Friday, March 14, 2003
FOR GEEKS AND UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO UNDERGRADUATES ONLY: After I posted about the joys of crafting a globalization syllabus, I received a couple of e-mails asking for a peek.

Well, here's your chance. I've set up a separate blog for my globalization course -- Globalization and Its Discontents. The entire syllabus is there. U of C undergraduates that want to get a jump on buying books -- here's your chance!!

WARNING: Many of the article links will not work unless you are at a university account that has the requisite online subscriptions.

For another good blogger syllabus, check out Brad DeLong's Introduction to Economic History, which he's co-teaching with Barry Eichengreen. My only quibble with it is the omission of How The West Grew Rich from their reading list. Economists, however, always disdain books in favor of articles.
HOW BUSH DECIDES: David Brooks has an excellent reply to E.J. Dionne, Joe Klein, and others who worry about Bush's apparent decisiveness:

"In certain circles, it is not only important what opinion you hold, but how you hold it. It is important to be seen dancing with complexity, sliding among shades of gray. Any poor rube can come to a simple conclusion--that President Saddam Hussein is a menace who must be disarmed--but the refined ratiocinators want to be seen luxuriating amid the difficulties, donning the jewels of nuance, even to the point of self-paralysis. And they want to see their leaders paying homage to this style. Accordingly, many Bush critics seem less disturbed by his position than by his inability to adhere to the rules of genteel intellectual manners. They want him to show a little anguish. They want baggy eyes, evidence of sleepless nights, a few photo-ops, Kennedy-style, of the president staring gloomily through the Oval Office windows into the distance.

And this prompts a question in their minds. Why does George Bush breach educated class etiquette so grievously? Why does he seem so certain, decisive and sure of himself, when everybody--tout le monde!--knows that anxiety and anguish are the proper poses to adopt in such times.

The U.S. press is filled with psychologizing. And two explanations have reemerged.

First, Bush is stupid. Intellectually incurious, he is unable to adapt to events.

Secondly, he is a religious nut. He sees the world as a simple battle of good versus evil. His faith cannot admit shades of gray.

The problem with the explanations is that they have nothing to do with reality."

Read the rest of the essay for Brooks' explanation.

I suspect there's something else going on, which is simple partisanship. Consider that the last President who identified an emerging threat to U.S. security and altered American foreign policy accordingly was famous for his decisiveness.

Curiously, however, neither history nor the Democrats have judged Harry S Truman to have been too decisive.
TALK ABOUT MINIMIZING COLLATERAL DAMAGE: Michael Gordon, the New York Times chief military correspondent, has started writing a high-quality weekly column for nytimes.com called Dispatches. His latest essay analyzes the differences between how the military will prosecute Gulf War II as opposed to Gulf War I. The key grafs:

"Unlike the 1991 Persian Gulf war, the American and British militaries are not looking to pummel its adversary into submission. This time, allied forces have a complicated, two-edged task. They are trying to defeat the Iraqi army without utterly destroying it. They are also trying to win over the Iraqi people....

In the view of American intelligence, many of the regular army troops are virtual bystanders in an international drama that pits their leader against an American president. They may even be potential allies since the United States already has plans to take some of Iraq's existing forces and fashion them into a new army in a post-Saddam Iraq."

What's astonishing is the extent to which the military is implementing this strategy. Here's the final grafs:

"Even the most enthusiastic proponents of the new approach caution, however, that there will be limits. Some units, especially some Republican Guard forces, are deemed to be more likely to fight than others and will be hit. Some regular army forces, such as artillery units, are seen by American commanders as too great a potential threat to allied troops to be left alone. Some hapless Iraqis will simply find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time: that is, in the immediate path of the American-led invasion.

"There are some units that are more likely to fight than others," said General Leaf. "The Republican Guards are more likely to fight than the regular army. There are some units that are positioned closer to friendly forces and are more likely to still be coherent, cohesive units before they have an opportunity to completely capitulate," he said.

'How do you balance the risk between the fact that the U.S. and coalition land forces are going to wind up in contact with these units and would like them just to surrender?,' General Lee asked. 'We are going to have to make some difficult choices. And sometimes we are going to simply have to destroy equipment and destroy Iraqi soldiers.'"

I'm well aware of how triumphalist this sounds, but is there another military in the world that would care this much about minimizing the killing of enemy soldiers?

Thursday, March 13, 2003
SHAMELESS MEDIA PLUG: For those readers in the Chicago area, I'll be on WGN radio, the Spike O'Dell show specifically, tomorrow morning at 6:30 AM to discuss recent machinations in the UN Security Council.

UPDATE: I love doing radio shows. For some reason, I derive great satisfaction from sounding erudite on the radio only 10 minutes after I awake, snuggled under my blanket, wearing my pajamas.
DOES SOMEONE NEEDS A "TIME OUT"? OR MAYBE A FIELD TRIP?: OK, as war approaches, everyone's nerves are clearly getting frayed. However, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld seems especially ill-tempered. How else to explain his recent gaffes?

First he manages to alienate the British, only our most important ally in the looming conflict, with the suggestion that we don't really need them.

Then he publicly states that "secret surrender" negotiations are under way. According to CNN, Rumsfeld said this "to the dismay of the U.S. officials involved." This dismay would make sense, since, after all, surrendering before the war starts is a delicate tango.

Now, Rummy has the reputation of being a straight-shooter in public, so maybe he thinks these moments of candor are just part of his charm. However, I share Andrew Sullivan's suspicion that he's been acting up in private as well:

"By tonight, the tensions were spilling over into the administration itself, as the hawkish senior officials who had opposed going to the United Nations in the first place erupted in frustration that the process was becoming protracted.

One senior official referred to the frantic negotiations with an epithet and put the onus for the delays on Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who had insisted on the new resolution to gain crucial political support at home.

'Blair is driving this, and we're trying to accommodate him,' the official said."

Somehow I doubt that "official" was Colin Powell.

Perhaps now would be a good time for our esteemed Defense Secretary to take a goodwill tour. First stop... Nauru!! [You do know that their President just died?--ed. All the more reason to send a high-ranking official.]
A FEW GOOD LINKS: Boy, you publish a short essay in TNR Online, have Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds, David Adesnik, Kevin Drum, Jacob Levy, Matthew Yglesias, and the Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web link to it, and suddenly the world is beating down your e-mail door with lots of additional information, pro and con, on the odds for democratization in the Middle East.

Martin Kramer provides a passel of links that suggest skepticism on Middle Eastern democratization, all of them from last fall. Here is Kramer's address to the 2002 Weinberg Founders Conference; an abstract of Adam Garfinkle's October 2002 National Interest essay; and a Carnegie Endowment policy brief.

On the positive side, the Oxford Democracy Forum has an excellent frequently asked questions page with lots of links on democracy and war with Iraq. Go check it out.

As for me, I think I'll take this advice for the rest of today.
ALL HAIL THE WELL-INTENTIONED POWERS!: I'm sure leaders in Paris and Moscow must be beaming with pride at the Iraqi response to the proposed British compromise at the Security Council:

"Iraqi newspapers were gloating over the turmoil [at the UN].

'It is obvious that Bush and Blair have lost the round before it starts, while we, along with well-intentioned powers in the world, have won it,' the popular daily Babil, owned Saddam's son Odai, said in a front-page editorial. [emphasis added]

'Blair's future is at stake now, and his downfall will be a harsh lesson in Britain's political history,' it said."

The Washington Post has the story as well. Here's a link to the English-language version of Babil.

If I were Tony Blair, I'd just repeat that last clause during question time at the House of Commons and dare anyone to speak in opposition.
Wednesday, March 12, 2003
ADVANTAGE: CALPUNDIT!!: Brad Delong responds to Mickey Kaus' response to Paul Krugman's column on short-term deflation fears and long-term inflation fears.

It's all interesting, but if you scroll through the comments section in DeLong's post, Kevin Drum asks the question that popped into my head as I was perusing the debate.
THE COSTS OF CONTAINMENT: I've had discussions with numerous anti-war faculty on campus here. They inevitably get uncomfortable when I mention that starting a war now would probably save more lives than continued containment.

I understand this discomfort. After all, war is the most violent option in world politics. Pacifists wish to put a normative taboo on military action, as a way of constraining states. The mere suggestion that a quick war is superior to a long siege (which is what the containment of Iraq would mean) cuts at the core assumption of pacifists.

