Friday, March 21, 2003
TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS: Remember that pocket of northern Iraq where Al Qaeda remnants from Afghanistan were hiding? It's on the military agenda.

Meanwhile, the southern front is advancing nicely.
HAVE PROTESTORS HIJACKED THE WASHINGTON POST?: Generally, the Post is perceived as more balanced than the New York Times, but if you click on their World page right now, you might believe that antiwar activists have seized control of the paper. (UPDATE: Not surprisingly, the page has been updated. What follows was true at the time I first posted this, however).

Why do I say that? This is the first big story headline you see:

"Thousands Worldwide Protest Start Of Iraq War."

Which is perfectly fine, certainly important and newsworthy, yada, yada, yada. I'm not objecting to the substance of the coverage. It's just that the second big story headline is:

"Tens of Thousands Around the World Protest Against the War."

The first story was in today's print edition, while the second is an AP report from this afternoon (there's also this story about protests in Arab countries).

Now, isn't it a bit much to give the biggest play to both of these stories? Don't the headlines suggest a fair amount of redundancy? And isn't there a glaring contradiction in the headlines? It reminds me of this Doonesbury strip from the days of yore.
THE FIRST BIG SURRENDER: There is mounting evidence that the psyops campaign is working. Iraq's 51st Division, which is deployed in Southern Iraq, has surrendered to U.S. Marines:

"The commander of Iraq's 51st division and his top deputy surrendered to United States Marine forces today, according to American military officials.

It was the first time that the commander of an Iraqi division has surrendered to allied forces. The 51st is a Regular Army unit that was deployed in southern Iraq directly in the path of the allied invasion.

American forces made a determined effort to persuade the 51st division to give in, including leaflets and propaganda broadcasts. The leaflets instructed Iraqi forces that did not want to fight to park their tanks and walk at least half a mile away. American officials said that many of the soldiers of the 51st had simply left their posts and that the division melted away.

There are indications that other Regular Army forces want to surrender or stay out of the fight. The most loyal capable forces, however, are the Republican Guards, who still seem determined to fight."

Film of tens or hundreds of Iraqi troops surendering is nice, but this is the scale of surrendering that suggests the regime is cracking up (athough Donald Rumsfeld's comments are being spun in a more pessimistic way in this Reuters article.

I note that Sean-Paul Kelly has yet to post this information. Advantage: Drezner!! That'll teach Sean-Paul not to take breaks.
HYPERBOLE WATCH: I've read the New York Times for long enough to pick out the good foreign correspondents from the bad ones. Elaine Sciolino is a good one. But this story about the EU leaders' meeting in Brussels contains the following sentence:

"Never before in the history of the European Union have its members had to grapple with two more different impulses on foreign policy."

First of all, the phrase "common European foreign and security policy" has been pretty much an oxymoron from its inception, so in the end the current division doesn't amount to much change from the status quo. Second of all, go back to 1989-90 and read what Thatcher and Mitterand were saying about German reunification, and you'll see that the current dust-up pales in comparison. [But the EU didn't exist then. It was called the European Community until 1992--ed. It could that Sciolino meant the sentence in this way, but it's vague enough to suggest otherwise]
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Media coverage of the extent of Iraqi resistance has varied widely. One minute the BBC says there is fierce fighting, the next minute Reuters is saying that rapid advances are taking place. Obviously, part of this is due to varying levels of Iraqi resistance across a broad front. This Financial Times story, however, quotes another logical explanation from an authoritative source:

"'If you're the corporal in the lead vehicle that's getting shot at, then you would call that stiff resistance. But if you're the division commander and you're moving 30, 50, 60 miles in one day, that's no resistance,' said Col Ben Hodges, commander of the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne at Camp Pennsylvania, Kuwait.

'At the moment, the main thing that's slowing the forces is the ability of the fuel trucks to keep up with them.'"

Thursday, March 20, 2003
ELSEWHERE IN THE WORLD...: U.S. armed forces are also busy in Afghanistan.

Remember, critics of attacking Iraq argued that we weren't going to be able to effectively fight Al Qaeda and Iraq simultaneously.


UPDATE: Here's a follow-up report on this mission.
SOME STOCK ADVICE: For those of you who own shares of stock in Apple, you might want to sell it. This is why.

Do it quickly.

UPDATE: Virginia Postrel implicitly proffers similar advice. Her key line: "Maybe I'm nuts, but trying to grow your market share by excluding everyone who doesn't share hippie-dippy Bay Area politics strikes me as a dumb strategy."
GOOD WAR BLOGS: One blog -- Where is Raed? -- has been blogging from Baghdad. According to Will Femia, it's fresher than CNN.

Another blog -- by freelance journalist Russell Working -- provides an amusing glimpse into how the European nets are covering the war.

Finally, I've been remiss in not mentioning Sean-Paul Kelly's Agonist blog. Sean-Paul seems intent on blogging with updates every five minures. A tip of the cap to him.

ABOUT THAT SADDAM VIDEO: I caught the video of Saddam following the first attack [How could you miss it? CNN broadcast it every three minutes--ed.] What struck me was not whether it was a body double or not. What struck me was how awful that person looked. Sunken cheeks, gray beard, and the glasses looked like a replica of Estelle Getty's from The Golden Girls.

This ties in with my point about the key to defeating our enemies in the Muslim world -- embarrass them. Make them look feeble and pathetic.

In Iraq, this shouldn't be a hard task.
I LOVE WILLIAMS: I had a great time at my alma mater. First-rate hospitality from the faculty, and sharp, incisive questions from the undergraduates, who seem much more focused than I was when I was here.
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
TODAY'S READING: Sorry, no time for substantive blogging. Some other interesting reading matter:

1) This Jonathan Rauch essay on U.S. policy towards North Korea suggest that it has been more successful than the conventional wisdom believes. I trust Rauch, so I hope his administration source isn't just selling spin.

2) David Frum's bashing of anti-American paleoconservatives. Go. Go now.

3) John Vincour's analysis in the International Herald-Tribune suggesting the rift between the U.S. and Germany is much more transient than current events would suggest. It's relevant that Joschka Fischer says, "when I look at the 21st century world, I see no basic change in the interests of North America and Europe."

4) This Los Angeles Times piece on the role of blogs in the debate about Iraq.

5) If you still have some free time after that, buy Meghan O'Sullivan's new book, Shrewd Sanctions. The chapter on Iraq provides the best assessment of the political, economic, ethical, and humanitarian ramifications of the UN sanctions that I've ever read. [FULL DISCLOSURE: I know Meghan from my stint in DC, and she cites my sanctions work in the book.]

After that, go and take a nap.
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
LIGHT BLOGGING AHEAD: For the next few days posting will be light; I'm going to be visiting my alma mater, Williams College. They've invited me back to give a talk on "The Uncertain Future of Multilateralism." I'm sure there will be a vigorous discussion.
WAR AND THE OSCARS: According to Matt Drudge, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce a possible postponement of the Oscars in case of war. The Oscar press room says nothing, but we'll see.

In the meanwhile, this Daily Telegraph story suggests that there will likely be at least one anti-war acceptance speech. Stephen Daldry and David Hare, nominees for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for The Hours, both state their intention to speak out. Daldry has a priceless quote:

"I do not think the case for war has been made and most of the people I know feel the same. It could be that they think differently in Cincinnati but it certainly seems to be that way in New York."

[Is this supporting evidence for Megan McArdle?--ed. I would say so]
SOME GOOD NEWS IN EGYPT: Egypt's highest court acquitted Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an Egyptian/American activist, of charges stemming from his human rights work in Egypt. He had been convicted by two lower courts -- this was his last chance before facing seven years in prison. The Guardian has the AP story.

What does this mean? Amnesty International USA's executive director's reaction was as follows: “This is a significant and important victory, not just for Saad but for all human rights activists in Egypt and the Arab world. An articulate and energetic voice has stood up to a repressive government and insisted that he won't be silenced.”

