Friday, January 31, 2003

# Posted 6:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DID SADDAM GAS THE KURDS? A former CIA analyst, one who was in charge of reporting on Iraq in the 1980s, says there is no hard evidence. Disturbing if true, but the author is wrong to say that if not for the Kurdish incident, Saddam would have a good human rights record.

UPDATE/CORRECTION: WSJ's Best of the Web says that the CIA analyst in question has a long record of distorting evidence in order to defend Saddam. Thanks to JL for pointing this out.
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# Posted 6:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AXIS OF COJONES: Josh is not happy with the phrase of Axis of Vassals. He has a point.

And besides, I now have a better idea, thanks to Bob Kagan's column on our European friends. Introducing, the "Axis of Cojones". (Click here if you need a translation, and here if you want to put the translation in context.)
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# Posted 6:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DUELING HEADLINES: "Palestinian Deaths Mount in Israeli Raids" -- Washington Post, Jan. 31. "Ambushed Israelis Kill Assailants" -- David's proposed alternative. Read the article and see which you think fits better.
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# Posted 5:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JUST ANOTHER '-STAN': US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has sought to allay concerns that the challenge of reconstructing Iraq will lead the United States to forget Afghanistan. As the WaPo reports, Khalilzad
told an audience that included senior officials from Kabul that he has become aware of worries that the United States will "forget" Afghanistan.

"I can unequivocally tell you that will not be the case. Our commitment to the future of Afghanistan is unshakable. Iraq will not reduce that commitment," Khalilzad said.
As the President noted in the State of the Union address, "In Afghanistan, we helped liberate an oppressed people. And we will continue helping them secure their country, rebuild their society, and educate all their children -- boys and girls." If I were Hamid Karzai, I'd say that Bush's statement isn't a bad start. Though one might wonder whether Bush's failure to use the word 'democracy' means that he isn't all that concerned about whether it is Karzai that presides over a rebuilt Afghanistan.
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# Posted 5:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNDER OUR NOSES: North Korea has taken the next step toward producing weapons-grade plutonium. They know that with the US-Iraq confrontation coming to a head, the US cannot divert its attention from the Middle East.

The real question is this, however: If we don't take Saddam out now, will North Korea take advantage of each future crisis to enhance its weapons program? And will Saddam move to advance his each time North Korea causes trouble? I think you know the answer.

UPDATE: ElBaradei has taken a tough stance regarding North Korea, but the Administration has declared his conclusions to be premature. I think ElBaradei is right, but the Administration may not want to divert its attention from Iraq. There also seems to be a good old-fashioned scandal brewing in the South.

UPDATE: The WaPo contradicts the NYT and says the administration is taking North Korea's actions seriously. Possibly, these conflicting accounts represent a difference of opinion between the State Dept and the White House, with the WaPo taking its lead from the former, the NYT from the latter.
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Thursday, January 30, 2003

# Posted 10:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE GAME IS AFOOT: CalPundit has responded to my challenge with quite a sensible post.

Expect a response here sometime this weekend. In the meantime, read what Time and The New Republic have to say about anti-Americanism.
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# Posted 10:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MANDELA THE STRATEGIST: Our friend Nelson has asked whether the US is ignoring the UN because the Secretary General is a black man. Actually, I think the real reason is that the US no longer trusts any nation or organization headed by a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Incidentally, Mandela does not describe his strategy for getting rid of Saddam or protecting the Iraqi people from him. My guess would be that it goes something like this: George Bush should spend twenty years in prison until the moral force generated by his noble self-sacrifice convinces the international community that it must impose sanctions on Iraq that ultimately force it to embrace democracy.

UPDATE: Considering that Mandela is getting on in years, maybe I shouldn't be so hard on him.
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# Posted 10:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THOSE WACKY CANUCKS: I was trying to pick out the juiciest line in this article, but I just couldn't. Read the whole thing.
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# Posted 10:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EU-NILATERALISM: The Washington Post reports that [The European] Parliament adopted 287-209 with 26 abstentions a non-binding resolution saying: "Breaches of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 currently identified by the inspectors with regard to weapons of mass destruction do not justify military action."

Funny, I didn't know that the EU had a right to decide when international law applies and when it doesn't. Then again, it's a non-binding resolution, so maybe the EU is just pretending to be unilateralist becaues what it really wants to do is show America what it feels like to be abused a mean old bully on the other side of the Atlantic.

Even funnier, the NY Times managed to report the EU resolution without mentioning that it contradicts 1441. According to the Times, "the European Parliament voted 287 to 209 in Brussels to urge the United States not to take unilateral military action against Iraq, because Baghdad's dealings with the weapons inspectors did not 'justify military action'." "Dealings", huh?
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# Posted 10:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIFE IMITATING ART: On Wednesday morning, the Weekly Standard wondered when Europe would get around to condmening Bush's anti-AIDS program as American unilateralism. Answer: Thursday. As the old saying goes, "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it."
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# Posted 9:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AXIS OF VASSALS: While "Axis of Weasels" may be a much cleverer (albeit inflammatory) invention, I think that America's eight newfound European friends deserve a similar nickname of their own: the Axis of Vassals.

I came up with the name after reading that Elmar Brok, a German legislator had remarked on Blair and Berlusconi's visits to the White House by observing that ""The race of the vassals has begun."

Now, a vassal isn't necessarily a good thing to be. Webster's defines a vassal as:
1: a person under the protection of a feudal lord to whom he has vowed homage and fealty: a feudal tenant
2: one in a subservient or subordinate position
Now, I don't believe that the Gang of Eight (the old nickname for our European friends) are vassals of old Uncle Sam. As they themselves point out, "The real bond between the U.S. and Europe is the values we share: democracy, individual freedom, human rights and the rule of law."

But by referring to them as the Axis of Vassals, it should remind those on both sides of the Atlantic how intolerant the alleged spokesmen of Europe can become when forced to recognize that the rest of Europe is more interested in the values its shares with the United States than the interests that it doesn't.
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Wednesday, January 29, 2003

# Posted 10:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"OCCUPY US -- PLEASE!" That was the demand that one Kurdish man made to an American visitor in northern Iraq, who has gone on to describe her experiences on the WaPo op-ed page.

While the details provided in the column are quite interesting, the main message is nothing new: That sanctions have not prevented northern Iraq from becoming both more prosperous and more free than it ever was before. This fact demonstrates beyond a shadow of doubt that it is Saddam Hussein and not the West which is responsible for impoverishing and brutalizing the rest of Iraq.

Finally, one point I haven't thought of before: None of the major media outlets seems to have ever published a news item or even an op-ed claiming that life in northern Iraq has not improved dramatically over the past decade. That may be the best evidence out there for what Iraq would be like without Saddam Hussein.
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# Posted 9:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DISTURBING SILENCE: Tom Friedman says the US should help Arab leaders convince Saddam to step down. Everything Friedman says makes sense. It's what he doesn't say that's disturbing.

Nowhere in Friedman's column does he explain how it will be possible to promote democracy in Iraq if Saddam is replaced with a cooperative general. This silence is striking in contrast to Friedman's assertion last week that the only hope for ending terror in the Middle East is a democratic transformation.

But perhaps we should go easy on Tom. Self-contradiction seems to be pervasive on the pages of both the NYT and the WaPo.
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# Posted 1:30 PM by Dan  

SOTU. Overall not bad, but his last few lines seemed to push the limits of the Establishment Clause:

"Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity.

We Americans have faith in ourselves but not in ourselves alone. We do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history.

May He guide us now, and may God continue to bless the United States of America."

So....the President tell us to place our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history. Bush also asks asking him to guide us--is that official government endorsement of religion? What about those pesky non-believers?

I am far from an expert on these matters, but those are some of my thoughts.
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Tuesday, January 28, 2003

# Posted 11:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MY, HOW (THE NEW YORK) TIMES CHANGE: On Sunday, Howell Raines told us that
"The inspectors alone will never disarm Iraq. But they can slow Mr. Hussein's weapons programs, leaving more time for diplomatic efforts to remove him from power and for Washington to mobilize the international support it now lacks."
Just two days later, Raines has informed us that Hans Blix's findings
"argue strongly for giving the inspectors more time to pursue their efforts and satisfy international opinion that every reasonable step has been taken to solve this problem peacefully."
If one were being generous, one might say that Mr. Raines wants the inspectors to find a smoking gun so that the rest of the Security Council will back an invasion. But it sure as hell sounds like he's saying that the inspectors can't disarm Iraq, so we should give them more time.