That said, facts are facts -- containment will probably spill more blood than force. In separate op-eds, Walter Russell Mead and Charles Lipson make this point. To quote Mead's conclusion:

"Morally, politically, financially, containing Iraq is one of the costliest failures in the history of American foreign policy. Containment can be tweaked -- made a little less murderous, a little less dangerous, a little less futile -- but the basic equations don't change. Containing Hussein delivers civilians into the hands of a murderous psychopath, destabilizes the whole Middle East and foments anti-American terror -- with no end in sight.

This is disaster, not policy.

It is time for a change."

Amen. [Er, doesn't Mead exaggerate the number of deaths in Iraq that can be attributed to sanctions?--ed. Yes -- see Matt Welch and Stephen Green for the details -- but even a conservative estimate supports his point].

(FULL DISCLOSURE: Charles is a departmental colleague of mine. He also has an excellent web site for those generally interested in international relations)
IRAQ, AL QAEDA, AND A MODEST PROPOSAL FOR THE SECURITY COUNCIL: This Washington Post story provides some excellent detail on the precise link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. The first few grafs:

"Most of the estimated 100 Arab extremists reported to have found a haven in this rocky corner of northern Iraq began arriving early last year, a few weeks after losing their camps in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

The Halabja Valley, their destination, is one of the more obscure places in the world, about 35 miles southeast of Sulaymaniyah and close to the mountainous border with Iran. A U-shaped enclave just inside Iraq had been taken over by radical Islamic Kurds, the Ansar al-Islam, who fielded an estimated 900 fighters and regarded the two secular Kurdish organizations who run the rest of northern Iraq as their enemies.

The Ansar-run pocket, although only 10 to 15 square miles, was the ideal place to hide out. Residents at nearby Anab, just north of Halabja on the road to Sulaymaniyah, noticed how intently their new neighbors guarded their privacy but did nothing to disturb it. The newcomers, they say, kept to a village reserved for Arabs, appeared in the market only to buy provisions and buried their dead in their own cemetery.

Since then, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and other Bush administration officials have highlighted the foreign fighters' presence in the Ansar enclave in an effort to link Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization and the government of President Saddam Hussein, which controls Iraq south of the Kurdish-administered zone but has little influence here. Citing interrogations of Ansar members who were taken prisoner, Kurdish political officials confirm that the group sent a steady stream of trainees to the camps that al Qaeda operated in Afghanistan until U.S. forces ended Taliban rule there at the end of 2001." (emphasis added)

Now, this piece makes two things clear. First, contrary to many skeptics' assertions, there is an Al Qaeda presence in Iraq. Second, it's also clear that Saddam Hussein has little to do with this presence. At worst, Hussein's policy on Al Qaeda might be characterized as benign neglect -- he's not helping them but he doesn't mind them being in parts of Iraq he can't control. There might be other reasons to support regime change in Iraq, but the Al Qaeda connection is a weak reed.

However, there's military action short of regime change. At a minimum, the Post story would seem to justify an offensive to knock out Ansar al-Islam and retake the Halabja Valley. This leads to an intriguing question. Given the obvious link between achieving this objective and the war on terror, and given the assertions by France and others that credible evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda would justify use of force, would the Security Council be willing to approve U.S. military action in this area? [So you think this would be an acceptable substitute to a whole-scale invasion?--ed. No, I still support an invasion. But securing Security Council support for this phase of operations might be an good stop-gap proposal].

This would be an excellent test of where exactly the French and Germans stand. Is their opposition to Iraq based on a blind determination to counter U.S. power, or is there some nuance to their stance?
THREE FINAL THOUGHTS ON DEMOCRATIZATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST: In descending order of importance:

1) If President Bush means what he says about a democratic Iraq, there is one other policy initiative worth considering – the creation/promotion of a regional club of emerging Middle Eastern democracies. One of the most powerful incentives for Eastern European countries to democratize was the tantalizing prospect of joining the democratic clubs of NATO and the European Union.

There's some compelling evidence that democratic clubs matter. Jon Pevehouse at the University of Wisconsin has statistically demonstrated that when fragile governments gain membership into democratic clubs, they are more likely to become stable democracies. Here's an abstract of one published paper; Jon makes a similar point in his contribution to my edited volume ( Amazon sales rank: 2,111,830 and climbing!!)

Of course, the rewards of membership would have to be significant. A preferential trade agreement with the United States might be an option, especially since the U.S. already has such deals with Israel and Jordan.

Currently, a club for Middle Eastern democracies would have a small list of invitees. Within the next year, that may change for the better.

2) One point that I didn't address in the TNR essay but is worth acknowledging is that democratization may be taking place in the countries surrounding Iraq, but that's not the only thing that matters. These countries are still plagued by a fair amount of corruption. Even if Iraq becomes democratic, it's likely to have significant problems with corruption.

3) Reason #213 why I love the blog is that I can amend and augment material that I publish in other media.
WHAT TO KNOW MORE?: I always feel slightly uncomfortable writing essays where I'm not allowed to use footnotes. My latest TNR essay is a case in point, since I cite a lot of people. So, for those who are curious, here's the references and background:

You can find John W. Dower's pessimism about comparing the occupation of Japan to the situation in Iraq here. The quotation comes from this Guardian essay from last November.

Edward Said's quote comes from this screed.

The book Samuel Huntington wrote before The Clash of Civilizations was entitled The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century. The (brief) discussion of the second wave of democratization is on pp. 18-21.

The O'Donnell and Schmitter quotation comes from their 1986 book, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions About Uncertain Democracies, p. 17-18.

The work by Jeffrey Kopstein and David Reilly on democratic transition in the post-communist space comes from their article, "Geographic Diffusion and the Transformation of the Postcommunist World," in the October 2000 issue of World Politics; here's the online abstract. Here's the draft version of the paper.

The most recent Freedom House country rankings of political rights and civil liberties can be found here.

The Human Rights Watch assessment of Northern Iraq comes from their 2003 World Report, which is really a survey of human rights around the globe in 2002. The quotation comes from this section.

This Ian Urbina op-ed has a nice discussion of the democratization process taking place in the outlying parts of the Middle East.

Finally, The Journal of Democracy devoted much of its October 2002 issue to the question of democracy in the Middle East. You can click on the (brief) article summaries here.
"CHICAGO SCHOOL" -- WHY THE NEOCONS MAY BE RIGHT: My latest TNR Online essay is up. It's a discussion of why the neocons are not crazy when they talk about democracy sweeping over the Middle East after an invasion of Iraq. It's an extension and refinement of this post from last week.

Go check it out. If you want to know more, look at the above post.
SERBIAN LEADER ASSASINATED: The Guardian reports:

"Zoran Djindjic, the Serbian prime minister and one of the key leaders in the revolt that toppled Slobodan Milosevic, was today assassinated in Belgrade.

According to local media reports, Mr Djindjic was shot while entering the government building. Mr Djindjic sustained two shots in his stomach and back. He died while being treated in Belgrade's emergency hospital."

Two quick thoughts. First, Djindjic was, in many ways, Serbia's Yeltsin -- an imperfect but resolute reformer. Back to the Guardian:

"Only last month, Mr Djindjic survived an alleged assassination attempt when a lorry cut across his motorcade. He later dismissed the February 21 incident as a 'futile effort' that could not stop democratic reforms.

'If someone thinks the law and the reforms can be stopped by eliminating me, then that is a huge delusion,' Mr Djindjic was quoted as saying by the Politika newspaper at the time." I hope and believe he's correct.

Second, even though the events are entirely unrelated, there's something spooky about the assassination of a Balkan leader coinciding with the world being, say, 45 days from an international conflagration.

At least it's not July.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias points out why there isn't even a prima facie parallel between this assassination and the killing of Archduke Ferdinand, which is why I changed "Serbian" to "Balkan" in the second-to-last paragraph.
Tuesday, March 11, 2003
THE MEALIAN DIALOGUE: Inspired by the Melian Dialogue, Brad DeLong uses Thucydides' technique to describe an exchange on behavioral economics with Stanford economist Robert Hall (FULL DISCLOSURE: I took Hall's macroeconomics course).

The result is extremely amusing, like a random walk down University Avenue [You going to explain that last clause--ed? No, that's just for the economics geeks out there]
A SANE ANALYSIS OF TRANSATLANTIC RELATIONS: Seth Green has an hopeful essay on the distinction between mainstream and extreme viewpoints in Europe. The highlights:

"I am convinced that anti-Americanism is not nearly as prevalent in Europe as media accounts suggest. Generally speaking, I have been overwhelmed by the friendship of my European peers -- from their outpouring of compassion when I came here just after the September 11 attacks to their concern for my safety now. It is true that a distinct, and unfortunately visible, minority do virulently hate us -- but they are the headline-hogging exception, not the rule. Indeed, the vast majority of Europeans continue to embrace American ideas, American culture and American people.

