Saturday, March 01, 2003
THE KIESLING LETTER: When a high-ranking Foreign Service officer publicly resigns because of a policy disagreement, it makes one take notice. There may be private-sector opportunities for those who leave government service, but don't kid yourself -- almost no one outside the government can shape policy as much as those in the executive branch. To leave that for reasons of principle is significant -- as the International Herald-Tribune notes, "It is rare... for a diplomat, immersed in the State Department's culture of public support for policy regardless of private feelings, to resign with this kind of public blast."

So I took the resignation of John Brady Kiesling, the political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Athens and a 20-year veteran of the Foreign Service quite seriously. Until I read the resignation letter. Here's the key paragraph:

"The sacrifice of global interests to domestic politics and to bureaucratic self-interest is nothing new, and it is certainly not a uniquely American problem. Still, we have not seen such systematic distortion of intelligence, such systematic manipulation of American opinion, since the war in Vietnam. The September 11 tragedy left us stronger than before, rallying around us a vast international coalition to cooperate for the first time in a systematic way against the threat of terrorism. But rather than take credit for those successes and build on them, this Administration has chosen to make terrorism a domestic political tool, enlisting a scattered and largely defeated Al Qaeda as its bureaucratic ally. We spread disproportionate terror and confusion in the public mind, arbitrarily linking the unrelated problems of terrorism and Iraq. The result, and perhaps the motive, is to justify a vast misallocation of shrinking public wealth to the military and to weaken the safeguards that protect American citizens from the heavy hand of government. September 11 did not do as much damage to the fabric of American society as we seem determined to so to ourselves. Is the Russia of the late Romanovs really our model, a selfish, superstitious empire thrashing toward self-destruction in the name of a doomed status quo?"

I hope he's right about Al Qaeda's strength (this should help), but the bombings in Bali, Kenya, and Tunisia suggest that this group remains a potent force and that Kiesling is exaggerating.

Which is the problem with the whole missive. There is some measure of truth in what Kiesling writes, but there is so much gross exaggeration and simplification that it makes it hard to take seriously.

Kiesling started his career at the Foreign Service in 1983 -- a year in which Ronald Reagan was receiving mass condemnation abroaf for branding the Soviet Union an "evil empire." The U.S. was applying extraterritorial sanctions against its NATO allies because of their cooperation with the Soviet gas pipeline. Hundreds of thousands of protestors were pressuring Western European governments not to install Pershing II missiles as a counter to Soviet intermediate-range missiles, instead pushing for a nuclear freeze. A much larger budget deficit (as a share of GDP) was ballooning, in part because of an increase in military spending that makes today's increases look like chump change.

Maybe he wrote this in a distraught state of mind, but in the end the letter reads like a 16-year old protesting his curfew to his parents.
Friday, February 28, 2003
WHY CAN'T DICTATORS ASPIRE TO BE LIKE MUSSOLINI?: A fascinating FT op-ed on what Kim Jong-Il and Saddam Hussein have in common:

"On the 50th anniversary of his death, the two paramount threats to world peace today, Saddam Hussein and President Kim Il-Jong of North Korea, openly base themselves and their regimes on Stalin. When Kim Il-Jong recently visited Moscow on a surreal train journey, he proudly informed Vladimir Putin he was travelling in the armoured train given to his father as a present by Stalin. As analysts of the regime agree, this merely illustrates the extraordinary, reverential detail with which Kim and his founding father Kim Il-Sung have maintained a complete Stalinist state into the 21st century: the Korean Workers Party is a replica of the Bolsheviks. In both North Korea and Iraq, the absolute political control of a tiny oligarchy, the propaganda state, economic centralisation, the interlocking labyrinth of security forces, and the preposterous cult of personality are self-consciously Stalinist....

Stalin, like Saddam, survived in power because he so terrorised his people that however great his blunders, there was no opposition left alive. But whatever his origins, Stalin turned himself by will and dynamic intelligence into a gradualist, patient, often restrained statesman, as well as a well-read history-buff who could debate the virtues of Marlborough and Wellington with Churchill. However well he plays western democracies, Saddam rules a divided and diminished realm which he may soon lose due to his own blunders....

the parallels are useful: the queasy cocktail of leftists and useful idiots who protest against war with Iraq truly resemble the muddleheads who supported Stalin's awful experiment. Kim is a Stalin heir with nuclear weapons, a living argument for stopping the Stalin of Mesopotamia before he acquires his."

Read the whole piece.
DESCRIBING MY POLITICAL BELIEFS: When asked about my political beliefs, I usually respond by calling myself a "pragmatic libertarian." But what exactly does that mean?

I can't provide an answer to that question. I can, however, provide Brink Lindsey's definition of pragmatic libertarianism, which I like a great deal.
JUST WAR AND IRAQ: I said below that I have yet to hear a satisfactory answer on why a quick war with Iraq would not be more just than the status quo of immiserating sanctions.

Now Glenn Reynolds links to a Michael Walzer essay on a war with Iraq that provides one response. The key grafs:

"Defending the embargo, the American overflights, and the UN inspections: this is the right way to oppose, and to avoid, a war. But it invites the counter-argument that a short war, which made it possible to end the embargo, and the weekly bombings, and the inspection regime, would be morally and politically preferable to this "avoidance." A short war, a new regime, a demilitarized Iraq, food and medicine pouring into Iraqi ports: wouldn't that be better than a permanent system of coercion and control? Well, maybe. But who can guarantee that the war would be short and that the consequences in the region and elsewhere will be limited?"

That's a fair point, but it's worth asking whether the consequences of the "permanent system of coercion and control" -- which includes the embargo, no-fly zones, and the stationing of large numbers of troops on Saudi soil -- are more limited. One can argue that containment has substantially contributed to instability in Saudi Arabia and the growth of Al Qaeda.

That said, Walzer's point about the uncertainties of conflict are worth contemplating. So is the rest of his essay. He is intellectually honest enough to admit the following:

"Today, the UN inspection regime is in place in Iraq only because of what many American liberals and leftists, and many Europeans too, called a reckless US threat to go to war. Without that threat, however, UN negotiators would still be dithering with Iraqi negotiators, working on, but never finally agreeing on, the details of an inspection system; the inspectors would not even have packed their bags (and most of the leaders of Europe would be pretending that this was a good thing). Some of us are embarrassed to realize that the threat we opposed is the chief reason for the existence of a strong inspection system, and the existence of a strong inspection system is today the best argument against going to war.

It would have been much better if the US threat had not been necessary —if the threat had come, say, from France and Russia, Iraq's chief trading partners, whose unwillingness to confront Saddam and give some muscle to the UN project was an important cause of the collapse of inspections in the 1990s. This is what internationalism requires: that other states, besides the US, take responsibility for the global rule of law and that they be prepared to act, politically and militarily, with that end in view."

SHAME, SHAME: As Michael Green and Jacob Levy have already pointed out, "No War in Iraq, the University of Chicago group devoted to actively opposing the war in Iraq," which receives funding from multiple university accounts, has published a brief collection of opinion pieces from professors regarding the merits of a war with Iraq.

According to the group
:

"No War in Iraq... has chosen to put together this journal of essays because we recognize the grays in the world, and because we still oppose a war in Iraq.... We wanted to put together a journal with opinions both supporting and opposing a war in Iraq.

We wanted readers to get both sides, to see the complexity and come to an educated decision, as we had. When we started soliciting essays, we realized that this task would be more difficult than we had originally thought. While it was fairly easy to find faculty who opposed the war, finding faculty who supported it was a much more difficult task. We followed every lead we had and in most cases learned that the faculty we were told probably supported a war really were not sure where they stood (This is with the exception of Richard Posner of the Law School, whoes (sic) contribution and willingness to participate despite the lack of other pro-war essays we greatly appreciate). While we were trying to convey the honest disagreement within the academic community at the University, we found it difficult to find many professors who supported a war in Iraq. Our impression was that there may not be so much disagreement after all, and that there is general skepticism surrounding the Bush administration's policies on Iraq." (my bold italics)

If this is their story, then these individuals have displayed neither the research skills nor the intellectual curiosity to merit being University of Chicago students. Go to Jacob Levy's post to see particular individuals on campus that believe an attack on Iraq would be justified. They most certainly did not follow every lead.