CLARIFICATION: Josh points out (via e-mail, no link) that while Howell Raines has the final say on editorial matters, it is Gail Collins and co. that actually write the NYT editorials.
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# Posted 10:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MY OLD BOSS ON THE WARPATH: Before heading to Oxford, I worked at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, or CEIP for short.

My thesis advisor in college used to make fun of CEIP's name. "'International Peace', huh? They're a little behind schedule on that one, aren't they?" And, in fact, CEIP has quite a history, at least in the pre-WWII of taking some terribly naive stances on world politics.

Now, before I say what I'm going to say next, I'd like to point out that all of the Junior Fellows at Carnegie, including myself, were afraid of nothing more than the president of Carnegie, Jessica T. Mathews. Thus, when it came time to put on the annual Christmas comedy show, most of us were hesitant to say anything about Jessica. But in the end, she seemed to take it all pretty well.

Hopefully, Jessica will demostrate the same merciful attitude toward what I am about say, which is this: Her op-ed in today's Post sets a new standard for incoherence and naivete.

To my knowledge, Jessica is the first person to have argued that the US shouldn't enforce 1441 even though Iraq is obviously in material breach. Huh?

But at the same time, she says that inspections should go on for another year, even though there is no reason to believe Saddam will cooperate. Huh?

The reason for going to all this trouble is because the "aim of U.S. policy must be to put the onus on each of the permanent members of the Security Council, in particular, to place its complete commitment behind the intent of Resolution 1441 to disarm Iraq."

Uh-huh. So the purpose of US foreign policy should be to get the rest of the Security Council behind a resolution that has no chance of accomplishing anything.

Based on my experience at Carnegie, I'd have to say that what's really going on here is a spectacular demonstration of verbal acrobatics designed to provide some sort of justification for not doing anything to offend Europe. This is pathological multilateralism.

If even Jessica Mathews knows that Saddam is in material breach but Jacques Chirac won't acknowledge it, then what is multilateralism worth?
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# Posted 10:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YOUR OWN MAN SAYS SO: According to the WaPo, Hans Blix's report to the UN provides all the evidence that the Security Coucil needs to declare that Saddam is in material breach.

The Post is right, of course. And now that you think about it, aren't you glad that Hans Blix has been so incompetent and uncooperative up until now? I mean, absolutely no one can say that Blix gave such a damning report because he is an American frontman. As such, Hans Blix has given the Bush administration exactly what the French and Germans fear most: credibility.
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Monday, January 27, 2003

# Posted 10:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CALPUNDIT VEERS LEFT: Here's Kevin on America bullying Europe:
Lincoln Plawg asks: The question for the US is, of course, what position could the Europeans take up, short of supine submission to each and every US proposal, that the Administration would approve?

I've been wondering that myself. Are Europeans even allowed to disagree with U.S. policy anymore?
That's the whole post, word for word. Kevin, I've praised your work very highly before. You put up more thoughtful, in-depth posts than almost any other blogger. So why is it now acceptable to bash America without a solid argument to back the bashing up?
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# Posted 9:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FAREED ZAKARIA, OPTIMIST: Zakaria thinks a US invasion of Iraq will benefit the Middle East. A definite surprise coming from the man who gave us "The Rise of Illiberal Democracy" and "Our Way: The Trouble With Being the World's Only Superpower." Then again, anyone who endorses OxBlog has to have a bit of the naive idealist in them.

Even so, I almost expect Newsweek to declare that this column is a fabrication, a subtle reminder of Time Magazine's unmasked incompetence. But why look a gift horse in the mouth? Here is Zakaria striking conclusion:
There are always risks involved when things change. But for the past 40 years the fear of these risks has paralyzed Western policy toward the Middle East. And what has come of this caution? Repression, radical Islam and terror. I’ll take my chances with change.
Damn right.
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# Posted 9:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CHUCK HAGEL, MAN OF PRINCIPLE: I don't agree with a word Hagel says, but you have to give him credit for opposing his own party's President at a time when the nation is opposing the brink of war.

One might argue that Hagel's words are nothing more than a cynical effort to track polls which show a majority of independent voters opposing a war without UN approval.

But why oppose a President who demonstrated just two months ago that he is willing to fight hard for his party's Senate candidates and then lead them to victory? Principle. Or perhaps Hagel is an idiot. One of the people I trust most when it comes to foreign policy, someone who happens to share Hagel's affiliation with the GOP, has firmly insisted for years that Hagel is, in fact, an idiot. Only time will tell.

At the moment, John Kerry seems to be chasing the idiocy crown. In the same WaPo article which quotes Hagel, Kerry accuses the Bush administration of "alienating our longtime friends and allies, alarming potential foes and spreading anti-Americanism around the world" through its "blustering unilateralism." Isn't one supposed to alarm one's foes? More importantly, didn't Kerry learn what happens to democratic contenders who blame America for anti-Americanism? Campaigning for the primaries may cost Kerry come Novermber.
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# Posted 8:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SAFIRE UNBOWED: Among the first to insist that Saddam has significant ties to Al Qaeda, Bill Safire says that time has proven him right and that Colin Powell knows it.
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# Posted 8:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG IS IRRELEVANT. There is no need to comment on Hans Blix's report to the Security Council. It speaks for itself.
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# Posted 8:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLAIR'S GAMBLE ON MORAL CLARITY: Today's NYT article on Tony Blair's defiance of British public opinion complements a similar article in the current issue of The Weekly Standard.

Both articles are excellent overall, especially in their portrayal of Blair's principled stand in the face of overwhelming opposition. And while both Warren Hoge and Irwin Stelzer are clearly sympathetic to the Prime Minister, they underestimate his political talents by an order of magnitude.

One comes away from both authors' work with a sense that Blair's commitment to principle may have robbed him of the leadership role he nurtured so carefully both in Britain and throughout Europe. Yet rather than sacrificing his achievements, Blair's is gambling that an Anglo-American triumph in Iraq will establish him as the greatest Prime Minister since Churchill.

Neither Hoge nor Stelzer explores what effect a successful invasion of Iraq -- followed by the revelation of overwhelming evidence that Saddam Hussein has been lying to the Security Council -- might have on Blair's reputation. When the weapons are found, German and French intransigence will have been exposed as a self-righteous and outright selfish endeavor that protected the government of a brutal tyrant.

When the weapons are found, German and French aspirations to international leadership will have been set back a generation. In contrast, Britain will have won the lasting gratitude of the lone superpower in addition to having established itself as the one nation other than the United States with the potential to lead the international community.

Perhaps most important of all, Blair will have left behind his life as a politician and become a statesman. In democratic nations, the highest praise is reserved for those leaders who, as a matter of principle, sacrifice their standing in the short term only to win great admiration later on when their principles are vindicated. This is that path that Churchill followed in resisting Chamberlain's appeasement of Adolf Hitler and insisting that Britain must stand up for what it believes.

Perhaps none of this will come to pass. And even if it does, Blair may share Churcill's legacy of defeat at the polls in the aftermath of war. But Churchill changed what it means to be British. In Blair's commitment to principle one senses that he is more interested in forging a stron gBritish identity for the post-Cold War era rather than ensuring victory at the polls.

Wisest of all, Blair knows that no amount of rhetoric, of spin, will convince others that he is right. Only events can change the public mind. That is Blair's gamble.
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# Posted 7:39 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

$200 MILLION? Some people will pay anything to get their names into the NYT and the WSJ.
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Sunday, January 26, 2003

# Posted 10:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NO WINNERS: Yossi Klein Halevi on Tuesday's election in Israel:
Sharon cannot really win this election. Even if he forms the next government, he has already lost his most precious asset--his progress in reversing a lifelong reputation for recklessness and becoming a symbol of stability and consensus. Sharon's achievement had been to subordinate ideology to national unity. He sacrificed the agenda that defined his political career, opposing a Palestinian state, to rally Israelis around the agenda that defined his military career, fighting Palestinian terrorism. In so doing, he recreated the two preconditions for every past Israeli victory: national cohesion and the ability to take the war into enemy territory.
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# Posted 10:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

COULD YOU REPEAT THAT? Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a neurological condition, not a liberal conspiracy. In a classic case of ideology overwhelming science, almost every major coservative voice in the media -- The National Review, The Weekly Standard, Rush Limbaugh, Thomas Sowell, Policy Review, Phyllis Schlafly, Jonah Goldberg, Frank Fukuyama, and more -- have declared that ADD and its cure, Ritalin, are what has resulted from the liberal desire to medicate childhood and emasculate American boys.

What makes the TNR expose of this trend so intriguing is that it is written by a conservative and cites sources -- most of them medical experts -- who are also conservative. And then it ends by making a conservative case for the seriousness of ADD and the value of Ritalin. As the author explains, ADD medication
"reflects and reinforces conservative values. For one thing, [these medications] increase personal responsibility by removing an excuse that children (and their parents) can fall back on to explain misbehavior and poor performance...Moreover, unlike liberals, who tend to downplay differences between the sexes, conservatives are inclined to believe that there are substantial physiological differences-- differences such as boys' greater tendency to suffer ADHD."
There are a number of lessons to be taken from the Ritalin debate. First is the way in which the partisan media can become an echo chamber reinforcing prejudices on each side of the liberal-conservative divide. (Regular visitors will know that this is not a disingenuous attack on the conservative media, since I am a constant and vocal critic of liberal media bias.)

Second, pundits need to take special care in addressing the relationship between science and public policy, since it is all too easy to let simple applications of ideology substitute for the hard work of scientific research.

Third -- and most important from my personal perspective -- is recognition of the fact that no individual knows enough about enough issues to avoid becoming reliant on ideology as a guide. We all have our own prejudices, and errors are inevitable. As such, the best test of objectivity may be whether one is honest enough to admit one's mistakes and try to do better next time.

This point has personal significance for (aspiring?) centrists such as myself, since we have no ideology to guide us. Uncomfortable with the confident statements of pundits on both left and right, centrists are often most liable to become cynics. But that I am not. I believe that a better effort can be made, and that the media has a long way to go before it can claim that human imperfection is the only thing standing in the way of fairer reporting.
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# Posted 5:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FASCISM VS. COMMUNISM: Most visitors to the blogosphere tend to scroll down from the top of pages they visit rather than scrolling upwards from the bottom. While practical, reading from the bottom up doesn't work when one encounters a series of posts that are incomprehensible when read from last to first. Since this weekend's running debate about the history and moral status of Fascism and Communism is just such a series, I have assembled a set of links below which will should make it easier to follow what Josh and I have been saying.

1. David comments on Glenn Reynolds' view of Communism.

2. Josh argues that Communism's dangers must be recognized.

3. David responds that Josh is oversimplifying.

4. Josh demands examples of Communist governments that were not totalitarian dictatorships.

5. David provides them.

6. Josh insists that Communism is a governing philosophy which must be judged according to how its adherents governed.

7. David takes issue with Josh's standards of judgment.

8. Coming soon?
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# Posted 5:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FASCISM VS. COMMUNISM REDUX: Josh is standing by his assertion that Communism and Fascism are moral equivalents, a point I have already deconstructed once. As before, Josh's argument rests on the construction of artificial standards for judging the moral worth of an idea.

In his most recent missive, Josh avers that "Nazism, like Communism, is a governing philosophy, and must be judged according to the way it governs. And that is overwhelmingly brutal." While my knowledge of philosophy pales in comparison to that of Mr. Chafetz, I sene that the term "governing philosophy" is no different from the more general term "political philosophy". Therefore, there is no reason to judge a given political philosophy solely according to how it governs, rather than how it functions in opposition, in the social and economic realms, or in the academy.

This point is critical because Josh absolutely refuses to acknowledge the moral significance of many non-Stalinist Communists search for social justice. Forced to admit that this positive aspect of Communistm did exist, Josh now responds that "Nazis supported some worthy causes, as well (decreasing unemployment and raising the standard of living for the working class, for one). Are we wrong to judge them, too, 'according to their political record alone'?"

There is a very simple answer to this question. The Nazis who wantd to raise living standards for the working class were the same Nazis who murdered 6 million Jews. But the Communists who worked for decades to organize labor unions throughout the United States and Western Europe often (not always) had nothing to do with Lenin, Stalin or other brutal Communist dictators.

That said, perhaps I can offer Josh a thought which will make him comfortable with accepting the multifaceted nature of Communism. It goes like this: Throughout the Cold War, at a time when Communism threatened to overrun the nations of Western Europe as well countless others, prominent figures on the intellecutal and political left sought -- sometimes naively and sometimes disingenuously -- to mitigate perceptions of a Communist threat by comparing the Communist record favorably to that of the Fascists. In doing so, these figures referred to the same positive aspects of the Communist legacy that I have referred to in my posts.

Such arguments were deeply flawed in both moral and political terms because they sought to mitigate the brutality of existing Communist governments through reference to the positive actions of those Communists who sought legitimate forms in the West. I rejects such arguments unequivocally. Nonethless, it is a historical fact that Communism gave rise to both brutal and humane political movements, the latter of which ought to be recognized for their contribution to social justice.

NB: Josh also raised the point that Marxism inspired socialists and social democrats as well as Communists. Thus, I was wrong to say that "political movements based on Marx's ideas have referred to themselves as Commuist rather than Marxist." What I should have said was that "political movements based exclusively on Marx's ideas have referred to themselves as Commuist rather than Marxist." Socialism and social democracy have a complex intellectual heritage which draws on many sources other than Marx. In contrast, pure Marxist political movements, as far as I know, prefer to refer to themselves as Communist. And it is these Communists who sometimes fought for social justice.
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# Posted 12:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RIGHT-WING PROPAGANDA: "Saddam Hussein is obviously a brutal dictator who deserves toppling. No one who knows his history can doubt that he is secretly trying to develop weapons of mass destruction...The inspectors alone will never disarm Iraq." Is this the Washington Times? The National Review? The Weekly Standard? Josh Chafetz? All wrong. It's the New York Times.

Anti-war commentators are becomig desperate. They can no longer pretend that inspections might work or that Saddam does not have proscribed weapons. They are searching for any justification whatsoever to hold off an invasion. Consider, for instance, what the Times has come up with to counter its admission that Saddam is in material breach of Resolution 1441:
Mr. Bush has never...been clear about exactly why we are preparing to fight. Sometimes his aim appears to be disarming the Iraqis or punishing Baghdad for defying the United Nations; sometimes the goal is nothing short of deposing Mr. Hussein. The first lesson of the Vietnam era was that Americans should not be sent to die for aims the country only vaguely understands and accepts.
The critical flaw in this argument is that the American public would not hesitate for a second to support the invasion of Iraq if it shared the Times' belief that "No one who knows his history can doubt that he is secretly trying to develop weapons of mass destruction." As polls have shown, what Americans want is more evidence of Iraqi non-compliance, not a justification for enforcing 1441.

Ironically, the Times has backed itself into the same corner as French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, who said just a few days ago that "Already we know for a fact that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs are being largely blocked, even frozen. We must do everything possible to strengthen this process." As Jonah Goldberg points out, "if France knows [this] for 'a fact,' then France also knows for a fact that Iraq has such weapons programs. After all, you can't block or freeze what doesn't exist..."

In the final analysis, no self-respecting multilateralist can argue both that Iraq is in material breach of 1441 and that the United States should hold back from enforcing the UN's stated will.
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# Posted 12:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AN ANSWER FOR VENEZUELA from Harvard's top scholars of Latin American politics.
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# Posted 11:57 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CHAFETZ AND DOWD CLOSE TO AGREEMENT: Confounding those who predicted that Maureen Dowd would not apologize for her use of a fabricated Time Magazine story to whack George, old MoDo has fessed up.

Then, in a rhetorical twist reminiscient of the mighty Chafetz, she asks "Why keep a tradition of honoring the Confederacy...

Of course, the rest of her question demonstrates why see and Josh C. will never she eye to eye: "...while you're going to court to stop a tradition of helping black students at the University of Michigan?" I would comment on the offensive nature of that remark, but I think it's abject stupidity is fairly self-evident.
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# Posted 11:43 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

POT, KETTLE, BLACK: From the NYT article on the secular-religious divide in Israeli politics:
"Israel is becoming more religious — both Jews and Arabs," said Rabbi Yaakov Solomon, 28..."But the secular side is becoming more and more extreme."

A member of Parliament from [the religious nationalist party] Herut, Michael Kleiner, has advocated bombing Palestinian cities and killing 1,000 Palestinians for every Jew killed in the conflict.
Now give me some of that old time religion!
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# Posted 10:52 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JOSH ASKS, "Can you name a single Communist government that was not a totalitarian dictatorship?" First of all, yes. Second of all, that's the wrong question to ask.

While short lived, the Commuist governments of Guatemala in the 1950s and Czechoslovakia in the 1960s were not totalitarian dictatorships. For the definitive account of Jacobo Arbenz and Guatemalan Communism, see Piero Gleijeses' book, Shattered Hope.

While some revisionists have sought to argue that Arbenz was never a Communist, Gleijeses shows both that he was and that he went to certain lengths to hide that fact from both domestic and international audiences. However, Gleijeses also shows that Arbenz was an aggressive social reformer who did more for the Guatemalan poor in his few years in power than the rest of Guatemala's governments did ever.

In addition, Arbenz was a democrat, who won the presidency in free and fair elections. Moreover, he did not move to prevent further elections that might have brought the opposition to power. Of course, Eisenhower had no interest in promoting democracy, and thus ordered the CIA to overthrow Arbenz, thus ushering in three decades of brutal dictatorship which resulted in the the death of tens of thousands of innocent Guatemalans.

While I am not as familiar with the Dubcek/Swoboda government in Czechoslovakia, I will tell you what I learned from John Gaddis, a historian who has never been accused of exaggerating the merits of Communism. While Dubcek and Swoboda were not elected, they began to grant Czechoslovakians rights which were unheard of in the Communist bloc. Their reforms culminated in the legendary Prague Spring of 1968 and the brutal Soviet invasion which brought it to an end.

While Dubcek and Swoboda had no interest in resisting Soviet control of the Warsaw Pact, they did advocate "Communism with a human face". There was no chance, however, that the Soviets could remain passive in the face of living proof that their Communism lacked the humanity of its Czech variant.

What the tragic history of Guatemala and Czechoslovakia illustrates is that there were few opportunities for a better Communism to flourish in a world divided by the Cold War. The brutality of Communism was a result of the conscious decisions of brutal individuals such as Lenin, Stalin, Mao and their violent avant garde. While I value economic freedom enough to reject Communism out of hand, it is foolish to write off all Communists as no different from Stalin.

This brings me to Josh's second point, that he has no idea who I'm thinking of when I say that there were many idealistic Communists who fought for social justice. I mentioned the role of Communists in 19c. Europe, but Judith Weiss at Kesher Talk has reminded me of the critical role played by Communists in the American progressive movement of the interwar era. As Judith notes, according to
a new book about civil-rights activist Anne Braden, from the turn of the century up to WWII, if you thought segregation and Jim Crow were wrong, if you thought women should be able to get birth control and credit in their own names, if you didn't think Modern Art was the harbinger of social chaos, and if you wanted to find others like yourself and maybe even do something to further your ideals, you ended up hanging out with Communists. That's where the action was. Although its flawed ideas and the application of those ideas by fanatics led to economic ruin and enormous human-rights abuses which I have no desire to whitewash, Communism was at its core an ideology of human rights at a time when social inequalities were vast and many still believed in the divine ordination of social and gender heirarchy.
I can provide some independent confirmation of Judith's point, since in my course on American with the legendary David Montgomery, we learned about the critical role of Communists in organizing America's industrial unions.

All this should demonstrate why Josh's question about whether or not there have been good Communist governments is the wrong question to ask. Governments were not the only forum in which Communists were active, so to judge them according to their political record alone is counterproductive.

On a final note, I'd like to respond to Josh's belief that I am "conflating Communism with all Marxism". First off, Josh's distinction is valid, since there are many scholars who work within a Marxist analytical framework but are not Communists. Yet as far as I know, political movements based on Marx's ideas have referred to themselves as Commuist rather than Marxist. After all, he didn't call it "The Marxist Manifesto".

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Saturday, January 25, 2003

# Posted 8:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOLD ON, JOSH. It isn't easy to have two conversations at once. But thanks to the information revolution we can try.

In response to my argument that Stalin's brutality should not reflect on either Marx himself or other well-intentioned Communists, Josh asks, "Should we then refrain from thinking ill of all fascists because not all of them wound up to be genocidal maniacs?"

Sorry, Josh. The old "Communist-fascist switch" isn't going to work on me. Fascism tends to refer to Nazism, Mussolini's Italian fascism, and other European derivations thereof. None of them had any redeeming value. In contrast, there were many idealistic Communists, especially in the 19th century, who turned their ideological commitment toward the ends of social justice. Since I made that point before and you didn't respond to it, I'll assume that you agree.

As for your argument that a commitment to historical materialism entails a belief that Marxism in practice is the "true Marxism", I'm not sure where you're coming from. On the most basic level, historical materialism refers to the belief that one can only understand history in terms of the economic forces that shaped it. Some historical materialists interpet this mean that ideas are a "superstructure", i.e. nothing more than a reflection of the economic "base" that serves as their foundation.

While some historical materialists may have asserted that one can judge an idea according to the historical developments which bear its name, doing so contradicts historical materialism by assuming that the idea itself rather than associated social forces were responsible for those developments.

Even so, one has to reckon with the fact that Communism had "a tendency to churn out murderous despots", and thus, you add, "deserves our scorn." Frankly, it's hard to scorn a tendency. Do we scorn Christianity because it had a tendency to launch crusades and pogroms? Islam because of its terrorists? In the case of such complex phenomena, I prefer to hold invididuals accountable for their own actions and beliefs, thus preserving a sense of the ways in which controversial ideas can produce different outcomes in different situations.

Getting to your last point, I think it important to recognize that there are many on the Continent who "no longer wear the badge of Communism" but are still suspicious of those who refuse to recognize the distiction between Stalinism and Western European communism. And, while I am well aware of Herr Fischer's record, the fact remains that he is the German foreign minister and that he is far from the only European minister who has a similar background. While I understand your reluctance to accommodate those such as Joschka, I think that doing so is infinitely better than provoking conflicts which only benefit Saddam Hussein.
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# Posted 7:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JOSH, I AGREE that you are on logical ground when you point out that one cannot oppose an invasion of Iraq after supporting an attack on Yugoslavia unless one identifies the current war as a matter of blood for oil. But I'm not sure that those who now protest against a war on Iraq ever supported what happened in Kosovo.

The anti-war movement of today is an outgrowth of the anti-IMF/World Bank activism that we now associate with the innocence of September 10th. If memory serves, the anti-IMF/World Bank movement more or less opposed the bombing of Yugoslavia as a matter of aggressio albeit for moral ends. While I won't defend that statement any further without the chance to do some research, I think it is generally correct.

Those who did support the war in Kosovo, such as Chirac and Schroeder, do not now rely on simplistic arguments about waging war for oil. Instead, they defend the semi-plausible argument inspections need more time to work.

As such, I think that "No Blood For Oil" reflects the transition of Marxist analytical thought from intellectual paradigm to common sense throughout much of Europe. This is not to say that "No Blood For Oil" is a flawed argument because of its intellectual pedigree. The real issue is a lack of evidence.

More importantly, I sense that many of those who accept the logic of blood for oil reject Marxism and Communism as firmly as ourselves. This is what I mean when I say that Marxist analysis has become common sense. In Europe, one will not find oneself alone on either the left, the right or the center if one identifies the search for wealth as the foundation of foreign policy, especially American foreign policy. In contrast, Americans think of foreign policy in terms of security and ideology.

It is this divide, no less than the one between multilateralists and unilateralists, that has prevented the Western democracies from coming together to bring justice to Saddam Hussein.
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# Posted 7:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

It's not McCarthyite to call people who are communists, communists. Communists, as devoted followers of murderous totalitarianism, deserve to be called to account every bit as much as their Nazi colleagues. And in the 21st century, they can hardly pretend to be ignorant of their ideology's true nature.
Not so fast. While there isn't much good to say about the Communist record in world politics, it is important both as a matter of principle as well as matter of pragmatics to recognize that the Communism of Mao and Stalin was not the Communism of either Karl Marx or his Western heirs.

As a matter of principle it is important to recognize that the intellectual contributions of Marx and the Western Communist tradition -- as well as their passionate commitment to social justice -- should not be blackened by an unjust association with those who turned Marxism to their own brutal ends. In contrast, there was only one Nazism, that of Adolf Hitler.

From a practical persepctive, simplistic denunciations of Communism ensure the widening of the gulf that separates America from Europe. While 1960s radicals such as Joschka Fischer have become more moderate in the process of becoming mainstream political and social figures, few of them have forgotten what it was like to believe in the human potential of Communism. Misguided as their faith was, they still stand ready to denounce as unthinking conservatives those who cannot separate Soviet Communism from its Western European counterpart.

While paying closer attention to European sensibilities may not have a tangible impact on the current coflict over how to disarm Saddam Hussein, a greater willingness to talk politics with the Europeans on their own terms may help them build an intellectual framework for the post-Cold War era that is not anchored in the conflicts of the Cold War. With such a framework in place, it may become possible to avoid such coflicts the next time the West has to confront a brutal dictator bent on developing weapons of mass destruction. After all, no one benefits from such coflicts except the dictators themselves.

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# Posted 5:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

COMMON SENSE FROM DOWN UNDER: Patrick Porter -- a good friend of mine, a rising force among historians of Europe, an Australian and an avowed multilateralist -- has this to say about the logic of "No Blood For Oil":
For some analysts it is obvious that a lone superpower will capitalise on opportunities to secure its economic interests. For protesters it is immoral to sacrifice blood for oil. For either, it is often a 'real' reason, even the lone reason, behind the camouflage of Bush's stated reasons [for wanting to invade Iraq].

[Yet] one does not have to be an expert on the global oil economy, American foreign policy or Middle Eastern politics to realise how simplistic this is.

Is it so obviously in America's oil interests to attack Saddam Hussein, which risks destabilising the region and alienating other Arab nations? The enormous costs of such a war, which might precipitate a US recession, must also have occured to the US administration. Can we really sensibly say that the US is prepared to gamble its domestic prosperity and foreign economic resources so recklessly for more oil? If anything, this so-called dollar-driven war might well involve considerable economic sacrifices. If this is an oil-driven war, it comes with profound risks...

Finally, even if hypothetically America could enrich itself and its oil reserves without risk or complication, that is not enough. Causality requires demonstrating a link between acts, interests, objectives, and events. The nexus between oil and foreign policy must be proven. It is not clear that nation-states, particularly powerful ones reacting to acts of war, always define their interests in purely economic terms. It might be true that despite everything, oil plays a significant role in US objectives. But like any other thesis, it needs evidence.

I make this argument as someone opposed to unilateral pre-emptive strikes. One can still challenge the legitimacy of America's position in relation to Iraq. But under serious analysis, the oil thesis emerges as little more than cheap rhetoric.
Naturally, OxBlog is sympathetic to Patrick's views. What's really interesting about them, though, is their focus on the logic of causality. While some of us often take it for granted that the left will always argue that greed is the engine of aggression, one has to ask why anti-war protesters are so wedded to this specific empirical position, as opposed to the more defensible ethical position that war is unthinkable unless one is attacked first.

Or perhaps one should ask, which comes first: the belief that war is wrong, or the belief that this is a war for oil and therefore it is wrong? Do those who assume the former simply accept the latter because it reinforces their position? I don't know.

Rather than arguing against the anti-war position, the more interesting question may be what leads people to it. While I'm not all that concerned about the self-defeating American anti-war movement, it might be interesting to know what really drives European anti-war sentiment. Resentment of American power? Self-interest? Sincere pacifism? Or the belief that this is a war for oil? If we knew, we might be able to avoid the constant conflicts that set back our efforts to disarm and overthrow Saddam Hussein.
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# Posted 4:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NIHILISM OR NAIVETE? Patrick Ruffini has an interesting post up on the deficit of constructive thinking in the anti-war movement. As Patrick sees it, the inability of anti-war thinkers to offer any serious proposals for protecting the United States or confronting brutal dictators in the Middle East qualifies as a form of nihilism.

I tend to disagree. Whether explicitly of not, the leadership of the anti-war movement tends to believe that anti-American sentiment is a natural reaction to American aggression. Therefore, if America resists the impulse to invade Iraq, it will have taken the first step toward redressing Middle Eastern grievances. This view is logically consistent, albeit sadly naive.

What Patrick might argue is that opposing war from a leftist or liberal perspective is hypocritical. On the left, as Patrick observes,
There's no discussion of peaceful ways to achieve regime change — or even any recognition that this brutal, illiberal dictator needs to go. No speaking out in solidarity with repressed Iraqi minorities or women. No exploration of ways to trigger democratic change in the region. No plan for challenging regimes they believe to be even worse, like Iran, Saudi Arabia, or North Korea.
But if one truly believes that American aggression is the foremost existing threat to human rights, than prioritizing the anti-war campaign is not hypocritical.

In the final analysis, the absence of constructive recommendations on the left may be the reason that it's influence is so limited.
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# Posted 1:54 PM by Dan  

WHO'S YOUR DADDY. According to Bill Keller, Dubya's political one is Ronald Reagan. I especially agree that both "have made a political virtue of being -- in Bush's word -- ''misunderestimated'' by the political elite." There is nothing better than low expectations--Bush welcomes them.

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Friday, January 24, 2003

# Posted 10:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANGRY CHICKEN FARMER, PART DEUX: Earlier this week, OxBlog took the NYT to task for its groundless allegations about Iraqi public opinion. Now as if to mock the Times, the WaPo has covered the same story but gotten it right.

Once again, the hero of the story is an angry chicken farmer, Mr. Anwar. Whereas the NYT made Anwar seem like a legitimate symbol of Iraqi grievances, the WaPo pointed out that
Anwar's anger would not have rated so much as a footnote in the annals of arms inspections in Iraq if the Information Ministry had not convened a news conference for him today and then organized a field trip to his farm, where he showed off a hole about 18 inches wide and four feet high in the storage building."
In other words, the most apalling instance of UN abuse Saddam could come up with was the vicious destruction of a brick wall on a chicken farm.

(NB: I have nothing against chicken farms or farmers. A while back, I defended them from the wrath of the vegetarians. Nonetheless, I find something humorous about a disgruntled chicken farmer becoming the NYT's symbol of Iraqi national pride.)

Anyway, the Post also outdid the Times by pointing to the real significance of Chickengate, which is that
Anwar's comments, delivered with government imprimatur, suggested Iraqi officials have once again shifted their stance toward the inspections, abandoning the conciliatory attitude they projected when the top two U.N. weapons inspectors visited Baghdad on Sunday and Monday.
Note to Howell Raines: The WaPo is now accepting applications for summer internships.
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# Posted 4:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DELUSION OF THE DAY: According to E.J. Dionne, Rep. Charles Rangel's proposal to restart the draft "struck a nerve because virtually all Americans know there is a hole in our post-9/11 expressions of patriotism. 'What we're going through now,' Rangel said in an interview, 'is patriotism lite. Put a flag on your lapel. Put a flag on your car. Put a bigger one on your SUV.'

WHAT??? Rangel is basically saying that this is a war for oil, and that rich, white Americans will be happy to send poor black Americans off to fight for it.

If there were even a shred of evidence behind Rangel or Dionne's assertions, then the tens of thousands of protesters who demonstrated against the war should have consisted mainly of the families of soldiers, not the privileged children of the middle-class (led by unrepentant Stalinists).

And, if memory serves, the inequalities of the Vietnam-era draft were the reason middle-class students (think Clinton) got deferrals or joined the National Guard (a la Quayle and Bush). At the same time, the Department of Defense was thinking of every way it could to find more soldiers without offending the middle-class, even if that meant lowering the passing grade on intelligence tests so that men once considered mentally incompetent could be sent off to fight the Vietcong.

So here's to the men and women of the United States' all-volunteer armed forces. Men and women who of their own volition have said they are willing to lay down their lives for a country they believe in. I am honored to have them carry our flag.
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# Posted 3:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GRADE INFLATION: Saddam will get a 'B' for his compliance with inspections according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Perhaps 'Incomplete' would be more accurate.

Then again, according to Paul Wolfowitz, "we know from multiple sources that Saddam has ordered that any scientists who cooperate during interviews will be killed, as well as their families." I guess what's going on at the UN is the same thing that goes on at universities when a student is on the brink of failure. Rather than file all the paperwork necessary to confirm a failing grade, the professors simply pass the student on to the next level and the next professor. The game continues until the dean or provost has to make a final decision and enforce the rules so that the university's reputation remains intact.

In a unipolar world, there is only one dean and he has had enough of uncooperative professors.
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# Posted 8:12 AM by Dan  

TONIGHT, PETER BEINART WILL BE PLAYING TOM FRIEDMAN. Beinart on affirmative action. He opens up his article much like a Friedman column.