That is why I am troubled by the recent tendency to lump together all Europeans who oppose any facet of U.S. foreign policy under the one-size-fits-all banner of "anti-Americanism." No doubt there are extremists -- and drunkards -- here who deserve the label. Yet they are the very reason that we must use the term sparingly. When we see all Europeans -- from those who reasonably disagree with us to those who senselessly hate us -- as part of the same phenomenon, we blur the critical distinction between Europe's mainstream and its fringe.

Mainstream Europe shares American values. In the aftermath of September 11, Europeans overwhelmingly supported our common war on terrorism. Today, most Europeans still agree with our campaign to end terrorism and promote world security. Eighty-five percent of Brits, 67 percent of French and 82 percent of Germans believe that Saddam Hussein is a dangerous threat, and majorities in each of these countries support removing him. While many moderate Europeans are against war in Iraq under the current conditions -- primarily because they want more time for inspections -- they fundamentally share our principles.

By contrast, European extremists resent the United States and our beliefs. To extremists, every American icon -- from Starbucks to Britney Spears -- represents a form of American imperialism. And no matter what we achieve, whether in Kosovo or Afghanistan, they fault us. They call Americans bullies even as they seek to bully us. They call the United States a terrorist state even as they romanticize true terrorists."

Green glosses over the division on Iraq to suit his argument, but his point is worth remembering. Give it a read.


I WAS WRONG ABOUT FRANCE: Last month, I was among one of many in the Blogosphere who said that France would eventually capitulate to United Nations action against Iraq. Some bloggers still believe in this outcome.

Alas, I must admit that this story demonstrates that I was clearly wrong:

"In a dramatic break with the United States, President Jacques Chirac said tonight that France would veto a United Nations resolution threatening war against Iraq.

'My position is that whatever the circumstances, France will vote no,' Mr. Chirac said. He added that he had 'the feeling' that Russia and China, which also have veto power in the Security Council, are prepared to follow France's lead.

Speaking calmly and deliberately during a live television interview in Élysée Palace this evening, Mr. Chirac said he was convinced that the United Nations inspections process was working and that Iraq could be stripped of its dangerous weapons without war.

'The inspectors say that cooperation has improved and that they are in a position to pursue their work,' Mr. Chirac said. 'This is what is essential. It's not up to you or me to say if the inspections are working.'

He added, 'We refuse to follow a path that will lead automatically to war as long as the inspectors don't say to us, "We can't go any further."'"

I've highlighted the relevant passages to point out the following:

1) France has now switched to the German position. That first highlighted passage makes it clear that there is simply no point to further deliberations at the Security Council. Saddam Hussein could be caught on tape sitting on a nuclear weapon, or threatening to shoot down U-2 overflights, and France would not change its mind.

This isn't a case of the French behaving as obstreperously as the Americans. For all of the bluster, the U.S. actually demonstrated a willingness to compromise at the Security Council, in the crafting of 1441 and more recently. France has now joined Germany in stating flat-out that it doesn't matter what Iraq does.

2) France is buckpassing on top of its buckpassing. It's not just that Chirac is buckpassing on enforcing Iraq's compliance with Security Council resolutions -- now he's buckpassing on interpreting the effectiveness of the enforcement process itself.

3) The French do want automaticity -- in the other direction. Just read the highlighted parts -- it's pretty clear that there is no circumstance under which France would decide to go to war.

UPDATE: TNR's &c offers a different interpretation.
...AND THEN THERE'S THE SENATE: Not to be outdone by House members insulting minorities and other countries, the Senate now has a piece of the action:

"President Bush called Afghan President Hamid Karzai last week to apologize for the way he was treated in a meeting with members of a Senate committee on Capitol Hill late last month, according to senior Afghan officials....

During the conversation, the Afghan officials said, Bush offered to make the apology public, but Karzai declined. 'Bush called to say he was really sorry about how things had gone in the Senate, and that Karzai should not have been treated like that,' said an official familiar with the call.

The problem arose when Karzai visited the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for what the committee had billed as a 'meeting.' Generally, heads of state meet with the committee in private, but Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) instead invited Karzai to a hearing room with reporters present.

Karzai was placed at a witness table looking up at the senators, the usual layout for people summoned to testify at a hearing. There were several skeptical and hostile questions that Karzai did not expect and had not prepared for, according to the Afghan officials."

To be fair, read the whole piece -- the Senate Foreign Relations Committee deserves some of the blame, but the Afghans clearly did some poor advance work.
IS THE HOUSE HAVING A "STUPID BIGOT" CONTEST I DON'T KNOW ABOUT?: Eric Muller has been doing a great job blogging about the various idiocies coming from the mouths of North Carolina House Representatives such as Howard Coble or Sue Myrick. Now, via Muller's blog, comes another House Representative acting like a jackass. According to the Washington Post:

"Jewish organizations condemned Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) today for delivering what they said were anti-Semitic remarks at an anti-war forum in Reston, in which he suggested that American Jews are responsible for pushing the country to war with Iraq and that Jewish leaders could prevent war if they wanted.

At the Reston forum, attended by about 120 people at St. Anne's Episcopal Church last Monday, Moran discussed why he thought anti-war sentiment was not more effective in the United States.

'If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq we would not be doing this," Moran said, in comments first reported by the Reston Connection and confirmed by Moran. "The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going and I think they should.'"

The Reston Connection has the initial (and quite thorough) account of the town meeting in question. That article paraphrases Moran's observation that "Many of those Jewish leaders were swayed after talking with former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu."

Drezner's Assignment Desk: Mickey Kaus, is this anti-Semitism or not? I'm going to have to say "yes." Moran did not explicitly raise the "dual loyalties" issue. However, this doesn't get a pass for the simple reason that Moran is propagating the conspiracy myth that Jews always act in concert and are so powerful that they can direct U.S. foreign policy without regard for other Americans.

UPDATE: Kevin Dum has found another elected idiotarian, but at the state representative level.
Monday, March 10, 2003
CLINTON VS. DOLE: Stephen Green notes that the Dole/Clinton reviews are in and aren't good.

Here's the Chicago Tribune review. I think their expert commentator makes a lot of hard-hitting points, particularly with regard to Britney Spears.

UPDATE: Don Hewitt now admits that he blew it.
COULD BE WORSE... COULD BE IN FRANCE: As another weary pro-war blogger, I have some sympathy for Glenn Reynolds when he writes:

"War — or at least the rumor of war — has sucked the oxygen out of the room where other topics are concerned. I write about that other stuff, and I enjoy it, but I keep getting pulled back to war, and rumor of war. It’s what people e-mail about, it’s what other people write about, it’s what the news is about. And, of course, it’s pretty important. Nonetheless, it’s tiring and I won’t miss it when it’s over."

That said, there are many ways in which things could be worse:

1) We could be blogging about this in countries much less sympathetic to pro-American views.

2) We could be stuck in a desert waiting to implement those views.

3) We could be in Iraq, fretting about whether the U.S. will actually do what it says, or whether it will scale back its plans to please France and Russia.

4) We could be receiving almost daily rants from some airhead at Ichee@aol.com, who must be affiliated with this web site. Oh wait, I actually do have this problem, and it's certainly more irritating than what Glenn is complaining about.

There's another option, of course -- retire from blogging. We don't get paid for it. No one's making us do it. Of course, that would be.... inconceivable!!

UPDATE: Mickey Kaus provides a pick-me-up.
Sunday, March 09, 2003
WHEN WILL NORTH KOREA GO BIBLICAL?: After the past week of myriad North Korean provocations, that Onion story of a few weeks ago is looking more and more prescient. Their latest threat -- torching New York, DC, and Chicago:

"North Korea would launch a ballistic missile attack on the United States if Washington made a pre-emptive strike against the communist state's nuclear facility, the man described as Pyongyang's 'unofficial spokesman' claimed yesterday.

Kim Myong-chol, who has links to the Stalinist regime, told reporters in Tokyo that a US strike on the nuclear facility at Yongbyon 'means nuclear war'.

'If American forces carry out a pre-emptive strike on the Yongbyon facility, North Korea will immediately target, carry the war to the US mainland,' he said, adding that New York, Washington and Chicago would be 'aflame'."

This isn't really funny, but part of me is amused by the Pyongyang's apparent desperation to get the Bush administration's attention off of Iraq and onto the Korean peninsula.

