Thursday, October 31, 2002

# Posted 10:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: So, is Osama alive or not? James Robbins tries to figure it all out. In the meantime, Happy Halloween!
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# Posted 10:50 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE CHALLENGES OF OCCUPATION: Daniel Benjamin, a top counterrorism analyst, has a sharply-worded editorial in today's WashPost challenging the Bush administration's assumption that the occupation can be modelled on the occuaption of Japan.

Reading between the lines, Benjamin's point is much the same as the one made by diplomatic historian John Dower last week: neither man believes Bush is committed enough to nation-building and democratization to make the occuaption work.

As I have made clear before, I am strongly for a postwar occupation and nation-building effort. But I do not believe it will be a guaranteed success. It will depend on the will of the US-led occupying forces more than it does on "deep historical forces" such as Islamic culture.
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# Posted 10:31 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TESTING BUSH'S SINCERITY: This Sunday, Turkey will hold national elections. Justice and Development, the party now leading in polls, has Islamic roots. The last time an Islamic party came to office, the army forced it out.

If the President is serious about bringing democracy to the Middle East, he will have to instruct the Turkish generals that the voters, and not the military, must decide who governs. If the United States lets the military return, it will have lost a critical chance to demonstrate to the Muslims everywhere that an American victory in the war on terror will liberate them as well.
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Wednesday, October 30, 2002

# Posted 3:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SEEN HIS SOUL LATELY? Just in case feelings of sympathy for Vladimir Putin have been welling up inside you, read this analysis of the hostage crisis by Russia expert David Satter.
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# Posted 2:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I'M A BAD RUSSIAN: According to a Russian poll mentioned in both the NY Times and WashPost, 85% percent of Russians support Putin's decision to raid the captured theater despite the human cost. How the Chechens managed to take the theater in the first place will remain a mystery, since Putin's allies in the Duma are resisting all efforts to launch an investigation.
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# Posted 11:51 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IMAGE CONSULTANT WANTED: Josh says Putin shouldn't have offered the Chechens even a "token" concession, since "it is very much for the good of the entire world that the terrorists came out of this so badly." First of all, if I were one of the 120 people who died because of the Russian government's incompetence, it would certainly have preferred if my president had made a token concession. As for the terrorists coming out of this badly, I have to disagree. Their objective was to show that Moscow is not secure and, if possible, reduce the Russian presence in Chechnya. Instead, they managed to show the entire world how brutal, incompetent, deceptive and undemocratic the Putin regime is. Talk about two for the price of one.

Moreover, in light of the fact that the Chechens' cause is justified -- even though its tactics are unacceptable -- I would have been glad if the hostage taking went as planned and Putin had to negotiate over Chechnya. What he has done there is far more brutal than what the Chechens did in Moscow. While I do not hesitate to refer to the Chechens as terrorists, I think there is no question that the Russian armed forces deserve that accolade ten times over.

Finally, I recognize that I jumped the gun when I wrote that the terrorists in question "are Chechen guerrillas, not Al Qaeda operatives." Such a rigid distinction is unwarranted in light of the London Telegraph's report that "'There were definitely Arab terrorists in the building with links to al-Qa'eda," [according to a] senior Western diplomat. Nonetheless, there was nothing in the Telegraph article which suggested that there were any actual members of Al Qaeda in Moscow or that Al Qaeda had any role in setting the objectives of the Moscow operation. Thus, I think my point that the Chechen terrorists could have been negotiated with stands uncorrected.
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# Posted 11:36 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SECOND IN THE MOTION: As Josh pointed out, Harvard has a great site compiling internal documents from Iraq.

One question, Josh: Why did you decide to the post the text of a document focusing on Iraqi brutality in the 1980s, instead of the 1990s? Surely, any competent idiotarian would point out that the United States was Iraq's formal ally at the time and showed no concern for his brutality.
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# Posted 11:29 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE ON JAPAN: In response to my post on eminent diplomatic historian John Dower, John Monasch sent in the following from Japan:
A month ago, NHK satellite was running some documentary [Approx. Title: "The Road to Pearl Harbor 1931-1941"] about some American Japanophile diplomat in the 1930's and his American-o-phile counter-parts and how their devotion to improving relations and understanding between the 2 countries at the time, tragically.....you get the picture.

It was pretty dull and I was only watching it because I was on stranded on the sofa with a fever. But they interviewed Dower to comment on the political atmosphere in Japan in the 30's. He talked about how it was impossible to criticize the government. Suddenly, Dower - at least according to the Japanese voice over - went off on a tangent and started talking about how America, after 9/11, had become the same way. Everyone was affraid to criticize the Bush administration in a similar fashion to Japan in the late 1930's. I couldn't find a transcript but I talked to a producer who confirmed what I thought I had heard (my Japanese is good but not native level).

Good God! Here is an award winning MIT professor (hey, wait a minute) telling all of Japan that post-9/11 America was the same as 1930's Japan...
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# Posted 9:33 AM by Dan  

THOMAS FRIEDMAN on "that democracy thing." He uses lots of cute catchphrases, but his overall point in his last few columns about democracy seems to be this: democracy is a necessary but insufficient step for reform in the Arab world.
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Tuesday, October 29, 2002

# Posted 9:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STICKING UP FOR JIMMY: Josh linked to Daniel Drezner's fisking of Carter's op-ed in the NYT. I think a better idea might to be read Dan's defense of Carter's record as president, which is a must for those who tend to dismiss Carter out of hand because of his bad reputation. Carter was a flawed president, but we have him to thank for the Camp David accord, the Panama Canal treaty, and the elevation of human rights to global prominence. For those of you who want to read one solid book on Carter's foreign policy, check out Gaddis Smith's Morality, Reason, and Power. It's worth it.
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# Posted 8:43 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE EVIDENCE MOUNTS: The NY Times reports "disclosures that doctors were almost completely unprepared to treat the [Russian] hostages for gas-related problems." In addition,
there were no doctors on hand at the theater to provide emergency treatment to the most seriously injured hostages, a standard practice in disasters.
In fact, there weren't even ambulances on hand, so the hostages had to be taken to the hospital on city buses. BUSES! That is incompetence.

The Times also reports that Putin's justification for the raid -- that the terrorists were beginning to execute hostages -- was a transparent lie. Moreover, the raid was decided on almost immediately after the hostages were taken. All this is strong evidence that Putin thought he had a brilliant plan that would both save the hostages and avoid all negotiations. What went wrong? Incompetence.

As for your counterfactual, Josh, I'm less than convinced. Imagine if a Western government decided that it would sacrifice 100 of its own citizens to save another 700 before exhausting all options for saving the entire lot. Imagine the outcry if George Bush (or God forbid, Bill Clinton) decided that he had the right to decide who would live and who would die. Moreover, those most likely to die from the gas are the old, the sick, and the children. Sacrificing them seems particularly callous.

