charney poll of Afghan opinion is that 37% feel less prosperous now than under the Taliban, and only 10% more prosperous -- they may begin looking around for new regime options.

Moreover, there are a whole lot of ways we could still screw things up. The estimates from this year’s poppy harvest are in, and it’s clear that despite the best efforts of the Brits (who were saddled with the thankless task of stemming the drugs trade), Afghanistan will supply roughly three-quarters of the world’s illicit opium this year. This is a new record; and it was largely unavoidable. Afghan farmers have got to eat, and it’ll be a couple more years before all the money the West is throwing into Afghan agriculture allows the farmers to make a better living from (say) fruit and nut exports than from poppy. In the meantime, fairly or unfairly, the poppy explosion is a clear political vulnerability for Bush. There’s a well-established narcotics eradication lobby in Washington, which has grown rich off the war on drugs (spraying and burning crops on a large scale requires lots of money) and can offer the President a dramatic, tough response to the problem. This would turn thousands, if not millions, of Afghan farmers against us and against the Kabul government – just in time for the parliamentary elections next year.

Despite the obvious potential for things to go wrong, Peter Bergen, and Craig Charney, and one or two others are contributing to a more optimistic meme on the upcoming elections. I think they’re right. Matt Yglesias draws attention to exaggerations in Bergen’s piece, but I think calling them “factual problems” is a bit strong. No, Dostum has not entirely stopped his sparring with Atta Mohammad up north; but the intensity of their conflict did noticeably diminish over the last few months, as Dostum geared up for his presidential bid. Similarly, it is too early to state that Fahim and Ismael Khan have been “neutralized.” But their power has been directly challenged by Karzai, and they have backed down, losing a great deal of face. Assuming Karzai wins the election, we’re likely to see a new Defense Minister in a month or two, and Fahim knows it. So does Bergen, and I think we can forgive him a little blurring of the achieved and the anticipated.

The gravest questions about the elections have been raised by the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU), a very fine local think-tank, in a report released a week ago. Their report is sobering, and I whole-heartedly agree with them that we ought to defer the April 2005 parliamentary elections til the end of the year at least, to allow for more voter education, political party formation, and a proper census. The AREU authors are also right that the imminent presidential election demands many more trained monitors than we currently have, and will doubtless be marred by intimidation and irregularities in many parts of the country. “It is impossible to know how many flaws in the process it would take to cross the invisible line between an election that is accepted as legitimate and one that is not,” they warn.

I’m optimistic on this one because I think Karzai will win, and that a clear majority of Afghans want him to win. Because of his popularity, he’ll get legitimacy; that “invisible line” of acceptable flaws will be farther out for him than for others. His record of the last few months leads me to believe that he’ll then use this legitimacy to aggressively push the national disarmament program, even when that requires him to challenge multiple warlords simultaneously. For all the fragility of the current situation, I think we can see the outlines of a positive way forward.

Who takes the credit if the election is successful? David writes:

At first blush, the impending success of the Afghan presidential elections seems like a major victory for George W. Bush. But what does it say about this administration or about the United States that things are far better off in the country where we only have a handful of troops and have kept a much lower profile throughout the occupation?

I think it says most about Afghanistan, a country exhausted by twenty years of war and desperately hungering for some sort of normality. In Afghanistan as in Iraq, we went in with enough soldiers to win the war but too few to bring real security to the country. In Iraq, the results have been disastrous to date (and provide sufficient reason to turf out George Bush in November). In Afghanistan, by bringing security to Kabul, keeping the Taliban on the run, and leveraging our limited remaining firepower to keep the warlords in line, we’ve somehow muddled through so far. But it wouldn’t have been enough without millions of Afghans already on board, eager to try a new system that promises an end to violence. They registered to vote despite the fact that we didn’t put enough soldiers on the ground to protect them. We should also recognize the valiant efforts of the UN (which was in charge of the registration effort, and lost several employees). All in all, a successful Afghan election will be nothing for President Bush to be ashamed of, but no reason for triumphalism either.

Next year’s parliamentary elections will be the greatest challenge to date. It’s easy for war-weary Afghans to vote for national unity in picking a president, but it’s in voting for regional representatives that the ethnic conflicts will really come out. How many representatives will each region get? Will political parties mirror ethnic divisions, or regional ones, or ideological ones? Elections will likely be more closely contested, and thus more likely to be derailed by procedural flaws and irregularities. There will also have to be a lot more voter education for people to understand how the legislative system works. A number of worthy organizations have begun preparing for these challenges. If this October election goes well, we’ll have that much more reason to hope.
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# Posted 8:11 AM by Patrick Belton  

BUT WILL THEY SHOW SENATORS GAMES? For those of our readers who don't live in the States but might be interested in watching the debate tonight, BBC News 24 (which my television licence-paying friends tell me channel one turns into at some point in the night) will be showing the debate beginning at 1:50 UK time. In Ireland, you're stuck watching the equally scintillating Oireachtas Report on RTE. And if you've got an internet connection, as many of our readers are reported to, you could always watch on C-Span.

