Tuesday, June 14, 2005

# Posted 2:00 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KISSINGER -- THE DELUSIONS OF A REALIST: Once again, old Henry has persuaded the WaPo to publish one of his rambling essays about why America should befriend those nice folks running the government in Beijing. If you're looking for new ideas instead of shopworn cliches, don't bother with Kissinger's prose. But if you want to see all of the flaws of realism as an ideology presented in the space of single op-ed, this essay can't be beat.

I think the place to start is with this delightful paragraph:
Military imperialism is not the Chinese style. Clausewitz, the leading Western strategic theoretician, addresses the preparation and conduct of a central battle. Sun Tzu, his Chinese counterpart, focuses on the psychological weakening of the adversary. China seeks its objectives by careful study, patience and the accumulation of nuances -- only rarely does China risk a winner-take-all showdown.
I wonder how many folks in Tibet would agree that "military imperialism is not the Chinese style". Then again, it isn't exactly fair to judge the current government in Beijing by what its predecessor did more than fifty years ago.

But if Kissinger is trying to argue that China has changed, what's with all of this hokum about Sun Tzu, who lived more than two thousand years ago? In contrast, Mao Zedong said much more recently that "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." Yet the realistic Kissinger covenienty ignores the influence of Mao on the Party and the republic that he created.

Now here's some more realistic analysis from Kissinger:
It is unwise to substitute China for the Soviet Union in our thinking and to apply to it the policy of military containment of the Cold War...The Russian empire was governed by force; the Chinese empire by cultural conformity with substantial force in the background.
Someone (maybe someone from Tibet) should've told that guy standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square that China is governed by "substantial force" only "in the background". Apparently, Mr. Kissinger seems to have forgotten that China is still a dictatorship. In fact the word 'dictatorship' doesn't appear in his op-ed. Nor does 'democracy'. Nor does 'human rights'.

As a committed realist, Kissinger desperately wants to believe that American foreign policy can be made without reference to the deeply-rooted ideals of democracy and human rights. And he's right; it can. From 1969 until 1976, the United States displayed almost no concern for democracy or human rights. Coincidentally, Kissinger served as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State from 1969 until 1976. (And the first president Kissinger worked for didn't even seem to be too concerned about subverting democracy within the United States.)

In addition to being an ethical concern, democracy and human rights have a lot to do with national security. As Robert Kagan pointed out in his recent column about China, there is only one clear-cut case of a rising power in the international system making it to the top without fighting a war against the hegemon it displaced. That rising power was the United States. That hegemon was Britain. Rightly, Kagan observes that
The fact that both powers shared a common liberal, democratic ideology, and thus roughly consonant ideas of international order, greatly lessened the risk of accommodation from the British point of view.
So, then, do China and the United States have "consonant ideas of international order"? Kissinger does quite a good job of evading this question. He never seems to tells us what it is that China wants or why some very smart people consider China to be quite threatening. Kissinger does insist, however, that
China, in its own interest, is seeking cooperation with the United States for many reasons, including the need to close the gap between its own developed and developing regions; the imperative of adjusting its political institutions to the accelerating economic and technological revolutions; and the potentially catastrophic impact of a Cold War with the United States on the continued raising of the standard of living, on which the legitimacy of the government depends.
He almost makes it sound as if Jimmy Carter were the president of China. I have to admit, it would be nice if Beijing's concern for social inequality led it to pursue a more peaceful foreign policy. Yet in practice, Beijing seems to be doing exactly the opposite. In order to divert attention from probelms at home, it creates problems abroad. Of course, Kissinger conveniently avoids mentioning how the Chinese government recently whipped up an anti-Japanese furor for no good reason at all.

Now let's get to the point. Assuming that Kissinger's analysis were correct, what kind of policy toward China should America have. Here's Kissinger's advice:
America needs to understand that a hectoring tone evokes in China memories of imperialist condescension and that it is not appropriate in dealing with a country that has managed 4,000 years of uninterrupted self-government.
I thought that realists were supposed to be tough. I thought that realists placed an emphasis on power. Instead, Kissinger wants us to believe that foreign policy is about multicultural self-esteem.

So then, if I disagree with Kissinger (and even dare to mock the Great Henry), what do I think we should do about China? Well, first of all, like Robert Kagan, I think China is the one that's going to decide what kind of relationship we have with it. We should speak out on behalf of democracy and human rights but never pretend that our expressions of interest can change the course of Chinese politics.

Then what? Be prepared, I suppose. Strengthen our alliance with Japan and other allies in the Pacific. And, if at all possible, avoid indulging ourselves in the willful naivete of the realists.
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Monday, June 13, 2005

# Posted 2:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STEALING THE OXFORD NAME: If you thought that calling this website "OxBlog" represented an audacious borrowing of our alma mater's good name, then who knows what you'll think of the three alums who started their own "Oxonian Society" without getting permission from the University.
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# Posted 12:21 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AT LEAST THEY WEREN'T LYING ABOUT THE WMD: Here's an interesting passage from the Second Downing Street Memo that hasn't gotten much attention:
8. The Chiefs of Staff have discussed the viability of US military plans. Their initial view is that there are a number of questions which would have to be answered before they could assess whether the plans are sound. Notably these include the realism of the 'Running Start', the extent to which the plans are proof against Iraqi counter-attack using chemical or biological weapons and the robustness of US assumptions about the bases and about Iraqi (un)willingness to fight.
So it seems that the British Cabinet was profoundly concerned about Iraqi chemical and biological weapons. Relying on my Sherlock Holmes-ian powers of inference, I therefore infer that the Cabinet was wholly convinced that Saddam actually had chemical and biological weapons. If only they had lied and told us he didn't...
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Sunday, June 12, 2005

# Posted 11:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BRITISH MEMO FROM '02 PREDICTED MASS ENTHUSIASM FOR DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ: Yes, I completely made that up. What the WaPo actually reported on Sunday's front page was that
Blair and his top advisers eight months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq concluded that the U.S. military was not preparing adequately for what the British memo predicted would be a "protracted and costly" postwar occupation of that country.
As Kevin Drum points out, this isn't exactly a revelation (even if Juan Cole calls it a "bombshell"). No one needed secret intelligence, even in 2002, to discover that the Bush administration hadn't done enough to prepare for the occupation of Iraq. Even so, slightly more evidence in favor of this obvious point still gets front page coverage in the Post.

(NB: The full text of the new British memo is here. Link via Jeralyn Merritt.)

But what about the other side of the story? What about the fact that no one other than Bush seemed to believe that the people of Iraq would display tremendous enthusiasm for democracy once liberated from Saddam Hussein? If a British memo from 2002 had predicted what would happen in the elections of January 2005, that would really be news.

Now, I recognize that journalists must serve as watchdogs, always ready to expose the failures of our government. Thus, the Bush administration deserves to be hammered for its pre-war planning.

But if journalists want to educate the (reading) public, perhaps they should explore why all of the experts failed to anticipate the Iraqi people's enthusiasm for democracy. By the same token, they should explore why the Shi'ites have been so amazingly tolerant of Sunni terrorism.

The reason to provide additional coverage of these subjects isn't that the Bush administration deserves better press. It is that the media is supposed to do more than present worst-case scenarios. In the long-run, looking at both sides of the equation will benefit the media, as well, by restoring the credibility it has squandered so magnificently of late.
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# Posted 11:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOW MANY TERRORISTS HAVE WE CAUGHT HERE AT HOME? Last Thursday, George W. Bush said that
Since September the 11th, federal terrorism investigations have resulted in charges against more than 400 suspects, and more than half of those charged have been convicted.
That quote from the president serves as the launching point for a major WaPo article/investigation into whether the Justice Department has actually caught as many terrorists as Bush says. The investigation concludes that Justice has only won 39 convictions on charges related to terrorism, rather than 200. Moreover, the majority of those convictions have nothing to do with either Al Qaeda or any other groups planning attacks on the United States.

For some, even the number 39 represents vindication. As Michelle Malkin points out, Paul Krugman is fond of saying that the Justice Department hasn't put a single terrorist in jail. Malkin offers no defense of Bush's statistics, however.

What I would add is that there are two important points that the article doesn't explore, presumably because of space limitations. The first is why so few terrorists have been apprehended and imprisoned. The WaPo mentions in passing that its results
Raise the possibility that the presence of al Qaeda operatives and sympathizers within the United States is either limited or largely undetected, many terrorism experts say.
That's a pretty big distinction. If the answer is 'limited', one might say Bush deserves considerable credit for rolling up whatever Al Qaeda cells were in place. If the answer is 'undetected', then we may all be in very big trouble and have to ask whether the Patriot Act is doing its job.

Which leads me to my second point. The purpose of Bush's speech on Thursday was to defend the Patriot Act and illustrate how it contributes to the search for terrorists in the United States. The WaPo investigation doesn't say much at all about whether the 39 convictions it identified were made possible by the Patriot Act. While it would be more impressive if the Act were responsible for 200 convictions, 39 may well be enough to justify the continuation of those Patriot Act provisions that are set to expire in the coming months.
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# Posted 9:44 PM by Patrick Belton  

OUR ASIA CORRESPONDENT writes a letter from Bangladesh where she has returned after four years:
Very little has changed in the four years since I've been gone. Bangladesh is still one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 138th on the Human Development Index in 2004 (which still does not put it at the bottom in South Asia - Pakistan ranks 142). The poverty is still breathtaking. The first time I was here, I noticed an alarming number of children and elderly people without limbs begging on the street. After enquiry, I learned that families often lop a limb off one person to increase their begging prospects. One child's arm means food for the other six or seven children. The middle class is miniscule to the point of non-existence. Any Bangladeshi with money or connections almost invariably goes overseas, most to the Gulf, the UK or the US, sending remittances home and providing one of the main sources of income for the country.

