Friday, April 28, 2006

Wesley Clark Watch

Doin' stuff:
.. Wesley Clark fans will be pleased to hear that Senate Democrats will host a retreat in Philadelphia this weekend, and Clark will help lead a discussion on how the party should go 'Head to head with the GOP on National Security in '06.' Clark also hosted a fundraising in New York last night for his political action committee. Among the attendees was billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

How the American "Conservative" Mind Works

Glenn Greenwald has a terrific insight into the world of contemporary American right-wingers.

In fairness, I should say that I've seen examples of the same phenomenom in the liberal blogosphere. Not long ago I saw some liberal bloggers who claimed that Michelle Malkin had posted the phone numbers of members of UC Santa Cruz "Students Against War" (SAW). The original posts failed to mention that those phone numbers had first been included in a press release that SAW itself had put out. Yet the outrage trickled down the liberal blogosphere as blogger after blogger referred back to the original claims of this heinous crime committed by Malkin.

However, I see this type of thing much more often in the right-wing-nut-job half of the blogosphere. And what's more important is that I almost never see the right-wingers apologizing or correcting themselves after the facts are unmistakably on the table. The notable exceptions here (among the bloggers I read) are Andrew Sullivan and Greg Djereijan. Which, I suspect, is why true RVNJ's no longer think of them as "real" conservatives.

UPDATE: Glenn's powerful follow-up and response to his critics. His writings are amazing. I just pre-ordered his #1 Amazon ranked book. Wifey yelled at me (citing a history of buying books I don't read) but I don't care - I'm a fan! To me this guy is like the Yankees, Braves, Hawks and the Norwegian national soccer team rolled into one! :)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Israel Lobby Revisited

A great contribution to the debate about the Israel Lobby:
The damage that is done by America's fear of anti-Semitism when discussing Israel is threefold. It is bad for Jews: anti-Semitism is real enough (I know something about it, growing up Jewish in 1950's Britain), but for just that reason it should not be confused with political criticisms of Israel or its American supporters. It is bad for Israel: by guaranteeing it unconditional support, Americans encourage Israel to act heedless of consequences. The Israeli journalist Tom Segev described the Mearsheimer-Walt essay as "arrogant" but also acknowledged ruefully: "They are right. Had the United States saved Israel from itself, life today would be better ...the Israel Lobby in the United States harms Israel's true interests."

The Spineless Democrats

Have you ever wondered why Democrats are so spineless about everything? I know I have. But thanks to Glenn Greenwald, Brad Friedman, and Russ Feingold I now know the answer.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Go Read Michael Yon

Go read Michael Yon if you care about what's going on in Iraq (hat tip: Greg). Yon is a former member of US Special Forces who went to Iraq to "find the truth". His reporting is patriotic and honest, and he does it for the right reasons:
I do not report this because I harbor animosity for the current administration, or to magnify any mistakes it has made, but only so that the American people, and readers around the world, can be presented with at least one set of eyes and ears that are reasonably politically color-blind and tone-deaf. If the truth helps the administration, so be it. If the truth damages the administration, so be it. More important is to provide information people can use in their own decision cycles.
I just donated $10 to his online magazine.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Creating Democracies

A noteworthy observation:
As I see it, through my sociological lenses, a much more considerable shift in US foreign policy is called for. In the short run, instead of seeking liberals throughout the Muslim world to ally ourselves with (the US just allotted 85 million dollars to democracy promotion in Iran)-- the US should recognize that the majority of the people in the Muslim world are moderates but not liberals. They do not favor free speech or women’s rights, but they do hold that other people should be free to follow their religions and, above all, they oppose violence, whether it takes the form of invading other nations or terrorism. Polls show that among the 140 million Muslims in Indonesia, the 70 million in Turkey, and the 32 million in Morocco, less than fifteen percent support suicide bombers. There are also numerous indications that there is little support for terrorism among Muslims in India, Malaysia, and Bangladesh. And eighty-four percent of Palestinians favor a peaceful solution to the conflict with Israel. (Many of the 44% that did vote for Hamas did so because of its integrity and the services it provides).

In the longer run we should realize that the end state of history may well be a regime that combines liberal forms of government with stronger commitments to the common good and greater concern for spiritual, religious, and cultural matters than the Fukuyama model calls for and the US promotes.

While it is true that nations such as China are now engulfed in a ‘making it,’ consumerist craze, I see this preoccupation as a child disease that nations outgrow. Europeans have long shown their strong interest in a social market and their preoccupations with cultural matters compared to economic efficiency. The same holds for many nations that are lumped together as the East. Moreover, the US itself regularly goes through periods in which it exhibit is a strong quest for more “social capital”, commitment to the common good, and moral values rather than merely various rights and liberties and material goods. The “end of history”, if there is such a thing, may lie somewhere between the individualism the US and the traditionalism favored by the Mullahs.

None of this will be of much importance until the end of the Bush Administration is followed by what might be called an Age of Restoration, in which the US conventional forces, credibility, good name overseas, alliances, and financial health are restored.
Shorter version: When dealing with rogue statest we should support those who want peace, not those who want to create a "market-driven" society like America. Yet another reason why sending twentysomthing Republican idealists recruited at the Heritage foundation to do post-war reconstruction is not such a bright idea.

Friday, April 14, 2006

On McCain

For the record, I don't agree with Krugman's assessment that McCain is a "man of the hard right". He may be more conservative than most liberals, but he's a good man.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Whiskey Bar: Why People Think the Economy Sucks

Another great Billmon post, this time on the economy. I'm re-posting these charts just so that I know where to find them next time I hear a Bush-sycophant bragging about the economy has helped ordinary people:

UPDATE: Changed "bragging about the great economy" to "bragging about the economy has helped ordinary people". Obviously this economy, under its Republican leadership, is good for some.

Billmon on Iran

Lots of blogs are linking to this important post:
What I'm suggesting here is that it is probably naive to expect the American public to react with horror, remorse or even shock to a U.S. nuclear sneak attack on Iran, even though it would be one of the most heinous war crimes imaginable, short of mass genocide. Iran has been demonized too successfully -- thanks in no small part to the messianic delusions of its own end-times president -- for most Americans to see it as a victim of aggression, even if they were inclined to admit that the United States could ever be an aggressor. And we know a not-so-small and extremely vocal minority of Americans would be cheering all the way, and lusting for more.
Read the whole thing.

Also note Brzezinski's prediction:
Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, makes a similar argument about Iran. "I think of war with Iran as the ending of America's present role in the world," he told me this week. "Iraq may have been a preview of that, but it's still redeemable if we get out fast. In a war with Iran, we'll get dragged down for 20 or 30 years. The world will condemn us. We will lose our position in the world.

Billmon on Iran

Lots of blogs are linking to this important post:
What I'm suggesting here is that it is probably naive to expect the American public to react with horror, remorse or even shock to a U.S. nuclear sneak attack on Iran, even though it would be one of the most heinous war crimes imaginable, short of mass genocide. Iran has been demonized too successfully � thanks in no small part to the messianic delusions of its own end-times president � for most Americans to see it as a victim of aggression, even if they were inclined to admit that the United States could ever be an aggressor. And we know a not-so-small and extremely vocal minority of Americans would be cheering all the way, and lusting for more.
Read the whole thing.

Also note Brzezinski's prediction:
Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, makes a similar argument about Iran. "I think of war with Iran as the ending of America's present role in the world," he told me this week. "Iraq may have been a preview of that, but it's still redeemable if we get out fast. In a war with Iran, we'll get dragged down for 20 or 30 years. The world will condemn us. We will lose our position in the world.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Iraq: Accurately predicted in January 2001

Try this one on for size:
"[W]e should be prepared for armed melodrama. Bush is not a worldly man. His father was head of the CIA, ambassador to China, and president of the United States. The son stayed home. During the Vietnam War, he hurried into the Texas National Guard, defending the skies over Houston. He has visited only two foreign countries, one of them Mexico (the other seems to have slipped his mind). He was the first presidential candidate in memory who needed briefings about geography.

But he knows where Iraq is, and is completely aware of what his father failed to do in that country: remove Saddam Hussein. A son in rivalry with a father can be a very dangerous man. To show "leadership", the new President Bush might defy the European allies of the United States, and risk another oil crisis, by seizing on some slight -–real or imagined – to finish off Saddam Hussein. He would thus force his father to admire him and get a boost in the public opinion polls."

-- Pete Hamill
Not bad, eh?

Monday, April 10, 2006

More on Iran

While the threat has to be taken seriously, this is also true of course:
I missed the day in Civics class when it was explained that the U.S. is the ultimate arbiter of who's allowed to have a Bomb, and that we reserve the right to unilaterally, preemptively attack any nation that tries to build a Bomb without our approval.

This is hubris, and it is going to get one or more of our cities vaporized by a terrorist nuke attack.

Right now, al-Qaeda & a few of its admirers are probably the only crazies who would actively pursue nuking a U.S. city.

After we attack Iran, they will have a lot of company.

Springer on Iran

I was listening to Jerry Springer (on the radio) this morning. While I like him a lot (he is surprisingly moderate) he sometimes starts paddling fast in the wrong direction when he gets asked about things he hasn't thought through yet.

This morning, for instance, he got a call from somebody who pointed out that Iran might make nukes and deliver them in a suicide-bomber's backpack instead of using missiles. Jerry responded by claiming that even though a nuke smuggled in a backpack went off we would know "for sure" that it was Iran that was behind it. The caller then referred to "plausible deniability" and said we would have no way of proving that Iran was behind the attack. Jerry stuck to his guns and then he switched topics. He had no real comeback, so he just dismissed the caller's legitimate argument by saying "oh we'll know it's Iran".

It seems to me the better response would have been to point out that there's very little stopping a suicide-bomber from acquiring a post-Soviet nuke and bringing it into the country today. So nuking Iran to dust would not eliminate this threat.

Also, Jerry could have pointed out that even though we might not know for sure that Iran was behind it if a nuke went off in New York, an Iranian government would have to factor in a risk of their planning being exposed. So if the bombing attempt was somehow thwarted, Iran would face the very real possibility of a US retaliation, which would presumably serve as a cold-war style deterrent.

Bottom line: Liberals should not respond on auto-pilot to these types of arguments, even if we instinctively despise the simplicity of the "nuke-em-all" diehards. Iran is a real issue that has to be dealt with one way or another. Simply calling for "peace and love" is not going to cut it, and the sooner Dems/liberals start to really think about these things the better off we'll all be.

Friday, April 07, 2006

MIT steals Caltech Cannon

I used to think these people were just silly, but now I can't help but feel a sense of pride in these nerds:
Massachusetts pranksters, posing as professional movers, stole the beloved Fleming Cannon — traditionally fired at each year's commencement — from the Pasadena campus last week.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Response to Daniel Drezner on the Israel Lobby

Kudos to Daniel Drezner promoting further debate on the Israel Lobby issue. I will attempt to answer the responses to The Israel Lobby cited by Dan.

The first critic is Josef Joffe:
Would they all have to apply to the self-appointed guardians of the national interest for certification as true Americans? Do they have to be a Hancock or Huntington if they want to speak up? Let's say I am a Ukrainian-American. Am I automatically suspect because I plead for an American policy that would resist Russian pressure against Kiev? I certainly would want to be opposed on the basis of my analysis, and not of my presumed ethnic loyalties....
Joffe seems to be addressing two separate issues here. The "Do they have to be a Hancock or Huntington" comment asks whether your right to speak out on foreign policy issues is determined by the time of your ancestor's entry into the United States. (Presumably a "Hancock" means somebody whose ancestors came over early.)

That is a fair question. My take is that any American, regardless of the time of immigration, should have the same rights to support foreign policies. And in my reading of Mearsheimer/Walt I don’t see anything that suggests they disagree. Nowhere do they make the argument that members of the pro-Israel lobby should be "banned" from supporting Israel simply because they haven’t been in the United States as long as the Huntingtons.

The other issue is whether or not "hyphenated" Americans (such as a Ukrainian-American) have the right to advocate specific US policy directions with regards to the country their ancestors came from. And this, I believe, is a point worth discussing. It can be inferred from the M/W paper that excessive advocacy of US policy towards a "home" country can produce outcomes that are not favorable to the US as a whole.

But what exactly constitutes excessive? In my mind that's far from clear. For instance, if I’m a Norwegian-American and I advocate extensive US military support for Norway then I would say that is fine. But what if Norway is in a bloody war with Sweden, brutally occupying a large portion of it, causing severe grief for the native Swedish population? If the Norwegian-American influence is roughly equal to the Swedish-American influence the I still think we're fine.

But, for argument's sake, let’s say it’s not just a few Mid-Western Norwegian-Americans and I. Imagine that Norwegians occupy a special place of power in American society, both in terms of intellect and money. We’re 3.7% of the population, but 23% of the wealthiest 400 Americans. We count among us 45% of leading intellectuals, 30% of professors at major Universities, 21% of high-level civil servants, 40% of partners in leading law firms in New York and Washington, DC, 26% of the members of print broadcast media, 59% of writers, directors and producers of top-50 grossing movies. (Numbers from "Exceptionalism" via Matthew Yglesias.) Now, does it seem wise to allow Norwegians to support their native "Land of the Fjords" however they see fit? Should the US allow Norwegian-Americans in senior Defense Department positions, for instance?

In my view it would be very un-American to screen cabinet members based on ethnic/national background. And it would be even worse to prevent certain immigrant groups from acquiring wealth or prominence in media, academia or other important places in society. Maybe it would be prudent for a Norwegian-American member of Congress, say, to excuse himself from certain votes about aid to Scandinavia. But such restrictions might be difficult to enforce.

However, if I’m reading M/W correctly, they are not specifically advocating any extreme un-democratic measures to "keep Norwegians out" of positions of power. What they do advocate is a right to demand full transparency. Attempts by pro-Norwegian groups to intimidate pro-Swedes by calling them "racist" should not be tolerated.

That, to me, seems to be the central point of the paper: The Israel Lobby works in subtle, non-accountable ways that have produced a current state of affairs where any critic of contemporary Israeli policies towards Arabs or anybody else is immediately labeled "Anti-Semite". And this has consequences for work and social relations, especially in the media. Saying the "wrong thing" about Israel can kill a professional journalist or politician's career prospects. Matt Yglesias put it well:
Last but by no means least, I'm going to make one final point that requires me to constantly re-iterate that I'm Jewish, lest the anti-semitism police come after me. But (I'm Jewish) I (I'm Jewish) hold (I'm Jewish) to (I'm Jewish) the (I'm Jewish) radical (I'm Jewish) proposition (I'm Jewish) that (I'm Jewish) America's (I'm Jewish) policy (I'm Jewish) toward (I'm Jewish) Israel (I'm Jewish) should (I'm Jewish) be (I'm Jewish) primarily (I'm Jewish) concerned (I'm Jewish) with (I'm Jewish) the (I'm Jewish) interests (I'm Jewish) of (I'm Jewish) America (I'm Jewish) and (I'm Jewish) not (I'm Jewish) those (I'm Jewish) of (I'm Jewish) Israel (I'm Jewish). Insistence from Bush that Sharon deal with Arafat as long as Arafat was alive and in power very well might not have accomplished anything in terms of solving the conflict or protecting Israelis from terrorism, but it certainly would have advanced other US foreign policy goals.

Dan then quotes Eliot Cohen’s Yes, It's Anti-Semitic article:
The authors dismiss or ignore past Arab threats to exterminate Israel, as well as the sewer of anti-Semitic literature that pollutes public discourse in the Arab world today. The most recent calls by Iran's fanatical -- and nuclear weapons-hungry -- president for Israel to be "wiped off the map" they brush aside as insignificant. There is nothing here about the millions of dollars that Saudi Arabia has poured into lobbying and academic institutions, or the wealth of Islamic studies programs on American campuses, though they note with suspicion some 130 Jewish studies programs on those campuses. West Bank settlements get attention; terrorist butchery of civilians on buses or in shopping malls does not. To dispute their view of Israel is not to differ about policy but to act as a foreign agent.
Cohen has a point about the lobbying done by Saudi Arabia in the US. Insofar as such lobbying is also not very transparent, it is probably not aligned with the interests of the majority of Americans. Personally, I think lobbying should be reformed in general to be made more transparent.

But I don’t see how this is a serious counter-argument to the thesis presented by M/W. First of all, the motivations of the Saudis are very different. They essentially lobby the US to ensure their own survival as heads of state. While that may not be a good thing from the point of view of Saudi citizens (who have to live under the kleptocracy) they are not geographically "expansionist" in the way that Israel is. Also, there is a rather large difference in raw scale here. The influence of Saudi residents in the US pales in comparison with the Israeli-American influence. And lastly, when was the last time you saw somebody be publicly labeled an "Anti-Arab racist" in a mainstream forum for being critical of the Saudi regime?

Having said all that, I think Saudi lobbying is essentially another part of the overall problem of hatred of the West in the Muslim world. So the "the Saudis do it too" argument is more an argument for clipping the wings of all undemocratic special-interest lobbies, rather than an argument for the benign nature of the Israel lobby's activities.

Then we have Alan Dershowitz:
First, quotations are wrenched out of context (for example, the authors distort a Ben-Gurion quote to make him appear to favor evacuation of Arabs by "brutal compulsion," when he actually said that, because an evacuation would require "brutal compulsion," it should not become "part of our programme").
Ok, this could be corrected by M/W including the full quote in their paper. I don’t see how that changes the basic tenets of their argument.
Second, facts are misstated (for example, that Israeli citizenship is based on "blood kinship," thus confusing Israel’s law of citizenship with its Law of Return; fully a quarter of Israel’s citizens are not Jewish).
Again, this may be poor wording but I don’t see how it changes any of the fundamental arguments.
And third, embarrassingly poor logic is employed (for example, whenever America and Israel act on a common interest, it must be the result of pressure from "the Lobby," and that "the mere existence of the Lobby" is proof that "support for Israel is not in the American national interest".
I don’t think this "poor logic" is pervasive in the paper. Mearsheimer/Walt point to several policies favored by Israel that have not been in the American interest. Their argument does not rest on solely on the "mere existence of the Lobby" as proof. One of many examples of diverging interests is this:
Backing Israel was not cheap, however, and it complicated America’s relations with the Arab world. For example, the decision to give $2.2 billion in emergency military aid during the October War triggered an Opec oil embargo that inflicted considerable damage on Western economies.
And this:
The relationship with Israel actually makes it harder for the US to deal with these states. Israel’s nuclear arsenal is one reason some of its neighbours want nuclear weapons, and threatening them with regime change merely increases that desire.
Bottom line, I don't think any of these three critics refute the central arguments that
  • the Israel lobby is real;
  • the Israel lobby often succeeds at changing US policy in the Middle East;
  • those changes are not always in the national interest of the United States;
  • the Israel lobby routinely intimidates and silences critics by calling them Anti-Semites;
  • there are moral issues here considering the effects on occupied Palestinians that stem from the disproporionate size of Israeli lobbying efforts vs. Arab/Palestinian lobbying.
UPDATE: frustré, one of Drezner's commenters, posted an excellent reply. Thank goodness there's somebody out there who both writes well (unlike me) and is not afraid to speak the truth:
I have been very disappointed in the reactions of otherwise smart people to this debate. The original article was sloppy, and its conclusions are questionable. But the most prominent responses -- Dershowitz, Cohen, etc. -- offer a crash course in common logical fallacies. A small sampling:

1) Guilt by association: Support for an argument from a dislikable person does not make the argument false. (David Duke also believes that the earth revolves around the sun, presumably.) Dershowitz's response paper on the Harvard website is a particularly sharp example of this logical fallacy, devoting many pages to showing how lots of bad/extreme people agree with the authors' claims. Death penalty opponents often make the same claim, asserting that since only "bad" countries (Iran, Syria) have capital punishment, then it must be wrong.

2) Non-sequitur: Pointing out that Walt and Measheimer failed to mention other lobbies (Cuban, Saudi, etc.) or the sins of other groups (Iran, the Palestinians) in no way disputes the paper's argument that the Israeli lobby is powerful and that supporting Israel is not in our best interests. Likewise, just because I neglect to detail the (plentiful) logical flaws of Walt and Mearsheimer's article here doesn't mean my arguments against its critics are invalid. Changing the subject merely evades the original argument; it does not defeat it.

3) Straw man: Nowhere in the original article can I find accusations of "occult powers," "disloyalty, subversion, or treachery," or evidence of the authors "selecting everything that is unfair, ugly, or wrong about Jews" (Cohen, Washington Post, 5 April). These would be easy arguments to defeat, but they are not contained in the original article. In fact, the authors explicitly refuse to generalize about Jews as a group, noting that "not all Jewish-Americans are part of the Lobby, because Israel is not a salient issue for many of them" and that the Israel lobby "also includes prominent Christian evangelicals."

4) Ad hominem: The basic charge of anti-Semitism proves nothing (and, I should note, is impossible to prove). Even if the authors were anti-Semitic, it does not make their argument wrong. Name-calling is a cheap tactic, not an argument. Calling me "anti-New York" doesn't disprove my argument that the Knicks suck.

5) False choice: Questioning U.S. support for Israel is not tantamount to concluding that the U.S. "no longer ha[s] a vital interest in the continued survival of the only democracy in the Middle East" (letter, London Review of Books, 6 April). The choice is not (necessarily) between supporting Israel unconditionally and condemning it to death. The authors argue that Israel would do just fine on its own; where is the contrary evidence?

6) Reductive reasoning: Dershowitz claims that the existence of terrorism in Europe and elsewhere proves that U.S. support for Israel is not the cause of its "terrorism problem." This presumes that if one terrorist act was unrelated to Israel, then they must all be unrelated. But there is no reason to believe this -- the presence of another motive in one case does not refute the existence of anti-Israeli motives in other cases.

7) Unpleasant implication: Ruth Wisse writes in the Wall Street Journal (22 March) that the authors' argument "heaps scorn on American judgment and values." This may upset people but it does nothing to disprove the argument itself. Just because one does not like the implications of an argument does not mean it is false (see: Evolution vs. Creationism).

8) Appeal to authority: We all love Dan, but being Mearsheimer's colleague at Chicago does not strengthen his argument that the paper is "piss-poor, monocausal social science." Cohen's appeal to a phony authority here is especially awkward considering that Mearsheimer, as Chicago's preeminent IR scholar, probably had some influence over Drezner's recent tenure denial. Is there a personal motive here? I have no idea -- I don't know how Mearsheimer voted, nor do I have any reason to doubt Drezner's objectivity. But anyone citing Drezner as an authority must address this potential credibility problem.

9) Hasty generalization: neither Walt nor Mearsheimer have ever written a word about the Israeli lobby over the course of their lengthy careers, and all of a sudden they are anti-Semites? No. One data point does not demonstrate a trend.

Of course, just because these critics have employed logical fallacies does not mean their arguments are wrong, either. But it does mean that Walt and Mearsheimer's critics have not made a strong case, despite apparent presumptions to the contrary.

Sadly, for all the heated replies the article has generated, I have seen none that engage the central claim of the authors, which is that the current level of support for Israel is not in the U.S. national interest. A few, but only a few, contest the argument that U.S. politicians are deterred from altering policy toward Israel in large part due to the political influence of domestic pro-Israeli actors. Most simply scream "anti-Semitism," which is a lazy scholar's way of dodging these central questions.

It is unfortunate that instead of engaging the debate, Cohen et. al chose to smear the authors with hysterical charges that only trigger emotional responses and inhibit a reasoned discussion. They lend support to Walt and Mearsheimer's assertion that those who raise the issue are met immediately with accusations of bigotry. Dershowitz and others are famous for their diatribes, but I expected better of Eliot Cohen. Shame on him for helping to muddy the waters.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Fareed Zakaria: To Become an American

Most readers have probably seen this, but when considering US vs. Europe it's important not to forget the areas in which the US clearly excels:
Compared with every other country in the world, America does immigration superbly. Do we really want to junk that for the French approach?
As an "immigrant" and a Green Card holder myself I can confirm that America is truly unique in the way it empowers immigrants from day one and allows them to compete on an even footing when it comes to jobs and entrepreneurship. Not just in terms of official laws and regulations (many European countries come close on that score) but also in terms of social barriers at work and in business.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

What if the UN handled post-war Iraq?

I've been participating in a comments thread over at Belgravia Dispatch lately. I've tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to get Greg Djerejian, whose opinion I value enormously, to comment on the impact UN participation might have had on in post-war Iraq. I think my final comment was important so I'll re-state it here (with minor edits).

Sean: "The reality is that, as erg notes, the vast majority of world opposed the war in Iraq, and they did so for perfectly sound reasons- the United States failed to make a case for war."

While that is definitely true, I keep wanting to stress the role of international collaboration in raising the competence of post-war nation building. Like many I predicted the lack of credibility that would result from not having UN Security Council backing for the Iraq war, but I did not anticipate the gross incompetence. Looking back, however, it makes perfect sense: If an administration is left to do invasions "as it sees fit" it has no reason to listen to anybody, be it Democrats, the State Department, UN nation-building experts or heads of European states.

Many people are starting to realize this. I already pointed out what Fukuyama said:
The one area that I've rethought concerns international institutions. I believe that the conservative critique of the legitimacy and effectiveness of the UN is right, but that we need a world populated by a multiplicity of others kinds of organizations. Iraq has changed my view on this.
(Of course he's been a proud "conservative" UN basher for years so he has to put in a disclaimer about the "legitimacy and effectiveness" of the UN, but I we get the picture.)

And departing Economist editor Bill Emmott in his farewell editorial hints at the same thing:
The only argument against our decision that seems to me to have force is that a paper whose scepticism about government drips from every issue should have been sceptical about Mr Bush's government and its ability to do things properly in Iraq.
He doesn't say explicitly that being forced to run decisions by allies through some sort of UN cooperative mechanism would have made for better decisions on issues like army disbandonment, prisoner treatment and the importance of law and order, but in that seems like a logical conclusion.

Governments tend to benefit from a bit of checks and balances. It seems reasonable to assume that Republican idealists engaged in nation-building might as well.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Paper: The Israel Lobby

Via Steve Clemons at TPMCafe; a great paper on the Israel lobby in America by John Mearsheimer of Chicago and Stephen Walt of the Kennedy School at Harvard:
For the past several decades, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the centrepiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread ‘democracy’ throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardised not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world. This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state? One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, but neither explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the US provides.

Instead, the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby’. Other special-interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of the other country – in this case, Israel – are essentially identical.
Predictably, Alan Dershowitz responded to the paper with the kind of counter-attacks and language often used by members of the Israel lobby to suppress dissent:
Dershowitz, who is one of Israel’s most prominent defenders, vehemently disputed the article’s assertions, repeatedly calling it “one-sided” and its authors “liars” and “bigots.”

He criticized three piece on three grounds, alleging parallels with neo-Nazi literature, saying that Walt and Mearsheimer’s characterization that Israeli citizenship is based on “blood kinship” is a “categorical lie,” and taking issue with the representation of the lobby as all-encompassing.

Dershowitz said that the article used “quotes from [Israel’s first prime minister] David Ben-Gurion and [former president of the World Jewish Congress] Nahum Goldmann that are found repeatedly on hate sites,” and that in asserting that the Jewish state was founded on “blood kinship,” the authors were mistakenly conflating the right of Jews to immigrate to Israel with citizenship.

Walt and Mearsheimer countered in an interview that “the principle of ‘blood kinship’ refers to the fact that Israel was explicitly founded as a Jewish state and that whether or not you are Jewish is normally a function of ancestry, especially maternal ancestry.”

Dershowitz also disputed the existence of a unified “Lobby,” which the authors defined in their piece as a “loose coalition of individuals and organizations.” He contended that while the authors define the lobby as a “loose coalition” at the start, they expand the definition in the body of the piece, and that in the end, any Jew who supports Israel could be considered a member.

The authors responded that their use of the word “Lobby” is not meant to imply that it is “a unified movement with a central leadership or that individuals within it do not disagree on certain issues.”
Good stuff. The mere existence of this paper means this country might some day realize why 9/11 happened. Make sure you read the whole thing!

UPDATE: What I read, and quoted, was a shortened essay. Here's the full paper. Also Daniel Drezner has a good comment here and here. He raises some good points (I also thought the bit about living with a nuclear Iran was over the top). But he keeps saying he's surprised and disappointed that the paper hasn't received more mainstream meadia coverage. For an explanation, if I may be so bold, I would suggest he re-reads the paper, especially the bit that explains why "It is hard to imagine any mainstream media outlet in the United States publishing a piece like this one".

UPDATE II: That's it, Dan Drezner is an idiot, I'm taking him off my blogger list:
A) They fail to demonstrate that Israel is a net strategic liability;
They strongly suggest that the Israeli influence on US politics is responsible for 9/11 and the Iraq war. You'd have to have a hell of a lot of net strategic "assets" to counter those two miserable failures!
B) They ascribe U.S. foreign policy behavior almost exclusively to the activities of the "Israel Lobby"; and
That's the topic of the paper, dude. They're not excluding the influence of oil or countering Soviet influence.
C) They omit consderation of contradictory policies and countervailing foreign policy lobbies.
Oh, like the all-powerful Arab lobby? Name three Arab-American counterparts to Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and Richard Perle? Man, for a smart guy Drezner is really dumb.

UPDATE III: I take back what I wrote about Dan Drezner above, he's definitely not an idiot and I will continue reading his blog daily with great interest. Drezner is at least open to debate on this issue, even though I think he was too quick to dismiss the M/W paper.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Conservative Books

Via Kevin Drum, this is just too funny not to post:
Somewhere there's a conservative publishing house trying to brainstorm book topics. It has a room with a white wall on which there are taped a series of placards. On the left you have a list of enemies: Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, The Democrats, The United Nations, France, Michael Moore. On the right you have a list of plots to match with the villain: Apologize for Terrorists, Raise Your Taxes, Destroy Christmas, Steal Your Guns, Sodomize Your Children. Just mix and match. Voila! The books write themselves: "Hillary Clinton's War Against Christmas"; "Traitor: How Howard Dean Apologizes for Terrorists"; "Bonjour, Garcon: The French Plot to Sodomize Your Children"; and so on.

Okay, maybe there is no such room. But it sure would explain this.

--Jonathan Chait