Tuesday, January 20, 2004
# Posted 9:14 PM by Patrick Belton
* Basic summary: Opening material introduces counterterrorism as a unifying national project - The choice facing the nation is between pressing forward or turning back. The State of our Union is confident and strong. But with terror attacks in Bali, Jakarta, Casablanca, Mumbassa, Riyadh, Jerusalem, Istanbul, and Baghdad, the US must use every tool in its disposal against the threat of terrorism. One of those essential tools is the Patriot Act (first controversial element). Key provisions of the Act will expire next year (unexpected, and funny, applause from Democrats). One by one, America will bring terrorists to justice.
Shift to defense of assertive foreign policy, and its success: American leadership is making the world a better place. Afghanistan has gone from a training ground for Al Qaeda to a democracy with a constitution enshrining individual, minority, and women's rights; combat forces of the US, Great Britain, Poland, and Australia, enforced the will of the United Nations and ended the rule of Saddam Hussein, and the people of Iraq are free.” Of the top 55 officials of the former Iraqi regime, the US has arrested 45. US will never be intimidated by thugs or assassins. Introduced the president of the Iraqi Governing Council. With force behind our diplomacy, no one can now doubt the word of America; states US commitment to non-proliferation; budget will provide needed resources to the military for anti-terror purposes; against critics, the war on terror is really a war ("terrorists declared war on the United States, and war was what they got"); against congressional opponents of Iraq war, the world without Saddam is a better and safer place; against critics of unilateralism, lists international allies in Iraq; says America will never seek permission slip to defend the security of our country. The desire for freedom is universal; the US will undertake "forward strategy" of freedom (doubling the budget of the National Endowment for Democracy); the US will lead way in democratization.
Shift to trade and economic issues, and argument for strength of economy: the economy in good shape (tax cut money has been invested; list of favorable economic indicators; the American people are using their money better than government would have, and Congress was right to return it); administration is committed to education; support for the No Child Left Behind Act (choice is between the Act's common-sense testing and a retrograde return to shuffling kids along from grade to grade); introduces the Jobs for 21st Century job-training program; promises to continue “pro-growth” economic agenda; “unless you act” (repetition phrase), taxes will come back (booing, probably supportive booing from Republicans); calls for protection from frivolous lawsuits, less dependence on foreign energy; calls for “free and fair trade” (doesn't develop; just dropping a poll-tested phrase); calls for personal retirement accounts; individual ownership of Social Security; promises to cut deficit in half over 5 yrs and calls Congress to hold the increase in discretionary spending this year to less than 4%; foreign worker program is not amnesty, which he opposes, but a way to bring hard-working men and women out of shadows and into the mainstream of American life; calls for combating rising health care costs and expanding access to health care, in a bipartisan way (first reference to bipartisanship).
Sop to senior voters: congratulates Congress on passage of prescription drug benefit for seniors; lists everything the benefit will do for seniors, and that it won't change anything for seniors who didn't want change; calls for association health plans, a refundable health credit, and a second call for the elimination of frivolous and wasteful lawsuits, this time with regard to health care; calls for a deduction of catastrophic health care insurance coverage from taxes; promises to preserve system of private health care.
Bit directed toward social conservatives: values are eternal and country must take steps to keep the family and religious institutions strong in face of challenges from culture; introduces anti drug program; calls on professional sports to eliminate use of steroids; calls abstinence the only sure way to avoid STDs; constitutional amendment against gay marriage: calls for respect for populism and the will of the people against activist judges in defending marriage as between men and women, and promises recourse to constitutional amendment process if necessary to overrule judges; government must respect dignity of individual and individual's value in God’s sight (first reference to God); "unleashing" faith-based communities – calls on Congress to codify into law Bush's regulatory action permitting religious communities to compete equally for government funding; introduces program to ease prisoners' reentry into society, including funding for faith-based programs; America is the land of second chances, including for prisoners.
Closing matter: we are living in historic times; reads letter from Ashley Pearson, age 10, from Rhode Island who believes in troops, wants to help; Bush responds: Ashley should work hard in school, help people in need, and thank troops when she sees them. Democratization is irreversible; the path of US, guided by above, is right and true; may God continue to bless America.
* Analysis of speech: If the amount of time given over to a single idea reflects its relative importance in the State of the Union speech (a reasonable assumption), then the most important themes in tonight's speech, in descending order, are: the need to commit adequate resources to the military for the war on terror (87 seconds); that government will act against single-sex marriage (84 seconds); the administration's commitment to strengthening families and religious communities, and to combat juvenile use of drugs (78 seconds); the government's commitment to education and excellence for each child in America (72 seconds); that the world without Saddam is a better and safer place (69 seconds). The closing matter took 78 seconds, centered around the idea that we are living in historic times.
Incidentally, the average amount of continuous speech between applause lines was 29.28 seconds. In addition, if by speech units we mean a period of continuous speech without intended applause, the speech was constructed of:
16 units of 10 seconds or under* Thoughts: This is not a cautious speech - Bush makes one reference to bipartisanship, and instead defends his foreign policy record assertively, argues directly to the people of the country that he should be allowed to finish what he has begun, and appeals unapologetically to his most core constituencies on domestic policy. This is a speech which is meant to launch a re-election bid, not one intended to put forward a new program or to call for cooperation across the aisle.
* I'm struck by how much of a State of the Union address is formulaic: it simply wouldn't be a State of the Union if the president didn't say "the state of the Union is strong," read a letter that a young child wrote to him, and ask that God continue to bless America - these tropes are as much part of the annual ritual as the Sergeant of Arms of the House calling out "Mister Speaker, the President of the United States." I would be awfully interested if any of our readers had a sense of the historical background of these tropes.
Incidentally, the texts may be found here of all of the State of the Union addresses which have taken place since President Wilson's reinstatement of the oral (as opposed to written, as took place from Jefferson to Taft) transmission of the report mandated in Article II, Section 3. Lincoln's are here. And one computer scientist has analyzed all Addresses in history to determine what words appear most in bursts (the first years of the Republic see a great deal of "gentlemen," "militia," "British," "enemy," and "savages"; the Clinton years see welfare, bipartisan, college, communities, working, america, challenge, schools, teachers, 21st, ask, century, and help).
The full text of the speech can be found here. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:13 PM by Patrick Belton
Monday, January 19, 2004
# Posted 11:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Regardless of the answers, this makes New Hampshire a whole lot more interesting. I won't venture any predictions, but I do hope that Edwards can pick up 30% next week as well. Still, one strong showing in an early primary rarely says much about where the race is headed. For a solid assessment of where the conventional wisdom now stands, take a look at the NYT article on Iowa. All I would add is that tonight's results are an indirect but significant setback for Lieberman, who is looking like more and more of an also ran.
For more commentary, visit CalPundit, TPM, and Tapped. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
First, Glenn took the WaPo to task for its casual insistence that Bush described the Iraqi threat as imminent. (By extension, Glenn might have criticized me for writing that nothing in the WaPo article was "necessarily wrong".) While there is no question that Bush et al. were careful not to describe the Iraqi threat as "imminent", they did overplay it in a way that made the threat seem to be, well, imminent. Thus, while the WaPo has no business getting its facts wrong, it's hard for me to get indignant about this one.
Next up, Steven Den Beste provides a lengthy fisking of the article in question. Den Beste does a very good job of showing just how formulaic the WaPo article is by showing how it recites each tenet of the media's conventional wisdom about the war in Iraq.
While the Post's Glenn Kessler gets almost all of his facts right, he could just have easily written an article that presents a very different perspective on the war as objective truth. For example, instead of fretting about American disrespect for the United Nations, Kessler could have described how the UN has come through the war with its influence intact, thus invalidating the multilateralists' predictions that Bush would destory the "postwar international order". Or, ideally, Kessler could have provided both perspectives and fulfilled his journalistic obligation to provide balanced reporting.
At the same time, one ought to note that Den Beste's apoplectic criticism of the WaPo is pretty much paranoid. Den Beste writes:
They say, "Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity", but we seem to have gone beyond any possible stupidity now. Have we reached the point where we can assume there's a conspiracy to spread a big lie? And where we can safely dismiss the opinions of anyone who repeats it?...Leaving aside its bombast, the main conceptual problem with Den Beste's criticism is its (slightly sarcastic?) attribution of a definite motive to Glenn Kessler and the WaPo. First of all, anyone familiar with the Post's pro-war/pro-reconstruction editorial line knows that the paper isn't committed to a leftist policy line. Second, it is improbable in the extreme that a reporter committed to manipulating the public would last very long at a top-flight newspaper.
The real explanation here -- one that is far more complex than either stupidity or conspiracy -- has to do with journalists' professional norms. As numerous studies (many of them by Stephen Hess) have shown, journalists operate according to fairly specific rules of which they are vaguely aware but almost wholly unable to articulate.
One of those rules is the confusion of bipartisanship with objectivity. Notice, for example, how much stress Kessler puts on the fact that Republicans are offering many of the same criticisms one is accustomed to hearing from Democrats. As a result of moderate criticism from Ken Adelman and Richard Haass, Kessler grants himself license to deconstruct speeches by Bush, Cheney and Powell in a manner that reflects their alleged loss of credibility both at home and abroad.
In all likelihood, Kessler agrees with the criticisms that he describes as part of a bipartisan consensus. If he didn't, he probably would've done more to demonstrate that opposing perspectives exist. Yet Kessler does make sure to quote Richard Perle, who makes the reasonable point that intelligence is about guesswork, not certainty. Of course, by the time you get to Perle's quote, Kessler's anti-administration spin makes it seem that Perle is an ostrich-headed defender of the White House party line.
In the final analysis, it is best to approach mainstream journalism as the product of an unspoken yet fairly precise code of conduct that places strict limits on correspondents while enabling them to advance subtle opinions through the process of selecting what to write about. Some articles, such as Kessler's, obey the letter of the law more than the spirit. Some newspapers, such as the NYT, show less deference to the spirit of the law than others. Yet in order to maintain one's status as a professional, one must respect the letter of law, a framework that gives the reader a certain basic confidence in what he reads, regardless of its spin. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:01 PM by Patrick Belton
At the same time, raids against Al Qaeda operatives in Karachi have increased in frequency, while in Peshawar similar crackdowns are being attempted against tribesmen harboring suspected Al Qaeda members. Also in Karachi, the operations chief of the Taliban- and Al Qaeda-linked Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (Shamim Ahmed, 25) was arrested today for his role in a bombing last Thursday at the city's Anglican cathedral.
What's really happening there? Stratfor believes that the national government in Islamabad has acquired some new level of support from the sundry tribes, enhancing the government's capability to flush out militant Islamists from tribally-controlled badlands and allowing Musharraf to cooperate with the U.S. while irking a smaller amount of anti-U.S. domestic sentiment through countermilitancy operations prosecuted in middle-class neighborhoods. On the one hand, Al Qaeda seems to be feeling under the gun after the organization posted a bad December - this, according to analysts of the Osama tape released in January. On the other hand, Musharraf also is feeling under the gun, as shown by the obvious penetration by militants of his security apparatus indicated by close knowledge of his movements drawn on in the two recent assassination attempts, while international flows of terrorists into his country continue to be exemplified by foreign-born operatives such as Uyghur separatist Hasan Mahsum and the Chechen-born suicide bomber who attacked Musharraf on Christmas Day. Some argue that precisely by appearing so weak in the face of Islamist opposition and two assassination attempts, Musharraf has gained serious negotiating power with both Washington and New Delhi, neither of which wishes to see him replaced with an Islamist successor. Combined with the possible playing out an end-of-term desire on Vajpayee's part to establish a place for himself in history aided by the current strong position of his popular Bharatiya Janata Party (shored, in turn, by a booming Indian economy), then the potential for amicable progress in Kashmir talks along lines fairly favorable to Pakistan seems increasingly likely, which could weaken Kashmiri radicals and their supporters within the lower levels of the ISI. At the same time, the increasing tempo of crackdowns on Al Qaeda members could indicate that the effect of two assassination attempts perpetrated by Islamists may have been to draw Musharraf more firmly into Washington's orbit, rather than toward the propitiation of his would-be murderers. And that would be good news indeed. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:11 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 3:03 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
If the NYT ran this article, I wouldn't have bothered posted anything. It's what you expect from them. But the WaPo? I expect better. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:49 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 2:42 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Sunday, January 18, 2004
# Posted 11:50 PM by Patrick Belton
Elsewhere, Economist has several thoughtful pieces on the progress of democracy in the Middle East. Jordan and Kuwait recently held relatively free parliamentary elections, though both were marked by gerrymandering - and in Kuwait's parliamentary elections July 5th, Islamist and tribal candidates ousted liberals from all but three of parliament's 50 seats. Syria and Saudi Arabia have made halting steps toward democratic reform since the fall of the region's most infamous dictator - Syria's Ba'ath party has claimed to have ceased all its interference in governemnt policymaking and administration as part of a program of voluntary de-Baathification, and Crown Prince Abdullah hosted a forum of intellectuals producing a blueprint of reform, both for his own kingdom and for the Arab world. Outside the Arab world, the Economist also has surveys of democratic prospects in Central Asia, and - on a slightly different note - inequality in Latin America.
