OxBlog

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

# Posted 11:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MALNUTRITION UPDATE: Tim Lambert thinks that there are fatal flaws in my recent post on malnutrition in Iraq. First and foremost, Tim says I have my facts wrong. He points to this page on the IAIS website as evidence that there were two separate malnutrition surveys conducted in Iraq, not (as I suggested) just one.

According to the page in question (which I saw before adding the final update to my original post), IAIS completed a comprehensive survey of living conditions in Iraq this past June. The website promises that the collected data will be released shortly.

Perhaps it will. According to the WaPo, the results of the new study haven't been released yet, even though the survey was conducted in April and May. (Although presumably someone released them to the Post.)

Hoping to track down the data, I sent an e-mail to IAIS on Sunday asking for further information about their work. In addition, I spent a considerable amount of term searching for related information on Google and Lexis-Nexis, yet found absolutely nothing.

Of course, it may turn out that IAIS really has done a new survey. But for the moment, there is hardly enough evidence to substantiate Tim's allegation.

But what if I were right and there were just one malnutrition survey conducted (in April-May 2003)? Tim says that the United States may still be responsible for widespread malnutrition. First of all, Tim notes that the survey was conducted six weeks after the invasion of Iraq, not (as I said) less than three.

Pardon the ambiguity on my part. I was counting from the fall of Baghdad, which marked the end of major combat operations. But lets just say six weeks for the sake of argument. According to Tim, "Adesnik seems to be unaware that a sick child can lose a lot of weight in a few weeks."

Actually, I'm quite aware of that. What I doubt is that 200,000 thousand children can get that sick in the space of a few weeks. Major combat operations were fairly localized and coalition bombing raids did not target civilian infrastructure.

While most Iraqis probably were dependent on official food rationing programs that may have been disrupted during the war, I tend to doubt that such a disruption would translate so immediately into a national epidemic of malnutrition. Of course, that is just speculation -- but Tim is only offering more of the same.

Next up, we come to the issue of logic. I suggested that malnutrition may have been far more widespread before the invasion than Saddam wanted to admit. Tim responds:
Even if, for the sake of argument, we believe that Saddam could force UNICEF into cooking the statistics, why would Saddam have been artificially lowering the figures? Surely he would have been raising them so that he could point to the harm that the sanctions were inflicting on Iraqi children.
The premise here is that Saddam's propaganda always sought to persuade Western audiences that Iraq was a victim, not an aggressor. That same premise led us to conclude that Saddam had extensive stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. After all, if he didn't have them, why wouldn't he allow foreign inspectors to demonstrate that Iraq was a victim, not an aggressor?

The absence of the stockpiles suggests that we don't understand Saddam nearly as well as we thought we did. Perhaps Saddam believed that if he were exposed as a paper tiger, the Iraqi military revolt. The premise behind that bit of speculation is that Saddam was more concerned about his image at home than abroad.

Thus, perhaps Saddam wanted to downplay malnutrition in order to persuade his subjects that things were not so bad. Or perhaps he wanted the hide the degree to which precious supplies of food and medication were being given out only to Sunni children, while the Shi'ite majority was left to suffer.

The bottom line is that speculation about Saddam's motives is futile.

Finally, let me hedge my bets just a bit. Let's say that tomorrow, Tim turns up definitive evidence that there was a second survey done this year and that the child malnutrition rate in Iraq is 7.7%. It was also 7.7% last year, at least in Baghdad -- which suggests that the malnutrition rate has been stable for almost eighteen months now. In contrast, the WaPo reports that the malnutrition rate has "shot up...this year."
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# Posted 2:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PEOPLE POWER IN THE UKRAINE: We can only hope that the democratic movement led by Viktor Yuschenko will prevail over the Moscow-sponsored thugocracy that rigged the results of Sunday's election.

For background on the vote, check out this excellent by Stephen Sestanovich. While the State Department has already spoken out against electoral fraud, it is the reaction from the White House that will matter most.

On a historical note, the official color of the Ukrainian democratic movement is orange, a potent reminder of the bright yellow chosen by democratic reformers in the Philippines in 1986. Just like Corazon Aquino, Viktor Yuschenko is relying on massive peaceful protests to overturn the results of a fraudulent election.

Fashion may not be the most important factor in politics, but bright colors sometimes have bright futures.
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# Posted 2:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IMMINENT TRIUMPHALISM: As Patrick mentioned, Dan Rather has resigned, effective next March. Rather insists that his resignation has nothing to do with Memogate. According to the AP
He made no mention of the National Guard story in announcing the change, saying he had agreed with CBS executives last summer that after the Nov. 2 election would be the right time to leave.
Yet someone at the WaPo clearly thinks that Rather's explanation is pure bulls***. Underneath the link to the AP's report on the ever-changing WaPo homepage, there is a subhead that reads
After flap over forged documents, the anchor will step down in March.
Objectively speaking, this statement is true. Only the most confused of metaphysicians would insist that March 2005 precedes September 2004. Yet the purpose of this objective statement is to advance a (probably correct) subjective interpretation.

Apparently, Dan Rather isn't the only one who needs to refine his definition of journalistic detachment and objectivity. Even so, I hope the blogosphere doesn't embarrass itself by going overboard in celebrating its victory over the notorious MSM.
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# Posted 1:55 PM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG: STILL AMONG THE WEB'S TOP hits for 'something interesting'. Somewhat more distressingly, also still the top hit for 'ivory coast porno.'
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# Posted 1:10 PM by Patrick Belton  

DAN RATHER STEPPING DOWN. You heard it here first (or may have, anyway). Blogosphere one, Lazy Coddled Journalistic Profession zero.
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# Posted 1:04 PM by Patrick Belton  

AL QAEDA 2.0: THE CONFERENCE: Just to clear up any potential misunderstanding, our foreign policy society's Washington chapter is not lending its support to a conference with Al Qaeda, but to a conference on it. The conference is being organised by Steve Clemons, who recently spoke to our Washington chapter. Among the speakers are Bruce Hoffman from Rand, the Kennedy School's Jessica Stern, CNN's Peter Bergen, academic Rohan Gunaratna, the WaPo's David Ignatius, and several former case officers from the Agency with a background in operations against the organisation. It is on 2 December in the Russell Senate Office Building (having incidentally worked in the building, SOB truly is the official acronym, with no disrespect of which I'm aware toward the Senator from Georgia). More information here.
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# Posted 6:46 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE QUEEN has delivered the Queen's Speech this morning, setting out the Government's legislative programme for the coming year. Chief proposals include increased powers to local municipalities to deal with anti-social behaviour, a Serious Organised Crime Agency to parallel the American FBI, a national identification card (not immediately to be made mandatory), and creation in law of an offence of incitement to religious hatred. Black Rod has again had the door to the Commons slammed fast in his face; as someone whose aesthetics, if not politics, are rather conservative, all is well, or well as it can get, with the world.
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# Posted 5:04 AM by Patrick Belton  

IS IT JUST ME, OR DO criminal sex rings follow UN peacekeepers wherever they're deployed? (c.f., Kosovo, Bosnia, East Timor, Sierra Leone, Congo... I'm looking for this 'superior moral legitimacy' thing, I'm just not seeing it.)
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Monday, November 22, 2004

# Posted 10:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE GOP SHOULD SIMPLY DO WHAT'S RIGHT: Stephen Bainbridge says that it was wrong for the GOP to do Tom DeLay a favor by lifting its ban on indicted congressmen from serving in the party leadership. Glenn agrees.

Amy Ridenour doesn't. She says the investigation of DeLay is politically motivated and that the GOP should fight fire with fire. Mark Kleiman says the DA going after Congressman Tom is actually a consummate professional.

I don't know enough to weigh on that subject. I don't like Tom DeLay one bit, but that's not really the point. The GOP decided to ban indicted members from serving in its leadership after an indicated Democrat refused to step down from his leadership position some time ago. To change the rule now that DeLay is in hot water would simply be hypocritical.


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# Posted 8:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IVORY TOWER POLITICS: Last Friday, I attended a colloquium at The Miller Center on the subject of anti-intellectualism in American politics. Over lunch, we discssed a paper on that subject by Prof. Colleen Shogan of George Mason University.

I feel compelled to respond to Prof. Shogan's paper because it embodied so fully the manner in which professional scholarship rests on a foundation of unstated liberal presuppositions. One might describe the tone and style of Prof. Shogan's paper as thoughtful, sedate, and even non-partisan. Yet on almost every page there are statements that strongly suggest an unacknowledged debt to a liberal worldview.

Yet before describing exactly what is in Prof. Shogan's paper, it may be more important to mention what isn't. Based on a close reading of public and private statements by Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and Bush, Prof. Shogan concludes that anti-intellectualism is part and parcel of a Republican strategy to attract less affluent voters. Perhaps. Yet not once does Prof. Shogan consider that the GOP's anti-intellectualism represents a conservative response to the intense commitment of an overwhelming majority of American intellectuals to a passionately liberal ideological agenda.

The conceptual roadblock that prevents Prof. Shogan from recognizing the ideological nature of American intellectuals is her identification of ideology and intellectualism as polar opposites. For example, she refers to President Reagan's "reliance upon ideology rather than intellectual prowess" and observes that
As Reagan demonstrated, ideologues and intellectuals do not make the best bedfellows. (Page 24)
In contrast to her (often justifiable) criticism of President Reagan, Shogan provides an extremely positive, almost glowing description of the academy. She writes that
The intellectual community is inherently critical of the status quo and often serves as the catalyst for social upheaval and development. (Page 8)
Shogan also takes care to point out that the "lasting, negative stereotype of the intellectual" grew out of "a clash between the educated elite and the party machine politicians" in the Progressive era. (Page 4) In other words, Republican anti-intellectualism amounts to nothing less than an embrace of reactionary prejudices that retard social development.

Naturally, this identification of the GOP with social regression begs the question of why Republican candidates have prevailed so often in presidential elections. In the manner of Thomas Frank, Shogan asserts that
For Democrats, fostering a populist connection is an easier task, since liberal policy proposals emphaisze the diffuse benefits of government intervention and social welfare. (Page 7)
According to Shogan, the voting public fails to recognize the advantages of voting Democratic, because television gets in the way. Shogan writes that
The political era of the sound-byte [sic] frustrates an extended intellectual discussion of complex policy issues...

Furthermore, the plebiscitary presidency is dependent upon the creation of "spectacles" that encourage awestruck citizens to become passive spectators rather than active participants in politics. Spectacles lend themselves to the portrayal of presidents as energetic, dynamic, hyper-masculine individuals who defeat evil in the name of American democracy, exemplified most recently by George W. Bush's landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln. [Do I detect a note of sarcasm here? --ed.] The intellectual process of deliberation cannot constitute a spectacle. (Page 6)
Unsurprisingly, Shogan doesn't even consider the possibility that media coverage may favor Democratic presidential candidates (cf. "Rather, Dan").

In any event, Shogan goes on to argue that Republican candidates also benefit from the fact that evangelical voters are decidedly anti-intellectual. According to Shogan,
Animosity between evangelicals and intellectuals in the United States has existed for over a century. As theologians, Darwinists, and scientists discredited religious fundamentalism and literal interpretations of the Bible, evangelicals were displaced from mainstream intellectual discourse. (Pages 10-11)
While I can understand how one might argue that science has discredited creationism, Shogan seems unaware of the fact that science cannot discredit those all-important passages in the Bible that consist of moral prescriptions rather than statements of fact.

'Thou shalt not kill', 'Thou shalt not steal' and other commandments -- including the controversial ban on homosexual behavior -- are simply not amenable to scientific proof or disproof. Thus, it is somewhat misleading for Shogan to write that "Religious and moral imperatives are consistent with anti-intellectual leadership stances." (Pages 10-11)

On a similar note, Shogan writes that
Bush's anti-intellectualism and moralism are complementary and reinforcing.
The example that illustrates this point is Bush's "visceral" reaction to one of Bob Woodward's questions about North Korea. During an interview with Woodward, Bush emotionally shouted
"I loathe Kim Jong Il!" Bush shouted, waving his finer in the air. "I've got a visceral reaction to this guy, because he is starving his people...It is visceral. Maybe it's my religion, maybe it's my--but I feel passionate about this.
One would hope that even the most nuanced contemplation of Kim Jong Il's brutality would produce a similar outburst. Yet Shogan writes that
By definition, a visceral reaction cannot be reflective; it comes from the "gut" or from deep-seated beliefs that are firmly rooted in place. (Pages 27-8)
It seems that even when Bush is right, he's wrong. Anyhow, Shogan concludes her analysis of Bush's anti-intellectualism with a back-handed compliment:
There is no doubt that the "cowboy" persona performs well as a plebiscitary [read: electoral] tool, but its utility to fight the international War on Terror is more limited.
There is something to this argument, yet the way in which Shogan takes its validity completely for granted demonstrates the degree to which an unstated liberal worldview animates an academic work that presents itself as detached and non-partisan.

At Friday's colloquium, I made many of the same points that I make in this post, although somewhat more briefly. Prof. Shogan responded that my criticism is misdirected, since she has more positive things to say about Bush than any of her colleagues. For example, she recognizes that Bush is sincere and that he is very successful at putting together winning coalitions.

In other words, Shogan has absolutely nothing good to say about Bush's policies, although she acknowledges that he is a formidable politician. However, it is her first statement that is far more revealing. If she represents the right-wing of the American academy, then it should come as no surprise that Republicans lash out so often at the professoriate. Thus it is quite ironic (but not at all surprising) that Prof. Shogan attributes the GOP's anti-intellectualism to its conservatism rather than her own liberalism and that of her colleagues.
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# Posted 8:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOT SO FAST, PATRICK: Long before Washington had Senators, it had Nationals. According to the selfsame article you cite,
Nationals was the name of the Washington franchise as early as the late 1800s, and it was the official nickname of the team from just after the turn of the century into the 1950s, though Senators gained popularity during the late stages of that period as well. Owner Calvin Griffith officially changed the name to Senators in 1957, and that franchise left town twice.
The name 'Senators' is clearly bad luck, since the Senators have already abandoned Washington twice -- perhaps because the District of Columbia has no representatives in the United States Senate.

However, those committed naming our team after the least representative elected body in the Western Hemisphere may find some consolation in the fact that
The primary [Nationals] cap -- which Williams and other officials donned immediately after unveiling the logo -- are red with a script "W", exact replicas of the old Washington Senators hats.
As for you Mr. Belton, isn't it time for you to come clean and just admit that you your affinity for the nation's capital approximates the affinity of Michael Moore for George W. Bush?
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# Posted 8:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GOING, GOING, GONZALES: The new Attorney General may be here to stay, yet both this editorial and this column argue persuasively that his credibility is already gone.
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# Posted 8:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH'S NAIVE MULTILATERALISM: There is no excuse for the decision to accept a watered down Security Council resolution rather than a real mandate to stop the genocide. This embarrassment should remind America's liberal multilateralists that the moral legitimacy of the United Nations is less of a fact than a fiction. And it should remind our conservative unilateralists that the President just doesn't understand his own rhetoric about "the transformational power of liberty."
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# Posted 7:25 PM by Patrick Belton  

MOBILE PHONE CAMERA + WEDDING + SAUDIA ARABIA = bad idea
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# Posted 5:35 PM by Patrick Belton  

IMMODEST PROPOSAL: Joe Gandelman points out that embedding reporters with terrorists may not on reflection be the wonderful idea that Guardian's Alex Thompson is so enthusiastic about...
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# Posted 3:38 PM by Patrick Belton  

GRUMBLE: Washington's new franchise has been officially, and stupidly, dubbed the Nationals. Not only is this a remarkably tone-deaf rendering of tradition in a sport for which tradition is its lifeblood - come on, everyone knows that the baseball team that plays in Washington is supposed to be the Senators - but the only thing more regrettable than the bland, distinctive-as-soap name is the justification put forward for it. Thus Mayor Anthony Williams (who, like most American politicians, wise and otherwise, was educated in New Haven rather than that dumb jocks school slightly to the north): by choosing a sucky name for Washington's ball team, so the argument goes, the actual Senators will be embarassed into granting the District representation in Congress. Jesus, where did he learn about politics? As sports misnomers go, this one is up there with moving the Jazz from New Orleans to that second city of jazz, Salt Lake City, Utah (or the Brooklyn Dodgers to that precious borough's geometric opposite, though a substantial contingent of our readers will write back saying 'wait, they're not still the Brooklyn Dodgers?')

On the other hand, 'Nationals' has one thing going for it: at least it boasts several interesting anagrams - A Slain Ton, A Latin Son, A Loan Isn't, A Tonal Sin, a Stalin No, A Nina Lost, A Last In On, A Ann I Lost, Annal It So (that's two n's, people), Ana Sin Lot, Anna I Lost, Satan Olin (a well-known, malevolent philanthropist), Santa Loin, Snail Nato, Satin Loan, Tina Salon, Tan As Lion, Salt An Ion (several of these sound like good band names, incidentally...unlike the Nationals....). I'll be rooting for the Santa Loin, myself.
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# Posted 2:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE HARVARD OF THE PROLETARIAT: This coming spring, my father will return to the City College of New York to celebrate his forty-year reunion. For my father, as well as for countless other children of working-class immigrants from Eastern Europe, City College occupies a mythic place in American life.

The College is an institution that opened its doors to those didn't have the financial resources or social connections necessary for admission to the Ivy League. Nonetheless, the intellectual standards for admission to the College were almost impossibly high because there was so much talent waiting to be discovered among the new Americans of New York, Eastern European or otherwise. As a result, City College became known as 'The Harvard of the Proletariat'. It graduates include numerous Nobel laureates as well as the current Secretary of State.

Sadly, the College stumbled into a long era of decline in the decades after my father's graduation. Yet today, there is cause to celebrate once again. This weekend, Lev Sviridov of the Class of 2005 was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship:
For Mr. Sviridov, who scavenged for cans and bottles in trash barrels in his early years in New York, the Rhodes represents not just prestige but a windfall.

His mother, Alexandra Sviridov, was a journalist and filmmaker in Moscow who exposed Russian government officials who were former KGB operatives. They came to New York for a visit in 1993, when Mr. Sviridov was 11, then stayed, afraid to return home when tanks rolled in. He was homeless for a time as his mother fought for the right to stay in the United States and searched for a job. Mr. Sviridov has himself held many jobs to bring in income; he said he would probably send part of his Rhodes stipend home to New York to help his mother...

Mr. Sviridov said that he had found the City College faculty very supportive, and that many professors told him they had followed paths like his.

"No one was born into something," he said. "They were all self-made people. My education there is terrific."
I am proud to see that once again, City College has been able to serve as a gateway to the most ambitious of American dreams.
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# Posted 10:36 AM by Patrick Belton  

STRENGTH WITH PRINCIPLE, AND HOW TO CREATE TRUMAN DEMOCRATS: The co-directors of the Truman National Security Project just sent us their interesting thoughts toward how Democrats can gain public trust on security as the party of principled strength; among other things, they explore the relationship between Realism and Wilsonianism within the Democratic party, as well as the putative values gap. Since one of the directors of the Truman Project happens to be my wife, Rachel, I'm happy to include their thoughts in full here.
It’s been just two weeks since the polls closed, and Democrats have accepted that their defeat stemmed from losing the values-debate. But in the first minutes after the election, conventional wisdom served up another theory for the Democratic loss: Americans don’t trust Democrats to protect them from terror. These voting blocks were only three points apart. But these theories are in danger of becoming mutually exclusive. Instead, they need to be unified. Americans want a candidate with a strong moral vision, and a commitment to their security. For Democrats to win elections again, we must embody strength, with principle.

Values are perennially important in America, but the 2004 election turned on national security. In poll after poll, voters ranked security as a top priority. Even the “town hall” debate, billed as a domestic issues forum, focused almost entirely on foreign policy. Exit polls confirmed that 19% of voters rated terrorism a priority—and Bush had a 86% advantage among these voters. When Americans fear for their lives more than their livelihoods, the old mantra that they vote with their pocketbooks does not hold.

Yet it is hardly the fault of the Kerry team that Democrats could not win on security. Democrats face a perception problem too deep to be addressed with policies and messaging, or to be overcome in a single campaign. It is a problem of values, of the chasm within the Democratic Party between values and strength, between the Party of Idealists, and the Party of Pragmatists.

The Party of Idealists, embodied by the Howard Dean movement, talks in the ethically-based language of Democratic activists. But scarred by the post-Vietnam aversion to American power, they remain deeply uncomfortable with American national interest, and with the harder tools of foreign policy, particularly the military and intelligence communities. This vocal and visible camp scares Americans, who feel that the Democratic Party does not value their safety.

Moreover, while these individuals see themselves as upholding moral values, their first instinct is often to distrust American action. Thus, they embrace human rights—but think words like democracy and freedom are for neo-cons. They build shantytowns to protest apartheid in South Africa, but are silent when terrorists attack a school in Beslan. Their policies often end up supporting repressive regimes and undermining the values they claim to uphold—leading Americans to see our party as confused and morally rudderless.

Many of our foreign policy experts live in another Democratic Party—the Party of Pragmatists. Perhaps out of fear of being lumped with starry-eyed Wilsonians, they invoke pragmatism when attempting to convey hard-nosed strength. This cohort offers strong, sensible policies, but is deeply uncomfortable grounding these policies in values. Their realpolitik turns off our party’s base, who are led to believe that there is little difference between conservatives and Democrats on foreign policy. Meanwhile, by talking policies and methods, not values and vision, they fail to provide a coherent, overarching message that can inspire the American people.

The more our activists trumpet their moral cause, the more our experts avoid values-based language. Instead of harnessing strength and values together, Democrats see these forces in opposition. No wonder we can’t convince Americans that we have a principled and strong foreign policy!

To regain preeminence in national security, we must reunite security and values within the Democratic worldview. This belief has birthed a movement among a new generation of Democrats. We were not scarred by Vietnam. Instead, we are jointly committed to the values that make us Democrats, and to forging a foreign policy strong enough to stop the deadly, asymmetric, ideological threat of fundamentalist terrorism. In a few months, we have become a force of hundreds through word of mouth alone. We have found many mentors among those who served in previous Democratic administrations, who also see the need for a strong and principled foreign policy. We call ourselves Truman Democrats, because we believe that Truman has much to teach us on the cusp of a new age.

Truman believed that a strong foreign policy was one that combined the traditional tools of strength with values that offered hope, justice, and opportunity at home and abroad. Through such enlightened self-interest, America gained legitimacy and power, military and diplomatic strength, the ability to secure ourselves and the ability to lead others for our joint security. This was, and is, the Democratic alternative foreign policy. This is strength, with principle.

So long as we face a real threat of terror at home, national security will remain at the top of voters’ agendas. Democrats will win elections again when we can convince Americans that we value their security, and that we have a coherent, principled posture that provides a real alternative to the Republican vision. It is the time to forge a party that can lead once more. Let’s get started.
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Sunday, November 21, 2004

# Posted 9:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RACISM AT THE WaPo? I'm pretty sure that only us folks who subscribe to the print edition of the Post read the Style section. But actually, there's all sorts of political stuff hidden in there. For example:
Several minority staff members lamented that a white man recently was chosen over a woman and a black man as the [Washington Post]'s new managing editor.

Philip Bennett, assistant managing editor for foreign news, who is white, was selected by [Executive Editor Leonard] Downie to be the paper's No. 2 editor earlier this month, besting Eugene Robinson, assistant managing editor of Style, who is black, and Liz Spayd, assistant managing editor for national news.

"We're crushed," said national reporter Darryl Fears at the meeting. Fears, who is black, organized two meetings of African American staffers in recent days in response to Bennett's promotion. "A lot of our worst suspicions were confirmed about the ability of African Americans and other minorities to rise to the highest level of the best papers in the world," he said...

"I didn't take this personally," Bennett said. "I felt several people made clear that there wasn't hostility toward me as much as a very legitimate series of questions and concerns about the newsroom's commitment to diversity."
This article seems comes across as a consolation prize for the disgruntled minority staff, not an informative account of what took place. Compared to accurate reporting about what goes on, in say, Iraq, reporting about internal affairs at the Post should be pretty easy. So obviously, someone at the Post has decided that a hint should be given, but that the full story should not be told.
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# Posted 9:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OMBUDSMAN MISSES THE POINT: WaPo ombudsman Michael Getler apologizes today for the Post's insufficient coverage of the impact that the war in Iraq has had on civilians.

In spite of OxBlog's loud protest, Mr. Getler has nothing to say about the extremely misleading data on civilian casualties provided by iraqbodycount.net and reprinted by the Post on a regular basis.
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# Posted 3:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEMOCRATIC DARK HORSES FOR 2008: Reihan Salam has the round-up, including a gratuitious reference to Taco Bell. Meanwhile, Michelle Cottle is arguing that it would be "insane" for the Democrats to nominate Hillary.

I'm not so sure. After eight years of quiet work in the Senate, perhaps she will emerge as a genuinely likable candidate. Or perhaps she will be the same tone-deaf candidate who ran for Senate four years ago and won decisively because she was a national figure running against a GOP novice in a heavily blue State. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
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# Posted 1:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IRAQ -- "MALNUTRITION NEARLY DOUBLE WHAT IT WAS BEFORE INVASION": That the headline from today's WaPo. Naturally, the conclusion that malnutrition has doubled depends on the uncritical comparison of statistics compiled while Saddam was in power with those compiled more recently.

Just as naturally, the WaPo never makes this point explicitly and never suggests that the older statistics might be questionable. According to the article's second sentence,
After the rate of acute malnutrition among children younger than 5 steadily declined to 4 percent two years ago, it shot up to 7.7 percent this year.
Considerably later on, we find out that:
International aid efforts and the U.N. oil-for-food program helped reduce the ruinous impact of sanctions, and the rate of acute malnutrition among the youngest Iraqis gradually dropped from a peak of 11 percent in 1996 to 4 percent in 2002.
I do believe that the oil-for-"food" program improved nutrition for Iraqi children. Corruption at the UN may have been pervasive, but it seems that most of the money still went for food. But why should I attribute any credibility to pseudo-statistics such as the 11 and 4 percent malnutrition figures?

Before continuing with my criticism of the Post, I think it is worth point out that malnutrition rates in Iraq are apalling, regardless of whether they are higher or lower than they were before the invasion. As the Post points out,
Iraq's child malnutrition rate now roughly equals that of Burundi, a central African nation torn by more than a decade of war. It is far higher than rates in Uganda and Haiti.
So no one should pretend that this isn't problem. But why is this problem on the front page of the Washington Post? Because the problem is supposedly America's fault.

Even so, the Post does illustrate that some of this fault is indirect. For example, one apparent cause for the rise of malnutrition (and the widespread lack of health care) in Iraq is the fact that violence has forced relief workers out of the country. The United Nations, Doctors Without Borders and CARE International have all left the country.

While the Post does mention the specific incidents -- "a truck bombing", a "director...was kidnapped" -- that led these agencies to haul anchor, it never connects the dots to make an obvious point: that the insurgents have deliberately sought to increase the misery of the Iraqi people by violently attacking those who seek to make their lives better.

UDPATE: Reader OV points to this UNICEF study of malnutrition in Iraq which also reports that 7.7% of Iraqi children suffer from acute malnourishment. The problem is that this UNICEF study was conducted less than three weeks after the invasion of Iraq.

This raises a lot of questions. Were two different studies conducted, one last year and one this year? If so, then the malnutrition rate has remained essentially stable since the US invasion of Iraq -- and the increase from 4 to 7.7 percent was Saddam's doing.

Or are the two studies one and the same? Both were conducted by Iraq's Ministry of Health with help from the United Nations. If the two studies are the same, then the earlier date (April-May 2003) is presumably the correct one. The political implications of such a scenario are the same as above.

Finally, did the WaPo simply get confused and report on last year's study as if it were new? I'd put my money on that one. Even so, if any of these three scenarios is correct, then the entire thrust of the Post's article is very, very wrong.

UPDATE: Both this UN press release as well as this one confirm that the 7.7% figure was publicly available by May of 2003. One should note, however, that it applies only to Baghdad.

UPDATE: The WaPo identified two organizations as having worked with the Iraqi Ministry of Health to conduct the nutrition survey. They are Norway's Institute for Applied International Studies and the UN Development Program. Both IAIS and UNDP have webpages devoted to Iraq, but neither seems to have information about the malnutrition statistics.
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Saturday, November 20, 2004

# Posted 3:41 PM by Patrick Belton  

FREE STUFF! FREE STUFF! I've been an ardent supporter, for some time, of all attempts to create online libraries across subjects on the internet which are vast, useful, and free to access. In this vein, I've been happy to expend praise on Project Gutenberg and Wikipedia's online encyclopaedia, on Bartleby's compilation of reference works and the Harvard six-foot-shelf, and on attempts by H-net to create academically worthwhile communities of research and scholarship conducted entirely online. (Sneak peak: we're incidentally in the process right now of beginning a listserv there for research on democratization and the promotion of rule of law and human rights, to be called, surprisingly, H-Democracy...)

I've only recently discovered Wikisource, brought to you by the same people who created Wikipedia. Both are free to access, and both, significantly, are completely collaborative efforts, with no editing other than that provided by other users, and depending entirely upon the contributions of volunteers. So, you'd obviously think it'd suck, wouldn't you? Who'd ever realistically think you could leave a blank sheet somewhere accessible to everyone in the world, invite them to write an encyclopaedia on it, and it would end up filled with anything other than graffiti at best, and hate-filled diatribes in a more likely case? Who indeed.

On Wiksource, I've recently been perusing night time reading (yes, Josh) from the Qur'an, from the Iliad and Odyssey (Butler translations both, with Greek available as well), and from the complete Shakespearean corpus. All of Leaves of Grass is on there, along with every state of the union and inaugural address, and several Upanishads. As a new project there are lots of blank spaces, but if you hit one, you just might be able to do something to fill it.....

UPDATE - AND STILL MORE FREE STUFF!: Bo Cowgill by email points out something I hadn't yet known existed - Google's new portal, in beta testing, for academic research at http://scholar.google.com. So if you've gotten so accustomed to reading Professors Drezner, Volokh, and Reynolds online that it seems wrong to read their academic work in print, now's your opportunity!

Also, our friend MB points to a TCS piece by former Britannica editor Robert McHenry, who argues that regression to the mean should apply for Wikipedia. Interesting argument, and I think it bears research. I'm not sure he's right, though, because: (a) regression to the mean involves random distributions, whereas wikipedia writing is an intentional activity; (b) even construed as such, prior versions aren't deleted, but are available for resurrection by subsequent editors if intervening instances constituted retrogression, therefore the relevant probabilistic question becomes whether a retrograding editor will be followed by one perspicacious enough to revert to an earlier version; finally, (c) regression to the mean is generally a better explanation of the behaviour or characteristics of individuals than of groups of individuals. But I'd be interested to hear thoughts on this point.
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# Posted 3:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MAKE WAY FOR THE FIGHTINGEST CHAMP OF THEM ALL! That's right folks, it's JBL: John Bradshaw Layfield. JBL has finally brought a measure of sophistication and civility to the ranks of professional wrestling.

JBL himself was once a barroom brawler with an attitude, but now he's changed his ways and has become a model citizen. His financial acumen has made him a millionaire, and his athletic prowess have made him a champion.

Tonight, I will have the privilege of seeing JBL live at the DC Armory, when the Smackdown! Holla, Holla, Holla! tour arrives in the nation's capital. There are still some tickets available, so head over to Ticketmaster right now if you don't want to miss the chance of a lifetime.

If you're at the Armory tongiht, don't forget to say 'hi'. You can recognize me by my black cowboy hat, my well-tailored sport coat, and my Italian silk tie. Because OxBlog believes in living up to the example set by the greatest champion of the age, JBL.
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# Posted 2:08 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE GAME WATCH: In purely football terms, looks like an easy one for Harvard (9-0), given that The Good Guys are 5-4, and Crimson running back Clifton Dawson has rushed for 16 touchdowns - along with eating his roommate for an automatic 4.0, sorry, 15 for the term*. The Bad Guys, for their part, will wrap up not only the Ivy League title but their first 10-victory season in 98 years; which, as a consolation prize, is roughly how long it's been since one of their alumni has served a complete term as president.... (Have we mentioned, incidentally, that Steven Hadley (YLS '72) has just become national security advisor? Harvard gets the Ivy League football championship...Yale the presidency, National Security Council, and of course, CIA.)

Of course, the real contest is as usual between the student newspapers, to see which can write the funnier pre-game articles. The Crimson has a lame article about rules. Typical. Also, the mandatory in-your-face op-ed isn't, how shall we put it, funny (unless you find sneering oddly hilarious), although it makes for better reading after the 'drama in real life'-style grad student blocks intruder at window article. That said, and any connection by this blog to the place notwithstanding, the YDN wins hands-down in the laughs department, with pieces on how love and one-night stands conquer all rivalries ('Harvard students really are a lot like us: overachieving and ... socially awkward'), and a plea to 'just say no to The Game' ('Smack dealer approach: Just go this once'). There's also a comparative anthropology of parties at both institutions ('kegs, hip-hop music and dancing on a sticky linoleum floor' featuring prominently in both case studies), which seems lame only until you go read the Crimson, then come back and give it a second go. There, much better this time.

This blog's endorsement? We could do worse than second Smita Gopisetty and Katherine Steve's plea for principled centrism and moderation amidst all the passion ('Make love and not war at The Game,' YDN): 'Should we not look to Bob Dylan's presence at Harvard as a sign that we should make love, not football? So if you must go to The Game, do us a favor: attend the Dylan concert, hook up with a Cantab'. We couldn't have said it better ourselves. Just not Mr Tagorda. He's married, ladies.

* Talk about grade inflation. Also, any claims made about Clifton Dawson in this sentence are vicious untrue calumny (hey, he's a pretty big guy, even if he is an Ivy League football player...)
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# Posted 6:55 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE BORDER FOX Dessie O'Hare has been released from Castlerea Prison. Some of my Armagh republican friends are oddly rather fond of him, for reasons that rather escape me. Don't look for him to be able to get any dentists' appointments, though.
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Friday, November 19, 2004

# Posted 3:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DUMB CELEBRITIES MEDDLING IN POLITICS:

"You know me as a motion picture actor but tonight I'm just a citizen pretty concerned about the national election next month and more than a little impatient with those promises the Republicans made before they got control of Congress a couple years ago". --Ronald Reagan, October 1948


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# Posted 3:17 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE SECOND TIME AS FARCE: What was Colin Powell thinking? It's not like anyone didn't see this coming.
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# Posted 2:41 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THREE COUNTERARGUMENTS ABOUT THE PHILIPPINES: It has been suggested that there were three significant flaws in yesterday's rebuttal of the NYT op-ed by Professors Press and Valentino.

First of all, the op-ed specified that its list of seven historical examples included only those instances in which a "powerful army" confronted a major insurgency. Given that American soldiers never fought against the Filipino insurgents known as Huks, this example should not be included on the list.

I agree with this point in the technical sense that the Filipino example doesn't fit the given definition. However, I think that my analysis still applies, since the reason that American soldiers never had to get directly involved in the Philippines was precisely because we defused the insurgency through an initial strategy of democracy promotion. Had we done the same in Vietnam, the result might have been very different. (For the benefit of EM, I will add that the United States may have had no choice but to cancel the 1956 elections in Vietnam, but there was no reason not to promote democracy there in the late 1950s.)

Speaking more broadly, one might say that compiling a list of instances in which "powerful armies" confronted major insurgencies is an example of what social scientists refer to as 'selection on the dependent variable'. In other words, if your criteria for inclusion is armed intervention by a great power, then you are necessarily looking at those instances in which the great power failed to mitigate the insurgency indirectly.

Had the French chosen to promote democracy in Vietnam rather than reassert their imperial privileges, they could have prevented an armed conflict. I will tentatively suggest that the same is true of Algeria, although I am not so familiar with the situation there. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan also belongs in this category because it was basically an unneccessary imperial adventure.

The Russian case is less than clear cut because Chechnya is a part of Russia. However, had Russia promoted Chechnyan autonomy rather than responding with a brutal military assault on Chechnyan civilians, there is every reason to believe that today's insurgency would not exist.

The Israeli case is even less clear cut because the Israeli occupation reflects the outcome of war undertaken in self-defense. Promoting democracy may not have been an option if Israel was supposed to return the occupied territories in exchange for peace. Democracy promotion became more viable as a strategy after Oslo, yet Israel made the not indefensible choice to tolerate an Arafat dictatorship in the hopes that Abu Ammar would destroy Hamas. In hindsight, Israel made the wrong decision.

The second alleged flaw in yesterday's rebuttal is the assertion that the Philippines reflects an example of successful democratization. After all, approximately twenty years after the defeat of the Huk rebellion, Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law and transformed his elected presidency into a dictatorship.

In response, I would suggest that the passage of so much time between the end of the Huk war and the declration of martial indicates that the United States initial effort to promote democracy was not necessarily flawed. Rather, the problem was that Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger (whom I do not hesitate to describe as a Kissingerian realist) demonstrated no concern about the breakdown of democracy in the Philippines. Ideologically committed to the belief that right-wing dictators are more reliable allies than center-left democracies, Nixon and Kissinger did irreparable damage to America's standing in the world.

Moreover, I would suggest that those today who consider the emergence of strongman in Iraq to be the lesser of all possible evils are Kissinger's intellectual heirs. They argue that the emergence of a strongman is the most realistic option for Iraq, but see reality through a narrow 'realist' prism. (Conversely, one might say OxBlog perceives reality in Iraq through a narrow Wilsonian prism.)

Finally, the third alleged flaw in yesterday's rebuttal is that the Huk rebellion isn't comparable to the insurgency in Iraq because the Iraqis are a much more committed and capable foe. Yes, that's true. But part of the reason that the Huks never achieved the same level of competence is that the the American and Filipinos defused popular support by relying on a strategy of democracy promotion.

So, then, why are the insurgents so strong in Iraq is we have been applying a similar strategy there? The answer is that the Iraqis have the benefits that come both with being the remnants of well-armed regime. Moreover, the Sunni insurgents can exploit ethnic differences that didn't exist in the example of the Huks, who were also Filipino Catholics.

One should note, however, that there is an Islamic separatist rebellion in the Philippines that has been going on for an extremely long time. It initially gained momentum because of crude and violent efforts to suppress it, but abated in response to a more compromising approach.

Similarly, a second Communist insurgency broke out in the Philippines under Marcos. Thanks to his brutality, a primitve force numbering in the low hundreds expanded to an armed force of more than 10,000 in just over a decade, even in the absence of outside help. Then, after the return of democracy to the Philippines in 1986 (with the help of the United States), the insurgency began to abate. Thus, one might say that the Philippines represents
not one, but two examples of how democracy promotion is the best prescription for counterinsurgency.
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# Posted 2:17 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JUAN COLE HAS COMMON SENSE! You've got to give credit where credit is due. Cole writes that:
The Marines at Fallujah are operating in accordance with a UNSC Resolution and have all the legitimacy in international law that flows from that. The Allawi government asked them to undertake this Fallujah mission.

To compare them to the murderous thugs who kidnapped CARE worker Margaret Hassan, held her hostage, terrified her, and then killed her is frankly monstrous. The multinational forces are soldiers fighting a war in which they are targetting combatants and sometimes accidentally killing innocents. The hostage-takers are terrorists deliberately killing innocents. It is simply not the same thing.

Now, I don't like the timing of the Fallujah mission...But the basic idea of attacking the guerrillas holding up in that city is not in and of itself criminal or irresponsible. A significant proportion of the absolutely horrible car bombings that have killed hundreds and thousands of innocent Iraqis, especially Shiites, were planned and executed from Fallujah. There were serious and heavily armed forces in Fallujah planning out ways of killing hundreds to prevent elections from being held in January. These are mass murderers, serial murderers. If they were fighting only to defend Fallujah, that would be one thing; even the Marines would respect them for that. They aren't, or at least, a significant proportion of them aren't. They are killing civilians elsewhere in order to throw Iraq into chaos and avoid the enfranchisement of the Kurds and Shiites.
I couldn't have said it better myself. (Hat tip: JW)
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Thursday, November 18, 2004

# Posted 7:23 AM by Patrick Belton  

STILL MORE CONTINUING ENTENTE CORDIALE COVERAGE: I'm working on a piece, between now and the end of the year, on France's relationship with its Muslim community. Please do get in touch, if you'd like and you've something to suggest on the topic.
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# Posted 7:13 AM by Patrick Belton  

CONTINUING OUR ENTENTE CORDIALE COVERAGE, Guardian answers the question everybody's been asking - how can French women eat like pigs and still look so hot?* Answer: snobbery, mostly, but a bit of vanity too.

* Usual disclaimer about Jewish Alaskans applies, minus the non-kosher porcine reference.
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# Posted 6:35 AM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG SNUBS CHIRAC: First off, may I note that I love France as a country, a people, and a culture - French people, French literateurs, French intellectuals, French taxi drivers, French joie de vivre, French wine, French food, French cheese, French women (who only get sexier as they get older*), the French capital, the French art of living, the Left Bank, the Right Bank, and many other things French besides. I just happen to mildly disapprove of every political manifestation produced by that nation since roughly, oh, 1400 (earlier if you count the Avignon papacy).

More recently, the world leader the tabloids dub Le Worm has referred to the Anglo-French relationship as a 'kind of violent love,' making you worry slightly for Madame Chirac, and says 'we enjoyed hating each other.' After rather wormily cutting a mutually advantageous deal two years ago with the Germans over the Common Agricultural Policy at a European summit before Mr Blair even arrived, Chirac told the Prime Minister that he (Blair, not Chirac) was 'badly brought up.' Demonstrating the concept, Chirac has since told Blair that the Prime Minister's son Leo (who politely says 'bonjour Chirac' whenever Jacques slithers, sorry enters, Number 10) would not thank him for deposing Saddam, and that Blair was not an 'honest broker' in the world scene because of his amicable relations with Washington. And this, mind you, in the lead-up to a visit to London to celebrate the centenary of, oh, the Entente Cordiale, no less. (A much more classy woman by far, Ma'am Herself had earlier gone to Paris to celebrate the anniversary by delivering a self-composed, well-regarded speech, and this in impeccable French.)

So though Chirac will be speaking at Oxford on Friday, I unfortunately must inform M. le President that I had regrettably already made plans to be washing my hair that day.

* um, just like Jewish Alaskans
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# Posted 5:39 AM by Patrick Belton  

THUS OLD MEDIA: We're not very talented at substantive journalism, so we'll just show unclothed anchorwomen instead.
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# Posted 4:09 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DUKAKIS DEFEATS BUSH! According to the exit polls.
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# Posted 4:07 AM by Patrick Belton  

DO YOU THINK Oxford University Press and their other advertisers know that they've bought the adverts for the dictionary entry on minging?
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# Posted 3:32 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FOR IVY LEAGUERS ONLY: David Brooks is at again. Every few months, Brooks feels compelled to denounce the moral decay that has set in at America's great (but excessively liberal) universities.

Brooks may be my favorite columnist at the Times, but every time he writes about this subject his description of reality clashes strongly with my own experiences as an undergraduate. Brooks writes that
Highly educated young people are tutored, taught and monitored in all aspects of their lives, except the most important, which is character building. When it comes to this, most universities leave them alone. And they find themselves in a world of unprecedented ambiguity, where it's not clear if you're going out with the person you're having sex with, where it's not clear if anything can be said to be absolutely true.

In other words, we have constructed this great apparatus to fill their minds - with thousands of Ph.D.'s ready to serve. But when it comes to courage, which is the pre-eminent virtue since without it nothing else lasts, we often leave them with the gnawing sense that they really should develop it, though God knows how.
It's hard to define character or courage. But I can say without reservation that during my time at Yale, the faculty and administration strongly encouraged us to believe that each of us had a personal obligation to make our community, our country and our world a better place.

Contra Brooks, Yale students had no problem figuring out whether the person they were sleeping with was also their significant other (although it usually was). Even though our professors never gave us lectures about chastity and romance, there was a firm set of ethics that pervaded campus life.

One might call it libertarianism. We were taught to respect the decisions and opinions of others. We were taught that imposing our values on others is unacceptable. More often than not, living up to that ideal requires both character and courage.

UPDATE: An anonymous readers suggests that my description of Brooks' column is somewhat misleading because I chose not to linclude the following paragraph from it:
I don't agree with all of Wolfe's depiction of campus life. He overestimates the lingering self-confidence and prestige of the prep school elite. He undervalues the independence of collegiate women, and underplays the great yearning to do good that surges out of most college students. Life on campus isn't really as nasty as Wolfe describes it. Most students are responsible and prudential and thus not as ribald as Wolfe makes them out to be.
This definitely cuts against the grain of the passage that I quoted. But take note: there is no mitigation here of Brooks' criticism of the American university, only a suggestion that the students themselves are not the problem.
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# Posted 3:26 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YGLESIAS FINALLY GETS LUCKY: And he only needed one hand.
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# Posted 1:44 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

QUAGMIRE=DICTATOR: The logic is simple. If the American struggle to promote democracy in Iraq is futile, then the prudent thing to do is to install a stable but non-democratic government. John Kerry flirted with such a position on the campaign trail, but eventually decided to keep his opinions on the subject to himself and just say that he would "get the job done" in Iraq.

Now, a pair of professors from Dartmouth, Daryl Press and Benjamin Valentino, have begun to edge closer to the logic of dictatorship. After calling on the United States to "set our goals more realistically", the good professors suggest that the only available options are ethnic partition and the installation of a "secular strongman".

So much for thinking "realistically". As the authors themselves admit, partition is the first step toward civil war and perhaps genocide. But where does one find a reliably secular and pro-American (or at least anti-terrorist) strongman these days?

Not long ago, Robert Kagan persuasively argued that democracy is actually the most realistic option for Iraq. If you disagree, ask yourself how you would persuade the Shi'ites and Kurds to accept a Sunni dictator, or the Sunnis and Kurds to accept a Shi'ite dictator.

But isn't history on the realists' side? Our friends from Dartmouth think so. They write that,
The history of counterinsurgency warfare is a tale of failure. Since World War II, powerful armies have fought seven major counterinsurgency wars: France in Indochina from 1945 to 1954, the British in Malaya from 1948 to 1960, the French in Algeria in the 1950's, the United States in Vietnam, the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, Israel in the occupied territories and Russia in Chechnya. Of these seven, four were outright failures, two grind on with little hope of success, and only one - the British effort in Malaya - was a clear success.
The most important omission from this list is the joint US-Filipino effort to crush a communist insurgency in the Philippines in the early 1950s. As it turns out, I've read multiple books about the Filipino counterinsurgency effort during the past few days while working on my dissertation.

The first thing to be said about the war is that the United States and its allies won. Period. (That's not conservative propaganda. Even Kevin Drum agrees. Not to mention liberal journalists and scholars such as Stanley Karnow and H.W. Brands.)

But the much more interesting thing to note is how the United States and its Filipino allies won. They did it by promoting democracy. In the late 1940s, the extreme corruption of the elected Filipino President, Elpidio Quirino, antagonized rural peasants while undermining the armed forces' ability to perform in battle.

Rather than accepting Quirino as the only alternative to Communism, the United States demanded that Quirino appoint Ramon Magsaysay, a popular reformist, as Minister of Defense. Magsaysay immediately begun to purge the corrupt Filipino officer corps, restrict the use of violence against peasants and implement reforms to increase the government's popularity in the countryside. In addition, Magsaysay prevented Quirino from rigging the 1951 elections for the Filipino House and Senate.

By 1953, the Communists were on their last legs. In order to cement his victory, Magsaysay stepped down as Minister of Defense and ran against Quirino for President. He won by a landslide. Determined to ensure a victory by Magsaysay, the CIA provided extensive financial support to local election monitors in order to prevent fraud. The United States knew that its candidate was the people's candidate.

In the same year that Magsaysay became President, the CIA overthrew a democratic government in Iran. The next year, it overthrow a democratic (but pro-Communist) government in Guatemala. Compare the history of the Philippines, Iran and Guatemala since 1954, and it's not hard to see which strategy served America best.

So, you might say, what good is this one example when our friends from Dartmouth have seven historical examples to support their side of the debate? Well, ask yourselves this: In how many of those seven cases did the great powers involved seek to promote democracy as a means of defeating the insurgents. Answer: zero.

Or perhaps one. That one case -- the British in Malaysia -- also happens to be the only case in which a Western power defeated a Communist insurgency. The government installed by the British fell short of modern standards of democracy, although it was far and away the most progressive in Southeast Asia...except for the American-sponsored democracy in the Philippines.

Also consider the following statment from Valentino and Press:
Victory in Malaysia, it appears in retrospect, had less to do with British tactical innovations than with the weaknesses and isolation of the insurgents. The guerrillas were not ethnic Malays; they were recruited almost exclusively from an isolated group of Chinese refugees. The guerrillas never gained the support of a sizable share of the Malaysians. Nevertheless, it took the British 12 years to defeat them...
I think that the resemblance of the Malaysian Chinese to the Sunnis in Iraq is quite striking. Thanks to ethnic and religious differences, the Sunnis have absolutely no hope of winning the support of more than 20 or 25 percent of the population.

The bad news is that it may take another decade to defeat them. That decade will cost us the lives of hundreds and hundreds of American soliders, and many, many more Iraqi ones. But the bottom line is that supporting another dicatorship in Iraq will accomplish nothing, except perhaps antagonizing our current allies. In other words, being realistic in Iraq means being idealistic.
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# Posted 1:40 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AMERICA MORE TOLERANT THAN EUROPE? Not toward homosexuals, but apparently toward Muslims.
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# Posted 1:18 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN: From an editorial in Wednesday morning's NYTentitled "Iran Blinks":
Nobody knows whether Iran is really ready to give up its ambitions to have nuclear weapons, but its commitment on Monday to freeze all uranium enrichment work and invite back international inspectors is a welcome step toward nuclear sanity.
From page one of Thursday morning's WaPo:
The United States has intelligence that Iran is working to adapt missiles to deliver a nuclear weapon, further evidence that the Islamic republic is determined to acquire a nuclear bomb, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Wednesday.

Separately, an Iranian opposition exile group charged in Paris that Iran is enriching uranium at a secret military facility unknown to U.N. weapons inspectors. Iran has denied seeking to build nuclear weapons.
This also seems so familiar, doesn't it? Shady exiles insist that a secret WMD program exists. The Bush administration relies on Powell to make its case.

[UPDATE: I'm not the only one with deja vu.]

Perhaps that's why the NYT is downplaying the story for the moment. There will be an article about the exiles' accusations in Thursday morning's Times, in which Powell's comments are briefly mentioned. For the moment, the link to that story is buried on the bottom of the NYT homepage.

So what's really going? I dunno, but trusting Iran is probably not a good idea. Even the NYT closes its editorial by reminding us that
Going down this imperfect road again must not mean letting Iran string Europe's diplomats along indefinitely while secretly readying itself to begin building nuclear weapons. Iran has a long history of cheating on its nuclear nonproliferation obligations, and Europe has a history of refusing to draw the line. Both need to demonstrate greater wisdom in the months ahead.
Amen.
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Wednesday, November 17, 2004

# Posted 11:13 AM by Patrick Belton  

HIGH CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS: We have written in this space before (see Leviathan whom thou hast made, March 2003) about very large squid. But we never dreamed, nor do we endorse, their use for this.
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# Posted 8:28 AM by Patrick Belton  

IT'S A PARABLE FOR OUR TIMES: A woman in Florida makes a grilled cheese sandwich, then is shocked to discover (after taking several bites out of it) that it bears a resemblance, kind of, to the Virgin Mary. She places it in a bag and keeps it on her nightstand until....

2. ten years later, eBay having penetrated thoroughly even to the heart of darkest Florida, she lists it on eBay, as one does for miraculous appearances of the Virgin, in cheese, that you have been keeping devotedly on your nightstand for ten years, and....

3. with bidding on the Virgin Mary cheese sandwich reaching $16,000, an entire cottage industry appears around the Virgin Mary cheese sandwich, including a nighttable to put your Virgin Mary cheese sandwich in, a lunchbox for your Virgin Mary cheese sandwich, watercolours of the Virgin Mary cheese.... you get the idea.

The internet meets popular American religiosity. Her son was reported to weep; but that was in danger of stimulating a second cycle of online-marketed food products.
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# Posted 7:47 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE FIRST OXFORD: Useless fact of the day #31: the Bosphoros actually derives from the Greek phrase 'Ox ford' (lit: ford of the ox), referencing the myth of the maiden Io, who swam the strait after being changed into a heifer. (Silly cow.)
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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

# Posted 8:03 PM by Patrick Belton  

A PLEA FOR OUR READERS: If any of our friends happen to have a moment or two, and wouldn't mind dropping a note to the President of Iran and (for non-US residents) the Iranian embassy in your country, I think that would be a worthwhile cause. Twenty-five bloggers and civil society activists have been arbitrarily arrested in recent weeks. Here is a message from the World Movement for Democracy on that subject, which I will pass on in its entirety:
The World Movement for Democracy would like to express its concern for the safety of two Iranian women leaders, Fereshteh Ghazi, an online journalist, and Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, editor of a women’s rights journal “Farzaneh.” According to the Women's Learning Partnership, Abbasgholizadeh has contributed to the strengthening of Iranian civil society by conducting capacity building programs as Director of the NGO Training Center in Tehran, and was arrested at her home on November 2, 2004. Ghazi has used her skills to create an increased awareness of the status of women in Iran using the Internet, and was arrested in her office on October 28, 2004. Both women have been denied the right to legal counsel. Over the past two months, a string of Internet writers and civil society activists have been arrested for “propaganda against the regime, endangering national security, inciting public unrest, and insulting sacred belief,” according to Jamal Karimi Rad, the judiciary’s spokesman.

Amnesty International reports that Ghazi and Abbasgholizadeh are among 25 internet journalists and civil society activists that have been arbitrarily arrested in recent weeks. The Women’s Learning Partnership, a World Movement participating organization, has been contacted by colleagues in Iran asking them to help bring attention to the plight of civil society activists in Iran.

Suggested Action: To demand the immediate release of Fereshteh Ghazi and Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh and express your concern for the rise in human rights violations in Iran, please write to President Hojjatoleslam Sayed Mohammad Khatemi, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the President of the European Parliament, and the Iranian embassy in your country:

His Excellency Hojjatoleslam Sayed Mohammad Khatemi
The Presidency Office
Pasteur Avenue
Tehran 13167-43311 Islamic Republic of Iran
E-mail

Her Excellency Louise Arbour
High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Fax: + 41 22 917 9022
E-mail

His Excellency Josep Borrell Fontelles
President of the European Parliament
Division for Correspondence with Citizens
L-2929 LUXEMBOURG
Fax: (352) 4300 27072

Iranian Embassies

Additional Information:

“Iran: Web Writers Purge Underway”
Human Rights Watch

“Iran: Civil society activists and human rights defenders under attack”
Amnesty International

“Iran: Call for the unconditional release of Mahboobeh Abbasgholizadeh”
Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML)
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# Posted 2:02 PM by Patrick Belton  

ATTENTION CONSPIRACY MONGERS: still no winner in Ohio...

(That's all for now, you can go back to monging....)
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# Posted 5:07 AM by Patrick Belton  

INDIANA CONGRESSMAN SHOCKED - SHOCKED! - that the Highway Service has a U.S. Highway 69. He's been convinced by local religious groups to introduce legislation to change it to Highway 63. Except that it's a hoax.
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# Posted 2:23 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OUR GLORIOUS HISTORY OF MULTILATERALISM: Over at YFP, Gene Vilensky deconstructs an anti-Bush, pro-UN broadside by Robert Tucker and David Hendrickson, a pair of realist historians. While it is one thing to imagine the Clinton years as a utopian multilateral interlude in the history of American foreign relations, it is amazing to see professional scholars pretend that
Throughout its history, the United States has made gaining international legitimacy a top priority of its foreign policy. The 18 months since the launch of the Iraq war, however, have left the country's hard-earned respect and credibility in tatters. In going to war without a legal basis or the backing of traditional U.S. allies, the Bush administration brazenly undermined Washington's long-held commitment to international law, its acceptance of consensual decision-making, its reputation for moderation, and its identification with the preservation of peace.
Hello? Vietnam? The Contra war? CIA coups in Guatemala, Chile and Iran? The invasions of Panama, Grenada and the Dominican Republic? Even Jimmy Carter got in trouble with the French and Germans for provoking the Soviets by talking about human rights!

My point here is not that the United States' long history of unilateralist behavior provides a justification for anything that George Bush has done. Rather, the point is that apocalyptic predictions about the breakdown of US-European relations have been standard fare for the last sixty years. These predictions crops up every decades or so and they are always wrong.

Why? Because what unites us with Europe is far more important than what divides us. Our democratic values coincide even if we have very different ideas about how to apply them to the world. When transatlantic relations go bad, strong voices on both sides of the ocean demand reconciliation.

That is the ultimate irony of Tucker and Hendrickson's argument. Their heightened fears of a permanent breakdown are what have brought the United States and Europe back together after each of our confrontations.
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# Posted 1:34 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A COSTLY VICTORY IN FALLUJAH: Yes, but for whom? As of yesterday morning, 38 American soldiers were dead. American officers claimed to have killed between 1,000 and 1,200 insurgents.

I have no idea if those figures are credible. The incentive to exaggerate success is obviously tremendous, given the political significance of this operation. I don't distrust the military, there are always favorable and less favorable estimates, and it is often the former that get publicized. (Besides, given that the US military adamantly refuses to count civilian casualties, one wonders how it can count the dead insurgents.)

During first eighteen months of the occupation, both the military and the American media did their best to measure the success or failure of the occupation in political terms, rather than Vietnam-style body counts. Yet suddenly, that conventional wisdom is no more. Commentators on left and right seem to agree that destroying enemy forces is far more important than occupying enemy territory. If the insurgents live to fight another day, they can simply retake Fallujah when American forces return to base. If the insurgents die, they can't.
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Monday, November 15, 2004

# Posted 6:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE MEME IS DEAD. LONG LIVE THE MEME! Now David Broder is denoucning the pernicious "values voter" myth. Given that Broder, Dionne and Kevin Drum have all come out against this myth, I think it's safe to say that gay marriage won't become this year's Willie Horton.

On the other hand, I think it's premature to say that the Democrats have finally decided to get serious about national security, because that is the only way to win elections. For example, take a look at Robert Kaiser's essay on the cover of the Outlook section in yesterday's WaPo. Kaiser begins by offering five possible definitions of what it means to be a Democrat. Not one of them has a damn thing to do with national security. Here is Kaiser's advice for the Democratic party:
Yes, America is a conservative society. It always has been...

But we are also, polls make clear, a tolerant and moderate people. Democrats could become the party of tolerance, meaning tolerance for everyone: Bible readers, gay couples and Bible-reading gay couples alike. There is a strain of intolerance in today's conservative Republicanism, and that's an opportunity for the Democrats as they try to bring new people into their tent.

Americans also believe in economic fairness. Most Americans say the Bush administration's policies principally help the wealthy...

And a neoconservative foreign policy is hardly a popular platform -- couldn't Democrats come up with a believable approach to national security that actually makes sense?
It's interesting to note how Kaiser has specific advice to offer on the economic and cultural fronts, but can offer nothing more than a plea for sanity when it comes to foreign policy. Yet if Bush's (allegedly neo-conservative) approach was so unpopular, why did he have such a commanding lead in the polls when voters were asked who they trusted more to handle the situation in Iraq and the war on terror?

For some time now, OxBlog has hoped that the Democratic party would return to the principles of Harry Truman, who recognized that strength and idealism are not mutually exclusive, but mutually reinforcing. George Bush may have inherited Truman's mantle, at least rhetorically, but his policies still don't measure up. That is the Democrats' opening.

UPDATE: Reader AS cannily points out that Kevin Drum has fallen into the same trap as Robert Kaiser. In Kevin's bullet-point version of Democratic ideals, there isn't a single mention of foreign policy.
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# Posted 4:55 PM by Patrick Belton  

DAVID'S KIND AS ALWAYS, but what caught my eye today was a job opening for Josh, actually: William Safire stepping down from the New York Times's op-ed page, after a stint of 32 years.
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# Posted 1:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A JOB OPENING FOR PATRICK: Colin Powell resigns.

UPDATE: Joe Gandelman rounds-up the reactions to Powell's departure and the speculations about his replacement. Personally, I think Dick Lugar would do an excellent job at State, although I don't know if his personal relationship with Bush is strong enough to get him the job.

This week, Lugar reminds us once again how strong his personal commitment to democracy promotion is by traveling to the Ukraine to observe the critical election taking place there.

Students of the Reagan administration will always remember Lugar for his indispensable role as an election monitor in the Philippines in 1986. After Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos sought to perpetuate himself in office by stuffing the ballot boxes -- while Reagan blindfolded himself to this reality -- Lugar boldly insisted that the President live up to his own democratic principles. Ultimately, Reagan backed down and Corazon Aquino inaugurated the Philippines' second democratic era.

If one were President Bush, the preceding anecdote might provide a compelling argument against Lugar's appointment. However, I think Bush may just have the guts to appoint someone with a mind of his own.

If Lugar doesn't get the call, my black-horse candidate is Colin Powell's current deputy, Richard Armitage. Never underestimate the value of continuity.

UPDATE: Mr. Yglesias refers to the above post as "hilarous-in-retrospective". He writes that
The issue isn't that Lugar's "personal relationship with Bush" isn't "strong enough to get him the job" the issue is that the plan for the second administration is that the now mandate-possessing Bush can crush all elements of independence and critical thought inside the administration and stock the government entirely with toadies.
Well as long as we're being open-minded...
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# Posted 9:53 AM by Patrick Belton  

TEXAN? LOOKING FOR A GOOD TIME? No, sorry, this isn't a proposition to come back to the Bush compound... But if you're Houstonian and free tonight, stop by the Black Labrador (4100 Montrose, Cézanne Room, 7 pm) for our foreign policy society's discussion of Niall Ferguson's Colossus! More events coming up in other towns, too, as I recover from rather evilly inflicting 150 previously unseen pages upon my long-suffering supervisor's inbox.

UPDATE: We also have a meeting in Washington tonight on what the 2004 election means for American foreign policy, for which we're grateful to Steve Clemons, executive vice president of the New America Foundation, for being our guest speaker (6:30, APSA headquarters, 1527 New Hampshire Avenue).
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Sunday, November 14, 2004

# Posted 3:14 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IMAGINARY EXPERTS: Public Editor Dan Okrent writes that
In "Discord on North Korea as Powell Finishes East Asia Trip," Steven R. Weisman, The Times's chief diplomatic correspondent, wrote of current negotiations that "the impasse is not likely to broken soon, many experts say, at least until the American presidential election is over." When I asked him about his posse of experts, he acknowledged that "you caught me using some lazy writing, probably because I was on deadline and exhausted from jet lag."
I'm curious: Is the "chief diplomatic correspondent" at the Paper of Record responsible for ensuring that all of his colleagues subscribe to the same high standards that he does?

(And three cheers for Okrent, who got Weisman to confess. And let's not forget Jayson Blair, without whom the Times wouldn't have a Public Editor.)
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# Posted 3:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AND ONE FOR MY DEAD HOMIES: Farwell to ODB. Wu-Tang forever.
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# Posted 2:51 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOW REALISTIC ARE THE REALISTS? Ex-idealist Robert Kaplan indignantly announces that the culture and history of Iraq don't favor American efforts to democratize it. Here's what Kaplan has to say about Afghanistan:
Over sizable swaths of the country there had been only warlords and tribal militias, with whom we had to work for many months before we began to co-opt them into a new legitimate authority: or, as the situation demanded, help that new authority to gradually ease them out. In Afghanistan following 9/11, we did what we had to do, and otherwise accepted the place as it was.
Funny, I don't remember Afghanistan having elections or allowing women into the classroom before 9/11. But that's just me...
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# Posted 2:31 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WINNING HEARTS & MINDS, A LA FRANCAISE: Dateline Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire --
Chanting, "We want the French!" a crowd of armed and angry young men swept past La Planta, a club owned by an Ivorian. They started to attack the nearby Byblos restaurant, then stopped when the owner pleaded, "No, no! I'm Lebanese!"

But when it came to Club Le Saint Germain, the mob showed no restraint. The elegant eatery had not only a French owner but also a predominantly French clientele, including soldiers from the nearby military base.

Last Saturday night, witnesses said, men armed with wood planks, iron rail spikes and a lust for revenge battered down the club's steel doors. They yanked bars from the windows and bashed a gaping hole through the concrete wall.

As the owner and a friend watched from an adjacent roof, the mob stole everything that could be taken and destroyed what remained, witnesses said. The posh establishment was reduced to little more than a dirt-streaked shell.
If the French get chased out out of Cote D'Ivoire, maybe they can stop off in Iraq on the way home to share their expert advice about nation-building.
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# Posted 1:54 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SHUT HIM UP BEFORE 2008: According to Wes Clark,
It's hardly surprising that the measure of success in Fallujah is elusive: There's no uniformed enemy force, no headquarters, no central command complex for the troops to occupy and win. At the end, there will be no surrender.
According to the WaPo:
In the southernmost section of Fallujah, where a showdown still loomed, U.S. soldiers discovered an underground bunker and steel-enforced tunnels connecting a ring of houses filled with weapons, medical supplies and bunk beds.

The fighters in the area were armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, and dressed in blue camouflage uniforms with full military battle gear.
It's almost as if the insurgents put on uniforms just to make Clark look stupid. Now, there are some good points in Clark's essay (which also happens to be in the Post.) He says that we have to use diplomacy and force together to win the war in Iraq. But sometimes (and this isn't the first), Clark seems to suffer from political amnesia:
U.S. forces don't "lose" on the battlefield these days. We haven't lost once in Iraq. Nor in Afghanistan. Not in the Balkans, or in the first Gulf War. Nor in Panama.
It's as if Clark never heard of Somalia. Someone should send the General a copy of Black Hawk Down. By the way, doesn't the fact that we have to retake Falluja suggest that we have lost at least one battle in Iraq? But moving on:
This has been a tough battle, and the men and women fighting it deserve every Combat Infantryman's Badge, Bronze Star or Purple Heart they receive.
Come on, Wes, the election is over. Besides, are you suggesting that when you were in charge, the army handed out Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts to soldiers who didn't deserve them?
Neither Syria nor Iran could welcome American success in Iraq if they believe it means they'll be next on a list of regimes to be "reformed" by the United States -- and yet that's precisely the goal of American policy. Bringing about change in those countries should be a matter of offering inducements as well as making threats, but not if it adds to the danger for our men and women in uniform. We need to choose: continue to project a grand vision, or focus on success in Iraq.
Right-o! Let's consolidate those dictatorships in Damascus and Teheran! If George Bush stops talking about democracy promotion, then maybe Bashar Assad and the hard-liners in Teheran will suddenly decide that America is no longer a threat (because they were oh so cooperative back when Clinton was President).

It's not that Clark doesn't make good points. It just that he makes so many bad ones, too.
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# Posted 1:48 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOT WHAT I WOULD SAY IF I HAD A FACE FULL OF SHRAPNEL: Again from the WaPo:
[Lance Cpl. Matthrew] Vetor, who said he could squeeze shrapnel out of his facial wounds, would not be able to return [to battle] just yet.

"You know it could happen to you, but you really don't think it will be you," Vetor said, looking at the TV screen. "I'm just glad I was part of it. I was glad I got to fight with these guys. It had to be done. We were really fighting. We were doing great. It doesn't stop us. We'll keep going."
Really not what I would say if I had a face full of shrapnel. But that's probably why he's a Marine and I'm not.
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# Posted 1:36 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

INDICATIVE: From the WaPo:
In areas controlled by U.S. forces, loudspeakers mounted on Humvees urged that "all fighters in Fallujah should surrender, and we guarantee they will not be killed or insulted."
"Insulted"? Is that a mistranslation? A euphemism? Anyhow, the insurgents' response to the American announcement was even more indicative:
From a loudspeaker on a mosque still controlled by insurgents, the fighters replied: "We ask the American soldiers to surrender and we guarantee that we will kill and torture them."
The insurgents' are only doing us a favor by saying such things. The same goes for Zarqawi's decision to officially rename his outfit "Al Qaeda in Iraq". It's as if Zarqawi had asked himself, "Gee, how could I possibly persuade the American public of the necessity of fighting a war that many of them consider to be hopeless?"

Or even better: "How can I best validate George Bush's claim that the war in Iraq is an integral part of the war on terror?" You heard it hear first: Zarqawi is on the CIA payroll.
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Saturday, November 13, 2004

# Posted 3:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

VOTING FRAUD: Joe Gandelman dismantles the rumors.
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# Posted 2:43 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KILL THE BASTARD: Perhaps our nation can come together as one by paying more attention to a fundamental truth that is close to the heart of all Americans: Scott Peterson is human trash and deserves to die.

I guess the only problem here is that most Blue Staters would be against giving Peterson the chair even though he deserves to die. Then again, Peterson is pretty frikkin' white, so you won't get the ACLU crowd all up in arms about how the death penalty is inherently racist.

On a different sort of dissenting note, James Joyner writes that

I'm one of the relative few people who don't much follow these high profile trials. It's never been clear to me why the murder of one person I never met by someone else I've never met is any more noteworthy than any of the thousands of other murders that are committed each year.

Come on, Jim! Peterson murdered his wife and unborn child for no particular reason except for the fact that they made it harder for him to have fun on weekends. Actually, that's a good reason not to give him the chair. Once the other inmates gets their hands on Peterson, his life will be a living hell.

(Hmmm. I'm sounding a little bloodthirsty today. It must be all the wrestling movies.)

UPDATE: JW writes:
Were you drunk when you wrote this? There is no point too it, and it's offensive.
I respond:
Sadly, I was sober. This is just the kind of reaction that normally sane and thoughtful people seem to have when some guy kills his wife and unborn child. But point taken.

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