Finally, in comparative perspective, I think there is good reason to believe that such stand-offs can be resolved through negotiation. The typical deal involves safe passage for the terrorists to a foreign destination along with a token concession to their political agenda. Moreover, I question your [Josh's] assumption that the terrorists were willing to use their explosives. These are Chechen guerrillas, not Al Qaeda operatives. In other words, they are nationalists, not suicidal murderers. They have what to gain from negotiation.
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Sunday, October 27, 2002

# Posted 1:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RUSSIAN BRUTALITY: According to a major story in the Washington Post, all but one of the hostages killed in Russia this weekend died because their own government's reckless use of poison gas to incapacitate the Chechen terrorists holding them hostage. Moreover, the special forces who carried out the raid to liberate the hostages executed Chechen terrorists who had fallen unconscious because of said gas.

I wish I could say that this sort of brutality and incompetence were surprising. But they are not. Rather they are the signature of the Putin government, whose undemocratic behavior has rendered it ever more insensitive to the well-being of the citizens it is supposed to represent and protect.
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# Posted 1:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JAPAN AND IRAQ COMPARED: John Dower, the foremost Western historian of Japan and U.S.-Japanese relations, has an in-depth column in today's NYT comparing the US occupation of Japan to a potential US occupation of Iraq. In short, he does not believe that a potential occupation of Iraq would be anywhere near as successful as the occupation of Japan was. However, he explicity rejects the idea that Arab or Islamic culture would prevent the democratization of Iraq. While Dower presents numerous arguments to support his point, it is clear that his pessimism rests on one central foundation: a refusal to believe that the Bush administration will be committed enough to democratization to make it work.

For those with a serious interest in the American occupation of Japan, I cannot recommend Dower's recent book on that subject, Embracing Defeat, highly enough. It is already classic, winning a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize as well as the National Book Award and numerous other honors. His other works are well-worth reading as well.
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# Posted 12:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WOMEN VOTING IN THE MIDDLE EAST? As Tom Friedman reports, Bahrain held its first parliamentary elections yesterday. Women did not just have the right to vote, but were encouraged to do so by the government.
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# Posted 9:52 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANTI-WAR = ANTI-SEMITIC? From the Sunday Times of London:
"...around the edges of the [anti-war] rally [in New York], copies of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," the classic forged document of nineteenth-century anti-Semitism, were being sold. According to a report in the New York Sun, this peddling of anti-Semitic tripe was not entirely accidental..."
Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the link. (Note: The text is only available on Andrew's site.)

If you need some cheering up after reading about anti-Semitism, read this. If I didn't know better, I'd say The Onion hacked into the NYT website.

Last but not least, how's this for irony: "Participants [in the anti-war protest] said the shootings in and around [DC] in the last three weeks had kept people from planning to visit Washington." Hmmm.... Al Qaeda supporter murders Americans at random and fewer people show up to protest the war against terrorism. Anyone have Sherlock Holmes' phone number?
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Saturday, October 26, 2002

# Posted 9:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SHUT UP, DAVID. Seven posts in a row. Time to give it a rest. If you want to read more about politics, why not visit Daniel Drezner's blog? I just read it for the first time today thanks to a link posted by Instapundit.

I think Josh must like Daniel's blog as well, since he added it to our favorites list just a while back. And someone at the University of Chicago must think Daniel is pretty smart, since they made him a professor in the department of political science. Just one question: Is his middle initial really "W."?
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# Posted 9:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOMELAND SECURITY: Why not start by reducing the number of snipers? Unfortunately, the Bush administration seems dead-set against a simple method for identifying bullets found at crime scenes.
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# Posted 9:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE REAL PAPER TIGER: Thought Clinton was soft on North Korea? Then read Ryan Lizza's article in The New Republic about how the Bush administration sought to hold back from the American public information about North Korea's nuclear program.
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# Posted 8:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REPETITION AGAIN: "...the liberal -- moral -- case for war. This case was made, in the best argument written to date on either side of the issue, in an article plugged in this space last week, but not plugged enough: Jonathan Chait's cover story in the Oct. 21 issue of the New Republic, 'The Liberal Case for War.'" (Michael Kelly, Oct. 23)

OxBlog couldn't agree more.
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# Posted 8:37 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE PAPER TIGER DIPLOMACY: Think the US should have been tougher on North Korea? Then why not get tough with the source of its nuclear technology? Yes, Pakistan. Even though it hasn't been much of an ally in the war on terror, Bush seems content to ignore Pres. Musharraf's dictatorial behavior, behavior which has the direct effect of promoting violent anti-American Islamic fundamentalism. Then again, maybe Bush just feels bad about being unable to remember Musharraf's name when he took that little foreign affairs quiz a few years back. (Apologies to Mike Daley for that low blow.)

But seriously, consider this:
"Elections rigged by Musharraf in his favor this month were praised extravagantly by State Department spokesman Richard Boucher as "an important milestone in the ongoing transition to democracy."
While supporting anti-Communist dictators during the Cold War undermined American interests, it at least had some short-term advantages. But supporting dictators like Musharraf has the potential to incite a fundamentalist revolution in a nuclear-armed state. Bad idea. Send a memo to the President.
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# Posted 8:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CRUEL AND UNUSUAL? WashPost columnist Colbert King writes that "to a special kind [of criminal], a special kind of justice is owed." No, not Kim Jong-Il. He meant the DC sniper. So here's my idea for special justice:

You start with a death sentence. But you don't carry it out in an electric chair or anything like that. Rather, one American will be selected at random to execute the sniper. He or she will be given a high-powered rifle and a prison guard uniform. He or she will then kill the sniper at a random time and place, of his or her choosing (within the relevant prison, of course). If he or she wanted, he could wait five or six years to take care of business. That way Mr. Muhammad can spend a very, very long time wondering whether he has only a moment left before his violent and bloody death.

If any of you out there are constitutional lawyers, please let me know if this idea is workable.
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# Posted 8:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ONE WORD: FRANCE. While I sympathize with you, Josh, I think it's important to recognize that the anti-Milosevic coalition was broader than the current anti-Iraq front in that it included France, Germany and other European states. There was little concern with winning UN support because the world's great democracies were behind the mission. Now that the great democracies are divided, the UN has assumed a role as a forum for debate. Unfortunately, this has entailed granting excessive authority to the semi-dictatorial governments of Russia and China. But that is a price that European opponents of the American president are willing to pay.

Still, one should note a certain hypocrisy on the part of France, Germany and those other European states who now insist that UN validation is necessary before using force. Moreover, those nations did have a concrete security interest in the Balkan crisis (as opposed to the United States' ideological interest). Thus, it might be best to say that France, Germany, et al. don't believe that interest-based missions demand greater multilateralism, but that the United States behaves recklessly when its interests are on the line (cf. "the Cold War"), thus leading them to be suspicious of it.
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# Posted 4:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PAPER TIGER DIPLOMACY: Yesterday, I took Charles Krauthammer and William Safire to task for criticizing Clinton's paper-driven North Korea policy without suggesting an alternative. Yet as Josh observed, the point that both authors was trying to make was not that we need a different North Korea policy now, but that Clinton should have been tougher back in 1994.