Continuing our survey, Freedom House releases its annual report on the state of freedom in the world. In 2003, 25 countries demonstrated forward progress in freedom, while 13 registered setback. Among the gainers, Argentina moved from Partly Free to Free, and Burundi and Yemen moved from Not Free to Partly Free. Among those losing ground, Bolivia and Papua New Guinea moved from Free to Partly Free, and Azerbaijan, Central African Republic, and Mauritania moved from Partly Free to Not Free. Of the 49 countries Freedom House rated Not Free, 8 were given the lowest possible numerical ratings for political rights and civil liberties - Burma, Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, and Turkmenistan, along with two territories, Chechnya and Tibet.
Still elsewhere, the always excellent Journal of Democracy has insightful pieces on Mid-Eastern liberalism, Afghanistan and Iraq. The Journal also has pieces on Arab democracy and terror, Islam, and democratization.
In the Washington Post, Glenn Kessler and Robin Wright provide another assessment of the administration's drive for Arab democracy. One impediment is the unwillingness of Arab governments to cooperate: Egypt, for instance, blocks all funding for democratization programs, particularly to democracy advocate Saad Eddin Ibrahim's Ibn Khaldun Center. On the other hand, a quite nice pro-democracy effort is the Middle East Partnership Initiative, administered in the State Department by VP Cheney's daughter Elizabeth Cheney. The program's funding is not inconsequential but is modest - $129 million for 2002 and 2003, with as much as $120 million coming this year - and democratization scholars like Carnegie's Marina Ottaway charge that the project takes on easy and soft aspects of democracy promotion while not tackling the unwillingness of autocracies to step aside in favour of elections, which can only be promoted at very high levels.
And while speaking of Carnegie, they've produced a great deal of good democracy promotion literature lately, too - Tom Carothers argues the administration needs to commit more resources to democratization and warns that it will be neither a swift nor an easy remedy to terrorism - while Amy Hawthorne, editor of Carnegie's Arab Reform Bulletin (and, incidentally, a Yalie), publishes a number of good pieces, including ones on parties and media in Iraq, and reform prospects in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Arab judiciaries. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:50 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 1:43 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
I went to Iowa hunting Howard Dean. His campaign said he might give me five minutes. On the phone.Perhaps Gov. Howard didn't want the Times to run a column about his choice of sweaters. Plus, it turns out that Dean never gave MoDo her five minutes. So she's getting back at him by saying that you can't run on anger alone:
A race rooted mainly in attacking the president may not take Dr. Dean far enough. Voters want someone who's been through the fire. They care about character. They want to know the evolution of the man, even if it's a myth.In other words, Dean's lack of cynical condescension toward the American voter is why he's losing momentum. Typical MoDo advice. Yet attacking Dean is only a sideshow. MoDo's real target is Mr. Angry himself, Paul Krugman. This little feud is getting nasty. (Heard offstage: cackles of glee.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:29 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
"The enemy has clearly seen the possibilities from earlier successes," said one senior Army aviator in the Persian Gulf region. "The enemy enjoys a strategic success each time one of our aircraft is shot down. It becomes a major media event, and questions arise as to who is winning. So the enemy sees this as very useful."Schmitt also reports that the guerrillas are now using increasingly sophisticated tactics. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:20 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Extreme literally means that which exceeds the ordinary, usual or expected. And as such is a great way to describe these types of brews when approaching them from a mainstream point of view, where most beers that aren't fizzy, yellow and bland are indeed extreme to mainstream palates. And despite the media's recent usage of the term as a buzzword to solely describe high alcohol beers, many brewers and consumers have embraced Extreme Beer as something that pushes the boundaries of brewing and the palates of beer lovers.My apologies for not posting this notice before the festival. You all missed a helluva time. Also, my apologies for posting such a long quotation without offering any insightful commentary to go with it. But after all that extreme beer, I'm not exactly in a position to think straight. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:14 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
(This post is going to get me in big trouble some day, because Steve is going to say at some point that I am wrong. And he'll probably be right.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, January 16, 2004
# Posted 11:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
But which Democratic candidate doesn't get it? Presumably Lieberman. But why would Paulie waste a column on also-ran? I'm guessing that Krugman has nothing against Kerry or Gephardt either, and is probably OK even with Edwards.
Pretty much the only person who comes in for direct criticism from is Maureen Dowd. Krugman writes that
Most political reporting on the Democratic race, it seems to me, has gotten it wrong. Some journalists do, of course, insist on trivializing the whole thing: what I dread most, in the event of an upset in Iowa, is the return of reporting about the political significance of John Kerry's hair.Did he mean to say Kerry's hair, or Wes Clark's sweater? Could there be a Krugman-Dowd confrontation in the works? Listen to OxBlog cackle with glee.
Anyhow, I think the real target audience for Krugman's column is NYT readers who aren't sure they're ready to be as angry as Howard or Wes or Paulie. Not that it matters in political terms -- unangry Democrats are not about to vote for George W. But this is about validation, about Krugman proving -- like Dean -- that he isn't outside the mainstream. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:50 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 11:24 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:40 AM by Patrick Belton
Thursday, January 15, 2004
# Posted 11:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Josh is also hot on the trail of Matt Drudge, who seems to have invented quotes demonstrating that Wes Clark was pro-war back in 2002. So far, it looks like Joe Lieberman and RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie have fallen for it.
