OxBlog

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

# Posted 10:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NATION BUILDING AND ETHNIC VIOLENCE: Will postwar Iraq descend into a maelstrom of ethnic, communal religious violence? Looking for answers, I came across this article by Ted Gurr, a professor at the University of Maryland.

According to Gurr, ethnic warfare across the globe was a rising trend in the last decades of the Cold War. While the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia both saw multiple ethnic conflicts break out in the last years of their existence, even more ethnic conflicts emerged in southern hemisphere nations unaffected by the Eastern European revolution.

While these outbreaks of violence led numerous pundits to declare that ethnic warfare would be the dominant security issue in the post-Cold War era, the fact is that old conflicts are settling down while fewer new ones are emerging. One trend that bodes well for postwar Iraq is that "The new democracies of Europe, Asia, and Latin America were especially likely to protect and promote minority rights."

If you think about it, that conclusion seems almost self-evident. The ethnic conflicts in Kosovo, Sudan and East Timor were responses to the brutal repression ordered by authoritarian governments. The Chechen conflicts fits into this framework as well, since Russia's democratic facade did not influence its behavior toward the Caucasus.

Well, that's the good news for today. Don't expect much more.

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# Posted 8:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NATION BUILDING: In the next couple of weeks, OxDem will host a panel discussion about war and democracy in the Middle East. Although charmed by our professors' valiant efforts to cure insomnia, we decided this ought to be a panel made up entirely of students. As such, both Josh and myself will be participating.

In order to put our best foot forward, we thought it might be a good idea to do some research in advance. One of the questions I'm interested in whether or not the UN/NATO nation building efforts in Bosnia and Kosovo have been successful, as well as what lessons they might hold for the occupation of Iraq.

If you happen to know much about this topic, it would be great to hear your thoughts. If not, then keep reading and finding what my first forays into the literature have turned up:

Writing in Foreign Affairs, David Rohde, a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, observes that Kosovo
"remains widely corrupt, lawless, intolerant of both ethnic and political minorities, and a source of instability. The mission in Kosovo is proving even more daunting than the one in nearby Bosnia."
What Rohde recommends to fix the situation is
a firm [NATO/UN] commitment to a politically aggressive, properly funded, long-term mission that uses the rule of law and economic reform to affect the lives, livelihoods, safety, and, to the extent possible, views of average Albanians and Serbs. Changing the destructive aspects of ordinary people's attitudes is both the most pivotal and the most daunting task the NATO and U.N. missions face in Kosovo.
According to Rohde, one of the most dangerous legacies of Milosevic's wars is the memory of atrocities committed by rival ethnic groups. In light of the strong collectivist ethic that animates both the Albanian and Serb communities in Kosovo, both sides tend to believe that entire communities, rather than individuals, should be held responsible for atrocities.

Compared to casualty figures in Bosnia, however, the figures for Kosovo are relatively low. Estimates place the number of murdered Albanians at 7,000, with 1,000 Serbs killed as a result of revenge attacks during the NATO occuaption.

Alongside ethnic violence, crime threatens the nation building process as well. According to Rohde,
The desire for order among Albanians is growing. But donor nations have so far provided only half of a requested 4,700-member U.N. police force. And with a critical shortage of international prosecutors and judges, there is no effective court or prison system in Kosovo. According to frustrated NATO officials, suspects arrested for crimes, including the murder of Serbs, have been released after a night or less in jail. The cycle of impunity continues.
In the absence of sufficient funding, however, the prospect for improvement are not great. Thus, Rohde recommends
Last, and most important[ly], all NATO countries -- particularly in Europe -- must follow up their military effort with far larger economic commitments. As of mid-March, the U.N. mission had received only $190 million of the $415 million it requires. It has nearly run out of money twice.
So I guess the first lesson of Kosovo is obvious: Don't expect results if you don't commit resources.

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# Posted 8:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE VISSER VIEW ON 2004: Retired blogger Michiel Visser writes in to remind us that there is one Democratic contender with a credible record on national security: Bob Graham. You can read about that record here in the Miami Herald.

What makes Graham an especially interesting candidate is that he is not just from Florida, but that he has won five consecutive statewide races there (2 for governor, 3 for the Senate). As Michiel points out, had Gore taken Clinton's advice and chosen Graham instead of Lieberman, a Democrat would almost definitely be occupying the White House right now. Will Graham become the dark horse winner of the Democratic primaries? (Drum roll, please...) Maybe!
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# Posted 2:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DUMP MUSHARRAF: Following the OxBlog line, the WaPo says the US better tell Pakistani Pres. Pervez Musharraf that if he doesn't stop supporting Al Qaeda and undermining Afghan sovereignty, he will become an American target in the war on terror.
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# Posted 2:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANOTHER NERVOUS LIBERAL HAWK: Mike McFaul is one of the few scholars, liberal or otherwise, to have made a compelling case on both moral and pragmatic grounds for establishing democracy promotion as the foundation of US foreign policy.

Perhaps unsurprisinlgy, McFaul shares the concerns of so many liberal hawks that the Bush administration is not truly committed to promoting democracy either in the Middle East or elsewhere.

While the election day costs of backpeddaling on democracy promotion are probably not all that high, if the President is serious about presiding over the liberation of the Middle East he will need hawks -- both liberal and conservative -- to make his vision a reality.
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# Posted 2:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HUH? The WaPo reports that
Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group, has condemned both sides for their stance toward the shields. "If Iraq uses people as human shields, that is a war crime," said Kenneth Roth, the group's executive director. "But Secretary Rumsfeld only told half the story. . . . If the United States attacks targets that are shielded by civilians without demonstrating an overwhelming military necessity to do so, that would be a war crime too."
While, on ethical grounds, I believe that the US should not attack sites "protected" by human shields unless absolutely necessary, I don't understand how doing so could be a crime. If deploying human shields is a crime, then doesn't the government responsible for their deployment bear all legal (if not moral) responsibility for the shields' welfare? Perhaps some of you lawyers out there can help me out on this one.
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Monday, February 24, 2003

# Posted 8:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BETRAYAL OF THE LIBERAL HAWKS: Peter Beinart's editorial in the current edition of the The New Republic speaks for all of us who believe that the United States' moral integrity and moral authority in the years to come will rest not on whether the Security Council supports a US-led invasion of Iraq, but on whether the United States commits itself fully to the building of a democratic Iraq.

Even though a democratic Iraq is still nothing more than a vision at the moment, commentators across the center swath of the blogosphere have already begun to demostrate a serious concern for its welfare. On the center left, Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias have begun to ponder their separation from the main stream of anti-war sentiment.

While both Kevin and Matt have mixed feelings about their support for invading Iraq, both recognize that they are willing to stand out from the crowd because of the hope that overthrowing Saddam Hussein will mark the beginning of a march toward freedom in the Middle East. At the same, they have little hope that the Bush Administration will rise far enough above partisan politics to commit to lasting change in Iraq.

Without expressing the same reservations about hewing toward the center, Josh Marshall has begun to subtly suggest that the President's half-hearted commitment to Afghanistan is an indication of what is in store for postwar Iraq. Unsurprisingly, he is no more optimistic on this count than Beinart.

On the right of center, Andrew Sullivan has declared that
the administration needs to be put on notice by its supporters as well as its opponents. Many of us signed onto this war not merely to protect the West from terrorists with weapons of mass destruction, but as an attempt to grasp the nettle of Arab autocracy. If we make no effort to foster democratic institutions, the rule of law and representative government in Iraq, then we will lose the peace as surely as we will have won the Iraq war. And losing that peace means losing the wider war on terror as well.
Without presuming to speak for my eloquent colleague, I think that Josh shares Andrew's lack of confidence in the administration. In our recent column in the WSJ Opinion Journal, Josh and I wrote that
We are deeply troubled by last week's news that the Bush Administration failed to request any money for reconstruction in Afghanistan in the 2003 budget, and we applaud Congress for stepping in to add the funds. If the administration ever turns away from postwar Iraq in a similar manner, OxDem will be there to remind it that its job has only just begun. Until the people of Iraq share the freedom that Americans cannot live without, America's mission must go on.
As it turns out, the BBC report that provoked our concern about the non-funding of Aghanistan may not be correct. But what is more important perhaps is that Josh and I immediately seized on the BBC's account as a credible indication of the President's lack of commitment.