That said, I don't think that Josh's clarification takes much away from my point, i.e. that it is disingenuous to criticize either the United States' past or current North Korea policies without suggesting an alternative. According to Josh, Krauthammer and Safire implied "that, having engaged [North Korea] in 'paper diplomacy' so long, the problem is now a damned difficult one." I'm not so sure. Was there an alternative in 1994 that doesn't exist now? As Safire pointed out, North Korea deters the United States via its conventional threat to South Korea's civilian population. As should be self-evident, that threat was no less menacing 1994 than it is now. So what was Clinton supposed to do? The answer: exactly what Bush is doing now -- negotiating.
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# Posted 7:13 AM by Dan  

MAKE SURE to read this wonderful piece by Bill Holm about Senator Wellstone.
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# Posted 5:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"MR. WELLSTONE was one of the few senators who made the effort to meet and remember the names of elevator operators, waiters, police officers and other workers in the Capitol.

James W. Ziglar, a Republican who was sergeant at arms of the Senate from 1998 to 2001 and who is now commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, remembered today 'the evening when he came back to the Capitol well past midnight to visit with the cleaning staff and tell them how much he appreciated their efforts.'

'Most of the staff had never seen a senator and certainly had never had one make such a meaningful effort to express his or her appreciation,' Mr. Ziglar said. 'That was the measure of the man.'" (NY Times, Oct. 26, 2002)
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Friday, October 25, 2002

# Posted 7:53 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MEDIOCRE (AS ALWAYS) Krauthammer column on the difference between "paper diplomacy" and "power diplomacy". It's easy to bash Clinton for going soft on North Korea. But what does Krauthammer's suggest we should do instead? Nothing. He talks about getting tough, but has no idea how to actually do that. The same criticism applies to William Safire, who has also been bashing Clinton's North Korea policy without suggesting an alternative. However, Safire is honest enough to admit that using force against North Korea just won't work. As he observes:
America and its allies will not use our military to take out the Pyongyang gang for the simple reason that North Korea already has the conventional troop strength and artillery power to inflict horrendous casualties on the South (including 40,000 U.S. tripwire troops) as well as in Japan, which Pyongyang will soon be able to reach with nuclear missiles.
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# Posted 7:28 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CLINTON IN DISGUISE: The first time that the President revised his definition of "regime change", The New Republic described his announcement as "Clintonian". I wasn't as harsh since I thought that Bush's redefinition reflected policy drift rather than a flaw of character. But now that the farce has continued, I'm beginning to change my thoughts.

On Oct. 21, the President said
that the United States was trying diplomacy "one more time" to disarm Saddam Hussein "peacefully" and suggested that if the Iraqi leader complied with every United Nations mandate it would "signal the regime has changed."

The White House immediately said that Mr. Bush was not backing away from his past insistence that Mr. Hussein must leave office. His spokesman said he could not imagine a situation in which the Iraqi leader, after 11 years of defiance, would suddenly comply with the United Nations.
There is a certain logic to all this. One might say that Bush, in deference to the United Nations, is giving Saddam a chance to show that he has changed, but doesn't believe that he has. Even so, the President's inability/unwillingness to say this directly and openly is, well, Clintonian.
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Thursday, October 24, 2002

# Posted 10:39 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THINK BIG: A while back, I talked about the importance of long-term thinking, a.k.a. "grand strategy" in the design of US foreign policy. While the term "grand strategy" suggests a certain arrogance on the part of those who talk about it, I think it refers to an important concept which is extremely relevant to the United States at the moment.

In general, talking about grand strategy is something done by professors of international relations. In this post, I'm just going to provide a couple of links to recent essays on American grand strategy by prominent thinkers, so that anyone with an interest can start reading.

The one question to keep in mind while reading the following essays is this: "Is the author a moral relativist?" While the essays listed below are sophisticated enough to warrant extensive analysis, I think that analysis must begin with the exploration of the authors' moral foundation. As I see it, the authors' relativism compels them to recommend that the United States court allied opinion rather than striking out on its own and doing what is right.

That said, I'll shut up and give you the links:

Fareed Zakaria, "Our Way", The New Yorker, Oct. 14/21, 2002

G. John Ikenberry, "America's Imperial Ambition", Foreign Affairs, Sept./Oct. 2002

Michael Mandelbaum, "The Inadequacy of American Power", Foreign Affairs, Sept./Oct. 2002

John L. Gaddis, "A Grand Strategy", Foreign Policy, Nov./Dec. 2002

UPDATE/CORRECTION: John Gaddis' article doesn't really belong with the other three. While he seems somewhat equivocal in his positive assessment of Bush's democracy promotion strategy, there is no trace of the traditional realist line he has often advocated following.
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Tuesday, October 22, 2002

# Posted 1:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE DEBUNKING: Chances are, if you think the US has a double standard when it comes to Israel and Iraq, you also believe that the US wants to invade Iraq in order to control its vast oil reserves. But that's a load of bull. Here's why.
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# Posted 12:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ISRAEL VIOLATES UN RESOLUTIONS. It's not just Iraq, but the United States' cherished democratic ally in the Middle East that defies international law. How, then, can the United States consider Iraq's defiance of UN resolutions be a justification for war? Isn't that a double standard?

Even though I am strong supporter of both Israeli and US foreign policy, I have a had a hard time coming up with a convincing response to the accusations made above. But not anymore. Thanks to a brilliant article in The Economist, I can explain exactly why it is that Israel has not violated international law while Iraq has, and in a manner dangerous enough to necessitate war. Read on!
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# Posted 12:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REMEMBER MICHAEL DUKAKIS riding in that tank? Liberals at war are not a pretty sight. But the actual principles of liberalism demand that one stands up for what is right, with force if necessary. In short, there is a strong liberal case for war with Saddam Hussein. Even though this article was published more than a week ago -- an eternity in the blogosphere -- I think it will be well worth reading long after Saddam settles into his prison cell at The Hague.
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# Posted 8:19 AM by Dan  

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI and Stuart E. Eizenstat put their spin on the Carter Presidency.
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# Posted 6:49 AM by Dan  

KOSHER CONSPIRACY. David Frum writes a great essay about the myth that "America is totally in hock to the Jewish lobby" in the Telegraph (registration required). Frum, who reportedly coined the phrase "Axis of Evil" is writing a series of articles for the newspaper in which he debunks myths about America. He is right that focusing on domestic politics and the "Jewish lobby" misses the role played by value affinity and ideology in U.S. foreign policy toward Israel. But his argument that "the force that sways American politicians' positions on Israel is not their hope for Jewish money or votes: it is ideology, conservative or liberal" really only applies to the executive branch. In Congress, I do think that members' hope for money and or votes affects their positions on Israel. Part of AIPAC's success is in steering pro-Israel money toward pro-Israel candidates. But at the end of the day, on large scale diplomatic and or political issues, it is the executive branch that matters. His section on the European political Left compared to the American conscience is excellent.
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Monday, October 21, 2002

# Posted 2:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPEAKING OF INSPECTIONS, one ought to read today's WashPost op-ed by Mohamed El Baradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (and therefore the top international official responsible for arms inspections). Expecting a predictable defense of inspections that would sound convincing only to those who already agree with the author, I was pleasantly surprised by El Baradei's lucid writing and sharp observations.

El Baradei first reminds us that the President himself (in his Cincinatti speech) has recognized that "Before being barred from Iraq in 1998, the International Atomic Energy Agency dismantled extensive nuclear weapons-related facilities." Even though I wrote a long post on the Cincinnati speech, I hadn't noticed that line. In short, I missed the fact that the official position of the Bush administration is that inspections can work.

El Baradei then lists the conditions necessary for success. In short, the inspectors will need unfettered authority backed by strong Security Council support. He also argues that success demands "active cooperation by Iraq". I can't figure out if El Baradei really means this, or if he is protecting himself from the likely failure of inspections in the face of Iraqi resistance. But if you just look past this one red flag, El Baradei's article is solid.
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# Posted 11:45 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AN INSPECTOR CALLS: Suddenly the US is concerned about implementing a rapid timetable for weapons inspections in Iraq. Time is of the essence because military action will be all but impossible once the winter ends.

As I see it, this is something the Bush administration should have thought about long ago. Instead of waiting until the last possible moment to cooperate with the United Nations, it should have made a decision early whether cooperation was desirable or not. Now, it faces the worst of both worlds: negotiating partners resentful of American high-handedness and a lack of time to launch military operations if necessary.

Why is the Bush strategy for Iraq lost at sea? The answer is one that OxBlog has mentioned often before: First, internal divisions within the administration. Second, an inability to think in grand strategic terms.
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Sunday, October 20, 2002

# Posted 8:27 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CALL BUSH A HYPOCRITE: If that is what you want, the time is now. When Saddam tries to develop weapons of mass destruction, we threaten to invade. When North Korea does, we send diplomats. Yet even top officials in the Clinton administration recognize that a more flexible stance on North Korea reflects strategic necessity, not hypocrisy. The bottom line is this: We can fight Saddam deep inside his own territory. Fighting North Korea means launching a war that would leave tens of thousands of South Koreans dead. At minimum.

The only real casualty of the North Korean crisis has been the administration's new National Security Strategy. Raising pre-emption to the level of official doctrine seems somewhat absurd if we can't apply it to two out of three of the members of the axis of evil.
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# Posted 7:56 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PITY JOSH CHAFETZ. Now that he has become the nation's foremost critic of Maureen Dowd, he has an obligation to read each one of her columns and provide a thoughtful response. In contrast, I can simply ignore anything she writes and spend my time reading the work of informative writers such as Tom Friedman. While I am still of the opinion that The Lexus and the Olive Tree was an exercise in self-absorbed pseudo-scholarship, Friedman has provided more insight into world affairs than most other columnists in recent months. Take today's column for example, which begins as follows:
A funny thing happened in Iran the other day. The official Iranian news agency, IRNA, published a poll on Iranian attitudes toward America, conducted by Iran's National Institute for Research Studies and Opinion Polls. The poll asked 1,500 Iranians whether they favored opening talks with America, and 75 percent said "yes." More interesting, 46 percent said U.S. policies on Iran — which include an economic boycott and labeling Iran part of an "axis of evil" — were "to some extent correct."...you can imagine what happened next. Iran's hard-liners shut down the polling institute and threatened the IRNA official who published the results.
So if the government isn't responding to the people's wishes, why is it still in power? As Friedman observes:
The transition from autocracy to real democracy in Iran [has] dragged out much longer than in Europe for many reasons, but the most important is because the hard-line mullahs control Iran's oil wealth. What that means is that they have a pool of money that they can use to monopolize all the instruments of coercion — the army, police and intelligence services. And their pool of money is not dependent on their opening Iran's economy or political system or being truly responsive to their people's aspirations.
What does this mean for the United States?
If we really want to hasten the transition from autocracy to something more democratic in places like Iraq or Iran, the most important thing we can do is gradually, but steadily, bring down the price of oil — through conservation and alternative energies...Ousting Saddam is necessary for promoting the spread of democracy in the Middle East, but it won't be sufficient, it won't stick, without the Mideast states kicking their oil dependency and without us kicking ours.
And there you have it. A model column. It begins by reporting little-known facts, proceeds to analysis, and concludes with strong policy recommendations. Perhaps Ms. Dowd might take note. And if not her, than perhaps a number of congressmen should, since they seem more interested in talking about national security than doing anything about it. As the WashPost points out today, Congress' failure to pass the budget has forced
the nation must do without 570 new Border Patrol agents, 110 new FBI intelligence analysts, new bomb detectors at airports, security improvements at U.S. embassies, modernization of the Coast Guard fleet, and bioterrorism research. Ironically, many of the same members who abandoned their legislative responsibilities are running around their districts trying to convince voters that homeland security is dear to their hearts. In fact, it is pretty clear from congressional behavior that getting reelected trumps the war on terrorism.
While most of those who criticize Bush for putting the war of Iraq ahead of the war on terror fail to recognize that fighting Iraq is fighting terror, the President must also bear responsibility for Congress' failures. As commander-in-chief, he has to use his influence to fight the war not just abroad, but on the homefront as well.
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Thursday, October 17, 2002

# Posted 10:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AXIS OF OOPS! Two weeks ago, OxBlog took Bush to task for ignoring North Korea. Now the North Koreans suddenly announce that they have been secretly developing nuclear weapons for almost a decade. At the moment, it isn't clear whether this program has produced an actual weapon. While shocking, this isn't necessarily a setback for the United States. In fact, it may be Kim Jong Il's dysfunctional way of coming clean. Strangely enough, US diplomat James Kelly accused the North Koreans of having nukes, met with flat denials, but thengot a full admission the next day. What next? According to Joe Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment -- one of the best nuclear weapons analysts around -- the administration has two choices: "They either play 'gotcha' and cut off relations, or they can justifiably claim that their tough approach produced exactly the change in North Korean behavior we had been seeking." I'd say option number two is the way to go.
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Wednesday, October 16, 2002

# Posted 12:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TNR AFFIRMS OXBLOG SUSPICIONS: Just after the President's recent speech in Cincinnati, OxBlog called attention to Bush's apparent effort to water down the definition of "regime change" so that the US could accommodate allied objections to our declared policy. Two days later, TNR's Ryan Lizza reported that this apparent watering down had, in fact, taken place and that it was an indication of Colin Powell's staying power within the administration. Depending on one's assessment of the Iraqi threat, this may or may not be a good thing. But it underscores a critical point that I have sought to hammer home in the past month: that Bush is being pulled back and forth by competing advisors with competing agendas, rather than setting a clear course for American foreign policy.

The rest of Lizza's article is also well worth reading, especially the discussion of French motives for backing a two-resolution inspections regime at the UN. In light of the apparent inability of the Bush administration to decide what it wants from Iraq, the French have good reason to ensure that the US returns to the Security Council before invading, so that American hawks can't use minor instances of Iraqi non-compliance to bulldoze the doves. While I don't have all that much sympathy for the doves in this case, I have to admit that the French are behaving in a moderate and responsible manner, especially given their interests in avoiding war. In contrast, the US seems to be exhibiting the sort of temperamental behavior one usually associates with the French. Omigod, did I just say the French were rational? Next thing you know I'll be burning the flag. ;)
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# Posted 12:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I TOLD YOU SO: With the US intelligence establishment still reeling from revelations of incompetence before and after September 11th, it's good to know that it was at least able to predict the attack on Bali. The fact that listening to the United States could have saved hundreds of lives and billions of dollars should suggest to other Middle Eastern and Asian nations that supporting the war on terrorism might not be such a bad idea.

On the other hand, one cannot hold Pres. Sukarnoputri solely responsible for Indonesia's unpreparedness. With the brutal and corrupt military and security forces discredited after decades of dictatorships, there was little incentive to give such forces the sort of authority needed to reign in terror. As one expert on Indonesian politics observed in the NY Times, Sukarnoputri's rush to pass anti-terror legislation after the Bali attack has scared many Indonesians who know that internal security laws have become nothing more than a pretext for political repression in neighboring states such as Malaysia.

The bottom line: If the Bush administration wants Indonesia to become a firm ally in the war on terror, it has support civilian authority and democratic reforms within Indonesia. The war for democracy and the war on terror are inseparable. Just as tens of millions of Arabs believe the US and Israel destroyed the Twin Towers in order to justify a war on Islam, tens of millions of Indonesians believe the Bali attack was the work of the CIA. Why? Because where there is no freedom of expression, prejudice rules. In the democracies of the world, there was universal sympathy for the United States after September 11th and near-universal support for the war in Afghanistan. The truth works against Bin Laden.
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# Posted 8:26 AM by Dan  

TOM AT HIS BEST. Friedman's column from today should be read along with Dershowitz's essay to which Josh referred about two weeks ago. Friedman's is better because he addresses both sides of the issue in an extremely sensible manner. He is right that settlements are not the reason for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but they certainly exacerbate it and make the occupation more permanent.
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Tuesday, October 15, 2002

# Posted 9:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUT NOT THAT SMART: George Bush may be smarter than Osama bin Laden, but US foreign policy still finds itself without a secure foundation in democratic principles. Ethical points aside, this failure is simply dangerous. As the WashPost argues, Bush's failure to control Pervez Musharraf's dictatorial nature led to an extremely strong showing for Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistani elections. At the same time, the administration has done little to bring Indonesia into line with US foreign policy. With any luck, the Bali attack will change that.
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# Posted 8:44 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYPE: When Paul Krugman writes about the US economy, he writes as a professor, as an expert who pays careful attention to facts and figures. This is not to say that he is neutral by any account. Rather, he is up front about his political positions and then reinforces them with evidence. When it comes to foreign affairs, Krugman descends into the realm of irresponisble speculation. Today's column is a case in point. Consider the following quote:
In case you haven't noticed, the people running Al Qaeda are smart. Saturday's bombing in Bali, presumably carried out by a group connected to Al Qaeda, was monstrously evil. It was also, I'm sorry to say, very clever.
Krugman may be right that Al Qaeda chose Indonesia as a target in order to radicalize a vast Muslim nation. However, Krugman ignores the fundamental stupidity of an attack that killed approximately 200 tourists but only 2 or 3 Americans. If Al-Qaeda had any hope of resisting American firepower, it was the prospect of separating the United States from it allies in the war in terror. Killing Britons, Australians, and EU citizens does exactly the oppositie. Moreover, robbing Indonesians of one of their most lucratives sources of income -- tourism -- will breed opposition to Al Qaeda, not support as Krugman asserts. When it comes to radicalizing Indonesia, it will not be hard for the US to outbid Al Qaeda in the war of ideas. All we need is a White House committed to that objective.

If one broadens one's perspective, the absurdity of describing Al Qaeda's leadership as brilliant becomes even more apparent. Given its presumed objective was to eliminate US influence in the Middle East, the absolute worst strategy it could have chosen was the one it did choose: to attack the American homeland. Had the leaders of Al Qaeda possessed even the most limited knowledge of American politics and history, they would have known that nothing has a greater potential to unite Americans behind their president than a second Pearl Harbor.

If I were Osama bin Laden, I would have focused all of my efforts on attacking US forces stationed in the Gulf Region. If Al Qaeda could attack New York, it seems that it should have been able to attack targets in the Middle East as well. True, the absence of civil liberties makes such attacks harder to execute, but the homefield advantage of a sympathetic population should have more than made up for that.

But enough specuation. The bottom line is this: Al Qaeda attacked the United States, which then ousted the Taliban, forcing Al Qaeda to operate on the run and pursue desperate strategies such as killing toursits. I never thought it was possible, but someone has finally made George Bush look like the smart one.
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# Posted 6:41 AM by Dan  

YES OR NO. It should be a nailbiter in Iraq, where voters go to the polls today.
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Monday, October 14, 2002

# Posted 7:30 PM by Dan  

GOOD PIECE about American hegemony by Max Boot. His assertion that "power breeds unilateralism" goes a bit too far, however. Using Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq as examples to put Clinton in the same boat as Bush misses the fundamental differences between the two administrations with respect to the international community.
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# Posted 10:00 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOOM ON THE EUPHRATES: MIT prof Barry Posen has a disturbing article on the hardships involved in taking Baghdad. The article is especially impressive because of its attention to detail, but nonetheless slips too comfortably into the assumption that the Iraqi people will risk their own lives to resist a US-led occupation. For an opposing view, also from a scholar with impressive credentials, see Michael Rubin's article on Iraqi morale in The New Republic.

There is also some good news from Afghanistan, whose government has apparently won the respect of international donors for its budget and development plans. Still, the government is so poor that unpaid soldiers and police officers are resorting to looting and robbery. The solution is obvious, Mr. President: Hire Afghan officers to find the DC sniper...
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Sunday, October 13, 2002

# Posted 2:28 PM by Dan  

Stephen Ambrose passed away today. He made history exciting and will be missed.
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Saturday, October 12, 2002

# Posted 9:41 PM by Dan  

I'M BACK after a long and wonderful vacation. Hello David and Josh. I watched Bush's speech last Monday and it was by far the best one he has given on Iraq in terms of content and delivery. I'm pretty jetlagged but have to say this: Like Frank Rich I am completely disappointed with the Democrats. Wanting to "move on" is no excuse for ducking out of a debate. We'll see how this plays out on November 5th.
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Friday, October 11, 2002

# Posted 11:51 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SADDAM TO JOIN HITLER AND HIROHITO: The Bush administration has drafted a detailed plan for setting up a US military government in Iraq after its liberation. If this plan wins formal approval, the American commitment to promoting democracy in Iraq will become unequivocal. As the NY Times noted, the occupation of Iraq will be "modeled on the postwar occupation of Japan". Thus, perhaps it is time for the debate on democracy and Islam to begin anew...

For a look at State Department efforts to prepare exiled Iraqis for their role in reconstructing their homeland, click here.
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# Posted 11:34 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPIES BEHAVING BADLY: The President finally wins official support from Congress for the use of force against Iraq even though the CIA doesn't share his perception of an immediate Iraqi threat. While it's hard to know whether Saddam would or wouldn't supply terrorists with weapons of mass destruction before an Allied invasion, the President seems unable to break his habit of making bold assertions about Saddam's intentions only to find that he has to revise them afterward. While Americans haven't found that disturbing, there is no question that such flip-flops undermine US efforts to win allied support as well as hurting Tony Blair's efforts to keep Britain at the forefront of the war on terrorism.
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Wednesday, October 09, 2002

# Posted 11:14 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YES, AMERICA FIGHTS PREVENTIVE WARS. Michael Kelly makes an important point in today's WashPost: That the U.S. has never hesitated to fight preventive wars in the name of justice and freedom. As Kelly writes:
"..evangelism for the freedom of men impelled America to what can fairly be called "preventive wars," or armed interventions, in the Persian Gulf, in Haiti, in Bosnia and in Kosovo. Actually, only the Persian Gulf War rises even to the justification of preventive war. The others -- all launched by a Democratic administration with the support of liberal Democrats -- enjoyed no justification under the logic of imminent threat. They were primarily about nothing but the freedom of men.

So, "preventive wars" are not new, and neither is the American impulse to better the world by air power. But we have not had a president embrace this impulse so largely and clearly, and as a matter of grand doctrine, since Sen. [Ted] Kennedy's brother called a generation to arms."

And since preventive wars tend to be followed by nation-building, here are a pair of articles, by Mark Danner and Fawaz Gerges, on the fate of postwar Iraq. Both should encourage those skeptics who do not believe we can build a democratic Middle East. But I like Danner's description of why a democratic Middle East would matter so much to US security:
Behind the notion that an American intervention will make of Iraq "the first Arab democracy," as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz put it, lies a project of great ambition. It envisions a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq — secular, middle-class, urbanized, rich with oil — that will replace the autocracy of Saudi Arabia as the key American ally in the Persian Gulf, allowing the withdrawal of United States troops from the kingdom. The presence of a victorious American Army in Iraq would then serve as a powerful boost to moderate elements in neighboring Iran, hastening that critical country's evolution away from the mullahs and toward a more moderate course. Such an evolution in Tehran would lead to a withdrawal of Iranian support for Hezbollah and other radical groups, thereby isolating Syria and reducing pressure on Israel. This undercutting of radicals on Israel's northern borders and within the West Bank and Gaza would spell the definitive end of Yasir Arafat and lead eventually to a favorable solution of the Arab-Israeli problem.

This is a vision of great sweep and imagination: comprehensive, prophetic, evangelical...It means to remake the world, to offer to a political threat a political answer. It represents a great step on the road toward President Bush's ultimate vision of "freedom's triumph over all its age-old foes."
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# Posted 11:08 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH LISTENS TO OXBLOG! It might be more accurate to say that Bush listens to Tony Blair. On Monday night, the President told the nation that
Some citizens wonder, "After 11 years of living with this problem, why do we need to confront it now?"

And there's a reason. We have experienced the horror of September the 11th. We have seen that those who hate America are willing to crash airplanes into buildings full of innocent people. Our enemies would be no less willing, in fact they would be eager, to use biological or chemical or a nuclear weapon.

Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.
Three weeks ago, OxBlog observed that:
The British prime minister is the only hawk who recognizes that the real reason that the United States and its allies cannot tolerate the continuing existence of Saddam's regime is that ever since September 11th we have become aware of the need to preempt terror. As Blair said:

"Suppose I had come last year on the same day as this year -- Sept. 10. Suppose I had said to you: There is a terrorist network called al Qaeda. It operates out of Afghanistan. It has carried out several attacks and we believe it is planning more. It has been condemned by the U.N. in the strongest terms. Unless it is stopped, the threat will grow. And so I want to take action to prevent that. Your response and probably that of most people would have been very similar to the response of some of you yesterday on Iraq. There would have been few takers for dealing with it and probably none for taking military action of any description."

Thus, I say without reservation that Bush's Cincinnati speech was an improvement over his previous efforts in numerous respects. As usual, I agree with more than 80% of what the President says on foreign policy. Now if you have been reading my posts this past month, you might wonder how I can characterize myself as someone who tends to agree with the President on foreign policy, at least since September 11. The answer is this: I criticize the president not because I disagree with him, but because I believe he has demonstrated a certain incompetence in his efforts to achieve objective that he, I and almost all Americans share. Convincing me isn't hard. What I'm concerned about is whether Bush rhetoric and decisions will elicit the right response from our allies as well as our enemies. From that point of view, there were still a number of problems with the Cincinnati speech.

1) Bush said that:
In addition to declaring and destroying all of its weapons of mass destruction, Iraq must end its support for terrorism. It must cease the persecution of its civilian population. It must stop all illicit trade outside the oil-for-food program. It must release or account for all Gulf War personnel, including an American pilot whose fate is still unknown.

By taking these steps and by only taking these steps, the Iraqi regime has an opportunity to avoid conflict.

These steps would also change the nature of the Iraqi regime itself. America hopes the regime will make that choice.

These sentences imply that Bush is moving away from a strict definition of regime change, which entails replacing Saddam's dictatorial order with a democratic one. While disarming, reducing persecution and stopping illicit trade are all good things, none of them demands the removal of Saddam Hussein from power, i.e. the sina que non of regime change.

Such a change of course would be disturbing. In light of the fact that Bush has expended so much of his political capital establishing the legitimacy of regime change -- both at home and abroad -- one wonders why he is backing off from it now. Has something changed? As far as I can tell, his words on Monday night represent a poorly designed effort to reconcile the demands of regime change with the more moderate position of the United Nations, which is only demanding Iraqi disarmament. If Bush wants to cooperate more closely with the UN, however, he should acknowledge his differences with it and agree to collaborate for the purpose of achieving common objective. To do otherwise is to damage his already questionable credibility.

2) Bush also stated that:
Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable. The resolution will tell the United Nations, and all nations, that America speaks with one voice and it is determined to make the demands of the civilized world mean something.

While I myself have emphasized the importance of a united front, framing the resolution as an effort to achieve a united front seems somewhat deceptive. As I understood, the purpose of the resolution is to respond to the immediate threat to US national security posed by Iraq. In light of such an immediate threat, the President much have the authority to use force without waiting for congressional approval. Yet nowhere in Bush's speech was there an explicit statment that Iraq presents an immediate, i.e. within-the-next-few-months, sort of threat to the US. In fact, the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq suggests that Saddam will not use chemical or biological weapons unless attacked first by the United States. Thus, it seems that the President has finally backed off from his untenable argument that Saddam might attack at any moment. While that decision is for the best, it still highlights the fact that this administration has a lot to learn about establishing its credibility on the world stage. Moreover, if the Iraqi threat isn't immediate, the President could have waited until after the upcoming elections to submit his resolution to Congress, thus avoiding the partisan wrangling that has undermined the President's own efforts to negotiate with the UN.

3) Finally, Bush still hasn't mastered the art of demonstrating that "Iraq is unique". According to the President:
I said that those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves. Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists and the instruments of terror, the instruments of mass death and destruction, and he cannot be trusted.

If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, he could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year.
It seems to be that if one substitutes the word "Iran" for the words "Saddam Hussein", the above sentence would still make sense. What Bush seems unable to say is that Saddam is unique because he remains in violation of the disarmament accord that ended the Gulf War. He is an international outlaw. And on September 11th the United States learned just how far outlaws are willing to go to destroy us.
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Tuesday, October 08, 2002

# Posted 9:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SOMETIMES YOU JUST CAN'T WIN: The President delivered his speech last night from Ohio. Why?

According to the WashPost: "The White House selected the location for the speech -- Ohio -- because there were no competitive races in the area that would make Bush appear to be playing politics with the war."

According to the NY Times: "...the president's paramount focus this evening was the people, and he spoke not from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue but from Ohio, a swing state vital to his own electoral prospects two years from now."
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# Posted 8:34 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CLOSING RANKS: Bush has succeeded in defusing the opposition within his own party which I noted last week. Sen. Richard Lugar cited compromises in the text of a congressional resolution authorizing the use of force as the reason for the withdrawal of his objections.

Public opinion seems to be moving toward the president as well. While the NY Times published an editorial entitled "A Nation Wary of War" and the WashPost observed that only a "bare majority" supports invading Iraq, both failed to note that having any sort or majority favor military action before the President announces it is extremely rare. The Post did note, however, that public support for military action has always risen sharply after the US commits itself.

Opposition among Democrats seems limited to those who do not seem tor recognize that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction are a material threat to international law and security. As Ted Kennedy observed: "What the administration is really calling for is preventive war, which flies in the face of international rules of acceptable behavior." Perhaps someone should remind the Senator that Saddam accepted UN demands for disarmament in exchange for an end to hostilities in the Gulf War. His constant violation of multiple UN resolutions are therefore grounds for renewed inspections backed by the threat of force.
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Monday, October 07, 2002

# Posted 10:56 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HEART AND SOUL. As Frank Foer reports in the New Republic, Kofi Annan has become a regular presence at the Bush White House, where the President has declared that the Secretary-General has a "good heart". All this despite Annan's embarrassing efforts to prevent the imposition of a serious inspections program on Iraq. While all presidents make mistakes in sizing up their negotiating partners, Bush's comments are disturbing in light of his statement -- made after meeting with Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin -- that he had "looked the man in the eye [and] was able to get a sense of his soul." (WashPost, May 23, 2002 [no permalink]). Bush went on to praise Putin, only to find himself embarrassed thereafter by Russia's brutal campaign against Chechen independence and clear interest in better relations with Iraq.

Perhaps one should not be surprised by Bush's reliance on his personal assessments of foreign officials, since the President himself declared that "Good diplomacy really depends on good personal relations." (WashPost, May 23, 2002 [no permalink]). Personally, I'd prefer a president who focused his diplomacy on advancing American interests, American security and American values. Especially if his glaring lack of expertise in international relations causes him to mistake others' empty promises for actual commitments to helping the United States.

By the way, I find it interesting that Josh also linked to Frank Foer's article on Annan's sympathy for Iraq without any reference to its criticism of Bush's naivete. A hanging curveball, my friend?
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Sunday, October 06, 2002

# Posted 9:54 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TAKING DEMOCRACY SERIOUSLY. The New York Times bashes the President for committing himself to democracy in postwar Iraq while doing nothing to promote it in allied Muslim states such as Turkey and Pakistan. If you followed the recent debate here on democracy and Islam, you should read the Times' editorial. If one believes that Islamic culture is a fundamental barrier to democratization, then it would make sense to prioritize democracy promotion in Turkey and Pakistan over democracy promotion in Iraq, since the former have much more secular cultures as well as significant experience with democratic governance. If one believes that culture is not as important as US efforts to promote democracy abroad, then it would make sense to promote it in allied nations such Turkey and Pakistan as well as postwar Iraq.

Also on democracy and Islam: David Ignatius takes Bush to task for not laying out plans for postwar Iraq, while profiling some of those Iraqi dissidents who are.

Also check out William Buckley's contribution to the debate on democracy promotion and nation-building, which comes at the end of an article on US diplomacy at the UN. Thanks to CalPundit for finding it.
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# Posted 9:24 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOWD STRIKES AGAIN. As if to demonstrate how insightful Josh is, Ms. Dowd has published a column today that gives pride of place on the second and third of the Immutable Laws: "It's easier to whine than to take a stand or offer solutions" and "It is better to be cute than coherent". I have no doubt that Josh will post a compelling deconstruction of today's masterpiece in a matter of hours.

The point of Dowd's column is to show that the conflict with Iraq may have a lasting impact on the balance of power in American politics because it has facilitated the construction of a coalition between evangelical Christians and mainstream Jews, both of whom are deeply concerned about Israel. Yet unsurprisingly, Dowd spends most of her column inches mocking Jerry Falwell for comments that are mock-worthy but no different than anything he has said before. All we get about American Jewish perspectives on Israel is this:
Influential Jewish conservatives, inside and outside the administration, have been fierce in supporting a war on Saddam, thinking it could help Israel by scrambling the Middle East map and encouraging democracy.
My first problem with this comment is that it implies that "influential Jewish conservatives" derive their recommendations from US policy in the Middle East from a narrow consideration of Israel's interests. That is both insulting as well as just plain wrong. It is insulting because it implies that "influential Jewish conservatives" (IJC's) place their loyalty to Israel ahead of their commitment to the United States' values and interests. That sort of assertion is not all that different from saying that committed Jews cannot be good Americans. That sort of assertion is wrong because I have worked for, met and read the work of many IJC's and can testify that they are no less committed to American values than they are to Jewish ones. In fact, many of the individuals Dowd criticizes -- such as Robert Kagan and William Kristol -- are experts on American politics and policy who happen to be Jewish. Thus, it is not even clear why their ethnicity is relevant.

My second objection to Dowd's comment is her implication that the alleged ulterior motives of IJC's invalidate the proposition that toppling Saddam might enhance Israeli security by changing borders in the Middle East and encouraging democracy. Since the current borders in the Middle East seem largely conducive to conflict, I can't imagine what's wrong with changing them. And as for encouraging democracy, Dowd makes it sound about as wholesome as a conspiracy to rob Middle Easterners of their cherished authoritarian governments. Of course, one might give Dowd the benefit of the doubt and say that encouraging democracy is not immoral but simply foolhardy, a position taken by many during recent blogospheric debates on democracy and Islam.

On that note, I'd like to give a long overdue shout out to Winds of Change, which has assembled a user-friendly set of links that draw together all the main contributions to the democracy and Islam debate by OxBlog, Michiel Visser and others. Thanks!
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Saturday, October 05, 2002

# Posted 12:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CREDIBLE THREATS: The US continues its build-up of forces in the Gulf, ensuring that Saddam Hussein takes its threats seriously...and that the UN Security Council understands that it cannot expect the US to stand down as it did in the 1990s. Even better, the Bush administration has avoided making the build-up a focus of its rhetoric, so that the UN cannot accuse it of blackmail.