A suggestion -- start thinking in Biblical terms. As his critics like to point out, this is a President who's very open about his faith. You want his attention, go Old Testament on him. Locusts, frogs, boils, famine -- now those are threats!! An ultimatum that every first-born male child in America will be dead in ten days will definitely generate some bilateral talks.
EXTRA!! EXTRA!! NEW YORK TIMES SURRENDERS TO FRANCE!!: The New York Times editorial page has finally made up its mind:

"Within days, barring a diplomatic breakthrough, President Bush will decide whether to send American troops into Iraq in the face of United Nations opposition. We believe there is a better option involving long-running, stepped-up weapons inspections. But like everyone else in America, we feel the window closing. If it comes down to a question of yes or no to invasion without broad international support, our answer is no.

Even though Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, said that Saddam Hussein was not in complete compliance with United Nations orders to disarm, the report of the inspectors on Friday was generally devastating to the American position. They not only argued that progress was being made, they also discounted the idea that Iraq was actively attempting to manufacture nuclear weapons. History shows that inspectors can be misled, and that Mr. Hussein can never be trusted to disarm and stay disarmed on his own accord. But a far larger and more aggressive inspection program, backed by a firm and united Security Council, could keep a permanent lid on Iraq's weapons program."

This is, essentially, the French position. For a refutation, click here.

ADVANTAGE: OXBLOG!!: I'm at the point now where if I see a Jimmy Carter New York Times op-ed, I know it will make everything else on the op-ed page loook erudite and well-reasoned. [Example?--ed. It took me a few hours to figure out the problem with Tom Friedman's piece today. He can't seem to reconcile the two sides of his brain. One half wants the U.S. to act humbly and within the tight strictures of international law and multilateralism. The other half wants the U.S. to be aggressively promoting democratic regime changes. Given the UN's makeup, there's no way to reconcile those aims.]

Josh Chafetz has a proper fisking of today's Carter nonsense.

The day might soon come when a blog should be set up only for Carter-fisking. As a public good for the rest of the blogosphere.
WE COULD HAVE... A BAD MANNERS GAP!!: As perviously noted, the looming war with Iraq is prompting lots of diplomatic faux-pas. I've been on record saying that the U.S., in the form of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, have certainly contributed to the problem (in fairness, Rumsfeld has been pretty quiet as of late).

Of course, the Germans did start this was of bad words, back in September when the German Justice Minister compared Bush to Hitler. And now, after Rumsfeld insults Old Europe, Chirac insults Eastern Europe, and the Middle East insults each other, a high-ranking German official has closed the bad manners gap, according to Amiland:

"The German Under-Secretary of Defense has called President Bush a "dictator." Walter Kolbow (of Schröder's SPD) was quoted in a local newspaper (Die Kitzinger, not online) on Friday as saying:

'Economically and politically, Bush positions himself [in an] absolutely one-side [manner], without any respect for anyone else. That isn't a partner, that's a dictator.'"

Germans just hate to lose an arms race [Cheap shot--ed. Oh, it's the weekend, I'm permitted]
HOW IS THIS GULF WAR DIFFERENT FROM OTHER WARS?: James C. Bennett has an interesting piece on the different types of wars fought by the Anglosphere:

"In each of the three major wars America engaged in since 1945 -- Korea, Vietnam, and Gulf War I -- three characteristics stand out in contrast to most of the nation's previous conflicts: regime change was not directly pursued as a war goal; there was no formal declaration of war, and the conflict ended with a combination of military victory for the U.S. and its allies, and political defeat, to various degrees. Regime change was achieved in none of those cases, even when it was sought indirectly in the case of Iraq....

Was the lack of a declaration of war in each of these three cases also a factor in the outcome? Given the Anglo-American military tradition as it has evolved over the centuries, there is a good case that it is so. Global maritime commercial powers, of which Britain and America are both exemplars, tend to fight two types of war. One is the small war, the "savage war of peace", fought by marines and long-term professionals, limited in scope, and usually undeclared.

The other is the major national mobilization against an all-out enemy, fought by reserves, volunteers and draftees raised for the occasion, and militia called into service. Such wars included the Napoleonic Wars and both World Wars. As Britain and America have always had mechanisms (gradually growing stronger) for obtaining public consent for such large mobilizations, the declaration of war was historically the occasion for fixing the major objectives, including in most circumstances regime change. Major war has always been a deal between the executive and the people: the people will bear the burdens, and the executive will strive diligently, under the scrutiny of the legislature, to achieve the stated goals. The declaration of war, and the debate preceding it, form the contract between executive and people....

On Thursday evening, George Bush made it clear that the United States will pursue regime change as a matter of national self-defense regardless of the outcome of United Nations processes. It would be appropriate to the Anglo-American constitutional traditions of war and peace, and serve to bind executive and nation to a compact to fight to win a meaningful and lasting victory, for both George Bush and Tony Blair to seek and obtain legislative support for a formal declaration of war against the Ba'athist regime of Iraq before launching the main assault."

Bennett's got an interesting point, but fails to consider how an all-volunteer force, combined with the revolution in military affairs, has altered the way the Anglosohere fights wars. A full-scale mobilization no longer necessary to fight a war of regime change -- unless Russia or China were to be the adversary. Bennett also obscures the fact that even though there was never a formal declaration of war in these cases, Congress did give its assent to the use of force. Still provocative reading, however.

Friday, March 07, 2003
IS BOEING GIVING UP ON CIVILIAN AIRCRAFT?: There are two ways to interpret the news that Boeing is trying to acquire BAE Systems PLC, the British aerospace firm that is a 20% owner of Airbus, Boeing's rival in the passenger plane market.

The first is that Boeing is trying to make life difficult for Airbus by threatening to absorb one of its owners. This doesn't make any sense, however, since the European Union Competition Commisioner can veto any merger on antitrust grounds -- which was why the GE-Honeywell deal was scotched three years ago. The British government also owns a golden share that could block any deal.

The second is that Boeing is trying to enhance its core competency in defence manufacturing. BAE is "the largest Euopean defense company," but its civilian sales have been flat as of late. One wonders, however, if markets -- and airline companies -- wouldn't take this as a signal of Boeing's surrender to Airbus on commercial airliners.

One final, subversive thought -- a good Leninist would argue that Boeing will try to increase its superprofits by exploiting current transatlantic tensions. An increase in those tensions would lead to increased defense spending on the continent. If Boeing acquires BAE, it becomes a vital player in any European arms buildup. Boeing CEO Phil Condit is going all out to woo key EU officials.

I'm most certainly not a good Leninist, though.
NOTE TO SELF -- DO NOT GET ON WILLIAM SALETAN'S BAD SIDE: Either Saletan got up on the wrong side of the bed today, or he's just fed up with the Franco-German international shuffle. Either way, he eviscerates their diplomatic stance during today's UN Security Council debate in this Slate piece. The highlights:

"In Friday's council debate, they made two arguments against a U.S. invasion of Iraq. First, they said it was unnecessary because Iraq has begun to comply with U.N. inspections. Second, they warned that an attack on Iraq without U.N. approval would ruin the credibility of the United Nations, on which the security of every nation, including ours, depends.

Are inspections more effective than force? Is the United Nations a better guarantor of U.S. security than American power is? Both questions are fraudulent. Inspections depend on force, and the United Nations depends on the United States. The French and Germans are telling us not to mess with the status quo, when the status quo is us....

Nice try, Joschka and Dominique. We aren't fooled. We're touched by your pleas for relevance. And we're flattered that the only rival you can put up against us is ourselves."

WHAT ABOUT CIVILIAN CASUALTIES?: David Adesnik over at OxBlog has a series of informative posts on how many civilian casualties the U.S. military has caused during the past decade or so of armed conflicts. Click here for Kosovo; here for the first Gulf War; and here for Afghanistan (plus a smackdown of Marc Herold). Key findings:

1) While any loss of life is tragic, these numbers are smal compared to other wars that have taken place in these countries.
2) The more that precision-guided munitions are used, the smaller the casualty count.

It should be noted that much of Adesnik's info comes from the good people at Human Rights Watch.
MEMO TO DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES FOR PRESIDENT: Apparently you've all decided that it's necessary to publicly comment on important foreign policy matters. On Iraq, you may be tempted to spout the standard line about Bush as a unilateralist, blah, blah, blah.

