Monday, July 11, 2005
# Posted 2:28 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Yesterday morning, the NYT called for the expansion of the US army by 100,000 men. Of course, the editorial began with the usual litany of accusations about Bush's incompetence, etc. But when it comes down to nuts and bolts, supporting this kind of ambitious, expensive and (in my opinion) necessary objective suggests that the Times doesn't want to resolve the struggle in Iraq or in the broader Middle East via disengagement or via an unquestioned reliance on international institutions.
Instead, the Times seems to understand that no matter how much value there is to be had from international cooperation and from the forthright consideration of America's numerous flaws, the successful waging of the war on terror must rest on a foundation of incomparable military power. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:26 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
(Hat tip to my brother MA for suggesting this question.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, July 10, 2005
# Posted 7:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Yet in that same gift shop, depictions of the Confederate flag (more precisely, the Confederate battle flag) side by side with the American flag clearly show that either the American flag is more red or the Confederate flag is more orange. By the same token, my brother and I went to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert in Norfolk last night, where one of the backdrops for the stage was half of an American flag with half of a Confederate flag next to it. The colors were clearly different.
So, if any of you happen to know what the precise hue of the Confederate flag is, please let me know. Is it a specific kind of red that has some orange in it? Was it always that way? I'm curious. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, July 08, 2005
# Posted 5:42 AM by Patrick Belton
Sometimes, you think, we are becoming soft, far more ready to give way to sloppy self-indulgent emotionalism than our parents and grandparents were; that the upper lip is more often wobbly than stiff. And then you get something like this.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:36 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
If I could have one small wish for today, it would be for the blogosphere on both left and right to refrain from political point scoring over the London attacks. Just for a day. Isn't tomorrow soon enough to return to our usual arguments?I wish there more
President Bush has created a great running wound on the whole country in the form of the mess he's created in Iraq -- a wound bleeding blood, treasure and a scourge of national division which is now impossible to ignore but which we can ill-afford.From the other end of the spectrum, Belmont Club writes that
The tragedy is that Al Qaeda's perception [of Western cowardice] is perfectly correct when applied to the Left, for whom no position is too supine, no degradation too shameful to endure; but incorrect for the vast majority of humans, in whom the instinct for self-preservation has not yet been extinguished.Yeah, that's pretty apalling. I expect better from a highly intelligent analyst such as Wretchard.
In the same post, Wretchard also argues that yesterday morning's attack is a sign of Al Qaeda's weakness. He then specifies that this weakness stems from the fact that
Thousands of Al Qaeda fighters, the cream of their rancid crop, is fighting to expel the American infidel from the Land Between the Rivers [i.e. Iraq]. A moment's reflection will show that if they are there they cannot be elsewhere -- in London, Paris, Rome or Boston -- sowing bombs on buses and trains.I disagree with both of Wretchard's points. His stronger point is the first, i.e. that the relatively low human cost of yesterday's attack is a sign of Al Qaeda's weakness. The same point has been made by Andrew Sullivan (citing The Economist) and, in a somewhat different way, by Anne-Marie Slaughter.
But ask yourself the following question: What if those attacks had taken place in Chicago, New York or Los Angeles? After almost four years of apparent immunity from terror, it would have seemed that Al Qaeda had finally recovered from its initial setbacks enough to breach the citadel once again. If those attacks had taken place on American soil, this administration's record on homeland security would immediately have become the foremost subject of debate.
But yet we treat the attack differently because it was in London. That is not wholly wrong, given that British membership in Europe entails vulnerability to a very different set of threats than those we face in the United States. For example, it will be interesting to see how many of those who carried out the bombings were either residents or citizens of the EU.
Nonetheless, I am profoundly discomforted by the fact that terrorists have been able to carry out such a well-coordinated attack on a Western nation. Moreover, given that the target was Britain, it seems implausible to suggest that its government was in any way less concerned about the prospect of terrorism than our own. And if Al Qaeda can breach Britain's defense's (or Spain's) then can we really consider an attack on the United States out of the question?
Again, it comes down to the question of to what degree Europe is vulnerable to a different set of threats than the United States. Thus, given that we know so little at the moment about the origins of the attack, I think it is very premature to suggest that this was a sign of Al Qaeda's weakness.
Now, with regard to Wretchard's argument that the war in Iraq has diverted Al Qaeda from the West, I raise the following questions: How do we know that Al Qaeda hasn't reserved its best operatives for attacks against Europe and the United States while sending its foot soldiers into the trenches in Iraq? And how do we know that Iraq doesn't serve as an effective training ground for Al Qaeda, where those who survive gain the ability to operate in much less supportive enivornments, such as London or New York?
In a limited sense, the "flypaper theory" is most certainly right; the war in Iraq is chewing up a lot of jihadist manpower. But is it chewing up enough to ensure that there aren't 19 more terrorists ready and able to carry out another 9/11?