In other good news, both Kofi Annan and inspections chief Hans Blix have endorsed the need for a new resolution. If one passes, that would help ensure Turkish support for US military operations, a significant advantage in light of that nation's position adjacent to Iraq.
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Friday, October 04, 2002

# Posted 7:20 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE STRUGGLE FOR POWER in postwar Iraq has begun. As the WashPost reports, the Iraqi National Congress has already begun to press for the authority to head the postwar government. The State Department has set up exploratory committees to deal with lesser issues such as law enforcement and health-care, but high-level issues are not on the table. If the United States wants to maximize its influence in postwar Iraq, the time to make a clear statement of its preferences is now, before the INC and its various competitors have formed themselves into hardened factions whose mutual resentment will prevent them from working together to build a democratic Iraq.

This morning, Rep. Mike Thomson (D-Cal.) -- you know, the guy who went to Iraq with McDermott and Bonior but didn't make a fool of himself -- wrote in the Post that "The strongest military power in the history of our planet isn't enough to protect a New York transit bus from a suicide bomber. As Americans, our strength has always been our ability to help others experience the benefits of freedom." Let's prove him right by focusing now on the future of a democratic Iraq.
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Thursday, October 03, 2002

# Posted 5:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CHRISTMAS IN BAGHDAD: Josh asserts that Bush administration plans for Iraq are running on schedule. Yet as David Broder points out, the administration intially hoped to have the confronation with Iraq reach its climax this fall, not early next year. After being forced to shift its timetable, the administration then found out that it had to alter its justification for attacking Iraq as well.
In the summer, Vice President Cheney and others said it was the imminent threat of Iraq's acquiring nuclear weapons that required action. But when international agencies and allied intelligence services said they were skeptical that Iraq had the materials for such weapons, even if it had the desire, other explanations were forthcoming.

The president gave the United Nations a list of Iraq's offenses, down to and including its failure to account for prisoners taken during the Persian Gulf War, and indicated that Iraq would have to make amends for all of them to avoid military punishment.

And finally, when Democrats including Al Gore and Edward M. Kennedy suggested that a war with Iraq might cost us allies and energy for the war against terrorism, the administration discovered and publicized links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

If the current negotiations at the UN last longer than the Bush administration expects, don't be surprised if the justification for Iraq shifts once again -- in a manner that perfectly complements the administration's new timetable.

And while we're on the issue of insufficient preparation for a war with Iraq, take a look at this op-ed in the WashPost, which points out that no one has considered how Saddam's use of chemical and/or biological weapons will affect the Kurdish allies we will be depending on to help topple Saddam and rebuild Iraq.

Also see today's NYT op-ed on the absence of administration plans for how to deal with Iraq's Shiite majority, which is in no way represented by the dissident groups with which the State and Defense Departments are accustomed to working, namely the Iraqi National Accord and the Iraqi National Congress.
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# Posted 2:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A HANGING CURVEBALL? Josh thinks my criticism of the President for failing to win the support of Republican senators is premature. After all, doesn't debate within the GOP show the world that America tolerates criticism from within? Yes, of course. But shouldn't this sort of internal debate have taken place before the administration declared that Saddam Hussein is an immediate threat to American security? If we need to deal with Saddam now, then the President should have called senior Republicans into the Oval Office long ago to negotiate their support for his policies.

There are two possible reasons Bush failed to address congressional criticism of Iraq -- both Republican and Democratic -- before taking his demands to the United Nations. First, Bush fundamentally underestimates the importance of securing congressional support for US foreign policy. Second, when the President declared the threat from Iraq to be immediate, he didn't mean "immediate" in the sense of this month or this year. Or both.

So all in all, I think Josh has given me a hanging curveball to hit out of the park. Perhaps if Josh had praised Al Gore and Jim McDermott for their criticism of the administration -- because it isn't a "bad thing" that our decision-making process looks messy to outsiders" -- then I might have conceded the point. But all things considered, the dissent of Lugar and Hagel from Bush's foreign policy is evidence of bad implementation of administration policy.
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Wednesday, October 02, 2002

# Posted 5:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOLY JETLAG, BATMAN! I am back in Oxford and -- after 48 hours of semi-consciousness -- ready to blog. May God's wrath rain down upon Lufthansa. On the 12 hour flight from Buenos Aires to Frankfurt they forced me into the last row of a cabin, where the seats don't lean back to let you get comfortable before you sleep. Our flight then arrived too late in Frankfurt for me to make my connection to London. I then had to wait in line for 2 hours at Lufthansa's incompetent travel office -- thus missing the next flight to London -- so that they could arrange another flight. And, of course, one of my suitcases was missing when I got to London. Now that I have vented, on to news you might actually care about...

DIPLOMACY 102: Presenting a united front to one's allies as well as one's enemies is critical to a successful foreign policy. One might hold the Democrats responsible for not accepting the President's initial draft of a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. But now that Republican senators are challenging the President, one has to question his capacity to lead. As Chuck Hagel observed, "Diplomacy is essential for creating the international political environment that will be required for any action we take in Iraq, especially how we sustain a democratic transition in a post-Saddam Iraq," Hagel said. As postwar Afghanistan has shown, the United States has refused either keep the peace or take charge of the process of reconstruction. Yet if winning the peace is as important as winning the war, the United States will needs it allies to support is efforts.

Now, if Bush can't get Republicans to support his efforts, it shouldn't come as a surprise that he has done nothing to shore up the support of firm allies such as Tony Blair. Lacking support within his own party, Blair had to accept a resolution at a Labor Party conference pledging the government to participate in an invasion of Iraq only "after the exhaustion of all other political and diplomatic means." If the United States has to invade Iraq without even British support, it will become all but impossible to secure other nations' support for the war on terrorism. As such, Bush has to consider not just what Americans think of his public statements, but also what Britons think.

In order to increase the credibility of his public statements, the President has to take positions that remain conistent over time. Yet as David Broder points out in the WashPost, Bush has abandoned almost all of the fundamental positions he has taken over the course of the past year. In January, Bush gave us the 'axis of evil'. Yet now he has sent a high-level envoy to negotiate with North Korea, is ignoring Iran and demonizing Iraq. While critics of the President may have been wrong to dismiss his State of the Union speech as empty rhetoric when he gave it last January, recent actions have given substance to such views. By the same taken, Bush's initial insistence that Iraq represents an immediate threat to American security has been exposed as hollow by his newfound willingess to navigate the intricate process of securing support from the United Nations.

The most recent statement that may come back to haunt the President is his insistence that "you can't distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror". If credible threats of force convince Saddam Hussein to disarm, Bush will have to postpone indefinitely his plans for regime change in Iraq -- an implicit acknowledgement that Saddam is not bin Laden. Ultimately, Bush will only be able to restore his credibility -- especially on the international stage -- if he considers the long-term viability of his public statements before he makes them. Restoring credibility matters because the words of an American president have the potential to sway world opinion. As Bush's speech to the UN showed, even a president with damaged credibility can recapture the initiative with nothing more than words.
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