Tuesday, October 31, 2006
# Posted 11:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Murtha: B-. I'm tempted to say it was the usual Murtha, but actually he was fairly coherent and said nothing outrageous. The closest he came to absurdiy was with his relentless optimism about how much better Iraq will be without the US military. it's an appropriate counterpart to some of the strange bastions of optimism about Iraq in the GOP.(3) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, October 30, 2006
# Posted 11:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Steele: C-. It would be hard to come up with a more incoherent position on Iraq if you tried. From cheerleading one day to posing as a critic the next. You get the sense Steele will say anything he has to to please the audience of the moment. That's not unusual for politicians, but most hide it better. On domestic issues, Steele made some good points and actually showed an ability to engage both Russert and Cardin instead of reading a script. But the damage was already done.I'll update this post with comments for CBS once podcast comes through. Otherwise, hats off to Tim Russert for being a superb moderator in all of the Senate debates on Meet the Press. I often give Russert a hard time, but I think he really earned this one.
See ya next week. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, October 29, 2006
# Posted 6:36 PM by Patrick Porter
A few weeks ago at the London-Paris Festival, Patrick Belton and I interviewed the British pundit and contrarian Christopher Hitchens.
Here is the first part of the interview, we'll post the second part shortly.
Oxblog's Patrick Porter and Patrick Belton with Christopher Hitchens
PP: Today is the anniversary of the
CH: Fascism? First of all, it has to meet two or three conditions. One is ethnic, national, even religious paranoia - either that the group itself is in danger, or has special privileges, or both. Almost inevitably, that means anti-semitism-the idea there is a secret government out there, responsible for your woes.
Second, an alliance between the oligarchy and the lumpen. You couldn't have it better than the Saudi sponsorship of madrassas.
Another is its irrationality. With the
It both hates and envies modernism. It doesn't want to do science, but it wants what science produces, to seize and pervert it. The Nazis could have had the nuclear bomb, but they got rid of all Jewish scientists. In this, you can look at A. Q. Khan, and his work to exploit science, and turn it against modernism.
The leaders of the
PP: Is this rhetoric of a war against fascism actually counter-productive, as some have argued? Just to act as a devil's advocate, is there the danger that in referring to disparate phenomena as Islamo-Fascism, itself reaching back to a semiotic from 60 years ago, you encourage different groups to identify with each other as a worldwide cause, helping to call into being the very thing you're trying to oppose?
CH: No, I don't think so. Before 9/11, only myself and a few others who were trying to call attention to it would have known the name of Al Qa'ida. They've been at it for ages, not only trying to detract Kashmir from
You could make an exception, I think, for
PP: What do you think of news that your bete noir, Henry Kissinger, is advising the White House on
CH: Well, I've just filed an article on just that for Slate. The Kurds were horrified when Bremer was appointed in
PP: In today’s foreign policy debates over the wars in
CH: The main enemies I have had, have always been on the right - Kissingerian realists, old State Department Arabists, nativist isolationists who are not always particularly philosemitic, who have their counterpart on the left in Gore Vidal.
In the debate with Scott Ritter there was a man of the Reaganite right with a very insular concept of the American national interest.
On neoconservatives, the term is coined by Michael Harrington, and like the Tories and Suffragettes, they eventually agreed to adopt it in an example of word circulation. The New York Times author got it right on this point.
As a term used in the mainstream, neo-conservative has its confusing elements. The conservative position is that the dangers of change are greater than the dangers of the status quo- in this, they and I could not be more un-con. George Packer's Assassin's Gate gives the best account I've read about how the conflict between prolongation of the status quo and overdue change plays out in
PP: What do you think of Nick Cohen’s analysis, that when it comes to foreign policy there is a distinction between those who think of themselves as anti-imperialist, and view
CH: That is actually an older theory dating back at least to Gulf War One, though I don’t like to call it Gulf War One, I see both conflicts in the Gulf as part of the same war. Fred Halliday posed the need for the left to choose between fascism and imperialism. He argued that the left could be anti-imperialist about American intervention, as long as it accepted the abolition of
(14) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Even though New Hampshire is basically Red and Bass is a moderate conservative, the national climate is hurting him. Some polls have shown Bass tied with Hodes, although others show him with a substantial lead. According to Evans & Novak, Bass has run a disorganized campaign.
But some still think Bass' seat is safe. RCP ranks his district as only the 38th most likely to change hands. Similarly, the National Journal puts the district as 40th most likely to flip. But the simple fact that the seat is in play tells you a lot about how much trouble the GOP is in. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:35 PM by Patrick Porter
But I can't let Oxblog readers miss it while it struggles to live. What a site. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:21 PM by Patrick Porter
I do agree that many of its humanitarian programmes are benign and good things. Long may they thrive. And that the Genocide Convention, the declarations of rights and some of the foundational ideals are inspiring.
And I say this as unerotically and in as manly a fashion as possible, Taylor's interest in human security and in the development of better norms of international law reflect this more civilised aspect to the UN as an institution and as a set of ideas.
I can't agree, though, that the UN played a primary role in preventing World War III. I would attribute the absence of a major global hot war more to nuclear weapons, the restraints placed on apocalyptic conflict by the Cold War (though not on terrible wars in Vietnam, El Salvador or Afghanistan), and the actual horrific experience of World War 2 itself. The existence of the UN during a period where there was not World War III does not automatically mean that there is a causal relationship, or at least, it needs to be argued through rather than assumed.
On an occasion where World War III looked alarmingly possible, the Cuban Missile Crisis, its true that the UN functioned as an important forum for debate and accusation and as a place where both sides appealed to world opinion. But the crisis itself was alleviated primarily by concrete (and partly secret) diplomacy, where President Kennedy agreed to remove American missiles from Turkey in return for the withdrawal of the Soviet missiles. The UN was arguably not the essential element in the prevention of a world war.
And there are a few weaknesses that surely are disappointing. The UN has recently proven too often to be overly bureaucratic and corrupt. And just in case you think those two allegations are coming from rightist UN-haters, well no, they are coming from Hilary Benn, (Britain's Labour international development secretary), and a Human Rights Watch representative.
There is also the faintest suggestion that accountability for these kinds of failures could be improved.
The UN leadership has also at times been a disappointing actor in several crises Kofi Annan's intervention to forestall even the suggestion of pre-emptive action against the Rwandan genocide. Romeo Dallaire, the UN commander, was actually rebuked by UN senior figures for even proposing to attempt to seize the Hutu militia's weapons caches.
In other words, against the claims of those who dismiss criticisms of the UN on the basis that it is just the sum of aggregate national interests, the UN through its representatives is actually an agent in itself, and must therefore be held to account.
It also has a doctrinal flaw: in its commitment to the sovereign integrity of states, it recognises illiberal, nondemocratic states as equally legitimate and admits them on an equal basis. So large states that butcher their own wield veto powers, and Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe was elevated to a place on the UN Commission on Human Rights. Humanitarian interventions, for example in Kosovo, have sometimes had to take place outside the formal imprimatur of UN agreement.
The UN's dogmatic commitment to a posture of neutrality in civil conflicts has also sometimes led the UN to fail to identify aggressors when it intervenes in civil wars, as in the Balkans where the largest massacre on European soil took place under its nose at Srebrenica, with the commander of UN forces in the region refusing the request for air strikes to halt Serbian aggressions against the Bosnian Moslems.
As Nick Cohen argues:
It is a club without membership restrictions. Genocidal states aren’t suspended from the UN or expelled. While they perpetrate crimes beyond the human imagination, their ambassadors remain honoured figures at the UN headquarters in Manhattan.Not all of these problems can be easily solved, and partly it might be in the nature of trying to put together an international organisation of states which include some bad bad regimes.
On the positive side, long live UNICEF!
(3) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:05 PM by Patrick Porter
A while back, a survey (which I've lost the link to) asked Australians who they find to be undesirable neighbours.
While 74 % of people surveyed identified Drug Addicts as undesirable, 45% of them identified Political Extremists.
So on the figures, Aussies would rather live next door to Timothy McVeigh than Robert Downey Jnr. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:56 AM by Taylor Owen
FURTHER: on This Week this morning, Michael J Fox proved himself the exact opposite. Game. Set. Match. (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, October 28, 2006
# Posted 3:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The race is especially tough because there is no GOP candidate on the ballot, only a write-in supported by the Texas state party. Her name is Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, a name that will surely be mangled often enough to invalidate a lot of votes.
However, there is a Libertarian candidate running as well, by the name of Bob Smither. and Liz recently sat down to talk with him about taxes, warantless wire-taps and other subjects of interest to libertarians. You may conclude, as Liz already has, that Smither would make a much better congressman than the arch-conservative Sekula-Gibbs.
Also of libertarian interest, Liz takes a closer look at the New Jersey court's recent ruling on gay marriage. She thinks it was not just the right decision, but one that in no way constitutes judicial activism. Liz argues that social conservatives may not like the ruling, but should recognize that their position is the one which relies on the support of activist judges. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, October 27, 2006
# Posted 7:25 PM by Taylor Owen
The Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, as it will be called, will be judged by a team at Harvard, based on the democratic delivery of security, health, education and economic development to their constituents. It will now be the world's biggest prize, well in front of the measly 1.3 million noble peace prizes are good for. Clinton, Mandela and Kofi have all indorsed it.
As Patrick B would say - 'well done you!' (12) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:23 PM by Taylor Owen
The fact is that the UN works - for the world's poor, for peace, for progress and for human rights and justice.(8) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:19 PM by Taylor Owen
(2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:24 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
The strategy of all three profiles is to burrow deeper into the established storyline rather than to break new ground. Jim Webb the warrior and Jim Webb the sexist who humiliated women at the Naval Academy. George Allen the friendly faux cowboy and George Allen the racist bully. Hitting those points is obligatory, but I think there's still new ground to be covered.
For example, I know very little about anything George Allen did as governor of Virginia or as a member of its Senate delegation. As for Webb, he was Secretary of the Navy for about a year and spent three additional years in a position of significant authority at the Pentagon. Although character and psychology certainly matter, I would be interested in a much closer look at how the two men actually performed in office. (7) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
# Posted 11:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
However, researchers at Oxford and Royal Holloway, writing in the current issue of Science, argue that Burnham's methodology is profoundly flawed. According a press release from Science:
Sean Gourley and Professor Neil Johnson of the physics department at Oxford University and Professor Michael Spagat of the economics department of Royal Holloway, University of London contend that the study’s methodology is fundamentally flawed and will result in an over-estimation of the death toll in Iraq.I'm in no position to evaluate this kind of thing, but the criticism sounds sensible enough. For lots more discussion, check out this post by A Second Hand Conjecture. (9) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has said bread is more important than democracy, and he may be preparing to dissolve the Hamas-led Palestinian parliment.You can weigh in on the The Question at PostGlobal.com.
Here's my two cents: Dictatorship has only reinforced the poverty and suffering of the Palestinians. Democracy has yet to prove itself in the PA, but it deserves a serious chance. The Palestinians are not starving nor will they starve while Europe and the UN stand by, ready to help. Abbas is treading a dangerous path.
It is harder to say whether sometimes democracy ought to be bypassed to ensure security. Historically, this tends to be little more than a pretext for aspiring dictators to take power for themselves. (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The more substantive questions for Obama, came from Tim Russert. This one should not have been any kind of surprise, but Obama wasn't sure how to handle it:
MR. RUSSERT: Well, nine months ago, you were on this program and I asked you about running for president. And let’s watch and come back and talk about it.Big deal. Every candidate plays down his or her ambition before deciding to run for president. But most candidates dance around the question instead of committing unequivocally to serving out their current term of office. They look silly when they do, but their dance is soon forgotten. But if Obama can make a personal promise with such certainty only to go back on it nine months later, perhaps he needs to know himself better and place less emphasis on saying what others want to hear.
But running for president wasn't the only question that Obama tripped on:
MR. RUSSERT: Two years ago in September of ‘04, this is what you told the Associated Press: “Democratic Senate candidate Barack Obama ... opposed invading Iraq ... but pulling out now [he said] would make things worse.Again, Obama seems forced to retreat from a position he took that was convenient at the time. There is a certain amount of sense to saying that things are worse now than they were in 2004. But the real issue is tone. "A slap in the face" to our soldiers? Those sound like the words of either a GOP hack or a Democrat acting tough when the polls say that tough is good. Now that tough is bad, Obama has softened his tone.
To be fair, neither of the gaffes I've pointed out are of major significance. But they do provide an important contrast to the adoring press coverage that presents Obama as nothing short of the next JFK (who himself was no JFK until after he was dead).
Moreover, Obama seemed genuinely surprised at being confronted with what he himself had said not too much earlier. Perhaps he will learn the lesson of consistency now, when he can afford it. (6) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Obama: B. His combination of warmth, balance and candor are what have made him a political star. But Russert (see above) caught Obama tilting with the wind, changing his positions to fit the political moment.See ya next week. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, October 23, 2006
# Posted 11:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Beinart advances two fundamental propositions about why Bush, Cheney & Co. are conceptually incapable of fighting the war on terror as it should be done. The first is that they are heirs to the dangerous conservative tradition of willingly blinding oneself to America's ethical failures and hypocrisy. The second is that Bush, Cheney & Co. are in deep denial about the economic causes of jihadism.
Beinart writes that:
Salafist terrorists may not all be poor, yet salafism feeds on economic despair. It takes deepest root where states cannot offer their citizens opporunity or hope. (p.118)Beinart immediately recongizes that this formulation is problematic, since it is very hard to explain why Saudi Arabia is the spiritual homeland of Al Qaeda. If economics were the root cause of terrorism, the 9/11 hijackers and Bin Laden himself should've been Pakistani.
To resolve this dilemma, Beinart introduces a second principle to modify his first:
Economic despair doesn't just stem from absolute depriviation; it stems from the gap between expectations and reality. And nowhere is that gap greater than in Saudi Arabia, where per capita income has dropped by more than half since the 1980s. (p.119)First of all, I think Beinart's description of the data is very wrong. Second of all, his argument has some very important conceptual flaws.
With regard to the data, it's very easy to find. The remarkably easy use to IMF website lets you produce customized charts with time series data going back around 30 years. In the early 1980s, Saudi per capita income skyrocketed along with the price of oil, hitting almost $19,000 in 1981. Then oil prices collapsed, forcing Saudi income below $7,000 per capita for the latter half of the 1980s. Saudi income then gradually recovered to $11,000 by 2004, before skyrocketing once again as a result of the recent oil crisis. For 2007, the IMF estimates Saudi income at $16,612.
In light of this data, Beinart's hypothesis makes no sense at all. Saudi income may have fallen from its artificial high in the early 1980s, but was increasing at a respectable rate for the entire decade before 9/11. Where are the disappointed expecations that supposedly drive terorrism?
Saudi does have a number of serious economic problems, including unemployment, but if an economy like the Saudis' is what causes terorrism, than there should be a dozen more Arab states generating even greater terorism.
Of course, aggregate economic statistics never tell the whole story. What about the background of individuals such as Osama bin Laden and Mohammad Atta, the former a multimillionaire and the latter with a degree from a German university? If disappointment is the problem, why are the most successful individuals becoming the terrorists (a pattern also observed in the West Bank and Gaza)?
In theory, one could add a third principle to Beinart's argument, namely that successful elites embittered by the suffering of their countrymen are more likely to lash out with violence. But adding one principle after another is just a convenient way of overlooking the simple and compelling argument that violent Islamic extremism is the direct cause of terror. Beinart accurately quotes George Bush as saying about Al Qaeda that "These aren't a bunch of poor people that are desperate in their attempt. These are cold, calculating killers." That's an oversimplification, but Bush's argument makes a lot more sense than Beinart's.
But let's assume for the sake of argument that fighting poverty and disappointment is no less integral to the war on terror than hunting down terrorists. What should America do about it? Beinart's answer is that we need a new Marshall Plan. According to Beinart, the great merit of the Marshall Plan, beyond its incredible magnitude, is that it respected the autonomy of those in need of help. According to a study by the Council on Foreign Relations, aid recipients want the same today:
Asked what they wanted from the United States, the people interviewed [by the study] requested almost exactly what the Marshall Plan once provided: generosity without hubris, economic and educational development guided by local knowledge, not American fiat. "Dear President Bush," said one Jakarta woman, whom the study said spoke for many: "Please help us with our economy, but let our manage our country!" (p.123)Actually, that is exactly the wrong idea. Beinart is presumably familiar with the recent history of the IMF and the World Bank, which have increasingly conditioned their help on effective governance because it is impossible to separate economics from politics. Corrupt governments waste the aid they are given. The advice of the Indonesian woman is especially ironic, since Indonesia and many of its neighbors suffered terribly when their corruption-riddled and unregulated economies melted down in 1997. In fact, the East Asian crisis of 1997 is one of the most important reasons that the IMF and the World Bank, as well as other development programs -- such as Bush's Millenium Challenge Program -- put so much stress on good governance.
Indonesia is relevant for another reason as well. Along with its neighbors, it has prospered to a remarkable extent not because of economic aid, but because of its consistent support for export-oriented free-market capitalism. The history of development aid also tends to show that this is not something that can be forced very easily on an unwilling government. But without reforms, anything more than humanitarian aid is pointless. In short, helping someone with their economy is no different than managing their country, unless they already have the same ideas as we do about economic policy.
This principle was no less true in 1947 than it was today. Fortunately, many of the European nations who benefited from the Marshall Plan had relatively similar ideas to our own about economic policy, although conflicts were still frequent. But the United States did impose its political will on Europe in a way that Beinart would have to condemn as being characterized by American hubris and American fiat. For example, the US often conditioned its aid on the exclusion of Communist parties from Western European governments, even if they had legitimate won enough seats in the legislature to merit inclusion. In short, the Marshall Plan was not the fantasy that today's multilateralists wish it were.
And this is a good point to end on, since I am going to reserve for my next post an evaluation of Beinart's argument that conservatives have blinded themselves to America's hsitory of moral shortcomings. As I pointed out yesterday, Robert Kagan's new book is built around an appreciation of precisely those shortcomings. In contrast, Beinart is the one who seems unable to reckon with what the Marshall Plan really was.
To be continued... (7) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:06 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
I believe this will be the book that establishes beyond a shadow of a doubt that Kagan is the kind of original thinker who transcends partisan or ideological labels. I believe that Dangerous Nation will be the kind of book that liberals don't just read because they want to know what conservatives are thinking, but because it is a book that can educate any reader, political disagreements aside.