While Dean hasn't fallen for Drudge's skullduggery, he's been telling his audience that "I truly believe [Wes Clark]'s a Republican." I'm not sure whether that sort of statement is better categorized as a lie or a delusion. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Pollack begins his review of the situation in Iraq by saying that
It is useful and important to start with some of the most important positives in Iraq, both because too often they have been overlooked in the American media coverage, and because they point to the opportunity that we have there.Coming from a mild-mannered, conflict-averse guy like Pollack, that kind of indictment of the media is very, very significant. (And, yes, OxBlog is enjoying its vindication very much.) The first point that Pollack takes up is Iraqi public opinion. As most observers report, the people of Iraq fear an American withdrawal far more than they resent the American presence. Next, Pollack takes a look at the insurgency and writes that
In short, [these] are not determined attacks by insurgents willing to die for their cause -- nor are they always very skillfully conducted. The attackers generally place a premium on their survival, not on killing Americans. As a result, most of the attacks do little damage, and the United States continues to suffer only an average of about 1-2 dead per day. As one sergeant who had fought in Vietnam put it to me, "if this were the Viet Cong, we'd have a hundred dead per day."What happened to all those reports in the WaPo and NYT that the sophistication of the insurgents' attacks was constantly increasing throughout the summer and fall? Well, either the Ba'athists were so incompetent to begin with that they are still incompetent despite marked improvement. Or the media decided that this was a quagmire even though it didn't have the evidence to back its opinion up.
After the insurgents, Pollack turns to the competence of American reconstruction personnel. He writes that
it is important to mention the numerous successes enjoyed by U.S. military and (to a lesser extent) civilian personnel throughout Iraq. American military civil affairs personnel, U.S. AID and State Department officials, contractors, and members of non-governmental organizations have spread out into many Iraqi villages and neighborhoods. In virtually every case, their presence has proven to have had something of the Midas touch...This assessment meshes well with that of NYT correspondent Eric Schmitt, whose reports on the adaptability of American soldiers and their high morale almost seem designed to expose just how wrong the rest of the NYT staff (except John Burns) has gotten the story. It also does a good job of making the point that Americans can do a lot of good work despite their lack of expertise in the local language and culture. Why? Because winning hearts and minds depends on our democratic values, not our ability to speak Arabic.
So what about the problems? In the field of security, the number one issue is crime. While it's hard to come by any quantitative measures of the problem,
A poll conducted in early October by the Iraqi Center for Research and Strategic Studies under the auspices of the International Republican Institute found that 60 percent of Iraqis felt "not very safe" or "not safe at all" in their neighborhoods, and virtually the same percentage had either "not very" [sic] or "no" confidence that coalition forces would make their cities safe. Only a little more than a quarter of those surveyed felt "very safe."5Pollack's controversial suggestion for correcting this situation is to have American soldiers spend a lot more time on
foot patrols backed by helicopters and/or vehicles that the British Army learned to use in Northern Ireland, and that all NATO forces eventually employed in the Balkans. This is the only way that American forces can get out, reassure the Iraqi civilians, find out from them where the troublemakers are, and respond to their problems.This means risking higher casualties, but Pollack believes there is no other way to get the job done. While I am inclined to agree, Pollack might have considered the political dynamics at play. Both the media and much of the American public become alarmed every time the American body count accelerates. The more alarmed the media and the public get, the harder it is for the administration to fund the occupation and provide manpower. While the Democrats on Capitol Hill seem to believe that the occupation must be done right, Bush's main concern in the coming months will be his re-election. And there is no reason to expect Howard Dean or any other candidate not to take advantage of public alarm. Thus, the safest bet for the administration is to keep the casualty count lay and deal with problems in Iraq after the election.
In the long-term, providing public security will be something that the Iraqis have to do for themsleves. Thus, in theory, "Iraqification" is good idea. But as Pollack argues, it is premature. The mad rush to train Iraqi security forces -- army, police, border guards etc. -- has resulted in shoddy training that turns incompetent and often ruthless men out onto the streets with the authority to abuse others. As they did in the days of Saddam, some policemen are once again resorting to extortion, rape, kidnapping and even murder. Pollack reports that
The problem is so bad that three different CPA officials told me that if they were out alone outside the Green Zone (admittedly a rare experience for many American officials) and they were flagged down by an Iraqi police officer, they probably would not stop because they would be too frightened of what he might do.At the same time, too many Iraqis are becoming frightened of American troops because of anti-insurgent raids that humiliate many innocent homeowners. Again, Pollack suggests that the solution is to worry less about casualties and more about hearts and minds.
To be continued... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:41 AM by Patrick Belton
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
# Posted 11:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I think he is also right that the CPA is trying to put the best face on the fact Sistani has more influence than they are willing to admit.
But really, this all comes back to the question of what Sistani's true intentions are. On this point, Swopa writes that
We don't know -- and probably can't know -- exactly what type of government the Grand Ayatollah foresees for Iraq. It's even possible that he doesn't know himself. Sistani, after all, is not a lifelong politician; he's a religious scholar who has a history of avoiding political disputes.Exactly. As I often say (drumroll please) the media has failed to provide evidence that Sistani has a fundamentalist agenda despite menacing-yet-vague statements about Sistani's intentions.
Six months ago, Swopa suggested that what Sistani and other Shi'ite clerics want is "a straightforward march to an Islamic fundamentalist state in Iraq". Yet he also conceded more recently that
In discussing this subject with others, I've sometimes been told that "but a majority of the Shiites don't want an Islamic state, or at least an Islamic theocracy."That complicates the situation quite a bit, since Swopa argues that Sistani's influence comes from the absolute loyalty of Iraqi Shi'ites. Yet if the people have a very different vision of government from the Ayatollah, they may not decide to lend him their support, even if his political representatives campaign with a moderate face. Moreover, if Sistani keeps insisting on his total commitment to "democracy", Shi'ites opposed to an Islamic state may very well hold him to his word.
