September 06, 2002
Hearts and Minds

Jim Henley explains how Yasser Arafat and company permanently and totally lost their battle for the hearts and minds of him, me, and I would bet most Americans in the summer of 1972. Some of my schoolmates were on the airplanes flown to Jordan and blown up in 1970, so Palestinian terrorism seemed very real as we watched the Munich Olympics Massacre on TV... Unqualified Offerings: ...I was twelve years old at the time of the Munich Olympics and I saw the whole, awful thing, and the experience never left me. Enthusiasts for the Palestinian cause, however defined, might profit from pondering why that is. It was obvious to me, watching the masked gunmen on the balconies, and later the garish, uninformative spotlights on the runway, what I was seeing: a crime. I was watching bad guys. My first sustained exposure to "the plight of the Palestinians" was to villains acting in their name.... Then came the "discourse." Draw attention to the cause! I'd type more catch-phrases, but it's not worth the disgust. The 1970s were the high-water mark of Fanonist mendacity. It dumbfounded me then that anyone could believe such things, that people like George Habash were allowed to...

Posted by DeLong at 12:37 PM

August 23, 2002
A Riddle Inside a Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma...

This world is too complicated for me. Reporter Robert Fisk writes (Robert Fisk: The Two Deaths of Abu Nidal) that Abu Nidal's reported suicide is "...a gift to an American administration longing to connect Saddam Hussein to 'world terror'." And who provided this gift to George W. Bush? The Iraqi government. Iraq's head of intelligence reports that Abu Nidal "shot himself in the mouth as Iraqi officials waited to take him to court." In the world Robert Fisk lives in, sinister forces conspire to report the "death" of Abu Nidal in order to give warmonger George W. Bush an excuse to link the Iraqi government to world terror. Who are these sinister forces? Why, they are the Iraqi government. Fisk lives in a very strange world indeed......

Posted by DeLong at 04:10 PM

June 20, 2002
Yasir Arafat, as Seen by David Brooks

Whenever a people wind up with a conspicuously bad leader, it is natural to ask, "Just where did this guy come from?" Writing in the Atlantic Monthly, David Brooks gives his take on the answer to this question. | The Atlantic | July/August 2002 | A Brief History of Yasir Arafat | Brooks A Brief History of Yasir Arafat: The PLO leader is a terrible administrator but a brilliant image crafter by David Brooks Yasir Arafat claims that he was born in Jerusalem, but he was actually born in Cairo. He claims to belong to the prominent Jerusalem family of Husseini, but he is at best only distantly related to it. He claims that he turned down a chance to go to the University of Texas, but according to one biographer, the Palestinian-born writer Said K. Aburish, it is highly unlikely that he was ever accepted. He claims to have disabled ten Israeli armored personnel carriers in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, but Israel didn't even have ten APCs in the sector he was in. He claims to have made millions as a businessman in Kuwait, but this, too, is almost certainly untrue. Obviously, Arafat is a congenital liar. But there's...

Posted by DeLong at 11:04 AM

Al-Qaeda Strategy: Our Current Guesses

Jim Henley refers me to this Washington Post article about what our current picture of al-Qaeda strategy is: washingtonpost.com: Al Qaeda Aims To Destabilize Secular Nations Al Qaeda Aims To Destabilize Secular Nations: Attacks Planned on U.S. Targets By Walter Pincus | Washington Post Staff Writer | Sunday, June 16, 2002; Page A21 A small cadre of al Qaeda leaders has refined the terrorist organization's strategy to use small-scale attacks to destabilize -- and ultimately overthrow -- the secular governments in Islamic countries while continuing to plan larger, sophisticated attacks on American targets, according to current and former senior officials at the CIA and FBI. The car bomb attack on the U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, on Friday is part of what U.S. analysts believe is al Qaeda's strategy since being driven from its headquarters in Afghanistan. The smaller attacks, once directed at targets worldwide, have been revised to use recruits prepared to die in strikes against American, Western and Jewish targets in countries where the population is Muslim but the government is secular. The goal is to overthrow the government of nations such as Pakistan, Egypt and Jordan and establish a "Muslim state in the heart of the Islamic...

Posted by DeLong at 10:40 AM

June 19, 2002
The Treaties of Munster and Osnabruck: Why Doesn't the UN Guarantee All Members a Constitutional Form of Government?

On October 24, 1648, the warring proto-states of early modern Europe signed the Peace of Westphalia--the treaties of Munster and Osnabruck. In Catholic Munster, the representitives of the King of Spain and the representitives of the United Provinces of the Netherlands signed the first of two treaties of Munster: Spain recognized the independence of the rebelling United Provinces from the King of Spain, whose ancestors 80 years before had ruled the Netherlands as Counts of Holland, Zeeland, et cetera. But the representatives of the King of Sweden would not come to Catholic Munster: his representatives signed their peace treaty with the Holy Roman Emperor, the King of Spain's cousin, at the neighboring Protestant city of Osnabruck. Meanwhile, the representatives of Louis XIII of France signed their treaty with the Holy Roman Emperor back in Munster. No treaty was signed between Spain and France: their war was to continue for another decade or so. The Peace of Westphalia established, among other things, the principle that a state's internal affairs were its government's business, and nobody else's. I was surprised yesterday to see it endorsed in the Manchester Guardian by the Prominent Americans' Statement on the War on Terror. Particularly the sentence:...

Posted by DeLong at 12:43 PM

June 18, 2002
A Declaration of the Rights of Thugs: The American Left Loses Its Way Even More Completely

This is weird. Not, "we believe that all people everywhere have the right to free speech." Not, "we believe that all people everywhere have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Not, "we believe that all nations have the right to a republican form of government." Not, "we believe that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed." Instead, we seem to have a hunting license for thugs: "we believe... peoples and nations have the right to determine their own destiny, free from military coercion by great powers." Does this mean that U.S. intervention in World War II was criminal? After all, we did use "military coercion" to keep the Asian and European peoples from "determin[ing] their own destiny." Is this just badly drafted? Or is this just not well thought-out at all? Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | We won't deny our consciences We won't deny our consciences: Prominent Americans have issued this statement on the war on terror: Friday June 14, 2002: The Guardian Let it not be said that people in the United States did nothing when their government declared a war without limit and instituted stark new measures of repression....

Posted by DeLong at 01:11 PM

Andrew Northrup Offers Insight Into Chomsky (Which Insight He Then Repudiates)

Andrew Northrup ("The Poor Man") offers some--I think accurate--insight into Noam Chomsky, particularly his bizarre apparent habit of attributing moral agency and moral responsibility (always exercised badly) to the governments of the U.S. and of Israel alone. The Poor Man [Chomsky writes:] "For intellectuals in Russia in the Communist days, condemnation of US crimes had little if any moral value; in fact, it might have had negative value, in serving to buttress the oppressive and brutal Soviet system. In contrast, when Eastern European dissidents condemned the crimes of their own states and society, it had great moral value. That much everyone takes for granted: everyone, that is, outside the Soviet commissar class. Much the same holds in the West, point by point, except with much more force, because the costs of honest dissidence are so immeasurably less. And exactly as we would expect, these utterly trivial points are almost incomprehensible to Western intellectuals, when applied to them, though readily understood when applied to official enemies." Well, yeah, that's about right, actually. And I think that offers a bit of insight into his style of criticism. And it is his strength, and it is his weakness. The concern with the "moral...

Posted by DeLong at 12:54 PM

June 17, 2002
My Very, Very Allergic Reaction to Noam Chomsky: Khmer Rouge, Faurisson, Milosevic

"Never get involved in a land war in Asia." "Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line." And now, "Never get involved in an argument over Noam Chomsky." The Chomsky defenders--and there seem to be a surprisingly large number of them--seem to form a kind of cult. Arguing with them seems to be a lot like trying to teach Plato's Republic to a pig: it wastes your time, and it annoys the pig. But I've spent more than enough time on this over the past three months: time to let it out of the cage: Consider Chomsky's claim that: "In the early 1990s, primarily for cynical great power reasons, the U.S. selected Bosnian Muslims as their Balkan clients..." On its face this is ludicrous. When the United States selects clients for cynical great power reasons, it selects strong clients--not ones whose unarmed men are rounded up and shot by the thousands. And Bosnian Muslims as a key to U.S. politico-military strategy in Europe? As Bismarck said more than a century ago, "There is nothing in the Balkans that is worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier." It holds true today as well: the U.S....

Posted by DeLong at 02:09 PM

June 15, 2002
Civil Emergency Is Not Equal to War

Ginger Stampey puts it very well: What She Really Thinks ...If we had a real war going on, we'd have real enemies, and we'd be fighting. What we're in is a perpetual state of civil emergency. Unpleasant but true fact: We're in no more danger today than we were a year ago. We just were less aware of what our dangers were. We are going to have to live with the dangers of terrorism inside the United States for a long time. While "the Constitution is not a suicide pact", nowhere does it say "this document only applies when it's convenient, so in wartime, including perpetual civil emergencies, all bets are off". Folks who think that's what it says need to reread the Constitution......

Posted by DeLong at 06:45 PM

June 14, 2002
Homeland Security Really Does Sound Creepy

I'm glad to know that some smart other people agree with me on this. The Trouble With "Homeland" - It's a creepy, morale-sapping word. Let's drop it. By Mickey Kaus This morning, Peggy Noonan delivers an excellent, subtle OpinionJournal column on why Rudolph Giuliani should head the new "Department of Homeland Security." She notes, for example, that journalists by now have a vested interest making the heroic Giuliani a success, which would help him succeed. Of course, they'll never get the chance, because Bush isn't going to appoint Giuliani. (Even so, Noonan argues, pushing him for the job is a win-win-win-win position for Democrats). But the main public service Noonan performs is to put on the table the issue of the word "homeland." She thinks it doesn't work. She's right. "Homeland" is a terrible word! Let's say it now before it's too late....

Posted by DeLong at 01:06 PM

June 13, 2002
A Good Thought About 911

A thought I have had about 911--but formulated much better than I have ever managed to express it. The Truth Laid Bear ...now we know that there is something worse than the terrorists destroying the plane and killing everyone on board. And we're adjusting our approaches to countering them accordingly. But I wanted to take this opportunity to remind everyone --- as Finch does --- of exactly how long it took American society to analyze this new threat and change our policies to deal with it appropriately. The change didn't come from Congress, or from a new Cabinet office. It came through the reactions of civilian passengers on Flight 93, and their loved ones on the ground. And it took one hundred and nine minutes. This has been commented on before, but it's worth revisiting, especially in any moments of doubt we may be having about our ability to prevail in this struggle. One hundred and nine minutes after the first plane hit the World Trade Center, our society was able to recognize the new threat, determine how to counter it, and act. As an occasional Star Trek geek, I find myself compelled to bring up a comparison to the...

Posted by DeLong at 10:13 PM

May 20, 2002
What Can an Economist Say About 911? McKenna Lecture at Claremont-McKenna College, April 30, 2002

What--if anything--does a professional economist have to say about September 11, 2001? The terror-attack on the World Trade Center, its destruction, and the loss of life in the atrocity are the domain of political scientists, military strategists, students of religious fundamentalisms, and of researchers into psychological pathology. What does an economist--this economist--have to add?

Posted by DeLong at 02:35 PM

May 17, 2002
Berkeley Graduation

I felt Friday night that I was laying a burden on those students who had majored in PEIS. All graduating California residents knew that the citizens of California had invested $100,000 in each of their Berkeley educations in the belief that the education will help them accomplish great things. And we need great things from all of our graduates. Never has the pace of scientific and technical advance beeen greater, never has the world been more closely linked, never has the world economy been richer, never has the world seen faster economic growth, never has the world been more democratic. But never has the world been more unequal. Never before have we known how to make such destructive weapons. Never have waves of hatred been able to propagate themselves so rapidly around the globe.

Posted by DeLong at 02:40 PM

March 25, 2002
Freedom You Can Touch

I find myself swinging toward the belief that the "linguistic turn" taken by the academic left has truly deprived many of them of the ability to think at all. Consider Edward Said--on September 16, 2001!--condemning U.S. political discourse for "...flinging about words like 'terrorism' and 'freedom' whereas, of course, such large abstractions have mostly hidden sordid material interests, the influence of the oil, defence and Zionist lobbies now consolidating their hold on the entire Middle East, and an age-old religious hostility to (and ignorance of) 'Islam' that takes new forms every day." Said seems to believe that if he classifies "freedom" and "terrorism" as "large abstractions," then they will disappear. And then he can turn his attention to what is really important--"oil, defence, and Zionist lobbies" and "religious hostility to Islam." But whether or not terrorism is an "abstraction," it is certainly very large indeed, and very very real. And "freedom" is very real as well......

Posted by DeLong at 10:04 PM

February 03, 2002
WTC

Yes, Virginia, the Manhattan skyline does look very different indeed. I had never noticed that the Hutchinson River Parkway was named after Anne Hutchinson, 1591-1643. Chris sings the praises of Bob Thomason's Sidwell Friends English course, "Fascism, Communism, and the American Writer."...

Posted by DeLong at 04:38 PM