At a moment when 'neo-conservative' has become something of a slur on both sides of the aisle, it is especially fitting for a book to come out that demonstrates not just how powerful neo-conservative thinking can be, but also how subtle -- or dare I say "nuanced"?
Yes, that is the right word. That nuance is on display in the cover story of the October 23 edition of The New Republic, which is Kagan's four-page digest of his book's main argument. The essay's sub-title summarizes its purpose quite effectively: "Against the myth of American innocence."
Earlier this year, Peter Beinart constructed an entire book around the premise that the most dangerous thing about conservatives is their inability to recognize America's moral failures. Yet a recognition of such failures is at the very heart of this work by Kagan, arguably the most important neo-conservative thinker today on the subject of foreign policy.
If the byline were removed from Kagan's essay in TNR, it might be mistaken for a polemic from the far left. Kagan writes:
Far from the modest republic that history books often portray, the early United States was an expansionist power from the moment the first pilgrim set foot on the continent; and it did not stop expanding--territorially, commercially, culturally, and geopolitically--over the next four centuries. The United States has never been a status quo power; it has always been a revolutionary one, consistently expanding its participation and influence in the world in ever-widening arcs. The impulse to involve ourselves in the affairs of others is neither a modern phenomenon nor a deviation from the American spirit. It is embedded in the American DNA.More unusual is Kagan's paying attention to what Europeans think of the United States -- not now, but 200 years ago:
From the beginning, others have seen Americans not as a people who sought ordered stability but as persistent disturbers of the status quo. As the ancient Corinthians said of the Athenians, they were "incapable of either living a quiet life themselves or of allowing anyone else to do so." Nineteenth-century Americans were, in the words of French diplomats, "numerous," "warlike," and an "enemy to be feared." In 1817, John Quincy Adams reported from London, "The universal feeling of Europe in witnessing the gigantic growth of our population and power is that we shall, if united, become a very dangerous member of the society of nations."This passage begins to suggest how a straightforward reckoning with American history can serve as the foundation for a conservative worldview rather than a liberal one. It was not the well-behaved, mythical America that rose from obscurity to greatness. By extension, the often arrogant and ideal-driven unilateralism of today won't bring down the "postwar international order".
One all-important reason that Kagan's writing transcends the partisan divide is that he is capable of seeing things from a perspective often reserved for liberals. (The same is true of Max Boot.) It isn't just that Kagan can recite his opponents' talking points, but that he can focus their interpretive lens on American history. For example, Kagan writes that:
By expanding territorially, commercially, politically, and culturally, Americans believed that they were bringing both modern civilization and the "blessings of liberty" to whichever nations they touched in their search for opportunity. As Jefferson told one Indian leader: "We desire above all things, brother, to instruct you in whatever we know ourselves. We wish to learn you all our arts and to make you wise and wealthy." In one form or another, Americans have been making that offer of instruction to peoples around the world ever since.Yes, even in Iraq. How many critics of the occupation wish that they could have discovered that Jefferson quote for themselves in order to highlight some of the brutal ironies of our democracy promotion efforts?
Yet Jefferson's words also point to the less common conclusion that we have become far more humane in the pursuit of liberty. Native Americans feared white Americans. But Shia mainly fear Sunni, and Sunni, Shia. You won't hear Democrats say it, but we really are fighting for a noble cause in Iraq, however ineffectively.
But isn't there still a profound hypocrisy at the heart of an effort to promote democracy that entails horrors such as Abu Ghraib? Kagan's history provides insight into that question as well:
John Quincy Adams had noted with pride that the United States was the source of ideas that made "the throne of every European monarch rock under him as with the throes of an earthquake." Praising the American Revolution, he exhorted "every individual among the sceptered lords of mankind: 'Go thou and do likewise!'"As Kagan further illustrates, some Americans fiercely opposed Quincy Adams' zealousness, sensing the dangers of an ideological crusade:
The conservatives of the slaveholding South were the great realists of the nineteenth century. They opposed moralism, rightly fearing it would be turned against the institution of slavery. As Jefferson Davis put it, "We are not engaged in a Quixotic fight for the rights of man. Our struggle is for inherited rights. ... We are conservative."To the chagrin of Mr. Davis, the moralists won out. And the lesson to be learned from this brand of aggressive idealism?
The result has been some accomplishments of great historical importance--the defeat of German Nazism, Japanese imperialism, and Soviet communism--as well as some notable failures and disappointments. But it was not as if the successes were the product of a good America and the failures the product of a bad America. They were all the product of the same America. The achievements, as well as the disappointments, derived from the very qualities that often make us queasy: our willingness to accumulate and use power; our ambition and sense of honor; our spiritedness in defense of both our interests and our principles; our dissatisfaction with the status quo; our belief in the possibility of change.I look forward to a very impressive book. (16) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, October 22, 2006
# Posted 4:08 PM by Patrick Porter
if I believed so strongly in the British mission in Afghanistan then perhaps I ought to volunteer for it myself.There are lots of things wrong with this ugly gambit.
First of all, Hitchens risks being accused of inconsistency. As he has implied, he supported Britain's Falklands War in 1982, even to the point where he accuses those like Tony Blair who opposed the war of not liking Britain!
Why didn't Hitchens volunteer in 1982 then? He was 30 years old at the time of the war he supported, whereas Oliver Kamm is 43 now. If anything, Hitchens' rule would have applied even more to himself. Or does Hitchens' principle, that only combatants can support wars, apply only to wars he opposes?
Secondly, it is implicitly militarist. If only soldiers, sailors and airmen can vocally support wars, then it follows that only those in the military can make policies about war and send others to war.
This directly undermines the principle of civilian control, in which the armed forces are subordinate to state policy, which is made by elected representatives, whose electorate are able to discuss, debate and vote on their decisions. Its surprising that Peter Hitchens, an outspoken defender of British institutions and values, could overlook such a foundational idea.
Thirdly, it is particularly artificial when Afghanistan was the place which incubated the assailants and planners who orchestrated the attacks on 9/11, attacks on a city (and skyscrapers) full of at least 90 nationalities. It was emphatically an attack on pluralism and on civilians from all over the world. We are all targets, so its not unreasonable for any civilians, to take a view on how to handle the threat.
Fourth, Oliver Kamm presumably pays his taxes, and does so as a citizen of the UK. Part of his taxes is allocated to military spending. He's entitled, therefore, to have an opinion on whether and how the state should deploy forces he helps to fund.
The debate over war is painful and difficult enough without crude identity politics. (12) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, October 20, 2006
# Posted 9:57 AM by Patrick Porter
THE CONFLICT WAS SEVERE; reported Vice Admiral Collingwood:
the enemy's ships were fought with a gallantry highly honourble to their officers, but the attack on them was irresistable, and it pleased the Almighty Disposer of all Events, to grant his Majesty's arms a complete and glorious victory.To Oxbloggers on the British side of the pond, happy Trafalgar Day (tomorrow)!
But in a spirit of reconciliation, French readers will note that this year marks the 200th anniversary of Napoleon's victory at Jena-Auerstedt the following year.
Evidently, the 'Almighty Disposer of all Events' was keeping things interesting. (6) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, October 19, 2006
# Posted 7:59 AM by Patrick Porter
When it comes to the word 'evil', I have little patience with those who dismiss it entirely as unsophisticated or low-brow. Some ideas and actions are evil, and after the century of the Holocaust and other genocides, there are few other words that can accurately describe and judge these crimes. The three regimes Bush characterised as evil,
And of course, there are all sorts of dangers that come with the word. If used unreflectively, it can encourage the Manichean view of the enemy as inhuman and oneself as unimpeachable. If used too often, it can trivialise the word. And people can forget their own capacity to inflict or tolerate evil. But this doesn't mean the word is intrinsically objectionable, just that it should be handled carefully.
With respect to grand strategy, there is a debate that keeps coming back to Oxblog: is it a mistake, when making these judgements, to lump together different enemies? Was Bush accurately naming an existing threat, a threat in the form of regimes that were collaborating with one another, a threat that we could not afford to ignore?
Or does such language become self-fulfilling, encouraging a tighter relationship between such enemies? Even if the relationship already existed loosely, did Bush's words effectively harden it? Does a display of highly rhetorical hostility push them further into the quest for nuclear capability? Is it better to exploit divisions between enemies than name them as a single body? (14) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
# Posted 11:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today released the following statement in support of General Peter J. Schoomaker’s announcement on the Army’s long-term plans for Iraq:There's no question we need a major expansion of the Army and Marine Corps' end strength. I'm just still getting my head around the notion of keeping 140,000 troops in Iraq until 2010. A seven-year occupation. Four more years of bitter debate about the war. And can McCain win in 2008 with that approach to the war? Well, it certainly is straight talk. (7) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
From what I know, Wilson seems like a solid rep. But like most pols, she has long way to go before figuring out how to do a blog post that doesn't sound like a press release. Of course, my first few posts weren't so great either, so who am I to talk?
On a related note, PBS NewsHour recently did a segment comparing House campaign commercials from a number of districts, including Wilson's. Wilson's commercial consisted of John McCain giving his endorsement. Here's what McCain said:
We live in dangerous times. We're fighting a war on terror, and it's unlike any before it. An Air Force Academy grad and fellow veteran, Heather Wilson has the experience these times require and the integrity our country needs.The commercial from Wilson's opponent branded her as a rubber stamp for an endless war:
The war in Iraq. Three and a half years. Still no plan, and America's less safe. Heather Wilson is on the Intelligence Committee, but she never questioned George Bush on the war, and she never said a word about how we've spent $300 billion there.That strategy seems to be working. (3) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
More importantly, Liz provides a close look at three important races for the House, in which moderate Republicans are trying to hold on in a very Blue State. According to RCP, those seats are vulnerable, but none of them are in the ten most likely to become Democratic.
