OxBlog

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

# Posted 8:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OH, HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN: After winning seventy-four consecutive matches and more than $2.5 million, Ken Jennings met his match on Jeopardy!

If you are also a Ken Jennings fan, or simply in awe of how much he knows about almost everything, you can catch an interview with the man himself tonight on Letterman. At the exact same time on ABC, Nightline will be devoting an entire show to Jeopardy!

Finally, it's time for a shout out to my good friend PF, who won $5,000 in the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament. But that was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away when PF still had a full head of hair.
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# Posted 5:19 AM by Patrick Belton  

DUBLIN LITERARY LANDMARK Bewley's cafe, a haunt of students, shoppers, and pen-wielders since Joyce, to close its doors for the last time this evening in the face of the smoking ban, soaring Dublin rents, and competition from Starbucks.
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Monday, November 29, 2004

# Posted 2:42 PM by Patrick Belton  

HARVARD SUCKS: The photographic evidence.

(Note: this doesn't indicate in any way that I wouldn't accept a lectureship at the Kennedy School, however.)
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# Posted 1:45 PM by Patrick Belton  

TRUMAN DEMOCRATS ON DEMOCRACY IN THE UKRAINE: Our friend, and sometime classmate, Matt Spence has an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times on democracy promotion and the Ukrainian elections. Not only is Matt a grand person and a Truman Democrat besides, but he happens to have just completed a dissertation here at Oxford on democracy assistance programmes and the Ukraine. So go read.

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Sunday, November 28, 2004

# Posted 1:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A TRAGIC MURDER: There is a sobering report in the WaPo on the death of Iman Hams, a 13 year old Palestinian girl shot for no apparent reason by Israeli soldiers. An initial investigation by the Israeli military reported no wrongdoing, but the independent work of print and broadcast journalists forced the military to re-open the investigation and take responsibility for what was, in essence, a murder.

On the WaPo homepage, the headline for this story reads "A Chilling Death in Gaza". Underneath it is a sub-headline that reads: "Israeli army concedes failure in the shooting of a young girl."

Of course, when Hamas and Al Aqsa murder Israeli children, they describe it as a tremendous success.
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# Posted 6:40 AM by Patrick Belton  

1234567 WATCH: Our warm congratulations to Kevin Brogle, who was our 1234567th reader, and wins something English and Christmas-related. (Kevin: 'I would just like to thank all three of you for the fine work you are doing. It is always thought provoking. Except, maybe, discussions on psychadelic purple shirts.') Also, Jack Brounstein wins the runner-up prize (presumably something Cornish or Manx and Christmas-related).
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Saturday, November 27, 2004

# Posted 8:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YGLESIAS FLIP-FLOPS ON TEEN LUST: Methinks that Yglesias' earlier position on the subject represents a defense of his aspirations rather than his practices. Meanwhile, Prof. Drezner indulges in a bit of brilliantly ribald satire.
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# Posted 7:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE DeLAY DELAY: Time for him to move on, no? David Brooks says the majority leader is vulnerable. Tom Friedman is apoplectic.
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# Posted 7:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STILL INTERESTED IN VENEZUELA? It's not front-page news, but the Bush administration's unprincipled decision to endorse a military coup in April of 2002 is one of the most important indications that the President isn't 100% committed to democracy promotion.

Two years ago, the administration denied that it had any advance warning of the coup. Turns out, that simply wasn't true. (Hat tip: KD)
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# Posted 7:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DON'T THINK OF AN ELEPHANT! Kevin Drum reviews George Lakoff's surprise bestseller. Go read the interview, even if there's no reason to buy the book.
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# Posted 7:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOPE IN UKRAINE? In the short term, the most effective (although immoral) response to a massive, peaceful protest is extreme violence. The longer such a protest remains peaceful, the less reversible it becomes. Thus, I am hopeful about the prospects for democracy in Ukraine.

Reuters reports that the Ukrainian parliament has issued a non-binding resolution declaring the election to be invalid. In other news, negotiations between the government and opposition have begun. Opposition leader Viktor Yuschenko has declared that
"We will only hold talks on staging a new vote," Yushchenko declared after the talks to supporters in Independence Square. "If there is no decision within one or two days, it means Yanukovych cannot hear you."
I also consider the following detail to be quite interesting:
Yushchenko appeared to be drawing support from some members of key organs of government in the capital -- the security services, the prosecutor's office, state television journalists and government workers.

In a symbolic but potent example of that shift, cadets from the country's Interior Ministry academy marched in uniform Friday morning to a spot where riot police were protecting the offices of the president. The cadets called on the riot police to cross over and join them. None did.
Without firm control of the security forces, violence may not be a viable option for the government.

On the international front, there is also good news. Vaclav Havel has forcefully stated that democracy is non-negotiable. Lech Walesa has also lent support to the opposition.

The WaPo has characterized President Bush's first direct response to the crisis as dangerously ambivalent. According to correspondent Mike Allen,
Bush's comments appeared to allow for the possibility that the Moscow-backed candidate's victory will stand, despite charges of fraud, and that the administration will have to work with him instead of his Western-leaning opponent.
What Bush said was that
There's just a lot of allegations of vote fraud that placed their election -- the validity of their elections in doubt. The international community is watching very carefully. People are paying very close attention to this, and hopefully it will be resolved in a way that brings credit and confidence to the Ukrainian government.
Even though Allen is correct to point out that the President's comments were less forthright than those of the Secretary of State, it seems strange to suggest that the President indicated any tolerance for fraud. In contrast, NY Times correspondent CJ Chivers portrays the President's remarks as fully consistent with other strong statements issued by the United States government.

For the latest updates and in-depth commentary on the situation in the Ukraine, head over to the ever-informative website of the incomparable Dan Drezner.
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# Posted 3:34 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE CHANTICLEER ENSEMBLE, who together with Britain's Tallis Scholars are one of the world's few truly great a capella ensembles, will in the coming weeks be performing in North Carolina, Virginia, New York City, Chicago, and then through a Californian December in San Francisco, Berkeley, Stanford, and Los Angeles. Do go see them if you can - their tour details are here.
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# Posted 9:34 AM by Patrick Belton  

ANOTHER OXBLOG CONTEST: If you happen to be our 1234567th reader, send us a screenshot and we'll send you something Christmas-related from blighty.
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# Posted 9:14 AM by Patrick Belton  

DEFENDING MY FASHION SENSE: Oh dear. Lest any of our readers be disconcerted by the thought that OxBloggers sit around wearing psychadelic purple pyjamas, the shirt I was wearing at Thanksgiving actually looks a bit more like this before image-reduction algorithms got to it.

And as far as David's question about the noble bird, I'm happy to note that my fellow Bulldog Oxonian Rachel and I have apparently moved into second place in the yahoo search results for 'the more similar education the more successful marriage.' (The first went to Andrew Sullivan, who with the present regrettable state of the law probably doesn't quite count as competition for present purposes.)
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Friday, November 26, 2004

# Posted 6:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PATRICK, PLEASE TELL ME THAT YOU DIDN'T ACTUALLY WEAR A SHINY, PURPLE SHIRT TO THANKSGIVING DINNER. By the way, who's the babe?
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# Posted 5:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPEAKS FOR ITSELF: What follows is the text of the "Petition to Protest the advertising of OUEAS's [Oxford University European Affairs Soceity's] "Ottoman Ball": Questioning the Ethics of Representation"
The Oxford University European Affairs Society's "Ottoman Ball" is only a few days away, and has been widely advertised through posters and email announcements across the university. The event has been billed as a showcase of "the once glorious Ottoman Empire," and aims to "reflect the best of this culture, and the role of modern Turkey as a bridge between European thought and Islamic art, music and philosophy".

However, instead of promoting respectfully and representing fully the breadth of the Ottoman Empire or of the cultures and societies associated with it, the OUEAS's posters depict a debaucherous harem scene, with numerous nude women lounging around, dancing, and playing music - an image that recapitulates the best of European stereotypes of its created 'Orient.' In fact, the image is not far from the cover painting on Edward Said's renowned book, "Orientalism," which critiques this very construction of the Near East in the European imagination.

Not only are the image and the advertising of the ball in general offensive to many of Turkish, Arab, and Persian backgrounds, and to other historically -aware and culturally-sensitive students, but they are arguably just plainly inaccurate. It is very difficult to see how such stereotypical depictions reflect "the best of" the region's multiple and complex histories, philosophies and cultures, and it is reductionistic of the OUEAS to suggest that they do.

An additional and entirely separate concern is the representation of womenin the publicity campaign. It is indisputable that the institution of theharem epitomizes the objectification of women and their use as objects ofsexual pleasure. The historical accuracy of the harem as it is portrayed here is very much a contested issue, and to use a harem scene to publicize a ball purporting to "reflect the best of" a culture, is problematic at best; it serves to glorify this representation of blatant sexual exploitation. Alternatively, if the organization claims to be against such derogatory depiction of women, the use of these images in their publicity campaign is hypocritical.

We seek to voice our disagreement with the OUEAS's posters and blurbs and ask for an apology for its insensitive and inaccurate advertising. Now in particular, at a time when many are seeking to forge genuine bridges between societies and cultures that have been long linked, such unquestioned reinforcement of stereotypes does little to further coexistence and cooperation; there needs to be a deeper and more accurate ethic of representation.
The official host of the OUEAS Ball is the Turkish Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Please note that interested parties can sign the petition online. If you follow the link in the upper left hand corner of the signature page, you can purchase a lovely ottoman for only $129.99 (shipping included).
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# Posted 1:42 PM by Patrick Belton  

THIS JUST IN, VIA MODERATE VOICE: Bush kills turkey, pardons Tom DeLay.
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# Posted 6:41 AM by Patrick Belton  

A VERY NOBLE BIRD:

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Thursday, November 25, 2004

# Posted 10:42 AM by Patrick Belton  

LARGESSE, A GREATNESS OF ATTITUDE: A North Indian princess having died has left half of her fortune to a pair of peanut sellers. Her brother is furious; the remaining half of the princess of Bilaspur's property will be used to open an old people's home.
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# Posted 6:47 AM by Patrick Belton  

THIS THANKSGIVING, OXBLOG IS THANKFUL FOR:
Social scientists, who are always to be trusted, say that persons exhibiting senses of wonder and gratitude lead much happier lives. So, on Thanksgiving, we invite all of our readers to think about things they're grateful for.

We'll start.

This Thanksgiving, we're thankful that Irish girls are only the second most obese of any nation in the world, and not in first place at all.

We're thankful that the current American administration has only succeeded in driving most, and not its entire, clandestine service into early retirement through arrogance, unpardonable condescension, and in general not behaving in a very well-brought up way toward them. You can do a lot with our remaining four spies. Witness the Cambridge spy ring, for instance.

I'm also grateful that former Ambassador, and now former deputy National Security Advisor, Robert Blackwill, by shoving and manhandling a female State Department employee in the course of a temper tantrum over a missed flight and thereby getting himself fired from the Bush administration a second time, has helped us to remember to go gently with and always give second chances to criminals, and realise not to blame the child, but the environment in which the child is brought up.

I'm grateful that I have an ex-girlfriend from Los Angeles who reminds me to only call Thanksgiving 'Thankstaking,' or else I wouldn't be very welcome in the proper sets in Westwood.

I'm grateful that I really do have the most wonderful wife, co-editors, family, friends, and set of readers anyone could ever imagine hoping for. I'm also grateful that my long-suffering thesis supervisor puts up with me, for which he is entitled to great reward in any and all afterlives that exist.

A very warm and happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers and friends.
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# Posted 1:29 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE LANCET RECONSIDERED: A study published in The Lancet suggested that the United States was responsible for 100,000 deaths in Iraq, the greatest number of which were attributable to American bombing raids. After Fred Kaplan published a forceful refutation of the study in Slate, I sensed that the debate was over.

But I was wrong. The liberal websites I visit may have stopped talking about the subject, but apparently my sample of such websites wasn't representative. At the moment, I'm in the middle of a long critique of Kaplan's essay by Daniel Davies of Crooked Timber. Expect more to come...
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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

# Posted 10:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LAMBERT 1, OXBLOG 0 (WaPo -1): In an update to his update, Tim Lambert mischievously writes that he didn't have to rely on Google or Lexis to find the truth. He just went to the IAIS hompage, which now has an update advertising the WaPo article that covered its malnutrition study.

So much for my speculation that the WaPo had confused the new study by IAIS with a May 2003 study by UNICEF. Unfortunately, the IAIS update gives us only the most rudimentary information about its study. The update instructs the curious reader to visit this page on its site, which has been available for quite a while now and contains no new information about the study's results.

One should also note that according IAIS, the malnutrition rate for Iraqi children is 7.5% and not 7.7%, as reported in the WaPo. Presumably, those numbers are indistiguishable from a statistical perspective. I have to admit, the 7.7% figure from the WaPo made me somewhat suspicious, since it was exactly the same as the final number provided by UNICEF last year.

IAIS also writes that a 7.7% malnutrition rate translates into 216,000 Iraqi children with the condition, presumably a correction of the 400,000 figure provided by the Post. Frankly, all this presumption is rather frustrating. It would be nice if IAIS were more straightforward abot all of this.

Moving on from facts to logic, Tim is still unhappy with my explanation for why the invasion was not the probable cause of rising malnutrition in Iraq. He writes that:
I didn’t offer “just speculation”, but quoted the conclusion of the study, which found that “Seven out of 10 children reported had suffered from diarrhoea at some time during the previous 5 weeks.” Adesnik can doubt that the children got sick, but the doctors who examined them seem to think otherwise.
That last comment makes me sound like some sort of ostrich-headed Luddite, but Tim is missing the point. The question isn't whether a certain child had some diarrhoea during the invasion, but whether that child started to have diarrhoea (or whether the condition intensified) during that five week period.

I should also point out that diarrhoea is not the same as acute malnutrition, which has been the focus of our survey. As Tim notes, 70% of Iraqi children had diarrhoea. In contast, only 7.7% percent suffered from acute malnutrition. In order to show that the invasion was the primary cause of rising malnutrition, one has to show that the preponderance of the children's severe weight loss took place during the six weeks of major combat operations, rather than the preceding year or so.

Tim is a long way from proving that that is the case, but my argument rests on speculation as well, i.e. the belief that it would take more than six weeks for 100,000 children to develop acute malnutrition. (I said 200,000 in my last post, but I'm assuming that the updated IAIS figure is more accurate than the original figure from the WaPo.)

On a brighter note for OxBlog, Tim doesn't seem to challenge my assertion that the similar results of the UNICEF and IAIS studies demonstrate that the malnutrition rate has been essentially stable since the beginning of the occupation. Thus, the WaPo was still very wrong to report that malnutrition "shot up...this year".

Final score: Lambert 1, OxBlog 0, WaPo -1 (although I'm considering deducting a point from Tim's score because of his assertion that "it doesn’t seem likely that Saddam could get Unicef to cook their numbers". Saddam bribed high-ranking officials at the United Nations. In return, they allowed Saddam to steal billions and billions of dollars even though the Security Council considered him a threat to international security. Why assume that UNICEF -- a UN agency -- was any less receptive to Saddam's tempting offers?)


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# Posted 7:39 PM by Patrick Belton  

THROUGH A GLASS, DARKLY: Alan Henderson shows what we look like in our proverbial blogging uniforms, according at least to the New York Times....
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# Posted 4:55 PM by Patrick Belton  

AUTUMN IN NORTH OXFORD: Some photoblogging, in anticipation of Thanksgiving tomorrow:





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# Posted 4:28 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE INDEPENDENT, WHICH I've got to admit I'm rather catching a fondness for (in particular because of their cultural and literary coverage), thinks they've finally uncovered who the Ripper really was - Liverpudlian cotton merchant James Maybrick's gold watch has been, under electron microscopy, shown to bear the scratched initials of five victims and the words, dating from roughly the appropriate period, helpfully stating 'I am Jack' and 'J Maybrick.' Well, perhaps - though Maybrick's purported diary, in which he makes a claim to be the Ripper, uses several twentieth-century expressions, and the handwriting doesn't quite match that in his marriage certificate and will. The riddle of the Ripper will never be solved until enthusiasts finally admit the one ineluctable source of a cover up with an incentive to keep the murderer's true identity obscure for all this time - the website Casebook.org.
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# Posted 2:54 PM by Patrick Belton  

ARE YOU A POLITICAL SCIENTIST? (IF SO, POOR YOU. YOU KNOW, THERE ARE RESOURCES FOR PROBLEMS LIKE THAT.) So our foreign policy society is beginning a small research listserv for democratisation scholarship, as well as research on democracy and rule of law assistance, and most likely dealing with formal government promotion of human rights to some extent also. In terms of tone and scholarly level, the diplomatic history list H-Diplo is probably as good an example as any of what we're trying to do, though of course the subject matter's a bit different. If this interests anyone, we have two opportunities to involve people: as advisory board members (where the demands won't be very extensive - basically, you won't really have to do anything at all, although you do get the ability to fire our editors - though speaking as initial lead editor, it would really be quite all right if you didn't), and as editors (who will have the opportunity to take a more active role). If you might be interested at all in either possibility, please do just let me know and I'll write back with a bit more about what the listserv is trying to do. Also, it comes with a fetching logo, a half-decade's residence in Britain having left me oddly rather susceptible to lavender.
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# Posted 1:50 PM by Patrick Belton  

ENGLISH LESSONS, II: Our historic first inclusion of Cockney rhyming slang on OxBlog having met with such resounding success, we decided to take the logical next step and link to one of the basic first sites of the CockneyWeb, CockneyRhymingSlang.co.uk. Click the balloon hovering above the person born within the requisite earshot of the bells of St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside (source also of the 'Marylebone Road' which the M40 turns into), and they'll take you through the basics.... And OxBlog Extra Credit Hebrew tie-in: the East End was also one of the principal destinations of Lithuanian Jews fleeing pogroms through emigration to London. Oy ve, innit!
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# Posted 8:46 AM by Patrick Belton  

STILL LOOKING FOR, NOT FINDING THE SUPERIOR MORAL LEGITIMACY: Continuing an earlier theme and via a tip-off from the blog of Sasha Castel,*

The Times (UK) reports on a vote of no confidence in the United Nation's management taken by the employees of its Secretariat in New York, after the U.N.'s director of oversight was cleared on charges of exchanging promotions for money and sexual favours following an extremely cursory investigation. Staff representatives who had raised complaints were not consulted or interviewed in the course of the investigation, nor were they informed it was taking place until it had exonerated the undersecretary.

Dileep Nair, the official accused of peddling promotions for sex, is incidentally the U.N.'s anti-corruption watchdog.

The present scandal follows close on the heels of Annan's recent admission that civilian and peacekeeping personnel on UN duty in Congo and Sierra Leone have committed what appear to be several hundred separate documented instances of gross misconduct, frequently dispensing food aid to under-age local girls on the condition of having sex with them first, and with instances of rape and paedophilia by peacekeepers documented on videotape as well. (see Scotsman, CNN, BBC, BBC). This continues a pattern of sexual predation perpetrated by the United Nations upon vulnerable host populations occurring in previous years with the presence of UN peacekeepers and officials in East Timor, Cambodia, Bosnia, and Kosovo.

The sad perversions of peacekeepers raping women and children from the very populations they were dispatched to protect, and promotions allegedly being levied for sex by none other than the organisation's principal anti-corruption official, are only indicative of a more systematic culture of corruption, in which the son of Annan's chief of staff Iqbal Riza was hired to work for the United Nations in clear violation of nepotism rules, in an incident for which Riza was never held accountable. The affair of the organisation's corruption czar also represented the second time in two weeks, point out employees, that U.N. management refused to take action against a senior official accused of harassment: U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers being exonerated earlier this month of allegations of sexually harassing an American woman working in his agency. Furthermore, the investigation continues into the Oil-for-Food scandal, in which senior U.N. officials accepted bribes in exchange for diverting funds meant as aid for impoverished Iraqis directly to former Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein. In a bureaucracy which has been as isolated as the United Nations from ordinary mechanisms of accountability, one begins to sadly suspect that in the present scandals we might only be seeing the tip of the iceberg.

* the blog world's cutest Jewish Ukrainian Australian of whom we're aware
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# Posted 8:37 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE VIRGIN MARY GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH SELLS FOR $28,000. This via the Screws and Currant (i.e., Cockney rhyming slang: currant bun – Sun).

Short on its heels, the Canadian Jesus Fish Cake. So much for vaunted northern tastes.
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# Posted 7:49 AM by Patrick Belton  

ENGLISH LESSONS: Royal Navy toasts corresponding to days of the week, from the Gentleman's English Dictionary and Usage, not to everyone's tastes but not wholly repellant to mine:

Sunday: Absent friends and those at sea.
Monday: Our native land or King and country.
Tuesday: Our mothers or Health and wealth.
Wednesday: Ourselves or Our swords or Old ships.
Thursday: The King; honest men and bonnie lassies.
Friday: Fox hunting and old port or Ships at sea.
Saturday: Sweethearts and wives.

The current versions,

Sunday: Absent friends.
Monday: Our ships at sea.
Tuesday: Our men.
Wednesday: Ourselves (the remark "since no one else is likely to think of us" usually follows).
Thursday: A bloody war or a sickly season.
Friday: A willing foe and sea room.
Saturday: Sweethearts and wives ("may they never meet" is the popular rejoinder).
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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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