January 07, 2004

I may even be able to forgive Jim Henley for writing for The American Spectator. He is that good: Unqualified Offerings: Gary Farber finds an article in which a US Army Captain informs us that "The only thing they [Arabs] understand is force - force, pride and saving face." How fortunate for us! Apparently, since pride and saving face are so important to the, well, let's just call them wogs, shall we? the key to success in Iraq is to grind down their pride and make saving face impossible by surrounding their towns with razor wire, requiring passes to move around and demolishing the homes of whoever our famously effective intelligence operations tell us is closer to the Iraqi resistance than Kevin Bacon. Hey, that should work! A couple of thoughts: 1) Maybe it's a coincidence, but doesn't it seem like everybody on the planet has enemies who, they tell us, only understand force? Do we all have the same enemy or something? Because if we do, it should be easy to gang up on the bastards......

Posted by DeLong at 04:13 PM

December 28, 2003
Civilization and Its Discontents

Thoughts on Paul Berman (2003), Terror and Liberalism (New York: Norton: 0393057755). This is a very good book, a very dense book, and a very strange book. From one angle, it is Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents and Fromm's Escape from Freedom brought up to date. Freud sought to explain how it was that modern liberal society did not appropriately channel human destructive impulses, and Fromm extended the argument with the claim that liberal freedom was the last thing that many people want. Berman reads all powerful anti-liberal movements--whether Lenin's, Mussolini's, Hitler's, Franco's, Castro's, Khomeini's, or bin Laden's--as expression of this same basic set of drives and impulses that must be fought and constrained or else catastrophe follows. From a second angle, Berman's Terror and Liberalism is an extended meditation on Camus's The Rebel and on Camus's critique of the literary intellectual who, from the sidelines, cheers on the doers of bloody deeds. And from a third angle Berman's book is a critique of all who won't settle for liberal peace and order but seek to build a New Jerusalem here and now. Berman opens with a potted description of the nineteenth century as an era of wonderful human...

Posted by DeLong at 10:45 AM

December 23, 2003
Norm Geras Explains Why He Supported the War on Iraq

Norm Geras explains why he supported the attack on Iraq: normblog: For those of us who supported the war - well, for me at any rate - the ending of the Baathist regime is not just an incidental side-effect of what happened. It is the main story. I therefore don't accept that the war was 'overall reactionary'. I think that the freeing of the Iraqi people from a decades-long political darkness was - as Ken himself appears to allow - 'progressive'. It was a boon, a great release for the Iraqi people, a national liberation, no less; and then, more than this, an opportunity for the region and the world. Therefore, I don't regard support for the war as 'abstracting these effects from their context' - as if the context was already pre-defined by something else precisely more general, with the progressive 'bit' being merely by the way. It's a skewed version of what the war was about, WMD and all the rest of it notwithstanding. I would hold this view even if I thought (as in fact I do not) that George Bush and Tony Blair fought the war for wholly cynical reasons. To give a crude analogy here:...

Posted by DeLong at 09:00 AM

December 08, 2003
What I Fear

I am not sure that Ewen MacAskill's analysis is correct. But it is what I fear: Guardian | Jihad has worked - the world is now split in two: Ewen MacAskill | Monday December 8, 2003 | The Guardian: Osama bin Laden, two years and three months after the New York and Washington attacks that were part of his jihad against America, appears to be winning. He has lost his base in Afghanistan, as well as many colleagues and fighters, and his communications and finances have been disrupted. He may be buried under rubble in Afghanistan or, as Washington and London assume, be hiding in Pakistan's tribal areas. But from Kandahar to Baghdad, from Istanbul to Riyadh, blood is being shed in the name of Bin Laden's jihad. On Saturday, a Taliban bomb went off in the bazaar in Kandahar, aimed at US soldiers but wounding 20 Afghan civilians. On the same day, US planes targeted a "known terrorist" in Ghazni, also in Afghanistan, killing nine children. The deaths of the children will not help the US win hearts and minds in Afghanistan, or elsewhere; indeed, they will alienate Muslim opinion worldwide. There is a tendency in the west to...

Posted by DeLong at 12:43 PM

October 18, 2003
Krugmanism and the Grand Strategy of the United States

Back when Daniel Drezner was criticizing Paul Krugman: Daniel W. Drezner: On politics, [Krugman's] not moving down the learning curve. Krugman, along with many economists, has some serious blind spots in his political analyses. He's consistently shocked when politicians engage in strategic or opportunistic behavior. He's always stunned when leaders take actions that maximize their own power rather than benefiting the greater good. He's flummoxed by the idea that nation-states might care about their relative economic power. These are all rational motivations -- they're just not ones that economists really consider when they do their own work. [Isn't this a really cynical view of the world?--ed.] Not necessarily. Politicians can desire power in the short run so as to pursue their desired ends in the long run. The logic of Bush's National Security Strategy is to prevent other great powers from rising in order to ensure the long-term growth of freedom, democracy and prosperity... I had a bunch of thoughts that I could not put into any coherent form. Now I think I can. I have four thoughts First, it is simply off-track to criticize Paul Krugman for holding politicians to high standards. That's one of the functions of the...

Posted by DeLong at 12:10 PM

September 22, 2003
I'm Not Making Threats, I'm Just Stating Facts

Well, if the American Enterprise Institute can make foreign policy, why can't the Economic Policy Institute? Max Sawicky sends a message to the Iranian government that it needs to turn all its resources to preventing further terrorist attacks on U.S. soil--or else: Weblog Entry - 09/22/2003: "1001 NIGHTS OF MAXSPEAK": Just did a radio interview with the "Voice of Islam" that will be broadcast in Tehran. Most of the questions were about the U.S. budget deficit. Among them (paraphrasing approximately): Q: Will the deficit prevent the U.S. from invading more countries? A. No. We invade countries whether or not we can afford it. If there are no more terrorist attacks on the U.S., we probably won't invade more countries. Otherwise, however, Iran is a leading candidate. What the hey, I'm no Richard Holbrooke. I just hope it's taken the right way. I think he should have also demanded that the Iranian government buy and give to every Iranian household a copy of the collected works of Salman Rushdie as well....

Posted by DeLong at 05:24 PM

June 04, 2003
Throttling One's Inner Burke

Daniel Dreszner throttles his inner Edmund Burke and, convinced by Larry Diamond, turns sunny optimist about the prospects for a permanent wave of worldwide democratization: Daniel W. Drezner: ...As a balm for these occasional worries, go read Larry Diamond's June 2003 article "Universal Democracy?" in Policy Review. Diamond's punchline: The current moment is in many respects without historical precedent. Much is made of the unparalleled gap between the military and economic power of the United States and that of any conceivable combination of competitors or adversaries. But no less unique are these additional facts: This breathtaking preponderance of power is held by a liberal democracy. The next most powerful global actor is a loose union of countries that are also all liberal democracies. The majority of states in the world are already democracies.... There is no [other] model of governance with any broad normative appeal.... There is growing international legal and moral momentum... democracy... basic human right.... States and international organizations... intruding on sovereignty... to promote democracy.... In short, the international context has never mattered more to the future of democracy or been more favorable. We are on the cusp of a grand historical tipping point, when a visionary and...

Posted by DeLong at 09:51 PM

May 08, 2003
Lafayette, Vous Etiez Ici

Jack Balkin has two French jokes: Balkinization: American to Frenchman: "Do you speak German?" Frenchman: "No." American: "You're welcome." Come on, that's funny, guys. And here's another one I'm sure you'll enjoy equally well: Frenchman to American: "Are you a subject of Her Majesty Elizabeth II? American: "No." Frenchman: "You're welcome." The second is especially funny to those of us who know more history than Tom DeLay does, especially the history of Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de la Fayette....

Posted by DeLong at 10:15 PM

March 22, 2003
Grand Strategy of the United States

James Di Benedetto of the Eleven Day Empire writes: And there were certainly plenty of people [around the world] who did consider 9/11 to be the equivalent of war, and far from reprehensible... Yes. And now, after this invasion of Iraq, there are 10 times as many people around the world who will consider 9/11 to have been the equivalent of war, anticipatory pre-emptive retaliation for the civilian casualties caused as--as they see it--the Bush Administration went out of control, defied world opinion, defied world civil society, and launched an aggressive war aimed at the conquest of Iraq. That's likely to be the master narrative that people in future years will tell themselves about the chain of events in which we are enmeshed. 10 times as many people who say that 9/11 was what Americans had coming. 10 times as many potential recruits for Al-Qaeda and its successors. 10 times as many people who'll say, "I disapprove of their methods, but I don't think we should help the United States capture them." 10 times as many people who... AAUUGGHH!!! Suppose that the Bush Administration had launched this invasion after a Security Council vote of 10 yes, 2 vetoes (France and...

Posted by DeLong at 08:44 AM

February 21, 2003
Paul Krugman Bangs His Head Against the Wall

It's getting really, really, really hard to be a morally-consistent hawk these days--largely because there are more and more signs that George W. Bush's knee-jerk "we don't do nation-building" is in fact the desired policy of the administration: The Martial Plan By PAUL KRUGMAN The Marshall Plan was America's finest hour. After World War I, the victors did what victors usually do: they demanded reparations from the vanquished. But after World War II America did something unprecedented: it provided huge amounts of aid, helping both its allies and its defeated enemies rebuild. It wasn't selfless altruism, of course; it was farsighted, enlightened self-interest. America's leaders understood that fostering prosperity, stability and democracy was as important as building military might in the struggle against Communism. But one suspects that our current leaders would have jeered at this exercise in "nation-building." And they are certainly following a very different strategy today. It's not that the Bush administration is always stingy. In fact, right now it is offering handouts right and left. Most notably, it has offered the Turkish government $26 billion in grants and loans if it ignores popular opposition and supports the war. Some observers also point out that the administration...

Posted by DeLong at 12:54 PM

August 15, 2002
Brent Scowcroft Comes Out Against Attacking Iraq

I don't claim to know enough about military affairs to have an informed view on just what, if anything, the U.S. should do further to draw the fangs of Saddam Hussein. I cannot help noticing, however, that the right-wingers who have been beating up on those pleading for caution as lily-livered idealists with no sense of how dangerous the world is now have to beat up on... Brent Scowcroft: WSJ.com - Brent Scowcroft: Don't Attack Saddam: Given Saddam's aggressive regional ambitions, as well as his ruthlessness and unpredictability, it may at some point be wise to remove him from power. Whether and when that point should come ought to depend on overall U.S. national security priorities. Our pre-eminent security priority -- underscored repeatedly by the president -- is the war on terrorism. An attack on Iraq at this time would seriously jeopardize, if not destroy, the global counterterrorist campaign we have undertaken. The United States could certainly defeat the Iraqi military and destroy Saddam's regime. But it would not be a cakewalk. On the contrary, it undoubtedly would be very expensive -- with serious consequences for the U.S. and global economy -- and could as well be bloody. In fact,...

Posted by DeLong at 09:23 AM

August 11, 2002
Lunch with Arabist Bernard Lewis

Chris Bertram directs us to Michael Steinberger's account of his lunch with Princeton Arabist Bernard Lewis. Truly interesting... Junius Chris Bertram: Some things are just classic blog-fodder, and this - from the Financial Times - is one of them: Michael Steinberger's account of lunch with Princeton Arabist Bernard Lewis. Lunch is interrupted by NYTimes columnist Tom Friedman ......

Posted by DeLong at 06:35 PM

August 05, 2002
We Need to Support Democratization in the Middle East

Tom Friedman hits another one out of the park. I think he's absolutely right: we are the good guys, and good guys act like good guys. I don't think the Bush administration understands this... Bush's Shame Watching the pathetic, mealy-mouthed response of President Bush and his State Department to Egypt's decision to sentence the leading Egyptian democracy advocate to seven years in prison leaves one wondering whether the whole Bush foreign policy team isn't just a big bunch of phonies. Shame on all of them. Since Sept. 11 all we've heard out of this Bush team is how illegitimate violence is as a tool of diplomacy or politics, and how critical it is to oust Saddam Hussein in order to bring democracy to the Arab world. Yet last week, when a kangaroo court in Egypt, apparently acting on orders from President Hosni Mubarak, sentenced an ill, 63-year-old Saad Eddin Ibrahim to seven years at "hard labor" for promoting democracy -- for promoting the peaceful alternative to fundamentalist violence -- the Bush-Cheney team sat on its hands. The State Department, in a real profile in courage, said it was "deeply disappointed" by the conviction of Mr. Ibrahim, who holds a...

Posted by DeLong at 07:58 PM