Tuesday, June 28, 2005
# Posted 9:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Moreover, it's not just the fact that so few of the books are about foreign policy, but also the way in which the books approach the subject that convey the mismatch between liberal foreign policy and the concerns of the American majoirty.
For example, Harvard professor and terrorism expert Jessica Stern recommends Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry by Peter W. Singer. Stern writes that
Singer examines corporate mercenaries who kill for pro?t -- sometimes bene?ting the world through peacekeeping missions, and sometimes bene?ting only themselves.Lots of folks I respect have praised Singer's work. But is corporate influence on national security really a defining issue for American liberalism? And if it were, would the American public see the Democratic Party as having its priorities straight?
In defense of Stern, it is worth noting that the Prospect demanded very rapid responses from those whom it polled about the most important books of the last fifteen years. Yet if the Prospect had directed its question my way, it would've taken me all of fifteen seconds to come up with my answer: "A Problem From Hell": America and the Age of Genocide by Samantha Power.
Ms. Power is one of Prof. Stern's colleagues at Harvard, so presumably the latter is aware of the former's work, which won a Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction in 2003. Power's book provides both a history of the genocidal wars against the Kurds, Bosnian Muslims, and Rwandan Tutsi as well as powerful argument that the United States cannot be true to its own principles unless it is committed to stopping such massacres.
Along these lines, Benjamin Barber does recommend Amartya Sen's Development as Freedom as the most important book of the era. Barber describes it as "A persuasive case for democracy in an unjust, globalizing world." Sen's work doesn't exactly have all that much to say about US national security, but at least Barber is on the right track.
And so what about all the books not about foreign policy? The first thing I noticed was how many of them are about race, civil rights, and/or the 1960s. Walter Mondale recommends Judgment Days, which is about the relationship between LBJ and Martin Luther King Jr. The list also includes books about civil rights organizers in Mississippi, the life of W.E.B. DuBois, the legislative work of LBJ, and assorted others.
Naturally, liberals should celebrate the great triumphs of the past. But none of these subjects has much potential to serve as the foundation of a strong progressive, liberal, Democratic movement for the 21st century.
When it comes to the future, the Prospect's contributors seems to think that the right has all the momentum. Thus, the list includes books such as America's Right Turn and Under God: Religion and American Politics.
On a similar note, Al Franken recommends E.J. Dionne's WhyAmerican Hate Politics, which Franken credits with paving the way for Clinton's victory in 1992 by teaching the Democrats how to be tough on crime and welfare politics. In other words, the book taught Democrats how to sound like Republicans.
The question is, where is the book that can teach the Democrats to do that effectively today? Perhaps more importantly, why does it seem that Democrats can only win by sounding like Republicans? What does that say about the disjunction between American values and the Democratic agenda? (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
8:02 PM: Starting with 9/11. This whole section will get mercilessly dissected for lumping Al Qaeda togther with Iraq.
8:04 PM: And the critics will hit even harder on the president's assertion that we are taking the war to the terrorists in Iraq instead of waiting for them to hit at home.
8:05 PM: Bush acknowledges that some question the relevance of the war in Iraq to the war on terror. Then he quotes Bin Laden to the effect that the war in Iraq is critical to the war against America. Very nice.
8:07 PM: The terrorists can only kill the innocent. They can stop the advance of freedom. Again, very nice.
8:08 PM: The lesson of 9/11 is to stay in Iraq until democracy wins. I agree, but a statement that will be much criticized.
8:09 PM: "Our progress has been uneven, but progress is being made."
8:10 PM: Quoting Gerhard Schroeder on the importance of winning in Iraq. Smart.
8:11 PM: Saying we've trained 160,000 Iraqi defense forces and that they've fought bravely. Tough sell. Bush has been burned by the numbers before.
8:12 PM: Just did some channel surfing. The sound is just as bad on every other network, too.
8:14 PM: Is it me, or does Bush sound a little defensive? Remember, that comment is coming from someone who agrees with 99% of what Bush is saying.
8:15 PM: "The new Iraqi security forces are proving their courage every day." More than 2,000 have died.
With each engagement, the Iraqis grow more experienced. Of course, the same might be said of the terrorists.
8:17 PM: There will be no schedule for a pull out. Damn right.
8:18 PM: Our commanders say they have enough troops. Even I find that expression of confidence to be far from persuasive.
8:20 PM: An explicit pledge that Iraqi democracy will respect minority rights. Important, but just a beginning.
8:21 PM: An indirect call for democracy in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. But what will Bush say about Darfur?
8:22 PM: "The terrorists do not understand America." Exactly.
8:25 PM: Now the sound is out of sync with the picture. As a result, Bush has the wrong emotion on his face when he delivers his message.
8:26 PM: A call to those who are considering military service. A bold approach to a tough problem, or an admission of just how big the problem is?
8:28 PM: Here's Tim Russert (I'm watching NBC).
8:29 PM: Russert says the big question is whether the Iraqis are really committed to overcoming the insurgency. Strange. We know the Shi'ite-Kurdish majority is. The question is competence.
8:35 PM: It's Nancy Pelosi! She says Bush hasn't offered a plan for success. She says Bush has made Iraq into the terrorists haven it has become. She says the president isn't levelling the with the American people and that he is exploiting the memory of 9/11.
8:35 PM: Brian Williams asked Pelosi what the Democrats would do differently. She says we really have to turn the battle against the insurgents over to the Iraqis, have to internationalize the effort, and have to increase the rate of reconstruction.
8:37 PM: Williams' asks if Pelosi is concerned, like John Murtha, about the White House having a secreat cut-and-run strategy in Iraq. She completely evades the question by saying we shouldn't cut veterans benefits.
8:39 PM: Hey, howcome the Democrats don't get their own response time on all of the networks?
8:42 PM: NBC now has a report from Iraq. I guess the Dems won't be getting a response. And so I can start thinking about dinner... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, June 24, 2005
# Posted 12:00 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
If the red tape doesn't get in the way, I will have my defense in October or November. I will still have to do some editing between now and then, primarily in response to whatever comments my adviser has after reading the full draft. But the question now isn't if I'll ever graduate, only when. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, June 19, 2005
# Posted 1:28 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
In her introductory post, Allie writes that
Historically speaking, in America, the word "religious" has not meant what it is taken to mean today: relentlessly conservative, against abortion, against gay people.And thus I look forward to many passionate disagreements that leave us all a little bit wiser. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, June 18, 2005
# Posted 4:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Dear Washington Post,My longer response shall take the form of a full frontal fisking, in which I haven't engaged for quite some time:
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
While refusing to actually say that it opposes the State Department's efforts to hold Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov accountable for the recent massacre in Andijon, the military would apparently prefer to preserve access to its bases in Uzbekistan.
If Bush wants Karimov to know that America is serious about human rights and democracy promotion, he will have to deliver the message himself. Otherwise, Karimov will have a strong incentive to interpret the lack of consensus in Washington as a greenlight for further repression. Moreover, Bush will have to back his message up by making firm demands for an external investigation of the events at Andijon.
Almost two weeks ago, the WaPo argued that the value of our bases in Uzbekistan is hardly enough to justify compromising our most important principles in the war on terror. There are bases available elsewhere. In contrast, our credibility will suffer a damaging blow if we allow Karimov to crush legitimate dissent in the name of fighting Islamic terrorists. As the Weekly Standard points out,
The Taliban has been defeated, and, with the liberation of Iraq, the nature of the global struggle to which the Bush administration is committed is no longer exclusively focused on the destruction of terrorist redoubts. We are now committed to a democratizing effort that challenges tyranny along with terror as threats to peace and freedom around the world. The Uzbek regime that was part of the solution in 2001 is now, with its bloody suppression of protests, part of the problem.Republicans on the Hill have also become increasingly critical of Karimov. The WaPo editorial points out that after returning from a visit to Tashkent, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Sununu all announced that Karimov's behavior has called the value of our diplomatic relationship into question.
Some might suggest that Bush's minimal presence up to this point suggests that he isn't following the issue or isn't concerned about human rights and democracy in Uzbekistan. But for quite some time now, Bush has refused to make excuses for authoritarian allies. He hasn't challenged every one the way he has Putin or Mubarak, but that takes time. Given a little more time, I expect Bush to approach Uzbekistan in a manner fully consistent with his principles. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 2:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
First off, the notion that a nuclear Iraq would be problematic but not inherently disastrous isn’t some bizarre notion – the fairly-insane regimes of Stalin and Mao proved manageable even once they got nuclear weapons. The same arguments made in favor of stopping a nuclear Iraq were also made in the early 1960s about stopping the PRC from getting the bomb (see Frank Gavin’s recent work on the Gilpatric Commission) and have been proven quite terribly wrong in retrospect. So maybe “wow” is one possible response, but another might be “nuclear deterrence is pretty robust, even in the face of genocidal psychopaths.”Let me respond briefly. First of all, I think PS does a good job of illustrating that my previous comments can't do full justice to a scholarly enterprise in which hundreds of brilliant men and women have taken part over the past few decades. For those with a serious interest in realism, there is no replacement for reading actual books written by realists, rather than OxBlog's anti-realist polemics.
That said, I stand by my basic points and continue to disagree with PS. Unless one is comfortable with the current situation in North Korea, I don't see how one can describe deterrence as a robust response to the hypothetical situation of a nuclear Iraq (c. 2002) or Iran today. My previous point about the Cuban Missile Crisis suggests why deterrence was not ideal or safe during the Cold War, either.
Second, Morgenthau deserves credit for his early opposition to the war in Vietnam. However, this in no way vindicates his persistent criticism of Truman and others for taking Soviet ideology very seriously. With regard to the 1980s and the late Cold War, I basically agree with PS's characterization of where the realists stood.