For months now, we have been waiting for the administration's firm but vague rhetoric to become the foundation for concrete indications that there is a commitment to democratic reform. Just yesterday, Paul Wolfowitz "vowed that the administration would never back a 'junior Saddam Hussein.'"

But how much influence does Paul Wolfowitz have? According to Beinart,
The unhappy truth is that, if the Bush administration wins the war but betrays the peace, the political consequences for the president will be small. Once the fighting is over, the American press will turn its attention elsewhere, just as it has in post-Taliban Afghanistan. But the consequences for hawkish liberalism will be great. Having been played for fools, most liberal hawks will retreat to a deep skepticism of American power...[but] Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney won't lose sleep if Chevron and Crown Prince Abdullah run things in post-Saddam Baghdad rather than Kanan Makiya. Paul Wolfowitz will either shut up or resign.
I think that Peter is right about the costs being relatively low provided that criticism of the administration comes only from the left.

As the downfall of Trent Lott demonstrated, the most effective criticism comes from within. Thus, the first indication of the political costs of abandoning Iraq will be whether the Weekly Standard and National Review are willing to put the administration on notice, as Andrew advises. On this count, there is some hope. Both publications, especially the Standard, have demonstrated that their commitment to conservative principles is greater than their concern with the public standing of Republican politicians.

While criticism from the right may count for the most, bipartisan support for such persepctives will matter as well. To that end, Josh and I have founded OxDem. After all, a commitment to rebuilding Iraq rests not on conservative principles, but American ones. If the American public can be roused enough to prioritize Iraq after the war, there is no question what sort of postwar Iraq they will demand.

While I cannot make a compelling case for why the administration should actively commit itself to reconstruction on the grounds of self-interest alone, I will say that the faith of my generation in American power as a the bearer of American ideals is something the President ought to consider. As Beinart observes,
The '90s created a historic opening in the liberal psyche. And the Bush administration has exploited it. Its suggestion that war might not only free the people of Iraq but also set off a democratic chain reaction throughout the Middle East is tailor-made to appeal to liberals newly hopeful about American power. The national security argument for this war may be based on pessimism about the inevitable spread of weapons of mass destruction, but the political argument is based on post-1989 optimism about America's ability to bring liberal government to every corner of the globe.
That opening can be undone if the war on terror does not bring a better life to the people of the Middle East.
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# Posted 7:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JACKSON DIEHL. As always, a must read.
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# Posted 7:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NAPOLEON COMPLEX: What makes Robert Kagan stand out from other commentators on the right is that he never lets trite jargon get in the way of serious political analysis.

Rather than ranting about the Axis of Weasels or 'cheese-eating surrender monkeys', Kagan's column on France in today's WaPo recognizes that clashing ideas and ideologies are what drive the current conflict between France and the United States.

According to Kagan,
"Americans make a serious mistake if they believe France is simply engaged in petty churlishness. Chirac and de Villepin believe they, and ultimately they alone, are defending the European vision of world order."
Thus, the challenge facing the United States is not shame France into compliance with its reasonable demands vis-a-vis Iraq, but to demonstrate that it has a more compelling vision of order and justice.
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Sunday, February 23, 2003

# Posted 3:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLOGCEST: While I'm not sure about the ethical implications of plugging Josh's work, I'm going to do it anyway. His column over at TechCentralStation is great, and you should read it if you haven't already.
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# Posted 3:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FUZZY MATH: The Cardinal Collective reports on the SF Chronicle's efforts to figure out just how many people marched in last weekend's protests.

With the help of aerial photos, the anti-war Chronicle has estimated that there were only 65,000 marchers, not 200,000 as both the police and the march's organizers claimed. Score one for impartial reporting!

PS On the politics and history of crowd-counting, see this article by Noam Scheiber.
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# Posted 2:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CLEAN AND GREEN: These days, it's hard for environmental and development issues to get much attention in the mainstream media. But our Oxford colleague Matt Prescott is running a blog that covers these issues in depth and with considerable sophistication.

A good post to start with is Matt's report on an informal meeting at the Oxford Union with Jim Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank. Keep up the good work, MP!
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# Posted 2:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"IF I WERE PRESIDENT..." is the title of a series of essays on foreign policy by the top four Democratic contenders for the 2004 nomination. (I am much obliged to Greg, of the very worthy Greg's Opinion, for bringing the essays to my attention.)

The most important thing to note is that only one of the four -- John Edwards -- spoke of promoting democracy in the Middle East as a critical objective in the war on terror. Good for him.

In general, the essays reflected that bland sort of campaign trail rhetoric that one might have expected. All of the four criticize the administration for its handling of North Korea and/or Homeland Security without giving any reason to think that they could've handled the issues better.

There was also a lot of vague talk about cooperating more with allies and avoiding international isolation. And, of course, no mentions of the 19 European nations who declared their support for America's firm stand against Iraq.

All in all, there isn't much reason to think the Dems will overcome their image as the weaker party when it comes to national security. I wish it weren't so. Only serious debate between two credible parties can ensure an optimal US foreign policy. Besides, credible Democratic contenders might hire a certain OxBlogger to be one of their campaign's foreign policy consultants...

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# Posted 1:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FITTING IN: It seems that one of our American predecessors at Oxford tried considerably harder to fit in (politically speaking), than Josh and myself. He now regrets trying.
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# Posted 12:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KAGAN VS. AYERS: In a post on Robert Kagan's recent interview with the NYT Magazine, I professed ignorance as to whether the NYTM always was so harsh on its subjects or just the conservatives.

Thanks to reader MG, you can now compare the Kagan interview with one of ex-Weatherman Bill Ayers. While the interview wasn't harsh, it wasn't soft either. More importantly, you don't need to ask tough questions to get Bill Ayers to say things that make Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan look like paragons of open-mindedness, moderation and logic.
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Saturday, February 22, 2003

# Posted 9:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LE MONDE C'EST BON! Matt Yglesias takes advantage of his Francophonics to discover some interesting details about Hans Blix's ultimatum to Saddam.

UPDATE/CORRECTION: Reader RF points out that Blix's published letter to the government of Iraq mandates the destruction of the missile production facilities what Matt is concerned about. Plus, Blix now seems to be demanding evidence to back up Iraq's claim that it has dismantled its WMD arsenal.
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# Posted 9:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOT JOSH CHAFETZ: Oxford student? Yale graduate? Former TNR staffer? It's Asher Price, of course. Check out his article on terrorist activity in the UK. Andrew Sullivan trashed it, but I think it's really good.
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# Posted 9:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RUFFINI GOES HOLLYWOOD: What if a Republican became the star of the West Wing? This post is pure genius.

Also, check out Patrick's challenge to prevailing definitions of peace.
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# Posted 9:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE ANTI-SEMITISM: It's not every day that a three-thousand year-old phenomenon gets referred to as "news". But news it is when the prominent Americans of both right and left have begun to make anti-Semitism acceptable once again.

But this is America. We are going to fight prejudice and we are going to win. Let the anti-Semites be warned.

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# Posted 8:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEMS' AUTOPSY RESULTS: Noam Scheiber on how pollsters hijacked the 2002 campaign.

Plus, how Wes Clark is undermining his own reputation as the last Democratic hopeful with serious credibility on national security issues.
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# Posted 8:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

US INVADES THE PHILIPPINES: The WaPo takes the administration to task for dispatching US forces to fight Muslim guerrillas without providing any public justification for it -- a surprising choice considering that this is only the third time US ground forces have been ordered into combat since the Gulf War.

What really gets me about this decision is the fact that Republicans spent so much time complaining about how the Clinton administration stretched US forces too thin by deploying them to protect interests that were far from vital. Or as Condi put it, it isn't the job of the 82nd Airborne to walk kids to school.

Now while there may be good reasons to fight in the Philippines, it's hard to imagine that our objectives there as important as they are in Iraq, Afghanistan or a half dozen other Middle Eastern/Central Asian locales. Focus, people.
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# Posted 8:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DICTATORS FOR PEACE: Having offended the 19 member states of New Europe, Jacques Chirac is now looking for other allies in his struggle to prevent a US invasion of Iraq.

Chirac's new friends consist of dozens of African heads of state, who have issued a joint statement declaring that "There is an alternative to war." While I am no expert on African politics, I have to imagine that the democratic credentials of Africa's heads of state don't exactly match those of New Europe.

