OxBlog

Friday, March 30, 2007

# Posted 8:27 PM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG REMEMBERS:

In solidarity with our hostages.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

# Posted 8:34 AM by Taylor Owen  

WHAT HAPPENS IN DC, STAYS IN DC...:



PS. I am undecided as to what is more disturbing: Rove, doing whatever it is he is doing, or David Gregory getting into it in the background.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

# Posted 9:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLOGGER CONFERENCE CALL WITH McCAIN: This morning I was fortunate enough to be included on a conference call with John McCain. No headlines were made, but I was definitely struck by the vehemence with which the Senator from Arizona denounced the Democratic timeline for withdrawal from Iraq.

What I heard was very close to anger and disgust, which I have not seen from McCain in many, many interviews on Sunday morning talk shows and other mainstream media spots (although he is known for his temper in private). The Senator was simply outraged that the Democrats were insisting that we give up the fight before the surge has had a chance to work.

The participants in the conference call were mostly conservative bloggers, although not necessarily McCain supporters. The tone of the questions was generally supportive. Reactions were also positive. At the Corner, K.Lo commented that:
The senator clearly wants right-wing bloggers to feel like one of the McCainaic guys on the bus. And with candid answers to unscripted questions that would appear throughout the blogopshere minutes later…it sure didn’t hurt him.
James Joyner wrote that:
He clearly enjoys bandying with people, including many who opposed him. Indeed, this is the first conference call with a major politician I’ve been on where people from the other party were invited to participate.
For additional thoughts on the call, check out Ryan Sager, Doug Lambert, Little Miss Attila, Philip Klein, Eye on '08, Fausta, Matt Lewis.

For a rough semi-transcript of the call with extensive links, see here.

All in all, a good job by the Senator, although he may want to offer fewer endorsements of hot lesbians. And I'd be curious to see what would happen in a conference call with liberal bloggers.

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# Posted 9:29 PM by Taylor Owen  

MCCAIN VS WARE: Point:
BLITZER: Here's what you told Bill Bennett on his radio show on Monday.

MCCAIN: Yes.

BLITZER: "There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods today."

MCCAIN: Yes.

BLITZER: "The U.S. is beginning to succeed in Iraq."

You know, everything we hear, that if you leave the so-called green zone, the international zone, and you go outside of that secure area, relatively speaking, you're in trouble if you're an American.

MCCAIN: You know, that's why you ought to catch up on things, Wolf.

General Petraeus goes out there almost every day in an unarmed Humvee. You want to -- I think you ought to catch up. You see, you are giving the old line of three months ago. I understand it. We certainly don't get it through the filter of some of the media.

But I know for a fact of much of the success we're experiencing, including the ability of Americans in many parts -- not all. We've got a long, long way to go. We've only got two of the five brigades there -- to go into some neighborhoods in Baghdad in a secure fashion.
Counterpoint:
BLITZER: Let's go live to Baghdad right now.

CNN's Michael Ware is standing by -- Michael, you've been there, what, for four years. You're walking around Baghdad on a daily basis.

Has there been this improvement that Senator McCain is speaking about?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'd certainly like to bring Senator McCain up to speed, if he ever gives me the opportunity. And if I have any difficulty hearing you right now, Wolf, that's because of the helicopter circling overhead and the gun battle that is blazing just a few blocks down the road.

Is Baghdad any safer?

Sectarian violence -- one particular type of violence -- is down. But none of the American generals here on the ground have anything like Senator McCain's confidence.

I mean, Senator McCain's credibility now on Iraq, which has been so solid to this point, has now been left out hanging to dry.

To suggest that there's any neighborhood in this city where an American can walk freely is beyond ludicrous. I'd love Senator McCain to tell me where that neighborhood is and he and I can go for a stroll.

And to think that General David Petraeus travels this city in an unarmed Humvee. I mean in the hour since Senator McCain has said this, I've spoken to some military sources and there was laughter down the line. I mean, certainly, the general travels in a Humvee. There's multiple Humvees around it, heavily armed. There's attack helicopters, predator drones, sniper teams, all sorts of layers of protection.

So, no, Senator McCain is way off base on this one -- Wolf.

[...]


BLITZER: Michael, when Senator McCain says that there are at least some areas of Baghdad where people can walk around and -- whether it's General Petraeus, the U.S. military commander, or others, are there at least some areas where you could emerge outside of the Green Zone, the international zone, where people can go out, go to a coffee shop, go to a restaurant, and simply take a stroll?

WARE: I can answer this very quickly, Wolf. No. No way on earth can a westerner, particularly an American, stroll any street of this capital of more than five million people.

I mean, if al Qaeda doesn't get wind of you, or if one of the Sunni insurgent groups don't descend upon you, or if someone doesn't tip off a Shia militia, then the nearest criminal gang is just going to see dollar signs and scoop you up. Honestly, Wolf, you'd barely last 20 minutes out there.

I don't know what part of Neverland Senator McCain is talking about when he says we can go strolling in Baghdad.

UPDATE: At risk of pushing this too far, here is the next round.

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# Posted 9:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YOUR FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD TERRORIST: On the night before I left the UK, I had dinner with an old friend in East London near Whitechapel, a heavily Muslim part of the British capital.

My friend said that Americans may not understand what it means to be personally threatened by terrorism. She said that she watches interviews with radical Muslims on the BBC news. They wrap their heads with black cloth to hide their identity and talk about waging jihad by any means necessary.

What makes these interviews different is that they are being conducted in London. Often, my friend recognizes the buildings in the background when the interviews are shot around Whitechapel.

As my friend correctly pointed out, Americans rarely or never turn on the evening news to find that their neighbors are hiding their faces and declaring jihad. That is a kind of immediate and personal threat we do not experience. It is the kind of threat we might experience if Timothy McVeigh had represented a real movement, rather than a handful of isolated extremists.

Of course, the absence of such a threat is not simply an accident. The United States has integrated its Arab and Muslim immigrants more successfully than most of Europe. But it would be wise not to ignore the threat that faces our most important ally and may soon face many others as well.

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# Posted 5:21 PM by Patrick Porter  

STUFF: Its been a while since I've posted. I've been marking papers, trying to get some stuff published, and scraping away down at the archives. The glamorous life of the academic...

Flying over to New York tomorrow night for the Easter Break. For our readers who like soccer, I'll be dropping in to Nevada Smiths (74th, between 11 & 12th) to watch the Reds play Roma on the 4th and 10th of April. Glasses, black jumper, receding hairline, rippling physique. Find me I'll buy you a beer. Might see you, Randy!

In the meantime, open thread: history's most decisive battles?

Two criteria: they have to have macro-historical importance; and they should independently have their own impact (ie. battles that you think in themselves were decisive rather than simply being symptoms of underlying trends that were basically already going to happen).

Here are some candidates I can muster while falling asleep at the keyboard. They may not be correct, but they're worth considering: Trafalgar, Midway, Salamis, Gaugemela, Vienna (ie. in 1683), Tours (although this is v. controversial), Valmy, Hakata Bay. Just a few.

Views?

PS: And happy birthday, Dave Dyer!
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# Posted 9:26 AM by Patrick Belton  

GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION, V:
In the northern parts of England the men parade the streets on Easter Sunday and claim the privilege of lifting every woman three times from the ground, receiving in payment a kiss or a silver sixpence. The same is done by the women to the men on the next day. In the Neumark (Germany) on Easter Day the men servants whip the maid servants with switches; on Monday the maids whip the men. They secure their release with Easter eggs. These customs are probably of pre-Christian origin (Reinsberg-Düringsfeld, Das festliche Jahr, 118).

- Catholic Encyclopaedia, Volume V, 1909.


Incidentally, OxBlog (London bureau) will be having a garden party on Easter afternoon for any of our readers and friends who may wish to pop round our back garden for hot cross buns. No, no, this all sounds desperately wrong. It's easter, there will be simnel cake, and minty lamb. All very innocent, really.
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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

# Posted 10:36 PM by Taylor Owen  

THE LOOMING TOWER: I just saw a wonderful talk by Lawrence Wright who was in Toronto accepting the Gelber Prize for his book The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and The Road to 9/11. It is refreshing to see such a soft spoken yet tremendously authoritative treatment of this topic. An exemplar of the type of analysis fundamentally required if we are going to defeat the scourge of Al-Qaeda.

The lecture can be watched here, it will be an hour well spent.

Some interesting comments made by Wright:

According to internal Al-Qaeda documents, 80% of the organization in Afghanistan were killed or captured in the first major phase of Operation Enduring Freedom. At this point, the War on Terror was won, and it should have continued as a police/intelligence operation. Between December 2001 and 2003, the organization existed in a "zombie state". Since the invasion of Iraq, they have experienced an astonishing rebirth, now having a base of operation and a recruitment tool.

Al-Qaeda has a 6 stage 20 year plan, written before 9/11:

1. 2001-2003 - Hit the US and create a chaotic reaction.
2. 2003-2006 - Recruit and build support based on the US reaction
3. 2006-2013 - Move conflict into Syria, Turkey and Isreal
4. 2013-2015 - Bring down governments in Arab countries
5. 2015-2016 - Israel collapses
6. 2017-2020 - Apocalyptic battle between Islamic Armies and the West
7. 2020 - Victory. "falsehood" ends and Islamic governments rule the world.

Delusion, certainly. But at which stage does it move from the possible to the fantastical? 3, 4, 5?

He argued that there are three critical things that can be done immediately:

1. The most important thing that can be done to defeat Al-Qaeda is to develop real intelligence capacity, something that hasn't yet been done. Only 25 people in the FBI speak Arabic, and most of them not well enough to interrogate. CIA made up of Irish and Italians, good for fighting the mafia and he mob, useless for Al-Qaeda. "We need skilled people on the ground. Until this happens, we are blindfolded."

2. Develop allies, seriously. This fundamentally cannot be done with either a war mentality, or alone.

3. Real engagement with Israel-Palestine, including immediate refutation of the settlements. While Bin Laden doesn't care very much about the conflict, like Iraq, it is a significant recruitment tool.

These are just a few notes, check out the lecture.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

# Posted 11:30 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE BEST REASON TO BECOME A LONDON CONSTABLE: They get to drive BMW police cruisers.
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Thursday, March 22, 2007

# Posted 1:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOPE FOR PAKISTAN? OR JUST ANOTHER CRISIS? Ahmed Rashid suggests that Musharraf's time has come.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

# Posted 12:32 PM by Patrick Belton  

AND A NOTE ON ST PATRICK'S DAY: Something I would have noted earlier, except the 18th March does not appear as a valid calendar date on my specially printed diaries (the 19th and 20th only marginally more so), was the passing of the greatest day of the year, and my name day. We at OxBlog had our annual expected party, of which photographs and menu are provided for those of our friends who could join us only virtually. There are, though, a few leftovers still from this year’s run of Patrick Belton’s Guinness Brownies.

Next year, in Jerusalem? (If we do the fellowship).
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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

# Posted 7:35 AM by Patrick Belton  

ANNA POLITKOVSKAYA IN MEMORIAM READINGS: Tonight, under the sponsorship of PEN and Reporters without Borders, a worldwide series of readings will take place from murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya's writings. I'll be going to the reading in London; a list of readings in other cities is present on the same page. As it happens, one of the two readers tonight is my own close friend, journalist and writer Sophie Parkin. (Accompanying her will be Richard Strange, actor and musician.)

It does seem to me important that the cause of press freedoms in Russia (and elsewhere, at a time journalist deaths are undergoing rapid rise) is both kept in the foreground, and also that it not be diluted by mixture with other causes. There is always lurking in this country the peril that all political events, irrespective of flavour or distance over which they must be dragged to get there, will in creative fashion be hijacked and piloted undeftly into the discussion over Iraq. It seems to me important this not happen. Much divides us; let press freedoms and human rights be, I plead, the touchstone of something which can bring us together.
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Monday, March 19, 2007

# Posted 8:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

(ACCIDENTAL?) BRITISH HUMOUR: I'm going to London later this week and just visited www.rail.co.uk in order to check on some train schedules. After entering my departure time, destination, and anticipated time of return, I recieved the following notice:
Note: Certain combinations of outward and return journeys would result in you needing to leave your destination before arriving at it.
Well that would be very rude.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

# Posted 12:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BAD PRESS FOR McCAIN: Here's the opening sentence of a front-page article about McCain from Thursday's WaPo:
In the seven years since John McCain and his "Straight Talk Express" nearly derailed George W. Bush's White House ambitions, the blunt-spoken senator from Arizona has become the very picture of the highly managed presidential candidate he once scorned.
I'm sorry, was that an editorial that accidentally got printed on the front page? (For the record, no it wasn't.)

But let's put aside the usual OxBlog gripe about media partisanship. The more interesting question may be whether anti-McCain sentiment is gaining momentum in the media. A couple of weeks ago, I laid out my working hypothesis that journalists will take shots at McCain precisely because of his sterling reputation, but that those shots won't add up to a coherent anti-McCain narrative. But I could be wrong.

The headline of Thursday's front-pager in the Post was "McCain Fighting to Recapture Maverick Spirit of 2000 Bid". The press corps may run with that. Personally, I think it's BS. McCain has made nice to his old enemies, principally Bush and Falwell, but he hasn't changed his beliefs to accommodate anyone.

The problem is, much of McCain's positive coverage before may have reflected the press corps' embrace of all those, especially Republicans, who openly antagonize the Right. Thus, even if McCain's values and policy positions remain the same, it may not matter to the opinion-makers.

Finally, there is the proverbial elephant in the room: the war in Iraq. McCain's uncompromising commitment to an unpopular war means he isn't the kind of maverick journalists were hoping for. But perhaps the press corps will recognize that it is precisely the same "maverick spirit of 2000" that has led McCain to stand firm on the most controversial issue of today.

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# Posted 12:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SCHUMER VS. THE NEW YORK TIMES:
"If we listened to the New York Times editorial board, we'd have twenty-one votes in the Senate."
Quotation courtesy of the New Yorker.

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# Posted 11:44 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE MUSHARRAF DILEMMA: In the bad old days of the Cold War, our government had a bad habit of pretending that friendly dictators were actually democrats. Even though George W. Bush has condemned this hypocrisy and insisted that stability is achieved by promoting freedom, it doesn't seem that we've actually broken our habit:
"We have a fundamental interest in the success of Pakistan as a moderate, stable, democratic Muslim nation," Assistant Secretary of State Richard A. Boucher said at a news conference Thursday in Islamabad during which he announced a $750 million aid package. According to the Associated Press, he added: "That's the direction that Musharraf is leading the nation, and we are proud to work with him."
That quotation is from a WaPo editorial, which goes on to explain why Mr. Boucher's statements are absurd. In addition, the WaPo observes that according to the logic of realpolitik, alliances with dictators are acceptable in the name of national security. Yet Musharraf seems to be doing at least as much to undermine our security as he is to improve it.

That is where the Post's editorial leaves off. As you can tell, I sympathize with it, because democracy promotion is an issue that I am extraordinarily passionate about. But when it comes to Musharraf, I still wonder whether there are any better options, because he may just have us by the balls.

Most of the dictators the US once befriended in the name of security were actually in control of their own countries. Yet Musharraf doesn't even seem to control his own military or intelligence services -- which actually strengthens the argument for giving him our support, since he could be replaced very quickly by someone very hostile toward the United States.

So, are there any ways out of this miserable situation? Not that I know of. But I am pretty sure that we can dispense with the hypocritical statements proclaiming Musharraf to be a democrat.

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# Posted 9:43 AM by Taylor Owen  

FRUM ON STEYN: This, fresh of the wires!:
More fundamentally, I think we need to be very wary of assuming that every Muslim is a radical Muslim; that every immigrant to Europe must be an enemy to the existing European order.
What a relief. Belton, do you want to pass this wonderful news on to your Pakistani friends. I am also sure that there will be some comforted colleagues at SOAS and Oxford...
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Friday, March 16, 2007

# Posted 12:20 PM by Patrick Belton  

INDO-PAK OF DELIGHTS: Thought I was smashing on telly last night, but the haze of alcohol slowly evaporating (taxpayer subsidised at the Commons bar), I stumble rather towards the conclusion I smashed a telly.

The good people at Worldview kindly had me on last night to discuss the fourth round of Indo-Pak composite dialogue talks, just begun, in the delightful company of two people whose opinions and work I deeply respect, my friend Dr Marie Lall from Chatham House and the University of London, and Rahul Roy Chaudhry from IISS.

I changed my tie. For benefit and edification of the peanut gallery.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

# Posted 11:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANY HOPE FOR THE SURGE? David Brooks made the case for hope last Friday on the NewsHour:

If you take a look at what's actually happening in Iraq -- and I'm not someone who is super charged up about the surge -- nonetheless, we've had the oil law recently. We've had a real cleaning-out of the interior ministry. We've had some cooperation from Anbar. We've had quieting down in Sadr City, and now our troops can go into these areas.

It seems to me the events of the last couple weeks lead you to think let's give it a chance. And we'll know, as I say, in a few months whether it works or not.

Interestingly, there was no rebuttal from Mark Shields, who represents the liberal perspective on the NewsHour's Friday broadcasts. (And Taylor, what say you? Is Brooks looking at the right metrics for success?)

Bob Kagan made a similar case for the surge in his recent column in the WaPo:
Leading journalists have been reporting for some time that the war was hopeless, a fiasco that could not be salvaged by more troops and a new counterinsurgency strategy. The conventional wisdom in December held that sending more troops was politically impossible after the antiwar tenor of the midterm elections. It was practically impossible because the extra troops didn't exist. Even if the troops did exist, they could not make a difference...

The number of security tips about insurgents that Iraqi civilians provide has jumped sharply. Stores and marketplaces are reopening in Baghdad, increasing the sense of community. People dislocated by sectarian violence are returning to their homes. As a result, "many Baghdadis feel hopeful again about the future, and the fear of civil war is slowly being replaced by optimism that peace might one day return to this city," [Iraqi bloggers Omar and Muhammad Fadhil] report. "This change in mood is something huge by itself."
Unfortunately, some of the debate about Kagan's argument has been diverted toward the question of whether he should've disclosed that his brother and sister-in-law were involved in planning and promotion the surge. According to Andrew Sullivan,
The Washington Post should have disclosed that the plan Kagan is assessing was authored by by his brother and sister-in-law, Fred and Kimberly Kagan. If that isn't a conflict of interest that requires disclosure, what is?
I'm no lawyer, but I tend to think of conflicts of interest in financial terms. For example, it is a conflict of interest for a judge to preside over a lawsuit brought against a firm owned by his brother and sister-in-law. Perhaps some of you lawyers out there can elaborate on this point.

In contrast, no one expects op-ed columnists to be neutral judges of the political situation. Regardless, I think it would've been wiser for Kagan to mention his personal connection to the surge.

When it comes to the substance of Kagan's argument, Sullivan links to Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald, who cites a very optimistic editorial from the Weekly Standard, circa March 2004, in order to demonstrate Kagan has record of premature optimism when it comes to Iraq:
A year has passed since the invasion of Iraq, and while no sensible person would claim that Iraqis are safely and irrevocably on a course to liberal democracy, the honest and rather remarkable truth is that they have made enormous strides in that direction...We may have turned a corner in terms of security.

What's more, there are hopeful signs that Iraqis of differing religious, ethnic, and political persuasions can work together. This is a far cry from the predictions made before the war by many, both here and in Europe, that a liberated Iraq would fracture into feuding clans and unleash a bloodbath.
Clearly, that isn't how things have turned out. Yet as I've said in defense of my own flawed optimistm, sectarian violence has not prevailed because it is the natural state of affairs, but because the Sunni insurgents committed atrocity after atrocity in the explicit hope of provoking a civil war that would overwhelm American efforts to promote democracy and peace. We just weren't ready for that and weren't flexible enough to respond.

But just because the optimists (myself) included have been wrong before, it is serious mistake to conclude that such analysis is dishonest. For example, Greenwald's criticism of Kagan descends into a flurry of groundless ad hominem attacks:
No rational person would believe a word Robert Kagan says about anything. He has been spewing out one falsehood after the next for the last four years in order to blind Americans about the real state of affairs concerning the invasion...

He is completely liberated from any obligation to tell the truth and is a highly destructive propagandist whose public record of commentary about Iraq ought to disqualify him from decent company, let alone some sort of pretense to expertise about this war.
Yet in his rather lengthy post, Greenwald provides no evidence of mendacity, only of errors. Thus, his writing amounts to a sad example of how vindictive partisanship results in reckless vilification and dangerous efforts to shut down rational debate. That is the kind of behavior that doesn't belong in decent company.

Now let me state for the record, as I have before, that I spent 12 months as Kagan's research assistant. Thus, I can report first hand that he demonstrated only courtesy and respect to those with whom he disagreed. In other words, he set the kind of example from which those like Mr. Greenwald have much to learn.

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# Posted 4:06 PM by Taylor Owen  

ASSESSING THE SURGE: What metrics should we be using to measure the success of the surge? Some are beginning to note a decrease in bombings in Baghdad, but given that it was widely believed that the insurgents (of some stripes anyways) would simply lay low until the surge was over, is this really a viable indicator? The first battle of Fallujah being a good lesson in this regard. Should we instead be looking for signs of political progress? Should the relative calm created by the troop presence, even if somewhat artificial and temporary, be seen as a window of political opportunity? If so, what conciliatory signs are we looking for? Further, what are the concequences of not seeing them?

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

# Posted 9:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE CASE AGAINST GIULIANI: Just because I'm pro-McCain doesn't mean I'm anti-Giuliani. But OxFriend Jim Sleeper covered Giuliani very closely during Rudy's time as mayor and is very much anti-Giuliani. Jim writes over at TPM Cafe that:
Giuliani’s methods and motives suggest he couldn’t carry his skills and experience to the White House without damaging this country. Two problems run deeper than the current likely “horse race” liabilities, such as his social views and family history.

The first serious problem is structural and political: A man who fought the inherent limits of his mayoral office as fanatically as Giuliani would construe presidential prerogatives so broadly he’d make George Bush’s notions of “unitary” executive power seem soft.
That analogy strikes me as a bit off base. Rough-and-tumble municipal politics isn't the same thing as compromising civil rights in the name of national security. And given how uncompromising this administration has been on such issues, I find it hard to imagine that Rudy could take a much harder line.

If Jim wanted to persuade me of his point, the best evidence he could provide would be statements from Rudy to the effect that this administration's wire-tapping and FISA-dodging were only the beginning of how President Giuliani would deal with the problem.

Moving on, Jim's second point is that:
What drove [Giuliani] as mayor was a zealot’s graceless division of everyone into friend or foe and his snarling, sometimes histrionic, vilifications of the foes. Those are operatic emotions, beneath the civic dignity of a great city and its chief magistrate.
That reminds me of something one of my staunchly Republican colleagues recently said. If Giuliani wants to win the nomination, he has to develop a more comforting, Reagan-esque demeanor rather than the pit-bull attitude he's often been known for.

But Jim is focused on Rudy's ability to be president, not to win the nomination. And on that front, I don't find his abrasiveness all that troubling. If President Giuliani were as effective a policymaker as Mayor Giuliani, being abrasive wouldn't really matter. To put it differently, if the war in Iraq had been immaculately planned, would anyone still care about whether it was undiplomatic for Bush to label America's enemies an "axis of evil"?

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# Posted 8:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIBERALS' "ALL-OUT ASSAULT ON AMERICA'S JUDEO-CHRISTIAN HERITAGE AND MORAL VALUES": It is the fate of pundits everywhere, especially those with pretensions of open-mindedness, to demonstrate their fairness and balance by denouncing fools and extremists resident in their own half of the political spectrum. Now pay attention as I perform this inevitable ritual.

Yesterday, I received a letter from the Heritage Foundation requesting my financial support for its efforts to provide "conservative leaders with the intellectual firepower" that their jobs require. But if the text of the letter is an accurate indication, then all Heritage has to offer is the intellectual equivalent of a rusty old BB gun.

Here's how the Heritage letter begins:

Dear Fellow American,

The new liberal majority in control of Congress has threatened an all-out assault on America's Judeo-Christian heritage and moral standards -- an attack on the values you and I cherish and that made our nation the greatest on earth.
Funny, I must have misssed that press release from Pelosi's office. Besides, I thought that what made America great were its democratic values, which transcend the precepts of any single religious heritage.

[NB: In the quotation above and throughout this post, all italics, boldface, and underlining are in the original.]

Moving on, the real problem for conservatives is that the liberal Congress will be:

Backed by far-Left groups like the ACLU, the National Education Association, Planned Parenthood, and even the United Nations. They'll be planning and working together, pushing liberal politicans to adopt their radical policies.
In most cases, I'm glad to recite the United Nation's long list of flaws and vices. But since when has the UN ever been able to plan and work together with liberals in Congress? Did the UN hire Jack Abramoff to bribe Nancy Pelosi when no one was looking?

Speaking of Pelosi, the Heritage letter describes her as "just two heartbeats from the presidency." I guess if a double-heart attack simultaneously hit Cheney and Bush, Pelosi might be two heartbeats away from the presidency. Of course, it is possible that a terrorist attack could take out both men at once. But if that's what Heritage is really worried about, maybe it should focus its efforts more on homeland security and less on gay marriage.

Speaking of which, I was interested to learn that

The Left's ultimate goal is not just to redefine marriage but to completely end it -- a social disaster Europe is now toying with.
Let's dispense with humor for a moment. This is just a reckless provocation. It is also pathetic evidence of failure from an organization that advertises its intellectual firepower.

When has Nancy Pelosi or any other Democrat I've ever heard of ever spoken out against marriage? (Perhaps Barney Frank on a bender?)

Although I think it's unfair to describe the Democratic position on gay rights or abortion as an attack on Judeo-Christian moral standards, it isn't absurd. But the idea of a Democratic conspiracy to destroy marriage itself is just a ridiculous fantasy.

If I wanted I could pull out a few more dumb quotes from the Heritage fund-raising letter. But I'd rather leave things right here, at the nadir of the letter's foolishness.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

# Posted 7:23 AM by Patrick Porter  

SEND THESE, THE HOMELESS, TEMPEST-TOSSED, TO ME: Daniel Nexon at the Duck of Minerva argues the humanitarian case for receiving more Iraqi refugees:
First, Americans and Europeans need to protect those, such as translators, who've helped us in Iraq.
Second, a basic implication of the "Pottery Barn Rule" is that the US--and the other members of the "Coalition of the Willing"--should be taking in a great many more refugees.
I agree.

Moreover, as well as being a duty, it could be enriching for our cultures. Australia took in thousands of Vietnamese boat people fleeing from communist rule after the war in Indochina, and they became a great part of our society.

At the same time, there is another war in Afghanistan which is in the balance. Once the US-led coalition removed the Taleban from power, millions of Afghans went back there in one of the world's largest return movements.

But with the resurgent Taleban, and the upcoming prospect of its spring offensive, lets hope these Afghans won't again have to go into exile.
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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

# Posted 11:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WALTER REED: I haven't followed the story closely although I know its basis outlines. So let me just toss out a few hypotheses about what's going on, then you all can comment away.

1) The real tragedy may not be what's happening to veterans near Washington, but to the thousands and thousands of veterans scattered in hospitals around the country who remain far from the spotlight even when the headlines are all about Walter Reed.

2) So far, this scandal strikes me as surprisingly apolitical. I listened to Chuck Schumer on ABC and John Murtha on NBC, but neither tried to connect the scandal to the established and credible narrative about this administration's incompetence. (And if Murtha and Schumer wouldn't try to pin on it on Bush, who would?)

3) Precisely because this scandal has not become partisan, our veterans may not get the reforms they deserve. The incentive of a partisan pay off is often what results in action. But there's an outside chance that one or both parties will take a longer view of the subject and recognize that 18 months down the road, having a strong record on veterans affairs will be a major asset.

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# Posted 11:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIBERTARIAN DEMOCRATS? Today, Liz Mair published her very first column in the NY Sun. Liz's column looks at a Cato report that charts the success of the Democratic Party in winning over libertarian voters. But, Liz argues, those some voters may head right back to the GOP in 2008 if the Democrats nominate any one of their three top candidates, all known as supporters of big government.

The answer? Nominate Bill Richardson, precisely the kind of Mountain West centrist that helped Democrats do so well in 2006. I think Liz makes a good point about Richardson, and you can read more about his tax-cutting record in the Weekly Standard.

But when it comes to nominating presidents, I say go with the rock star. Charisma wins. In other words, the greatest threat to the GOP is Obama.

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# Posted 6:00 AM by Patrick Porter  

OXBLOG AND THE GREAT (FIRE) WALL: Oxblog is not allowed in China, it seems. As this gives us the status of 'politically dangerous', this surely is an opportunity for feelings of self-importance and victimhood.
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Monday, March 05, 2007

# Posted 10:47 AM by Patrick Porter  

INSIDE THE REPUBLIC OF FEAR: I would recommend the Iraqi Perspectives Report, published last year, for anyone interested in learning more about the inner workings, and bizarre strategic worldview, of Saddam's regime before it fell.

For one thing, its a fascinating study of how the regime fell prey to its own distorted world view.

Saddam, as a true occidentalist, presumed that the rich and casualty-averse Americans would never dare mount a full-scale ground invasion; expected that the protests of international opinion would stop them even if they did; that his biggest danger was not external, but an internal coup; ignored his generals' advice that a blooder urban defence be conducted in order to inflict more losses on the enemy; and took at face value the optimistic reports from his own subordinates about the progress of the war, in a system when to be a bearer of bad news was bad for your health.
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# Posted 10:13 AM by Patrick Porter  

OBAMA ON IRAN: At this early stage in the Presidential race, I'd say my favourite candidates from either party are Rudi Giuliani and Barack Obama, as so far they both seem to be mostly moderate and sound.

Obama's position on Iran is clear-sighted. He sees the dangers of allowing a regime that denies the Holocaust, while calling for a second Holocaust, to arm itself with nuclear weapons. At the same time, he calls for a graduated response:

In the 21st century, it is unacceptable that a member state of the United Nations would openly call for the elimination of another member state. But that is exactly what he has done. Neither Israel nor the United States has the luxury of dismissing these outrages as mere rhetoric.

The world must work to stop Iran's uranium enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is far too dangerous to have nuclear weapons in the hands of a radical theocracy. And while we should take no option, including military action, off the table, sustained and aggressive diplomacy combined with tough sanctions should be our primary means to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons.

Amen to that. In particular, he indicates the irresponsibility of waving aside the Iranian President's statements as 'mere rhetoric', a risk we cannot take.

But we also have to be clear that if we ultimately must take military action, there will be grave political and strategic costs.

The liberal, reformist and democratic movement(s) within the Iranian population will probably be set back and weakened, anger and fear of the external agressor might drown out opposition to religious fundamentalism as the basis for government, and polarisation in the region will damage any remote possibility of progress towards a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

None of this is to rule out the legitimacy of any form of military action, even though opinion is divided on how effective air-strikes might be. Rather it is to say that if we must ultimately resort to bombing, we should know exactly what it will cost us.

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# Posted 7:49 AM by Patrick Porter  

BIG AND STRANGE AND BLOODY: Ross Douthat argues that epic historical films need to be less preachy:

But a movie about the Crusades needed the courage to be big and strange and bloody, awing us with visions of a vanished world, rather than lecturing us with the pieties of the present. If the epics of the last five years are remembered, it will be the weirder, wilder scenes that linger:

Russell Crowe's Maximus carving his way through the Roman arena; the leaping duel between Achilles and Hector in Troy; the thrilling brutalities of shipboard life in Master and Commander. We'll also recall the fascinating, deliberately alien performances: Val Kilmer's raving, lecherous, one-eyed King Philip in Alexander; Renée Zellweger's chicken-throttling hillbilly in Cold Mountain; Daniel Day-Lewis' terrifying Butcher Bill in Gangs of New York.

Displaying the awesome strangeness of the past and leaving the audience to make up their own mind. Its a thought.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

# Posted 11:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IT'S GIULIANI TIME: The always top-notch pair of Douthat & Salam take a very interesting look at the Giuliani candidacy in the Weekly Standard. They begin by describing Giuliani's strategic flip-flop during his unsuccesful campaign for mayor of New York in 1989:
Assuming that he'd be running against the blue-collar, socially conservative Democrat Ed Koch, Giuliani cast himself as a liberal. Playing against his tough-guy image, he spent his first months on the campaign trail talking about the victims of homelessness and AIDS and drug abuse, causes that united elite liberals and poor minority voters while leaving the city's shrinking middle class cold...

Then fate intervened: David Dinkins defeated Koch in the Democratic primary, and Giuliani became, by necessity if not by design, the candidate of the unfashionable middle-class strivers living in the outer boroughs, voters who recognized something of themselves in Giuliani, a self-made Italian-American from Brooklyn. Thus was born the polarizing, hard-charging, and proudly uncompassionate Giuliani who, after losing to Dinkins in 1989, beat him in 1993 and went on to transform New York.
Not a pleasnt memory, but probably ancient history as far as 2008 is concerned. More relevant are the strengths that Giuliani brings to the table this time around:
His genius wasn't for cutting government ("down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub," as [Grover] Norquist famously put it) but rather for reforming it and making it work for the working and middle-class taxpayers who elected him, rather than elite liberals who had run City Hall into the ground. He offered a municipal version of the reformism that governors like Wisconsin's Tommy Thompson (who passed on his welfare czar to Giuliani) and Michigan's John Engler pursued at the state level in the 1990s--a conservatism targeted explicitly to voters who wanted to keep the welfare state in place but didn't want the Democrats to run it.
I think competence is going to be a big issue in 2008, because even a lot of Republicans feel that it went AWOL during the Bush administration. Although there's no reason to think John McCain is incompetent, it's always harder for a legislator to demonstrate competence as opposed to a candidate who has served as a cheif executive.

As for McCain, Ross & Reihan write that he:
Tends to embrace the elite media's pet causes, from campaign finance reform to the patient's bill of rights, a Giuliani "respect conservatism" would be proudly anti-elitist, emphasizing issues that resonate with working and middle class Americans.
That strikes me as a little unfair. One might even say that McCain trasformed campaign finance into the elite media's pet cause, not to mention a signature issue for himself. More generally, I think it's going to be hard to paint John McCain as an elitist. It is possible for conservatives to paint him as too moderate or too liberal, but those kinds of attack would hardly justify nominating Giuliani.

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# Posted 11:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE HAD FOUR CHILDREN OUT OF WEDLOCK: Obama? Clinton? McCain? No, it's Segolene Royal, contender to succeed Jacques Chirac as president of France.

This fact came to my attention courtesty of the New Republic, specifically in its review of Why The French Don't Like Headscarves: Islam, the State and Public Space. TNR's review [subscription only] is both quite positive as well quite interesting in and of itself.

The French headscarf ban is quite an unusual subject from an American political perspective, since it unites liberals and conservatives in the name of bashing France. For liberals, the ban represents a clear-cut assault on the civil rights of a minority whose diversity should be applauded, not suppressed. For conservatives, it is a chance to remind the French of just how much better our free-market, small-government system has done at turning immigrants into patriots.

For both liberals and conservatives, the headscarf ban represents a delightful opportunity to turn the tables on an ally that likes to look down its nose at our alleged provincialism and arrogance.

So then, why would the French do something that provides Americans with such a perfect chance to mock them so justifiably? For the answer to that question, you will have to read the review, or perhaps even the book.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

# Posted 12:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS ANN COULTER: Joe Gandelman is angry. And be sure to check out Joe's comprehensive links for a look at how the blogosphere resents Coulter, from right to left.

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# Posted 11:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

McCAIN HYPOCRISY ON CAMPAIGN FINANCE? Forgive me for being three weeks behind the times, but I've meaning to write about a front-page article in the WaPo entitled "McCain Taps Cash He Sought to Limit".

However, the article's headline has changed since it was first published on February 11. According to a correction notice appended to the top of the article (which I only discovered this morning):
The headline on a Feb. 11 article about Sen. John McCain's fundraising, "McCain Taps Cash He Sought to Limit," was misleading. As was clear in the story, McCain is seeking contributions for his presidential campaign from donors who once contributed "soft" money or who contributed to nonprofit political groups known as 527s, not from the groups themselves.
The article's new headline is "One Time Reformer Taps Big Donors". That's still a negative headline that raises the issue of hypocrisy, so thankfully I can still ask the question I had way back on Feb. 11, which is to what degree McCain's behaving as a normal candidate will result in accusations that he has fallen from his pedestal.

When you earn yourself a reputation as a reformer and a maverick, it's only natural for journalists to try and take you down once you hit the campaign trail. In fact, that's probably a good thing. No one should get a free pass because of their reputation.

On the other hand, there is the concern that journalists will go too far, since they have such a powerful incentive to expose every maverick as a conformist and every reformer as a sell-out. So the question is, will the compromises McCain has to make as a candidate be enough to turn the press corps against him, or will a few journalists try to score points at the Senator's expense, only to have their colleagues move on to the next big story?

With that question in mind, it's worth turning back to the actual text of the WaPo article published on Feb. 11. Here's how it begins:
Just about a year and a half ago, Sen. John McCain went to court to try to curtail the influence of a group to which A. Jerrold Perenchio gave $9 million, saying it was trying to "evade and violate" new campaign laws with voter ads ahead of the midterm elections.

As McCain launches his own presidential campaign, however, he is counting on Perenchio, the founder of the Univision Spanish-language media empire, to raise millions of dollars as co-chairman of the Arizona Republican's national finance committee.
That first sentence is especially confusing. It sounds like McCain went to court to target a single group to which Perenchio gave $9 million. Yet if you read the rest of the WaPo article closely, you'll discover that McCain filed an amicus brief asking the courts to clamp down on all "527" groups. In his brief, McCain cited as an example one group to which Perenchio gave several million dollars.

Moreover, the group supported by Perenchio apparently did nothing different from hundreds of other 527s. It simply used its money to run political commercials shortly before election day.

A few paragraphs in, the WaPo article reports that:
The contrast between McCain the presidential candidate and McCain the reformer can be jarring. McCain's campaign says that he is still studying whether to forgo the public financing and spending limits he has long supported, but that he will not be handicapped by restrictions his competitors will not face in 2008.
Let's be clear. McCain has worked hard to change the laws that govern campaign finance. Now he has to decide whether he will simply follow the existing law, or whether he will voluntarily embrace a higher standard that might some day become the law.

I don't think there's a big story here and I would actually be sort of surprised if the press corps as whole sought to punish McCain for refusing to run a campaign with one hand tied behind his back. Naturally, a handful of correspondents will try to run with this alleged story and see if it becomes the next big thing. I don't expect them to change the debate, but stranger things have happened.

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