Monday, May 19, 2003
THE ARAB MEDIA WAKES UP: Salon has a fascinating interview with Khaled Al-Maeena, editor in chief of Arab News, about the independent Arab media's reaction to the fall of Saddam Hussein and the spate of Al Qaeda bombings in the region. The money quote:

we are free to criticize the governments and all, but for a long time people were afraid to take on the extremists. But in the last two years, and especially after September 11, people sort of began parrying with them, if you know what I mean. Now I think there will be people who will go in for the knockout punch.

Frankly speaking, we are tired of them. If you want me to speak boldly, I'm tired of obscure ranters, I'm tired of people who have very little knowledge of religion trying to force down my throat teachings that do not subscribe to the views of Islam.

Read the whole thing.

THE BUSH CYCLE: This administration has a peculiar pathology. It focuses like a laser beam on a key priority for several months, ignoring any criticism from outsiders. It then achieves its priority, earning plaudits for gutsiness and discipline. Immediately afterwards, however, drift sets in, unexpected complications arise, events beyond the Bush team's control create new obstacles to policy implementation, and things appear to fall apart.

The policy drift has occurred four times in this administration -- after the passage of the 2001 tax cut, after the fall of the Taliban, after the 2002 mid-year election, and, alas, after the victory in Iraq.

What's going wrong? There's the wave of Al Qaeda attacks, which the FBI now warns could hit American soil. Click here and here for the latest problems with postwar Iraq. And here's Jacob Levy on the stupidity of a temporary tax cut on dividends. And, as in other down cycles, key staffers are announcing their departure.

A troubling hypothesis -- is it possible that the message discipline so valued by the Bushies also leads to the suppression of policy adaptability?

[WARNING: The argument presented in this post is purely inductive].

UPDATE: Kevin Drum and Jay Fitzgerald suggest an alternative hypothesis with regard to Iraq -- Bush just doesn't care about the people of Iraq. That would certainly be consistent my TNR piece about Bush using the neocons rather than vice versa. The problem is, I don't buy Kevin's assertion that "[Bush] thinks that committing lots of money and lots of troops over a long period is an electoral loser, so he's not willing to fight for it." What viable Democratic challenger is going to criticize the President on these grounds? John Edwards just blasted Bush from the other direction today.

Glenn Reynolds and Andrew Sullivan think that the Bushies are quick to adapt but slow to realize when it's necessary to adapt. I hope they're correct.
Sunday, May 18, 2003
BLOGGING, ANONYMITY, AND THE PAPER OF RECORD: The New York Times has an amusing article on personal (as opposed to policy) blogs. My favorite part:

Being found out is no deterrent for 18-year-old Trisha Allen, a blogger from Kentucky. She has been blogging for roughly a month, and spends most of her time reporting candidly on her friends and on her relationship with her boyfriend.

A recent entry reveals that the couple are not quite ready for children — though "we have had two scares" — and that Ms. Allen's preferred form of birth control is the pill, even though, she wrote, "I am starting to hate it, because it has screwed up my menstrual cycle wickedly."

"There's not a lot I won't put on there," Ms. Allen said by telephone. Ms. Allen said her mother was aware she keeps an online journal, but does not know how to find it, and added that she relied on a doctrine of security by obscurity, hoping that in the vast universe of personal Web sites known as the blogosphere, she will be able to preserve her anonymity behind all those other blogs.

Good thing she doesn't talk to newspapers with national circulation, or else someone using Google could locate it in about twenty seconds.

UPDATE: Today, I received an e-mail request from Ms. Allen to delete this entire post. I found this a trifle amusing -- the next sentence of the Times story quoted above runs

"Ms. Allen said her motivation for posting personal details was simple: 'I love to be the center of attention.'"

At the same time, I also felt some sympathy for an 18-year old who sounds a bit freaked out by the Blogosphere's focused attention on her quotidian activities. Despite the Times reporter's claim -- and her own -- it's pretty clear she doesn't want to be "found out."

So a compromise: yesterday's version of this post contained an active link to Ms. Allen's blog. Given the quotation above, I suspect the source of Ms. Allen's discomfort was that link, so I've deleted it.

Three concluding lessons from this:

1) Don't ever think it's possible to hide material on the Web. The "doctrine of security by obscurity" never works.

2) Being the center of attention carries negative as well as positive externalities.

3) This episode highlights another distinction between bloggers and journalists. A journalist wouldn't -- and shouldn't -- ever be able to make such a retraction.

Fortunately, I'm not a journalist.

Friday, May 16, 2003
TOM DELAY DOING THE HURT DANCE: This has not been the best of weeks for the House Majority Leader.

First, Josh Marshall, smelling blood in the water, is all over DeLay's role in locating Texan Democratic state legislators -- click here for some background. Andrew Sullivan keeps it simple: "TOM DELAY IS A MANIAC."

Meanwhile, from today's Chicago Tribune:

Delivering a rare rebuke to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Speaker Dennis Hastert said Thursday that he has not yet decided whether to call for a vote to renew the ban on assault weapons before it expires next year.

DeLay (R-Texas) said Tuesday that the votes do not exist to renew the 10-year ban, scheduled to end in the fall of 2004, and an aide said he would not send the bill to the floor....

Hastert (R-Ill.) said he spoke with DeLay after the majority leader announced that the bill would fail.

"I think he was trying to put his old whip's hat on and try to figure out whether he had the votes or not," said Hastert, who opposed the ban nine years ago.

"That bill hasn't been discussed by the leadership yet," Hastert continued. "I haven't had a discussion with the president yet, so I'm not ready to make that decision."

Developing....

UPDATE: Lloyd Grove reports on another DeLay travail (link via Tapped).

Thursday, May 15, 2003
CONFESSION: I FIRST THOUGHT THIS WAS SPANISH: For those readers dying to see a Portuguese translation of my latest New Republic Online essay, click here.
DEMOCRATS FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: Liberals like Michael Totten, Dr. Joshua Micah Marshall, and Heather Hurlburt have acknowledged that Democrats face a credibility gap on foreign policy issues vis-a-vis the Republicans. Today, Josh Marshall links to Democrats for National Security, organized by one Timothy Bergreen, an ex-State staffer during the Clinton years. Here's a great quote from Bergreen from a Jonathan Rauch story that explains why such an organization is necessary:

"We have reached the point where this has metastasized into a crisis in the party," says Bergreen. "What I would like is to have a Democrat be comfortable reading the words that were in John F. Kennedy's inaugural. Have you read that recently? That's tough stuff. That liberty and freedom are something worth fighting for, worth bearing a burden for. Just because there's no Soviet Union doesn't make these things less relevant."

I wish Bergreen luck. So should all of you. [Ahem, aren't you a Republican?--ed. I'm also a firm believer in the two-party system, and I get really uncomfortable when one party seems incapable of competently discussing matters of grand strategy.]

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE: Kieran Healy's post on Krispy Kremes is a must read for anyone who recognizes that doughnuts are the most addictive substance on the planet -- next to chocolate-frosted Pop-Tarts®.

And Bill Amend of Foxtrot comes up with a devastating comeback for geeks everywhere.
RACE AND THE NEW YORK TIMES: Andrew Sullivan and Mickey Kaus are writing and linking like crazy on the role that race played in the Jayson Blair affair. And it now appears that even Howell Raines admits race may have played an unconscious role in Blair's swift ascension through the Times ranks:

"Our paper has a commitment to diversity and by all accounts he appeared to be a promising young minority reporter," Mr. Raines said. "I believe in aggressively providing hiring and career opportunities for minorities."

"Does that mean I personally favored Jayson?" he added, a moment later. "Not consciously. But you have a right to ask if I, as a white man from Alabama, with those convictions, gave him one chance too many by not stopping his appointment to the sniper team. When I look into my heart for the truth of that, the answer is yes."



Two other must-read essays on this topic. The first is Eric Boehlert's discussion in Salon -- it's worth seeing the ads to get to it. The piece does a nice job of pointing out the combustible mix of elements -- Blair's ability to schmooze, Raines' management style, and yes, race -- that led to the scandal. Here's the money quote:

Times metro editor Jonathan Landman, who tried to warn fellow editors at the paper about Blair's increasingly erratic behavior, says the truth lies somewhere in the middle. "There are two conventional wisdoms out there [about the Blair scandal]," he says, but "neither one of them is right. It's not a morality play about race and affirmative action, as some would like to suggest, and it's not a story that has nothing to do with race. Race was one factor among many in a subtle interplay."

Read the whole thing -- and, if you're wondering where Boehlert is coming from, read his previous Raines piece from last December.

The other must-read today is Don Wycliff's Chicago Tribune essay. Wycliff is the Trib's public editor, an ex-Timesman, and a member of the National Association of Black Journalists. The key grafs:

Almost as depressing as reading the Times' voluminous account of l'affaire Blair has been reading the e-mail traffic for the last week or so on the National Association of Black Journalists' listserve.

Much of the discussion has been near-apoplectic in character, as members fulminate, agonize and hand-wring over the uses to which they fear the Blair case will be and is being put by opponents of newsroom diversity.

Indeed, the NABJ itself issued a statement Friday that said in part, "While Jayson Blair is black, his race has nothing to do with allegations of misconduct."

Not only is that false; it's foolish. Almost as foolish as the notion that Blair's behavior somehow demonstrates the bankruptcy of the entire effort to diversify the staffs of America's newsrooms.

Gerald Boyd, managing editor of the Times and the first black person ever to ascend to so lofty a position at that newspaper, was quoted in Sunday's story as saying Blair's promotion to the status of full-time reporter was not based on race.

With all due respect--and I have genuine respect and admiration for Gerald Boyd--that does not ring true. On the strength of the Times' own description, Blair's work record to that point was marginal at best. Only something extra--like the hope that he might contribute to publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.'s noble goal of a more diverse newsroom--could have justified his promotion.

Nothing, I'm afraid, could have justified subsequent decisions to assign Blair to major news stories like the D.C.-area sniper case and the war in Iraq--stories on which he lied, cheated and stole his way to front-page treatment and those "attaboys" from the bosses that every reporter covets.

This is a kid who should have been on the night shift, learning the basics.

A closing note. Those readers suspecting me of schadenfreude are mistaken. Well, OK, I experienced about five minutes of it reading the story on Sunday. And yes, I like to critique the Times coverage of foreign affairs from time to time.

However, I also link to it a fair amount. Compared to any other American paper -- with the partial exception of the Christian Science Monitor -- their international coverage simply covers more ground than anyone else. The Times gets more criticism than any other paper because it's more widely read than any other paper.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003
CONSPIRACY SECRETS REVEALED!!: The origins of my latest New Republic Online essay can be found in my posts about the Straussian meme here and here.

Click here for an online version of Richard Hofstadter's "The Paranoid Style in World Politics."

Here's a link to the Washington Post story quoted in the essay.

Propagaters of the "neoconservative cabal" argument include Pat Buchanan and Tam Dalyell. Robert Lieber's essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education does an excellent job of collecting the quotes of others who push this argument, such as William Pfaff.

As for the Straussians, the Boston Globe had a story this past Sunday on Strauss' influence on world politics. Here's Seymour Hersh's New Yorker article -- and here's an interview with Hersh that touches on Strauss as well. Le Monde also ran a piece on the Straussians that pre-dated both the NYT and Hersh -- here's a translated version. Josh Cherniss has a series of excellent posts -- here, here, here, here and here -- that provides considerable background on Straussian thought and its relative incompatibility with neoconservatism.

Finally, for those conspiracy-mongers reading this a looking for some way to dismiss my claims, let me provide some ammunition. I teach in the very same political science department where Leo Strauss taught and Paul Wolfowitz studied forty years ago. In 1994, I briefly worked with Abe Shulsky, one of the Straussians highlighted in the New Yorker article. Last night, I attended a talk that my overlord -- I mean, respected commentator William Kristol -- gave for the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.

Oh, and I'm Jewish.

UPDATE: Justin Raimondo provides a traditional conservative rebuttal. Man, that guy can link.
THE LIMITS OF CONSPIRACY THEORIES: My latest TNR Online essay is up. It's on the latest round of foreign policy conspiracy theories. Go check it out.
ELSEWHERE IN IRAQ: While the administration scrambles to improve order and security in Baghdad, it's worth noting that post-war reconstruction is progressing in other places -- like Mosul. This Chicago Tribune story does an excellent job of contrasting the situation in Mosul with Baghdad:

As Baghdad pops with daily gunfire and limps along with intermittent electricity and water, Mosul has accomplished near wonders under the active command of an American general: Water flows from taps, road crews pick up trash, and Iraqi police and U.S. troops, working side by side, patrol the streets.....

In this tale of two cities, Mosul is an unlikely success. The sprawling northern hub of 2 million--a combustible mix of Iraqis, Kurds, Turkmen and Assyrians that American forces feared would roil with ethnic warfare--became the first place, early this month, to hold local elections for an interim government. And it was one of the swiftest to open its government bank vault to dole out back pay to Iraqi workers.

Read the whole story, and it's clear that a big reason for this is the sage leadership of Major General David Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division. The story notes the following

The commanding general, Petraeus, fresh from battle in the south, said he quickly adapted his force of 17,000 to the needs of Mosul's 2 million people. The infantry walked along the streets to convey a sense of order. The first day in town, Petraeus went on Al Jazeera television to talk about the future of Iraq.

Petraeus soon found that people in Mosul were eager for direction. A manager from the local airport knocked on his door. Could Petraeus give him the authority to call back workers? Yes, the general replied, sending armed soldiers to help.

The head of the central bank phoned. He had money to pay government workers, but no one in Baghdad could give him the authority to open the vaults. Petraeus, writing on 101st Airborne stationery, commanded that the cash flow begin.

And then Petraeus embarked on a political campaign unlike anything Iraqis who were interviewed for this story had ever seen. He and his aides contacted tribal leaders, Kurds, Arabs, former military officials and former police and rounded them up for talks.

Every day, for nine straight days and for three to five hours at a time, Petraeus urged and cajoled the townsmen of Mosul to figure out what they could do for Iraq.

The 50-year-old general, a West Point graduate who has a doctorate in international relations from Princeton University, appealed to the Iraqis' sense of duty, knowing that Mosul had been an important source of generations of military men. (emphasis added)

I don't mean to suggest that training in international relations improves one's ability to engage in post-war reconstruction. [Yeah, right--ed.]

Seriously, it seems pretty clear that Petraeus's actions should be a template for Baghdad and elsewhere.

GOODBYE, STRONG DOLLAR: Looks like the Bush administration has decided on one strategy for jump-starting the economy -- kissing the strong dollar goodbye. From today's Chicago Tribune:

While professing to favor a strong dollar, the administration is sending an unmistakable signal that it would not resist if the dollar continued to weaken in world financial markets.

A less-valuable dollar stimulates the economy through price changes. American exports become cheaper, and foreign imports become more expensive. That should boost sales of U.S.-made products here and abroad, putting more Americans back to work.

This "benign neglect" dollar policy, as many analysts call it, holds some promise. U.S. firms are beginning to see benefits from the greenback's yearlong decline against the European euro and the Japanese yen....

The new dollar policy is being pursued quietly amid the administration's frustration with an economic recovery so anemic that not a single net new job has been created since the 2001 recession ended.

Then there's this from Reuters:

"People are waking up finally to the reality that the game has changed. The slurry of comments from [Treasury Secretary] John Snow today are going to be remembered as the moment when the mythology of strong Bush administration support for the Rubin-era strong dollar policy finally fell away," said Andrew Weiss, a strategist at AIG Trading Group in Greenwich, Conn.

Snow has been in the currency spotlight for a few days now, after he alluded to the benefits a weaker dollar have had on the U.S. export sector.

While highlighting the benefit a weak dollar has on exports, Snow cast doubt on the benefits of currency intervention.

I have decidedly mixed feelings about this strategy. There is some logic to it. Letting the dollar slide simultaneously increases aggregate demand in the economy, as our exports are cheaper and Americans substitute away from more expensive imports). This move simultaneously helps to alleviate the Fed's fears of deflation, as a devaluation raises the price level of imports.

In terms of foreign economic policy, however, this is a dangerous game that's being played. There was nothing in the last G-7 statement to indicate that this slide in the dollar is being coordinated with our major trading partners. Without multilateral coordination, this move smacks of beggar-thy-neighbor -- and our neighbors are Canada, Japan and the European Union, none of which is a real engine for growth right now. Japan does not want the yen to appreciate too much, and let's just say I don't see the EU willing to absorb costs to get the American economy moving again.

It will be very interesting to see how the rest of the G-7 reacts to this.

Developing....

Tuesday, May 13, 2003
THE WHEEL TURNS BACK A LITTLE: I've been churning out some optimistic posts about the Middle East as of late, so let's get to the bad news.

First, there's the Riyadh bombing. The death toll is now estimated at 20, but it will probably rise.Josh Marshall is all over this story, and the Saudi government's inability to provide reliable information. The parallel here to China's early handling of the SARS virus is telling.

Then there's the "Baghdad in Anarchy" headline. This Washington Post story sums up the problem:

Baghdad residents and U.S. officials said today that U.S. occupation forces are insufficient to maintain order in the Iraqi capital and called for reinforcements to calm a wave of violence that has unfurled over the city, undermining relief and reconstruction efforts and inspiring anxiety about the future.

Reports of carjackings, assaults and forced evictions grew today, adding to an impression that recent improvements in security were evaporating. Fires burned anew in several Iraqi government buildings and looting resumed at one of former president Saddam Hussein's palaces. The sound of gunfire rattled during the night; many residents said they were keeping their children home from school during the day....

[T]he British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, expressed disappointment with efforts so far to bring democracy to Iraq. He told the British Parliament that "results in the early weeks have not been as good as we would have hoped." Straw also said the lack of security in Baghdad has been disappointing.

An office and warehouse belonging to the aid group CARE were attacked Sunday night. In two other weekend incidents, two CARE vehicles were seized by armed men, the organization reported today, asking the U.S. occupation forces to "take immediate steps to restore law and order to Baghdad."

"The violence is escalating," said Anne Morris, a senior CARE staff member. "We have restricted staff movement for their own safety. What does it say about the situation when criminals can move freely about the city and humanitarian aid workers cannot?"

Baghdad residents have been increasingly preoccupied by violence and the uncertainty it has produced, slowing relief and rebuilding efforts. One U.S. reconstruction official said tonight, for example, that as the Americans seek to distribute salaries and pensions, 20 bank branches have been unable to open without U.S. protection in the absence of a credible Iraqi police force.

"Security is the biggest problem we have," the official said. "The banks don't feel comfortable opening, and I agree with that."

This failure of U.S. forces to engage in active peacekeeping goes back to a problem I discussed last month. It's not going to be solved anytime soon.

Monday, May 12, 2003
SOUTH ASIAN TERRORIST WEB SITES: While the media is focused on the Mideast road map for peace -- not that there's anything wrong with that!! -- attention has drifted from other flash points -- like South Asia. Alyssa Ayres writes in the Wall Street Journal that although recent trends are positive, Pakistani support for -- or benign neglect of -- terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba will remain a sticking point:

Theoretically, the Lashkar does not exist: Pakistan's President Musharraf banned it in January last year and jailed its founder for six months. It enjoys the distinction of a place on the U.S. State Department's Foreign Terrorist Organizations roster, which puts it in the company of al Qaeda, the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Hamas. But for a banned militia, one whose assets should have been frozen 16 months ago, their media production continues apace. Two weeks ago they gave their family of Web sites a muscular relaunch, suggesting a new infusion of cash or smarts.....

For a banned militia to be printing up magazines in hard copy and virtual form, material obviously designed to recruit militants for a "final journey" into Kashmir, right under the nose of the Pakistani authorities, can only mean one of two things. Someone either can't, or won't, connect the dots.....

[P]eace will remain a fantasy as long as spoilers like the Lashkar-e-Taiba receive free rein to propagate their vision and recruit new soldiers to the task.

Read the whole thing.

MORE WHEELS TURNING IN THE MIDDLE EAST: The Washington Post suggests that Syria is now discussing serious domestic and foreign policy reforms in the wake of U.S. successes in Iraq:

With tens of thousands of U.S. troops positioned just to the east and U.S. officials warning Syria it could be the next object of American ire, Syrians acknowledge they are feeling vulnerable. These regional developments -- nothing less than an "earthquake," according to Khalaf M. Jarad, editor of the state-run Tishrin newspaper -- have prompted Syria to alter its foreign policy to accommodate U.S. demands, while rethinking its domestic affairs.

"When your neighbor shaves, you start to wet your cheeks," said Nabil Jabi, a political strategist in Damascus, citing an Arabic proverb. "It means you must study the new situation in your neighborhood."....

But the changes in domestic policy may ultimately prove to be of even greater consequence.

During the past two weeks, the Syrian government has licensed its first three private banks, considered an essential step in modernizing the state-dominated economy, while approving two new private universities and four private radio stations. Officials are now reviewing the possibility of removing military training from the curriculum of schools and universities and eliminating a requirement that all students join youth groups affiliated with Syria's ruling Baath Party, according to sources close to the leadership.

While discussions about reforming the Baath Party have been underway for at least three years, they have taken on a much greater urgency since the collapse of Iraq's Baath Party government, said Syrians close to the leadership.

"If now people feel a more pressing need to do that, so much the better," said Buthaina Shaaban, spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry. "I think it's normal to be affected by external events and to use it for your own benefit, to reform your reality."

Meanwhile, Juan Cole reports that Egyptian opposition parties are also seizing the moment to push for greater democratic reforms in their country.

Developing....

Sunday, May 11, 2003
THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S DREAM SUNDAY: The Bushies' two most tenacious foils over the past two years -- France and the New York Times -- are facing a world of hurt this week.

In France, the Elf Aquitaine scandal has metastasizedto the point where it has managed to include Iraqi billionaires and the Irish financial sector (link via InstaPundit).

Meanwhile the New York Times' credibility is hemorrhaging badly, as Jayson Blair's web of deceit is put on full display [Doesn't the Times deserve credit for putting the results of its investigation so prominently on Page 1?--ed. Yes, absolutely -- although one could argue that this was merely a pre-emptive strike that prevented other news outlets from breaking the magnitude of the story behind Blair's dismissal.]

Andrew Sullivan and Mickey Kaus are -- naturally -- all over this story. However, I believe Glenn Reynolds's response is probably the most devastating.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias takes this post a bit too seriously:

[Drezner's post] sums up everything that's bad about the Bush administration. A "dream Sunday" consists not in making substantive progress on issues that would improve the lives of Americans -- employment, homeland security, nation-building in Iraq, North Korea, health care, etc. -- rather it consists in the revelation of embarrassing information about its enemies.

Friday, May 09, 2003
MORE ON BUSH'S MIDDLE EAST INITIATIVE: Following up on my previous post on this, here's a link to Bush's speech on the Middle East today -- and here's a link to the concrete policy proposals. Some highlights from the speech:

A time of historic opportunity has arrived. A dictator in Iraq has been removed from power. The terrorists of that region are now seeing their fate, the short, unhappy life of the fugitive. Reformers in the Middle East are gaining influence, and the momentum of freedom is growing. We have reached a moment of tremendous promise, and the United States will seize this moment for the sake of peace.

Hey, that's my line!!

The combined GDP of all Arab countries is smaller than that of Spain. Their peoples have less access to the Internet than the people of Sub-Sahara Africa. Across the globe, free markets and trade have helped defeat poverty, and taught men and women the habits of liberty. So I propose the establishment of a U.S. -Middle East free trade area within a decade, to bring the Middle East into an expanding circle of opportunity, to provide hope for the people who live in that region.

These are truly depressing statistics.

And, ultimately, both economic success and human dignity depend on the rule of law and honest administration of justice. So America will sponsor, with the government of Bahrain, a regional forum to discuss judicial reforms. And I'm pleased that Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has agreed to lead this effort.

That should make these folks very happy.

If the Palestinian people take concrete steps to crack down on terror, continue on a path of peace, reform and democracy, they and all the world will see the flag of Palestine raised over a free and independent nation.

All sides of this conflict have duties. Israel must take tangible steps now to ease the suffering of Palestinians and to show respect for their dignity. And as progress is made toward peace, Israel must stop settlement activity in the occupied territories. Arab nations must fight terror in all forms, and recognize and state the obvious once and for all: Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state at peace with its neighbors.

These statements strike me as intuitively obvious. I therefore predict European criticism that Bush was being too lenient on the Israelis.

Again, my only criticism was the failure to mention Turkey at all in the speech. Part of promoting freedom means accepting the inconveniences that come with it, and Turkey's behavior in March falls under that category. Pretending like they have no constructive role to play in this initiative is foolhardy.

NATIONALISM AND FINANCE: In light of the Euro hitting a four-year high against the dollar today, this CNN story should provide a cautionary warning for those who believe that nationalism plays no role in global financial markets: The key grafs:

Interestingly, while this view [that the dollar needs to fall further] is more or less seen as gospel in the rest of the world, it's not the majority view in the States, according to Merrill Lynch's April survey of 314 fund managers, both foreign and domestic.

In that survey, when asked to pick their "favorite currency," 65 percent of global respondents picked the euro. Their least favorite? For 57 percent of the world, it was the greenback.

And a whopping 66 percent of overseas fund managers thought the greenback was still too dear, despite its recent decline. In comparison, only 34 percent of U.S. respondents thought the dollar was overvalued....

The Merrill Lynch survey showed 56 percent of overseas fund managers thought U.S. equity markets still the most overvalued in the world -- compared with just 24 percent of U.S. managers....

In the Merrill Lynch survey, 42 percent of foreign fund managers said the swollen U.S. current account deficit worried them enough to make them hedge some or all of their exposure to a possible dollar decline. Just 21 percent of U.S. respondents had done the same.






DREZNER GETS RESULTS ON FREE TRADE IN THE MIDDLE EAST!!: Two months ago, as an addendum my TNR Online essay on democratization in Iraq, I recommended the creation of a regional club of emerging and established Middle Eastern democracies. To quote myself:

If President Bush means what he says about a democratic Iraq, there is one other policy initiative worth considering – the creation/promotion of a regional club of emerging Middle Eastern democracies....

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

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

From today's New York Times:

Administration officials said Mr. Bush would also offer rewards to the Arab world on Friday, when he is to propose a United States-Middle East free trade area during a commencement speech at the University of South Carolina. The White House would not say tonight what countries were to be eligible for inclusion in the trade deal, but a senior official said Iraq would be among them.

"We fully expect Iraq to be able to compete and to have free trade agreements with the U.S. and others," the official said. The United States already has free trade agreements with Israel and Jordan. A senior official said the president would set a goal of 2013 to create the free trade area.

The only thing that worries me about this is the suggestion in the article that Turkey be excluded from such a free trade area. I'm going to assume that the administration appreciates the fact that excluding the one stable, pro-Western, established Muslim democracy from any proposed agreement would be counterproductive in the long term.

UPDATE: The Associated Press and Reuters also have the free-trade area story. This Washington Times piece suggests that Egypt and Bahrain are also on the list.

Thursday, May 08, 2003
TRAGEDY IN CHICAGO: The Onion has the scoop.
MORE ON DISCIPLINARY BOUNDARIES: Last week I took Megan McArdle to task for asserting that the economic mode of analysis was superior to theories and methodologies that emerged from other social science and the humanities.

Now, just because I thought Megan was exaggerating things doesn't mean I think economists should stick to their disciplinary knitting and never attempt to explain other phenomenon. For example, consider this Chicago Tribune story about a University of Chicago economist venturing into the humanities:

David Galenson, an economic historian who teaches at the University of Chicago, took on the art history establishment two years ago with his book "Painting Outside the Lines: Patterns of Creativity in Modern Art" (Harvard University Press), in which he claimed statistical methods could be used to rank artistic achievements.

That idea was anathema to many art historians, who believe that creativity is fragile and unquantifiable, that using the marketplace to evaluate art would sully the field....

Robert Storr, a curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, is on record as declaring art is essentially "unquantifiable." Michael Rooks, an assistant curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, said upon the release of Galenson's book, "There's a real sense that when you start quantifying artistic output in dollars and cents, those things are tangents to what we really should be talking about."

Galenson, who publishes frequently in the leading journals in his field such as The Journal of Political Economy and The American Economic Review, found it impossible even to get his book reviewed by art historians. "To them," he said, "I'm just a nerd with a computer."

The problem, of course, is specialization. Economists are supposed to study economics, leaving the art history to the art historians, and vice versa.

Read the whole piece. Galenson's typology of artists -- "conceptual" and "experimental" -- and his method for appraising their artistic value -- how their work is valued in auctions -- are hardly slam-dunk assertions. But they are pretty interesting, and art historians do a disservice to themselves by pretending they don't exist or are beyond the pale.


Wednesday, May 07, 2003
THE STRAUSSIAN CONSPIRACY, CONT'D: Seymour Hersh's latest New Yorker essay goes even further than the New York Times in arguing that there's Straussian conspiracy that's captured American foreign policy. [Wait, wasn't this published the day after the New York Times published their Strauss story? And wasn't Hersh formerly a New York Times reporter? Surely this isn't a coincidence?--ed. Maybe conspiracies beget conspiracies. Or maybe you need a vacation]

The essay focuses on the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, which functioned as a "Team B" of intelligence ferreting out links between Iraq and Al Qaeda in the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Some highlights:

The director of the Special Plans operation is Abram Shulsky, a scholarly expert in the works of the political philosopher Leo Strauss....

Shulsky’s work has deep theoretical underpinnings. In his academic and think-tank writings, Shulsky, the son of a newspaperman—his father, Sam, wrote a nationally syndicated business column—has long been a critic of the American intelligence community. During the Cold War, his area of expertise was Soviet disinformation techniques. Like Wolfowitz, he was a student of Leo Strauss’s, at the University of Chicago. Both men received their doctorates under Strauss in 1972. Strauss, a refugee from Nazi Germany who arrived in the United States in 1937, was trained in the history of political philosophy, and became one of the foremost conservative émigré scholars. He was widely known for his argument that the works of ancient philosophers contain deliberately concealed esoteric meanings whose truths can be comprehended only by a very few, and would be misunderstood by the masses. The Straussian movement has many adherents in and around the Bush Administration. In addition to Wolfowitz, they include William Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, and Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, who is particularly close to Rumsfeld. Strauss’s influence on foreign-policy decision-making (he never wrote explicitly about the subject himself) is usually discussed in terms of his tendency to view the world as a place where isolated liberal democracies live in constant danger from hostile elements abroad, and face threats that must be confronted vigorously and with strong leadership.

I'll give Hersh some credit -- unlike the Times piece, he makes an effort to actually link Strauss' ideas to current trends in foreign policy. In the end, however, this piece has the same problem as all conspiracy theories -- a lot more is implied than actually proven.

Then there's Hersh's track record over the past two years. Jack Shafer neatly eviscerates Hersh in this Slate piece:

At almost every critical turn since the events of 9/11, Hersh has leapt to the front of the editorial pack with a bracing, well-researched, and controversial explication of the war on terror. And almost every time, Hersh's predictive take on the course of events has been wrong. Boneheaded-dumb wrong....

Why are Sy Hersh's recent New Yorker defense pieces so consistently off the mark? Perhaps Hersh, who made his name tilting against the establishment, has become too willing to channel establishment sources' complaints. Indeed, most of his unnamed sources hail from the defense/intelligence establishment, which feels encroached upon by Rumsfeld and the rest of the new guard. If the question is, What's wrong with today's CIA?, Hersh reports back, it isn't enough like the old CIA. If the question is, What's wrong with today's Pentagon?, Hersh answers at the behest of his Army sources, Rumsfeld is mucking with tip-fiddle! If the Delta commandos and the Army generals talking to Hersh don't like Rumsfeld's policies—or the CIA, the DIA, and others resent similar turf encroachment by Wolfowitz's "cabal"—they know there is a place where their gripes can get a complete airing: A Hersh piece in The New Yorker. (emphasis in original)

Every bureaucratic struggle has at least two sides, and a reporter who recklessly throws in with one side against the other may publish blockbusters. But of what use are blockbusters that are consistently wrong?

I'll keep updating the Straussian meme's half-life as it develops.

(Full disclosure: During my brief stint at RAND in the mid-90's, I worked with and for Shulsky.)

DECOMPRESSION IN THE MIDDLE EAST: Last week, I blogged about the small but promising steps being taken by various Arab states to reject terrorism and acknowledge the importance of democratic accountability. The countries discussed included Saudi Arabia, Syria, Qatar, and the Palestinian Authority.

One country I missed was Jordan. But David Adesnik (scroll down) has a lot of links and analysis indicating that King Abdullah is now prepared to restart democratic reforms that were frozen in the 9/11 aftermath. Go check it out.
Tuesday, May 06, 2003
ARE LIBERALS LESS COSMOPOLITAN THAN CONSERVATIVES?: This is the question Michael Totten, a good liberal, asks. His answer is yes:

Liberals think of themselves as more worldly than conservatives. This is true in some ways, but not so in others. It seems (to me) that liberals are more likely to travel, and are more likely to visit Third World countries in particular. (If you meet an American traveler in, say, Guatemala, odds are strongly against that person being a Republican.) Liberals are more likely to listen to “world music,” and are more likely to watch foreign films. Liberals are more likely than conservatives to study the negative consequences of American foreign policy. But that’s about it. If you want to find a person who knows the history of pre-war Nazi Germany, the Middle East during the Cold War, or the partition of India and Pakistan, you’re better off looking to the right than to the left.

Read the whole piece for his explanation as to why this is the case. Roger L. Simon has more on this as well.

UPDATE: Kieran Healy posts a response. Be sure to read the comments, which includes a response from Michael Totten.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias weighs in, defending Totten's thesis.

MORE ON AFGHANISTAN: When we last left off, Donald Rumsfeld has declared the war in Afganistan to be essentially over.

Today's news from Afghanistan:

1) U.S. special forces were fired upon by rockets in Eastern Afghanistan

2) The New York Times reports that Taliban loyalists in Quetta Pakistan are increasingly active: "The Taliban presence is so strong that even many of those who have been refugees here for 20 years seem to believe that the Taliban will return to power in Afghanistan."

3) The chief UN envoy says the deteriorating security situation is affecting statebuiolding in Afghanistan:

The top United Nations official in Afghanistan today told the Security Council that deteriorating security conditions continue to cast a long shadow over the peace process and future of the country, and called for the creation of Afghan security forces capable of ensuring lasting tranquillity.

In an open briefing to the Council, Lakhdar Brahimi, the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said although specific aspects of the Bonn Peace Agreement are proceeding, "the process as a whole is challenged by deterioration in the security environment, which stems from daily harassment and intimidation, inter-ethnic and inter-factional strife, increases in the activity of elements linked to the Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and the drugs economy."

4) The first anti-American protest was held in Kabul since the fall of the Taliban . It only attracted 300 people, so take the news for what it's worth.

5) A prominent Afghan academic says that cronyism and nepotism are plaguing the Karzai government.

MORE ON NORTH KOREA: As I said over at the Volokh Conspiracy, I'm worried about North Korea. For more on the situation on the ground, Joe Katzman at Winds of Change has a nice round-up, and points out -- again -- that South Korea's reluctance to confront North Korea makes the situation an extremely dicey one.

For other interpretations, see Bob McGrew and Fred Kaplan.
HELLO, TECH CENTRAL STATION READERS!!: My first Tech Central Station essay is up -- it's a critique of the joint Foreign Policy/Center for Global Development effort to rate how much the U.S. and other developed countries' policies help or hurt poor countries. Go check it out.

For those interested TCS readers, this blog post has some additional information on the subject.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds managed to post a link to my TCS essay before I did.
Monday, May 05, 2003
BACK ON TUESDAY: Still guest-blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy. I'll be back here tomorrow.
Sunday, May 04, 2003
THE CONSPIRACY NARROWS: The search for a secret cabal running the government continues. First it was the neoconservatives. Then it was, more specifically, Jewish neoconservatives. Now, according to the New York Times, it's Straussian neoconservatives:

To intellectual-conspiracy theorists, the Bush administration's foreign policy is entirely a Straussian creation. Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, has been identified as a disciple of Strauss; William Kristol, founding editor of The Weekly Standard, a must-read in the White House, considers himself a Straussian; Gary Schmitt, executive director of the Project for the New American Century, an influential foreign policy group started by Mr. Kristol, is firming in the Strauss camp.

The Bush administration is rife with Straussians. In addition to Mr. Wolfowitz, there is his associate Richard N. Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board and the managing partner in Trireme Partners, a venture-capital company heavily invested in manufacturers of technology for homeland security and defense. Mr. Perle and Mr. Wolfowitz are both disciples of the late Albert Wohlstetter, a Straussian professor of mathematics and military strategist who put forward the idea of "graduated deterrence" — limited, small-scale wars fought with "smart" precision-guided bombs.

This is pretty weak stuff. In the end, you have one genuine Straussian devotee -- Wolfowitz -- in the government. The rest -- Perle, Kristol, Schmitt -- may be intellectual forces to be reckoned with, but none of them hold a position in the Bush administration (Perle resigned as chairman of the Defense Policy Board last month).

These myriad variations of the same conspiracy story are growing tedious. Bob Lieber does a nice job of demolishing them in a Chronicle of Higher Education essay. The key grafs:

More to the point, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, and Rice are among the most experienced, tough-minded, and strong-willed foreign-policy makers in at least a generation, and the conspiracy theory fails utterly to take into account their own assessments of American grand strategy in the aftermath of 9/11.

The theory also wrongly presumes that Bush himself is an empty vessel, a latter-day equivalent of Czarina Alexandra, somehow fallen under the influence of Wolfowitz/Rasputin. Condescension toward Bush has been a hallmark of liberal and leftist discourse ever since the disputed 2000 presidential election, and there can be few readers of this publication who have not heard conversations about the president that did not begin with offhand dismissals of him as "stupid," a "cowboy," or worse.

Partisanship aside, the president has shown himself to be independent and decisive, able to weigh competing advice from his top officials before deciding how to act. In August of last year, for example, he sided with Secretary of State Powell over the initial advice of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Cheney in opting to seek a U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq. Powell's own February 5 speech to the Security Council was a compelling presentation of the administration's case against Iraq, and well before the outbreak of the war, Powell made clear his view that the use of force had become unavoidable.

Sigh. What Lieber says is pretty damn obvious, but it's depressing that it needs to be constantly repeated.

I miss the good old days of conspiracy-mongering, when the Trilateral Commission was supposed to be running things.

Those readers expecting me -- as a member of the very same political science department as Strauss -- to comment further on the Straussian angle will be disappointed. No, it's not because someone got to me. It's because this is all ancient history to me, and since I'm not a political theorist, I have little incentive to keep up on Strauss' legacy. Hopefully, Jacob Levy will be able to post a comment or two.

I'm sure Andrew Sullivan, a Straussian-once-removed (read the Times piece for an explanation) will post something on this in the near future. (UPDATE: He has -- you need to scroll down a little)

Thursday, May 01, 2003
A WORD FROM THE EDITOR: Drezner, since you started the blog nine months ago, you've passed 200,000 unique visits. You've been mentioned by such Blogosphere luminaries as Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus, Joshua Micah Marshall, Virginia Postrel, and Glenn Reynolds. The blog has been quoted/mentioned in the Washington Post and MSNBC. You now write a monthly column for The New Republic Online. What are you going to do now?--ed.

I'm joining the Volokh Conspiracy!!

Temporarily, that is. I'll be guest-blogging there Friday and Monday. Go check it out.

UPDATING THE WAR ON TERROR: Civilization is starting to run up the score, according to the Chicago Tribune:

International terrorist attacks dropped significantly in 2002, and Bush administration officials are increasingly confident that the deadliest Al Qaeda plotters are now on the defensive, a top U.S. counterterrorism expert said Wednesday....

The State Department report, issued on the same day that Pakistani officials said they had arrested six major Al Qaeda operatives, said there were 199 terrorist attacks worldwide last year, a decline of 44 percent from the 355 attacks recorded in 2001. Attacks directed at the United States or U.S. targets dropped to 77 from 219.

Measured in terms of loss of life, 725 people were killed by terrorists around the world in 2002, a significant decline from the 3,295 who perished in 2001--a figure swelled by the nearly 3,000 deaths in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

There was additional good news -- the planner of the USS Cole bombing was captured in Pakistan.

Here's the introduction to the State Department report. It turns out that multilateral diplomacy is useful for something (I'm not being sarcastic):

The progress that has been achieved in the global war on terrorism would not have been possible without intense diplomatic engagement throughout the world. Diplomacy is the backbone of the campaign, building the political will, support, and mechanisms that enable our law-enforcement, intelligence, and military communities to act effectively.

The web of relationships we have cultivated has borne fruit in countless ways, from increasing security at home and abroad to bringing wanted terrorists to justice in the United States and elsewhere.

All our friends have stood with us multilaterally—at the United Nations, in NATO, ANZUS, EU, G-7, G-8, OAS, ASEAN, APEC, OIC, OECD, OSCE—and bilaterally in virtually every corner of the world.

New counterterrorism relationships with Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Central Asian republics, and others have shown results and hold promise for continued engagement in the future. Collaboration in combating terrorism has deepened with partners such as Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates.



The report also provides an interesting graph demonstrating that, beginning in the late eighties, there has been a secular decrease in the number of terrorist attacks. In fact, the number of attacks has fallen by more than two-thirds from 1987.

So is the Bush administration just riding the wave? No. If you look at the graph closely, there was an unambiguous spike in attacks at the end of the 1990's. The Bush administration can and should take credit for arresting that worrisome increase.

THE RUMSFELD SEAL OF APPROVAL: Donald Rumsfeld has declared that the war in Afghanistan is over:

Defense Secretary H. Rumsfeld, seeking to reassure allies jittery about reconstruction and humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan, said Thursday "major combat activity" there has come to an end....

"We're at a point where we clearly have moved from major combat activity to a period of stability and stabilization and reconstruction activities," Rumsfeld said at a joint news conference with Karzai.

The Secretary of Defense definitely gets chutzpah points for the declaration (though, to be fair, the Reuters version of the story includes some caveats). I blogged last week about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. If you don't believe me, consider the words of Ahmed Wali Karzai -- the President's brother and respresentative in southern Kandahar -- in this CBS report from early April:

At a time when the United States is promising a reconstructed democratic postwar Iraq, many Afghans are remembering hearing similar promises not long ago.

Instead, what they see is thieving warlords, murder on the roads, and a resurgence of Taliban vigilantism.

"It's like I am seeing the same movie twice and no one is trying to fix the problem," said Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of Afghanistan's president and his representative in southern Kandahar. "What was promised to Afghans with the collapse of the Taliban was a new life of hope and change. But what was delivered? Nothing. Everyone is back in business."

Karzai said reconstruction has been painfully slow — a canal repaired, a piece of city road paved, a small school rebuilt.

"There have been no significant changes for people," he said. "People are tired of seeing small, small projects. I don't know what to say to people anymore."

When the Taliban ruled they forcibly conscripted young men. "Today I can say 'we don't take your sons away by force to fight at the front line,'" Karzai remarked. "But that's about all I can say."

If the end of major combat operations means that the U.S. is about to make a major push towards building some semblance of an infrastructure for Afghanistan, that's great. If it's a signal that America's work is done in that part of the world, that's disastrous.


Wednesday, April 30, 2003
THE KERRY-DEAN FLAP: Will Saletan, Mickey Kaus, Howard Kurtz, Matt Yglesias, David Adesnik, Kevin Drum , ByWord, Daily Kos, and the entire left half of the Blogosphere are all in a tizzy over John Kerry's shot across Howard Dean's bow.

Dean was quoted in a Time magazine article saying,

"We have to take a different approach [to diplomacy]. We won't always have the strongest military."

Kerry's spokesman Chris "I used to shill for Gore" Lehane, in a press release, responded with:

"Howard Dean's stated belief that the United States 'won't always have the strongest military,' raises serious questions about his capacity to serve as Commander-in-Chief."

The debate seems to revolve around whether Kerry was being fiendishly clever in a good way or in a hypocritical way. What strikes me, however, is that Kerry wasn't being fiendishly clever at all -- he was following the precise instructions laid out by the Time reporter, Karen Tumulty. Let's look at the Dean quote again in context of the Time story:

Dean has continued to beat the anti-war drums. "We've gotten rid of him," Dean said of Saddam Hussein's ouster. "I suppose that's a good thing." Pressed again last week on CNN, Dean refused to concede that Iraq is better off without Saddam. And two weeks ago, while campaigning at a Stonyfield yogurt factory in New Hampshire, the would-be Commander-in-Chief suggested that America should be planning for a time when it is not the world's greatest superpower : "We have to take a different approach [to diplomacy]. We won't always have the strongest military."

Such comments could come back to haunt Dean. If there is a central political reality in post-9/11 America, it is this: Voters won't be willing to listen to a candidate's ideas on the economy or any other domestic issue unless they are first convinced that he or she is a credible, competent guardian of national security. (emphasis added)

Kerry's staff does earn points for being the first one to read/exploit the Tumulty suggestion.

But clever? I think not.

UPDATE: Mickey Kaus provides a link to Howard Dean's weblog. Meanwhile Gary Hart wins second prize among the Dems for following Tumulty's instructions in this blog post:

Democrats will only win the White House when we convince a majority of voters--including Independents and moderate Republicans--that we have sufficient depth of understanding and experience in world affairs and increasingly complex security issues to promote legitimate American interests as well as to create economic growth and justice.

ON ACADEMIC SPECIALIZATION: Boy, is that an eye-catching headline.

For those of you still reading, Kieran Healy critically reviews the myriad complaints across the Scholar-Blogosphere that academic specialization has stunted conversations within and across disciplines about Really Important Questions (NOTE TO GRADUATE STUDENTS: replace "conversations" with "discourse" and you'll understand what I'm saying). Kieran unearths a great Max Weber quote from "Science as a Vocation" that anyone contemplating writing a dissertation needs to remember:

And whoever lacks the capacity to put on blinders, so to speak, and to come up to the idea that the fate of his soul depends upon whether or not he makes the correct conjecture at this passage of this manuscript may as well stay away from science. He will never have what one may call the ‘personal experience’ of science. Without this strange intoxication, ridiculed by every outsider; without this passion … you have no calling for science and you should do something else. For nothing is worthy of man as man unless he can pursue it with passionate devotion.

I would add only one point here. It also helps tremendously if you can explain to yourself -- and hopefully others -- why others should care about what you care about so deeply.

Chris Bertram posts a modest rejoinder to Healy that's worth checking out as well.

P.S. Click here for those who are interested in the feudal structures of my own discipline of international relations.

SCORE ONE FOR THE TRIBE!: Click on this Eugene Volokh post and you'll see that I'm guilty of a really bad pun.
A FRENCH FAUX PAS: Jacob Levy's latest TNR Online essay is up, paired with Reihan Salam.

The topic is recent French attempts to integrate Muslims into the secular state. Apparently, it's not working out as planned.
A RESPONSIBLE MIDDLE EAST?: Let me preface this post by saying that I'm going to be wildly optimistic. I recognize that terrorism, potential terrorism and general disorder continue to haunt this region.

However, one gets the definite impression that governments in the regime are beginning to comprehend that they need to change their ways.

Consider the new Palestinian prime minister. I don't know how long he will last, but his first speech sent a powerful signal, according to the Washington Post:

Mahmoud Abbas was approved Tuesday as the Palestinians' first prime minister and in a speech to parliament forcefully denounced terrorism and declared that peace was the "strategic, irrevocable choice" of the Palestinian people. But he warned Israel that it must abandon Jewish settlements and end its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to achieve a lasting peace....

"The path of negotiations is our choice," Abbas said. "We denounce terrorism by any party and in all its shapes and forms, both because of our religious and moral traditions and because we are convinced that such methods do not lend support to a just cause like ours, but rather destroy it. There is no military solution to our conflict."

Then there is Libya, which today owned up to some previous nastiness:

The Libyan government has accepted responsibility for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and set up a fund to compensate victims' families, Foreign Minister Mohammed Abderrahmane Chalgam said on Wednesday.

Finally, there's this enigmatic part of the Times story from my previous post:

Earlier this year, Saudi officials told The New York Times that the departure of American soldiers would set the stage for a series of democratic reforms, including an announcement that Saudi men — but not women, at least initially — would begin electing representatives to provincial assemblies and then to a national assembly. The ruling royal family, these officials suggested, could more easily sell potentially unsettling reform if it appears to be less dependent on the Americans.

Acknowledging that democratic representation is important and that terrorism is bad are baby steps for most of the world. In the Middle East, however, their significance should not be understated.

As I said, I'm being wildly optimistic (for example, click here for my last post about the new Palestinian PM, and here for the NYT's skepticism about Saudi Arabia's future). It's possible that terrorism and extremism on both sides will torpedo any chance at an Israeli-Palestinian peace, or that Saudi reforms will go nowhere. But maybe the elimination of the Iraqi problem will cause a genuine move toward more responsible governance.

Developing... in a good way, I hope.

UPDATE: Brian Ulrich e-mails that I missed another promising development -- in a popular referendum, Qatar just approved their first constitution. It's not perfectly democratic, but it does allow for a partially elected legislature, and more importantly, has provisions guaranteeing freedom of speech and freedom from torture.

The Washington Times story on the Qatari referendum also contains some intriguing news about Syria:

The winds of change also appear to be reaching Syria, which this week was reported to have sent a proposal of peace talks to Israel through U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat.

Previous peace talks over the status of the Golan Heights broke down over Israel's insistence on retaining a narrow strip of land along the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

While the United States has recently accused Syria of harboring members of Saddam's ousted Iraqi regime and possessing weapons of mass destruction, there are signs that it has begun to tolerate demands for greater freedom.

About 140 politically active Syrians declared in an unprecedented manifesto that a strong internal front based on freedom for all was the only effective defense against what it called American and Israeli aggression.

The manifesto was published in Damascus by the Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies, according to a report appearing in the Lebanese Daily Star.

The war against Iraq had proved, said the signatories, that one-party rule and repressive security services cannot protect a country's independence and dignity. The group called for the cancellation of emergency laws, the release of political prisoners and the establishment of a national unity government based on reconciliation.

"Pressures for change are starting in Syria via civil society," said Haytham Manna, a Syrian exile attending yesterday's referendum in Qatar as an observer from the Arab Commission for Human Rights.

Definitely developing....

DREZNER GETS RESULTS ON SAUDI ARABIA, PART 2: Turns out Monday's announcement was a harbinger of things to come, as the New York Times reports:

The United States said today that it would withdraw all combat forces in Saudi Arabia by this summer, ending more than a decade of military operations in this strategic Middle East nation that is America's largest oil supplier.

The only troops that will remain in Saudi Arabia will be a small training mission that has been deployed in the country since the Truman administration.

The Washington Post version of the story ties in this decision to a larger rearrangement of U.S. forces abroad:

Having removed the government of Saddam Hussein from Iraq, the U.S. military will end operations in Saudi Arabia later this year, freeing the kingdom of a major political problem caused by the visible presence of U.S. forces in the land of Islam's two holiest shrines, defense officials announced today.

Shutting down U.S. flights from Prince Sultan air base and moving the U.S. Combined Air Operations Center from here to nearby Qatar mark the beginning of what Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has described as a major realignment of U.S. military forces, not only in the Persian Gulf, but also in Europe and the Far East. Meeting this morning with service members here inside a giant aircraft hangar, Rumsfeld said he is attempting "to refashion and rebalance those arrangements so that we're organized for the future."

Marine Gen. James L. Jones, NATO's top commander, is reviewing U.S. military installations in Germany with an eye toward moving at least some of them to new NATO members in Eastern Europe. "NATO is a different place now, and the center of gravity has in fact shifted from where it was when it was a relatively small organization of 15 countries to a much larger organization of some 26 countries," Rumsfeld told the troops here. NATO has 19 members and seven more countries have been invited to join.

The Pentagon is also considering reductions in the 38,000 military personnel stationed in South Korea and moving those that remain away from the Demilitarized Zone with North Korea. And in Central Asia, Rumsfeld and Gen. Tommy R. Franks, head of the U.S. Central Command, must decide what to do with bases in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan that were opened in 2001 and 2002 to support the war in Afghanistan.

So much for the American Empire. This is a signal difference between the U.S. and other hegemons of the past -- when countries don't want U.S. bases, the military packs up and leaves.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003
IS THE U.S. HELPING POOR NATIONS?: The Center for Global Development (which is an offshoot of the Institute for International Economics, one of Washington's best think tanks) has just released a report that, "grades 21 rich nations on whether their aid, trade, migration, investment, peacekeeping, and environmental policies help or hurt poor nations." Here's the technical version of the report. Foreign Policy is publishing an summary version of it -- and the Financial Times has a quick run-down of the findings:

Japan and the US are the least helpful of the rich countries towards the developing world, according to a new measure from a leading think tank....

The best performers tended to be smaller countries, with the Netherlands and Denmark at the top of the list. Germany was the only one of the Group of Seven rich countries in the top half, with the UK at 11th.

The index measures each country's generosity and usefulness of overseas aid, openness to exports from developing countries, role in global peacekeeping and policies on migration and the environment.

Is this a damning indictment of U.S. foreign policy? Yes and no.

The report deservedly takes the U.S. to task for being foreign aid misers and for tying American aid to U.S. purchases. The report also slams the U.S. for its poor record on legal migration.

However, on some of the other policy dimension, the report is stacked against the U.S. On the security dimension, for example, the measure is: “Countries' contributions to the U.N. peacekeeping budget (which funds operations in dozens of countries) and personnel contributions to international peacekeeping efforts.” This conveniently overlooks the role the U.S. military plays in preserving global security [C’mon, how significant is that?—ed. Let's go to Gregg Easterbrook's essay on U.S. military superiority from the Sunday New York Times]:

Last year American military spending exceeded that of all other NATO states, Russia, China, Japan, Iraq and North Korea combined, according to the Center for Defense Information, a nonpartisan research group that studies global security. This is another area where all other nations must concede to the United States, for no other government can afford to try to catch up.

The runaway advantage has been called by some excessive, yet it yields a positive benefit. Annual global military spending, stated in current dollars, peaked in 1985, at $1.3 trillion, and has been declining since, to $840 billion in 2002. That's a drop of almost half a trillion dollars in the amount the world spent each year on arms. Other nations accept that the arms race is over. (emphasis added)

There are other flaws in the study that I'll be discussing in the near future.

That said, I'd still recommend taking a look at it.


TIPS FOR NEW BLOGGERS: Starting a blog? Want to get noticed?

For the big fish perspective, here's Eugene Volokh's perspective. The part of the post I agree with the most:

No-one is looking for a new blog to read. They may, however, be interested in a specific new story you've found, or a new idea you have. Therefore, pitch the blog post ("Here's a post I just posted:") not the blog ("Come and read my blog"). If people really like your posts, then they'll start to regularly read your blog....

Don't bug the recipient too often. Pitch him only your very best posts....

Of course, all this assumes that your posts are worth reading -- that they're generally interesting, novel, and readable, and entice people to return once they've visited.

The part of Eugene's post that I sort of disagree with is his claim that

"Here's why I disagree with your post on . . ." messages aren't likely to catch the recipient's attention, if the recipient runs a popular blog

Maybe it's the contrarian in me, but I like posts that disagree with my argument -- if they rest on a compelling conceptual or empirical basis.

An additional note for those using Blogger -- make sure your f#@&ing permalinks are working.

From the smaller fish's perspective, here's Will Baude's perspective. The part I agree with the most:

Find blogs with more traffice (sic) than yours, but not overwhelming amounts, the sorts that can still check their referral logs regularly. Then your links to their posts are more likely to inspire a response.

Indeed.


Monday, April 28, 2003
THE IRAQ-AL QAEDA LINK: Andrew Sullivan and Michael Totten both link to the Daily Telegraph story discovering a document linking Hussein's regime to Al Qaeda. The Toronto Star co-broke the story -- here's their version of it. The Star also reprints the key section of the three-page document. Here it is, annotated:

"The envoy [an Al Qaeda representative sent by bin Laden to Iraq in March 1998] is a trusted confidant [of bin Laden] and known by them. According to the above mediation we request official permission to call Khartoum station to facilitate the travel arranegments for the above-mentioned person to Iraq [According to the Star, the document "confirm(s) bin Laden's agent arrived in Baghdad on March 5 and stayed a full 16 days as a guest of the Iraqi government at the Mansur Melia Hotel, one of the capital's premier accommodations."]

"And that our body [The Mukhabarat, Iraq's intelligence service] carry all the travel and hotel expenses inside Iraq to gain the knowledge of the message from bin Laden and to convey to his enovy an oral mesage from us to bin Laden, the Saudi oppoistion leader about the future of our relationship with him and to achieve a direct meeting with him."

Maybe the meeting went nowhere, maybe it didn't. What's clear is that in 1998, both Al Qaeda and Iraq's government were interested in cooperating.

I had thought the Al Qaeda link was the weakest part of the justification for going to war with Iraq. It will be interesting to see if more documents emerge.

Developing...

IS THE WHEEL TURNING IN BERKELEY?: I have done some scary things in my life. I have sky-dived. I have bungee jumped. I drank water straight from the tap in Moscow. I've flown Uzbekistan Airways, for God's sake. However, when anyone has asked me what's the scariest thing I've ever done, I tell them unequivocally that it was when I walked up Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley wearing a business suit (I was en route to a job interview).

So I could not help but bust a gut when I read this Los Angeles Timesstory (link via InstaPundit) about a Republican protest on Telegraph Avenue:

Borrowing a page from this city's radical traditions, a boisterous band of 200 college Republicans demonstrated Saturday in the bastion of American liberalism, staging a pro-Bush administration rally on the UC Berkeley campus and leading a flag-waving procession down Telegraph Avenue.

As street vendors and merchants looked on in disbelief, delegates attending a state college Republican convention here marched two blocks to People's Park, site of a widely publicized protest incident in 1969, where they chanted "Bush! Bush! Bush!" and sang "America the Beautiful."

The article makes an excellent point, however -- that Berkeley is no longer the liberal stereotype of yore, in part because of the increasing diversity of students on campus:

In recent years, the Berkeley college Republican chapter has thrived on this image of an embattled minority bravely battling against the liberal establishment. Once only a few dozen in number, the chapter now boasts more than 500 members and is one of the biggest student organizations on campus....

One of the main reasons for the changing political climate at Berkeley, said University Librarian Thomas Leonard , who has been on campus since 1967, is the changing profile of the Berkeley student.

The difference is clear at the Free Speech Movement Café, an elegant coffee shop funded by a wealthy 1964 graduate at the base of the new Moffitt Undergraduate Library. One of the walls of the cafe is covered with an enlarged photograph of a Free Speech era sit-in. Almost all of the faces in the photo are white. Recent classes entering Berkeley, however, have been largely Asian, accounting for more than 40% of the entering freshman class.

"As a general rule," said Leonard, "the increase in Asian Americans has pushed the student body more toward the center politically."

In fact, Leonard said, opposition to the campus conservatives is more likely to come from the faculty or aging leftists in the surrounding community. "I get the sense the community is much more into protest than the campus," Leonard said. "There is a culture of protest in the Bay Area that is steadily getting grayer and older."

Here's a link to the California Patriot description of events -- they have pictures.

SHIITE MEME OF THE WEEK: Last week's meme was all about how the United States had underestimated the power of Shiite clerics in Iraq, and how the most influential Shiite mullahs in Iraq are clearly linked to Iran.

My prediction is that the meme that will emerge this week is the potentially growing rift between Iran's government and Iraqi Shiite leaders.

My evidence? Two bits of data -- which is all that's needed for a media meme to develop. First, members of the largest Shia group - the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) -- attended Monday's United States-sponsored meeting of Iraqi groups with Jay Garner "to discuss the formation of a transitional administration for Iraq." SCIRI had boycotted a similar meeting held in Nasiriyah two weeks ago. At a minimum, this means that SCIRI recognizes it will need to deal with the United States if it wants to play a future role in governing Iraq.

Even the BBC acknowledges the diversity of Shia opinion:

Delegates raised concerns about the lack of security, electricity and water.

But our correspondent says one influential Shia leader sounded an optimistic note.

"The Iraqi people owe a lot to the United States and the United Kingdom... for deposing the dictator," said Sheikh Hussein Sadr, dean of the Islamic Council in London.

Second, there's this New York Times piece:

Many people who follow the course of religious affairs here believe that the return of Shiite clerics to Iraq, and the revival of Iraq's historically holy city of Najaf, may pose a serious threat to the rule of the hard-line ayatollahs in Iran.

Najaf is expected to become the center of Shiite faith once again when influential clerics return and begin teaching at its seminaries. Some high-ranking Iranian clerics who believe in freer religious studies, such as Ayatollah Javad Tabrizi, have also said that they would go to Najaf when stability returns.

Since the Islamic revolution here in 1979, Iran's hard-line religious leadership has defined Shiite Islam for its 120 million followers around the world. But analysts say that Iran's status as the leader of Shiism will be undermined once Najaf develops its own brand of the faith, which is expected to be more moderate than the one Iran favors....

Iraqi clerics who are returning to Iraq say they are tired of seeing their faith dominated by Iran.

"Iraq is a holy country and we do not need Iran," Mr. [Muhammad] Hassani [a "mid-ranking cleric"] said. "It is independent and has its own differences with Iran. We do not need to look at Iran as our model."

For two weeks, the Supreme Council has been helping volunteer clerics return to Iraq. Darol-hakameh Institute in Qum, which belongs to the council, has provided the clerics with train tickets and documents to cross the border.

"They are returning to preach the faith and help bring order. We do not ask them what kind of political affiliation they have," said Mohsen Hakim, a staff member at the institute who said he too would go to Baghdad to help organize clerics.

Some Iraqis say that living in Iran and witnessing the kind of challenges facing this theocracy has convinced them that the interference by religion into affairs of state should be limited.

"The responsibility of political Islam to solve political and economic problems that the state is faced with has put enormous pressure on the seminaries in Qum," said Hamam Hamoudi, a mid-ranking Iraqi cleric who said he would also leave for Baghdad this week.

Still, Mr. Hamoudi added that the Iraqi clerics were eager to return and have a share in the future government. "We do not want an Islamic state like Iran, but the Shiites are 60 percent of the population and want to be part of the government after years of suppression."

Ayatollah Ali Muhammad Sistani, Iraq's most prominent Shiite leader in Najaf, has also objected to the interference of clerics in politics.

I'm not even close to being an expert on intra-Shiite relations, so I'm not saying that Iran will have no influence in postwar Iraq. However, these stories certainly muddy up the claim that Iraq is on course to becoming a Shiite theocracy under the thumb of Iran's mullahs.

Developing....

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