MORE: Our friend Pierre writes in that for those of our readers in Oxford, you can pop over to the St Antony’s College buttery, which will be open for the duration. 
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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

# Posted 9:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KERRY PRAISES WOLFOWITZ: You thought it couldn't happen, but here's a direct quote:
Secretary Armacost and Secretary Wolfowitz, with whom I spoke earlier today, have really been exceptional. In their testimony before this committee both of them were instrumental in in aiding us [sic] our effort to try to frame an intelligent and sensitive response to the situation there and to try to help in whatever way we could to set up a structure of accountability for the election process. It was their candor that I think helped to build a bipartisan foreign policy policy and the success that we saw.
The election process Kerry was referring to is the one in the Philippines in 1986. His statement, made before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations is from February 27th of that year. (The hearing number is 99-645, its CIS reference number is 86-S381-20, and Kerry's statement is on page seven.)

By most accounts, Wolfowitz did a very good job of aiding the 1986 transition to democracy in the Philippines. I can't say much more than that right now because I've only just started my research on the subject. But if it does turn out that Wolfowitz played in an interesting role in tearing Reagan away from his support for Manila strongman Ferdinand Marcos, then I think it would say a lot about Wolfowitz's motivations and integrity with regard to Iraq.
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# Posted 9:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NATIONAL PASTTIME RETURNS TO NATION'S CAPITAL: I'm totally psyched. But the big question is, what are going to call the new team?

I'd be happy with the 'Senators'. Baseball is the sport of tradition; when you say 'Washington', you naturally think 'Senators'. Or has that name become jinxed? Washington has already lost its Senators twice, and I don't think it could survive losing them again.

So what other names would work? First, a word of caution. Whoever decided to call the DC basketball team the Wizards should be prevented from suggesting any names. Same goes for the Mystics.

A good name embodies local identity and local traditions. That's why Senators worked so well. But perhaps the new name should reflect the city's local identity rather than its role as the federal capital.

The 'Crack-Smoking Mayors' might be a fun name, but it just isn't tasteful. Same goes for the Washington Carjackers. How about the Washington Eagles? Philadelphia might have a problem with that. And again, it sort of refers to the government.

What about a name that refers to Greater Washington's new role as the a capital of the high-tech industry? [JK rightly points out that DC is nothing compared to northern California.] The Washington Lightning doesn't sound bad, although Tampa Bay might object. How about the Washington Thunder? Not exactly a reference to high-tech, but it sounds cool.

Hmmm. I guess I'll have to keep my thinking cap on for a while to come up with some better ideas.
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# Posted 8:49 AM by Patrick Belton  

DOZENS SEEK ASYLUM IN CANADIAN EMBASSY IN BEIJING: Details are unfortunately not entirely clear at the moment, but a group of 44 North Koreans have sought asylum from the Embassy of Canada in Beijing. To get past Chinese security, they disguised themselves as construction workers, complete with yellow hard hats. According to the CBC, hundreds of North Koreans have sought asylum in South Korea by way of foreign embassies and consulates in China since 2002.
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# Posted 4:24 AM by Patrick Belton  

PLOUGHMAN'S SANDWICH: Personally, it gives me sincere pleasure somehow to partake in a nation which has a National Ploughing Championships opened in person by the Taoiseach and expected to draw over 150,000 people. As the RTE note this morning, 'More than five kilometres of steel trackway has been laid to ease conditions for the crowds as they make their way around the ploughing competitions and the 700 trade stands.' Sin sin, níl aon scéal eile agam.
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# Posted 1:25 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE SOFT PARADE: Howard Kurtz writes that:

If you were watching the network evening news in June, July and August, you would have seen somewhat favorable coverage of John Kerry -- six out of 10 evaluations were positive -- and somewhat unfavorable coverage of President Bush.

If you were watching Fox News Channel's 6 p.m. newscast, you would have seen about the same coverage of the president. But Kerry's evaluations were negative by a 5 to 1 margin.

That finding, by the Center for Media and Public Affairs, might suggest that some Fox folks have it in for Kerry. Or it might suggest that the broadcast networks are too easy on Kerry, who the group says has gotten the best network coverage of any presidential nominee since it began tracking in 1988.

Really? 1988? I wonder which candidate got all the positive coverage back then. [CORRECTION: GH points out that I have misinterpreted Kurtz's sentence. What he's saying is not that Kerry has gotten the most positive coverage since 1988, but that CMPA has only been tracking the subject since then.]

Btw, in contrast to certain NYT authors and other assorted journalists, Kurtz is one of the few mainstreamers who really seems to understand what blogging is all about.
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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

# Posted 11:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NAVEL-GAZING: In its cover story about Democratic bloggers, the NYT Magazine managed to recycle all of the negative stereotypes about the blogosphere that professional journalists have done so much to perpetuate.

First and foremost, the story perpetuates the notion that blogging is an alternative to journalism, rather than a forum for opinion and analysis, just like the op-ed page. The cover photo (at least I think it is), shows Wonkette sitting at her laptop with Johnny Apple and Jack Germond looking over her shoulders.

Instead of Apple and Germond, it should be Krugman and Krauthammer. Unsurprisingly, the false comparison of bloggers to straight news reporters results in the false perception that bloggers are excessively partisan. Without much effort, the suggestion that bloggers are excessively partisan transforms itself into the suggestion that bloggers lack substance.

This suggestion isn't a result of political prejudice, since this is an article about liberal bloggers (and there are no indications that the author is a closet conservative). While I might agree that Josh Marshall's blog has become has become "an irate spitter of well-crafted vitriol aimed at the president", it is also much more than that. TPM provides a tremendous amount of information, much of it hard to find, as well as lots of original ideas.

I don't like most of those ideas and the information provided reflects an obvious partisan agenda, but doesn't that description fit almost every columnist at the NYT?

The NYTM story amplifies its message that bloggers lack substance by focusing on its subjects' personalities and personal quirk far more than their ideas. For Wonkette, that's fine, although following her around won't really help you figure out what most bloggers do.

As for Marshall and Kos, their personal lives are amusing because they are pseudo-celebrities in my world, but hearing about Marshall's coke habit (diet, that is) doesn't do much to educate the off-line masses.

To top it all off, the NYTM perpetuates the notion that real journalists have better ideas because they spend more time crafting their sentences. Take for example, what the NYTM says about Kaus:
In 1999, Mickey Kaus, a veteran magazine journalist and author of a weighty book on welfare reform, began a political blog on Slate. On kausfiles, as he called it, he wrote differently. There were a thousand small ways his voice changed; in print, he had been a full-paragraph guy who carefully backed up his claims, but on his blog he evolved into an exasperated Larry David basket case of self-doubt and indignation, harassed by a fake ''editor'' of his own creation who broke in, midsentence, with parenthetical questions and accusations.

All that outrage, hand wringing, writing posts all day long -- the care and maintenance of an online writing persona -- after five years, it takes its toll. I had talked to Kaus earlier in the summer at a restaurant in Venice, Calif., and he had said he didn't know how much longer he could stand it. After the election, he said, he might just give up.
There is no doubt that the unlimited right to publish ensures the publication of some low-quality material. But as a whole, the caliber of debate on the upper-tier blogs tends to be very high.

In the final analysis, I don't think that professional journalists' unfair assessment of blogs does all that much harm. Our reputation will rise and fall with because of what we do, not because of what others say. If we keep exposing the incompetence of veteran anchormen, they won't be able to write us off as amateurs. For the moment, even bad PR is good PR. The more people who know that we exist, the more people will learn about what we really do.
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# Posted 10:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GORE CALLS DEMOCRATS "NEO-ISOLATIONISTS": The WaPo quotes Al Gore as saying that:
"There is a neo-isolationist impulse that has come out of the Vietnam experience that has not been put in perspective in the [Democratic] party,"

"The nominating process has served to push the candidates to the left and make each of them scared they will be outflanked on the left by someone who plays to this neo-isolationist impulse. Therefore the mainstream Democratic voter listening to the dialogue feels disillusioned and confused about where the traditional Democratic consensus has gone."
Did I mention that this was what the Post reported on October 22, 1987? My, how the times change. And how they don't: mainstream Democratic voters are still trying to figure out whether the dovish demands of the primary campaign have damaged their party's credibility on issues of national security. After all, if not for Howard Dean, John Kerry might never have flip-flopped on Iraq.
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# Posted 3:48 PM by Patrick Belton  

TAKE MY WIFE! PLEASE! Any of our Washington readers who would like a witty, attractive, Oxford academic and foreign policy hand - no, this is Belton femme, not Belton homme we're talking about - can have her for only $200 between the 11th and the 22nd! (Actually, it's an even better deal than that - she gives you the 200 bucks, plus lots of witty conversation about Democratic foreign policy and rule of law building!) She'll be hiding most of the time writing like mad. She's also a very nice roommate - I can vouch for her.
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# Posted 3:47 PM by Patrick Belton  

BUT NO WORD YET ON WHETHER OSAMA WILL HAVE INK DONE: The Washington Times is claiming that Al Qa'eda is seeking ties with gangs with presences bridging Central America and the United States.