Finally, there are the Kurds and the Sunnis. I do not believe that a Shi'ite state can function with a 30-40% minority of (heavily armed) dissenters. Thus, I am more confident than Swopa that the US can extract concessions from Sistani concerning the rights of religious and ethnic minorities. While the United States doesn't command the loyalty of any constituency in the manner of Iraq's ethnic or religious leaders, their role as broker and as military trustee puts them in a position with considerable leverage, if used wisely. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:26 PM by Patrick Belton
"He made an internationally known obscene gesture when he was being photographed by the Federal Police," Federal Police agent Wagner Castilho told Reuters.Further down on the page, a picture of relatively naked hip-wriggling women dressed in ornate headgear appears above the headline "Samba dancers greet tourists in Rio de Janeiro as part of a campaign to make up for long airport lines. " (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I have no comment. But as Golda Meir said many, many years ago, there will be no peace until the Arabs love their children more than they hate Israel. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:50 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 6:10 PM by Patrick Belton
(And for those of you who are interested in Latin America, incidentally, my friend Alan is author of a groundbreaking history of anti-Americanism in Latin America, Yankee No, just published by Harvard University Press.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:20 PM by Patrick Belton
Mr. Lieberman is progressive on most issues (abortion, the environment, gay rights) without being a captive of the party's orthodoxy. During three terms in the Senate, he has defied the teachers unions to support experiments with school vouchers and efforts to hold schools accountable for their performance, infuriated trial lawyers by supporting reasonable steps to rein in abusive lawsuits, and confronted Hollywood over gratuitous sex and violence. He's moderate on fiscal matters, combining one of the most progressively structured tax plans of the Democratic field with a pledge to limit the growth of most federal spending to the rate of inflation. He brings a deep commitment to civil rights, nurtured in marches in Mississippi while a college student. His assertive approach to national security contemplates U.S. intervention on behalf of democracy and human rights, not only in Iraq but throughout the globe.The full piece is here. Compare it, for instance, to the WaPo's fairly damning assessment of Governor Dean, and I think the two pieces speak out very well for both the Post editorial page's moral clarity and its good sense. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
# Posted 8:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
But why did I assume what I assume? Here are some suggestions from the comments page on Matt's site:
"Your face isn't long (like, say, John Kerry's), so people -- myself included -- presumed that your body isn't, either."And you wonder why OxBlog never puts up author photos. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Personally, I think Marshall would look a lot smarter if he just admitted that Clark said a bunch of dumb, slightly offensive things that are nowhere near as dumb as the kind of things Dean often says. (Of course, the Slate column doesn't include this howler that Clark gave us a few days ago.)
On the brighter side (for TPM), Josh gets a good shot in at the Bush administration's peculiar attitude toward releasing classified documents:
Number of days between Novak column outing Valerie Plame and announcement of investigation: 74 days.Josh really should've stopped before that last sentence. It's that sort of snide, overwrought remark which often makes reading TPM a chore. Besides, by Josh's standard, even the saintly Jimmy Carter was a hypocritical goon.
While no one should tolerate the kind of double standards that the Bush administration has clearly employed, going for the jugular every time only results in making Beltway politics ever more cutthroat. (Yet as Mr. Marshall would surely remind us, it's the Republicans who were cutthroat first.)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:51 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 4:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Monday, January 12, 2004
# Posted 11:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I tend to find much of the writing on Oxblog, on the whole, of good value, particularly in parsing out the national media's reportage of the occupation of Iraq.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Whatever government and constitution emerge in Iraq during the coming year will be badly flawed. Even a talented and energetic people cannot emerge from the darkness of totalitarianism overnight. To ensure success in Iraq, the United States needs to think in terms of multiple generations and decades of sustained effort.My problem is the logic on which this assertion rests. Metz begins his column with the assertion that
From childhood, Americans are taught the importance of compromise and consensus, of "playing by the rules" and of individual initiative. These are traits that form the foundation of our political and economic system.If that is so, why were the Poles, Hungarians and Czechs able to establish democracy almost immediately after their liberation from Soviet rule? Clearly, many of the post-Soviet states failed to make the transition to democracy or have found themselves trapped in deeply flawed democratic orders. Thus, what seems to matter more than a history of totalitarianism is the context within which it takes place.
On the one hand, Iraq is far worse off neither it nor its neighbors has a history of democracy (although Iran may have a future). On the other hand, a massive American presence and global interest in Iraq favor democratic reform.
Regardless of such objections, Metz has good recommendations for how to address the probable flaws of Iraqi democracy:
Americans must help Iraq develop a cadre of leaders dedicated to democracy and a free-market economy, and equipped with the skills to manage them. This is a long-term prospect; a short tutorial here and there will not suffice. To make it happen, the United States should immediately fund tens of thousands of scholarships and internships for young Iraqis to come to America and should encourage other Western nations to do the same in their countries...Exactly. Given Metz's clear commitment to building democracy in Iraq, it really doesn't matter if we have different opinons about the legacy of totalitarianism. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:02 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Sunday, January 11, 2004
# Posted 11:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
It's hard to know what brought about the change. On the one hand, it's nice not to have the press obsessively measuring American success or failure in terms of the body count. After all, wars are often won by spending lives to achieve strategic objectives. On the other hand, focusing on total fatalities allows the NYT and others to raise the death toll to almost 500 while avoiding the distinction between those lost to hostile fire and those lost to accidents.
Well, if you're interested in finding out for yourself what's going on, the place to turn (as always) is Lunaville, which is still running an up-to-date casualty count that analyzes American losses from a number of different perspectives. As is fairly well known, US combat fatalities doubled from October to Novermber but fell by half in December, returning to the original figure of about 40. What I didn't know was that there were 422 combat casualties in October, 332 in November and 244 in December (plus 73 in early January).
Thanks to Lunaville, you can also break down casualties by rank, location, week or even specific type of death, e.g. firefight vs. roadside bomb. Remember, knowledge is power. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
While nothing would warm my heart more than 1 or 2 or even 3 million Hong Kong citizens taking to the streets, the time may not yet be ripe for that sort of power play. (Besides, I need some more time to save up for airplane tickets so I can join the protests.) Let's see what negotiations with the CCP can bring. The people of Hong Kong have already made their wishes known, so Beijing may have to offer concessions in private in order to avoid losing face in public. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
According to American sources, the CPA is moving forward with its plans for "caucus-stlye" indirect elections to the interim assembly. (If these are like the caucuses in Iowa, Iraq is headed for trouble.) As for the constitution, only the American-selected Governing Council will have a say in its ratification.
The supposed cause of the US-Shi'ite tension is the expectation that Iraq's Shi'ite majority will use its numerical strength to turn all other Iraqis into second class citizens or even establish an Islamic state similar to the one in neighboring Iran. Yet as I've complained before, such fears are the product of ignorance and bad journalism. Story after story talks about a potential Shi'ite threat to democracy, but never tells bothers to find out what Shi'ites actually want. Take the following quote from today's WaPo for example:
Sistani insisted, as he has since November, on direct elections this year that would give the country's majority Shiite population a chance to flex its electoral muscle.Now that's just misleading. Sistani has never said that the purpose of elections is to demonstrate Shi'ite strength. Rather, he has made the very fair point that "one (wo)man, one vote" applies just as much to Iraqis as it does to Americans. Unless there is good reason to think Sistani is hiding his authoritarian plans behind a democratic facade, no responsible newspaper should describe his intentions the way the WaPo does.
I've suggested before that the United States can probe the seriousness of the Shi'ite commitment to democracy by
hammering away at a similar point when talking to the Shi'ite leadership: The more of a commitment that you show to democracy as an institution, the faster we can transfer power to an elected government in which your representatives will have a majority.Now let me make a more specific suggestion. In order to address concerns about potential Shi'ite oppression of Kurds and Sunnis, the United States should ask Ayatollah Sistani to public endorse constitutional protection of minority rights.
Moreover, the US might offer to hold a referendum on the constitution, provided that a majority of each of major ethnic group would have to vote in favor of ratification in order for it to pass. Alternately, we might suggest an American style ratification process in which 2/3 of all Iraqi provinces must ratify the new constitution in order for it to come into force. This would have the advantage of eliminating any explicit reference to ethnicity in the voting process while ensuring that a Southern-based Shi'ite majority could not force a one-sided constitution onto the rest of Iraq.
But these are suggestions. There are many different ways to design a constitution that protects minority rights. And there are a good number of constitutional lawyers and scholars who can suggest how. What matters above all is that the US take the initiative to ensure that there is a popular and democratic transition to sovereignty in occupied Iraq. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:54 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 1:36 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
What I thought was really interesting was that O'Neill
offered up 19,000 documents, including private White House transcripts and personal notes for the book "The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill."It's a polisci dissertation waiting to be written! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:27 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Conversations with scores of soldiers over the past four weeks revealed that morale among most soldiers is fairly high, largely because most are in the final months of their tours or have just arrived. Re-enlistment rates are up in many units, helped no doubt by tax-free bonuses of up to $10,000.Two things: First, I assume that these "scores of soldiers" are the same ones Schmitt mentioned last week. Second, what happened to our manpower crisis in Iraq? You know, 'Iraqification', and all that. Furthermore, if there is no crisis at the moment, is anyone covering our efforts to train new Iraqi security forces? Are we still rushing fresh recruits into uniform to make it look like we have a transition strategy? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:07 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
I happened to be in Istanbul when the street outside one of the two synagogues that were suicide-bombed on Nov. 15 was reopened. Three things struck me: First, the chief rabbi of Turkey appeared at the ceremony, hand in hand with the top Muslim cleric of Istanbul and the local mayor, while crowds in the street threw red carnations on them. Second, the Turkish leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who comes from an Islamist party, paid a visit to the chief rabbi — the first time a Turkish prime minister had ever called on the chief rabbi. Third, and most revealing, was the statement made by the father of one of the Turkish suicide bombers who hit the synagogues.Exactly. (It's amazing what happens when you research Islam instead of fashion.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:02 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
NB: According to Dictionary.com,
The words ironic, irony, and ironically are sometimes used of events and circumstances that might better be described as simply “coincidental” or “improbable,” in that they suggest no particular lessons about human vanity or folly. Thus 78 percent of the Usage Panel rejects the use of ironically in the sentence In 1969 Susie moved from Ithaca to California where she met her husband-to-be, who, ironically, also came from upstate New York. Some Panelists noted that this particular usage might be acceptable if Susie had in fact moved to California in order to find a husband, in which case the story could be taken as exemplifying the folly of supposing that we can know what fate has in store for us. By contrast, 73 percent accepted the sentence Ironically, even as the government was fulminating against American policy, American jeans and videocassettes were the hottest items in the stalls of the market, where the incongruity can be seen as an example of human inconsistency.Who knew the dictionary was so patriotic? (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:51 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:41 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:30 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Saturday, January 10, 2004
# Posted 12:30 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Friday, January 09, 2004
# Posted 10:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Make people laugh? Geez, that's a lot of pressure. Why are comics always put on the spot like this? You wouldn't go up to Meryl Streep and say, "Make me cry!" You wouldn't go up to French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard and say, "Make me cognizant of the impact postmodernity has had on the human condition!" You just wouldn't.Hehehe. Eviscerated by peacocks. Hehehe. Monkey boy. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The case for Howard Dean is made by Jonathan Cohn. After reading his column, I was actually persuaded that Dean would make a very good......Governor of Vermont.
Dean actually has a pretty impressive record of combining social reform and fiscal discipline. So how about promoting him to governor of a larger state? It's too late for California, but I wouldn't mind him here in Massachusetts or back home in New York. For some real fun, let's nominate Dean for governor of Texas!
Cohn is on somewhat weaker ground when it comes to foreign policy, where he makes the case for Dean by adopting the candidate's own favorite tactic of demonizing Bush. As Cohn writes,
What Cohn never gets around to addressing are Dean's outside the mainstream instincts on foreign policy, such as his famous comment on Saddam's fall supposedly being a good thing. Nor does Cohn talk about Dean's lukewarm and fading support for the reconstruction.
Even if Cohn is right that Dean's position on fighting terrorism is actually quite moderate, so what? He presents himself as a leftist critic, his supporters are to the left of the Democratic mainstream and he constantly sets himself for a beating in the fall by making outlandish gaffes about foreign policy. The Democrats can do better.
Moving on, Michael Crowley makes the case for Richard Gephardt. After reading it, I was thoroughly persuaded that Gephardt would make an excellent Minority Leader (or Speaker, in the event that there is a Democratic majority in the House.) Yet as a candidate, Gephardt has been making exactly the sort of extravagant promises any experienced House leader knows to be impracticable.
Michelle Cottle has the honor of making the case for John Edwards. Seems like a good guy. So why doesn't anyone actually want to vote for him?
Finally, we get to Wesley Clark. (Yes, I'm sure you're all thinking "What about John Kerry?" I guess no one at TNR takes him seriously.) While OxBlog has been far from kind to Wes Clark, there are some good things to say about him beyond the fact that victorious generals make good candidates. Peter Scobelic writes that
All the talk about how Clark's biography makes him electable has overwhelmed the more important point: It would also make him a good president. In the last decade, the specter of genocide arose twice in the Balkans; both times, Clark was instrumental in beating it back despite tepid support among political and military elites.While it may be hard to pin Clark down on what exactly he believes about the war in Iraq or the role of the United Nations, his heroic role in the Balkans demonstrates that he understands the imperative of using American power to promote democratic ideals.
Moreover, he has proven himself capable of working productively with our European allies. While there wasn't much to be said for the French or German positions during the whole Iraq debate, things certainly would have gone better if the Bush administration knew how to reach out to them a little more.
Not that Chirac or Schroeder would've gone along with invasion necessarily, but at least there would've been a lot less criticism on the homefront about how our reckless cowboy President was wrecking our most important alliances.
That's all folks. On behalf of TNR, OxBlog apologizes to Sharpton, Moseley-Braun and Kucinich for not treating them as serious candidates. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:31 PM by Patrick Belton
Of the encouraging signs Adeed records, here are two of the more notable:
Without a doubt, the mushrooming of local self-government councils has been one of the major success stories of the occupation. Even those councils that have not been elected have been selected through peaceful and relatively (or even impressively) consensual means, in more than a few cases with initial advice and assistance from coalition military officers, and are providing scope for unprecedented amounts of open debate.and, a bit below,
the most encouraging sign for the long haul is the sheer frequency with which Iraqis are using such key democratic terms as elections, parliament, human rights, press freedom, minority rights, and the like as debates over the country's future proceed.He also objects to the phrase "the Iraqi resistance" (which seems most common in outlets with a clear ideological slant) to refer to the perpetrators of attacks against the US and the Iraqi people. Such a categorization, he writes, "whether purposely or inadvertently, creates an impression of a universal phenomenon supported by most Iraqis. Nothing could be further from the truth." In particular, 75 percent of attacks have taken place in Sunni triangle towns containing about 6 percent of Iraq's population.
The piece is well worth a read. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:16 PM by Patrick Belton
Q: Why did the monkey fall out of the tree? A: Because it was dead.
Q: Where do you find a turtle with no legs? A: Right where you left him.
Q: What do you call a turtle with no legs? A: It doesn't matter, he won't come.
Q: What do you call a cow with two legs? A: Lean beef.
Q: What do you call a cow with no legs? A: Ground beef.
And some jokes from the New York bar: A ham sandwich walks into a bar. The bartender looks at it and says, "Sorry, we don't serve food here."
Shortly after, a crocodile walks into the bar and orders a shot of scotch. The bartender asks him, "How's everything going?" To which the croc answers, "fine". The bartender then asks, "How's the wife?" "Fine." "The kids?" "Fine." So the bartender says, "So why the long face?"
A few minutes later, a bear walks into the bar, puts up his feet on a stool, and orders a beer. The bartender asks, "How's everything going?" The bear says, "well...umm....fine". The bartender then asks, "why the long paws?"
From our cultural correspondent: A number of years ago, the Seattle Symphony was performing Beethoven's Ninth under the baton of Milton Katims. At this point you must understand two things: first, there's a long segment in this symphony where the bass violins don't have a single note to play. Not a single note for page after page. And second: there used to be a tavern called Dez's 400 right across the street from the Seattle Opera house, rather favored by local musicians. It had been decided that during this performance, after the bass players had played their parts in the opening of the Ninth, they were to quietly lay down their instruments and leave the stage rather than sit on their stools looking and feeling silly for 20 minutes. Well, once they got back stage, someone suggested that they trot across the street and quaff a few brews. After they had downed the first couple rounds, one musician said, "Shouldn't we be getting back? It would be awfully embarrassing if we were late." Another, presumably the one who suggested this excursion in the first place, replied - "Oh, I anticipated we could use a little more time, so I tied a string around the last pages of the conductor's score. When he gets down there, Milton is going to have to slow the tempo way down while he waves the baton with one hand and fumbles with the string with the other." So the group had another round and finally returned to the Opera House, a little tipsy by now. However, as they came back on stage, one look at their conductor's face told them they were is serious trouble. Katims was furious! And why not? After all... It was the bottom of the Ninth, the score was tied, and the basses were loaded.
Our friend Jacob Remes takes responsibility for the "brown and sticky" joke from our last post and and offers another from his incomparable stores: Q: Why do anarchists only drink herbal tea? A: Because they don't believe in proper tea.
And finally, one from the lovely and talented Sasha Castel: Q: Why do the French only make their omelettes with one egg? A: Because "un oeuf" is enough. (Okay, at first I didn't get it either, until a lesser philistine pointed out that "un oeuf" is pronounced "enough.")
Also, while we're speaking about our readers (behind your backs - except for the fact that you're our readers, and so you have a pretty good chance of reading this....), our friend Simon Rodberg from Dublin points out this piece on personals ads in the LRB and NYRB - a subject we've humorously posted on at length (just scroll down to 1:19 pm on Wednesday). (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:03 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 12:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
thanks for suggesting the NYT hire my ass. it's my dream gig, david.In a second e-mail entitled "oh, but my fashion sense?", Dan adds
don't got none. my boyfriend dresses me.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, January 08, 2004
# Posted 11:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
In your recent post "THE INDIAN COMPUTER GEEK MEME" you write:In response to the prediction that the computer industry will lead the field in job growth, JH writes that
I wouldn't put too much faith in those predictions.This issue is pretty far outside my area of expertise, so I don't have a compelling counterargument to offer. In other words, I take DS and JH's comments very seriously. Even so, I'm going to hold on to my position for the moment. My gut says that India can't turn out enough programmers to satisfy a growing computer industry both at home and in the United States.
What I expect to see is a situation somewhat similar to the one in the manufacturing sector, where less demanding tasks are outsourced while cutting edge work is reserved for advanced facilities (with well-paid workers) in the US, Europe and Japan. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
As someone who shares Packer's goal, I was very excited to get a copy of his book as a gift just a few days ago. So far, I have read the first three essays out of the ten that are in the book. They range from thoughtful to the strident. Yet even the better ones expose -- often unintentionally -- how desperate and hopeless the Democrats have become.
The first essay in the book is Packer's introduction. On page one, it eloquently captures the sense of mission that pervaded American life in the first days after September 11th. On the day of the attacks, an investment banker
...wandered through the smoke and confusion of Lower Manhattan until he found himself in a church in Greenwich Village. Alone at the altar, covered in ash and dust, he began to shake and sob. Feeling a hand on his shoulder, he looked up. It was a policeman.Packer knows that this sort of intense awareness is the foundation on which a liberal internationalist foreign policy can be built. Yet this awareness faded after September 11th. With some justification, Packer attributes this dulling of the senses to the President's insistence that Americans must resist terrorism by refusing to let it interrupt their daily lives. Instead, what should have come from the White House was a call to arms in the name global democracy.
After making this solid point, Packer's introduction begins to wander. He rails against Americans' selfishness and says that American democracy has fallen into decay. His tone also makes clear that this volume essays is intended only for Democratic partisans. He tells us that "Conservatives today have no concept of the public good. They see Americans as investors and consumers, not citizens." (p. 9)
Packer tells us that liberal internationalists should fight for democracy, but finds it hard to elaborate how. He is more specific, however, about what liberals must abandon:
The relcutance to make judgments, the finely ironic habits of thought, the reflexive contempt for patriotism, the suspicion of uniforms and military qualities, the sentimentality about oppressed peoples, the irresponsibility about hard choices, the embarrassment with phrases like "democratic values" and "Western civilization" -- the softheadedness into which liberalism sank after the 1960s seems as useless today as isolationism in 1941 or compromise in 1861."After Packer's jarring condemnation of his fellow liberal travelers, Michael Tomasky's essay is especially disturbing. Here is someone who clearly hasn't listened to a word that Packer has said. While its stated objective is to find a solid middle ground "between Cheney and Chomsky", the essay mostly provides vitriolic attacks on a strawman version of Republican foreign policy. Only its final pages does it provide a truncated agenda for American policy that has clearly suffered from its author's preoccupation with denouncing the Vice-President.
According to Tomasky, "What once represented the wish list of the right-most fringe of respectable opinion is now the policy of this country. It is a prescription for empire." (p. 40)The basis for the statement is a history of the Bush administration's National Security Strategy which shows that Cheney and Wolfowitz were aggressive unilateralists back in 1992, long before September 11th made it acceptable to talk about pre-emptive warfare.
Fair enough. But what does this have to do with 'empire'? Despite his occasional condemnations of Noam Chomsky and the far left, Tomasky adopts their vocabularly almost effortlessly. Does America seek to rule foreign nations? Does it make war for the sake of economic gain? Tomasky never says. Instead, he equates unilateralism with empire.
This kind of semantic issue matters because Tomasky's new Democratic foreign policy rests on its opposition to this sort of imperialism. As the author explains,
America is not an empire, it is a democracy. A democracy leads the world, but it does not seek to rule it. The Cheneyites want to rule the world. (p. 41)I, for one, wish the Cheneyites wanted to rule the world, because if they did they might show a little more enthusiasm for the President's stated objective of rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan.
For the moment, however, let us grant that democratic anti-imperialism can serve as the basis of a new American foreign policy. What would such a foreign policy entail? Democracy promotion, of course. But what's that? For starters, "a massive aid package for the Arab world...tied to specific and measurable democratic reforms." That sounds nice. But will oil-rich dictatorships take American cash in exchange for giving up their hold on power? Besides, if Democrats are hesitant to support spending for the reconstruction of Iraq, why would they send massive amounts of aid to countries we don't occupy?
Another question Tomasky avoids is the use of force. As he informs us, there was a liberal case to be made for invading Iraq. Yet Tomasky doesn't say whether he himself would've supported the invasion on those grounds (presuming President Bush had done so). And if we can impose regime change on Iraq, why don't we impose it on other dictatorships as well? How about starting with dictatorships that don't sit on top of 10% of the world's oil reserves?
As a passionate advocate of democracy promotion, I know from experience that those questions are the first ones that critics (especially liberal ones) ask anytime one suggests that democracy promotion should be the foundation stone of American foreign policy. Yet Tomasky ignores them entirely. Then again, why bother? If all Dick Cheney stands for is empire, then talking about democracy should be enough to make the Democrats different.
The third essay in Packer's book is a discussion of humanitarian intervention by Laura Secor. Inspired by the humanitarian intevention in Kosovo, Secor clearly believes that American power should be used to promote democracy and human rights (even if diplomacy should be the first resort and violence the last). Thus the challenge Secor faces is how to differentiate her foreign policy from the one already advocated by neo-conservatives both in and outside the Bush administration.
In contrast to Tomasky, Secor is honest enough to admit that neo-conservatives are sincere in the call for a principled foriegn policy. Her only criticism of them is that they are too idealistic. As Secor explains,
Where liberal idealists tend to believe that the given the extent of its power, the United States must strive to promote the good, conservative idealists presume that in promoting itself , the United States does promote the goodIn short, Secor is calling for a healthy dose of liberal guilt and self-flagellation. While I myself agree that neo-conservatives often come uncomfortably close to a "my country, right or wrong" approach, tempering their missionary zeal with self-criticism hardly constitutes a distinctive Democratic foreign policy. At best, it is a slight modification whose slightness emphasizes how little Democrats have to add to what neo-conservatives are already saying.
What, then, are the Democrats to do? Perhaps the next seven essays in Packer's book will answer that question. In the meantime, the Democrats best hope is to match the neo-conservatives ideal for ideal, criticizing the Bush Administration when it fails to live up to its own rhetoric.
As I noted on Sunday, Republicans are no less divided than Democrats when it comes to foreign policy. If the Democrats are patient enough, they can build up their credibility in the short-term, then attack Republicans from an unassailable idealistic perch once the Republican realists take back control of American foreign policy.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion