Saturday, December 24, 2005
# Posted 6:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 4:47 AM by Patrick Belton
Thursday, December 22, 2005
# Posted 11:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
FYI, Brickskeller is a legend because of its mind-boggling selection of beers. Two years ago, in fact, the Guinness Book of World Records cited Brickskeller for serving more varities of beer than any other commercial establishment on Planet Earth. How many you ask? 1073.
Patrick and I were joined by Jeff Hauser, of the now defunct Hauser Report, who now does things like take Howard Dean on trips to Israel. (Literally. That's not the set up for some bizarre joke.)
Of course, the main activity of the evening entailed listening to Mr. Belton recount his bawdy personal adventures, absolutely none of which I would even think of recounting here on OxBlog, since this is a family values website. But if you encounter Mr. Belton in person, I'm sure he would be willing to share.
Unfortunately, Patrick is headed back to Europe in just a couple of days, so we may all have to wait a while for the chance to see him again. Here in the US, that is. But if any of you are up for a visit to Switzerland, Patrick would be glad to host you at his chalet. Ciao! (5) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:43 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 12:56 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Don't expect a decisive answer to this question. Rather, what I try to do, along with my co-author, is demonstrate how the United States faced the exact same dilemma during the final decade of the Cold War, when presidents hesitated to push authoritarian allies to reform, lest they be replaced by those such as the Sandinistas in Managua and the Khomeini regime in Teheran.
Although hesitant at first to confront the dictatorships in places such as the Philippines, South Korea and Chile, Reagan ultimately came around to the recognition that deft diplomacy could hasten reform without antagonizing the current regime or bringing to power a radical opposition.
What our article doesn't provide is a detailed assessment of the prospects for democratization in the friendly dictatorships of today, such as Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Rather, our purpose is to provide a conceptual framework for the discussion that shows how American can achieve what pessimists then and now (who often describe themselves as realists) consider to be simply impossible.
Anyhow, I haven't been blogging much since I've had to focus on the article the past couple of days. Thanks for your patience. (5) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
# Posted 12:57 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Again and again, Stephanopoulos kept pressing McCain to justify how the administration could circumvent the foreign intelligence courts when authorizing wiretaps. No matter how times Stephanopoulos repeated the question, McCain kept giving the same answer: the White House consulted with both the Democratic and Republican leadership in Congress before making its decision.
Pelosi has spoken of voicing "strong concerns" when initially consulted about the policy, but that doesn't sound very persuasive. If she didn't object or disagree or contradict, then she should just say that she accepted the decision.
Nonetheless, McCain -- like Condoleezza Rice and Lindsey Graham -- admitted that he couldn't provide a clear legal justification for what the administration did. (22) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:52 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:03 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
The big question is, why did the Bush administration decide to circumvent the foreign intelligence court even though the court imposes very few limitations on the administration's surveillance privileges?
Even after listening to This Week, Face the Nation and Meet the Press, I still haven't gotten a good answer. On Face the Nation, Joe Biden said that the administration's behavior was simply unfathomable. Bob Scheiffer suggested that this was another Karl Rove stratagem to force the Democrats to defend a soft position on national security. Tom Friedman suggested that the administration wanted to go after people it didn't have enough evidence to get a warrant for.
I think what's wrong about Schieffer and Friedman's explanations is that they don't take into account the context in which the decision was made to go around the courts. It was right after 9/11, at a time when no one in their right mind would have said that there wouldn't be even a single other attack on the American homeland during the next four years.
My best guess -- and it is very much a guess -- is that the administration moved swiftly and aggressively to expand its powers in this way because it expected there to be a real war on the homefront, not just an argument about whether the Democrats or the Republicans have a greater penchant for revisionist history.
Which is not to say that the decision was justified. On that question, I'm going to have to reserve judgment. In fact, after reading Orin Kerr's long and thoughtful post about the legal and constitutional merits of the administration's position, I think I may simply lack the necessary expertise to have any sort of intelligent position on this issue.
Nonetheless, I am troubled by the inability of the administration to provide a simple and straightforward rationale for its behavior. On Meet the Press, Condoleezza Rice kept dodging the issue of the decision's legality by insisting that she isn't an expert. In general, that's a fair enough point. But a Secretary of State should be able to elaborate the basic legal justification for an important White House policy, even if she can't be expected to cite the case law.
(NB: In other respects, Condi did an excellent job. As a candidate, I think she could handle the press with a good bit of panache.)
In a manner similar to the Secretary of State, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) couldn't come up with any sort of straightforward legal justification for the administration's behavior during his time on Face the Nation. As Tom Friedman observed (on that same show),
I think what Senator Graham said was so important and so powerful, which is--who is a Republican and a legal expert, a lawyer, who was basically saying this administration has acted outside the bounds of any law that he knows of...To a degree, one might describe Graham's comments as an admission against his own partisan interest. At the same time, Graham has begun to present himself as a mini-McCain and seems to enjoy all the positive coverage he gets as a budding maverick. I think Graham is sincere, but so is Joe Lieberman when he disagrees with the Democrats about almost everything.
So where does that leave us? I'm not sure. As Matt Yglesias observed,
I tend to doubt that anything genuinely awful has resulted from the president's little illegal wiretap scheme."But," Matt adds,
...the principles being invoked to justify it are extremely troubling.I certainly agree with the first part (sans "illegal"), although I'm not so sure about the second. Even so, I do believe that if the administration had a greater up-front concern about civil liberties -- rather than demonstrating concern only after the issue has become controversial -- it could have found a way to get all of the necessary powers to fight the war on terror without riding on the borders of the law. (18) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, December 18, 2005
# Posted 1:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 1:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 1:52 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 1:34 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
As I learned way back at Bloggercon II, there is no proper etiquette for introducting oneself to those one knows online but not in person. Forgetting the lesson of Bloggercon, I once again just introduced myself as a normal human being would, with my first name.
One could thrown in the last name as well, but that sounds weird. To go all out and announce the name of your blog wouldn't just be weird, it would be like saying "my blog is so important and I'm so insecure that I can't introduce myself without telling you about my URL."
Then you get into the conversation, and someone mentions their blog, and you mention your blog (because bloggers can't help talking about their blogs), and then you sound like a bit of an idiot identifying your blog ten minutes into the conversation because the only reason your in this room in the first place is that you have a blog.
Face it. Life isn't fair. (8) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:30 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 1:19 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
FYI, Ricky Gervais (pronounced jur-VASE) is the comic genius responsible for The Office. He's now working on a series of half-hour podcasts distributed by The Guardian. While listening to the first podcast on Thursday, I had to devote all of physical strength to not laughing uproariously out loud when Ricky and and his friends debated whether or not it would be possible to teach a monkey to fly a spaceship by having the ship dispense bananas when the monkey hit the proper button.
I may not have laughed out loud, but I was smiling uncontrollably and people were beginning to think I was some sort of weirdo. Again, not wrong, but not to be inferred from my public laughter, because that was Ricky Gervais' fault.
So here's the bottom line: Listening to Ricky Gervais will make you very, very happy. And who the %&*$# cares if other people think you're crazy? (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Since our office was having its big
Slightly flustered by this question in an environment where most of us try to be moderately non-partisan, I spluttered "No, actually I'm an independent." Then he said to me that he was only asking because only Republicans wear ties. Like Tucker Carlson. Like George Will. And then asked, could I think of any Democrats who wear bowties?
I hesitated for a second and then said, "Yes. Farrakhan." There was a loud guffaw. Game, set, match, OxBlog.
And now that I think about it, there was one prominent Democrat who had a thing for bowties: Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois, pictured above. (9) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, December 15, 2005
# Posted 10:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
So lets start with a statement of the problem. Both the 2004 and 2005 polls began to probe their respondents' political preferences by asking (in questions #15 and #20A, respectively) what Iraq needs. This year, the number one answer was "a (single) strong Iraqi leader", with 74.8% saying that they strongly agree and 16.1% saying that they somewhat agree.
The second most popular answer was "a democracy", with 73.8% in strong agreement and 16.4% in moderate agreement. So here you get a sense of the problem. The design of these questions lets Iraqis say that their country needs many things, some of which Americans might consider to be mutually exclusive.
For example, the same question asked Iraqis if their country needs a government made up of religious leaders. 48.1 percent agree, either strongly or in moderation. A similar percentage said Iraq needs a government made up primarily of military leaders. In 2004, this series of questions elicited very similar answers.
So what the heck does all of this mean? Fortunately, the poll takers included a number of questions that would force respondents to express their perceptions of democracy in greater detail. For example, question #20B in this year's poll asked:
What do you think Iraq needs after the election planned for December 2005? Please mention only one choice.Question #20C then asked:
What do you think Iraq needs in five years’ time? Please mention only one choice.50.9 percent said that Iraq needs a single, strong leader after the elections. But only 30.5 percent said that this is what Iraq will need in five years time. 28.2 percent said Iraq needs a democracy after the December election, with 45.2 saying that Iraq will need one in five years time. The third most popular answer was a religious government, with approximately five percent in favor. In 2004, the numbers were bascially the same.
Thus, Iraqis clearly sense that their is a trade off between democracy and one-man leadership. But if they support a strong man in the here and now, will they ever have a chance to enjoy the democracy they prefer? One problem with questions #20B and #20C is that they do not clearly indicate whether a "(single) strong Iraqi leader" means a dictator. According to the Dr. Christoph Sohm, the director of the organization that conducted the poll (who was quoted by the BBC):
"Their desire for a strong leader within a democracy shows that they want a Konrad Adenauer, not a Saddam Hussein." Adenauer was the first chancellor of post-war Germany.Presumably, Sohm's confidence comes from the answers provides to questions #21A and #21B:
A. There can be differences between the way government is set up in a country, called political system. From the three options I am going to read to you,which one do you think would be best for Iraq now?The three choices respondents had were:
Strong leader: a government headed by one man for lifeDemocracy won by a landslide, with 57.2% support in the here and now and 62.0% support in five years time. 25.8 percent preferred a strong leader now, with 17.8 preferring one in five years time. 13.8 wanted an Islamic government now, with 11.8 preferring one in five years time.
