OxBlog

Monday, December 30, 2002

# Posted 10:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE (JOSH) MARSHALL PLAN: In a careful and measured way, Josh Marshall comes to a provocative conclusion: That George W. Bush's aggressive unilateralism is provoking a major anti-American backlash in democratic nations around the world.

"Schroeder in Germany, Lula in Brazil, now Roh's victory in S. Korea…[this is the] latest 'wake-up call' to [the] U.S., but [it's] not clear what's being heard." Marshall notes that each of these election outcomes had "deep local determinants" and was fundamentally "multi-causal." Fair enough. But, Marshall concludes,
...add these and other election results up and you start to see that hostile reactions to America's newly strident and confrontational stance in the world are becoming an important force in world politics and an important force in the domestic politics of many of our allies.
Not so fast. First of all, Lula's victory in Brazil is an indication of the strength of American values, not a backlash against them. Lula was once a true working-class radical who campaigned in denim and spoke of socialism. As a result, he lost three consecutive presidential elections. This year, Lula decided to wear a suit, accept a binding commitment to IMF economic policies, and pledge to fight inflation and budget deficits.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the WaPo ran the following headline : "Brazil's Leader Seeks to Ease U.S. Concerns About Policies". After appointing a moderate cabinet and shutting out pro-Cuban radicals, Lula met with W. to assure him that Brazil is going to be a good citizen.

Now I admit that what happened in Germany and South Korea was disturbing. But in contrast to Lula, who won in a massive landslide, both Schroeder and Roh won by razor-thin margins. Fearing for their political lives, they took the low road and sought to increase leftist turnout by bashing the US. But does that mean that anti-Americanism is becoming "an important force in world politics"?

Not by a long shot. What Marshall doesn't ask is whether anti-American rhetoric results in anti-American actions, or whether it is just a diversion from fundamentally pro-American foreign policies. Take Schroeder's latest speech for example. While he talks about searching for alternatives to war, he also refuses to rule out German support for a UN-authorized invasion of Iran. And Schroeder adds that: "We Germans know from our own experience that dictators sometimes can only be stopped with force."

Now what about Roh? Marshall writes that
Roh is the first Korean head of state since the partition to be elected on a platform which called into question key aspects of the US-ROK security alliance
And yet Roh is already showing signs of moderation.

Leaving all this aside, it's still worth considering what Marshall asserts is the answer to America's problem. Carefully dissociating himself from the Blame-America-First chorus, Marshall says that there is a "thoughtful middle ground" for the US to stand on. If you click on the words "thoughtful middle ground", you will be taken to Fareed Zakaria's essay in the New Yorker on the subject of multilateralism.

This essay was, of course, the recent subject of a four-part OxBlog fisk-a-thon. Now, I don't hold Josh responsible for not reading my posts. He has better things to do with his time, like taking down Senate majority leaders.

But if Josh were to read my posts, I think he might agree that the best way to address concerns about American greed and belligerence is to pursue an ethical foreign policy rather than searching for a consensus that will only come at the price of accommodating the greed and belligerence of Russia, China and (sometimes) France.

Now Josh is of course right that the Bush administration has needlessly antagonized a lot of people as a result of its ham-fisted diplomacy. Hell, I've spent almost all of my time on OxBlog criticizing every detail of the Bush administration's foreign policy. But all in all, I've come to recognize that things are going more than just alright.

In the end, I don't think Josh and I are all that far apart on the issues. As he points out, he thinks we should use force against Iraq. If I've been a little harsh, it's because I'm worried that a lot of very intelligent and well-intentioned individuals have begun to see multilateralism as an end in itself rather than a means of promoting democracy and human rights across the globe.

UPDATE: More on German backtracking.
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# Posted 9:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ARM YOURSELF WITH FACTS: If you are against invading Iraq, you should memorize today's WaPo article on US-Iraq relations in the 1980s. If you are for invading Iraq, you should memorize it as well. We did very bad things in the 1980s and, for that matter, throughout the Cold War.

There isn't all that much new in the article, though it does report on the contents of recently declassified documents from the Reagan administration. While there is no mention of who filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the documents' release, I'd have to imagine it was the National Security Archive, which is the national leader in FOIA requests related to foreign policy. I spent six weeks there doing research on Reagan's El Salvador policy for my master's thesis.

FYI, the Bush administration has been doing all that it can to delay the release of documents whose publication would have no adverse effect on national security, but might prove to be quite embarrassing to both members of the current administration as well as the President's father.

Anyway, the real issue here is how supporters of American foreign policy can address the perennial argument that America's record of immoral actions in the Cold War invalidates any aggressive initiatives the United States plans today. The argument becomes especially complicated when one considers that current members of the cabinet were responsible for those actions. The WaPo, for instance, reports on Rumsfeld's intimate relations with Saddam at a time when the State Department knew that Saddam was using chemical weapons on an "almost daily" basis.

I think the proper response is to admit what the US did wrong and shift the discussion to the merits of its current policy. As Ken Pollack tells the WaPo, what we did in the 1980s "was a horrible mistake then, but we have got it right now." The worst thing to do is come up with defensive justifications of immoral acts. For example, David Newsom, a former ambassador to Baghdad, told the WaPo that
"Fundamentally, [our] policy was justified...we were concerned that Iraq should not lose the war with Iran, because that would have threatened Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. Our long-term hope was that Hussein's government would become less repressive and more responsible."
Talk about low standards. All Iraq had to do to become less repressive was massacre thousands of innocent men and women instead of tens of thousands.

The reason such arguments backfire is that they imply a continuity between the moral standards of the past and of the present. But the fact is, the US has learned from its mistakes. For all Bush Sr. and Clinton did wrong when it came to foreign affairs, they did uphold a moral standard higher than any of their predecessors since Harry Truman. (Yes, including Jimmy Carter.)

That is no small accomplishment considering that Bush and Clinton were the first presidents of the first lone superpower since Roman times. Lord Acton observed that "Power corrupts...and absolute power corrupts absolutely." That may have been true once. But the United States took advantage of its unprecedented power to raise its moral standards and those of other nations as well. That is what makes America exceptional.
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# Posted 8:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EVIL SOUTH KOREAN CAPITALISTS: The NYT headline reads "U.S. Plan for Trade Penalties for North Korea Worries South Korean Investors". You read it and you think "Oh no! I thought Anti-Americanism was bad enough, but now South Koreans have a real, material interest in preventing the US and UN from imposing sanctions on Kim Jong Il."

But then you read the article and you realize that the headline should've been: "Economic Ties Between North and South Korea Minimal, Irrelevant." What is the annual value of inter-Korean trade? $600 million. Now, it might've been helpful if the Times put that figure in context by giving figures for South Korean trade with other nations. But they don't, so I will. The statistics are available here, from South Korea's National Statistics Office.

Exports to the US: $26.8 billion; To Japan: $12.4 billlion. Germany, the UK, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong all clock in at over $3 billion as well.

Oh, and one more fact buried near the end of the NYT article: North Korea's dysfunctional political system has screwed up almost every foreign investment project in North Korea.

Bottom line: Economic interests are not going to get in the way of imposing sanctions on North Korea.
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# Posted 7:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ISLAM AND DEMOCRACY: LEBANON. A top-notch post from Matt Scofield, who is interested in a lot of the same issues that I am.
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# Posted 9:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ISLAM AND DEMOCRACY: EGYPT. While guest blogging over at The Volokh Conspiracy a few weeks ago, I promised to provide in-depth, country-by-country accounts of the prospects for demcratization in the Middle East. I started out with Algeria, but didn't follow up on it. Until now. This week I'm going to be writing about Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Morocco (in that order).

But first, a brief recap. As I said before I want to present a comprehensive, empirical case for the viability of democratization in the Middle East. The previous round of this debate focused on the cultural incompatibility of democracy and Islam. This time I want to focus on the situation on the ground in the Middle East. As I see it, a strong case for democratization must respond to what I called the "Iranian paradigm", or the belief that reform promotes both terrorism and fundamentalism.

So what about Egypt? It made headlines last month when the government broadcast a vicious anti-Semitic television program based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Going back somewhat further, Egypt is best known for the brutal attacks by Muslim fundamentalists that resulted in the murder dozens of Pyramid-bound tourists. Thus, at first glance, the Mubarak dictatorship seems to be the only thing standing in the way of an Islamic revolution. Even so, leading analysts such as Fareed Zakaria have asserted that
If we could choose one place to press hardest to reform, it should be Egypt. Jordan has a more progressive ruler; Saudi Arabia is more critical because of its oil. But Egypt is the intellectual soul of the Arab world. If it were to progress economically and politically, it would demonstrate more powerfully than any essay or speech that Islam is compatible with modernity, and that Arabs can thrive in today's world. (Newsweek, 24 Dec 01 [permalink expired])
Perhaps. But Colin Powell isn't listening. Just after September 11th, he described Mubarak's brutality as a model for the war on terror. Or, as Powell put it,
Egypt, as all of us know, is really ahead of us on this issue. They have had to deal with acts of terrorism in recent years in the course of their history. And we have much to learn from them and there is much we can do together.
Recognizing the significance of what Powell said, Mubarak later responded that "There is no doubt that the events of September 11 created a new concept of democracy."

But suppose for a moment that Powell & co. wanted to get serious about Egyptian democracy. Would they just be opening the floodgates of fundamentalism? I think not. In an article in the most recent issue of the Journal of Democracy, Princeton doctoral candidate Jason Brownlee reviews the prospects for democracy in Egypt. Put mildly, Brownlee is not optimistic. But the problem isn't fundamentalism. It's Mubarak.

While consolidating his power in the years after Sadat's assassination, Mubarak spoke of administering "democracy in doses". Thousands of NGOs sprang into existence, as well as professional organizations for lawyers, doctors, etc. The opposition even began to gain ground in the Assembly. Once Mubarak consolidated his position, however, he shut down all avenues of dissent. Newspapers were closed, human rights activists jailed and political opponents given military trials.

To be sure, Egypt has faced a threat of Islamist violence. The annual death toll from its guerrilla conflict reached 1,000 in 1993. But by 1998, the government had crushed the armed opposition. While the memory of slaughtered tourists lives on, it does not reflect the realities of Egypt today. Now Mubarak is focused on crushing non-violent Islamic dissent as well. And he has no intention of letting other dissenters organize either. The regime has rejected the application of every political party that sought to organize over the past decade, including an explicitly pro-democratic party made up of both Muslims and Christians. Clearly, Mubarak's main interest is in preserving his own absolute power, not defending Egypt from fundamentalist Islam.

In a surprising announcement in November 1999, Mubarak informed the public that the next year's elections to the Assembly would be "subject at all stages to supervision by the judiciary." The legislation implementing this announcement made clear, however, that the President's announcement was nothing more than a publicity stunt. Nonetheless, the Egyptian judiciary seized on the President's announcement as justification for its decision to launch an ambitious election monitoring program, which included placing monitors at each of the country's 15,000+ polling stations.

While the monitor did ensure that no fraud occurred at the polling stations, the government's control of the ballot counting process enabled it to produce results that it found amenable. Still, the results were surprising. Less than 40% of the government's official candidates won their races. Another 40% went to candidates from the ruling party who failed to gain official backing and ran as independents. The secular opposition disgraced itself by winning only 3.5% of the races. The Muslim Brotherhood, which operated without official party status also won 3.5% even though it put up candidates in only 10% of the races. The remainder of seats went to independents.

The significance of the 2000 is hard to place. Angered at the results, Mubarak immediately moved to crush the judiciary's autonomy so that it would never pull a similar stunt again. While it is hard to know how much the regime managed to influence the final results, it seems clear that the Islamist opposition would not dominate at the polls if given the chance. On the other hand, there is no true democratic force that has the potential to prevail either.

Brownlee concludes that American influence is the best hope for Egyptian democracy. In addition to $2 billion in annual aid, the US has played a critical role in securing multilateral loans for Egypt as well as granting it an extra $2 billion to compensate for tourism revenue lost after September 11th. As Powell's words indicate, however, the US is not interested in taking advantage of the influence it has to promote democratization, even though there is no danger of an Islamic revolution.

So far, the most that the Bush administration has done is announce that it will limit aid to $2 billion per year if Egypt's human rights record does not improve. As I see it, that doesn't exactly seem like much of a threat. The administration must recognize that there can be no final victory in the war on terror until the governments of the Middle East rests on the consent of the governed, rather than the same brute force which gives terrorists their influence.

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Sunday, December 29, 2002

# Posted 6:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DRIPPING SARCASM: This is just too funny. And when you get to the last line, you'll see that it makes a profound point as well. (Thanks to Instapundit for this link as well as one to the same author's delightful review of Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine.)
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# Posted 6:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GEE WHIZ HIGH TECH: Imagine being able to see through walls or beneath the ground. Imagine tracking devices the size of a quarter which can be located anywhere on earth. Imagine a two-way radio communicator that cannot be intercepted or jammed and runs on so little power that it could be mounted on wristwatch. Dick Tracy, eat your heart out.

All these things will be made possible thanks to a single technology known as UWB, or UltraWideBand. I only came across it because I live with an electrical engineer who is going to be presenting on UWB at a conference in a few weeks. Since the focus of his presentation is military applications, he wanted a politics person to give him a hand. So here I am.

The battlefield potential of UWB is stunning. Right now, urban settings enables less sophisticated forces to match their superiors by taking advantage of the complex and confusing battlefield environment. Within a decade, individual soldiers will all have portable radar devices that let them locate opposing forces in urban environments without ever having to confront them face to face. The US Army is poised to test prototypes of the individual radar should it have to conduct operations in Baghdad this winter. Other applications include searching below the ground for hidden tunnels and bunker complexes (as well as land mines). Tracking devices based on UWB would faciliate communication and tactical planning on the battlefield.

For a whole set of downloadable articles explaining how UWB works, click here. The basic idea is that instead of using continuous radio waves to communicate, UWB relies on short pulses of radio energy. Released at intervals so precise that they can be measured in trillionths of a second, one can only detect such pulses if one knows in advance the schedule of their release. Whereas as high-frequency radar waves bounce off walls or other solid objects, UWB pulses can be emitted on much longer wavelengths which go right through solid objects.

The peacetime applications of UWB are no less important. Its main commercial application will be the creation of wireless local area networks (LANs) which can handle 10 megs or more per second. UWB may also enable significant improvements of cellphone networks, which are now limited by the scarcity of available bandwidth. Moreover, UWB should finally let cellphones work indoors. From a humanitarian perspective, UWB would be critical in locating victims of earthquakes or other disasters, who may have been buried under mountains of rubble. Alternately, parents could easily locate children who have become lost in public places or even kidnapped. The possibilities are endless. But first we need peace.
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# Posted 5:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CHECHEN TERRORISTS: While the Russian military is hardly a credible source, the NYT and WaPo seem convinced that the suicide bombing which left 46 dead in Checnya are the result of close collaboration between Chechen insurgents and Arab terrorists.

Josh and I have debated this issue before, and even though there is no clear evidence yet, I think the Chechens tactics speak for themselves. Even if Russian brutality is the moral equivalent of Chechen bombings, the United States cannot defend anyone who embraces terrorism. Sadly, we will have to wash our hands and let fate decide who lives and who dies.
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# Posted 5:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEMOCRACY IN KENYA (YES, KENYA). For the first time since gaining independence from the British Empire in 1963, Kenya has held free and fair elections. The opposition won a landslide, crushing the hand picked candidate of Pres. Daniel Arap Moi, who has ruled Kenya for the past 24 years.

It's hard to know exactly why the President chose to let the people have their way, but it is a significant step forward. According to an article in the April 2002 issue of the Journal of Democracy, the only reliable indicator that a country is on the road to reform is that the opposition has triumphed in democratic elections. In those states where former dictators won elections, no real reform has taken place. Let that be a lesson for those who will decide the fate of the Middle East.
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# Posted 5:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT, ME WORRY? Remarkably, the Bush administration is insisting that the situation on the Korean peninsula has not yet become a "crisis". If you ask me, that kind of spin is downright Clintonian. The North has a million men under arms, close to four thousand tanks and 600 to 750 missilesthat can hit both Japan and South Korea with conventional, chemical or biological warheads. When an enemy with that kind of firepower tries to blackmail you, it's a crisis.

So what do we do? The NYT reports that the US has a plan designed to raise pressure on Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program. What is the plan? Who knows. The Agonist observes that any serious plan ought to recognize that "China fought us in the fifties to keep Korea divided...a divided Korea is one of China's vital national security interests."

But do the Chinese believe that possessing nuclear weapons will strengthen Kim's regime, or just raise the risk that the United States will launch a preemptive war to unify the peninsula? According to a former State Dept. official, "While China is opposed to North Korea having nuclear weapons, they are also opposed to chaos in North Korea. They are reluctant to apply any kind of sanctions unless they have to." Which means it won't be easy to get China on board if we actually have to try and punish North Korea for its illegal weapons program.

And what about the South? Will it go along? OxBlog reader JK points to an LA Times article which says that most South Koreans hold American belligerence responsible for both the current crisis as well as the Northern retaliation it may provoke. While I can't vouch for the accuracy of that report, it is interesting to note the inconsistency in this alleged majority view. If Kim Jong Il bears no grudge against the South, why are South Koreans so afraid that his artillery will slaughter them by the tens of thousands if the United States bombs the reacor at Yongbyon?

