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.
DREZNER GETS RESULTS ON NORTH KOREA!!: Back in January, I argued that the optimal strategy to deal with North Korea was to, "intimate to the key players the implications of DPRK proliferation (neither Russia nor China would be thrilled with the proliferation of nuclear weapons to Muslim-majority countries) and/or U.S. disengagement, and then combine some U.S. assurances of North Korean security with Chinese/Russian pressure on Pyongyang to behave better." The key to U.S. diplomacy here was to prevent North Korea's neighbors from buckpassing.

It looks increasingly like the U.S. is playing according to this script. First, there's this Jonathan Rauch story in Reason from two weeks ago that describes the U.S. strategy of ensuring that other countries in the region face up to the problem as well. Then there's today's story in the Baltimore Sun (link via Glenn Reynolds):

"For three straight days in recent weeks, something remarkable happened to the oil pipeline running through northeast China to North Korea - the oil stopped flowing, according to diplomatic sources, temporarily cutting off a vital lifeline for North Korea.
The pipeline shutdown, officially ascribed to a technical problem, followed an unusually blunt message delivered by China to its longtime ally in a high-level meeting in Beijing last month, the sources said. Stop your provocations about the possible development of nuclear weapons, China warned its neighbor, or face Chinese support for economic sanctions against the regime.

Such tough tactics show an unexpected resolve in Beijing's policy toward Pyongyang, and hint at the nervousness of Chinese leaders about North Korea's nuclear ambitions and North Korea's tensions with the United States.

With the Bush administration asking China to take a more active role, Beijing's application of pressure could convince North Korea to drop its demands for talks exclusively with the United States - a demand that Washington rejects."

UPDATE: Reuters also has the story.
THE STALIN ANALOGY: For a founding member of the Idiotarian society who writes nothing but dull apologias for those who hate the United States, Robert Fisk nevertheless has the ability to provoke.

His latest essay explicitly compares Saddam to Stalin and implicitly concludes that Operation Iraqi Freedom will turn out like Operation Barbarossa. This prompted a denunciation from David Adesnik (although Adesnik really fisks Fisk here). Which prompted rebuttals from Kevin Drum and Kieran Healy, two people who are neither idiotarians nor anti-American [That's a ringing endorsement--ed. Kevin and Kieran are both very smart. Their blogs are the feel-good hits of the year!!]. Kieran starts by citing my post on de-Baathification and then makes the following point:

"[N]ever mind about Fisk’s credibility. The real point is that the Baath party is very large, basically Stalinist in organization and has successfully held power for a long time. You don’t get to do that by populating the party apparatus with idiots. Instead, you populate it with thugs. Beyond that, the thugs are organized in a manner designed to maintain a tight grip on power.

Three consequences suggest themselves. First, in the short term, Saddam’s resistance is probably going to be much tougher than the U.S. has been hoping. Second, in the medium term, the backlash after his inevitable defeat could be horrible. Third, in the long term, Iraqi society is probably going to be living with the legacy of the Baath party for generations."

So why am I bringing all of this up? To rebut Kieran's second and third predicted consequences (I agree with his first one). It rests on whether post-Saddam Iraq will be like post-communist Russia. The answer to that is no, for three reasons:

1) The Baathists have been in power for less time. No one in Russia had a political memory of life before the communists. This is not true in Iraq. If you accept that parallel between the Baathists and Communists, the better comparison is between Iraq and the Eastern European states. The good news here is that the communist parties in those states have successfully morphed into Western-leaning parties of the left.

2) Saddam is no Stalin. Saddam Hussein might aspire to be Stalin, but so far he's failed miserably at the task. Stalin was a ruthless dictator, but he also managed to industrialize Russia and defeat Hitler's invasion of Russia. It was these achievements upon which his legacy was built.

Hussein has seen his country's per capita drop 75 percent over the last 25 years. Militarily, he scratched out a draw against Iran and then soundly lost the first Gulf War. And even the most pessimistic experts believe that the U.S. is going to win this war. Saddam's successors have no legacy of success upon which to build. Iraq's decline has lasted a quarter-century, with the effects particularly concentrated over the past 12 years. And Saddam has been in charge the whole time.

A smart Baathist would blame all of this on the American embargo, and that might succeed in defusing some of the blame. However, this same Baathist would be hard-pressed to say how Saddam either boosted the Iraqi standard of living or made Iraqis proud of their country.

3) There are no loyal Kurds or Shia. When Hitler invaded Russia, Ukrainians joined the German Army in droves despite Hitler's avowed racism against Slavs. They did this in part because they loathed Stalin for starving them during the 1930's. The one way in which Saddam is like Stalin has been his treatment of the Kurds and the Shia. They'll be glad to see the back of Saddam, and they'll also be glad to turn in his Baathist co-conspirators.

In short, Saddam may aspire to be Stalin, but post-Baathist Iraq will not be like post-communist Russia.

GENDER AND WAR: Margaret Talbot's essay in today's New York Times Magazine points out that although more women in the United States oppose the war than men, the difference is hardly overwhelming. She goes on to raise a provocative point about the feminist basis for opposition to war:

"[I]f it isn't particularly surprising that women as a group are more skeptical about the war than men, it is surprising how little the arguments of women who oppose the war as women -- rather than, say, as citizens -- have changed over the years and how ill adapted they are to an era in which female soldiers make up a substantial minority of the fighting force in Iraq. Twelve years ago, 40,000 women went to the gulf, and as anyone watching this war on TV can see, there are many more there this time. Yet women's opposition to the war is still framed much as it has always been: women are antiwar naturals because it is men who do the fighting or because, as the 19th-century feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton put it, war could never have 'emanated from the mother soul.' And the gender gap still gets more attention than do other, potentially more interesting, divisions over the war, like the generational gap some pollsters have noted. (Older adults are more likely to oppose the war in Iraq than younger ones.)....

There are plenty of reasons to be against this war, but in America today, few of those reasons have much to do with gender. We hold onto the notion that women are peculiarly adapted for the antiwar camp because it has the attractions of all cliches -- it's homey, it's simple, it contains a kernel of truth. Tapping into the frustrations of women -- with men, with their own lives -- is a way of reaching out to more people than might be attracted by a less encumbered, more policy-oriented antiwar message. And it's easier to cite women's maternal morality and Cassandra-like vision than to make hard arguments about this war in particular as opposed to war in general. But clinging to the notion of women as the world's peacemakers means lauding instinct, not thought. And it comes dangerously close to the idea that women cannot choose between just and unjust wars, nor disagree with one another on which is which."

Read the whole piece, but I have two comments. First, the generation gap might be more interesting than the gender gap, but it's much less interesting than the ethnic gap in American public opinion. While 72% of all Americans support the war with Iraq, 66% of African Americans oppose the war (OxBlog has more on the latest polls). Why is this? It may be a function of the fact that Democrats and Republicans are split over the war, and most African-Americans are Democrats. But I strongly suspect there's something else going on here, something worth investigating further.

Second, one possible explanation for why anti-war opposition may still be associated with the female gender is that organized opposition to government action requires a great deal of social capital, and women are better at organizing grass-roots elements of civil society than men. To quote Robert Putnam from Bowling Alone (p. 195): "women have traditionally invested more time than men in social connectedness. Although men belong to more organizations, women spend more time in them. Women also spend more time than men in informal conversation and other forms of schmoozing, and they participate more in religious activities." A few pages later he concludes, "Whether working full-time, part-time, or not at all outside the home, and whether by choice or necessity, women invest more time in associational life than the average man." (emphasis added)

[Cue closing music--ed.] If you'd like to know more about war and gender, consult your local library, and ask them to order Joshua Goldtein's War and Gender, which is the book to read on this topic.
ONE DOWN, ONE TO GO: As loyal readers may recall, the U.S. had two enemies in Iraq -- Saddam Hussein's regime, and Ansar al-Islam, a militant Islamic group with links to Al Qaeda based in Northern Iraq between Hussein's forces and the secular Kurdish parties. The good news is that Operation Iraqi Freedom appears to have succeeded in destroying Ansar al-Islam. Don't trust me, trust the ordinarily pessimistic New York Times:

"An American-coordinated ground offensive against the group continued today with intensive fighting in small pockets in the mountains, but officials said the military battle against Ansar al-Islam was nearly over.

It began with cruise missile strikes a week ago and escalated on Friday when about 100 United States Special Forces soldiers and 10,000 local Kurdish fighters seized a network of villages from Ansar and drove the militants from their bases to nearby caves and mountains.

The United States contends that Ansar is a terrorist group that links Al Qaeda and Baghdad, and cited the group's operations in the largely autonomous Kurdish zone of northern Iraq as one of the justifications for the war against Saddam Hussein.

The Kurds said at least 176 Ansar fighters had died. About 150 more were said to have surrendered to the Iranian authorities at the border. Pockets of resistance in the mountains could be heard returning fire, but Kurdish military officers said the outcome seemed certain.....

Ansar and its 650 or so fighters had been feared in northern Iraq since 2001, when they ambushed a column of Kurdish fighters near here. It has since deployed assassins and suicide bombers, and succeeded in infantry raids against the secular Kurdish authorities, whom it rejects as infidel rulers.

But today Ansar seemed on the verge of military insignificance. 'We are very excited,' said Dr. Barham Salih, the Kurdish region's prime minister. 'It will be over before too long.'"

UPDATE: Here are the Washington Post , Guardian, and Associated Press versions of the same story.
WAR VS. CONTAINMENT: One of the reasons I support forcible regime change in Iraq is because I thought war was the best choice from a menu of bad options. To evaluate the merits of any decision, the costs and benefits must be weighed against the feasible set of alternatives [Why stress "feasible"?--ed. Because many (but not all) antiwar protestors tend to present alternative policy options, like the complete withdrawal of any U.S. presence from the Middle East, that could only have been dreamed up in Fantasyland] Whatever misgivings I may have about the use of force, they pale besides the doubts raised by the material, political and moral costs of the next-best option -- containment.

To understand this, take a look at a short paper by Steven J. Davis, Kevin M. Murphy and Robert H. Topel, all affiliated with the University of Chicago's School of Business. They argue that the costs of containment -- measured in dollars and lives -- far outweigh the costs of war. (Link via William Sjostrom). Their key finding:

"[W]ar and forcible regime change raise Iraqi welfare by 50 percent compared to containment – an enormous gain. At first,
it may seem surprising that war can lead to a huge improvement in human welfare. But, in fact, this conclusion is hard to escape so long as regime change even partly undoes the collapse in living standards under Saddam."

Their basic analysis is pretty solid. The authors start to stretch things a bit by factoring in the expected value from the "probability of a terrorist attack of the same magnitude as 9/11 by 5 percent per year" due to Iraq's continued development of weapons of mass destruction. Factoring in such a probability is acceptable, but the authors don't factor in the increased short-term probability that a war with Iraq will inspire other terrorist groups to strike at the United States. Still, this weakness does not fundamentally undercut their argument.
Friday, March 28, 2003
WHERE'S THE LOVE, GARY?: Following InstaPundit's link, I discovered Gary Hart has just started a blog. He even has a blogroll, with links to Brad DeLong and Kevin Drum, among others. Hey, Gary, besides the fact that Brad and Kevin are more ideologically sympathetic to you than I, what gives? [Maybe it's because Kevin is not afraid to go out on a limb with war predictions--ed.]

Elsewhere on the site, there's this graf:

"Your generous support makes it possible for me to continue traveling the country, addressing college students and town hall audiences, meeting with key officials and leaders, and gauging national support for my ideas as I explore a possible national candidacy. Your donation will help fund GaryHartNews, Inc., which will manage these functions as I continue to weigh a possible presidential bid."

If this works, I might have to reconsider my pledge never to explore the possibility of -- maybe -- seeking political office.
REACHING THE TIPPING POINT: One last post -- this Chicago Tribune story suggests that de-Baathification and humanitarian aid are helping ordinary Iraqis reach the tipping point of turning against Saddam Hussein's regime:

"The process of winning Az-Zubayr is proving a lesson for coalition troops as they move toward bigger objectives such as Basra and eventually Baghdad. Surgical strikes, aimed at political leaders as well as military targets, are being combined with humanitarian aid to ease the two biggest worries for local Iraqis: that coalition forces are simply an occupying force and that they aren't serious about removing Hussein's regime.

Iraqis 'like to be on the right side, and finding out which is the right side is the hardest thing for them,' said British Maj. Andy "Jock" Docherty, an Arabic-language translator working with troops of the Black Watch Regiment trying to pacify Az-Zubayr.....

Residents said that the humanitarian assistance was much appreciated but that decisive military action--like that in Az-Zubayr--was even more urgently needed.

U.S. forces 'should bomb [the ruling party] wherever they are. Baghdad is the most important. When it's done everything will change,' said Jasser, who agreed to an interview only out of the sight of others.

He asked the question everyone in southern Iraq asks: 'Will the Iraqi regime remain or not?'

"If this coalition does not remove the regime, half of us will die," he said. 'We will be killed just for talking to you. Saddam's eyes are all over here.'

He pointed toward an area he said remained a Baath Party stronghold in town.

'The Iraqi regime kills civilians for going against it. If they even think you're against the regime they kill you,' he said."

UPDATE: Here's more evidence indicating the tipping point has been reached in Basra.
HONEY, I'M OFF TO DEBATE THE WAR AGAIN: Just when OxBlog thinks I'm on a roll, I have to go debate the war again. This time the audience will be high school students, and the other participants -- Don Wycliff, Eric Zorn, R.C. Longworth, and Marilyn Katz -- are mostly affiliated with the Chicago Tribune (Katz is the leader of Chicagoans Against War on Iraq). I'll let you know how it goes.

By the way, faithful readers might want to reread this week's posts -- a lot of them have been updated multiple times.

UPDATE: I came, I talked, I ate pizza. The high school students -- all of whom belong to Chicago Student Voices -- asked some sharp questions and were exceptionally polite about listening to alternative perspectives. Katz compared Bush to Hitler at one point, but beyond that the discourse was at a high level.

The cool part was discovering that some of the Tribune people were reading my blog. Eric Zorn even has a link to here on his web site. The best part came afterwards, when the organizer said, "You know we were worried that you would come off as flat compared with the newspaper people, but you were just as pithy." It's the blog, people!! [Is pithy a good thing for an untenured professor?--ed. Depends on the fora. When presenting an academic paper, it's the kiss of death to be thought of as glib. In front of the larger public, is it good to be glib? Damn straight!]
Thursday, March 27, 2003
WHEN HAWKS ARE WRONG: Gideon Rose makes an excellent point in Slate this week -- if Operation Iraqi Freedom proves anything, it's that there's not a chance in hell Saddam Hussein's regime could have been toppled via arming and abetting the Iraqi National Congress. Which is what neoconservatives were suggesting in recent years. Rose has some devastating quotes from Richard Perle:

"Back in 1998, Richard Perle claimed that 'It would be neither wise nor necessary for us to send ground forces into Iraq when patriotic Iraqis are willing to fight to liberate their own country.' If the United States were 'to give logistical support and military equipment to the opposition and to use airpower to defend it in the territory it controls,' the result would be 'a full-blown insurrection against Saddam.'"

Later in the piece:

"A good sense of what the hawks thought would happen can be found in an exchange that Perle had with Sen. Charles Robb at a Senate hearing in May 1998. When Perle claimed that 'once Basra changed hands' the situation on the ground and in the region would 'change dramatically,' Robb pressed him on how things would get to that point: 'Is someone going to have to physically stand on the Basra territory before this change in dynamic occurs? And if so, who is—which troops are going to accomplish that objective?' Perle replied, 'I think Iraqi opposition elements, with relatively light armament could accomplish that, provided they were backed up by air power.'"

Let me add here that this is not a distortion of Perle's views -- I heard the same narrative from him when he gave a talk in Chicago last spring.

Rose's conclusion speaks for itself:

"Because of the devastating military approach the administration has chosen, the outcome of the war is not in doubt, and victory may even (one hopes) come quite soon. But the war's progress to date is enough to put paid to the idea that Iraq was a paper tiger and that Saddam might have fallen quickly and easily to the less-than-daunting military prowess of the INC."


UPDATE: Richard Perle has resigned from the Defense Policy Board. Ordinarily I would say "Rose gets results!!" here, but I won't for two reasons. First, Perle resigned because of a lobbying imbroglio, not outside criticism. Second, in full disclosure I must say I know Gideon reasonably well and trust me, the last thing the man needs is more fulsome praise.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan links to a prominent non-hawk who also thought "this war is going to be over in a flash." If you keep reading, you'll see that not all the neocons bought into the Perle line of reasoning.
OH, CANADA: Lots of blogosphere reaction to the criticism of Paul Cellucci's criticism of Canada. Dan Simon argues that I'm reacting to the Globe and Mail slant of the story, and point to this National Post version of events. Like Kevin Drum, I'm unconvinced. The Post story says at one point: "The public chiding by Mr. Cellucci marks a new low in the tortuous history of U.S.-Canada relations, which have been strained since Mr. Bush took office in 2001." This is the conservative paper, mind you.

Here's the full text of Cellucci's speech (link via Alec Saunders). It's clear that a message was trying to be sent, although it appears that Cellucci might have exacerbated the situation with the off-the-cuff comments he made after the speech.

Chris Lawrence and Jacob Levy have good roundups of other reactions.

Megan McArdle has some thoughts on Canadian-American trade, and this Chicago Tribune piece does a good job of providing detail about the mechanics of cross-border flows.

The one thing that gives me pause about what I said is reading Naomi Klein. After reading her turgid, simple-minded brand of globaloney, I felt this strange urge to annex the Atlantic provinces.
A SCHOLAR AND A GENTLEMAN: When I was a graduate student at Stanford, I was fortunate enough to hear Vaclav Havel come and give an address. Afterwards, my friends and I speculated on whether there was any contemporary American that could equal Havel’s political and intellectual prowess. Racking our brains, we came up with only one possibility: Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

So it's a tragedy to hear that Moynihan died yesterday. The war will probably obscure the plaudits this man deserves. Mickey Kaus provides a lovely elegy (he has links to other obits as well), without being afraid to point out when Moynihan was wrong. Other online takes include Patrick Belton, William Kristol, and David Frum,

My take? Moynihan was the rare social scientist who could move the national debate – though not always in the way he wished. For every mistake that he made – welfare reform – he was undeniably right about something even bigger – like, in 1979, predicting the demise of communism by 1990.

George Will also devotes today's column to Moynihan. It contains this priceless nugget:

"In his first campaign, in 1976, Moynihan's opponent was the incumbent, James Buckley, who playfully referred to 'Professor Moynihan' from Harvard. Moynihan exclaimed with mock indignation, 'The mudslinging has begun!'"

Rest in peace, Senator Moynihan: you knew your correlations from your causations.
WHO AND WHY WE'RE FIGHTING: You want to know why Saddam Hussein's regime is worth eliminating? Here's one reason:

"The aftermath of the firefight was a tableau of twisted Iraqi corpses, cans of unopened food and the dirty mattresses where they had spent their final hours.

But the Iraqi private with a bullet wound in the back of his head suggested something particularly grim. Up and down the 200-mile stretch of desert where the American and British forces have advanced, one Iraqi prisoner after another has told a similar tale: that many Iraqi soldiers were fighting at gunpoint, threatened with death by loyalists of Saddam Hussein.

Here, according to American doctors and Iraqi prisoners, appeared to be the confirmation. The wounded Iraqi, whose life was ebbing away outside an American field hospital, had been shot during a firefight Tuesday night with American troops. It was a small-caliber bullet, most likely from a pistol, fired at close range. Iraqi prisoners taken after the battle said their officers had been firing at them, pushing them into battle.

'The officers threatened to shoot us unless we fought,' said a wounded Iraqi from his bed in the American field hospital here. 'They took out their guns and pointed them and told us to fight.'"

More evidence from Basra:

"Air Marshall Brian Burridge, the top British commander in the Gulf, also reported Thursday that Iraqis loyal to Saddam Hussein were forcing Iraqi conscripts and regular army troops into combat near Basra with the threat of executing them or their families.

British forces destroyed 14 Iraqi tanks that tried to break out of the southern city of Basra on Thursday morning, and one official said the tanks were manned by Iraqi soldiers whose families were threatened.

'They are being forced to fight by these militia. They are going into, apparently, people's homes, forcing the men to drive these vehicles to try and lead the escape out of Basra,' said Group Capt. Al Lockwood. 'They are obviously coercing them into this action, whereas in fact we would have wished them to surrender.'"

Not repelled yet? Consider that the Basra story starts with this piece of information:

"Iraqi paramilitary forces are seizing children and threatening Iraqi men with execution if they don't fight for the regime, U.S. and British officials said Thursday.

The U.S. commanders around the south-central city of Najaf reported the development to Gen. Tommy Franks, who is commanding forces in the Gulf, said U.S. Central Command spokesman Jim Wilkinson."

One piece of good news -- what this means for Iraq's command and control:

"Lockwood said the most recent behavior by the Iraqis showed the center no longer was holding.

'The enemy's options are now limited. They don't know what to do and they're guessing. It shows the command and control exercised by Baghdad has broken down. It's a suicidal approach which is irrational with no military logic to it. Military cohesion is sadly lacking.'"

UPDATE: Here's another story on this topic.
WHY FORMAL ALLIANCES MATTER: Jacob Levy's latest "Chicago School" piece in TNR -- a meditation on why Australia and Poland are actually sending troops to Iraq -- is now up. Here are his footnotes and bibliography.

Jacob's co-conspirator, Eugene Volokh, reports on one possible explanation for France and Germany's resistance to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
THE QUESTIONABLE PERFIDY OF THE EUROPEAN UNION: Michael Ledeen is arguing in a New York Sun front-pager that the reason Turkey failed to permit U.S. troops to stage operations on its territory has nothing to do with the Bush administration's diplomacy: "contrary to the conventional wisdom, the vote was not an Islamic protest against the American-led coalition, but an act of anti-American intimidation by France and Germany." He goes on to say:

"The French and German governments informed the Turkish opposition parties that if they voted to help the Coalition war effort, Turkey would be locked out of Europe for a generation. As one Turkish leader put it, 'there were no promises, only threats.'

One can describe this behavior on the part of our erstwhile Old Europe allies only as a deliberate act of sabotage against America in time of war."

Let's assume for the moment that Ledeen is correct about France and Germany using the power of the European Union to influence Turkey's decision-making (Josh Marshall believes Turkish domestic politics played a significant role in the decision -- and I agree that multiple causality is at work here. UPDATE: both the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune provide postmortems that blame both U.S. diplomatic blunders and Turkish misperceptions in equal measure. European pressure is not mentioned in either piece). It would certainly be correct to scold the relevant EU members for acting in such an obstructionist fashion.

However, Ledeen should also acknowledge that the EU also just did us a huge diplomatic favor -- convincing Turkey not to send troops into Kurdish Iraq -- by using the identical coercive tactic that Ledeen deplores.

Over the past week, EU members have jointly and individually warned Turkey not to send troops into Iraq. Romano Prodi, EU Commission President, echoed these warnings, saying that such a move would be "a very serious act." An EU spokesman reiterated this warning, stating, "Any action by a neighbour that could destabilise the situation would be most unwelcome.”

The threat worked. Turkey responded to the EU by saying it did not plan any large-scale incursion and had no desire to occupy the Northern part of Iraq.

Memo to Ledeen: if you're going to bash the EU -- and there plenty of reasons to bash it -- then acknowledge its occasion utility as well.

[Hey, why are you praising EU attempts to coerce Turkey but yesterday you bashed U.S. efforts to coerce Canada?--ed. The two situations are different. Turkey desperately wants to join the EU club. Canada is already a member of NAFTA. Furthermore, what Turkey's contemplated action could have had very deleterious effects on Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Canada-bashing was over penny ante dust-ups. However, it's worth noting that Franco-German bullying has alienated many of their natural allies in the region as well.]

UPDATE: I take Glenn Reynolds' point about the distinction between "Old Europe" and the European Union. However, the only reason the EU was useful in constraining Turkey's operations in Iraq was the consensus among Great Britain, France and Germany on this issue. What holds for the EU holds for the individual countries as well -- even France.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I've received several e-mails suggesting, to quote one of them (Greg D.), "the only reason the EU needed to bully the Turks to NOT send troops into Iraq is because they FIRST bullied them to keep the US troops out."

Sorry, that dog won't hunt. Recall that earlier this month the U.S. was offering a lot of sweeteners to Turkey in return for that permission to open up a second front -- and one of them was giving the Turks a much freer reign in the Kurdish part of Iraq. If you're Kurdish, you should thank the EU twice over -- for preventing the U.S. from acquiescing to Turkey's wishes on the matter in return for military support, and for preventing the Turks from taking matters into their own hands.
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
IT'S ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE: Mickey Kaus, Glenn Reynolds, and Josh Marshall linked to separate posts on this humble blog today.

Let's face it -- I could write the modern-day equivalent of the Gettysburg Address over the next few weeks, and I'm not going to match my traffic count for today.

UPDATE: In related news, I've evolved from a slimy mollusk to a slithering reptile. Hmmmm..... slithering.
DUMB-ASS DIPLOMACY, EH?: Henry Farrell provides a link to this Globe and Mail story about U.S. ambassador Paul Cellucci's rebuke of Canada. The first few grafs:

"Washington's ambassador to Canada has delivered the sternest public rebuke by a U.S. representative since the Trudeau era, saying Americans are upset at Canada's refusal to join the war in Iraq and hinting there could be economic fallout.

At a breakfast speech yesterday to the Economic Club of Toronto, U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci said 'there is a lot of disappointment in Washington and a lot of people are upset' about Canada's refusal to join the United States in its efforts to depose Iraqi President Saddam Hussein."

Now, to be fair to Cellucci, not until paragraph 20 does the story acknowledge that, "Mr. Cellucci took great pains to preface his admonition with a discussion of the close ties that have marked the relationship between Canada and the United States. On many issues, including the free flow of border traffic, that relationship must remain strong, he said."

However, there's something to the way the reporter frames the piece in these grafs:

"Mr. Cellucci said the relationship between the two countries will endure in the long term, but 'there may be short-term strains here.'

Asked what those strains would be, Mr. Cellucci replied, 'You'll have to wait and see.' But he cryptically added it is his government's position that 'security will trump trade,' implying possible implications for cross-border traffic."

Where to begin? This tactic is stupid on a whole variety of levels. Let's single out the big ones:

1) Don't make empty threats. Let's assume for the moment that Cellucci had a valid point. In diplomacy, never make a public threat -- even a vague one -- unless there's a possibility it could be carried out. There is simply no way in hell that the U.S. government would take any economic retaliation against Canada that violated the NAFTA treaty. The story quotes one Canadian official stating, "Even if we had conscripted 50,000 troops and sent them to fight in Iraq we would not be one bit further ahead on the softwood lumber file... And we would not be one bit further behind either."

Now, Cellucci -- and by extension the U.S. government -- looks inept for making an empty threat.

2) Don't bother criticizing actions beyond the scope of the federal government. After his speech, Cellucci cited specific examples of Canadian anti-Americanism -- the booing of the U.S. national anthem at a Canadiens game in Montreal, A Liberal MP calling Americans "bastards," etc.

Are these actions disturbing? Yes. Should they prompt ambassadorial criticism? No.

First, one can hardly blame the Chrétien government for these displays. Maybe you could argue that the government has been permissive in not criticizing Liberal party officials who make dumb-ass statements, but that's a complaint to register privately, not publicly. Second, defending one's country against these kinds of attacks should never be linked with threats of retaliation, since it defeats the purpose of the criticism. Third, the actions Cellucci cited are so over the top that they have prompted their own backlash. Public reprimands should be saved for more serious challenges to bilateral relations.

3) Don't make the Iraq question a make-or-break one for allies. The Bush administration's "with us or against us" approach is the correct one in dealing with the war on terrorism. But no one who supports the current action against Iraq should be so blind as to believe that there are no valid grounds on which to stake out an opposing point of view. The best diplomacy the Bush administration could conduct for the current situation is to politely agree to disagree with our allies. Stress that on the big issues, we share a common social purpose with our allies, and that disputes like this will hopefully be few and far between. This is how countries stay allies even when they don't always see eye to eye.

Cellucci's speech, combined with other examples of U.S. pressure applied against close allies such as Mexico or Turkey, suggests that the Bush administration is not following this diplomatic approach. They're applying the same "with us or against us" strategy for Iraq as well. Now, whatever the size of our coalition, there are significant countries that disagree with us on Iraq but wish to cooperate with us on other affairs of state. Beyond Canada, I'd include Germany, Russia, China, India, and most of the Western hemisphere on this list. Tactics like Cellucci's speech will backfire with these countries.

Just to be clear -- I have no love for the Chrétien government, and Cellucci is correct to say that a lot of Americans are upset at Canadian displays of anti-Americanism. But our diplomats are making empty threats and copying Donald Rumsfeld's technique of publicly disparaging close allies. This diplomatic injury is entirely self-inflicted.

This kind of aggravation we don't need.

UPDATE: The Globe and Mail's follow-up story makes it clear that the White House vetted Cellucci's speech:

"Despite Liberal government assurances that the Bush administration had accepted the Canadian decision gracefully, U.S. officials say Mr. Bush and his advisers are furious, not only with the decision to stay out of the battle but also with what they say is the anti-American rhetoric that Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has tolerated.

Sources said national security adviser Condoleezza Rice consulted Mr. Cellucci about the message he was to deliver at a breakfast speech on Tuesday in Toronto.

'This came right from the top,' one U.S. official said.

When Mr. Chrétien announced the Canadian position, Liberal ministers had assured the Bush team that, while Canada would not participate in the war, it also would not criticize the U.S. and British effort in Iraq.

However, American officials noted that Mr. Chrétien quickly characterized the war as 'unjustified' and then failed to condemn Natural Resources Minister Herb Dhaliwal, who called Mr. Bush a 'failed statesman.'"

It would have been better if Cellucci had only cited these specific examples, and had omitted the vague and empty threat of retaliation.
MORE ON DEBAATHIFICATION AND URBAN COMBAT: I argued a few days ago that Baathist resistance during the war makes postwar de-Baathification a much easier task. At the same time, the resulting spectre of more urban combat was worrying.

After reading this London Times piece, I feel on much firmer ground on de-Baathification, and more sanguine that urban warfare will not be as devastating as feared. Here are the money quotes from the commander of British forces in Iraq, Air Marshal Brian Burridge:

"'What's going on there is there are these unconventional forces, the people who really have gripped the people of Iraq in fear, the Saddam Fedayin, for example, the Baath party militia and the special security operation, and these are bunches of determined men who will fight hard because they have no future in Iraq and it is they that we have to get at.

We have always known we would have to get at them and we did that last night in Zubayr.

We went to their headquarters and engaged in contact with them, killed a number of them and made it quite clear that we are up for this and you are going to have a very hard time.

'A column of armour did try to come out of Basra last night and 20 of them won't be going back because they had the attention of our artillery.'

But he said that a military victory would take time, arguing that it was "slightly early days" to be expecting a popular uprising against Saddam.

'There is a reason for that, in 1991, when Basra was the subject of a major uprising, the way in which it was dealt with by the regime has left a deep memory.

Give it some time.'"

UPDATE: Greg Djerejian provides an alternative suggestion on the best course for de-Baathification.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kanan Makiya, who's keeping a war diary for The New Republic, makes some excellent points on how de-Baathification will need to proceed. Bravo to TNR Online for the having the good sense to ask Makiya and Gregg Easterbrook to file daily dispatches on the conflict. Clearly Noam Scheiber, TNR's online editor, is going places [That's enough sucking up for now--ed.]
COMPARE AND CONTRAST: This Financial Times op-ed (link via Brad DeLong) suggests that we do not have sufficient armor and infantry for the upcoming fight. This UPI report (link via Andrew Sullivan) explains the Pentagon's rationale behind their force deployment.

Who's right? We simply don't know, because our information about the battlefield is pretty piss-poor right now. Part of this is purposeful, as this Ha'aretz piece (link via Glenn Reynolds) points out with a great quote from military historian Martin van Creveld:

"Everyone is lying about everything all the time, and it is difficult to say what is happening. I've stopped listening. All the pictures shown on TV are color pieces which have no significance."

"There is a lot of disinformation.... Every word that is spoken is suspect."

Tuesday, March 25, 2003
DEBATING THE WAR: I spent this evening debating the merits of Operation Iraqi Freedom at Loyola's medical school in front of about 100 students and doctors. I was debating Doug Cassel, who's affiliated with Northwestern's law school. You can get a sense of his take on the issue from this Chicago Tribune op-ed he wrote a few days ago. He was honest in saying that he preferred to see Saddam Hussein remain in power rather than fight a war of liberation, and I was honest enough to disagree. It was a healthy exchange of views.

This was my first public debate. I'll admit, when I walked into the room and noticed that the first people I saw either had big "NO WAR" buttons on their lapels or were wearing chadors, I felt some trepidation. And I did get one question from a faculty member that asked how I could trust an administration that had passed such a massive tax cut and rambled on from there. However, although the audience was probably 80/20 opposed to war, the students were both inquisitive and polite -- I wound up staying there for an hour after the debate ended in order to answer all the questions I could.

I'll be doing more of these in the future. They do absolutely nothing for my tenure chances, but like blogging, they provide me a way to translate my academic pursuits to a wider audience.

WHEN DICTATORS EXPLOIT THE WAR: Mickey Kaus correctly notes that a lot of news stories will fade away quicker than they should as war news buries them. However, there's another effect that's worth mentioning -- how foreign leaders will exploit the current situation to take actions that would otherwise capture media attention. This is a more sinister problem than document dumps, because of the effect on human rights.

Consider: if you were a dictator, and the United States was preoccupied with prosecuting a war in a distant land, wouldn't you exploit the situation by cracking down on dissent? Even if such activities garner press attention, the half-life of the story is shorter, and an American response is less likely because of the inability to get the foreign policy principals to focus on anything other than the war.

Unfortunately, dictators in four continents have recognized this window of opportunity:

Cuban authorities arrested a leading independent journalist and a democracy activist, and then proceeded to round up an additional 65 dissidents, according to the Washington Post .

In response to an opposition strike, Robert Mugabe's government in Zimbabwe has arrested more than 400 followers of the Movement for Democratic Change, according to the BBC.

In Uzbekistan, the government of Islam Karimov has initiated a crackdown of independent media, beating and torturing several independent journalists.

Belarus and Myanmar are also exploiting the situation.

These crackdowns are part of the costs of war [C'mon, how do you know that these actions wouldn't have taken place anyway?--ed. They very well might have, but the various governments would have had to respond to press inquiries and U.S. policy responses. If nothing else, the war has lowered the costs for them to act]. Hopefully they will be reversed or lessened when Operation Iraqi Freedom winds down.

I'm sure the Oxford Democracy Forum will be on the case.

UPDATE: Encouraged by the Kausfiles link, I looked to see if other dictators are exploiting the current situation. Fortunately, there are not a lot of out-and-out dictators in the world anymore, and I couldn't find any more cases to cite. Here's one story about Yemeni government efforts to harass opposition leaders, but calling this a "crackdown" seems excessive.

Intriguingly, there is a more positive trend to report -- the moderation of civil conflicts. In Nepal, Nigeria, and Congo have all seen reductions in civil strife over the last week (Colombia is an exception). This is probably unrelated to the war, but nevertheless worthy of note.

Finally, while our gaze is away from Iraq, Eurasianet has an incisive analysis of the domestic political landscape in Iran following February parliamentary elections. Intriguingly, most of Iran's political cliques tacitly support the invasion of Iraq, albeit for different reasons.
IN OTHER NEWS: The Financial Times reports on the situation in Afghanistan, where reaction to the Iraq war is muted. Also, Wim Duisenberg might be asked to stay on as president of the European Central Bank because of.... are you ready for this... French corruption!!

Also, this report from last Friday has a good discussion of how France and Germany could exploit the war to back out of agreements on EU macroeconomic policy.
AL-JAZEERA IN ENGLISH: Western reaction to the Al-Jazeera network has been all over the map, with some praising it as a step towards the liberalization of information flows in the Middle East, while others denounce it as anti-Semitic and anti-American Click here for a debate on the Al-Jazeera's content, and here for a cache of stories about the network.

Soon, English speakers will be able to decide for themselves. Al-Jazeera has opened up an English language web site. However, the site is currently under siege due to the heavy traffic;I haven't been able to access it despite repeated tries. [UPDATE: Apparently hackers are attacking the site]

They're suffering from other birthing pains. According to this report,

"Articles on the English-language site's first day were sure to antagonize American readers. One feature looked at the influence of the Israeli lobby in Washington. Another, headlined "Coalition of the Willing Has Become a Joke," made light of the "obscure" countries in the U.S.-led coalition. Another, titled "Misinformation Basra," cast doubt on American military assertions about its military success in the southern Iraqi city....

Managing Editor Joanne Tucker, a former BBC journalist who holds dual U.S.-British citizenship and speaks Arabic, has promised Western-style standards of journalism. She said she stands by all the articles but conceded that the site has to do more to clarify what is news and what is opinion."

Of course, you could say that about the BBC as well -- and Andrew Sullivan has.
I LIKE THE COMPANY I KEEP: I argued yesterday that the campaign in Iraq is proceeding nicely, despite editorials and reports to the contrary.

If you don't believe me, however, then check out Ralph Peters, David Warren, Ze'ev Schiff, or John Keegan. Keegan and Schiff raise trenchant concerns about the stretching out of U.S. forces, but the overall picture is still one of repeated successes on the battlefield.
Monday, March 24, 2003
ELSEWHERE IN THE BLOGOSPHERE: Oxblog has a lot of good stuff up, and Jacob Levy is posting again at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Thomas Friedman and Andrew Sullivan are having a pretty interesting exchange about multilateralism and the war over at Andrew's blog. Here's the latest missive from Friedman. While he is clearly missing the imprantur of UN approval, he raises an cogent point about multilateral nation-building:

"Gulf War II is different from Gulf War I. Gulf War I was about liberating Kuwait. It was not about nation-building. And it is much easier for America to lead a coalition whose only task was winning a war. Gulf War II is about both winning a war and nation-building. I wish we had more allies for winning the war. I wish we had many more allies for paying for the war afterwards. But, I realize, you cannot do nation-building by committee, especially in Iraq. It will require a firm hand from the top. Or, to put it another way, maybe you can do it by committee in tiny Bosnia and Kosovo, but not in Iraq. Given the problems we had with France at the U.N., I cannot imagine trying to nation-build in Iraq with them. All the factions inside would try to play off the different big powers."

Finally, I am most definitely taking Kieran Healy's advice on blogging about the war.

WHY THE BAATHIST RESISTANCE MAY BE A GOOD THING: One piece of evidence cited as proof that Operation Iraqi Freedom is running into roadblocks is that forces other than the Republican Guard are resisting coalition troops. Two AP reports -- here and here -- stress the role of the Baathist party militia in resisting the U.S. military. Clearly, these forces could lead to more urban combat, which is something no one wants.

Now, this could certainly drag out the war. Perversely, in could make the peace much easier to win.

Here's the logic: the Baath Party has ruled Iraq for about thirty-five years. In both its organization and tactics, it bears more than a passing resemblance to Stalinist parties. David Brooks, writing back in November 2002, stresses this point:

"The Arab Socialist Baath party, or ABSP, developed internal security and intelligence networks and even theoretical journals to develop party dogma. From the first, party statements were marked by a highly charged ideological style, which separated the world into the party of pure good (the Baathists themselves) and the party of pure evil (just about everyone else). As Tariq Aziz, a longtime party leader, noted in the 1980s, 'The ABSP is not a conventional political organization, but is composed of cells of valiant revolutionaries. . . . They are experts in secret organization. They are organizers of demonstrations, strikes, and armed revolutions. . . . They are the knights of the struggle.'

Once in power, the party behaved, in some respects, as Leninist parties do everywhere. It built a parallel party structure on top of the normal government bureaucracy to enforce loyalty and conformity. It established its own army, in addition to the regular Iraqi army, and its own intelligence service, which at first was given the otherworldly name the Apparatus of Yearnings. Ambitious young people were compelled to join the party if they hoped to rise, or even study abroad. Leaving the Baath party to join another political group remains in Iraq a crime punishable by death." (emphasis added).

Think that Brooks is some uninformed Westerner? Click here for Kanan Makiya's more pungent version of the same point.

So, a crucial part of postwar reconstruction in Iraq will be the de-Baathification of the country. Unless Baath activists are identified and purged from positions of power, ordinary Iraqis will fear speaking their minds. However, such purges are notoriously difficult to implement. Occupying forces often lack either the stomach or the energy to take the necessary actions. Because the party is embedded into Iraqi society, even the best efforts to remove Baath loyalists will be incomplete.

However, the Baathists can facilitate this task by resisting oncoming U.S. forces with force of arms. Instead of laboring to identify party loyalists after the war is over, these people are self-identifying during the combat phase, making it more likely they will be killed or treated as prisoners of war. [Yeah, but why are they doing this?--ed. The Baathists probably know they're not well-loved by either the Americans or the Iraqis they've subjugated. Even if it might be difficult to root all of them out during the postwar reconstruction phase, each individual Baathist can't like his/her odds of escaping unharmed]

The fewer Baathists that are around after the war is over, the easier it will be to rebuild Iraqi society in a manner compatible with the principles of liberal democracy. And the more that Baathist militias and party leaders resist during the war, the fewer Baathists there will be after the war.

Again, this benefit must clearly be weighed against the significant cost of more urban warfare. However, it is a clear and tangible benefit.
IS THIS GOING TO BE A QUICK VICTORY? DEFINE "QUICK": In the wake of reports of heavy fighting at Nasiriya, the repulse of Apache helicopters in Central Iraq, and continued skirmishes in Umm Qasr, I'm expecting a wave of "quagmire" stories combined with harangues of "inflated expectations" of success.

Let's bear something in mind -- this is day five of the conflict. Coalition forces are within a hundred miles of Baghdad. (UPDATE: Make that fifty miles). The fiercest battle to date is responsible for less than 20 American fatalities -- certainly awful to the families of those killed, but not an overwhelming number. Yes, there will be losses on the front due to actual combat, and casualties in the rear due to pockets of resistance. But any attempt to paint the current U.S. campaign as stalling out because they've encountered actual resistance is ridiculous. To quote Josh Marshall on this: "what's happened so far seems well within the range of what they [US military planners] considered expected outcomes. It's only... the best case scenario does not so far seem to be materializing."

It took two months to defeat the Taliban, a much weaker force than the Republican Guard. If it takes less time than that to defeat regular military forces in Iraq, it will be a smashing -- and astonishingly quick -- victory.

P.S. Mickey Kaus makes an excellent point on how some media recognize this fact, while others don't.

P.P.S. Virginia Postrel correctly points out that the American people have more sober expectations of this conflict than many pundits. No one should be surprised by what's taken place so far. Furthermore, the Washington Post has an excellent piece explaining why support will remain robust even if casualties mount.
RESPONDING TO CALPUNDIT: Kevin Drum requests that someone to the right of him respond to John S. Herrington's LA Times op-ed on substituting Iraq's reserves for our own Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a way of destroying OPEC's monopoly power over oil.

OK, I'll provide the realpolitik response to Herington's rambling and incoherent op-ed:

First, even Herrington should have acknowledged that OPEC has largely been a bust as a monopoly cartel. Their oil embargoes of the 70's contributed to the development of the North Sea oil fields. The collapse of the Soviet Union has introduced new exporters -- Russia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan -- that are outside OPEC's domain. OPEC production quotas are honored only in the breach. In Controlling for inflation, the price of oil is far lower now than it was during the seventies. There's simply no bogeyman to destroy here.

Second, why on earth would a smart realist ditch the material resources located in one's own country in favor of relying on a source that's 6,000 miles away? That's a logistical nightmare.

Third, the political externalities created by such a drastic drop in the price of oil would be tremendous. It would certainly lead to instability among Iraq's neighbors, which would likely complicate efforts to rebuild Iraq, at the very least. Do we really need addition aggravation on that score?
OSCAR POSTMORTEM: In homage to Larry King's old USA Today column:

Steve Martin leered a bit too much for my tastes but had some great lines...Jennifer Connelly in a pants suit is just wrong.... For my money, Susan Sarandon hit just the right protest note with her peace sign -- simple, understated and comprehensible... Thank you, Michael Moore, for providing the best evidence for the "useful idiot" thesis, managing to go sufficiently overboard in his comments to prompt booing from the audience and a great zinger from Martin... I like a year when there are lots of upsets, and all of the actor winners were first-time recipients... Good for Adrian Brody -- I damn well would have smooched Halle Berry in the same situation... [Yeah, that'll happen--ed.]
Sunday, March 23, 2003
SOME OSCAR PREDICTIONS -- WITH MORE LINKS TO SALMA HAYEK!!: As frequent readers know, I supported the decision to go to war with Iraq now rather than a permit an interminable delay in the hopes of acquiring more multilateral support. However, if someone had told me a week ago that a delay of the war was the best way to ensure that Salma Hayek, Nicole Kidman, and Diane Lane would be wearing sexy, full-length gowns, then maybe I would have switched my position on the war. Given the cancellation of the red carpet pre-game and the predicted somber tone of the ceremonies, I'll admit to being upset. What's the point of an Oscar ceremony if Gwyneth Paltrow isn't dressed to the nines? If Halle Berry isn't dressed up, that's just wrong. Do you think our troops in the field want to see Halle Berry in a pants suit?

OK, I think I got that out of my system.

[Isn't this a pretty sexist rant?--ed. Hey, I fully supprt equal opportunity ogling. If women (or men) want to covet Will Smith, Tom Cruise, or Daniel Day-Lewis, I say go for it. However, the change in tone of the Oscar ceremony disproportionately affects what the women will wear if ballroom gowns are disdained. What about the likelihood of anti-war sentiments voiced by the winners?--ed. I'm more sanguine about that. It's their right and privilege, and besides, I have no doubt that Michael Moore will fall into the "useful idiot" category by the end of the evening.]

Anyway, here are my predictions, preferences, and explanations for the big awards this evening:

Will win -- Chicago
Should win -- Monsoon Wedding

I really liked Chicago, but it bugs me that the best musical of the year was not even nominated. The music in Monsoon Wedding was just as good, the plot was more substantive, the ending more satisfying, and the overarching themes were thought-provoking. It deserved both the nomination and victory.

Will win -- Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York
Should win -- Hugh Grant, About a Boy

Simple rule -- comedic acting is more difficult than dramatic acting. Also, great acting performances require that a character change (this is why I've always believed that Dustin Hoffman robbed Tom Cruise of the Best Actor Oscar for Rain Main). Grant wins on both counts.

Will win -- Julianne Moore, Far From Heaven
Should win -- tie, Moore and Nicole Kidman, The Hours

I'm predicting an upset here -- I think Kidman and Renee Zellweger will split the "starlet" vote. And Moore is certainly worthy. But you can't watch Kidman's performance and think it was just some prosthetic nose that explains her transformation. It's the best -- and subtlest -- portrayal of mental illness I've ever seen.

Will win -- Rob Marshall, Chicago
Should win -- Mira Nair, Monsoon Wedding

See comments under Best Picture.

Will win -- Chris Cooper, Adaptation
Should win -- Tie, Dennis Quaid, Far From Heaven, and Cedric the Entertainer, Barbershop

I will admit that I haven't seen Adaptation yet, but Quaid was fearless in portraying not just a closeted homosexual, but portraying him simultaneously in both a sympathetic and unsympathetic light. Cedric, on the other hand, was just really funny, plus he gave the most moving speech of the entire movie.

Will win -- Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago
Should win -- Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago

Everyone is praising Zeta-Jones' solo numbers in Chicago, but what sold me was what she did in "Cell Block Tango." At the end of that number, my jaw was open and I was barely breathing. It was that good, and she was that spellbinding in it.

Will win -- Pedro Almodovar, Talk to Her
Should win -- Todd Haynes, Far From Heaven

Both are good -- this is just a matter of taste.

Will win -- David Hare, The Hours
Should win -- Peter Hedges, Chris Weitz, and Paul Weitz, About a Boy

Again, I thought both were excellent, but Hedges and the Weitz brothers actually improved on their source material, which never happens in movies, unless it's a John Grisham book, in which case the only direction to go is up.
SOME POLITICAL SCIENCE CORRECTIONS: Max Boot's essay on U.S. foreign policy in the Washington Post, (to which Glenn Reynolds links) contains one important terminological error, and one important conceptual error. The key passage:

"Political scientists warn of 'bandwagoning' against a hegemon, and they might see some evidence of this in the U.N. debate, where France, Russia and China ganged up on the United States. But only one of these nations -- China -- is making an effort to challenge U.S. power, and then only in one region. France and Russia, along with the rest of Europe, are doing little or nothing to build up their military capabilities. If they were serious about taking on America, they would be forming a military alliance against us. No one imagines this will happen.

Why not? Because for all their griping about the 'hyperpower,' our fair-weather friends realize that America is not Napoleonic France or Nazi Germany. We don't seek to subjugate other states. We're using our power to promote a liberal international system that benefits all democracies." (my emphasis)

OK, the terminological error is simple to clear up. "Bandwagoning" refers to when states align themselves with a potential hegemon in the hope of receiving greater benefits from cooperation. "Balancing" refers to when states align themselves against a potential hegemon because they fear being subjugated by the most powerful state. Boot uses "bandwagoning," but he means "balancing." For the best discussion I know about why states choose to balance or bandwagon (usually the former), check out Stephen Walt's The Origin of Alliances.

The conceptual error Boot makes is his assumption that the only action that matters in the world is military balancing. This is way too simplistic. There are at least two other ways in which the middle-rank powers can make life difficult for the United States.

The first is that, through their fervent opposition to U.S. policies, they can erode our soft power. The more frequently that we can persuade other countries that their interests match our interests, the less frequently we need to apply more coercive techniques. The more we need to rely on coercion, the costlier it is to advance our national interests.

The second way middle rank powers can make life difficult is not through hard military balancing, but what my colleague Robert Pape describes as "soft balancing." He explains this concept in today's Boston Globe. It serves as a nice counterweight to Boot. The key lines:

"Today's conventional wisdom holds that France, Germany, Russia, China, and important regional states may be grumbling now, but they will quickly mend fences once the war ends with a decisive US victory. But the conventional wisdom is likely to be wrong.

International relations specialists speak of ''hard balancing'' when countries form military alliances to curb a strong nation. But America's rivals today, with no hope of matching our military power, are pursuing their interests by other means, and they will continue to do so. Unless the United States radically changes course, the use of international institutions, economic leverage, and diplomatic maneuvering to frustrate American intentions will only grow.

In the future, for example, Europeans may threaten our economy by paying for paying for oil in Euros rather than dollars, and they may threaten our security by permitting the construction of nuclear reactors in Iran and elsewhere. The era of 'soft balancing' has begun."

Boot's analysis doesn't take "soft balancing" into account. That doesn't mean Pape is necessarily right and Boot is necessarily wrong. Soft balancing is less significant than hard balancing. And Pape's "soft balancing" has its own countertrend -- it encourages the lesser powers that border France, Germany, Russia, and China to bandwagon with the U.S. These states are more comfortable with a distant hegemon with an honorable history of restraint than a local hegemon with a persistent history of expansionism. This is why, on the whole, governments in the Anglosphere, Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Pacific Rim are supporting the U.S.

However, the situation is clearly more nuanced than Boot thinks.

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