I do feel that it is inconsistent and unfair to be against affirmative action based on race and ethnicity while allowing for other preferences such as geography and family history. You can't be against some preferences some of the time or for them when they suit you.

"But, if affirmative action is justified when it helps the political fortunes of the GOP, why isn't it justified when it helps create a racially diverse college campus?"

Is it fair to be against one type of non-merit preference but not others?
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# Posted 7:42 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SNOOKERED! HOODWINKED! BAMBOOZLED! Turns out the whole Confederate wreath story was a fabrication. Time has issued a retraction and taken the story off its site, but without any explanation for how the story got there in the first place. See Josh Marshall for details.

Now, I hope the whole story doesn't end here, because it has become a case study in media irresponisibility and bias. What I really can't figure out is how Time got quotes from the United Daughters of the Confederacy saying that Bush Sr. had stopped sending wreaths in 1990. According to the Time retraction, what Bush Sr. actually did is change the date of the wreath's sending from Jefferson Davis' birthday to Memorial Day. Good for him.

In addition to Time, the biggest losers from this whole debacle are the Daughters of the Confederacy and other organizations associated with the same cause, whose offensive views were picked up by the mainstream. Oh yeah. And all the bloggers who now have egg on their face because they made so much of the initial story.

Mr. President, I owe you an apology.
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Thursday, January 23, 2003

# Posted 10:18 AM by Dan  

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION. Hillary Clinton, the Junior Senator from New Jersey or New York, I think, makes good points about the potential pitfalls (including constitutional problems) of Bush's percentage plan. She is right that there is "no one-size-fits-all approach to one of our country's most complicated problems."

Where she loses me is her support for the University of Michigan's policy, which I think is pretty absurd--awarding a student 20 points out of 150 for being member of a historically underrepresented minority.

I have a problem with Michigan's specific policy--20 points for ethnicity, 3 for a perfect essay, and 12 for a perfect score on the SAT--not the broader idea of taking race into account among several factors (schools already take factors like gender, geography, athletics, and if parents attended).
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# Posted 6:08 AM by Dan  

CONDI MAKES HER CASE. As far as she is concerned, Iraq's actions constitute a material breach. Let's see what happens with our erstwhile allies when we "rub their nose in reality."

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Wednesday, January 22, 2003

# Posted 10:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLIX STILL A UNILATERALIST: Fred Barnes has the story.
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# Posted 9:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GET READY FOR HYPOCRISY: The President has already begun to sell his 2004 budget even though Congress hasn't passed 11 of the 13 budget bills for 2003. Why does that matter? Think of it this way: at the same time that the President is trying to present his 2004 spending plans as generous, the GOP leadership in Congress will be doing away with the social programs that Bush promised for 2003. But what's really ironic is that Congress is only cutting these programs because the President's Office of Managment and the Budget (OMB) told it to save $10 billion...at the same time the President is calling for almost $700 billion in tax cuts. This is going to get ugly.

UPDATE: A little more hypocrisy.
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# Posted 8:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH THE TRAITOR: Says who? Josh Chafetz. That's who. As Maureen Dowd informs us, Bush has
quietly reinstituted the practice — which lapsed under his father in 1990 — of sending a floral wreath on Memorial Day from the White House to the Confederate Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, where those nostalgic for the Old South celebrate Jefferson Davis.
Yet as Josh has observed, the secession of the Confederacy was "the single greatest act of treason in American history." Moreover, "what, precisely, do [Jefferson] Davis and the Confederacy stand for that is so good that it outweighs both their position on slavery and their act of treason?" I dunno. I guess Josh will have to ask the President.

UPDATE: Mike Daley writes in to say that I'm being very unfair to Josh. He points to this post by the Minute Man which exposes some problems with the original Time Magazine story that Dowd drew on for her column.

That said, I stand by my post. Those who glorify the Confederacy directly associate the Arlington memorial with the legitimate (as they see it) cause of Southern independence. As such, the President was wrong to recognize it with his public support.

Anyway, here are some quotes from a speech given at the Arlington memorial on Jefferson Davis' birthday in 1999. If Bush had heard the speech he might have thought twice about sending flowers.
"This monument captures ideals and accomplishments that still existed at the end of the War for Southern Independence. Thank God it does not depict the beginning of the Reconstruction Era, the most disgusting, disgraceful and destructive period in United States history from which the South has never fully recovered...

"[19th century] Europe was the scene of radical new ideas about religion, politics and social order. During those years a steady stream of New England intellectuals went to Europe and drank deeply from the wells of the radical social philosophers. These New England intellectuals were really elitists who returned to America convinced that Southern Biblical Christianity ought to be suppressed because it was a stumbling block to the progress of mankind...many of [them], incidentally were Abolitionists..."

"There was indeed a profound difference in theology between the North and the South in ante-bellum America. The Northern intellectual leadership preached a heretical and socialist Gospel. The South held on to a robust, traditional, Trinitarian Christianity..."

"If we Southerners continue to allow people to refer to this war as the Civil War we will be participating in the subversion of the noble reasons for which our ancestors took up arms to defend their lives, homes and culture from Northern aggression. If we continue to use the term Civil War we are encouraging the general public to believe that the war was fought only because of the South's obsession with maintaining slavery which is a bald-faced lie. I believe that the term Civil War was a Yankee euphemism for Northern aggression leading to the destruction of the South and her culture..."
The one good thing I can say about the speech is that it's very pro-Jewish. Really.

2ND UPDATE: No, I don't actually think Bush is a traitor. Nor does Josh. As Mr. Chafetz points out via e-mail, one cannot be a traitor without actively supporting a treacherous cause. I was just being snarky.
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# Posted 8:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NYT CLAIMS OMNISCIENCE: Given how hard it is to figure out what the American public is thinking, one has to marvel at the ability of the NY Times to figure out what the Iraqi public wants.

According to an NYT headline, "Iraqis Ambivalent on Inspections". Thanks to an extended interview with a disgruntled chicken farmer, one learns that he resents the UN inspectors for tearing down a brick wall on his farm.

One also hears from an imam at a new mosque in Baghdad about which the inspectors wanted information. As he cleverly asks, "Are they looking for weapons of mass destruction or are they investigating the faith in our hearts? This is provocative to the Muslims of Iraq."

Perhaps what is more provocative to the Muslims of Iraq is when the government murders their chosen imams and replaces them with Saddam's henchmen. So forgive me if I don't grant all that much credibility to the opinion of this specific imam.

Speaking in broad terms, the Times concludes that Iraqis' "anger seems fueled in part by wounded pride, of what they see as arrogant foreigners banging down the closed doors of a sovereign nation." And there you have it, folks. The world's greatest newspaper telling us that the people of Iraq think the UN is more arrogant than Saddam.

UPDATE: Apparently, there is a glimmer of recognition on the NYT editorial board that government intimidation prevents Iraqis from being honest.
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# Posted 6:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ALLIES OF THE AXIS: Trent Telenko has quite an interesting post up on the Pakistan-North Korea connection and what it says about the failure of Clinton's non-proliferation efforts.

Also, don't miss Trent's post on the unreported but pervasive corruption that may bring down North Korea. No question about it -- Winds of Change is back with a vengeance.
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# Posted 3:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A (VERY SNARKY) RESPONSE FOR JOSH: While "snarky" is, in fact, a real word -- defined according to Webster's as a derivation of "to annoy, perhaps alteration of nark to irritate" -- that does not mean it should be used. The word itself is, well, snarky.

But let me get to the point. Josh's analogy between Michigan's affirmative action program and the Democratic primaries is flawed. Whereas an unlimited number of Michigan applicants can receive a full score of 150, the total primary vote cannot exceed 100%. Therefore, to give Sharpton a 13.3% bonus is absurd.

As for Josh's more general point -- that if affirmative action applies to education, it should apply to politics as well -- the fact is that it does. Remember the whole racial redistricting controversy in the 90's? While I don't have a strong position on the issue, I think that defenders of the Michigan system can be loyal to their principles by supporting the creation of such districts while rejecting a primary bonus for President Sharpton. (Has a nice ring to it, huh?)

Last but not least, I'd like to say that if one accepts Josh's premise that the institution of the presidency has a history of racism, blacks certainly aren't the only groups left out. The answer: Condi/Chafetz '08.
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Tuesday, January 21, 2003

# Posted 11:19 PM by Dan  

NOT EXACTLY. In her article discussing some interesting parallels between John Kerry's campaign and that of Michael Dukakis, Joan Vennochi refers to John Sasso as "Dukakis' strategist." However, Dukakis fired John Sasso during the Democratic primaries in early 1988 because of the unscrupulous manner by which Sasso leaked the fact that Joe Biden cheated in law school. Sasso likely would have advocated, and the campaign might have implemented, a tougher strategy against Father Bush's race baiting attacks. So to call Sasso "Dukakis' strategist" is a bit misleading. Read all about this in "What it Takes" by Richard Ben Cramer ,which is an excellent account of the 1988 campaign (and note the similarities with 2004, at least on the Democratic side).

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# Posted 10:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ACID FLASHBACK: According to German Foreign Minister (and former 60's radical) Joschka Fischer, "Iraq has complied fully with all relevant resolutions and cooperated very closely with the U.N. team on the ground...we think things are moving in the right direction, based on the efforts of the inspection team, and [they] should have all the time which is needed."

In contrast, 75% of Americans say that Saddam has not cooperated. Only 11% think diplomacy has a "good chance" of resolving the US-Iraq conflict. (Scroll down to Questions 9 & 10 of the survey for the relevant data.)
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# Posted 10:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE LATEST POLLS: Seven out of ten Americans approve of the President's handling of the war on terror. Seven out of ten would also give UN inspectors several more months to search for weapons in Iraq. Seven in ten also said that the US should go public with its own evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.

So what does this all mean? As Tocqueville once said, public opinion contradicts itself. OK, so what does that mean? According to scholars, the public often has conflicting prefences and thus does not decide what it wants until elected officials persuade it that one course of action is better than another. Thus, if the President can take advantage of his State of the Union address to make a strong argument for invading Iraq -- and the Democrats continue to provide no clear alternative -- the public will follow the President.

For the moment, the invasion of Iraq has become a partisan issue. 58% of Democrats are against it, 55% of Independents for it, and 78% of Republicans for it. As I see it, the issue here is trust. Republicans are sure that Bush has evidence that Iraq has banned weapons, independents are somewhat sure and Democrats doubt it. If, in the State of the Union, Bush says that he knows Iraq has banned weapons -- even if he doesn't produce a smoking gun -- expect a considerable increase in independent and Democratic support for an invasion.

While the European public won't trust Bush until he has hard evidence, Americans will recognize that Bush will be putting his credibility on the line by saying flat out in the most important speech of the year that he knows Iraq has what it says it doesn't have. Bush knows the importance of living up to unequivocal commitments. His father said "Read my lips: no new taxes" -- and was punished heavily for breaking his promise.

Bush's overall approval ratings stands at 59%. However, he has fallen below the 50% mark for his management of the economy and 61% think his tax cut benefits the rich (in contrast to 23% who see it as even-handed). But when it comes to Iraq, those numbers don't matter. Only hardcore opponents of the war think it is a diversion from economic problems at home. As the WaPo points out, only 45% of the public supported the Gulf War before it began. It might have added that even that number was very high by historical standards. If Bush goes, America will be behind him.
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# Posted 9:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LAUGHING LEFTWARDS: "If You're Happy and You Know It, Bomb Iraq" (Sung to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands):
If you cannot find Osama, bomb Iraq.
If the markets are a drama, bomb Iraq.
If the terrorists are Saudi,
And your alibi is shoddy,
And your tastes remain quite gaudy,
Bomb Iraq...

If the globe is quickly warming, bomb Iraq.
If the poor will soon be storming, bomb Iraq.
We assert that might makes right,
Burning oil is a delight,
For the empire we will fight,
Bomb Iraq...

If we have no allies with us, bomb Iraq.
If we think that someone's dissed us, bomb Iraq.
So to hell with the inspections,
Let's look tough for the elections,
Close your mind and take directions,
Bomb Iraq!
While it would be hard to fit more slander and prejudice into one song, it still made me laugh a lot. Perhaps if the anti-war movement were led by humorists instead of Stalinists, it might not constantly embarrass itself.

PS For more information about the song's author -- e.g. the fact that he named his son 'Ocean' -- click here.

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Monday, January 20, 2003

# Posted 10:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STUPID, STUPID, STUPID: Maybe I'm just in a bad mood and need to vent. But this is really stupid. Read this and this and you'll know why.
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# Posted 10:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RUSSIA WORKING WITH CIA: In North Korea of all places. The strange thing about the story is that it all comes from a single, anonymous "intelligence official". My guess is that the North Koreans already figured out what's been going on, then told the Chinese and everyone else, so now there's no harm in letting the leaking the story to the NYT.
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# Posted 10:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WARLORD BECOMES PEACELORD: Hard to know if it will last, but an Afghan warlord who had been giving Karzai a lot of trouble seems to be coming around.
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# Posted 9:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SUDDENLY, LATIN AMERICA MATTERS: Thanks to the ongoing crisis in oil-rich Venezuela, Latin America is finally getting some attention from the North American media. What's especially nice about this round of coverage is that some of it transcends the enduring stereotypes that often prevent Washington journalists from providing any sort of informed analysis.

The place to begin is with Peter Beinart's attack on the Bush administration's neglect of Latin politics. As Beinart points out, Bush has done nothing to fulfill his campaign promise that "I will look south, not as an afterthought, but as a fundamental commitment to my presidency." Fair enough, but then again virtually every President since Eisenhower has attacked his predecessor's neglect of our neighbors to the South, only to ignore them himself once in office. JFK was the exception to this rule, and for that reason he is still worshipped throughout Latin America. For details, see the work of historian Stephen Rabe.

Still, one could have expected more of Bush despite the fact that September 11th forced him to focus on more pressing matters. The administration's response to Venezuela's April coup attempt was an embarrassment. Paul O'Neill's pointless provocations of Argentine and Brazilian politicians provoked constant tension in the United States' relationship with those nations. New American steel tariffs and agricultural subsidies have undermined Latin support for free trade. Bush has completely ignored Mexican Pres. Vicente Fox despite their once-close relationship.

Still, Beinart goes to far when he asserts that "While the Bush administration looks the other way, anti-Americanism is making a comeback. Left-wingers have won elections in Brazil and Ecuador, and governments across the continent are retreating from free-market economics."

Just like Josh Marshall, Beinart assumes that left-wing cadidates are anti-American and anti-free market yet presents no evidence to back up that claim. In fact, Brazil's Lula and Ecuador's Lucio Gutierrez have run on moderate platforms despite their identification as leftists.

On the bright side, Beinart avoids the bleeding-heart alarmism of the NYT's latest round-up of Latin politics. In it, one learns that Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela and Cuba are going to form an "axis of populism".

While associating Lula with Hugo Chavez is bad enough, implying that he in any way resembles an iron-fisted dictator like Castro is offensive. While Lula shares the (Latin) American left's nostalgia for Castro's popular revolution, he is a democrat through and through. (In contrast, it's hard to know what to make of Gutierrez, since he has a record similar to Chavez's but has embraced democratic politics in a way Chavez never did.)

Ironically, the Times article ends by quoting Latin America expert Michael Shifter, who observes that "The worst scenario [for Latin America] would be if the United States begins to lump all of these leaders together, in other words sees Lula and Gutierrez the same way they see Chávez, and talks of an axis of evil," Mr. Shifter said. "Then the risk is it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy." From context, it is apparent that the Times is quoting Shifter sympathetically. Why, then, does it engage in exactly the sort of alarmism that Shifter warns of?

Before answering that question, one has to recognize that the Beinart-Marshall-NYT fear of a Latin backlash against the US is not a recent development, but a constant trope of US coverage of the Western Hemisphere for at least twenty five years. In response to the marked Republican prefernence for supporting right-wing Latin dictators, liberals in both Congress and the media insisted on emphasizing the danger of a Latin backlash.

In context, such concerns made sense. Supporting Somoza, Pinochet, et al. solidified the US reputation for disregarding its ideals south of the border. The liberals' concerns, however, have degenerated into a primitive form of alarmism that has begun to overlap with anti-Communist paranoia of surviving cold warriors such as Henry Hyde, chair of the House I.R. committee, who declared that Lula will join Castro to form a Latin "axis of evil".

If the left wants to correct its perceptions, it will have take its own advice and pay more attention to Latin America. As I learned in Argentina this past summer, living in Latin America for even few months enables one to see through the US media's stereotypes of the region. Of course, as long as the Times and Post are only willing to send a single correspondent to cover the entire region, there is little hope for improvement.

Frankly, neither paper would lose out if it decided to fire its Latin American correspondent and just reprint articles from The Economistand the Financial Times instead. (Though, in the Post's defense, it ran a very sensible editorial on the Argentine economic crisis just yesterday and publishes continually good work by Marcela Sanchez.)

Perhaps what disturbs me more than anything else about misguided US coverage of Latin America is the possibility that coverage of every other region may be just as misguided, but that I wouldn't even know it because I never had the chance to spend time in and study those regions the way I did Latin America. I guess that why, on the eighth day, God created The Economist.

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# Posted 7:54 AM by Dan  

THE DEATH PENALTY. I highly recommend Scott Turow's essay about it from The New Yorker a few weeks ago.

Like Turow I have wavered on the issue, but he makes a very convincing argument that the system (in Illinois, for that matter) is fundamentally flawed. I do not have a problem with the abstract idea of the death penalty (people like Ted Bundy and Timothy McVeigh help me feel that way), but think that in its current form the system does not work properly.

Governor Ryan's sweeping gesture--an arbitrary move itself, as victim's rights groups and death penalty proponents point out--will most likely have the unintended consequence of setting the death penalty abolition movement back.
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Sunday, January 19, 2003

# Posted 7:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

INDISPUTABLE SIGN OF SUCCESS: Now PBS is showcasing bloggers as well. What next, NPR?

But seriously...my parents watched the show and told me it was a must see. Then again, if I studied fish instead of blogging, they would be telling me about the wonderful icthyology specials on public television. Wait a second...I was trying to be serious. Let me just say this: Read Pejman's detailed review of the show. Looks like it really was good work.
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# Posted 7:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PREACHING TO THE CHOIR: It's easy to mock the anti-war protesters. But the real quesiton is, what does it accomplish? If anything, exposing the foolishness of extreme views only tempts one to ignore legitimate criticisms of American policy.

Then again, it's just so much fun to mock. Take this quote for example: "'Saddam Hussein is not a good person, but he has not attacked us directly...' said Magda Saldana, 60, an elementary school teacher. 'The Iraqi people do not have to suffer because they have a madman for a leader.'" Power Line observes: "Well, actually they do." (See this post if you have any doubts.)

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# Posted 6:37 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SADDAM BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: Is there anything evil he doesn't do? Damian Penny posts a fascinating story on Saddam's destruction of the Iraqi marshes in order to facilitate the murder of their rebellious inhabitants. Two in a row for Damian!
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# Posted 6:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NASCENT SAUDI DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT: The Christian Science Monitor reports. For an in-depth look at the prospects of democracy in Saudi Arabia, click here. (Thanks to Damian Penny for the link.)
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# Posted 5:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANYONE ELSE FROM GREENWICH VILLAGE? If you grew up there, as I did, you are almost definitely familiar with the culinary delights of Balducci's. Sadly, however, this greatest of all markets has now closed. RIP.
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# Posted 5:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DRUNK WITH POWER: "Venezuela's national guard today seized warehouses full of beer..."
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# Posted 5:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KRISTOF SOBERS UP: Quite a reasonable column today. Which leads me to the following slanderous hypothesis: Kristof's work is so inconsistent because he's drunk half the time. (Note to NYT legal consultants: This is supposed to be humorous. I think.)
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# Posted 4:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WE HAVE A WINNER: OxBlog sends a shout out to contest winner SH and runner-up BB. Here are their respective answers:

Q: How many OxBloggers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: More than two. Because David keeps turning it to the left, and Josh keeps turning it to the right.


Q: How many OxBloggers does it take to change a light bulb?

A: One, but the real question is whether said bulb relinquished its bulb-breaking program "before" a change was needed or "in exchange" for the threatened darkness that would ensue if a broken light bulb occurred. The difference is more than a matter of semantics, as "an exchange" in and of itself signifies appeasement, although no pundit has the courage to state this fact (with exception to the estimable CalPundit). Oxblog made clear yesterday, last week,and in a fifth grade essay that appeasement will only encourage the light bulb to break its agreement of steady, soft luminescence more readily in the future. Therefore the bulb must accept that there will be no further broken filaments in the future "before" negotiations on a change can take place.


NB: The second answer is a parody of this post on North Korea from a short while back. As far as the first answer goes, I am not a self-identified liberal. Still, as a centrist, I am to the left of Josh. And the whole idea of turning the lightbulb "right" and "left" is extremely clever.

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# Posted 4:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SADDAM IN NORTH KOREA? According to Donald Rumsfeld, "I ... personally would recommend that some provision be made so that the senior leadership in that country and their families could be provided haven in some other country, and I think that that would be a fair trade to avoid a war."

Powell has said the same, so this seems to be a firm administratio position. And it's a good one. While letting Saddam escape punishment for his crimes against humanity would be deplorable, it is a compromise that will save the lives of American soldiers, Israeli civilians, Iraqi soldiers and Iraqi civilians...as long as the United States does not compromise its commitment to a democratic Iraq.

If Saddam walks out, someone will take his place. No matter who it is, they must have no choice but to give way to an American occupation government. This will be necessary in order to ensure both the appropriate disposal of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as well as the full elimination of the Baathist regime.

I am concerned that Cheney and Rumsfeld will work out a deal with the incoming leadership whereby full access to all WMD materiel and documents are given up front in exchange for the right to stay in power during the transition to democracy. That, however, would be nothing short of a betrayal of the Iraqi people. Leaving unelected successors in place would be no different than installing an Iraqi Musharraf, a pro-Western dictator whose selfishness, ignorance and incompetence undermine democracy while promoting fundamentalism.

That said, one has to wonder where Saddam will go if he heads into exile. North Korea?
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# Posted 7:48 AM by Dan  

ARE YOU THINKING WHAT I'M THINKING? Josh doesn't want him to be Oxford's Chancellor, and Israelis are looking for "a leader with a serious domestic national agenda, someone who has ideas on how Israelis can live together and heal all of the internal divisions — someone who would be culturally inclusive, religiously respectful, educationally compassionate and diplomatically hardheaded. They are looking for an Israeli Third Way."
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Saturday, January 18, 2003

# Posted 3:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RIGHT-WING REVISIONISM: Josh read this column, liked it, and then asked "Am I missing something?"

You betcha. While the column deserves a thorough fisking, I don't have time since I am at this conference. So let me say this: The foundation of the column's argument is that the situation North Korea is in today closely resembles that of the Soviet Union in 1975. Not even close. At that time, the Soviet Union was a confident superpower which had just recently achieved nuclear parity with the west and seen its archrival humiliated in Vietnam. When it accepted the Helsinki Accord's provisions on human rights, it thought it had nothing to fear.

In contrast, North Korea is the last outpost of Stalinism and is desperate to avoid recognizing that it committed even the slightest violations of human rights. While I think we need a bold accord with the North to end the current stand-off, I think nothing will put that accord out of reach faster than demanding acknowledgement of the legitimacy of human rights. I say this: Let's get North Korea disarmed and focus on Iraq. When we're ready, we'll bring Kim's brutal regime crashing down like all the other dictatorships before it.
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# Posted 3:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ON VACATION: Right now I am in Cambridge at the 2nd National UK Student Pugwash Conference. The purpose of Pugwash is "to bring together, from around the world, influential scholars and public figures concerned with reducing the danger of armed conflict and seeking cooperative solutions for global problems." Who could disagree with that?

Pugwash takes its name from the Nova Scotia town where the organization held its first conference in 1957. Back then, Pugwash was best known for the 'Einstein-Russell Manifesto' which called on the world's scientists to consider the ethical implications of their work. (Yes, Albert Einstein. Yes, Bertrand Russell.) Now, Pugwash is known for winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995.

I'm here because I'm presenting a paper on Ultra Wideband technology along with my housemate, the eminent Wasim Q. Malik. I must say, I'm having a good time. Everyone is very friendly and always wants to talk about politics. And there's plenty of time devoted to visiting pubs. But when I get back, I am going to put a very, very, very long post about anti-Americanism.
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Thursday, January 16, 2003

# Posted 9:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

(PLUGGED) IN JOKES: Ted Barlow has decided that the time has come for the blogosphere to laugh at itself, in the form of lightbulb humor. Keep scrolling down, there's lots of 'em.

Which leads me to ask, "How many OxBloggers does it take to change a lightbulb?" (Answer coming soon. Submissions accepted.)
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