Freedom House is also happy. Their executive director said: "This is a momentous day for Saad Eddin and his family and we celebrate the court's decision with them. This is also an important day for justice and the rule of law in Egypt. We hope it represents a turning point for the country's human rights and democracy advocates and that it will set a precedent that eliminates the threat of official persecution against advocates of peaceful democratic change."

I hope they're right -- it buttresses my argument about democratization in the Middle East [Not to mention helping millions of Arabs trapped in tyranny--ed. Oh, yeah, that too]

UPDATE: An alert reader points me to evidence that Egypt still has a long way to go in it's path towards liberalization.
JUST HOW MULTILATERAL IS SUPPORT FOR THIS WAR?: Andrew Sullivan makes the point today that substantially more European states support the U.S. position than don't.

One additional thought: it's not just European countries that support the American position. Japan, South Korea, Australia, East Timor, and Singapore have all expressed vocal support for the U.S. position. The latter two countries are smaller than Belgium, but the first three are relatively significant allies.

To be clear, lots of countries oppose the U.S. position (click here for India's position and here for Botswana's. But support is not limited to the Anglosphere.

UPDATE: Thanks to Pattrick Ruffini, who links to this Heritage report arguing that multilateral support for the impending war is greater than it was in 1991. There's some exaggeration (France and Germany are on the "coalition of the willing" list, which seems bizarre), but it does demonstrate that support is broader than commonly suggested.
IMPENDING WAR ROUNDUP: In no particular order:

1) I've just read the best, fairest, and most accurate summary of why the Anglosphere is about to go to war with Iraq, why multilateral support for such action is thin, and why it is still the right thing to do. The author? Bill Clinton. The final two grafs:

"I wish that Russia and France had supported Blair's resolution. Then, Hans Blix and his inspectors would have been given more time and supprt for their work. But that's not where we are. Blair is in a position not of his own making, because Iraq and other nations were unwilling to follow the logic of 1441.

In the post-cold war world, America and Britain have been in tough positions before: in 1998, when others wanted to lift sanctions on Iraq and we said no; in 1999 when we went into Kosovo to stop ethnic cleansing. In each case, there were voices of dissent. But the British-American partnership and the progress of the world were preserved. Now in another difficult spot, Blair will have to do what he believes to be right. I trust him to do that and hope the British people will too."

2) Op-eds like Stanley Kutler's in today's Chicago Tribune always puzzle me. Here's Kutler's two first paragraphs:

"As we march to war, the Bush administration's interest is to discredit, even foreclose, dissent.

Passivity and a sense of powerlessness are pervasive everywhere. Tabloids and cable channels refer to the 'treason' of celebrities who oppose President Bush. Our political leaders march in lockstep with the president. The so-called 'opposition' hedges its bets, 'patriotically' supporting Bush's actions, but ever hopeful he will stumble on the economy and give them the opportunity of 1992 all over again."

It's painfully obvious that dissent is not being stifled. It's painfully obvious that serious media organs have raised qualms about the Bush administration's actions. It's painfully obvious that some Democrats support the President on principle and some oppose him out of principle (then there's John Kerry). Why would Kutler write these patently silly lines?

Perhaps because anti-war advocates are losing the argument with the American people. Why are they losing their argument? Click here for one possible answer.

First rule of politics -- if you lose an argument, blame the messenger, not the message.

3) Josh Chafetz beats me to the punch on a point worth stressing:

"I believe that war is the right option. I believe that it will result in sparing more innocent lives than it takes. But it is not something to exult over. It will take innocent lives, and it will take the lives of allied soldiers. It will take the lives of Iraqi soldiers who joined the army, not because they wanted to, but because they were forced to. Each and every one of these deaths will be a tragedy, and for their family and friends, it will be a tragedy beyond measure.... I am not happy about war. I am scared, and I am nervous." Amen.

Remember, that's the perspective of someone who's outside the field of fire. Here's the take of someone who will be in the line of fire.
Monday, March 17, 2003
QUOTE OF THE DAY: I'm still in the middle of Fareed Zakaria's opus on "The Arrogant Empire," so I can't really comment on it just yet. However, this quote within the article -- from Denis MacShane, Britain’s minister for Europe -- is priceless:

"Scratch an anti-American in Europe, and very often all he wants is a guest professorship at Harvard or to have an article published in The New York Times.”
THE NEXT TEST FOR AMERICAN DIPLOMACY: Matt Drudge has exclusive excerpts from an interview with Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz in Time's European edition. The key parts:

"Time: If there is an Iraqi Scud attack on Israel, will you retaliate or refrain, as Israel did in the 1991 Gulf War?

The reality of 1991 won’t repeat itself. The chances that we’ll be attacked are low. But if we’re attacked, Israel is obliged to defend itself and its civilians. This time it must be clear to everyone that might endanger us, especially the Iraqis, that Israel reserves the right to retaliate.

Time: What if the attack is with nonconventional weapons?

We are a sovereign state, but we are also a responsible state. We won’t retaliate automatically. It will be only after an assessment. The ties we have with the Americans are so strong that we won’t carry out automatic actions."

My suspicion is that the Arab street will not be roiling that much is the United States attacks Iraq. If Israel chooses to do so, however, that would lead to massive protests.

It's clear from the interview that the Israelis won't act before consulting with the Bush administration. That consultation will prove crucial to the politics of the Middle East for some years to come. One does hope that they will be more persuasive than they have in the past with the Sharon administration.

UPDATE: One reader e-mails that this post demonstrates an "apparent callousness towards Israel in its efforts to defend itself and its civilians." That was not my intention. The obvious (but unstated) point is that if Iraq chooses to retaliate by attacking Israel, it would be much better for the United States to respond with force (or, rather redirect what force they are applying), rather than have Israel act on its own.
AND SO, THE END IS NEAR...: Bush's scheduled address this evening, combined with Blair's emergency cabinet meeting, means that everyone knows what's coming.

The question that's been asked this weekend is, "Handled differently, could there have been a better outcome? Could the U.S. have succeeded in prosecuting a war with the U.N.'s blessing?"

The New York Times and Washington Post both have detailed post-mortems on the last six months of diplomacy [Are they slanted in any way?--ed. The Times account is pretty biased in reporting U.S. missteps but not those of other countries, but the information contained in the article seems accurate] If you read them carefully, the following is clear:

1) The administration could have done more. Anonymous administration quotes in both stories acknowledge that they've made mistakes. What's appalling in both the Times and Post accounts is how little effort the administration put into its diplomatic efforts. Here's the Post:

"Last weekend, while Blair was working the phones -- he spoke to 30 heads of state in six days -- and French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin was traveling to the capitals of uncommitted Security Council members, Bush made no visits or phone calls....

The president and senior officials in the current Bush administration spend less time on the phone or on the road, They appear more comfortable issuing demands than asking for help or bridging differences, diplomats and U.S. officials said. The [Azores] summit will be Bush's first overseas trip in four months. He has not spoken to French President Jacques Chirac in more than five weeks.

Baker, in contrast to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, was almost constantly on the road before the Gulf War, flying at one point from the Middle East to Colombia to make the U.S. case to a Security Council member. 'It was a very different level of activity, much more face-to-face than long-distance,' said Dennis Ross, who was director of policy planning for Baker. 'It was a way of demonstrating to those publics and those leaders that we were interested in their concerns.'"

The easy thing to do here is blame the Rumsfeld/Cheney side of the administration. The Times story, however, is surprisingly blunt at pointing the blame at Powell:

"Throughout the last several months, one of the puzzles at the State Department and throughout the administration is why Mr. Powell, one of the best-known and best-liked Americans in many parts of the world, never engaged in a campaign of public appearances abroad as energetic as the telephone and broadcast interview campaign he pressed from his office, home and car.

'His travels abroad are too few and far between,' said an official, noting that the only trips Mr. Powell made to Europe since the beginning of last year were to accompany the president or to attend short-lived conferences.