In other things happening in the world today off the headlines, China and Russia have signed an agreement increasing oil and gas cooperation between the two nations; China also reiterated its strong support for Russia's WTO bid (see China Daily). Japan's Foreign Minister has endorsed revising the Japanese constitution to allow the country to take on a larger role in world security (Reuters). North Korea's Vice Foreign Minister has claimed that the nation now possesses a nuclear deterrent (AP). Opposition is hardening to President Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan (Eurasianet), analysts see Russia as going Soviet (ditto) as it seeks a new policy toward its CIS neighbours (and ditto).
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# Posted 2:12 PM by Patrick Belton  

DEPARTMENT OF TRULY IMPORTANT THINGS: Anne-Sophie Mutter appeared on Radio 3 this afternoon, and I had before this never heard her rendition of the Brahms Violin Concerto in D. Mutter, performing as a prodigy of Karajan, was often justly critiqued for a rather thin tonality, but now in her maturity and after drawing on years of concertising in the Modern repertory, her phrasing in the Brahms was marked in its originality, and her intensity throughout was breathless. As with many people, this concerto ranks among my favourite pieces, and Mutter made me feel as though I was hearing it for the first time. Brava.

UPDATE: One of our friends remedies a point I'd neglected: 'Sure, but really ya gotta love those dresses that she had sprayed on, too. Really enhances the live Mutter experience.'
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# Posted 2:05 PM by Patrick Belton  

DEMOCRACY IN RUSSIA: I'm with Bill Kristol on this one.
As citizens of the Euro-Atlantic community of democracies, we wish to express our sympathy and solidarity with the people of the Russian Federation in their struggle against terrorism.  The mass murderers who seized School No. 1 in Beslan committed a heinous act of terrorism for which there can be no rationale or excuse.  While other mass murderers have killed children and unarmed civilians, the calculated targeting of so many innocent children at school is an unprecedented act of barbarism that violates the values and norms of our community and which all civilized nations must condemn.

 At the same time, we are deeply concerned that these tragic events are being used to further undermine democracy in Russia.  Russia’s democratic institutions have always been weak and fragile.  Since becoming President in January 2000, Vladimir Putin has made them even weaker.  He has systematically undercut the freedom and independence of the press, destroyed the checks and balances in the Russian federal system, arbitrarily imprisoned both real and imagined political rivals, removed legitimate candidates from electoral ballots, harassed and arrested NGO leaders, and weakened Russia’s political parties.  In the wake of the horrific crime in Beslan, President Putin has announced plans to further centralize power and to push through measures that will take Russia a step closer to authoritarian regime.


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# Posted 1:29 PM by Patrick Belton  

  28 Sep, Tue, 16:11:10    Google:  oxblog  
  28 Sep, Tue, 16:13:16    Google:  oxblog  
  28 Sep, Tue, 16:23:29   Yahoo:  oxblog  
  28 Sep, Tue, 16:24:43    Yahoo:  instructions on making a french beret  
  28 Sep, Tue, 16:25:33    Yahoo:  oxblog  
  28 Sep, Tue, 16:48:23    Google:  oxblog  
  28 Sep, Tue, 17:18:03    Google:  oxblog
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# Posted 11:07 AM by Patrick Belton  

BLOGOSPHERE QUOTE OF THE DAY: Is from Joe Gandelman. "What happened [to Kerry's lead]? In two words: Bob Shrum. Kerry's chief strategist, complete with his 0-7 record in national campaigns, decided to sit on his candidate's lead. The Democratic convention then became The Vietnam Experience -- but in retrospect, in political terms, it was Apocolypse Now."
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# Posted 10:57 AM by Patrick Belton  

REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS does wonderful work in highlighting the causes of independent journalists being suppressed by their governments for seeking to practice their trade. They have online petitions on behalf of twenty-five journalists at the moment, in countries from Burma to Uzbekistan, and including two imprisoned Iranian online journalists.* Why don't you take a break and go sign them all!

*(Quote from the site: "The community of Iranian bloggers has been organising for several days to show its opposition to the censorship of Emrooz, Rouydad and Baamdad, websites that support Iran's main reform party. Dozens of Farsi-language blog pages have been renamed Emrooz and are displaying articles taken from the Emrooz site.")
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# Posted 5:21 AM by Patrick Belton  

YOU UGLY: One supposed, previously, that high fashion consisted largely, or at least in part, of the application of taste in the pursuit of distinctiveness - a salvaged set of Edwardian cuff links or art décoratif Swiss watch from the 1940s, inexpensive in its time and on eBay but in its way beautiful, and reflecting an aesthetic you're unlikely to get for more money over the counter at Debenham's. No more. The New York Times, in its foray into male fashion, reveals that at its root is actually utter mindless conformism. To wit, two photographs accompanying the story:

example one, 'Andy Gilchrist founded AskAndyAboutClothes.com after he retired. He owns 300 ties'.

example two, 'Steve Brinkman, in his closet in San Antonio, moderates at Styleforum.net, a Web site for discussing men's fashions.'

Note the subtle similarity between the two fashion-conscious gentlemen? This is the wave of the future. All men of middle age in America are condemned to look precisely, and Matrix-like, like these two fashion mavens. Resistance is, as they used to say on the Left Bank in the stylish cafes of St Germain des Pres during their Satrean heyday, inutile.
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# Posted 2:09 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FEELING OPTIMISTIC? If you're a Democrat, check out Electoral-Vote.com, which has Kerry only trailing Bush by 46, rather than the 70 electoral votes projected by RCP. But there's even good news at RCP, which just decided to list Pennsylvania -- a must-win state for the Democrats -- as leaning Kerry.

Of course, there's plenty of bad news at RCP, too. For example, this John Kerry quote from a Senate debate on November 9, 1997:
We must recognize that there is no indication that Saddam Hussein has any intention of relenting. So we have an obligation of enormous consequence, asn obligation to guarantee that Saddam Hussein cannot ignore the United Nations. He cannot be permitted to go unobserved and unimpeded toward his horrific objective of amassing a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. This is not a matter about which there should be any debate whatsoever in the Security Council, or, certainly in this Nation. If he remains obdurate, I believe that the United Nations must take, and should authorize immediately, whatever steps are necessary to force him to relent -- and that the United States should support and participate in those steps.
Just to be on the safe side (as Reagan said, "Trust but verify"), I decided to look up Kerry's speech myself on Lexis-Nexis. First impression: the speech is very long. The Senate really does cultivate a fondness for listening to one's own voice. Anyhow, there are lots of other good quotes in the speech, too. For example:
Saddam Hussein, who unquestionably has demonstrated a kind of perverse personal resiliency, may be looking at the international landscape and concluding that, just perhaps, support may be waning for the United States's determination to keep him on a short leash via multilateral sanctions and weapons inspections.
Or if that sort of Bush-ian logic isn't enough for you, try:
It is unthinkable that we and our allies would stand by and permit a renegade such as Saddam Hussein, who has demonstrated a willingness to engage in warfare and ignore the sovereignty of neighboring nations, to engage in activities that we insist be halted by China, Russia, and other nations.
And finally, there is this passage, which sounds like it was spoken by some sort of Texas cowboy:

In my judgment, the Security Council should authorize a strong U.N. military response that will materially damage, if not totally destroy, as much as possible of the suspected infrastructure for developing and manufacturing weapons of mass destruction, as well as key military command and control nodes. Saddam Hussein should pay a grave price, in a currency that he understands and values, for his unacceptable behavior.

This should not be a strike consisting only of a handful of cruise missiles hitting isolated targets primarily of presumed symbolic value. [What a stupid idea that would be. --ed.] But how long this military action might continue and how it may escalate should Saddam remain intransigent and how extensive would be its reach are for the Security Council and our allies to know and for Saddam Hussein ultimately to find out.

Of course Kerry being Kerry, there was a bit of nuance:
I believe it is important for [the Security Council] to keep prominently in mind the main objective we all should have, which is maintaining an effective, thorough, competent inspection process that will locate and unveil any covert prohibited weapons activity underway in Iraq. If an inspection process acceptable to the United States and the rest of the Security Council can be rapidly reinstituted, it might be possible to vitiate military action.
If we had just given Hans Blix a few more months... But a few more months may have been too long. As Kerry explained:
I submit that the old adage "pay now or pay later'' applies perfectly in this situation. If Saddam Hussein is permitted to go about his effort to build weapons of mass destruction and to avoid the accountability of the United Nations, we will surely reap a confrontation of greater consequence in the future. The Security Council and the United States obviously have to think seriously and soberly about the plausible scenarios that could play out if he were permitted to continue his weapons development work after shutting out U.N. inspectors.

It is not possible to overstate the ominous implications for the Middle East if Saddam were to develop and successfully militarize and deploy potent biological weapons. We can all imagine the consequences. Extremely small quantities of several known biological weapons have the capability to exterminate the entire population of cities the size of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. These could be delivered by ballistic missile, but they also could be delivered by much more pedestrian means; aerosol applicators on commercial trucks easily could suffice.
But who would put biological weapons on a truck? Could it be...could it be...could it be....a terrorist? And since when does Saddam have collaborative relationships with that kind of terrorist?

The real irony here is that Kerry actually makes the case for attacking Saddam far more eloquently than Bush. What is the world coming to?