On a related note, RCP's poll-watching formula now predicts that the Democrats will take back the Senate. The key number responsible for putting the Democrats in the lead is Harold Ford's miniscule lead in Tennessee. But Ford may not be the clincher, since Jim Webb is just a few points behind George Allen. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
# Posted 9:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Tower Records was where I bought my first albums. On audio cassette. With a gift certificate I got as a present for my Bar Mitzvah. I hesitate to admit this additional, but I bought an album by Paula Abdul.
My last memory of Tower will be a fond one. I spent the summer of 2002 as an intern in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In the middle of the summer, I returned to the US for a week. My friend and Spanish tutor Silvio asked that I buy him an album by American jazz artist John Zorn, which simply could not be found in Argentina.
Of course I went to Tower. Not knowing much about either jazz or Jon Zorn, I asked a salesman which of Zorn's albums I ought to buy. The salesman said, "Why don't you ask him?" Standing there, browsing records in the jazz section, was none other than Jon Zorn. I bought an album and he autographed it. Silvio was stunned when I gave him his gift. And I smiled.
Tower Records, you will be missed. (7) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Okay, I admit it. As the election approaches, I am feeling a creepy sense of paranoia. My right brain reads the newspapers, studies the polls and thinks we are looking at a blow-out next month--Dems conquer at last. My left brain hoots in derision. Get real, sucker...That's a very unusual office, to the say the least. (50) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:49 AM by Patrick Belton
Let me tell you about my mother.(7) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:38 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Yet strangely enough, even the mendacious anti-American propagandists over at Iraq Body Count are rejecting the figure of 655,000 as absurd. (Hat tip: Glenn again) IBC's arguments seem sensible, but they are so untrustworthy I still won't believe them even when they seem to have no political motive.
In addition, I'd like to respond to IBC's statement that:
Totals of the magnitude generated by this study are unnecessary to brand the invasion and occupation of Iraq a human and strategic tragedy.No, not a strategic tragedy. A strategic success. The insurgents and their foreign allies sought to murder as many Shi'ites as possible in order to provoke a brutal reaction, a civil war, and ultimately an American withdrawal. The brutal reaction has begun. So has something akin to a civil war. Pressure for an American withdrawal continues to mount.
IBC's references to the "invasion" and "occupation" as the problem are a distraction. The insurgents and their allies decided to make Iraq this way, just as Saddam made it before the invasion. That is the human tragedy.
No back to the study for a moment: Have you had a look at it, Taylor? You seem to share my somewhat morbid interest in the subject of mass casualties (and how, in an ideal world, we might prevent them). Any thoughts? (17) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:38 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Monday, October 16, 2006
# Posted 11:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
So what are we to make of these pervasive role reversals? Is everyone a hypocrite? No, that's not fair. Circumstances do matter. The critics can argue that North Korea is far more dangerous than Iraq ever was. The White House can argue that it tried to get the UN to get serious about Iraq, but it wouldn't. Now, they're giving the UN its chance on North Korea.
Personally, I think the administration has the better argument here, but the margin is not enough to win over any of the critics. So let's get down to grades. John Bolton went first on NBC, followed by dueling Minnesota Senate candidates Mark Kennedy and Amy Klobuchar. Condi led off on CBS, followed by John Warner and Sam Nunn. Bolton was number one again on ABC, followed by duelling Tennessee Senate candidates Harold Ford and Bob Corker (who appeared separately).
Bolton on NBC: A-. Where was the monster I've been led to expect? I think he answered every question exactly as Condi would have, and with the same calm resolve. Although he could learn something from her about hairstyles.I should just note, it was another solid performance for Russert as Senate debate moderator. I think the scrutiny that comes with explicit political showdowns forces moderators to do their best.
See ya next week. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:34 PM by Taylor Owen
# Posted 2:10 PM by Patrick Porter
Christie married 22-year-old Ethel Simpson from Sheffield, on 10 May 1920. It was a dysfunctional union, as Christie was impotent with her and frequented prostitutes. Friends and neighbors gossiped that she stayed with him out of fear. They separated after four years, when Christie moved to London and Ethel lived with relatives.You should have seen Harrow's mean cop. (5) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:54 PM by Patrick Porter
Such is Dawkins's unruffled scientific impartiality that in a book of almost four hundred pages, he can scarcely bring himself to concede that a single human benefit has flowed from religious faith, a view which is as a priori improbable as it is empirically false. The countless millions who have devoted their lives selflessly to the service of others in the name of Christ or Buddha or Allah are wiped from human history - and this by a self-appointed crusader against bigotry.(2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:59 AM by Patrick Porter
It will be going out live here, between 11am and noon, UK time.
You heard it here first folks, don't go away, etc. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, October 15, 2006
# Posted 9:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
But perhaps the half-life of such material is greater than just a few days in duration. For example, last week's debate on Meet the Press between Missouri Senate candidates Jim Talent and Claire McCaskill will remain relevant at least until election day. And Tim Russert's discussion with Bob Woodward reflected an interesting development in the journalistic profession's sense of itself.
Of course, you could always just say that I'm too set in my ways to miss a round-up. If so, then forgive me and keep on scrolling. Otherwise, let me say that Reps. Ray LaHood (R-IL) and Tom Davis (R-VA) were on CBS, while ABC had Reps. Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL) and Adam Putnam (R-FL), followed by Jim Baker talking about the Iraq Study Group.
Talent: B. Aggressive. Reasonably well-spoken. But little to offer beyond talking points from the Republcian play book.Although soft on Baker, Stephanopoulos was very good about challenging Emmanuel, even though Democrats have almost nothing to apologize for in relation to Foley. Steph asked how it's possible that twenty years ago, when Rep. Gerry Studds (D-MA), was discovered to have sex with a page, the party did nothing more than censure him. Whereas Foley had to resign immediately even though he never touched a page (although I'm sure he would have), Studds served 14 more years with the full support of his party.
Emmanuel couldn't explain. I'd suggest the Democrats could afford to protect their own when they had a huge majority in Congress. In addition, the fact that GOP congressmen Dan Crane (R-IL) also had sex with a page meant the Democrats didn't have to worry about being the focus of public anger.
On a related note, Studds died yesterday. It is unfortunate that the first openly gay congressman had to undermine such a notable achievement by sleeping with a page. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Thursday, October 12, 2006
# Posted 9:57 PM by Patrick Belton
(15) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:42 PM by Patrick Porter
While its hard to navigate the full landscape of the interior world of the terrorist, we know that they were targeted partly for the provocation of several policies: Australia's belated support for East Timorese Independence from Indonesia, and Australia's role in assisting in the overthrow of the Taleban in Afganistan. I guess it demonstrates that just because your policies incite terrorists to hate you more, doesn't mean they are bad policies.
Speaking personally for a second, a line that was drawn politically for me on 9/11 was reinforced that day. It divided between two different responses, between those who were quick to assign blame and rationalisation to the Australian government and people and even the victims themselves (they had been drinking in a Moslem majority country, you see) and people who were unembarrassed to say this was murder, it was wrong, and the root cause was the ideology and methods of the killers.
Solidarity and commiserations with the families of the victims.
And today is my lovely wife's birthday! Happy birthday Andrea! (11) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
# Posted 4:56 PM by Patrick Porter
On the one hand, the American presence [in Iraq] does inspire some to join the worldwide jihad. On the other hand, success in the Iraq project would blunt the most fundamental enlistment tool for terrorism -- the political oppression in Arab lands that is deflected by cynical dictators and radical imams into murderous hatred of the West. Which is why the Bush democracy project embodies the greatest hope for a reduction of terrorism and why the NIE itself concludes that were the jihadists to fail in Iraq, their numbers would diminish.As I posted recently, recent polls suggest that Iraqis themselves have not been converted by Bin Ladenism. In fact, they demonstrate that Al Qaeda is ultimately self-defeating by its very presence, murderous and alienating as it is. The USA isn't the only side with a 'winning hearts and minds' problem. (3) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:26 PM by Patrick Porter
Defenders of NATO argue that just because the Cold War is over, doesn't mean that the alliance members don't have common security interests. Which is true. But their interests are now shaped and pursued more globally than ever before: operations in Afghanistan, humanitarian aid in Indonesia, and logistical support to the African Union in the Sudan.
So Ivo Daalder and James Goldgeier propose that NATO accepts non-European liberal democracies as members. It should redefine its view of security, no longer as a territorially delimited sphere, but as a set of shared liberal and democratic values. A resurgent and giant India, the economically vibrant Japan, and militarily effective Australia would enhance its capabilities and its resources.
What are the benefits? First, there are the hard benefits of military interoperability that join training, planning and campaigning would yield. It would also create closer relationships in areas where the security of older NATO countries are effected, to increase its ability to combat terrorist networks operating from the Pacific to Europe to America. It would also strengthen NATO's legitimacy, and provide it with more resources.
The main problem I can imagine with this proposal is that the question of admitting Israel would divide its members: admit Israel, and others might not join, refuse Israel entry, and it threatens the political basis and identity of the alliance. Hmmm. (7) opinions -- Add your opinion