UPDATE: If I'd known that Matt Yglesias were mocking the advocates of the flypaper theory, maybe I would've found some more good things to say about it. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:02 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Unfortunately, an unidentified editor at the Times took some rather extraordinary liberties with Phil's argument, which the paper has now explained as follows:
The Op-Ed page in some copies yesterday carried an incorrect version of an article about military recruitment. The writer, an Army reserve officer, did not say, "Imagine my surprise the other day when I received orders to report to Fort Campbell, Ky., next Sunday," nor did he characterize his recent call-up to active duty as the precursor to a "surprise tour of Iraq." That language was added by an editor and was to have been removed before the article was published. Because of a production error, it was not. The Times regrets the error.Those additions are so inflammatory and so at odds with the tone of Phil's column that they almost defy explanations. The unidentified editor's political motives may be rather transparent, but I have no idea how a professional editor could behave in such an unprofessional manner.
Michael Barone, also an editor by trade, says that the editor responsible for the additions should be fired. I am not ruthless enough to make such a suggestion, but I do think the editor involved should have the courage to admit what he did rather than hiding behind an anonymous "Editor's Note". (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, July 07, 2005
# Posted 1:53 PM by Patrick Belton
The numbers were mercifully smaller, though by a certain logic of perception it was 9/11 all over again; the same day of thoughtful and concerned telephone calls to friends, from friends, an eerily familiar difficulty with the mobile network over the metropole. These numbers are currently 33 (the number of confirmed deaths) and four (the roster of confirmed attacks: a tunnel near Liverpool Street metro station; a tunnel between Russell Square and King's Cross stations; an Underground train at Edgware Road station; and the bus near Russell Square) Perhaps the more gratifying aspect is that thanks to the members of the security services, they were not higher, and it all hadn’t happened long before: a security source who briefed The Economist last year gave details of several attempted terrorist attacks on the capital that had been foiled before fruition. (Economist). To each of them, then: well done, you. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:45 AM by Patrick Belton
UPDATE: Transport Police are currently describing incidents as having taken place at the Aldgate, Edgware Road, King's Cross, Old Street and Russell Square stations. There are also reports of two trains colliding near King's Cross. The first waves of speculation have connected the attacks to yesterday's announcement awarding the city the 2012 Olympics. A caller to BBC Five described the Russell Square bus as ripped open like a can of sardines and bodies everywhere".
The Prime Minister has left the G-8 summit in Gleneagles to return to London. His statement: 'It's particularly barbaric that this has happened on a day when people are meeting to try to help the problems of poverty in Africa and the long-term problems of climate change and the environment. Just as it is reasonably clear that this is a terrorist attack or a series of terrorist attacks, it is also reasonably clear that it is designed and aimed to coincide with the opening of the G8. ... It's important however that those engaged in terrorism realise that our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause death and destruction to innocent people in a desire to impose extremism on the world. Whatever they do, it is our determination that they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear in this country and in other civilised nations throughout the world. (Full statement).
Laura Matthews, a press officer at Universities UK, which has offices in Tavistock Square, told the Guardian she had seen bodies lying around the bus explosion, some of them without arms or legs. A passenger on the train that exploded at Edgware Road also was quoted, by the Press Asssociation, as saying he had seen several bodies in the wreckage. (Guardian story).
The London Underground system has been shut down entirely, in a move thought to be unprecedented. The FTSE 100 index has plunged this morning by over 200 points. (Times) In government response, the Cobra committee of senior civil emergency ministers has met, and a Commons statement is expected later today. Cobra has met on only four previous occasions; it receives its name from the room in Downing Street where its meetings take place, Cabinet Office Briefing Room A. The committee can call on any minister or senior civil servant to take part, as well as fire, police and ambulance chiefs, military commanders and the heads of the security and intelligence services MI5 and MI6; it is supported by a permanent Civil Contingencies Secretariat in the Cabinet Office; and it acts as a centre of expertise for emergency planning, produces regular assessments of potential crises and runs exercises to test the authorities' readiness to respond. (BBC)
CNN is reporting that the emergency services have successfully removed all survivors from Kings Cross tube stop, leaving a number of dead below ground "in the double digits." (CNN) Police have found traces of explosives in one of the six presently confirmed blast locations. Home Secretary Charles Clarke is identifying six explosion sites at the moment: at the Edgware Road, Moorgate, King's Cross, Liverpool Street and Russell Square stations; and on a double-decker No 59 bus near Russell Square outside the Tavistock Hotel. The first blast was on a train at Aldgate East at 8.49am. (Times)
I'm quite struck by the strategic cynicism of attacking public transportation, and then after an interval, the crowded bus lines once commuters had been diverted to them. But several friends I spoke with this morning who have lived in Israel say that this pattern - an initial attack, followed by a staggered attack on emergency services once they'd arrived - isn't at all uncommon. (My friends living abroad are kindly texting to see if i have all of my relevant body parts, attached in the appropriate fashion.) I find that such an attack on commuting civilians completely unengaged with the machinery of government, war, or administration is striking me as stomach-turning and revolting in a way I could not have previously imagined.
A friend has kindly pointed out I might perhaps justifiably acquire a bit of paranoia; on 11 September, I'd just arrived in Washington, from New York (and spent the day with David in the Carnegie Endowment building); now, notes my friend, they're coming after me in Britain. (Another friend helpfully opines, 'I'm sure it's not personal'.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
# Posted 4:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 3:53 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
One way around such demands is to have celebrities pull at our collective heartstrings until we feel guilty enough to demand that our governments give more. OxBlog may not be susceptible to that sort of emotional manipulation, but we here do recognize that it can be quite effective.
Another way around such objections -- one that is preferred by smart liberal policymakers -- is to argue that fighting poverty is integral to our national security. In other words, we shouldn't care about poverty because we are good people; we should care about poverty because we are selfish.
This argument has quite a long pedigree. To a certain extent, it provided the basic rationale for the Marshall Plan. (Which worked.) Unquestionably, it represented the foundation of the Kennedy administration's strategy for fighting Communism in the developing world. (Which didn't.)
And now, once again, top-flight thinkers in the Democratic Party such as Susan Rice have begun to apply this argument to the war on terror. And yet I remain unconvinced. Rice argues in the WaPo that
For a rare moment, global poverty reduction is near the top of the international agenda. It's hip. It's moral. And it's smart policy...Which is sort of like saying that the most important way to stop organized crime is to persuade mobsters that their behavior is unethical, but that it is also essential to finance job training programs for Tony Soprano and Michael Corleone.
Sure, job training programs are a good idea. But they are a total waste of money as long as the mobsters prefer the status quo. In addition to spicing up this post with colorful reference to pop culture, this analogy has a point: Most of the governments who would benefit from increased Western aid bear at least as much resemblance to sophisticated protection rackets as they do to what Europeans or North Americans might describe as a government.
Anyhow, Rice goes on to observe that:
The president also claims to have "tripled" aid to Africa over the past four years; in fact, total U.S. assistance to Africa has not even doubled. It has increased 56 percent in real dollars from fiscal 2000 to 2004, the last completed fiscal year. More than half of that increase is emergency food aid -- not assistance that alleviates poverty.Bush should be more precise about what he says, but it strikes me as sort of odd that Rice is complaining about a conservative Republican president who hasn't increased foreign aid as much as she would hope. After all, Rice was assistant secretary of state for Africa during Clinton's second term. If foreign aid is such a good idea, why didn't the uber-intelligent Clinton do more about it during his eight years in office?
Of course, Clinton's indolence doesn't bear directly on the merit of Rice's main argument, which is that
Numerous studies show that poverty fuels conflict...When per capita income reaches $1,000, the risk drops dramatically, and at $5,000 it is less than 1 percent...My first question is, does poverty fuel conflict, or does conflict fuel poverty? To a certain extent, the answer is probably both. But Rice doesn't even acknowledge that conflict-prone societies may just burn their aid on the battlefied.
Second of all, and more importantly, the second half of Rice's argument breaks down into the old "root causes" cliche. It's not as if all poor countries are likely to produce terrorists. Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa seem to produce very few of them, while the Middle East -- including the rich oil nations -- have produced quite a few. And of course, the terrorists themselves seem to come from wealthy and educated backgrounds.
So, would Rice advocate that we only direct our aid toward countries likely to produce terrorists (since poverty is a contributing cause even in the Middle East)? Or would that kind of strict emphasis on national security be too much for her?
When it comes to fighting poverty, I tend to approach the issue the same way as Anne Applebaum:
Each European cow costs taxpayers $2.20 a day, while half the world's population lives on less than $2 a day. Withdraw the subsidies for the cows, and Africans might even be able to make competitive cheese.Eliminating subsidies is a win-win proposition, and it doesn't depend on the good will of corrupt dictatorships with a very poor record of distributing donated Western largesse. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
# Posted 8:55 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:34 AM by Patrick Belton
I have even committed one this morning. Having unwisely entered into a limerick war via text message with a friend who is a PPEist at Dr Chafetz's college (and moonlights at a local noodle bar), my latest contribution was the unremarkable 'There was a young lady from Merton / Whose penchant for noodles was certain / A noodle a day / Keeps the doctor away / But good god how her stomach was hurtin'. This produced the riposte 'You might have replied / I'd rather have died / Than needin' a noodlin' sermon.' This also just goes to show the paucity of the limerick genre when deprived of the ability to trend anatomical, and engage, say, certain parts of my gentle interlocutor's frame with a curtain.
Note supplemental addressed to parties interested in the progress of my dissertation: my statistics chapter, which I really am writing as we speak and which will shortly be ready for inspection, is composed entirely in limerick form.
UPDATE: There once was a man from the stix,
Who liked to compose limmericks,
But he failed at the sport,
'Cause he wrote them too short (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, July 03, 2005
# Posted 2:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
According to the latest surveys, more than 60 percent of Iraqis say their country is moving in the right direction, more than 70 percent expect life to get better for themselves in the future and 90 percent consider violence illegitimate for any political purpose. Most have confidence in the nascent Iraqi security forces and expect them to keep getting better.What are those Iraqis smoking? What's the last time 60 percent of Americans thought their country was moving in the right direction? If only those god***n Iraqis would pick up a newspaper they would realize that their lives are a godforsaken, crime-ridden, car-bomb saturated, no-electrity-and no-running-water mess? What the hell are they optimistic about? Democracy?
Of course, one possibility is that the polls O'Hanlon cites are simply inaccurate. According to OxBlog's personal gadfly, WAB,
It certainly worth keeping in mind all the problems presented by polling in a warzone like Iraq. But the results O'Hanlon cites are so astounding that I don't see how any methodological issues could be responsible for the results. Even if you knocked 20% off of O'Hanlon's numbers, wouldn't it still be astonishing to know that 40% of Iraqi think that Iraq is headed in the right direction and that 50% expect their own lives to get better?
And in case you're wondering, partisan politics are not responsible for O'Hanlon's results. He is a Democrat who has never hesitated to criticize Bush. In fact, most of his op-ed does just that. Also, O'Hanlon is a very, very smart guy and would not use any partisan results prodcuced by Republican operations in Iraq. He is a serious scholar and I have always found him to take great care with his research. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Rove sparked a polarizing debate with a purposefully disingenuous attack on how "liberals" responded to September 11. Next, Democrats dutifully took the bait and spent a week in a defensive crouch howling that they are not wusses on national security.I'm not so sure that Rove was being disingenuous. But Ryan's description of the Democratic response is dead on. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:20 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
For what it's worth, on his radio show, Rush Limbaugh has spoken numerous times about how great the show is (he watches them on DVD over and over, as well), and recently, he said he was invited by the cast and crew to sit in on the taping of this past season's final episode. He said the "24" crew loved him and his radio show, and a great time was had by all. If these are the same people with "pure contempt for Red State America," why is El Rushbo hanging out with them?In addition, the august Kevin Drum (via e-mail) provides
A cautionary note from a longtime 24 fan: the show is *all* over the map. You definitely shouldn't make too much out of that one scene, which was probably just a throwaway from a writer looking for a good way to put a blonde girl in jeopardy yet again. (An ongoing theme, as I'm sure you've noticed.) I remember that episode a bit, and my recollection is that they had written themselves into a corner, and obviously needed something really stupid in order to lose the microchip once again.GP makes the same point as Kevin about Season 4 albeit from a slightly different perspective:
The good news, I think, is that the show has gotten progressively less progressive in each season, culminating in the season just finished, which might be the best yet. So just get the season 4 DVD when it comes out and enjoy the writers moving the plot closer to America’s real enemies than ever before. It’s definitely one of the greatest shows ever, regardless of politics.So here's my situation: I've watched all 48 episodes that comprise the first two seasons of 24. So I can't respond directly to the point about Season 4, but I think that any reasonable viewer (that means you, Kevin Drum) would admit that Season 1 has strong liberal underpinnings and that the entire premise of Season 2 is drawn directly from the pages of The Nation and Common Dreams.
I will now explain precisely what I mean, but warn you all that I will be giving away all of the secret plots twists from the first two seasons. So if you haven't seen them and plan on doing so, you should stop reading right now. Anyway, here goes:
The greatest difference between reality as we know and the "reality" of the first two seasons of 24 is that in the latter, the greatest threats to American national security come from American citizens, not hostile foreigners.
In Season Two, a nuclear bomb explodes on American soil. How did it get there? At first, we learn that Arab terrorists are involved. Then we learn that rogue elements within the Pentagon and NSA allowed the terrorists to bring the bomb onto American soil.
Why would American citizens do something so evil and unpatriotic? Well, some of them want to bring down President David Palmer (played by Dennis Haysbert), and don't mind risking the lives of millions of Americans in the process. Others want to start a major war so that the Palmer, an African-American Democrat, will have to support major increases in the defense budget.
Then, later in the season, we learn that evil executives from a major international oil corporation want to start a war in order to force the price of oil skywards. Whereas the folks at the Pentagon and NSA wanted to stop the terrorists before they detonated the bomb, the oil executives actually want the bomb to go off in Los Angeles proper.
Thanks to heroic federal agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), the bomb goes off in the far and unpopulated reaches of the Mojave desert. But so what? The basic message is that the US military and its corporate overlords are the real threat to American security.
What's especially interesting about Season Two is that it is the first one to be written and filmed after 9/11. Although Season One debuted after 9/11, it was finished before. As a result, Season One provides an interesting window into how the creators of the show thought about global politics in the good old days when Bush's only crusades were against taxes and environmentalists.
The villians from Season One are genocidal Serbian terrorists. They want to assassinate both Jack Bauer and Senator (not yet President) David Palmer, because Palmer authorized a covert military strike against Victor Drazen, the Serbian terrorist godfather. And Bauer led the special operations task force that carried out the attack.
But what enraged Drazen is not that Bauer and Palmer wanted him to die, but that the attack resulted in the accidental death of his wife and daughter. So, one the hand, Drazen is totally evil even according to liberal standards, because he is a vicious human rights violator. But his animus against the United States is a result of American's own massacre of the innocent, albeit unintentional.
But Drazen & Co. aren't the only villians in Season One. Their efforts to assasinate Bauer and Palmer only succeed because there are multiple traitors within Bauer's own agency, the mythical Counter-Terrorist Unit, or "CTU"). Once again, the foreign threat only becomes possible of American accomplishes within the government.
The main difference between the American villains in Season One and Season Two is that the former have ambitions that are much more prosaic. The villians in the former function mostly as individuals who seek six- or seven-figure payoffs, not hundreds of billions of dollars. The villians in Season One are also murderous, even facilitating or instigating the murder of their own colleagues, but they never risk anything like a nuclear explosion in the middle of Los Angeles.
So, the bottom line here, to borrow a phrase from Walt Kelly, is that we have met the enemy and he is us. At the same time, there is enough patriotic material in 24 in order to support an interpretation of the "text" as pro-American. The hero of the show is a selfless and courageous federal agent. His greatest ally is a noble and selfless politician who ultimately rises to become president. According to 24, there is definitely some great good in the American character. But that shouldn't be news to anyone.
However, the suggestion that traitors from within present a far greater threat to the American people than murderers from abroad, that is something new. Or at least it is something new in 21st century. Back in the 20th century, we just called it McCarthyism.
Yes, I know that 24 is just a fantasy and that McCarthyism was real. But the message is still dangerous, even if this time it liberal Hollywood who is attacking the conservative politicians and not vice versa. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:35 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Hello David,I don't think I could've said it better myself and look forward to reading Shay's website. "Starblogs", perhaps? However, I did get some other interesting comments about my past which I also thought I would share. The following is from DI, who knows about grad school budgeting first hand:
I'm now an underpaid prof at a state U, but 15 or so years ago I was a (middle-aged) lowly grad student at a similar U. I drank cheap beer and cheaper coffee, but I borrowed a total of only $11,000 to get a PhD. And, believe me, no one, even [U. Seattle law School career services director] Erika Lim types have any damn right to tell me how to spend the money...Not just a hearty cup full of STFU, but a venti methinks.
Next up, blogger Charmaine Yoest points out that Republicans have a very good reason to boycott Starbucks: it's gives all of its political donations to Democrats. In fact, Starbucks even hired a former Clinton administration official to be its Washington lobbyist.
Now, I'm not a card-carrying member of either party, but thanks to Charmaine, I will take exquisite pleasure in the irony of seeing masked anarchists and other anti-globalization types vandalize Starbucks in the name of resisting nefarious captialist imperialism. Maybe I'll even join the next riot and steal myself a Frapuccino maker.
Finally, we're going to hear from one actual critic of my post, that cantankerous blogivore Mike D., who writes:
What you all seem to be justifying is the spending of $3.50 a day, or more,of somebody else's money on coffee?!!Wow. That must be almost forty years ago. Back when students spent their precious funds on truly important things like marijuana and love beads... (Sorry, Mike, I couldn't resist.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, July 02, 2005
# Posted 7:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
As Phil explains, the Intel Dump will begin making the transition from a single author to group blog in order to adjust to Phil's active service. With any luck, Phil will be able to contribute on occasion from Iraq, although his mission and his soldiers will obviously take priority.
In light of Phil's coming deployment, this is a particularly good moment to consider two of the excellent (as always) posts on his blog, both of which address the ongoing manpower crisis in the United States Army.
In one post, Phil addresses the question of whether the manpower crisis will force the United States to draw down its forces in Iraq before the military and political situation on the ground merits such a decision. Whereas some Americans were once afraid that an elected Iraqi government would demand that our troops return home, that kind of demands is now exactly what the Pentagon is hoping for.
All I would add to Phil's analysis is that we may find ourselves in the bizarre situation in which we want the Iraqis to kick us out but they are desperate to have us stay and protect them from the insurgents. You might call it imperialism in reverse or even Vietnam in reverse. It would be an unfortunate situation, but one that would provide an ironic vindication of our democratic ideals.
Phil's second post concerns Max Boot's proposal for an American foreign legion. While not unsympathetic, Phil raises three important objections to Boot's proposal: First, we need educated soldiers. Second, uneducated soldiers are a threat to themselves. Third, having non-citizens serve may attentuate the democratic legitimacy of our armed forces.
I will add a fourth objection: That it is absolutely critical for our soldiers to be committed to American ideals if they are given incredibly complex missions such as nation-building in Iraq.
Yet I believe that all of these objections, while valid, can be overcome. We do not need to throw open the door to every immigrant. In light of just how much demand there would presumably be to serve in the armed forces in exchange for citizenship, it may be possible to recruit some very talented soldiers. Moreover, we may very well be able to recruit them from other democratic nations where the citizens are no less committed to democratic ideals.
I greatly regret that once Phil ships out for Iraq, we will no longer be able to depend on his always sharp analysis. But I also know that our regret pales in comparison the 101st's great good fortune to have such a good man commanding its soldiers in Iraq. Take care, Phil. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
1. What is your full name?(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:49 AM by Patrick Belton
Nihilist seeks nothing.Still much better than the personals adverts in the other literary magazines. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, June 30, 2005
# Posted 11:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
All of his rivals for the Republican nomination were far more accomplished and knowledgeable. He sought to compensate for his lack of expertise by appointing political veterans to his cabinet, but this only resulted in widespread perceptions of the president as a figurehead. Then with utter confidence, he led the nation into a major war that millions of Americans considered to be totally unnecessary and pointlessly destructive.
But enough about Abe Lincoln. He's been dead for a long time, so why rehash old debates about his presidency? By the way, the source for the material cited above is an essay by Doris Kearns Goodwin in the current issue of Time.
Strangely, Goodwin doesn't seem to notice the remarkable parallels between the first Republican president and his current successor. But if you take a closer like at the reasons why Goodwin thinks Lincoln was so great, you'll get a sense of why she is no fan of Bush.
According to Goodwin, Lincoln had eight critical virtues that made him a great president in spite of his inexperience. They were: Empathy, Humor, Magnanimity, Generosity of Spirit, Perspective, Self-Control, A Sense of Balance and A Social Conscience.
Although I don't think Bush scores all that badly on those fronts, you won't find many Americans who think of him as the president that embodies those values. If anything, Goodwin's list seems to reflect a certain desire to put Franklin Roosevelt or perhaps even Jimmy Carter back in office.
Anyhow, while I don't doubt that Lincoln had the virtues mentioned above, I would also speculate that Lincoln's most important virtues included: Moral Clarity, Dogged Determination, and A Willingness to Use Force in Defense of Principle. Then again, such qualities are often overrated. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
OK, so that's a slight exaggeration. Historians know Lincoln is still pretty important even though he has been dead for almost 150 years. But the fact remains that it is terribly unfashionable for professional historians to study Lincoln or any of the other great presidents and statesmen who made America what it is today.
Nonetheless, the intelligent layperson seems to maintain an avid interest in our 16th president and his cohort. For example, the current issue of Time has Lincoln on the cover and then provides no less than 27 full pages of information about the 16th president's life and legacy. Putting Lincoln on the cover means that the editors think Honest Abe can sell magazines.
Fortunately, there are plenty of first-class authors willing to research and write about Lincoln in order to satisfy the popular thirst for knowledge about the 16th president. Like my eminent colleague Bill Miller, the scribe responsible for Lincoln's Virtues, many of these authors have real world experience as journalists and commercial writers. They are most certainly not Ph.D.-bearing tenured professors -- which is exactly why they understand that Lincoln is so important.
So why don't professional scholars study Lincoln with similar passion and intensity? Here's one answer: In the preface to his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, Joseph Ellis writes that
A kind of electromagnetic field...surrounds this entire subject [of the founding fathers], manifesting itself as a golden haze or halo for the vast majority of contemporary Americans , or as a contaminated radioactive cloud for a small but quite vocal group of critics unhappy with what America has become or how we have gotten here.Although Lincoln was not one of the founding brothers, studying his politics is no more popular among the academic crowd. All of this leaves us with a strange irony: Scholars often lament that there are so few Americans willing to take an interest in sophisticated ideas and detailed arguments. Yet there is a voracious appetite among the reading public for painstakingly researched, fact-laden tomes about Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington and other long-dead politicians.
Although one ought not to measure the importance of a subject by its popularity, I think that this time the majority has the merits on its side. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
# Posted 1:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I'm so addicted that I'll often watch three or four episodes a night. At the same time, I am profoundly disturbed by the far left ideology that pervades the entire show. I'll elaborate on that some more once I've finished Season Two and can comment on it as a whole.
But here's one incident that was so absurd I just have no choice but to write about it right now: In Episode 20, mobs across the United States continue their mindless assault on innocent Arab-American citizens. One of the victims is heroic intelligence officer Yusuf Auda.
Naturally, Yusuf's attacker wears one of those mesh baseball hats favored by truckers, has three days of stubble on his face, and talks like a redneck. After robbing Yusuf and leaving him for dead, the attacker and his buddies (one of whom, strangely enough, is Hispanic) kidnap the heroic and impossibly thin American blonde Kate Warner, who was working with Yusuf.
Kate promises to give the attackers all of the money in her safe at home if they will just give her back a microchip that Yusuf was carrying in his pocket. When Kate and the attackers arrive at her house, she opens up her safe and hands Mr. Redneck a very thick stack of bills. He looks at the bills and then asks Kate just what the hell she is giving him. "Euros", she says. Twenty thousand of them.
Mr. Redneck responds, "Do I look European?" and tosses the bills aside. One of his friends then discovers fifteen hundred American dollars and takes that instead.
Wow. Repeat: Wow. I guess you could defend the show by saying that we know Mr. Redneck is fairly stupid since he is a violent racist. But throwing away money because it's European? Only pure contempt for Red State America could have come up with that one. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
At the same time, Tim's argument manages to be spectaculary wrong in the way that only the best scholars can be. (Or you can chalk it up to his being a liberal Canadian realist.)
The foundation of Tim's argument is a fascinating observation made by LBJ in 1966. On the subject of Vietnam, the President told Gene McCarthy that
Well I know we oughtn't to be there, but I can't get out. I just can't be the architect of surrender.... I'm willing to do damn near anything. If I told you what I was willing to do, I wouldn't have any program. [Republican Senate Minority Leader Everett] Dirksen wouldn't give me a dollar to operate the war. I just can't operate in a glass bowl with all these things. But I'm willing to do nearly anything a human can do, if I can do it with any honor at all.FYI, Tim is the head honcho of the presidential recordings project here at UVA, which has done a remarkable job of editing and publishing some of the most valuable archival material left behind by some of America's greatest presidents.
Anyhow, the question Tim asks in response to LBJ's observation is:
What would happen if both parties offered Bush the political cover to execute a dignified exit? This administration might stubbornly refuse the offer but future generations will look kindly upon those of both parties who tried to help the Bush administration get out of the Iraqi civil war sooner rather than later.When I first met Tim at a Christmas party last December, we hit it off immediately because we have so many interests in common. Yet within five minutes Tim managed to locate the major fault line between our politics. He asked me: Are you a realist or an idealist? Do you really believe we can promote democracy in Iraq?
In keeping with the holiday spirit, I told Tim that I was an idealist but acknowledged that the situation in Iraq was extremely challenging and complicated. Secretly, I was hoping that the January elections would vinidicate my idealism.
So now January has come and gone, there was a revolution in Lebanon, there is a multi-ethnic government in Iraq and dictatorships throughout the Middle East are on the defensive. Even the Palestinians elected themselves a moderate president.
Yet still Tim thinks that we should declare victory, go home and risk letting Iraq become another terrorist base camp, like Afghanistan before 9/11. I guess my question for Tim is, what would it take to make him believe that the lives and courage of our soldiers in Iraq are being lost for a noble cause, rather than wasted in a quagmire? (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:50 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 2:48 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Can Bush's Speech Turn Around the Polls?(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
# Posted 9:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Moreover, it's not just the fact that so few of the books are about foreign policy, but also the way in which the books approach the subject that convey the mismatch between liberal foreign policy and the concerns of the American majoirty.
For example, Harvard professor and terrorism expert Jessica Stern recommends Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry by Peter W. Singer. Stern writes that
Singer examines corporate mercenaries who kill for pro?t -- sometimes bene?ting the world through peacekeeping missions, and sometimes bene?ting only themselves.Lots of folks I respect have praised Singer's work. But is corporate influence on national security really a defining issue for American liberalism? And if it were, would the American public see the Democratic Party as having its priorities straight?
In defense of Stern, it is worth noting that the Prospect demanded very rapid responses from those whom it polled about the most important books of the last fifteen years. Yet if the Prospect had directed its question my way, it would've taken me all of fifteen seconds to come up with my answer: "A Problem From Hell": America and the Age of Genocide by Samantha Power.
Ms. Power is one of Prof. Stern's colleagues at Harvard, so presumably the latter is aware of the former's work, which won a Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction in 2003. Power's book provides both a history of the genocidal wars against the Kurds, Bosnian Muslims, and Rwandan Tutsi as well as powerful argument that the United States cannot be true to its own principles unless it is committed to stopping such massacres.
Along these lines, Benjamin Barber does recommend Amartya Sen's Development as Freedom as the most important book of the era. Barber describes it as "A persuasive case for democracy in an unjust, globalizing world." Sen's work doesn't exactly have all that much to say about US national security, but at least Barber is on the right track.
And so what about all the books not about foreign policy? The first thing I noticed was how many of them are about race, civil rights, and/or the 1960s. Walter Mondale recommends Judgment Days, which is about the relationship between LBJ and Martin Luther King Jr. The list also includes books about civil rights organizers in Mississippi, the life of W.E.B. DuBois, the legislative work of LBJ, and assorted others.
Naturally, liberals should celebrate the great triumphs of the past. But none of these subjects has much potential to serve as the foundation of a strong progressive, liberal, Democratic movement for the 21st century.
When it comes to the future, the Prospect's contributors seems to think that the right has all the momentum. Thus, the list includes books such as America's Right Turn and Under God: Religion and American Politics.
On a similar note, Al Franken recommends E.J. Dionne's WhyAmerican Hate Politics, which Franken credits with paving the way for Clinton's victory in 1992 by teaching the Democrats how to be tough on crime and welfare politics. In other words, the book taught Democrats how to sound like Republicans.
The question is, where is the book that can teach the Democrats to do that effectively today? Perhaps more importantly, why does it seem that Democrats can only win by sounding like Republicans? What does that say about the disjunction between American values and the Democratic agenda? (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
8:02 PM: Starting with 9/11. This whole section will get mercilessly dissected for lumping Al Qaeda togther with Iraq.
8:04 PM: And the critics will hit even harder on the president's assertion that we are taking the war to the terrorists in Iraq instead of waiting for them to hit at home.
8:05 PM: Bush acknowledges that some question the relevance of the war in Iraq to the war on terror. Then he quotes Bin Laden to the effect that the war in Iraq is critical to the war against America. Very nice.
8:07 PM: The terrorists can only kill the innocent. They can stop the advance of freedom. Again, very nice.
8:08 PM: The lesson of 9/11 is to stay in Iraq until democracy wins. I agree, but a statement that will be much criticized.
8:09 PM: "Our progress has been uneven, but progress is being made."
8:10 PM: Quoting Gerhard Schroeder on the importance of winning in Iraq. Smart.
8:11 PM: Saying we've trained 160,000 Iraqi defense forces and that they've fought bravely. Tough sell. Bush has been burned by the numbers before.
8:12 PM: Just did some channel surfing. The sound is just as bad on every other network, too.
8:14 PM: Is it me, or does Bush sound a little defensive? Remember, that comment is coming from someone who agrees with 99% of what Bush is saying.
8:15 PM: "The new Iraqi security forces are proving their courage every day." More than 2,000 have died.
With each engagement, the Iraqis grow more experienced. Of course, the same might be said of the terrorists.
8:17 PM: There will be no schedule for a pull out. Damn right.
8:18 PM: Our commanders say they have enough troops. Even I find that expression of confidence to be far from persuasive.
8:20 PM: An explicit pledge that Iraqi democracy will respect minority rights. Important, but just a beginning.
8:21 PM: An indirect call for democracy in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. But what will Bush say about Darfur?
8:22 PM: "The terrorists do not understand America." Exactly.
8:25 PM: Now the sound is out of sync with the picture. As a result, Bush has the wrong emotion on his face when he delivers his message.
8:26 PM: A call to those who are considering military service. A bold approach to a tough problem, or an admission of just how big the problem is?
8:28 PM: Here's Tim Russert (I'm watching NBC).
8:29 PM: Russert says the big question is whether the Iraqis are really committed to overcoming the insurgency. Strange. We know the Shi'ite-Kurdish majority is. The question is competence.
8:35 PM: It's Nancy Pelosi! She says Bush hasn't offered a plan for success. She says Bush has made Iraq into the terrorists haven it has become. She says the president isn't levelling the with the American people and that he is exploiting the memory of 9/11.
8:35 PM: Brian Williams asked Pelosi what the Democrats would do differently. She says we really have to turn the battle against the insurgents over to the Iraqis, have to internationalize the effort, and have to increase the rate of reconstruction.
8:37 PM: Williams' asks if Pelosi is concerned, like John Murtha, about the White House having a secreat cut-and-run strategy in Iraq. She completely evades the question by saying we shouldn't cut veterans benefits.
8:39 PM: Hey, howcome the Democrats don't get their own response time on all of the networks?
8:42 PM: NBC now has a report from Iraq. I guess the Dems won't be getting a response. And so I can start thinking about dinner... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, June 24, 2005
# Posted 12:00 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
If the red tape doesn't get in the way, I will have my defense in October or November. I will still have to do some editing between now and then, primarily in response to whatever comments my adviser has after reading the full draft. But the question now isn't if I'll ever graduate, only when. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, June 19, 2005
# Posted 1:28 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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.And thus I look forward to many passionate disagreements that leave us all a little bit wiser. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, June 18, 2005
# Posted 4:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Dear Washington Post,My longer response shall take the form of a full frontal fisking, in which I haven't engaged for quite some time:
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 2:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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.”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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion