Tuesday, February 11, 2003
LAST THOUGHTS ON THE ANTI-WAR PROTESTORS: David Corn has the goods on why Michael Lerner has been banned from speaking at this weekend's anti-war protest in San Francisco. It has to do with one of the protest's organizers, "ANSWER, an outfit run by members of the Workers World Party, for using antiwar demonstrations to put forward what he considers to be anti-Israel propaganda." Corn goes on to observe that, "The WWPers in control of ANSWER are socialists who call for the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, who support Slobodan Milosevic and Kim Jong Il, who oppose UN inspections in Iraq (claiming they are part of the planning for an invasion aimed at gaining control of Iraq's oil fields), and who urge smashing Zionism."

A question to antiwar protestors: if the American Nazi Party or the Ku Klux Klan helped organize (not just participate, mind you -- take an active role in preparing) an antiwar protest, would the desired end justify participation? If the answer is no, how is ANSWER any better?

Actually, though, what intrigued me about Corn's post was this Lerner quote: "There are good reasons to oppose the war and Saddam. Still, it feels that we are being manipulated when subjected to mindless speeches and slogans whose knee-jerk anti-imperialism rarely articulates the deep reasons we should oppose corporate globalization."

Hoow do the "deep reasons we should oppose corporate globalization" have anything to do with the Iraq question? Since most corporations would probably opposes an attack on Iraq (because of the introduction of business uncertainty its creating), is Lerner's statement coherent in any way?

I agree with this guy: the protestors' message is so off the charts it actually aids the attack Iraq argument. I can't take the protestors' arguments seriously anymore. And because of that, there's little point in blogging about them.

UPDATE: Lerner has an op-ed in yoday's Wall Street Journal. He's thankfully more coherent in this essay, and doesn't mention globalization once. The killer grafs (link via InstaPundit):

"The most painful thing has been watching other antiwar groups make unprincipled compromises with A.N.S.W.E.R. As a result, there is support on the left for self-determination for every group in the world except the Jewish people. Fellow progressive Jews, some anxious to speak at these rallies, have urged me to keep quiet about anti-Semitism on the left. After all, they say, stopping the war against Iraq is so much more important.

Why should we have to choose? Tikkun will be bringing thousands of our supporters to the demonstration Sunday. But just as we fought against the sexism and homophobia that once infected the left, we will challenge anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing on the left, even as we say "no" to a war with Iraq."
DEFENDING OLD EUROPE: I know I've had some fun at "Old Europe's" expense, but there's a meme making its way across the Blogosphere about these countries that crosses the line. The most recent version I've seen is this Steve Dunleavy op-ed in the New York Post that Glenn Reynolds linked to yesterday. Here's the final sentence of that article:

"It chills the bone when the French government and so many of its citizens steadfastly try to undermine Bush, even sneer at him, when so many of them were saved by the nation he leads - with the greatest band of brothers on earth."

Now, this boils down to the notion of indebtedness -- that because the U.S. sacrificed to liberate France during two World Wars, they owe us some gratitude now. The same could be said of Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, etc.

Let's be blunt -- this is a bullshit argument. First of all, what's the statute of limitations on such gratitude? Surely we Americans owe a debt to France for their invaluable assistance during the Revolutionary War -- not to mention the Louisiana Purchase. How much does this place us in France's debt? [But that was more than 200 years ago--ed. World War Two was more than a half-century ago, and an overwhelming majority of Americans and French have no personal memory of that time period. History is history.]

Second, how does one weigh the relative weight of such sacrifices? Yes, many Americans of the Greatest Generation gave their lives, but a hell of a lot more Russians shed their blood in the same conflict. Does this mean France owes a greater debt to Russia than the United States? [But Russia just stood by when Hitler overran France--ed. So did we. So, for that matter, did most French].

Finally, exactly why did we liberate France -- and Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, etc. -- in the first place? The simplest, noblest answer you can give is that we were fighting tyranny in the name of democracy. One can carp about the inconsistent, hypocritical attitudes of Old Europe, but it's impossible to deny that their governments' positions genuinely reflect public sentiments in those countries. In other words, they are repaying the debt they owe to us -- by governing themselves in a democratic manner. It's a crying shame they don't want to give the Iraqis the same option, but sometimes democracies make wrong decisions.

Don't tell me a country owes us anything for what we did more than a half-century ago -- it's a stupid, emotive argument that is devoid of any genuine substance.

UPDATE: I just received the following e-mail from a World War Two ETO vet, who puts it more succinctly than I: "Those crosses on the front page of the NY Post mark the graves of more guys from my old squadron than I care to remember. They would roll in their graves if they knew that Dunleavy claims they died for France. Good work."
FORGET INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS -- TIME TO DISH ABOUT THE OSCARS: The Academy award nominations are out. And, although I'm sure the Blogosphere will rage about Peter Jackson not getting a Best Director nomination for Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, I'm actually pleasantly surprised with most of the choices. A few carps:

Why the hell didn't Hugh Grant get a Best Actor nomination for About a Boy? [You gonna start ranting again about how comedic performances never get nominations--ed? I would, if it weren't for the fact that Nicolas Cage and Jack Nicholson did get nominations for such performances]

Where is Dennis Quaid's Best Supporting Actor nomination for Far from Heaven?

Why wasn't the best foreign movie of last year -- Monsoon Wedding -- not nominated for anything?

Finally, and most geekily, what the hell was the Academy thinking giving a Best Visual Effects nomination to Spiderman -- which was a good movie with laughable CGI effects -- while ignoring Minority Report, which only managed to develop the freshest vision of the future since Blade Runner?

OK, I got that out of my system. Back to regular blogging.

UPDATE: Jacob Levy and Matthew Yglesias have posted their thoughts. I didn't comment on Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine getting a nomination because I haven't seen it yet.
Monday, February 10, 2003
CUT BLIX SOME SLACK: A lot of warbloggers carped about Hans Blix when he was appointed chief weapons inspector for the UN, because he headed the IAEA when it whiffed on detecting Iraqi violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ten years ago.

However, give credit where it is due -- Blix is clearly not an American puppet, and he has also been quite forthright about Iraq's unwillingness to cooperate. And this story illustrates that Blix is not going to provide any convenient cover for the reported Franco-German-Russian plan of tripling the number of inspectors:

"Asked whether more inspectors could do a better, faster job, he said: 'The principal problem is not the number of inspectors but rather the active cooperation of the Iraqi side, as we have said many times.'"
HMMM....PERHAPS ERIC ALTERMAN IS WRONG: A week ago, Alterman wrote a cover story for the Nation that argued Europeans do not dislike Americans -- they dislike the Bushies. I usually disagree with Alterman, but I though it was a cogent piece. And this Richard Bernstein piece in the New York Times would seem to buttress the point.

But then we have this poll:

"A majority of Germans believe the United States is a nation of warmongers and only six percent think President Bush is interested in keeping the peace, according to a survey published Monday....

"The survey found 57 percent agreed with the statement: 'The United States is a nation of warmongers.' (my bold italics)....

"The survey of 1,843 Germans found 93 percent believed Bush was ready to go to war in pursuit of his interests, while 80 percent said the United States wanted war to boost its power."

The poll question specifically asked Germans what they thought of Americans, not just the Bushies. Furthermore, that figure is probably understated, since the question is so provocatively phrased it probably caused some respondents who share the sentiment to back down.

(Depressing) food for thought.

UPDATE: A German-speaking reader who was able to access the original Financial Times Deutschland story e-mails: "the original report... phrases the statement as 'Die USA sind ein Kriegstreiber', 'the USA are a warmonger', so I don't think the NYT translation is accurate." Other German readers, don't be afraid to help out here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Another helpful German-speaker e-mails: "'Kriegstreiber' does not have the same emotional weight as 'warmonger', although it is probably the closest translation into a word that is actually used. A more literal translation would be 'conductor of war' or 'driver of war'. 'Monger' is a rather obscure term, surviving mainly in ironmonger and fishmonger, while 'Treiber' is very common, used among other things for software drivers. In other contexts, such as 'Haupttreiber' (prime mover), the connotation is completely positive."
YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT THEIR CHAINS: "A spectre is haunting Europe -- the spectre of democracy promotion. All the Powers of Old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Eurocrat and Chancellor, Schroeder and Chirac, French Radicals and German protestors." A (very liberal) paraphrase of the opening to the Communist Manifesto.

How can you join this spectre? If you're a college student, click over to OxBlog, where Josh Chafetz and David Adesnik are "arguing for an international student movement to coalesce around democracy promotion." Chapters have already opened at Yale, Brandeis, Columbia, and -- more nebulously -- Iran. Click here for the Oxford group's Statement of Principles. And remember:

"DEMOCRATIZERS OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!!!"

Sunday, February 09, 2003
SAME PLANET, DIFFERENT WORLDS: How did the meeting between Iraqi officials and the UN inspectors go?

Inspectors See 'Change of Heart'; U.S. Says Progress Is Not Enough
By BRIAN KNOWLTON
International Herald Tribune

"Weapons inspectors said today that they had seen "the beginning of a change of heart on the part of Iraq" on cooperating with the United Nations, but Bush administration officials dismissed the gestures as deceptions and said the Iraqis were desperately playing for time."


U.N., Iraq Fail to Agree on Key Inspection Issues
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, February 9, 2003; 7:45 PM

"BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 9 -- The top U.N. arms experts said tonight that they were unable to reach agreement with Saddam Hussein's government on several key weapons issues they had traveled here to resolve in a bid to build support for continuing inspections."

I just blog -- you decide.
NEW POLI SCI BLOGGER.... THE POOR BASTARD: As I enter month five of being a blogger, I am noticing that some of my professional colleagues have displayed increasing interest in the blog. Increasingly, I've been wondering whether more political science profs (not grad students) would start to break free of their paradigmatic shackles and start to blog.

It's begun. Henry Farrell at the University of Toronto has surreptitiously started a blog this week. Henry and I have some overlapping research interests regarding Internet governance. Reading his blog, it's safe to say we disagree about politics (as well as theories of Internet governance). But he's terribly smart and a good egg to boot, so check out his blog for yourself.

Henry, you're about to fall down the rabbit hole...
Saturday, February 08, 2003
DANGER!! PEACEKEEPER TRAP!!: If this report is correct, Old Europe has figured out a last-ditch method of indefinitely delaying action against Iraq:

"Germany announced a new Franco-German initiative to try to avert military conflict after a magazine reported it involved sending thousands of U.N. peace-keeping troops to Iraq and trebling the number of arms inspectors."

Now, at first glance, this sounds like the "coercive inspections" idea that Jessica Tuchman Matthews and others devised back in September 2002. Which I thought was a good idea, then.

But Franco/German behavior over the past two weeks has been so... so... [reluctant to acknowledge reality?--ed. Thanks!!], that I think they have an ulterior motive. They want to use peacekeepers in Iraq the same way they wound up being used in Bosnia -- as an excuse to do nothing. Because British and French peacekeepers were on the ground, there was stiff European resistance to take any coercive action against Bosnian Serb forces. This (plus U.S. vacillation, to be sure) led to three years of dithering, before any constructive action was taken.

Another question: just which nationalities would comprise the proposed peacekeeping force?

Developing....
Friday, February 07, 2003
I PROMISE NOT TO WEAR MY SEAT BELT, EITHER: Dear (Sir) Richard Branson,

As a professor of international relations, I find I must travel to Europe on occasion. I promise that if I should ever fly one of your airlines, I will swear profusely at the crew, try to smuggle passengers into the first class section, write God-awful music, and generally act like a horse's ass for the entire duration of the flight.

Now, could you please send me four free first-class tickets to fly Virgin Atlantic, just like you did with Courtney Love?

Most Sincerely,

Daniel W. Drezner

P.S. I'm sure the BBC has waited decades to be able to run the headline: "LOVE MAKES PEACE WITH VIRGIN."
CLARIFYING THE ZAKARIA CRITIQUE: Stanley Kurtz over at NRO's The Corner has taken issue with my critique of Fareed Zakaria's next big idea. To respond/clarfy:

1) Kurtz says, "Drezner dismisses Zakaria's thesis as an essentially worthless idea". Not true. I said I thought Zakaria was wrong. Wrong ideas are often useful because of the effort required to refute or disprove them. Both Fukyama and Huntington might be wrong, for example, but the debates they inspired were certainly valuable in thinking about the future of international relations and U.S. foreign policy. This is how I feel about Zakaria.

2) My problem with Zakaria's preconditions for democracy are that they are sufficient but unnecessary conditions -- and he treats them as both necessary and sufficient. In other words, Zakaria is probably correct that countries with decentralized forms of commercial, political and religious authority will be stable constitutional democracies, but there are other ways this outcome can come about. The result is that Zakaria presents an overly stringent criteria for how stable democracies emerge, which produces an overly risk-averse policy of democracy promotion.

3) I agree with Kurtz that "Zakaria's warnings against democratizing optimism need to be taken very seriously indeed". I believe they will be, which is the reason I blogged about Zakaria's talk. However, my warnings against the democratizing pessimism that both Zakaria and Kurtz embrace also need to be taken seriously.

UPDATE: Noah Millman has some thoughts on the myriad paths of democratization.
MUST-READ FOR BLOGGERS: Kevin "CalPundit" Drum has a great interview with Joshua Micah Marshall. The part I found most interesting:

"A lot of reporters have for a long time read blogs — often ones run by their friends — as a sort of guilty pleasure. But I think just recently there's a new sense that news is being made there; opinions are being formed; stories are being broken that you don't hear about in other places. And so even your more buttoned-down reporters have started to take notice."

Read the whole thing.
REVISIONIST BULL@#$! AT THE GUARDIAN: Andrew Sullivan links to a Jonathan Steele essay in today's Guardian on Europe's reaction to Iraq that is impressive in mixing equal amounts of perceptive realpolitik assessment and odious crap. The realpolitik part is pretty accurate:

"The crisis showed the EU not only has no common foreign policy among today's 15 members, but its chances of ever getting one when it is enlarged to 25 are virtually nil. The pursuit of a common foreign policy was always an illusion, and if the Rumsfeld/"gang of eight" double whammy have brought a dose of realism, so much the better. As long as there is no United States of Europe or a European Federation foreign policy, Europe will never be more than a series of 'coalitions of the willing' on whatever is the major issue of the day."

So far, so accurate. Then we get to the truly reprehensible part of the story -- his explanation for why Central and Eastern European states are siding with the United States on Iraq. Sullivan dismisses it, but I can't let it go, it's so offensive. Definitely worthy of a fisking:

"In 1989 there were those who thought these newly liberated countries would be bastions of new thinking. But the west was an attractive-looking club and they were anxious to join the winning side in the cold war."

What fools those Eastern Europeans were!! Wanting such petty things as freedom, democracy, and personal enrichment!

"While the EU insisted on a slow and complex process of economically painful adjustment, joining Nato was relatively easy and the US used a mix of fear, flattery and economic incentives to get them to sign up."

Yes, that's why these countries joined NATO -- the U.S. bullied them into it. The possible alternatives -- fear of Russian revanchism, desire for self-defense, German enthusiasm for expansion, a wish for these countries to cement their status as stable democracies -- are certainly not compelling.

The EU insists on complexity? Mon dieu! That turn of phrase is a nice way of obfuscating the real explanation for the slow process of EU expansion -- a fear of being flooded with cheap agricultural exports that would further imperil French farmers.

"After all, eastern Europe's elites had spent 40 years accommodating themselves to superior power."

Yeah, that Vaclav Havel is a real kiss-ass.

"Neither the reform movement in Czechoslovakia in 1968 nor Solidarity in Poland in 1981 challenged their countries' links with Moscow."

I'm pretty sure that's wrong -- at least with Czechoslovakia. If memory serves, right before the invasion, Dubcek visited other dissident Eastern European states (Romania and Yugoslavia) as a signal to Moscow. We all know Moscow's response.

"It was only when Mikhail Gorbachev told them in 1987 that they need not follow the Soviet lead that they began to break loose. It was therefore inevitable that after the USSR collapsed these countries would sense the new reality that Europe belongs to the US."

Gee, those "complex" western European policies like Ostpolitik should have convinced those elites that western Europeans never kowtow to power.

"The fact that ex-communist leaders such as Aleksander Kwasniewski, Gyula Horn and Ion Iliescu led the way is not a paradox so much as proof that the survival instinct usually trumps vision or principle."

As I pointed out before, the economic rewards of EU membership far outweigh the more nebulous benefits of siding with the U.S. on Iraq. And this statement certainly jeapordizes the smoothness of their accession. So don't say their actions are about survival -- risks are being taken here.

"The anti-Vietnam war movement which taught a generation of Europeans about the arrogance of US power passed eastern Europe by. Isolated inside the Soviet empire, and suspicious of Moscow's propaganda line even on the occasions when it was right, they did not notice that the US was also an imperial nation."

I'm sure that if those unenlightened citizens living under communism had heard about the U.S. opposing a communist dictatorship with force of arms elsewhere on the globe, they would have just filled the streets to protest. [You saying Vietnam was a good idea?--ed. No, but saying that Eastern Europeans living under communist domination would have opposed it is a pretty dumb-ass statement, neh?]

"The imminent threat of war in Iraq has raised the issue of independence from the US to the top of the agenda. During the cold war it was a question which dared not speak its name. Now it is in the open and whether they are old or new, big or small, European nations must face this old/new question in the coming days.."

So true, Jonathan. But not for the reasons you think.

Thursday, February 06, 2003
IN PRAISE OF POLITICIANS -- AND PUNDITS: As a political scientist, I assume that politicians will act in a opportunistic fashion in order to get elected. However, my own DC experience confirms something that Brad Delong says here is 99% correct [Only 99%?--ed. I'm sorry, I just can't put Al Sharpton into this category]:

"But everybody who goes into politics for real--who runs for the Congress, or takes a senior job in the Executive Branch--is a patriot. There are other careers one can enter with a much higher probability of success that promise more in the way of fame, wealth, and the absence of boredom. Only a deep love-of-country can make someone become an Assistant Secretary of HHS or a Director of OIRA or a Representative from the area around Knoxville.

Nobody enters politics seeking to make their country poorer, weaker, and more miserable. Only patriots enter American politics."

P.S.: If you read the DeLong post, it's clear that he thinks pundits are a different breed: for Mickey Kaus, "policies are not real, but just a game, epater le liberaloisie and all that..." C'mon Brad, that's not fair. The probability of being a successful pundit is pretty low as well. Only a slightly lower percentage of policy analysts, pundits, and commentators go into it for fame or treasure. [What about blogs?--ed. Oh, yes, a successful blogger earns... there's just no dignified way to end that sentence.] And no one who reads Kaus can believe that he doesn't genuinely care about substantive issues, like welfare reform.
WHAT DOES ASIA THINK ABOUT IRAQ?: The IHT screw-up did lead me to wonder how other countries in the Asia/Pacific region reacted to the speech, and whether there is any support for the U.S. position:

Indonesia is most decidedly opposed to U.S. action

Singapore clearly supports the U.S. position.

India seems pretty noncommittal.

I'll update as I find out more. Anyone who wants to enlighten me, e-mail away.
ENDGAME: That OxBlog pool on which day the bombing starts in Iraq might want to consider the following facts:

1) The 101st Airborne has received orders to deploy in support of possible future operations, "in the global war on terrorism." The 101st is the Army's only air assault division, "trained to rapidly deploy anywhere in the world within 36 hours." (Thanks to Tom Holsinger for this link).

2) CNN reports that two more aircraft carriers might be headed to Iraq as well.

3) As a harbinger of the eventual French capitulation on Iraq, France’s Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said this week, "French military forces will be ready to intervene in Iraq, should that decision be taken." Reuters reports that France is sending its only aircraft carrier into the Medierranean for training exercises: "The training will include some joint military exercises with other European or possibly U.S. vessels." Specifically, the U.S.S. Harry S Truman. [Did you have to link to the ship?--ed. You know my feelings about aircraft carriers.] UPDATE: The IHT headline and story on France's shift in position actually match each other.

Guys, I'd bet sooner rather than later.
THE POWER OF SIMULATION: Robert Shapiro has a good story in Slate on what economists can learn about the functioning of markets from studying online fantasy games. (Click here for California State Fullerton economics professor Edward Castronova's paper that inspired Shapiro). However, it's worth pointing out that the use of gaming simulation data has also occurred in political science. Douglas Van Belle published a 1998 paper in Political Research Quarterly that used results from online games of Diplomacy to test certain realist propositions about order in world politics. (If you're at a university, click here to peek at the actual article). Van Belle wrote another article about the merits of studying simulated environments for International Studies Notes. The punchline is a bit depressing for my career choice of explaining world politics, but still provocative:

"The somewhat disturbing answer suggested by running this simulation over the Internet is that the international system may be fundamentally unpredictable. It is not a question of insight, method or skill, it is a question of the fundamentally unpredictable nature of innovation by creative, problem-solving human beings. The extreme complexity of the swiftly fluctuating international political arena, which in the real world is complicated by the feed-back between international and domestic politics may be creating a chaotic environment, a system that is mathematically determinant but fundamentally unpredictable. This is exactly the type of environment that is more likely to produce unpredictable behavior, including innovation, and in such an environment even the smallest of changes can produce huge differences over time."

INACCURATE HEADLINE OF THE WEEK: "Asia unswayed by Powell’s data." The first sentence of this International Herald Tribune story seems to buttress the headline:

"Initial reaction from Asian countries on Thursday indicated that most remained unmoved by Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation of Iraq's noncompliance with United Nations mandates."

If true, this would certainly be newsworthy. Read the story, however. Malaysia is the only country with officials quoted as being unconvinced. In contrast, foreign policy leaders from Australia, Japan and the Philippines are all quoted with expressions of solid support for the U.S. position. The story acknowledges the extent of Japan's policy shift:

"Moving as close as Tokyo has come to backing the use of military force against Iraq, [Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro] Koizumi added: 'Iraq holds the key to whether this matter can be resolved peacefully or not.'"

By my count, then, shouldn't the headline read, "ASIA SWAYED BY POWELL'S DATA"?

To attribute this to the recent New York Times takeover of the International Herald Tribune would just be paranoid.... or would it?

UPDATE: Astute reader K.W. points out that geographically, Australia is not part of Asia. An error for both the IHT and myself. My proposed headline should instead read, "PACIFIC RIM SWAYED BY POWELL'S DATA."
IS THE U.S. SHAFTING MUSLIM COUNTRIES ON TRADE?: The Progressive Policy Institute just issued a policy report warning that current U.S. trade policy will undermine the war on terrorism. Because the U.S. is actively pursuing bilateral and regional trade deals with much of Latin America, Africa, and East Asia, the Middle Eastern countries are falling behind by standing still: "Of the 70-90 countries covered by U.S. regional/bilateral trade inititatives planned for 2003-2005, only one (Morocco) is in the Middle East." Since these countries have similar export portfolios, the creation of new trade deals will lead to a lot of trade diversion -- with other developing countries replacing Middle Eastern exports to the U.S.

The report overreaches a bit. These countries have brought a lot of this difficulty on themselves, with protectionist, dirigiste policies. Only half of the Arab League's members are WTO members; by one measure, Arab countries are among the least globalized states in the world. That said, it has some decent policy proposals, and is worth a look.
HE MUST HAVE BEEN JEALOUS OF TRENT LOTT'S SPOTLIGHT: House Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., who chairs the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security that supervises the U.S. Department of Justice, including laws aimed at preventing terrorism, praised the decision to intern Japanese-Americans during the Second World War. He observed that some Japanese-Americans ``probably were intent on doing harm to us... just as some of these Arab Americans are probably intent on doing harm to us.'' Note that, by this logic, we might want, in future months/years, to round up and intern all Korean-Americans, Chinese-Americans, and potentially Franco-Americans.

The obvious comparison of this jackass statement is to the Lottroversy. What's chilling is the extent of the parallels:

1) Both are Republicans in positions of leadership.
2) Both praised racist policies that were instituted/proposed more than 50 years ago by Democrats.
3) Both of them have a track record of such embarrassing statements: According to the San Jose Mercury News, "Coble made similar remarks about internment camps in 1988, when he voted against paying reparations and extending a national apology to Japanese-Americans interned during World War II." (Eric Muller links to the specific comments.)
4) Both made their comments at public functions where the media was sure to record them accurately.

Coble wins special dummy points, however, for making his comments a mere six weeks after Lott demonstrated the political danger of praising racist policies.

When Coble received his subcommittee chairmanship last week, he was quoted: "I think we'll be in the eye of the storm. ... It's going to be challenging," I'm pretty sure this is one storm the good Representative can clear up by resigning his chairmanship and beating a hasty retreat to the back benches. On one crucial dimension, this flap is even more serious than the Lottroversy: Coble has direct oversight authority for the type of activity he so enthusiastically supported. Shudder....

One interesting side note: Eric Muller appears to be the first to blog about this, but unlike the Lottroversy, it was old media that first reported on this. Hopefully the Blogosphere will not need to get as exercised this time around, as Coble gets caught in his own perfect media storm.

UPDATE: Coble is not the only idiotarian North Carolina representative. According to this report, "Republican Sue Myrick, commenting on domestic security threats, said -- quote -- 'Look at who runs all the convenience stores across the country.'" [UPDATE: The APhas the fuller quote: "You know, and this can be misconstrued, but honest to goodness (husband) Ed and I for years, for 20 years, have been saying,`You know, look at who runs all the convenience stores across the country.' Every little town you go into, you know?'"]
Her representative said the remark was "not intended as an insult to any ethnic or religious group." I'd like to see exactly how that assertion can be reconciled with the original statement.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Josh Marshall is now blogging about the North Carolina delegation. Yep, it's just a matter of time before they fall like dominoes.

FINAL UPDATE: Coble's press spokesman tries to dig out of the hole his boss created. Now, if you read the text, play devil's advocate, and ignore Coble's history of idiotic remarks on the subject, the rationaly might fly. I'm pretty sure, however, that the last thing a Coble press spokesman would have wanted was the headline: "Coble says internment remark meant to illustrate segregation."
Wednesday, February 05, 2003
UPDATED SCORE -- NEW EUROPE 18, OLD EUROPE 2: The foreign ministers of the Vilnius Group Countries -- Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia -- just issued a statement strongly supporting the U.S. position on Iraq, in response to the Powell speech on Iraq. This is in addition to last week's statement by the Gang of Eight. Here's the good part:

"Our countries understand the dangers posed by tyranny and the special responsibility of democracies to defend our shared values. The trans-Atlantic community, of which we are a part, must stand together to face the threat posed by the nexus of terrorism and dictators with weapons of mass destruction.

We have actively supported the international efforts to achieve a peaceful disarmament of Iraq. However, it has now become clear that Iraq is in material breach of U.N. Security Council Resolutions, including U.N. Resolution 1441, passed unanimously on November 8, 2002. As our governments said on the occasion of the NATO Summit in Prague: "We support the goal of the international community for full disarmament of Iraq as stipulated in the UN Security Council Resolution 1441. In the event of non-compliance with the terms of this resolution, we are prepared to contribute to an international coalition to enforce its provisions and the disarmament of Iraq."

The clear and present danger posed by the Saddam Hussein's regime requires a united response from the community of democracies. We call upon the U.N. Security Council to take the necessary and appropriate action in response to Iraq's continuing threat to international peace and security."

It will be interesting to see if similar declarations emerge from non-European countries in the next couple of days.

[Aren't you exaggerating the story? These countries are small compared to France and Germany. They won't be involved in any actual fighting. What's the big deal?--ed. Consider that 13 of these 18 countries are not yet members of the European Union, and to get in, they're going to have to make France and Germany happy. These governments took a significant political risk to make these statements -- don't trivialize it.]
THE NEXT (SPECTACULARLY WRONG) BIG IDEA: Public intellectuals like big ideas, because they help us organize the way we see the world. You can't go far as a public intellectual by being consistently wrong. You can, however, go very far if you are spectacularly, grandiosely wrong in a big-idea kind of way . Spectacularly wrong big ideas demand attention. Countless authors devoted countless numbers of pages to proving why Francis Fukuyama was wrong in "The End of History?" and Samuel Huntington was wrong in "The Clash of Civilizations?", few people remember them; they remember Fukuyama and Huntington.

Which brings me to Fareed Zakaria's forthcoming book, The Future of Freedom, which is the end result of a question he initially asked in a Foreign Affairs essay entitled "The Rise of Illiberal Democracy." Zakaria was at the University of Chicago's John M. Olin Center for Inquiry into the Theory and Practice of Democracy yesterday to road-test some of his book's arguments, which boil down to:

1) It took a long time for constitutional liberal democracy to develop properly in the West;
2) When democracy has been installed in places without a prior decentralization of religious, commercial, and political authority, bad things happen to democracy, i.e., Nazi Germany;
3) Encouraging the acceleration of democracy in the developing world will lead to democracies that are fundamentally illiberal, which would be bad. So, rather than cajole China into democratizing faster than it is currently doing, let nature take it's course, otherwise you wind up with backsliding democracies, such as Russia.

Now, this is a great big idea. It's topical, relies on history, has few moving parts, and leads to counter-intuitive policy recommendations. But it's still spectacularly wrong.

1) Stable democracies have emerged without the preconditions Zakaria spells out. Some (big and small) examples: Botswana, Costa Rica, India, Japan, and the Baltic states.

2) The slow processes stressed by Zakaria have equally adverse consequences. States that are in the middle of Zakaria's process are more dangerous than even illiberal democracies. As Jack Snyder has pointed out, these sort of states often have a sufficient mix of particularistic coalitions that lead to overexpansion, which leads to war. Snyder and Ed Mansfield have statistically demonstrated that states undergoing regime transition are far more likely to initiate wars than either democracies OR autocracies (click here for a precis of this argument).

As for illiberal democracies, it is undoubtedly true that their first few years are volatile ones, with lots of potentially aggressive leaders getting elected and then causing problems. However, as Stephen Walt has shown, these revolutionary states tend to mellow, and act as responsible members of the international system.

This doesn't mean that illiberal democracies are necessarily better for world politics than slowly reforming authoritarian states are. But they are not necessarily worse, either. It's more a question of timing -- illiberal states that become democratic are more likely to have problems sooner rather than later, while authoritarian states that are slowly democratizing are likely to have problems later rather than sooner.

So, to conclude: a) states do not necessarily have to go through the same long-term evolution that England or America endured to become a liberal democracy, and b) over the long term, illiberal democracies are not necessarily more violent actors than other non-democratic states.

All that said, I have no doubt that three months from now, this will be the next big idea. So bookmark this post and remember it for cocktail party chatter come late April! [So whaddaya think of Zakaria's other stuff?--ed. His first book is a staple of my U.S. Foreign Policy class.]

UPDATE: Several people have e-mailed to point out that Japan did have a long history of decentralization in political/economic power. This may be true, but that certainly does not hold on the religious dimension. Since Zakaria seems to imply that all of these myriad sources of power must be decentralized, I don't think his argument holds here.
SIGN #248 THAT I AM A POLITICAL SCIENCE GEEK: When I was a senior in college, I was essentially choosing three career routes -- investment banker, policy gadfly, or serious research. I chose the latter because I found the idea of being paid to think deep thoughts and then research whether those thoughts have any merit enourmously appealing. However, every once in a while (usually when I'm looking at my bank balance) I ponder whether I made the right choice.

Today, however, I just put the finishing touches on my syllabus for an undergraduate course I'll be teaching on globalization. Putting together the list of topics and readings is crucial, because the best improvisations can't cover a badly-designed course or dull-as-sin essays. The fact that I'm excited about the substantive debates that will undoubtedly ensue makes me positively giddy.

I may occasionally muse about making loads of money in the private sector, or exercising loads of power in the policy world. In the end, however, I'm too happy being a professor to consider anything else full-time.
Tuesday, February 04, 2003
THE OVERREACHING FRENCH: One way to judge a country is by the caliber of the countries that choose to oppose it. Who are the adversaries of the U.S.? Iraq and North Korea -- pretty good choices. Then there's the French. The Economist sums up France's foreign policy of the last few months quite nicely:

"The president, apparently in a fit of pique, in October abruptly postpones a long-planned summit with Britain. The agriculture minister criss-crosses the European Union to sabotage the European Commission's plan to reform EU farm policy. The foreign minister last week enrages the United States by implicitly threatening a veto at the United Nations over any assault on Iraq. Such is the behaviour of France over the past four months—and doubtless there is more to come."

Most of this can be explained by the French fear of U.S. "hyperpower" and the desire to create a Franco-German counterweight via the European Union. A funny thing happened along the way to balancing, however: the French overreached. Bill Safire (link via OxBlog) then does an excellent job of linking last week's "Gang of Eight" declaration to the fear of peripheral European states of French power-grabbing. The key sections:

"The underlying purpose of the Schröder-Chirac push was less about protecting or defanging Saddam Hussein than it was about a much more parochial goal: to assert permanent Franco-German bureaucratic dominance over the growing federation of European states. Opposition to American superpower, they thought, was their lever of Archimedes to move the Old World....

"The draft document was then circulated by the Europeans among other leaders thought to be (1) critical of the Franco-German proposal to assert dominance in the European Commission; (2) genuinely worried about their nations' exposure to weapons of mass destruction being developed by Saddam; and (3) eager to express solidarity with the United States, which three times in the past century had saved them from tyrannous takeover."

Once the French got wind of the document, they tried like hell to get these countries to reverse. Only the Netherlands acquiesced.

In other words: the French attempt to balance against the United States has led to much of Europe balancing against France.

As I said, we have good taste in our rivals. [But don't the French have substantially valid reasons for objecting to U.S. policies?--ed. As Chris Sullentrop pointed out last week in Slate, French opposition to the United States is rooted in U.S. hegemony, not any set of specific policies.]
Monday, February 03, 2003
THE KOREAS AND SELF-DENIAL: Josh Marshall has made a lot of hay about the Bush administration's supposed blunder in publicly rejecting Kim Dae Jung's "sunshine policy" towards North Korea in early 2001. As I've previously posted, I agree with Josh on the "public" nature of the brush-off, but not the substantive rejection -- it was unclear to me just what the sunshine policy achieved beyond some statements of comity, Kim Dae Jung's Nobel Peace Prize, and a few years of being duped about the DPRK uranium enrichment program.

Now it turns out that the statements of comity -- and by extension Kim's Nobel -- came with a hidden $400 million price tag. Kim Dae Jung has all but admitted that he paid the bribe to Kim Jong il in order to ensure the historic June 2000 Pyongyang summit took place. Idle question: if $400 million is the going price for a summit, what will the DPRK asking price for denuclearization be?

The South Korean reaction to this also merits further comment. This country seems badly split between conservatives who share the U.S. view of North Korea's intention, and sunshine advocates (one of whom was just elected to the presidency) who seem in complete denial about the situation in North Korea. This faction is deathly afraid of a DPRK collapse, because of the overwhelming costs that will come with reunification. I suspect this fear is what lies behind their willingness to repeatedly bribe the North Koreans into acquiescence. However, unless and until the liberal wing of the South Korean political spectrum comes to grips with the moral and material price of appeasing the North Korean regime, there is little that the U.S. will be able to do to defuse the situation.

UPDATE: Now a former ROK intelligence officer claims the bribe was actually $1.7 billion for the summit. I'm not sure how much I trust this allegation, but if true, it merely underscores the point I made above.
ON IRAQ, IT'S DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN: One of the benefits of going on vacation is that it permits some perspective on the myriad cycles of news and commentary. On Iraq, I can't escape the feeling of déjà vu. The current cycle of opinion seems like a replay of September/October all over again -- publics/pundits feeling queasy about aggressive action, antiwar activists decrying U.S. imperialism, European leaders either categorically rejecting the U.S. position or calling for more time for "the process" to sort itself out, Russia constantly hemming and hawing, China shrugging its shoulders, and Iraq flipping the bird to anyone and everyone.

Then -- presto! -- Bush makes a compelling speech that points out the implications for the security of the U.S. and the prestige of the U.N. if no action is taken. Which means:

1) Public support for action shoots up in the United States.
2) Allied leaders rally to the U.S. position.
3) Iraq flips the bird to the world.
4) Bush moves the multilateral consensus ever closer to his position.

The final kicker for déjà vu came this weekend: The New York Times published an antiwar argument that appeared elsewhere two months ago. [Does that make it an unworthy argument?--ed. Hardly. As I've previously noted, it's a good but not impregnable argument. But why would the Times choose to recycle it after it's been in the public domain for two months?]
BELATED CONGRATULATIONS TO JACOB LEVY: A scant four months ago, Jacob Levy was just another struggling young blogger with dreams of hit counts that only Andrew Sullivan could envy. Now he's got a monthly gig at the New Republic (click here for his first column) and for February, he's joining the Volokh Conspiracy.

You go, Jacob!!
Saturday, February 01, 2003
ANOTHER TRAGEDY: To blog is to comment, critique, analyze and argue about disputes of the day. There is nothing to dispute about the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia. All one can do is mourn.

InstaPundit's already linked to it, but here's a link to Ronald Reagan's address to the country following the Challenger explosion 17 years ago. It may be Peggy Noonan's finest speech. The final paragraph still gets me.
Friday, January 31, 2003
I’M BACK: I’ll get back to real posting tomorrow, once I’ve caught up and avoid the embarrassment of blogging behind the curve, but first, a paean to New Zealand, which is now first on my list of countries I’d consider defecting to if I didn’t live in the U.S.:

If, for some reason, the Blogosphere should ever decide to have a conference, a convention, a gathering of some sort, I’m afraid I must insist on holding it in New Zealand. Why? Well, for starters, it’s just gorgeous. After ten days there, I was unable to find a view that was NOT gorgeous. And this was on the supposedly more pedestrian North Island. Click here some views.

Another compelling reason is that every ideological stripe of the Blogosphere would find something to adore about the country. Conservatives would admire the modesty of the country’s welfare state, the largely rural nature of the country, and the sheer delight the citizenry takes in hunting possum and most forms of deer (man is the only predator of those species in New Zealand). Libertarians would admire the lack of stultifying regulations and the accelerating rate at which New Zealanders invent new ways to have fun (this is the country that invented bungee-jumping). Liberals would admire New Zealand’s steadfast environmentalism and its historically enlightened policies (compared with Canada, Australia, or the United States) towards the indigenous population.

Finally, it’s just such a nice place. From the customs officials at the airport to the local rafting guides to the people you met on the street, everyone in the entire country was friendly and laid-back, but not in a lobotomized way. By day 3 of my trip, I’d forgotten both the day and the date, the best indicator of a good vacation. And a final, guilty confession -- as someone who studies international relations for a living, it was very relaxing to be in a country where the leading paper had -- maybe -- two pages of global news coverage. This is in contrast to the endless coverage of the America's Cup.
Thursday, January 16, 2003
GONE FISHIN': For the next two weeks I will be on vacation, bicycling, hiking, and kayaking in New Zealand with the Officially Certified blogbrother and blogfather.

Am I excited? Look at the weather forecasts for Chicago, USA and Taupo, NZ for the next week -- that should answer your question.

Will I be posting during this time? Hmmmm.... what would Moses do? [He'd be laughing his ass off at the ridiculousness of the question--ed.] I'd say there is only a 5% chance of blogging until February.

Talk amongst yourselves. Here's a topic: has the James Bond series had any effect on world politics or world culture -- besides offending Koreans? Here's some reading to guide you.
MICHIGAN'S AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: Lots of blogosphere kudos to President Bush for his decision to oppose the University of Michigan's affirmative action plan (Here's Josh Chafetz and Andrew Sullivan). Yesterday, the New York Times made its views known with a truly misleading editorial:

"The two cases, which challenge the University of Michigan's use of race as a "plus factor" in undergraduate and law school admissions, have huge implications for the nation's efforts to widen racial equality and increase campus diversity by opening institutions of higher learning to more blacks and Hispanics. Moreover, in the aftermath of the Trent Lott embarrassment, the administration's stance will be seen as an indicator of the president's commitment to moving his party and the country beyond the segregationist past."

There are serious errors in both sentences. Arguing that opposing affirmative action is the equivalent of supporting segregationism is absurd on its face. As for the implicit notion that opposition to affirmative action indicates racism, liberals of good conscience were careful to flatly reject that assertion during the height of the Lottroversy.

As for the description of Michigan's use of race as a "plus factor," here's the Chicago Tribune's description of the exact weights used:

"The Michigan undergraduate program awards students up to 150 points for a variety of factors, including 20 points for African Americans and some Hispanic students. That's more than a student can earn for having perfect SAT scores (12 points) or for having an outstanding essay (3 points), and is often enough to be the decisive factor for a student's admission, administration officials said.

Michigan's law school sets aside a specific number of seats each year for minority students." (my italics)

Face it -- these are quota schemes.

The Tribune also has a nice profile on how Michigan's obsession with racial diversity crowds out other forms of diversity.


Wednesday, January 15, 2003
WHAT'S GOING ON IN AFGHANISTAN?: One of the best things about teaching international relations at the University of Chicago is the plethora of seminars that go on around here. The Program on International Security Policy does a particularly good job of bringing in "policy-relevant" types to talk about current foreign affairs.

Yesterday's speaker was Barnett Rubin, America's leading Afghan expert and late 2001's must-have commentator. Rubin's talk on the current situation in Afghanistan -- compared to my casual perusal of press clippings on the subject -- actually cheered me up in several ways. Here are the conclusions I came away with:

1) Given the degree of difficulty, peacebuilding has been pretty successful. Pundits who talk about "reconstructing" Afghanistan automatically stack the deck in their appraisals, since that term implies a desirable, stable, and pre-existing status quo. However, the prior status quo in Afghanistan has been 20 years of violence with considerable interference from its neighboring states. The mere absence of large-scale violence -- as well as the low level of neighboring country mischief-making -- is significant.

2) There is a conception of statehood in Afghanistan. For all of the discussion about different ethnicities in the country, Rubin noted that "Afghans insist they are Afghan" -- meaning that all tribes want to see a strong central government and possess some sense of nationhood. They might disagree about the allocation of resources from that government, but that's hardly unique to Afghanistan. (They might be saying those things just to please Westerners, but Rubin seems pretty plugged in).

3) Neither the Taliban nor Al Qaeda are coming back. Critics of the war often posit that reconstruction will eventually falter, paving the way for the Taliban to re-emerge. However, this is unlikely for three reasons. First, Al Qaeda now has little interest in Afghanistan. They liked it as a base -- beyond that, it holds no value for them. Second, the remaining remnants of the Taliban are weak in number and lack natural allies even among the Pashtuns. Third, those Taliban remnants have no illusions about being able to displace U.S. forces.

4) Afghanistan will not be a fully functioning democracy -- but that's too much to expect. Look at Afghanistan's neighbors -- when Pakistan and Iran are the most liberal states in your region, you know that Lockean democracy has yet to flourish. It is unlikely that democratic institutions will function as expected -- but even if they function at some basic level, it's an improvement over what Afghans have endured for the past two decades.

UPDATE: Here's more on the latest efforts at statebuilding in Afghanistan (link via Oxblog)
Tuesday, January 14, 2003
THE RESIDUE OF RACISM: One mantra that persisted throughout the Lottroversy was that racism remains a problem in American society. That's an easy thing to say, but what exactly does it mean?

This story does a nice job describing the nature of the problem:

"CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- It helps to have a white-sounding first name when looking for work, a new study has found.

Resumes with white-sounding first names elicited 50 percent more responses than ones with black-sounding names, according to a study by professors at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The professors sent about 5,000 resumes in response to want ads in the Boston Globe and Chicago Tribune. They found that the 'white applicants they created received one response -- a call, letter or e-mail -- for every 10 resumes mailed, while black' applicants with equal credentials received one response for every 15 resumes sent."

Click here for the actual study. If you read the story, it's clear that the researchers controlled for other explanatory factors. [But c'mon, don't researchers who engage in these studies mine the data for results that favor their pre-existing beliefs?--ed. One of the researchers, the University of Chicago's Marianne Bertrand, has conducted other studies about economic discrimination. This abstract of a co-authored NBER paper suggests that she does not manipulate her data].

UPDATE: OK, I was apparently way behind the curve on this study, which Alan Krueger discussed in his column last month in the New York Times. Brad DeLong, Kevin Drum, and Thomas Maguire posted on this more than a month ago. The criticism of the study is that the name selection could merely indicate a bias against "outside-the-mainstream" names, and not necessarily racism. The authors do seem to have covered this with survey research on attributing names to racial backgrounds -- and they're also quite forthcoming about the drawbacks of their testing approach in the paper. Steven Postrel e-mails to raise a better criticism, which is that the African-American names were the most "countercultural" while the white names were as WASPish as you could get. Point taken.

One possible problem that occurred to me was that the experiment was carried out "between July 2001 and January 2002 in Boston and between July 2001 and May 2002 in Chicago." Since several of the African-American names have Islamic-sounding names, I wondered if those names combined with 9/11 were responsible for the result. Surprisingly, the results (Table 2 in the paper) don't suggest that either.
HOPES VS. EXPECTATIONS IN NORTH KOREA: Prospect theory predicts that, when faced with sudden reversals in fortune that present no-win scenarios -- like North Korea -- pundits will envisage best-case outcomes as a way of advancing their preferred policies. This is rarely done for tactical reasons, but rather because in situations like the current one, frustration with the range of depressing alternatives leads human beings to sketch a sunnier outcome than one should realistically expect. We prefer the riskier strategy because the possible rewards are great, even though the likelihood of that outcome occurring is small.

Which brings me to Nicholas D. Kristof's op-ed. He argues that, "So how can we undermine North Korean propaganda and totalitarianism? By imposing sanctions and increasing its isolation? Or by engaging it and tying it to the global economy?

The answer should be obvious, for there is no greater subversive in a Communist country than an American factory manager. People will hear stories from his housemaid's third cousin's neighbor's friend about how he has five pairs of blue jeans (!), a beer belly (!), blows his nose on tissues that he then throws away (!), and reads a Bible (!) and Playboy magazine (!!). Many a Communist will immediately begin dreaming of capitalism....

If only President Clinton had instituted the 1994 agreement with gusto, flooding North Korea with diplomats, investors, traders and pot-bellied bankers who ostentatiously overeat — without exploding — then monuments to the Great Leader might already have been replaced by American-run Internet cafes. So let's agree to be blackmailed, so that North Korea gives up its nukes in exchange for Western trade and investment."

Now, Kristof would get points from David Adesnik for joining the Kevin Drum Club of Bush critics who acknowledge that this option amounts to backing down. I also strongly support the boosting of Playboy's export revenues. And certainly, the notion that unbridled capitalism will destroy dictatoriships has a long and distinguished history. It's also the rationale for our openness to the People's Republic of China.

I would love it if Kristof was right -- but a sober appraisal of the situation would conclude that's he's completely wrong. This gets to the distinction between a totalitarian and an authoritarian state. China or Singapore fall into the latter camp -- political dissent is stifled, but in other spheres of life there is sufficient breathing froom from state intervention to permit the flowering of pro-market, pro-democratic civil society. North Korea is totalitarian, in the sense that the state control every dimension of social life possible.

In authoritarian societies, the introduction of market forces and international news media can has the potential to transform society in ways that central governments will not be able to anticipate. In totalitarian societies, reform can only take place when the central government favors it. These societies have to take the first steps towards greater openness before any outside force can accelerate the process. Usually, such societies turn brittle and collapse under their own weight.

There is no more totalitarian state on earth than North Korea. To paraphrase P.J. O'Rourke, unapproved interactions unhappen in Pyongyang. As I've argued previously (click here , here and here), every North Korean feint towards openness has turned out to be an attempt at misdirection.

For the past decade, the DPRK leadership has been completely consistent about one thing -- it prefers mass famine and total isolation over any threat to the survival of its leadership. Uncontrolled exchange with the West will threaten that leadership. I have no doubt that Pyongyang is enthusiastic about the creation of segmented economic zones where foreign capital would be permitted -- so long as the rest of North Korean society remained under effective quarrantine.

I wish it were otherwise -- but I know it isn't.
AN ECONOMICS SMACKDOWN: Brad DeLong has a fascinating post on the failure of Joeph Stiglitz -- the 2001 Nobel Prize winner in Economics -- to make any headway among economists in advancing his argument that capital controls are a good thing. DeLong explains:

"Joe is losing the argument. He is not losing the argument because rational debate shows that his is the worse cause (although I think that rational debate is likely to reach that conclusion). He is losing the argument because of something he wrote about former MIT Professor, then Principal Deputy Managing Director of the IMF, and current President of Citicorp (Group?) International Stanley Fischer:

'Moreover, the IMF's behavior should come as no surprise: it approached the problems from the perspectives and ideology of the financial community, and these naturally were closely (though not perfectly) aligned with its interests. As we have noted before, many of its key personnel came from the financial community, and many of its key personnel, having served these interests well, left to well-paying jobs in the financial community. Stan Fischer, the deputy managing director who played such a role in the episodes described in this book, went directly from the IMF to become a vice chairman at Citigroup, the vast financial firm that includes Citibank. A chairman of Citigroup (chairman of the Executive Committee) was Robert Rubin, who, as secretary of [the] Treasury, had had a central role in IMF policies. One could only ask, Was Fischer being richly rewarded for having faithfully executed what he was told to do? (pp. 207-208 of
Globalization and Its Discontents)

It is the sentence that I have highlighted in bold that was Stiglitz's complete and total disaster. I have met nobody who knows Stanley Fischer who believes that the answer to Stiglitz's question is, "Yes." Everybody I have met who knows Stanley Fischer sees Stiglitz's question as a knowingly-false and malevolently-intended act of slander. The implication that Fischer was rewarded for slanting IMF policy in a pro-Citigroup direction in return for a future fat private-sector paycheck is universally rejected as totally false.

And as a result, every day at the AEA, it seemed that there were at least 300 friends of Stanley Fischer who woke up in the morning thinking, 'I have to defend Stan against Joe.' And they did so, quite effectively."


Read the whole post, as well as the comments it has inspired.

DeLong is correct to say that the right set of ideas is winning, but for political rather than intellectual reasons. Alas, I feared something this would occur back in September, in part because Stiglitz has yet to recover from his bruising experiences of being on the losing side of policy disputes in DC, for reasons that I elaborate on here.
Monday, January 13, 2003
WHEN LIBERALS HAVE A POINT: I've blogged in the past about this administration's tendency towards smugness in their articulation of policy decisions (click here and here). Certainly, this habit of brushing away outside opinions -- both foreign and domestic -- has infuriated the left, and partially helps to explain their use of the overrreaching Bush-as-dictator trope.

However, the liberals do have a valid point on the smugness. According to Bob Novak, Senate Republicans are equally irate about the administration's arrogance and tendency to stonewall (link via Drudge):

"Republican senators gathering last Wednesday for their session-opening 'retreat' should have been happy, blessed with a regained majority and a popular president. They were not. Instead, they complained bitterly of arrogance by the Bush administration, especially the Pentagon, in treatment of Congress along the road to war.

Two years of growing discontent boiled over during the closed-door meeting at the Library of Congress. White House chief of staff Andrew Card was there to hear grievances from President Bush's Senate base that it is ignored and insulted by the administration, particularly by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in preparing for war against Iraq. Recital of complaints began with Sen. John Warner, a pillar of the Senate GOP establishment."

Then there's this exchange, confirming the worst parts of Will Saletan's piece last week in Slate:

"Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri next got up to tell Card that the administration had better put out more information justifying military action against Iraq as part of the war against terrorism. 'What is the connection between Iraq and al-Qaida?' Bond asked. 'Don't worry,' replied Card, indicating the information would come along."

Read the whole piece -- it's disturbing. (Memo to Whote House staff: don't ever get quoted as saying only "don't worry" in response to a question).

The administration can choose to ignore opinions from the "outside" -- the costs and benefits of this strategy are clear. However, ignoring the legislative branch of government goes beyond the realm of simple arrogance and enters the realm of power-grabbing stupidity.
MOCKING M.A.D.D.: InstaPundit and TalkLeft have been arguing that Mothers Against Drunk Driving, having succeeded in stigmatizing that offense, is now going overboard. This includes pushing overly strict statutory blood alcohol levels that do little to contribute to the public good, and calling for public officials to resign for first-time DUI offenses. As TalkLeft puts it, "MADD has moved into dangerous territory and needs to be reigned in. Or, since that's unlikely, ridiculed."

I believe the ridicule has begun -- in the comic pages, of course.

UPDATE: Alert reader J.S. informs me that there is an actual organization devoted to what is lampooned in today's Foxtrot, but that it's likely a student-perpetrated hoax. So it's either intentionally or unintentionally hilarious.
Sunday, January 12, 2003
YOU KNOW THE CULTURE HAS CHANGED WHEN...: I hold some mutual fund investments with Janus Funds [Wow, so you must really be raking the dough, huh?--ed. It's a Sunday; take the day off]. Their year-end report just arrived in my box, which does not make for happy reading. It includes a letter from their Managing Director of Investments, Helen Young Hayes. Her missive contains this startling paragraph:

"The year will also be viewed by historians as a time of 'cleansing' by the market sweeping away the greed, blind ambition and fraud that had built up during the bull market. Starting with Enron in the fall of 2001, one corrupt management team after another has fallen under the glare of the market's spotlight, punished for financial and corporate governance misdeeds. Aggressive accounting practices that were sometimes employed in the ebullient 1990's have been replaced by a more conservative, transparent culture on Wall Street, a shift that was long overdue and that we believe will have a positive and meaningful long-term effect on the health of the financial markets."

Now, I'm all for rigorous accounting standards. But an investment director blasting greed and ambition? Why, exactly, do these people think I'm an investor?

Maybe I need to rethink my portfolio [Yeah, then you could pay me--ed. Right now you're earning as much as I am for this.]

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