When it comes to the defensive realists and domestic politics, I will avoid further discussion on the somewhat spurious grounds that this debate is too detailed and too distant from actual history and politics. (If I am wrong, and there are a lot of you out there who want to see OxBlog wrangle over the legacy of defensive realism, just send me an e-mail.) The same point applies to the subject of the offensive-defensive divide, although in that instance I tend to agree with PS's characterization of the subject. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:55 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
The Guardian Council only approved the presidential candidacies of 8 out of 1,014 applicants.Those eight must have had some very impressive resumes. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:40 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 1:08 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
I think you've missed some of the insight in Kissinger's (admittedly dull) commentary on China. The comparison between Clausewitz and Sunzi is more telling than chronology may indicate, for while the current batch of Chinese leaders may be closer in time to Mao, they are far closer in thinking to the legalist and Confucian bureaucrats of millennia past. It is an age-old tradition of foreign peoples trying to conquer the territory of China, only to be conquered themselves by its civilization. It happened first to the Mongols, then to the Manchus, and now to the German/Russian communists.Although I defer to others' expertise about China, it would seem to me that the old men now running the show in Beijing were thoroughly indoctrinated by the totalitarian Maoist system in the 50s and 60s. Shall we suppose that once Deng's liberalization began in the 80s, these men became sudden converts to the wisdom of Sunzi (aka Sun Tzu)?
On a related note, AS continues that:
While China may be a vast empire, it is run very differently from the Soviet one before it. Russian culture was not developed enough to sustain true authoritarianism--even in the darkest days of Stalin's purges, underground organizers and samizdat publishers continued operating. The entire Soviet Union, not just the non-Russian parts but the Russian as well, were held together by force because they could not be held together by politics. Contrast the experience of the Cultural Revolution, where the sheer development of Chinese society (socially, not economically) created a web of passive oppression that left no free time or individuality for 'counter-revolutionaries.'Twenty years ago, who would have said that Russian culture, from the czars to the Politburo, wasn't developd enough to sustain true authortarianism? That said, of course I agree that China is very different from the Soviet Union, but primarily because it now allows many of its citizens some very important measures of freedom, primarily economic. Although I again defer to others' expertise about China, my knowledge of the Cultural Revolution suggests that there was very little passive about it. Its brutality was overt and horrific.
Returning to the present day, AS argues that:
This is not to say that the Chinese system is any less oppressive or less evil. It is to say that military force, and the entire web of containment created to combat the Soviet threat, will be far less useful with regard to China...In China, such a scenario is entirely implausible: the country's economic growth, though unsustainable, is not going to collapse into depression. More importantly, the use of political and social power in the background to control society (ever since learning their lesson after Tienanmen) means that the vast majority of native Chinese harbor no real resentment against the system. To talk to them, the communist party is like a big corporation: silly with its rules, policies and propaganda, but ultimately more a joke than a monstrous evil.I have very serious reservations about the assertion that most Chinese regard the ruling party as little more than a bureaucratic inconvenience. Although what we mostly hear about is economic progress, there is enough violent social tension in China to break onto America's front pages every so often. Although prosperity mitigates such concerns, corrupation and abuse is rampant in the PRC.
AS concludes that:
Put simply, the Chinese state is too well held together by economic success and strong social control to simply succumb to containment.That I may agree with. But China doesn't have an ideology of global expansion the way the Soviet Union did, so containing it would amount to something very different than another Cold War. In short, we need to defend Taiwan, support the Japanese, and restrict Chinese support for rogue governments and (possibly) terrorist organizations.
What we are waiting for in the meantime is not for the Chinese system to collapse under its own weight, but for the people of China (and perhaps even the government) to see that becoming a First World nation demands political reforms as well as economic ones. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, June 17, 2005
# Posted 11:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
You can't be serious when you write [about China]:I have had the misfortune to read many things written by Prof. Mearsheimer, but not regarding China. What those readings indicate is that Mearsheimer, like Kissinger, sometimes draws on a remarkable well of naivete in order to justify accommodating dangerous opponents. Although many intelligent individuals opposed the invasion of Iraq on fairly substantive grounds, Mearsheimer and fellow realist Stephen Walt argued that going to war was a bad idea even if we were fully confident that Saddam was in the process of developing nuclear weapons. They wrote:"Then what? Be prepared, I suppose. Strengthen our alliance with Japan and other allies in the Pacific. And, if at all possible, avoid indulging ourselves in the willful naivete of the realists."Ever read any Mearsheimer? The realists think China is where *all* the action is at vis-a-vis coming political conflicts, and they don't think much of the liberal "socialization" project for China. Kissinger is an outlier because, to be blunt, he represents a lot of interests that would like us to make nice to China....Don't pin this on realism.
But what if Saddam invaded Kuwait again and then said he would use nuclear weapons if the United States attempted another Desert Storm? Again, this threat is not credible. If Saddam initiated nuclear war against the United States over Kuwait, he would bring U.S. nuclear warheads down on his own head. Given the choice between withdrawing or dying, he would almost certainly choose the former. Thus, the United States could wage Desert Storm II against a nuclear-armed Saddam without precipitating nuclear war.Wow. Wow. Repeat: Wow. These guys were confident that a nuclear Iraq would've been no problem to handle. As I responded at the time:
One could have argued at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis that according to strict logic, nuclear war was impossible. Yet no one knew that then and no one knows it now.What's interesting is that realism has a long pedigree of favoring appeasement. E.H. Carr, the founding father of realism, was a staunch supporter of Neville Chamberlain's accomodationist approach to Hitler. And I think I'm not exaggerating when I say that Hitler was the Hitler of his time.
