Monday, March 21, 2005

Philip Bowring: How America's interests collide in Asia

Interesting take on the Rice trip.

Prediction 1: When the dollar crashes, the US will find it's no longer the economic superpower it thinks it is. And it will regret having pissed off allies needed in order to get stuff done abroad.

Prediction 2: Bush will eventually be remembered as he who presided over the beginning of the decline of America.

The big question is this: Will America go down peacefully (like the British) or will the hard right stay in power and use our massive military lead to cause a really destructive "stink". It will be up to the American voters.

Am I too pessimistic? I hope so. This is what's at stake though.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Juan Cole: Democracy -- by George?

A must-read for all those who now claim that Bush's middle-east strategy has been vindicated (salon one-day pass needed).

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Karen Hughes and Public Diplomacy

A very good read by Fred Kaplan of Slate:
As a recent RAND Corporation paper on public diplomacy put it, 'Misunderstanding of American values is not the principal source of anti-Americanism.' Sometimes foreigners understand us just fine; they simply don't like what they see.

Monday, March 14, 2005


Do you consider yourself Libertarian? Since I moved to the South I've met a bunch of people who do. My guess is that many of them are too rational and/or secular to be Republican. But since they grew up in places where "Democrat" equals "pussy" and "spineless" they can't be Democrats either. So by the time-honored process of elimination they are Libertarian.

But what does that mean, exactly? Here's a purity test where you can find out. (Hat tip: Drezner.)

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Bolton at the UN

Some people think the nomination of John Bolton as the US ambassador to the UN is a good thing, and I am finding that I agree with many of their arguments. Certainly, a spokesman who shares the administration's view of the world is better than a friendly and competent ambassador who would be constantly overridden by the White House (case in point: Colin Powell).

Still, I don't buy all the pro-Bolton arguments. Anne Applebaum writes in WaPo that:
Unlike, say, the U.S. civil service, or the Japanese bureaucracy, the U.N. bureaucracy is not beholden to a democratic government or even a sovereign government. There is no electorate that can toss the Libyans out of the human rights commissioner's chair, no judicial system that can try corrupt officials. As I understand Bolton's critique of the United Nations and other international institutions (when he isn't being Rumsfeldesque in his turn of phrase) it is precisely this that concerns him: Indeed, he has spoken and written for many years on the threats to America's sovereignty -- and everyone else's sovereignty -- from international institutions that owe nobody any allegiance, are subject to no independent review and have no democratic legitimacy of their own.

The trouble with many U.N. defenders is that they refuse to see this fundamental problem...
I see her point and I am certainly in favor of any reform initiatives from Bolton or anybody else. But I strongly object to the notion that the U.N. is a "threat to America's sovereignty". It may be a threat to everyone else's sovereignty but it's no threat to America as long as we have the biggest gun on the block.

The trouble with many U.N. critics is they forget the U.N. is largely an American creation. Its raison d'etre is to help propegate US values and project "soft power" across the globe. For the price of a small and voluntary loss of sovereignty America gets allies, peacekeepers and help with conflict resolution.

Most Americans think this is an acceptable trade-off. Those who don't should say so instead of trying to scare everybody with all this talk of a "threat to our sovereignty".

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Views of a European-style Conservative

Via Yglesias, a good read about a guy named John Lukacs who thinks American "conservatives" are more populist than conservative. This piece reminded me of my younger days as an active member of the Young Conservatives in Norway.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Colin Powell Interview

An interesting interview. These two paragraphs speak volumes about the former Secretary of State's integrity:
So how would he characterise the ideology of neo-conservatism which has had so much influence on the Administration? He sees this, rightly, as a less than innocent question, and laughs a lot: 'This will have to wait for another day. I'm a very recently minted ex-Secretary of State.'

And there's another thing he won't talk about. The man who closely served four Presidents won't compare George Bush, the younger, with any of the others.
A great man. I wonder what he'll do next. America needs people like Colin.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Bush's Foreign Policy Successes?

Food for thought from a Sullivan reader:
I've been a devoted reader of your blog since its inception five or six years ago. I'm a stalwart Democrat, and I disagreed with you for quite a bit of time - particularly the years immediately after 9/11 - yet I continued reading. I was studying in Cairo for 9/11, and the sentiments you called upon seemed completely alien to me, as your assessment of Bush seemed ridiculous; when you declared that you couldn't have imagined a competent Gore response to 9/11, I couldn't have disagreed more.

However, I suddenly feel a similar sentiment. I'm currently in Damascus, and I've been following the events in neighboring Lebanon quite closely. And all I see are Bush administration successes, from Ukraine to Iraq to Lebanon to Egypt. The transitions to democracy in all of these countries is hardly a fait accompli - both Iraq and Lebanon could still descend into sectarian civil war, and Egypt has hardly begun - but they are immensely heartening. And it's hard not to credit Bush. More worryingly (for me at least), it's hard to imagine a Kerry responding to Hariri's assassination as perfectly. This may be unfair - I'm a big fan of Joe Biden - but I have to confess that Bush's radical liberalism feels quite justified by current events. I'm waiting for a Democratic foreign policy that's not only competent - and I'm still convinced that the Democratic foreign policy establishment has many more competent than, say, Rumsfeld - but also idealistic. Idealism is powerful, and this is something Bush realized and I didn't. But the people of the Middle East certainly do understand this, and hopefully the Democratic foreign policy establishment will follow suit.
There have been several such reports recently, along with much gloating by right-wing bloggers. Perhaps Jon Stewart's fears will come true again:
[About Bush] He's gonna be a great--pretty soon, Republicans are gonna be like, "Reagan was nothing compared to this guy." Like, my kid's gonna go to a high school named after him, I just know it.
My own take is this: It is early days still, but from the standpoint of a foreign-policy liberal like myself it may look like Bush has actually started to do some good in this world. His Reaganesque conviction that if you talk tough about democracy and freedom long enough good things will happen seems to be paying off.

Now, if you think about it, this shouldn't be a surprise. In fact, a bigger surprise is that I was convinced Bush was purely immoral and self-interested. I didn't think much about the potential benefits of his policies. Just like the Clinton-haters still can't bring themselves to see that a liar and a cheat could actually balance the budget, grow the economy, and go after the worst terrorist of our time (Bin Laden).

Like many moderate liberals I aim to be less close-minded than most right-wing nut jobs so chalk me down as one of the liberals who is having second thoughts about the categorically rigid condemnation of the Bush administration and all its policies. That doesn't mean I would have voted for him (I still think he's untrustworthy, I don't like his secretive style, I don't like his despot-like tendencies to reward loyalty over competence, I absolutely hate his fiscal policies). But it means that I am now finally convinced that deep down he does want to promote freedom (albeit with a strong American flavor).

Of course it would be nice if he would stop pestering promoters of freedom such as Al-Jazeera but I guess in Bush's world these are mere details. Like with Reagan and his various nutty initiatives (like Star Wars) I guess it doesn't really matter if he knows what freedom really means as long as he keeps talking about it.

Mail-in Rebate How-To

Via Kevin Drum: Confessions of a Mail-In Rebate Junkie

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Confessions of a Mail-In Rebate Junkie

Via Kevin Drum: Confessions of a Mail-In Rebate Junkie. I'm following his advice next time I submit a rebate claim.

Confessions of a Mail-In Rebate Junkie

Via Kevin Drum: Confessions of a Mail-In Rebate Junkie. I'm following his advice next time I submit a rebate claim.