OxBlog

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

# Posted 9:14 PM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG'S STATE OF THE UNION INSTANT ANALYSIS:

* 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
14 units of 11 to 20 seconds
12 units of 21 to 30 seconds
5 units of 31 to 40 seconds
1 unit of 41 to 50 seconds
3 units of 51 to 60 seconds
4 units of 61 to 70 seconds
and 3 units of 71 to 80 seconds. (Disclaimer: this excludes the introductory matter.)
* 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.
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# Posted 9:13 PM by Patrick Belton  

COME WATCH the State of the Union with us! (via CSPAN.org)....
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Monday, January 19, 2004

# Posted 11:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TALK ABOUT AN UPSET! Kerry first in Iowa. Edwards a strong second. Dean an unimpressive third. Gephardt a distant fourth. I have to admit, I really don't know what Iowa was thinking. Why Kerry? Edwards sort of makes sense, but why wasn't there any support for him until the final moments? Conversely, why did Dean look so strong to being with? And how could Iowa abandon the midwest's native son?

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.
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# Posted 10:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WAPO PILE-ON: The same WaPo article I criticized last night has come in for quite a thrashing by other bloggers as well.

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?...

All the signs are there: this is a straight leftist propaganda piece disguised as straight news reporting.
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.
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# Posted 1:01 PM by Patrick Belton  

THERE SOME QUITE INTERESTING things afoot in Pakistan at the moment. Responding to US concern about madressahs, special groups drawn from the security agencies examined the records of madrassas in Faisalabad, paying particular attention to the names of students and staff, connection with other religious organizations, and sources of funding (raids which drew in turn criticism from the Islamist group Jamiat Ahle-Hadith). This comes on the heels of an International Crisis Group report which is highly critical of Gen Musharraf for not having followed through on his promised steps to stem jihadi ideology in the madressahs and bring them under government-approved curricula while making closer examinations of their funding sources. (ICG's Asia director Robert Templer argues in the report that Musharraf is too dependent upon the political support of the religious parties to have been able to move against the religious schools.)

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.
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# Posted 3:11 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FUZZY MATH, SHARP POLITICS: This WaPo editorial is right; Bush's proposal for immigration reform isn't perfect by a longshot, but it's enabled him to capture the middle ground in political terms and the high ground in moral terms. Much of the Democratic candidates' criticism of the proposal is valid, but only leads one to ask why, if the Democrats are so concerned about immigrants, they didn't make this an issue first.
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# Posted 3:03 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NEWSFLASH -- BUSH CRITICIZED FOR NOT FINDING WMD: I'm trying to figure out how this got onto the front page of the WaPo. I wouldn't say that anything in the article is necessarily wrong. But is it news that the failure to find WMD in Iraq has hurt US credibility? Or that serious questions have been raised about the politicization of the intelligence process? Or that the Administration now focuses more on the humanitarian victory in Iraq?

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.
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# Posted 2:49 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PATS HEADED TO SUPERBOWL: Can New England bring home a second victory in the big game? I'm not sure. While their defense was simply overpowering, questions remain on offense. Why couldn't the Patriots finish drives in the red zone, instead relying on kicker Adam Vinatieri to put up five field goals? Can quarterback Tom Brady turn it up a notch after throwing an interception and a handful of almosts in today's game? I hope so.
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# Posted 2:42 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OUR CONDOLENCES to the victims of terror in Baghdad. This was not an attack on coalition forces. It was the murder of Iraqi civilians. It is terrorism.
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Sunday, January 18, 2004

# Posted 11:50 PM by Patrick Belton  

BACK IN OXFORD AND LINKING UP A STORM: Today's theme is democracy promotion, and David Ignatius has a wonderful piece about how education and technology are slowly, irreversibly liberalizing the Arab world - beginning with Dubai. "Education is the future of this region," says Sheik Nahayan bin Mubarak, UAE's minister of education. Under Nahayan, the Higher Colleges of Technology have grown from fewer than 500 students to 15,000, of whom 60 percent are women. Ignatius closes by noting that even at a time when it's hard to find much to be very optimistic about in the Arab world, UAE makes you remember change is coming, even to the land of the dromedary and the scorpion.