Interestingly, the analagous question in the 2004 poll, #17, only gave respondents' a choice between a "Strong leader", "Islamic state" and "Democracy". Democracy also won that round by a landslide, but the Islamic state option broke the 20 percent barrier, bring democracy down to the mid-forties.
Although there is some more data on the subject, this post has covered all of the major points. And the message is clear: The people of Iraq clearly want democracy and clearly understand that dictatorship and clerical rule are not acceptable substitutes. Thankfully, it looks like the Iraqi people will get what they want.
What is much harder to say is whether Iraqis have a sufficient understanding of and commitment to civil rights and liberties in order to ensure that their democracy becomes a truly liberal one. In light of recently discovered torture chambers run by the Shi'ite-controlled Ministry of the Interior, there are obviously great challenges to overcome in this regard.
Nonetheless, such actions may well reflect the tyrannical disposition of only a small- to medium-sized minority. After suffering so much under Saddam, the majority of Iraqis may have an instinctive sense of what it is that democracies consider unacceptable. (15) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Its most important findings were that 82% of Iraqis strongly opposed the occupation while 45% believed that attacks against coalition forces are acceptable. You may recognize those numbers as the ones that John Murtha cites in every one of his interviews in order to justify his statement that "We are the enemy."
It's hard to know what to make of the MoD poll since all we know about it are the details published in the Telegraph and because it is radically inconsistent with the findings of repeated polls conducted by both the BBC/Time consortium and the International Republican Institute. (For a listing of polls, click here.)
However, regardless of what you think of the occupation, you should know the details of the MoD poll if you want to talk about Iraqi public opinion, since it represents a critical (albeit lonely) data point for some of those who see the war as a quagmire. (5) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
# Posted 11:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Open optimism, whether or not it is warranted, is a necessary trait in senior officers and officials. Skeptics can be excused for discounting glowing reports on Iraq from the upper echelons of power. But it is not a simple thing to ignore genuine optimism from mid-grade, junior and noncommissioned officers who have spent much of the past three years in Iraq.In Vietnam, it was mid-level officers such as Lt. Col. John Paul Vann who taught American journalists to see through Johnson and the generals' party line. Perhaps now there is a latter-day Vann who is quietly advising to journalists to disregard the White House line. After all, Vann himself only spoke through his journalist disciples. Yet journalists today, regardless of their opinion of the war, seem to accept that the officer corps is sincerely optimistic.
It should be apparent, however, that the officers' optimism is not enough to shift the tide of public opinion at home. But consider this counterfactual: What if a majority of officers agreed that the war was unwinnable and made their views quietly known. I think it would destroy the administration's resolve. In a war being fought by volunteers, the volunteers must believe in the cause.
For as long as our soldiers re-enlist for second and third tours of duty in Iraq, it will be hard for opponents of the war to insist that we should bring them home now against their own will. (10) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
First up is WWE -- From the Vault: Shawn Michaels. This is a compilation of the Heartbreak Kid's greatest matches, along with some commentary from the Kid himself. And the matches are truly great. Michaels' ladder match against Razor Ramon defined the genre and still seems fresh and creative even though ladder matches are now a staple of the pay-per-view circuit.
The 60 minute Iron Man match against Bret "The Hitman" Hart also deserves its status as a legend. I'd heard that any match that lasts an hour simply gets boring at a point, but this one only gets better. As for those ignorantly deride wrestling as "fake", they should consider exactly what kind of physical conditioning it takes to put on an acrobatic show that goes for sixty minutes straight.
Next up is the re-release of an Andre the Giant retrospective originally from the mid-1980s. Like so many kids, I watched endless hours of television, hoping to see Andre wrestle, but never did. Back then, the stars performed much less often. Thus, I felt quite privileged to actually see 11 matches in a row with Andre. But...
They were terrible. The quality of most pro-wrestling 25 or 30 years ago was nothing compared to what it is today. The pace is far slower, the moves much more repetitive, the wrestlers often out of shape. And Andre dominates every match. Moreover, this disc says almost nothing about Andre as a person. Still, the disc is worth watching for its historical value alone.
Finally, we come to Rob Van Dam: One of a Kind. RVD's first title defense against Jerry Lynn will go down as one of the greatest matches in the history of ECW, if not all of pro-wrestling. There are some other first rate matches here, especially the ladder match against Christian, but Van Dam's suffers to a certain degree from having opponents who just can't match his standard of athleticism. So watch this disc, but don't feel about skipping some matches.
That is all. We now return to our usual discussion of subjects that are dreadfully intellectual. (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose the presence of Coalition Forces in Iraq?Strong support has fallen slightly, from 13.2 to 12.8 percent. Moderate support has fallen noticeably from 26.3 to 19.4. Moderate opposition has risen slightly from 19.6 to 20.8. And mostly importantly, strong opposition has risen firmly from 31.3 to 41.7 percent. So no one should say that American forces are flat-out popular.
But this low approval rating for the occupation doesn't translate directly into a firm desire for it to end immediately. When asked how long Coalition forces should remain, 25% said they should leave now, up from 15% in 2004. (Question #29 in 2004 and #33 in 2005). Although hardly positive, I think it's interesting that only about half of those who strongly oppose the presence of Coalition forces want them to leave immediately.
What clearly is positive is that 30.9% want Coalition forces to stay until security is restored and 15.6% want them to stay until the new Iraqi army can operate independently. An additional 19.4% want the troops to stay until the government elected this month is in place. In other words, Iraqis understand quite well the necessity of having direct American military support until such time as they are capable of withstanding the insurgency on their own.
In 2004, 18.3% wanted Coalition forces to stay until security is restored with 35.8% wanting them to stay until an Iraqi government is in place. Thus the numbers have changed significantly, although it is hard to interpret that shift. Apparently, more Iraqi now phrase their acceptance of a continuing occupation as an issue of security, whereas it was formerly more of an issue of politics.
Another very interesting question from the 2004 survey was #27:
If you have had personally any encounters with Coalition Force soldiers, was your last encounter very positive, somewhat positive, somewhat negative or very negative?77.5 percent said they had never had a personal encounter with Coalition forces. The remaining respondents were evenly divided, with 9.3% citing positive experiences and 8.4% negative ones. Although one shouldn't read too much into such small numbers, they cut strongly against the grain of media coverage that portrays the Iraqi people as profoundly antagonized by aggressive American efforts to hunt down the insurgents, even if means breaking into private homes in the middle of the night.
But let's not lose sight of the fact that Iraqis clearly want the occupation to end, almost as much as Americans do. But how intense is that desire? Since politics is driven not just by what people want but how badly they want it, this is a very important question to ask. One survey question that touched on this issue was #8:
Thinking ahead to the next 12 months, what would be the best thing which could happen to Iraq?33.3 percent said 'security', 19.3 percent said 'peace and stability', 7.6 said 'a better life', while 5.7 said an end to the occupation. When asked what the worst thing is that could happen in the next 12 months, more than 40 percent gave answers related to continuing violence while 8.9 percent said continued occupation.
Finally, there is one more question that was asked in 2004 but not again in 2005, namely whether respondents considered it acceptable to attack Coalition forces (#25). In 2004, 17.3 percent said yes, while 78.0 said no. I'd be curious to see what the numbers are now.
So all in all, what do these numbers tell us about attitudes towards the American occupation of Iraq? Clearly, Iraqis consider the presence of foreign soldiers to be far from ideal. At the same time, a strong plurality recognize that the presence of American forces is absolutely critical to the achievement of peace and security, the objective that Iraqis overwhelmingly consider to be their most important.
From the very beginning, I have said that I would judge the success of this occupation based on the ability of American forces to win Iraqi hearts and minds. Would achieving that objective entail Iraqis' open embrace of our soldiers as their heroes? Ideally, yes. But that hasn't happened.
Nonetheless, if a strong plurality of Iraqis believe that our presence is helping them accomplish their most important objective -- security -- then we have certainly won over their minds, even if their hearts are ambivalent. How many critics of the occupation ever expected that to be the case, or will even acknowledge that it is the case now? (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
# Posted 11:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The findings are in line with the kind of arguments currently being deployed by President George W Bush.For the moment, all I will say is that you have to look at the results for yourself. Even better, compare the results of each question to the results of last year's survey, also conducted by ORI. Tomorrow, I will try to provide some more in-depth analysis of the results. But for the moment consider the respondents' answer to the question of
How much confidence do you have in the New Iraqi Army: is it a great deal of confidence, quite a lot of confidence, not very much confidence or none at all? [Question 14 in the old survey, Question 19 in the new --ed.]The answers were: A great deal -- Quite a lot -- Not very much -- None at all:
2004.......................17.8...................38.2.............. 24.9..................... 9.7
Wow. (12) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 6:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Every killing or arrest produces more insurgents...Were the United States not in Iraq, not only would fewer rebels with to come, but the incentives of neighboring governments to capture such people would rise...The first sentence in the passage above is one of the very few in which Posen waxes rhetorical in an unfortunate way. If even arresting an insurgent produces more insurgents, then no meaningful response to the insurgency is possible at all.
Perhaps more importantly, does Posen expect that arrests and killings will become less provocative once they are carried out by the Shi'ite soldiers he wants to replace the Americans? Since Posen acknowledges that ethnic fissures are a very serious issue in Iraq, such a proposition would simply not be plausible.
Now what about the idea that if the United States were not in Iraq, fewer foreign fighters will come? This argument rests on the assumption that if we declare victory and go home so will they. But as Posen himself clearly states, the war will not be over if we go home. It will simply be carried on by our Shi'ite allies. Since we know that the foreign fighters are rabidly anti-Shi'ite and hope for the establishment of a new Caliphate, there is little reason to think that they will go home if we leaves the Shi'ites to fight on their own.
On a related note, Posen never confronts the hypothesis that victory will embolden the insurgents, both the foreign fighters and the Ba'athists. As the insurgents themselves explain, American withdrawals from Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia over the past thirty years provide the best available indication that America lacks the resolve necessary to win the war. As a student of history and politics, I think Posen would acknowledge that victors often go on take greater risks. This is not just the case for conquerors such as Napoleon and Alexander, but for democracies such as the United States and Britain. Should we expect any better of the Ba'athists and Al Qaeda?
In other regards, Posen is very good about directly confronting the strongest arguments for staying in Iraq. Thus Posen acknowledges that:
The major strategic problem for the United States with a stalemated civil war is that Sunni Arab areas of Iraq—in particular the vast and lawless expanses of the Anbar province—may become safe havens for al Qaeda. But...Even General George Casey and General John Abizaid, the two most senior officers responsible for the counterinsurgency effort in Iraq, agree that the large American presence stokes the insurgency. Once U.S. ground forces have left Iraq, the nationalist political energy will probably leak from the insurgency. Many Sunni Arabs who have tolerated the presence of foreign fighters may no longer do so.First of all, I think Posen slightly misunderstands the statements of Generals Casey and Abizaid. They acknowledge that our presence has a provocative effect, but they don't pretend that it is the only effect.
More importantly, I think Posen and others must provide much more evidence in order to substantiate the notion that the insurgency is driven by true nationalism rather than by a narrow Sunni agenda that sees Shi'ite rule as intolerable. Earlier on, Posen himself acknowledges that
Sunni Arabs almost surely see the United States as the agent of their fall from the top of the social order and the American presence as an obstacle to restoring their power and resources.Exactly. In fact, I might even suggest that if the United States withdraws, the Sunnis will become more tolerant of the foreign fighters because they will recognize their contribution to the insurgents' victory over the United States. Regardless of whether the Sunnis actually want the foreign fighers in Iraq, they will also need as many allies they can get in order to fight the war against the Shi'ites and Kurds, which they will have a chance of winning if we withdraw.
The second major argument against withdrawal that Posen acknowledges is the idea that if we leave, the conflict in Iraq may well escalate from insurgency into a full scale civil war, with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis paying for it with their lives. Posen writes that escalation is probable but observes that
The most likely military outcome of this civil war is a stalemate, and this is what the United States should aim for. Though there may be considerable bloodletting, it is unlikely that any group can conquer the others...This analogy to Bosnia strikes me as ironic, since the settlement of its civil war depended on the continuing presence of a NATO-led occupation force that put approximately four times as many troops, per capita, on the ground as the United States has so far in Iraq.
In other words, the lesson of Bosnia is not that stalemates work, but that only Western arms can prevent a horror of almost genocidal proportions.
In summary, I respect Prof. Posen's commitment to a sober and non-partisan discussion of the most critical issue facing America today, but strongly disagree with his arguments. A timetable for withdrawal will neither ensure the rapid improvement of the new Iraqi army nor pacify the insurgents. And a premature withdrawal runs the very serious risk of both facilitating the establishment of Al Qaeda safe havens and initiating a mass-casualty civil war.
There is no question that America is paying a terrible price to fight this war. But the cause is necessary. And I would even say that it is noble. Just two days from now, the people of Iraq will go to the polls once again. Let us hope and pray for the best. (9) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, December 12, 2005
# Posted 10:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
For adamant supporters of our mission Iraq (such as myself), Posen's essay is eminently readable because it traffics in none of the partisan cliches and holier-than-thou rhetoric of so many of the war's critics. More importantly, it confronts head-on the most powerful argument against a premature withdrawal from Iraq, namely the prospect of both a bloody civil war and the establishment of Al Qaeda sanctuaries under Sunni protection.
Although I won't pretend to be truly open-minded about the situation in Iraq, I think that being able to process the arguments made by Posen and respond with meaningful analysis is an important challenge for all those who continue to support the war. That said, I would like to comment on Posen's essay in the traditional manner of the blogosphere, by taking on its main arguments paragraph by paragraph.
I think the best summary of Posen's essay is its second sentence:
The war is at best a stalemate; the large American presence now causes more trouble than it prevents.The first subpoint under this heading is Posen's assertion that the American presence in Iraq provides an incentives for the Iraqi government to let America solve its problems. Hence:
Iraqi politicians will not apply sustained pressure to their security forces to improve themselves so long as they know that the Americans will remain to protect the state from the insurgents...The argument that American patronage creates an incentive for irresponsibility on the part of its clients is grounded in a fair amount of historical evidence. Yet I am concerned that Posen assumes that this pattern has held true in Iraq even though he does not provide much evidence.
No less important is the absence in Posen's essay of one of the most important indications of just how serious the Iraqis on our side our about fighting the insurgency: the number who continue to die, day in and day out, fighting at our side. Even though suicide bombers repeatedly target police and military recruiting stations, young men continue to congregate there in impressive numbers to volunteer for service.
To a certain extent, Posen might welcome such indications that the Iraqis on our side are already willing to fight. Such evidence would justify Posen's remarkably optimistic conclusion that:
An interval of 18 months provides ample time for the United States to help the Iraqis complete the project of training and organizing an army capable of maintaining internal security...if Iraqis—especially the Shiites—are motivated by the knowledge that they will soon be on their own, they can achieve such a capability with a year’s hard work...Yes they are. Yet I am very much concerned that Posen's implicit comparison between the new Iraqi army and the old -- let alone any comparison to Western forces -- fails to take into account the fact that the new Iraqi army simply does not have the human infrastructrue necessary to train a viable force. Established armies can forge new units because they have experienced an officer corps that can both train new recruits and then lead them in battle.
Imagine the change in tenor if Iraqi recruits knew that their American instructors would abandon them once 18 months had passed. Would such recruits want to stay and fight knowing that they would suddenly be left to battle the insurgents on their own, without American support in the field? No less importantly, would the Iraqi recruits trust their American instructors?
All in all, the motivation provided by sheer necessity would be a poor substitute for the confidence that comes from being well-trained and well-led.
To be continued... (10) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
To promote peace and stability in the broader Middle East, the United States will work with our friends in the region to fight the common threat of terror, while we encourage a higher standard of freedom...the great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East.Washington Post editorial, December 10, 2005:
THE LAST DAYS of Egypt's month-long parliamentary election were shameful. Government security forces and gangs of thugs from the ruling National Democratic Party blockaded access to dozens of polling sites where opposition candidates were strong. In several cases they opened fire on citizens who tried to vote; 10 people were reported killed. Inside the election stations, government appointees blatantly stuffed ballot boxes in full view of judicial monitors. In some districts, they ignored court orders seeking to prevent them from buying votes or busing in nonresidents to defeat opposition candidates.I believe that President Bush meant every word that he said in his State of the Union address. But leadership demands more than sincerity. It demands action, even while preoccupied with more politically sensitive tasks. And now is the time. (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. Descending a bit more he shouted, "Excuse me, can you help? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago BUT I do not know where I am." The woman replied, "You're in a hot air balloon, approximately 30 feet above the ground. You are between 40/41 degrees latitude, north, and 59/60 degrees west, longitude."Hehehe! (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
However, my suspicion is that no student of the Founding Fathers and admirer of the Constitution as passionate as Will could fail to be inspired by the desire of millions of Iraqis to risk life and limb rather than miss the chance to vote. Of course, the millions who voted in both January and October will have to pull it off one more time in order to earn their award. But I am confident that they can do it.
In response to Will's observation, both Stephanopoulos himself and panelist Martha Raditz of ABC News seconded the nomination of Mother Nature in last week's issue of Time. In light of the tsunami, Katrina and the recent quake in Pakistan, it's a solid choice. And a depressing one.
Yet Mother Nature comes and goes. Her depredations are as old as the day is long. Whereas the courage of the Iraqi people may represent both a turning point in the history of freedom and a monument to the eternal human thirst for liberty.
If you have confidence that something good will come of the Iraqi people's three trips to the polls (and I do), then they deserve your support as collective person of the year. If you believe that this year's elections in Iraq are nothing more than an illusion destined to be washed away by civil war and suicide bombs, then perhaps the people of Iraq deserve to win the award as a consolation prize for their noble disappointment. (3) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:10 AM by Patrick Belton
(1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:57 AM by Patrick Belton
(UPDATE: Our drinking buddy BritPundit deftly presents the other side.) (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:40 AM by Patrick Belton
I am being asked to give more UK taxpayers money to an EU which for years can not produce properly audited accounts. Mon ami Jacques with the support of most of you is nagging me to give the EU more money while the refusing to surrender an inch or even a centimetre on the CAP - a programme which uses inefficient transfers of taxpayers money to bloat rich French landowners and so pump up food prices in Europe, thereby creating poverty in Africa, which we then fail to solve through inefficient but expensive aid programmes. The most stupid, immoral state-subsidised policy in human history, give or take Communism.(1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:25 AM by Patrick Belton
Sunday, December 11, 2005
# Posted 7:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Although most buffets sacrifice quality for the sake of quantity, the Corcoran's doesn't. The food this morning was just about on par with the a la carte items I've had at other top shelf destinations for brunch, such as the Old Ebbitt Grill and the Tabard Inn. But you pay for the privilege; brunch costs $24.95 per person, including hot drinks and one champagne cocktail.
Also included is free admission to the Corcoran Gallery itself. The current exhibitions include Warhol Legacy, an extensive show that draws on the collection of the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. The works that provoked the most intense reaction from myself and my girlfriend were the numerous portraits of Mao Zedong, all presented together in a room whose walls were covered with Warhol's own Chairman Mao wallpaper.
In the spirit of the great Josh Chafetz, who considers the rebirth of Cuban and Soviet insignia as teen-scene fashion to be thoroughly offensive, I decided to ask my lovely companion why it is that a prominent museum would put on display multiple portraits of a mass murderer without the slightest hint of embarrassment. After all, no museum anywhere in the world would fill an entire room with portraits of Hitler, no matter how artistically impressive they were.
At first, our discussion covered the usual ground. In contrast to Hitler, Mao remains a nationalist hero. In the 1960s and 1970s, the West remained basically ignorant of Mao's most horrific crimes. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
Then we hit upon a road less traveled. The fact remains that Mao had the good sense to commit most of his crimes within his own borders. Hitler, of course, didn't. Stalin tyrannized Eastern Europe. Mao played a role in Korea and Vietnam, but we don't think of him as the primary villain in either situation.
Only after sitting down to write this post did I realized that there is one major flaw with the argument presented above: Pol Pot. There is a firm consensus that he was at least as brutal and depraved as Hitler.
So what gives? My new (but partially old) hypothesis is that Mao is somehow more acceptable because he was never the focus of our hatred. In part, this argument draws on the fact that the West remained conveniently ignorant of Mao's crimes while he was committing them. But Stalin was also the darling of American propaganda during WWII, well after committing his mass murders. Yet during the last years of his life, Stalin was the focus of our hatred.
In contrast, Mao never fully emerged from the Soviet shadow. And then, like Stalin, he became our ally. But once again, what about Pol Pot? The Khmer Rouge were never public enemy #1. But there was an almost unquestioned agreement, while the Khmer Rouge were committing their crimes, that they represented a sort of evil found nowhere else in the world.
I know this explanation is far from perfect. In fact, I think part of the problem is that one shouldn't even look for logically consistent answers to questions of public perception and memory. Although it would be nice if we had a consistent approach to mass murderers, the strange course of history leaves us with memories that are far from consistent.
Perhaps this inconsistency explains why despite our self-righteous declarations of 'Never Again', we did nothing about the genocide in Rwanda and are now almost as complacent about mass murder in Darfur. (5) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, December 09, 2005
# Posted 11:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
One can only wish that America had something like PMQ. The President's news conferences are a rough equivalent, in the sense that the White House press corps can ask the President anything it wants, but a news conference is essentially one-sided. The President is permanently on the defensive. The press corps takes no positions of its own, so it is invulnerable to questions.
In contrast, PMQ represents all that is best about political combat. It is fast and furious and quite unpredictable. And it is humorous. It often seems that American politicians never assume the risk of being funny, except when telling jokes prepared by their speech writers.
So, go listen PMQ. This week's session marked the debut of new Tory leader David Cameron. I think he did a good job. And, of course, Tony Blair was his usual self. Enjoy! (5) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:59 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 6:03 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:08 AM by Patrick Belton
Thursday, December 08, 2005
# Posted 8:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Best Blog: Kevin Drum. (There's no one I enjoy disagreeing with more.)(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:10 AM by Patrick Belton
Israel’s party system is undergoing more upheaval. It was not enough to see Histadrut Union leader Amir Peretz defeat Labour’s elderly statesman, Shimon Peres, for party leadership, soon followed by Ariel Sharon’s resignation from Likud and the establishment of his new party, Kadima. In the last month, everything and its contrary happened. Consider this: Peres left Labour to join Sharon, with two other front bench Labourites, Dalia Itzik and Haim Ramon. Sharon brought over a considerable chunk of his loyalists from Likud – Zeev Boim, Roni Bar On, Ehud Olmert among others – plus Likud’s former rising star, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. In the last three days, more shocking news for the Likud: Tzachi Hanegbi, acting Likud chairman and party stalwart, defected to Sharon’s party. This is huge: leave aside the image stunt; leave aside the impact for party morale; leave aside the leadership vacuum on the eve of Likud’s primaries. Tzachi Hanegbi is the son of Geula Cohen, the founder of Tehiyah, the party that broke off from Likud in protest for the Camp David accords with Egypt. He himself was among the protesters who chained themselves up to buildings during the evacuation of Israel’s settlement of Yamit in Sinai, in the spring of 1982 (Sharon, then Defence Minister, is the person who ordered the evacuation and bulldozing of the settlement – he is not new to the business). That he joins a party whose platform advocates the drawing of boundaries way west of the Jordan River – thus throwing the Likud’s ideology to the dustbin of history – is truly significant. And if all this was not enough, 200 activists from the Likud yesterday showed up at a rally for Peretz – yes, Labour – announcing they were switching sides. This is not even an upheaval anymore. It’s a meltdown.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:59 AM by Patrick Belton
*dumb bastards. as spoken in Congregation. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
# Posted 6:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
When your professors are about to hand down their judgment about the work to which you've devoted the past three years of your life, it's hard not to become superstitious. Especially when your actual performance at the defense (or "viva" as we call it in Oxford) can make all the difference.
Whereas most American graduate students receive regular comments and criticism from the committee of professors who will decide whether or not they graduate, those of us in Oxford have to submit our dissertation to a pair of professors with whom we have had no substantive interaction while writing our dissertations. Although doctoral candidates have the most important say in deciding which professors will evaluate their work, the whole process is still very unpredictable.
Thus, I had to contend with the real possibility that I would be sent back to the drawing board and told to resubmit my dissertation in a year's time. And the viva itself was very, very rough. After all, how often does a pair of senior scholars spend more than an hour and half dissecting every argument you've made?
More than once, I was told that I had "no evidence" to back up some of my arguments. Thus, when I left the room at the end of the session, I really thought that I might not pass. But I did.
Afterward, I didn't feel very much like celebrating. I felt like a survivor, not a winner. But when it comes to getting your doctorate, surviving is more than enough.
So now I feel relieved. (29) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:16 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 6:04 AM by Patrick Belton
In either case, the two are sure to draw a fuller house than Baroness Ashton of Upholland, on BBC Parliament talking to herself right now in an empty Lords on the immigration bill. Meanwhile, is Ferdy laying down the cinder blocks for a Tory-Lib coalition? (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
# Posted 8:12 PM by Patrick Porter
Corpulent (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:02 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 11:19 AM by Patrick Porter
But the new sovereign Iraqi state has at least accorded this Mussolini the courtesy of a trial, as the foundational event of the new Iraq. The dancing on his toppled statue by jubilant crowds is the nearest it has come to seeing his corpse hung upside down. But it has also given him the opportunity to prolong his own personality cult by giving him a platform for grandiose speeches. It would therefore be wise to remember his own identification with Mussolini, to prevent the desire for a fair trial sliding into misplaced sympathy. Saddam's American attorney Ramsay Clark, not content to represent his client in court, fell victim to this when on radio he tried to justify Saddam's torture and killing of hundreds of inhabitants of a Shiite town. To be sure, everyone should be given due process and a fair trial. But lets not start weaving for this Mussolini the kinds of excuses offered for terrorists. (3) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:35 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 9:20 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:25 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 7:39 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:45 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:06 AM by Patrick Belton
Monday, December 05, 2005
# Posted 6:42 PM by Patrick Belton
Likud's dark horse, MK Uzi Landau has withdrawn his candidacy for Likud leadership and announced he will back Benyamin Netanyahu. With the withdrawal of MK Israel Katz from the race, there are now four candidates left: front runner Netanyahu, Minister of Defence Shaul Mofaz, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Moshe Feiglin. Take your pick, but my bet is on Netanyahu's victory. If that were the case, it would give Ariel Sharon something to look for, as Netanyahu and Labour leader Amir Peretz will re-enact their past sparring when Netanyahu was a neo-liberal finance minister and Peretz was an old Labour trade unionist chief. The two have already offered a taste of their future catfights at Israel's Business Conference in Tel Aviv, where the Prime minister took to the podium to invoke fiscal and political responsibility on his rivals - asking them to ensure that Israel has a budget ahead of the March elections.(1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, December 03, 2005
# Posted 1:34 PM by Patrick Porter
As historians John Earl Hayes and Harvey Klehr comment,
'One can understand why Conquest, responding to a request from his publisher for a new title for his revised edition of The Great Terror after the opening of the archvies, tartly replied, "How about I Told You So, You F#$*ing Fools." (23) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:54 AM by Patrick Belton
On the subject of General Richard Head (q.v.): Yes, he must have had a difficult childhood and adulthood. His mother called him Dick until the day she died. No one should be treated that way. But, as his former, but very much alive, wife, I know he started going by Richard shortly after we married and since our divorce uses R. G. as a given name. I will not comment on what I called him, suffice to say during the divorce and for sometime afterwards, it wasn't anything close to Richard, but now, I just feel sad that this label will follow him his entire life. Beware what you name your children. Richard was a family name. I don't think originally his parent even thought how the nickname Dick would go with Head. Why they were never able to use Richard says something about them. He is a gifted political scientist.(3) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, December 02, 2005
# Posted 5:05 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 12:09 PM by Patrick Porter
(2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:10 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:32 AM by Patrick Belton
Will Ariel Sharon's new party, Kadima, become Israel's new centre party and win the upcoming Israeli elections? Or will it vanish into thin air, as many other 'solo' parties have indeed done in the recent and not-so-recent Israeli past?(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, December 01, 2005
# Posted 9:17 PM by Patrick Porter
An astute reader, however, commented that Lincoln did see service in the Black Hawk War of 1832. He joined the Illinois state militia for three months. But did he see any military action personally? From what I could find, apparently almost none. As a congressman, he himself joked in 1848 that if one general 'saw any live fighting Indians, it was more than I did; but I had a good many bloody struggles with the mosquitoes; and although I never fainted from loss of blood, I can truly say I was often very hungry.’ So Lincoln apparently took the reins of the North during the Civil War without a first-hand, intimate knowledge of the horrors of combat. But I'd love to hear from any Lincolnologists out there who know more. (12) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:48 PM by Patrick Porter
# Posted 8:44 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:37 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 4:44 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 2:49 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 2:43 PM by Patrick Porter
And what of outsiders who support the resistance? Their civilian status has not been subjected to the same, cheap, scrutiny. Implicit in much of this debate is an assumption that those who oppose the US are necessarily anti war. While many principled opponents of the war are undoubtedly genuine pacifists or genuinely opposed to this particular war, some others such as George Galloway and Michael Moore are prowar, because they vocally support the heroic operations of the other side and regimes like Syria's who sponsor the influx of holy warriors into Iraq. But I won't call for those who applaud these glorious resistance fighters to join the cadres of foreign jihadist combatants. As David suggests, it is ultimately more democratic to tackle the substance of the argument rather than the biography of the person making it. And it would be illiberal to require either silence or pacifism from people not in uniform.(18) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:56 PM by Patrick Porter
# Posted 7:22 AM by Patrick Belton
Unlike the case in pre-Enlightenment Europe, present-day anti-Semitism does not expect Jews to abandon their religion. Today’s Europe is a self-consciously multicultural society. Although it cherishes secularism above all, it respects, if somewhat warily, religious pluralism. What the enlightened sector of today’s Europe would like Jews to do, in exchange for fully approved membership in the circle of approved opinion, is to renounce a core component of their identity: that is, their sense of Jewish peoplehood as expressed through their attachment and commitment to the democratic state of Israel and to the Zionist enterprise.(2) opinions -- Add your opinion