The only good news on the North Korean front is that the NYT has finally run an intelligent column on the subject. According to Georgetown prof Victor Cha (who had a column on the same subject in last week's WaPo),
The engagement policy the United States followed in 1994 would be ineffective and unfeasible today. Indeed, if the North does not come clean, the true "moderate" position for both Washington and Seoul is isolation and containment.
Cha is no hawk, so this is a serious statement coming from him. Nonetheless, Cha is an optimist, arguing that North Korea will cooperate because "it now has much more to lose than it did in 1994." I wouldn't go that far. Kim could care less about new ties to the EU. If he comes around, it will be because he knows that cannot last any longer without Western aid.
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Saturday, December 28, 2002

# Posted 12:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SLOW NEWS DAY: Time on your hands? Read Pejman's hilarious Star Wars posts.
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Friday, December 27, 2002

# Posted 10:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GOTTA HAVE HART: Gary is getting people more excited than I thought. Bill Peschel says he thinks Hart is the only Democrat with a credible record on national security, and that he'd cross party lines to vote for Bush if the Dems put up Lieberman or Kerry. Glenn Reynolds also linked to Bill, and says that voters like him are the reason that Bush and the GOP are in such a dominant position right now.

Both Bill and Glenn think the Donna Rice issue is irrelevant in the post-Clinton era. I disagree. Rather than lowering the bar, Clinton raised it. America is resolved never to have another president like him again.
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# Posted 10:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SACHS AND VIOLENCE: Steve Sachs says that Robert Kagan's attack on Michael Walzer's hypocritical pacifism is wrong and almost downright dishonest. Sachs' analysis is solid and well worth reading. It seems that my admiration for Bobby K may have become a blindfold.
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# Posted 6:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HAWK IN DOVE'S CLOTHING: Conservatives are supposed to have patience. But since Bill Safire thinks that South Koreans aren't giving the US the respect is deserves, he wants us to bring back home the 37,000 troops we have protecting the South from its evil twin in the North. As Safire puts it, "because the U.S. is not an imperialist power, it does not belong where a democratic nation decides America is unwanted."

Ooh, how clever. Ooh, how ironic. Using anti-imperialism and democratic principle to justify a thinly disguised threat to abandon the South if it doesn't give in to American demands. But as a former Nixon speechwriter and veteran of the Cold War, Safire should be the first to know that democratic allies will always have to weather the rhetorical storms set off by electoral politics. He complains that President-elect Roh wants "a repeat of Clinton's fruitless 1994 cave-in." Well, nothing would force the South to cave in faster than an American retreat that leaves it exposed to Northern blackmail.

The South did not vote to expel the United States. Rather, it lashed out at what it perceived as American high-handedness. While we may not be imperialists, we should be smart enough to recognize that South Korea's dependence on the United States makes it highly sensitive to all perceived sleights. Given time, it will recognize the danger of compromising with the North.

Having patience, however, is not the same as giving up with out as fight, as the editors of the NYT recommend. They say Bush should sit down to negotiate before the North pledges to give up its weapons. But that accomplishes nothing.

What Safire gets right is that we have to put pressure on China to confront Kim Jong Il. But how do we influence China? One way, is to have Japan do what it can. Well aware that North Korean missiles can devastate its cities, the Japanese are desperate for both a peaceful solution and American support. It also seems that the US has the support of the UN, since IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei has strongly condemned North Korean behavior.

Now, I admit that this all beginning to sound like the sort of mulitlateral strategy that was so controversial when applied to Iraq. But the President knows we can't risk the lives of tens of thousands of South Korean and Japanese citizens unless a North Korean attack is imminent. So for the moment, we'll have to swallow our pride and send in the diplomats.

UPDATE: The diplomats are being been sent.
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# Posted 5:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REAL POSTWAR PLANNING: In the WaPo, a former senior official at USAID argues that the reconstruction of Iraq will depend on the establihsment of a clear, national property law. I'm not exactly equipped to evaluate that specific an argument, but it sounds reasonable enough. More importantly, it is the kind of argument that should be getting a lot more play in both the media and the government than it is.
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# Posted 8:54 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AMERICAN HYPOCRISY: As a passionate advocate of promoting democracy in the Middle East, I am often told to get real. Don't I know that Muslims can't handle democracy? Don't I know that Bush talks a good game but that he really couldn't care less?

On the first point, I'm not giving in. The desire for freedom is universal. On the second point, I myself have asked whether the President really cares about promoting democracy in the Middle East. I want to keep an open mind on the issue, but isn't easy when even the Weekly Standard is blasting Bush for his hypocrisy. Damn it, what happened to Wolfowitz?
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# Posted 8:46 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE BLOGS INVADE: The ever-humble Glenn Reynolds links to this article in the Boston Globe about bloggers' role in bringing down Trent Lott. Glenn doesn't mention that the Globe interviewed him and that what he told the Globewas pretty insightful. So check it out.
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# Posted 8:38 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WASH-POST WHITEWASH: This is an embarassment. Was it ignorance or prejudice that led the Post to print such a praise-laden article about a vicious, anti-Semitic, anti-American Islamic fundamentalist? For those of you who are fans of Michiel Vissier, you may recognize the name Dyab Abou Jahjah. Earlier this month, Mike profiled the young leader of the Arab European League (AEL). When I read the Post's article on Jahjah, I immediately e-mailed Mike and told him it was time for a fisking. 'No', said Mike, 'I am on vacation. You do it.' So here goes:

ANTWERP, Belgium -- In the dim fourth-floor walk-up, past the wrestler-turned-bodyguard, the leader of the Arab European League sat in silence. Before him were a batch of newspapers bearing his image and a flier informing Belgian police that his group was "watching" them.

Last month, Dyab Abou Jahjah's group fielded unarmed patrols to follow this northern Belgian city's police officers in what the group called an attempt to prevent abuse of Arab youth.

If you trust the Post's account, Jahjah sounds like Gandhi. Visser observes: One of the more notorious activities of the AEL is sending surveillance teams, clad in black uniform, onto the streets of Antwerp to "monitor" the police, who are accused of discriminating against Muslims. The Belgian prime minister, in turn, has accused the AEL of aiming to create "police-free zones", where criminal activity can then take place unchecked.

Later in the month, he was arrested and held for five days for allegedly inciting two days of riots in Antwerp that followed the fatal shooting of a young Moroccan teacher by an elderly white neighbor whom the police called deranged.

The face of Abou Jahjah, 31, has flashed across Belgian television screens often in recent months. Dressed in sharply cut suits, he gives a fresh voice to the rage felt by many Arabs in this country and across Europe. He is also forcing Belgium into a deeper conversation about whether the country welcomes immigrants and, more broadly, just who is a Belgian.

To ask those questions is to incite a fiery, complex response from the Lebanese-born Abou Jahjah, who in the days after his release remained holed up in his spartan apartment in a largely immigrant section of this port city.

"My family in the U.S. are Arab American, and they feel [American]. I'm Belgian, and I don't feel it," he said in an interview. "Belgians are unable to be multicultural, because to them, to be Belgian is to be white. So we say we're 'Arab European,' because Europe itself is multicultural and Arabs aren't new in Europe; we helped make Europe what it is today."

That's a lovely quote. Here's what Jahjah says when he isn't talking to the Western press: "We are opposed to the war of Bush and Sharon. We are opposed to the sanctions [against Iraq] and the inspections. This is not the last time we will be on the streets. If war breaks out, we will demonstrate everywhere in the world: in Brussels, Paris, and Baghdad. We have to arm ourselves to continue our struggle. We need to arm all those who want to resist the United States. Because everywhere in the world there is one fight: against the United States. Today and in the future. We support the resistance in Palestine and in Iraq. We support everyone who battles today against zionism and imperialism." (Translated by Mike)

The 1,000 or so core members of his movement are mostly young Arab men disillusioned with Belgian society and high unemployment in their communities. White Belgians, he said in an interview, "can't look at us as equals because, in their minds, we're guests. We have to shut up and obey."

Rhetoric like this has made the country sit up and listen. There has long been anti-immigrant sentiment among many Belgians, said Badra Djait, a professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Leuven whose father emigrated to Belgium from Algeria in the 1960s. "Now, there's a real face, a real target, and it's Abou Jahjah."

One of Abou Jahjah's biggest critics is Belgium's third-largest political party, Vlaams Blok. Like maverick parties elsewhere in Europe, it is tapping sentiment that newcomers are overpowering local society and bringing a rise in street crime, and perhaps terrorism. Across the continent, these feelings appear to have grown since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

"Our cities have changed into, well, Islamic neighborhoods, with mosques instead of churches, like it's some kind of Islamic state," said a spokesman for Vlaams Blok, Philippe Vander Sande. He denied the party was racist. Its point, he said, is that immigrants can "choose to assimilate with the Belgians, and if they do, they're welcome. If they don't, and say Islamic law and Islamic religion are above our Belgian law, our Western lifestyle, then we say, that's not possible. They must go."