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.
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# Posted 1:50 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

COINCIDENCE? I THINK NOT! Someone with the same name as a former OxBlogger has an interesting op-ed in the NYT.
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# Posted 1:43 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOWARD DEAN IS SMARTER THAN YOU THINK: Maureen Dowd writes:
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.)
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# Posted 1:29 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLACKHAWKS DOWN: The NYT's Eric Schmitt reports that the army has conducted a comprehensive survey in order to determine why so many helicopters are being lost to hostile fire.
"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.
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# Posted 1:20 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG VISITS EXTREME BEER FEST: What makes a beer extreme? According to BeerAdvocate.com, the festival's sponsor,
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.

We see it as the continuing evolution of the US beer industry and perhaps the second shot heard round the world for the American craft beer revolution. It's not just a pissing contest to see who can make the world's strongest beer; it's a movement - a movement to showcase the craft and how complex and versatile beer can actually be.

What are we talking about?

- Beers made with no hops but plenty of heather and lavender.
- Beers aged in Jack Daniels oak barrels with an alcohol by volume of 20 percent or more.
- Traditional beer styles, but with double, triple or more hops or malt.
- Beers brewed with chocolate, peanut butter or espresso beans.
- Strong Porters brewed with Chinese candied ginger.
- Ales brewed with oysters or seaweed.
- Sharp tasting beers inoculated with various wild bacteria and yeast strains.

These aren't fancy imports from faraway lands, but rather handcrafted examples of beer being brewed right here in the US. They are highly artisanal and diverse, obtainable in many markets, and they tweak the minds and palates of not only beer drinkers, but appreciators of wine and spirits - a positive crossover conversion for the beer industry.

And no, this is not a new beer trend. The concept of Extreme Beer, although new to many, has actually been around for quite a few years. Although it's been documented that Jim Koch of the Boston Beer Co. first used the term to describe the release of Sam Adams Triple Bock in 1994 (then the strongest beer at 17.5% ABV), home- and pro-brewers have been testing the limits of their craft since the '70s. We can only assume that adventurous brewers have been doing the same since the discovery of brewing beer.

To bring more awareness to Extreme Beer, on January 17, 2004, we'll be hosting the BeerAdvocate.com Extreme Beer Fest at the Cyclorama (Boston Center for the Arts). The day will include two sessions (1-5pm and 6-10pm) and a very limited connoisseur session. Local food, live music and cheese pairings will be available. Tickets are $25 in advance / $30 at the door and are available by going to beeradvocate.com. The connoisseur and evening sessions are scheduled to sell out, so purchase your tickets today.

Respect beer.
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.
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# Posted 12:14 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SACHS FISKS CLARK: One rule of thumb you can pretty much follow in life is that if Steve Sachs says you're wrong, you're wrong. And Wes Clark is wrong.

(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.)
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Friday, January 16, 2004

# Posted 11:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE EXPERTS SHALL BLOG: Dan Drezner notes that the Columbia Journalism Review has set up a blog to monitor campaign coverage. I'm quite curious to see how this turns out. Will the editors of the top academic journalism review provide better analysis than you can already get from first-rate blogs? Or will the CJR effort simply show that if you're inside the ivory tower, you're a step behind everyone else?
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# Posted 10:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE ENEMY IN THE SHADOWS: Paul Krugman says that Wes Clark "gets it" the same way that Howard Dean "gets it". In other words, they both know that George W. Bush is a threat to American democracy who "even put[s] Nixon to shame".