And I'd also have to imagine that while there are alternatives to war, quite a few of Africa's heads of state chose war first when it came to solving their own problems. It looks like the only one who can save Chirac now is Hans Blix.

UPDATE: Instapundit links to Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe's praise of Chirac.
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# Posted 7:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLIX'S MOTIVES: A week ago, Blix was saying that the level of Saddam's cooperation with the inspectors was acceptable. Now he has told Iraq that it has to dismantle its outlawed missiles by March 1 or else.

What accounts for the change of heart? I think Blix has had just about enough of being attacked from all sides. He wants either to be left alone to finish the inspections the way he wants them done or to wash his hands of the whole matter and let the US armed forces take over.

There is, of course, the chance that either the Americans or the French have been tacitly supporting what seems like Blix's independent initiative. If the US knows that Saddam will refuse Blix's demands, then the deadline will end the diplomatic struggle at the UN. If the French know that Saddam will accept Blix's demands, then Blix's new credibility will force the US to accept an indefinite extension of the inspections.

Hold on to your seats...
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# Posted 3:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE ENGAGEMENT: In an NYT op-ed, the Clinton administration's US Trade Rep argues that freeing Middle Eastern markets from crippling state restricitons will promote trade and, by extension peace.

While I am all for freer markets and more trade, no one should have any illusions about their bringing peace. Remember what trade theorists said in Europe before WWI? That's right: that the nations of Europe would never fight because it would disrupt trade. While one example does not an argument make, the fact is that trade has no record of preventing wars.

Clinton's Trade Rep also says that trade will promote growth, thus reducing poverty and, by extension, terrorism. How many times do we have to go over this? The "root causes" of terrorism are not poverty and deprivation. Bolivians haven't shown much of an interest in bombing the Pentagon, have they?
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# Posted 2:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GRATUITIOUS SYMBOLISM: Must every NYT/WaPo article about foreign nations' attitudes towards the United States include references to the local McDonalds?

In today's profile of Polish attitudes toward the US, a Polish economist jokes that he is buying a McKielbasa (yes, there really is such a thing) because it symbolizes Polish-American cooperation.

Amusing enough. But the problem is that journalists have begun to treat local attitudes toward McDonalds as a proxy for local attitudes toward the US. Whenever rioters trash a McDonalds it is seen as a sign of anti-Americanism. But these rioters are the same people who patronized McDonalds before they trashed and the same people who will go back again once the franchise is rebuilt.

(You might be thinking, "Really? Isn't trashing one of your usual hangouts a little hypocritical?" Yes, it is. But I can personally verify that in Argentina, McDonalds was still extremely popular despite being victimized in riots the year before. In contrast, local banks still hadn't taken the armor plating off of their branch windows.)

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that focusing on McDonalds can be quite misleading. Take the Poland profile for example. People there seem to like McDonalds. But polls show that more than half are against a war with Iraq. Guess which fact gets more attention? In fact, there wasn't a single quote from an anti-war Pole.

(Yes, I am capable of complaining about media bias that favors the right. Though is suspect this was just incompetent reporting.)

Interestingly only 2000 protesters marched against the war in Warsaw, despite majority opposition. Now there's an interesting phenomenon. Maybe the NYT correspondent should explain that.

Btw, the NYT profile of East German attitudes toward the US is also a striking example of unbalanced journalism, this time in the usual leftward direction. It seems East Germans hold the US responsible for their impoverishment (relative to West Germans, not Eastern Europeans) but give the US no credit for holding off the Soviet threat or supporting reunification.

A more perceptive reporter might've wondered whether it is in East Germans' self-interest to oppose the war. Unlike the EU applicants to their east, the East Germans already enjoy the benefits of memberships, in addition to the massive subsidies the West Germans have poured in since reunification. If Germany and France can prevent the US from invading Iraq, thus reinforcing their dominance within the EU, that will directly benefit the East Germans.

Looking at domestic politics, the East Germans also have a strong interest in pulling Germany to the left, since so many of them support the Party of Democratic Socialism, or PDS, the successor to the East German Communist Party. A successful invasion might pull German politics to the right, making it harder for the PDS to form coalition governments at the state level, let alone the national one.

And here's one more reason to think that East German attitudes on the war reflect less than high-minded pacifism. Surprisingly enough, it's a reason I pulled from today's NYT, so some editor should have noticed what was going on. Anyway, it seems that Germany's high-cost/high-regulation markets are of much less interest to foreign investors than low-cost/low-regulation Eastern European markets. Stronger Franco-German control of the EU means less of a threat from freer markets in Eastern Europe.

(Conversely, Poles' lack of interest in marching despite their anti-war prefences may reflect an interesting in keeping foreign investment flowing.)

Finally, I can testify from personal experience that McDonalds is quite popular in East Germany. Thus the NYT would be wise to remember that there always those willing to bite the hand that feeds them.
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Thursday, February 20, 2003

# Posted 3:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DUKAKIS IN A TANK: Josh Marshall comments on the lack of any Democratic politicians with credibility on national security issues.
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# Posted 3:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RELUCTANT HAWK: Kevin Drum compiles a long list of administration missteps in preparing for war.

If you click on Kevin's links, though, you'll see that what he's worrying about is mostly a set of bad ideas that are floating around Washington but don't seem to have all that much of a chance of becoming official policy. Still, it's worth reading about all these bad ideas, because:

a) some of them will make it further up the policy ladder and have to be shot down.

b) anti-war activists will use them as evidence that the US has bad intentions for postwar Iraq.

Remember, knowing is half the battle!
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# Posted 2:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOMELAND INSECURITY: A pair of former NSC officials explain how Al Qaeda might launch its next attack -- and what we can do about it.
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# Posted 2:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FLORIDA PALESTINIANS arrested for supporting terror attacks in Israel.

Take a look at the brief bios of the men arrested. Educated men. University lecturers. Poverty is not the problem. The problem is hate.
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# Posted 2:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

INSTAPUNDIT EXPLAINS BLOGGING to the British media.
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# Posted 2:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CHIRAC AND A HARD PLACE: New Europe responds to French EUnilateralism.

(And the German opposition weighs in as well.)
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# Posted 7:51 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LAUGH 'TIL YOU CRY: Video from last Saturday's protest in New York. Josh actually posted this link a couple days ago, but I didn't click on it because I had no idea how outrageous it was. Now I know.

PS Quick Time and broadband required.
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Wednesday, February 19, 2003

# Posted 10:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: Compare the following opinion columns by Iraqi National Congress leaders Ahmad Chalabi and Kanan Makiya. Chalabi's is from the WSJ, Makiya's from the Guardian. (Also note the Guardian's fawning interview with Makiya).

The first thing you will notice about the two columns -- both critical of the US plan for a military government in postwar Iraq -- is how much softer Chalabi's tone is. Sensibly, Chalabi observes that
For Iraq to rejoin the international community under a democratic system, it is essential to end the Baathist control over all aspects of politics and civil society. Iraq needs a comprehensive program of de-Baathification even more extensive than the de-Nazification effort in Germany after World War II. You cannot cut off the viper's head and leave the body festering. Unfortunately, the proposed US plan will do just that if it does not dismantle the Baathist structures.
Chalabi's harshest criticism of the US plan is that it would "ultimately leave important decisions about the future of Iraq in the hands of either foreign occupiers or Saddam's officials."

In contrast, Makiya writes that the American plan's
driving force is appeasement of the existing bankrupt Arab order, and ultimately the retention under a different guise of the repressive institutions of the Baath and the army.
This difference in tone reflects the fact that: a) Makiya has no official position in the INC and can thus say things that Chalabi can't; and b) Chalabi dares not antagonize the Wall Street Journal and its readers with anti-American tirades like Makiya's, since it is the only leading American newspaper whose editors openly support the INC.

But the real question here is why the journalistic standard bearers of the British left and American right have adopted identical positions on how to run postwar Iraq. The answer to this riddle can be found in the following quote from Makiya's column:
The plan is the brainchild of the would-be coup-makers of the CIA and their allies in the Department of State, who now wish to achieve through direct American control over the people of Iraq what they so dismally failed to achieve on the ground since 1991.
Now, as any good conspiracy theorist knows, the CIA stopped directing coups in the 1970s. With Langley out of action, its responsibilities fell not to the State Department, but rather to the Pentagon.

Surely, you ask, a professor of Middle Eastern studies such as Makiya must know this? Of course he does. But Makiya and Chalabi also know that it is the Pentagon which has waged bureaucratic war against the State Deparment on the INC's behalf.

In a classic irony of the post-Vietnam era, America's generals want to hand over responsibility for their mission to Iraqi civilians while the State Department insists that the US armed forces govern Iraq in the aftermath of an invasion.

Unsurprisingly, the Wall Street Journal has taken the side of the Pentagon and decided to support the INC. The Guardian, on the other hand, has gleefully taken advantage of the opportunity to publish anti-American invective from a nominal American ally such as Makiya. Presumably, the Guardian's editors have no idea that they have become the unwitting implements of a Pentagon conspiracy.

Having cut through the strange politics of the INC's coverage, we come to the more practical question of whether the United States should support the INC. The answer is no.
The State Department recognizes -- correctly -- that the INC has failed to demonstrate that it can function as a unified whole, rather than as a collection of egos and factions. Nor has the INC shown that it has a realistic sense of how to construct a democratic state.

In addition, State recognizes that the INC has only limited support in Iraq itself, as a result of its long-term exiles tenuous connections to the current population. Moreover, neither the INC nor the other exile organizations effectively represent either the Kurds of northern Iraq or the Shi'ites of the south. As such, the INC's constant insistence that it should head a transitional postwar government would be a much greater affromt to the ideal of democracy than would a US military occupation.

With the US military in charge, Iraqis of all ethnic, religious and political backgrounds can be sure that those with the final word in Baghdad will play by the rules and not favor any particular faction. Only in such an environment can democracy flourish.

Update: Read Overspill's insightful comments on Chalabi's column.
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# Posted 9:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

COVERT REACTION: Is the administration getting ready to double cross the Kurds?
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# Posted 9:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

2+2=5? Is there such a thing as a NYT math correspondent? If so, the foreign affairs desk needs some tutoring. In an article on anti-Americanism, Jane Perlez reports that
As the possibility of war against Iraq rises, especially a war that the United States may fight virtually alone, so does anti-Americanism in the streets, newspapers and cafes of foreign cities.
Now as far as I can tell, there is a significant difference between fighting alone and fighting with 19 European allies.

But then again, perhaps I just don't understand the new math, which goes something like this: Give that France = 8 allies, Germany = 8 allies, and Belgium = 3 allies, the total number of US allies equals 19-8-8-3 = 0. Amazing. It's the first mathematical proof of unilateralism!

Also worth noting is the same article's absurd report on anti-Americanism in Pakistan, which it attributes to our opposition to Saddam, support of Israel, and victory over the Taliban. Not once does the article suggest that the real cause of Pakistanit resentment is American support for dicator Pervez Musharraf. But it seems that if the Times can figure out how to hold either American or Israeli militarism responsible for something, all other causes are demoted to being footnotes.
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# Posted 9:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NYT RETRACTS HEADLINE: Yesterday I pointed out the absurdity of the NYT headline: "Israelis Arrest 3 Women in a Joke Gone Wrong."

If you follow the link today, you get to the same story, except for the headline, which now reads: "Woman Offers Details of Israeli Detention Methods". Oh and the number of unnamed dead Palestinians in the add-on below is up to eleven. Glad to see the Times still has its priorities straight.
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Tuesday, February 18, 2003

# Posted 10:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KRUGMAN. If I hadn't spent two minutes reading his column, I could've re-brushed my teeth instead.
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# Posted 10:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEAD HORSE BEATEN: The NYT headline reads: "Israelis Arrest 3 Women in a Joke Gone Wrong."

Unsurprisingly, one of the arrested women claimed that the arrest was "a painful joke" while the Israeli army commented that intelligence reports had indicates the women might be potential suicide bombers. Typical.

But the Times doesn't even explain who supposedly played a joke on whom. Do Israelis soldiers arrest people for fun? Did one of the soldiers know the women being arrested? This coverage is closer to being surreal than it is to being prejudiced.

And to cap it all off, a Reuters dispatch added on at the end of the story informs us: "2 Killed in Gaza Clashes". So, even though two human beings actually lost their lives, the big story of the day was that the Israelis arrested someone by accident for unknown reasons?

Ah, humanity.
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# Posted 10:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BEHOLD THE QUAGMIRE: As is customary before each American military engagement, the NYT has begun to speculate whether it will become another Vietnam. As one scholar has observed, this is how the NYT and other media outlets imply criticism of administration policy when they are concerned about criticizing it directly, usually because it is so popular.

To give you some sense of how far the media will go in its search for quagmires, here are a couple quotes from 1989:
Panama “might end up looking far more like Vietnam than like Grenada." -- NYT

There is “the possibility of a long and decidedly unheroic slog through the jungles and mountains of the isthumus in search of Noriega” -- Dan Rather
[Cited by Jonathan Mermin, Political Communication, Vol. 13 No. 2, 1996, p.185]

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# Posted 8:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BRITAIN'S ANSWER TO A.N.S.W.E.R., PART II: After my initial, disappointig foray into the rumored conspiracy at the heart of the British anti-war movement, I decided that I ought to look for information about the Stop The War Coalition (SWC) and Socialist Workers' Party (SWP) in the most obvious place of all: their websites.

What I found there (or rather what I didn't find) seems to suggest that both organizations have something to hide. While the SWC website provides contact information for the hundreds of organizations that have affiliated with it, it provides virtually no information about SWC itself or how it is run.

Try as I might, I could not find a full list of the SWC's officers. It does have a steering committee of 30-plus individuals, but gives no indications of what this committee does, when it meets or how it was "elected". (And to get to the steering committee page you have to notice a small box to the left of SWC's statement of objectives on the site's index page).

If you follow the link called "press" on the SWC index page, you come to a list of press releases followed by dozens and dozens of photographs of past marches, which take quite some time to load. If you wait for them to finish and scroll all the way down to the end of the page, you finally come to a list of officers responsible for press relations. Their names are Andrew Burgin, Alistair Alexander, John Rees and Lindsey German.

If you then go back to the steering committee page, you can find out a little more about these four. Andrew Burgin works at a socialist bookshop in London. A Google search turned up this op-ed he wrote for the Guardian.

There is no information there, however, about Alistair Alexander. If you head over to Google, you find out that the Guardian has a technology correspondent by the name of Alistair Alexander and that a private individual by the same name has decided to post pictures of his piercings on the web, including his Prince Albert.

As far as I can tell, there is no reason that all three Alistair Alexanders aren't the same person. But who knows?

Finally, we come to Lindsey German and John Rees. Who do they represent? You guessed it: the Socialist Wokers Party. German, according to the press site, is also the "convenor" of SWC, a position entailing some degree of authority that the SWC website doesn't see fit to mention. If you look at the pressclips at the bottom of yesterday's post, however, you will notice that German seems to be the SWC spokesmen quoted most often by the British papers (and never identified as an SWP figure). The other leading spokesman is Andrew Murray of the railway union ASLEF.

The other officer mentioned on the SWC homepage is Jane Shallice, the treasurer. When I ran her name through Google I ran across an SWC press release on a small anti-sanctions site that actually listed German, Murray and Shallice, along with a few others, as officers of SWC. Interestingly, the site also contains a long rant about the authoritarian methods that the Socialist Workers' Party exploits in order to crush resistance to its leadership of the British socialist movement.

According to Google, Jane Shallice is also a regular contributor to the Socialist Review, the monthly magazine of -- you guessed it -- the SWP, which is edited by -- you guessed it again -- Lindsay German.

The last thing about the SWC webpage worth mentinoning is its statement of principles. According to the site, "The resolution below, setting out the Coalition's platform, was ratified at public meetings held in October 2001 in London." In addition, thes statement notes that "The Stop the War Coalition was formed on September 21st, 2001 at a public meeting of over 2,000 people in London."

Who was invited to these meetings? Who ran them? What was said? Where exactly were they held? What does ratification entail? What else did these meetings ratify? Who knows. The SWC certainly doesn't seem interested in sharing the answers to these moderately important questions.

(By way of contrast, the Socialist Alliance, another leftist organization whose website I ran across while surfing, published minutes of its executive committee meetings, has a copy of its constitution online and provides all sorts of other relevant information about its inner workngs.)

So there you have it. Somehow, I expect there will be more to come.













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# Posted 3:34 PM by Daniel  

GARY HART has received quite a bit of heat for his comments in two speeches in the San Francisco area last week, which some in the punditocracy said might be criticism of Jews and immigrants.

He gave another speech at Oxford yesterday on "National Security in the 21st Century" which was very similar to the one he delivered here a few weeks ago. I had the opportunity to speak with him yesterday for a few moments before the speech about his comments, and he provided this answer:

"I didn’t have anybody in mind. My response was, I thought I would hear something from the Cubans. What is my argument in reverse? I did some interviews with the Jewish press, and I said I would find this very hard to argue the negative, that there are occasions where Americans should put their country of origin ahead of America? Absurd."

Tucker Carlson, who said: "He was talking about Jewish Americans" is, in my opinion, is wrong. How many Jews are originally from Israel? Sure, those of us from a certain wandering tribe are all "from" Israel at some point, but I would describe my original homelands as somewhere in Eastern Europe. I don't think Hart will win, but he certainly has a better chance than Al Sharpton, regardless of what NRO says.
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# Posted 11:08 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HATCHET JOB: This past Sunday, the New York Times' Magazine featured Robert Kagan -- FYI the conservative foreign affairs expert -- in its "Questions For... " column.

While the accompanying photo was quite flattering, the interview itself crossed the line from being tough to being a hatchet job. Instead of asking serious questions to a serious thinker, the Times' correspondent resorted to ad hominem attacks.

In four consecutive questions, the Times tried to get Kagan to admit that he was a chicken-hawk. In responding to this discredited charge, Kagan was polite enough not to ridicule his interviewer. But that's Bob for you. He's just a nice guy.

The Times' other line of attack consisted of a less than surprising but more than pathetic effort to tar Kagan as chauvinist, in both the sexist and nationalist senses of the word. The title of the interview, "Europeans are Sissies", says it all.

Kagan, of course, never used the words. He is far too sophisticated to resort to name-calling. And the Times should have known that, because the occasion for the interview was the publication of Kagan's new book, Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order.

I'll end this post with a caveat: Perhaps the "Questions For..." column is consistently tough on all its subject, not just conservatives. But there is no question that the Times has a bad habit of publishing soft bios of hardcore leftists such as Leslie Cagan and Bill Ayers. (Note the publication date on the Ayers piece.)

If the Times wants to protects its reputation as the paper of record rather than the paper of the left, it better clean up its act.
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Monday, February 17, 2003

# Posted 9:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BRITAIN'S ANSWER TO A.N.S.W.E.R.: For a million protesters turn out, someone has to do a lot of setting up in advance. As Americans discovered in the aftermath of the DC anti-war protests last month, those someones sometimes turn out to be Stalinists, organized under the umbrella of a front-organization knowns as ANSWER (an acronym for "Act Now to Stop War and End Racism") .

Unsurprisingly, the NY Times, Washington Post and other mainstream media outlets provided misleading and superficial coverage of ANSWER's role in the protests. Again unsurprisingly, the blogosphere was one step ahead of its professional cousins, thanks in large part to Instapundit.

In the aftermath of Saturday's protests in Europe, however, neither the mainstream media nor the blogosphere has shown much interest in who was responsible for getting people out on the streets. I didn't think about myself much until I sat down for a drink with an anarchist friend of mine who had led the Oxford contingent down to London for the anti-war march.

In to response to a few basic questions about his organizing efforts, my friend launched into a tirade against the Stop the War Coalition and its controlling member, the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP). According to my friend, the SWP has a long-running habit of setting up front organizations to control Britain's social movement du jour. Before 9/11, they used the front known as Globalise Resistance to control the anti-IMF/World Bank movement.

What makes the SWP truly objectionable, however, is not that it is opportunistic, but rather that it is authoritarian and manipulative (or as my friend put it, 'Bolshevist'). Even though its pretends to organize broad coalitions, SWP does its best to exclude all others from the planning process. Meeting times are never announced so that outsiders never have the chance to interfere with SWP proposals, which reflect the input of the same unelected executive committee that dominates all SWP activities.

SWP has also refined the art of co-opting other participants in its pet movements. Typically, it tries to flood participating organizations with its own publicity material, espousing idiosyncratic SWP views on all sorts of matters. This material includes items such as protest placards that amateur protesters would have to invest a considerable amount of their own time in making if they weren't given them by others. Thus, to the casual observer, it might seem that these protests are full of SWP backers.

A final practice that particularly irritates my friend is SWP's efforts to spell out which slogans will be chanted at every march. Thus, in London this past Saturday, my friend direct the Oxford anti-war marching band to drown out an SWP speaker who was trying to get the crowd to chant his slogans. Ahh, the beauty of the united Left.

Now, presumably, my friend's comments on SWP and its tactics aren't the final word on the matter. After all, he has a very personal interest in ensuring that others see SWP for what it (allegedly) really is.

So what does the British press say? The Guardian, it seems, isn't saying much at all. Even in its Special Report: The Anti-War Movement, information on the Stop the War Coalition and the SWP is hard to find.

One correspondent reported that "British marchers have spurned isolation for solidarity, and fear for fury. Their momentum came almost from nowhere...they bore no social or political barcode." Hmmm...

Another commented that "There were, of course, the usual suspects - CND, Socialist Workers' Party, the anarchists. But even they looked shocked at the number of their fellow marchers: it is safe to say they had never experienced such a mass of humanity."

The Guardian's editorial page asserted that "This weekend's march in London was both pluralistic and altruistic. Those opposing a war included not only lifelong dissenters and those who view American foreign policy as the root of all terrorism but also deeply unradical adults and children of all colours, faiths and ages. It was, in the words of one television reporter, the "mother of all focus groups".

Finally, in its round-up of web-reporting on the anti-war protests, the Guardian does link to this informative piece about the far left's dominant role of American protests. But when it comes to SWP, I'm still looking...

Now, surely if the Guardian has something to hide the Telegraph will expose it. But the Telegraph seems to agree that
The centre of the capital was paralysed by noisy but peaceful people from many political backgrounds. Former members of the Armed Forces, clergymen and young children all joined the march to Hyde Park.
While it takes a few cheapshots at the unreconstructed Communists in the crowd, it also quotes Stop the War Coalition spokesmen at length.

Well, it getting late and I'm getting discouraged. But I will be back on the story tomorrow.





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# Posted 8:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ISLAM AND DEMOCRACY: PAKISTAN. Welcome to the latest installment of OxBlog's series on democratic reform in the Islamic world. Earlier posts have covered democratic reform (or the lack thereof) in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Algeria. And so on to Pakistan:

This morning, the Washington Post reported that "Despite Pakistan's reputation as a hotbed of Islamic radicalism, its economy is projected to grow this year at a respectable rate of 4.5 percent."

The second half of this sentence is, of course, a total non sequitur. While Islamic fundamentalism is hardly a source of economic growth, a 4.5% increase in GDP is not all that remarkable for any given country unless such growth persists over the long-term. Even basket case economies have good years.

What this strange sentence from the WaPo actually demonstrates is the sort of prejudices that tend to inform coverage of Islamic politics. Correspondents assume that poverty is the cause of Islamic fundamentalism while economic growth is a precursor of democracy. From an empirical perspective both of these statements are highly problematic. Moreover, their application to the situation in Pakistan demonstrates a fundamental ignorance of that country's domestic order.

The Post's first premise is a reference to the ever-popular and still discredited theory that the best way to fight terrrorism is to address its so-called "root causes": poverty, low education and lack of economic opportunity. One clear illustration of how tenuous the link between poverty and terrorism is one UN relief worker's observation about the Palestinian suicide bombers she studied:
"None of them were uneducated, desperately poor, simple-minded, or depressed. Many were middle class and, unless they were fugitives, held paying jobs. More than half of them were refugees from what is now Israel. Two were the sons of millionaires."
So what of Pakistan? The Post is right that it has a reputation as a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism, albeit as a result of bad reporting like that of the Post.

Regardless, the fact is that Islamic parties won an unprecedented share of the vote in the 2002 parliamentary elections in Pakistan. While their 15% share is not all that impressive, if their support continues to grow, they could become a significant political force.

The prospect of an Islamic victory at the polls suggests, of course, that democracy in Pakistan will have the same impact that it did during its initial trial run in Algeria: it will provoke a vicious civil war, but this time the winner will have access to a nuclear arsenal.

The problem with the Pakistan-Algeria analogy is that Islamist victories in Pakistan were the direct result of Pres. Musharraf's efforts to destroy mainstream democratic parties that might challenge his rule. Incompetent and corrupt as Pakistan's democratic governments were in the 1990s, their failures never led to rise in Islamist sentiment. Only Musharraf has done that, thus following the precedent set by Pakistan's Reagan-era dictator, General M. Zia.

Unsurprisingly, the WaPo reported that Islamist election victories reflected a reaction to the US invasion of Afghanistan.

Anyway, in addition to stoking the embers of Islamic fundamentalism, Musharraf has also been providing Kim Jong Ill with considerable support in his quest for nuclear weapons. With friends like this who needs enemies?

Speaking seriously, Musharraf's behavior forces us to revise the Cold War era conventional wisdom that the United States must sometimes support right-wing dictators in order to hold off the great evil of Communism. As Lawrence Kaplan has argued, the US will have to support not a few unpleasant regimes in order to win the war on terror.

But as Musharraf's behavior shows, Islamic dictatorships may be greater threats to American security than Islamic democracies even in the short-term. Unfortunately, the Bush administration seems to be completely oblivious to this fact, especially as far as Pakistan is concerned.

So then, is there any hope for getting rid of Musharraf? When Musharraf overthrew Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999, the people of Pakistan filled the streets cheering for their new president. Numerous Pakistanis truly believed that Musharraf would give Pakistan its first honest, efficient government. Working in Washington DC at the time, I met one World Bank official who decided to give up his job and take a 90% pay cut in order to move back to Pakistan and works for the government. I was impressed.

Such delusions did not last long, however. The depth of anti-Musharraf sentiment became extremely apparent to me at a recent lecture hosted by Oxford's Pakistan Discussion Forum. The speaker was opposition MP Sherry Rahman.

Ms. Rahman went on at length about the corruption and decadence of Pakistan's military elite, with the audience -- consisting mainly of Pakistani students at Oxford -- nodding assent. Thus, I was surprised at the hostility that the audience demonstrated once the post-lecture Q&A began. As I suspected and later confirmed, these students were respectfully attacking Rahman for her abject failure to admit that Pakistan's secular parties demonstrated throughout the 1990s that they are no less corrupt and decadent than the military is now.

Rahman's lack of political self-awareness, whether calculated or sincere, seems to be somewhat pervasive in Pakistan, at least according to friends' accounts. I myself heard former PM Benazir Bhutto speak last summer, only to be disappointed with her obsessive self-glorification and total unwillingness to address any criticism of her record.

Thus what prevails now in Pakistan even among the educated is a sense of hopelessness about politics. There simply are no legitimate options. There are only dictators, thieves and fundamentalists. The sole consolation for Western advocates of democracy promotion is that the people of Pakistan want better.

Should an honest and committed leader emerge, the people will follow him in building democracy.
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# Posted 1:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YOU WIN SOME, YOU LOSE SOME (PART II): Turns out that while I was fighting for a lost cause at the Reading tournament this past weekend, the rest of the Oxford team was having a field day at the BUSA (think British NCAA) championships.

While official results aren't up on the web yet, my teammate Vincent took home gold medals in both kata and kumite, while the men's team won a bronze medal in the team kumite competition.

Go Oxford!
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# Posted 9:03 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GARRY KASPAROV weighs in on Deep Blue and the purpose of computer chess.
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# Posted 8:52 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG CAUGHT LYING: In a recent conversation with an eminent scholar, I was asked how it is that the Washington Times can claim that all of the OxBloggers are in their early 20s.

In order to protect the privacy of this eminent scholar she will be referred to, from this point on, only by her initials, MOM. As MOM pointed out, there is at least one OxBlogger who is already 25 years old. I responded that 25 still counts as early 20s and that until I turn 26 in May, the Times quote will remain as is.

Moreover, if the pot may be so bold as to call the kettle black, it may be observed that MOM herself is about to reach an important birthday, one that may or may not rhyme with the word "shifty". Congratulations!
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Sunday, February 16, 2003

# Posted 10:43 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YOU WIN SOME, YOU LOSE SOME. That's a pretty good description of my time at yesterday's shotokan tournament. Except, of course, for the part about winning some.

One of the rough things about these tournaments is that both the kata and kumite sections are done elimination style, so you are out after one minute if you don't win. Not that I object to this method. With hundreds of competitors, there isn't any other efficient way to do it. But it is pretty damn frustrating for the 50%+ of participants who show up and then go home after getting three minutes of fight time.

As one of those frustrated 50%+, I'm now going to take advantage of this forum to rant. Here goes: I am sick of excuses. Last week, "the soft bigotry of low expectations" provided me with a considerable degree of comfort after my mediocre performance against Cambridge. But not this time. This time, getting knocked out of the tournament just makes me want to go back and win. Bad.

The men's kata event was the first of the day. I knew my chances weren't good, because as a brown belt, I was know thrown into the same bracket as all of the black belts. In the first match in my bracket, a brown went up against a black with the expected result. The good thing about it was that I could see that this guy (the brown) was at least as bad as I was. So the embarassment of losing would be mitigated. But a few matches later, a brown belt took down a black. Then came my match. It wasn't even close.

There are three judges in elimination round kata matches, each voting for you, your opponent, or a tie. I don't even know what the vote in my case was. I didn't look and I didn't ask. I was bad, even by my own standards. On the next to last turn before the end of the kata, I lost my balance and had to interrupt my rhythm to stabilize myself. Not that I really have any rhythm in the first place.

At the end, the head judge raised his white flag, indicating that my opponent had won. (I was the "red" team, for scoring purposes.) And that was that.

I now had a couple of hours before my kumite match, so I had a chance to watch everyone else. The first thing I saw was the kata competition for adults of kyu (rank) 4 thru 6. I am third kyu, which is one higher than fourth since the progression runs backwards. In other words, I was watching those who had anywhere from three to nine months less experience than myself, who's been doing karate for two and a half years.

If there was one word that summed up what I saw, it was schadenfreude. Of the 20 or so people in the 4-6 bracket, I easily could've beaten 15 of them. Not that this was saying much. You often hear that promotions are given out too easily at karate clubs, and while I have no doubt benefited from this fact, it's impact on the 4-6 bracket was self-evident.

At the same time as the 4-6 kata matches, there was a brown/black kata competition for children going on in the next ring over. These kids were fantastic. And when I say kids, I mean really little kids, 6-8 years old. Maybe they weren't as good as adult black belts, but they were a helluva lot better than me. I have the utmost respect for their teachers.

From my own time as a classroom volunteer, I know that getting kids to sit down, shut up, and pay attention to anything (except Pokemon) is all but impossible. As I learned last Friday night, when I taught my first karate class (another total accident resulting from the fact that a half dozen novices didn't know that our club's training session had been cancelled), even teaching adults karate is very hard. They pay attention, but it just isn't an easy subject.

A little later on I got to watch the team kumite competitions. Basically, this was a chance to size up my competition before the individual kumite matches. A few things seemed pretty clear. First, the brown belts were totally dominated by the black belts. But even the black belts had technical flaws so glaring that they were evident to someone with as little experience as myself.

Seeing this basically confirmed what Rob Redmond says, which is that Shotokan's unflagging emphasis on karate form entails a total neglect of karate applications. The most significant flaws I saw were a failure to keep one's guard up and a reckless willingness to use kicking techniques even when competitors clearly lacked the speed or proficiecy to use them effectively.

These were the weakness I hoped to exploit in my own matches. If you kick before you're good enough to do it, you basically turn yourself into a slow-moving, off-balance target that is about as hard to hit as the side of a barn. Thus, my strategy was to wait for my opponent to do something stupid so I could take advantage of it. Call it Bill Buckner thinking.

(On a side note, addressed mainly to those of you who practice dynamic martial arts with an emphasis on application, I'd like to point out that form is the theoretical foundation on which all application is based. At the expense of the short-term development of fighting ability, shotokan prepares its students to function at a much higher level later on.)

It turned out that my strategizing didn't matter all that much. My opponent in the kumite was a 2nd-degree black belt who was smart enough not to try anything stupid. On the other hand, he lacked both the natural talent and training to dominate me despite having a half-dozen years more experience. In this sense I was lucky, since some of the other brown belts in my bracket were beaten in under 15 seconds, literally.

I felt especially bad for one of them. He was a skinny guy, around 30, with bad teeth and a harmless look on his face. The ref said go. His opponent lowered himself into fighting stance, then suddenly launched his leg into a crescent sweep, surprising Mr. Brown Belt and throwing him off balance. Before he could recover, or even look up, he had been punched three times and the match was over.

My match began slowly. Since one solid point (or two half-points) wins, everyone was playing conservatively. We moved back and forth, feeling each other out. After a minute or so we began to get more aggressive. Then he scored a half-point, but I had time to make up.

I remember vividly one point in the middle of the match where I was throwing punch after punch, with my opponent blocking but unable to counter. I could feel that I had him. It was my time. If my punches were just that much faster, that much better timed, that much closer to the target, I could've dominated him. It was that feeling of being so close but so far that is now driving me, making me want to win more badly than ever.

The thirty-second bell rang. I was still down one-half point to none. I had to attack or give up any hope of winning. But I haven't trained enough to mount a forward offense, which is much harder than defending and taking advantage of your oppoents mistakes.

Like an NFL team ahead by 10 with a minute to go in the fourth, my opponent gave up ground rather than staying close and risking a big play. I went after him, had him in the corner, but got wild with my attack. It was off target and he had no problem countering back to my exposed side. I felt it cleanly, felt how far I was from blocking it or even seeing it coming. And that was it.

As etiquette demands, I stayed around to watch the rest of the matches in my bracket. The black belts were better than the ones I had seen at first, but the browns were underwhelming. I think I could've taken any of them. Having come so close but so far in my own match, I was dying for another chance. But that will have to come some other time.





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Friday, February 14, 2003

# Posted 7:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS! Off to another karate tourament. Will check back in sometime on Sunday. In the meantime, will contemplating Rob Redmond's guide to sparring.
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# Posted 7:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DREZNER VS. MARSHALL: Dan takes apart Josh's accusation that the US is at fault for the bad blood in NATO.
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# Posted 6:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EXPAT IRAQIS FAVOR WAR: Not exactly news, but this is example is so acidly bitter it's worth noting.
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# Posted 6:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IRAQI ANTI-SEMITISM: Not exactly news, but this example is so stupendously offensive it's worth noting.
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# Posted 6:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NUMBER CRUNCHING: CalPundit exposes the lengths that the National Review will go to in order to excuse Bush's reckless deficit politics.
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# Posted 6:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH SCREWS AFGHANISTAN: I like to give the President the benefit of the doubt on democracy promotion issues, but when a budget cotains all of $0 for rebuilding Afghanistan, you have to suspect that his rhetoric is empty.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall is on the case as well.
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# Posted 5:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNPREDICTABLE: Josh and I seem to agree what makes the WaPo op-ed page so much better than its NYT counterpart is that the columnists at the WaPo are not so damn predictable. The latest indication that we are right: E.J. Dionne's defense of a Republican president's habit of filling his speeches with the language of God.

I'm firmly against God talk in politics, but Dionne has me convinced.
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# Posted 5:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GRIN AND BEAR IT: Promoting democracy in the Middle East will mean working with Arab reformers whose positions on foreign policy are anathema to the United States. For example, Yusuf Qaradawi. He supports both Palestinian suicide bombings and the right of women candidates to stand for office in Bahrain's municipal election.

During the Cold War, the United States sold out democracy in the developing world when foreign democrats showed the slightest signs of straying to the left. Our reward was the rise of Khomeini.

However unpleasant men such as Yusuf Qaradawi are, their challenge to fundamentalist authorities is one of the rare sources of criticism that devout Muslims perceive as legitimate. And sometimes, there are signs that reformers such as Qaradawi will support reforms that benefit moderate Islam.

In his case, the fact that that each of his three daughters has a PhD from British universities indicates that Qaradawi's brand of moderate Islamism may well give birth to a new generation that is educated enough to demand for itself the democratic rights that all Muslims deserve.
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# Posted 11:31 AM by Daniel  

BLIX MIXED. Both sides will get ammunition from this presentation. Syria's presentation was especially persuasive, especially when they called American policy racist and focused entirely on all of the injustices committed by Israel. I also appreciate Iraq's new law banning nuclear weapons programs. I think France just surrendered, but my French isn't so good.
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# Posted 7:09 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HAPPY FIRE EXTINGUISHER DAY! According to an executive order just signed by the President, today has been renamed Fire Extinguisher Day. The President has asked that Americans celebrate this special holiday by walking the streets with fire extinguishers and spraying anyone (or anytwo) engaged in public displays of affection. When spraying, please remember to offer your friends the traditional Fire Extinguisher Day greeting: "Get a room!"
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Thursday, February 13, 2003

# Posted 9:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HORNET'S NEST: "Why must the United States attack Saddam Hussein if that will only anger much of the Islamic world?"

The WaPo has one answer to this question: that the United States unwillingness to back a decisive intervention in the Middle East is precisely the reason why lesser attacks such as the first WTC bombing, the Khobar towers explosion, the twin embassy explosions and the attack on the USS Cole led to the climactic terrorist assault on 9/11.

Rather than offer a second answer, I'd like to challenge the question's premise, i.e. that an American invasion of Iraq will provoke a harsh fundamentalist response. This premise rests on twin assumptions that fundamentally contradict one another.

The first is that the Arab man-in-the-street is so firmly anti-American that he will be confuse the liberation of Iraq with the reimposition of Western imperial rule. The second is that the Arab man-in-the-street is not so firm in his anti-American convinctions, but that American agression against the Arab world will provoke him to violence.

You can't have it both ways. Naturally, there are different degrees of anti-Americanism in the Arab world, and it is hard to know exactly what different subsets of the Arab population believe. As such, it is hard to provide a definite answer to the question of how a US-Allied invasion of Iraq will affect public sentiment in the Arab world. Nonetheless, I'd like to make some tentative observations.

First, I believe that most Arabs are open-minded enough not to rush to judgment immediately. No doubt, even those who are not firmly anti-American will be deeply suspicious of American motives. Thus, there may well be riots or other disturbances. However, if it becomes clear that the West has replaced Saddam with a government more democratic than any other in the Middle East, the initial outburst of anti-Americansim will abate. While the Arab may be able to tell whatever lies it wants about the Zionist entity, it will be much harder to deceive the public about the true nature of postwar Iraq, about which they will learn from fellow Arabs and Muslims.

If my scenario provides a ballpark estimation of Arab reaction to the invasion, then there is little reason to fear that forceful US intervention will provoke a mad rush of enlistments at Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas headquarters. While these organizations will no doubt take advantage of the initial chaos to launch attacks and win political and financial support, their gains will pale in comparison to the credibility that the US wins if, and that is a very definite if, the US wholeheartedly commits itself to rebuilding a democratic Iraq.

Now what if I am wrong? What if most Arabs already are so firmly anti-American that even the sudden establishment of a Norway on the Euphrates will not disabuse them of their anti-imperialist sentiments? If that's the case, then their support for terrorist organizations and willingness to overthrow conservative dictatorships is probably already at a maximum. It's hardly something that could be made worse.

And what if Arabs are more open-minded than I project? Then there isn't all that much reason to fear a sudden and devastating turn to fundamentalism, since such Arabs will be open-minded enough to judge the American occupation of Iraq on the merits, albeit from a suspicious vantage point.

As a final bit of support for my view of the Arab street as more open-minded than that derogatory term makes it out to be, I'd like to cite a couple of facts I picked up from Stephen Schwartz's book The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa'ud From Tradition to Terror. (Btw, big shout out to Doubleday for sending me a complementary copy.)

Even though I have serious reservations about Schwartz's credibility as an author, there is the occasional bit of prose that seems well-documents. The one that impressed me was Schwartz's description of the reaction of Balkan Muslims to the American war effort in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Naturally, one might expect the direct beneficiaries of American intervention to have kinds words for it. (This implies, of course, that liberated Iraqis will be well able to recognize that American intervention has changed their lives dramatically for the better.) Even so, the degree of Bosnian and Kosovar enthusiasm for the US was surprising. Here are some samples:

"The world has split into a modern civilization and one of barbarism and terrorism. Bosnia-Hercegovina has chosen to ally itself with the civilized world. It has decided to part of the solution, not part of the problem." -- Bosnian Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija
While the Saudis have also offered similar (if far more equivocal) endorsements of US policy, the Bosnians have backed up their rhetoric by aggressively routing out Al Qaeda affiliates in their own backyard. In March 2002, for example, government raids in Sarajevo produced evidence that helped tie the Chicago-based head of a major Islamic charity to Osama bin Laden.
"Every Albanian in Kosovo knows that without the help of the United States we would have been devastated by Serbian imperialism." -- Daut Dauti, Kosovar journalist.
Despite occasional descriptions of the Kosovar KLA as Muslim terrorists, both the KLA and the Kosovar religious leaderships have taken the American side in the aftermath of 9/11. And there are indications that Turkish Muslims know where there interests lie as well. According to one journalist and former diplomat,
"The United States, [after] it could not convince our European friends, stopped the Serbian aggressors with a military-intervention in Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Now, mind you that neither Balkan nor Turkish Muslims are Arabs, who have a political history and culture that is much more conducive to anti-American fundamentalism. Even so, there is hope that the Islamic ties between these nations will foster a recognition that the US may be in the process of doing more for the cause of Arab freedom than any Arab leader has ever done.




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# Posted 7:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

McGRORY RECOVERS: After briefly leading us to believe that she more than just an aging Maureen Dowd, Mary McGrory returned to form today with her usual mixed-up logic and cheap shots at the administration.

But why am I even putting up links to a column I think no one should read? Because all of you should suffer through the column the same way I did!
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# Posted 7:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NO, THIS IS 91....2! The WaPo reports that Edward Roland
"suffered a heart attack at home after his release from the hospital following treatment for bone and liver cancer. His mother said her family called 911 for help. The medics were dispatched at 6:01 p.m. But -- get this -- the medics' shift had ended at 6 p.m., one minute earlier, so they drove back to the firehouse to hand off the emergency call to the next team coming on duty. The new team didn't arrive at Mr. Roland's home with intravenous medications and heart-monitoring equipment until 6:26 p.m. Kept waiting for help for 25 minutes, Mr. Roland, 51, was dead by the time the medics arrived."
And you thought Chief Wiggum was fictional.
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# Posted 7:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GREEN(SPAN) WITH ENVY: Ever-impotent in their quest to publicize the absurdity of the administration's budget, the Democrats must be just a little bit jealous of Alan Greenspan's ability to destory the administration's credibility in a single hour.
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# Posted 7:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

[While I'm not going to put up all my posts in both Spanish and English, this one seemed to be fit for translation:]

DERECHOS HUMANOS EN COLOMBIA: Aunque sea necesario ayudar a las fuerzas armadas Colombianas, hay que ensenarles respetar los derechos humanos de la poblacion. En este momento, me parece que los Guerreros Frios de la administracion Bush no han aprendido nada de los conflictos latinos de los 1980s, cuando se demostraba que no se puede vencer el terrorismo guerrillero sin asegurar que las fuerzas armadas de gobiernos aliados merecen el apoyo de la poblacion local.

HUMAN RIGHTS IN COLOMBIA: Although it is necessary to support Colombia's armed forces, the US must teach them to respect the human rights of those living in combat zones. At this moment, the unconditional support of the Bush administration's Cold Warriors for the Colombians indicates that they didn't learn the most important lesson of the Latin American conflicts of the 1980s -- that one cannot defeat guerilla terrorism without ensuring that allied forces win the hearts and minds of locals by respecting their human rights.
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# Posted 7:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

COLD CASH OR COLD TURKEY? A guarantee of considerable economic aid played a critical role in persuading the Turkish parliament to support the basing of US troops in that country. When doling out the aid, the US should take a page from the IMF playbook: make each installment contingent on good behavior, especially Turkish cooperation in supporting Kurdish rights in northern Iraq.
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# Posted 7:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CULTURAL INSENSITIVITY: Max Boot adds a solid article to the growing collection of works explaining why this war is not for oil. It turns that even Jimmy Carter has said that this war has nothing to do with oil.

But what was really noteworthy about Boot's column was this quote: "Europeans are projecting their own behavior onto us. They know that their own foreign policies have in the past often been driven by avarice...After more than 200 years, Europe still hasn't figured out what makes America tick."

Now, how often do you hear that the problem with American foreign policy, or even Americans in general, is that they don't know enough about foreign cultures? And while I'm all for learning more about other cultures, no one ever seems to recommend that other nations learn more about us.

While Americans themselves often insist that America has no culture, it does. And that culture has a lot more to it than McDonalds, Coca-Cola and MTV. Not that those other things are all good. As one Vietnamese immigrant observed, the cardinal elements of American culture are money, God, sex and guns. (That statement wasn't meant to be entirely negative. Said immigrant became a millionaire, occasionally had good sex, and was a devout Buddhist.)

Thus, when one thinks about the cause of the current tensions between the United States and France, it is important to recognize that cultural misunderstandings are at play. But Europeans are not the only who misunderstand American culture. In fact, numerous Americans do as well, especially that branch of the American left which believes that this is a war for oil.

The lesson here is that before one assumes responsibility for learning about other cultures, it is of supreme importance to learn about one's. As the Delphic Oracle said, "Know thyself." This lesson applies to nations as much as it does to individuals. While it will never possible to learn about all, or even most of the foreign cultures with which the United States interacts, it is possible to know ourself well enough to be aware of recurrent, sometimes self-destructive patterns in our behavior.

Yes, Mr. Chirac, that lesson applies to France as well.

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# Posted 6:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT'S A FEW MILES BETWEEN FRIENDS? It's hard to know what to make of the latest Iraqi breach of 1441. On the one hand, it was Iraq's own 12,000 page report that provided the Blix Boys with enough evidence to demonstrate that Iraq has missiles whose range exceeded UN guidelines. (Thus emphasizing once again that the inspectors cannot find anything Iraq doesn't let them find.)

So, did Iraq want its missile program to be discovered? That wouldn't be so unreasonable. The Iraqis claim that the outlawed missiles, once loaded with explosives and guidance systems, would have a range within the UN limit. Did Iraq want to provovke a split between the US and the rest of the Security Council by tempting Cheney and Rumsfeld to declare that missiles with a range 30 miles too long are an excuse to go to war?

On the other hand, the whole missile affair may be a serious Iraqi screw-up, with the entire Security Council soon demanding that Saddam turn over large numbers of missiles he has already deployed in the field. If he doesn't, it would be very hard for anyone to argue that he is not in material breach of 1441.
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# Posted 6:35 AM by Daniel  

INSPECTIONS. This shows why they simply will not work. Blix doesn't notice a thing.
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Wednesday, February 12, 2003

# Posted 8:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BASHAR BASHING: &c. fisks David Ignatius' profile of Syrian president Bashar Assad.
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# Posted 8:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE COST OF VICTORY: Joseph Biden, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee "said Bush must remain committed to the rebuilding effort if he launches a war, even if it means limiting his proposed tax cut or curtailing his domestic agenda."

On the one hand, Biden's statement is a disingenuous effort to assert that Bush ought to let the Democrats run the show in Washington until the United States finishes its job in Iraq. On the other, I really will be disappointed with Bush if he stops focusing on Iraq after the war in order to work on his domestic agenda.

Then again, W. learned from his father that victory in Iraq is worthless if the voters believe that it has taken priority over their demands. That is why the Oxford Democracy Forum exists -- to make sure that electoral politics don't preempt America's mission to promote democracy abroad.

UPDATE: The Iraqi opposition-in-exile certainly isn't making Bush's job any easier.
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# Posted 7:44 AM by Daniel  

STICK TO PAINTING. The NY Times offers us a sentimental and sympathetic look at Nelson Mandela and his new role as an artist. The article offers a one sentence reminder that "last month, he made headlines by sharply assailing President Bush and the American push for war with Iraq." Yes, I know--this article is about his painting career, not his politics. But I am still disturbed by the Mandela's comments and unsure about just how much of a free pass he deserves.




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# Posted 1:05 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HATING AUSTRALIANS: The Bali attack was not random.
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# Posted 1:03 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MICHAEL LERNER BANNED: Now even Tikkun and The Nation think International ANSWER has gone too far.
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# Posted 12:45 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SULLIVAN SLAMS PROFLIGATE PRESIDENT: Andrew has nary a kind word for the 2003 budget.
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Tuesday, February 11, 2003

# Posted 11:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DIDN'T DOWD IT: Spinsanity teaches MoDo a lesson in interpreting poll results.
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# Posted 11:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SADDAM IN A BOX: Mort Halperin thinks we should reinforce the status quo. Innocents Abroad knows better.
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