Saturday, March 19, 2005

# Posted 12:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WEBSITES YOU SHOULDN'T VISIT: If you scroll down a bit, there's a post with links to some great material about George Kennan, courtesy of Foreign Affairs. Although I have the FA website bookmarked, I sometimes just type in the URL rather than pull down my browser menu. As a result, I learned an important lesson: Never, ever, visit, www.foreignaffairs.com.

Which reminds that back when I was a research assistant, a very prominent member of the Washington punditocracy once called down to my office and asked, "David, what's the address for the White House's website?" To which I replied, "I hope you didn't try putting in www.whitehouse.com." Response: Embarrassed silence.
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# Posted 12:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE DDT MEME: Earlier this week, OxBlog gave some favorable coverage to a Nicholas Kristof column that took environmentalists to task for their habitural alarmism. It seems, however, that some of Kristof's evidence of such alarmism is nothing more than a myth perpetuated by the illiberal media.

To be specific, Kristof mentioned that a ban on DDT has been responsible for hundreds of thousands of preventable malaria deaths. But according to Tim Lambert,
There is no ban on the the use of DDT against malaria. It is still used for that purpose. This fact is not a secret. Kristof just hasn’t bothered to find out the truth.
Reader JE adds that
While DDT use in homes around doors and windows, etc., may indeed be an effective anti-vector agent, its widespread use to combat mosquitos in the long term has been ineffective and counterproductive...

One of the drawbacks of DDT is that insects, particularly mosquitoes, rapidly develop immunity to it. Thus bringing back heavy DDT use in tropical countries will probably have little or no effect on mosquitoes or malaria, but will seriously harm other elements of the ecosystem, particularly birds. Indeed, malaria was on the rise in many areas of the world already in the 1960's when DDT use was still widespread. Helping poor people in malaria afflicted countries acquire something as simple as mosquito netting for their homes and beds will do more good than giving their governments a green light to blanket large swathes of the countryside with DDT again.
Further comments on this subject are welcome, since yours truly is very much in need of education about the environment.
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# Posted 12:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YOU, TOO, CAN READ ARABIC: You can do it the hard way by studying the language for four or five years. Or you can head over to the new-and-improved Friends of Democracy website, which will continually post direct translations of some of the best Arabic-language blogging from Iraq. (Hat tip: MT)
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# Posted 12:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HANDICAPPING THE PULITZERS: Hugh Hewitt is trying to push Claudia Rosett over the top. Her work on the Oil-for-Food scandal certainly demonstrated that she was far ahead of the pack.

According to Hugh, the odds on Rosett taking home the gold are very poor, since the Pulitzer have exactly the political agenda you might expect from highbrow journalist types. Since I don't normally follow the Pulitzers (although I did dream about winning one last night, strangely enough), I have no idea what the committee's politics are. But even if things are as bad as Hugh says, one shouldn't forget that liberals love affirmative action, and conservative journalists are certainly an oppressed minority. (Hat tip: JS)
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# Posted 11:53 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TNR'S HOOP DREAMS: As a matter of principle, TNR editor and authentic Tar Heel fan Jason Zengerle has decide to root for NC State in this year's tourney.

So far so good: the Wolfpack pulled off a minor upset last night by taking down Charlotte in the first round. But now they face Big East powerhouse UConn, so Jason better keep his fingers crossed.
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# Posted 11:45 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLING-BLING, NEW HAVEN STYLE: What happens when nerds try to rap? Find out here. Sample verse:
Yeah, I'm a Magnet. I wear glasses, but I rock the boat / So my verdict on your wording is - *ahem* hold on, lemme clear my throat / 'Cause the only thing you gonna understand from this quote / Is that when you mess with Magnets, we gonna kick your asymptote!
OxBlog sez that's funky, fly and fresh. Reihan better watch his back. (Hat tip: MAB)
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# Posted 11:29 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE ORIGINAL KENNAN: Foreign Affairs has kindly posted on its website more than a dozen of George Kennan's essays from the journal, from the 'X' article of 1947 all the way down to Kennan's writings from the late 1990s. All of the essays are full-text and free of charge. (Hat tip: GR)

Also, head over to Fortuna for some unusual posts about Kennan, love, literature and Paris.
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Friday, March 18, 2005

# Posted 10:45 AM by Patrick Belton  

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# Posted 2:32 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GEORGE KENNAN, 1904-2005: Emerson said that to be great is to be misunderstood. By that standard, George Kennan was surely the greatest American diplomat of the 20th century.

Kennan's name is inseparable from the doctrine of containment that influenced American foreign policy throughout the Cold War. Kennan gave the doctrine its name in his legendary essay in Foreign Affairs entitled The Sources of Soviet Conduct.

Yet within just a few short years, Kennan began to denounce what was being done in the name of his doctrine. The NYT obituary of Kennan captures an important dimension of this dissent by observing that
Mr. Kennan was deeply dismayed when the policy was associated with the immense build-up in conventional arms and nuclear weapons that characterized the cold war from the 1950's onward.
Yet long before the military build-up initiated during the Korean War, Kennan became infuriated by President Truman's division of the world into totalitarian and democratic realms as well Truman's commitment to spread democracy across the globe.

The NYT misses this point entirely. It never provides its readers with even the faintest suggestion that Kennan was fundamentally opposed to democracy promotion as a matter of principle. In contrast, the WaPo obituary of Kennan quotes him as saying that
"I would like to see our government gradually withdraw from its public advocacy of democracy and human rights. I submit that governments should deal with other governments as such, and should avoid unnecessary involvement, particularly personal involvement, with their leaders."
Mind you, Kennan's statement has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he was a lifelong Democrat and that, these days, democracy promotion is a Republican agenda item. I can make this assertion with such confidence because Kennan's statement above is from 1999.

Yet while the Post deserves credit for recognizing the anti-democratic elements of Kennan's thinking (including his reactionary sexism and racism -- also ignored by the NYT), its provision of a quote from 1999 fails to inform readers that Kennan's opposition to promoting democracy was a six decade-long affair.

When asked to propose a US strategy for Latin America in the late 1940s, Kennan insisted that the United States must abandon its aversion to establishing firm alliances with right-wing dictators both because they were anti-communists and because the people of Latin America weren't ready for democracy.

The purpose of pointing all this out is not to expose the flaws of an otherwise great man. Rather, the purpose is to point out that these often-ignored aspects of Kennan's thinking were integral to everything that stood for. Because Kennan was a "realist".

Amazingly, neither the Times nor the Post describes Kennan as such. Yet it is this label that best identifies the intellectual movement to which Kennan belonged and to which he contributed so much. Although labels tend to oversimplify, it is very meaningful to say that George Kennan, Hans Morgenthau and Henry Kissinger were realists, whereas Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan were not. They were idealists.

Realists believe that violent conflict is an inevitable aspect of international relations. That is a sensible thing to believe. Realists also believe that the best way to avoid violence is to recognize and respect the sovereign authority of foreign governments, provided that they acknowledge the sovereignty of others as inviolable.

Thus, no matter how cruel or authoritarian a government is, serious realists such as Kennan insist that the United States should not attempt to reform it. Certain idealists might respond to such an argument that it is immoral. And it is.

But the far greater flaw of this sort of realist analysis is its failure to recognize how often the United States can best enhance its national security by also promoting its values. Even though the occupations of Germany and Japan demonstrated that point quite conclusively in the 1940s, Kennan was unable to grasp this simple fact.

Today, we are learning once again in Iraq, in Afghanistan and in Lebanon that our values are not an albatross around our necks but rather the greatest weapon in our arsenal.

For all his flaws, I recognize George Kennan as a great thinker and a great American. Yet at this critical moment, we cannot afford to let the celebration of his life prevent us from remembering the price of being "realistic".
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Thursday, March 17, 2005

# Posted 4:58 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE NAKED IRISH CHEF: You asked for recipes. We provide.

Rosemary lamb stew
Ingredients: 2 tablespoons corn oil, 12 white onions, peeled, 4 pounds neck and shank of lamb, cut into 2- or 3-inch pieces (with bones), 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic, 3 tablespoons flour, 1/2 cup dry white wine, 2 cups peeled, cubed tomatoes, 2 large sprigs fresh rosemary, or 2 teaspoons dried, 2 carrots, halved and cut into 1-inch lengths, 1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut in half or quartered, depending on size (about 16 pieces), 1 cup string beans cut into 2-inch lengths, freshly ground black pepper to taste, 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Heat oil in a large casserole and add onions. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are browned to roughly the colour of a middle-aged rugby playing Dubliner on one of those cheap Ryanair vacations to Spain, except with less fat and alcohol. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon. Add the meat to the casserole and cook, turning the pieces and stirring, for about 10 minutes. Pour off all the fat from the meat. Sprinkle the meat with garlic and flour, stirring to distribute the flour over the pieces of meat. Add the wine and stir to blend. Add tomatoes and rosemary. Not that Rosemary. Cover closely and let simmer merrily for 1 hour. As meat cooks, put carrots and praties in a saucepan and add cold water to cover. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 minute. Drain. When lamb has cooked for 1 hour, add the onions. Cook for 15 minutes and add the carrots, potatoes and beans. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes and carrots are tender. Stir in a generous grinding of pepper. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley. Yield: 6 servings

Mama Belton's Soda Bread
Ingredients: 3 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, 1/2 cup raisins, 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon caraway seed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F / 175 C. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Beat eggs with buttermilk. Add the eggs and buttermilk into the flour mixture; stir in raisins. Pour dough onto lightly floured board. Shape into a round loaf, symbolising the trinity or somesuch. Add flour if necessary, symbolising something you make bread out of. Place in a lightly greased springform pan. Sprinkle top with caraway seeds if desired. Bake at 350 degrees F / 175 C for one hour or until the bottom of the loaf makes an eerily disconcerting hollow sound when tapped.

Salmon salad
Ingredients: Salmon. A salad.
Directions: Insert salmon into salad.

Guinness brownies
Ingredients: 4 eggs, 3/4 cup superfine sugar, 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped, 4 ounces white chocolate, chopped, 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup cocoa, 1 1/4 cups Guinness stout, confectioners' sugar for dusting.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F / 175 degrees C. Butter an 8-inch-square pan. Combine eggs and sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the bittersweet chocolate, white chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and beat into the egg mixture. Sift flour and cocoa together and beat into the chocolate mixture. Whisk in Guinness. Do be careful not to spill any. Pour into pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. To serve, dust the cake with confectioners' sugar and cut into squares. Serves 8 to 10.

Ingredients: 3 cups finely shredded green cabbage, 1 onion, finely chopped, 1/4 cup water, 6 cooked potatoes, mashed, 1/4 cup milk, 1/4 cup butter. salt and pepper to taste

Put cabbage, onion, and water in saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for about 8 minutes or until tender, not mushy, although that fits in well with our national cuisine too. Add mashed potatoes, milk, butter or margarine, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well to blend and heat through. Serve colcannon warm, as an unloved side dish keeping the table warm next to meat, chicken, or fish. Yield: 4 to 6 servings, if anyone eats it at all.
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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

# Posted 1:14 PM by Patrick Belton  

(SAINT) PATRICK'S ARTICLE: So my annual St Patrick's Day piece is out, for those of our readers who might enjoy reading it. The Emigrant, a diasporic newspaper based in Galway which has been kind enough to take some of my writing on Irish themes in the past, this time let me develop my thoughts on green beer, St Patrick as contested symbol, and the conflicted relationship that we Irish have with stage Irish roles and personas.

And on that last note, readers in Oxford are warmly welcome to come by Thursday evening for drowning the shamrock. OxBlog UK bureau headquarters will be well stocked in lamb stew, colcannon, salmon, guinness brownies, and a fair bit of porter and Jameson's besides.
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Monday, March 14, 2005

# Posted 11:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SHE DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH, METHINKS: The eminent Ms. Dowd writes that:
I'm often asked how I can be so "mean" - a question that Tom Friedman, who writes plenty of tough columns, doesn't get.
Let me take a stab at that one: Is it because Tom Friedman writes columns are substantive and coherent (if sometimes a little kooky)?

Moving on, Ms. Dowd is also unhappy with the Freudian connotations attached to her columns:
Even the metaphors used to describe my column play into the castration theme: my scalpel, my cutting barbs, razor-sharp hatchet, Clinton-skewering and Bush-whacking.
I think I'm going to have to send MoDo a dollar so she can buy herself a clue. I mean, just consider the first sentence of this selfsame column in which she complains about being subjected to sexist cliches:
When I need to work up my nerve to write a tough column, I try to think of myself as Emma Peel in a black leather catsuit, giving a kung fu kick to any diabolical mastermind who merits it.
You see, Maureen, Tom and Bill and all those other men you work with have kindly spared us the image of themselves in fetish gear. The problem here isn't sexism. It's you.
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# Posted 10:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BOBOS IN PARADISE -- THE FIFTH ANNIVERSARY EDITION: It has been five years now since David Brooks made a latte-flavored splash with his first-ever book, a work of "comic sociology" entitled Bobos in Paradise. Although Brooks had a distinguished career before the publication of "Bobos", that book's success endowed him with the sort of national renown that won him a place in the inner sanctum of opinion journalism, i.e. the NY Times op-ed page.

For the benefit of the uninitiated, "Bobos" is short for "Bourgeois Bohemians", the name Brooks gives to the highly-educated, militantly non-conformist, increasingly-middle-aged upper-middle-class that has redefined the meaning of success in America.

Since Brooks' work is so well-known, there is no point in putting together one more run-of-the-mill book review. Rather, I want to ask how the passage of time has or may change our perceptions of the significance and enduring worth that "Bobos" has.

Five years later, I think it is fair to say that 95% of what Brooks had to say back then is still extremely valuable right now. Thus, naturally, what I'm going to write about is the other 5%.

Even though Brooks is a top-notch political journalist, the content of "Bobos" is almost entirely apolitical with the exception of its brief and final chapter. To a considerable extent, I think that this apolitical approach is responsible for the book's success.

The target audience for "Bobos" is the same highly-educated upper-middle-class that the book often satires. Although satire sometimes offends, this satire is the work of a loving insider who identifies himself as a Bobo in the very first pages of the book.

Had Brooks placed a greater emphasis on politics, his book might have failed to win over much of its target audience. Although Brooks often insists that there are many conservative Bobos as well, his work clearly describes a Blue State lifestyle. Had Brooks confronted his audience on political grounds, I doubt his readers would have been so receptive to a satire that cuts so deep regardless of its friendly demeanor.

This bit of speculation should not be taken as criticism of "Bobos", however, since one important purpose of the book is to argue, however subtly, that culture is becoming more important than politics.

To be continued...
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# Posted 10:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG GOES GREEN: First up, we have Nick Kristof's column bashing environmentalists. Can't say I know the first thing about the issues at stake, but you've gotta figure that Kristof is going to make a lot of enemies on the left by writing things like this:
Environmental groups are too often alarmists. They have an awful track record, so they've lost credibility with the public. Some do great work, but others can be the left's equivalents of the neocons: brimming with moral clarity and ideological zeal, but empty of nuance.
Talk about hitting below the belt. Comparing environmentalists to Paul Wolfowitz! Then again, with things the way they are in the Middle East, it's sort of a strange moment to be taking potshots at neo-cons. Regardless, I'm sure the environmentalists Kristof wants to criticize will be duly insulted. Now here's the evidence that serves as the foundation for Kristof's charges:
In the 1970's, the environmental movement was convinced that the Alaska oil pipeline would devastate the Central Arctic caribou herd. Since then, it has quintupled.

When I first began to worry about climate change, global cooling and nuclear winter seemed the main risks. As Newsweek said in 1975: "Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend ... but they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century."

This record should teach environmentalists some humility. The problems are real, but so is the uncertainty. Environmentalists were right about DDT's threat to bald eagles, for example, but blocking all spraying in the third world has led to hundreds of thousands of malaria deaths. [Link added, just so you know what Kristof is referring to. --ed.]
Ronald Reagan may not have been right about trees causing pollution, but I guess environmentalists really can kill. Anyhow, lest you think that Kristof has really gone off the reservation, he does still insist that the current President has an environmental agenda "that will disgrace us before our grandchildren."

On a related note, the NYT ran a masthead editorial on Saturday announcing the good news that a Senate committee has pretty much killed the Bush's Clear Skies Initiative. Again, I'm not familiar with the issues at stake. At this point in time, all I really have to fall back on are the liberal instincts I developed before I discovered that the black-and-white moral clarity of my liberal upbringing had papered over the nuances of modern conservatism.

So, because of those instincts, I'm glad that whatever Bush was proposing didn't get approved. But I have to admit I'm curious: If a Senate committee killed the Clear Skies Initiative and the GOP controls the Senate, how did the Times manage to avoid giving any credit whatsoever to the Senators who opposed the President, some of whom must have been Republicans?

As it turns out, there is a legitimate answer to that question: Lincoln Chafee took the Democrats' side, turning their 10-to-8 deficit into a 9-to-9 tie. It may seem unfair to deny the GOP credit for what one of its Senators did, but, frankly, I don't think there are all that many Republicans who would even want to take credit for Chafee's accomplishments.
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# Posted 9:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DiCAPRIO TO PLAY BEINART IN "TNR -- THE MOVIE": No, not really. But last night, CBS premiered "Saving Milly", based on a memoir by longtime TNR stalwart Morton Kondracke. Kondracke will be played by the Bruce Greenwood, his wife by Madeleine Stowe.

And speaking of TNR movies, is it really fair that the blackened name of Stephen Glass is now associated with the boyish good looks of Hayden Christensen? I'm beginning to think that my only of ever becoming known as good looking is to work at TNR until my fictional self gets captured on film.

Of course, if Patrick were to work at TNR, he would have to be portrayed by none other than Patrick Belton, star of It Happened in a Bungalow, Under the Bus and other fine films.
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Sunday, March 13, 2005

# Posted 8:29 PM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG'S GUIDE TO NATIONAL MEDIA, REDUX: (Come on, do you really expect us to be posting on anything serious on the weekends?) Numerous readers have written in to kindly trace the intellectual history of our list from yesterday to a sequence from Yes, Minister. BritBlogger Anthony Cormack (motto: 'A Few Adequate Men') helpfully provides the transcript (there's also an audio clip here):
Jim Hacker: "I know exactly who reads the papers. The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country. The Times is read by people who actually run the country. The Guardian is read by people who know they don't run the country but think they ought to. The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country. The Financial Times is read by people who own the country. The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country and the Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is."

Sir Humphrey: "What about the people who read the Sun?"

Bernard: "They don't care who runs the country as long as she's got big [ahem, this is a family blog]."
A helpful reader, whom I note in passing writes from a Harvard email account, writes that a version of this list appeared in Playboy in 2001 or 2002. He further kindly offers to look it up for us, since he reads the articles, anyway.

One final note: it's anybody's guess, as blogger Tom Proebsting asks via email, what blog-reading signifies. My personal guess is that Oxblog is read by charming, physically attractive people of intellect, taste and unmistakable sexual charisma, but that's just a guess....
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Saturday, March 12, 2005

# Posted 6:48 PM by Patrick Belton  

POETRY CORNER: This for the advent of St Patrick's day, by the early mediaeval Irish poet Fearchar Ó Maoilchiaráin.

In a cloak, that bright breast of yours
it should not be the blackthorn brooch;
for you it is, sweet redmouthed Mór,
the one brooch of gold in Éire. 

In your cloak, the proper instrument is
only a brooch of noble finndruinna
or a wondrous brooch made of gold,
sweetworded redmouthed Mór. 

Oh, soft hair the colour of amber,
oh, furrow in the dapplegold cloak,
oh, resolute hero who may never betray a man,
a brooch of blackthorn is not fitting. 

You should sow, my heart's nut,
in your many-yellowed checked cloak
your red cheeks a hard-run prize
only a difficult brooch by the faery smith Goibhniu.

Crimson cheek that haunts me,
without a gold pin, only this hour of mine
for the length of an hour, oh pure hand
for the green cloak of your soul. 

- Fearchar Ó Maoilchiaráin, 811 A.D. (Maureen O'Brien, trans.)

I mbrat an bhrollaigh ghil-se
ní bhiadh an dealg droighin-se
dá mbeith, a Mhór bhéildearg bhinn,
an éindealg d'ór i nÉirinn. 

San mbrat-sa níor chóir do chur
acht dealg d'fhionndruine uasal,
nó dealg iongantach d'ór cheard,
a Mhór bhionnfhoclach bhéildearg. 

A fholt lag ar lí an ómra,
a chur id bhrat bhreacórdha
a stuaigh chobhsaidh nár chealg fear,
nior chosmhail dealg don droighean. 

Níor churtha a chnú mo chroidhe,
id bhrat eangach iolbhuidhe,
a ghruaidh dhearg do-ghéabhadh geall,
acht dealg do-ghéanadh Gaibhneann.

A ghruadh chorcra do char mé,
gan dealg óir acht an uair-se
ar feadh na huaire, a ghlac ghlan,
do bhrat uaine do b'annamh. 
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# Posted 4:25 PM by Patrick Belton  


1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.

2. The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country.

3. The New York Times is read by people who think they should run the country and who are very good at crossword puzzles.

4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don't really understand The New York Times. They do, however, like the statistics shown in pie charts.

5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't mind running the country -- if they could find the time -- and if they didn't have to leave Southern California to do it.

6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country and did a far superior job of it, thank you.

7. The New York Daily News is read by people who aren't too sure who's running the country and don't really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.

8. The New York Post is read by people who don't care who's running the country as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.

9. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country but need the baseball scores.

10. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren't sure there is a country ... or that anyone is running it; but if so, they oppose all that they stand for.

11. The National Enquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.

* Courtesy of our friend Paul Domjan. Actual author unknown, though if you happen to have written this, please let us know.
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Friday, March 11, 2005

# Posted 5:41 AM by Patrick Belton  

FUN WITH TYPOS: What the House of Representatives Armed Services subcommittee meant to write was that the United States had conducted nuclear tests in Sedan, Nevada, between 1962 and 1970. What it actually wrote was that it had conducted tests in Sudan. Sudan, meanwhile, came across the report while googling itself one evening. It then summoned the American chargé, who told it their relationship was fine and to go back to sleep. Meanwhile, those drunken headline-writers at the WaPo amused themselves between jello shots by running with 'That '62 Sedan Was a Real Bomb'. Which is the least funny part of the story.
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# Posted 2:15 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A HEROIC UNITED NATIONS? The headline reads: Top UN Envoy to Present Syria With Ultimatum. There seems to be no dissent from the anti-Assad consensus that has brought together the US, Europe and numerous Arab states. In spite of the massive Hezbollah protests on Tuesday, I think this is a very good sign.

And an important reminder of how much principled multilateralism can accomplish. I haven't seen much in the way of commentary on this subject, but I want to know more about why the US and France have been able to cooperate so flawlessly in their diplomatic offensive against Assad.

But all of you multilateralists shouldn't get too excited. The impressive transatlantic cooperation of the moment also demonstrates just how short-sighted the president's critics were when they denounced the invasion of Iraq for destroying that great multilateralist shibboleth, the "postwar international order". (Some of us predicted otherwise.)

And even at this upward looking moment for Lebanon, no one should forget the shameful inaction of the United Nations, Europe and even the United States with regard to Darfur.
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# Posted 2:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"LIBERAL" MEDIA GOES GA-GA FOR BUSH: I was going to do a post about how almost every major print media outlet has run the same formulaic round-up of recent events in the Middle East. Even though I was pretty rough on some liberal bloggers for seeing events in Lebanon through a partisan prism, recent coverage has been so kind to the President that it raises questions about whether journalists' critical instincts have begun to malfunction.

As I said, I was going to a post about that subject until I saw this quote from Jon Stewart (in the WaPo's formulaic round-up of recent events in the Middle East):
"This is the most difficult thing for me, because I don't care for the tactics," he said, "but I've got to say I've never seen results like this ever in that region."
If someone as charmingly vicious as Jon Stewart has lost his critical edge, then what hope is there for the average journalist? The moral of the story here is that the media's short-term mindset and susceptibility to euphoria sometimes overpowers every other influence on its coverage, although I'm not sure we've seen anything like this since 1989.

Anyhow, there's no need to worry. Things will eventually take a turn for the worse in the Middle East, at least for a little while, and the media will go back to being its old cynical. Of course, it is precisely the low expectations of that old cynical self that are responsible for the euphoria that emerges when world events take a surprising turn for the better.
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Thursday, March 10, 2005

# Posted 2:07 PM by Patrick Belton  

NATHAN HALE BOONDOGGLE IN WASHINGTON: For our friends in the lovely federal city, our Washington chapter is co-hosting an event with SAIS tonight from 6:30 to 8:30. Our guest is Professor Ilan Berman, who will speak on the challenges Iran raises to the United States and the international community. He'll be speaking in Room 806 of SAIS's Rome Building, at 1619 Massachusetts Avenue. We'd love to have you along, if you might like to join us! For questions, or just to hear about all kinds of good, clean chaperoned fun we'll be getting up to in the future, please email our Washington chapter president and national director, Justin Abold, at this address.

UPDATE - BOONDOGGLE BOONDOGGLE: Due to a momentary bug in our favourite Japanese-speaking blog hosting site, this announcement was briefly up four times. Or, for those of our readers who prefer to think it, we were just that excited.
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# Posted 1:20 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BANKRUPTCY BOONDOGGLE: I haven't followed the debate about the new bankruptcy bill at all, but if Noam Scheiber says that moderate Democrats handing the party over to the left by supporting this "truly contemptible piece of legislation" then I figure something must be up. And if you're really fascinated by the bill, TPM has an entire sub-blog devoted to it.
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# Posted 1:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE NEXT TEST FOR BUSH: Citing this round-up from Abu Aardvark, Matt Yglesias says its time for the administration to get serious about Jordan if it wants to present itself as a friend of democracy in the Middle East. As Abu points out, King Abdullah will meet with Bush in Washington next Monday, so Bush will have one helluva chance to remind the king that absolute monarchies are oh so very 18th century.
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# Posted 12:56 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OBJECTIVE PROOF OF MEDIA BIAS: I quite like this post from Kevin Drum. It sets up a systematic test of media bias on a specific issue. Naturally, what Kevin is looking for is evidence of the media bending over backwards to accommodate the preferred White House spin on private/personal retirement accounts.

But so what? Kevin has set up a pretty rigorous experiment that allows for clear falsification of his prediction. His post is an example of creative blogging that others should emulate.

PS: Also check out Kevin's post on the new tax cuts proposed by the Texas GOP. According to headlines in five of the most important newspapers in Texas, the Republicans' plan is a boondoggle for the rich. I guess those newspapers aren't bending over for the GOP...
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# Posted 12:46 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OBJECTIVE PROOF THAT OXBLOG IS CENTRIST: When someone says that they are a centrist, they are basically bragging. They are saying that their political views transcend partisanship. On the other hand, being a centrist sometimes just means that you don't have the guts to take sides.

Anyhow, with that in mind, I thought I'd link to an interesting post from Kevin Drum that recaps a new study of cross-partisan linkage in the blogosphere. It basically shows what you migth expect: that conservative and liberal blogs don't link to each other very much.

However, if you apply the study's linkage criteria to OxBlog, it turns out we have strong links to those on both sides of the partisan divide. I wonder how many sites can say that? I'm guessing Dan Drezner could and maybe Joe Gandelman.

It sure is lonely here in the center.
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# Posted 12:37 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PIZZA SHOUT OUTS: The NYT has some nice profiles up of America's greatest pizza chefs. Especially well-deserved is the profile of Flo Consiglio, matriarch of the immortal Sally's in New Haven. There is also a picture of Flo along with the caption:
Flo Consiglio of Sally's in New Haven is an artisan who says speed is not important when it comes to a perfect pie.
Flo Consiglio is also an artisan who says speed is not important when it comes to table service. And I say that with much love. I worship the pizza at Sally's. On the night before the Game in November 2003, I waited an hour and a half to get a table at Sally's. You'd think someone would try to make you feel better by quickly taking your order and bringing you your drinks, but oh no...
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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

# Posted 4:23 PM by Patrick Belton  

NEAT FACT OF THE DAY: The BBC's annual budget, £5 billion ($10 billion U.S.), is greater than the gross domestic product of more than half the world's nations, and ranks behind the it's lies, it's all lies!combined government military budgets of only the twelve wealthiest nations on the planet. (Via Wikipedia and then the CDI and this BritBlogger for correcting it)
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# Posted 10:03 AM by Patrick Belton  

I'M BACK: Perspicacious readers of this site will have doubtless noted my comparative absence from its lines over the past two months. I'm afraid in the intervening period I suffered a rather unexpected personal loss, which necessitated spending a bit of time on finding my feet again. But at length I realised I couldn't let Josh and David go on having all the fun without me, so I'm here to pick up my keyboard again with pluck and carry on posting.

I plan to be unconscionably indulgent in the coming weeks, by devoting a bit of space to a handful of topics I'm at the moment particularly keen to explore. Being the month in which my name day habitually falls, I'd like to do a few interviews toward the end of March with several emerging young writers and artists in both the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland. I'm also rather eager to have a handful of conversations in this space with a few other people I'm just simply interested in speaking with - for starters, politicians and strategists from both Israel and the Palestinian Authority; (comparatively) newly elected assembly members in Iraq and Afghanistan; and Iranian bloggers - each about their own perspectives and insights into their respective situations. Over at Nathan Hale (our non-partisan, foreign policy think tank made up of young academics and foreign policy professionals), we'll be launching a research listserv shortly on democratisation (sneak peek) - we've also recently started up a working papers series with much kind industry from our fellows and above all from our Director of Studies Bob Kokta, with resulting reports up for your viewing pleasure on democratisation in the Muslim world, Sistani and Iraqi democratisation, Iraqi views on US and UK policy, and how best to promote both liberalism and democracy in Saudi Arabia, among other topics. (We're always happy to take a look at submissions, too!) In my own corner, I'll have - separate, incidentally - pulpy publications out shortly on French Muslims, Indian foreign policy under Congress, and Paddy's Day, so I'll warn our readers when they fall stillborn from the press, so you can safely avoid the thud. And that along with the usual daily dose of whatever interesting, intellectually provocative, or unintellectually silly and amusing comes my way.

And if I might be forgiven a personal observation, I've rather missed you all, both our readers and fellow bloggers. I'm quite looking forward to being back.

p.s. I've also incidentally returned to find blogger speaking, apparently, monolingual Japanese. It's so quaintly 1980s.
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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

# Posted 3:23 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THEY'RE BLOGGING IN LEBANON: Paul McCleary of CJR Daily rounds-up the Beirut blogosphere.
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# Posted 2:18 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WAS HE SUPPOSED TO ADMIT THAT? Matt Yglesias reports on a panel discussion he participated in with Mike Allen of the WaPo (one of Josh Marshall's favorite reporters.) As expected, Matt argued that he-said/she-said journalism is standard fare in big-name papers like the NYT and WaPo. Allen's response to that accusation (as paraphrased by Matt) was fascinating:
Allen took issue with that characterization of what news writers are doing. He said that news writers are trying to present both sides' points-of-view, hence the "he said, she said" quality to it, but that they're trying to present these points-of-view in such a way so that a discerning reader can tell who's right based on reading the story.
In other words, straight-up news articles have clear judgments built into them just beneath the surface. For those of us in the habit of critizing media bias, this would be old news, except for the fact that an experienced WaPo correspondent has just admitted that passing implicit judgments is standard practice for professional correspondents.

Matt's after-the-fact response to Allen's is also quite interesting. He writes that
Oftentimes, even though a story doesn't come out and say, "so-and-so said such-and-such and he was lying," it's pretty clear from reading the strory that so-and-so was, in fact, lying. Indeed, oftentimes it's only because it is so clear from the story as written that so-and-so was lying that I, as I reader, find myself annoyed that the reporter didn't come out and say so.
In other words, journalists have perfected a style that gets smart liberal readers like Matt to be outraged by Mr. X's supposed lies while also leaving the impression that the journalist who subtly suggested that Mr. X was lying is in no way responsible for Matt's interpretation of Mr. X's statements as lies.

Over at CJR Daily, Brian Montopoli is profoundly concerned by what Mike Allen has to say. Brian thinks that if correspondents have an opinion about who's right, they shouldn't be afraid to express it, unless
...journalists have become so intimidated by media bias warriors that they're now making a conscious decision to only hint at the conclusions their reporting leads them to, instead of explicitly stating them.
In case you haven't picked up on the subtle partisan cues swirling around this debate, here's what everyone is trying to say: Mike Allen says liberal reporters subtly tell you when conservatives (or occasionally liberals) are lying. Matt says liberal readers usually figure out that conservatives (or occasionally liberals) are lying, but don't realize that liberal reporters have hinted at that interpretation. Brian says loud-mouth conservatives have prevented liberal reporters from telling the truth to all but an inner circle of informed liberal readers.

So what does David say? I say that Allen is in a tough position. His conscience can't accept Matt's suggestion that reporters hide the (usually liberal) truth. But he also can't openly admit that reporters really do pass judgment, because then he will get attacked for being biased. So instead, Allen says that reporters just hint at their judgments.

In general, I'd say that most of these hints are pretty obvious. So Brian shouldn't be worried at all that only those who understand the secret code can be enlightened. When a majority-liberal press corps consistently hints at what it believes to be true, readers get the point.
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# Posted 1:46 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REAGAN LIT REVIEW/CURE FOR INSOMNIA: This post is intended either for those who have a passionate interest in our 40th president or those who want to read something guaranteed to put them to sleep. What follows is a freshly-written excerpt from my dissertation that reviews a number of prominent scholars' explanation of what made Reagan a "great communicator":

Of all of the presidents elected during the Cold War, Ronald Reagan stands alone as the president best known for his powers of persuasion. Both his harshest critics and his most passionate supporters referred to him as “The Great Communicator”. Among scholars as well, both critical and supportive, the same consensus prevails. Although there is no single, dominant explanation for what made Reagan such a great communicator, scholars have identified numerous factors that contributed to his rhetorical success. The first set of factors is stylistic. According to Paul Erickson, who describes Reagan “the most persuasive political speaker of our time”, Reagan had mastered the art of matching his tone of voice to his rhetorical purpose. To that effect, Erickson cites the words of a journalist who observed, just before Reagan’s first inauguration as president, that his voice “recedes at the right moments, turning mellow at points of intensity. When it wishes to be most persuasive, it hovers barely above a whisper so as to win you over by intimacy, if not by substance.”[1]

According to Kurt Ritter and David Henry, co-authors of Ronald Reagan: The Great Communicator, “Reagan had ‘a wonderful, velvety voice.’ When he spoke, he evoked concern rather than alarm. He reassured his audience. He did not appear to be appealing to the audiences emotions as much as he seemed to be sharing his feelings with his listeners.”[2] Both of these observations suggest that Reagan’s comforting voice enabled him to play on his audience’s emotions in a manner that overcame their rational objections to the Reagan administration’s programs and initiatives. Although there was nothing literally deceptive about the tone and timbre of the President’s voice, Erickson, Ritter and Henry argue that such traits were integral to making the worse argument seem the better.

Reagan’s presentation of himself as a common man complemented his comforting and intimate tone of voice. Whereas his predecessors often separated themselves from their constituents by describing the president as a heroic individual apart from or above the masses, Reagan identified himself with the American people. According to Kathleen Hall Jamieson, “Reagan’s rhetoric is self-effacing; the rhetoric of Carter, Nixon and Johnson often bordered on self-promotion or self-indulgence.”[3]

Jamieson argues that Reagan’s self-effacing style dramatically heightened his persuasiveness because it was so well-suited to the televised medium that has become the most important avenue of communication between the president and the electorate. In contrast to the printed media, “the broadcast media enable a president to speak to us as individuals in the privacy of our homes.” Although FDR demonstrated that the president’s voice alone can establish a remarkable degree of intimacy between a president and his listeners, the combination of sound with living images places an even greater premium on the establishment of a comforting persona. According to Jamieson, Reagan created such a persona by mastering the art of “self-disclosure”, i.e. the revelation of private emotions to a conversation partner. Jamieson writes that “Self-disclosure is not meant to be trumpeted to an assembled throng but spoken softly to intimates.” [4] In The Primetime Presidency of Ronald Reagan, Robert Denton observes that throughout American history, the most influential leaders have been those who “master the communications technology of their age.” Although by traditional standards Reagan was in no way eloquent, his warmth and sincerity, perfected over the course of decades as an actor and announcer, made Reagan into the great communicator of the television era.[5]

[1] Erickson 1985:14. The quotation is from Time, 5 Jan 1981.
[2] Ritter & Henry 1992:100.
[3] Jamieson 1988:156-64.
[4] Jamieson 1988:61-66, 182-94. Jamieson adds that Reagan was also remarkable because he had a single, consistent persona on- and off-screen, scripted and unscripted. In contrast, his predecessors adjusted their self-presentation in order to adapt to the circumstances of the moment. (Jamieson 1988:176-82)
[5] Denton 1988:1-3.

I hope you found this excerpt to be either interesting or medicinal. Tomorrow's installment raises the partisan temperature.
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# Posted 1:34 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPIDER-MAN STILL IN INDIA: The South Asia correspondent for the Chicago Tribune reports from New Delhi on the debut of Spider-Man:India. Sadly, there is no reference to the definitive work on this subject. (Hat tip: DD)
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Monday, March 07, 2005

# Posted 2:44 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OUR PRISONS: Phil Carter continues to provide insightful analysis of the disturbing information that continues to emerge about the abuse of prisoners at secret CIA detention centers and at Guantanamo Bay. As Phil observes, this abuse isn't just reprehensible, but fails to accomplish its supposed objective, i.e. the collection of intelligence that may help prevent further terrorist attacks.
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# Posted 1:41 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AN IMPORTANT PREDICTION: The first sentence of this WaPo story on Lebanon reads as follows:
The leader of Hezbollah, the militant Shiite Muslim movement that for weeks has stood on the sidelines of Lebanon's political upheaval, called Sunday for national demonstrations against what he characterized as foreign influences seeking to expel Syria, a key sponsor of the party, from the country.
The next to last paragraph of the WaPo story begins:
There is little doubt here [in Lebanon] that the Hezbollah demonstrations will be enormous, given the party's size and discipline, and will likely dwarf those held by the anti-Syrian opposition, which helped force the resignation last week of Prime Minister Omar Karami.
That would change the dynamic in Lebanon pretty dramatically, wouldn't it? So far, this has been a story of proud Lebanese nationalists resisting Syrian oppression. But if the Shi'ites, the largest single group in Lebanon, are pro-Syria, then that story will become chopped liver (which is delicious, but analytically deficient.)

This all makes me wonder why Assad has been so conciliatory so far. Has he just been biding his time until Hezbollah could demonstrate its support for the Syrian presence?
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# Posted 12:50 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BEGGING THE QUESTION: What it literally means.
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Sunday, March 06, 2005

# Posted 11:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YES, THAT WAS A STUPID COMMENT ON MY PART: Via e-mail, Kevin Drum points out the ridiculousness of my rhetorical observation to the effect that
Maybe Bush did have hopes of a leaving Iraq be after installing an interim government led by Chalabi. But did Bush ever suggest that Iraq shouldn't be democratic?
Taken literally, that is a completely idiotic line of argumentation. If Bush had said nothing either for or against Iraqi democracy, that would be essentially the same as condoning an authoritarian takeover. Presidential silence is often just as powerful as presidential rhetoric.

But Bush did say something very clear and very early about democracy in Iraq. In a major speech on February 26, 2003, Bush declared that
The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq's new government. That choice belongs to the Iraqi people. Yet, we will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another. All Iraqis must have a voice in the new government, and all citizens must have their rights protected...

The nation of Iraq -- with its proud heritage, abundant resources and skilled and educated people -- is fully capable of moving toward democracy and living in freedom.
OxBlog argued at the time that Bush would not have said these things if he were not serious about promoting democracy in postwar Iraq (at that time, still a hypothetical notion). In contrast, Kevin wrote that
Even though I'm only barely in favor of the war on its own terms, if it could be used as a way of promoting democracy and human rights in the Mideast, that's enough to kick me well into the pro-war camp. The problem is, George Bush has given us precious little reason to think that he really cares about this.
Shortly thereafter, Kevin departed from the pro-war camp. But the story doesn't end there. Although definitive evidence is hard to come by, it seems the Bush administration hoped to quickly install a post-war government led by Ahmad Chalabi and then pull out of Iraq. Although not literally contradicting the President's democratic aspriations, such a plan would probably have done very little to promote democracy in Iraq. Thus, even if hindsight hasn't been kind to Kevin's lack of faith in the man from Texas, Kevin's doubts were not unjustified.

Moreover, as Kevin suggests, there were two additional phases of US policy in Iraq after the failure of the Chalabi government to materialize. Plan B involved a long-term occupation. Plan C is the democracy promotion plan, adopted only because Ayatollah Sistani forced our hand. On the basis of this chronology, Kevin argued recently that "Bush actively opposed Iraqi elections."

I reject that chronology completely. After the manifest failure of the Chalabi plan in the weeks after the invasion, the United States did settle on a long-term occupation but with the clear and explicit of objective of promoting democracy in Iraq. As he had since February, Bush made that point both publicly and repeatedly. And on the ground, Paul Bremer made it clear that his purpose was to achieve the President's stated objectives.

It is true that the administration would have preferred to wait considerably longer before holding national elections. But that was not because of any opposition to democracy. It was because even liberal democracy promotion experts such as Tom Carothers insisted that holding national elections too early would promote extremism in Iraq.

I'm not saying Bush listened to Carothers. Rather, I'm saying that the consensus on this point was so broad that there are no grounds for suggesting that delaying elections reflected any sort of opposition to elections.

Or to be more precise, the consesus was broad in Washington and non-existent in Iraq. The Shi'ites wanted elections as soon as possible and the US could not resist their demands. But all that changed was the schedule, not the objective. In no way, as Kevin suggests, did the Shi'ites, led by Sistani force Bush to abandon his opposition to democracy. What Sistani forced was a tactical adjustment.

The bottom line is this: The way I phrased my argument in yesterday's post was flat out stupid. But what matters is that Bush consistently and explicity supported the promotion of democracy in Iraq. The Chalabi plan conflicted with that objective, but was quickly abandoned. Shortly thereafter, the conventional wisdom emerged that Iraq was a quagmire. But since Bush doesn't read the New York Times, he never figured that out.

UPDATE: Matt Yglesias responds to the same post as Kevin, writing that
The post is about 75 percent tired slurs and cheap, ill-informed psychoanalysis of myself and others, I won't try to rebut the rest.
I suggested a partisan bias on behalf of those I was criticizing. Since biases are subconscious, I guess that counts as some sort of psychoanalysis. But I'd like to see how long Matt can go without suggesting that partisan bias is responsible for the mistakes that he likes to point out.

Oh, and Atrios is disappointed that I didn't include him with all of the "smart liberals" whose observations about Lebanon I criticized. Curious that.
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Saturday, March 05, 2005

# Posted 11:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CORRECTION: My previously invisible post about liberals and Lebanon is now visible. You can either scroll down to it or click here.
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# Posted 5:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SILVER LINING: Most liberals may not be excited about Lebanon, but there are a few. Kos' DavidNYC wrote last week that
I'm hoping this winds up more like Ukraine - and not like Tiananmen. It's hard not to be a bit pessimistic, though: Syria has always played by what Thomas Friedman (in his lucid days) described as "Hama Rules," the merciless and violent suppression of internal enemies. But my thoughts are with the reformers as we await what happens next.
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# Posted 5:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KILL GREENSPAN! Kos says its time to pull out the pitchforks and destory old Alan's credibility. Maybe Kos can go after the Pope next.
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# Posted 5:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TEASER: The post below this one is very long. And that is sometimes a turn-off. But here's the punchline from that overgrown post, which may tempt you to read it anyhow:
Now imagine if John Kerry were President today and the election had gone of well in Iraq, Mubarak promised elections and Syria was on the defensive in Lebanon. Wouldn't almost every liberal pundit talk about how getting rid of that noxious Bush fellow led to a sudden revitalization of reform and pro-American sentiment in the Middle East?
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# Posted 4:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LEBANON: THE LIBERALS DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH. There's just no way I can compete with the avanlache of Lebanon coverage provided by blogosphere conservatives. But what I can do is take a look at how some prominent, middle-of the road liberal bloggers are dealing with the issue.

Early on, just a day or so after Hariri's assassination, Josh Marshall decided to he wouldn't say much about the situation in Lebanon since
I don't know enough yet about the probable suspects behind the Hariri assassination in Lebanon or the precise geopolitical situation that surrounded it...

But it is more than a little unfortunate that I at least find it hard to take at face value anything this administration says about the probable perpetrators.
Apparently, Josh still hasn't learned much about the situation in Lebanon since he has only put up one more post about it, a one-liner that read: "Important: Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah says Syrians must leave Lebanon." Instead, Josh has focused his habitual monomania on the Social Security debate. That's a good and important subject, but it really does beg the question of whether Josh can only get interested in a story if it reinforces his perception of George Bush as evil, stupid or both.

Also at TPM, guest-blogger Ed Kilgore is offended by the suggestion that his indifference to events in Lebanon is evidence of his partisan inability to give credit where credit is due. Ed writes that
It literally never crossed my mind that Bush's fans would credit him with for this positive event, as though his pro-democracy speeches exercise some sort of rhetorical enchantment.
Perhaps Ed should remember the encouragement that Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa in Ronald Reagan's condemnation of Soviet tyranny. It's hard to identify direct lines of causation, but I'm more than confident enough to wager that there are thousands and thousands of Lebanese who were just a little bit emboldened by the knowledge that the United States wanted them to succeed and would not remain silent if Syria tried to crush their protests with force.

But if you still think that rhetoric doesn't matter, then think about the tangible fact of all those purple fingers waving in the air in Baghdad, Najaf, Erbil and Karbala. Again, lines of causation are hard to draw. But would anyone suggest that the Lebanese opposition wasn't encouraged by this sudden and unexpected triumph of those who have suffered so long from Ba'athist oppression?

The triumph of Jan. 30 belongs to the Iraqi people, but it could not have happened without the unrelenting support of the United States government. By extension, we can take pride in the unexpected benefits that come along with the election in Iraq.

Like Ed, Kevin Drum weighs in with the requisite post explaining why Bush doesn't deserve any credit for what's going on in Lebanon. Kevin's first point is that Bush doesn't deserve credit because promoting democracy in the Middle East wasn't the reason we invaded Iraq. But it was the reason we stayed in Iraq when liberals started denouncing the occupation as quagmire (as early as the summer of 2003).

Remember how John Kerry voted against a funding bill for the occupation (after he voted for it)? Remember how he talked about wanting to bring the troops home? Remember how he wanted to close firehouses in Baghdad so we could open them in Ohio (as if it were impossible to do both)?

But Kevin may not buy this argument since he says "Bush actively opposed Iraqi elections." Maybe Bush did have hopes of a leaving Iraq be after installing an interim government led by Chalabi. But did Bush ever suggest that Iraq shouldn't be democratic? Kevin is a great guy and a very smart guy, so I'm just going to assume he put that post up on a very bad day.

(To his credit, Kevin links to a pair of solid pro-administration posts by the ever-insighful Greg Djerejian)

Compared to TPM and Washington Monthly, Matt Yglesias has been pretty good about recent events in the Middle East. To be sure, Matt has put up the requisite posts about why Bush doesn't really deserve credit for anything that's going on. According to Matt:
Indeed, between Election Day (actually, somewhat earlier) and today, Bush seems to me to have basically been implementing the Kerry foreign policy. So I'm a bit bitter. But, you know what, good for him. The Bush foreign policy was terrible.
I guess my question for Matt is this: If Kerry had won, and then spent November, December and January living up to his promise to start thinking about a withdrawal from Iraq, would the insurgents have had better luck in disrupting the election? Would fewer Iraqis have risked their lives on the way to the polls?

I don't know. Maybe not. The insurgents still killed lots and lots of people. And Iraqis didn't go to the polls in order to vindicate George Bush. But I am pretty confident that what we've seen from George Bush vis-a-vis Iraq isn't John Kerry's foreign policy.

With regard to Lebanon, Matt has two posts explaining why the outlook for democracy there is problematic in spite of recent progress. Both posts have important points that deserve to be made and which often get lost amidst the euphoria of those covering the positive events. But Matt wanders off into la-la land a bit when he writes that
There's no really clear sense in which the Syrian sphere of influence in Lebanon is bad for the United States of America. [Emphasis in original]
And that:
There simply doesn't seem to me to be any major geopolitical windfall we could possibly reap from any outcomes in Lebanon.
Syria is already handing over Iraqi insurgents to the United States in order to buy some for itself in Lebanon. I wouldn't call that a major windfall, but it's a beginning. If you're very optimistic, you may see events in Beirut the beginning of the end for Assad. That might result in chaos, but it also might result in the end of Syrian intervention in Iraq, which would count as a major windfall.

But let's focus on Lebanon for a moment. As Matt points out, real democracy in Lebanon means dealing with the challenge posed by Hezbollah, which commands widespread support among Lebanese Sunnis.

But what if Hezbollah can accept its role as one party among many in a democratic Lebanon? Might that lead to peace between Lebanon and Israel? And deprive Syria of an excuse for perpetuating its conflict with the Israelis?

So if all these options aboud, why is Matt stuck in some sort of Kissingerian realist mode in which he insists that bringing down malevolent dictatorships does nothing for US security?

Let me suggest that Matt and his fellow liberals suffer from what one might call "reverse Trent Lott syndrome". Remember when Lott decided to oppose Clinton's war in Kosovo because he wanted to "give peace a chance"? That was a ridiculous thing for a Republican to say. If a Republican president decided we had to use force to stop ethnic-cleansing, would Lott have said something so idiotic? Of course not.

So now, with things in the Middle East as they are, even the very smartest liberals have lost touch with their core ideals. Which is not to say that Matt or Josh or Kevin or Ed opposed good things happening in the Middle East. But they have lost they ability to get excited about those good things because they redound to George Bush's credit.

Now imagine if John Kerry were President today and the election had gone of well in Iraq, Mubarak promised elections and Syria was on the defensive in Lebanon. Wouldn't almost every liberal pundit talk about how getting rid of that noxious Bush fellow led to a sudden revitalization of reform and pro-American sentiment in the Middle East?
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# Posted 4:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GIVE IT TO TZEDAKAH: According to the WaPo,
A German appeals court ruled Friday that a Jewish family forced to sell large tracts of prime real estate in Berlin before World War II deserved to recover part of its lost fortune in one of the largest remaining compensation claims from the Nazi era...

The ruling is expected to set a precedent in several other cases and could enable the [victims' heirs] to collect as much as $200 million in damages from [the German firm] Karstadt.
The article doesn't say what plans the heirs have for the money. I hope they have already or will immediately announce that 90% of it will be given to charity (or as Jews refer to it, tzedakah). As the WaPo points out,
The decision could deal a heavy blow to Karstadt, a department store giant in Germany since the 1880s that has struggled financially in recent years and announced plans in September to lay off thousands of workers and close more than one-third of its 180 stores.
I think it would look terrible for all those Germans to lose their jobs while the company hands over its bank accounts to some Jews from New Jersey. Not that the court's decision is unjust for that reason. But I think that donating the compensation funds to poor Jews in Israel and Russia would be an appropriate way to honor the victims of the Third Reich. (And if it were my money, a significant percentage would also be directed toward the victims of Saddam Hussein's brutality.)
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# Posted 3:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: In case you missed it on Thursday, read this great column from the WaPo about how to reverse the Russian trend toward authoritarianism. Author Stephen Sestanovich argues that democratic openings in the post-Communist are sudden, not gradual affairs. Thus, our approach to Russia must focus on ensuring a clean presidential election there in 2008.

Sestanovich's argument touches on something I've been thinking about as a result of my research. Consistent pro-democracy messages from Washington help lay the groundwork for reform, but their most important role is to increase the odds of a democratic outcome when an unexpected crisis erupts.

Lebanon is the obvious example of such a process at the moment. I wouldn't say we did much ground work in advance, but the election in Iraq achieved the same objective indirectly.

Compelling examples of similar events from the 1980s include the democratic revolutions in the Philippines and in South Korea in 1986 and 1987, respectively. The Salvadoran elections of 1984 and Nicaraguan elections of 1990 also fit into this pattern, but not as neatly.

However, if you consider Putin to be more of an adversary than an ally, the Nicaraguan example may be quite instructive. Isolated by its neighbors and reeling from the disintegration of the Communist bloc, Nicaragua's Marxist-Leninist government [Yes, Bill, Marxist-Leninist --ed.] gambled that it could win an election without stuffing the ballot boxes.

Instead, the Nicaraguan junta hoped that its control of the media and unlimited use of government and military resources on the campaign trail could overcome a divided and disorganized opposition. To its credit, the junta pretty much avoided using force against the opposition, although it resorted to lesser dirty tricks such as showing extremely popular American films, e.g. Batman, and shutting down the public bus system whenever the opposition held its rallies.

I wouldn't be surprised if Putin tries almost exactly the same thing. As was the case in Nicaragua, there will be a temptation to write off the whole process as inherently so unfair and biased in the government's favor, so much so that the US should do nothing to legitimize the process.

Yet when the voters went to the polls in Nicaragua they said overwhelmingly said 'no' to Communism and dictatorship and 'yes' to democracy and freedom. We may just have to cross our fingers and hope that the Russians are as brave as their Nicaraguan counteparts.
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# Posted 3:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STOP THE ABUSE: The WaPo is right. The Bush administration has absolutely no excuse for not moving much, much more aggressively to clean-up the CIA's secret prisons.
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# Posted 3:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NYT SAYS ELECTIONS IN IRAQ A BAD IDEA: Tom Maguire twists the knife a little more. (Hat tip: Glenn)
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# Posted 2:21 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

Europeans cannot criticize the United States for waging war in Iraq if they are unwilling to exhibit the moral fiber to stop genocide by acting collectively and with decisiveness...

Every day that goes by without meaningful sanctions and even military intervention in Sudan by African, European and if necessary U.N. forces is a day where hundreds of innocent civilians die and thousands are displaced from their land. Every day that goes by without action to stop the Sudan genocide is a day that the anti-Iraq war position so widely held in the rest of the world appears to be based less on principle and more on politics.
That's right, Howard Dean. Maybe there's hope for this guy after all. (Hat tip: Aziz P.)
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# Posted 2:11 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NEO-CONS IN 19th CENTURY BRITAIN: This one is for Anglophiles and neo-cons alike.
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# Posted 1:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE WAR ON TERROR IS THE WAR ON HUNGER: Robert Kaplan describes how the Navy and Marines have sharpened their ability to respond to humanitarian crises.
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# Posted 1:39 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CONGRATULATIONS! YOU'VE BEEN SCORNED BY THE LIBERAL ELITE! OxBlog sends out warm wishes to Ross Douthat of the American Scene, who has become the subject of a condescending profile in the New York Observer entitled "A Pisher's Privilege". Sometimes I wonder if the people who write these profiles understand that their scorn and condescension only enhance the career prospects of those they look down at. Anyhow, here's the money quote:
Mr. Douthat is the latest example of a relatively new and somewhat alarming breed: the Ivy-educated instapundit. Gone are the days when new graduates would toil in journalism for a few years—as a copy boy or intern, perhaps—before getting their first meaningful byline, never mind their first book deal.
It's called meritocracy. Deal with it. Matt Yglesias adds:
There is nothing alarming whatsoever about Ivy-educated instapundits...The only alarming thing is that we don't all have book deals featuring "a $120,000 advance."
When asked if he thought his friends would be jealous, Ross responded, "I mean, well I would be!" Well, Ross, let me pay you the ultimate compliment and say that I am jealous. It's not just the money. Any chimp with a Harvard degree (and there are quite a few) could become an indentured servant on Wall Street and make $120,000. But Ross is getting paid the big bucks to do something substantive and something he loves. That's what I'm jealous of.
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# Posted 12:45 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"THE REAL TRUTH ABOUT WOMEN'S BRAINS AND THE GENDER GAP IN SCIENCE": That is the subtitle of this week's cover story in Time Magazine, entitled "The Math Myth".

With a title like that, you'd expect the magazine to deliver some definitive answers to the questions raised by Larry Summers. Bottom line: It doesn't. Which means that if you paid four bucks for the magazine at a news stand, you got ripped off.

But if you're like me and paid just $2 for a year-long trial subscription, then you don't much care and you can focus on what the article does say, which is this:
Scientists who have spent their lives studying sex differences in the brain (some of whom defend Summers and some of whom dismiss him as an ignoramus) generally concede that he was not entirely wrong. Thanks to new brain-imaging technology, we know there are indeed real differences between the male and female brain.
That conclusion is remarkably similar to the one reached by an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. (Hat tip: KD) Its author observes that:
[Summers'] remarks sparked widespread protests, and Mr. Summers quickly apologized. But a growing body of research suggests that there is some truth in his comments: That something in the brains of boys may predispose them to perform better on certain standardized tests of mathematical abilities.
Of course, there is also plenty of evidence that social and cultural factors are responsible for differences in mathematical ability. Which means no one should confidently assume that we can take a hands-off approach to science education for women since they are destined for mediocrity.

Of course that is not the argument that Larry Summers was trying to defend. So, presuming that Time and CHE provide fair representations of the current state of scientific knowledge about innate gender differences, it seems pretty safe to say that the accusations of sexism levelled against Larry Summers were fairly ridiculous.
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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

# Posted 6:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KEE-YAH! This past Sunday, I returned to the dojo for the first time after an entire without any karate training at all. It felt good. At the end of the session, we did a punching exercise in which one student held up a piece of newspaper. The point of the exercise is to have the newspaper make a snapping sound when you hit it. Because the paper offers so little resistance, you have to aim with precision, otherwise you just get "whoosh".

For whatever reason, we used a copy of the Financial Times for target practice. Afterwards, I said to one of the other students that I felt bad hitting the FT because I had so much respect for it and that next time I would bring a copy of the NY Times to class. The other student responded: "I'll pretend I didn't hear that."
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# Posted 6:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE OXBLOG Q&A: This time, I answered a think-tank questionnaire about blogging:

How do you explain the increasing attention people pay to blogs?
There is a tremendous amount of expertise in the blogosphere. We may be amateur journalists, but we are professional historians, lawyers, political scientists and bankers. As our audience began to grow, a greater number of journalists became fascinated with what we write. As the gatekeepers of public awareness, they had the ability to catapult us in the mainstream.

Some journalists love us. Some hate us. But most of them seem to recognize that our opinions are too well-informed to ignore.

What role do blogs play in the world of news and information?
Bloggers are opinion columnists who have escaped from the prison of the twice-a-week 800-word column. We don't report the news, we interpret it. We use both our expertise and our common sense to place current events in a context that may not be self-evident to intelligent, but non-expert readers (or journalists!)

Does blogging represent a threat to mainstream media?
No and yes. Bloggers depend on the MSM for almost all of our information about current events, especially abroad. No matter how hard we try, we will never develop our own network of foreign bureaus staffed by full-time correspondents. Our dependence is a fact of life.

However, we do threaten the reputation and self-confidence of professional journalists. Because of their admirable devotion to making our government accountable to its citizens, journalists have often lost the ability to criticize themselves and each other.

Unaccustomed to public criticism, journalists often develop a sense of infallibility that leads them to dismiss their online critics as fools or amateurs. That is precisely what Dan Rather did when Power Line exposed his shoddy reporting.

Although Rather wound up being humiliated, there is a very simple way in which professional journalists can defuse the threat from the blogosphere: by living up to their own standards of honesty and openness -- the same standards that they justifiably impose on our elected officials.

What are the limits to the influence of blogging?
The limits of blogging are the limits of opinion journalism. We play an important role in the interpretation of reality. But it is the correspondents in the field who put the facts on the table. And no good interpretation can go farther than the facts on which it is based.

Is amateurism in the blogosphere dangerous to public discussion?
Absolutely not. If anything, it has been a breath of fresh air. Bloggers have brought a new spirit of critical thinking back to a journalistic profession that has begun to resemble a monastic order.

Although the word 'amateurism' bears a connotation of ignorance, bloggers tend to be highly-educated professionals in other fields of endeavor. Moreover, journalism isn't like medicine. Although only trained professionals should dispense medication, any informed individual can dispense valid opinions.

Ian Duncan Smith just wrote in the Guardian that "bloggers will rescue the right." How do you interpret that statement? Does the fact that many blogs are openly partisan contribute to the further polarisation of public debate?
Two or three years ago, there was a lot of talk in the United States of blogs being a conservative medium. For whatever reason, a disproportionate number of the blogs that achieved prominence in the early days were passionately conservative. Shortly thereafter, the explosive growth of blogs such as Calpundit (aka Political Animal) and the Daily Kos demonstrated that liberals were just waiting for their champions to emerge.

When it comes to polarization, I am not concerned at all about the role of the blogosphere. The op-ed pages of every newspaper are filled with strong opinions. What matters is whether an opinion is well-informed, not whether it is an opinion. If you are concerned about polarization, then write a letter to Pat Robertson or Maureen Dowd.

Blogs occupy an increasingly important role in U.S. politics. Do youthink they will have a similar effect in Europe?
I have no idea. Yet after living in England for three years, I wouldn't be surprised at all if there were millions of Britons willing to go online to read the opinions of those who are shut out of their mainstream media, which is far more partisan and blinkered than its American counterpart.

How do you operate? How much time do you invest into your blog? How many hits do you get per day? Can blogging be profitable?
I operate in a somewhat impulsive manner. I read the daily paper and whatever else interests me. When I'm provoked by what I read or feel that an important subject is being ignored, I write about it.

I probably spend around 1-2 hours per day, five days a week, reading and writing. [That is definitely an underestimate. I guess I subconsciously didn't want my adviser finding out how much time I spend online. --ed.]

Right now, OxBlog gets around 2200-2400 hits per day. Yet during the presidential race, which lasted [for us] from January to November of last year, we were getting 3500+ hits per day. Also, if one of our posts get picked up by major blogs such as Instapundit or Andrew Sullivan, we can get five, ten or even fifteen thousand hits in a single day.

How will blogging develop in the next 5 years?
To my mind, the most important trend out there is the rising number of major media outlets that have added blogs to their websites. Although we now think of bloggers as a separate species, the medium itself is extremely flexible. Moreover, it is a medium that has a more rapid response time than almost any other while heightening the level of interaction between author and audience. Over the next five years, I expect blogging to become increasingly widespread -- perhaps even mundane! -- way of delivering news opinion.

However, I am also confident that there will also be an increasing number of expert amateurs ready to jump into the fray and make sure that the blogosphere never loses the outside-the-box attitude responsible for its initial prominence.
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# Posted 6:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE BUFFALO NICKEL RETURNS: Take a look. I think it's a true work of art.
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# Posted 6:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOES OXBLOG HAVE THE GIFT OF PROPHECY? Yesterday, I put up a post entitled "NYT Endorses Bush Agenda". In it, I wrote that
I haven't lost faith. The more purple fingers there are in Iraq and across the Middle East, the closer we come to a democratic revolution on West 43rd Street.
Today, there is a masthead editorial in the Times which observes that
This has so far been a year of heartening surprises - each one remarkable in itself, and taken together truly astonishing. The Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share of the credit for many of these advances. It boldly proclaimed the cause of Middle East democracy at a time when few in the West thought it had any realistic chance.
Too weird.
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Monday, February 28, 2005

# Posted 3:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NY TIMES ENDORSES BUSH AGENDA, SAYS DEMOCRACY PROMOTION WORTH THE SACRIFICE: Sometimes, you just have to throw your preconceived notions in the garbage. Month after month, I criticize the Times for its lackluster commitment to spreading democracy across the globe. Yet now I am forced to confront a powerful editorial that concludes with this memorable phrase:
Promoting democracy is America's proper vocation, and not just in fair weather.
The editorial begins with the important observation that
The new year has started with democracy in retreat in several countries,
It then infuses its idealism with a measure of prudence by adding that
Washington cannot make the world safe for democracy, but it can surely make a more active contribution in each of these delicately balanced political battlegrounds.
At this point, some of you -- especially those with access to the print edition of the Times -- may be asking yourselves, "What is OxBlog smoking?" Does this wonderful editorial exist only in David Adesnik's twisted imagination?

Well, yes and no. The quotations above are from a real NYT editorial that ran on January 13, 1988. I came across it while reseaching the final chapter of my dissertation, which explores the Reagan Administration's response to the People Power revolution in the Philippines in 1986 and the second People Power revolution in South Korea in 1987. The editorial criticizes Reagan for failing to follow through on those democratic revolutions.

In the late 1980's, there was a tremendous enthusiasm across the political spectrum for promoting democracy across the globe. Then, as now, the Democrats were slow to embrace a doctrine first enunciated by Republicans, while Republicans were slow to get serious about living up to their President's ideals.

Actually, with regard the GOP, the situation now is a little different. In the 1980s, Capitol Hill Republicans such as Dick Lugar had to keep Reagan's feet to the fire. Today, it's the White House that has to put the pressure on Capitol Hill.
Getting back to the point, I think that the NYT editorial from back in '88 demonstrates both that democracy promotion is a strategy with true bi-partisan potential and that the current generation of editors at the NYT has sadly fallen away from the idealism of not all that long ago.

But I haven't lost faith. The more purple fingers there are in Iraq and across the Middle East, the closer we come to a democratic revolution on West 43rd Street.
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Sunday, February 27, 2005

# Posted 3:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED AT BRATISLAVA? As I mentioned yesterday, America's top journalists are having a hard time figuring out what the Bush-Putin press conference was really all about. One interpretation of the event I didn't mention was that of the WaPo editorial board, which lambasted President Bush for knuckling under to a liar and a thug like Putin.

In general, I am quite sympathetic to anyone who insists that Putin is a liar and a thug and that America should start getting tough with Moscow. Moreover, I have had harsh words in the past for both the WaPo and for our president when they seemed to go soft on the Russian president. In fact, given my unrepentant criticism in the past of both Bush and the WaPo, I think have the credibility this time around to say that Bush did a superb job at Bratislava and that the WaPo's good intentions have resulted in some very poor analysis. The WaPo observes that,
Lauding the Russian ruler as a man who means what he says, Mr. Bush declared that "the most important statement . . . was the president's statement when he declared his absolute support for democracy in Russia."

The problem, as Mr. Bush should know, is that nearly the opposite is true. The record shows that Mr. Putin has reversed Russia's progress toward democracy in almost every respect while consistently distorting that record.
No quesiton that Putin is an unrepentant liar and an emerging dictator. But I think the Post misunderstands what President Bush was trying to achieve. This was his first meeting with Putin after an inaugural address that committed the United States to an unmitigated policy of global democracy promotion. Thus, W. wasn't going to demand an abject (and highly public)surrender from the Russian thug. Rather, he wanted to feel him out and make clear on a very personal level that he, Bush, cares a lot about democracy promotion. From where I stand, the crucial statement from Bush was this:
I think the most important statement that you heard, and I heard, was the President's [i.e. Putin's] statement, when he declared his absolute support for democracy in Russia, and they're not turning back. To me, that is the most important statement of my private meeting, and it's the most important statement of this public press conference. And I can tell you what it's like dealing with the man over the last four years: When he tells you something, he means it.
By itself, that last sentence is absurd. When Putin's tells something to you and I, he is probably lying through his teeth. But Putin is smart enough to know that he can't constantly lie to Bush and get away with it. He can lie to the Russian public and to the American public without consequences. But every gangster knows better than to f*** with the godfather.

Like Reagan, Bush has a very personal diplomatic style. Again like Reagan, Bush pretty much speaks his mind, both on the record and off. Thus, when Bush says that Putin made a serious commitment to democracy at a private meeting with the President of the United States of America, that is exactly what Bush means. He has put Putin on the record and expects him to live up to his word, the same way that Bush lives up to his.

Now put this promise in the context of Bush's response to the following question:
Mr. President, four years ago when you first met with President Putin, at a time some in the world were questioning his commitment to democracy, you reassured a lot of those critics by saying that you had looked into his soul and saw a man that you found trustworthy. You've just listed some concerns here today. I'm wondering if you could unequivocally and without reservation repeat that statement today?
That's a great question. It forces Bush to confront the question of whether Putin lied to him before in a personal and private context. Here's Bush's answer:
One thing I -- gave me comfort in making the statement I made in Slovenia [in 2001] was that Vladimir said, when I agree with you, I'll agree with -- I'll tell you, and when I disagree with you, I'll tell you. In other words, we'll have a very frank and candid and open relationship. And that's the way it's been. There was no doubt in my mind what his position was on Iraq. He didn't kind of hedge, he didn't try to cloud up the issue. He made it abundantly clear to me that he didn't agree with my decision.
Naturally, I don't know exactly what happened in Slovenia in 2001. Although Bush is notorious for not admitting mistakes, I think his answer betrays a certain degree of embarrassment about his previous praise for the Russian president.

Yet Bush says that Putin has always been frank about what's on his mind. Forgive the speculation, but I suspect that Putin was evasive in 2001 about just how committed to democracy he was. At the time, Bush wasn't thinking much about democracy promotion, so he didn't push Putin to clarify his statements. In retrospect, I think Bush regrets not having pushed the envelope a little more. But he recognizes that Putin didn't lie.

So now, in 2005, rather than give Putin a public thrashing, Bush is trying to secure a much clearer commitment from the Russian. Thus, Bush is now making a considerable effort to spell out exactly what democracy entails. W. said that:
We talked about democracy. Democracies always reflect a country's customs and culture, and I know that. But democracies have certain things in common: They have a rule of law and protection of minorities, a free press and a viable political opposition.
Bush repeated that set of conditions a second time, and he got Putin to concede that
We are not going to make up -- to invent any kind of special Russian democracy; we are going to remain committed to the fundamental principles of democracy that have been established in the world. But, of course, all the modern institutions of democracy -- the principles of democracy should be adequate to the current status of the development of Russia, to our history and our traditions
You might say the glass is half full. Putin's hedges are not exactly what I want to hear. Yet whereas Third World dictators have a long history of insisting that their dictatorship is actually a new form of democracy, Putin has abandoned this pledge and acknowledged that democracy has a universal essence. What matters isn't whether Putin really believes this. What matters is that he told it to the President of the United States, who will be very angry if Putin goes back on his word.

For the reasons given above, I think Bush did a superb job at Bratislava. Now comes the hard part. For the first time, however, I am confident that Bush really understands what is at stake in Moscow.
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