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.
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# Posted 10:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MODERATE LIBERAL MEDIA BIAS: Terry Neal reports on Dean supporters' intense resentment of media bias against their candidate. Neal responds that all frontrunners can expect a tougher ride.
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# Posted 11:50 AM by Patrick Belton  

AL-HAYAT AL-JADIDAH RESPONDS to President Bush's Mars speech: "The US is preparing for the invasion of Mars and other planets," writes the Palestinian daily. "What are the other planets chosen for the US invasion? Are they an axis of planetary evil? And what is the relationship between the regime on Pluto and fundamentalist groups?"
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# Posted 11:24 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE CLARK TRANSCRIPT -- A CORRECTION: I've received a number of e-mails saying that Matt Drudge did not invent quotations and attribute them to Wesley Clark. As the links in this post indicate, my source for that assertion was Josh Marshall. I did not do background research on his post, since Josh was directly quoting a Knight Ridder dispatch. If the KR dispatch turns out to be wrong, I'll take responsibility for the matter at OxBlog's end (while giving KR an earful).
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# Posted 10:40 AM by Patrick Belton  

BACK IN OXFORD, and preparing to resume normal posting duties as soon as I shower! It's very good to be back in England, a country which has come very much to be a second home. See you all soon!
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Thursday, January 15, 2004

# Posted 11:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RED LETTER DAY FOR TPM: Josh Marshall has been declared blogger of the year by an actual dead-tree publication run by famous people. What next, a Pulitzer for Instapundit?

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.
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# Posted 11:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REMARKABLE: Instapundit has posted the money grafs from a long report on Iraq by Expert #1 Ken Pollack. As the money grafs show, Pollack is a cautious optimist who believes that serious American planning can ensure the success of the reconstruction effort. But you really have to go through all of Pollack's report to get a sense of how dramatically different his view of Iraq is from the one provided by the daily papers.

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."

For this reason, there is a widespread sense that most of the insurgents are motivated primarily by money. While he was on the loose, Saddam reportedly paid $250 for killing an American. Consequently, his loyalists -- who never evinced much willingness to die for him while he ruled -- were willing to conduct large numbers of rather paltry attacks in the hope that they might get lucky and kill one or more Americans, rather than stand and fight (especially against U.S. firepower) and risk being killed, even though by doing so they would have a much greater likelihood of killing Americans.
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...

These personnel acknowledge that they have made mistakes. They were sent in, in most cases, with very little understanding of Iraq or its needs, and little guidance on what to do or how to do it. They have made things up as they have gone along. One U.S. military civil affairs officer estimated that no more than a simple majority of his team's decisions were good ones, but over time, they had corrected their mistakes, continued their successes, and won the trust and gratitude of the Iraqis that they worked with.
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."5
Pollack'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...
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# Posted 10:41 AM by Patrick Belton  

COME SCHMOOZE WITH US: Incidentally, the DC chapter of our Nathan Hale foreign policy society will be meeting next Wednesday for a presentation and discussion of the Department of Homeland Security's operations, featuring a senior official from the department. Last week our DC chapter was able to host Toby Muse, the Times's Colombia correspondent, for a conversation about the alternative possible steps to be taken there. Our chapters in New York, Boston, Chicago, L.A., New Haven, the Bay area, and Oxford are also meeting regularly - please drop us an email if you'd like to be added to our mailing list!
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Wednesday, January 14, 2004

# Posted 11:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNDERSTANDING SISTANI: Over at Needlenose, Swopa has been observing the Shi'ites -- and specifically Ayatollah Sistani -- very carefully ever since the occupation began. Swopa is absolutely right that Sistani has a lot of talent when it comes to driving a hard bargain.

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."

This is very likely true. But the theocratic elements are also virtually the only organized Shiite bloc in the country, which gives them a large head start in any election/constitutional process.
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.
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# Posted 11:26 PM by Patrick Belton  

YOU CAN'T MAKE THIS STUFF UP, #15: Via CNN:
"He made an internationally known obscene gesture when he was being photographed by the Federal Police," Federal Police agent Wagner Castilho told Reuters.

The pilot, identified as Dale Robin Hirsch, raised his middle finger at police to protest new Brazilian security measures that require U.S. citizens to be fingerprinted and photographed upon entering the South American country.