Vlaams Blok wants Abou Jahjah to be stripped of his Belgian citizenship.

Which, as Mike points out, he came by dishonestly. A one-time member of Hezbollah (yes, that Hezbollah), Jahjah emigrated to Belgium in 1992 and claimed that he sought asylum from his former comrades-in-arms. When the Belgians sought to expel Jahjah, he arranged a bogus marriage to a Belgian woman which lasted just long enough for him to get his citizenship.

In the middle is the coalition government of Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt. He once avoided discussing immigration, but following the Antwerp riots, he declared on Belgian television that the Arab European League is a "threat to our society" and thrives "on confrontation and provocation."

In the last two months, the group has staged two large street protests in the capital, Brussels, against U.S. aggression toward Iraq and Israeli policies toward Palestinians. In the next year, it plans to open chapters in the Netherlands and in France, which is home to about 4 million Arabs, the largest such population in Europe.

Because people of Middle Eastern descent comprise about 5 percent of Belgium's 10 million people, he has suggested that Arabic be made the country's fourth official language (Flemish, French and German are the first three) and said he might field candidates in next year's national elections.

In Antwerp, which has a sizable immigrant population, police are sent in force to break up groups of young men of Arab descent who gather on the streets; government leaders view the Muslims who shadow police patrols as illegal vigilante groups and say they frequently curse and spit on officers carrying out routine duties. Many political analysts say the national government's tough new policies are motivated at least in part by hopes of reducing support for Vlaams Blok, which controls about a third of the seats on the Antwerp city council.

Abou Jahjan was born in Beirut and said he joined the Lebanese resistance as a teenager to fight Israel's occupation of Lebanon, and dreamed of studying at the University of Michigan, close to where his relatives live.

Hmmm...What might the name of that Lebanese resistance group be?

The 1991 Persian Gulf War, he said, led him to cancel those plans, and at 19, he moved to Belgium, obtained citizenship through marriage, divorced, mastered the Flemish language and earned degrees in international politics. He is now working on a doctorate, focusing on post-Cold War security.

Funny how the Post ignores the relationship between citizenshiip and marriage.

He observed what he considered to be Arabs being marginalized in Belgian society, and the muted response from established, government-subsidized Arab groups led by first-generation immigrants who came in the 1960s and 1970s as guest workers. "It was obvious the real problems weren't being addressed," he said of these groups, whose leaders have widely dismissed him a radical.

Antwerp remains tense. It is common to see young Arabs with hands raised leaning against storefronts, being frisked vigorously by police. Arabs say the officers often call them makukah, or "white ape"; the phrase is so familiar to youngsters , they've begun calling each other "makukah."

Abou Jahjah said that his Nov. 26 arrest, along with 160 youths allegedly involved in rioting, sent the wrong message to the Muslim community. "Some people in this organization are, shall we say, less patient than I am. So if they eliminate me, what will you have?"

Wait, I recognize that argument! It's usually made by Arafat in reference to Hamas...

A few last notes: One topic which Mike addresses but the Post doesn't is where the AEL's money comes from. AEL refuses Belgian government subsidies, which suggest that it's money comes from abraod. The organization admitted that its lawsuit against Ariel Sharon in Belgian courts was financed from abroad. And parents of young Arab rioters reported that they were offered mobile phones and other gifts in exchange for their participation. That way, perhaps, they can call the Saudi government directly...


UPDATE: Steve Sachs has been kind enough to point out that Time Magazine also ran a profile of Abou Jahjah recently. It's much more balanced than the WaPo piece, but still has some flaws.

For example, Time writes that Abou Jahjah "is not anti-American; in fact, he admires anti-discrimination laws in the U.S." Presumably such laws would help Abou Jahjah carry out the armed struggle against against American imperialism he is in the midst of planning.

In Time, Abou Jahjah also asserts that he "is not a fundamentalist." Perhaps he is right about that. His fondness for European life suggests that he isn't exactly ready to be bound by state-enforced Islamic law.
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Wednesday, December 25, 2002

# Posted 10:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA, ONLY ON CHRISTMAS: In a striking repudiation of the stereotype that bloggers are misfit shut-ins, four eminent citizens of the blogosphere celebrated Christmas together at the house of the Armed Liberal. One of the four was our friend and occasional correspondent, CalPundit. The four of them talked about politics. Take that, Robert Putnam.
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# Posted 9:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LORD OF THE YAWNS: Pejman loved The Two Towers. He said that we should "go see this movie. Again, and again, and again, and again." Ruffini loved The Two Towers. He agrees with Pejman that it was "far better" than The Fellowship of the Ring. Both Pej and Patrick commented on the inspirational value of Tolkien's work in a time when we are ourselves must face Evil. (In contrast, Salman Rushdie argues that Tolkien's view of evil is as naive and dangerous as George Bush's).

But I ask you this Pej and Patrick: Could we not be inspired by a movie that was considerably shorter? Yes, the battle for Helm's Deep was first rate, or as the WashPost put it, "the last hour of 'The Two Towers' is pure combat and it's mind-blowing." Give me a DVD and I will watch the last hour of TTT again and again. In contrast, Fellowship opened with a stunning battle scene and kept things moving after that. Some have said that an improvement in the acting and script balances the lack of action. But from where I'm standing, it's hard to produce more one-dimensional characters than Tolkien has. Of course, that isn't Peter Jackson's fault. And The Two Towers is inherently more resistant to being filmed. Still, it's my eight bucks and I can think of better ways to spend it.

The good news for Jackson and the folks at New Line Cinema is that everyone in America disagrees with me. Exit polls (yes, really) show that 9 out of 10 viewers thought TTT was very good or excellent. It's box office take was a third better than Fellowship's. As they say, vox populi, vox dei.

UPDATE: CalPundit found TTT less than exciting. He argues, though, that the films are far better than the books.
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Tuesday, December 24, 2002

# Posted 9:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

COUNTERFISKED! The Agonist has put up an in-depth critique of my response to Fareed Zakaria. The tone is respectful, the arguments thoughtful. In general, The Agonist's point is that my ideological commitment to promoting democracy has prevented me from producing a realistic analysis of the situation in Iraq. Or, put more emphatically, Mr. A warns that I am unaware of the "dangers of unchecked messianism."

On factual matters, the main point of tension between my arguments and that of Mr. A is his contention that "Bush has given no indication that we will 'democratize' Iraq. Especially if you take Afghanistan as an example. I might go so far as agree with Adesnik that Bush's words are Wilsonian but his actions are not." While one might question Bush's commitment to his stated objective, I think his UN speech as well as Condi's remarkson the matter have made clear what our policy on Iraq is.

Unsurprisingly, I share Mr. A's belief that the Bush administration has shown little indication that it is serious about democracy in Afghanistan. Still, Bush has done more than any Republican president ever to promote the cause of democracy abroad. As such, it is premature to draw firm conclusions about his intentions. More importantly, one should recognize that Bush's rhetorical commitment to promoting democracy makes him vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy should he fail to do so. Significant pressure from Congress and the American public will ensure that he does not back away from his pledge. So speak up!

UPDATE: Afghans look back on Karzai's first year.
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# Posted 8:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JUST WAR OR 'JUST DO IT'? Bob Kagan exposes the hypocrisy of just war theorist Michael Walzer. While Clinton was president, Walzer argued for preemptives strikes against Iraq on explicit moral grounds. After Bush became president, he did a 180. Hmmm...
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# Posted 8:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT THIS DAY MEANS TO SADDAM: The great one observes that US airstrikes are not in keeping with the meaning of the holiday.
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# Posted 7:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THAT'S NOT MEDIA BIAS: Hezbollah runs Al Manar TV. "Hassan Fadlallah, the station's young, clean-cut news director, explained simply, 'All Arab states consider Israel our enemy, so we go ahead and call it that.'"
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# Posted 7:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT THIS DAY MEANS TO ME, courtesy of Kyle Braflovski:
It's hard to be a Jew on Christmas.
My friends wont let me join in any games.
And I can't sing Christmas songs
Or decorate a Christmas tree
Or leave water out for Rudolph
`Cause there's something wrong with me.
My people don't believe in Jesus Christ's divinity.
I'm a Jew,
A lonely Jew
On Christmas.


God bless all of you who spent Christmas eve at the movies after eating at Chinese restaurant. Tradition...TRADITION!
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# Posted 7:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LAST MINUTE GIFTS: Can't afford a subscription to OxBlog? Well, here are some free e-cards you can send to everyone you've been meaning to get a gift but just haven't found the time.

My favorite one is from Dilbert, with Peanuts a close second.

If you want'em en espanol, then click here. Auf deutsch, click here. B'ivrit? Lama lo!

Happy Holidays, y'all!
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Monday, December 23, 2002

# Posted 9:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WOLFOWITZ BLOGS! The Deputy Secretary of Defense recommends that we all visit www.defenselink.mil in order to learn more about the prospective performance of Iraqi forces in a second Gulf War.
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# Posted 9:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LET'S PLAY SPOT THE RACIST! In addition to their field day criticizing Trent Lott, America's punditocracy (especially its Democratic punditocracy) has had quite a ball going after other senators, mostly Republicans, with terrible records on race. Here are some highlights:

1) Bob Herbert on George Allen (R-VA) and Conrad Burns (R-MT).

2) TNR's Sarah Wildman on Jeff Sessions (R-AL).

3) Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-NC) on himself. (With a parting blow by Josh Marshall.)

While it makes for good copy, one has to ask whether this has all gone too far. One could argue that this trend has led to unfair attacks on Bill Frist by the NY Times and Josh Marshall. But the unfair attacks on Frist were shot down very quickly. It's not as if you can get away with anything just because Trent Lott is in hot water.

Even from a Repubican perspective -- and especially from a Republican perspective -- it's all for the best if this trend keeps on going strong. First of all, it has laid to rest false accusations that might have damaged Frist later on. It will also let the Republicans know whether potential candidates for Senate leadership positions have a past they are trying to hide. And if the trend goes too far, it can be used as evidence of liberal media bias. With two full years to go before the next election, the separation of the wheat from the chaff can only make the GOP stronger.
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# Posted 8:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RHODES SCHOLARS BACK HART IN '04: As if Bill Clinton didn't do enough to ensure that the phrases "Rhodes Scholar" and "illicit sex" became stuck together with super glue in America's imagination... It turns out that a pair of Rhodes Scholars who've just come back from Oxford have launched Gary Hart's 2004 presidential campaign. Hart himself hasn't said yes or no, but that sort of thing shouldn't trouble a committed over-achiever. In fact, the only reason George Stephanopolous brought up a potential Hart candidacy on ABC's This Week was that one of the Scholars suggested it to him.

The Scholars behind the campaign are Antwaun Smith and Will Polkinghorn, both of whom are now in graduate school at Harvard. One thing I know about Antwaun and Will is that they are always looking for things to do besides their homework. That is one of the reasons they spent so much time with Hart when he was at Oxford a couple of years back. For those who don't know Antwaun or Will (or Gary), their enthusiasm for Hart might seem to be utterly ridiculous. Even if we are living in the "post-Clinon" era, it is hard to believe that America would forgive Hart for his involvement with Donna Rice. But because I've spent time talking to Hart one-on-one, I know why Antwaun and Will are so enthusiastic.

Gary Hart cares about America and cares about ideas. Rather than spending his time at posh dinners, he tried to learn as much as he could from other students. He was even nice enough to read my 30-page memo on US grand strategy and give me substantial feedback. (If you need a cure for insomnia, I'd be happy to send you a copy.) When you talk to Hart, you get the sense of talking to someone who has been out of politics for a long time and reflected thoughtfully on the lessons of his time in Washington. He thinks outside the box. When you talk to him, you understand how he and Warren Rudman could've realizedbefore September 11th that terrorism is the single greatest threat to American security and that we need a Department of Homeland Security to plan our defense.

Does this mean that Hart has a shot? I am pessimistic. His strength is his expertise on national security affairs. But as of now Bush is untouchable on that front. With good reason, most Democratic voters would probably be afraid that a Bush-Hart campaign would become a referendum on Clinton's sexual ethics. Which is why Joe Lieberman is now the leader of the pack, albeit not in a commanding position.

UPDATE: Amygdalapoints out that Hart was known for being an innovative, outside-the-box thinker even while he was in office. So I might be wrong that he has learned to think more creatively about politics by being away from it.
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# Posted 7:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLAME CANADA! TNR reports on Canada's embarrassing permissiveness toward Hezbollah.

UPDATE: Canada arrests Al Qaeda pizza boy.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh observes: Canadians are generally indistinguishable from Americans. The surest way of telling the two apart is to say that to a Canadian.
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# Posted 7:39 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BRITNEY VS. THE AYATOLLAHS, PART DEUX: So is the Voice of America committed to hard-hitting coverage of Iranian politics or not? On Saturday, the NY Times ran a story on President Bush's radio address to the Iranian people, in which he pledged that VOA would commit itself to the cause of democracy in Iran.

The Times described Bush's speech as a response to criticism of VOA's decision to replace political coverage with teeny pop. Strangely, the Times reported that this criticism was coming from VOA staffers and dissidents in Iran. It avoided any mention of the op-eds by Jackson Diehl and Jesse Helms which focused public attention on VOA. Which forces one to ask: Is the Times going soft on VOA because it got scooped, because it doesn't know what's going on, or because it has good reasons to believe that VOA will take the Presdient's advice seriously?

I'd say either 'A' or 'B' is right. As a Reuters report makes clear, the switch-over from politics to pop is going ahead right on schedule. In other words, it seems that Bush is covering for VOA rather than committing it to the cause of democracy in Iran.

UPDATE: Occam's Toothbrush observes that VOA's Arab language broadcasts have a solid track record precisely because of their emphasis on Britney, Christina, et al. Occam also links to Fouad Ajami's excellent article in the new issue of Foreign Affairs. In fact, a quick look over the table of contents suggests that FA may have put together one of it's best issues in years, which is saying a lot.

DOUBLE UPDATE: Both this post and Occam's have been picked up by Instapundit! I guess that calls for a response. Here's what I wrote to Moe Freedman (Mr. Occam) in an e-mail earlier today :
My brother's name is Moe, too! (Though he spells it "Mo") Turning to more substantive matters, thank you for the link to the NRO article. I recognize that my posts haven't mentioned the acheivements of Radio Sawa, which deserve to be mentioned. Still, I think Diehl makes a pretty compelling case for VOA's stupidity vis-a-vis Iran. Yet unlike me, he acknowledges the value of Radio Sawa in countries which don't have a pro-Western anti-Fundamentalist student movement. So it's a situational matter, more than a blanket comdemnation of Britney...
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Sunday, December 22, 2002

# Posted 7:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PLAYA-HATING AT THE NYT: Lacking real criticism of Bill Frist, the NYT is recycling myths and slanting the truth. Pejman provides the links.

UPDATE: Innocents Abroad exposes even more bad NYT reporting.
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# Posted 5:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE IMMUTABLE LAWS RETURN: While Maureen Dowd hasn't come up with a better nickname for the prospective Senate majority leader than "Dr. Frist", she nonetheless manages to spend more time discussing the check-ups he gives monkeys at the National Zoo than the policies he is for or against. As such, it is fair to say that the "People Magazine principle".

But the real purpose of Dowd's column is to expose the Machiavellian calculations behind the President's subtle support for the Tennessee senator. Apparently, Bush still hasn't gotten over Lott's support for Jack Kemp in the '88 primaries. And, as Dowd bizarrely asserts, the President wants to set Frist up for a successful primary run against Jeb in '08. Why? Sibling rivarly.

Not once in Dowd's column does she even consider the possibility that Bush meant what he said about segregation being an embarassment to everything America stands. Nor does she consider that Bush may have recognized the threat that Lott represents to Republican chances in coming elections. No, it's all about personal vendettas. But don't forget the Second Law, that it's easier to whine than take a stand or offer solutons. What pray tell, should Bush have done with regard to Trent Lott? Unsurprisingly, Dowd never comes out and says Bush should've either supported Lott or even just said nothing. Better to whine.

All there is to say in Dowd's defense is that, contra Law Three, she does make a coherent point. But if you compare this column to her last one, the illusion of coherence disappears. At least she doesn't bother us with details of her personal life...

UPDATE: Instapundit isn't happy either.
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# Posted 5:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLUFF OR STRATEGEM? North Korea has dismantled UN-installed monitoring equipment at the Yongbyon nuclear plant, thus raising the stakes in its conflict with the US. No doubt Kim Jong Il has taken notice of South Korean president-elect Roh Moo Hyun statement that he (Roh) is "the only person who can resolve the nuclear issue through dialogue." In other words, it seems Roh is willing to negotiate even though the US has said that it will not talk until the North agrees to shut down its nuclear weapons programs.

If one believes that Kim Jong Il is a competent diplomat, than his raising the stakes represents an assumption that the US will not be able to coordinate its efforts with the new South Korean government, thus enabling him to secure additional aid without disarming. If one believes that Kim Jong Il is a semi-educated shut-in, then his raising the stakes represents nothing more than traditional North Korean belligerence. Yet either way, the road from Washington to Pyongyang leads through Seoul. President-elect Roh has to vindicate his anti-American rhetoric by showing that he can be tough with the US. The Bush administration should take this into account, and accept that there is no point in a war of words. It may even be necessary to let Roh talk to Kim. What really matters is whether Roh is willing to offer Kim aid before he disarms. If Bush or Powell can win a commitment from Roh to withhold aid, then the US can continue to take a hardline against Northern violations of the 1994 pact.

Unfortunately, there is no pleasant way to deal with North Korea. Withholding aid may mean abetting the North's efforts to starve its own desperate population. But Kim alone bears the moral responsibility for that. If the North will not disarm, the US must ensure that no nation -- not China, not Russia and not South Korea -- sends aid to the North. Raising the stakes always benefits the gambler with the deepest pockets. Kim will recognize that he can disarm or watch his government crumble from within.

PS The Times has put up another embarrasingly bad op-ed on the Korean situation which asserts that "North Korea's behavior is not unpredictable" and that the real cause of tension on the peninsula is "an erratic United States policy that veers between neglect and overattention". I guess that's a reasonable conclusion if you just ignore the fact that North Korea was caught red-handed secretly violating an international treaty that its current government signed just eight years ago.

UPDATE: Rumsfeld is talking tough but holding out the prospect of a diplomatic solution.

UPDATE: In the WashPost, Maddie Albright's North Korea policy coordinator argues that we can't let the North divide us from the South. The tone of the argument is weepy and (liberal) guilt-ridden, but the basic argument is sound. On a related note, the Post's editors defend Bush for playing hardball with Kim Jong Il.
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Saturday, December 21, 2002

# Posted 12:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE MATING HABITS OF INTELLECTUALS: This past week's issue of the Weekly Standard ran a cover story on life, love and achievement in the Ivy League. Not a topic I would put on the cover if I wanted to increase sales, but we can leave that aside. While the article was interesting, I think it's important to correct one major misconception and a few associated details that it embraces.

The major misconception is that the ethos of achievement has led Ivy Leaguers, especially a new generation of confident young women, to reject traditional, romantic dating practices and instead resort to "hook-ups" that satisfy their momentary lust. The alleged logic behind the decision is that dating takes too much time away from work, so it isn't worth it unless marriage is in the offing (which it isn't for upwardly mobile student types).

The best I can say about this strange observation is that it is half right. Traditional dating practices are almost dead. But love and romance are not. Both in my own experience and that of my friends at other $30,000-a-year colleges, there are two behavioral patterns that have replaced traditional dating. One is, in fact, the hook-up. The other is the total commitment. After one or two dates, Ivy Leaguers who really get along well seem to establish an almost unbreakable bond and begin to spend hours and hours together almost everyday. Exhibit A: Josh Chafetz and the lovely Jenn.

These relationships are intense and romantic. Many of them end in devastating heartbreak. Mine did. Contra Brooks, Ivy Leaguers and their kin are not afraid to put their emotions on the line. There isn't always a clear rationale behind the decision to have such intense relationships. To a degree, it reflects the fact that at small colleges, total commitment is facilitated by being close by one's significiant other. If there is any social or political meaning behind such decisions, I think it is this: that our generation believes that one cannot expect a first relationship to go right. One cannot afford to get married and have children without first knowing what it is to love, be loved and have one's heart broken. We get hurt, but we hope to learn.

In David Brooks' world, extreme pressure to achieve great things threatens the traditional values on which social stability and personal fulfillment rest. But what I saw in my four years at Yale was a community devoted to strengthening traditional values in untraditional but still romantic and successful ways.
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# Posted 12:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

APOLOGY COMING SOON: North Carolina rep Cass Ballenger defends Lott and segregation. This should be fun.

UPDATE: And it gets worse...
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# Posted 12:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GIVING BLIX A HAND: In response to a request from Inspections Chief Hans Blix, the US is preparing to share with him its own intelligence concerning Iraqi weapons programs. As an unnamed official told the NYT, "We are going to give them one piece of information at a time," another official said, "given strategically at the right moment."

That's well and good, but why didn't the Bush administration try to figure out before inspections started whether or not it was safe to share intelligence? Answer: Because it simply doesn't think one step ahead when it comes with cooperating with the UN. While it is fair to differ on whether the US should be cooperating with the UN at all, I don't see how anyone could defend the decision to cooperate, but in an ad hoc and ineffective manner. It's not as if the administration is incapable of thinking ahead. It's military buildup is being accomplished with impressive speed and subtlety. Which demonstrates that the administration's dovish multilateralist critics are right when they assert that sometimes, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld just don't get it. So, while I don't have much good to say about Colin Powell in general, I am glad that that he plays a balancing a role.

Such criticism aside, one has to recognize that the administration's overall plans are moving ahead on schedule, with a decision for or against an invasion expected in January. As I see it, the challenge for the administration will be to avoid antagonizing potential allies for no good reason. If our intelligence about Iraqi weapons is as good as Rumsfeld keeps insisting it is, we should have no problems convincing others to go along or at least not hamper our efforts. There should be no need for another fight on the Security Council over whether Iraq is in material breach. While I don't favor a second resolution, the combination of Saddam's absurd denials and our comprehensive evidence should make it easy to secure one if it comes to that. Even better, the US should persuade the Council to issue a finding on the issue of material breach that provides a legal justification for the invasion without requiring another vote. This is a good compromise, and should help secure allied participation in postwar efforts to rebuild and democratize Iraq.

UPDATE: Reader PG has generously provided a link to this NYT article on early problems in the intelligence sharing relationship between Blix and the Security Council member states.
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Friday, December 20, 2002

# Posted 10:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SILENCE EQUALS CONSENT: Scroll down to the end of this article about Iraq's material breach and read the comments made by the French and Russian diplomats. If they can't even think of something negative to say about America declaring Saddam in material breach, it means they know that he is. In the meantime, another 50,000 troops are on their way to the Gulf. The French and Russians don't seem to object to that either. This is the payoff for establishing consensus within the administration before going to the UN. Saddam has nowhere to run.

UPDATE: The NYT now (Sun.) has a news analysis piece which argues that the US has, in fact, antagonized the rest of the Security Council and that on the issue of material breach it is "far out ahead of the other Council nations, including Britain, its closest ally." But if you look carefully at the statements made by French, British and Russian ambassadors to the UN, you'll notice that none of them take issue with the American characterization of Saddam's report as an apalling lie. Instead, they are just working to ensure that the US doesn't invade without UN permission.

Interestingly, IAEA chief Mohammed El Baradei told the Times that "I do not see the Security Council exonerating Iraq" if it doesn't provide a serious report. I think it is pretty interesting that a UN official thinks of Iraq not as innocent-until-proven-guilty, but as a criminal in need of exoneration.
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# Posted 10:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SEND HIM BACK TO CHINA: Here's what Nick Kristof has to say about North Korea: "Washington's failure to engage North Korea has in a few months turned a minor problem (a uranium program that would take years to produce weapons) into a major crisis (the restarting of a reactor with enough plutonium to produce five additional warheads)."

Huh? By "engagement" does Kristof mean that the US should have said nothing about North Korea's secret and illegal nuclear program? Or that it should have rewarded it with additional aid? As I see, it there was no better moment to confront the North Koreans. In the face of a UN resolution that condemns Iraq for its secret weapons programs, the North Koreans will have no choice but to concede that their actions violate all existing notions of acceptable state behavior. That puts them on the defensive when negotiations begin. For the moment, things are worse than they were before the US exposed North Korea's deception. But the only alternative was to wait for North Korea's secret nuclear program to succeed, at which point it would have been able to blackmail the West for better terms than it got in 1994.

The thing about Kristof is that he's a good reporter but a terrible columnist. His previous column was so bad I didn't even have the patience to fisk it. But if he's willing to do another stint abroad, the Times should send him back to the hunting grounds where he earned his Pulitzer.

For good advice on the Korean situation, the President should turn to an op-ed in the Post by Georgetown prof Victor Cha, who advises that the United States should not antagonize Roh Moo Hyun, the South Korean candidate who won by capitalizing on anti-American resentment. Kim Dae Jung, the current president, built his reputation the same way, but developed into a staunch ally of the United States.

With the South so dependent on the United States for security, periodic hostility is unavoidable. More importantly, no approach to the North can succeed without strong backing from the South, whose interests are immediately threatened by the North in a way that ours are not. Necessary as it is, getting tough with North Korea means raising tensions on the peninsula. If we have to threaten the North with force, such threats will only be credible if they have the unconditional support of the South, whose civilians will pay a heavy price if war breaks out. It is these same citizens who have made South Korea the strong democracy that it now is, and their opinion must be respected.
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# Posted 9:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

'NEO-'S VS. TECHIES: Who took down Trent Lott? The neo-cons, as Charlie K. and Josh C. argue? Or the techno-cons, as Jonah Goldberg argues? You might be asking, of course, what exactly a techno-con is. Well, as Goldberg observes:
...the self-defined neocons weren't the first conservatives to denounce Lott. Andrew Sullivan, Robert George, David Frum, Glenn Reynolds, Virginia Postrel, yours truly, etc., were much more prompt than the usual neocon suspects, like Krauthammer, Bennett, Kristol, et al. when it came to breaking with Lott...the more telling split among conservatives is a generational one. The bloggers claim it's a technological thing; the "blogosphere" is less beholden to the establishment and more rebellious. Well, that's true of younger conservatives generally, who actually believe that a colorblind society is the moral position. The fact that these conservatives (and libertarians) work disproportionately on the web speaks less to the uniqueness of the web than to the fact young people rarely have perches at the Washington Post or the New York Times.
Goldberg has a point, but he takes it too far. Yes, the techno-cons were the first to demand that Lott resign. But after that, which conservatives put their reputations on the line after that? The neo-cons. (See Kristol's op-ed yesterday.) As for the mainliners, can anyone name one conservative senator who came out strongly for Lott's resignation? The President got tough, but refused to call for Lott's resignation.

Now what about Golberg's own National Review? Krauthammer says that NR's editoral on Lott is a clear indication that NR does not oppose racism on principle. Goldberg says that Krauthammer is badly misreading what NR wrote. But he isn't. The harshest condemnation NR can come up with for Lott is that he "misspoke." Even better, read the whole paragraph that quote was taken from.
Minority leader Tom Daschle's initial reaction (prior to his mauling by the Congressional Black Caucus) to Lott's remarks was essentially sound — Lott misspoke. But Lott misspoke in a particular way, one freighted with symbolic significance. Many southern whites of a certain generation have a shameful past on civil-rights issues. This doesn't necessarily make them reprehensible people, or mean that they are racists today. But, when they are public figures, it is reasonable to expect from them an honest reckoning with their past, and, of course, an awareness that a reckoning is necessary.
It sort of makes Lott's absurd apologies seem noble by comparison, doesn't it?

But hold on a second. Let's step away from the immediate controversy and address the larger issue that Goldberg raises: Are Krauthammer and other neo-cons sowing division among Republicans by separating the principled neo-conservatives from the pragmatic mainliners? To dispel suspicions, let me state up fron that I am an uncommitted independent. My past is Democratic, but I can't decide if that should be a mark of pride or one of shame. But getting back to the question, one good answer is the one proposed by E.J. Dionne, that the real division is between advocates of "states' rights" and those with no attachment to them. In general, that division mirrors Krauthammers' division between mainliners and neo-cons. Still, it exposes the ideological underpinnings of that divide better than descriptions of one side as old and the other as new.

Now, I happen to agree with Dionne that the principle of states' rights has generally been invoked in order to defend inexcusable local privileges, whether based on race or other factors. In that sense, it is not much of a principle. In contrast, the neo-cons oppose big government because of what it is, not because of an illusory belief in states' rights. More broadly speaking, neo-cons embrace a true ideology rather than a set of precedents. That has its pro and cons. But it is honest, and I respect if for that. If the Lott affair has taught us one thing, it is that the GOP will suffer if it pretends to be one things but then inadvertently exposes itself as another.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan weighs in.

UPDATE: Ranting Screeds comments on my take on states' rights.

UPDATE: Innocents Abroad strongly backs the neo-con line while TNRbashes the NR editorial.
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# Posted 6:09 AM by Daniel  

SETTLEMENTS. I do agree with some of Saeb Erekat's points in his NY Times op-ed--settlements undermine Palestinian trust in Israel's intentions, and they make an equitable division of the land all but impossible. But here is where he drifts from a sound argument:

"Without a dramatic change in Israeli policy, the possibility of a two-state solution will be relegated to the history books. Yet despite international laws that prohibit the construction of settlements, despite a call to "freeze all settlement activity" by an international panel led by former United States Senator George Mitchell in 2001, despite Palestinian pleas to address the underlying causes of violence — occupation and settlement construction — the international community has done nothing to stop Israel. President Bush reiterates support for two states, yet he continues to support an Israeli government that makes the two-state solution an increasing impossibility."

Wrong. Did Erekat read the entire Mitchell Report? If he did, he would have sees that it calls for the PA to take "immediate steps to apprehend and incarcerate terrorists operating within the PA's jurisdiction" before calling for a freeze on all settlement activity The PA has done no such thing. Trust is a two way street, and I am glad that Erekat points out the destructive role settlements play. But solely focusing on the Israeli side will get us nowhere.

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Thursday, December 19, 2002

# Posted 7:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REBUILDING AFTER 9/11. I strongly encourage everyone to visit the website of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which has slideshow presentations on each of the seven plans submitted for the reconstruction of Lower Manhattan. The public must demand not just a memorial, but a creation that will give us the confidence and pride to stand up for America's ideals
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# Posted 7:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE PARADOX OF CONFIDENCE: In addition to Bill Krisol's challenge to Senate Republicans, Bill Safire has thrown down the gauntlet and demanded that the Bush administration make amends for its embarrassing decision to let North Korea ship missiles to Yemen. As a Times lead story makes clear, Yemen is as much against us as it as with in the war on terror. And it is a firm dictatorship.

While some might regard these internal conflicts within the GOP as signs of political drift, I think that they are exactly the opposite. A willingness to publicly admit and confront one's own mistakes is a sign of mature confidence. If this is the face of the new GOP, it will find itself in a strong position to win a second term in the White House in 2004.

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# Posted 7:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

POWELL PLAYS HARDBALL: I give credit where credit is due. The administration sent Colin Powell out to declare that Iraq is in material breach of 1441. Instead of a public conflict, the administration has put forward a unified front. If Powell is willing to risk the reputation for moderation that he was has worked so hard to cultivate, that means he is convinced that Saddam's violations of 1441 are so flagrant that the US will not have a hard time convincing potential allies to join the war effort. However, as Powell explained, this declaration of material breach is not an indication that the time for war has come. The decision for or against an invasion is expected in late January. Thus, Powell's declaration is his way of telling Saddam that the games are over, that he can either cooperate now or be forced to deal with Tommy Franks.
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# Posted 7:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KRISTOL CHALLENGES SENATE: The Weekly Standard has never been afraid to speak up for what it believes is right, even if that means hacking away at fellow conservatives. That is why the Weekly Standard commands respect. Today, the founder of that proud tradition, editor-in-chief Bill Kristol, challenges Senate Republicans to stop hiding from the media and say whether they are for Lott or against him. If we're lucky, even old Strom will come out and say something!
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# Posted 6:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RESPECT FOR PRECEDENT: When Katherine Mangu-Ward publishes an article, Josh links to it. Now that Josh is on vacation, that responsibility has fallen on me. Enjoy!
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# Posted 6:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FAREED BETWEEN THE LINES, PART IV: Here is the final insallment of my commentary. Click for parts one, two and three.

…But while [Bush] adopts some of Wilson's loftiest ideals, [he] is also following some of his most fatal practices. Wilson's means were often highly unilateral. When he took the United States into the war, in 1917, he insisted that although it fought alongside France and England, it was not an ally but an "associated power." His entire approach to the war and its aftermath was to dissociate the United States from the sordid desires of its allies.

A surprisingly effective strategy!

Impatient with other countries' cultures and uninterested in their views, Wilson tended to issue declarations for the whole world. He believed strongly in the righteousness of his cause, and that was enough to allay any concerns he might have had about the reaction of foreign countries. In fact, he thought, their hostility was often proof of the revolutionary nature of his ideas. Some of this may have been true—just as some of Bush's frustration with European and United Nations diplomacy is understandable—but it insured that Wilson was a practical failure. Bush's high-handedness also promises to make his policies ineffective. Yet there is a way to conduct a robust and visionary foreign policy without triggering an avalanche of anti-Americanism around the world. It's called diplomacy.

This is where Zakaria's analytical relativism becomes most apparent. He presumes that other nations – including other democracies – will become fiercely anti-American if the United States disrespects multilateral norms regardless of whether it does so in order to realize Wilsonian ideals that both Americans and Europeans share. Yet if past behavior is an accurate guide, Europe will hem and haw if the US does an end run around the UN, but then forget all about it once Iraq is disarmed and democratic. On the other hand, if Iraq becomes what Iran was under the Shah – a brutal pro-American puppet state – Europe will become truly antagonized. No amount of diplomacy, i.e. spin, will change that.

…Roosevelt and Truman knew that to transform the world one had to engage in it. Roosevelt thought poorly of many of his wartime allies and their goals—he despised French and British colonialism, for example—but he understood that those countries had to be accommodated. Truman understood that the United States could best combat Soviet Communism by creating permanent, entangling alliances with other countries. As a result, these two Presidents and their successors created the conditions for the triumph of a world quite different from any that existed in the past. Today, there is an international consensus in favor of democracy, some version of open markets and capitalism, and some international norms, rules, and restraints. This has happened because of the inherent strength of these ideas but also because they have been hitched to American power.

Perhaps most important, Roosevelt and Truman, having lived through the nineteen-thirties, knew how fragile the international system was and believed that it needed support. Having reaped the fruits of this system—upheld by all successive Presidents of both parties—we have come to believe that stability is natural. But the world order put into place by the United States in the past half century—an order based on alliances, organizations, and norms—functions largely because of the respect paid to it by its superpower creator. Without that support, it will crumble into chaos.

Here, Zakaria clearly elevates the importance of means, i.e. “alliances, organizations, and [presumably multilateral] norms”, over ends such as the defense of capitalism and democracy. But did the US win the Cold War because of its “respect” for the system or because it dedicated its unmatched power to the pursuit of its ideals? If one recalls such unpleasant events such as France’s effective withdrawal from NATO in the 1960s or Reagan’s insistence on funding the Contras despite widespread European resentment, it becomes clear that what kept anti-Communist alliance together was not a respect for multilateralism, but a commitment to the ideals threatened by Soviet power.

…The Bush Administration is right to recognize that consensus is not an end in itself. And some American concerns about international organizations are valid. Within these organizations, America faces a special challenge: the United States has only one vote in most international organizations, and when other countries want to gang up on it they use these organizations to do so. But these are the kinds of problems that skillful diplomacy can resolve.

As my posts have indicated, I share Zakaria’s view that the Bush administration fails to recognize that it can often accomplish via diplomacy as much as or more than it can without it. Still, Zakaria overestimates the dangers of unilateralism.

…[via cooperation] American hegemony would gain the legitimacy that comes from operating through an international consensus.

Without this cloak of respectability, America will face a growing hostility around the world. During the Cold War, many nations disliked or disagreed with America—over Vietnam, for example—but they despised the Soviet Union. The enemy of their enemy was, in the end, their friend. But today, with no alternative ideology and no competitors, America stands alone in the world. Everyone else sits in its shadow. This doesn't mean that other countries will form military alliances against America; that would be pointless. But countries will obstruct American purposes whenever and in whatever way they can, and the pursuit of American interests will have to be undertaken through coercion rather than consensus. Anti-Americanism will become the global language of political protest—the default ideology of opposition—unifying the world's discontents and malcontents, some of whom, as we have discovered, can be very dangerous.

It is interesting that Zakaria refers to respectability as a “cloak”, as if it were hiding something more sinister. I think this reflects his refusal – much like that of Joe Nye – to recognize that America’s allies accept it for what it is, not for what it seems to be.

Also, note the contradiction between asserting that other nations supported the US against the Soviet Union because the “enemy of their enemy was…their friend” but that other nations will not support the US war on Al Qaeda. Yet even if no Europeans had died on September 11th, I think Europe would recognize that Al Qaeda is its enemy. Even in the case of Iraq, I have a sense that Europeans know which side they want to win. They just want that victory on their terms, not America’s.


"It is better to be feared than loved," Machiavelli wrote. But he was wrong. The Soviet Union was feared by its allies; the United States was loved, or, at least, liked. Look who's still around. America has transformed the world with its power but also with its ideals. When China's pro-democracy protesters gathered in Tiananmen Square, they built a makeshift figure that suggested the Statue of Liberty, not an F-16. America remains the universal nation, the country people across the world believe should speak for universal values. Its image may not be as benign as Americans think, but it is, in the end, better than the alternatives. That is what has made America's awesome power tolerable to the world for so long. The belief that America is different is its ultimate source of strength. If we mobilize all our awesome powers and lose this one, we will have hegemony—but will it be worth having?

No, Zakaria is not a moral relativist. I owe him an apology for once calling him that. But I believe I have made it clear that his idealism is strongly attenuated by his belief that only a fragile multilateral bond stands in the way of a chasm opening between the United States and its democratic allies.

The end!

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# Posted 8:54 AM by Daniel  

FREE SPEECH TO THE FULLEST. Ted Gup offers a powerful (if anecdotal) case for it. This is definitely worth reading, if you haven't done so already.
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Wednesday, December 18, 2002

# Posted 10:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AMERICAN EXPERTS BETRAY IRAQI DEMOCRACY: Yesterday, the Council on Foreign Relations issued what it describes as an "integrated, coherent post-conflict strategy" for Iraq. I'd simply call it an embarrassment. I admit that I have been talking about the importance of postwar planning for a long time now. But this report remains stunningly silent on the political future of Iraq while focusing extensively on the reconstruction of its oil industry.

Let me sum up the problem this way: If you search the text of the CFR report for the word "democracy", you won't find it. All you will find is a vague reference to a "government based on democratic principles." If you search for the word elections, you will find it once, in the following context: "The United States should also encourage Iraqi-led efforts toward a new constitution, census-taking, local elections, and convocation of a new parliament." Encourage? Encourage?

Perhaps someone should have told CFR that democratizing Iraq is not just an option, but rather the heart of President Bush's vision for the reform of the Middle East. A true "integrated, coherent post-conflict strategy" for Iraq would provide considerable detail about how exactly one might go about introducing democracy to a nation that has no experience with it. When will elections be held? Who will supervise them? What sort of party system can be expected to emerge? What sort of judicial and police institutions will be able to defend a democratic order? What can be done to ensure that the Iraqi army stays out of politics? A list of questions like this could go on and on. None of them are answered in the CFR report.

In addition to ignoring such questions, the report explicitly denies the relevance of America's experience in democratizing Germany and Japan. As it observes,
The continued public discussion of a U.S. military government along the lines of post-war Japan or Germany is unhelpful. After conflict, Iraqis will be a liberated, not a defeated, people. While considerable U.S. involvement will be necessary in the post-conflict environment, such comparisons suggest a long-term U.S. occupation of Iraq that will neither advance U.S. interest nor garner outside support.
Why won't an extended occupation advance US interests? In light of the fact that the CFR report says nothing about how to ensure that Iraqi democracy survives its infancy, there is every reason to believe that a long-term American presence will be critical. And why wouldn't an American presence garner outside support? Admittedly, the Saudi and Syrian governments would not appreciate the presence of an American occupation force committed to creating an actual Arab democracy. After all, that might convince ordinary Saudis and Syrians that democracy in the Middle East is possible now.

While France and Russia tend to object to whatever the US proposes, there is good reason to believe that they would support an extended occupation as well, provided that their oil interests are taken care of. No one in Europe objects to the extended occupation in Bosnia or Kosovo, whose purpose is to prevent ethnic violence and restore democracy. That would be the purpose of an occupation force in Iraq as well.

Finally, the distinction between a liberated Iraq and the defeated Axis powers is misleading. While there it is probable -- but by no means definite -- that Iraqis resent Saddam more than the Japanese and Germans did their rulers, simplistic distinctions ibetween defeat and liberation ignore the fact that liberation does not just come from the fall of a hated dictatorship, but rather from its replacement with a functioning democracy. Like most Arabs today, the Japanese and (to a lesser extent) the Germans simply did not see democratization as a viable option. When the Americans imposed it on them, they realized that only then had they been truly liberated.

Another embarrassing aspect of the CFR report is the following passage:
It is possible that Saddam will be overthrown prior to the end of hostilities, with a new Iraqi strongman or a national salvation committee taking power in Baghdad. Assuming that such a government makes a clean break with Saddam's reign of terror and pursuit of WMD, the United States should be prepared to work with it and to help it establish the broadest, most favorable terms for post-conflict international involvement on disarmament and reconstruction.
Prepared to work with a "strongman"? Strongman? What could be more glaringly hypocritical than getting rid of one dictator but working with his successor? While it might be possible to persuade a strongman or "national salvation committee" to commit itself publically to democratization, experience shows that unelected governments tend to focus on preserving their own power while doing almost nothing to advance the democratization process. Besides, would there be any reason to believe than an unelected government would actually give up all of its weapons of mass destruction?

While I could go on for quite a while about the report, I'm going to end with one last criticism: the report's failure to mention even once that the most critical determinant of Iraq's future will be a personal commitment by the President to ensuring that Iraq becomes stable and democratic. Nowhere does the report suggest that the absence of presidential interest in Afghanistan has resulted in a return of warlordism and chaos. Instead, the report endorses Donald Rumsfeld's assertion that Iraq's future government "is not for the United States, indeed not even for the United Nations to prescribe. It will be something that's distinctively Iraqi". In other words, Rumsfeld will work with a dictatorship if he has to.

Perhaps the only thing worse than the CFR report was the NY Times article about it. The Times reports that
The study, sponsored by the Baker Institute and the Council on Foreign Relations, warned that "a heavy American hand" would only convince the Iraqis, as well as "the rest of the world, that the operation against Iraq was undertaken for imperialist, rather than disarmament, reasons."
Actually, the CFR report said that a "heavy American hand" specifically in the oil sector would validate speculations that this was another war for oil. To CFR's credit, the report does not say that a strong American presence in postwar Iraq would undermine the justification for war in the first place. It seems the NY Times paranoid fear of criticism from the left has been influencing its reporting. I'd call that liberal media bias if it weren't so touchingly naive.

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