Here's a suggestion: read Michael Walzer's op-ed in today's New York Times. Walzer recognizes that simple opposition to a big war is not a viable policy option:

"The American march is depressing, but the failure of opponents of the war to offer a plausible alternative is equally depressing. France and Russia undoubtedly raised the diplomatic stakes on Wednesday by threatening to veto a new Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq. But they once again failed to follow up the rhetoric with anything meaningful.

What would a plausible alternative look like? The way to avoid a big war is to intensify the little war that the United States is already fighting. It is using force against Iraq every day — to protect the no-flight zones and to stop and search ships heading for Iraqi ports. Only the American threat to use force makes the inspections possible — and possibly effective.

When the French claim that force is a 'last resort,' they are denying that the little war is going on. And, indeed, France is not participating in it in any significant way. The little war is almost entirely the work of American and British forces; the opponents of the big war have not been prepared to join or support or even acknowledge the work that the little war requires."

So he offers one of his own, which confronts both Saddam Hussein and Jacques Chirac:

"First, extend the northern and southern no-flight zones to include the whole country. America has already drastically restricted Iraqi sovereignty, so this would not be anything new. There are military reasons for the extension — the range of missiles, the speed of planes, the reach of radar all make it difficult for the United States and Britain to defend the northern and the southern regions of Iraq without control of central airspace. But the main reason would be punitive: Iraq has never accepted the containment regime put in place after the gulf war, and its refusal to do that should lead to tighter and tighter containment.

Second, impose the 'smart sanctions' that the Bush administration talked about before 9/11 and insist that Iraq's trading partners commit themselves to enforcing them. Washington should announce sanctions of its own against countries that don't cooperate, and it should also punish any companies that try to sell military equipment to Iraq. Third, the United States should expand the United Nations' monitoring system in all the ways that have recently been proposed: adding inspectors, bringing in United Nations soldiers (to guard military installations after they have been inspected), sending surveillance planes without providing 48 hours' notice, and so on.

Finally, the United States should challenge the French to make good on their claim that force is indeed a last resort by mobilizing troops of their own and sending them to the gulf. Otherwise, what they are saying is that if things get very bad, they will unleash the American army. And Saddam Hussein knows that the French will never admit that things have gotten that bad. So, if they are serious, the French have to mount a credible threat of their own. Or better, they have to join the United States in every aspect of the little war."

Will this work? I doubt it. But it's the best and most concrete counterproposal to the current policy that I've seen yet. Plus, it allows Democrats to simultaneously talk tough and advocate for peace.

P.S. Go to &c for some more advice on this matter.
DREZNER GETS RESULTS FROM THE ECONOMIST!: The Economist has just reviewed Fareed Zakaria's new book, The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad. Their critique is eerily reminiscent of another review of Zakaria's thesis that appeared last month. Some key paragraphs from the Economist review:

"America is not Mr Zakaria's main focus: the developing world is. And it is here that his Big Idea begins to get bogged down. He argues that countries need a history of building liberty and an income per head of at least $5,000 if they are to begin sustaining liberal democracy. That gives him just nine candidates, and a strange batch they are—Romania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Malaysia, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia and Iran. Yet many countries have managed the trick without meeting those preconditions, including Japan, Costa Rica and, despite his strictures, India. [Hey, didn't you provide the exact same list of countries?--ed. Yes, but I mentioned Botswana and the Baltic states as well.]

He writes rather as if countries face a simple choice between establishing democracy or maintaining incremental reform. In practice, new democracies have often begun because the previous regime had collapsed and there was no other way of establishing legitimacy.....

Illiberal democracies are volatile. That does not necessarily make them worse for themselves or the world in the long run. It is a matter of timing: they get the bad news out early. Reforming autocracies leave tough political problems until later, in the hope they will be more manageable. That is not necessarily an argument against rapid democratisation. Mr Zakaria's book is not an attack on democracy, but on its over-extension. He calls the problem 'too much of a good thing'. The same might be said of this book."

To paraphrase Homer Simpson, "Hmmm.... Influencing the zeitgeist..."
IMAGINE IF WE WERE FOCUSED: Another blow to Al Qaeda, according to Reuters:

"Two sons of Osama bin Laden were wounded and possibly arrested in an operation by U.S. and Afghan troops in Afghanistan which killed at least nine suspected al Qaeda members, a Pakistani official said on Friday.

The operation took place on Thursday in the Ribat area, where the borders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran meet, Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, home minister of the western province of Baluchistan, told Reuters....

A U.S. official in Washington could not immediately confirm or deny the report of bin Laden's sons' capture. 'We don't have any information to substantiate that,' he said."

Remember, the conflict with Iraq is supposed to be distracting us from the war on terrorism.

ADVANTAGE: VOLOKH!!: Michael Kinsley's columns in Slate have been getting stranger with each passing week. This week's effort -- which suggests that Bush doesn't mind rising oil prices because it helps his friends -- is the most inchoate yet. I was going to blog a rebuttal, but Eugene Volokh has done a nice job of dismantling it. And also check out Joesph Grieco's insightful essay on the exact relationship between war and oil. [FULL DISCLOSURE: I know Joe pretty well, as we do research in the same area.]

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan has a fisking of Kinsley on his site.
THE SPORTS DESK THOUGHT HIS AUDIENCE WAS THE CUBS' PITCHING STAFF: The first paragraph of Michael Tackett's "news analysis" of Bush's press conference in today's Chicago Tribune:

"On some occasions when the subject has been Iraq, President Bush clearly has been speaking to the world. This time, as he signaled more firmly than ever a path toward war, he seemed to be speaking pointedly to the American people."

The first paragraph of today's lead editorial in the Tribune:

"At the beginning of his televised press conference Thursday night, President Bush spoke less to the American people than to the 14 other nations that sit on the United Nations Security Council. The question the council faces now, Bush said, is whether Saddam Hussein has complied with international demands that he fully disarm."
Thursday, March 06, 2003
ANOTHER SCHOLAR-BLOGGER: Amitai Etzioni, a distinguished sociologist and a godfather of communitarian thought, just started a blog. He's disgusted with anti-Americanism.

Welcome to the Blogosphere, Professor Etzioni.
PRESS CONFERENCE MUSINGS: In the immediate wake of President Bush's press conference:

1) This is not personal; it's strictly business. For all of the claims that Bush is acting like a cowboy, what struck me was how sober, how somber he sounded. It was clear that in his calculations, "the costs of inaction are greater than the costs of action." There was no anger in his voice or his words, either at Iraq or our erstwhile allies. Instead, there was sadness and a heavy heart about the decision that lies ahead of him.

2) The President understands the value of protestors. I thought one of his best responses came on his reaction to the protestors. He -- quite rightly -- made the connection between the current anti-war protests and prior anti-globalization protests. The illogic of the anti-globalization movement makes Bush's implication clear: even if millions of people say that 2 + 2 = 5, it doesn't make it so.

3) Bush believes in "honest multilateralism." Consistent with what I wrote last month, Bush thinks that multilateralism is a means to an end. He's not afraid of discord -- he'd rather have any disagreement out in the open. It is this quality above all that flummoxes an Old Europe that prefers a false display of consensus to principled differences of opinion.

UPDATE: Kieran Healy has a nice roundup of the Blogosphere reaction. Shockingly, those on the left found it uninspiring while those on the right found it straightforward. Jonah Goldberg has a good point on which audience Bush was targeting.
THAT'S A LUCKY MAN: You know, I could blog nonstop, 24/7/365, and I don't know if I could top Asparagirl's thoughts about The Lysistrata Project. My favorite part:

"It's not enough for these "feminists" that sexuality, or even specifically female sexuality, be used as an oxymoronic anti-war weapon, but that it must be denial of female sexuality that is the weapon, that very special tool for keeping their social order and their status quo intact. Sex, after all, should only be given up in the appropriate manner and to the appropriate person, and woe to they who disagree...waitaminute, this is starting to sound kinda familiar...

What also galls me is that these women are claiming not only sex, but femininity itself as a uniformly passive, gentle, loving, pacifist attribute. What rubbish. I shouldn't support waging war on a mass-killing dictator because as a woman, my place is to elevate discourse and consensus and eschew 'manly', messy action? They're even implying that if I am not a peaceful, good-mannered, right-thinking woman like them, a woman for peace, then perhaps I am not really a woman at all? And these are the women who are telling me this?"

Read the whole thing. The whole f@%$ing thing. It explains the title to this post.
THE COARSENING OF DIPLOMACY: 2003 has not been a good year for diplomatic niceties. Donald Rumsfeld compares Germany to Cuba and Libya; Jacques Chirac telling Eastern Europe to shut up; Canadian MPs calling Americans "bastards"; Congressional representatives threatening a U.S. withdrawal from the WTO, or comparing Osama bin Laden to Ethan Allen. Clearly, the prospect of war is making everyone testy, causing people who should know better to shoot their mouths off. Some of these statements fall into the "Kinsley gaffe" category, while others are simply beyond-the-pale, offensive, stupid tripe.

Compared to Middle Eastern diplomacy, however, the above examples are pretty tame stuff.

A Kinsley gaffe first: At last Saturday's Arab League summit, Libyan leader Muhammar Khaddafi [Is that how you spell it?--ed. Don't start] accused Saudi Arabia of making a pact with the devil by allowing U.S. forces to be stationed in the region. Crown Prince Abdullah responded -- on live television, mind you -- with the following:

"Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country and not an agent of colonialism like you and others. As for you, who brought you to power? Don't talk about matters that you fail to prove. You are a liar, while the grave is ahead of you."

Khaddafi has responded by withdrawing his ambassador from Riyadh and threatening to withdraw from the Arab League.

Now the beyond-the-pale tripe: With that effort at establishing Arab comity a failure, the countries of the region tried again at yesterday's Organization of the Islamic Conference. That meeting -- broadcast live on satellite TV -- didn't go so well either:

"After Kuwait's foreign minister used his speech to the summit to call on Saddam to step down to avert war, Iraq's Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri accused the Kuwaiti minister in his own speech of 'threatening Iraq's security at the core' by allowing U.S. troops on Kuwaiti soil.

Sheik Mohammed Sabah Al Salem Al Sabah, another Kuwaiti minister, interrupted al-Douri, calling the Iraqi's remarks lies.

Al-Douri responded: 'Shut up, you monkey. Curse be upon your mustache, you traitor.' 'Mustache' is a traditional Arabic term for honor.

'This is hypocrisy and falsehood,' Sheik Mohammed shot back."

Needless to say, much of the Middle Eastern press is upset at these displays of ill temper and Arab disunity [Yes, it must distract from directing their vitriol against Israel--ed. You said it, I didn't]
THE DECISION: According to Matt Drudge, last night was decision night at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue:

"President Bush on Wednesday night was to make the ultimate call whether to strike and invade Iraq with military force, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.

A top White House source offered few details, but did reveal the president would make a 'defining decision' by morning....

Plans for a major speech on Iraq next week by the president were under review. Bush might give Saddam a very short time period to disarm completely, perhaps as little as 72 hours, before military action."

In related news, I just finished Richard Brookhiser's cover story in the Atlantic Monthly . It's not available on line, but it's a pretty good read -- if nothing else, it puts into perspective the role of Bush's faith in his decision-making. This summary is accurate:

"He [Brookhiser] concludes that Bush's greatest strength is the clarity of his strategic and personal vision. His greatest weakness? Imagination."
Wednesday, March 05, 2003
GOOD FOR OPRAH: Oprah Winfrey is restarting her book club -- with a twist:

"Winfrey sent a jolt of excitement through the publishing world last Wednesday when she revealed plans to resume her phenomenally successful book club after a 10-month hiatus.

This time, though, she plans to shine the spotlight on literary classics. She will try to bring to life books and authors that many people haven't attempted to read since high school or college, if ever.

For the club, tentatively titled 'Traveling with the Classics,' Winfrey said she expects to make three to five picks a year. In addition to on-air discussions of the chosen work, she will take the show to locations around the world related to the books' plots or their authors' lives."

Given that Winfrey was able to convert all 46 of her previous book-club picks into best sellers, it will be interesting to see if she has a similar effect on more "classical" works.

The reason I like this is that it's bound to lead to roiling debates about whether Oprah is destroying, simplifying, or revitalizing the "canon." The article is a bit vague on what Winfrey considers a "literary classic", although one tipoff is her observation: "I can't imagine a world where there is no Shakespeare, where there's no Tolstoy or George Eliot or Toni Morrison or Proust or Hemingway or Steinbeck."

I'm sure that the debate, plus people actually reading Winfrey's suggestions, will have an edifying effect.

Oh, and publishers love it.
A DEPRESSING DAY FOR U.S. FOREIGN POLICY: Regular readers of this blog know that I strongly support an attack on Iraq, even if the United Nations doesn't go along. However, I will admit that today, the spillovers of that policy are dragging me down. I've already discussed the significant opportunity costs of keeping Iraq on the front burner indefinitely. Today is one of those days when the costs are front and center while the benefits seem like a distant mirage. Consider:

1) Michael Tomasky on the deteriorating state of Mexican-American relations (I think he's exaggerating things, but not too much).

2) The Los Angeles Times on the Bush administration's apparent acceptance of North Korean nuclear proliferation (link via Kevin Drum, who has more to say on this).

3) Slate's Fred Kaplan, who's been extremely sympathetic to an invasion of Iraq, assessing the month of diplomacy since Powell's UN speech: "It is becoming increasingly and distressingly clear that, however justified the coming war with Iraq may be, the Bush administration is in no shape—diplomatically, politically, or intellectually—to wage it or at least to settle its aftermath. It is hard to remember when, if ever, the United States has so badly handled a foreign-policy crisis or been so distrusted by so many friends and foes as a result."

Do I agree with everything that's said in these links? No. Do I think these pieces exaggerate? Yes. Is there something to what they're saying? Alas, I believe so.

The U.S. has to deal with the resentment that comes with being the global hegemon, China, Germany, France and Russia acting like spoiled teenage brats, and a lot of trouble spots in the globe. The Bush administration has not been dealt the best of diplomatic hands. That said, today is one of those days when I think the administration could be husbanding its hole cards a little better.

UPDATE: This Washington Post analysis captures a bit of what I'm feeling:

"The Bush administration this week has become increasingly isolated in the world over its determination to topple the Iraqi government, leaving it in a diplomatically difficult position in advance of a critical U.N. Security Council meeting Friday.

By contrast, Iraq has made great headway in splintering the Security Council, making it less likely it will approve a U.S.-backed resolution authorizing military action. Iraq over the weekend began complying with a demand to destroy missiles that exceeded U.N. restrictions, provided unrestricted access to seven scientists and promised to answer inspectors' questions on its weapons programs."

However, if you read further, it's clear that the foundation of this week's events was laid weeks and months ago:

"A number of foreign diplomats said they were taken aback -- even betrayed -- by what they perceived as the administration's rush to war. They seized on any evidence of Iraqi cooperation to argue that the inspections were working and that imminent military action was not necessary. Positions were so hardened by early last month that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's extensive presentation of Iraqi misdeeds to the Security Council failed to sway many minds."

The $64,000 question is the last paragraph of the piece:

"The administration has frequently threatened that the United Nations would become irrelevant if the United States is forced to wage war without U.N. backing. But that argument has been turned on its head. France and other nations increasingly appear to believe a rejection of the U.S. position would rein in an administration they feel has been consumed with hubris."

I strongly suspect that France has grossly miscalculated the administration's willingness to act regardless of what transpires at the Security Council this week.
THEY NEVER LEARN: A disturbing rite of passage for new Treasury secretaries is, within the first weeks of office, to make a Kinsley Gaffe -- accidentally speaking the truth when silence would suffice. I suspect this is because they simply can't comprehend the notion that a single offhand remark can move markets -- until they utter an offhand remark that moves markets.

For reasons that remain a mystery, the Bush appointees inevitably screw up on the "strong dollar" policy:

"Mr Snow's remarks that he was not concerned by the recent fall in the dollar - which he said was within normal ranges - made perfect economic sense. Unfortunately, they also betrayed a worrying lack of market savvy and an inability to learn from the mistakes of his predecessor, Paul O'Neill....

If Mr Snow is to follow the example of one of his predecessors, then Robert Rubin or Larry Summers would be much better choices than Mr O'Neill. Both realised little could be gained by expressing an opinion on the dollar's moves. If Treasury secretaries express concern at a fall in the dollar and then do nothing they lose credibility. If they appear unconcerned, they risk fuelling the move. As a result, whenever asked about the dollar Mr Rubin and Mr O'Neill simply intoned the mantra that they supported a strong currency, and left the market to draw conclusions about what this meant."

As a result of Snow's comments, the dollar is now at a 4-year low against the Euro.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, both Robert Rubin and Larry Summers did make similar gaffes when they first came to the Treasury department. However, they quickly learned on the job. Paul O'Neill did not learn on the job. Let's hope Snow is a fast learner.

[Why should the U.S. support a strong dollar? Doesn't this worsen our balance of trade?--ed. Yes, but it has compensating benefits. A strong dollar helps to keep inflation low (by keeping the price of imported goods down) and interest rates low (by attracting capital inflows). Low interest rates and low inflation contribute to robust economic growth]
DEMOCRATIZATION AND IRAQ: Can democracy flourish in Iraq? The answer depends on which expert you ask.

Historians are skeptics. They do not like analogies to the U.S. occupation of Japan, in part because they don't like historical comparisons, period.

Regional historians believe that the ethnic cleavages and long history of authoritarianism within the country makes the notion of a successful Iraqi transition to democracy absurd.

Middle Eastern experts are skeptics because the term "Arab democracy" appears to be an oxymoron.

Experts in comparative politics are skeptical because Iraq is an oil exporter, and these "rentier states" are traditionally correlated with authoritarianism (click here for a dissenting view).

In other words, lots of experts agree that the local conditions for a liberal democracy in Iraq are not good.

These people make solid arguments, but overlooks one crucial detail -- international factors are more important than domestic factors in determining the success of democratic transition and consolidation.

The international dimension matters in two ways. First, to quote one standard text on democratization:

"the most frequent context within which a transition from authoritarian rule has begun in recent decades has been military defeat in an international conflict. Moreover, the factor which most probabilistically assured a democratic outcome was occupation by a foreign power which was itself a political democracy." (my italics)

This argument has already been out there, and is usually countered by citing the myriad domestic roadblocks combined with the point that military occupation alone does not guarantee a democratic transition. Here's where the second part kicks in -- transitions to market democracy are easier when your neighbors are market democracies. One study has found this to hold for the post-communist countries (click here for more) and there is no reason to believe that the effect is limited to that region.

It would seem that Iraq would fare poorly along this dimension, but consider:

1) Turkey is a democracy and borders Iraq to the north.
2) Iran might not be liberal, but it is a democracy, and borders Iraq to the east.
3) Jordan is more democratic than most Middle Eastern governments and borders Iraq to the west
4) There is promising evidence of democratic institutions in Kurdish Iraq

So, I'm optimistic.
THE QUINTISSENTIAL BUCKPASSING ARGUMENT: I've blogged previously about the phenomenon of other states buckpassing their international responsibilities so as to free ride of the United States. However, Stuart Taylor is both more fiery and more eloquent about the topic:

"The point is to underscore how the Europeans, South Koreans and others who have become so anti-American depend on American power -- unthinkingly, ungratefully, and completely -- for their well-being. Abdicating their own responsibilities to help maintain world order, they are free riding, as my colleague Clive Crook noted last week, on the same U.S. polices that they publicly denounce. Like a spoiled teenager who expects her parents to support her even though she refuses to do any work around the house and constantly mouths off to them, these nations enjoy the benefits of U.S. global policing while refusing to share in the costs and trashing the policeman....

The tidal wave of anti-Americanism has multiple wellsprings, of course.... But underlying them all is the implicit calculation that the safest course for European nations (and others) is to obstruct American policies while free riding on American power.

It may be too much to expect the European and Arab publics, who are fed grotesque caricatures of Bush and America by their media and intelligentsia, to grasp their own interests in helping the United States defang Iraq. But wise leadership is about seeing one's national interest in the long term, and educating public opinion instead of pandering to it. The superficially clever Chirac and Schroeder are not wise leaders. They are fools. And they are helping to bring the world closer to a dark era of nuclear anarchy."

Read the whole piece.
Tuesday, March 04, 2003
Y A-T-IL UN MOT FRANÇAIS POUR "WEBLOG"? JE N'AI PAS PENSÉ AINSI: Apparently the French are losing another battle. The European Union is increasingly becoming an English-speaking zone:

"The Union's public voice is increasingly anglophone. For a brief period earlier this year the spokesmen for all three major institutions in Brussels—the commission, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers—were British. Jonathan Faull, the commission's chief spokesman, will be replaced this month by Reijo Kemppinen, a Finn. But for French-speakers the change is a double-edged sword. The good news for them is that this high-profile job will no longer be held by a Briton; the bad news is that Mr Faull's French is rather better than Mr Kemppinen's....

A recent study by the EU's statistical arm showed that over 92% of secondary-school students in the EU's non-English-speaking countries are studying English, compared with 33% learning French and 13% studying German....

As one would imagine, this sort of English imperialism scares the French. The Economist story provides two specific reasons for French concern, one of which is completely logical and one that is absurd:

"the rise of English within EU institutions particularly alarms the French elite because for many years the Brussels bureaucracy has been a home-from-home, designed along French administrative lines, often dominated by high-powered French officials working in French. Moreover, the emergence of English as the EU's main language gives an advantage to native English-speaking Eurocrats. As Mr Dethomas notes: 'It's just much easier to excel in your own language.'

Some French officials argue that there are wider intellectual implications that threaten the whole European enterprise. In a speech at a conference in Brussels on the French language and EU enlargement, Pierre Defraigne, a senior official at the commission, argued that 'it's not so much a single language that I fear but the single way of thinking that it brings with it.' When French was Europe's dominant language in the 18th century, French ideas were the intellectual currency of Europe. Voltaire was lionised at the Prussian court; Diderot was fêted by Russia's Catherine the Great. These days, however, ambitious young Europeans need to perfect their English and so tend to polish off their education in Britain or the United States, where they are exposed to Anglo-Saxon ideas. For a country like France, with its own distinct intellectual traditions in economics, philosophy and law, such a trend is understandably galling. The commission's Mr Defraigne worries aloud whether 'it is possible to speak English without thinking American.'”

Thinking American? Mon dieu!!

P.S. For a translation of the post title, cut and paste the text into Babel Fish.
OVERSTATEMENTS ABOUT GERMANY: The debate about Iraq is starting to debilitate people's good judgment. For example, suddenly everyone is making loopy statements about German history that perhaps should be reconsidered.

On the antiwar side, Mark Kleiman finds what he believes is the "stupidest, most offensive argument" in the entire debate in this Guardian lead editorial from last Friday:

"German men won the vote as far back as 1849, albeit subject to a property qualification, at a time when Mr Bush's country practised legalised slavery. Bearing in mind that America only became a full democracy in 1965, and Germany in 1946, there is a case for saying that Germans have at least as strong a democratic tradition as Americans."

On the other hand, methinks Andrew Sullivan may be indulging in some hyperbole in his latest post on the real agendas of various international actors in the Iraq debate. Most of them make sense, but this line on Germany is over the top:

"For the Germans, it's about a new national identity. The Germans have never been able to sustain a moderate polity on their own. They veer from extreme romantic militarism to romantic pacifism. Their current abdication of all strategic responsibility for Europe or the wider world is just another all-too-familiar spasm from German history."

Bloggers, commentators, protestors, I beg you... no more abuses of German history!
Monday, March 03, 2003
WHY I LOVE STUDYING INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: One of my favorite parts of teaching IR is when I tell students anecdotes about international crises that they didn't know.

Like how during the Cuban Missile Crisis, U.S. warplanes came close to firing air-to-air, nuclear-armed missiles over the Soviet Far East.

Like how President Reagan actually did send a signed Bible and birthday cake to Iranian leaders in an effort to win the release of American hostages in Lebanon.

Like how Kim Jong Il has offered political asylum to Saddam Hussein

You just can't make this stuff up.
WHY THIS SHOULD BE YOUR #1 INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS BLOG: Does OxBlog, Stephen Den Beste*, or Tim Blair have the latest on Anna Kournikova and her secret marriage? According to Reuters:

"Detroit Red Wings forward Sergei Fedorov has admitted that he and tennis player Anna Kournikova were married but are now divorced and no longer talk.

The 33-year-old, rated as one of the top players in the NHL, confirmed his relationship with 21-year-old Kournikova in the Hockey News, which went on sale on Monday.

'They are true,' said Fedorov, when asked about rumors concerning their wedding. 'We were married, albeit briefly, and we are now divorced.'"

Here's the original Hockey News article. I'm quite confident that these other -- alleged -- foreign affairs blogs have also failed to observe that Kournikova's official web site has nothing to say about this -- her latest diary entry is about her trip to Memphis.

I pledge to continue providing the most thorough coverage of this ongoing story... at least until the African members of the Security Council start their rose ceremony regarding the Iraq resolution.

Daniel Drezner -- your source for all aspects of international relations! [Won't this pathetically desperate ploy to attract more hits fail when it's revealed that you think Salma Hayek is much more interesting than Kournikova?--ed. No, I think that would only happen once it's revealed that I think Ashley Judd is a better conversationalist than Kournikova]

*Even if Den Beste did have this news, wouldn't it take you more than an hour to read through his post on it?

UPDATE: For those readers who would find Colin Farrell more interesting than any of the aforementioned ladies , click over to Farrellblogger for a pretty amusing anecdote involving a BMW, a pub, and some tight shorts.
IS THE FINANCIAL TIMES RECYCLING ITS STORIES?: According to the FT, the liberalization of European Union economies is failing:

"European diplomats are warning that the European Union's liberalisation programme, intended to make Europe the world's most competitive economy by 2010, has run out of steam.

An EU summit this month, scheduled to review and inject new impetus into the liberalisation process, is instead set to be dominated by the crisis over Iraq and the problems of the EU's stability and growth pact....

But diplomats from other countries caution that progress at the summit is likely to be merely symbolic. 'The problem is Germany and France and it is clear that Schröder and Chirac are not willing to take the necessary measures,' said one EU diplomat. 'There are also worries about the watering down of the stability pact.'"

I fear this story will be recycled endlessly as long as Schröder and Chirac remain in power -- although, given the way the EU operates, it might just be endemic to the institution.


COULD BE WORSE -- COULD BE AN "INSIGNIFICANT MICROBE": According to N.Z. Bear's Blogosphere ecosystem, I'm a "crawly amphibian," in contrast to the "higher beings" of Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan, or Stephen Green.

Sorry, I'm flashing back to high school again. I'll be able to post again in a few hours, I'm sure.
HOW TO DEMORALIZE AL QAEDA: Today's picture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed after his capture by U.S. and Pakistani agents is precisely how to puncture the allure of Al Qaeda in the Arab community. This guy looks like a pathetic slob. That's the lasting image you want of Al Qaeda.

In general, embarrassment is a much more effective method than decapitation to destroying terrorist networks. The key to destroying such groups is to eliminate recruitment by spreading the perception that the group is ineffective. Capturing terrorist leaders and publishing photos that make them look like death warmed over is the most effective way to do this.

Empirical example: the most successful anti-terror campaign against a network of suicide terrorists was Turkey's successful battle against the Kurdish People's Party, or PKK. A turning point in this battle was Turkey's capture and trial of Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK leader. Öcalan's behavior after his capture helped knock the wind out of the PKK's sails, as this analyst notes:

"During his 1999 trial, PKK leader Öcalan apologized to the Turkish people for the PKK's 'historic mistake' of waging a war against the state, debriefed Turkish intelligence on the organization's activities, sold out every demand the PKK had ever made, and urged his followers to lay down their arms. To most observers, it was obvious that Öcalan was simply trying to save his own life."

I'd spring for the pay-per-view fee if the U.S. can get Mohammed to behave the same way.

UPDATE: Click here for one of my esteemed colleagues' takes on the strategic logic of suicide terrorism and how to fight it.
MY GEEKIEST POST YET: Two quick thoughts after scanning InstaPundit this morning:

1) A remake of Battlestar Galactica? Yes!! An underrated sci fi series, in no small part because it actually took the concept of logistics seriously [Oh, yes, because logistics always sells--ed. Look, I said this was going to be a geeky post].

Casting the new Starbuck as a woman? Hmmm... risky but intriguing. The original Starbuck character was your classic scoundrel-with-a-heart-of-gold. Apollo, on the other hand, was the ultimate goody-goody. If -- a big if -- they let the female Starbuck be just as scoundrel-like, it would be a great twist. If they turn the female Starbuck into another Apollo, I won't be watching.

2) Note to self -- by 2004, get wife to wear baby-doll t-shirt with blogname on it. Almost as good as tenure.

UPDATE: Contrary to what David Adesnik fears, I have no intention of posting any pictures of my wife on the blog. Although David is correct in postulating that she "is so stunningly beautiful that we will be forced to ogle her for days on end." David, I would never stoop to posting about attractive women in order to attract attention.
Sunday, March 02, 2003
MEMO TO LIBERAL HAWKS: Dear Kevin Drum, Kieran Healy, and Matthew Yglesias:

As self-proclaimed "liberal hawks," I see you're debating whether to hope against hope that a war with Iraq will be called off due to a lack of multilateral support (even though you all support multilateral action against Iraq), leading to Bush's political downfall in 2004. You object to the absence of strong multilateral support, due to "the more-or-less inept manner in which the Bush administration has handled the build-up for war," combined with evidence that the Bush administration's plan of democracy promotion looks haphazard at best and phony at worst. Kevin Drum sums it up:

"So if I thought that opposing the war had a chance of hurting Bush's re-election, it would probably be all the nudge I'd need to actually switch sides and oppose it. I've never thought that Saddam Hussein posed an immediate threat, so postponing war for a while would have little downside, while getting rid of Bush would have a big upside."

OK, as someone who's to the right of y'all, let me try to provide you with one substantive point and one cynical point while you continue your debate:

The substantive point is that when push came to shove, internationalist Republicans did support President Clinton when he used force in both Bosnia and Kosovo. In the case of Bosnia, Bob Dole supported Clinton even though it was not in his political interests to do so. They supported the President because, corny as it sounds, it was the right thing to do [C'mon, not every Republican acted this responsibly--ed. No, but most of the ones the media took seriously on foreign policy matters -- Dole, McCain, Lugar -- did act responsibly]

These "conservative hawks" supported the administration even though they also -- justifiably -- disagreed about process and planning matters. If you read Richard Holbrooke, David Halberstam, or Samantha Power, it's clear that the Clinton foreign policy team took far too long to act in Bosnia. When they did act, it was in a largely ad hoc manner to avoid the shame of deploying U.S. forces to cover a withdrawal of French and British peacekeepers. In the case of Kosovo, there was such a lack of consensus about the means that Clinton decided on his pledge not to use ground troops a few hours before his televised speech in response to an offhand comment from an ex-NSC staffer. Altruism and democracy promotion were not high up on the priority list.

I dredge all of this up not to argue that the Bush team is better than the Clinton team, but rather to point out that crafting foreign policy is like making a sausage -- you really don't want to know exactly how they do it, but the end result is usually pretty tasty. The interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo were not the result of carefully crafted decisions in line with an overarching philosophy of foreign relations -- they were messy and clumsy and, in the end, did much more good than harm.

Whatever you think of Bush's intentions or his decision-making process, Tom Friedman is correct: “Anyone who thinks President Bush is doing this for political reasons is nuts. You could do this only if you really believed in it.” Even if you don't like the process by which the U.S. currently finds itself, the cause is just and the outcome in Iraq ikely to be a dramatic improvement over the status quo.

The cynical point is simple: politically, the best outcome for Democrats is for the war to take place sooner rather than later. The "no war" outcome is a nonstarter, for all of the domestic political reasons Matthew outlines. However, the longer a war is delayed, the more it benefits Republicans, for two reasons:

1) The rally-round-the-flag effect will be stronger. A successful war now will fade from memory quicker than one taking place in the fall or next spring. We're approaching the exact point in the electoral cycle when Bush 41 was riding his after the Gulf War victory. Eighteen months is a liftetime in politics. Twelve months or shorter, and Bush will be better poised to use the war to bolster his electoral chances.

2) The economic rebound will be stronger. It's clear that what's depressing business investment and consumer confidence is the uncertainty over the Iraq situation. If an attack occurs now, the economy will probably experience a short-term rebound from the reduction of uncertainty. Over the longer term, macroeconomic fundamentals like the size of the budget deficit and interest rates will kick in. Now, if you're a Democrat, you have to believe that in the long term, the "bizarrely destructive " domestic policies of the Bush administration will trigger a downturn. So, if you're a Dem, when do you want the short-term uptick in the economy to take place -- 2003 or 2004?

Have fun with your debate!

UPDATE: Kevin Drum e-mails to say I missed his biggest beef:

"my biggest issue is less competence than vision: does Bush genuinely believe in using this as a springboard to promote democracy in the Mideast? If I thought he did, I'd bury my personal discomfort with him and stay on board. But more and more it really doesn't look like he cares much about that."

I think Bush's speech last week is pretty convincing evidence that he does care about democracy in the Middle East. However, this NYT Sunday Magazine story suggests the possibility that the neocon position won't necessarily win out. In any event, my main point is that even if Iraq turns out to be like Bosnia is now, that's still a dramatic improvement over the status quo, which is just wretched.

Also, be sure to read Kevin's entire post on this. My quote makes him sound more cynical than he actually is.

More on the liberal hawk debate from Dmitriy Guberman.

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