Brazil implemented the policy on January 1 in retaliation for a similar U.S. program.
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. "
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# Posted 10:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PALESTINIAN FAMILY VALUES: Steve Sturm has some comments about the particularly disturbing nature of a recent suicide bombing in Israel. This time, the bomber -- the murderer -- was the mother of two young children who seems to have had no qualms about leaving her children motherless.

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.
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# Posted 6:50 PM by Patrick Belton  

HOOA, AIRBORNE: Special operations forces, working with members of the 82nd Airborne, have captured number 54 of Iraq's 55 most-wanted. The man was Khamis Sirhan al-Muhammad, former Baath Party regional chairman for the Karbala governate. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations director for Combined Joint Task Force 7, said "He was an enabler for many of the resistance attacks on Iraqis, as well as (against) U.S. and coalition forces. These attacks were crimes against the Iraqi people."
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# Posted 6:10 PM by Patrick Belton  

I LOVE HOWARD: No, not Governor Dean - you are still reading OxBlog, remember. No, I mean the historic black university - I had a lovely campus tour there this morning, after breakfast and coffee with my friend (and Howard history professor) Alan McPherson, and I was struck by what a phenomenally friendly campus environment I had stepped into. Walking down 6th street outside Howard's main gate, I had three separate middle-aged women wish me "good morning" - and this in the middle of Washington, D.C. It seems to be an awfully special place, and I was impressed and intrigued enough that I will be returning to Howard over the summer to lecture to a consortium of international affairs students from historically black colleges.

(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.)
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# Posted 3:20 PM by Patrick Belton  

TOO GOOD A MAN FOR HIS PARTY? The Washington Post assesses the candidacy of Senator Lieberman in words which it would be very difficult for me to better:
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.

Unlike most of the other Democrats who supported the war, Mr. Lieberman neither minimized that view when it seemed unpopular nor undercut it by opposing Mr. Bush's request for reconstruction funds. Likewise, Mr. Lieberman hasn't trimmed his trade views to fit the demands of presidential politics.

But in a year in which it seems that anger sells, Mr. Lieberman's wry, measured demeanor may fail to inspire some primary voters. He can be less than rousing on the stump. His emphasis on values and morality has often added an important dimension to the political discourse -- as with his withering floor speech about President Bill Clinton's conduct with Monica Lewinsky -- yet he can come off as sanctimonious. Still, for a candidate who's sometimes dismissed as "too nice" to win, and who was criticized during the last campaign for being too soft in the vice presidential debate, Mr. Lieberman has most often been the first to take on his rivals, even when it seemed risky to do so.

It may say more about the current state of the Democratic Party than it does about Mr. Lieberman that he is having a difficult time making this message sell.
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.
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Tuesday, January 13, 2004

# Posted 8:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IS MATT YGLESIAS SHORT? The topic of the day over at Matt's site is why everyone assumes that Matt is short based on his headshot. So I have a confession to make: before I first met Matt in person, I also assumed that he was short. It definitely came as something of a shock the first time I saw his head attached to a six-foot-plus body.

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."

"Blatant ethnic and cultural stereotyping, pure and simple: Hispanics and Jews are presumptively short, intellectuals are small."

"I think it is the lack of a neck of any substance. Either you don't have one or the pictures aren't showing it."
And you wonder why OxBlog never puts up author photos.
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# Posted 7:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TPM SPIN CONTROL: This Slate column says that Wes Clark puts his foot in his mouth no less often than Howard Dean. Josh Marshall tries to defend Clark by arguing that he's telling the uncomfortable (for the Bush administration) truth, rather than making constant gaffes.

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.

Number of days between O'Neill 60 Minutes interview and announcement of investigation: 1 day.

Having the administration reveal itself as a gaggle of hypocritical goons ... priceless.
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.)

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# Posted 4:51 PM by Patrick Belton  

NO ONE, ON THE OTHER HAND, IS ACCUSING ME of gloating about anything the heck at all.... (Maybe I'm not doing something right....)
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# Posted 4:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I'VE BEEN CRITICIZED BY READERS for not gloating approrpriately over this. But, really, when your team has the best starting rotation in Major League Baseball (Mussina, Brown, Vazquez, Contreras, Lieber), you can afford to stay quiet when a AAA ball club from Texas poaches a couple of your starters.
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Monday, January 12, 2004

# Posted 11:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE WORST FORM OF GOVERNMENT (EXCEPT ALL OTHERS): Dan Drezner says that getting serious about democracy in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia may be America's best hope.
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# Posted 11:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GO FLY A KIKE: MQ writes in to say that
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.

However, the title of your January 11, 11:08am post, "Full of Shi'ite," is disgraceful, disrespectful and not in the least bit cute.

I see no purpose to the use of an incorrect transliteration of a Muslim sect's name in such a distasteful manner. Would you be at all happy if someone would go off about the "Shrew Jew?" Would it even be funny? [Yes and yes. --DA]

This is particularly disconcerting as it is in the context of a discussion of some of the more moderate leadership of the Iraqi Shi'a.

Don't irresponsible lines such as yours only serve to confirm for Muslims the underhanded disdain of those who would proclaim their utmost respect for the cultures, religions and sensitivities of the Muslim peoples?
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# Posted 7:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS: There is a solid message at the foundation of this op-ed by Steven Metz, an officer at the Army War College:
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.

Iraqis at this time do not have these basic traits and ideals. To survive in a repressive, pathological system, they've developed a very different set of behaviors, attitudes, values and perceptions, all of which are unsuited to open government and to success in a globalized economy.
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...

[Also], the United States must provide constant life support while the new cadre of democratic leaders assumes power. This will include helping Iraq avoid obvious dangers such as foreign intervention, fragmentation, civil war or a takeover by a dictator, but also more subtle risks such as the emergence of a de facto dictator who attains power through the democratic system, or backroom dominance by organized crime.

The United States must be steadfast in its support of Iraq's democrats, even those who aren't particularly pliable. Indeed, we cannot expect that an Iraqi democratic leader will be a supplicant of the United States, always echoing Washington's position. To be a democrat must be enough to merit support.
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.
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# Posted 6:57 PM by Patrick Belton  

WE ARE WITH YOU.
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# Posted 12:02 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FINALLY, SOMETHING USEFUL IN THE GUARDIAN: Test your knowledge of The Simpsons. I got 10 out of 10. Kevin Drum got 8 out of 10. But the real quesiton is, what's the threshhold for qualifying as a total geek? (Spinal Tap's answer: 11.)
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Sunday, January 11, 2004

# Posted 11:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE UNEMPLOYMENT PARADOX: Angry Bear has some comments on the perplexing nature of unemployment statistics. Kevin Drum also points out that the disability rolls have risen sharply in recent years, suggesting that unemployment is being hidden by other forms of compensation. In short, this may well be a jobless recovery.
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# Posted 11:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THAT LEGENDARY CONSERVATIVE RESTRAINT: CalPundit praises the right-wing of the blogosphere for its moderate reaction to the non-news that blister gas shells have been found in Iraq.
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# Posted 11:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I WANT NUMBERS! Has anyone else noticed that the NYT no longer tells you how many American soldiers have died in combat during the occupation? Instead, we only get the total number of military fatalities since the start of the war, including non-combat deaths.

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.
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# Posted 11:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BEIJING TO HONG KONG: BACDAFUCUP! China's central government has made it clear to the people of Hong Kong that Beijing will decide whether Hong Kong gets to hold truly democratic elections in 2007. This presents a tough question for Hong Kong's reformers: should they antagonize the central government by calling on the people to take to the streets, or should they work things out behind closed doors?

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.
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# Posted 11:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FULL OF SHI'ITE: It is time for a creative American response to the ethnic politics of post-war Iraq. Today we learn that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani refuses to back down from his demands for national elections -- both for the interim assembly and in order to approve the constitution.

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.
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# Posted 1:54 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MISQUOTED? The NYT's new "public editor", i.e. ombudsman, explains how President Bush accidentally became an advocate of a constitutional ban on gay marriage.
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# Posted 1:36 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REAGANESQUE? Ex-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill is charging that George W. is disengaged, ignorant and driven by short-term partisan interests. Is this just sour grapes, or a genuine look through the grapevine? It's hard to say. O'Neill is a notorious for talking first and asking questions later, but also known for being honest.

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!
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# Posted 1:27 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHO LET THE OPTIMIST IN THE BUILDING? Eric Schmitt seems decisively committed to up-ending all of his NYT colleagues' bad news stories about Iraq. Today he reports that
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?
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# Posted 1:07 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TALKING TURKEY: Leaving aside a few outlandish comments, Tom Friedman has a first-rate column today on religious tolerance in Turkey. For example, this is almost unbelievable:
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.

"We are a respectful family who love our nation, flag and the Koran," the grieving father, Sefik Elaltuntas, told the Zaman newspaper. "But we cannot understand why this child had done the thing he had done . . . First, let us meet with the chief rabbi of our Jewish brothers. Let me hug him. Let me kiss his hands and flowing robe. Let me apologize in the name of my son and offer my condolences for the deaths. . . . We will be damned if we do not reconcile with them."

The same newspaper also carried a quote from Cemil Cicek, the Turkish government spokesman, who said: "The Islamic world should take stringent measures against terrorism without any `buts' or `howevers.' "

There is a message here: Context matters. Turkish politicians are not intimidated by religious fundamentalists, because — unlike too many Arab politicians — they have their own legitimacy that comes from being democratically elected.
Exactly. (It's amazing what happens when you research Islam instead of fashion.)
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# Posted 1:02 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OH, THE IRONY: Maureen Dowd devotes an entire column to politicians' sweaters but still has the chutzpah to write "It's discouraging to see presidential campaigns succumb to the makeover culture."

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?
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# Posted 12:51 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FROM WELFARE TO A THREE-STAR COMMAND: John Burns profiles Ricardo Sanchez, field commander of coalition forces in Iraq. Sanchez is a great subject and Burns does a great job profiling him. But what do you expect of our #1 correspondent in Iraq?
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# Posted 12:41 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

1,000,000 HITS: According to Extreme Tracking, which OxBlog started using in late October 2002, we passed the 1,000,000 unique daily visitor mark on New Year's Eve. Of course, our "real" one millionth hit came earlier, but I think this is a milestone nonetheless. And we owe it all to you, our readers.
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# Posted 12:30 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LOX VS. NOVA: Gary explains the difference.
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Saturday, January 10, 2004

# Posted 12:30 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GET YOUR STARBUCKS VISA CARD! No, this isn't a joke. You can actually earn "Duetto Dollars" with every purchase. No question, this is a major landmark in yuppie frivolousness. I'm just waiting for someone to pay his or her rent with a Starbucks Visa so that they can get a couple of free Frappuccinos each month.
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Friday, January 09, 2004

# Posted 10:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"SAY SOMETHING FUNNY" is a new feature in The Onion. In it, comedians have 250 words to make the reader laugh. Here's Weird Al Yankovic's 250:
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.

Besides, humor is too subjective. For instance, I would think it's hilarious if Ben Affleck were eviscerated by peacocks. But would Ben think it's funny? Most likely not. See what I mean?

Plus, if you want to be really funny... well, you just can't do it in 250 words. Because humor needs to build. You need a little subtext. I mean, for crying out loud, Tolstoy's War And Peace doesn't even start to get funny until around page 712.

And who do you people think you are, anyway? You think you can just snap your fingers, and I'm going to be funny... on demand? Look, I am not your monkey boy!

I'm sorry. It's just that I generally resist doing anything that requires, you know, actual effort on my part. But I guess being funny is a noble quest, so I'll give it everything I've got. I'll give 100 percent. But you know what I won't do? Give 110 percent. You know why? Because that's logically impossible. And as much as I love The Onion, I refuse to break the laws of physics for it.

Okay, so... Rush Limbaugh and a dwarf walk into a bar...

Whoops, that's 250 words. Sorry.
Hehehe. Eviscerated by peacocks. Hehehe. Monkey boy.
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# Posted 4:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HE'S OUR MAN IN 2004: Five TNR writers make the case for each of their favorite candidates. The editors picked out Senator Joe for their official endorsement. A solid choice. Yet as Matt Yglesias observes: "This doesn't strike me as the best way to stay relevant."

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, Dean's pronouncements on foreign policy fall...seem radical only if the policies of the Bush administration count as mainstream, which they aren't.In light of majority support for the invasion of Iraq -- Bush's most controversial foreign policy initiative -- it's hard to make the case that his policies are outside the mainstream. To be fair, the extreme unilateralist instincts of a Cheney or a Rumsfeld are definitely to the right even of a lot of Republicans. But for all the provocative talk, it was the Colin Powell approach that won out.

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.
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# Posted 3:31 PM by Patrick Belton  

RATING THE PROSPECTS FOR IRAQI DEMOCRACY: Writing in the pages of the Journal of Democracy, Iraqi-born academic Adeed Dawisha favorably assesses the prospects for democracy in Iraq. (Incidentally, here's a recent piece on Adeed from the Cincinnati Enquirer.)

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.
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# Posted 2:16 PM by Patrick Belton  

MORE BAD JOKES FOR A GOOD NEW YEAR: Ask our readers for bad jokes, and they'll respond in droves. Here are a few of the best (or the worst):

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).
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# Posted 2:03 PM by Patrick Belton  

MOST CONTEMPORARY AMERICANS ARE WIMPS OR BARBARIANS, according to Terrence Moore. This, however, doesn't include our readers.
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# Posted 12:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SAVAGE LOVE FOR OXBLOG: Dan Savage writes
thanks for suggesting the NYT hire my ass. it's my dream gig, david.

of course, they would have to let me keep writing my sex advice column on the side. that's where the real money is.

love your site.

xo
dan
In a second e-mail entitled "oh, but my fashion sense?", Dan adds
don't got none. my boyfriend dresses me.

thanks again,
dan
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Thursday, January 08, 2004

# Posted 11:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE INDIANS: Here are two responses to my post from yesterday. The first is from DS:
In your recent post "THE INDIAN COMPUTER GEEK MEME" you write:

"Today, job security comes from acquiring knowledge, not building a relationship with a single firm. This model isn't perfect, but it's still damn good."

If only this were true! You still apparently believe the Clinton administration's mantra about knowledge workers. Even the members of the former administration have abandoned their claims: knowledge workers' jobs are the most portable, the ones being exported, and the ones most subject to shrinking wages due to competition whether from offshore outsourcing or importation of cheaper workers from overseas. The $150,000 programmer is largely a thing of the past-- the same guys are making $80,000 or even $50,000 now.

In recent quarters most of the growth both in numbers of jobs and wages have been in relatively non-portable, less-subject-to-foreign-competition sectors like government and health care. Both areas are secure not due to being knowledge workers but due to protection. Health care is one of the most regulated of all fields e.g. licensing, restrictions on telemedicine, etc. And that's where the growth is. Coincidence? Perhaps.
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.

It looks like they are largely based on data gathered before the bubble burst, and also probably don't take the current outsourcing boom into account. Nor does it seem to take the length of the jobless recovery period into account.

There are salary numbers from 2001, but the outlook portion refers to 2000, suggesting to me that this part of the report was drawn up in 2000 or earlier.

It wouldn't exactly be the first time that real-world conditions changed far faster than the government could respond...
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.
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# Posted 11:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE FIGHT IS FOR DEMOCRACY: George Packer wants liberal Democrats to have a tough but principled foreign policy that can go head-to-head with the Bush administration's aggressive call for moral clarity. To that end, Packer has put together a collection of essays by prominent liberal thinkers whose purpose is to lay out a compelling vision that can command the support of a majority of the American electorate.

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.

"Don't worry," the cop said, "you're in shock."

"I'm not in shock," the investment banker answered. "I like this state. I've never been more cognizant in my life."
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 good
In 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.

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