The secretary also never traveled to Turkey to help line up support for using its territory as a base for a northern front in the war, although State Department officials say doing so would have undercut his stance that he was trying to prevent a conflict.

Mr. Powell is known to dislike travel. 'I think I have a right balance between phone diplomacy, diplomacy here in Washington, and diplomacy on the road,' he said recently when questioned about his schedule. (emphasis added)

Let's be clear -- Powell's task was not helped by Donald Rumsfeld's audition for a late-night talk show gig. However, since Powell was the principal who pushed the multilateral route, it was his obligation to execute that track to the utmost of his ability.

2) If the administration had expended more effort, there would be more multilateral support... If you make a list of the key countries that needed persuading on Iraq, it comes down to the Security Council members plus key regional actors. Let's list those countries: Angola, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, France, Germany, Great Britain, Guinea, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, Spain, and Turkey.

Now, some of those countries were persuaded, but most weren't. What's shocking is that many of the unpersuaded countries are close U.S. allies. With the exception of Turkey, however, none of them received any positive inducements, in the form of tangible carrots or expressions of empathy to their objections. Instead, there were hints at possible retaliation. Here's the Times again:

"[O]fficials said President Vicente Fox of Mexico was too boxed in politically after the United States gave him little of his own agenda, particularly easing curbs on Mexican immigrants in the United States.

There were hints for Chile that if it went along with Washington, it might smooth the way for its free-trade agreement pending in Congress. But Chilean leaders reacted negatively, saying the agreement benefited the United States just as much as Chile."

At a minimum, if the administration had expended more effort and more resources on the diplomatic front, there would be more support for the U.S. position now. But....

3) The outcome -- military action without an explicit Security Council resolution -- would still be the same. There is fundamental disagreement between the U.S. and France, Germany, and the U.N. bureaucracy on Iraq. The U.S. prefers to see Iraq disarmed and Saddam Hussein removed from power, even if that means the use of force. France, Russia, Kofi Annan, and Hans Blix prefers the absence of war, even if that means Iraq refuses to fully comply and Saddam Hussein stays in power.

[Aren't you overstating French inflexibility?--ed. Exhibit #1 -- what Cheney said on Meet the Press and Face the Nation: "he rattled off an impressively detailed case against the credibility of the French when it comes to disarming Iraq. France, he explained, opposed a 1995 U.N. resolution finding Iraq in material breach; a 1996 resolution condemning the massacre of the Kurds; a 1997 attempt to block travel by Iraqi intelligence and military officials; and the 1999 creation of the UNMOVIC weapons-inspection regime. The French also declared in 1998 that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, Cheney said. 'Given that pattern of behavior," Cheney told Russert, "I think it's difficult to believe that 30 days or 60 more days are going to change anything.'" Exhibit #2 -- Chirac's unequivovcal statement from last week.]

No amount of diplomacy in the world could have reconciled those views. A better effort would have left France more isolated in the Security Council and given the looming war a greater patina of multilateralism. Make no mistake, however, this ending is not that much different from a best-case scenario.
Friday, March 14, 2003
FOR GEEKS AND UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO UNDERGRADUATES ONLY: After I posted about the joys of crafting a globalization syllabus, I received a couple of e-mails asking for a peek.

Well, here's your chance. I've set up a separate blog for my globalization course -- Globalization and Its Discontents. The entire syllabus is there. U of C undergraduates that want to get a jump on buying books -- here's your chance!!

WARNING: Many of the article links will not work unless you are at a university account that has the requisite online subscriptions.

For another good blogger syllabus, check out Brad DeLong's Introduction to Economic History, which he's co-teaching with Barry Eichengreen. My only quibble with it is the omission of How The West Grew Rich from their reading list. Economists, however, always disdain books in favor of articles.
HOW BUSH DECIDES: David Brooks has an excellent reply to E.J. Dionne, Joe Klein, and others who worry about Bush's apparent decisiveness:

"In certain circles, it is not only important what opinion you hold, but how you hold it. It is important to be seen dancing with complexity, sliding among shades of gray. Any poor rube can come to a simple conclusion--that President Saddam Hussein is a menace who must be disarmed--but the refined ratiocinators want to be seen luxuriating amid the difficulties, donning the jewels of nuance, even to the point of self-paralysis. And they want to see their leaders paying homage to this style. Accordingly, many Bush critics seem less disturbed by his position than by his inability to adhere to the rules of genteel intellectual manners. They want him to show a little anguish. They want baggy eyes, evidence of sleepless nights, a few photo-ops, Kennedy-style, of the president staring gloomily through the Oval Office windows into the distance.

And this prompts a question in their minds. Why does George Bush breach educated class etiquette so grievously? Why does he seem so certain, decisive and sure of himself, when everybody--tout le monde!--knows that anxiety and anguish are the proper poses to adopt in such times.

The U.S. press is filled with psychologizing. And two explanations have reemerged.

First, Bush is stupid. Intellectually incurious, he is unable to adapt to events.

Secondly, he is a religious nut. He sees the world as a simple battle of good versus evil. His faith cannot admit shades of gray.

The problem with the explanations is that they have nothing to do with reality."

Read the rest of the essay for Brooks' explanation.

I suspect there's something else going on, which is simple partisanship. Consider that the last President who identified an emerging threat to U.S. security and altered American foreign policy accordingly was famous for his decisiveness.

Curiously, however, neither history nor the Democrats have judged Harry S Truman to have been too decisive.
TALK ABOUT MINIMIZING COLLATERAL DAMAGE: Michael Gordon, the New York Times chief military correspondent, has started writing a high-quality weekly column for called Dispatches. His latest essay analyzes the differences between how the military will prosecute Gulf War II as opposed to Gulf War I. The key grafs:

"Unlike the 1991 Persian Gulf war, the American and British militaries are not looking to pummel its adversary into submission. This time, allied forces have a complicated, two-edged task. They are trying to defeat the Iraqi army without utterly destroying it. They are also trying to win over the Iraqi people....

In the view of American intelligence, many of the regular army troops are virtual bystanders in an international drama that pits their leader against an American president. They may even be potential allies since the United States already has plans to take some of Iraq's existing forces and fashion them into a new army in a post-Saddam Iraq."

What's astonishing is the extent to which the military is implementing this strategy. Here's the final grafs:

"Even the most enthusiastic proponents of the new approach caution, however, that there will be limits. Some units, especially some Republican Guard forces, are deemed to be more likely to fight than others and will be hit. Some regular army forces, such as artillery units, are seen by American commanders as too great a potential threat to allied troops to be left alone. Some hapless Iraqis will simply find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time: that is, in the immediate path of the American-led invasion.

"There are some units that are more likely to fight than others," said General Leaf. "The Republican Guards are more likely to fight than the regular army. There are some units that are positioned closer to friendly forces and are more likely to still be coherent, cohesive units before they have an opportunity to completely capitulate," he said.

'How do you balance the risk between the fact that the U.S. and coalition land forces are going to wind up in contact with these units and would like them just to surrender?,' General Lee asked. 'We are going to have to make some difficult choices. And sometimes we are going to simply have to destroy equipment and destroy Iraqi soldiers.'"

I'm well aware of how triumphalist this sounds, but is there another military in the world that would care this much about minimizing the killing of enemy soldiers?

Thursday, March 13, 2003
SHAMELESS MEDIA PLUG: For those readers in the Chicago area, I'll be on WGN radio, the Spike O'Dell show specifically, tomorrow morning at 6:30 AM to discuss recent machinations in the UN Security Council.

UPDATE: I love doing radio shows. For some reason, I derive great satisfaction from sounding erudite on the radio only 10 minutes after I awake, snuggled under my blanket, wearing my pajamas.
DOES SOMEONE NEEDS A "TIME OUT"? OR MAYBE A FIELD TRIP?: OK, as war approaches, everyone's nerves are clearly getting frayed. However, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld seems especially ill-tempered. How else to explain his recent gaffes?

First he manages to alienate the British, only our most important ally in the looming conflict, with the suggestion that we don't really need them.

Then he publicly states that "secret surrender" negotiations are under way. According to CNN, Rumsfeld said this "to the dismay of the U.S. officials involved." This dismay would make sense, since, after all, surrendering before the war starts is a delicate tango.

Now, Rummy has the reputation of being a straight-shooter in public, so maybe he thinks these moments of candor are just part of his charm. However, I share Andrew Sullivan's suspicion that he's been acting up in private as well:

"By tonight, the tensions were spilling over into the administration itself, as the hawkish senior officials who had opposed going to the United Nations in the first place erupted in frustration that the process was becoming protracted.

One senior official referred to the frantic negotiations with an epithet and put the onus for the delays on Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who had insisted on the new resolution to gain crucial political support at home.

'Blair is driving this, and we're trying to accommodate him,' the official said."

Somehow I doubt that "official" was Colin Powell.

Perhaps now would be a good time for our esteemed Defense Secretary to take a goodwill tour. First stop... Nauru!! [You do know that their President just died?--ed. All the more reason to send a high-ranking official.]
A FEW GOOD LINKS: Boy, you publish a short essay in TNR Online, have Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds, David Adesnik, Kevin Drum, Jacob Levy, Matthew Yglesias, and the Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web link to it, and suddenly the world is beating down your e-mail door with lots of additional information, pro and con, on the odds for democratization in the Middle East.

Martin Kramer provides a passel of links that suggest skepticism on Middle Eastern democratization, all of them from last fall. Here is Kramer's address to the 2002 Weinberg Founders Conference; an abstract of Adam Garfinkle's October 2002 National Interest essay; and a Carnegie Endowment policy brief.

On the positive side, the Oxford Democracy Forum has an excellent frequently asked questions page with lots of links on democracy and war with Iraq. Go check it out.

As for me, I think I'll take this advice for the rest of today.
ALL HAIL THE WELL-INTENTIONED POWERS!: I'm sure leaders in Paris and Moscow must be beaming with pride at the Iraqi response to the proposed British compromise at the Security Council:

"Iraqi newspapers were gloating over the turmoil [at the UN].

'It is obvious that Bush and Blair have lost the round before it starts, while we, along with well-intentioned powers in the world, have won it,' the popular daily Babil, owned Saddam's son Odai, said in a front-page editorial. [emphasis added]

'Blair's future is at stake now, and his downfall will be a harsh lesson in Britain's political history,' it said."

The Washington Post has the story as well. Here's a link to the English-language version of Babil.

If I were Tony Blair, I'd just repeat that last clause during question time at the House of Commons and dare anyone to speak in opposition.
Wednesday, March 12, 2003
ADVANTAGE: CALPUNDIT!!: Brad Delong responds to Mickey Kaus' response to Paul Krugman's column on short-term deflation fears and long-term inflation fears.

It's all interesting, but if you scroll through the comments section in DeLong's post, Kevin Drum asks the question that popped into my head as I was perusing the debate.
THE COSTS OF CONTAINMENT: I've had discussions with numerous anti-war faculty on campus here. They inevitably get uncomfortable when I mention that starting a war now would probably save more lives than continued containment.

I understand this discomfort. After all, war is the most violent option in world politics. Pacifists wish to put a normative taboo on military action, as a way of constraining states. The mere suggestion that a quick war is superior to a long siege (which is what the containment of Iraq would mean) cuts at the core assumption of pacifists.

That said, facts are facts -- containment will probably spill more blood than force. In separate op-eds, Walter Russell Mead and Charles Lipson make this point. To quote Mead's conclusion:

"Morally, politically, financially, containing Iraq is one of the costliest failures in the history of American foreign policy. Containment can be tweaked -- made a little less murderous, a little less dangerous, a little less futile -- but the basic equations don't change. Containing Hussein delivers civilians into the hands of a murderous psychopath, destabilizes the whole Middle East and foments anti-American terror -- with no end in sight.

This is disaster, not policy.

It is time for a change."

Amen. [Er, doesn't Mead exaggerate the number of deaths in Iraq that can be attributed to sanctions?--ed. Yes -- see Matt Welch and Stephen Green for the details -- but even a conservative estimate supports his point].

(FULL DISCLOSURE: Charles is a departmental colleague of mine. He also has an excellent web site for those generally interested in international relations)
IRAQ, AL QAEDA, AND A MODEST PROPOSAL FOR THE SECURITY COUNCIL: This Washington Post story provides some excellent detail on the precise link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. The first few grafs:

"Most of the estimated 100 Arab extremists reported to have found a haven in this rocky corner of northern Iraq began arriving early last year, a few weeks after losing their camps in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

The Halabja Valley, their destination, is one of the more obscure places in the world, about 35 miles southeast of Sulaymaniyah and close to the mountainous border with Iran. A U-shaped enclave just inside Iraq had been taken over by radical Islamic Kurds, the Ansar al-Islam, who fielded an estimated 900 fighters and regarded the two secular Kurdish organizations who run the rest of northern Iraq as their enemies.

The Ansar-run pocket, although only 10 to 15 square miles, was the ideal place to hide out. Residents at nearby Anab, just north of Halabja on the road to Sulaymaniyah, noticed how intently their new neighbors guarded their privacy but did nothing to disturb it. The newcomers, they say, kept to a village reserved for Arabs, appeared in the market only to buy provisions and buried their dead in their own cemetery.

Since then, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and other Bush administration officials have highlighted the foreign fighters' presence in the Ansar enclave in an effort to link Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization and the government of President Saddam Hussein, which controls Iraq south of the Kurdish-administered zone but has little influence here. Citing interrogations of Ansar members who were taken prisoner, Kurdish political officials confirm that the group sent a steady stream of trainees to the camps that al Qaeda operated in Afghanistan until U.S. forces ended Taliban rule there at the end of 2001." (emphasis added)

Now, this piece makes two things clear. First, contrary to many skeptics' assertions, there is an Al Qaeda presence in Iraq. Second, it's also clear that Saddam Hussein has little to do with this presence. At worst, Hussein's policy on Al Qaeda might be characterized as benign neglect -- he's not helping them but he doesn't mind them being in parts of Iraq he can't control. There might be other reasons to support regime change in Iraq, but the Al Qaeda connection is a weak reed.

However, there's military action short of regime change. At a minimum, the Post story would seem to justify an offensive to knock out Ansar al-Islam and retake the Halabja Valley. This leads to an intriguing question. Given the obvious link between achieving this objective and the war on terror, and given the assertions by France and others that credible evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda would justify use of force, would the Security Council be willing to approve U.S. military action in this area? [So you think this would be an acceptable substitute to a whole-scale invasion?--ed. No, I still support an invasion. But securing Security Council support for this phase of operations might be an good stop-gap proposal].

This would be an excellent test of where exactly the French and Germans stand. Is their opposition to Iraq based on a blind determination to counter U.S. power, or is there some nuance to their stance?

1) If President Bush means what he says about a democratic Iraq, there is one other policy initiative worth considering – the creation/promotion of a regional club of emerging Middle Eastern democracies. One of the most powerful incentives for Eastern European countries to democratize was the tantalizing prospect of joining the democratic clubs of NATO and the European Union.

There's some compelling evidence that democratic clubs matter. Jon Pevehouse at the University of Wisconsin has statistically demonstrated that when fragile governments gain membership into democratic clubs, they are more likely to become stable democracies. Here's an abstract of one published paper; Jon makes a similar point in his contribution to my edited volume ( Amazon sales rank: 2,111,830 and climbing!!)

Of course, the rewards of membership would have to be significant. A preferential trade agreement with the United States might be an option, especially since the U.S. already has such deals with Israel and Jordan.

Currently, a club for Middle Eastern democracies would have a small list of invitees. Within the next year, that may change for the better.

2) One point that I didn't address in the TNR essay but is worth acknowledging is that democratization may be taking place in the countries surrounding Iraq, but that's not the only thing that matters. These countries are still plagued by a fair amount of corruption. Even if Iraq becomes democratic, it's likely to have significant problems with corruption.

3) Reason #213 why I love the blog is that I can amend and augment material that I publish in other media.
WHAT TO KNOW MORE?: I always feel slightly uncomfortable writing essays where I'm not allowed to use footnotes. My latest TNR essay is a case in point, since I cite a lot of people. So, for those who are curious, here's the references and background:

You can find John W. Dower's pessimism about comparing the occupation of Japan to the situation in Iraq here. The quotation comes from this Guardian essay from last November.

Edward Said's quote comes from this screed.

The book Samuel Huntington wrote before The Clash of Civilizations was entitled The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century. The (brief) discussion of the second wave of democratization is on pp. 18-21.

The O'Donnell and Schmitter quotation comes from their 1986 book, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions About Uncertain Democracies, p. 17-18.

The work by Jeffrey Kopstein and David Reilly on democratic transition in the post-communist space comes from their article, "Geographic Diffusion and the Transformation of the Postcommunist World," in the October 2000 issue of World Politics; here's the online abstract. Here's the draft version of the paper.

The most recent Freedom House country rankings of political rights and civil liberties can be found here.

The Human Rights Watch assessment of Northern Iraq comes from their 2003 World Report, which is really a survey of human rights around the globe in 2002. The quotation comes from this section.

This Ian Urbina op-ed has a nice discussion of the democratization process taking place in the outlying parts of the Middle East.

Finally, The Journal of Democracy devoted much of its October 2002 issue to the question of democracy in the Middle East. You can click on the (brief) article summaries here.
"CHICAGO SCHOOL" -- WHY THE NEOCONS MAY BE RIGHT: My latest TNR Online essay is up. It's a discussion of why the neocons are not crazy when they talk about democracy sweeping over the Middle East after an invasion of Iraq. It's an extension and refinement of this post from last week.

Go check it out. If you want to know more, look at the above post.

"Zoran Djindjic, the Serbian prime minister and one of the key leaders in the revolt that toppled Slobodan Milosevic, was today assassinated in Belgrade.

According to local media reports, Mr Djindjic was shot while entering the government building. Mr Djindjic sustained two shots in his stomach and back. He died while being treated in Belgrade's emergency hospital."

Two quick thoughts. First, Djindjic was, in many ways, Serbia's Yeltsin -- an imperfect but resolute reformer. Back to the Guardian:

"Only last month, Mr Djindjic survived an alleged assassination attempt when a lorry cut across his motorcade. He later dismissed the February 21 incident as a 'futile effort' that could not stop democratic reforms.

'If someone thinks the law and the reforms can be stopped by eliminating me, then that is a huge delusion,' Mr Djindjic was quoted as saying by the Politika newspaper at the time." I hope and believe he's correct.

Second, even though the events are entirely unrelated, there's something spooky about the assassination of a Balkan leader coinciding with the world being, say, 45 days from an international conflagration.

At least it's not July.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias points out why there isn't even a prima facie parallel between this assassination and the killing of Archduke Ferdinand, which is why I changed "Serbian" to "Balkan" in the second-to-last paragraph.
Tuesday, March 11, 2003
THE MEALIAN DIALOGUE: Inspired by the Melian Dialogue, Brad DeLong uses Thucydides' technique to describe an exchange on behavioral economics with Stanford economist Robert Hall (FULL DISCLOSURE: I took Hall's macroeconomics course).

The result is extremely amusing, like a random walk down University Avenue [You going to explain that last clause--ed? No, that's just for the economics geeks out there]
A SANE ANALYSIS OF TRANSATLANTIC RELATIONS: Seth Green has an hopeful essay on the distinction between mainstream and extreme viewpoints in Europe. The highlights:

"I am convinced that anti-Americanism is not nearly as prevalent in Europe as media accounts suggest. Generally speaking, I have been overwhelmed by the friendship of my European peers -- from their outpouring of compassion when I came here just after the September 11 attacks to their concern for my safety now. It is true that a distinct, and unfortunately visible, minority do virulently hate us -- but they are the headline-hogging exception, not the rule. Indeed, the vast majority of Europeans continue to embrace American ideas, American culture and American people.

That is why I am troubled by the recent tendency to lump together all Europeans who oppose any facet of U.S. foreign policy under the one-size-fits-all banner of "anti-Americanism." No doubt there are extremists -- and drunkards -- here who deserve the label. Yet they are the very reason that we must use the term sparingly. When we see all Europeans -- from those who reasonably disagree with us to those who senselessly hate us -- as part of the same phenomenon, we blur the critical distinction between Europe's mainstream and its fringe.

Mainstream Europe shares American values. In the aftermath of September 11, Europeans overwhelmingly supported our common war on terrorism. Today, most Europeans still agree with our campaign to end terrorism and promote world security. Eighty-five percent of Brits, 67 percent of French and 82 percent of Germans believe that Saddam Hussein is a dangerous threat, and majorities in each of these countries support removing him. While many moderate Europeans are against war in Iraq under the current conditions -- primarily because they want more time for inspections -- they fundamentally share our principles.

By contrast, European extremists resent the United States and our beliefs. To extremists, every American icon -- from Starbucks to Britney Spears -- represents a form of American imperialism. And no matter what we achieve, whether in Kosovo or Afghanistan, they fault us. They call Americans bullies even as they seek to bully us. They call the United States a terrorist state even as they romanticize true terrorists."

Green glosses over the division on Iraq to suit his argument, but his point is worth remembering. Give it a read.

I WAS WRONG ABOUT FRANCE: Last month, I was among one of many in the Blogosphere who said that France would eventually capitulate to United Nations action against Iraq. Some bloggers still believe in this outcome.

Alas, I must admit that this story demonstrates that I was clearly wrong:

"In a dramatic break with the United States, President Jacques Chirac said tonight that France would veto a United Nations resolution threatening war against Iraq.

'My position is that whatever the circumstances, France will vote no,' Mr. Chirac said. He added that he had 'the feeling' that Russia and China, which also have veto power in the Security Council, are prepared to follow France's lead.

Speaking calmly and deliberately during a live television interview in Élysée Palace this evening, Mr. Chirac said he was convinced that the United Nations inspections process was working and that Iraq could be stripped of its dangerous weapons without war.

'The inspectors say that cooperation has improved and that they are in a position to pursue their work,' Mr. Chirac said. 'This is what is essential. It's not up to you or me to say if the inspections are working.'

He added, 'We refuse to follow a path that will lead automatically to war as long as the inspectors don't say to us, "We can't go any further."'"

I've highlighted the relevant passages to point out the following:

1) France has now switched to the German position. That first highlighted passage makes it clear that there is simply no point to further deliberations at the Security Council. Saddam Hussein could be caught on tape sitting on a nuclear weapon, or threatening to shoot down U-2 overflights, and France would not change its mind.

This isn't a case of the French behaving as obstreperously as the Americans. For all of the bluster, the U.S. actually demonstrated a willingness to compromise at the Security Council, in the crafting of 1441 and more recently. France has now joined Germany in stating flat-out that it doesn't matter what Iraq does.

2) France is buckpassing on top of its buckpassing. It's not just that Chirac is buckpassing on enforcing Iraq's compliance with Security Council resolutions -- now he's buckpassing on interpreting the effectiveness of the enforcement process itself.

3) The French do want automaticity -- in the other direction. Just read the highlighted parts -- it's pretty clear that there is no circumstance under which France would decide to go to war.

UPDATE: TNR's &c offers a different interpretation.
...AND THEN THERE'S THE SENATE: Not to be outdone by House members insulting minorities and other countries, the Senate now has a piece of the action:

"President Bush called Afghan President Hamid Karzai last week to apologize for the way he was treated in a meeting with members of a Senate committee on Capitol Hill late last month, according to senior Afghan officials....

During the conversation, the Afghan officials said, Bush offered to make the apology public, but Karzai declined. 'Bush called to say he was really sorry about how things had gone in the Senate, and that Karzai should not have been treated like that,' said an official familiar with the call.

The problem arose when Karzai visited the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for what the committee had billed as a 'meeting.' Generally, heads of state meet with the committee in private, but Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) instead invited Karzai to a hearing room with reporters present.

Karzai was placed at a witness table looking up at the senators, the usual layout for people summoned to testify at a hearing. There were several skeptical and hostile questions that Karzai did not expect and had not prepared for, according to the Afghan officials."

To be fair, read the whole piece -- the Senate Foreign Relations Committee deserves some of the blame, but the Afghans clearly did some poor advance work.
IS THE HOUSE HAVING A "STUPID BIGOT" CONTEST I DON'T KNOW ABOUT?: Eric Muller has been doing a great job blogging about the various idiocies coming from the mouths of North Carolina House Representatives such as Howard Coble or Sue Myrick. Now, via Muller's blog, comes another House Representative acting like a jackass. According to the Washington Post:

"Jewish organizations condemned Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) today for delivering what they said were anti-Semitic remarks at an anti-war forum in Reston, in which he suggested that American Jews are responsible for pushing the country to war with Iraq and that Jewish leaders could prevent war if they wanted.

At the Reston forum, attended by about 120 people at St. Anne's Episcopal Church last Monday, Moran discussed why he thought anti-war sentiment was not more effective in the United States.

'If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq we would not be doing this," Moran said, in comments first reported by the Reston Connection and confirmed by Moran. "The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going and I think they should.'"

The Reston Connection has the initial (and quite thorough) account of the town meeting in question. That article paraphrases Moran's observation that "Many of those Jewish leaders were swayed after talking with former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu."

Drezner's Assignment Desk: Mickey Kaus, is this anti-Semitism or not? I'm going to have to say "yes." Moran did not explicitly raise the "dual loyalties" issue. However, this doesn't get a pass for the simple reason that Moran is propagating the conspiracy myth that Jews always act in concert and are so powerful that they can direct U.S. foreign policy without regard for other Americans.

UPDATE: Kevin Dum has found another elected idiotarian, but at the state representative level.
Monday, March 10, 2003
CLINTON VS. DOLE: Stephen Green notes that the Dole/Clinton reviews are in and aren't good.

Here's the Chicago Tribune review. I think their expert commentator makes a lot of hard-hitting points, particularly with regard to Britney Spears.

UPDATE: Don Hewitt now admits that he blew it.
COULD BE WORSE... COULD BE IN FRANCE: As another weary pro-war blogger, I have some sympathy for Glenn Reynolds when he writes:

"War — or at least the rumor of war — has sucked the oxygen out of the room where other topics are concerned. I write about that other stuff, and I enjoy it, but I keep getting pulled back to war, and rumor of war. It’s what people e-mail about, it’s what other people write about, it’s what the news is about. And, of course, it’s pretty important. Nonetheless, it’s tiring and I won’t miss it when it’s over."

That said, there are many ways in which things could be worse:

1) We could be blogging about this in countries much less sympathetic to pro-American views.

2) We could be stuck in a desert waiting to implement those views.

3) We could be in Iraq, fretting about whether the U.S. will actually do what it says, or whether it will scale back its plans to please France and Russia.

4) We could be receiving almost daily rants from some airhead at, who must be affiliated with this web site. Oh wait, I actually do have this problem, and it's certainly more irritating than what Glenn is complaining about.

There's another option, of course -- retire from blogging. We don't get paid for it. No one's making us do it. Of course, that would be.... inconceivable!!

UPDATE: Mickey Kaus provides a pick-me-up.
Sunday, March 09, 2003
WHEN WILL NORTH KOREA GO BIBLICAL?: After the past week of myriad North Korean provocations, that Onion story of a few weeks ago is looking more and more prescient. Their latest threat -- torching New York, DC, and Chicago:

"North Korea would launch a ballistic missile attack on the United States if Washington made a pre-emptive strike against the communist state's nuclear facility, the man described as Pyongyang's 'unofficial spokesman' claimed yesterday.

Kim Myong-chol, who has links to the Stalinist regime, told reporters in Tokyo that a US strike on the nuclear facility at Yongbyon 'means nuclear war'.

'If American forces carry out a pre-emptive strike on the Yongbyon facility, North Korea will immediately target, carry the war to the US mainland,' he said, adding that New York, Washington and Chicago would be 'aflame'."

This isn't really funny, but part of me is amused by the Pyongyang's apparent desperation to get the Bush administration's attention off of Iraq and onto the Korean peninsula.

A suggestion -- start thinking in Biblical terms. As his critics like to point out, this is a President who's very open about his faith. You want his attention, go Old Testament on him. Locusts, frogs, boils, famine -- now those are threats!! An ultimatum that every first-born male child in America will be dead in ten days will definitely generate some bilateral talks.
EXTRA!! EXTRA!! NEW YORK TIMES SURRENDERS TO FRANCE!!: The New York Times editorial page has finally made up its mind:

"Within days, barring a diplomatic breakthrough, President Bush will decide whether to send American troops into Iraq in the face of United Nations opposition. We believe there is a better option involving long-running, stepped-up weapons inspections. But like everyone else in America, we feel the window closing. If it comes down to a question of yes or no to invasion without broad international support, our answer is no.

Even though Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, said that Saddam Hussein was not in complete compliance with United Nations orders to disarm, the report of the inspectors on Friday was generally devastating to the American position. They not only argued that progress was being made, they also discounted the idea that Iraq was actively attempting to manufacture nuclear weapons. History shows that inspectors can be misled, and that Mr. Hussein can never be trusted to disarm and stay disarmed on his own accord. But a far larger and more aggressive inspection program, backed by a firm and united Security Council, could keep a permanent lid on Iraq's weapons program."

This is, essentially, the French position. For a refutation, click here.

ADVANTAGE: OXBLOG!!: I'm at the point now where if I see a Jimmy Carter New York Times op-ed, I know it will make everything else on the op-ed page loook erudite and well-reasoned. [Example?--ed. It took me a few hours to figure out the problem with Tom Friedman's piece today. He can't seem to reconcile the two sides of his brain. One half wants the U.S. to act humbly and within the tight strictures of international law and multilateralism. The other half wants the U.S. to be aggressively promoting democratic regime changes. Given the UN's makeup, there's no way to reconcile those aims.]

Josh Chafetz has a proper fisking of today's Carter nonsense.

The day might soon come when a blog should be set up only for Carter-fisking. As a public good for the rest of the blogosphere.
WE COULD HAVE... A BAD MANNERS GAP!!: As perviously noted, the looming war with Iraq is prompting lots of diplomatic faux-pas. I've been on record saying that the U.S., in the form of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, have certainly contributed to the problem (in fairness, Rumsfeld has been pretty quiet as of late).

Of course, the Germans did start this was of bad words, back in September when the German Justice Minister compared Bush to Hitler. And now, after Rumsfeld insults Old Europe, Chirac insults Eastern Europe, and the Middle East insults each other, a high-ranking German official has closed the bad manners gap, according to Amiland:

"The German Under-Secretary of Defense has called President Bush a "dictator." Walter Kolbow (of Schröder's SPD) was quoted in a local newspaper (Die Kitzinger, not online) on Friday as saying:

'Economically and politically, Bush positions himself [in an] absolutely one-side [manner], without any respect for anyone else. That isn't a partner, that's a dictator.'"

Germans just hate to lose an arms race [Cheap shot--ed. Oh, it's the weekend, I'm permitted]
HOW IS THIS GULF WAR DIFFERENT FROM OTHER WARS?: James C. Bennett has an interesting piece on the different types of wars fought by the Anglosphere:

"In each of the three major wars America engaged in since 1945 -- Korea, Vietnam, and Gulf War I -- three characteristics stand out in contrast to most of the nation's previous conflicts: regime change was not directly pursued as a war goal; there was no formal declaration of war, and the conflict ended with a combination of military victory for the U.S. and its allies, and political defeat, to various degrees. Regime change was achieved in none of those cases, even when it was sought indirectly in the case of Iraq....

Was the lack of a declaration of war in each of these three cases also a factor in the outcome? Given the Anglo-American military tradition as it has evolved over the centuries, there is a good case that it is so. Global maritime commercial powers, of which Britain and America are both exemplars, tend to fight two types of war. One is the small war, the "savage war of peace", fought by marines and long-term professionals, limited in scope, and usually undeclared.

The other is the major national mobilization against an all-out enemy, fought by reserves, volunteers and draftees raised for the occasion, and militia called into service. Such wars included the Napoleonic Wars and both World Wars. As Britain and America have always had mechanisms (gradually growing stronger) for obtaining public consent for such large mobilizations, the declaration of war was historically the occasion for fixing the major objectives, including in most circumstances regime change. Major war has always been a deal between the executive and the people: the people will bear the burdens, and the executive will strive diligently, under the scrutiny of the legislature, to achieve the stated goals. The declaration of war, and the debate preceding it, form the contract between executive and people....

On Thursday evening, George Bush made it clear that the United States will pursue regime change as a matter of national self-defense regardless of the outcome of United Nations processes. It would be appropriate to the Anglo-American constitutional traditions of war and peace, and serve to bind executive and nation to a compact to fight to win a meaningful and lasting victory, for both George Bush and Tony Blair to seek and obtain legislative support for a formal declaration of war against the Ba'athist regime of Iraq before launching the main assault."

Bennett's got an interesting point, but fails to consider how an all-volunteer force, combined with the revolution in military affairs, has altered the way the Anglosohere fights wars. A full-scale mobilization no longer necessary to fight a war of regime change -- unless Russia or China were to be the adversary. Bennett also obscures the fact that even though there was never a formal declaration of war in these cases, Congress did give its assent to the use of force. Still provocative reading, however.

Friday, March 07, 2003
IS BOEING GIVING UP ON CIVILIAN AIRCRAFT?: There are two ways to interpret the news that Boeing is trying to acquire BAE Systems PLC, the British aerospace firm that is a 20% owner of Airbus, Boeing's rival in the passenger plane market.

The first is that Boeing is trying to make life difficult for Airbus by threatening to absorb one of its owners. This doesn't make any sense, however, since the European Union Competition Commisioner can veto any merger on antitrust grounds -- which was why the GE-Honeywell deal was scotched three years ago. The British government also owns a golden share that could block any deal.

The second is that Boeing is trying to enhance its core competency in defence manufacturing. BAE is "the largest Euopean defense company," but its civilian sales have been flat as of late. One wonders, however, if markets -- and airline companies -- wouldn't take this as a signal of Boeing's surrender to Airbus on commercial airliners.

One final, subversive thought -- a good Leninist would argue that Boeing will try to increase its superprofits by exploiting current transatlantic tensions. An increase in those tensions would lead to increased defense spending on the continent. If Boeing acquires BAE, it becomes a vital player in any European arms buildup. Boeing CEO Phil Condit is going all out to woo key EU officials.

I'm most certainly not a good Leninist, though.
NOTE TO SELF -- DO NOT GET ON WILLIAM SALETAN'S BAD SIDE: Either Saletan got up on the wrong side of the bed today, or he's just fed up with the Franco-German international shuffle. Either way, he eviscerates their diplomatic stance during today's UN Security Council debate in this Slate piece. The highlights:

"In Friday's council debate, they made two arguments against a U.S. invasion of Iraq. First, they said it was unnecessary because Iraq has begun to comply with U.N. inspections. Second, they warned that an attack on Iraq without U.N. approval would ruin the credibility of the United Nations, on which the security of every nation, including ours, depends.

Are inspections more effective than force? Is the United Nations a better guarantor of U.S. security than American power is? Both questions are fraudulent. Inspections depend on force, and the United Nations depends on the United States. The French and Germans are telling us not to mess with the status quo, when the status quo is us....

Nice try, Joschka and Dominique. We aren't fooled. We're touched by your pleas for relevance. And we're flattered that the only rival you can put up against us is ourselves."

WHAT ABOUT CIVILIAN CASUALTIES?: David Adesnik over at OxBlog has a series of informative posts on how many civilian casualties the U.S. military has caused during the past decade or so of armed conflicts. Click here for Kosovo; here for the first Gulf War; and here for Afghanistan (plus a smackdown of Marc Herold). Key findings:

1) While any loss of life is tragic, these numbers are smal compared to other wars that have taken place in these countries.
2) The more that precision-guided munitions are used, the smaller the casualty count.

It should be noted that much of Adesnik's info comes from the good people at Human Rights Watch.
MEMO TO DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES FOR PRESIDENT: Apparently you've all decided that it's necessary to publicly comment on important foreign policy matters. On Iraq, you may be tempted to spout the standard line about Bush as a unilateralist, blah, blah, blah.

Here's a suggestion: read Michael Walzer's op-ed in today's New York Times. Walzer recognizes that simple opposition to a big war is not a viable policy option:

"The American march is depressing, but the failure of opponents of the war to offer a plausible alternative is equally depressing. France and Russia undoubtedly raised the diplomatic stakes on Wednesday by threatening to veto a new Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq. But they once again failed to follow up the rhetoric with anything meaningful.

What would a plausible alternative look like? The way to avoid a big war is to intensify the little war that the United States is already fighting. It is using force against Iraq every day — to protect the no-flight zones and to stop and search ships heading for Iraqi ports. Only the American threat to use force makes the inspections possible — and possibly effective.

When the French claim that force is a 'last resort,' they are denying that the little war is going on. And, indeed, France is not participating in it in any significant way. The little war is almost entirely the work of American and British forces; the opponents of the big war have not been prepared to join or support or even acknowledge the work that the little war requires."

So he offers one of his own, which confronts both Saddam Hussein and Jacques Chirac:

"First, extend the northern and southern no-flight zones to include the whole country. America has already drastically restricted Iraqi sovereignty, so this would not be anything new. There are military reasons for the extension — the range of missiles, the speed of planes, the reach of radar all make it difficult for the United States and Britain to defend the northern and the southern regions of Iraq without control of central airspace. But the main reason would be punitive: Iraq has never accepted the containment regime put in place after the gulf war, and its refusal to do that should lead to tighter and tighter containment.

Second, impose the 'smart sanctions' that the Bush administration talked about before 9/11 and insist that Iraq's trading partners commit themselves to enforcing them. Washington should announce sanctions of its own against countries that don't cooperate, and it should also punish any companies that try to sell military equipment to Iraq. Third, the United States should expand the United Nations' monitoring system in all the ways that have recently been proposed: adding inspectors, bringing in United Nations soldiers (to guard military installations after they have been inspected), sending surveillance planes without providing 48 hours' notice, and so on.

Finally, the United States should challenge the French to make good on their claim that force is indeed a last resort by mobilizing troops of their own and sending them to the gulf. Otherwise, what they are saying is that if things get very bad, they will unleash the American army. And Saddam Hussein knows that the French will never admit that things have gotten that bad. So, if they are serious, the French have to mount a credible threat of their own. Or better, they have to join the United States in every aspect of the little war."

Will this work? I doubt it. But it's the best and most concrete counterproposal to the current policy that I've seen yet. Plus, it allows Democrats to simultaneously talk tough and advocate for peace.

P.S. Go to &c for some more advice on this matter.
DREZNER GETS RESULTS FROM THE ECONOMIST!: The Economist has just reviewed Fareed Zakaria's new book, The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad. Their critique is eerily reminiscent of another review of Zakaria's thesis that appeared last month. Some key paragraphs from the Economist review:

"America is not Mr Zakaria's main focus: the developing world is. And it is here that his Big Idea begins to get bogged down. He argues that countries need a history of building liberty and an income per head of at least $5,000 if they are to begin sustaining liberal democracy. That gives him just nine candidates, and a strange batch they are—Romania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Malaysia, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia and Iran. Yet many countries have managed the trick without meeting those preconditions, including Japan, Costa Rica and, despite his strictures, India. [Hey, didn't you provide the exact same list of countries?--ed. Yes, but I mentioned Botswana and the Baltic states as well.]

He writes rather as if countries face a simple choice between establishing democracy or maintaining incremental reform. In practice, new democracies have often begun because the previous regime had collapsed and there was no other way of establishing legitimacy.....

Illiberal democracies are volatile. That does not necessarily make them worse for themselves or the world in the long run. It is a matter of timing: they get the bad news out early. Reforming autocracies leave tough political problems until later, in the hope they will be more manageable. That is not necessarily an argument against rapid democratisation. Mr Zakaria's book is not an attack on democracy, but on its over-extension. He calls the problem 'too much of a good thing'. The same might be said of this book."

To paraphrase Homer Simpson, "Hmmm.... Influencing the zeitgeist..."
IMAGINE IF WE WERE FOCUSED: Another blow to Al Qaeda, according to Reuters:

"Two sons of Osama bin Laden were wounded and possibly arrested in an operation by U.S. and Afghan troops in Afghanistan which killed at least nine suspected al Qaeda members, a Pakistani official said on Friday.

The operation took place on Thursday in the Ribat area, where the borders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran meet, Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, home minister of the western province of Baluchistan, told Reuters....

A U.S. official in Washington could not immediately confirm or deny the report of bin Laden's sons' capture. 'We don't have any information to substantiate that,' he said."

Remember, the conflict with Iraq is supposed to be distracting us from the war on terrorism.

ADVANTAGE: VOLOKH!!: Michael Kinsley's columns in Slate have been getting stranger with each passing week. This week's effort -- which suggests that Bush doesn't mind rising oil prices because it helps his friends -- is the most inchoate yet. I was going to blog a rebuttal, but Eugene Volokh has done a nice job of dismantling it. And also check out Joesph Grieco's insightful essay on the exact relationship between war and oil. [FULL DISCLOSURE: I know Joe pretty well, as we do research in the same area.]

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan has a fisking of Kinsley on his site.
THE SPORTS DESK THOUGHT HIS AUDIENCE WAS THE CUBS' PITCHING STAFF: The first paragraph of Michael Tackett's "news analysis" of Bush's press conference in today's Chicago Tribune:

"On some occasions when the subject has been Iraq, President Bush clearly has been speaking to the world. This time, as he signaled more firmly than ever a path toward war, he seemed to be speaking pointedly to the American people."

The first paragraph of today's lead editorial in the Tribune:

"At the beginning of his televised press conference Thursday night, President Bush spoke less to the American people than to the 14 other nations that sit on the United Nations Security Council. The question the council faces now, Bush said, is whether Saddam Hussein has complied with international demands that he fully disarm."
Thursday, March 06, 2003
ANOTHER SCHOLAR-BLOGGER: Amitai Etzioni, a distinguished sociologist and a godfather of communitarian thought, just started a blog. He's disgusted with anti-Americanism.

Welcome to the Blogosphere, Professor Etzioni.
PRESS CONFERENCE MUSINGS: In the immediate wake of President Bush's press conference:

1) This is not personal; it's strictly business. For all of the claims that Bush is acting like a cowboy, what struck me was how sober, how somber he sounded. It was clear that in his calculations, "the costs of inaction are greater than the costs of action." There was no anger in his voice or his words, either at Iraq or our erstwhile allies. Instead, there was sadness and a heavy heart about the decision that lies ahead of him.

2) The President understands the value of protestors. I thought one of his best responses came on his reaction to the protestors. He -- quite rightly -- made the connection between the current anti-war protests and prior anti-globalization protests. The illogic of the anti-globalization movement makes Bush's implication clear: even if millions of people say that 2 + 2 = 5, it doesn't make it so.

3) Bush believes in "honest multilateralism." Consistent with what I wrote last month, Bush thinks that multilateralism is a means to an end. He's not afraid of discord -- he'd rather have any disagreement out in the open. It is this quality above all that flummoxes an Old Europe that prefers a false display of consensus to principled differences of opinion.

UPDATE: Kieran Healy has a nice roundup of the Blogosphere reaction. Shockingly, those on the left found it uninspiring while those on the right found it straightforward. Jonah Goldberg has a good point on which audience Bush was targeting.
THAT'S A LUCKY MAN: You know, I could blog nonstop, 24/7/365, and I don't know if I could top Asparagirl's thoughts about The Lysistrata Project. My favorite part:

"It's not enough for these "feminists" that sexuality, or even specifically female sexuality, be used as an oxymoronic anti-war weapon, but that it must be denial of female sexuality that is the weapon, that very special tool for keeping their social order and their status quo intact. Sex, after all, should only be given up in the appropriate manner and to the appropriate person, and woe to they who disagree...waitaminute, this is starting to sound kinda familiar...

What also galls me is that these women are claiming not only sex, but femininity itself as a uniformly passive, gentle, loving, pacifist attribute. What rubbish. I shouldn't support waging war on a mass-killing dictator because as a woman, my place is to elevate discourse and consensus and eschew 'manly', messy action? They're even implying that if I am not a peaceful, good-mannered, right-thinking woman like them, a woman for peace, then perhaps I am not really a woman at all? And these are the women who are telling me this?"

Read the whole thing. The whole f@%$ing thing. It explains the title to this post.
THE COARSENING OF DIPLOMACY: 2003 has not been a good year for diplomatic niceties. Donald Rumsfeld compares Germany to Cuba and Libya; Jacques Chirac telling Eastern Europe to shut up; Canadian MPs calling Americans "bastards"; Congressional representatives threatening a U.S. withdrawal from the WTO, or comparing Osama bin Laden to Ethan Allen. Clearly, the prospect of war is making everyone testy, causing people who should know better to shoot their mouths off. Some of these statements fall into the "Kinsley gaffe" category, while others are simply beyond-the-pale, offensive, stupid tripe.

Compared to Middle Eastern diplomacy, however, the above examples are pretty tame stuff.

A Kinsley gaffe first: At last Saturday's Arab League summit, Libyan leader Muhammar Khaddafi [Is that how you spell it?--ed. Don't start] accused Saudi Arabia of making a pact with the devil by allowing U.S. forces to be stationed in the region. Crown Prince Abdullah responded -- on live television, mind you -- with the following:

"Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country and not an agent of colonialism like you and others. As for you, who brought you to power? Don't talk about matters that you fail to prove. You are a liar, while the grave is ahead of you."

Khaddafi has responded by withdrawing his ambassador from Riyadh and threatening to withdraw from the Arab League.

Now the beyond-the-pale tripe: With that effort at establishing Arab comity a failure, the countries of the region tried again at yesterday's Organization of the Islamic Conference. That meeting -- broadcast live on satellite TV -- didn't go so well either:

"After Kuwait's foreign minister used his speech to the summit to call on Saddam to step down to avert war, Iraq's Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri accused the Kuwaiti minister in his own speech of 'threatening Iraq's security at the core' by allowing U.S. troops on Kuwaiti soil.

Sheik Mohammed Sabah Al Salem Al Sabah, another Kuwaiti minister, interrupted al-Douri, calling the Iraqi's remarks lies.

Al-Douri responded: 'Shut up, you monkey. Curse be upon your mustache, you traitor.' 'Mustache' is a traditional Arabic term for honor.

'This is hypocrisy and falsehood,' Sheik Mohammed shot back."

Needless to say, much of the Middle Eastern press is upset at these displays of ill temper and Arab disunity [Yes, it must distract from directing their vitriol against Israel--ed. You said it, I didn't]

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