Tuesday, June 14, 2005
# Posted 2:00 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, June 13, 2005
# Posted 2:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:21 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, June 12, 2005
# Posted 11:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:44 PM by Patrick Belton
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.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:19 PM by Patrick Belton
Saturday, June 11, 2005
# Posted 11:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Next up, Mickey Kaus provides a humorously scathing compilation of EJ Dionne's efforts to persuade
# Posted 10:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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: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.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.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.
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, June 10, 2005
# Posted 8:14 AM by Patrick Belton
Thursday, June 09, 2005
# Posted 1:37 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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...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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:36 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 1:25 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
# Posted 10:27 AM by Patrick Belton
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
# Posted 5:51 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:18 AM by Patrick Belton
Monday, June 06, 2005
# Posted 11:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
"WOOLF"(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:28 AM by Patrick Belton
Sunday, June 05, 2005
# Posted 6:42 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 6:01 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:50 AM by Patrick Belton
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.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:37 AM by Patrick Belton
# 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)(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, June 04, 2005
# Posted 7:29 AM by Patrick Belton
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:09 AM by Patrick Belton
The temptation to excerpt I couldn't resist:
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:40 AM by Patrick Belton
Thursday, June 02, 2005
# Posted 12:29 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:43 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 2:26 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 2:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 2:06 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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...'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.
(1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
# Posted 3:59 PM by Patrick Belton
Some people find the gherkin a bit, well, too appealing. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:56 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:51 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:44 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:41 PM by Patrick Belton
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
# Posted 9:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:17 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:45 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, May 28, 2005
# Posted 2:24 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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...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 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.]I can only hope that students also get this kind of education on our nation's civlians campuses. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:21 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 2:10 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Thursday, May 26, 2005
# Posted 4:44 PM by Patrick Belton
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.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:37 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:29 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:34 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:28 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:13 AM by Patrick Belton
* ah, the google hits we'll get today. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:00 AM by Patrick Belton
(And as to whether posting will remain rather more truculent than normal until any hypothetical birthday hangover subsides, I maintain scrupulously no comment.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
# Posted 9:31 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:04 AM by Patrick Belton
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:00 AM by Patrick Belton
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
# Posted 10:48 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 10:07 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 6:51 AM by Patrick Belton
Sunday, May 22, 2005
# Posted 8:03 AM by Patrick Belton
Um, I'll have what he's having? (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:59 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 7:49 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 6:51 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 6:36 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 6:03 AM by Patrick Belton
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.
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.
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.
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 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! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:56 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, May 21, 2005
# Posted 8:46 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:26 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 6:05 PM by Patrick Belton
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:02 AM by Patrick Belton
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, May 20, 2005
# Posted 7:16 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 12:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
# Posted 3:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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:
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion