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Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Treasury Department Leaks

For Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, as many bloggers have noted, became the subject of a government investigation on Monday for allegedly leaking classified information.

It looks like he was prepared for this charge, as the AP's Martin Crutsinger reports:
O'Neill said, "The truth is, I didn't take any documents at all."

Interviewed on NBC's "Today" show Tuesday, O'Neill said he had asked the Treasury Department's chief legal counsel "to have the documents that are OK for me to have" for use in the book entitled, "The Price of Loyalty."

Asked if he thought the internal Treasury probe was a get-even move by the administration, O'Neill replied, "I don't think so. If I were secretary of the treasury and these circumstances occurred, I would have asked the inspector general to look into it." But O'Neill also said he thinks the questions could have been more readily answered if top Treasury officials had talked to the agency's legal counsel.

"I'm surprised that he didn't call the chief legal counsel," O'Neill said of his successor, Treasury Secretary John Snow.

O'Neill said a cover page for the documents might have suggested they were classified material but said that the legal counsel's office "sent me a couple CDs, which I never opened." He said he gave them to former Wall Street Journal reporter Ron Suskind, the book's author.

"I don't think there is anything that is classified in those 19,000 documents," O'Neill said Tuesday, predicting the Treasury investigation would show that the Treasury employees who collected the materials for him had followed the law.
So I guess this means the administration's supporters will have to return to their old line of attack -- he's a disgruntled employee who was fired.

Of course, he was disgruntled because he thought the second round of tax cuts were wrong and motivated by politics rather than economics. That's a pretty important concern of a Treasury Secretary, eh?

Update: I just watched Ed Gillespie, Chair of the RNC, appear with Terry McAuliffe, chair of the DNC, on CNN with Wolf Blitzer. The high profile of these individuals suggests that this is a big story.

Blitzer asked Gillespie why it took almost 3 months for the government to launch an investigation of the leaked CIA agent's name, but only 1 day to open an investigation of O'Neill. He also said this seemed to be pretty important. O'Neill served in 3 Republican administrations and is a friend of the Vice President.

The RNC's Gillespie said that the Treasury Department Inspector General made the call and he is a career bureaucrat operating non-politically. Plus, the White House did not make the call on the investigation of the CIA agent leak. Gillespie more-or-less repeated the new frame, that O'Neill was a disgruntled former employee. Some Republicans are now claiming he was bad at his job.

We know, by the way, that the CIA wanted an investigation of its leak many weeks before one was actually launched. Supposedly, however, the call was made by a career bureaucrat as well.

Wanted: Ideas for Improving World Order

I oversee administration of the $200,000 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. This prize is granted annually by the University of Louisville. Basically, I chair the initial screening committee that is housed within the Department of Political Science. The Grawemeyer Award's webpage hosts some useful information about the nomination and selection processes and material about past winners and their prize-winning works. Additions are made periodically.

Readers of this blog may remember that the 2004 prize was awarded last month to John Braithwaite and John Drahos of Australian National University for their book, Global Business Regulation (Cambridge, 2000).

Until Friday, January 16, 2004, the Department is accepting nominations for the 2005 competition.

The initial submission process (to open a file) is relatively simple: nominators must complete a one page form (available as a pdf file on the webpage) and submit a nomination letter. We especially encourage nominations from individual scholars and policy-makers. Self-nomination is permitted, though all nominators should note that reviewers will see these letters.

Completed files are due from nominees by February 13. We will need four copies of the nominated work, though publishers typically provide them for nominated books.

All relevant ideas published or publicly presented in any work between January 1999 and December 2003 are potentially eligible. Previously submitted nominations may be resubmitted. For general information, see my article, "Wanted: Outstanding Ideas for Improving World Order," in the December 1998 issue of PS: Political Science & Politics.

The Award's basic purpose is described on the webpage:
Submissions will be judged according to originality, feasibility and potential impact, not by the cumulative record of the nominee. They may address a wide range of global concerns including foreign policy and its formation; the conduct of international relations or world politics; global economic issues, such as world trade and investment; resolution of regional, ethnic or racial conflicts; the proliferation of destructive technologies; global cooperation on environmental protection or other important issues; international law and organization; any combination or particular aspects of these, or any other suitable idea which could at least incrementally lead to a more just and peaceful world order.
For further information, feel free to contact my assistant:

Ms. Arlene A. Brannon
Department of Political Science
Ford Hall
University of Louisville
Louisville, KY 40292
Phone: 502-852-1009
Fax: 502-852-7923

Monday, January 12, 2004

Weather Vanes

It's always interesting to dig back through news archives to find interesting (read: foolish) statements made by politicians. If political winds change, you can almost certainly find remarks by elected officials that sound really stupid in retrospect.

In any case, I wonder how many Republican House members said something like this when campaigning for office in 2002?
"Without a doubt, Saddam Hussein and his brutal regime posed an immediate, direct threat to the United States."
Of course, Republican Representative Anne Northup wrote those words to her constituents in May 2003! Since a columnist for the Louisville Courier Journal, David Hawpe, has quoted this statement at least three times since July, I think there's a good chance it will come up in the 2004 elections.

Northup, by the way, represents a fairly Democratic district and thus accumulates a big election war chest because she needs it to retain her job.

The Presidential candidates are not immune from this "gotcha" game either. Consider Howard Dean's old and embarrassing comments about the Iowa caucuses, for example.

Oddly enough, on perhaps rare occasions, politicians sometimes come off sounding smarter in the past than they do in the present.

In the January 4 Washington Post, E.J. Dionne cited an interesting quote from one of the Democratic candidates for President, made on October 5, 2002:
"I don't think we should pretend that protecting the security of our nation is defined by turning our back on a century of effort . . . to build an international structure of law," declared the antiwar candidate to an Iowa gathering on Oct. 5, 2002. Bush's critics had an obligation to dissent and raise doubts, he said to loud applause. "We need to understand that you have to ask those questions now, because you don't go to war as a matter of first resort; you go to war as a matter of last resort."
It turns out that these words of wisdom came from Senator John Kerry -- mere weeks before he voted for the Iraq war resolution in Congress.

If Kerry had voted differently, do you suppose he'd be a favorite in New Hampshire?

Classes Begin

It's the first day of class. I'm teaching an undergraduate course on American Foreign Policy. Anyone interested can look at the syllabus. I'm not using a lot of web links this year since I found a decent companion reader.

My second class is a master's-level seminar on International Relations Theory. Again, the syllabus is on-line. Because the students may or may not have a background in IR, I have them read an advanced textbook that covers a lot of key theories. Additionally, they read journal articles each week.

Next Monday is MLK Holiday, but in two weeks the grad seminar will be talking about realism (and neorealism). That means lots of Hans Morgenthau, Kenneth Waltz and John Mearsheimer. Since my forthcoming conference paper for the International Studies Association is about the post-cold war "failure" of realist policy advice vis-a-vis US foreign policy, I may well blog on this topic in the next two weeks.

Short version: the realists expect the US to start worrying a great deal about China (and stop trading so much), are fairly unconcerned about nuclear proliferation (Ukraine, Germany, etc.), and supported deterrence/containment for Iraq (rather than war). They have expected NATO's demise since 1990 and criticize the apparent neoimperial direction of US foreign policy.

The neorealists, in particular, offer a coherent set of ideas that seems to have been dismissed by the foreign policy hierarchy in the US.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Paul O'Neill's Revenge is reporting about the new book that relied extensively on material from Paul O'Neill. The former Bush administration Treasury Secretary apparently pulls no punches when discussing the way the administration makes decisions, the insanity of the tax cuts for the wealthy, and the buildup to war against Iraq.

Obviously, I'm most interested in that last point. O'Neill says the administration started planning to attack Iraq almost from the first days in office, January 2001. The CBS story, by the way, is based on an interview with Lesley Stahl that will be broadcast later Sunday:
"From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go," he [O'Neill] tells Stahl. "For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do is a really huge leap."

O'Neill, fired by the White House for his disagreement on tax cuts, is the main source for an upcoming book, "The Price of Loyalty," authored by Ron Suskind.

Suskind says O'Neill and other White House insiders he interviewed gave him documents that show that in the first three months of 2001, the administration was looking at military options for removing Saddam Hussein from power and planning for the aftermath of Saddam's downfall -- including post-war contingencies such as peacekeeping troops, war crimes tribunals and the future of Iraq's oil.

"There are memos," Suskind tells Stahl, "One of them marked 'secret' says 'Plan for Post-Saddam Iraq.'"

A Pentagon document, says Suskind, titled "Foreign Suitors For Iraqi Oilfield Contracts," outlines areas of oil exploration. "It talks about contractors around the world from...30, 40 countries, and which ones have what intentions on oil in Iraq," Suskind says.

In the book, O'Neill is quoted as saying he was surprised that no one in a National Security Council meeting questioned why Iraq should be invaded. "It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying 'Go find me a way to do this,'" says O'Neill in the book.
So I guess that means the invasion of Iraq was not really sparked by 9/11, eh? Anyone who has read the Clinton-era documents of the Project for a New American Century already suspected that. Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Scooter Libby and the other alums of that institution wanted war since 1998. Some of them wanted war since 1991.

Update: Time has an interview with O'Neill too.
"In the 23 months I was there, I never saw anything that I would characterize as evidence of weapons of mass destruction," he told TIME. "There were allegations and assertions by people.

But I've been around a hell of a long time, and I know the difference between evidence and assertions and illusions or allusions and conclusions that one could draw from a set of assumptions. To me there is a difference between real evidence and everything else. And I never saw anything in the intelligence that I would characterize as real evidence."

Though O'Neill is careful to compliment the cia for always citing the caveats in its findings, he describes a White House poised to overinterpret intelligence. "From the start, we were building the case against Hussein and looking at how we could take him out and change Iraq into a new country," he tells Suskind. "And, if we did that, it would solve everything. It was about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The President saying, 'Fine. Go find me a way to do this.'"
Of course, an administration official says O'Neill wouldn't have been in a position to see the evidence -- in whatever form it might have existed.

This made me laugh.
In the book, O'Neill suggests a very dark understanding of what happens to those who don't show it. "These people are nasty and they have a long memory," he tells Suskind. But he also believes that by speaking out even in the face of inevitable White House wrath, he can demonstrate loyalty to something he prizes: the truth. "Loyalty to a person and whatever they say or do, that's the opposite of real loyalty, which is loyalty based on inquiry, and telling someone what you really think and feel—your best estimation of the truth instead of what they want to hear." That goal is worth the price of retribution, O'Neill says. Plus, as he told Suskind, "I'm an old guy, and I'm rich. And there's nothing they can do to hurt me."

Another update: Atrios includes a quote from Fox reporter Chris Wallace noting that O'Neill was, in fact, on the National Security Council. Thus, he would have had access to all sorts of Iraq stuff.

A Better Case?

Matthew Yglesias, a blogger who writes for The American Prospect, yesterday posted an interesting blog entry titled, "A Better Case." Briefly, Yglesias says that sanctions were causing horrible suffering for innocent Iraqis, US troops were tied up in Saudi Arabia, Iraq was consuming tremendous amounts of US diplomatic capital, and that Iraq would eventually pose a threat to its neighbors (Kuwait and Saudi Arabia) if the sanctions regime ended.

While this is a somewhat provocative defense of war, I think it falls well short of an actual justification for attack.


First, a lot of attention was directed at the sanctions problem over the past decade. Many people favored "smart sanctions" that would minimize the harm to innocents and maximize the containment value (deny military equipment, etc.). Essentially, US policy towards the Soviet Union and its satellites was governed by "smart sanctions" through much of the 1970s detente era. Granted, the Soviet economy was sufficiently large and powerful to build weapons indigenously, but Saddam Hussein's Iraq would have needed trade. It would have been relatively easy to allow food, medicine and even consumer goods, even as weapons and arms-related good were banned.

Second, while 5000 American troops were tied up in Saudi Arabia, about 120,000 are now in Iraq -- and will be there for many years under current Pentagon planning. The war is also diverting important resources from the war on terror -- as I keep mentioning.

The US expended diplomatic capital on Iraq because it considered Iraq one of the worst rogue states in the world, long before 9/11. Even after Iraq was relatively easily defeated, had its weapons programs dismantled, and suffered more than a decade of sanctions, some people still viewed it as part of an "axis of evil." This was threat inflation, pure and simple, and was distracting because the US made it so.

Finally, there is very little reason to believe Iraq would have been a major regional threat. Many international relations theorists viewed Iraq's past "aggression" as mostly defensive. As John Mearsheimer and Steve Walt pointed out in their Foreign Policy article from January/February 2003, Iraq may have had reasonable (and defensive) reasons for attacking both Kuwait and Iran. Kuwait was exceeding OPEC oil quotas and wasn't negotiating a solution to that or to debts related to the long Iran-Iraq war. Iran had been stirring up dissent within Iraq, attempted to kill Saddam, and had even gained territorial concessions.There is also pretty good evidence that deterrence failed in Kuwait because US Ambassador April Glaspie said the following at a July 25, 1990 meeting with Saddam Hussein:
We have no opinion on your Arab - Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary (of State James) Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960's, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America. (Saddam smiles)
As Mearsheimer and Walt wrote, "The U.S. State Department then reinforced this message by declaring that Washington had 'no special defense or security commitments to Kuwait.'”

I'm not trying to defend Iraq's past behavior, and Saddam was certainly a very bad man, but that does not mean the US should default to war to attack and topple bad regimes headed by horrible tyrants. President Bush himself opposed war in Rwanda, even when asked during the 2000 campaign if it would have been worth saving 600,000 lives.

Since 9/11, the US has focused tremendous attention on the problems of transnational terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. The war in Iraq did very little to address either of those problems, ticked off key American allies, diverted resources, angered millions of Muslims (thus, potentially increasing the pool of terrorists), and undercut the rule of international law (necessary for fighting terror and criminalizing proliferation of WMD).

The above is not an especially thorough critique of the Yglesias case. For more on Iraq specifically, I would recommend reading the writings of David Cortright, George Lopez, Eric Herring, and Marc Lynch. All these scholars worked on Iraq sanctions and threats for many years before the US went to war in March 2003. None liked the sanctions regime and all saw legitimate alternative policies that were not pursued.

The alternative policy to the WMD/al Qaeda justification for war was not simply a "better case" for attack.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Secretary Powell: No evidence of link between Iraq and al Qaeda

This New York Times story by Christopher Marquis goes even further than President Bush did back in September, when he pointed out the lack of evidence linking Iraq to 9/11. Now, administration officials admit they have no evidence even linking Iraq to al Qaeda. :
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell conceded Thursday that despite his assertions to the United Nations last year, he had no "smoking gun" proof of a link between the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and terrorists of Al Qaeda.

"I have not seen smoking-gun, concrete evidence about the connection," Mr. Powell said, in response to a question at a news conference. "But I think the possibility of such connections did exist, and it was prudent to consider them at the time that we did."

Mr. Powell's remarks on Thursday were a stark admission that there is no definitive evidence to back up administration statements and insinuations that Saddam Hussein had ties to Al Qaeda, the acknowledged authors of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The story also acknowledges that the Bush administration has withdrawn 400 weapons inspectors from Iraq who were looking for chemical and biological arms.

Repeat this chorus: no WMD, no link to 9/11 and no link to al Qaeda. And all these are now facts acknowledged by top Bush administration officials.

Saddam Hussein was a really bad guy, but he was a bad guy when the US found common ground with him in the 1980s. And he was a bad guy locked in a box of sanctions and deterrence.

The war in Iraq was horribly misguided policy, diverting resources from the real war on terror. This is all redundant coming from me, of course, but I'm going to keep saying it until Americans hold the political leaders accountable.

Bush et al must go.

Oops: From Dean's Outspoken Past

As I learned by reading Pandagon last night, today's New York Times has a story to follow by Jodi Wilgoren and Rachel Swarns, headlined "Tape Shows Dean Maligning Iowa Caucuses." This seems like bad news for Dean, primarily because he insults the Iowa political process -- even as he's gone around praising its democratic qualities. Many people might not care about these old statements (and some would agree with him), but the people who attend caucuses are likely to be the most offended. And since this is on TV (with images), there is perhaps greater potential for impact:
Four years ago, Howard Dean denounced the Iowa caucuses as "dominated by special interests," saying on a Canadian television show that they "don't represent the centrist tendencies of the American people, they represent the extremes."

Videotapes of the show were broadcast on the NBC Nightly News on Thursday, less than two weeks before the Jan. 19 caucuses, the first contest of the Democratic nominating race. The tapes show Dr. Dean arguing that the lengthy caucus process in which neighbors gather to debate their preferences is inconvenient for ordinary people.

"Say I'm a guy who's got to work for a living, and I've got kids," he said on the show on Jan. 15, 2000. "On a Saturday, is it easy for me to go cast a ballot and spend 15 minutes doing it, or do I have to sit in a caucus for eight hours?"

A moment later, he added, "I can't stand there and listen to everyone else's opinion for eight hours about how to fix the world."`
The story also quotes Dean saying in 2000 that Bush was a moderate who might win re-election. Lots of people might have thought the former in 2000 and have now reconsidered their view. That's not a big deal. And Dean certainly isn't in favor of Bush's re-election now. Indeed, the Democrats need to reach out to people who thought Bush was a moderate and viewed him as electable.

Perhaps more troubling for the candidate, Dean is also quoted saying that Hamas might become the post-Arafat Palestinian leadership. He said this would be bad, of course, because Hamas is a terrorist organization. But, Dean added that it might also have good effects, forcing Hamas to act more responsibly and negotiate.

Dean has already had to deal with Israel issues on his campaign, and I've blogged a little about the controversial views of some of his advisors. Again, I don't think this part of the story matters that much in Iowa or New Hampshire. The opinions are not totally unreasonable and can be explained as part of a bigger context.

Finally, the story includes the accusation that Dean is bringing in thousands of out-of-state volunteers and some of these people will allegedly attempt to participate (illegally) in the Iowa caucuses. This is little more than political mud-slinging and could actually end up hurting whatever opponents are levying the charges.

The winner? In my mind, it is Clark, who has just passed Kerry in New Hampshire tracking polls and is behind Dean only 24-20% in a national poll. Mark A.R. Kleiman has been tracking the Clark campaign, and its recent surge, pretty closely.

Oh, and since I'm writing about the election, Liberal Oasis has an ad that didn't make MoveOn's final cut...actually, it's a satire of the other ads. Thanks to Dave Johnson for the link.

Update: I just read Daily Kos, who reports that Senator Tom Harkin's endorsement of Dean has changed today's TV news coverage. MSNBC apparently went from stories focusing on Dean's old statements to this latest political victory.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Some good news in the war on terror

Let me quickly update two stories I've been following in the so-called "war on terror."

First, some good news. As I've blogged before, US airliners are potentially under real threat of shoulder fired missiles. Several news reports, in fact, suggest that some of the recent intelligence (and "chatter") relates to this possibility, which is behind the elevated (orange) threat level in the US.

As the Chicago Tribune reported yesterday, airlines are about to test an anti-missile system. The system will cost about $1 million per plane, and with 6,800 planes potentially at risk, that means a cost of nearly $7 billion. This is consistent with what I wrote 3 months ago.

The story says that Homeland Security will begin funding tests very soon, it will use the data to make a decision, and defense systems could be deployed in two years.

Now, some more good news -- unless you think it would be good news if Iraq actually had weapons of mass destruction. Yesterday's Washington Post had a really long story by Barton Gellman detailing Iraq's lack of WMD.

There's lots of good stuff in the article. Much of the piece just brings together material we've all read before over the past six months -- but with added detail. For example, Gellman explains exactly why the original reports about finding mobile biological weapons facilities were so wrong. Iraq used a chemical process for inflating hydrogen weather balloons. And Iraq did have a military rationale for wanting to know the weather (wind conditions and temperature), as it improved missile targeting. But the trailers were actually for inflating weather balloons.

As I've noted before, one apparently important reason the US believed Iraq had WMD is that Saddam Hussein's scientists were lying to him to save their jobs (and lives). They deceived their boss, but that also had the effect of deceiving the rest of the world. But, in reality, they had almost no means of producing sophisticated biological weapons, and their nuclear program has been virtually inactive since the IAEA dismantled it years ago.

Hans Blix speculates that Iraq might have been using a defense strategy that my wife and I have actually promoted among our friends. When we go to house-warming parties for new homeowners, we typically take a "beware of dog" sign (when they have a pet). It's much cheaper than an electronic home security system and may work just as well as a deterrent. Blix says that Iraq may have been putting up a "beware of dog" sign without actually possessing a dog.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

The Wrong Medium?

I just finished reading a very interesting article on "Words, Images, Enemies: Securitization and International Politics," by Michael C. Williams in the latest International Studies Quarterly.

While international relations (IR) scholars are increasingly studying texts, discourses, and public arguments, Williams notes that television images are centrally important in shaping public understandings about world politics. He focuses on security questions, but the point is more broadly applicable.

Communications professor Cori Dauber basically makes this same point, but in IR, very few scholars study images carefully. Ironically, because of their emphasis on the role communication can play in "securitizing" various issues (like environment, migration or global poverty), scholars associated with the "Copenhagen School" of IR theorizing are in many ways on the discipline's cutting edge. Yet, as Williams notes, even theorists aligned with the Copenhagen School overlook the importance of TV:
"the increasing impact of televisual communication in security relations provides a fundamental challenge for understanding the processes and institutions involved in securitization."
I've often blogged about the words political leaders and policy elites utter in public contexts. And words remain important. However, I agree with Williams (and Dauber, and Ron Deibert of Toronto -- someone in IR who has studied non-print media) that images are also critical.

What do we see? Why? How do those images shape what we "know"?

I think bloggers too need to take TV images more seriously. Sure, many have noted the way Bush was positioned in front of Mount Rushmore and "served" a centerpiece turkey to troops in Iraq. They also note the fact that the media is denied access to caskets returning home to the US and that no one has seen images of President Bush at a military funeral because he hasn't attended one.

But much more could be done. In many ways, the MoveOn commercials I noted yesterday affirm the importance real-world political actors place on images.

Thus, in my second blog-related New year's resolution, I will try to comment at least periodically on the images I see on TV news programs. What images are American seeing about the news? By checking out international news sources, I will also try to comment on the images Americans are not seeing.

Update: A faithful reader sent me a good example of an image that Americans didn't see from Iraq. Well, at least we didn't see this perspective.

I also watched some CNN coverage today of soldiers returning to Fort Campbell, KY. As one would expect, there were lots of very happy happy people hugging one another. However, well into the report (and I confess that I didn't see all of it), they hadn't mentioned the fact that Fort Campbell 101st unit has been the hardest hit US installation in Iraq, suffering 59 deaths to date.

And like I said, you haven't seen any pictures of those caskets, nor of Bush or Cheney attending their funerals.

Also, as previously noted, Wampum is taking comments on various award nominees for best "lefty" blogging. They are narrowing the candidates for the Koufax awards and will apparently form the ballot based on the comments. Today, I learned I was nominated in the Best Writing category. Given the nominees, I would not vote for me. I will alert readers when they post the "Best New Blog" category.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

MoveOn ads

Some time ago, solicited individuals to produce 30 second political ads that would reveal the "truth about George Bush." Recently, they posted those 1500 (!) ads and asked web surfers to watch them and rate them.

Now, they have narrowed their pool to the top 15. If you want to view them and vote, simply visit their website.The Republican National Committee has made a fuss about a couple of ads that apparently compared Bush to Hitler. A representative from the RNC called it "political hate speech."

As MoveOn's press release notes, these were ads that were independently produced and the offensive ads are not among the finalists. Apparently, the only place on the web where these ads can now be found is on the RNC website!

Republicans in 2002, by the way, ran actual TV ads in Georgia comparing Vietnam veteran Max Cleland (who lost an arm and both legs in the war) to Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

Was that "political hate speech"?

Update: Dan Drezner has a link to and quote from Ralph Peters (retired Army intell officer) in the NY Post (a Rupert Murdoch publication, of course). Peters explicitly compares Howard Dean to Hitler...

Correction: MoveOn has a panel of (celebrity) judges to vote for the 15 finalists. However, web surfers can vote for winners in 3 categories: “Funniest Ad,” “Best Youth Ad,” and “Best Animation.” I picked "Greatest Hits," "Al Keyda," and "Yeehaw," but there were several other good ones.

My favorites of the 15, by the way, are "Leave No Billionaire Behind," "Polygraph," "In My Country," and "Hood Robbin'." I also liked "Child's Play" and "Army of One" and several others. All have some merit and are worth watching.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Best Albums of 2003?

I listened to my friend Michael Young's radio program last night ("Roots and Boots") and he went through his top albums of 2003. Most are "Americana," as they apparently say in the industry. I researched his top 10 on, but am not 100% sure I've picked the correct album for each artist. These CDs were released in 2003 by the artists Mike played:

10. Calexico, Feast of Wire (Quarter Stick)

9. Los Lonely Boys, "Los Lonely Boys" (Or Music)

8. Jeff Black, "B Sides and Confessions" (Dualtone)

7. Scott Miller and the Commonwealth, "Upside Downside" (Sugarhill)

6. My Morning Jacket, "It Still Moves" (RCA)

5. Jayhawks, "Rainy Day Music" (Universal)

4. White Stripes, "Elephant" (BMG)

3. Lucinda Williams, "World Without Tears" (Universal)

2. Danny Barnes, "Dirt on the Angel" (Terminus Records)

1. Thad Cockrell, "Warmth and Beauty" (Yep Roc Records)

Previously, I noted that I didn't own many top albums according to the top 50 list published by Rolling Stone. However, I recently received both the Jayhawks and My Morning Jacket CDs. The former is terrific, and I also like the latter quite a bit.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Foreign Policy views of Democratic Candidates for President has a story by Anne E. Kornblut that appears in today's Boston Globe, , "On the world front, candidate differences are matters of degree." It discusses the foreign policy views of the various Democratic presidential candidates.

Here's the meat of the article:
"They're all calling from the same area code," said James M. Lindsey, director of studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. "There may be some differences, but there is a fair amount of similarity -- not in terms of Iraq, because there are real differences there. But in terms of the general view of America's role in the world, how you deploy American power, the rule of law, all these candidates share the same general outlook."

If there is a spectrum, he said, it reaches from Dennis Kucinich on the liberal end to Joseph I. Lieberman on the more conservative one, but "they're all pretty much in the same general intellectual place."

Although they differ in the details, the top-tier candidates would engage in talks with North Korea and would allow for some sort of incentive package to encourage Pyongyang to dismantle its weapons programs; would restart the Middle East peace talks; would work more closely with the United Nations and Europe, including relying on weapons inspectors when necessary; would take a more skeptical approach with Russia, because of crackdowns on rights in Chechnya.

The most obvious foreign policy differences within the Democratic Party are in two arenas: whether to accelerate free trade with other nations and how to handle the regime of Fidel Castro in Cuba. Other questions, such as precisely how to enter talks with North Korea, are more nuanced.

Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor, for instance, has said he would engage North Korea's leadership directly, rather than in a group setting with four other nations, as Bush has done. He would also deliver economic incentives as part of a "nonagression pact" with Pyongyang in exchange for cessation of the nuclear weapons program.

Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts promises to "engage Iran and renew bilateral negotiations with North Korea on the nuclear issue," a direct assault on Bush's far more distant approach.

On Cuba, the line pits one group of Democrats opposing an embargo -- retired general Wesley K. Clark, Kerry, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, and Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri -- against Lieberman of Connecticut and, of course, President Bush, who opposes any trade with Cuba under the current government.
Kornblut points out that trade is perhaps the most divisive issue. Some of the candidates, like Gephardt (and Kucinich), have taken strong stands against "free trade" as practiced in NAFTA and the WTO. Meanwhile, Lieberman embraces these same deals, as do Clark and Kerry (who would add labor and environment standards). Dean takes a similar view, though he's tilting more to unions now than he did as Vermont governor.

Kornblut claims that several of the candidates have asserted that the US should retain the option of launching preemptive attacks -- but with the standard caveat that an attack on the US is imminent. This is an improtant point distinguishing this group from Bush.

Before making too much of this, Steve Walt of Harvard has an important point to keep in mind:
"We have to be a little bit careful trying to read anybody's worldview from where they are in the campaign," said Steve Walt, a professor at Harvard's Belfer Center for International Affairs. "If you went back and looked at what George Bush and his whole team said in 2000, you'd get some things right -- but you'd get a lot of things really wrong. One theme of his campaign was nation-building is really terrible. We wake up three years later, and we're doing it several places."
Still, I'm pretty sure that neither Dean nor Clark will shift gears as dramatically as Bush has.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

China's Take on Security Rivalry With US

As I've said, in a couple of months I am slated to deliver a paper on the US foreign policy advice rendered by international relations realists.

So far, I've been reading a number of articles by or about John J. Mearsheimer, Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. Mearsheimer is one of the most prominent academic realists, has written a key book on the theory, and often provides foreign policy advice.

As I've noted before, Mearsheimer says that foreign policy elites talk like liberals (emphasizing democracy), but act like realists, worrying about power. That's an important part of the forthcoming conference paper, but I'm not going into that now.

Mearsheimer was a notable critic of the Iraq war because he believed in the continued success of containment and deterrence. But that's not Mearsheimer's only relevant foreign policy advice. He also urges the US to start preparing for a new rivalry with China. At minimum, this would mean reversing long-time trading practices so as not to make China stronger.

Last week, the Chinese People's Daily ran an article disputing Mearsheimer's claim that the US is soon to enter a major security rivalry with China:
John J. Mearsheimer, professor of political science of Chicago University said that as China is gaining rapid development in the economic field, whereas the United States cannot tolerate the existence of rival that maches it in force, the result will be fierce and dangerous competition for security which is similar to the confrontation between the United States and the former Soviet Union during the Cold War period.
The article is fairly long, but it is worth noting a few of the highlights. Primarily, the author, Zhou Yihuang, argues that economic interdependence and trade make such Sino-American rivalry unlikely. Rather, US-Chinese trade produces a "strongly mutual benefit":
The main shortcoming of this view is that it fails to notice the unprecedented changes that have taken place in today's world. It is these changes that have created the possibility and necessity for cooperation between the world's powers amid their confrontation. The key factors for these changes are economic globalization and the accompanying progress of science and technology. After World War II, science and technology have developed by leaps and bounds and productive forces have experienced unprecedented growth, thus giving rise to a series of changes in the world economic relations and international relationship, including ties between big powers.
Of course, the argument is framed in a weird mix of socialist rhetoric, dependent upon the logic of market economics
By relying on the enormous economic strength formed by scientific and technological progress, the big bourgeoisie in major capitalist countries reaped profits worldwide, they do not need to grab colonies or expand territory as colonialist and imperialist powers did in history, and so will not spark fierce conflicts or even leading to world war. China is a developing socialist country whose production aims to meet people's growing material and cultural needs, it does not seek hegemony or outward expansion, still less to engage in confrontation with the United States in this regard.
As Yihuang argues, the US doesn't need to engage in competition because it has adopted fiscal (it mentions tax cuts!) and social welfare measures to prevent economic crisis from triggering mass unrest.
The people in big capitalist countries universally oppose war and demand peace. China is a peace-loving country and the Chinese people long for a peaceful world environment for economic development. So there is no social basis for China-US confrontation.
The author also raises some important points about international politics:
compared with the United States, China lags far behind in strength whether in terms of science and technology, economy and military. China's present GDP is only one-ninth of the United States', and China's nuclear weaponry is only an odd of that of the United States.

He noted that at that time the United States and the Soviet Union were both superpowers, and both had military strength and overall national strength which were greater than other big countries' strengths added together. While China is still a developing country...
Watch this space for more stuff on realists and their foreign policy advice.

Probable coming attraction: Nuclear proliferation -- why more may be better? Specifically, realists have supported proliferation to Ukraine and Germany.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Questions for 2004

I've asked some of these questions before, but since the answers remain elusive, I'll repeat them:

1. Where is Osama?

2. Who sent the anthrax?

3. Who leaked Valerie Plame's CIA identity to Robert Novak?

4. What is the White House hiding about Saudi Arabia and 9/11?

5. Who will win the 2004 presidential election?

Unfortunately, while I'm fairly confident that the fifth question will be answered this year, I'm not especially optimistic that we'll know more about the other four.

The Bush administration diverted resources from Afghanistan to Iraq, making it more difficult to find Osama.

The Bush administration hasn't said much about anthrax, but did pull the US out of a biological weapons agreement in December 2001 that the world thought was a done deal.

The Bush administration has done little more than issue denials from specific individuals about the Plame leak.

The Bush administration blacked out 24 pages from the 9/11 report on Saudi Arabia and has not been especially cooperative with the 9/11 commission.

Notice a pattern here? To my mind, this means the answer to question five must NOT be George W. Bush.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Happy New Year!

In addition to the New Year, I'm about to celebrate my fourth month of blogging. Thanks for reading.

The hitmeter at the bottom of the page shows that the blog has received nearly 5200 hits since September 5. About 1600 of those came on one day after a couple of major blogs linked to my Voice of America interview.

On a pretty steady bases, 25 to 30 people read this space per day. During the holidays, readership has declined a bit -- but so has the blogging. That seems fair.

Sometime soon, Wampum is going to be conducting its Koufax Awards vote, for best left-leaning blogs. I was nominated in the "Best New Blog" category (thanks to several of you who nominated me), and was subsequently asked to submit a post for consideration. I do not know if I will make the ballot, but nominations closed yesterday.

I'll let you know when the voting begins and if I'm on the ballot.

Thanks again for reading -- and have a great 2004.

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Republicans vs. Republicans on Security vs. Economy

I usually don't blog twice in one day, but this story caught my eye and I did miss a couple of days last week while traveling.

Anyway, it is quite apparent that Republicans have been playing up their strength on security questions since 9/11. It was a huge part of the 2002 election cycle, for instance.

At the same time, the traditional core of the Republican party is its friendliness towards business. During the cold war, these issues were sometimes at odds -- no trading with Cuba or China, for example.

However, it is also clear that these issues still create difficult tensions for Republicans. Today's Chicago Tribune has a story entitled, "Congressman Urges Avoiding Times Square." Here are the key paragraphs:
Concerned about terrorism, Rep. Christopher Shays urged revelers not to attend New Year's Eve celebrations like the one at Times Square this year. New York's mayor countered that Shays could use an infusion of courage.

A member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security and chairman of a terrorism subcommittee, the Connecticut Republican told WVIT-TV on Tuesday that he wouldn't go to Times Square "for anything."

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said nobody should stay home because of the nation's heightened terror alert, and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said the nation's security was unprecedented.

But Shays said it is irresponsible for officials to make people think they don't need to take precautions, like avoiding packed crowds in New York City.
It will be interesting to see whether this kind of tension hurts Bush in 2004. It's tricky to emphasize security threats without causing the kind of fear that paralyzes consumers.

Generals Against the War

I've blogged frequently about former General Wesley Clark, but it should be noted that other military leaders are quite dubious about the Iraq war too.

For example, last week the Washington Post had an article titled, "For Vietnam Vet Anthony Zinni, Another War on Shaky Territory." Back in 1998, Zinni was in charge of the Central Command for the Middle East, enforcing "no fly" zones in Iraq. Around Thanksgiving 2001, General Zinni was sent as a special envoy by the Bush adminstration to the Middle East, in hopes of resolving Israeli/Palestinian violence. Now, however, the Bush administration is unlikely to turn to him for foreign policy help:
Over the past year, the retired Marine Corps general has become one of the most prominent opponents of Bush administration policy on Iraq, which he now fears is drifting toward disaster.

It is one of the more unusual political journeys to come out of the American experience with Iraq. Zinni still talks like an old-school Marine -- a big-shouldered, weight-lifting, working-class Philadelphian whose father emigrated from Italy's Abruzzi region...Yet he finds himself in the unaccustomed role of rallying the antiwar camp, attacking the policies of the president and commander in chief whom he had endorsed in the 2000 election.

"Iraq is in serious danger of coming apart because of lack of planning, underestimating the task and buying into a flawed strategy," he says. "The longer we stubbornly resist admitting the mistakes and not altering our approach, the harder it will be to pull this chestnut out of the fire."
His criticism is pretty thorough:
"Since we've failed thus far to capitalize" on opportunities in Iraq, he says, "I don't have confidence we will do it now. I believe the only way it will work now is for the Iraqis themselves to somehow take charge and turn things around. Our policy, strategy, tactics, et cetera, are still screwed up."
Zinni dismisses the notion that Iraq posed a threat:
As chief of the Central Command, Zinni had been immersed in U.S. intelligence about Iraq. He was all too familiar with the intelligence analysts' doubts about Iraq's programs to acquire weapons of mass destruction, or WMD. "In my time at Centcom, I watched the intelligence, and never -- not once -- did it say, 'He has WMD.' "

Though retired for nearly two years, Zinni says, he remained current on the intelligence through his consulting with the CIA and the military. "I did consulting work for the agency, right up to the beginning of the war. I never saw anything. I'd say to analysts, 'Where's the threat?' " Their response, he recalls, was, "Silence."

This retired Marine commander is hardly a late-life convert to pacifism. "I'm not saying there aren't parts of the world that don't need their ass kicked," he says, sitting in a hotel lobby in Pentagon City, wearing an open-necked blue shirt. Even at the age of 60, he remains an avid weight-lifter and is still a solid, square-faced slab of a man. "Afghanistan was the right thing to do," he adds, referring to the U.S. invasion there in 2001 to oust the Taliban regime and its allies in the al Qaeda terrorist organization.

But he didn't see any need to invade Iraq. He didn't think Hussein was much of a worry anymore. "He was contained," he says. "It was a pain in the ass, but he was contained. He had a deteriorated military. He wasn't a threat to the region."

But didn't his old friend Colin Powell also describe Hussein as a threat? Zinni dismisses that. "He's trying to be the good soldier, and I respect him for that." Zinni no longer does any work for the State Department.

Zinni's concern deepened at a Senate hearing in February, just six weeks before the war began. As he awaited his turn to testify, he listened to Pentagon and State Department officials talk vaguely about the "uncertainties" of a postwar Iraq. He began to think they were doing the wrong thing the wrong way. "I was listening to the panel, and I realized, 'These guys don't have a clue.' "
Finally, Zinni believes that the administration is heading toward a Vietnam-like mistake:
The more he listened to Wolfowitz and other administration officials talk about Iraq, the more Zinni became convinced that interventionist "neoconservative" ideologues were plunging the nation into a war in a part of the world they didn't understand. "The more I saw, the more I thought that this was the product of the neocons who didn't understand the region and were going to create havoc there. These were dilettantes from Washington think tanks who never had an idea that worked on the ground."

"Obviously there are differences" between Vietnam and Iraq, he says. "Every situation is unique." But in his bones, he feels the same chill. "It feels the same. I hear the same things -- about [administration charges about] not telling the good news, about cooking up a rationale for getting into the war." He sees both conflicts as beginning with deception by the U.S. government, drawing a parallel between how the Johnson administration handled the beginning of the Vietnam War and how the Bush administration touted the threat presented by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. "I think the American people were conned into this," he says. Referring to the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which the Johnson administration claimed that U.S. Navy ships had been subjected to an unprovoked attack by North Vietnam, he says, "The Gulf of Tonkin and the case for WMD and terrorism is synonymous in my mind."

Likewise, he says, the goal of transforming the Middle East by imposing democracy by force reminds him of the "domino theory" in the 1960s that the United States had to win in Vietnam to prevent the rest of Southeast Asia from falling into communist hands.

And that brings him back to Wolfowitz and his neoconservative allies as the root of the problem. "I don't know where the neocons came from -- that wasn't the platform they ran on," he says. "Somehow, the neocons captured the president. They captured the vice president."

He is especially irked that, as he sees it, no senior officials have taken responsibility for their incorrect assessment of the threat posed by Iraq. "What I don't understand is that the bill of goods the neocons sold him has been proven false, yet heads haven't rolled," he says. "Where is the accountability? I think some fairly senior people at the Pentagon ought to go." Who? "That's up to the president."

Zinni has picked his shots carefully -- a speech here, a "Nightline" segment or interview there. "My contemporaries, our feelings and sensitivities were forged on the battlefields of Vietnam, where we heard the garbage and the lies, and we saw the sacrifice," he said at a talk to hundreds of Marine and Navy officers and others at a Crystal City hotel ballroom in September. "I ask you, is it happening again?" The speech, part of a forum sponsored by the U.S. Naval Institute and the Marine Corps Association, received prolonged applause, with many officers standing.

Zinni says that he hasn't received a single negative response from military people about the stance he has taken. "I was surprised by the number of uniformed guys, all ranks, who said, 'You're speaking for us. Keep on keeping on.' "
Sorry for quoting a lot, but Post articles disappear quickly from the 'net.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Dean's Advisors: Who is Clyde Prestowitz?

Previously, I noted that Clyde Prestowitz is a foreign policy advisor to Howard Dean.

Recently, Prestowitz published Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions (Basic Books, 2003), which is apparently a through critique of George W. Bush's foreign policy. Lance Knobel of Davos Newbies plugged the book a couple of weeks ago as "the most powerful indictment I've seen of the Bush foreign policy. What makes it particularly potent for me is that it comes from someone who should, on past form, be a friend of the administration."

Prestowitz has criticized Bush's approach to the post 9/11 terror problem, Kyoto, free trade, the ICC, land mine ban, etc.

Here's the oddity: Prestowitz served in the Reagan administration Commerce Department and considers himself a conservative. Actually, this former foreign service member considers himself a product of a "middle-class, conservative, super-patriotic, Republican, Born Again Christian family."

That quote comes from a very interesting transcript of Prestowitz speaking as part of the Carnegie Council's "Books for Breakfast" program.

Here's what he had to say about the US media "filter."
One, the elite American press -- The Washington Post and The New York Times -- is pretty good. But one of the negative aspects of the media in the U.S. is that you travel through this big country and pick up the local newspaper and you read it in thirty seconds. There is a huge vacuum of information out there in much of the heartland.

Secondly, all the major hotels in the world have CNN, BBC, many of them have one of the French channels, many of them are now carrying Al Jazeera, Fox is increasingly there. During the Jenin incident in Palestinem I happened to be in Malaysia, so I was able to get Fox, CNN, BBC, France, Germany, and Al Jazeera. I watched the same incident on all the different channels.

If you look at CNN and Fox and then you switch to BBC, there is more similarity between CNN and Fox than between either of them and BBC. Looking at that through BBC, if it didn’t have the word “Jenin,” you would have thought it was another place. And on Al Jazeera, it looks like a different world.

CNN is a reputable, hard-working news organization; they try to do their best to show you the facts as they see it, and the same of BBC. But what I am seeing is a cultural prism. The American audiences are seeing this through a pre-selected set of presumptions. So they never see what the BBC audience sees. That means that even our elite policymakers are getting a somewhat distorted view.
Prestowitz sounds quite interesting and the interview is worth a quick read. He apparently abandoned the Republican party some time ago, however, as he voted for Clinton in 1992.

Note: I posted a slightly different version of this to DailyKos, if anyone wants to add comments.

Update: Based on the comments I already received, Prestowitz is controversial because the Jewish community (and Joe Lieberman) disagree with his proposed policies towards Israel. Dean took some heat for similar remarks some time ago, so I don't think it's the kind of stuff that can stick.

Prestowitz is also known as a Japan trade hawk, so this might make him appealing to the anti-globalization crowd.

Monday, December 29, 2003

The Latest Menace: Almanacs?

One day last week, hundreds of miles from my home, I was hanging out in a drug store, waiting for my antibiotic prescription to be filled (sinus infection). While waiting, I checked out the magazine rack -- and ended up looking at the 2004 almanacs because there were no political or baseball magazines in the rack.

Now, someone in suburban Oklahoma is perhaps trying to remember that stranger who loitered and looked at the almanacs.


It turns out that the FBI has warned people to be on the alert for people with almanacs. No joking.

Ted Bridis has a story in the Associated Press today, which I got from Yahoo! News: "FBI Issues Alert Against Almanac Carriers." Here's a snippet:
The FBI is warning police nationwide to be alert for people carrying almanacs, cautioning that the popular reference books covering everything from abbreviations to weather trends could be used for terrorist planning.

In a bulletin sent Christmas Eve to about 18,000 police organizations, the FBI said terrorists may use almanacs "to assist with target selection and pre-operational planning."

It urged officers to watch during searches, traffic stops and other investigations for anyone carrying almanacs, especially if the books are annotated in suspicious ways.

"The practice of researching potential targets is consistent with known methods of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations that seek to maximize the likelihood of operational success through careful planning," the FBI wrote.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the bulletin this week and verified its authenticity.
So what are skeptics saying?
"I don't think anyone would consider us a harmful entity," said Kevin Seabrooke, senior editor of The World Almanac. He said the reference book includes about a dozen pages out of its 1,000 pages total listing the world's tallest buildings and bridges but includes no diagrams or architectural schematics. "It's stuff that's widely available on the Internet," he said.

The publisher for The Old Farmers Almanac said Monday terrorists would probably find statistical reference books more useful than the collections of Americana in his famous publication of weather predictions and witticisms.

"While we doubt that our editorial content would be of particular interest to people who would wish to do us harm, we will certainly cooperate to the fullest with national authorities at any level they deem appropriate," publisher John Pierce said.
Back to those worried about this threat:
The FBI noted that use of almanacs or maps may be innocent, "the product of legitimate recreational or commercial activities." But it warned that when combined with suspicious behavior — such as apparent surveillance — a person with an almanac "may point to possible terrorist planning."

The FBI said information typically found in almanacs that could be useful for terrorists includes profiles of cities and states and information about waterways, bridges, dams, reservoirs, tunnels, buildings and landmarks. It said this information is often accompanied by photographs and maps.

The FBI urged police to report such discoveries to the local U.S. Joint Terrorism Task Force.
I'm glad I didn't actually buy that almanac -- though I can see a copy of the Essential World Atlas from where I type...

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Wesley Clark's America

I've blogged a great deal about Wesley Clark, partly because he's a former general and I study US foreign policy, partly because he has a damn impressive resume and I believe in the merit system, and partly because I think he's the most likely Democrat to emerge after Super Tuesday as the main rival to Howard Dean.

Still, most of what I've written is about Clark's take on foreign policy and the war on terror. What does he think about domestic policy questions?

For some idea, read the guest post by Andrew Sabl on Open Source Politics. Here's a shippet:
If Clark seems to lack opinions on domestic policy, it's because he's spent his life in a place that's seceded from domestic policy. In his recent health care speech, he said he was shocked to find out that ordinary people weren't required to get preventive checkups every year. Riff on this: He also hasn't had to think very much about people who lacked health insurance, couldn't afford college, or struggled to pay rent. The Army has people with low incomes, but ensures basic living standards and adequate opportunities for all. Clark's book convincingly articulates a case for making the rest of the country like that.
Imagine an America with a living wage, universal health care, a race-blind work force, aggressive college aid programs....sounds impressive.

Oh, and as I've written, Sabl emphasizes the stuff to like about Clark's foreign policy. Clark is greatly dismayed at the Bush administration's unilateralism and is quite worried about the lack of attention to genuine Homeland Security issues. How can the US be safer if it keeps shipping its "first responders" (firefighters and policy officers) off to Iraq -- where there are no WMD or credible links to al Qaeda?

Friday, December 26, 2003

New Year's Resolution?

I've been thinking about a blog-related New Year's Resolution.

By next week, I'll have been blogging for four months. For about the same period, as you can probably tell from some of my references and links, I've been reading a number of other blogs regularly. Most appear on the right side of this space, though I occasionally read a few others too.

What have I learned from blogging and reading blogs?

It seems to me that too much blogging concerns the latest headline news, and not enough space is devoted to the "big picture."

I'm resolved to "do" more big picture blogging.

This might mean referencing academic articles rather than news stories, in an attempt to provide specialized insight, context, better evidence and theoretically-informed analysis. We'll see, eh?

If you like the news-related commentary, don't worry, I'm sure I'll be doing my share of that. But I will try, at least every week or so, to bring in "big picture" thinking.

I've agreed to write papers or book chapters for a number of projects in 2004. One is on "human security," another is about the failure of academic realists to influence US foreign policy debate, another is on US policy on climate change and a final one focuses on the deliberative viability of the Bush Doctrine.

I'm also teaching a grad seminar on international relations theory and an undergraduate course on US foreign policy.

That gives you some idea of where I'm likely to turn for topics for my "big picture" thinking in 2004.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Dean's Foreign Policy Views

Sorry I haven't yet blogged about Dean's foreign policy address, as promised.

On the flight earlier this week, I did find time to read it. Overall, it's good and not especially radical. Most importantly for Dean's campaign, he framed his Iraq critique around issues that will assuredly resonate with his voters without much chance of unpredictable events throwing his campaign for a loop.
The difficulties and tragedies we have faced in Iraq show that the administration launched the war in the wrong way, at the wrong time, with inadequate planning, insufficient help, and at unbelievable cost. An administration prepared to work with others in true partnership might have been able, if it found no alternative to Saddam's ouster, to then rebuild Iraq with far less cost and risk....

Empowered by the American people, I will work to restore:

The legitimacy that comes from the rule of law;

The credibility that comes from telling the truth;

The knowledge that comes from first-rate intelligence, undiluted by ideology;

The strength that comes from robust alliances and vigorous diplomacy;

And, of course, I will call on the most powerful armed forces the world has ever known to ensure the security of this nation.
That's a solid critique, and somewhat similar to the one offered by Wesley Clark.

Later in the speech, Dean used a telling phrase that might just catch on as a counter to the Bush administration's "coalition of the willing." Dean prefers "coalitions of the able," which includes NATO and Asian alliance partners.

Dean also calls for a new "global alliance to defeat terror," which is apparently like the "war on terror," but with closer connections to other states. The globalization of America's foreign policy would begin with Iraq:
To succeed we also need urgently to remove the label "made in America" from the Iraqi transition. We need to make the reconstruction a truly international project, one that integrates NATO, the United Nations, and other members of the international community, and that reduces the burden on America and our troops.
A fair amount of attention was devoted to discussing genuine terror threats that receive too little attention post 9/11, such as the problem of "loose nukes" (and other WMD materials) from the former Soviet Union. Dean calls for expanding the Nunn-Lugar program, for example.

As I said, in all, it's a solid speech, focusing on genuine high priority concerns, but based on multilateral principles. Indeed, process explains a great deal of the difference dividing Democrats from the Bush administration on foreign policy.

Democrats like Dean and Clark agree that terrorism and WMD are high priority threats, but they do not think the US should consider using force without compliance with global norms. They prefer sharing burdens, building strong coalitions with all the key allies, and addressing a variety of terror threats (not merely those emanating from rogue states).

Note: Larry Solum links to an article coauthored by my friend Avery Kolers, "Towards a Pluralist Account of Parenthood" (published in Bioethics, apparently).

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

2003 Movies

Clearly, my wife and I need to get out more...

Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun Times have put out their separate "best movies of 2003" lists.

I saw "Lost in Translation," as reported here. It's a top 3 movie for both critics.

Though Ebert and Roeper mention literally dozens of films, I've seen almost none of them. We watch a lot of movies on IFC, Sundance, and various other movie channels, but there's a built-in lag. Since we upgraded to digital cable, we virtually never rent movies. Oh well, we eventually see everything.

Short-term, we plan to view "It's a Wonderful Life" for the umpteenth time.

Happy holidays, readers.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Enemy of Freedom?

Expect light blogging in the next week. I'm on the road and will check in sporadically.

Incidentally, I've just finished spending the weekend with the UK's new Director of the Identity Cards Programme, Katherine Courtney. Note: libertarians might want to avert their eyes.

Though some people know her has an "enemy of freedom," I'm unconvinced. This is from her testimony on December 11 before the Home Affairs Committee:
Q46 Mr Prosser: I want to ask some questions about the National Identity Register. Have you made any firm decisions on what information will go into the Register and, if so, what are they?

Katherine Courtney: The information that is proposed to be held on the National Identity Register is simply that information which is required to establish a person's core identity. So that might include name, date of birth and a record of certain biometric identifiers. However, the decision of exactly what is going to be held on the Register is subject to legislation and, therefore, is really a matter of Parliament. That decision has not been taken yet.

Q47 Mr Prosser: What measures will you take to ensure that some sort of fraud does not take place at that critical moment and therefore undermine the whole issue of an ID card?

Katherine Courtney: At the moment of enrolling an individual into the Register?

Q48 Mr Prosser: Yes.

Katherine Courtney: Quite rigorous security will be built into the system. Just to give some of the examples; first of all, recording the biometric details of an individual will enable us to check against other records held on the Register to ensure that, for instance, a person is not presenting themselves with a second identity and trying to claim that they should be issued with a second ID card; secondly, at the point of first enrolment we will be undertaking a very rigorous background check on the individual based on the information that they supply in the application procedure. So that will include looking at what we call a "biographical footprint" or where that individual has had contact with other Government departments in the past. That is not to capture that data into the Register but simply to verify that individual's existence in the UK. It is very difficult for somebody to invent a biographical footprint and so that is a very effective fraud prevention measure in itself.

Q49 Mr Prosser: Will that registration be linked to the Civil Registration Service? Will there be any linkage between the two?

Katherine Courtney: We hope to have a link in that the Civil Registration Service is working towards electronic records of births, marriages and deaths and it would certainly be an easy way for us to validate information that people are presenting to us about their birth date, for instance, if we were able to check that electronically against the new electronic registration database, as we know the current paper documentation for birth certificates etc. is not particularly secure.

Q50 Mr Prosser: You have been using the expression "biometric footprint" ...

Katherine Courtney: It was "biographical footprint".

Q51 Mr Prosser: "Biographical footprint"? Okay. In regards to the biometrical information stored in the card, are decisions made on that yet?

Katherine Courtney: Again, no decision has been taken on precisely what will be stored on the card or indeed will be recorded on the Register. We have taken quite a long look at the biometric technology and the current state of evolution there and we are now embarking on a process of design, analysis, feasibility testing and technology tests to look at, in particular, three types of biometrics, which I am happy to elaborate on if you would like further information. Would you care for me to speak further about it?

Q52 Mr Prosser: Yes.

Katherine Courtney: The three that we are evaluating are; a facial biometric, which is effectively a digital photograph of an individual's face that can then be matched against other digital photographs in a database; fingerprints, which is a digital record again of a person's fingerprints; and iris, which is a photograph effectively of the shape of a person's iris. These are unique physical identifiers and when captured in a digital format can be quite easily compared with other similar records to see whether there is a match or not. We have the UK Passport Service just about to undertake a pilot of enrolment looking at all three of those types of biometric recording to evaluate the robustness of the technology, the enrolment experience across a sort of representative segment of the UK population to see what that end-user experience is like.

Q53 Mr Prosser: We are told that the facial recognition is not a safe enough system. You have not dismissed that yet?

Katherine Courtney: Facial recognition in and of itself is not as robust as iris or fingerprint, but what is important is that we intend to be using more than one biometric record because that really gives you a very high level of assurance that the individual being held in the Register and presenting themself in front of you not only looks like the picture but also has an identifying physical characteristic that can really only be unique to them.

Q54 Mr Prosser: We are told that one in 10,000 people would not be suitable for iris recognition, but I suppose if you have got two different recognition patterns ...

Katherine Courtney: This is why we are undertaking this stage of intensive testing and analysis. We have no intention of launching a technology that is not fit for the purpose and certainly over the coming year we will be doing feasibility testing and then over the three years set up of the programme. We will be doing rigorous end to end testing of the whole system to ensure that it is robust and ready for launch for the first ID cards are introduced.

Q55 Mr Prosser: How will you break down the possible public resistance to people having their fingerprints taken and all the connotations and connections with the criminal world?

Katherine Courtney: I think this is a matter for public education because the fingerprints are not being recorded for the purpose of checking them against any criminal database or any other policing sort of purpose. The purpose of taking a picture of your fingerprints, taking a picture of your iris, taking a picture of your face is to record in your record in the register unique characteristics that if somebody were to steal your ID card or if you were to lose it, it would make it virtually impossible for somebody to pass themselves off as you.

Q56 Mr Prosser: Have you considered taking samples of DNA?

Katherine Courtney: No, we have not considered taking samples of DNA.

Q98 Janet Anderson: How many cards of each sort do you expect to be issued per year?

Katherine Courtney: In total, when the system is up and running, we would expect to be issuing somewhere between 10 and 17 million of these cards per year. That is roughly similar to the volume of passports, drivers licences and other identity type documents that are being issued in the UK currently. I do not have the specific breakdown of how many of those would be through new and renewal passports or drivers licences.

Q99 Janet Anderson: When do you think you would be able to cover the whole of the economically active population?

Katherine Courtney: Our estimates show that on a sort of phased incremental approach we should reach about 80% of the economically active population within five years after the launch of the scheme.

Q100 Janet Anderson: When the whole population, do you think?

Katherine Courtney: To reach the whole of the population would probably require a move to compulsion, so I cannot give an estimate of when that would happen.

Q101 Janet Anderson: You do have some proposals for a combined passport identity card, I think that is mentioned, and a combined driving licence identity card.

Katherine Courtney: Yes.

Q102 Janet Anderson: Presumably for passports, driving licences and identity cards you would have three different databases? Is that right?

Katherine Courtney: Yes.

Q103 Janet Anderson: Will they be able to talk to each other and do you ever see a point where you may want to combine the whole lot into one IT database?

Katherine Courtney: Passports and drivers licences have already, as those two agencies have been doing quite a lot of work together, working very closely, on both the initial checking of applicants and also verifying documentation against each other's databases already. We are effectively looking to build on the good practice that they have already been working on.

Q104 Janet Anderson: And that is working, is it?

Katherine Courtney: Yes. In terms of whether those agencies might ever be combined into a single agency, really the structure and function of agencies is a decision for the Government of the day, so I am not able to comment on that.

Q105 Chairman: We have a number of elements to the system; we have the database, we have the physical job of collecting the biometrics, we have the production of the cards, we have the administration system and so on. Which of those different functions, potentially, could be carried out by private sector companies rather than by public sector institutions?

Katherine Courtney: As you know, we are now entering into what we call the "project definition stage" of this project and the design of the solutions, both from the business process and technology perspective, is exactly what we are looking at over the coming year. So it is premature for me to be able to give you any idea of how private sector companies might be involved in the eventual delivery of that solution.

Q106 Chairman: Are there any areas that have been excluded at the moment from being delivered by the private sector?

Katherine Courtney: I do not believe that any firm decisions have been taken on any of the designs.

Q107 Chairman: So the database itself could potentially be run by a private sector organisation?

Katherine Courtney: I think you would want to distinguish between who has authority over the database and which entity actually does the operational day to day technical maintenance of the database and again no decisions have been taken.

Q108 Chairman: Is that a clear distinction in your mind?

Katherine Courtney: It is a clear distinction in my mind, yes.

Q109 Chairman: Right, but I mean the police national computer, for example, is maintained by the police. The Criminal Records Bureau has access to it. That is not the same as saying that the Criminal Records Bureau, God help us, should run the police national computer.

Katherine Courtney: Yes, but I think the specific question was about private sector organisations' involvement in this scheme.

Q110 Chairman: Yes, I am just trying to be clear; in principle, have you excluded the idea that the database could be run and managed and effectively controlled by, not necessarily owned by, controlled by a private sector organisation?

Katherine Courtney: Again, I can only say that these are all issues that are being explored during the design phase.

Q115 Chairman: In terms of the private sector, you have talked about banks, financial institutions, solicitors or whatever who might wish to use the card; to what extent will you be designing the card and its content around the requirements of private sector users as opposed to public sector users like Benefits or Health?

Katherine Courtney: The design of the scheme throughout the consultation period to date, coming up with the initial concepts, etc., has been in consultation with private sector organisations as well as public sector. The financial services sector, for instance, has expressed quite a lot of interest in the possibility of using this scheme to prove identity in the future. So the design of the scheme is meant to be putting in place capabilities that are effective and cost effective for a whole range of situations. That runs from potentially a small retailer wanting simply to, if date of birth, for instance, is reflected on the face of these cards, maybe just wanting to be able to use a very simple check for proof of age. On the opposite end of the spectrum you may find that for major financial transactions, a bank may want to be able to perform a verification check of that identity against the database and will be exploring possibilities to make that feasible for them.

Q116 Chairman: Suppose a financial institution came and said what would be really useful would be for the card to carry details of major criminal convictions?

Katherine Courtney: I think we have been quite clear that the function and the purpose of the scheme and the function of the card and the system itself is to verify identity. There is no intention to hold any other information about individuals.

Q117 Chairman: So that would be a straight no to any institution that asked for extra information to be carried in other than the identity information you have already told us about?

Katherine Courtney: Absolutely.

Q118 Chairman: What other departments and agencies are being involved alongside the Home Office in developing the biometric and other technologies?

Katherine Courtney: We have been working very closely not only with colleagues in other Government departments here and across the Home Office, both with the DVLA, who have been looking at this issue, with UK Passport Service, who have done quite a lot of work due to the requirements that are placed upon them now by evolving standards in the international community and also the Immigration Service has done quite a lot of work in this area. But in addition to that, we have been working closely with other countries, with EU partners, with the US and, for instance, taking a very active role in the G8 Working Group on Biometrics.

Q119 Chairman: How much is the technology going to change? At the moment when you have your iris scan, you have to sit down, I think, in the special booth or in front of a camera. I presume, given I was hoping to get this wonderful mobile phone camera for Christmas, that in ten years' time a police officer will probably be able to carry a camera capable of doing an iris scan in the street and checking it against a card. Have you looked at how the technologies will change over the next ten years and what the circumstances are likely to be when the new card is brought into force?

Katherine Courtney: Certainly the work that has gone before with the National Physical Laboratory study and the consultations that we have taken with the industry sector through, for instance, Intellact, has informed the decisions that have been made to date in designing the preliminary concept for this scheme in terms of how we are going forward. We are looking at future proofing the scheme. Obviously there is no point in building something that is obsolete before we launch it. I cannot predict for you how the technology will change.

Q139 Janet Anderson: How will you decide whether the technology is working? Will you set certain tests against which you will measure whether it is being effective or not.

Katherine Courtney: I think it would be obvious if the technology were not working, but the testing that we will be going through, not only now in the feasibility analysis stage of this programme, but throughout the set up, and then conducting very rigorous end to end testing of the whole system which includes testing the business processes behind the technology and not just the technology itself, will put us in a position to be clear that it is working as designed, that it is meeting the specifications before we go live with the system and launch cards and make them available to the public. And then, once it is live and operational, you would be conducting the same performance measurement that you would on any major technological system on an ongoing basis to ensure that it continued to performance up to the required standards.

Q140 Janet Anderson: Do you think you have learnt any lessons from some of the things that have happened in this past? I was just thinking about passports and when the asylum databases were combined, the three databases, have you learnt lessons from what went wrong there, you think, which will inform what you are doing here?

Katherine Courtney: Certainly we are drawing lessons not only from projects that have gone wrong but also from projects that have gone well, in the public sector and in the private sector. Quite importantly, the team that has been brought together to manage this programme bring a wealth of expertise from the private sector, which is where I myself have come from, as well as across Government and having been involved in other major Government initiatives in the past. And then finally, I should say that the Office of Government Commerce oversight that we have invited in is providing us again with access to best practice, information and learning from other Government initiatives.

Q141 Janet Anderson: Do you think that there will be a need for an independent assessment at some point, or do you think that you will have built sufficient safeguards in place?

Katherine Courtney: I am not sure I understand what an independent assessment is?

Q142 Janet Anderson: At some point would you perhaps commission an independent assessment, an outside assessment, to assess whether it was, in fact, working as you had intended?

Katherine Courtney: Certainly we have, within the proposed governance framework for this programme, a whole raft of oversight both within the Home Office and independent advice from outside. No decision has been made whether we would commission a particular independent.

Q143 Chairman: You noted earlier that the OGC Gateways go from 0 to 5, that is because it is Gateway 6 would tell you the system was really going to work, is it not, and we never quite get there? I mean this is the same OGC framework that signed off the Criminal Records Bureau, I think, was ready to run. So do you have complete confidence that the OGC Gateways are sufficiently robust to say "Yes, we can push the button on this one and it is ready to go"?

Katherine Courtney: I know that OGC Gateway system is a fairly new process. It has only been in operation for the last couple of years and I, coming in from outside of Government, cannot really speak on how effective the process is. What I do know is that, from my own background, I have confidence that a programme like this, it is possible to deliver a programme of this size and complexity within plan and effectively and successfully.

Q144 Chairman: Have a look at the advice we got on the Criminal Records Bureau. Could you just tell us what your background is?

Katherine Courtney: Certainly. I have spent the last 12 years in the technology sector leading major development programmes both for major companies like Cable and Wireless and BT and also have been involved in the start up of several new technology ventures. Most of those were rolling out new businesses on an international basis which requires a great deal of not just complexity in terms of the technical systems, but also in terms of the cultural and business process issues there.

Q145 David Winnick: How were you brought into the Home Office? Was it an advertisement or other contacts?

Katherine Courtney: Yes, there was a recruitment process and I saw an ad in the Sunday Times and applied for the job.
Katherine is my wife's sister.