UPDATE: Blargh thinks the situation facing Kerry in 1997 was very different from the one facing Bush in 2004.
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# Posted 1:59 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TALKING THE TALK, PART II: Last Thursday night, Jim Lehrer interviewed Iyad Allawi. Not an impressive performance, but not bad for someone who isn't accustomed to being confronted by tough questions. Unsurprisingly, this exchange made Josh Marshall go ballistic:
JIM LEHRER: What would you say to somebody in the United States who questions whether or not getting rid of Saddam Hussein was worth the cost of more than a thousand lives now and billions and billions of U.S. dollars?

PRIME MINISTER IYAD ALLAWI: Well, I assure you if Saddam was still there, terrorists will be hitting there again at Washington and New York, as they did in the murderous attack in September; they'll be hitting also on other places in Europe and the Middle East.
Allawi should learn that he doesn't do himself any favors by imitating Dick Cheney at his worst. On the other hand, Marshall doesn't seem to recognize how much of an incentive there is for Allawi to please Bush whatever the cost. If one is going to insists, a la Joe Lockhart, that Allawi is puppet, one should base that judgment on what Allawi does in Iraq, not on his public statements before an American audience.

That said, Allawi's behavior in Iraq isn't all that popular either. As both MoDo and the NYT editorial board point out, the PM has restored the death penalty, kicked al-Jazeera out of the country, and given himself the power to declare martial law.

The death penalty argument against Allawi is quite amusing, given that the insurgents have made a practice of beheading innocent prisoners. (And, of course, our own country has the death penalty as well.) The argument about Al Jazeera is more valid, although I'd be far more interested in knowing how Allawi treats the Iraqi media, which I think is doing quite well.

Finally, martial law. Declaring it is a classic way of subverting constitutional limits on executive power. But has Allawi declared it? I don't know. And how much difference would martial law make in those provinces already engulfed in a civil war?

Yet even if the critics' dismissals are extremely premature, it's probably a good idea to be suspicious of a Prime Minister who began his political career as a loyal Ba'athist. As Roger Simon points out, "Totalitarian societies don't normally breed saints. Survival is Hell." While a comparison to Chalabi may set the bar too low, Allawi doesn't seem like a bad choice.

The critical test for Allawi will be his administration of the national elections and constitutional convention next year. If he shows any signs of trying to thwart the democratic process and maintain his grip on power, OxBlog will come down on him -- and Bush. Hard.
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# Posted 1:50 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE OLD MASTERS' DUEL: Parcells and Gibbs coached a game for the ages, with Dallas prevailing over Washington 21-18. Behind by eleven, Gibbs' Redskins mounted a fourth-quarter charge that put them within field goal range of a tie as the final seconds ticked off the clock. If Gibbs had just one more time out, I'd still be downstairs watching the game.
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# Posted 1:45 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

COMBAT JOURNALISM: The front page of the Washington Post tells the heart-rending story of four Iraqi National Guardsmen who were killed (and a fifth severely wounded) in a single explosion because they didn't have the same equipment as the Americans soldiers around them. Perhaps it simply isn't possible to provide the Iraqi Guardsman with the same expensive equipment that we give to our own soldiers. But even if that were the case, the Guardsmen's deaths would be no less tragic.
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# Posted 1:29 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YOU STOLE MY ANALOGY! I'd been thinking about writing an article comparing the January 2005 election in Iraq to the March 1982 election in El Salvador. But David Brooks has beat me to it:

Conditions were horrible when Salvadorans went to the polls on March 28, 1982. The country was in the midst of a civil war that would take 75,000 lives. An insurgent army controlled about a third of the nation's territory. Just before election day, the insurgents stepped up their terror campaign. They attacked the National Palace, staged highway assaults that cut the nation in two and blew up schools that were to be polling places.

Yet voters came out in the hundreds of thousands. In some towns, they had to duck beneath sniper fire to get to the polls. In San Salvador, a bomb went off near a line of people waiting outside a polling station. The people scattered, then the line reformed. "This nation may be falling apart," one voter told The Christian Science Monitor, "but by voting we may help to hold it together."

If Brooks were allowed to write more than 800 words, he might have described congressional Democrats fierce opposition to the Salvadoran election. The Democrats, along with almost all journalists and scholars, dismissed the election as a farce that subverted democratic principles while aggravating El Salvador's civil war. Moreover, they predicted that the Salvadoran electorate would stay home rather rather than participate in a US-manufactured vote.

Truth be told, the Democrats didn't have a bad case on the merits. The unmitigated brutality of the Salvadoran armed forces made it impossible for either the civilian or the guerilla opposition to participate in the elections even if they had wanted to do so (a fact which Reagan administration officials simply refused to acknowledge.)

In contrast to the Iraqi insurgents' limited, sectarian base of support, the Salvadoran guerrillas had a national, ideologically-motivated following, which may have comprised more than a fifth of the electorate. In terms of the war of ideas and battle for hearts and minds, the situation in El Salvador resembled Vietnam far more than Iraq does today.

Yet because the United States was truly committed to a democratic outcome, it ultimately persuaded the Salvadoran electorate to side with its elected government. On a related note, another fact that Brooks might have pointed out if he had more space was that the democratization of El Salvador facilitated the end of its horrific civil war.

As the Cold War drew to and end , the guerrillas recognized that they had no hope of securing victory on the battlefied. By that point, El Salvador's democratic institutions were well-enough established to offer the guerrillas a fair shot of winning power at the ballot box. Today, the (ex-)guerrillas control more seats in the National Assembly than any other party.

Exploring the long-term impact of El Salvador's partial elections in 1982 and 1984 is extremely important because they may change the minds of some very intelligent individuals, like Phil Carter, who are taken aback by the notion of a partial vote.

In one of the rare posts on his site with which I disagree, Phil asks his readers to
Imagine the following hypothetical: California and Florida were swept up by sectarian and gang violence. At the same time, their voting apparati were determined by various agencies to be notoriously unreliable. It became clear that any vote in these two states would be greatly influenced by violence, and that the results would be unreliable at best. Setting aside the Constitution for a moment, the powers that be decided to hold the 2004 election anyway — but to the exclusion of votes from California and Florida. The rest of the country constituted enough of a quorum for these powerful people — who needs those pesky Californian and Floridian votes anyway?

So you're a Californian or a Floridian — how do you feel? I'd feel pissed, personally. I'd also feel incredibly disenfranchised, and I sure as heck wouldn't support the new government or believe in its legitimacy.
But what if there were no hope of holding fair elections in California and Florida for another five years? The lesson of El Salvador is that the central government's best strategy for winning the allegiance of "lost" provinces is to demonstrate its commitment to democratic norms in the terrority that it does control.

Right now we say we are fighting a war for democracy, but I would forgive most Iraqis for being skeptical of that claim. Yet we won't persuade them otherwise until we show that we will respect the wishes of all those are Iraqis who are willing to participate peacefully in national elections.

The prospect of finally having a say in one's own government after decades of repression is extremely powerful. At the moment, I believe we have no choice but to satisfy the demands of those Shi'ites and Kurds who want to elect their own leaders now.

If this Shi'ite-Kurdish state demonstrates respect for its citizens' rights, both personal and political, the residents of Sunni Iraq will begin to ask themselves whether they truly prefer to be ruled by violent Islamic fundamentalists. For the moment, the alternative to fundamentalist dictatorship is American occupation. But if the alternative were an elected Iraqi government, the results might be very different.

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Monday, September 27, 2004

# Posted 1:32 PM by Patrick Belton  

WE'VE BEEN KEEPING THE AUTHOR OF Finnegan's Wake* from short-term liasons with Quinnipiac University students. ( OxBlog: making the world a better place, one small step at a time.)

*The blog, not the novel.
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# Posted 10:22 AM by Patrick Belton  

NICE AS IT'S BEEN TO RUN A THOUSAND-MEMBER ORGANIZATION BY CUTTING AND PASTING EMAIL ADDRESSES FROM WORD (Note: it's also been suggested that we only had two members, who were each receiving five hundred copies of our newsletter), our foreign policy society is setting up yahoo groups for each of our local chapters, beginning for starters with Washington, New York, Boston, Chicago, San Fran, Los Angeles, and Puerto Rico. More coming!
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# Posted 9:54 AM by Patrick Belton  

AND WE THOUGHT WE HAD THE MARKET COVERED ON BAD PUNS WATCH: By way of an email from a publicist, we find out that Runners World is leading with an article on "Bush v. Kerry: Who's More Fit To Be President?".

Also, just for kitsch value,
Also in the new issue, RW looks at the importance of running to the 75 or so members of Congress who run regularly, and why many of them are convinced that they better serve the public by doing so (“Every one of us who exercises regularly would say we do our jobs better because we take this time out,” says one.)

Among the notable runners in Congress are, of course, Rep. Jim Ryun (R-KS), the former world record holder in the mile; Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), who’s run seven marathons as well as the John F. Kennedy 50-Mile race in Maryland; Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN), the senate majority leader who once ran two marathons in 13 days; and 72-year-old Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN), referred to as the dean of the unofficial Congressional Runners Caucus.
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# Posted 7:49 AM by Patrick Belton  

SENT TO LIE ABROAD FOR THEIR COUNTRY: A handful of pseudonymous Foreign Serivce officers have begun a blog to discuss foreign policy, diplomacy, and why obese middle-aged men on the beach in Tel Aviv wear such skimpy speedos. (Okay, they haven't yet picked up the last topic, but should.)
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# Posted 4:50 AM by Patrick Belton  

FREELY OFFERED SLOGAN FOR BREAD MANUFACTURERS ASSOC: Why don't this morning, have bread instead? (Arrived at over the breakfast table; hey, you get what you pay for around here!)
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# Posted 1:59 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GO READ EVERYTHING ON PHIL CARTER'S WEBSITE: I've said the exact same thing before, but it's still true.
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# Posted 1:36 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BASS ACKWARDS: An American diplomat with experience in Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo and Afghanistan says that successful occupations rebuild local governments and local communities before focusing on large-scale, long-term projects like roads, bridges and power plants. However, the Pentagon's experience with military construction led it to focus on large-scale, long-term projects first. But the bottom line is security, and no one is sure how to acheive that in Iraq. (Hat tip: PC)
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Sunday, September 26, 2004

# Posted 10:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ACCOUNTABILITY WATCH: I've fallen behind on my commitment to re-evaluate my posts from one year ago with the benefit of hindsight. In fact, it has been more than a month since my last "Accountability Watch" post.

In short, hindsight has not been kind to those of us who were optimistic about Iraq. On August 20th, 2003, I wrote that

The sensless destruction of UN headquarters in Baghdad demonstrates just how desperate the Ba'athist underground has become. For as long as the Ba'athist remnants held fast to their strategy of assassinating American soldiers, they could plausibly represent themselves as rebels against a foreign occupation.
Josh Marshall responded that

There is a notion being peddled by certain conservative columnists that the bombing of the UN mission in Baghdad is actually a sign that the bad guys are on the ropes. Now, that strikes me as a rather creative of interpretation of the event.
The intensification of the insurgency of the past twelve months demonstrates that the bad guys were most definitely not on the ropes. Nonetheless, I think my point about the insurgents' failure to acheive any sort of broad-based legitimacy still stands.

In the midst of pervasive and ever-more confident comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam, it is important not to forget that the Sunni insurgents have no vision for Iraq and no ideology to galvanize their supporters. In Vietnam, our opponents had both Communism and nationalism on their side.

To be sure, the divide between Ba'athists and Islamists among the insurgents is not as dramatic as I once portrayed it. Even so, the brand of fundamentalist Islam advocated by some of the insurgents is anathema to both the Shi'ite majority and the Kurdish minority in Iraq. In spite of its growing strength, the insurgency has no apparent hope of overcoming its ethnic and sectarian origins.

In addition to challenging my interpretation of the UN attack, Marshall also argued that my optimism (as well as Ralph Peters') was a product of dangerously ideological and unscientific thinking. In response to Josh's call to "put down some benchmarks" against which the optimists and pessimists can measure their success, I tried to define what I meant by the struggle for hearts and minds.

In a follow-up to the hearts and minds post, I reconsidered my prediction from June 2003 "that only that small minority who benefited from Saddam's rule seems interested in resisting the occupation." I concluded that
If resistance had spread outside the Baghdad triangle, I would gladly accept that this prediction was wrong. But it hasn't so I won't.
And now it has, so I will. The Sadrist rebellion demonstrated that there anti-occupation sentiment thrives among Shi'ites as well. Yet precisely because the Shi'ite leadership continues to support the American program of democratization, Sadr's rebellion failed. While it is hard to gauge what percentage of Shi'ites supported Sadr, my sense is that the overwhelming majority supported Sistani.

Shortly after the UN bombing, another attack took the life of moderate, pro-democratic Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim. At the time, I wrote that
The death of Ayatollah Hakim is a major setback for American efforts to cultivate and cooperate with a moderate Shi'ite leadership.
Given our surprising ability to get along with the enigmatic Ayatollah Sistani, it seems I was wrong to doubt the future of US-Shi'ite cooperation. Recognizing the benefits of democratization for the Shi'ite majority, Sistani has been even more insistent about holding elections than our own government has. You might say we won Sistani's mind without winning his heart. And that's good enough for me.

Turning to the home front, I declared in early September of last year that I was actually proud of George W. Bush for his commitment to promoting democracy in Iraq. Swimming against a cynical tide, I argued that Bush
Has now made it clear that the United States will ensure that the people of Iraq fulfill their democratic potential. This is a major commitment of presidential credibility. It is no different than a campaign promise. The President and advisers know that if he does not live up to his word, he will pay a heavy price.
So was I right or wrong? I think John Kerry & Co. would certainly say that Bush hasn't fulfilled his promise to rebuild and promote democracy in Iraq. I'm more inclined to say that Bush has been sincere but ineffective, at least in the short-term. What I was clearly right about was that Bush never intended to cut and run. Iraq gets bloodier and bloodier, but it's John Kerry who talks abour bringing the troops home.
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