Sunday, June 19, 2005

# Posted 1:28 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RECLAIMING RELIGION FROM THE RIGHT: I direct your attention to Faith and Justice, a new website/blog devoted to exploring the relationship between religion and politics. F&J's editor-in-chief is my good friend Allison "Allie" Carter, one of the sweetest and kindest people I have ever known -- but also razor sharp.

In her introductory post, Allie writes that
Historically speaking, in America, the word "religious" has not meant what it is taken to mean today: relentlessly conservative, against abortion, against gay people.

Faithandjustice.org is therefore, not a beginning, but a reclaiming. This site gives voice to a progressive view of religion in America.
And thus I look forward to many passionate disagreements that leave us all a little bit wiser.
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Saturday, June 18, 2005

# Posted 4:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STARBUCKS IS EVIL! (A FISKING): This front pager from the WaPo is the most enterainingly absured bit of muckraking I have read in a very long time. It reports that Starbucks' overpriced lattes are impoverishing needy students across the nation. I sent my brief response to the Post in the form of a letter to the editor:
Dear Washington Post,

God bless Starbucks. If overpriced coffee ["Javanomics 101", National, June 18] helps more students like myself get through college and grad school, then more power to it. Data from the 2000 Census shows that Americans with a bachelor's degree earned about $15,000 more per year than those with a high school degree. Those with an advanced degree earned an additional $13,000 per year, approximately. This divide has grown steadily over the years and will continue to grow as information and services become more and more important to our national economy. The next time you see a stressed-out student ordering a Double Caramel Part-Skim Macchiato, what you should feel is hope, not pity.

David Adesnik
Charlottesville, VA
My longer response shall take the form of a full frontal fisking, in which I haven't engaged for quite some time:

Javanomics 101: Today's Coffee is Tomorrow's Debt;
The Latte Generation Hears a Wake Up Call

By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 18, 2005; Page A01

SEATTLE -- At a Starbucks across the street from Seattle University School of Law, Kirsten Daniels crams for the bar exam. She's armed with color-coded pens, a don't-mess-with-me crease in her brow and what she calls "my comfort latte."

She just graduated summa cum laude, after three years of legal training that left her $115,000 in debt. Part of that debt, which she will take a decade to repay with interest, was run up at Starbucks, where she buys her lattes.

Part of the $115,000 debt Kirsten Daniels of Seattle incurred to finance law school went toward her regular caffeine fix. The habit costs her nearly $3 a day, and it's one that her law school says she and legions like her cannot afford.

My heart is already bleeding for poor Ms. Daniels. To think that she might be only $112,000 in debt if not for the pernicious influence of Starbucks!

And might I ask how much will Ms. Daniels be earning next year? Seattle University may only be #95 in the US News & World Report rankings, but my cousin went to law school at #96, Syracuse, and he is pulling down top dollar at a New York firm these days.

It borders on apostasy in this caffeine-driven town (home to more coffee shops per capita than any major U.S. city, as well as Starbucks corporate headquarters), but the law school is aggressively challenging the drinking habits of students such as Daniels.

"A latte a day on borrowed money? It's crazy," said Erika Lim, director of career services at the law school.

I'm glad Ms. Lim is worried about the really important things that affect her students' prospects for a successful future.

To quantify the craziness, Lim distributes coffee-consumption charts. One shows that a five-day-a-week $3 latte habit on borrowed money can cost $4,154, when repaid over 10 years. She also directs students to a Web site she helped create. The "Stop Buying Expensive Coffee and Save Calculator" ( http://www.hughchou.org/calc/coffee.cgi ) shows that if you made your own coffee and for 30 years refrained from buying a $3 latte, you could save $55,341 (with interest).

Remember how in high school they used to brink in a throat cancer survivor with an electronic voice box to tell you about the perils of smoking? Perhaps Ms. Lim can invite some impoverished middle-aged lawyers to tell the students at Seattle U. about how Starbucks forces their children to go to bed hungry at night.

Inside the Starbucks across from the law school, Daniels seemed surprised -- but unmoved -- to hear all this. "I guess I never had done the math," she said. "On the other hand, I would be a very crabby person without my comfort latte."
Therein lies the rub for those who would curb latte consumption with pocketbook reasoning. As Lim concedes, "no one pays any attention."

How did an ignoramus like Kirsten Daniels ever graduate summa cum laude? Doesn't she know that counting her coffee dollars is at least as important as acing her coursework? And even if Daniels is no Einstein, I bet she can estimate how much more she will earn as a reuslt of having a law degree.

Financial planners, best-selling investment gurus and a number of advice columnists have been warning consumers for years that seemingly insignificant daily spending on such luxuries as gourmet coffee can, over time, sabotage savings and hobble a person's financial future.

It's not the cigarettes. It's not the booze. It's not even McDonalds. It is the gourmet coffee that is forces senior citizens to eat cat food!

But these warnings, too, have been ignored, at least as measured by the runaway growth and profitability of Starbucks, the world's leading purveyor of specialty coffee. Its stock is up more than 1,200 percent in the past 10 years. When it went public in 1992, the company had 125 stores. It now has more than 9,000 locations around the world and long-term plans for 20,000 more.

Call the United Nations! Call Bono! If Starbucks opens another 20,000 locations worldwide, the poverty epidemic may never be stopped. By the way, has anyone suggested to the French and Germans that the real cause of their double-digit unemployment is Starbucks?

Starbucks declined to comment for this article, referring questions to the Specialty Coffee Association of America, a trade group. Its spokesman, Mike Ferguson, said that coffee shops provide an excellent opportunity for students to do their homework...

Godd***ed corporate stooges! It's people like Mike Ferguson who put a smiling face on the rape of American youth. And what about Starbucks? It's no better than a child molester walking the courthouse steps muttering to the press, "No comment. No comment."

In decades past, lenders chided college students for excessive spending of borrowed money on pizza and cigarettes, but the staggering ubiquity of Starbucks appears to have narrowed the nagging to foamy espresso drinks...

Don't forget the famous Pizza Crisis of the 1970s! It didn't get as much attention as the oil crisis, but that's just because the Italians control the media. Which reminds me, who do you think invented espresso and cappucino?

"The question that needs to be posed is 'Do they really need to have a Starbucks every day?' " said Jeffrey Hanson, director of borrower education service at Access Group, a Delaware-based organization that is the nation's third-largest provider of graduate school loans. "Since they are living, in part, on borrowed money, they need to be aware of the opportunity cost of that $3 latte. Once they spend it, it is not available for a loaf of bread."...

Hanson is right. Who do you think is really responsible for the legions of ragged students begging for crusts of bread in Cambridge and Berkeley? Starbucks, that's who.

But these warnings have a way of getting lost amid the sweet aromas emanating from university-owned espresso shops inside nearly every major building on campus. The university began a major espresso expansion in 1997, after a survey found that coffee was far and away the favorite on-campus "food."...

It's a sad tale, but true. The thrifty young student comes to campus in pursuit of knowledge, only be to led astray by casual sex, recreational drugs and the sweet aromas of the roasted coffee bean.

At Seattle University School of Law, Lim concedes the futility of persuading students to stop spending borrowed money on high-priced coffee. Still, she refuses to give up. The consequences of latte-larded law school debts are worrisome for the legal profession, she said, insidiously tilting career paths toward jobs that pay more but satisfy less.

Thank God for the lonely crusaders like Erika Lim. Sure, everyone thought that the abolitionists were crazy in the 1830s and 1840s. But just as their persistence ended our enslavement to King Cotton, crusaders like Lim will liberate us from King Coffee.

"The amount of money you owe directly affects the professional choices you have," she said.

Debt-panicked law school graduates, she said, tend to run away from low-paying jobs such as public defender (about $45,000 a year) and into the more remunerative arms of corporate law.

Lim, by the way, is not a latte drinker, unless someone else pays.

Just like me. I don't frequent prostitutes unless someone else pays them. As for the lack of public defenders, I assure you with total confidence that it has absolutely nothing to do with the rising cost of tuition at America's law schools.

In closing, all I can say is: Students of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chain-stores!

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# Posted 3:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ONLY BUSH CAN DELIVER THE MESSAGE TO UZBEKISTAN: The White House says that DoD is on board with its efforts to stand up for human rights and democracy in Uzbekistan, but the press has been reporting a split between State and Defense for some time now.

While refusing to actually say that it opposes the State Department's efforts to hold Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov accountable for the recent massacre in Andijon, the military would apparently prefer to preserve access to its bases in Uzbekistan.

If Bush wants Karimov to know that America is serious about human rights and democracy promotion, he will have to deliver the message himself. Otherwise, Karimov will have a strong incentive to interpret the lack of consensus in Washington as a greenlight for further repression. Moreover, Bush will have to back his message up by making firm demands for an external investigation of the events at Andijon.

Almost two weeks ago, the WaPo argued that the value of our bases in Uzbekistan is hardly enough to justify compromising our most important principles in the war on terror. There are bases available elsewhere. In contrast, our credibility will suffer a damaging blow if we allow Karimov to crush legitimate dissent in the name of fighting Islamic terrorists. As the Weekly Standard points out,
The Taliban has been defeated, and, with the liberation of Iraq, the nature of the global struggle to which the Bush administration is committed is no longer exclusively focused on the destruction of terrorist redoubts. We are now committed to a democratizing effort that challenges tyranny along with terror as threats to peace and freedom around the world. The Uzbek regime that was part of the solution in 2001 is now, with its bloody suppression of protests, part of the problem.
Republicans on the Hill have also become increasingly critical of Karimov. The WaPo editorial points out that after returning from a visit to Tashkent, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Sununu all announced that Karimov's behavior has called the value of our diplomatic relationship into question.

Some might suggest that Bush's minimal presence up to this point suggests that he isn't following the issue or isn't concerned about human rights and democracy in Uzbekistan. But for quite some time now, Bush has refused to make excuses for authoritarian allies. He hasn't challenged every one the way he has Putin or Mubarak, but that takes time. Given a little more time, I expect Bush to approach Uzbekistan in a manner fully consistent with his principles.
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# Posted 2:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AN ACADEMIC BLOG OF NOTE: Prof. Daniel Nexon of Georgetown (aka OxBlog reader "DN") is now blogging at the cleverly-named Duck of Minerva. Although DN has kinder thoughts about realism than does OxBlog, this post from DN explores a whole 'nother dimension of Kissinger's delusional arguments about China that I barely got to touch on in my original post.
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# Posted 2:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A SCHOLARLY DEFENSE OF REALISM: Grad student PS takes OxBlog to task for attacking a strawman version of realism rather than the doctrine itself:
First off, the notion that a nuclear Iraq would be problematic but not inherently disastrous isn’t some bizarre notion – the fairly-insane regimes of Stalin and Mao proved manageable even once they got nuclear weapons. The same arguments made in favor of stopping a nuclear Iraq were also made in the early 1960s about stopping the PRC from getting the bomb (see Frank Gavin’s recent work on the Gilpatric Commission) and have been proven quite terribly wrong in retrospect. So maybe “wow” is one possible response, but another might be “nuclear deterrence is pretty robust, even in the face of genocidal psychopaths.”

Second, you badly misrepresent Mearsheimer’s arguments, and the rest of realism’s approach to the Cold War. He wasn’t a Cold War dove in the 1980s, but neither was he a hawk as you claim – he cut his teeth arguing that the conventional balance in Europe wasn’t nearly as bad for NATO as hawks like Sam Huntington and Eliot Cohen kept claiming it was (see the 1988 exchange in IS between Mearsheimer, Posen, and Cohen for an example; moreover, history has borne JJM out on this argument). His “Back to the Future” article’s analysis was premised on US withdrawal from Europe, which didn’t happen, and so the causal logic hasn’t had a chance to be tested (by the way, it was 1990, not the mid-1990s).

Third, it’s not clear that somehow Morgenthau was wrong in arguing that such fun adventures as Vietnam were not in America’s vital national interests. The twilight wars on the periphery were sideshows from defending the main strongpoints that locked up the keys to world power. It’s not threat deflation to say that American vital interests were simply not involved in places like Africa. Moreover, it’s hard to tell exactly what you’re referring to with the Cold War and realism – apparently “many other realists were hawkish then too” but somehow also were “downgrading the threat.” For the most part in the 1980s realists were arguing for robust conventional and nuclear deterrence in Europe and East Asia while trying to keep the US from getting too bogged down in the Third World. Europe mattered, while the Third World only did in certain areas and in certain ways. A mixture of hawkishness and dove-ishness.

Fourth, I don’t understand your critique of defensive realism as ignoring the domestic nature of regimes (an “almost complete disregard”). Walt writes on the effects of revolution, Van Evera on militarism, organizational politics, nationalism, and misperception (you might want to read “Primed for Peace” or “Hypotheses on Nationalism and War” or “Why Cooperation Failed in WWI”), Posen on military organizations (“Sources of Military Doctrine”), and Snyder on domestic log-rolling, bureaucracies and international expansion (“Myths of Empire” and “The Ideology of the Offensive”). Most of this was written during the Cold War or was developed during it and published very soon after. Since then, people like Tom Christensen and Randy Schweller have very seriously looked at domestic politics. So I’m not really sure exactly what your point is. Snyder and Van Evera explicitly talked about democracies as being less expansionistic than dictatorships and especially oligarchic/log-rolling regimes. Maybe that’s “almost complete disregard” but given that these are major figures it’s hard to see how. Some people disagree with them, while others don’t think they go far enough in looking at domestic politics. But it’s not like domestic politics have been ignored.

Fifth, Walt appears to be right that NATO is no longer a very important alliance – the US doesn’t use it for much of anything, and the Europeans are slowly putting together their own power projection force. And if it does exist in some serious fashion, I don’t see how that’s the result of democracy. The US has been allied with Saudi Arabia and Jordan for decades too, and that’s not because of democracy.

Sixth, the offensive/defensive realist distinction you make is wrong – both look at armed force as the only effective deterrent. “The implicit deterrent of alliances” you refer to as the focus of defensive realists is backed by armed force; alliances are about armed force. The distinction between offensive and defensive realism is based on other things, like the efficiency of balancing, the probabilistic or possibilistic nature of state decision-making, the impact of nuclear weapons on deterrence, the ability to signal and detect state “type,” and the impact of domestic pathologies (discussed above) in leading to war. Armed force is crucial to both, as it is to any theory of international security, realist or not.

So I guess I just remain confused by your intellectual history of the field and current read on world politics. And I’m not really comfortable with you casting sweeping aspersions on the beliefs and motives of scholars whose work you appear not to have read, at least in any detail. Realists of various stripes have been right about lots of things, have looked at the issues you claim they haven’t, and have offered much more nuanced arguments than you give them credit for. They’ve also been wrong about lots of issues and ignored others, obviously. It’s always fun to beat up on “realism” but there are good and bad ways to do it.
Let me respond briefly. First of all, I think PS does a good job of illustrating that my previous comments can't do full justice to a scholarly enterprise in which hundreds of brilliant men and women have taken part over the past few decades. For those with a serious interest in realism, there is no replacement for reading actual books written by realists, rather than OxBlog's anti-realist polemics.

That said, I stand by my basic points and continue to disagree with PS. Unless one is comfortable with the current situation in North Korea, I don't see how one can describe deterrence as a robust response to the hypothetical situation of a nuclear Iraq (c. 2002) or Iran today. My previous point about the Cuban Missile Crisis suggests why deterrence was not ideal or safe during the Cold War, either.

Second, Morgenthau deserves credit for his early opposition to the war in Vietnam. However, this in no way vindicates his persistent criticism of Truman and others for taking Soviet ideology very seriously. With regard to the 1980s and the late Cold War, I basically agree with PS's characterization of where the realists stood.

When it comes to the defensive realists and domestic politics, I will avoid further discussion on the somewhat spurious grounds that this debate is too detailed and too distant from actual history and politics. (If I am wrong, and there are a lot of you out there who want to see OxBlog wrangle over the legacy of defensive realism, just send me an e-mail.) The same point applies to the subject of the offensive-defensive divide, although in that instance I tend to agree with PS's characterization of the subject.
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# Posted 1:55 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TOUGHER THAN GETTING INTO HARVARD: In a sharp essay on Iran, Patrick Clawson notes that:
The Guardian Council only approved the presidential candidacies of 8 out of 1,014 applicants.
Those eight must have had some very impressive resumes.
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# Posted 1:40 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANOTHER REALIST TO KICK AROUND? Larry Kaplan writes that Chuck Hagel is just Kissinger-lite.
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# Posted 1:08 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEFENDING KISSINGER (BUT NOT REALISM): OxBlog is fortunate to have a very sophisticated readership. Thus, not just one, but two scholars have taken the time to critique my recent post about China and Kissinger. AS writes in that
I think you've missed some of the insight in Kissinger's (admittedly dull) commentary on China. The comparison between Clausewitz and Sunzi is more telling than chronology may indicate, for while the current batch of Chinese leaders may be closer in time to Mao, they are far closer in thinking to the legalist and Confucian bureaucrats of millennia past. It is an age-old tradition of foreign peoples trying to conquer the territory of China, only to be conquered themselves by its civilization. It happened first to the Mongols, then to the Manchus, and now to the German/Russian communists.
Although I defer to others' expertise about China, it would seem to me that the old men now running the show in Beijing were thoroughly indoctrinated by the totalitarian Maoist system in the 50s and 60s. Shall we suppose that once Deng's liberalization began in the 80s, these men became sudden converts to the wisdom of Sunzi (aka Sun Tzu)?

On a related note, AS continues that:
While China may be a vast empire, it is run very differently from the Soviet one before it. Russian culture was not developed enough to sustain true authoritarianism--even in the darkest days of Stalin's purges, underground organizers and samizdat publishers continued operating. The entire Soviet Union, not just the non-Russian parts but the Russian as well, were held together by force because they could not be held together by politics. Contrast the experience of the Cultural Revolution, where the sheer development of Chinese society (socially, not economically) created a web of passive oppression that left no free time or individuality for 'counter-revolutionaries.'
Twenty years ago, who would have said that Russian culture, from the czars to the Politburo, wasn't developd enough to sustain true authortarianism? That said, of course I agree that China is very different from the Soviet Union, but primarily because it now allows many of its citizens some very important measures of freedom, primarily economic. Although I again defer to others' expertise about China, my knowledge of the Cultural Revolution suggests that there was very little passive about it. Its brutality was overt and horrific.

Returning to the present day, AS argues that:
This is not to say that the Chinese system is any less oppressive or less evil. It is to say that military force, and the entire web of containment created to combat the Soviet threat, will be far less useful with regard to China...In China, such a scenario is entirely implausible: the country's economic growth, though unsustainable, is not going to collapse into depression. More importantly, the use of political and social power in the background to control society (ever since learning their lesson after Tienanmen) means that the vast majority of native Chinese harbor no real resentment against the system. To talk to them, the communist party is like a big corporation: silly with its rules, policies and propaganda, but ultimately more a joke than a monstrous evil.
I have very serious reservations about the assertion that most Chinese regard the ruling party as little more than a bureaucratic inconvenience. Although what we mostly hear about is economic progress, there is enough violent social tension in China to break onto America's front pages every so often. Although prosperity mitigates such concerns, corrupation and abuse is rampant in the PRC.

AS concludes that:
Put simply, the Chinese state is too well held together by economic success and strong social control to simply succumb to containment.
That I may agree with. But China doesn't have an ideology of global expansion the way the Soviet Union did, so containing it would amount to something very different than another Cold War. In short, we need to defend Taiwan, support the Japanese, and restrict Chinese support for rogue governments and (possibly) terrorist organizations.

What we are waiting for in the meantime is not for the Chinese system to collapse under its own weight, but for the people of China (and perhaps even the government) to see that becoming a First World nation demands political reforms as well as economic ones.
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Friday, June 17, 2005

# Posted 11:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEFENDING REALISM (BUT NOT KISSINGER): Dr. DN, a real live professor of international relations, protests that
You can't be serious when you write [about China]:
"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."
Ever read any Mearsheimer? The realists think China is where *all* the action is at vis-a-vis coming political conflicts, and they don't think much of the liberal "socialization" project for China. Kissinger is an outlier because, to be blunt, he represents a lot of interests that would like us to make nice to China....Don't pin this on realism.
I have had the misfortune to read many things written by Prof. Mearsheimer, but not regarding China. What those readings indicate is that Mearsheimer, like Kissinger, sometimes draws on a remarkable well of naivete in order to justify accommodating dangerous opponents. Although many intelligent individuals opposed the invasion of Iraq on fairly substantive grounds, Mearsheimer and fellow realist Stephen Walt argued that going to war was a bad idea even if we were fully confident that Saddam was in the process of developing nuclear weapons. They wrote:
But what if Saddam invaded Kuwait again and then said he would use nuclear weapons if the United States attempted another Desert Storm? Again, this threat is not credible. If Saddam initiated nuclear war against the United States over Kuwait, he would bring U.S. nuclear warheads down on his own head. Given the choice between withdrawing or dying, he would almost certainly choose the former. Thus, the United States could wage Desert Storm II against a nuclear-armed Saddam without precipitating nuclear war.
Wow. Wow. Repeat: Wow. These guys were confident that a nuclear Iraq would've been no problem to handle. As I responded at the time:
One could have argued at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis that according to strict logic, nuclear war was impossible. Yet no one knew that then and no one knows it now.
What's interesting is that realism has a long pedigree of favoring appeasement. E.H. Carr, the founding father of realism, was a staunch supporter of Neville Chamberlain's accomodationist approach to Hitler. And I think I'm not exaggerating when I say that Hitler was the Hitler of his time.

In the early 1950s, the second founding father of realism, Hans Morgenthau, viciously denounced Truman for being too hawkish toward the Soviets. Now it is true that the other great realist of the late 40s and early 50s -- George Kennan -- elaborated the doctrine of containment. Yet by the early 50s, Kennan had also turned against Truman on the grounds that he was too hawkish. In fact, Kennan even opposed the creation of NATO.

So what we see from Carr, to Morgenthau, to Kennan, to Kissinger, to Mearsheimer & Walt (c. 2002) is a resilient tradition of downgrading the threat presented by aggressive dictatorships. Yet as Prof. DN would be sure to point out, Mearsheimer was the quite the hawk during the 1980s. Many other realists were hawkish then as well.

This countertrend represented the growth of an emerging divide between "offensive" and "defensive" realists. The offensive faction tended to see the costs of aggression as low, and therefore thought of armed force as the only effective deterrent. The defensive faction had more confidence in the implicit deterrent of alliances, for example the Sino-American willingness to punish hypothetical Soviet aggression.

What united the offensive and defensive factions was an almost total disregard for the internal composition of the regimes they analyzed. The idea that democracies don't go to war with one another struck them as being as naive and dangerous.

These days, realism is in a state of flux, primarily because of the end of the Cold War. According to almost all pre-1991 realist theory, a unipolar world is something that simply shouldn't exist. Then, in the mid-1990s, Mearsheimer famously invested his reputation in the prediction that in the absence of a Soviet threat, Europe would descend once again into the internecine warfare of the pre-1945 era. Around the same time, Walt predicted that in the absence of a Soviet threat, NATO would fall apart. As you can see, the probelm with these bold predictions is that they ignored the difference between dictatorship and democracy.

Getting back to China, I'm guessing that the same offensive-defensive divide that bifurcated realist approaches to the Soviet Union is also responsible for mixed opinions about China. In addition, many realists have rushed to embrace the idea that democratizing powers, as opposed to established democracies, are especially war prone. When I track down Mearsheimer's latest on the Middle Kingdom, I'll let you know what he says.

In conclusion, DN is right that I should tar every realist with the stain of Kissinger's Sinophilic accomodationism. But the intellectual impulses responsible for Kissinger's short-sightness are endemic to the realist community.
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# Posted 8:06 AM by Patrick Belton  

PHOTOBLOGGING ROYAL ASCOT: I went with OxBlog's Asia correspondent to York to cover Ascot yesterday, and a bit of photoblogging results. I believe there were several races, though any real proof of this was obscured by the rotation of planetarily-dimensioned hats. I personally did not have a flutter, but can nonetheless attest that all the nicest horses won anyway. This I was told by someone wearing a hat.

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

# Posted 6:48 PM by Patrick Belton  

QUOTE OF THE DAY: From CNN (and a story about that perennially fascinating topic, the relationship of mountain-climbing to excrement) "They think they're going out on a pristine climb and there's virus-laden poo all around them."
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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

# Posted 12:44 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

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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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