If this group was serious in its endeavor to present a balanced debate, all that was needed was a mass e-mail to solicit faculty positions on the war. At a minimum, such an e-mail should have been sent to faculty affiliated with the Political Science department, Middle Eastern Studies, International Studies, Public Policy, and/or Philosophy. No email was sent.

The only conceivable defense I can think of for their error was a belief that the contributors had to come from different departments in the university and didn't want too many political science professors. However, the fact that they were able to squeeze in two English professors suggests that perhaps I'm being too generous.

Let me make it clear that if No War in Iraq had only wanted to publish a collection of antiwar pieces, that would have been perfectly appropriate, given the group's raison d'etre. What offends me is their initial claim that they wanted to publish a collection of diverse opinions and then their subsequent claim that they were unable to find any diversity of thought on campus. At the University of Chicago, if you can't find diversity of thought among the faculty, you're not looking hard enough.

It gives me no pleasure to write about this. I don't like publicly criticizing undergraduates on campus. Being at college is all about going on an intellectual journey, one that usually has its share of embarrassing stops along the way.

However, I find the incident I've just related so contrary to this university's principles of open debate that it's worth blogging about it.


Thursday, February 27, 2003
A LEADING INDICATOR FOR THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION: Mickey Kaus, &c, and The Note are all a flutter about Bob Shrum's decision to join the John Kerry campaign as an indicator of Kerry's chances to become the Democratic nominee.

However, over the next year (and before the actual primaries), there's a better harbinger for who will be the eventual nominee -- which candidate picks up the elite foreign policy advisors?

Why these people? Because foreign policy analysts might care about a candidate's philosophy of governance, but they care about being Secretary of State more. Therefore, unless their foreign policy views are sharply in contrast with the candidate's ideology (no pro-war analysts would work for Howard Dean, for example), these people will pick the candidate most likely to win -- and therefore most likely to appoint them to choice cabinet, subcabinet, and White House positions.

[But wouldn't these people just wait until the primary season is over?--ed. Not necessarily. There are clear first-mover advantages to latching onto candidates. In 2000, remember, George W. Bush assembled an impressive list of Republican foreign policy experts -- the "Vulcans" before the first primary or caucus. But why wouldn't domestic policy advisors operate under the same guidelines?--ed. The ideological constraints are more powerful for domestic issues. Since domestic policy is the bread and butter of presidential campaigns, candidates usually take great pains to articulate their policy proposals in a way that acts like a brand for their ideological stripe. This branding narrows the range of domestic advisors who can plausibly join a particular campaign. Because foreign policy is usually reactive rather than proactive, plain-old experience is more valued for its own sake in international relations].

Who are the elite advisors? As a public service, this blog provides the following list. I divide it into two categories -- those with sufficient gravitas to become Secretary of State, and those with enough know-how to qualify as National Security Advisor. The latter group will likely commit to a candidate first, because they have more rungs up the achievement ladder:

Secretary of State-level advisors (A depressingly short list -- readers, feel free to e-mail those I may be forgetting):
Sandy Berger
Richard Holbrooke
George Mitchell
Lawrence Summers
Strobe Talbott

National Security Advisor-level advisors: (A larger and more impressive list -- but then again, I actually know most of these guys):
Ivo Daalder
Leon Fuerth
Bruce Jentleson
Charles Kupchan
Kenneth Pollack
James Steinberg
Stephen Walt

(Interesting side note: It was difficult to locate anything like an personal web page for the first category of people. It was easy to complete the same task for the second group. That says something, but I'm not sure what.)

To my knowledge (which is appallingly slim in inside-the-beltway stuff) none of these people have publicly committed for any candidate. Yet.

Developing....

UPDATE: I've amended this post to respond to Kevin Drum's excellent question.
WHEN WAR IS THE HUMANITARIAN OPTION: Mark Kleiman raises a very uncomfortable question for anti-war advocates:

"If the alternative to war is continued sanctions, and if sanctions (and the Iraqi government's response to them) are killing about 90,000 Iraqi children per year -- which would come to roughly 1 million in the twelve years since their adoption -- in what sense is war a more violent option than continued sanctions?"

I raised this question back in September and have yet to hear it answered to my satisfaction. Here's another link arguing that force can be more just than sanctions.

P.S. In fairness, I should point out that Kleiman's figure of 90,000 deaths per annum is a gross exaggeration -- the UNICEF study relied on Iraqi government information that was never released to other researchers and fails to distinguish between deaths attributable to sanctions and those attributable to the Gulf War. The best study I've seen on the topic puts the estimate at around 25,000 deaths per annum.
THE ART OF APOLOGIES: A Canadian MP has apologized for calling Americans "bastards.":

"A Liberal MP has apologized for saying about Americans: "I hate those bastards."

MP Carolyn Parrish was speaking to reporters about Canada's diplomatic initiative on Iraq. At the end of her comments, after most of the cameras were turned off, Parrish said, 'Damn Americans … I hate those bastards.'

CBC reporter Susan Lunn, who heard Parrish make the comment, said the MP then laughed as she was walking away....

'My comments do not reflect my personal opinion of the American people and they certainly do not reflect the views of the government of Canada,' she said in her written statement.

Late last year, the prime minister's communications director, Françoise Ducros, resigned after calling U.S. President George W. Bush 'a moron' during a conversation with a reporter in Prague."

Parrish's statement is probably false -- the "bastards" comment was -- obviously -- her personal opinion. Maybe she changed her mind later, but she can't claim aliens made her say it. As one American e-mailed the CBC in reaction to the story: "If she hates us, I'd rather her say it and at least have the guts to stick to it... I'd rather be aware of honest hate rather than the smarmy lies of a pretended friend."

This kind of story makes me flash back to 1985, when Reagan was heard muttering "sons of bitches" into a microphone as the press was leaving a Cabinet meeting. Reagan never apologized -- his press spokesman said, with a straight face, that what Reagan had really uttered was "It's sunny and you're rich." In handling it that way, Reagan was able to back away from what he said. He used an obvious lie to avoid telling a more insidious lie.
COULD BE WORSE... COULD BE "BLUNT AND UPTIGHT": The New Republic Online has given a name to the contributions from Jacob T. Levy and myself -- "Chicago School." Their extraordinarily erudite editor goes on to note:

"Levy and Drezner are members of a small but growing clique of 'scholar bloggers'--scholars who share their insights with wider audiences on their respective web logs. They will be bringing a similiar brand of sharp but informal commentary on politics and foreign policy to TNR readers."

Jacob's latest effort is now available -- and should give some pause to those praising the Bush administration's commitment to Iraqi democracy.
ASSESSING AFGHANISTAN: President Bush's declaration that the U.S. will build a free and stable Iraq is causing both supporters and critics to take another look at Afghanistan to see how things are there. Evidence of increasing stability and democracy supports the assertion that Iraq can be remade -- evidence of lawlessness and authoritarianism would suggest more humility.

So what's the situation? Depends on who you ask. Hamid Karzai thinks the Afghan situation is continually improving -- of course, he has a strong political incentive to advocate that line of thinking . That same Chicago Tribune story shows that Democratic Senators believe the situation is deteriorating -- of course, they have strong political incentives to advocate that line of thinking.

Journalistic accounts are also split. This Washington Post story, hyped by Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds, and Josh Chafetz, offers some comfort about the improving situation:

"In a city that had a handful of shopworn eating places two years ago, a new Chinese or Italian or American hamburger restaurant opens almost weekly, as well as kebab shops by the score. Small hotels have sprung up, and a $40 million Hyatt is on the way. The food bazaars are bustling and there are downtown blocks filled almost entirely with bridal shops. Rebuilt homes are rising from the ruins, and every little storefront seems to be stuffed with bathtubs or fans or with men building and carving things to be sold....

According to Commerce Minister Seyyed Mustafa Kazemi, the number of foreign firms setting up shop in Afghanistan is growing fast.

He said that in the past six months, his ministry has approved 2,600 business licenses, compared with 2,045 in the 45 years before. Many were given to foreign firms, he said, or those headed by Afghans living abroad who want to return to their homeland. These licensed businesses are the large ones that will pay all taxes and other government fees; most Afghan businesses still open without registration and beyond the reach of central government tax collectors."

However, that report only deals with the situation in Kabul. This Knight-Ridder story suggests much more pessimism about the situation outside the capital:

"More than a year after U.S. forces toppled the Taliban government that sheltered Osama bin Laden, Afghanistan is a fractured country torn by ethnic strife and divided regional loyalties. Its roads are impassable and unsafe, plagued by bandits. Opium production is surging. Regional armies owe no allegiance to the national government, and neither do political leaders who run their provinces like little countries....

'The central government is very weak and can't unite the country because it can't obtain the financial support from the international community,' said Abdul Razak, director of commerce in the southern city of Kandahar."

The truth probably lies somewhere in between, though I always trust the report coming from the sticks more than the report coming from the capital. Two final thoughts on this, however.

First, comparing Afghanistan to Iraq is as unfair as comparing it to post-W.W.II Japan. Afghanistan is the toughest test imaginable for post-war reconstruction. The fact that any demonstrable progress has taken place in a society with no sizeable middle class, economic infrastructure, or stable governance for the last 25 years is worth celebrating. Iraqis are not nearly so impoverished, uneducated, or factionalized as Afghans.

Second, for all of the criticism being levied at the U.S. for not doing enough to rebuild the country, it's pretty clear that the U.S. is doing more than others. This Iranian news story paints a slightly discouraging picture of Afghanistan, but not so bad as the Knight-Ridder story. The key line:

"'The US has been true to its pledge much more than the rest of the global community in providing financial assistance to Afghanistan,' said [Tehran representative of the Islamic Party of Afghanistan Qolam-Hussein] Nasseri.

'Of course, Afghanistan has technical problems in receiving the aid, since these grants are usually distributed by the NGOs. It has been over a year since the Taliban regime collapsed but colossal problems persist in Afghanistan.'"

Considering the source being quoted, and the organization doing the quoting, it's tough to argue that the U.S. has fallen down on the job in Afghanistan.

UPDATE: This Washington Post op-ed definitely comes down on the negative side. Of course, I have no idea where they get their info.
A VERY SAD DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Fred Rogers is dead of cancer at 74.

As a small child, I still remember watching -- in order -- Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, and then Electric Company. Now, I'll admit that my favorite was Electric Company -- it had Spiderman and Morgan Freeman as Easy Reader -- but my afternoon was incomplete if I didn't see Mr. Rogers take off his jacket and tie and put on his cardigan.

Rest in peace, good sir. Millions of middle-aged Americans will never be able to forget you.

UPDATE: Virginia Hefferman's obit captures what I think about Mr. Rogers.
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
FRENCH CONSISTENCY ON MULTILATERALISM: The French Prime Minister made it clear today that if the U.S. decides to go ahead with an attack on Iraq without a 20th UN Security Council resolution regarding Iraq, "would divide the international community" and "be perceived as precipitous and illegitimate." Clearly, the French have a strong belief in multilateralism.

Unless, of course, such multilateral cooperation would actually require them to make material sacrifices for the greater good. In that circumstance, the French appear to be rank unilateralists:

"France launched the most serious challenge yet to the European Union's economic rules yesterday, by vowing not to take austerity measures to plug its growing budget deficit....

Paris's response to its likely breach of the stability and growth pact - the stringent economic rules underpinning the euro - will test the credibility of EU economic policy.

A defiant stance by France, which has recently clashed with other EU members on issues such as Iraq and Zimbabwe, would make it easier for other countries to disregard the pact."

I'm shocked, shocked at this sort of behavior.... not.

UPDATE: Oh, yes, they're also threatening to break up the current round of WTO negotiations.
THOSE FATUOUS AND CYNICAL HUMAN SHIELDS: Tapped has admirably and appropriately scolded the antiwar protestors now heading to Iraq as "human shields," with the idea of thwarting U.S. bombing raids: "If you're opposed to war at any cost, risking your life to protest it has a certain nobility and purity to it. But by our lights, a line is crossed when citizens go from engaging in the political process to prevent a decision to go to war to actively impeding prosecution of the war once that decision has been made."

The situation is even worse than Tapped (or Salon) suggests. According to this Chicago Tribune story, the human shields aren't risking their lives.

Here's the key section of the article:

"'We are here for the people, not the government,' said Katarina Soederholm of Norway. She said she objects to the group being used for 'propaganda.'

The Iraqi government has given the volunteers unprecedented freedom to organize their protests, which have included a blood drive and several marches. The government pays for their hotels and provides other services such as phone lines and Internet access.

Soederholm was not part of the group going to the power plant.

'Too risky' was her assessment. 'I will go to a hospital,' she said, 'I don't want to be someplace where my life will really be in danger.'

Despite being called 'human shields,' many activists aren't prepared to die.

'I am not saying I will see this thing through to the bitter end,' said [Godfrey] Meynell, the leader of the group at the power plant. Most plan to leave before any attack starts."

If these protestors don't intend to be human shields when the war actually starts, why are they going to Iraq? What possible purpose could this activity serve other than to boost the Iraqi regime? How can these people be called anything but fools or traitors? [You do know that many of these people aren't Americans--ed. How about traitors to Western civilization? That works!--ed.]

The hypocrisy of these protestors' actions is so rank that they can do nothing to further their alleged cause of peace. There are unsavory members of both sides of this debate, but these people are lower than either Noam Chomsky or ANSWER on the food chain of stupid ideas.

[I thought you weren't going to write about the protestors again--ed. These people are far, far more insidious than run-of-the-mill protestors.]

UPDATE: I take back what I said about Chomsky -- click here for why.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Chris Lawrence, Virginia Postrel, and Tim Blair have some further thoughts on these nitwits.
Tuesday, February 25, 2003
WHO'S RUNNING THE FOREIGN POLICY STORE?: John Judis has an interesting but incomplete analysis of the different administration foreign policy factions. He divides up the administration into hard-core unilateralists (Rumsfeld, Cheney), half-realist/half-institutionalists (Powell, Tenet), and neocons (Wolfowitz). It does a nice job of highlighting the divisions within the administration.

It's incomplete in that I have no idea on what basis Judis is making these assertions -- he provides no actual evidence, says it's "based on interviews with administration officials, press reports and, where necessary, speculation." That doesn't fill me with confidence. It's also incomplete in failing to locate all of the key players (where's Condi Rice?)

Most important, Judis is too willing to lump Bush with Rumsfeld and Cheney as hard-core unilateralists. As I've argued elsewhere, Bush is a multilateralist, but a results-oriented one.

However, the difficulty of locating Bush raises an interesting and somewhat troubling management question -- why hasn't President Bush done a better job of privately managing these publicly feuding factions? (NOTE: As Brad DeLong makes clear, this applies to the administration's economic policy as well). It's clear that this president likes an open and honest debate about foreign policy matters. However, there's a difference between a private debate and a public one.

This administration has been far too public in its disagreements. The result is that anti-American elites in the rest of the world can seize on public comments made by some factions in the administration and trumpet them as official U.S. policy even when they may be a minority view. In contrast, the first Bush administration clearly has policy splits, but they were never made piblic until Bob Woodward wrote about them.

In the end, only the president has the authority to rein in such public divisions. Given the stakes involved in the current debate over Iraq, this should happen soon.
Monday, February 24, 2003
SPRING TRAINING FOR DEMOCRATIC FOREIGN POLICY ADVISORS: Josh Marshall and Heather Hurlburt have pointed out the gravitas gap in foreign policy expertise among Democrats. This matters because foreign policy will be a critical factor in the 2004 presidential campaign.

Now, thanks to Foreign Policy, we have a chance to rate the main candidates (Edwards, Gephardt, Kerry, Lieberman) foreign policy platforms. How do they stack up so far? Here are my provisional grades, which are based on originality, coherence, and the ability to target Bush's vulnerabilities:

JOHN EDWARDS: I've liked Edwards' previous speeches on foreign policy, so I had high expectations. They weren't met, but there's some interesting stuff here.

He starts off well, explaining the need for a "comprehensive strategy for domestic security." This point manages to underscore his policy emphasis and attack Bush. However, he then goes on to note: "the administration stubbornly clings to permanent tax cuts that will benefit mainly the top 1 percent of Americans while arguing that the government can’t afford vital measures to protect the American people." Note to Edwards staff: I understand what you're going for here, but try to avoid having your candidate sound like Al Gore.

The rest of the essay is too generic. It's not that there's anything wrong with what's being said, it's just lacking in specifics [Be fair, Edwards has given two major foreign policy speeches, and they do have more specifics--ed. Fair point]. I liked the line, "We’ve proved that we have firepower. Now we must show the world that we have staying power." But there's nothing about how exactly an Edwards administration would do this.

The essay does end well: "Getting serious about political reform and human rights in the Middle East will require specific strategies in specific countries, but it will also depend on achieving energy security. Presidents of both parties have tolerated and even supported authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, in part because the United States depends on them for oil. A real commitment to energy independence—which the Bush administration clearly lacks—would not only strengthen the U.S. economy but free the United States to promote American values." The linking of these two issues is both smart politics and smart policy. Overall, Edwards did the best job of linking foreign policy to domestic policy issues, which one would expect of a good Democrat.

Overall grade: B A good start, but room for improvement.

RICHARD GEPHARDT: There's a passage in Primary Colors about the difference between legislators as compared to politicians in the executive branch: "Legislators were a different, somewhat less interesting species." The point was that legislators may be steeped in policy minutae, but leaders have the capacity and the curiosity to innovate.

Gephardt's problem is that he is the quintissential legislator.

This shows up in his essay, which manages to be both bland and wrong, a unique combination. There's an interesting undercurrent about using private sector and civil society forces as a way of generating goodwill abroad, but it's not developed at all. However, he does say, "I am determined to further this tradition of committed leadership and have pursued such a course in international affairs throughout my career."

BWAH HAH HAH HAH !!! Oh, wait, he's trying to be serious. Sorry, I was just flashing back to his 1988 presidential campaign, you know, the one that stressed trade protectionism for one and all.

Beyond that, Gephardt's essay seems blissfully unaware or current events. He attacks the administration for not being pro-Israel enough (?!!). Then he blasts Bush for not doing enough to fight AIDS in Africa. He must have submitted this in early January. Whoops.

Overall grade: F Not ready for prime time.

JOHN KERRY: A pleasant surprise. He starts off by blasting Democrats who believe that foreign policy matters won't be pivotal in the next campaign:

"Democrats must resist a new orthodoxy within our party—a politically stagnating shift that does a disservice to more than 75 years of history. That is the new conventional wisdom of consultants, pollsters, and strategists who argue that Democrats should be the party of domestic issues alone.

They are wrong. As a party, Democrats need to talk about all the things that strengthen and protect the United States. We need to have a vision that extends to the world around us, and we should remember that this vision is as old as our party.... It’s our turn again to talk about things that are hard."

He then does a nice job of advocating more resources for the intelligence services, with specific anecdotes to highlight why such increases are necessary. He muddles through on Iraq, but then gives the best partisan spin on North Korea of all four of the candidates:

"the Bush administration has offered only a merry-go-round policy: Bush and his advisers got up on their high horse, whooped and hollered, rode around in circles, and ended up right back where they’d started. By suspending the talks initiated by the Clinton administration, asking for talks but with new conditions, refusing to talk under the threat of nuclear blackmail, and then reversing that refusal as North Korea’s master of brinkmanship upped the ante, the administration sowed confusion and put the despot Kim Jong Il in the driver’s seat. By publicly taking military force, negotiations, and sanctions off the table, the administration tied its own hands behind its back.

Now, finally, the Bush administration is rightly working with allies in the region—acting multilaterally—to pressure Pyongyang. It’s gotten off the merry-go-round; the question is why one would ever want to be so driven by unilateralist dogma to get on in the first place."

This is a harsh assessment, but I admire the tactics.

Like Gephardt, he stresses the role of non-state actors in assisting U.S. foreign policy. Unlike Gephardt, he actually devotes more than one sentence to it. Ending with a Teddy Roosevelt quote was a nice touch.

Overall grade: A- He's got the chops

JOE LIEBERMAN: The 6th grade English teacher in me liked the crisp and coherent organization of this essay. The foreign policy wonk was either bored or uncertain whether Lieberman knew what he was talking about. Beyond the usual platitudes, his suggestion to "refocus NATO, the world’s greatest military alliance, to apply its might to uproot terrorism." sounds good, but when you think about it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Exactly how is the Belgian Army going to be of use in fighting Al Qaeda?

Then there's this goal: "maintaining the global balance of power must be as high a priority as countering threats from terrorists and rogue nations." Now, surely he doesn't mean that the U.S. should become weaker so that an actual balance exist?

Lieberman deserves some credit for discussing his legislative proposals on democracy promotion and economic liberalization. He seems to get the fact that foreign policy isn't just about guns and bombs. He's unclear on the environment -- read the essay and see if he's advocating rejoining the Kyoto Protocol or not, because I'm still not sure.

Overall grade: C+ An OK first draft, but not fully thought out. Revise and resubmit.
SILLY FINANCIAL TIMES: This FT story on the emergence of realpolitik in China's foreign policy is so ahistorical that it just looks silly. The key thesis:

"The restraint that has characterised China's response to the crises in Iraq and North Korea demonstrates a fundamental shift in the way that Beijing pursues its foreign policy, Chinese academics and foreign diplomats said.

As Colin Powell, US secretary of state, holds talks with Chinese leaders today, the importance of Beijing's new-found pragmatism may be on display. Chinese leaders are not expected to stand in the way of Washington's desire to attack Iraq, nor are the two sides likely to hit an impasse over North Korea, analysts said....

'China now publicly tells the world that our foreign policy serves our interests,' says Yan Xuetong, director of the institute of international studies at Tsinghua University."

China's acting in its own interests? Stop the presses!! The unstated implication -- that in recent years China has not acted to advance its own interests -- is ridiculous.

What's dangerous is that this article completely ignores an alternative explanation for China's inaction on both Iraq and North Korea -- a struggle for leadership at the top (UPDATE: Sam Crane makes the same point even more concisely in this LA Times op-ed). The North Korea crisis has been percolating for almost six months now, and the principal Chinese reaction has been to insist it will do nothing.

This might be pragmatism in the form of buckpassing. Or it might be a sign of paralysis. You'd never know from the FT.
Wednesday, February 19, 2003
DUTY CALLS: Blogging will be intermittent for the next couple of days. I'll be participating in a conference at Duke on "rethinking international relations theory."

For the two percent of readers that haven't immediately clicked away, here's the conference web page, including all of the papers to be presented (mine's the shortest).
LET THE CLIMBDOWN BEGIN: The International Herald Tribune reports the first effort by Chirac to back away from his tantrum:

"Chirac’s spokeswoman, Catherine Colonna, said by telephone from Paris that France was committed to the enlargement of the European Union and wanted to 'avoid any trouble on the road’ to the historic admission of former Soviet-bloc countries.

Colonna retreated from Chirac’s threat to delay the entry of at least two candidates for membership, Bulgaria and Romania, because of their pro-American leanings. ‘We want the enlargement to be a success,’ she added.

France would ‘certainly not’ delay approval of next year’s scheduled admission of 10 new countries, Colonna said."

If you read the story, however, it's clear that Tony Blair will milk this for all it's worth. Bully for him.
THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO "HMMM....": Given South Korea's extreme reluctance to confront North Korea, willingness to ignore recent North Korean provocations, and borderline-delusional faith in Pyongyang's ability to reform, I'd been trying to figure out what the South Korean position was on Iraq. Somewhat to my surprise, this Reuters report suggests they are staunchly pro-U.S.:

"The United States and Britain picked up support for a tough position against Iraq among U.N. members on Wednesday, although a substantial majority in a two-day debate opposed an invasion of Iraq....

on Wednesday, Macedonia, Albania, Uzbekistan, Iceland, Serbia and Montenegro, Latvia, Nicaragua and South Korea, sharply criticized Iraq and said it had to comply or face tough action."

I wonder if this is a simple case of NIMBY politics, or if the South Koreans genuinely believe that Iraq is flouting the nonproliferation regime but North Korea is not. Marcus Noland makes a decent case that it's NIMBY.
1983 ALL OVER AGAIN: Christopher Buckley makes the comparison between last weekend's antiwar protests and the nuclear freeze movement of the early 1980's. Go check it out.
POWER LAWS AND BLOGGING: For my day job, I've recently had to read some stuff on power law distributions. Now I find it applies to blogging as well (Link via Hit & Run). Read the whole article, but the basic point is relatively intuitive:

"Though there are more new bloggers and more new readers every day, most of the new readers are adding to the traffic of the top few blogs, while most new blogs are getting below average traffic, a gap that will grow as the weblog world does. It's not impossible to launch a good new blog and become widely read, but it's harder than it was last year, and it will be harder still next year."

FRENCH FOREIGN POLICY IS DUMBER THAN I THOUGHT: The quick and overwhelmingly hostile reaction (UPDATE: the BBC has a nice roundup of editorial reaction in New Europe) to Chirac's idiotic comments about central/eastern European countries convinced me that the French government would apologize or downplay the remarks as quickly as possible, probably with some statement explaining that the depth of his love for peace prompted him to make such intemperate remarks. This would be preceded or followed by soothing words from key cabinet officials.

Boy was I wrong. Today, the French Defense Minister upped the ante, according to the Daily Telegraph. Here are her -- pardon the pun -- galling comments:

"M Chirac's comments were taken up by the French defence minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, who reminded the eight states preparing for EU accession on May Day next year that their place in the club was not guaranteed. A blocking referendum could be called at any time in any EU member state before then, she noted.

'We could have expected that the countries that want to join us strike up a cautious position,' she said, alluding to two sets of letters signed by 13 "New Europe" states in opposition to France and Germany's anti-war stance.

'I'm worried, and I say it very clearly, because the entry into the EU has to be ratified. In the interest of these countries themselves, I say take care that there will not be a reaction from citizens, saying these countries do not want peace inside the European family.'

Her comments left it unclear whether it is now the French government's policy to unpick the agreement reached at the EU summit in Copenhagen last December, which gave the final go-ahead for Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Cyprus, and Malta to join the EU in 2004, with Bulgaria and Romania following in 2007, and Turkey later."

My favorite part of the article is this priceless graf:

"One diplomat from the region said M Chirac spoke in a tone that not even the Soviet Union would have used with its Warsaw Pact clients during its 40-year dominance of the region."

This German report makes her comments sound more Orwellian, if possible:

"'I think,' Aillot-Marie said, 'that one can expect the countries that want to join the European Union to maintain a certain circumspection and neutrality. Outsiders should never pour oil on the fire.'"

I must give the Chirac government credit -- it's not easy to make Donald Rumsfeld look diplomatic and Leonid Brezhnev look polite. The French managed it in one fit of temper.

UPDATE: Little noticed in the wake of Chirac's comments has been the tacit support he's received from the chief Eurocrat. According to this report, "But he [Chirac] won some support from European Commission President Romano Prodi, who said the candidates had to realize the EU was a political union and not just an economic club, but he was sure they would get used to it." Of course, how foolish of those candidate countries to believe that a political union meant states would actually debate policy disputes! To be fair, other EU officials who oppose the U.S. position on Iraq have distanced themselves from Chirac's outburst, as this report makes clear:

"Chris Patten, the European commissioner for external relations, said the new nations were not joining the Warsaw Pact -- the defunct Soviet alliance to which many of them once belonged. They are actually joining 'a club for equals and everyone has to be listened to,' Patten said.

Günter Verheugen, the commissioner responsible for EU expansion, also criticized Chirac. 'There can be no rule of silence,' Verheugen said in an interview published on Wednesday in the newspaper Die Welt."
Tuesday, February 18, 2003
WHAT HE SAID: I might disagree with Fareed Zakaria about how to build democracies, but he's dead right about Donald Rumsfeld:

"The poster child for America’s self-defeating machismo is Donald Rumsfeld. He brings to mind another famously impolitic American diplomat, John Foster Dulles. Dulles, Winston Churchill once remarked, 'is the only bull I’ve seen who brings his china shop with him.'

Most of Rumsfeld’s tart observations are true. In fact they’re often dead-on. But he is not a columnist, he’s a statesman (thankfully, since he’d drive many of us out of the business). To much of the world his jabs convey an arrogance that speaks not of leadership but domination. Every time Rumsfeld opens his mouth, I think, 'There goes another ally!'”

THE ATTENTION SPAN OF GREAT POWERS: One of the critiques of the administration's Iraq policy is that going to war will divert scarce resources from the ongoing war against terrorism. I've said before this is a bogus argument, because a) U.S. policy on how to combat terrorism is pretty much set; b) seems to be generating successes, and; c) there are ample resources for both operations. To quote myself, "Gee, I thought great powers were capable of doing more than one thing at a time. That's why they're called great powers."

Upon reflection, I'd like to add one caveat to that statement. The danger with the administration's preoccupation with Iraq -- and the transatlantic fallout it creates -- is that the foreign policy principals (Bush, Rice, Powell, Cheney, Rumsfeld) are devoting so much time to the diplomatic and military preparations vis-à-vis Iraq that they have no time to formulate policy responses to other crises, such as North Korea. Great powers can implement different policies in different parts of the globe because they have copious material resources. However, even great powers have difficulty crafting different policies at the same time. The same people need to approve all of these policy responses, and there are only so many hours in the day.

Therefore, one significant cost to the continued confrontation over Iraq is that the administration will, consciously or not, deal with other policy problems with an unintended posture of benign neglect. Both Andrew Sullivan and Brad Delong make this argument with regard to fiscal policy. More acute is the difficulty the administration is having juggling foreign policy crises.

Michael Gordon's NYT-online essay does a nice job of capturing this problem. The key grafs:

"Bush administration officials have been arguing that ousting the Saddam Hussein regime will serve as an object lesson of what can happen to a rogue nation that seeks weapons of mass destruction. But the North Korean nuclear breakout is sending the opposite signal to the W.M.D wannabees: if a regime does not want to be pressured by the sole remaining superpower or pushed around by a powerful neighbor, it should go nuclear as secretly and quickly as it can.....

But if the Bush administration has a better idea to stop North Korea from churning out more plutonium, it has yet to share it. When lawmakers asked Mr. Tenet how the administration would respond if Pyongyang reprocessed plutonium, he said the matter was still under discussion. The administration, it seems, does not have a policy; it has a policy review. With its eye on Iraq, the administration has also sought to downplay the North Korea issue and dispel the sense of crisis." (My bold italics)

If you want to ignore the New York Times, try ignoring Brent Scowcroft:

"We cannot afford to defer this issue. Time is on North Korea's side; each day increases North Korea's nuclear and missile capabilities, enhancing its military strength and bargaining leverage -- while narrowing our options to respond. The North Korean regime will ultimately follow other dictatorships into oblivion, but this will not happen soon enough to spare us the terrible consequences of its acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, if North Korea builds up its nuclear arsenal while it sees the United States diverted by Iraq, it may enhance its ability to survive that much longer and inflict that much more harm." (my bold italics)

Critics would argue that this is exactly why the administration should not invade Iraq. I'd counter that such a course of action would actually keep Iraq on the front-burner indefinitely, since the alternative of containment requires constant high-level effort to ensure against backsliding by the UN Security Council. Attacking Iraq sooner rather than later removes the issue from the principals' table, allowing them to focus on the rest of the world.

But Bush's critics are correct to point out that the longer Iraq stays in the headlines, the more that other crises will fester from the lack of attention.

AN ODD INTERVIEW: David Adesnik over at OxBlog highlights something that's been bothering me as well -- the recent Sunday NYT Magazine interview with Robert Kagan. More than a third of the questions dealt with whether Kagan was a "chicken hawk." What's weird about this is Kagan's answer to the first question on this point:

"Did you serve in the military?

I was 14 when the Vietnam War ended, and I didn't choose the military as my career path."

That really should have ended the questioning on this topic, but the interviewer persisted for three more questions.

I vehemently disagree with the chicken hawk logic, but I can sort of understand the point being made about elites avoiding military service during Vietnam. The thing is, once the military switched to an all-volunteer force, the question becomes somewhat moot -- either you chose the military as a career or you did not. Kagan did nothing dishonorable or duplicitous -- and yet he has to explain why we shouldn't be living in a Starship Troopers-kind of society.
WHAT'S UP IN INDONESIA?: As part of my informal series of updates about countries that are too big to fail, here's the latest on Indonesia. Both this New York Times article and this Financial Times op-ed indicate that the country has taken aggressive and productive steps to eliminate terrorism. The Times reports:

"After denying there was a terrorist threat here and calling travel warnings alarmist, the Indonesian police in recent months have rounded up more than two dozen suspected terrorists, including several men thought to be senior Qaeda operatives in Southeast Asia. The police have also increased security at the American Embassy and at residences of American diplomats, as the United States has been demanding.

'Progress on every one of our benchmarks has been extraordinary,' the American ambassador, Ralph L. Boyce, said in a letter last week to American diplomats.

While Americans at home have been warned to buy duct tape and bottled water to prepare for terrorist attacks, Mr. Boyce wrote that 'there has been no new credible threat information against the official American community' in Indonesia for nearly two months."

The FT essay concurs:

"In spite of a weak leadership, conflict in its regions and economic, political and social crises, Indonesia has, since the October 12 Bali bombing, moved firmly against both regional and local terrorists. With international support, its police force has caught almost all of the Jemaah Islamiah members responsible for terrorist acts carried out over the past three years. In doing so it has gained self-respect and public confidence, and is now going after Indonesia's other terrorist groups, forcing them on to the defensive.

Debilitating local conflicts have been overcome in central Kalimantan, south Sulawesi (Poso) and the Moluccas. In Aceh, which has endured a separatist insurgency for the past 20 years, a road map for peace has been agreed between the government and the rebels with the assistance of the Henri Dunant Centre in Geneva. This outlines a process for ending hostilities and allowing the rebels to participate in the political process. And at last Jakarta is granting greater autonomy to Papua, after long years of neglect.

On the economic front, too, the indicators have improved: inflation - 10 per cent in 2002 - is under control; growth is 3.5 per cent (although still not adequate to absorb 2m people entering the workforce each year); the currency has stabilised; and the fiscal deficit is manageable."

This essay also acknowledges the country's persistent problems -- corruption in particular. But this is still an improving picture.
MORE FRENCH BLOWBACK: The reaction against French bullying continues on the continent.

First they get outmaneuvered on NATO defending Turkey.

Then, Chirac has to suffer the indignity of other European leaders calling him on France's hypocrisy.

Then Chirac gets mad and says something stupid about EU candidate members from central and eastern Europe.

This produces the expected reaction from those countries.

Remember, though, according to Josh Marshall, any transatlantic rift is the fault of the Bush administration. [C'mon, you're going to let the administration off the hook completely?--ed. No, Marshall is correct about Donald Rumsfeld, whose plan for punishing 'Old Europe' sounds like it was devised by a 12-year old in the middle of a temper tantrum.]

UPDATE: Even the International Herald Tribune thinks Chirac went too far.
THAT OXFORD CABAL: OxBlog's David Adesnik and Josh Chafetz have an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal about the student democracy movement. The first line of their piece sounds vaguely familiar, though.

How dare they borrow from my...er... borrowing of Marx.
SURVEY SAYS: Funny.
Monday, February 17, 2003
WHY I WILL NOT BLOG ABOUT THE PROTESTS: Last week I tried to explain why I wouldn't bother to rebut anti-war protestors. By this I do NOT mean reasoned critiques that acknowledge the costs and benefits of inaction, but arguments along the lines of "NO BLOOD FOR OIL!" or "PEACE IN OUR TIME!"

The protests this past weekend, which were pretty sizeable, does nothing to change that. However, the sentiments in Stephen Pollard's Times essay convey something close to my visceral reaction, so here's that link.

UPDATE: This peace blog that Glenn Reynolds links to is either an intentional or unintentional parody of the antiwar movement. If it's intentional, it's too smarmy and obvious to be funny; if it's unintentional, then it's both hilarious and appalling at the same time.

ANOTHER UPDATE: It always freaks me out a little when someone else independently has the exact same response to an essay as I.
GREGG EASTERBROOK IS NOW THIS BLOG'S OFFICIAL SECRETARY OF SANITY: Easterbrook's Week in Review essay on the the genuine and overblown threats to U.S. soil should be required reading for both Homeland Security officials and television news producers. Go read it. Now. I'll wait....

(Sound of me idly whistling).

Don't you feel calmer now? There are still scary things that could happen, but this is the sort of message we need from a Homeland Security Director. I would suggest that Easterbrook take a government position, but that would mean he would have to give up his most important job, which is being ESPN's Tuesday Morning Quarterback during football season.

Surely, a wise government could devise a position for Mr. Easterbrook for the other eight months of the year, n'est pas?
WHAT'S UP IN PAKISTAN?: Generally, the media picture of Pakistan is a country ready to collapse into an orgy of Islamic fundamentalism. So its worthwhile to point out contradictory evidence, as this Washington Post article highlights. The key paragraphs:

"Despite Pakistan's reputation as a hotbed of Islamic radicalism, its economy is projected to grow this year at a respectable rate of 4.5 percent, according to a government estimate accepted by the World Bank. Tax revenue is up, interest rates are down and government debt is slowly shrinking. In perhaps the best indicator of the bullish sentiment that pervades financial circles in Pakistan, the Karachi stock market last year shot up by 112 percent....

The country's improving financial picture is in many respects a reflection of fiscal austerity measures, such as cuts in food subsidies, imposed by the military government of President Pervez Musharraf, according to economists with international lending agencies. 'Pakistan has turned around a deteriorating macro[economic] situation of a few years ago to a rapidly improving one,' the World Bank noted in a December report.

The turnaround also reflects financial assistance provided by the West in return for Pakistan's support in the war on terrorism, as well as several unanticipated benefits of that war. For example, because of a global crackdown on the informal hawala system of money transfers, which has been linked to money-laundering by suspected terrorists, Pakistanis working abroad are now sending their money home by conventional banking routes, financial experts say. That has helped boost foreign currency reserves to a record $9.5 billion.

'September 11 did a great service to Pakistan,' said Ishrat Hussain, Pakistan's central bank governor."

The decline of hawala, given prior assessments that such a decline would be next to impossible, is also noteworthy.

Sunday, February 16, 2003
FRENCH BLOWBACK: This InstaPundit-linked story suggests the extent to which France may be suffering some blowback from its obstructionist policy on Iraq. In a delicious irony, France's aversion to genuine multilateralism is about to sabotage its faux multilateralism:

"Lord Robertson, Nato's Secretary General, is now expected to bypass the alliance's North Atlantic Council, at which all 19 members are represented, and convene a meeting of its Military Policy Committee, from which France is excluded because of its unique arm's-length relationship with Nato's military structures.

While diplomats said that there was now no prospect of ending French opposition to military support from Nato for Turkey's defences, they believe that Germany and Belgium, which have so far backed France, may be wavering.

The countries have faced fierce criticism from Nato's 16 other members and have also come under fire from the seven nations recently invited to join the alliance, who accuse them of a "breach of faith" for refusing to grant Turkey's request for help.

'If Germany can be won over,' said a senior Nato diplomat, 'it's unlikely that Belgium will want to be isolated as the only one of 18 full military members holding out against aid to Turkey.'

In the meantime, Bulgaria has vowed to resist French attempts to bully it into withdrawing support for America's plans to disarm Iraq. Last week the French ambassador to Sofia warned Bulgaria that its pro-American stance could jeopardise its efforts to join the European Union.

'Bulgaria has to consider carefully where its long-term interests lie,' Jean Loup Kuhn-Delforge said last week. "When people live in Europe they should express solidarity and think European-style."

Solomon Pasi, Bulgaria's foreign minister, condemned the French as neo-appeasers. 'We all remember the hesitancy of the Allies, who weren't sure whether to attack Hitler. They could have prevented so much,' he said.

'We're in a situation where we have a moral imperative to act and act now.'"

I suspect Eastern Europe's governments have fresh memories of the last time the EU tried to pressure them to oppose the U.S. (to be fair, Washington applied pressure on them as well).

UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg has a nice piece in the Los Angeles Times (link via OxBlog) about the French that makes some of these points [But it also uses that meme you don't like--ed. Yes, but his own magazine's blog agrees with me.] The best grafs:

"Indeed, there's almost no criticism of the United States that doesn't apply with greater or equal force to France. The French are certainly willing to trade blood for oil, just so long as it's not their own. And if it's true to say that America helped 'create' Hussein, it's doubly accurate to say it of the country that sold him a nuclear reactor. The only difference between the two countries is that America is eager to correct its mistakes while France is entirely at peace with letting Hussein continue murdering and terrorizing his subjects and neighbors.

It's true, the phrase 'cheese-eating surrender monkeys' isn't particularly accurate here. The French aren't being cowards: They're more like cheese-eating appeasement monkeys, willing to negotiate with evil for short-term advantage. If that makes them heroes to the antiwar movement, so be it. But it doesn't make them principled -- and it certainly doesn't make them our friends."


"
Friday, February 14, 2003
WHEN ENVIRONMENTALISTS PRETEND THEY'RE ECONOMISTS: When journalists have to state what the effects of global warming will be in the future, they rely on the The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC describes itself as follows:

"The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. The IPCC does not carry out research nor does it monitor climate related data or other relevant parameters. It bases its assessment mainly on peer reviewed and published scientific/technical literature."

In other words, the IPCC is supposed to be a nonpartisan group of experts. They were the ones who concluded in January 2001, based on a plethora of different projections, that "globally averaged mean surface temperature is projected to increase by 1.4 to 5.8°C over the period 1990 to 2100.” Which of course leads to mass media outlets blaring "WORLD TEMPERATURES WILL INCREASE BY UP TO SIX DEGREES BY 2100"

Now it turns out that even the optimistic projections could be too pessimistic. The Economist reports that two distinguished statisticians (Ian Castles, former President of the International Association of Official Statistics, and David Henderson, formerly the OECD's chief economist) have judged the IPCC report to be "technically unsound," which is social-sciencese for "your methodology sucks eggs."

What's unsound? To see the actual critiques, click here, here, here, and here. Let me explain. No, that would take too long -- let me sum up:

1) They used incorrect exchange rates. In calculating the relative distribution and growth of global output, the IPCC relied on market exchange rates rather than purchasing power parity (PPP) rates. Now, in doing this, the IPCC drastically underestimated the actual size of developing country economies by a factor of three.

Why does this matter? By underestimating third world GDP, the panel vastly overestimated the energy intensity of these economies. Since these economies are in fact more efficient -- three to four times more efficient -- than estimated, they generate CO2 emissions at a much lower rate than the IPCC thinks. To quote the statisticians involved, "The practice of using [market] exchange rate conversion is especially inappropriate in relation to projections of physical phenomena such as emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols." This is because PPP rates better reflect local economic conditions, and therefore are a better base from which to craft predictions about increases in production facilities and infrastructure.

2) The projections vastly overestimate developing country growth. The IPCC vastly overestimated past growth rates and in their extrapolation to the future estimate wildly unrealistic growth figures for the next century. In the IPCC's most environment-friendly scenario, i.e., the one with the lowest economic growth, "the average income of South Africans will have overtaken that of Americans by a very wide margin by the end of the century. In fact America's per capita income will then have been surpassed not only by South Africa's, but also by that of other emerging economic powerhouses, including Algeria, Argentina, Libya, Turkey and North Korea." One of the statisticians notes that, "The total output of goods and services in South Africa in 2100, according to these downscaled [IPCC] ... scenario projections, will be comparable to that of the entire world in 1990."

To quote South Park, "Dude, that's some pretty f@#&ed-up s*@% there."

3) The IPCC projections for the last ten years can be shown to overestimate carbon dioxide emissions by a factor of 2. I'll just quote one of the documents here: "For fossil CO2 emissions, the standardized increase for the decade 1990 to 2000, calculated in the way explained in Box 5-1 was 0.91 GtC, or 15%. The most widely quoted estimate of the actual increase for the nine-year period 1990-99 (that published by the US Department of Energy-sponsored Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre) is 0.35 GtC, or 6%. On average, therefore, the four unadjusted marker scenarios appear to have overstated actual growth in fossil CO2 emissions in the 1990s by a factor of about 2: a surprisingly wide margin having regard to the fact that trends in emissions for the greater part of the decade were already known at the time that the projections were produced." (my italics)

Of course, I'm sure France will simply argue that since the IPCC report is in substantial compliance with known econometric techniques, it's fine the way it is. For the rest of us, it appears that the primary estimates for global warming have been grossly exaggerated.
A DAMN FUNNY VALENTINE: I was contemplating posting something mushy about the day. It hold some actual significance for me, as seven years ago today I proposed to my now-wife. Her first response was "When did you get the ring?", flummoxed that I could pull off anything on this scale without her knowing about it. She said yes soon afterwards. [You popped the question on Valentine's Day? That's so... trite--ed. That wasn't my original intention. Why it turned out that way is a long story that I have no intention of spilling on the Internet. Sorry].

So anyway, I was thinking of posting something mushy, when I read Kieran Healy's blog-ode to his (mighty fine) sweetie, and had to concede that there was no way it could be topped with conventional measures. Go check it out.
THE CHALLENGE TO AL QAEDA: All of the recent Al Qaeda--"bin Laden" pronouncements seem to be getting Old Media into a very jittery state. And it's doing wonders for America's hardware stores and duct tape sector.

It's possible/probable that Al Qaeda has already planned some sort of response to the start of an Iraqi attack. The question is, can they pull off a big attack, if not on a 9/11 scale, then something like Bali? I ask the question not because of any morbid curiosity, but because an attack on Iraq throws the gauntlet down for Al Qaeda, and unless they respond quickly, they will look enfeebled and irrelevant.

The fact is, it's extremely difficult to measure success in the war on terror. A stretch of months without a bombing could be due to improved counterterror tactics or because Al Qaeda is biding its time. However, these pronouncements, combined with the likelihood of war with Iraq, combined with skeptics claiming that such an attack will weaken our war on terror, provides what social scientists call a "crucial case" in testing the disparate hypotheses. Three possibilities:

1) No attack takes place during the war or its immediate aftermath -- this would support Bush's SOTU contention that we are winning the global war on terror.

2) A big attack takes place, but not on U.S. soil -- this would support the contention that homeland defense measures have had an appreciable effect in preventing Al Qaeda from repeating a 9/11 attack. However, it would partially undercut the contention that Al Qaeda's strength is waning.

3) Coordinated attacks take place, but not on U.S. soil. Same message as above regarding homeland defense, but a clear refutation of the "weakening Al Qaeda" hypothesis.

4) A big attack takes place on U.S. soil -- this would support critics' contentions about the war on Iraq triggering such attacks, as well as raise some disturbing questions about the quality of homeland defense. It would certainly demonstrate Al Qaeda's potency.

UPDATE: This report suggests that perhaps the proximate threat from Al Qaeda has been exaggerated.
Thursday, February 13, 2003
IS AMERICAN SOFT POWER ON THE WANE?: Saying that the U.S. is the global hegemon is obvious. One obvious source of that hegemony is our military might, but there are others, as Josef Joffe pointed out a few years ago:

"the U.S.'s main asset in the rivalry with Europe is not 'hard power' — guns, ships and planes — but 'soft power,' as the U.S. political scientist Joseph Nye calls it. 'Soft power' is Harvard and Hollywood, McDonald's and Microsoft — the stuff of temptation not menace."

That jibes with this definition of soft power as well.

Now, many are fretting that as the U.S. increases its exercise of hard power -- you know, the whole war on terrorism and all that kerfuffle over Iraq -- that our soft power will decline, just because of the global resentment such actions create.

Charles Paul Freund and Shekhar Kapur also argue that U.S. soft power is on the wane, but for different reasons. They argue that, contra Benjamin Barber, that demand for indigenous culture is increasing, making U.S. exports, like Hollywood films, less compelling. Kapur (who was the director of Elizabeth) concludes:

"When I went to the world economic forum in New York, the big topic of conversation was the domination of the western media. But it's a non-issue. What happens when countries like India and China become the biggest subscribers to cable TV? What will CNN do? CNN gets 10% of the Indian and Chinese markets. Ultimately the only reason you will get a western point of view is if you are western-owned. But your advertising is not going to be western any more. Television is governed by advertising. Why is it always Indians who win Miss World competitions? All the advertising comes from India: the competition would simply collapse without it. Indian cricketers are now the highest paid in the world: cricket survivies because of Indian advertising. You have to get an Indian into Formula One racing now, to get the sponsorship from the tobacco companies. Where are the big tobacco markets? China and India.

What will be the viewpoint of the western-owned news channels when 80% of revenues come from Asia? Will it give an Asian viewpoint? If it doesn't, some Asian channels will come up and destroy it. In 15 years from now, we won't be discussing the domination of the western media but the domination of the Chinese media, or the Asian media. Soon we will find that in order to make a hugely successful film, you have to match Tom Cruise with an Indian or a Chinese actor. What you're seeing now with films such as The Guru is just the tip of the iceberg."

Now is normally the time in my posts where I weigh in on whether these claims are true of not. In this case, however, I will confess that I'm just not sure. I think the above arguments are exaggerations, in part because the U.S. economy remains so dynamic compared to our competitors, and because just as broadcast networks remain relevant in a world of disparate cable channels, American culture will remain relevant in a multiculti world. But I can't deny they've got some good arguments. And I automatically tend to sympathize with any argument that proves that Jihad vs. McWorld is a load of dingo's kidneys.

Let me know what you think and I'll be sure to post the best responses.
WILL IRAQ DESTROY THE EUROPEAN UNION?: Josh Marshall has been pretty consistent in blaming the U.S. for the current fraying of transatlantic ties, specifically NATO. [Doesn't Marshall refer to non-European areas as well?--ed. Yes, but that's not what this post is about.] I've written that the U.S. could have been more tactful in their dealings with France and Germany, but Marshall has to face facts -- the current fracas is largely a result of Franco-German bullying and blundering, not U.S. bellicosity.

Critics of the U.S. posture are forgetting that the current split among European countries is not just about Iraq, but the future of the European Union. France and Germany have tried to restore their co-leadership of the EU. They've blocked agricultural reforms, propsed reforms to the European Commission that would weaken the influence of small republics, and generally been prancing around convinced that their bilateral comity would cause the rest of Europe to march behind them.

Well, they screwed up. As the Economist points out, "The [pro-U.S.] gang of eight have, quite deliberately, undermined the idea that the Franco-German couple can continue to set the EU's agenda." Recall Bill Safire's description of the genesis of the gang of eight: "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." The (now) 18 European countries are sympathetic to the U.S. position on Iraq, but they are most decidedly opposed to the French and Germans trying to speak for them.

Marshall's railing about the fraying of NATO, but neglects to point out that this isn't a case of the U.S. vs. France, Germany, and Belgium -- It's the other fifteen NATO members vs. France, Germany and Belgium. No wonder a German analyst was paraphrased in the New York Times stating, "the debate over Iraq has left in shambles Europe's own supposedly growing unity on the most basic matters of foreign policy and defense."

Now, according to the FT, these intra-European divisions are threatening the EU as well:

"there is a growing sense of foreboding in European capitals that the summit could turn into a showcase of EU division and disharmony.

Romano Prodi, European Commission president, warned that the "total lack of a European common foreign policy" was a disaster in the making.

'If Europe fails to pull together, all our nation states will disappear from the world scene,' he told the European parliament in Strasbourg. 'Unless Europe speaks with a single voice, it will be impossible to continue working closely with the US on a longstanding basis while retaining our dignity.'"

Read the FT article -- there's some good stuff in there about how France, Germany and Belgium are blocking the participation of Eastern European candidate members precisely because of their pro-American views.

The U.S. has not been blameless in recent transatlantic tiffs, but Marshall makes a mistake in apportioning most of the blame on the Bush administration. France and Germany started this latest row, and they now stand to lose the most if these disputes continue.
THE ENIGMA THAT IS JAPAN: No one disputes that Japan has had thirteen years of economic stagnation since the 1980's property bubble burst. A key source of Japan's malaise has been its inability to clear up it's mostly insolvent banking sector. There is no doubt that such a step would be politically painful, which is why there's been such an unsatisfactory status quo.

What's weird about this is while Japanese PM Junichiro Koizumi has essentially given up tackling the economic problem, he has been willing to expend political capital to alter Japan's status quo on foreign policy, as this Chicago Tribune story makes clear:

"Yearning to support the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq and feeling threatened by North Korea, Japan is stretching and challenging the meaning of its constitutional vow to renounce war forever so its forces might participate more actively in multinational military missions.

In the first significant breakthrough, a Japanese destroyer is cruising the Indian Ocean in support of the war on terrorism. In another, Japan's foreign minister has suggested allowing Japanese troops to join future United Nations peacekeeping missions.

For any other nation these would seem very modest actions. But for Japan to even suggest using the threat of force -- particularly if it conjures up images of Japanese soldiers patrolling foreign soil, as the foreign minister's suggestion does -- is extraordinarily sensitive because of the constitutional restraints and because memories of Japan's past aggressions are still raw in other Asian nations, such as South Korea and China."

Why would Koizumi try to dislodge a foreign policy status quo with formidable legal barriers while letting sleeping economic dogs lie? One answer is that it's always easier for an executive to deal with foreign policy issues than domestic economic ones. An extension of that answer is that if Koizumi can't or won't get any political credit for fixing the economy, at least he'll receive a boost from making Japan a more active player in world politics.

Assignment to readers: compare the Bush administration to the Koizumi government. Is the current administration:
a) pursuing similar strategies for similar reasons?
b) pursuing different strategies for similar reasons?
c) pursuing similar strategies for different reasons?
d) pursuing different strategies for different reasons?

UPDATE: Here's more proof that the Japanese are serious about changing their foreign policy doctrine.
Wednesday, February 12, 2003
LITMUS TESTS FOR EVERYONE!: Both the London Times and the New York Times report that the UN inspectors have found their smoking gun. According to the British paper:

"A panel of independent experts ruled that the Iraqi missiles could fly beyond the permitted 150km range and Dr Blix will declare the al-Samoud 2 missile a proscribed programme.... Before making a final decision on whether the missiles contravened UN rules, Dr Blix convened a meeting of outside missile experts from Britain, China, France, Ukraine, Germany and the US on Monday and Tuesday. Diplomatic sources said that those experts determined that the al-Samoud 2 exceeded the 150km range, but that the capability of the al-Fatah remained an 'open question'.

The experts also judged Iraq to be in violation of UN rules for repairing banned casting chambers for making illegal missiles and for building a new test stand that can test missile engines five times above the permitted thrust."

The NYT report also has some good stuff on the machinations going on at the UN, including France, Russia, and China's decision to have Friday's meeting be an open session, which is rankling even their sympathizers on the Security Council.

Now, if the reports are true, there are going to be some tough litmus tests for both anti-U.S. coalition at the Security Council, as well as Iraq:

FOR FRANCE RUSSIA, AND GERMANY: Their immediate fall-back defense will be that Blix's report is not evidence of material breach, but rather that the inspections are working, since the discovery came from some of the new information contained in Iraq's December 2002 report (never mind that Powell's speech proved otherwise). However, will even these countries will have to concede that unless Iraq hand over the banned weapons, they must be declared in material breach? If yes, then the hot potato shifts to Iraq; if no, then these countries will win the Best Foreign Policy Self-Immolation Award for 2003. (UPDATE: The Russian rsponse is to claim that the violation is a technicality, but I don't think that's going to fly).

FOR IRAQ: The UN is going to ask them to hand over the weapons. And here is where the Rumsfeldian rhetoric will pay dividends -- there is no chance they will comply. Hussein is probably convinced at this point that Bush will invade no matter what the Security Council decides, so why fight with only one arm? The only possible gambit they could employ would be a quid pro quo offer of handing over weapons in exchange for a general withdrawal of U.S. forces from the region. That, however, is not unconditional compliance, and probably won't fly.

FOR THE UNITED STATES: Can Negroponte and Powell avoid looking smug when they watch the aforementioned countries try to squirm their way out of these logical traps?

Developing...
AMUSING DIVERSIONS OF THE DAY: Patrick Ruffini has a pretty funny sketch of a West Wing-style show written from a Republican perspective. The Brothers Judd has a funny (if slightly unfair) exploration of Tom Friedman vs. Tom Friedman. And The Onion has a very funny story about North Korea's frustrations with the U.S.

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