Tuesday, April 08, 2003
THE NEXT PHASE OF THIS WAR: For Operation Iraqi Freedom to succeed, military victories must be followed up with humanitarian victories. It's not enough to defeat Saddam's regime, there needs to be tangible evidence that conditions are improving. If not, then Arab satellite networks will simply replace footage of the (relatively few) civilians injured during attacks with footage of squalid living conditions in liberated cities.

The current situation in Umm Qasr -- the first city to fall in the invasion, and therefore the city we'd expect to be furthest along in receiving humanitarian assistance, is disturbing. The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), visiting the city, reported, "Humanitarian work in the port of Umm Qasr is currently not meeting the needs of the Iraqi people. Water shortages are critical and almost everyone is desperate for fresh drinking water."

One aid worker is quoted as saying, "The humanitarian situation here is very bleak. If after two weeks it hasn't been possible to bring aid to a town of 40,000 people what hope is there of getting aid to the 1.2 million people of Basra?"

Another volunteer said, "I have recently returned from Angola where I witnessed haunting scenes of poverty but I never expected to see the same levels of misery in Iraq, a country floating on oil." [Doesn't Angola also float on oil?--ed. Fair point]

If you go to CAFOD's main site, it's pretty clear where their sympathies lie, so one could argue that these reports are biased. However, this Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty report paints a similarly bleak picture:

"The clinic in Umm Qasr is a nightmarish scene, even for those working there. If you are a visitor, try to steel yourself at the door....

Inside the clinic, the doctor was far too busy to talk. Safaa Khalaf, a young bacteriologist, met me instead. He said no medicines had come from Basra, the usual source, since the war began 17 days ago. That compounded the already chronic shortages of the Saddam era. And no aid from the new British authorities or international humanitarian agencies had yet come, though assessment teams from both had visited and promised help soon.

Khalaf also said that over the weekend, looters had broken into the clinic, stealing the motorcycle the doctors relied on for communication with their staff and running errands. Khalaf described the theft this way: 'They broke in through the kitchen door. There, there was a motorbike that belongs to the hospital and they took it.'

He continued, 'Then, they went to a storage area and tried to break down the door and they broke into the nurses' storeroom, where they keep cotton, gauze, and other surgical dressing.'

Khalaf said the theft was a heavy blow to the staff's morale because the thieves were undoubtedly fellow townsmen. In the wake of the allied advance, looting has broken out all over southern Iraq, with mobs dismantling factories and breaking into some former government facilities at night.

The British Army has largely stopped the looting around Umm Qasr in recent days. But outside other towns, the highways are crowded with cars towing away all kinds of stolen goods, from machinery to cupboards to wooden beams. If no trailer is available, vehicles simply drag heavy objects like pumps and compressors along the asphalt, sparks flying on the pavement.

The hopelessness at 'The Mother of All Battles Clinic' underlines how little has yet changed in the lives of ordinary Iraqis since Umm Qasr changed hands early in the war. Despite U.S. and British officials repeatedly saying that they are determined to win the battle for Iraqi hearts and minds by quickly delivering humanitarian aid, that aid has not arrived at one of its most critical destinations: The town's only health facility.

British military engineers, however, have connected a water pipe from Kuwait to supply the town with clean water and they have restored electricity.

After 12 years of sanctions -- during which more than half-a-million Iraqi children under the age of 5 have died, mostly of malnutrition and diarrheal diseases -- many Iraqis tell journalists they welcome any change that will better their living conditions. But the delays in aid deliveries are now making some people skeptical that the newcomers will assist them as promised.

As the father of the 11-month old girl asked my interpreter, 'Have these people come to help us or just to take our oil?'" (emphasis added)

The Financial Times reports that the U.S. is sending a transition team to Umm Qasr to start building a post-war government. This Kuwaiti report indicates that the flow of humanitarian supplies is starting to increase (link via the Command Post). Hopefully these problems will be reversed quickly, and reports like these will fade in the next week as the stability returns to Iraq.

Make no mistake -- this phase of the fight is just as important as the military phase.
NOT GOOD: I've generally avoided blogging about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because, well, it's a profoundly depressing situation.

However, I do agree with Mickey Kaus about Ariel Sharon's latest move to expand housing settlement in the occupied territories. It's toxic.
A KINDRED DANIEL: Oxblog has conceptually reorganized their blogroll . I've been categorized under Daniel Patrick Moynihan: "Thoughtful, scholarly, and well-liked and respected on both sides of the aisle."

I think I can live with that.

Of course, this means I can kiss any job requiring Senate confirmation goodbye.

Monday, April 07, 2003
BOW TO THE MASTER: You know, I could blog at length about the various contortions, flip-flops, and abject fealty to the conventional wisdom of the moment that exist in New York Times reporter R.W. "Johnny" Apple Jr.'s reports during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Instead, I'll just link to this Jack Shafer evisceration of "master gasbag" Apple in Slate.

Well, I can't resist one point: Shafer notes that Apple, in his April 6 piece, laid out new benchmarks for defining American succes:

"It's not enough that the Americans and Brits have encircled Baghdad and subdued Basra in less than three weeks of fighting and eviscerated the Iraqi army and its irregulars. His impatient lede asks, 'How and when, it seems worth asking, will the United States and its allies know they have won the Iraqi war?'

Apple doesn't answer his own question directly but implies that the allies' recipe for victory pie would have to include a new, democratic government in Iraq; the elimination of Saddam Hussein; the uncovering of his weapons of mass destruction; and the departure of U.S. troops—sooner rather than later."

If the initial reports are true -- and it's worth stressing that they may not pan out -- two out of four ain't bad inside of 48 hours.

SCANDAL IN THE BLOGOSPHERE: This Wired story (link via Glenn Reynolds) reports that Sean-Paul Kelley has been plagiarizing reports from Stratfor.com's U.S.-Iraq War Web Site on his Agonist site. By plagiarize I mean he's copied them verbatim without attribution or with false attributions. If you want examples, go to Strategic Armchair Command's original post outlining specific examples of plagiarism.

Kelley's quote from the Wired story: "You got me, I admit it.... I made a mistake," Kelley said. "It was stupid."

Last week, Sean-Paul posted a defense of his actions. Today, he's posted a somewhat more contrite apology, which contains the following:

"I want to state explicitly that what I did was inexcusable and for many readers may be unforgivable. I understand that and am willing to accept the consequences of my actions.

I make no excuses for what I did." [UPDATE: Meryl Yourish thinks that what follows this post is a series of excuses]

Initial blogosphere reaction comes from Glenn Reynolds, Matthew Yglesias, Overspill, Rafe Colburn, Colby Cosh, Samizdata, N.Z. Bear, Meryl Yourish, Ken Layne, and Jeff Jarvis. My thoughts turn towards the exact magnitude of Kelley's infraction and the comparative advantage of the blogosphere.

1) How much did Kelley cross the line? The reason I originally linked to the Agonist was not because I thought Kelley was doing any original reporting, but because I thought he was doing a nice job of collating and posting recent information about the war from the Internet. I had always assumed his unlinked reports came from secondary sources that were not on the web. In other words, I never thought the comparative advantage of the Agonist was original reporting. Substantively, this disclosure does not change my opinion of the site's content.

It does change my opinion of Kelley's ethics, however. The Wired story makes it clear that what Kelley did was plagiarism, pure and simple. He copied source material word for word without attribution. He prevaricated about it when questioned by Wired's reporter. He also dodged the question in this Dallas Morning News story:

"War blogs have had their own spats. On Tuesday, Kelley's Agonist.org got involved in a controversy because, he says, another war blog accused him of stealing information without proper attribution.

But Kelley says his audience trusts him. 'For my readers, it's like their personal news service,' he says. 'They send me an e-mail, and I send them a reply right back.'"

One could also argue that Kelley had a larger obligation to the Blogosphere, since he was one of the poster boys of the spate of recent coverage of warblogging by MSNBC, the New York Times, the Financial Times, and the Washington Post.

As a graduate student in international relations, Kelley knew (or should have known) he was in the wrong as he was lifting Stratfor's content, and he was in the wrong again when he initially tried to deny the plagiarism. Stratfor, to its credit, has come to an amicable agreement with Kelley on future posts, so it looks like some wrongs are being righted. However, I can't endorse what Kelley did, so I've decided to replace Kelley's spot on the blogroll with the Command Post and Stratfor -- at least until the war ends.

2) What does this mean for blogging? The Wired story has the following quote:

"I really thought that The Agonist was going to be the vanguard that pushed news blogging over the top and gave many of us new hope,' opined a MetaFilter poster named Dean Paxton. 'Instead, I fear that this is an enormous setback. Especially when the blog-savvy media pundits are turned on to this.'"

Paxton may be right about media reaction, but he's wrong about the comparative advantage of the Blogosphere. Blogs, taken in their entirety, do occasionally provide news scoops. However, there are two other blogtasks that are much more important.

First, some blogs can act as focal points for information provision. Now, by definition, there can only be one or two focal points. Glenn Reynolds generally acts as one for bloggers. During concentrated crises -- Josh Marshall in the case of Trent Lott's downfall, or Kelley for Operation Iraqi Freedom -- others can spring up. These blogs serve the useful purpose of collecting and distributing already available information to interested readers. In doing so, these individuals help to frame and propel debates of the day. They also reduce search costs for the rest of us [Example?--ed. Consider that the original blogger discovery of Sean-Paul's plagiarism was made a week ago -- but it was on a blog that I don't read regularly. I didn't know about it until it was on InstaPundit.]

Second, most bloggers provide value added in the form of criticism and commentary. We don't generate new facts so much as put already existing facts into a larger framework. We then look at other people who do this and comment and critique their efforts. This is my comparative advantage, at least.

This scandal, as it were, might alter media perceptions of what the Blogosphere is about. It will not alter its fundamental nature.

UPDATE: Mac Diva, a journalist-turned-blogger, offers her opinion here.

"More than three-fourths of Americans -- including two-thirds of liberals and 70% of Democrats -- now say they support the decision to go to war. And more than four-fifths of these war supporters say they still will back the military action even if allied forces don't find evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

Bush's overall job approval rating jumped to 68%, the highest level since last summer, and three-fourths of those polled said they trust him to make the right decisions on Iraq." (emphasis added)

Let's be clear -- a lot of this is the rally-round-the-flag effect. Still, the dramatic shift among liberals and Democrats from ten days ago is noticeable. Why might this be? First, the war is clearly going well. Second, the antiwar movement has failed to articulate any coherent message. If you thing this is an exaggeration, go to one of their main web site. One article posted there opens with this vacuous assertion:

"If nothing else, the process leading to war in Iraq revealed an abject failure of our democracy. We claim to be bringing democracy to Iraq, yet the lack of it at home is in evidence everywhere, and is a grave threat to our national well-being and future."

For some other choice essays, click here and here.

In the absence of any coherent message, the antiwar movement is resorting to tactics guaranteed to alienate most of the public:

"Blocking traffic is the tactic of choice these days among anti-war protesters. But just how effective can it be, when it angers commuters and packs police precincts with arrested activists?

Project engineer Craig Voellmicke was on his way to work recently when he ran into gridlock around Teaneck, N.J., caused by protesters blocking traffic near the George Washington Bridge.

'I think it's more annoying,' Voellmicke said, when asked if he thought the act got people to think twice about the war. 'I think people know the message already. Most people were just standing with annoyed looks on their faces. I didn't hear any words of support [from onlookers].'"

It's not just the increase in traffic jams. It's also the drain on public services:

"Washington, D.C., police have been forced to restrict traffic to several blocks around the city, particularly around the White House, in order to prevent gridlock caused by protesters. Mayor Anthony Williams recently claimed such police activity is eating up his city's homeland security funds.

Protesters in San Francisco and several cities have formed human chains and joined themselves together with metal pipes that had to be cut open by police officers or firefighters, to the frustration of officials who believe they have more pressing security concerns.

'This is more than protest, more than free speech,' New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told the Associated Press in a recent interview. 'We're talking about violating the law.'

Protesters say they don't have much choice.

'Nothing else gets attention,' protestor Johannah Westmacott told the Associated Press. 'It's not news when people voice their opinions.'" (emphasis added)

This is what happens when people don't read memos.

UPDATE: Kieran Healy has an excellent post that's not exactly a rejoinder to what I said, but does make an accurate point -- even if the protestors are not moving public opinion, their size and duration are significant relative to past social movements.
THINGS HAVE CHANGED: Last month Brad Delong reprinted a paragraph from Kenneth Pollack's first book, the encyclopedic Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991 on how the Republican Guard fought fiercely but stupidly during the first Gulf War. DeLong concluded:

"According to Kenneth Pollack, if the Iraqi army of today is like the Iraqi army of the past half century, its soldiers and unit commanders will be incompetent at using their artillery, unable to maneuver, unwilling to take the intiative, incapable of adapting to any surprise, armed with technologically-inferior and poorly-maintained equipment, and yet large numbers of them, especially from the Republican Guard, will stand their ground and fight--until they die."

It's becoming increasingly clear that DeLong and Pollack's assumption does not hold -- according to this story, the Iraqi army of today is nothing like the army it used to be:

"At first, the Iraqi forces put up a strong fight against the 100-vehicle column of Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles that rumbled in from the airport, through newly lain minefields, in the early hours. F16 fighter aircraft fly ahead, bombing Iraqi tanks and positions that might have offered resistance.

But as I watch from the 12th floor of the Sheraton hotel, directly across the river, a group of vehicles that has broken away from the column moves in from the south, prompting many Iraqi defenders to flee.

Under incessant US fire - machine-guns, mortars and small missiles - they run from two directions, pouring out of the centre of the compound and from a heavily armed sand spit that intrudes into the Tigris, before bolting north along an access road that services the dozens of buildings within the fortified complex.

This is supposed to be the fearless Republican Guard, but under fire there is no bravery and little dignity as many of them abandon their posts, some struggling to strip to their underwear as they flee.

Desperate to get away, when they are confronted by a security fence that extends into the river they jump in, swimming 50 metres out from the bank before returning along the opposite side of the fence to pick up the access road again." (emphasis added)

Read the whole Sydney Morning Herald story for an excellent account of the surreal state of affairs in Baghdad right now. For that matter, go read Pollack's book too. [But wasn't Pollack wrong here?--ed. The main thesis of that book is that since the end of World War II, Arabs have never defeated a non-Arab army in a war. I'd say that thesis is bearing up well. His explanations for why this is true are also worth perusing.]
Sunday, April 06, 2003
THE BBC STRIKES AGAIN!!: Given the BBC's apparent biases, it was with some trepidation that I clicked on this story on estimating the number of Iraqis killed and injured during the war. To my surprise, I thought it was pretty fair -- until I got to the last part of the story:

"An independent website has been set up to try to keep track of the body count.

They're collating figures from news reports and they give two figures.

On Sunday they showed a maximum estimate of 1049 civilians killed and a minimum of 876."

The bland prose suggests that something is afoot. Why doesn't the BBC name the web site or discuss its qualifications beyond "independent" (which certainly connotes respect)? Perhaps because the site they fail to name is clearly Iraq Body Count. This site is affiliated with Marc Herold, an academic at the University of New Hampshire who produced wildly inflated civilian casualty estimates for Afghanistan (see also here). This explanation of the site's methodology includes the following:

"The project takes as its starting point and builds upon the earlier work of Professor Marc Herold who has produced the most comprehensive tabulation of civilian deaths in the war on Afghanistan from October 2001 to the present, and the methodology has been designed in close consultation with him.

Professor Herold commented: 'I strongly support this initiative. The counting of civilian dead looms ever more importantly for at least two reasons: military sources and their corporate mainstream media backers seek to portray the advent of precision guided weaponry as inflicting at most, minor, incidental civilian casualties when, in truth, such is is not the case; and the major source of opposition to these modern ‘wars’ remains an informed, articulate general public which retains a commitment to the international humanitarian covenants of war at a time when most organized bodies and so-called ‘experts’ have walked away from them'."

Herold's quote provides a decent clue as to his biases, but if you want to understand why this site's methodology is flawed, go to Josh Chafetz's posts here and here, as well as Iain Murray's Tech Central Station article. Here's all you need to know -- according to both Murray and Chafetz, on Tuesday of this past week Iraq Body Count Project's minimum count of Iraqi civilian deaths were higher than the Iraqi government figures!

Shame on the BBC for failing to raise any of these problems in their (otherwise fine) report.

UPDATE: This blog's raison d'etre is bias in the BBC.
GOOD NEWS IN KARBALA: More Iraqis happy to see Saddam go (link via the Command Post):

"About 10,000 people gathered in the public square Sunday and pulled down a 20-foot-high bronze statue of Saddam Hussein, a move that symbolized for many the end of a tyrannical regime and the beginning of new freedoms.

The event also marked the end of a battle that has raged for five days and culminated with armored battalions firing the last shots Saturday afternoon. The battalions destroyed five tanks and a dozen pieces of Iraqi artillery on the outskirts of town, and dozens of prisoners were taken as well.

Karbala, a Shiite Muslim city about 40 miles southwest of Baghdad, fell Saturday to six battalions under the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne, who wrested control from about 500 Saddam Fedayeen fighters and loyalists of the ruling Baath Party.

Many who assembled in the city square chanted 'Saddam is no more!' and "Saddam is dead!' as they pulled on a rope, yanking the Saddam statue from its perch. Once the statue tumbled, many in the crowd jumped up and down, struck their chests and wept.

The statue was erected shortly after Saddam came to power, according to Karbala residents, and seeing it fall was a moment many would never forget.

'We have been living in fear for so many years, and we have been taught in the schools that Saddam would never die," said Hassan Muhammad, 20, as he helped pull on the rope. 'This is a historic day, and we will celebrate this day always.'"

WHY I'M ABSENT-MINDED: As my friends and family will attest, it's a good thing I'm a professor because I'm so absent-minded that no other profession would have anything to do with me [C'mon, how bad can you be?--ed. Last night I applauded myself for remembering Daylight Savings Time and adjusting the clocks accordingly. This morning I realized to my chagrin that I had turned the clocks back one hour when I was supposed to turn them forward].

Why am I so absent-minded? I always liked to cite Sherlock Holmes' explanation for why he did not want to remember the Copernican theory of the solar system in A Study in Scarlet:

"I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones."

In other words, there was only so much room in Holmes' brain, and better that it be filled with useful criminology than useless astronomy. I rationalized that my scholarly pursuits demanded the forgetting of more mundane information, such as walking the dog.

Alas, last night, after taking Entertainment Weekly's exhaustingly thorough pop culture quiz (subscription required), I now know the truth -- I'm not hoarding brain cells for the subtleties of Thucydides or Grotius, but for pop trivia. I scored an embarrasingly high 93 -- though that was with considerable help from the bonus questions.

Still, if I ever forget the inner workings of the Mundell-Fleming model, I'll know it's because I remember the original members of N.W.A, even though I don't believe I've ever heard on of their songs.

ADVANTAGE: KLEIMAN!: In my previous post on Nicholas De Genova I was trying to articulate a point on how teachers must balance the task of asserting authority on issues relevant to the classroom material while encouraging students to air their opinions free of perceived retribution. From the e-mail I've received, I fear I may not have succeeded.

Mark Kleiman, in discussing whether a university faculty should express its opolitical views with a collective voice, phrases it better than I did:

"Academics spend a significant amount of time judging people: their students, and one another. They need, therefore, to bend over backwards to make it clear that those judgments are based as exclusively as human frailty will allow on scholarly, academic, professional standards of skill at research and discourse, and not on the agreement or disagreement of the people doing the judging with the opinions of the people being judged.

(Teaching, as I do, highly controversial subjects, I have a little canned speech I make the first day of class. In that speech, I claim an authoritative voice, speaking for the discipline, in resolving claims about what sorts of arguments for policy opinions count as good policy analysis, but make it clear that my actual opinions are merely that, and that it is not among my purposes as a teacher to make the students' opinions conform to mine...)."

WHAT HASN'T HAPPENED: Back in early February, I wrote the following:

"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."

From today's New York Times -- "New Signs of Terror Not Evident":

"[T]error organizations like Al Qaeda appear to have been largely unmoved by Saddam Hussein's denunciations of the United States and his calls for an uprising in the Arab world against the American-led war in Iraq.

American officials have said there is little evidence of potential terrorist plots against United States interests, either in the country or overseas, since the war in Iraq began. In fact, the kind of chatter that has led the Department of Homeland Security to increase the nation's threat warning levels has decreased since the beginning of the war.

Nevertheless, the administration has maintained the government's color-coded terrorist threat level at orange, representing a heightened threat of terrorist activity, because of fears that the war will eventually provoke terrorism.

But intelligence and law enforcement officials said there was scant evidence that either Al Qaeda or any other major terrorist organization was planning an attack in the near future. One senior intelligence official said he had seen very little credible evidence that any terrorist plots were imminent in the United States.

Another American official cautioned that terrorist threat reporting received by the C.I.A. and other agencies had not significantly declined, but acknowledged that it had not increased since the start of the war as many in the intelligence community had expected."

It is still possible that Al Qaeda is merely biding its time and a spectacular attack is imminent. However, the absence of attacks suggest that the war on terror has achieved more advances than skeptics would like to admit.

UPDATE: Matt Drudge , discussing Stephen Brill's new book on homeland security, provides more support for this argument:

"And why have there been no fresh terror strikes in the United States since the start of the war?

Brill says it's the competence of the current leadership."
NONE SHALL PASS -- EXCEPT FOR THE 3RD INFANTRY DIVISION: This CNN story has Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf flatly denying that coalition forces control Saddam Baghdad International Airport:

"'Today we slaughtered them in the airport. They are out of Saddam International Airport,' al-Sahaf said. 'The force that was in the airport, this force was destroyed.'

Capt. Frank Thorp, spokesman for U.S. Central Command, called the claim 'groundless,' saying 'there is sporadic fighting at the airport.'

'We have heard these reports from the minister of information, which are, quite frankly, groundless,' he said. 'This is the same minister of information who yesterday was saying that coalition forces were approximately 100 kilometers away from the city.'"

The kicker, however, is the last line of the story:

"Al-Sahaf said he would take reporters to the airport later in the day, after it was cleaned up."

Is it my imagination or is Al-Sahaf starting to sound more and more like the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail?

UPDATE: Damn, I though I was being clever with the Monty Python reference. Turns out I'm late to this particular meme.
WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE: For the past two days, I’ve been hobnobbing with other political scientists at the Midwestern Political Science Association’s annual meeting, which is always held in the gorgeous Palmer House in downtown Chicago. It hadn’t occurred to me until I showed up yesterday that this was the first big conference I attended since starting the blog last year. As it turns out, a fair number of them read it. Quite a few of my colleagues mentioned it to me in cocktail chatter.

My initial reaction was – surprisingly – discomfort. Part of this is the “worlds colliding” phenomenon of having my professional “scholar” persona overlap with my public “blogger” persona. This was the first time I had to reconcile those two parts of my life.

Another source of my discomfort was the “outing” of my political views, which are to the right of most of my colleagues (though not that far to the right – contrary to Blogosphere perceptions, most of my fellow political scientists do not yearn for a Marxist revival). It’s not that I keep my beliefs a secret – it’s just that, funny as it may sound, ideology rarely comes up in professional conversations with other political scientists.

The biggest part of it, however, was the fear that my colleagues would disapprove of the blog as a bastardization of our profession – and, by extension, a bad reflection on the scholarly side of my cv. As previously noted, some of my blog posts contain half-baked ideas – I certainly hope the same does not hold for my scholarly work.

There’s something else, though. Much of this blog consists of my application and translation of arguments made in the political science literature to real-world debates. Inevitably, these translations smooth over the caveats, complexities, and counterarguments that are inherent in any scholarly thesis. [Why not include all of those things in your posts?—ed. No self-respecting editor would ever ask that question. If I did that, each blog post would be 5,000 words long, no one would read it, and I wouldn’t have time to work on anything else.] Most lay readers cannot detect this smoothing process, but my colleagues can, and I fear their wrath.

Upon reflection, however, my discomfort is starting to wane, for three reasons. First, I respect everyone who complimented me on my blog; I must be doing something right [Who don't you respect in the profession?--ed. Insert sound of crickets chirping here]. Second, the people who raised the topic were all my generation or younger, which suggests that the Blogosphere has yet to permeate the tenured faculty. Since it’s these people who will determine whether I merit getting tenure myself, I still have some time to adjust. Third, one graduate student told me that blogs are increasingly popular among doctoral students, both as a diversion and as a research tool. It will be a pleasant surprise if it turns out that the blog not only serves as an outlet for the public intellectual in me, but also contributes in some small way to furthering scholarly debate.
Saturday, April 05, 2003
STUDENTS AND THE WAR: Two stories on student attitudes and activism regarding the war with Iraq. The New York Times reports a yawning gulf between professors and students on this issue:

"Across the country, the war is disclosing role reversals, between professors shaped by Vietnam protests and a more conservative student body traumatized by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Prowar groups have sprung up at Brandeis and Yale and on other campuses. One group at Columbia, where last week an antiwar professor rhetorically called for 'a million Mogadishus,' is campaigning for the return of R.O.T.C. to Morningside Heights.

Even in antiwar bastions like Cambridge, Berkeley and Madison, the protests have been more town than gown. At Berkeley, where Vietnam protesters shouted, 'Shut it down!' under clouds of tear gas, Sproul Plaza these days features mostly solo operators who hand out black armbands. The shutdown was in San Francisco, and the crowd was grayer.

All this dismays many professors.

'We used to like to offend people,' Martha Saxton, a professor of women's studies at Amherst, said as she discussed the faculty protest with students this week. 'We loved being bad, in the sense that we were making a statement. Why is there no joy now?'

Certainly not all students are pro-war or all faculty anti. But 'there's a much higher percentage of liberal professors than there are liberal students,' said Ben Falby, the student who organized the protest at Amherst only to find that it had more professors than students.

This Chicago Tribune piece makes similar points:

"Since school began last fall at the University of Chicago, Dan Lichtenstein-Boris has carved out time to oppose the war in Iraq, drafting leaflets, creating film and speakers series and setting up a round-the-clock vigil in the center of campus.

But getting fellow students to join in a big rally and make a larger point since the war began has been difficult.

'I think things are pretty quiet,' Lichtenstein-Boris, 21, a sophomore, said in frustration. 'With all we've done, how is a lecture or film series going to help? It's kind of a soft way of going about things when people are dying.'"

What explains this? The Tribune suggests student apathy, but that's not it -- the paper also observes: "While polls show most high school and college students don't go to rallies or marches, they volunteer more than preceding generations, with 61 percent of college students volunteering, according to a study last October by the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University."

The three other suggestions that are proffered are the absence of a draft, the maturation of these students in more conservative times, and the plethora of other causes out there. Take a look and judge for yourself.

The one amusing part of the Times piece is the conviction from both pro-war and anti-war voices on campus that they are being vaguely persecuted:

"'It's a lonely place to be an antiwar protester on the Amherst campus,' said Beatriz Wallace, a junior. In the dining hall, students have set out baskets of ribbons, some yellow, some red, white and blue.

Prowar students say they feel just as alienated. 'The faculty, and events, has a chilling effect on discussions for the prowar side,' said David Chen, a sophomore."

UPDATE: This Newsday article on the same phenomenon notes another pattern:

"Jonathan Buchsbaum, who has been teaching media studies at Queens College for 25 years, said these days students there are motivated by issues like the poor economy and the elimination of school programs.

'I don't see as many students getting involved, in terms of war,' Buchsbaum said.

While the Brooklyn and Queens college students might be too preoccupied with bread-and-butter matters to take to the streets, those at big private colleges in Manhattan have the time and inclination to publicly express their views, faculty members say.

'We're getting students to understand that they are in a privileged position and to use that position to understand what is going on in the world,' said Francesca Fiorentini, 19, a sophomore at New York University and member of the NYU Peace Coalition."

Friday, April 04, 2003
ENJOY THE WEEKEND!: I'll be at the Midwestern Political Science Association's annual meeting. I'm a chair and discussant on a panel. Then I'll be grabbing a beer with fellow blogger/political scientists Chris Lawrence.
MAKING PEOPLE NERVOUS: Former CIA Director James Woolsey declares that the U.S. is in the middle of World War IV:

"In the address to a group of college students, Woolsey described the Cold War as the third world war and said 'This fourth world war, I think, will last considerably longer than either World Wars I or II did for us. Hopefully not the full four-plus decades of the Cold War.'

Woolsey has been named in news reports as a possible candidate for a key position in the reconstruction of a postwar Iraq.

He said the new war is actually against three enemies: the religious rulers of Iran, the 'fascists' of Iraq and Syria, and Islamic extremists like al Qaeda.

Woolsey told the audience of about 300, most of whom are students at the University of California at Los Angeles, that all three enemies have waged war against the United States for several years but the United States has just 'finally noticed.'

'As we move toward a new Middle East,' Woolsey said, 'over the years and, I think, over the decades to come ... we will make a lot of people very nervous.'"

Chalk me up as one of the potentially nervous people. This is the kind of grand neocon strategy that prompted criticism in Josh Marshall's latest Washington Monthly piece. It's not that I wouldn't like to see Woolsey's list of enemies vanquished -- it's just far from clear that the use of force is the right tool for the job.

However, I'm still not nervous, for one very good reason -- Woolsey's not in the government. The hottest rhetoric on the neocon strategy comes from those out of power. The neocons in power, like Paul Wolfowitz, have refrained from such statements. Bill Keller's profile of Wolfowitz from last September shows that the neocons in power are much more wary about the willy-nilly use of force. And, it should be pointed out, there are heavyweights in the administration who do not subscribe to the neoconservative vision.

My point here is that Woolsey's statements are likely to be reprinted abroad as evidence of the Bush administration's grand strategy, In fact they represent the rhetoric of a single man who's out of power -- and, according to Mickey Kaus, a man who's "distinctly unimpressive in... a private schmooze."
Thursday, April 03, 2003
STILL UNSURE ABOUT THE WAR?: For those readers who want more information, Eric Zorn has compiled a website collecting the best arguments -- pro and con -- on whether war with Iraq is a good idea.

Worth checking out.
MORE EVIDENCE OF IRAQI HOSTILITY TO THE INVASION: I was initially quite alarmed to see that Arts & Letters Daily has the following link up in red boldface:

"Breaking news: Iraqis have routed British Royal Marines in a fierce battle in the town of Umm Khayyal near Basra."

Concerned, I clicked on the link to the BBC story. It's true. Go check it out.

When the BBC is running stuff like this, you know the Iraqi population is glad to see the back of Saddam.
SHOULD NICHOLAS DE GENOVA BE FIRED?: The Columbia Daily Spectator reports on mounting alumni pressure to fire Nicholas De Genova for the statements he made in last week's anti-war teach-in. Congressmen are also jumping on the dogpile.

Glenn Reynolds, as well as Columbia's Filibuster blog, argue that De Genova's comment at the antiwar rally, although certainly repugnant, are protected under academic free speech. I wholeheartedly agree. The congressional activity is particularly repugnant -- the last thing anyone should want is organs of the state requesting universities to fire particular individuals. And bravo to Jim Kolbe (R--Ariz) and his press spokeswoman for stating the obvious: "it is not appropriate for him [Kolbe] in his role as a member of Congress to tell Columbia University how to discipline their employees."

However, there is one facet of De Genova's behavior that might -- might -- warrant a dismissal. It comes from yesterday's New York Times story about a Columbia student who plans to join the Marines after graduation:

"A few days ago her Latino History teacher, Mr. De Genova, notified his students by e-mail that he would not be holding office hours on the usual day because he would be attending an antiwar function. 'I totally respect academic freedom,' she said. 'However, there needs to be a distance.'

Then, she said, the assistant professor set aside the coursework for a day and invited students to share their feelings about the war. 'I was one of about two students who said anything that was not antiwar,' she said. 'I said I was hoping to go into the Marine Corps as an officer, that I have friends over there, and that my main focus now was to support the troops.'

'I felt so uncomfortable,' she added."

Then there's this from the Columbia Daily Spectator's story:

"Rebekah Pazmiño, CC '05, is enrolled in De Genova's undergraduate class and is also an officer-in-training in the Marines. Pazmiño used De Genova's unmoderated classroom to respond to the three graduate students' suggestion that they were being silenced.

'If you guys feel so silenced, what about those of us who are going into the military?' Pazmiño asked. 'When remarks like that are made, those of us who are on the other side also feel threatened.' 'Having to hear that, and having to be in this class, just really sucks,' she said."

Any teacher worth their salt knows that students must be constantly reassured that disagreement with the powers that be -- i.e., the person in charge of grading -- will not affect their class performance. If academics publicize their position on an issue of the day, and then signal to the students taking their class that this can be the only correct position, the professor has crossed the line from the free expression of personal views to the subtle intimidation of alternative points of view.

Did De Genova cross this line? The Times and Daily Spectator stories hint at this, but don't provide enough information. De Genova's lack of subtlety makes this a distinct possibility, however. If students felt that their position on the war would affect their grade, then De Genova should be fired. [But what about the protest in support of De Genova by his students?--ed. Those were his graduate students -- I'm more concerned about the undergraduates, who are more likely to feel intimidated. Based on this poll, it's highly likely that more than two students in the class held pro-war views. But only the students in the class can say for sure one way or the other.]

UPDATE: This Filibuster post provides additional information suggesting that DeGenova did not cross the line. Pazmiño went on Hannity & Colmes this evening. According to the Filibuster, "De Genova discussed the war one class period and she spoke up and expressed her views. She added... that de Genova was actually pretty respectful of her pro-war stance." If this is the case, then no student coercion took place, the question comes back to academic free speech, and De Genova should not be fired.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tim Wagliore argues that my rationale is way too broad. His points are solid, though he's exaggerated my position a bit. Obviously, I'm not suggesting that a professor should be fired for cancelling office hours. Nor am I suggesting this rationale as a "pretext" for firing someone whose politics I find repellent. Also, I should have said that there exist measures short of termination that would probably be appropriate for this situation. Only if a professor repeatedly and persistently did what I described above would termination be the appropriate measure.
LEARNING TO ADAPT: A big meme last week was that the Iraqi's unconventional tactics surprised Rumsfeld et al (although these corrections suggest that maybe they weren't that surprised).

My guess is that next week's meme will be about how coalition forces are adapting to these adaptations. This story suggests that coalition forces are quickly moving down the learning curve in Basra:

"United States forces, preparing to invade Baghdad, praised 'impressive' British tactics.

'In Baghdad, we will definitely use a lot of the effective techniques and utilise some of the larger strategic lessons we learned in the British efforts over Basra,' a senior military official said.

Two examples of unusual yet successful soldiering in the past two days have drawn admiration from US Central Command operations chiefs. British 7th Armoured Brigade troops - the Desert Rats - deliberately allowed residents to loot a Baath Party headquarters near Basra within minutes of the office's capture and search.

'Normally we would stop looting because it's a sign that things have got out of control and that law and order has broken down,' said Captain Alex Cartwright. 'But in this case we decided that to allow it would send a powerful message: that we are in control now, not the Baath Party.'

In another incident, when an Iraqi colonel was fatally shot in his vehicle, British troops found a thick wad of cash. Instead of handing it in to officers, the troops decided to dole the cash out to local youngsters."
WHY WRIGHT IS WRONG: I'm betting that Robert Wright's Tuesday article in Slate will be an eventual winner of Andrew Sullivan's prestigious Von Hoffman Award for "prophetically challenged pieces of media war-wisdom" -- though it will be hard to top Sullivan's latest nominee.

This is what Wright wrote two days ago:

"[A]s the war drags on, any stifled sympathy for the American invasion will tend to evaporate. As more civilians die and more Iraqis see their "resistance" hailed across the Arab world as a watershed in the struggle against Western imperialism, the traditionally despised Saddam could gain appreciable support among his people. So, the Pentagon's failure to send enough troops to take Baghdad fairly quickly could complicate the postwar occupation, to say nothing of the war itself. The Bush administration's prewar expectation of broad Iraqi support for the invasion may turn out to be a self-defeating prophecy....

It isn't just that, as noted above, the Iraqi people will grow more hostile to the United States as the war lingers on—and American soldiers kill more civilians and Saddam has more time to kill his own civilians and blame it on Americans (a tactic that, remember, doesn't surprise Don Rumsfeld!). It's that Muslims all over the world are watching the same show, and they are not amused.

Even assuming Muslim rage doesn't produce a worst-case scenario—say, regime change in Pakistan that puts nuclear arms in the hands of terrorists—there is still plenty to worry about, most notably the next generation of anti-American terrorism quietly incubating in the hearts and minds of adolescent Al Jazeera watchers around the world. Further, anti-American Muslims—already trickling into Iraq from Jordan—could start showing up in larger numbers, including the occasional suicide bomber (who will make American troops even more jittery, leading to more dead Iraqi civilians for Al Jazeera to highlight, and so on). Every week that this war drags on is a week in which bad things can happen, and Rumsfeld's seeming indifference to this fact does not inspire confidence."

Wright's vision might be correct, but I doubt it. First, there is mounting evidence that the Iraqis are quite pleased about Operation Iraqi Freedom. I blogged yesterday about the reaction in Najaf (click here for more on the reaction in Najaf). Today, according to Reuters, a "top local Shi'ite Muslim leader" issued a fatwa telling Shi'ites not to fight the Americans. In the north, Kurds are overjoyed that the U.S. has expelled the Ansar al-Islam militants. As for the Sunni Muslims near Baghdad, this report suggests they will also be happy to see the back of Saddam:

"The Republican Guard may be ceding this territory, thinking their forces must make their stand in Baghdad in the days to come. But in an unexpected sign of popular sentiment, some residents streamed out of the city and greeted the American troops as they approached."

[What about Josh Marshall's point that these tribal reactions are actually strategic?--ed. Marshall's right -- but politics is all about acting opportunistically. These leaders have seen twenty years of war and sanctions -- rationally, it's highly unlikely they will try to advance their interests via violent action].

Wright seems to think that this happiness will fade with time, but there are good reasons to believe otherwise. Humanitarian aid is about to pour into Umm Qasr and the rest of southern Iraq. What will the reaction of the local population be once they realize that not only is Saddam finished, but that the days of economic sanctions are over?

As for the rest of the Arab world, Wright seems to think that the invasion itself will prompt Arabs to launch terrorist attacks within Iraq. But it's equally possible that what happened in Afghanistan will happen in Iraq. The video of Kabul's residents celebrating the fall of the Taliban quickly defused much (though not all) of the Arab resentment against the U.S. use of military force. Similar footage from Baghdad, Najaf, Mosul, Basra etc., would be likely to have a similar effect. [UPDATE: This effect is likely to be even more concentrated now, since Iraq expelled two Al Jazeera journalists, causing the network to suspend its coverage from Hussein-controlled territory. This will cause a sharp drop in the broadcasting of incendiary images to the Arab street]

Of course the speed of the Iraqi army's collapse will hopefully render this a moot point. [Won't the Republican Guard prove to be excellent guerilla fighters?--ed. This piece suggests the answer is a strong "no." So, overall, you saying Wright is an idiotarian?--ed. No, that's the funny thing. I have the same reaction whenever I read a Wright piece -- this is a fundamentally smart guy who's just dead wrong in his conclusions].

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan comments on Wright's argument: "Bob's piece seems to be moving inexorably toward a von Hoffman award (not yet, but it's not looking good for the earthling U.N.-lover).
ADVANTAGE: CHAFETZ: Josh Chafetz has the goods (and lots of relevant links) on Marc Herold's bogus methodology for counting Iraqi civilian deaths in Iraq.
Wednesday, April 02, 2003
OVERSELLING THE COALITION: I've noted previously that critics accusing the administration of unilateralism are exaggerating, since some important countries back our position in words and deeds. However, this Financial Times story hakes a good point about the Bush administration's exaggerations on the other side:

"Only six months after the US accused Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine's president, of approving the sale of high-tech radar systems to Iraq, Ukraine has joined the US-led coalition fighting to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime.

Although Ukraine says it opposes the military effort and is sending only "humanitarian aid", the US is hailing Ukraine's membership as a significant step towards mending relations.

The inclusion of an avowedly pacifist, allegedly embargo-busting country in the coalition shows how eager the US is to portray broad international support for the military campaign. A recent White House press release lists 48 coalition members, ranging from active combat participants to countries with less clear roles, such as Mongolia and Tonga.

Markian Lubkivsky, press service chief at Ukraine's foreign ministry, said his country's sole contribution was a hazardous chemicals clean-up unit stationed in Kuwait, which he said had a 'humanitarian' mission and would not enter Iraq.

'We can be regarded as a participant in the coalition only in that [humanitarian] sense,' he said at a press conference on Tuesday.

'Ukraine is exclusively for deciding any crisis situation by peaceful means.'

But US ambassador Carlos Pascual said his government regarded Ukraine as a backer of the war.

He said: 'In saying that they are ready to be considered as part of the coalition to disarm Iraq, we take that as support for our position.'"

OH, YES, HE'S DEFINITELY AS POPULAR AS STALIN: From the New York Times account of the U.S. liberation of Najaf:

"The occupying forces, from the First and Second brigades of the 101st Airborne Division, entered from the south and north. They had seized the perimeter of town on Tuesday.

People rushed to greet them today, crying out repeatedly, 'Thank you, this is beautiful!'

Two questions dominated a crowd that gathered outside a former ammunition center for the Baath Party. 'Will you stay?' asked Kase, a civil engineer who would not give his last name. Another man, Heider, said, 'Can you tell me what time Saddam is finished?'"

It ends with this priceless anecdote:

"American troops found that the fleeing Baath Party and paramilitary forces had set up minefields on roads and bridges leading out of the city. Late today an American engineering team was clearing the third of such fields, this one with 30 mines, by detonating them with C4 explosives.

Lt. Col. Duke Deluca, noting that the mines had been made in Italy, said, 'Europeans are antiwar, but they are pro-commerce.'"

UPDATE: More confirming evidence of how residents of Najaf feel come from this Slate report of an Iraqi army defector in Kurdistan (link via Volokh):

"'How were people in Najaf two weeks ago? How did you discuss the coming war?' I asked.

'In Najaf people are only worried about how to get food, and if they will have enough food. They were worried how long the war would last and what would come after it. I only talked to my family. You can't talk about these things outside of your house. But in my family we were happy about the Americans coming. We knew war was coming and we talked about, insh'allah, getting rid of this government.'"

BLOGOSPHERE UPDATE: Ah, praise from Glenn Reynolds. However, I was remiss in not pointing out that I found this story via OxBlog. They are also on a roll (though I'm not sure about the nickname they gave me).

FRENCH PRAISE FOR BLAIR AND CRITICISM OF CHIRAC--NO, REALLY: Jacques Delors, the former president of the European Commission, gave an exclusive interview to the Financial Times which was chock full of praise for Tony Blair and criticism of Jacques Chirac. First on Iraq:

"Jacques Delors, former president of the European Commission, has become one of the first senior French public figures to warn that President Jacques Chirac is leading France into a diplomatic cul-de-sac over Iraq.

'We cannot accept the Messianic vision of the Americans, but nor can we limit ourselves to simply opposing it,' he said in an interview with the Financial Times.

'My position is between the two, of course. We have to find the basis for an acceptable partnership between Europe and America.'

Mr Delors praised efforts by Tony Blair, the UK prime minister, to build a bridge between the Bush administration and continental European governments by pushing hard for UN supervision of the reconstruction of Iraq." (emphasis added)

Then there's Delors' take on the European Union's future:

"He believes the creation of a genuine common European foreign policy is unlikely for the foreseeable future and that defence co-operation will not work without Britain.

The 77-year-old Mr Delors, now running the Paris-based Notre Europe think-tank, also said the EU's flagship project of economic and monetary union was ''not working' because of the failure of governments to work together on fiscal policy'....

Mr Delors believes the Iraq crisis has highlighted the problems of forging a common EU foreign policy out of divergent national interests, warning that such a concept is a vain hope 'in the next 20 years'.

On Belgian proposals for a renewed push on EU defence co-operation, including France and Germany, Mr Delors was equally cautious.

'We need a period of calm before trying to build a common European defence policy,' he said.

He believes one way forward is for defence to be driven by 'reinforced co-operation' with some member states moving more quickly than others.

But he added: 'It is difficult to envisage this working without the participation of Great Britain. Frankly, it's unrealistic. It's almost a provocation.' (emphasis added)

Delors' critique of fiscal policy is an implicit shot at the Chirac government, which has declared it won't honor the Maastricht criteria.

Delors is a Socialist, so there's likely some partisanship behind the criticism. Still, this will, as the FT puts it, "stimulate more debate in France about how the post-colonial power can best exercise its influence."

Tuesday, April 01, 2003
MULTILATERALISM IN NORTH KOREA: One of the arguments promulgated against the war with Iraq was that it would encourage North Korea to proliferate nuclear weapons so as to avoid the same fate. IHowever, the evidence seems to suggest the opposite -- North Korea's position is softening due to multilateral pressure.

Want evidence that the Bush administration's strategy is succeeding in cajoling North Korea's neighbors into playing a constructive role in defusing the North Korea crisis? Consider the following:

This Financial Times piece does a nice job of describing the recent shuttle diplomacy over North Korea. The key grafs:

"Ra Jong-yil, South Korea's national security adviser, began on Monday a week of talks in Russia and China about the nuclear crisis hanging over the Korean peninsula.

Last week, Maurice Strong, a United Nations envoy, met North Korean officials in Pyongyang and Yoon Young-kwan, South Korea's foreign minister, visited Washington and Tokyo.

The flurry of diplomacy is designed to find a way to persuade North Korea to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons programme.

Mr Ra's optimism echoed upbeat comments by Mr Strong following his return from Pyongyang last week. The positive mood does not mean a breakthrough is imminent but diplomats detect signs that North Korea is softening its stance.

Many analysts had forecast that Pyongyang would use the war in Iraq as an opportunity to escalate the crisis, calculating that the US would be too preoccupied to respond.

However, diplomats in Seoul say there is no intelligence to suggest North Korea is preparing to start producing weapons-grade plutonium or to test a ballistic missile. Either Pyongyang has been delayed by technical difficulties or it has decided now is not the moment to play its strongest bargaining chips.

'They have encountered some technical problems,' said one diplomat. 'But I would like to think they are also listening to the Russians and Chinese and others, who are all saying: "Don't do it.'"'"

Then there's this story on how the Japanese government has decided to move towards the U.S. position on both Iraq and North Korea:

"Given North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons, Japan is acutely aware of its reliance on the U.S. security umbrella. The two countries signed a security treaty in 1960 that extends U.S. military protection in exchange for bases in Japan.

'The North Korean dictatorship poses a threat to the safety of Japan and thus a major concern this time,' Taro Yayoma, a columnist at conservative 'Sankei' daily newspaper, says, explaining why Japan's support for the U.S. war efforts are bigger this time around than in the 1991 Gulf War.

Indeed, the invasion of Iraq has turned into a hard lesson for Japan, a pacifist country that was also defeated under U.S. bombing that ended World War II, says Yukio Okamato, special advisor to the Cabinet. That is because Japan knows full well that Washington's backing would come in handy with regard to instability next door in North Korea, which has been at loggerheads with the United States after its admission of a secret nuclear prorgramme and Washington's labelling it as part of the 'axis of evil' that included Iraq.

'Tokyo has no other choice but to support the U.S. administration in this war,' explains Okamato."

And yes, the British are also being consulted.
I'M PLAYING PEORIA: Blogging will be light for the next couple of days -- I'm headed to Bradley University in Peoria, IL for a forum entitled, "US Foreign Aid: Can it Work?"

The other participants are USAID bureaucrat based in Serbia and the head of the Libertarian Party of Illinois. I'll be playing the part of the sane, moderate voice of reason.

Hey, great job with the anti-war rallies. You're unquestionably a valid social movement that's tough to ignore -- especially when blocking traffic. However, the polls suggest you could be doing better.

I'm on the other side of the fence, and I've been critical of some of you lately, so I'll understand if you take my advice with a grain of salt. However, I believe there is a genuine debate to be had about the current war, posrtwar reconstruction, and the future of U.S. foreign policy. While I support Operation Iraqi Freedom, I'll admit to some Mickey Kaus-style qualms about the grand neocon strategy, so I'd like to see some vigorous opposing arguments to be made.

However, even if you can amass large numbers for street protests, it won't matter unless you have good arguments. And, to be blunt, some of your arguments are just God awful. Maybe they appeal to the anti-war base, but they'll turn off the rest of the country, which should be your target audience. So please jettison the following two arguments (I'll add more when I see them):

1) "Saddam is a creation of the United States". One of the mantras of the antiwar movement is that the U.S. armed and aided
Saddam Husssein
, and now we're reaping the whirlwind. It's basically an extension of the "we created bin Laden" argument.

It's certainly true that the U.S. was friendly to Iraq during its war with Iran in the 1980's. However, relative to other states, we were positively standoffish. This chart of arms sales to Iraq from 1973-1990 makes it clear Saddam Hussein is a creation of Russia, China, and France. Oh, here are the approximate figures for Iraqi imports from the permanent Security Council members for 2001, under the auspices of the Oil-for-Food program:

France-- $650 million
China -- $225 million
Russia -- $220 million
U.K. -- $100 million
U.S.A. -- $50 million

This is just the official stuff -- it doesn't count illicit arms purchases or smuggling.

U.S. culpability pales in comparison to France, Russia, and China. Saddam is their creature, not ours. Don't try arguing otherwise.

2) "Bush is Hitler" Hyperbole like this is guaranteed to generate cheers from anti-war protestors, but it just convinces everyone else of that the anti-war movement is idiotarian and should therefore be ignored. [C'mon, how prevalent is this?--ed. Click here for one example. Last week, I heard the head of Chicago's anti-war group make this exact point -- as well as argue that the U.S. created Saddam]

If you want to be taken seriously, disavow the Hitler analogies. Claiming that dissent is being stifled and the government is acquiring dictatorial powers just makes you look like sore losers.
"AND THE COMICS SHALL UNITE US": Pro-war or anti-war; dove, hawk or chicken hawk; Democrat or Republican.

It doesn't matter -- I think we can all agree this is both funny and spot-on.

UPDATE: This isn't CNN's only flaw. Virginia Postrel is absolutely correct in this criticism, which ties into my previous post on war and gender.

BEST MONTH YET: The good news: According to Sitemeter, 60,000 unique visits, 70,000 page views for the month of March. And, I've now evolved to "Flighty Bird"!!

The bad news: As this graph shows, my average traffic may be increasing, but there's a lot of variance. If the pattern holds, I doubt I'll see as many hits this month.
Monday, March 31, 2003
AN HONEST BRIEFING: Time has an excellent account of one general's assessment of how the war is proceeding. Two paragraphs worth reviewing:

"The senior officer seemed to go a little bit off message on whether the U.S. needs Saddam dead or alive. (Briefers here have repeatedly said 'this isn’t about one man') He said, 'The average Iraqi only knows Saddam. He's survived everything. He's won the lottery every time. He's a huge symbol for these people. He's everything. Unless we take him out, the population can't be confident.'

According to the senior officer, an example of Saddam's desperation came today with the 3 rd ID at a bridge near Najaf when Republican Guard forces — he said he believed they were from the Nebuchadezzer Division — put women and children out in front of them and were shooting at U.S. forces from behind the cover of the civilians. When one woman tried to move aside, she was shot in the back and fell into the river (a U.S. solider apparently rescued her). 'The regime has inflicted more casualties on its own people in the last couple days than any errant bombs of ours.'" (emphasis added).
MORE ON THE EU: In other news, I'm shocked -- shocked!! -- to discover that the European Union proving to be a major stmbling block in the latest round of WTO talks. According to the Financial Times:

"World Trade Organisation members on Monday expressed concern at the failure of farm trade negotiators to meet on Monday's deadline for setting guidelines for cuts in agricultural tariffs and subsidies.

Trade diplomats vowed to continue working for a deal, if possible before September's critical ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico, which is due to take stock of progress in the broader Doha global trade talks.

However, they acknowledged there could be adverse repercussions on other areas of the talks, calling into question the round's ambitious three-year timetable that envisages completion in December 2004.....

David Spencer, WTO ambassador for Australia, co-ordinator of the Cairns group of free-trading agricultural exporters, said: 'This is a serious setback. This inability to make progress will have implications for other areas of the negotiations and could constitute a serious setback for our objective of concluding the negotiations by 2005.'"

He singled out the EU and Japan for blame, saying their farm trade reform proposals fell far short of the objectives set for the talks at their launch in Doha in November 2001."

On the other hand, I must commend the European Union for adopting a more laissez-faire policy towards the airline sector than the United States. The FT again:

"Europe's aviation industry has been told not to expect generous hand-outs because of the war in Iraq, even though the US is considering a multi-billion-dollar package to help ailing airlines.

Ministers meeting in Brussels late last week backed the European Commission's drive to limit aid to the sector, despite an initiative by Greece, which holds the European Union presidency, to open the way for more generous loan guarantees....

The US Senate is contemplating a package of $1.5bn-$3bn to help its own industry. The Commission says this is 'regrettable', but argues the correct response is to create EU powers to levy penalties on 'unfair subsidies' elsewhere."
MUST READ FOR TODAY: Josh Marshall has a powerful essay in April's Washington Monthly critiquing the neoconservative strategy for the Middle East. Read the whole thing, but here's the "good parts" version:

"In short, the administration is trying to roll the table--to use U.S. military force, or the threat of it, to reform or topple virtually every regime in the region, from foes like Syria to friends like Egypt, on the theory that it is the undemocratic nature of these regimes that ultimately breeds terrorism. So events that may seem negative--Hezbollah for the first time targeting American civilians; U.S. soldiers preparing for war with Syria--while unfortunate in themselves, are actually part of the hawks' broader agenda. Each crisis will draw U.S. forces further into the region and each countermove in turn will create problems that can only be fixed by still further American involvement, until democratic governments--or, failing that, U.S. troops--rule the entire Middle East.

There is a startling amount of deception in all this--of hawks deceiving the American people, and perhaps in some cases even themselves. While it's conceivable that bold American action could democratize the Middle East, so broad and radical an initiative could also bring chaos and bloodshed on a massive scale. That all too real possibility leads most establishment foreign policy hands, including many in the State Department, to view the Bush plan with alarm. Indeed, the hawks' record so far does not inspire confidence. Prior to the invasion, for instance, they predicted that if the United States simply announced its intention to act against Saddam regardless of how the United Nations voted, most of our allies, eager to be on our good side, would support us. Almost none did. Yet despite such grave miscalculations, the hawks push on with their sweeping new agenda....

Ending Saddam Hussein's regime and replacing it with something stable and democratic was always going to be a difficult task, even with the most able leadership and the broadest coalition. But doing it as the Bush administration now intends is something like going outside and giving a few good whacks to a hornets' nest because you want to get them out in the open and have it out with them once and for all. Ridding the world of Islamic terrorism by rooting out its ultimate sources--Muslim fundamentalism and the Arab world's endemic despotism, corruption, and poverty--might work. But the costs will be immense. Whether the danger is sufficient and the costs worth incurring would make for an interesting public debate. The problem is that once it's just us and the hornets, we really won't have any choice."

I've written elsewhere why democratizing Iraq might be easier than many believe, but I tend to agree with Marshall on the grand neocon vision. At a minimum, there should be a proper debate on the subject. However, Mickey Kaus is correct to point out that given how the war has played out to date, it's highly unlikely that the grand neocon strategy will be executed.
HOW TO MAKE MICHAEL MOORE LOOK SUBTLE: There is a growing media flap over a Columbia University teach-in about the war in Iraq that took place last Wednesday. According to the Associated Press:

"A Columbia University professor told an anti-war gathering that he would like to see 'a million Mogadishus' �Ereferring to the 1993 ambush in Somalia that killed 18 American servicemen.

At Wednesday night's 'teach-in' on the Columbia campus, Nicholas De Genova also called for the defeat of U.S. forces in Iraq (news - web sites) and said, 'The only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military.' And he asserted that Americans who call themselves 'patriots' are white supremacists.

De Genova's comments about defeating the United States in Iraq were cheered by the crowd of 3,000, Newsday reported. But his mention of the Somali ambush �E'I personally would like to see a million Mogadishus' �Ewas largely met with silence."

Needless to say, De Genova's apparent desire to see 18 million Americans and -- according to Marc Bowden -- more than a billion Somalis die horrible deaths has prompted something of a backlash in the Blogosphere and in media outlets. Today's Columbia Daily Spectator notes concerns among Columbia's anti-war movement that De Genova's comments will overshadow the more "mainstream" parts of the anti-war perspective:

"[Columbia University undergraduate Leigh] Johnson worries about the damage done to the anti-war movement by the strong reaction against De Genova's remarks.

'I think we have to resist every attempt of pro-war and conservative reactionaries to turn what De Genova said into an indictment of the anti-war cause, and we have to instead shift the debate to his constitutional right to say those things,' Johnson said.

[Professor of Political Science Jean] Cohen had similar concerns. 'I don't think what he's said is some kind of formalistic liberal freedom of speech,' she said. 'This kind of thing is reprehensible. if he were paid by the [political] right to do this, it could not have been more effective.'

But De Genova has not been the only target of criticism. The teach-in's organizers, as well as some other faculty members and students, have also criticized media coverage of the controversy, calling it sensationalistic and one-sided. Poornima Paidipaty, a graduate student in anthropology, spoke for many of her colleagues in an e-mail distributed among graduate students this weekend.

'It is curious to me that only his speech was picked up by the press,' she wrote. 'Keep in mind that there were 30 some speakers, who covered various topics and political positions over the course of 6 hours. But somehow, the remaining remarks hardly raised an eyebrow.'"

Cohen and Paidipaty are 100% correct, so let's take a good hard look at the other speakers' comments, culled from this Columbia Daily Spectator story on the event (There's also first-person accounts here, here, and here, but let's stick with the journalistic descriptions for this post). And let's make it clear at the outset that a) none of the other speakers endorsed anything remotely resembling De Genova's comments; b) several of them have forcefully condemned what De Genova said (as has Columbia's president); c) I fully support their right to say these things and condemn efforts to censor their comments, and d) journalists tend to quote the sensationalistic portions of the speech and ignore equivocations.

That said, I do think the other speakers' comments are worthy of raising an eyebrow. Some assorted quotations:

"This is an administration that mistakes coercive power for consent ... and is willing to flirt with a new form of colonialism,' [Professor of Political Science Ira] Katznelson said. [Visiting Associate Professor of Sociology Yehouda Shenhav compared the war to 'Israeli act of aggression in the West Bank,' citing them as 'acts of colonialism' led by 'crude military men.'"

"Bush and his administration also took personal blows. [Professor of English and Comparative Literature Bruce] Robbins called them 'shameless liars and hypocrites.'"

"'I would be careful in promising wrath, shocking and awesome, to those who dismiss and ignore legitimate election results,' Associate Professor of Anthropology Rosalind Morris told the absent Bush. 'People might take you seriously and respond.'"

"Robbins offered a different approach to coping with the current administration. 'Lately, I have taken to sitting around fantasizing about being liberated at any moment by the European invasion,' he said. 'I figure the Europeans will realize that I live under an unelected government that has no respect for the rule of law, and that nothing short of violence can lead to regime change. Maybe they'll call their operation 'American Freedom.'"

"[Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies Hamid] Dabashi was excited by the teach-in format. 'Because there are no answers to our questions about this war, we just get angrier and angrier," Dabashi said. "But this is where the blessed thing called 'teach-in' comes in handy. Tonight, we think for ourselves. Revenge of the nerdy 'A' students against the stupid 'C' students with their stupid fingers on the trigger."

By all means, read the entire article. Views like these should certainly be publicized beyond the ivory tower.

Back to DeGenova. Let's reprint his letter to the Columbia Daily Spectator editor in its entirety, so no one can accuse me of distorting his views:

To the Editor:
Spectator, now for the second time in less than a year, has succeeded to quote me in a remarkably decontextualized and inflammatory manner. In Margaret Hunt Gram's report on the faculty teach-in against the war in Iraq (March 27, 2003), I am quoted as wishing for a million Mogadishus but with no indication whatsoever of the perspective that framed that remark. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that your Staff Editorial in the same issue, denouncing the teach-in for 'dogmatism,' situates me in particular as the premier example of an academic 'launching tirades against anything and everything American.'

In my brief presentation, I outlined a long history of U.S. invasions, wars of conquest, military occupations, and colonization in order to establish that imperialism and white supremacy have been constitutive of U.S. nation-state formation and U.S. nationalism. In that context, I stressed the necessity of repudiating all forms of U.S. patriotism. I also emphasized that the disproportionate majority of U.S. troops come from racially subordinated and working-class backgrounds and are in the military largely as a consequence of a treacherous lack of prospects for a decent life. Nonetheless, I emphasized that U.S. troops are indeed confronted with a choice--to perpetrate this war against the Iraqi people or to refuse to fight and contribute toward the defeat of the U.S. war machine.

I also affirmed that Iraqi liberation can only be effected by the Iraqi people themselves, both by resisting and defeating the U.S. invasion as well as overthrowing a regime whose brutality was long sustained by none other than the U.S. Such an anti-colonial struggle for self-determination might involve a million Mogadishus now but would ultimately have to become something more like another Vietnam. Vietnam was a stunning defeat for U.S. imperialism; as such, it was also a victory for the cause of human self-determination.

Is this a tirade against 'anything and everything American'? Far from it. First, I hasten to remind you that 'American' refers to all of the Americas, not merely to the United States, as U.S. imperial chauvinism would have it. More importantly, my rejection of U.S. nationalism is an appeal to liberate our own political imaginations such that we might usher in a radically different world in which we will not remain the prisoners of U.S. global domination.

Nicholas De Genova
March 21, 2003
The author is an assistant professor of anthropology and latina/o studies

Well, I certainly feel better now that he's contextualized his comments.

UPDATE: Another student-run publication, the Columbia Political Review has its own blog -- the Filibuster -- with more on this issue. This post quotes one of the other speakers, historian Alan Brinkley, on De Genova: "Abhorrent, immoral, a disgrace to intellectual life and to the University."

A first-hand source for all of the speakers' comments, including the repudiations of De Genova's commments, comes from Timothy Waligore at this group blog (for specific posts, go here, here, and here)
Sunday, March 30, 2003
WAS I WRONG ABOUT CANADA?: Last week I blasted the Bush administration (click here as well) for rhetorically bashing Canadians and intimating possible economic repercussions for their lack of support in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I thought that the economic threat went overboard and that the public hectoring was inappropriate.

This Globe and Mail poll strongly suggests I might have been wrong:

"Support for Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's handling of the Iraq war plunged in the past week, with opinion split virtually evenly outside Quebec, where antiwar sentiment is strongest, a new Globe and Mail/CTV poll suggests....

The poll found Canadians are sensitive to his {U.S. ambassador Paul Cellucci's] argument that Canada has turned its back on its closest friend at a time of need.

Approximately 47 per cent of respondents agreed Canada 'turned our back' on the Americans, while 51 per cent disagreed. In Quebec, only 36 per cent agreed that the decision amounted to a failure to support the U.S. at its time of need, while 51 per cent of those in other provinces agreed....

Canadians are clearly worried about the economic fallout of Mr. Chrétien's decision, despite assurances from the government that there will be none. About 61 per cent of respondents agreed that the decision will have 'serious, negative economic consequences.' Even in Quebec, where antiwar sentiment dominates, half the respondents expect to pay a price for their stand."

Was I completely wrong? No, the story makes clear that the majority of Canadians still oppose the war; this has more to do with the long tradition of Canadian-American comity. It's also unclear if Cellucci's speech had anything to do with the shift in public opinion. That said, Cellucci's speech clearly did not cause public opinion to swing in a more hostile direction.

Hmmm... I may have to consider another self-imposed punishment.

Blog Archive