IT is the new buzz here, but it is unclear whether it actually exists besides one sad-looking internet cafe with two computers in the 'wealthy' part of town (read: less than abject poverty). Both times I went there was no current and hence no internet, but in theory you could check your email. Dhaka still does not have a McDonald's nor any other international chain, although it does have a Dominous pizza (note the ingenious way around copyright) and a restaurant that has stolen the Chili's logo and sells Thai food. The country has trouble attracting foreign investment because it has one of the highest corruption rates in the world, exacerbated by a political system run almost entirely by two political families who trade off power almost every election. During my visit, two strikes called by the opposition caused economic activity to grind to a halt. Fearing reprisals from the organized crime mobs controlled by each of the families, the entire country shuts down. When I ventured onto the streets around 2 p.m., the only activity I saw on the usually congested streets was an occasional rickshaw.

After several days in Dhaka, I traveled by launch down the Ganges River to the island of Bhola, which served as my home for several months back in 2001. Things here have changed more dramatically, but I fear for the worst. When I was here before, women did not adhere strictly to purdah and many ventured into the marketplace wearing only hijab. Now, women are largely kept to their homes and are required to wear a burkah in public. However, some advances have been made in women's health. Birth control in the form of contraceptive pills from India is now available, although apparently the local Madrassa has organized a campaign against its use (not that it seemed to be having much effect; most of the women see it as a Godsend). The island still only has a handful of doctors for 8 million people; education is spotty, although improving. I was glad to hear that in the past five years, families have begun to send their daughters to school past primary school. I also saw evidence that microfinance projects were living up to their touted potential here. Several women's craft guilds have appeared in the area since I visited last and many women appear to be supporting their families on the income they make.

The biggest difference has to be the proliferation of cell phones and televisions. Before, the only telephone was owned by the police chief, who doled out phone privileges based on bribes or personal connections. Now, every third person seems to have a cell phone. The people in the area may still not have reliable electricity, or safe drinking water, or indoor plumbing, or much of anything else, but now many families do have a television. The children look just as malnourished but now they can sing Bollywood songs. Because of this, the people have a greater awareness of the outside world than they did four years ago. And the more they see of the outside world, the less likely Islamic extremism will make inroads in the area, something that it is constantly threatening to do.

On the final night of my time in Bhola, I went up to the roof of the orphanage where I was staying and watched a storm roll in over the flat landscape. One of the teachers at the school gathered the children in a circle and sang a slow melodic folk song as the wind swept through the branches of the Khrishnachura trees below. When a lightening bolt would cascade across the sky, the red blossoms of the tree named for a god appeared against the night like tiny orbs of blazing fire. It was one of those moments of beauty and tranquility that, perhaps mistakenly, gives you faith in something that transcends the banalities and tragedies of this world. Bangladesh has a way of reminding you of the fragility of human life. I knew that many people would die in the floods that would follow the storms. The orphanage on which I stood was itself an artifact of the brutality of life here, built in the aftermath of the 1971 cyclone that killed millions in a matter of days.

The moment on the roof was ethereal, but it was I who was the ghost, swooping in from another world to which I would shortly return. Most people here view the United States as akin to Paradise and equally unreachable in this life. Yet, life does goes on. Another child is born. Another dies of fever in the middle of the night. And another still is given a chance at making more of herself than the world ever intended. I’m glad I have stayed involved in the community since I left, organizing a program that has given some young adults the chance at a university education and a better life. The misery of the people here is only matched by their potential to rise above it.

I learned later that a launch similar to the one I had taken just days before capsized in the storm that night and 200 people died. The launch had capsized twice before, killing hundreds, and had been condemned by the river authorities. And yet, it had set out that night overcapacity and understaffed. Ironically, it was the first-class passengers who bore the brunt of the casualties. Trapped in their cabins when the boat capsized, they had no chance to swim ashore, while some of those on the open-air lower decks were permitted a fateful reprieve from death. As I paced nervously on the first-class deck the next night on my way back to Dhaka, afraid to retire to my cabin, I reflected on the strange twists of fate that have left Bangladesh permanently on the lower deck in the world today. Hopefully, the boat won't have to capsize in order for them to someday reach the shore.
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# Posted 12:19 PM by Patrick Belton  

CALLING OUR ENGLISH READERS: If any of our friends may be able to spare a bit of time tomorrow afternoon, I can bring a guest to the Garter Ceremony at Windsor Castle at 2 pm. You yourselves don't need to wear a garter. If you did, you'd probably already have an invitation, and a garter too.
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Saturday, June 11, 2005

# Posted 11:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WAIT, IS THAT ENRIQUE YGLESIAS? Whoever it is, his new blog can be found here. The explanation for why he has new blog can be found here. Congratulations, Matt!
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# Posted 11:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WATCHDOGGING THE GOOD OL' MSM: First, check out David M.'s running coverage/expose of the Columbia Journalism Review's strange effort to hide the appointment of arch-leftist Victor Navasky as its chairman. (Hat tip: Glenn)

Next up, Mickey Kaus provides a humorously scathing compilation of EJ Dionne's efforts to persuade his readers himself that John Kerry was a very formidable candidate. Finally, Max Boot points out how, even after the Newsweek fiasco, journalists have paid very little attention to how the inmates at Gitmo have treated the Koran with far greater contempt than their captors. (Hat tip: Glenn again.)
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# Posted 10:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT EXPERTS SAY ABOUT THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT: Haynes Johnson, now retired, was a Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for the Washington Star and Washington Post. In 1991, he published Sleepwalking Through History: America in the Reagan Years, a bestseller that was re-issued in 1992 and then again in 2003.

For the moment, I will withhold my general thoughts about the book and its portrayal of the Reagan White House. Instead, I will reproduce some of Johnson's comments about Christian conservatives, which struck me as astoundingly narrow-minded for someone who supposedly knows so much about politics. The following is from Page 206 of the 1992 edition:
The rise of the Moral Majority had been foreseen nearly thirty years earlier [i.e. in the 1950s] by a California longshoreman named Eric Hoffer. His small book The True Believer became one of the most important and provocative of a generation. In examining "the true believer" mentality and its impact on mass movements, Hoffer said:
All mass movements...irrespective of the doctrines they teach and the programs they project, breed fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred, and intolerance; all of them are capable of releasing a powerful flow of activity in certain departments of life; all of them demand blind faith and single-hearted allegiance. All movements, however different in doctrine and aspiration, draw their early adherents from the same type of humanity; they all appeal to the same types of minds.

Though there are obvious differences between the fanatical Christian, the fanatical Mohammedan, the fanatical nationalist, the fanatical Communist, and the fanatical Nazi, it is yet that the fanaticism which animates them may be viewed and treated as one.
Without realizing it, Hoffer had described the elements that made up the Moral Majority, or Christian Right, thirty years later [i.e. in the 1980s]. They were America's new old-fashioned zealots. And they were a misnomer. They were more accurately the Militant Minority, and they were created by the same kind of true believer frustrations that Hoffer spoke of in general: "Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for lost faith in ourselves." In the eighties, the Moral Majority demonstrated how such a militant and intolerant minority can take control when zealously motivated.
Although American liberalism prizes few things above tolerance, that tolerance does not seem to extend to those who take their with utmost seriousness. I may disagree with many, many of the positions advocated by the Christian Right, but when I criticize them, I try to offer more than pseudo-psychiatry and crude condescension.

I also find Johnson's endorsement of Hoffer's denigration of mass movements to be extremely ironic, given that Johnson won his Pulizter for coverage of the civil rights movement. In addition, a wave of democratic mass movements sprang to life across Eastern Europe in the years just before Johnson sat down to write his book.

Now, it is fair to ask why I am bothering to criticize in such great detail a book that came out fourteen years ago. One answer is that I just read the book and was so offended that I felt compelled to write about it. Another answer is that it is important to establish that there is a long tradition in the United States of highly-educated liberals displaying contempt toward people of faith.

It is important to establish the length of this tradition not just because OxBlog enjoys exposing the hypocrisy of the mainstream media, but because Democrats with an interest in winning elections need to recognize just how profoundly liberals have failed to understand American Christians. It is simply not possible to reach out to a constituency that one believes to be inherently ignorant and delusional.

In light how close the elections were in 2000 and 2004, the Democrats may prevail in 2008 without changing their attitudes toward religion. But in a close race, the last thing you want to do is assume that millions of voters are lost when in fact they might be found.
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Friday, June 10, 2005

# Posted 8:14 AM by Patrick Belton  

READERS AND EX GIRLFRIENDS WILL remember that we at OxBlog are romantic mushes. However, even we have our limits on the mushometer.
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Thursday, June 09, 2005

# Posted 1:37 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A WHITE HAT FOR ABDULLAH: David Ignatius is convinced that the King of Jordan is one of the good guys. Ignatius says that Abdullah's reformist impulse has only been held back by his conservative intelligence chief, Gen. Saad Kheir. Thus, we should expect good things in the months to come since Abdullah has just demoted Kheir to a less influential post.

However, Jim Hoagland had much less positive things to say about Adbullah back in March:
As Arafat did, Abdullah works against U.S. interests in Iraq and elsewhere while pretending otherwise...

The king has exacerbated tensions with his aggressive championing of his co-religionists, Iraq's Sunni minority, who provided the base of past Baathist power and of the present insurgency.

Abdullah publicly warned against the coming to power of Iraq's Shiite majority as he sought to get Bush to postpone the Jan. 30 elections. He has portrayed Iraq on the edge of a religious war. He has channeled support to CIA favorites among Iraqi factions...

Former Baathist lieutenants who are now key operatives in the Iraqi insurgency still move themselves and money around Jordan without interference. In an incident that Bush should probe, U.S. officials a few months ago identified two such Iraqis and asked that they be questioned.

But the king waved the Americans off, saying that the two were minor figures who did not have blood on their hands. "We came to know that wasn't true, as he no doubt knew back then," one U.S. official told me.
I may not understand the byzantine intricacies of Jordanian court politics, but there seems to be more than enough reason to be far more skeptical of Adbullah than Mr. Ignatius wants to be.
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# Posted 1:36 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR SMALL BUSINESS WHEN YOU'RE SERVING IN IRAQ? The WaPo provides some answers, and not good ones.
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# Posted 1:25 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REUSABLE COMEBACKS: My friend JB thinks filibusters are a good thing and in no way undemocratic. Tonight, JB and I were watching some "ultimate" fighting on TV and the main event was decided by a split decision, two judges to one. I said to JB, "Maybe they should let that one judge start a filibuster."
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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

# Posted 10:27 AM by Patrick Belton  

WHAT IF THEY THREW A WORLD CUP GAME AND NOBODY CAME? Well, it would look something like this.
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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

# Posted 5:51 AM by Patrick Belton  

ORWELL CORNER: We all know Orwell as the master of English essay style who began his days after Eton as a police inspector in imperial Burma. Orwell would grow up to give the language the word Orwellian, and Burma to provide it with that word's truest contemporary example. Emma Larkin explores that association in a fascinating new book which traces the formative experiences of the English master there, and uses Burma to explain Orwell, and Orwell - the Orwell of 'Animal Farm' and 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' - to explain present-day Myanmar.
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# Posted 5:18 AM by Patrick Belton  

WHAT A BLAIR WANTS, WHAT A BLAIR NEEDS: Irwin Stelzer looks forward to the Anglo-American summit by detailing what the president should give the prime minister as a sign to other countries of the value of cooperation with America. Topping the list are an aid-for-accountability programme for Africa and the announcement of an American counterproposal to Kyoto at the G8 summit in Edinburgh.
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Monday, June 06, 2005

# Posted 11:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE CLEVEREST LICENSE PLATE IN VIRGINIA: Sighted on a forest green Mazda Miata at the corner of 17th & N St. NW:
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# Posted 11:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE CLEVEREST HOMELESS MAN ON EARTH: While walking outside of Union Station in our nation's capital, I noticed a homeless man with the following cardboard sign attached to his shopping cart:
My family was killed by ninjas. Need money for kung fu lessons.
So, you might ask, did I reward this man for his creativity? No, but primarily because I believe in giving to organized charities that use their funds more efficiently than individuals. But if I pass him a second time, you just never know...
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# Posted 8:28 AM by Patrick Belton  

THOUGHT OF THE DAY, not wholly unself-referentially: Nondum amabam, et amare amabam, et secretiore indigentia oderam me minus indigentem. Quaerebam quid amarem, amans amare, et oderam securitatem et viam sine muscipulis. Augustine, Confessio 3.1.1.
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Sunday, June 05, 2005

# Posted 6:42 PM by Patrick Belton  

WANT TO KNOW WHAT CHAPS ARE GOSSIPING ABOUT AT OXFORD? Probably not, actually. But if for some reason you do, the new website www.oxfordgossip.co.uk is indubitably where you'd want to go.
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# Posted 6:01 AM by Patrick Belton  

WHAT IS TO BE DONE ABOUT THE FALTERING EU? Timothy Garton-Ash suggests that the answer may just well be Blairism, if that is someone other than the Brits can be found to put it forth.
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# Posted 5:50 AM by Patrick Belton  

MARGARET PAXSON LOOKS to what will become of Russia's intelligentsia in a poignant essay which opens with the line, 'can a nation look for grace?'.
In the 69 years of its existence, the Soviet Union kept the state together with various means—from the white noise of its propaganda machinery to the animal brutality of its repressions. As easy and lulling as it must have been to succumb to the iron will of the state, voices of thoughtful dissent were also nourished in the Soviet Union, in spite of its best designs. These voices belonged to its intelligentsia: artists, writers, linguists, geologists, playwrights, economists, biologists. Sometimes they spoke in the exquisite language of poetry; sometimes they employed irony and satire; sometimes they fell into a simple and quiet insistence on the truth of science and reason and on the need to define one’s humanity through something other than fear. By the 1980s, some of these figures had become emboldened to challenge the state directly, and though the Soviet Union fell at last under the weight of its own political and economic system, the steady crescendo of their voices abetted the dissolution.

Members of the intelligentsia—painfully byzantine in their sense of social order, awkwardly ascetic in their tastes, and often entirely disconnected from the people they claimed to speak for—had spent years in faraway gulags for crimes of thought. It was they who had memorized lines of Anna Akhmatova’s poems because it was too dangerous to keep written copies.
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# Posted 5:37 AM by Patrick Belton  

KHAN ARTIST: James Forsyth and Jai Singh trace the origins of the post-Newsweek Qur'an-flushing riots to a former captain of the Oxford cricket side, Pakistan's playboy-turned-Islamist-politician Imran Khan. Personal favourite line: 'In 1995 he denounced the West with its "fat women in miniskirts" (presumably the skinny ones in miniskirts Khan had dated were okay)'
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# Posted 5:28 AM by Patrick Belton  

If Bush's critics are implicitly demanding that he do something about Uzbekistan, are they not also conceding that his policy there blemishes the wider support for regime-change? The United States did not invent or impose the Karimov government: It "merely" accepted its offer of strategic and tactical help in the matter of Afghanistan. Presumably, those who criticize Karimov's internal conduct are not asking that we repudiate such help (or are they?). They are, at any rate ostensibly, demanding that we use our influence to amend Uzbekistan's internal affairs. So it seems as if, when all the rhetoric is examined, the regime-change position is only being criticized for its inconsistency. That strikes me as progress of a kind. (Slate)
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Saturday, June 04, 2005

# Posted 7:29 AM by Patrick Belton  

CHINA CABINET: Oliver Schell sees in contemporary China a struggle for its soul between the contraposed lures of wounded recidivism and confident pragmatism, with the political contours of the twenty-first century world largely hinging upon the result.

Incidentally, in the antipodes, the Chinese consul for political affairs in Sydney walked out of his post this week past and sought political asylum from Canberra, to protest the bloody suppression of political dissenters by his government. And a Hong Kong journalist has been arrested and charged with espionage for obtaining a manuscript about Tiananmen Square by purged former premier Zhao Ziyang.
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# Posted 7:09 AM by Patrick Belton  

READING OF THE DAY: The first chapter of Michael Ignatieff's endlessly legible Isaiah Berlin: A Life, now available on the New York Times's website.

The temptation to excerpt I couldn't resist:

The voice is the despair of typists and stenographers: there seems nothing to cling to, no pauses, no paragraphing, no full stops. Yet after a time one learns that the murmur has an arcane precision all its own. There are sentences always; paragraphs always. Even if the subordinate clauses open up a parenthesis that seems to last for ever, they do close, eventually, in a completed thought. Each sentence carries clarity along its spine with qualification entwined around it. The order is melodic, intuitive and associational rather than logical. This darting, leaping style of speaking is a style of thinking: he outlines a proposition and anticipates objections and qualifications as he speaks, so that both proposition and qualification are spun out in one and the same sentence simultaneously. Since he dictates all of his written work, the way he writes and the way he talks are identical: ornate, elaborate, old-fashioned, yet incisive and clear. Judging from school compositions, he was writing and talking like this when he was eleven.

Inarticulate intelligences have to struggle across the gulf between word and thought; with him, word and thought lead each other on unstoppably. He suspects his own facility and thinks that inarticulate intelligence may be deeper and more authentic, but his facility is one secret of his serenity. Words come at his bidding and they form into sentences and paragraphs as quickly as he can bring them on. Since the Romantics, the life of the mind has been associated with solitude, anguish and inner division. With him, it has been synonymous with wit, irony and pleasure.

To love thinking, as he does, you must be quick, but you must also be sociable. He hates thinking alone and regards it as a monstrosity. With him, thinking is indistinguishable from talking, from striking sparks, from bantering, parrying and playing. His talk is famous, not only because it is quick and acute, but because it implies that thought is a joint sortie into the unknown. What people remember about his conversation is not what he said -- he is no wit and no epigrams have attached themselves to his name -- but the experience of having been drawn into the salon of his mind. This is why his conversation is never a performance. It is not his way of putting on a show; it is his way of being in company.

I heard the same stories many times, as if repetition proved that he had mastered his life, penetrated its darkest corners and dispelled its silences. It became obvious why he never wrote an autobiography: his stories had done the trick. They both saved the past and saved him from introspection.

At Piccadilly Circus we part, he towards the Athenaeum Club in Pall Mall, to take tea with a Russian scholar wanting to hear about his night with Anna Akhmatova. In front of the stand selling sex magazines, London policemen's helmets in plastic and piles of the Evening Standard, I embrace him; he stands back, bows ironically, briskly turns and is gone, ducking between two taxis, pointing his umbrella into the thick of the traffic to make it stop, whistling soundlessly to himself.
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# Posted 5:40 AM by Patrick Belton  

ARE JEWS SMARTER? Economist, and, perhaps, this blog both kiss up to our respective readerships.
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Thursday, June 02, 2005

# Posted 12:29 PM by Patrick Belton  

KANAN MAKIYA argues in Middle East Quarterly for the need for more complete de-Ba'athification in Iraq.
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# Posted 3:43 AM by Patrick Belton  

CUBAN SPRING OR TRAP? Our friend Matt Welch considers Cuba's dissidents.
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# Posted 2:26 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CASUAL ENCOUNTERS: Let this blog be a lesson to all of you who use the internet to find NSA-sex rather than political enlightenment.
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# Posted 2:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OIL: Kevin Drum has a very interesting four-part series on the outlook for global oil production and pricing. Here are the links for parts one, two, three and four.
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# Posted 2:06 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE DUTCH VOTE: Joe Gandelman rounds up the early reports from Holland.
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# Posted 12:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE E.U. RORSHACH TEST: I may not have my own opinion about what's going on in Europe, but I am pretty confident the significance of the 'no' votes in France and the Netherlands has eluded much the American punditocracy, both right and left.

At the heart of this confusion is the remarkable ability of pundits of almost every stripe to project their own identity on to that of the victorious anti-constitution majority. The American center-left has persuaded itself that the 'no' vote represents a backlash against laissez faire Anglo-Saxon capitalism. According to Richard Bernstein of the NYT,
The governing parties of the left and the right are saying the same things to their people: that painful, free-market economic reforms are the only path toward rejuvenation, more jobs, better futures. And the people, who have come to equate the idea of an expanded Europe with a challenge to cradle-to-grave social protections, are giving the same answer: We don't believe you.
In the Post, Harold Meyerson asserts that
While Europe still remains a bastion -- an embattled bastion -- of social democracy, it was not just the nationalist right and farmers but also the old social democratic base, blue-collar workers in particular, who torpedoed the constitution on Sunday. Rightly or wrongly, they believed the new Europe would afford them fewer protections than the old France.
In contrast, American conservatives are celebrating the defeat of the constitution as the rejection of everything represented by the left-leaning European elite. William Kristol writes that
The debate hasn't hinged on questions of E.U. governance. It has turned on something more fundamental--a collapse of confidence in the political and media establishment in France and the Netherlands, and in Western Europe altogether.
This observation leads Kristol to the counterintuitive conclusion that
The debate over the constitution opens up the prospect for a broader debate, and a chance for wider rethinking--of Europe's failing welfare states and growth-stultifying, upward-mobility-denying economies; of its failing immigration and multiculturalism policies; of its anti-Americanism and coolness to the cause of freedom and democracy around the world; of its failure to be serious about the threats confronting it and us. All of these are now legitimate subjects of public discussion.
My sense is that Kristol has things exactly back-to-front. The French and Dutch repudiations will lead injured European politicians to protect the popular European welfare state ever more obsessively. And if that doesn't work, Chirac, Schroeder, et al. may resort to the America-bashing that has bolstered their popularity so effectively before. As Philip Gordon argues in TNR,
Americans should hold their applause, which they may soon come to regret. That's because the eclectic group of angry French leftists, populists, nationalists, and nostalgics who opposed Chirac and the constitution had very different--in fact, precisely opposite--reasons for doing so than the Americans who cheered them on. In other words, if you didn't like French policies before Sunday, you're going to like them even less now.
So, does this mean that liberals such as Bernstein and Meyerson are correct, i.e. that the results of the French and Dutch referenda amount to an overwhelming endorsement of left-wing social democracy?

My fairly confident answer to that question is 'no', because the liberals seem to underestimate just how much the anti-constitution vote reflected a non-ideological resentment of the way in which the European political class has imposed its vision of a united continent on a frustrated electorate. According to Anne Applebaum,
The democratic deficit was built into the European project from the beginning, and it has grown along with Europe's institutions...

The popular response to this erosion of democracy -- which has coincided with an economic slowdown in much of Europe, as well as a wave of North African and Eastern European immigration -- has been an anguished and inchoate series of "anti-establishment" protest votes.
'Inchoate' is a good word to describe the situation, because it seems almost impossible to discern any positive agenda shared by the collective opponents of the constitution. David Brooks' formulation of this dynamic seems to capture the confusion rather well:
Influenced by anxiety about the future, every faction across the political spectrum found something to feel menaced by. For the Socialist left, it was the threat of economic liberalization. For parts of the right, it was the threat of Turkey. For populists, it was the condescension of the Brussels elite. For others, it was the prospect of a centralized European superstate. Many of these fears were mutually exclusive. The only commonality was fear itself, the desire to hang on to what they have in the face of change and tumult all around.
To a certain extent, I am puzzled by the fact that the relatively bland E.U. constitution has become the Rorshach-style ink blot onto which European citizens have projected all of their resentments. Yet there are few things that antagonize democratic citizens more than an institution that threatens to take away their control of even some small part of their own lives and hand it over to unelected bureaucrats.
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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

# Posted 3:59 PM by Patrick Belton  

GHERKINS, COMING TO A CITY NEAR YOU? Two architectural critics debate the future of iconic buildings such as the Bilbao Guggenheim and the London gherkin.

Some people find the gherkin a bit, well, too appealing.
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# Posted 3:56 PM by Patrick Belton  

WHO SHALL INHERIT THE KINGDOM? CJR considers the possibilities for journalistic empire should septuagenarian Rupert Murdoch ever step back Prospero-like from his domains.
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# Posted 3:51 PM by Patrick Belton  

TOPLESS ENTERTAINMENT! PEDALPHILIA! Wired analyses the prospects for the five contenders in next month's selection for the site of the 2012 Olympics. As loyal residents of Great Britain and the northeast, this blog can be expected to dutifully back a New York/London compromise ticket, particularly if the cool sports get outsourced to Oxford and New Haven.
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# Posted 3:44 PM by Patrick Belton  

DON'T LOVE ME 'CAUSE I'M RICH: In the Far East Economic Review, UBS's chief Asia hand Jonathan Anderson follows up on his earlier article 'How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Forget the Yuan,' and says investors' love affair of the past few years with the Chinese economy may be doomed to cooling off as it slows.
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# Posted 3:41 PM by Patrick Belton  

DUTCH REJECT EU CONSTITUTION: Emanuele Ottolenghi, a friend of this blog's, explains why.
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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

# Posted 9:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A DEFENSE OF THE LEG MAN: In response to my praise of the airborne soldier as the best of the best, army vet DA reminds us all that the leg infantry sometimes had it tougher than their "elite" brethren:
In defense of leg infantry, my father's division was in the line for approximately seven months. The only break was moving from Holland out of the British Army's command, to the Third Army farther south. A military road march on trucks was a "break" only if the alternative was worse--which, of course, it was.

The Airborne units had hard fights. They also had a good deal of time at the rear. They did return to England after D-Day, only not as soon as they had thought they would. The leg outfits didn't return, nor had anybody planned that they should. They would stay in the line until the war was over, unless circumstances made that impossible. The paratroopers made their rush to Bastogne from a rear-area encampment.

The dirty little secret about "elite" units is that they don't fight all that much. When they do, they usually have advantages.The British outfit that took Pegasus bridge trained for years. (Hard training, but safer than fighting in North Africa or Italy.) After they completed their coup, they stayed in the line and eventually became as run-down as any other outfit. When commandos do a raid, they know everything including the enemy sentry's mother's maiden name. The Infantry simply advances, looking for the enemy who generally announces his presence by killing some of your people. The commandos go on a full stomach and expect more of the same in a couple of days, along with showers and a real bunk. The grunts are living in the mud, being attrited by enemy snipers and artillery, in between real fights.

My father was a platoon leader, frequently filling in for company commanders as they were killed. He thinks the American Infantryman is God's noblest creation. They never quit, he's said several times, nor has he mentioned any difficulty getting them to follow him east.

His division, the 104th Infantry Division (Timberwolves) was known for accomplishing its missions with relatively few casualties. I believe the OIF's casualties only recently exceeded those of the Timberwolves. Now, were the OIF guys--or the paratroopers--to swap horror stories, they could try the Fourth ID which had, I believe, 250% casualties in WW II. That probably considers only the line battalions.Anyway, the paratroopers think well of themselves, which they've earned. But that does not mean the less-self-promoting units had any less courage and perseverance.
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# Posted 2:17 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RISKY BLOGNESS: This post will be a lot shorter than the one below it, because it talks about a film with much less substance. The post below is about Band of Brothers. This one is about is a film known primarily for a young Tom Cruise dancing around the house in his underwear -- Risky Business.

Believe it or not, I found myself compelled to watch Risky Business because I am writing a dissertation about the Reagan era. As some of you will no doubt remember, Ron Reagan Jr. did his own version of the underwear dance when he hosted Saturday Night Live in 1986. This embarrassed his conservative father to a certain extent, althoug not as much as Iran-Contra did later that fall.

Anyhow, in case you were thinking of watching Risky Business after reading about it on OxBlog, I have one word for you: Don't. (Unless you are a big Sopranos fan and absolutely must see every film in which Joe Pantoliano plays an Italian gangster.)
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# Posted 12:45 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BOOK VS. MOVIE -- BAND OF BROTHERS RECONSIDERED: When I first wrote about Band of Brothers (BoB for short), I did my best to navigate the perils of writing about the cinematic version of a book I hadn't read. Because I liked the film so much, I took the print version out of my friendly neighborhood library and started reading it over lunch today.

Although there are lots of good reasons not to write about a book until you've finished reading, I was so surprised by the first chapter of BoB that I feel I have to write about it, if only to make sure I don't forget my first impressions.

The conventional wisdom about BoB the film is that it is an extremely loyal adaptation of BoB the book. Thus, you won't be surprised to hear that while reading that first chapter, I kept coming across paragraphs and sentences that seemed to correspond perfectly with the images I'd seen on film.

However, from a more analytical perspective, I felt that I was reading about a very different Easy Company than the one brought to life by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. Hanks & Spielberg want Easy Company to serve as a metaphor for the millions of Americans who served in uniform during World War II. The courage, fortitude and good humor of their Easy Company is supposed to stand in for the courage, fortitude and good humor of an entire generation -- of The Greatest Generation.

As I noted in an earlier post that was critical of BoB the film, I have had it up to here with the mindless nostalgia that pervades almost every discussion of The Greatest Generation (or TGG for short, because even typing out that silly name gets on my nerves).

Initially, the overall strengh of BoB the film prevented me from caring all that much about its nostalgic presentation of TGG. However, Ambrose's book makes it clear from the very beginning that Easy Company was in no way representative of the generation that fought the war.

It is true that Easy Company was comprised of "citizen soldiers" (p. 13) who were rich and poor, urban and rural, Catholic and Protestant. At the same time, Easy Company and the whole of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment consisted of the toughest soldiers in the entire United States Army.

These soldiers were put through an exceptionally brutal training regimen. The small percentage of those that made it through training earned the right to wear their wings. According to Ambrose, only 1800 of the 5300 enlisted men who volunteered for the 506th made it through training. Of 500 officers who volunteered, only 148 made it through.

Since more than a month has passed since I saw the first episode of BoB the film, I cannot say categorically that Hanks & Spielberg ignore this issue entirely. I do remember a few stray comments about the airborne being a very tough branch of the service. But there you get no sense from the film that 2/3 of the men couldn't even make it through training.

Another fascinating piece of information that I don't recall being in the film has to do with the Non-Commissioned Officers (or NCOs, mostly sergeants) in Easy Company. Because the 506th was an "experimental outfit" (p. 16) that hadn't existed before the war, it had to draw all of its NCOs from more established units. Gradually, those NCOs all quit "as the training grew more intense".

From comic books or documentaries, almost every pop culture portrayal of the NCO is that of the grizzled old sergeant who is ten times tougher than all of the kids half his age. Although the sergeants in BoB the film don't seem particularly old, Hanks & Spielberg do provide them with the same halo of greatness that has become a Hollywood cliche. But if you read Ambrose, you realize that the NCOs in Easy Company were not run-of-the-mill members of TGG or even run-of-the-mill NCOs. Rather, they were the best of the best, the chosen few among the chosen few who had survived airborne training.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the execellence of the 506th inspired a certain condescension toward the undifferentiated mass of soldiers that made up most of the American armed forces. Ambrose writes that the men of Easy Company
"knew they were going into combat, and they did not want to go in with poorly trained, poorly conditioned, poorly motivated draftees on either side of them." (p. 14)
That makes perfect sense to me. But if you just watched BoB the film, you'd never know that there were any poorly trained, conditioned or motivated soldiers in the US Army. In fact, you'd probably just assume that the Army was full of soldiers who could suffer through the most brutal weather and the bloodiest confrontations with the Wehrmacht and still have the same unflinching desire to march forward and serve their country. (And don't disagree with me by bringing up Episode Three and Pvt. Blithe. He may be afraid, but he becomes a hero by the end, too.)

In closing, let me say that I mean no disrespect for those who served, whether in the most humble unit or with the select few of the 506th. But as I scholar, I must stand opposed, as I said before, to
Unthinking nostalgia that makes it very hard to think about the present in a realistic manner. In the same way that our glorification of the Founding Fathers makes us lament the intense partisanship of today, our glorification of The Greatest Generation does the same. Yet like the Founding Fathers, The Greatest Generation often found itself riven by partisan and ideological conflicts.

I don't know if the early 21st century will some day be considered a landmark period of triumph in American history, but I am fairly confident that even bitter deliberations are vital to the success of our democracy today, no less than they were in 1776 or 1945.
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Saturday, May 28, 2005

# Posted 2:24 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE CLASS OF 9/11: This week, both Time and the WaPo have published profiles of the most recent graduates of our nation's military academies. The Class of 2005 will have a special place in history because it was both the final class accepted to the academies before 9/11 as well as the first to spend all four of its years at the academy during the War on Terror.

I found the most fascinating aspect of both profiles to be their description of how moral and practical reasoning is taught at the academies. According to Time, whose profile focuses on West Point's Class of 2005,
Captain Chris McKinney, who led an infantry company during the first months of the Iraq invasion, had been brought to West Point to teach Fundamentals of Tactics...

He is a walking album of case studies: You're leading a platoon, he tells his cadets, and one of your men is lying wounded in the middle of a minefield.

You go meet with a local farmer, who knows how to lead his herds safely through the field, so he could help rescue your comrade. But he won't talk; if he's seen collaborating with the Americans, he and his family could be killed. What do you do?

Many cadets' first reflex, he says, is to hold a pistol to the farmer's head. McKinney challenges them: Well, are you willing to pull the trigger, then? And wouldn't that endanger the lives of some of your men if the farmer's tribe wanted revenge? If he still refuses and you don't pull the trigger now, will you have lost credibility with your team?

Others suggest offering the farmer protection, an idea that McKinney rips apart even more quickly. Never promise these people anything you can't deliver, he says. They remember those things.

Finally, McKinney gives the answer to the case study: There is no answer. Not one single answer, anyhow. It's all just guesses, and McKinney's guess is that you should leverage the strong Iraqi aversion to having a death on one's conscience. Tell the farmer that the soldier lying out there is a human being and that his death would be on the farmer's head. In other words, use your judgment, considering everything you have learned about the place and the culture and human nature.
I certainly couldn't have provided much in the way of an answer to Capt. McKinney's question. I doubt many civilians could. I think McKinney's sensitive and creative thinking go a long way toward explaining why American soldiers have adapted to the social and cultural challenges of occupation so much better than many observers expected.

Now consider the following:
[Maj. Jason Amerine] manages to pack a war's worth of heresy against Army doctrine into a 50-min. class. He presses cadets to enunciate a meaningful difference between insurgent leader Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi and West Point icon and Revolutionary War hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a Pole who was the foreign fighter of his era.

What is a terrorist? Amerine asks. Someone who flies planes into buildings, says a cadet. The Japanese did basically that, says Amerine. Someone who kills civilians, says another. The U.S. did that in Dresden, Amerine replies. He is the tireless devil's advocate, forcing cadets into deeper analysis and dense moral ground.

His faith in the essential goodness of the Army, the justness of the cause, he says, informs even his most piercing criticisms. It's delicate detente that all of West Point nurses—how to create well-informed junior officers without their giving in to cynicism.

"I'm hoping to produce cadets who, after having lived through all the blood, all the horrors, will still absolutely believe in what they're doing," says Amerine.
What Maj. Amerine is teaching may be "heresy", but the fact that is he is an instructor at West Point suggests that the United States Army understands the value of unorthodox thinking. One might even say that this sort of devil's advocacy is the best sort of training that officers can have for the challenge of promoting democracy in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The WaPo's profile of the Naval Academy Class of 2005 suggests that instructors at Annapolis also emphasize the moral complexity of warfare:
Scandals such as Abu Ghraib have forced the schools to stress ethical and moral leadership. [My impression was that the service academies have always emphasized ethical and moral leadership, but whatever.]

Midshipmen are run through day-long seminars in which they are placed in small teams and confronted with moral dilemmas they might face as junior officers...

In one such scenario, midshipmen are asked what they would do if, moments before launching a Tomahawk missile, they learn that their "high value" target sits next to a church and a boarding school. A strike would save the lives of U.S. troops but also could kill women and children.

Do they assume that the staff that selected the target knew about the "collateral" buildings? If they tell their superior and he does not bring it up to the captain, are they absolved of responsibility for the children?

If they launch, how do they defend their actions?

"We're trying to help them in their thinking process, not give them a cookbook set of solutions," said Vice Adm. Rodney Rempt, the academy superintendent. "Because, frankly, we don't know what they're going to face."
I can only hope that students also get this kind of education on our nation's civlians campuses.
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# Posted 2:21 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HAM SOLO AND CHEWBROCCOLI? I hesitate to distribute left-wing propaganda via OxBlog, but this Star Wars parody is so extraordinarily funny that I dare you not enjoy it.
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# Posted 2:10 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SHARP COLUMN IN THE BLADE: James Kirchick argues that banning military recruiters from campus damages American security while doing nothing to promote gay rights. I would only add that the best way to change the climate of opinion within the military is to ensure that it can recruit as many officers as possible from America's top colleges and law schools.
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Thursday, May 26, 2005

# Posted 4:44 PM by Patrick Belton  

IISS RUMINATES ON changing US strategy in East Asia. Several snippets:
If anything, the centrality of Japan in US strategy will be reinforced, especially in the anticipated transfer of the command functions of the US Army I Corps from Washington State to Japan and a parallel proposal to integrate the command activities of the 13th Air Force based in Guam with those of the 5th Air Force at Yokota Air Force Base.

South Korean defence planners [are] doubly uneasy: firstly, because American forces would be increasingly geared toward non-peninsular missions; and secondly, because many in South Korea believe that the US is seeking to envelop Seoul in contingency planning against China, which is deemed contrary to South Korea’s strategic interests. In the eyes of South Korean policymakers, this growing divergence in alliance goals is eroding the strategic underpinnings of the alliance.

A new defence policy, to be enshrined in the forthcoming Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), scheduled for completion in February 2006, will postulate the need for far more flexible, rapidly deployable forces capable of surging in response to diverse threats, with a pronounced emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region. Administration officials have asserted a simultaneous need to augment US regional capabilities to counter potential challenges posed by an ascendant China, directed against Taiwan or elsewhere.
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# Posted 4:37 PM by Patrick Belton  

THERE'S A NEW ISSUE OUT of the Arab Reform Bulletin, with pieces worth reading on Shi'a political development across the region, the death of Jordanian constitutionalism, and wrangling preceding the Palestinian legislative council elections. There's also a new section synopsising opinion pieces appearing in the Arab media.
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# Posted 3:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MILLIONS DEAD BY ANALOGY: In a bold effort to destroy any pretense of her own detachment or objectivity, the the head of Amnesty International has described the US prison at Guantanamo Bay as "the gulag of our times".

Although the editors of the WaPo have made the right decision to single out this absurd comparison as the dumbest and most offensive remark made by AI's Secretary General, Irene Khan, this single outrage should not obscure how thoroughly offensive her entire speech was.

The purpose of Khan's speech was to introduce and summarize AI's annual report on human rights. Before getting into what Khan did say, it is far important to observe what she didn't say, namely anything about North Korea, let alone Cuba or Syria. This sort of calculated ignorance constitutes nothing less than a betrayal of the millions and millions who suffer at the hands of the world's most reactionary dictatorships.

I say "calculated" because I presume that Khan's emphasis on the US (and the UK), reflects her knowledge that exerting pressure on the world's greatest democracies may actually result in a change of behavior, whereas Kim Jong Il and Fidel Castro couldn't care less about what Amnesty International thinks of their behavior.

This, however, is no excuse for Khan's behavior, because there are many, many nations that are susceptible to pressure and which commit atrocities far worse than anything that happened at Abu Ghraib. Let's start with Syria. Just a few months ago, I might have ignorantly said that Bashar would never listen to foreign critics. But now he has no choice, and Amnesty should recognize how much good it might accomplish by emphasizing Syrian brutality.

Of course, there is a chapter on Syria in AI's annual report. The same is true of Cuba and North Korea. But when the head of the organization singles out the US and UK for criticism, she lets the Cubans, Syrians and North Koreans know that they are not her biggest concern. It's exactly the same as when Bush singles out Egypt for criticism but lets Pakistan and Saudi Arabia slide.

At least Bush can say in his own defense that the Saudis and Pakistanis are helping us fight the war on terror. Amnesty could never say that the Cubans, Syrians, or North Koreans are doing anything to make the world a better place.
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# Posted 10:29 AM by Patrick Belton  

OVERHEARD: 'YAR!' (from stage left, at the beginning of Star Wars n+5, following the antipiracy announcement)
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# Posted 8:34 AM by Patrick Belton  

RICOEUR, EXEGETE AND PHILOSOPHER OF METAPHOR, has died. Stanford's Encyclopedia of Philosophy has one of the most well-written electronic synopses of his thought and work. Our friends at Crooked Timber also have an interesting conversation for their part in their comments section.
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# Posted 8:28 AM by Patrick Belton  

AMNESTY HAS RELEASED ITS ANNUAL REPORT on human rights in the world, as always well-researched if not necessarily spiriting reading. Most countries come in for criticism.
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# Posted 8:13 AM by Patrick Belton  

'I'M REALLY QUITE FASCINATED BY PALESTINIAN POLITICS' WATCH: It's probably mildly less salubrious a habit than, say, crack or dating Brittney Spears*, but hey, that's what mid-life crises do for you. Abu Mazen is in Washington for a three-day visit; CNN reports the administration plans to break with Arafat-era precedent and give substantial aid directly to the Palestinian Finance Ministry rather than to non-governmental organisations operating in the territories. Dennis Ross contends in an op-ed that Abbas suffers principally among his constituents for not having delivered economic improvement; on his argument, Hamas's growing appeal comes from delivering services rather than from its Islamic programme. He adds, 'Last December, donor nations pledged $1.2 billion to the Palestinians. Six months later, less than 10 percent of the money has materialized. ... Per-capita income in the West Bank and Gaza was $1,800 a year in 2000 and is down to $1,000. Jobs are urgently needed; labor-intensive projects must be financed and launched now.' He goes on to criticise Gulf oil states for not providing aid on the order of $1 billion for the Palestinian economy.

* ah, the google hits we'll get today.
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# Posted 8:00 AM by Patrick Belton  

WOULD IT BE POSSIBLE FOR JUST ONCE, as a favour to me, for a major news organisation to write a story about Irish politics without use of phrases such as 'the Emerald Isle'?

(And as to whether posting will remain rather more truculent than normal until any hypothetical birthday hangover subsides, I maintain scrupulously no comment.)
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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

# Posted 9:31 AM by Patrick Belton  

BIRTHDAY CAKE IS ALSO GOOD FOR YOU: For any of our readers and friends who would like to partake in some Over The Hill Minus One birthday cake tonight at OxBlog U.K. headquarters, you're most welcome to come by at 8 or thereafter to celebrate the onset of your humble correspondent's final year before the onset of the middle ages, with dentures and worrisomely ill-fitting incontinance pants and everything else along those lines, some of which will be left up to your imaginations. This is an attempt to console myself for being the sort of age at which one might give some thought to finishing up a d.phil. and doing other things in life before it ends. And for those of our readers who might otherwise be scared away, I'll behave much better than I did on my name day and not pass out drunkenly at all until all of our guests are gone. Or 2 am, whichever comes earlier. There are after all certain ethnic stereotypes which I don't feel like challenging at just the moment.
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# Posted 8:04 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE END OF THE COLD WAR IS GOOD FOR YOU: Greg Easterbrook reviews scholarship suggesting that ethnic conflict has actually gone down since the end of the Cold War. Part of this is the spread of democracy; part is the drying up of outside arms supplies; part's an increased amount each year spent on peacekeeping, which is a good return on the dollar, or euro.

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner, always one of my favourite bloggers, adds what Easterbrook left out: the role of the United States as hegemon enforcing a pax americana, principally.
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# Posted 8:00 AM by Patrick Belton  

AL QUDS AL ARABI IS ANNOUNCING that Abu Mazen and Hamas have agreed to postpone Palestinian parliamentary elections to November.
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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

# Posted 10:48 AM by Patrick Belton  

CARNEGIE'S NATHAN BROWN takes a look at the Palestinian institutions and proposes changes in the political parties, judiciary, security services, and press.
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# Posted 10:07 AM by Patrick Belton  

INTERNATIONAL UNDERSTANDING.COM: This English-to-American dictionary is one of the most entertaining reads I've come across in ages. It's also helpful for knowing exactly what insult you're being called when, in Commonwealthspeak - for instance, I was once called an anorak on cable television by a Kiwi and had rather the impression I'd been mistaken for a sort of moose.
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# Posted 6:51 AM by Patrick Belton  

MAIL BAGS: Our fastidious readership has pointed out that in our posts over the weekend, we'd neglected to mention the following episode of Jerry Springer which featured Darth Vader; also, Hitch took some more speed. (Though one of our deep throats informs us it's more frequently a pint of the ould stuff with dinner. Hey, don't mix your meds.)
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Sunday, May 22, 2005

# Posted 8:03 AM by Patrick Belton  

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS IS ON SPEED. That's the only remaining logical explanation for how he gets to write so much more than the rest of us. This week, he takes on sibling rivalries, including his own, in the pages of Vanity Fair, asks and answers in Slate why the NYT refers to Iraq's jihadists as 'insurgents' (his answer: because they never devastated Manhattan island, simply), takes on literary theory in the New York Times, and has it out with the member for Bethnal Green and Bow in the Weekly Standard.

Um, I'll have what he's having?
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# Posted 7:59 AM by Patrick Belton  

HUSSEIN AGHA AND ROBERT MALLEY look forward to this summer's Palestinian Legislative Council elections.
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# Posted 7:49 AM by Patrick Belton  

FINTAN O'TOOLE of the Irish Times reviews the latest book of one of my favourite novelists and coethnics, John Banville. Also, Bartle Bull takes an interesting look at Iraq's Sadris as a case study of a rebel movement tentatively embracing democracy. And Daniel Johnson looks at the post-Cold War future of chess.
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# Posted 6:51 AM by Patrick Belton  

JOIN ME, JEDI. THE FUTURE IS ORANGE. So Josh and David have made note here of their favourite Star Wars parodies. Mine to the moment is probably from the self-same mobile company that brought you the Northern Ireland advertising campaign 'the future is bright, the future is orange.' Here in better garb, Darth Vader pitches the Orange execs for a spin-off film.
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# Posted 6:36 AM by Patrick Belton  

SPOOK AND TELL: CS Monitor reviews a new genre, that of contemporary clandestine ops tell-alls.
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# Posted 6:03 AM by Patrick Belton  

MAKING THE ROUNDS ON THE INTERNET: If anyone knows who wrote this, considerations of plagiarism and honesty aside, I'm not quite sure I'd exactly want to be regarded as its author.....

This Time on Jeremy Springer: Catfighting Political Theorists

Crowd: Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!

Jerry: Today's guests are here because they can't agree on fundamental principles of epistemology and ontology. I'd like to welcome Todd to the show.

Todd enters from backstage.

Jerry: Hello, Todd.

Todd: Hi, Jerry.

Jerry: (reading from card) So, Todd, you're here to tell your girlfriend something. What is it?

Todd: Well, Jerry, my girlfriend Ursula and I have been going out for three years now. We did everything together. We were really inseparable. But then she discovered post-Marxist political and literary theory, and it's been nothing but fighting ever since.

Jerry: Why is that?

Todd: You see, Jerry, I'm a traditional Cartesian rationalist. I believe that the individual self, the "I" or ego is the foundation of all metaphysics. She, on the other hand, believes that the contemporary self is a socially constructed, multi-faceted subjectivity reflecting the political and economic realities of late capitalist consumerist discourse.

Crowd: Ooooohhhh!

Todd: I know! I know! Is that infantile, or what?

Jerry: So what do you want to tell her today?

Todd: I want to tell her that unless she ditches the post-modernism, we're through. I just can't go on having a relationship with a woman who doesn't believe I exist.

Jerry: Well, you're going to get your chance. Here's Ursula!

Ursula storms onstage and charges up to Todd.

Ursula: Patriarchal colonizer!

She slaps him viciously. Todd leaps up, but the security guys pull them apart before things can go any further.

Ursula: Don't listen to him! Logic is a male hysteria! Rationality equals oppression and the silencing of marginalized voices!

Todd: The classical methodology of rational dialectic is our only road to truth! Don't try to deny it!

Ursula: You and your dialectic! That's how it's been through our whole relationship, Jerry. Mindless repetition of the post-Enlightenment meta-narrative. "You have to start with radical doubt, Ursula." "Post-structuralism is just classical sceptical thought re-cast in the language of semiotics, Ursula."

Crowd: Booo! Booo!

Jerry: Well, Ursula, come on. Don't you agree that the roots of contemporary neo-Leftism simply have to be sought in Enlightenment political philosophy?

Ursula: History is the discourse of powerful centrally located voices marginalizing and de-scribing the sub-altern!

Todd: See what I have to put up with? Do you know what it's like living with someone who sees sex as a metaphoric demonstration of the anti-feminist violence implicit in the discourse of the dominant power structure? It's terrible. She just lies there and thinks of Andrea Dworkin. That's why we never do it any more.

Crowd: Wooooo!

Ursula: You liar! Why don't you tell them how you haven't been able to get it up for the past three months because you couldn't decide if your penis truly had essential Being, or was simply a manifestation of Mind?

Todd: Wait a minute! Wait a minute!

Ursula: It's true!

Jerry: Well, I don't think we're going to solve this one right away. Our next guests are Louis and Tina. And Tina has a little confession to make!

Louis and Tina come onstage. Todd and Ursula continue bickering in the background.

Jerry: Tina, you are... (reads cards) ... an existentialist, is that right?

Tina: That's right, Jerry. And Louis is, too.

Jerry: And what did you want to tell Louis today?

Tina: Jerry, today I want to tell him...

Jerry: Talk to Louis. Talk to him.

Crowd hushes.

Tina: Louis... I've loved you for a long time...

Louis: I love you, too, Tina.

Tina: Louis, you know I agree with you that existence precedes essence, but... well, I just want to tell you I've been reading Nietzsche lately, and I don't think I can agree with your egalitarian politics any more.

Crowd: Wooooo! Woooooo!

Louis: (shocked and disbelieving) Tina, this is crazy. You know that Sartre clarified all this way back in the 40's.

Tina: But he didn't take into account Nietzsche's radical critique of democratic morality, Louis. I'm sorry. I can't ignore the contradiction any longer!

Louis: You got these ideas from Victor, didn't you? Didn't you?

Tina: Don't you bring up Victor! I only turned to him when I saw you were seeing that dominatrix! I needed a real man! An Uber-man!

Louis: (sobbing) I couldn't help it. It was my burden of freedom. It was too much!

Jerry: We've got someone here who might have something to add. Bring out... Victor!

Victor enters. He walks up to Louis and sticks a finger in his face.

Victor: Louis, you're a classic post-Christian intellectual. Weak to the core!

Louis: (through tears) You can kiss my Marxist ass, Reactionary Boy!

Victor: Herd animal!

Louis: Lackey!

Louis throws a chair at Victor; they lock horns and wrestle. The crowd goes wild. After a long struggle, the security guys pry them apart.

Jerry: Okay, okay. It's time for questions from the audience. Go ahead, sir.

Audience member: Okay, this is for Tina. Tina, I just wanna know how you can call yourself an existentialist, and still agree with Nietzsche's doctrine of the Ubermensch. Doesn't that imply a belief in intrinsic essences that is in direct contradiction with with the fundamental principles of existentialism?

Tina: No! No! It doesn't. We can be equal in potential, without being equal in eventual personal quality. It's a question of Becoming, not Being.

Audience member: That's just disguised essentialism! You're no existentialist!

Tina: I am so!

Audience member: You're no existentialist!

Tina: I am so an existentialist, bitch!

Ursula stands and interjects.

Ursula: What does it [bleep] matter? Existentialism is just a cover for late capitalist anti-feminism! Look at how Sartre treated Simone de Beauvoir!

Women in the crowd cheer and stomp.

Tina: [Bleep] you! Fat-ass Foucaultian ho!

Ursula: You only wish you were smart enough to understand Foucault, bitch!

Tina: You the bitch!

Ursula: No, you the bitch!

Tina: Whatever! Whatever!

Jerry: We'll be right back with a final thought! Stay with us!

Commercial break for debt-consolidation loans, ITT Technical Institute, and Psychic Alliance Hotline.

Jerry: Hi! Welcome back. I just want to thank all our guests for being here, and say that I hope you're able to work through your differences and find happiness, if indeed happiness can be extracted from the dismal miasma of warring primal hormonal impulses we call human relationship.

(turns to the camera)

Well, we all think philosophy is just fun and games. Semiotics, deconstruction, Lacanian post-Freudian psychoanalysis, it all seems like good, clean fun. But when the heart gets involved, all our painfully acquired metaphysical insights go right out the window, and we're reduced to battling it out like rutting chimpanzees. It's not pretty. If you're in a relationship, and differences over the fundamental principles of your respective subjectivities are making things difficult, maybe it's time to move on. Find someone new, someone who will accept you and the way your laughably limited human intelligence chooses to codify and rationalize the chaos of existence. After all, in the absence of a clear, unquestionable revelation from God, that's all we're all doing anyway. So remember: take care of yourselves - and each other.

Announcer: Be sure to tune in next time, when KKK strippers battle it out with transvestite omnisexual porn stars! Tomorrow on Springer!
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# Posted 1:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPEAK UP, GEORGE: The Weekly Standard says it's time for the President to tell Islam Karimov, the very un-Islamic dictator of Uzbekistan, that he can no longer trample on his people's rights. Amen.
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# Posted 12:56 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SO I SAID TO HIM, "YEAH, RIGHT -- AND MY NAME'S OLIVER NORTH!" You definitely meet some interesting people in Washington. This evening, I attended a publication party for two recent books: Timothy Naftali's Blind Spot: The Secret History of American Counterterrorism and Ronald & Allis Radosh's Red Star Over Hollywood: The Film Colony's Long Romance With the Left.

Not having been to any pundit-parties before, I was a little nervous when I got there. In those rare instances when I have in the presence of Washington celebrity types, I've discovered that the best thing to do is to stay far away from them, because they are surrounded by people who want to talk to them only because they are famous.

However, I've also discovered that if there happens to be a celebrity or two afoot, then there also tends to be a good number of un-famous, unpretentious and extremely interesting people around. Moreover, retired folks are often the most interesting to talk to because they have simply lived through so much.

So, earlier this evening, when I arrived at the upscale Bethesda home where the party was being held, I didn't see anyone I recognized, so I introduced my self to a kindly-looking and very well-groomed older gentleman. I said, "Hi, my name is David Adesnik." He said, "I'm John Poindexter."

That threw me for a loop. I couldn't decide if I should be on my best behavior or if I should say something like "Broken any laws today, Admiral?" Or was this not even the John Poindexter?

As it turned out, it was him. I found out that Prof. Naftali had spoken to him extensively about the Reagan administration's counter-terrorism initiatives. The admiral seemed nice enough, although by no means talkative.

I decided stay firmly within the bounds of polite cocktail party banter, even if I was thoroughly tempted to start asking questions about Iran-Contra. After all, Prof. Naftali (also a Charlottesville man) had been nice enough to invite me, so I figured that discretion was the better part of valor.

It turned out that the rest of the party was also filled with neo-con gliterati, such as Jeane Kirkpatrick, Joshua Muravchik, Stephen Schwartz and Ken Pollack (who is probably more of a realist, leaving aside his anti-Saddam activism). And our host for the evening was Allen Weinstein, the newly appointed Archivist of the United States.

At this point, I must confess that I technically compromised my celebrity avoidance doctrine. I spoke to Josh Muravchik because I am friends with his daughter and son-in-law. I spoke to Stephen Schwartz because he saw the Argentine flag pin on my lapel and started asking me questions in Spanish.

On the buffet line, Amb. Kirkpatrick asked me to identify one of the main dishes. Being the nice Jewish boy that I am, I told her it was pork. Now, I was just a little bit hurt that she didn't recognize me, since it was only four months ago that I spent an hour and a half interviewing her for my dissertation. But she is in her eighties now, so I won't hold it against her.

In closing, I would like to say two things. First, I haven't read either of the books the party was thrown to celebrate, since they are new. Second, I did meet one extremely interesting person who was un-famous, unpretentious and an accomplished scholar in her own right. As it turns out, Prof. H is an acquaintance of Mr. Chafetz as well as an occasional reader of this blog. She was even willing to forgive me for voting for a Democrat for president.
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Saturday, May 21, 2005

# Posted 8:46 PM by Patrick Belton  

WORTH READING: Writing in Foreign Affairs, Fouad Ajami places the Lebanese achievement of self-governance (the kibbeh revolution?) in greater context for the nation.
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# Posted 8:26 PM by Patrick Belton  

AND I THOUGHT GUAR WAS A HAS-BEEN PUNK GROUP: In the 'Things That Wouldn't Make It Onto An American Grocery Product Label' division for the night, a reading from off my Onken Summer Biopot Raspberry Yogurt produces: 'Onken Rasberry yogurt is made from wholemilk and Bio cultures. The cultures consist of Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum and Streptococcus thermophilus that combine to give a mild, fresh, creamy flavour.' Yup, that mild, fresh, creamy Streptococcus, bifidobacterium longum (are they just making these names up?) flavour.
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# Posted 6:05 PM by Patrick Belton  

ACADEMICS, WRITERS, WITS? Nah, when it comes down to it apparently we're just a trio of nineteenth century whores.

Bugger, come to think of it, that makes us fairly old whores, doesn't it? I'll at least call dibs on being still resident at Oxford to be the high-class escort, and let my coauthors sort out amongst themselves who gets to be the New Haven whore and the media whore.
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# Posted 10:02 AM by Patrick Belton  

SOFTWARE PLUG: Note, I do not get any money for these. This is not voluntary. If anyone would like to send me money for these, please email money to whisky_fund@patrickbelton.com.

Lately, I've discovered I'm not only a geek (what, this is new? you're a blogger!), but a geek whose friends move to inconvenient countries like UAE and Bangladesh (motto: literally the most corrupt place in the world!). So I've begun relying on instant messenger to keep in touch with them all, especially the nice ones in Nigeria who are trying to give me money. (And for those of you who didn't know just how much fun you can have with your Nigerian spammer, go read Lads of Lagos immediately.) Except that, and in distinct defiance of the predictions of game theory, there are a number of instant messaging programs and having them all open at the same time makes me feel ... well, just a little too geeky. Fortunately, there's a multi-protocol IM client called Fire for Mac users which permits you to only have one window open, to talk to all your Nigerian spammers and Russian ex-girlfriends at once. *This, you see, is called progress.

* This also gets around the OS X / MSN Messenger 4.0 compatibility issues.
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Friday, May 20, 2005

# Posted 7:16 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE SUN makes Saddam their page three girl. Circulation plummets.
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# Posted 12:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

(GALACTIC) IMPERIALIST: Apropo of my speculations about the true nature of the Dark Side, Dan Simon recommends this apologia for the Empire by Jon Last, from way back in 2002. Although wary of reading too much into Jon's humorous observations, I find it interesting that the foundation of his argument for the Empire is that
The Empire doesn't want slaves or destruction or "evil." It wants order.
Moreover, Jon says,
Palpatine is a dictator--but a relatively benign one, like Pinochet.
I wouldn't exactly call Pinochet benign, but the real point is here is that, these days, no one at the Weekly Standard would ever defend the prioritization of order over justice or of dictatorship over even the most ineffectual republic. As someone or other once said, America's most important "attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable."

UPDATE: After mentioning Jon Last, I figured I should go over and check out whether there is any Star Wars commentary up on Galley Slaves. The answer is yes. First of all, Jon's Star Wars retrospective/review of Episode III is now online at the Standard.

In addition, Jon was kind enough to link to my previous speculations about the Dark Side. Given Jon's prediction that
By the time the HD DVD versions of the movies are released, championing the Empire will be a respected vein of thought,
I take it as a complement that he describes the Imperial officers in Episode III as being "dressed smartly in gray and all have the look of Oxbridge men."

Finally, Jon has revised and updated his 2002 defense of the Empire. This time he makes sure to blast the Jedi for being "oligarchs" who do nothing to defend democracy. Moreover, he asks how a supposedly good Republic could tolerate legalized slavery on planets such as Tatooine. Jon still makes his point about order, but I'd say this is very much a post-Iraq, more purely neo-con defense of the Empire. Not that there's anything wrong with that!
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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

# Posted 3:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NEWSWEEK -- MY FIRST CUT: OxBlog always roots for the underdog, so I've decided to start my search for an opinion about the Newsweek debacle by heading over to the liberal side of the blogosphere. Until now, I've mostly just read what the WaPo has to say about the story, and its material seems to confirm the conservative story line that reckless American journalists provoked unjustified riots in Afghanistan. For example, a front-pager from this morning reported that:

The report last week that U.S. military interrogators had desecrated the Koran has now been retracted by Newsweek magazine after five days of violent protests in Afghanistan that left 15 dead.
Although the Post is careful not to say flat out that the report caused the riots, this article and many others seem pretty confident that there was a direct relationship. The standard liberal response to this point is that Gen. Richard Myers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that our commander in the ground in Afghanistan thought that the rioting "was not at all tied to the reporting in the magazine." Brian Montopoli of CJR Daily thinks that Myers' statement pretty decisively clears Newsweek of responsibility for the riots. Josh Marshall seems to concur. But Kevin Drum disagrees. He says of Myers' comments that:

That was five days ago, back when the Army itself still thought the charges of Koran desecration at Guantanamo were plausible enough to merit further investigation. At the time, when they were afraid the charges might be true, they were eager to claim that the riots were entirely unrelated. Now that the charges appear to be false, they're equally eager to pretend that the blood of Afghanistan is on Newsweek's hands.

[CORRECTION: I totally missed the fact that Kevin was trying to be sarcastic, something that he informed me of via e-mail. Strange how something Kevin assumed was patently ridiculous made perfect sense to me. After all, the Army really did have every reason to deny that the Koran incident caused the riots until it discovered that the incident was an apparent fabrication.]

I guess what I'm looking for now are reports from Pakistan and Afghanistan which look at what actually happened on the ground rather than relying on statements from the Pentagon.

Moving, one point that has turned out to be at least as contentious as the facts is the question of its signifiance. The most compelling version of the liberal argument on this point is made by Anne Applebaum in her column from this morning entitled "Blaming the Messenger". In addition to its logic, what makes Applebaum's argument compelling is the credibility of the author. If you follow her work, you know that Applebaum never hesitates to deconstruct liberal shibboleths, such as the moral integrity of the United Nations. Anyhow, the crux of Applebaum's argument about the Newsweek issue is that

The larger point is not the story itself but that it was so eminently plausible, in Pakistan, Afghanistan and everywhere else. And it was plausible precisely because interrogation techniques designed to be offensive to Muslims were used in Iraq and Guantanamo, as administration and military officials have also confirmed.
That is a very hard point to rebut. As bad as Newsweek screwed up, the Koran incident pales in comparison to Abu Ghraib, et al.

In contrast, some of the other liberal arguments about the significance of this case seem tendentious and overblown. Josh Marshall, who is certainly no stranger to high dudgeon, says that he sees
A clear pattern -- a White House trying to decapitate another news organization. The parallels with CBS are obvious...CBS brought the Rather-gate avalanche down upon itself with some very sloppy journalism, but the White House quickly saw the opportunity and grabbed it, effectively taming an entire news organization.
I'm not sure how much evidence there is that CBS has been tamed or, if it has, how long it will stay that way, but Josh goes on to observe that
What I see here is an effort by the White House to set an entirely different standard when it comes to reportage that in any way reflects critically on the White House." [Emphasis in original]
I'm not sure how Josh gets to that conclusion either. Hasn't the White House -- both this one and all of its predecessors -- always lashed out at journalists whose work it doesn't like? Somehow, Josh makes it seem that because the White House now has an actual reason to be pissed off at journalists, its criticism is less legitimate than ever.

While I agree that the White House seems somewhat oblivious to its effort to call the kettle black, journalists tend to be equally oblivious to their own shortcomings. So as far as I'm considered, this is just another round of bickering in the well-established love-hate relationship between the press and the White House.

On the bright side, I am always grateful for any scandal du jour that gets Josh Marshall interested in foreign policy, since he always stands four-square behind the principle of democracy promotion, even if he only seems to write about when things are looking bad for this administration.
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