In the early 1950s, the second founding father of realism, Hans Morgenthau, viciously denounced Truman for being too hawkish toward the Soviets. Now it is true that the other great realist of the late 40s and early 50s -- George Kennan -- elaborated the doctrine of containment. Yet by the early 50s, Kennan had also turned against Truman on the grounds that he was too hawkish. In fact, Kennan even opposed the creation of NATO.
So what we see from Carr, to Morgenthau, to Kennan, to Kissinger, to Mearsheimer & Walt (c. 2002) is a resilient tradition of downgrading the threat presented by aggressive dictatorships. Yet as Prof. DN would be sure to point out, Mearsheimer was the quite the hawk during the 1980s. Many other realists were hawkish then as well.
This countertrend represented the growth of an emerging divide between "offensive" and "defensive" realists. The offensive faction tended to see the costs of aggression as low, and therefore thought of armed force as the only effective deterrent. The defensive faction had more confidence in the implicit deterrent of alliances, for example the Sino-American willingness to punish hypothetical Soviet aggression.
What united the offensive and defensive factions was an almost total disregard for the internal composition of the regimes they analyzed. The idea that democracies don't go to war with one another struck them as being as naive and dangerous.
These days, realism is in a state of flux, primarily because of the end of the Cold War. According to almost all pre-1991 realist theory, a unipolar world is something that simply shouldn't exist. Then, in the mid-1990s, Mearsheimer famously invested his reputation in the prediction that in the absence of a Soviet threat, Europe would descend once again into the internecine warfare of the pre-1945 era. Around the same time, Walt predicted that in the absence of a Soviet threat, NATO would fall apart. As you can see, the probelm with these bold predictions is that they ignored the difference between dictatorship and democracy.
Getting back to China, I'm guessing that the same offensive-defensive divide that bifurcated realist approaches to the Soviet Union is also responsible for mixed opinions about China. In addition, many realists have rushed to embrace the idea that democratizing powers, as opposed to established democracies, are especially war prone. When I track down Mearsheimer's latest on the Middle Kingdom, I'll let you know what he says.
In conclusion, DN is right that I should tar every realist with the stain of Kissinger's Sinophilic accomodationism. But the intellectual impulses responsible for Kissinger's short-sightness are endemic to the realist community. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:06 AM by Patrick Belton
Thursday, June 16, 2005
# Posted 6:48 PM by Patrick Belton
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
# Posted 2:00 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
I think the place to start is with this delightful paragraph:
Military imperialism is not the Chinese style. Clausewitz, the leading Western strategic theoretician, addresses the preparation and conduct of a central battle. Sun Tzu, his Chinese counterpart, focuses on the psychological weakening of the adversary. China seeks its objectives by careful study, patience and the accumulation of nuances -- only rarely does China risk a winner-take-all showdown.I wonder how many folks in Tibet would agree that "military imperialism is not the Chinese style". Then again, it isn't exactly fair to judge the current government in Beijing by what its predecessor did more than fifty years ago.
But if Kissinger is trying to argue that China has changed, what's with all of this hokum about Sun Tzu, who lived more than two thousand years ago? In contrast, Mao Zedong said much more recently that "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." Yet the realistic Kissinger covenienty ignores the influence of Mao on the Party and the republic that he created.
Now here's some more realistic analysis from Kissinger:
It is unwise to substitute China for the Soviet Union in our thinking and to apply to it the policy of military containment of the Cold War...The Russian empire was governed by force; the Chinese empire by cultural conformity with substantial force in the background.Someone (maybe someone from Tibet) should've told that guy standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square that China is governed by "substantial force" only "in the background". Apparently, Mr. Kissinger seems to have forgotten that China is still a dictatorship. In fact the word 'dictatorship' doesn't appear in his op-ed. Nor does 'democracy'. Nor does 'human rights'.
As a committed realist, Kissinger desperately wants to believe that American foreign policy can be made without reference to the deeply-rooted ideals of democracy and human rights. And he's right; it can. From 1969 until 1976, the United States displayed almost no concern for democracy or human rights. Coincidentally, Kissinger served as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State from 1969 until 1976. (And the first president Kissinger worked for didn't even seem to be too concerned about subverting democracy within the United States.)
In addition to being an ethical concern, democracy and human rights have a lot to do with national security. As Robert Kagan pointed out in his recent column about China, there is only one clear-cut case of a rising power in the international system making it to the top without fighting a war against the hegemon it displaced. That rising power was the United States. That hegemon was Britain. Rightly, Kagan observes that
The fact that both powers shared a common liberal, democratic ideology, and thus roughly consonant ideas of international order, greatly lessened the risk of accommodation from the British point of view.So, then, do China and the United States have "consonant ideas of international order"? Kissinger does quite a good job of evading this question. He never seems to tells us what it is that China wants or why some very smart people consider China to be quite threatening. Kissinger does insist, however, that
China, in its own interest, is seeking cooperation with the United States for many reasons, including the need to close the gap between its own developed and developing regions; the imperative of adjusting its political institutions to the accelerating economic and technological revolutions; and the potentially catastrophic impact of a Cold War with the United States on the continued raising of the standard of living, on which the legitimacy of the government depends.He almost makes it sound as if Jimmy Carter were the president of China. I have to admit, it would be nice if Beijing's concern for social inequality led it to pursue a more peaceful foreign policy. Yet in practice, Beijing seems to be doing exactly the opposite. In order to divert attention from probelms at home, it creates problems abroad. Of course, Kissinger conveniently avoids mentioning how the Chinese government recently whipped up an anti-Japanese furor for no good reason at all.
Now let's get to the point. Assuming that Kissinger's analysis were correct, what kind of policy toward China should America have. Here's Kissinger's advice:
America needs to understand that a hectoring tone evokes in China memories of imperialist condescension and that it is not appropriate in dealing with a country that has managed 4,000 years of uninterrupted self-government.I thought that realists were supposed to be tough. I thought that realists placed an emphasis on power. Instead, Kissinger wants us to believe that foreign policy is about multicultural self-esteem.
So then, if I disagree with Kissinger (and even dare to mock the Great Henry), what do I think we should do about China? Well, first of all, like Robert Kagan, I think China is the one that's going to decide what kind of relationship we have with it. We should speak out on behalf of democracy and human rights but never pretend that our expressions of interest can change the course of Chinese politics.
Then what? Be prepared, I suppose. Strengthen our alliance with Japan and other allies in the Pacific. And, if at all possible, avoid indulging ourselves in the willful naivete of the realists. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, June 13, 2005
# Posted 2:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:21 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
8. The Chiefs of Staff have discussed the viability of US military plans. Their initial view is that there are a number of questions which would have to be answered before they could assess whether the plans are sound. Notably these include the realism of the 'Running Start', the extent to which the plans are proof against Iraqi counter-attack using chemical or biological weapons and the robustness of US assumptions about the bases and about Iraqi (un)willingness to fight.So it seems that the British Cabinet was profoundly concerned about Iraqi chemical and biological weapons. Relying on my Sherlock Holmes-ian powers of inference, I therefore infer that the Cabinet was wholly convinced that Saddam actually had chemical and biological weapons. If only they had lied and told us he didn't... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, June 12, 2005
# Posted 11:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Blair and his top advisers eight months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq concluded that the U.S. military was not preparing adequately for what the British memo predicted would be a "protracted and costly" postwar occupation of that country.As Kevin Drum points out, this isn't exactly a revelation (even if Juan Cole calls it a "bombshell"). No one needed secret intelligence, even in 2002, to discover that the Bush administration hadn't done enough to prepare for the occupation of Iraq. Even so, slightly more evidence in favor of this obvious point still gets front page coverage in the Post.
(NB: The full text of the new British memo is here. Link via Jeralyn Merritt.)
But what about the other side of the story? What about the fact that no one other than Bush seemed to believe that the people of Iraq would display tremendous enthusiasm for democracy once liberated from Saddam Hussein? If a British memo from 2002 had predicted what would happen in the elections of January 2005, that would really be news.
Now, I recognize that journalists must serve as watchdogs, always ready to expose the failures of our government. Thus, the Bush administration deserves to be hammered for its pre-war planning.
But if journalists want to educate the (reading) public, perhaps they should explore why all of the experts failed to anticipate the Iraqi people's enthusiasm for democracy. By the same token, they should explore why the Shi'ites have been so amazingly tolerant of Sunni terrorism.
The reason to provide additional coverage of these subjects isn't that the Bush administration deserves better press. It is that the media is supposed to do more than present worst-case scenarios. In the long-run, looking at both sides of the equation will benefit the media, as well, by restoring the credibility it has squandered so magnificently of late. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Since September the 11th, federal terrorism investigations have resulted in charges against more than 400 suspects, and more than half of those charged have been convicted.That quote from the president serves as the launching point for a major WaPo article/investigation into whether the Justice Department has actually caught as many terrorists as Bush says. The investigation concludes that Justice has only won 39 convictions on charges related to terrorism, rather than 200. Moreover, the majority of those convictions have nothing to do with either Al Qaeda or any other groups planning attacks on the United States.
For some, even the number 39 represents vindication. As Michelle Malkin points out, Paul Krugman is fond of saying that the Justice Department hasn't put a single terrorist in jail. Malkin offers no defense of Bush's statistics, however.
What I would add is that there are two important points that the article doesn't explore, presumably because of space limitations. The first is why so few terrorists have been apprehended and imprisoned. The WaPo mentions in passing that its results
Raise the possibility that the presence of al Qaeda operatives and sympathizers within the United States is either limited or largely undetected, many terrorism experts say.That's a pretty big distinction. If the answer is 'limited', one might say Bush deserves considerable credit for rolling up whatever Al Qaeda cells were in place. If the answer is 'undetected', then we may all be in very big trouble and have to ask whether the Patriot Act is doing its job.
Which leads me to my second point. The purpose of Bush's speech on Thursday was to defend the Patriot Act and illustrate how it contributes to the search for terrorists in the United States. The WaPo investigation doesn't say much at all about whether the 39 convictions it identified were made possible by the Patriot Act. While it would be more impressive if the Act were responsible for 200 convictions, 39 may well be enough to justify the continuation of those Patriot Act provisions that are set to expire in the coming months. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:44 PM by Patrick Belton
Very little has changed in the four years since I've been gone. Bangladesh is still one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 138th on the Human Development Index in 2004 (which still does not put it at the bottom in South Asia - Pakistan ranks 142). The poverty is still breathtaking. The first time I was here, I noticed an alarming number of children and elderly people without limbs begging on the street. After enquiry, I learned that families often lop a limb off one person to increase their begging prospects. One child's arm means food for the other six or seven children. The middle class is miniscule to the point of non-existence. Any Bangladeshi with money or connections almost invariably goes overseas, most to the Gulf, the UK or the US, sending remittances home and providing one of the main sources of income for the country.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:19 PM by Patrick Belton
Saturday, June 11, 2005
# Posted 11:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Next up, Mickey Kaus provides a humorously scathing compilation of EJ Dionne's efforts to persuade
# Posted 10:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
For the moment, I will withhold my general thoughts about the book and its portrayal of the Reagan White House. Instead, I will reproduce some of Johnson's comments about Christian conservatives, which struck me as astoundingly narrow-minded for someone who supposedly knows so much about politics. The following is from Page 206 of the 1992 edition:
The rise of the Moral Majority had been foreseen nearly thirty years earlier [i.e. in the 1950s] by a California longshoreman named Eric Hoffer. His small book The True Believer became one of the most important and provocative of a generation. In examining "the true believer" mentality and its impact on mass movements, Hoffer said:Although American liberalism prizes few things above tolerance, that tolerance does not seem to extend to those who take their with utmost seriousness. I may disagree with many, many of the positions advocated by the Christian Right, but when I criticize them, I try to offer more than pseudo-psychiatry and crude condescension.All mass movements...irrespective of the doctrines they teach and the programs they project, breed fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred, and intolerance; all of them are capable of releasing a powerful flow of activity in certain departments of life; all of them demand blind faith and single-hearted allegiance. All movements, however different in doctrine and aspiration, draw their early adherents from the same type of humanity; they all appeal to the same types of minds.Without realizing it, Hoffer had described the elements that made up the Moral Majority, or Christian Right, thirty years later [i.e. in the 1980s]. They were America's new old-fashioned zealots. And they were a misnomer. They were more accurately the Militant Minority, and they were created by the same kind of true believer frustrations that Hoffer spoke of in general: "Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for lost faith in ourselves." In the eighties, the Moral Majority demonstrated how such a militant and intolerant minority can take control when zealously motivated.
I also find Johnson's endorsement of Hoffer's denigration of mass movements to be extremely ironic, given that Johnson won his Pulizter for coverage of the civil rights movement. In addition, a wave of democratic mass movements sprang to life across Eastern Europe in the years just before Johnson sat down to write his book.
Now, it is fair to ask why I am bothering to criticize in such great detail a book that came out fourteen years ago. One answer is that I just read the book and was so offended that I felt compelled to write about it. Another answer is that it is important to establish that there is a long tradition in the United States of highly-educated liberals displaying contempt toward people of faith.
It is important to establish the length of this tradition not just because OxBlog enjoys exposing the hypocrisy of the mainstream media, but because Democrats with an interest in winning elections need to recognize just how profoundly liberals have failed to understand American Christians. It is simply not possible to reach out to a constituency that one believes to be inherently ignorant and delusional.
In light how close the elections were in 2000 and 2004, the Democrats may prevail in 2008 without changing their attitudes toward religion. But in a close race, the last thing you want to do is assume that millions of voters are lost when in fact they might be found. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, June 10, 2005
# Posted 8:14 AM by Patrick Belton
Thursday, June 09, 2005
# Posted 1:37 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
However, Jim Hoagland had much less positive things to say about Adbullah back in March:
As Arafat did, Abdullah works against U.S. interests in Iraq and elsewhere while pretending otherwise...I may not understand the byzantine intricacies of Jordanian court politics, but there seems to be more than enough reason to be far more skeptical of Adbullah than Mr. Ignatius wants to be. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:36 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 1:25 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
# Posted 10:27 AM by Patrick Belton
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
# Posted 5:51 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:18 AM by Patrick Belton
Monday, June 06, 2005
# Posted 11:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
"WOOLF"(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
My family was killed by ninjas. Need money for kung fu lessons.So, you might ask, did I reward this man for his creativity? No, but primarily because I believe in giving to organized charities that use their funds more efficiently than individuals. But if I pass him a second time, you just never know... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:28 AM by Patrick Belton
Sunday, June 05, 2005
# Posted 6:42 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 6:01 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:50 AM by Patrick Belton
In the 69 years of its existence, the Soviet Union kept the state together with various means—from the white noise of its propaganda machinery to the animal brutality of its repressions. As easy and lulling as it must have been to succumb to the iron will of the state, voices of thoughtful dissent were also nourished in the Soviet Union, in spite of its best designs. These voices belonged to its intelligentsia: artists, writers, linguists, geologists, playwrights, economists, biologists. Sometimes they spoke in the exquisite language of poetry; sometimes they employed irony and satire; sometimes they fell into a simple and quiet insistence on the truth of science and reason and on the need to define one’s humanity through something other than fear. By the 1980s, some of these figures had become emboldened to challenge the state directly, and though the Soviet Union fell at last under the weight of its own political and economic system, the steady crescendo of their voices abetted the dissolution.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:37 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:28 AM by Patrick Belton
If Bush's critics are implicitly demanding that he do something about Uzbekistan, are they not also conceding that his policy there blemishes the wider support for regime-change? The United States did not invent or impose the Karimov government: It "merely" accepted its offer of strategic and tactical help in the matter of Afghanistan. Presumably, those who criticize Karimov's internal conduct are not asking that we repudiate such help (or are they?). They are, at any rate ostensibly, demanding that we use our influence to amend Uzbekistan's internal affairs. So it seems as if, when all the rhetoric is examined, the regime-change position is only being criticized for its inconsistency. That strikes me as progress of a kind. (Slate)(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, June 04, 2005
# Posted 7:29 AM by Patrick Belton
Incidentally, in the antipodes, the Chinese consul for political affairs in Sydney walked out of his post this week past and sought political asylum from Canberra, to protest the bloody suppression of political dissenters by his government. And a Hong Kong journalist has been arrested and charged with espionage for obtaining a manuscript about Tiananmen Square by purged former premier Zhao Ziyang. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:09 AM by Patrick Belton
The temptation to excerpt I couldn't resist:
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:40 AM by Patrick Belton
Thursday, June 02, 2005
# Posted 12:29 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:43 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 2:26 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 2:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 2:06 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
At the heart of this confusion is the remarkable ability of pundits of almost every stripe to project their own identity on to that of the victorious anti-constitution majority. The American center-left has persuaded itself that the 'no' vote represents a backlash against laissez faire Anglo-Saxon capitalism. According to Richard Bernstein of the NYT,
The governing parties of the left and the right are saying the same things to their people: that painful, free-market economic reforms are the only path toward rejuvenation, more jobs, better futures. And the people, who have come to equate the idea of an expanded Europe with a challenge to cradle-to-grave social protections, are giving the same answer: We don't believe you.In the Post, Harold Meyerson asserts that
While Europe still remains a bastion -- an embattled bastion -- of social democracy, it was not just the nationalist right and farmers but also the old social democratic base, blue-collar workers in particular, who torpedoed the constitution on Sunday. Rightly or wrongly, they believed the new Europe would afford them fewer protections than the old France.In contrast, American conservatives are celebrating the defeat of the constitution as the rejection of everything represented by the left-leaning European elite. William Kristol writes that
The debate hasn't hinged on questions of E.U. governance. It has turned on something more fundamental--a collapse of confidence in the political and media establishment in France and the Netherlands, and in Western Europe altogether.This observation leads Kristol to the counterintuitive conclusion that
The debate over the constitution opens up the prospect for a broader debate, and a chance for wider rethinking--of Europe's failing welfare states and growth-stultifying, upward-mobility-denying economies; of its failing immigration and multiculturalism policies; of its anti-Americanism and coolness to the cause of freedom and democracy around the world; of its failure to be serious about the threats confronting it and us. All of these are now legitimate subjects of public discussion.My sense is that Kristol has things exactly back-to-front. The French and Dutch repudiations will lead injured European politicians to protect the popular European welfare state ever more obsessively. And if that doesn't work, Chirac, Schroeder, et al. may resort to the America-bashing that has bolstered their popularity so effectively before. As Philip Gordon argues in TNR,
Americans should hold their applause, which they may soon come to regret. That's because the eclectic group of angry French leftists, populists, nationalists, and nostalgics who opposed Chirac and the constitution had very different--in fact, precisely opposite--reasons for doing so than the Americans who cheered them on. In other words, if you didn't like French policies before Sunday, you're going to like them even less now.So, does this mean that liberals such as Bernstein and Meyerson are correct, i.e. that the results of the French and Dutch referenda amount to an overwhelming endorsement of left-wing social democracy?
My fairly confident answer to that question is 'no', because the liberals seem to underestimate just how much the anti-constitution vote reflected a non-ideological resentment of the way in which the European political class has imposed its vision of a united continent on a frustrated electorate. According to Anne Applebaum,
The democratic deficit was built into the European project from the beginning, and it has grown along with Europe's institutions...'Inchoate' is a good word to describe the situation, because it seems almost impossible to discern any positive agenda shared by the collective opponents of the constitution. David Brooks' formulation of this dynamic seems to capture the confusion rather well:
Influenced by anxiety about the future, every faction across the political spectrum found something to feel menaced by. For the Socialist left, it was the threat of economic liberalization. For parts of the right, it was the threat of Turkey. For populists, it was the condescension of the Brussels elite. For others, it was the prospect of a centralized European superstate. Many of these fears were mutually exclusive. The only commonality was fear itself, the desire to hang on to what they have in the face of change and tumult all around.To a certain extent, I am puzzled by the fact that the relatively bland E.U. constitution has become the Rorshach-style ink blot onto which European citizens have projected all of their resentments. Yet there are few things that antagonize democratic citizens more than an institution that threatens to take away their control of even some small part of their own lives and hand it over to unelected bureaucrats.
(1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
# Posted 3:59 PM by Patrick Belton
Some people find the gherkin a bit, well, too appealing. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:56 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:51 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:44 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:41 PM by Patrick Belton
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
# Posted 9:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
In defense of leg infantry, my father's division was in the line for approximately seven months. The only break was moving from Holland out of the British Army's command, to the Third Army farther south. A military road march on trucks was a "break" only if the alternative was worse--which, of course, it was.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:17 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Believe it or not, I found myself compelled to watch Risky Business because I am writing a dissertation about the Reagan era. As some of you will no doubt remember, Ron Reagan Jr. did his own version of the underwear dance when he hosted Saturday Night Live in 1986. This embarrassed his conservative father to a certain extent, althoug not as much as Iran-Contra did later that fall.
Anyhow, in case you were thinking of watching Risky Business after reading about it on OxBlog, I have one word for you: Don't. (Unless you are a big Sopranos fan and absolutely must see every film in which Joe Pantoliano plays an Italian gangster.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:45 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Although there are lots of good reasons not to write about a book until you've finished reading, I was so surprised by the first chapter of BoB that I feel I have to write about it, if only to make sure I don't forget my first impressions.
The conventional wisdom about BoB the film is that it is an extremely loyal adaptation of BoB the book. Thus, you won't be surprised to hear that while reading that first chapter, I kept coming across paragraphs and sentences that seemed to correspond perfectly with the images I'd seen on film.
However, from a more analytical perspective, I felt that I was reading about a very different Easy Company than the one brought to life by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. Hanks & Spielberg want Easy Company to serve as a metaphor for the millions of Americans who served in uniform during World War II. The courage, fortitude and good humor of their Easy Company is supposed to stand in for the courage, fortitude and good humor of an entire generation -- of The Greatest Generation.
As I noted in an earlier post that was critical of BoB the film, I have had it up to here with the mindless nostalgia that pervades almost every discussion of The Greatest Generation (or TGG for short, because even typing out that silly name gets on my nerves).
Initially, the overall strengh of BoB the film prevented me from caring all that much about its nostalgic presentation of TGG. However, Ambrose's book makes it clear from the very beginning that Easy Company was in no way representative of the generation that fought the war.
It is true that Easy Company was comprised of "citizen soldiers" (p. 13) who were rich and poor, urban and rural, Catholic and Protestant. At the same time, Easy Company and the whole of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment consisted of the toughest soldiers in the entire United States Army.
These soldiers were put through an exceptionally brutal training regimen. The small percentage of those that made it through training earned the right to wear their wings. According to Ambrose, only 1800 of the 5300 enlisted men who volunteered for the 506th made it through training. Of 500 officers who volunteered, only 148 made it through.
Since more than a month has passed since I saw the first episode of BoB the film, I cannot say categorically that Hanks & Spielberg ignore this issue entirely. I do remember a few stray comments about the airborne being a very tough branch of the service. But there you get no sense from the film that 2/3 of the men couldn't even make it through training.
Another fascinating piece of information that I don't recall being in the film has to do with the Non-Commissioned Officers (or NCOs, mostly sergeants) in Easy Company. Because the 506th was an "experimental outfit" (p. 16) that hadn't existed before the war, it had to draw all of its NCOs from more established units. Gradually, those NCOs all quit "as the training grew more intense".
From comic books or documentaries, almost every pop culture portrayal of the NCO is that of the grizzled old sergeant who is ten times tougher than all of the kids half his age. Although the sergeants in BoB the film don't seem particularly old, Hanks & Spielberg do provide them with the same halo of greatness that has become a Hollywood cliche. But if you read Ambrose, you realize that the NCOs in Easy Company were not run-of-the-mill members of TGG or even run-of-the-mill NCOs. Rather, they were the best of the best, the chosen few among the chosen few who had survived airborne training.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the execellence of the 506th inspired a certain condescension toward the undifferentiated mass of soldiers that made up most of the American armed forces. Ambrose writes that the men of Easy Company
"knew they were going into combat, and they did not want to go in with poorly trained, poorly conditioned, poorly motivated draftees on either side of them." (p. 14)That makes perfect sense to me. But if you just watched BoB the film, you'd never know that there were any poorly trained, conditioned or motivated soldiers in the US Army. In fact, you'd probably just assume that the Army was full of soldiers who could suffer through the most brutal weather and the bloodiest confrontations with the Wehrmacht and still have the same unflinching desire to march forward and serve their country. (And don't disagree with me by bringing up Episode Three and Pvt. Blithe. He may be afraid, but he becomes a hero by the end, too.)
In closing, let me say that I mean no disrespect for those who served, whether in the most humble unit or with the select few of the 506th. But as I scholar, I must stand opposed, as I said before, to
Unthinking nostalgia that makes it very hard to think about the present in a realistic manner. In the same way that our glorification of the Founding Fathers makes us lament the intense partisanship of today, our glorification of The Greatest Generation does the same. Yet like the Founding Fathers, The Greatest Generation often found itself riven by partisan and ideological conflicts.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion