Monday, October 21, 2002
DOONESBURY AND BLOGGING: Well, this is going to be a fun week; Garry Trudeau has discovered blogs. Here's today's Doonesbury strip -- check it out for yourself.

As a life-long Doonesbury reader, I've notice that Trudeau's satire tends to come in two forms -- the gentle but effective dig, or the over-the-top, didactic rant. Unfortunately, as he's matured, I've noticed more of the latter and less of the former (I'm not the only one; Jacob Levy points me to this excellent Reason analysis of Trudeau). Too soon to tell where he's going with this week's strips, but as for the implication that bloggers don't know what the hell they're talking about, Trudeau's living in a glass house. To quote from the introduction of one of his large-scale collections, People's Doonesbury:

"Question: You are rumored to go to some lengths when you are preparing a sequence in the strip. How much research do you really do?

Trudeau: As little as I can possibly get away with. It is for this quality above all others, I think, that I am so admired by undergraduates; I know just enough to create the impression that I know a lot."


[Are you really a fair arbiter of satire, given your political leanings?--ed. When it comes to satire, and comic strips in particular, I don't care where the satirist is on the political spectrum, so long as they're funny. I think the funniest comic strip today is Aaron McGruder's Boondocks, which is hysterical two-thirds of the time and leftist junk the other third of the time. Garry Trudeau is funny about 50% of the time at this point. I've never laughed at a Ted Rall cartoon. And can anyone explain Zippy the Pinhead to me?]

UPDATE: In the spirit of bloggers correcting their mistakes, I should point out that this is not the first time Trudeau has mentioned blogging in a strip. Here's the first mention, way back in.... early September (link via NetHistory)
Sunday, October 20, 2002
THE RICHER AND THE DUMBER: I'm sure the Times article that will trigger the most class-warfare accusations is Paul Krugman's cover essay in the New York Times Magazine. I'll reserve judgment until I see Part II. However, the most successful whack-the-rich piece in today's Times is in the Styles section, "Partying Like It's 1999." The article is about how those laid off from the financial sector are blowing off searching for new jobs and burning through their unemployment checks. Here's one example of the stupidity involved:

"In short, a job can just get in the way of enjoying one's unemployment. Consider Vipul Tandon, 28, who said that last summer, as many of his friends lost their jobs and began to go out until the wee hours, he felt left out of the fun because he had to get up in the morning and go to work. So last month, Mr. Tandon said, he quit his job as head of strategic planning for a chemical company to join them. 'It just seems like a good time not to be working,' he explained."

Now, reading this, I have three reactions. The first visceral reaction, which the Times intended, is to think that these people will be "the first ones up against the wall when the revolution comes," to quote Douglas Adams.

The second, libertarian reaction is to realize that these people are not harming anyone in their choices, and who am I to care? For example, the guy in the above paragraph indicates later in the story that he's saved up quite a bit to finance his current decadence. If he wants to blow his savings this way, it's his choice.

The third and final reaction comes from the economist in me, and thinks this provides an explanation for how U.S. productivity growth can be so robust as jobs are being shedded. As a close relative -- who works in the financial sector -- put it to me when I told him about this story, "You know, they don't fire the smart employees first."
THE OBSESSION WITH THE 'OBSESSION' WITH IRAQ: One of the criticisms of the Bush administration has been that it has erroneously tried to link all foreign policy problems with Iraq. This Onion story carries this criticism to its satirical extreme. I think this criticism is exaggerated, but certainly not beyond the pale of reasoned debate.

However, this criticism can run both ways. These same foreign policy critics tend to exaggerate the link between all of our foreign policy problems and the Bush administration's Iraq policy. North Korea has nuclear weapons? It's due to our obsession with Iraq. An explosion in Bali? We'd have thwarted it if the administration wasn't obsessed with Iraq. Anti-war advocates are so convinced that attacking Iraq is a bad idea that anything bad in the world is linked to our supposedly wrong-headed policy.

For exhibit A, see Tony Judt's New York Times op-ed. The killer grafs:

"The worst thing about Mr. Bush's pre-announced war with Iraq is that it is not just a substitute for the war against terrorism; it actively impedes it. Mr. Bush has scolded President Megawati Sukarnoputri of Indonesia for not cracking down on Islamic terrorists. But thanks to the war talk spilling out of Washington, heads of states with Islamic majorities are in an impossible position.

If they line up with the Bush administration against Saddam Hussein, they risk alienating a large and volatile domestic constituency, with unpredictable consequences. (Witness this month's elections in Pakistan, where two provinces adjacent to Afghanistan are now controlled by a coalition of religious parties sympathetic to Osama bin Laden.) But if they acknowledge popular opposition to a war with Iraq, they will incur Mr. Bush's wrath. Either way the war on terror suffers."

I am a big fan of Judt's writings, which is why it's so painful to conclude that his reasoning here is as incoherent as a live Bob Dylan performance. Consider:

1) Does Judt seriously believe that the growth in fundamentalist support in Pakistan has anything to do with Iraq? Wouldn't the conflict next door in Afghanistan be the much-more-likely proximate cause? And would an expanded U.S. presence in Afghanistan -- which is the common anti-war critique -- do anything other than rile up Pakistani fundamentalists even more?

2) Can anyone name me a Muslim majority country that has "incurred Bush's wrath" by openly acknowledging Muslim opposition to an invasion? Come to think of it, have there been any large-scale protests on this issue in the Muslim world? (I'm serious about this question -- I don't remember reading about any, but if someone can point me to a protest, I'll update this post).

3) Given that the war on terrorism involves the coordination of customs agencies, financial intelligence units, and other low-profile government organizations, why would opposition to an Iraq attack necessarily derail the war on terror?

4) Does Judt seriously believe that a U.S. climbdown on Iraq will somehow appease Muslim public opinion about the U.S.-led war on terror? Wouldn't it be more likely that a policy reversal would be perceived as part of the same pattern of U.S. retreats and half measures -- Mogadishu, Khobar Towers, the embassy bombings, Operation Desert Fox, the Cole bombing -- that leads to a perception of an American paper tiger?

5) Does Judt think that the bombings in Bali and Manila are somehow going to rally Muslim support in Asia for Osama bin Laden?

Finally, Judt claims later in the essay that "Hamas in the Middle East would desist if all their demands were met." Given that Hamas wants to see the state of Israel extinguished, is Judt suggesting that there is a basis for negotiation?

Judt warns in the essay that we should not "universalize what are often local animosities." Fair enough. Then Judt shouldn't assume that U.S. policy on Iraq will spill over into local animosities in Indonesia.
Saturday, October 19, 2002
ABOUT THAT HYPOCRISY CHARGE: My Friday post on North Korea prompted an e-mail from the MinuteMan. He points out that the administration is not acting hypocritically, because the pre-emption doctrine does not imply that the U.S. will always use force to deal with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He's right. This section of the National Security Strategy concludes:

"The United States will not use force in all cases to preempt emerging threats, nor should nations use preemption as a pretext for aggression.... We will always proceed deliberately, weighing the consequences of our actions."

Fair point, and consistent with what I said about all foreign policy doctrine having necessary wiggle room. But to be clear, the reason I said the Bush administration was being hypocritical was not that they were threatening to use force on Iraq but not North Korea. The hypocrisy stems from the administration's claim that the situation in Iraq merits force because that country's leadership is more evil. The reason the situations are different has everything to do with power politics and nothing to do with a "malevolence gap."
Friday, October 18, 2002
EU GRAB BAG: Speaking of hypocrisy, the European Union is always cited as an example of how countries can pool their sovereignty. Except, of course, when their national interests are threatened. EU members are already changing the rules for Eastern European entrants.

Meanwhile, Romano Prodi, the president of the European Commission calls the macroeconomic rules underlying the Euro "stupid." (Here's the Google-translated Le Monde article). Prodi may well be correct on the economic fundamentals, but what's interesting in the Financial Times story is the suggestion that Prodi is attempting a power grab. The money quote: "It is clear that nobody has authority - that is the problem."
SOME INTELLECTUAL HONESTY: The Bush administration is tying itself into knots over how the situation in North Korea is difference from Iraq. This New York Times article provides a fair characterization of the claimed differences, and &c tries to demolish them. Even more disconcerting is this Times story suggesting that Pakistan has been helping North Korea.

With these revelations, I’m predicting a lot of blogs crying hypocrisy over the next few days. The neocons will ask why North Korea gets the white glove treatment instead of “pre-emption”; the left will ask why Iraq doesn’t get the white glove treatment instead of pre-emption. My thoughts:

1) The hypocrisy charge sticks. Some intellectual honesty, please: The Bush administration rationales for why North Korea is different from Iraq don’t hold up. The claim that North Korea is weaker than Iraq doesn’t stick; indeed, this Chicago Tribune story suggests the reverse is true. The argument that negotiating with North Korea sometimes bears fruit doesn’t hold up, since the best evidence that negotiations work – the 1994 Framework Agreement – is now in tatters. The hairsplitting claim that Saddam Hussein has committed genocide while the DPRK regime hasn’t rests on the dubious argument that gassing a different nationality is somehow more evil than permitting one’s own nationality to face mass starvation. Face it: both of these countries belong on the axis of evil.

2) Welcome to realpolitik. Why, then, is the U.S. going after Iraq while “consulting” on North Korea? It’s not because pre-emption can’t apply to both countries; it’s because the power politics of the Middle East are radically different from those of the Far East. Invade Iraq, and no other great power’s sphere of influence is dramatically affected; the Middle East will remain an American bailiwick for quite some time. North Korea borders China and Russia; a pre-emptive attack against Pyongyang understandably ruffles more feathers.

3) North Korea can be temporarily handed off to others -- Iraq can't. No other great power can influence Iraqi behavior, so it’s up to the United States to do what only the United States can do; threaten and use force. Geopolitics raises the costs of a pre-emptive U.S. attack on North Korea, but those same geopolitics also renders North Korea more vulnerable to multilateral pressure. On the Korean peninsula, Russia and especially China have incentives similar to ours; get the DPRK to give up its WMD capabilities. These countries value stability in the region and trade with South Korea. Chinese and Russian coercive pressure has forced North Korea into making concessions in the past. Coercion in the present won’t permanently solve the problem, but it will -- temporarily -- arrest North Korea’s nuclear program.

4) This is how foreign policy works. Neoconservatives and Wilsonians expecting consistency will cry foul, but in a world where even American resources are finite, no foreign policy doctrine will ever emerge unsullied by foreign policy practice. At the same time, I doubt any administration could ever officially provide the explanation I just did. In foreign policy, one can act in a hypocritical fashion, but never admit to acting in a hypocritical fashion.
WHY IS THE U.S. SO INNOVATIVE?: It's considered de rigeur to moan and bitch about the economy right now, but this overlooks a key point, which that even in the current slowdown, the productivity of American firms and workers remains quite high. Boosting productivity is the holy grail of economics, because when it happens, everyone wins -- the economy can grow faster and real wages can rise higher without triggering inflation.

At present, and for the last decade, U.S. productivity growth has outpaced both Europe and Japan. The proximate reason is that the United States has been better at exploiting information technologies (IT) than our allies. A recent NBER paper confirms that IT has lead to productivity surges across the board; an IMF study makes it clear that Europe has yet to experience those spillovers.

The question that remains is, why is the U.S. so good at exploiting innovation? Robert Shapiro has a Slate article explaining why. The killer line (though see below):

"It's the combination of innovation in technology and business operations that usually produces the big benefits. And that's probably why we see no productivity rise in Japan or much of Europe, where IT investment has been nearly as high as here: Labor regulations and other barriers inhibit companies' abilities to use their new IT to change the way they do business."

Will Japan or Europe alter their regulatory structures to permit innovation to flourish? As a Mancur Olson fan, I'm pessimistic.

Now, I'm sure many readers are feeling pretty smug right now, thinking that this is another example of Yankee know-how. But in the long run, this is not a good thing for the U.S. With regard to foreign relations, as Jonah Goldberg notes today, the current gap between the United States and its principal allies is military -- we spend a lot on defense and they don't. If current productivity and demographic trends continue, however, in fifty years the U.S. economy will dwarf both Japan and the combined EU, and the gap will be ever-increasing as these economies shed people. I fear that the problem of "burden-sharing" will return with a vengeance, since these countries may lack both the resources and the manpower to even defend their own countries. As for our economy, we want Japan and Europe to grow, since when they grow, demand for U.S. exports rise.

Developing.... over the next 50 years....

UPDATE: Reader Thomas H. pointed out that the Bush administration is aware of this problem. The much-discussed 2002 National Security Strategy observes:

"A return to strong economic growth in Europe and Japan is vital to U.S. national security interests. We want our allies to have strong economies for their own sake, for the sake of the global economy, and for the sake of global security. European efforts to remove structural barriers in their economies are particularly important in this regard, as are Japan’s efforts to end deflation and address the problems of non-performing loans in the Japanese banking system."

U.S. pressure on Europe and Japan to change their domestic economic institutions are unlikely to work, however, unless significant economic interests within these countries also push for change (this point courtesy of Leonard Schoppa). The problem is, these groups all have vested interests in the current institutional set-up.

ANOTHER UPDATE: If you read Shapiro's Slate article, you'll see that he tries to imply that the Bush tax cuts will actually stifle innovation by raising long-term interest rates. Shapiro is right about the relationship between the two, but he's exaggerating the magnitude of the effect. &c (or is it now etc.?) is on the case.
Thursday, October 17, 2002
STOPPING TERRORIST FINANCING: "For years, individuals and charities based in Saudi Arabia have been the most important source of funds for Al-Qaeda. And for years, Saudi officials have turned a blind eye to this problem." That's one of the findings of a Council on Foreign Relations task force report on combating terrorist financing. The report also criticizes the Bush administration for not following through on the initial burst of momentum in cracking down on terrorist financing late last year.

The allegation against Saudi Arabia is dead-on accurate. When I was at Treasury, it was commonly acknowledged that all of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries did not take money laundering or terrorist financing seriously. The allegations against the Bush administration are 50% accurate -- the overreaching is probably due to the fact that the principal authors are ex-Clinton officials, albeit very competent and professional ones. The devastating criticism is that the administration appears reluctant to use the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) or the Egmont Group -- the chief international anti-money laundering organizations -- to blacklist and potentially sanction countries that are lax on terrorist financing. A similar approach to crack down on countries that laundered drug money was extremely effective in 2000 and 2001. One reason it was so effective was that the U.S. was unafraid to threaten sanctions against "politically sensitive" countries such as Israel and Russia. Blacklisting the Gulf countries is an option that needs to be on the table, even if it's awkward for FATF [Why would it be awkward for FATF?--ed. Because the Gulf Cooperation Council is a member of FATF, but its member countries are not. This has allowed Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf nations participate in all FATF deliberations while claiming that they don't need to strictly adhere to FATF standards. This use to drive me crazy at FATF meetings. The whole enterprise was a joke to them, and they were not afraid of displaying their contempt].

SO MUCH FOR THE NORTH KOREA ANALOGY: Two weeks ago, I posted some grafs on how the example of North Korea posed problems for pro-war and anti-war positions on Iraq. Well, after yesterday's revelation that North Korea has been actively developing nuclear weapons, the problems for the pro-war position have pretty much evaporated, while posing much more acute problems for the anti-war position. North Korea was considered to be an example of how patient dialogue, multilateral consultations, and inducements could achieve what coercive diplomacy could not. Clearly, that has turned out not to be true. For an excellent summary of North Korean noncompliance with the 1994 Framework agreement, go to the IAEA's informative web page.

Perhaps this will also debunk the notion that North Korea was engaging in true reforms, when what it was really doing was engaging in a clumsy PR offensive. For an example of how clumsy, click here.

UPDATE: Geithner Simmons makes similar points. And this event has brought out the neocon in &c.

ANOTHER UPDATE: InstaPundit thinks the North Koreans came clean because they don't want to be the next Iraq. Sorry, Glenn, that dog won't hunt. They didn't just admit to the weapons program; they also went out of their way to declare the 1994 Framework Agreement null and void. The DPRK leadership is just as insular and ill-informed about the world as Saddam Hussein, so ascribing "rational" motives can be dangerous. My guess, however, is that they were honest for the opposite reason -- they know the U.S. is preoccupied with Iraq and are trying to exploit the situation. They think the administration will try to buy off Pyongyang to keep them quiet when they move against Iraq. Based on the initial U.S. response, they may be right, though I strongly suspect the Chinese will not be pleased about these developments. This Washington Post story suggests the same.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002
OFFLINE TIL FRIDAY: I'm giving a talk at Dartmouth tomorrow, so no posts until Thursday evening at the earliest. Talk amongst yourselves. Here's a topic: why international law justifies an U.N.-supported attack against Iraq but not Israel.
IT'S NOT AN AMERICAN PROBLEM -- IT'S A CIVILIZATIONAL PROBLEM: I don't have much to say about the recent flurry of Al Qaeda attacks that hasn't already been said or highlighted in the Blogosphere. One point worth stressing is that they are against the West writ large rather than America. It was a French tanker that was bombed in Yemen; the Al Qaeda note sent to Al-Jazeera notes, "the attackers struck at the umbilical cord of the Christians." As for the Bali bombing, the New York Times observes:

"The tally of those who have been identified testifies to Bali's international appeal as a gathering spot for young foreigners. It includes victims from Indonesia and Australia as well as from Britain, Sweden, Singapore, Ecuador, Holland, France, Germany, Korea and the United States."

My point? Because Al Qaeda has made it clear that it considers its enemy to be pretty much everyone, the coalition fighting the war on terror will be strengthened and not weakened by the latest attacks. The Bali bombing has already had a salutory effect on the Indonesian government. Furthermore, since these governments are supporting the war on terror for self-interested reasons, it is highly unlikely that an attack on Iraq will reduce multilateral cooperation in this sphere, despite what the editorial and op-ed page of today's New York Times suggests. And, as even the Times editorial admits, "Fighting loosely linked and mobile terror cells is an entirely different operation from invading Iraq"

Finally, Ralph Peters makes a good case that these attacks demonstrate Al Qaeda's growing weakness rather than its growing strength.
Monday, October 14, 2002
EXCHANGING INFORMATION WITH THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION: The New York Times has a story on the paucity of information the Bush administration gives to the press. The article said White House reporters, "could not remember a White House that was more grudging or less forthcoming in informing the press." Half of the article sounds like the griping of journalists who are having difficulty finding good sources; the other half sounds like genuine frustration at the lack of even official access to the decision-making echelons. It is also consistent with the administration's eagerness to keep government documents classified for as long as possible.

This story reminds me of multiple off-the-record conversations I've had with foreign policy analysts on both sides of the political fence. They agree on one thing. If the administration resists the release of information it provides to the press, it is positively allergic to the receipt of information from unofficial sources. The administration seems so sure of itself that any outside input falls on deaf ears. One result of this is that when the administration does try to engage the public, they do it in a ham-handed, tone-deaf way, as the economic team is finding out.

This is usually presumed to be a bad thing; I think the answer is a lot more complex. All governments distrust outside information to some extent. In The Secret Pilgrim, John Le Carré's George Smiley made the point that "governments, like anyone else, trust what they pay for, and are suspicious of what they don't."

Also, consider the alternatives. This administration's attitude towards information is about as far from the Clinton administration as you can get. That administration leaked, spun, and released information more often than Britney Spears exposes her navel. The Clinton team was equally eager to bring in outside experts, as Benjamin Barber has so gleefully recounted. I certainly don't think you can say that the previous administration's foreign policy record is better than the current one.

My suspicion is that an administration's policy towards outside information involves two tradeoffs.

The process tradeoff is between consultation and coercion. What Clinton and his team excelled at was building as large a tent as possible to maximize support for a particular foreign policy. Allies, Congress, outside experts felt like they were being stroked, even when they lost on the substance. This kind of tent-building takes time and effort, but it pays dividends in the long run. The Bush team, in contrast, is more willing to threaten to exclude or ostracize those actors that disagree with its viewpoint. The results have often been effective -- hence the Bush team's success in cajoling Congress, the allies, and potentially the United Nations into action on Iraq. One side-effect, however, is that because those on the outside feel like they are not being truly consulted, they will carp about it to others who are not being consulted. The result is a media perception of an administration that has forced a confrontation on Iraq in a unilateral, belligerent fashion, when in fact this confrontation has had more due process than the Clinton team's decision to bomb Kosovo. The Bush approach leaves hard feelings, but it also yields results.

The substantive tradeoff is between decisiveness and accuracy. Clinton wanted all angles of a story, and he got them. The result was a foreign policy that often resembled a Cubist painting: too many perspectives distorting the picture. In other situations, the Clinton team seemed so uncertain of themselves that they preferred to delay making a risky decision in favor of acquiring more information. It preferred delaying a decision in which it had 60% of the story in favor waiting until it had 90% of the story. This lead to the perception of a foreign policy team paralyzed by its inability to take a risk. [Any exceptions?--ed. Yes, the 1995 bailout of Mexico was both brave and decisive.] Sometimes the costs of delay were prohibitive. The Bush team, in contrast, does not lack in self-confidence. They see the forest from the trees, and are willing to make the big decisions even when they have only 60% of the picture, which in the real world is a useful skill. As Nicholas Lehmann notes, in discussing his article on Condi Rice in The New Yorker, "Rice is extremely sure of herself. She, like many of the foreign-policy officials in this Administration, isn't big on caution. Publicly, at least, she projects a brassy self-confidence about the ability of the United States to shape the course of events in faraway places without suffering adverse consequences." The results (the war in Afghanistan, the ABM withdrawal) have been mostly for the good. [Any exceptions?--ed. I think if they had a second chance they would not have pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol so brusquely.] So far, the Bush team seems to have managed this tradeoff better than Clinton team. They've gotten the big things right, which has probably reinforced their willingness to act on their own instincts even further.

My preference is for an administration that adopts 67% of the Bush team's approach and 33% of the Clinton team's approach. The two downsides to the Bush approach I can see are 1) As Fareed Zakaria has argued, this unwillingness to listen to outsiders will encourage the worst interpretations of American behavior, and 2) If the Bush team makes a mistake, it will be more likely to resist a change in direction.

Food for thought.

UPDATE: This USA Today article suggests that the Times piece had some effect on Bush.
A TRUE LIBERAL: I don't always agree with Vaclav Havel, but nevertheless it is easy to descend into hagiography when discussing him. His September 19th address in New York, republished in the New York Review of Books, is typically eloquent. He is both personally and politically humble. He notes wryly, "The warning voices of poets must be carefully listened to and taken very seriously, perhaps even more seriously than the voices of bankers or stock brokers. But at the same time, we cannot expect that the world—in the hands of poets—will suddenly be transformed into a poem." His three lessons of "high politics" are worth quoting in full; I'm not sure I completely agree with them, but I am glad someone of Havel's stature can articulate this viewpoint:

"(1) If humanity is to survive and avoid new catastrophes, then the global political order has to be accompanied by a sincere and mutual respect among the various spheres of civilization, culture, nations, or continents, and by honest efforts on their part to seek and find the values or basic moral imperatives they have in common, and to build them into the foundations of their coexistence in this globally connected world.

(2) Evil must be confronted in its womb and, if there is no other way to do it, then it has to be dealt with by the use of force. If the immensely sophisticated and expensive modern weaponry must be used, let it be used in a way that does not harm civilian populations. If this is not possible, then the billions spent on those weapons will be wasted.

(3) If we examine all the problems facing the world today, be they economic, social, ecological, or general problems of civilization, we will always —whether we want to or not—come up against the problem of whether a course of action is proper or not, or whether, from the long-term planetary point of view, it is responsible. The moral order and its sources, human rights and the sources of people's right to human rights, human responsibility and its origins, human conscience and the penetrating view of that from which nothing can be hidden with a curtain of noble words—these are, in my deepest convictions and in all my experience, the most important political themes of our time."

Saturday, October 12, 2002
THOUGHTS ON BLOGGING: It’s been a month and a day since I started blogging. Like my colleague Jacob Levy, I had some worries about being a scholar-blogger, like the blog becoming an addiction and distraction from my scholarly research, which is what pays the bills. After a month, this is what I’ve concluded:

1) For me, blogging is like free play. I like being a professor for a lot of reasons, but the big one is that I’m being paid to basically sit around and think. Now some of these thoughts are too arcane for the blog (though if you’re really, really interested in globalization and international regulatory coordination, click here). But before I found this outlet, I also had a lot of policy-relevant observations that were too short for an op-ed. This venue has the twin advantages of being immediate and accessible. I’ve probably devoted more time to this than I spent surfing the web six weeks ago, but not too much more. My interest in posting also waxes and wanes -- some days I just have blogathy.

2) People are reading. In the two weeks I’ve been keeping count, I’ve had approximately 5,000 visits (not visitors) to the blog. These ain’t Andrew Sullivan numbers, but given that I haven’t really advertised it beyond the occasional e-mail, it’s still impressive. [How do you account for your success?—ed. A combination of my topical, erudite posts and a healthy number of links in Instapundit. Oh, hell, it’s 99% due to Glenn.] According to... well, one American University blogger, I'm a "big-time blog." I’ve published one book, ten refereed journal articles, and a bunch of policy essays, but in all likelihood more people have read this blog than have looked at any of my collected works. That's simultaneously exciting and depressing.

1) Blogging promotes excessive certainty. Back in 1985, RAND published a remarkably prescient document on the hazards of e-mail communication. One all-too-true warning:

“One of the most surprising things about electronic mail is the ease with which misinterpretations arise. People are used to reading "body language," voice intonation, and numerous other cues when interpreting messages delivered in conversation, or even on the telephone. Those cues are missing in electronic mail, and what was meant as a casual comment, or an attempt at humor or irony, is misinterpreted. Even small misinterpretations have a tendency to mushroom.”

In old media, these problems are removed through the wonders of editing. But because blogs are self-edited, they tend to resemble e-mail more than any other publishing outlet. This effect is compounded by the urge to sound as sure of one’s self as possible. In my case, the eagerness to post has occasionally run roughshod over the need to inject nuance into an observation. I’m improving at this, but it’s a slow process.

2) The blogging equilibrium: journalists and profs. For the pundit blogs, like me, the past year has seen more blogs acquire institutional homes: The New Republic’s &c, The American Prospect’s Tapped, The National Review’s Corner, Slate’s Kausfiles, MSNBC’s Altercation, ABC’s The Note… you get the point. Because these blogs are attached to high-traffic web sites, they’re bound to attract the most attention. The Blogosphere will likely evolve in such a way that the dominant subspecies will be journalists and academics. Journalists, because that’s who magazines/networks will hire. Academics, because they have a comparative advantage in being public intellectuals, and because they’re used to expending effort on financially unrewarding activities. Like Richard Posner’s take on public intellectuals, I don’t think this trend is necessarily a good one.

1) Blogging promotes sharper debate. John Stuart Mill warned that unless societies permitted the unlimited expression of opinion, ideas became “dead dogma.” On the one hand, the blogosphere certainly permits the full range of opinion to be expressed. On the other hand, as Mill also warned, such a free range of expression will encourage the more extremist forms of discourse to ratchet up their rhetoric -- hence all of the fiskings. Despite what we want to believe, better debate is often nastier debate.

For me (especially since I’m a prof) the goods outweigh the bads. But as my research demands heat up, I’ll probably have to scale back on my posting a bit. Not to Brink Lindsey levels of scarcity, but low enough to permit some focus to drift off Iraq and onto matters like transnational regulation.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan's Sunday Times column reinforces my belief about the future evolution of the blogosphere being reduced to journalists with old media ties and profs that are used to nonprofit pontificating. However, he goes my idea one step further, citing Instapundit as an example of the prof who morphs into someone with old media ties.
Friday, October 11, 2002
DREZNER GETS RESULTS!: A month ago, I argued that there was a strong liberal argument for going to war with Iraq. The New Republic's Jonathan Chait has finally caught up. Advantage: Drezner!
IN DEFENSE OF JIMMY CARTER: I never thought I would write those words; I'm not the man's biggest fan. Today, however, I suspect they will be necessary in the Blogosphere. Carter was awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize, even though this award is usually given for activities pursued in the previous year, and to my knowledge Carter hasn't done anything significant. The A.P. story has the killer quote (first picked up by AtlanticBlog):

"`'It should be interpreted as a criticism of the line that the current administration has taken,' Gunnar Berge, chairman of the Nobel committee, said. `It's a kick in the leg to all that follow the same line as the United States.'"

Well, at least they didn't give the award to bin Laden. [OK, smart guy, who do you think merits the award?--ed. Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar, for coming up with the idea of using U.S. assistance to control loose nukes. Sit back and think about what the world would look like right now if that program never came to fruition].

Put aside the idiotic reasoning of the Nobel committee (and note that Carter had the decency not to comment when prodded about Iraq; his acceptance statement was similarly innocuous). [What about his Larry King interview on CNN?--ed. D'Oh! But he also said some nice things about Bush in the interview.] Put aside the fact that others have equal standing to merit the prize. Put aside his malaise speech, for those who remember it [Medically impossible--ed.]. The question is, does Carter merit the prize for his accomplishments? Damn straight. Consider the accomplishments:

1) Camp David. Sadat and Begin deserve the bulk of the credit, but saying that Carter didn't have an important role to play is like saying that because the acting in a movie is terrific, the director doesn't deserve an Oscar.

2) Human rights. Carter was the first president to make it a high-profile issue in U.S. foreign policy. There were short-term costs, but the goodwill that initiative bought the U.S. in the rest of the world cannot be underestimated. It's not a coincidence that the third wave of democratization started to take off during his administration.

3) Election monitoring. Carter was at the forefront of this vital tool of consolidating democracy.

4) Being an adult during the first two years of the Clinton administration. Remember those years? Recovered from the nausea? Clinton's foreign policy team was not ready for prime time. Carter helped to bail them out of invasions of Haiti and North Korea. He did it in a sanctimonious, undemocratic, and at times unauthorized way, yes, but he still did it.

5) Development in Africa. In a largely critical essay of Carter's post-presidential legacy, Chris Sullentrop of Slate acknowledges: "Carter has done admirable work since he left office, particularly in Africa, where he has helped nearly to eradicate some deadly diseases. And when he's brokering a cease-fire during a civil war in Ethiopia, or promoting new agricultural techniques in sub-Saharan Africa, he's actively making the world a better place."

6) Without him, Reagan never gets elected. For other reasons like this, check out this P.J. O'Rourke comparison of Carter to Clinton.

Carter is far from perfect, and his vision of how to conduct foreign affairs will always be handicapped by his failure to understand the role that force plays in world politics. But his accomplishments are also tangible, and should not be spat upon just because of the Nobel committee's flawed worldview. Some will point to Carter's ass-kissing of brutal despots as proof that his commitment to human rights is not genuine (see also here). Please. You could find similar quotations from every cold war president about some despicable dictator.

I'm sure in the next few days there will be endless posts on endless blogs about the various flaws of Jimmy Carter. I'm sure Carter will deserve some of those posts. But based on his record, he also deserves the award.

UPDATE: Here's OxBlog's reasonable take on the Nobel; here's Alterman's sickly-sweet take. CalPundit has been kind enough to gather editorial reactions. I think my position on it corresponds closely to the New York Times editorial...shudder. This husband & wife blog bashes Carter and impugns Norway for good measure. I think the facts in their rant are accurate, but any country that's an advanced democracy, a loyal NATO member, and has rejected joining the European Union three times is not an easy country to pigeonhole.

One criticism I didn't address is the question of whether Carter abused his office by using the prestige of the ex-presidency to pursue an independent foreign policy. As Sullentrop notes, "Carter trades on his role as a former president, and many of the non-democracies in which he works have difficulty understanding that he's not a major leader in the United States." I have to respond with a rhetorical question: why is it irresponsible for Carter to use his bully pulpit to advocate for his sincere, albeit occasionally wrong-headed, positions, but it's not irresponsible for another Nobelist, Henry Kissinger, to exploit his bully pullpit by creating a for-profit consulting firm that acts as a conduit for Middle Eastern despots?
Thursday, October 10, 2002
THE EU WIMPS OUT: Generally, when the United States adopts a tough position towards a predominantly Muslim country, European Union members reply with the assertion that carrots are better than sticks. With both Iraq and Iran, for example, the EU position is that in the long run, economic, political, and diplomatic inducements will alter behavior better than coercive diplomacy. I think it's more complex than that, but it's certainly a defensible decision.

Now, however, the EU has made it clear that there's a limit to their reliance on carrots. Yesterday's announcement about EU expansion to the East was noticeable for the snub that was delivered to Turkey. The EU, as expected, targeted ten transition economies for membership by 2004. Bulgaria and Romania were given the target of 2007. Turkey was not given a target date. There is not even a date for further talks. Instead, the press release observed: "Turkey is encouraged to pursue the reform process to strengthen democracy and the protection of human rights, in law and in practice."

This is a country that consciously decided to join the West after World War I. Among the candidate countries, it was the first to apply for admission (in 1987). It is a country with a longer track record on democracy than any other country in the Balkans. It has had a functioning market economy for much longer than most of the other aspirants. It abolished the death penalty to please the European Union. It's certainly not ready for accession today, but by 2004 it would have been a reasonably safe bet. In terms of geopolitics, bringing Turkey into the EU club would have been the best way to ensure further political reforms and ensure stability in Souteastern Europe. The parallels to Mexico's accession into NAFTA are pretty clear. Instead, the EU treats Turkey as its doormat, pushing the Turks aside to pave the way for Bulgaria and Romania. [You knocking the South Slavs?--ed. I don't mean to impugn these countries, which have made great strides since 1989. It's just that Turkey is without question closer to meeting most of the EU criteria.]

What kind of message does this send the Turks? There can be only one message -- you're not welcome if you're Muslim.

I don't want to hear the Europeans talk about the power of incentives any more.

UPDATE: The U.S. has been leaning on the Europeans to reconsider, and now even Greece is changing its tune.
CHARITIES AND TERRORISTS: As an "expert on terrorist financing," I was on Chicago Tonight yesterday evening to talk about the indictment of the head of Benevolence International, one of the largest Muslim charities in the United States. [You're an expert?--ed. I spent the 2000-01 academic year working at the Treasury Department on coordinating international anti-money laundering activities, so by TV standards, yes, yes I am an expert.] The New York Times story is pretty good; here's the actual indictment. A few thoughts on the larger implications:

1) Stopping terrorist financing doesn't happen without international cooperation. The bulk of the evidence behind the indictment came from a March 2002 raid of the charity's offices in Bosnia. That was where the treasure trove of Al Qaeda documents were found. Swiss banking authorities also must have cooperated in discovering the alleged laundering of terrorist money through the charity's Swiss bank account.

2) More charities will be busted. Benevolence International was active in Bosnia, Chechnya, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan. So was Al Qaeda. Relief agencies, charities, and terrorist networks swim in the same ocean -- weak and war-torn states. The charities are there because of the suffering; the terrorists are their to fight or to operate free of law enforcement. It's not shocking that terrorists would use charitable agencies as a money laundering conduit -- busting a charity never sounds good. Because charity is one of the five pillars of Islam, Muslim charities are particularly vulnerable to an organizational hybrid that builds schools with one hand while slaughtering civilians with the other. Benevolence International probably did engage in good works in Bosnia, for example. However, they also assisted one of the architects of the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa. Click here for more on the unfortunate relationship between charities and terrorists.

3) This is just a drop in the bucket. Benevolence International has assets of less than $2 million. Al Qaeda has a number of ways to transfer assets beyond using charities as a cover -- conflict diamonds and currency exchanges, to name two. Stopping the myriad conduits for terrorist financing is not going to be easy.

P.S. Instapundit wonders whether the photo "which showed the defendant in traditional garb brandishing an AK-47" worries his lawyers. One of the defense attorneys -- Matt Piers -- was on the show with me last night. He claims the person in the photo is not his defendant. He didn't provide an explanation for the charity's fondness for Swiss bank accounts.
HOW NOT TO PROTEST: The Chicago Tribune has a story on why anti-war protests are not really catching on. The article suggests a "generational shift of priorities," combined with the absence of a draft, is responsible for the lack of enthusiasm. Reading the article, however, I think there's another explanation -- the protestors are intellectually obnoxious. Now, protestors are supposed to be physically obnoxious -- that's how they draw attention to themselves. But consider these quotes from student activists:

"Adil Khan, 20, a member of the university's Muslim Student Association, said: 'We [Muslims] believe the war as presently constituted is unjust. The only reason that it [the war] is being supported is because people are ignorant.'"

"Andrew Main, a sophomore at Swarthmore College, founded an organization called "Why War" shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. 'We were pretty outraged by the rush to war and the unbridled patriotism of the last year,' Main said."

Certainly, when I'm accused of being an unthinking patriot, my first instinct is to take these people seriously. Not!

UPDATE: Looks like Ron Rosenbaum has had a similar reaction to the anti-war protestors. (Link via Sullivan). Rosenbaum also illuminates the debate of why communism gets treated with more respect by intellectuals than fascism:

"I still can understand people like Pete Seeger joining the Party back in the 30’s during the Depression, when it looked like unregulated capitalism had cruelly immiserated America, when racism and lynchings reigned down South and it looked (looked, I said) as if the Soviet Union was the only force willing to stand up to Hitler. But to cling to Marxism now, after all we’ve learned in the past 50 years—not just about the Soviet Union, but China and Cambodia … ?
Wednesday, October 09, 2002
COCOONS AND WAR: Kausfiles makes an excellent observation on the tendency for both liberals and conservatives to interpret information selectively. Click here for more on the liberal cocoon; it's the conservative cocoon that worries me.

Kaus argues that conservatives tend to explain away all negative information that comes from New York Times as a product of liberal media bias. This can be dangerous if the information happens to be accurate on a fairly regular basis. Assume that half of what is in the Times is liberal exaggeration. That still leaves half that is dead-on accurate. To give an example: there are excellent reasons to discount the Times' interpretation of their Monday poll, but as Kaus himself points out, there are nuggets of accurate information in the article.

This leads to today's NYT report on the CIA assessment of Iraq's intentions and capabilities. It demands close scrutiny.

The article accurately captures the CIA assessment that Saddam Hussein is capable of being deterred from using weapons of mass destruction, unless he thinks the U.S. is going to attack, in which case the intelligence estimate is that there is a "pretty high" chance he'd use those weapons. In other words, the probability of a WMD attack against the United States increases if we launch an assault. This is a powerful argument against launching an attack, and a hurdle that the president needs to clear in order to justify the use of force: why is an invasion of Iraq worth the increased likelihood of an attempted WMD attack against the United States? Conservatives might be tempted to discount this information, because of the sources -- New York Times and the CIA. That would be a mistake.

On the other hand, if you read the full text of the CIA's letter to the Senate, you see both the tendency towards liberal media bias, and a possible answer to the question posed in the previous graf. The final section of the letter details the CIA's assessment of the links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. To quote:

"¶We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda going back a decade.

¶Credible information indicates that Iraq and Al Qaeda have discussed safe haven and reciprocal nonaggression.

¶Since Operation Enduring Freedom, we have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of Al Qaeda members, including some that have been in Baghdad.

¶We have credible reporting that Al Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire W.M.D. capabilities. The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to Al Qaeda members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs.

¶Iraq's increasing support to extremist Palestinians coupled with growing indications of relationship with Al Qaeda. suggest that Baghdad's links to terrorists will increase, even absent U.S. military action." (my italics)

Until now, I had not given much credence to the argument that Iraq and Al Qaeda were linked, but the CIA assessment suggests otherwise. Substantively, this is the argument for an attack sooner rather than later -- the longer we wait, the more likely that Saddam will export W.M.D. to terrorists of the death-to-America persuasion. [What about the realists assertion that since Iraq is secular while Al Qaeda consists of Islamic fundamentalists, they would never cooperate?--ed. Bull. Realists assume that actors balance against the greater threat. The U.S. is the greatest threat to both Iraq and Al Qaeda at the moment. Realism would conclude that cooperation between the two actors is a foregone conclusion.] An attack now carries significant risks, but a failure to purge Iraq of weapons of mass destruction carries even greater risks. To conduct that purge, the U.S. and U.N. must be ready to attack.

Consistent with the assumption of liberal media bias, the Times story had seven paragraphs on the greater threat of an Iraqi response, but only one graf on the Iraq/Al-Qaeda link. That's better than the Washington Post story, which does not mention those links.

My point: the CIA letter contains information for and against an attack; both pieces of information need to be incorporated into the current debate.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002
FRANCE AND RUSSIA--SEPARATED AT BIRTH: Mark Brzezinski argues in the New York Times op-ed page that Russia will hem and haw but ultimately side with the U.S. in the Security Council. Just like France.

I know Mark -- he's always worth a read.
EDWARDS, GORE, AND NUNN: Twelve years ago, the Great Democratic Hope for president was Sam Nunn. He was the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he was considered a "hawk," and he was from the South. The 1992 Democratic presidential nomination was his for the asking.

Then he voted against the Gulf War. He believed that given time, the U.N. sanctions against Iraq would work.

The result? Nunn's reputation was tarnished. Another Southern senator who voted for the Gulf War and was also considered an expert of defense issues supplanted Nunn -- Al Gore.

Now it appears that John Edwards is trying to steal a page from Gore's playbook. We know where Gore stands on Iraq -- whatever the administration is proposing must be wrong. Edwards' position on Iraq is both supportive of the overall policy while making it clear that he thinks the process of building allied support for an attack could have been handled better. His term "gratuitous unilateralism" perfectly ecapsulates the media Zeitgeist, which ensures greater media exposure. Leaking the speech to the Washington Post ensured media play without stealing the President's thunder, as Andrew Sullivan notes.

Substantively, there is not a lot of difference between what Gore and Edwards are saying. What's different is that Edwards ultimately supports the decision to attack sooner rather than later while Gore thinks... we should wait and give the sanctions time to work.

If a war on Iraq plays out well, Sam Nunn will be welcoming Al Gore to the Old Democratic Hopefuls Home for some games of shuffleboard and Diplomacy. Meanwhile, Edwards notes, "This is the first of three speeches outlining ways to strengthen America at home and abroad. In the coming weeks, I will talk about what kind of leadership we need to get our economy back on track and focus on ways to strengthen education in America."

There are some people who just give off the whiff of being smart about politics. Edwards definitely has the scent.
Monday, October 07, 2002
THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING THE FRENCH: InstaPundit has a lengthy post on France and Al Qaeda, in particular how the French will respond to terrorist attacks against them.

The key to understanding what the French will do in international relations was made clear to me a decade ago by an American woman who grew up there: "France will do whatever it takes to magnify their importance." Most of the time, this means publicly disagreeing with the United States about a vital matter of world politics, before caving in if the Americans call their bluff. [Hey, replace "U.S." with Germany, and you can explain their warfighting capabilities as well--ed. Just kidding!!]

Ah, the French. Teaching international relations, making jokes about ethnicities or nationalities is improper classroom decorum. Except the French. If I ever want to get a cheap laugh, all I have to do is say "France" and roll my eyes. Works every time.

Fair? No, but neither is the European assumption that all Americans are trigger-happy, illiterate rednecks. In the end, everything balances out.
Sunday, October 06, 2002
READING ASSIGNMENT: Jean Elshtain argues contra Walzer that an attack on Iraq would be a just war in the Boston Globe. What I find interesting about this is that it appeared in the Globe, not the New York Times or the Washington Post. Elshtain is a heavyweight; did the Times or the Post say no? Or is the Globe Ideas section moving up in the world, as Mickey Kaus suggested last month?
Saturday, October 05, 2002
IS NORTH KOREA THE MODEL FOR IRAQ?: Hans Blix’s support of a tough new UN Security Council resolution reminded me that Blix headed the International Atomic Energy Agency during the early 1990’s inspections crisis with North Korea. During that situation, Blix was a rarity among international organization heads; he was results-oriented rather than process-oriented. The contrast with Kofi Annan could not be starker.

Blix’s appearance in both the Iraq and North Korea crises raises an interesting question – why hasn’t the current debate over Iraq invited more comparisons to the North Korean crisis of 1994? God knows, commentators have been making silly comparisons to the Cuban Missile Crisis; why no reference to the North Korea episode? I think the answer is that the way that crisis unfolded and was resolved poses vexing questions for both sides in the debate.

For the anti-war crowd, the problem is that the history of that bargaining episode shows the limits of what negotiations, sanctions and embargoes can accomplish. For over two years, the U.S. tried to reach a resolution that would get the North Koreans back into the IAEA regime. The North Koreans only gave ground when it seemed that a sanction was imminent. They only indicated a willingness to cut a comprehensive agreement after it was clear that the U.S., Japan, and South Korea were ready to impose sanctions and respond to North Korean provocations with force.

For the pro-war crowd, the problem is that this case suggests that it is possible to cut a deal with Hussein. Despite what Jeffrey Goldberg has said, the North Korean regime is just as nasty as Hussein’s Iraq. Over the past four decades, North Korea has kidnapped citizens from other countries, engaged in terrorist activities (including blowing up airplanes), repeatedly tried to subvert and provoke South Korea, preferred starving its own people to reforming its economy, actively developed weapons of mass destruction, and proliferated missile technology to other state supporters of terrorism. All that said, the 1994 deal to trade inspections for reactor technology has essentially held. New York Times op-eds to the contrary, the regime is still pretty nasty. But the U.S. was able to contain the proliferation of nuclear weapons without regime change. Simply put, coercive bargaining can work [Coercive? Didn’t the North Koreans get a whopping $5 billion carrot out of the deal?—ed. They got a promise of that investment, yes, but they only agreed to it because the alternative was economic and possibly military coercion.]

It’s possible that Saddam Hussein will decide that he prefers war to “coercive inspections.” If he permits the inspections, however, those who favor the use of force will be split into those favoring regime change at any price (Rumsfield) and those who care about eliminating the weapons of mass destruction first (Powell). I’m not completely sure which side of this fence I sit on – there are compelling arguments for both.

The North Korea case suggests that those who favor negotiation at any price are fools – but it also suggests that those who are bound and determined to change the regime in Iraq are underestimating the power of coercive bargaining.

UPDATE: Aziz Poonawalla has an interesting take on the potential faultlines among the pro-war crowd -- link via InstaPundit [Duh.--ed.]
INSTAPUNDIT GETS RESULTS!: Thanks to Glenn, I've been deluged with responses to my question of why the far left is considered more intellectually respectable than the far right:

Reader Thomas J. suggests two additional explanations: First, "Nazis were more 'open' with their intentions - be it 'Endlosung' or 'Lebensraum'. On the other hand, commies - starting from Comrade Uljanov - were always more aware of PR." Second, "You had to be Aryan to be Nazi... on the other hand commies were more open - no racial pre-requisites required." This second explanation is certainly consistent with Brad DeLong's original hypothesis. [I thought you said DeLong was a Socialist --ed. I meant to suggest that Brad's vision of utopia was socialist. I think the was I phrased it in the original post was too strong]. Another anonymous professor chimes in with a similar explanation: "What made fascism somewhat unattractive in the US was its EXPLICIT hierarchical nature--that some people and some countries are naturally meant to rule. Like Communism, fascism was collectivist to its core, but its utopian collective was not egalitarian but based on dominance and subservience."

Reader George B. suggests that "hatred of the rich and resentment and envy of successful business and commercial people by intellectuals provides the main
explanation of more sympathetic treatment of the Communists.... It is unthinkable within the intelligencia that most Capitalists are highly competent sophisticated people who have gained their stations by merit and are far more talented than most intellectuals.... Capitalists are also generally a lot more fun than college professors in my experience." Well.... maybe. [You're not going to make a snarky comment about Enron, WorldCom, etc.?--ed. No, George is correct when he uses the word "most."] In the past, there have been intellectuals who were also good businessmen (Keynes comes to mind). And this certainly doesn't apply to the present day; intellectuals have become much more comfortable with the material life. The best (and most hilarious) description of this phenomenon is the chapter on "intellectual life" in David Brooks' BoBos in Paradise. This chapter is a must-read for any aspiring intellectual. [What about capitalists being more fun than college profs?--ed. My idea of fun is reading Nicholas Dawidoff's The Fly Swatter, whereas most capitalists' idea of fun involve attractive people combined with expensive food and drink, so I think I'll concede the point.]

For those interested in the general relationship between intellectuals and power, I can think of no better starting point than Mark Lilla's essay "The Lure of Syracuse." It's a chapter in his collection of essays, "The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics."

BLOGGER RESPONSES: Parapundit offers up Robert Nozick's explanation for why intellectuals dislike the capitalist system. It's a compelling argument but a bit off point, since the question is about intellectuals' treatment of fascism vs. communism, not capitalism. And Nozick himself notes in the essay, "This opposition to capitalism is mainly "from the left" but not solely so. Yeats, Eliot, and Pound opposed market society from the right." And as I argued above, I think the intellectual opposition to capitalism is fading over time. Part of this may be because as capitalism has evolved, there is a greater emphasis on human (or intellectual) capital rather than physical capital. Robert Reich has also made this argument with regard to "symbolic analysts." [You're agreeing with Reich?--ed. Well, I'm agreeing with this version of Reich. It would actually be impossible to assemble Reich's collected works and divine a coherent rationale-- except self-aggrandizement.]

Both Alan K. Henderson and John Jay Ray argue that fascism has been misunderstood and is a product of the left, not the right. It is true that fascism was a collective ideology, and it's also true that some prominent fascists (Mussolini) started out as communists. This is a pretty weak argument, however. Inasmuch as ideologies can be placed along a single left-right continuum, fascism belongs on the far right.
Friday, October 04, 2002
PREEMPTION, PREVENTION, AND SURPRISE: In an effort to counter Michael Walzer’s argument that an attack on Iraq would be an unjust war, Max Boot argues that the U.S. has a long tradition of acting pre-emptively. Boot is right on the history, but that doesn’t necessarily undercut Walzer’s thesis. Just because states have a history of pursuing a particular activity does not mean that the activity is therefore a good and just one. I’m not saying Walzer is correct. If you look at U.S. actions in the region for the past two decades – tacitly and not-so-tacitly supporting Saddam, stationing large numbers of troops in Saudi Arabia, leading an embargo that Saddam has allowed to devastate the Iraqi people – America has a moral obligation to fix the problem. I’ve said this before, but Andrew Sullivan says it today with a louder megaphone [What about Kristoff’s argument that the Iraqi people will resist Yankee imperialists?—ed. I’m shocked, shocked that under the current regime Iraqis are making anti-American noises!! Why, it could be like Nicaragua or Afghanistan all over again.]

This debate about preemption vs. prevention confuses a key point, however. A key difference between the cases that Boot and other anti-war critics cite and this case is the element of surprise. What makes many uncomfortable is the notion of the U.S. attacking without provocation and warning. And there’s no question, the bar should be pretty high for the U.S. to engage in those types of attacks. What’s being debated now is whether there is sufficient provocation; I think there has been, but it’s not a settled question. However, the framing of this debate has led pro-attack commentators like Boot to rely on historical cases of surprise attacks to defend their position.

That’s a mistake, because no one is going to be surprised if the U.S. attacks Iraq. It’s not going to happen before a Congressional resolution passes, and it likely won’t happen without U.N. Security Council action as well as a consultation process with key allies that has lasted at least six months. Allegations that the Bush administration is acting like a unilateral, gung-ho cowboy are absurd; the Iraq question will have had as much due process as any decision to wage war in modern history.

If anti-war commentators want to argue that there’s insufficient provocation for an attack, fine, make that argument. But no one should insinuate that this will also be a surprise attack.
MORE WEIRDNESS INVOLVING NORTH KOREA: The New York Times reports that China has arrested the man North Korea selected to run their proposed special economic zone. His problem appears to be with the Chinese authorities, but the story makes it clear that Pyongyang won't be reforming anytime soon.
Thursday, October 03, 2002
THAT'S MY LINE: Instapundit makes the point I've made previously; German-American relations are on the mend. Advantage: Drezner!
THIS SEEMS LIKE GOOD NEWS: What makes it tough to gauge our success against Al-Qaeda is that we don't know whether their attempts to follow up on 9/11 have been foiled, or that they haven't tried yet. If it's the former, we've been successful; if it's the latter, we've been lucky.

If I'm correctly reading this CNN story about what John Walker Lindh told his interrogators, it appears that we must have thwarted Al Qaeda attacks. The key graf:

"He [Walker Lindh] told his interrogators that one of his former instructors said that 'this was the first attack' and that a second wave would come at the beginning of Ramadan, in mid-November, and 'make America forget about the first attack.' The instructor also talked of a third wave, in early 2002, but provided no details."

It's way past early 2002, and neither the second or third waves have happened. I'm not saying that Al-Qaeda has been completely neutralized, but isn't this pretty good evidence that they're not punching in the same weight class?

UPDATE: This AP story has much more detail.
Wednesday, October 02, 2002
GLOBALIZATION BENEFITS THE POOR...BUT THERE'S A CAVEAT: This is kind of a good news, bad news sort of post. The libertarian in me thinks this is great news; the scholar in me is a touch more skeptical.

The good news: A new book by Surjit S. Bhalla to be published by the Institute for International Economics presents clear evidence that globalization has drastically reduced poverty. The money graf:

"World poverty fell from 44 percent of the global population in 1980 to 13 percent in 2000, its fastest decline in history. Global income inequality has dropped over this period and is at its lowest level since at least 1910. Poor countries have grown about twice as fast as rich countries (3.1 percent annually versus 1.6 percent) during the era of globalization in 1980-2000, reversing the pattern of the prior two decades. The poor in poor countries have grown even faster; each 10 percent increase in incomes of the nonpoor has been associated with an 18 percent increase in incomes of the poor. There has been strong convergence in world incomes over the entire postwar period and the developing countries' share of the world's middle class has risen from 20 percent in 1960 to 70 percent in 2000."

This backs up other evidence by Xavier Sala-i-Martin that Virginia Postrel has highlighted. It's the best refutation of the sort of idiocy that Arundhati Roy likes to peddle.

The bad news is that this does not really test the argument that anti-globalization advocates make, which is that pro-globalization policies lead to greater inequality. To properly test this argument, the proper "unit of analysis" is at the policymaking level, not the individual level. What's driving the good results is the massive reduction of poverty in only two states -- China and India. And while these countries clearly adopted more globalization-friendly policies over the past two decades, Dani Rodrik and others are correct in pointing out that neither of them is the IMF poster-state for laissez-faire development policies.

So are the anti-globalization folks right? I don't think so, because their results have even bigger flaws, which I'll get to in a later post. The key thing to realize for now is that the claims of rising global inequality are bogus.
SOON, THEY"LL BE MORE LIBERAL THAN.... BELARUS: This NYT piece suggests exactly how North Korea is strictly limiting it's "opening" to the rest of the world. The article is funny/depressing, but then there's this bizarre graf:

"The evident discipline and presumed political reliability of the North Korean rooters is not the only reason to suspect they have been specially chosen for what would have been an unimaginable foray south even a year ago. Anything more than a quick glance — and wherever they have appeared here, crowds have been gawking — reveals them to be as esthetically pleasing and perfectly matched as a strand of pearls."

Somehow I don't think the New York Times would have used that language for, say, a Unificationist mass wedding.
"SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM....": I've changed the "contact me" line on the left, not because I want to make it more difficult for readers to e-mail, but to avoid the spam that is infesting my inbox.

Now I can't get that Monty Python sketch out of my head.
TWO BITS ON GERMANY: The forecast is for light blogging for the next 36 hours, as I have to read through job candidate files for a search my department is conducting. Two thoughts on Germany for the day:

1) More evidence that Germany is trying to smooth things over with the United States (link via InstaPundit). The money graf:

"The German business community has been piling the pressure on Gerhard Schröder, the Chancellor. German exports to the US are already suffering from a strong euro-dollar rate and weakening American demand. Now there is the fear of a consumer boycott."

I actually suspect this fear is greatly exaggerated, but over the long term, this is an interesting phenomenon [What the hell does "interesting" mean? Don't you just say that when you're trying to avoid writing a fuller explanation?--ed. Fine. It's interesting because while it suggests that U.S. market power will exert a powerful influence on other countries, the more you think about it the more you realize that the constraint cuts both ways. If (big if) there were mass European protests close to military action against Iraq, I could easily see U.S. businesses with extensive European operations/markets lobbying the administration to back down. Look at U.S. corporate behavior towards China/Cuba as another example. The libertarian argument is that free markets will produce democracy. Maybe. It's undeniably true that corporations dislike political change because it leads to economic uncertainty. What U.S. firms want in these markets is economic access and the maintenance of the status quo.]

2) Victor Davis Hanson has a Commentary piece echoing the Bob Kagan line, but Hanson's piece is much weaker than Kagan's. First, he notes: "What seems beyond denial is that, from the Atlantic coast to the Balkans, there has been a rise in the level of truculence." Oh, no, not truculence! Why, we've never had that in the post-W.W. II transatlantic relationship, except for the Suez crisis, CoCom, Skybolt, France pulling out of NATO, Vietnam, the collapse of Bretton Woods, the nuclear freeze, the Soviet gas pipeline.... you get my point. Truculence is the norm in transatlantic relations, yet every time it emerges, analysts are surprised anew.

Second, Hanson argues that the transatlantic rift will be permanent because of Americans' long historical memories: "Forgotten in the present anguish over European attitudes is our own age-old suspicion of the Old Country, a latent distrust that once again is slowly reemerging in the face of European carping. It helps to recall that, for millions of Americans, doubts about Europe were once not merely fanciful but often entirely empirical.... At family dinners, “Europe” never meant vacations or the grand tour but evoked gruesome stories about poison gas, “rolling” with Patton, or having one’s head exploded at Normandy Beach."

I applaud Hanson for being in touch with his historical roots -- I seriously doubt whether other Americans are as connected to theirs. As Hanson notes in the same essay, the genius of America is that it allows its citizens, particularly its immigrants, to reinvent themselves. The historical memory that Hanson relies on for his argument should be most powerful among the policymaking elites, but those are the very same people that Hanson acknowledges are bucking the trend of Euroskepticism.

Must read files. Talk amongst youselves.
Tuesday, October 01, 2002
BACK TO IRAQ: Slate under Jacob Weisberg is having a rollicking good debate on the Iraq question. Some highlights and responses:

-- Tim Noah considers how a war with Iraq would erode the cooperation of Muslim states in the global war on terror. The most damaging argument is the effect it would have on Pakistani cooperation and, potentially, Pakistani stability. He also acknowledges that the quicker the war goes, the lower the costs in terms of lost cooperation. However, Noah doesn't discuss the possible political benefits of eliminating the U.N. embargo and reducing U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia to U.S. standing in the region.

-- Anne Applebaum and Steve Chapman have contributions on whether Hussein is rational enough to be deterred. Their debate is couched in terms of whether Hussein is as "rational" as Western policymakers. Actually, that misses the point. Hussein is clearly rational; the question is how well-informed he is of the actual state of the world. As Ken Pollack has pointed out, Hussein has structured his rule in such a way that no one has a real incentive to deliver the bracing truth to him. In 1991, this meant that Hussein was way too overoptimistic about his chances during the Gulf War. The $64,000 question for today is whether Hussein believes he could survive an American attack against him. You could argue that in this situation, you want Hussein to be overoptimistic, since this reduces the chance that Iraq would use its unconventional weaponry.
TORCHING THE DEMS: Kausfiles and Sullivan both believe that Toricelli's withdrawal from the New Jersey Senate race is an underhanded way for Democrats to gain the edge against Republican candidate Douglas Forrester. That was my first instinct, but my second says this strategy won't work. Here's why:

1) Forrester can already claim a significant achievement. The New York Times editorial disses Forrester noting, "until now [he] has focused almost entirely on Mr. Torricelli's ethics." Hey, that turned out to be a pretty relevant issue! And it forced out the Torch. New slogan: Forrester gets results!! Did Lautenberg, Bradley, or any of the other would-be substitutes raise this?

2) Forrester can run against the Senate leadership. As blogger John Cole points out, as of last week Tom Daschle was encouraging voters to look past Toricelli's ethical lapses in order to keep the Democratic hold of the Senate. Forrester can campaign right past whoever the Dems put up and ask voters whether they would really trust a party that wanted a sleazebag to represent them? [Wouldn't the Republicans have sone the same thing?--ed. Possibly, but you could actually make the case that Karl Rove had decent taste in candidates this election season. In retrospect he was right to back Richard Riordian over Simon in the California gubernatorial race, and he also helped unseat Bob Smith in the New Hampshire Republican primary.]

3) The Democrats had their chance. There was a primary election, yes? Toricelli's ethical lapses were public knowledge way before that primary, yes? It will be pretty easy to dig at the Torch's replacement for a Johnny-come-lately attitude towards the voters of New Jersey.

New Jersey is a Democratic state, so I'm not saying this will be an easy campaign. And as ABC's The Note poiints out, no matter what happens in New Jersey, the decision frees up more resources for other races. But it will be very tough for the Democratic party to wipe away the Torch's slime.

UPDATE: Patrick Ruffini makes my general point, but actually knows something about New Jersey politics.
SPLIT? WHAT SPLIT?: Six weeks ago, the European Union was threatening to deny EU membership to any country that signed a bilateral agreement with the U.S. exempting American soldiers and officials from prosecution for war crimes at the International Criminal Court. Yesterday, the EU jointly agreed to such an exemption. What to make of this?

1) Schroeder is still on the defensive. Germany is rarely on the losing side of an EU decision. Their willingness to go along with this decision indicates that Schroeder is still paying penance for his anti-American election campaign.

2) A looming core/periphery divide. The countries on the periphery of Europe -- Spain, Italy, and the UK -- were the ones pushing the agreement. France and Germany -- the core of the EU -- were the most opposed. This isn't the only issue that will provoke this sort of ideological divide. Imagine what will happen when Poland, the Czech republic, and other U.S.-friendly Eastern European states enter the European Union?

3) Bob Kagan is wrong, wrong, wrong! Sorry, I know I've been harping on this, but this decision underscores that the divide is not between the U.S. and Europe, but within Europe.

UPDATE: Chris Caldwell has a less sanguine view of where Germany is headed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The Economist has the latest, which suggests that the Bush administration is not budging.

READER RESPONSE: Reader Trent T. replies:

“The real implication here isn’t a ‘looming core/periphery divide.’ It is a French/German one.

The Germans are now a ‘Normal Nation’ with Schroeder as prime minister. The Germans will no longer support the French using the Germans to extend French influence in Europe or elsewhere. The French foreign policy is now in ruins. It has no counterweight to the American ‘Hyperpower,’ even in Europe.

This turn of events is the result of the Euro currency. The reality of the Euro is that European nation-states have lost control of their economic destiny, so the European national leaders are grasping at any straw they can find in order to distract people from holding them accountable for a bad economy.

Schroeder was merely the first Euro-leftist to get there with regard to Anti-Americanism.

He will not be the last.”
Monday, September 30, 2002
FAR LEFT VS. FAR RIGHT: Brad DeLong has a fascinating post on why commentators tend to treat public figures and thinkers associated with communism with more respect than those associated with fascism. DeLong admits this is true even though some argue that communism was responsible for more loss of life than fascism.

DeLong thinks it's because, "even the Nazis' vision of utopia was ugly. By contrast, it seems to me at least that Russian Communist leaders like Lev Bronstein, Nikita Khrushchev, and Mikhail Gorbachev all had visions of utopia that are very close to those of the rest of us." Actually, I think that statement says a lot more about DeLong's politics than anything else -- I very rarely hear "If only we could live according to Gorbachev's vision" these days. The year I lived in the former Soviet Union, I never heard any praise for Gorbachev.

I like Tony Judt's answer better: intellectuals are drawn to power. Fascism lasted only a generation and was crushed. Soviet-style communism existed for over seventy years. Communism was on the winning side of World War II. The Soviets were able to stand toe-to-toe with the United States for 45 years during the Cold War. The means were repugnant, but the "successes" were long-lasting enough to register in the mind of many an intellectual.

I'd entertain other possible answers.

UPDATE: Reader responses (and my responses to them) are here.
REUTERS GETS RESULTS!!: According to this Reuters story, entering the phrase "go to hell" in the Google search engine spits back Microsoft as the most accurate link. The story also notes that "The official home pages for AOL Time Warner Inc.'s America Online division and for Walt Disney Co. also come in among the top five results under the "go to hell" query."

The story was posted today on CNN's web site at 12:33 PM EDT. Less than three hours later, I just tried "go to hell" at Google and got none of those sites on my first page of results. The #1 site was Google must have fixed the "glitch."

P.S. Out of curiosity, I also entered "heaven" and got this site as the most popular, which suggests that maybe the Web has yet to outgrow its geek origins. [Not that there's anything wrong with that!!--ed.]

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