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Monday, January 31, 2005

Hope is not a strategy?

Yesterday, we took the kids for a bit of an outdoor adventure. They got to ride about a quarter-mile in this contraption.

Before they could ride, we had to sign a waiver promising not to litigate in case of personal disaster. Keep in mind that the kids really, really, really wanted to ride behind those Alaskan sled dogs.

Of course, we had no idea whether or not it was safe. We saw a few kids ride, we knew that the same people gave rides for a couple of hours Saturday in a different Boston park...the driver seemed like a reasonable guy.

But, after all, we're talking about our flesh and blood, to be pulled along in a small unprotected vehicle by a dozen Alaskan sled dogs through the remains of Boston's more than two-foot blizzard of last weekend...in an area unknown to us, called Belle Isle Marsh.

So, what to do?

My wife signed the form and we hoped for the best.

And it worked out great. The kids had a really good time. They couldn't wait to talk to grandparents and to email their school friends back home about the experience.

In some ways, my family's personal dilemma Sunday was kind of like America's strategy in Iraq. Given limited information and experience, what does a person do in a difficult situation? One option is awfully tempting, but there may be no way of knowing whether it will work out.

How often does a country democratize successfully after foreign military occupation? Can it happen in the Middle East? Do all the relevant parties think the elections were legitimate?

Yet, what are the alternatives? Nation-building is a very difficult task. The status quo is unacceptable. To cut and run might mean civil war. Can elections work?

The questions are almost endless.

On Monday's "Daily Show," political analyst Fareed Zakaria pointed out that 42 of 48 countries in Africa have had elections; Haiti has had an election. Presumably, he noted these past failures to emphasize the strong possibility of failure in Iraq.

Then again, Zakaria expressed hope that it would all work out.

Hope.

OK, let's all hope.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Davos

These past few days, many of the world's elite have been meeting in Davos, Switzerland for the annual World Economic Forum.

US coverage of the event can be spotty. From what I can tell, on the heels of the recent devastating tsunami, the world's elite are this year especially interested in poverty and underdevelopment.

Well, they're interested in poverty as a potential business proposition, at least.

Here are the words of the Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), who attended the event:
She said business leaders attending the forum in the Swiss Alps are showing growing interest in helping the world's refugees.

"I met with a lot of UNHCR's business partners who have already been committing their resources and time," said Jolie. "There's quite a few."

She said the interest in helping refugees didn't need to be purely altruistic.

"Business people can understand that these are people that will be returning to the countries that were destroyed," Jolie said. "If they have proper support and education when they're in the camps or support when they're back, they can make the country stable and maybe in the future they don't go into conflict again.

"It's smart humanitarianism," she said. It' also smart business."
Oh, and "Jolie" is Angelina Jolie.


I wonder if celebrity spokespersons are good for business?

Note: Sorry for the lightweight and voyeuristic entry about Davos. Last year, better bloggers than I were providing first-hand coverage.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Freedom's just another word for...

Kleptocracy?

Peter Maass has a fascinating article about Equatorial Guinea in the January/February 2005 Mother Jones. The story is about the dictatorship of Teodoro Obiang and the way he and his family have siphoned off much of the state's new oil wealth (oil was discovered in 1995):
In the past few years, Equatorial Guinea, population 500,000, has become the third-largest oil exporter in sub-Saharan Africa, after Nigeria and Angola. Per capita, it is one of the richest countries on the continent; rated by how much money ends up in the pockets of people not related to the president, it remains one of the poorest.
Just another "ownership" society?

Actually, the US government and US-based transnationals have played an important role in developments in EG since 1995:
His conduct has been aided by American companies: As detailed in Senate and Treasury Department documents, Riggs Bank helped Obiang shuttle millions into offshore accounts. Oil companies, meanwhile, made payments to his regime that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is now scrutinizing under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The president’s uncle, Jonathan Bush, is CEO of Riggs Bank investment arm.

Maass does a pretty good job explaining the seedy story, extensively relying upon a US Senate report:
Riggs also has a reputation for not asking too many questions. As the committee report notes, “Riggs has repeatedly been cited for having weak anti-money-laundering controls.” Indeed, the document went so far as to call the bank’s program “dysfunctional.” This certainly held true in Riggs’ treatment of Obiang’s money: “Riggs was fully aware of the corruption risks associated with the E.G. accounts,” Senate investigators reported, yet the bank “failed to exercise enhanced scrutiny of the account activity, even for transactions involving large cash deposits or international wire transfers.”

Obiang’s relationship with Riggs began in 1995, and by 2003 his regime had become the bank’s single largest customer. In all, Riggs held more than 60 accounts belonging to Obiang, his government, and his ruling circle.
Special scorn is reserved for the “investment accounts” which in 2003 were valued "between $300 million and $500 million."

Hmmm, who is that investment CEO again?

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) had a great line in the hearings on this topic (which featured oil company and Riggs execs):
Levin said in closing. “But I’ve got to tell you, I don’t see any fundamental difference between dealing with an Obiang and dealing with a Saddam Hussein.”
The Securities Exchange Commission is investigating some of the charges reported by the US Senate investigation:
As the Senate report concluded, “Riggs Bank serviced the E.G. accounts with little or no attention to the bank’s anti-money-laundering obligations, turned a blind eye to evidence suggesting the bank was handling the proceeds of foreign corruption, and allowed numerous suspicious transactions to take place without notifying law enforcement.” Riggs officials declined to comment for this story.

The committee’s rebuke did not end with Riggs. “Oil companies operating in Equatorial Guinea,” Senate investigators wrote, “may have contributed to corrupt practices in that country by making substantial payments to, or entering into business ventures with, individual E.G. officials, their family members, or entities they control, with minimal public disclosure of their actions.”
Half of those 60 bank accounts mentioned above belonged to members of the dictator's family or government (often the same).

I'm not sure how this story is going to end. After all, Margaret Thatcher's son Mark has recently admitted his involvement in an attempted coup in EG last year -- and the latest press reports suggest that coup backers were trying to gain US approval.

Keep an eye on this story.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Econ stats of the day

Apparently, this was originally published in the NY Times, but I missed it:
We already know that Wal-Mart is the biggest retailer. (If it were an independent nation, it would be China's eighth-largest trading partner.)
Impressive, eh?

The article notes that Wal-Mart exceeds $250 billion in annual sales and has over 20 million customers. Most of its stores are in red states. Unsurprisingly, Wal-mart became the #2 "campaign giver" in 2004 and 85% of that cash went to Republicans.

Back in 2000, of course, candidate George W. Bush criticized Bill Clinton's administration for making China a "strategic partner." He promised to consider China a "strategic competitor." The neocons at the Project for a New American Century wanted to get tough.

It's funny how the situation has...evolved (during 2004, I probably would have made a weak "flip flop" joke). I'm trying to figure out how 9/11 "changed everything" on this question.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Rumsfeld: Best Actor Slight?

Sundance is running "Control Room" and I finally caught it. If you haven't seen the documentary about the Arabic news channel Al Jazeera, I recommend a viewing.

To my mind, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stole the show. What a great, great performance. Here are his best lines in the film:
And it seems to me that it's up to all of us to try to tell the truth, to say what we know, to say what we don't know, and recognize that we're dealing with people that are perfectly willing to lie to the world to attempt to further their case. And to the extent people lie, ultimately, they are caught lying and they lose their credibility, and one would think it wouldn't take very long for that to happen dealing with people like this.
Of course, Rumsfeld was talking about al Jazeera, not fellow members of the Bush administration.

By the way, while the film has received some accolades, it was not nominated for a "Best Documentary" Oscar -- and apparently wasn't eligible.

Doug Feith is Quitting

Feith has been serving as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. And he's a prominent neocon.

Effective this summer, he's out! This is the DoD press release.

First Bolton, now Feith.

Wolfowitz?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Snow day(s)

As my readers know, my family arrived in Boston January 1. Here's what we've experienced, as reported by the Globe:
By early Wednesday afternoon Boston had not only set a new record for total snowfall in the month of January but it also had established a new mark for the most snow in any one month in 133 years of recorded weather history in Boston.

Going into Wednesday's storm the January record for Boston was 39.8 inches set in 1996. Meanwhile the record for the greatest amount of snow for a single month in Boston was 41.6 inches set in February 2003.

At the outset Wednesday the National Weather Service had measured 37.7 inches of snowfall at Logan Airport this month. At 1:55 p.m. Wednesday the NWS reported the new storm had dumped 4.5 inches of snow at Logan bringing the total at that point for the month to 42.2 inches setting records in both categories and the snow was still coming down.
Most people seem to walk in the streets, but the sidewalks are like walled walkways. The snow is piled 4 or 5 feet high, especially on the side closest to the street.

Oh, and it's still snowing and January still has 5 more days. Between snows, the temperature tends to dip into the teens.

During the day.

Overnight, it's usually low single digits. Tonight, it is supposed to be zero, with wind chills at 18 below.

Brrrr.

Transparency update

Opponents of government secrecy might be interested to read "SECRECY IN THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION," dated September 14, 2004. The report was prepared by the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee. Need I add that it is a Minority Staff document, prepared at the request of Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA)?

It is an interesting (and somewhat scary) compilation of data, explaining how the Bush administration has restricted access to presidential documents (including 10s of thousands of pages from the Reagan era...when his Dad was Veep), found ways to limit compliance with the Freedom of Information Act, created new standards to limit a great deal of previously available government information, and pursued secret detention, deportation hearings and trials (of "enemy combatants"). Here's the conclusion:
the Administration’s actions represent an unparalleled assault on the principle of open and accountable government.
Are you surprised?

Transparency has long been an area of professional interest to me, but I've been doing a bit of new work on transparency and found some other useful websites as well: including the Project on Government Secrecy by the Federation of American Scientists and BushSecrecy.org by Public Citizen.

Note: Waxman also previously sponsored the Iraq on the Record website, which includes a searchable database of quotes about Iraq.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Condi's Critics

Hey, some Democratic Senators must have started reading their mail. Here are a few choice words about the nomination of Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State. The Washington Post story has several good ones.

First, Senator Mark Dayton (MN):
Too many Republican senators allow Bush's top aides "to get away with lying," said Sen. Mark Dayton, a Democrat who opposed the war and will face reelection next year in the swing state of Minnesota. "Lying to Congress, lying to our committees and lying to the American people. It's wrong, it's immoral." The only way to stop it, Dayton said, is to keep the administration from promoting officials "who have been instrumental in deceiving Congress and the American people, and regrettably that includes Dr. Rice."
Next, Senator Evan Bayh (IN):
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), a possible presidential candidate in 2008 who voted to authorize the war, said Rice "has been a principal architect of policy errors that have tragically undermined our prospects for success" in Iraq. "The list of errors is lengthy and profound, and unfortunately many could have been avoided if Dr. Rice and others had only listened to the counsel" of lawmakers from both parties, Bayh said. "This is no ordinary incompetence. Men and women are dying as a result of these mistakes."
And finally, Senator Carl Levin (MI):
Sen. Carl M. Levin (Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee and a critic of the war, said Rice "clearly overstated and exaggerated the intelligence concerning Iraq before the war in order to support the president's decision to initiate military action against Iraq. Since the Iraq effort has run into great difficulty, she has also attempted to revise history as to why we went into Iraq."
Choice, eh?

The NY Times story had some meaty direct quotes too. To start, another from Dayton:
"I don't like to impugn anyone's integrity, but I really don't like being lied to repeatedly, flagrantly, intentionally," said Senator Mark Dayton, Democrat of Minnesota. "It's wrong; it's undemocratic; it's un-American; and it's very dangerous. It is very, very dangerous. And it is occurring far too frequently in this administration."
Then, senior Senator Robert Byrd (WV):
Senator Robert C. Byrd, the West Virginia Democrat who was one of the most vocal opponents of the war, said Ms. Rice simply did not deserve to be promoted.

"I cannot support higher responsibilities for those who helped set our great nation down the path of increasing isolation, enmity in the world and a war that has no end," Mr. Byrd said. His voice quivering, he offered a plaintive lament: "Oh, when will our boys come home?"
Senator Jack Reed (RI):
In October 2003, Mr. Reed said, Mr. Bush "announced the formation of the Iraqi Stabilization Group because it was obvious the present policy was not working."

"And Dr. Rice was named to head that group," he said. "Well, there has been no product of this committee, no impact on policy, a void in terms of what it has done. This raises serious questions in my mind."
How will your Senator vote?

Joe Lieberman (CT), newbie Ken Salazar (CO), and Diane Feinstein (CA) spoke out in her favor, and of course a bunch of Dems voted for her last week in the Foreign Relations Committee. Joe Biden (DE), for example, had some tough words in the committee, but voted to confirm. Only Barbara Boxer (CA) and John Kerry (MA) voted no there.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Hidden realism?

University of Chicago political scientist John J. Mearsheimer often argues that liberal political rhetoric is used to sell foreign policies that might otherwise be unpalatable. States, especially great powers like the US, pursue policies that are consistent with realism. They are self-interested and especially concerned about the distribution of power.

So what do we make of last Thursday's Inaugural address, which seemed to be about "freedom" and "liberty"? Plenty of analysts say this was Bush channeling Woodrow Wilson -- and Ronald Reagan. And they very strongly imply that Bush meant every word. Some are even calling it a new (or perhaps revised) "Bush doctrine of liberty."

White House spinners insist that the speech wasn't merely about ideas, but rather was a fusion of ideas and power politics. In The Washington Post, January 22, 2005, Dan Balz and Jim VandeHei talked to Presidential speechwriter Michael J. Gerson who emphasized that the US intends to use its power to achieve its ideals:
Bush's speech appeared to put the United States on a course in which moralism and idealism, rather than realpolitik, form the philosophical foundations of foreign policy. But White House officials said that is a misreading of how Bush operates. "His goals are deeply idealistic," Gerson said. "His methods are deeply realistic. In fact, that was one of the themes of the speech, that this traditional divide between realism and idealism is no longer adequate for the conduct of American foreign policy."
Condi Rice has previously talked (quite often, actually) about the marriage between material power and values.
There is an old argument between the so-called "realistic" school of foreign affairs and the "idealistic" school. To oversimplify, realists downplay the importance of values and the internal structures of states, emphasizing instead the balance of power as the key to stability and peace. Idealists emphasize the primacy of values, such as freedom and democracy and human rights in ensuring that just political order is obtained. As a professor, I recognize that this debate has won tenure for and sustained the careers of many generations of scholars. As a policymaker, I can tell you that these categories obscure reality.

In real life, power and values are married completely. Power matters in the conduct of world affairs. Great powers matter a great deal -- they have the ability to influence the lives of millions and change history. And the values of great powers matter as well.
From there, it's only a hop, skip and a jump to the Orwellian phrase used in NSS 2002, "a balance of power that favors freedom."

I'm not 100% sure whether to side with Mearsheimer or Gerson and Rice in this discussion, but Fareed Zakaria offers a very interesting point:
Bush has also pushed higher on the agenda the question of American hypocrisy....

The chasm between rhetoric and reality, while inevitable, is striking. The Bush administration has not been particularly vociferous in holding dictators to account—no more or less, really, than other recent administrations. Vladimir Putin has presided over the most significant reversal of freedoms across the globe, only to be praised by Bush as a soulmate. More scandalously, the president has sided with Putin in his interpretation of the Chechen war as a defensive action against terrorists....

...when democratic Taiwan stood up to communist China last year, Bush publicly admonished it, siding with Beijing. When brave dissidents in Saudi Arabia were jailed for proposing the possibility of a constitutional monarchy in that country, the administration barely mentioned it. Crown Prince Abdullah, who rules one of the eight most repressive countries in the world (according to Freedom House), is one of a handful of leaders to have been invited to the president’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. (The elected leaders of, say, India, France, Turkey and Indonesia have never been accorded this courtesy.) The president has met with and given aid to Islam Karimov, the dictator of Uzbekistan, who presides over one of the nastiest regimes in the world today, far more repressive than Iran’s, to take just one example.
Zakaria's article is very good and well worth reading in its entirety. I'd like to think that it ties in nicely with my previous blog entries about American hypocrisy.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Neo-Conquests?

This was today's headline on Doyle McManus's LA Times story: "Bush Pulls 'Neocons' Out of the Shadows." Oh boy, despite John Bolton's resignation and Paul Wolfowitz's near-withdrawal from public life, they're baaaaack:
Bush proclaimed in his inaugural address that the central purpose of his second term would be the promotion of democracy "in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world" — a key neoconservative goal. Suddenly, the neocons were ascendant again.

"This is real neoconservatism," said Robert Kagan, a foreign policy scholar who has been a leading exponent of neocon thinking — and who sometimes has criticized the administration for not being neocon enough. "It would be hard to express it more clearly. If people were expecting Bush to rein in his ambitions and enthusiasms after the first term, they are discovering that they were wrong."
Traditional conservatives are not happy:
"If Bush means it literally, then it means we have an extremist in the White House," said Dimitri Simes, president of the Nixon Center, a conservative think tank that reveres the less idealistic policies of Richard Nixon. "I hope and pray that he didn't mean it … [and] that it was merely an inspirational speech, not practical guidance for the conduct of foreign policy."
Like me, some of you are probably wondering what happens to the US relationship with despots we like:
On Friday, the senior official who briefed reporters said the administration also would be pressing friendly regimes to institute democratic reforms; he mentioned Russia, China, Pakistan and Egypt "as illustrations." Much of the pressure, he said, would be private rather than public, and the administration would be careful to avoid undermining a leader like Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, whom it counts as a democratic reformer.
In a different era, leaders of these countries were considered "our" bastards. When I visited the JFK Museum and Library earlier this week, many cold war-era bastards were featured prominently in various photos and exhibits, including the Shah of Iran.

The greatest US attention is going to be directed at the so-called "outposts of tyranny" identified earlier this week by Condi Rice in her opening statement:
To be sure, in our world there remain outposts of tyranny -- and America stands with oppressed people on every continent -- in Cuba, and Burma, and North Korea, and Iran, and Belarus, and Zimbabwe. The world should apply what Natan Sharansky calls the "town square test": if a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society. We cannot rest until every person living in a "fear society" has finally won their freedom.
Do you suppose CNN and Fox are wondering when the fireworks begin? After all, someone may have to prepare new "march to war" graphics.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Conversing with the world

Earlier this week, in her confirmation hearings, Condi Rice said something that is being widely reported around the world. This is from The Guardian on Wednesday the 19th:
Speaking at her confirmation hearings in the Senate, Ms Rice, who has been President Bush's national security adviser for the past four years, said: "The time for diplomacy is now.

"America's relations with the world's global powers will be critical," Ms Rice said in her opening remarks. "Our interaction with the rest of the world must be a conversation, not a monologue."
This has received a great deal of positive press in Europe, as a google search reveals.

Before anyone gets too excited about this, keep in mind that Rice has used this line before.

For example, she used it during a speech at the US Institute of Peace back in August 2004. And at the Jesse Helms Center in September. Indeed, she was using a very similar line as early as July 2001.

At USIP and the Helms Center, Rice used this line in reference to US interaction with the Muslim world, so it is interesting to think that it's now being applied to Europe.
Americans also need to hear the stories of the people of the Muslim world. We need to understand their challenges and their cultures and their hopes. Our interaction has to be a conversation, not a monologue. We must reach out to explain, but also to listen.
I wonder if all this is related to today's revelation (Reuters) that the US has stopped listing the "coalition of the willing"?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Divine intervention

It is well-known that President George W. Bush uses Christian references throughout his rhetoric, often in subtle ways that slip by the average secular listener.

For example, in today's "Inaugural Address," the President said this in the very beginning:
For a half century, America defended our own freedom by standing watch on distant borders. After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical - and then there came a day of fire.
Biblical prophets, like Malachi, noted that a forthcoming "day of fire" would signal something critically important in the "end times," the closing of the tribulation on earth (this is from Chapter 4):
1 "Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire," says the LORD Almighty. "Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. 3 Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things," says the LORD Almighty.
There are other related messages embedded in that phrase as well.

Is Bush saying that 9/11 was the end of the tribulation, which must precede the rapture? According to some interpretations of the Bible, the moment of "fire and brimstone" will also reveal the second coming of Christ.

Let's put that on hold for a minute. After all, there is another take on this stuff that I don't want to address today.

Most of the speech, of course, was about "human freedom." Commenters might say it was about democratization, but that's not really true. Bush used the word "free" or "freedom" repeatedly. Thirty-four times, by my count.

He only referred to democracy three times.

Bush's freedom emphasizes individual liberty, opportunity, and especially ownership, rather than some kind of collective obligation to one other. He's not talking about community. John Locke, Friedrich Hayek, and Herbert Hoover would have been pleased as Bush is talking about possessive individualism:
"I own, therefore I am" is the paradigm of possessive individualism. Possession and possessing make the man; they also make him free. Such a person cannot conceive of existence apart from possession or the striving after it. Because ownership is the core of self, the person is not himself but what he owns.
Frankly, this is not an especially rich view of freedom. But I digress...

Most importantly, for the subject of this post, Bush declared near the end of his speech:
History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.
Note the caps.

The "Author of Liberty" is God, for Bush and many of his followers.

So, Bush is saying that God has put the US on a path to secure freedom around the world. After all, anyone looking would have noticed the day of fire.

I think this is strong signal to everyone that we should start paying very close attention to what Bush means to do about all this.


Update: Ooops, I forgot to mention that the President references his day as a "second gathering," which is also a pretty telling sign of something important for the believers.

I also didn't mention all the most obvious references to faith, like these:
From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth....

The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it."
Sorry for the original oversight.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Best Selling Flypaper

Remember the "flypaper" theory? Some supporters of the Iraq war argued that it would attract terrorists from all over the world, where the US military could find them and kill them. This would reduce domestic terror.

I never did figure out what made Iraq so special in this regard. After all, if the US invaded any country without WMD or a link to al Qaeda, toppled the government, occupied it for some time, and proceeded to construct the state and economy in its own image, then terrorists might well decide to go there and confront the US.

Hell, President Bush could have thrown a dart at a wall map to pick a potential flypaper country. Maybe he could have picked one with a better climate?

In any case, the National Intelligence Council (NIC), which advises the Director of Central Intelligence about "midterm and strategic" concerns and produces National Intelligence Estimates, recently issued a 119 page report that among other things evaluated the war in Iraq and the threat from global terrorism. Apparently, Iraq is successfully attracting terrorists:
"At the moment," NIC Chairman Robert L. Hutchings said, Iraq "is a magnet for international terrorist activity."
However, before flypaper adherents get too excited, recognize that Iraq is also serving as a recruitment and training center for terrorists that one day soon might disperse all over the world. These are Dana Priest's lead paragraphs from the Washington Post story:
Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of "professionalized" terrorists, according to a report released yesterday by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director's think tank.

Iraq provides terrorists with "a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills," said David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats. "There is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will therefore disperse to various other countries."
Not so good. Priest refers to Iraq as a "breeding ground" and "haven" for terrorists. These inflammatory words might have been written by the reporter, but it is clear that they reflect the sentiments of those who drafted the NIC report:
"The al-Qa'ida membership that was distinguished by having trained in Afghanistan will gradually dissipate, to be replaced in part by the dispersion of the experienced survivors of the conflict in Iraq," the report says.

According to the NIC report, Iraq has joined the list of conflicts -- including the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, and independence movements in Chechnya, Kashmir, Mindanao in the Philippines, and southern Thailand -- that have deepened solidarity among Muslims and helped spread radical Islamic ideology.
On the bright side, the NIC noted that the chance of great power war is perhaps the lowest it has been in a century.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Blair and preemptive use of force

Does anyone doubt that British Prime Minister Tony Blair is far more articulate and eloquent than George W. Bush?

If Blair is the superior political communicator, as I believe he is, then none of us should be surprised that Blair turns out to be a far superior advocate of the Bush Doctrine than is the President.

Today, I read Blair's March 5, 2004, address "Prime Minister warns of continuing global terror threat." This is a fine passage, though Blair one year after attacking Iraq, like Bush, now emphasizes the humanitarian case for war rather than the WMD security threat:
The best defence of our security lies in the spread of our values.

But we cannot advance these values except within a framework that recognises their universality. If it is a global threat, it needs a global response, based on global rules.

The essence of a community is common rights and responsibilities. We have obligations in relation to each other. If we are threatened, we have a right to act. And we do not accept in a community that others have a right to oppress and brutalise their people. We value the freedom and dignity of the human race and each individual in it.

Containment will not work in the face of the global threat that confronts us. The terrorists have no intention of being contained. The states that proliferate or acquire WMD illegally are doing so precisely to avoid containment. Emphatically I am not saying that every situation leads to military action. But we surely have a duty and a right to prevent the threat materialising; and we surely have a responsibility to act when a nation's people are subjected to a regime such as Saddam's. Otherwise, we are powerless to fight the aggression and injustice which over time puts at risk our security and way of life.
Blair clearly grasps the stakes for the rest of the world, and quite coherently and cogently replies:
I understand the worry the international community has over Iraq. It worries that the US and its allies will by sheer force of their military might, do whatever they want, unilaterally and without recourse to any rule-based code or doctrine. But our worry is that if the UN - because of a political disagreement in its Councils - is paralysed, then a threat we believe is real will go unchallenged.
This is what Blair would do to resolve the problems:
Britain's role is try to find a way through this: to construct a consensus behind a broad agenda of justice and security and means of enforcing it.

This agenda must be robust in tackling the security threat that this Islamic extremism poses; and fair to all peoples by promoting their human rights, wherever they are. It means tackling poverty in Africa and justice in Palestine as well as being utterly resolute in opposition to terrorism as a way of achieving political goals. It means an entirely different, more just and more modern view of self-interest.

It means reforming the United Nations so its Security Council represents 21st century reality; and giving the UN the capability to act effectively as well as debate. It means getting the UN to understand that faced with the threats we have, we should do all we can to spread the values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law, religious tolerance and justice for the oppressed, however painful for some nations that may be; but that at the same time, we wage war relentlessly on those who would exploit racial and religious division to bring catastrophe to the world.

But in the meantime, the threat is there and demands our attention.

That is the struggle which engages us. It is a new type of war. It will rest on intelligence to a greater degree than ever before. It demands a difference attitude to our own interests. It forces us to act even when so many comforts seem unaffected, and the threat so far off, if not illusory. In the end, believe your political leaders or not, as you will. But do so, at least having understood their minds.
Blair is right.

I may not agree with him, but his arguments (though admittedly not all that different from Bush's) merit attention and discussion.

Perhaps this is why the UN Secretary-General's High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change made some similar points in December.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Long-term fiscal issues

This isn't my usual topic for blogging, but the Sunday Boston Globe had an interesting front page Business & Money section article by Charles Stein called "Social Security is just the tip of a very large iceberg."

Stein talked to a number of economists who are quite pessimistic about government's long-term ability to pay for its spending. Consider the large and growing "fiscal gap" facing America through the lifetime of today's children:
Economists describe the fiscal mess with a more neutral term -- the fiscal gap. What it refers to is the mismatch going forward between tax collections and government obligations. Berkeley economist Alan Auerbach and two colleagues estimated the gap at $36 trillion over the next 75 years. To put that number in some perspective, think about this: If we wanted to fix the problem today, we would have to cut government spending by about 27 percent or raise taxes by about 37 percent and hold at those new levels indefinitely.

"The nation faces a massive and growing fiscal gap," wrote Auerbach and his coauthors in an article published in Tax Notes last year.
Stein says that Bush's tax cuts are responsible for about 15% of the gap. Federal taxes are currently at their lowest level in nearly half a century!

Bush's spending programs are also partly responsible. Does everyone recall the expensive Medicare bill? And the sizable defense spending increases? As guest blogger Paul pointed out last summer, Bush's tax cuts and new spending obviously also result in much higher government debt servicing.

In any case, entitlement growth (especially Medicare and Medicaid) will be a large part of the fiscal gap. Social Security is currently 4.3% of GDP and will be about 6.3% in 2030. Then, apparently, this retirement spending levels off.

However, Medicare and Medicaid are only 3.8% of current GDP, but they'll more than double to 8.3% in 2030 and be a whopping 16.7% by 2080!

So, the US really needs tax increases -- or must cut expenditures even more than it did during the past quarter century.

Average taxpayer: if you think you might be old or sick in 2030, you might want to rethink your current support for tax cuts and cold-war levels of defense spending. As I've blogged before, the aircraft carrier George W. Bush visited to declare "mission accomplished" in Iraq (May 2003) cost more than the entire North Korean defense budget. Add the spending of all of America's enemies and that figure would be a small fraction of America's defense expenditures.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Political speech

What have been the best historical examples of political rhetorical? Sure, it's tempting to credit our current "misunderestimated" President. You know his applause lines, like "Is our children learning?" or "There's an old saying in Tennessee -- I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee -- that says, fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again."

However, even Ruby Red Republicans (I've apparently coined that term) realize that there have been many, many, many political communicators superior to the current occupant of the White House, who gives his second inaugural address this week.

This Friday, I'm going to be live on public radio in Louisville (WFPL) on the program "State of Affairs" discussing "Political Speeches." Previously, I was on the show in March 2003 to discuss North Korea's bomb. Because it's radio, I can be on via telephone; my colleague Jasmine Farrier will be in the studio.

The topic of the upcoming program is summarized on the station's webpage:
The day after President George W. Bush is sworn in for a second term, we’ll talk about Presidential speeches. Some of the most memorable remarks by politicians came during Inaugural addresses – like this quote from John F. Kennedy: “And so my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” Other speeches invoke memories of historic times, like Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Let us know your favorite political speech on Friday, as we talk about dialogues from politicians.
The past few days, I've been thinking about presidential inaugural addresses. I had to read quite of number of them in various college and grad school classes (I earned a MA in Communication Studies while serving as a debate team coach for a year; who knew?).

Helpfully, the Avalon Project at Yale Law School has an on-line archive of Presidential inaugural addresses. JFK's 1961 address had a number of famous passages. In addition to the one WFPL cited, the young President said:
Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans--born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage--and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
My favorite inaugural line, however, is from Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1933 address. It could resonate powerfully today, but George W. Bush would need to embrace the idea before he could borrow the quote:
So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
I'll have to do some thinking between now and Friday about other famous political speeches. Everyone knows about Abraham Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address, "Richard Nixon's "Checkers" speech, Ronald Reagan's classic stump speech, Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" address, even Bush's September 20, 2001, call to arms, as well as the inaugurals I just quoted.

What other great political speeches should I discuss Friday? Readers (both of you): in comments, point me to some great political addresses that I have not mentioned, or are not as well known -- but should be appreciated.

Before you click the comments button, however, note that Professors Stephen E. Lucas and Martin J. Medhurst have compiled a list (based on a survey of 137 leading scholars) of the "100 most significant American political speeches of the 20th century." Obviously, that leaves out a lot of political history...and the rest of the world. Tony Blair's "Doctrine of the International Community" (one of my faves), isn't on that list.

The survey ranks the top 3: MLK, JFK, and FDR. Nixon's 1952 self-defense is #6. If you peruse the list (I'm surprised at how many I've read over the years), a lot are known primarily for one famous line. Lou Gehrig's farewell to baseball ("luckiest man on the face of the earth") checks in at #73!

Incidentally, listeners Friday can call-in with questions during the second half hour of the show. On the web (or in Louisville), you can listen live from 1 until 2 pm. Soon, it will be available at their on-line archive.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Preemption's popularity in the world press

Periodically, I post some statements foreign leaders make about the Bush Doctrine. I missed this Asia Times story from April 2003:
"If lack of democracy, possession of weapons of mass destruction and export of terrorism were reasons for a country to make a preemptive strike in another country, then Pakistan deserves to be tackled more than any other country," said Indian Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha during a parliamentary discussion on Iraq.
And, of course, Pakistan fired back at that:
To that, Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said, "It is India which is a fit case for preemptive strikes - there is ample proof that India possesses biological, chemical and other weapons of mass destruction."
The article alleges that the US prepared to "take out" Pakistan's nukes after 9/11, but that Musharraf was able to keep them by cooperation in the "war on terror."

The article also alleges that if it tries to go the UN Security Council route, the US "is sure" to gain the assent of all the other permanent members to disarm India as well.

I'm especially dubious about that claim.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Statheads vs. scouts

I haven't blogged much about baseball in a long time. But I'm in Boston and the Red Sox get a lot of coverage even in the offseason...

And I've just started reading The Pitch That Killed, by Oklahoman Mike Sowell. I previously read his One Pitch Away.

Plus, Saturday I intend to attend the local SABR chapter meeting at BU...it's scheduled for six hours and will feature Sports Illustrated writer Leigh Montville, among other speakers. One of the presenters is going to talk about steroids and baseball.

Finally, today I read a great piece on the Baseball America webpage featuring a discussion moderated by Alan Schwarz. Two stateheads and two scouts sit down and talk about baseball prospecting.

The discussion includes this quote by the Red Sox stathead:
VOROS McCRACKEN: Certainly, we in Boston are not antagonistic to the concepts in “Moneyball” either. Obviously they hired me as a consultant. When they promoted Theo [Epstein], basically the idea was he was going to try to meld the two approaches and get them to where they were not only getting along, but are complementing one another. The stats can help the scouts zero in on the guys they should be zeroing in on. And the scouts, once the stats are sorting things through, can tell you who exactly are the best guys to go after. The success of that can obviously be overblown because a World Series championship is a big thing, big news. How much it had to do with stats, how much it had to do with improved scouting . . . I think the point is that Boston has at least tried to reconcile the two positions.
It's a great read if you are into those sorts of things.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

They've stopped looking

So much for WMD in Iraq.

The US weapons inspectors have gone home to stay. From today's Post:
The hunt for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq has come to an end nearly two years after President Bush ordered U.S. troops to disarm Saddam Hussein. The top CIA weapons hunter is home, and analysts are back at Langley.

In interviews, officials who served with the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) said the violence in Iraq, coupled with a lack of new information, led them to fold up the effort shortly before Christmas.
The Duelfer report, issued at the end of September 2004, will stand as the final word on the matter. The White House acknowledges this reality, though no one from the intelligence agencies would speak on the record:
Asked if the ISG had stopped actively searching for WMD, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said today: "That's my understanding." He added, "A lot of their mission is focused elsewhere now."

Duelfer "is continuing to wrap things up at this point on an addendum to the report which will be issued sometime next month," McClellan said. "That's not going to fundamentally alter the findings of his earlier report."
The off-the-record accounts sound pretty final:
Intelligence officials said there is little left for the ISG to investigate because Duelfer's last report answered as many outstanding questions as possible. The ISG has interviewed every person it could find connected to programs that ended more than 10 years ago, and every suspected site within Iraq has been fully searched, or stripped bare by insurgents and thieves, according to several people involved in the weapons hunt.

Satellite photos show that entire facilities have been dismantled, possibly by scrap dealers who sold off parts and equipment to buyers around the world.

"The September 30 report is really pretty much the picture," the intelligence official said.
Analysts continue to read old documents, but they are looking for evidence to charge politicians and scientists with war crimes. Some individuals have been held for nearly two years without charge, and were originally held because the Pentagon thought they were lying.

Those who were not arrested have been disappearing, suggesting that they have been kidnapped or may be voluntarily working for other potential proliferant states.

Lovely.

Breach of contract?

The Globe continues to impress this new reader.

On Monday, the paper ran a story about the fate of the "Contract with America," 10 years after the Gingrich revolution created a Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
But after 10 years of Republican control of the House, members of the majority party appear to have strayed from some of the promises that got them there. The nation is running up record budget deficits, term-limit pledges are being jettisoned, and House Republicans voted last week to weaken the ethics-enforcement process in Congress.
The story includes quotes from quite a few Republicans who are unhappy with ballooning deficits, newly lowered ethical standards, etc.

Here's my favorite quote, which is buried near the end of the article:
Republicans have altered House rules to limit debate and increased the number of bills presented to members without allowing any changes -- a practice for which the GOP excoriated the Democrats in 1994.

''It's exactly the abuse of authority and process that Republicans criticized the Democrats for doing when they were in power," said Thomas J. Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative advocacy organization. ''There is a certain arrogance of power, and some Republicans convince themselves that because they have the right views, their methodology will always be correct."
30 of the 73 Republicans newly elected to the House in 1994 remain in that body. Many promised to leave after 3, 4 or 5 terms. The nonbinding resolution associated with the Contract called for House members to limit themselves to 3 terms.

The 30 remaining members of the class of '94 have been in breach since January 2001.

Oh, and a lot of the other 43 members are serving in other elected governmental posts, so it is not as if they returned to "mere" citizen status.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Ukraine: No Longer Willing

Another state member of the "coalition of the willing" has decided to withdraw its troops from Iraq. This time, it is the Ukraine. Today's Post has the story:
The government of Ukraine, acting a day after an explosion killed eight of its soldiers in Iraq, announced Monday that it would withdraw its 1,650-member force by the middle of 2005.
Two recent events may have spurred this action, which had been expected.

One, 8 Ukrainian soldiers were killed Monday, which nearly doubled the state's casualties in the war.

Two, Ukraine is getting a new President. He may be more pro-western than his predecessor, but this apparently signals some tension with US policy in the war on terror.

Previously, I've noted some other states who withdrew from the coalition.

Monday, January 10, 2005

IAEA: Keep up the good work

Sunday's Globe had a good story about how the IAEA is a much better international institution than it used to be. More specifically, it is a much stronger non-proliferation agency.

After the IAEA failed to keep tabs on Iraq back in the late 1980s, largely because the institution used to inspect only facilities declared by its state members, the agency's treaty was supplemented with some Additional Protocols "that provides (sic) for tougher snap inspections not limited to declared nuclear facilities."

Moreover, the IAEA's personnel are now better equipped to perform their job:
Additionally, the agency's safeguards department, which runs inspections, began to employ more sophisticated inspection measures and more active investigative and detection techniques to try to uncover undeclared nuclear activities.

"Our inspectors were bean counters before with no obligation or authority to look beyond the beans," the senior Western diplomat in Vienna said. "Now countries need to account for every gram of nuclear material and for their plans into the future. The information is voluminous."
Former UN weapons inspector David Albright provides some on-the-record praise:
"The IAEA is changing the way it does business and it is creating shock waves," said David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector who heads the Institute for Science and International Security, a think tank in Washington. "It is making it harder for countries to hide even small efforts."
The story overviews recent nuclear developments in North and South Korea, Libya, Brazil, Egypt, Pakistan and Iran.

IAEA officials also have some ideas about improving the agency's work:
IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei, for example, has repeatedly called to have the nuclear fuel cycle placed under international control to prevent further proliferation.

On Friday, ElBaradei called on countries to freeze building facilities for uranium enrichment for five years. "We have enough capacity in the world for enrichment or reprocessing," he said in remarks published by the Japanese daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun.
This is all pretty important since even the Bush administration relies upon the IAEA to keep tabs on "axle of evil" (this is my new favorite phrase) members Iran and North Korea.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Celebrity news and the war on terror

Sure, I could write a blog entry today that my readers would fully expect. After all, the Pentagon just tried to slash about 10% of the Nunn-Lugar (Cooperative Threat Reduction) budget this year. If you don't know this law, it's the one that finances the destruction and safekeeping of Russian nuclear materiel. Kind of a weird policy choice in a time when the President says countering nuclear proliferation is the top priority national security goal.

However, that topic is too predictable for this Sunday's post. Let me see if I can see a link to my usual theme in much less obvious places.

Two obituaries and a story about a new tax reform panel caught my eye this weekend. Let me meander through these stories, personalize them a bit...and then tie them all together in the context of the "war on terror" (that's got to be worth a few bonus points, right?):

First, Richard Barnet, one of the co-founders of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) died December 23. Barnet quit the Kennedy administration's State Department in 1963 and eventually wound up on Richard Nixon's "enemies list." As a debater in the early 1980s, I read a lot of what Barnet and his colleagues wrote -- and I still have a couple of his books on my shelves. One of my close friends took his sabbatical at IPS a few years ago; perhaps he can reflect a bit more about Barnet in comments.

In any event, note that Barnet churned out a new book about every 4 years. One that is still timely is Intervention and Revolution, which among other things, addresses the US-backed coup in Iran in 1953. It was America's first cold war subversion of another government! Who knows, Iran might not be part of the "axle of evil" today if the USA had behaved differently in Ike's presidency.

Before I get to the other death notice, let me mention the tax reform story. President Bush has appointed two former US Senators (Connie Mack and John Breaux), along with a number of other individuals to serve on a panel that will make recommendations about tax code reform.

I don't have much (nothing, really) to say about this, but I was surprised to see Beth Garrett's name in the list of appointees. Garrett is a law professor at USC and a former Oklahoma high school debater from my time in the state. I exchanged some email with her in late 2000 during the Bush-Gore post-election saga. She had appeared on a TV show as a legal analyst and I reminded her of our shared past. I see that she clerked for Thurgood Marshall, worked for former Senator David Boren, and was on the faculty at University of Chicago...so she's done well over the years.

Garrett also served as "Legal Adviser, Judge Howard M. Holtzmann, Iran-United States Claims Tribunal, The Hague, The Netherlands, 1990-1991."

Who knew?

Finally, Danny Sugarman died January 5. Tragically, he was only 50 years old and afflicted with lung cancer. As a teenager, Sugarman was a groupie of the rock group, The Doors. Indeed, when I saw "Almost Famous" a few years ago, I was reminded a bit of Sugarman, who worked for the band and eventually wrote a book about the group. That book came out when I was in college and helped created a bit of a Doors revival. I became a fan and bought a couple of albums.

When I read Sugarman's obit to the end, I learn that he was married to...anyone know or have a guess?

He was wed to Iran/contra figure Fawn Hall.

Really.

It's a trifecta!

Friday, January 07, 2005

One neocon is out

Laura Rozen passes on some good news that I missed: neocon John Bolton is leaving the Bush administration!

Bolton has been serving since May 2001 as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. Bolton is a fairly harsh critic of arms control, so he's been working for four years to promote just about any other national security instrument.

In short, he's a unilateralist who embraces US use of force.

Keep the celebration muted as this doesn't (yet) look like a housecleaning. Rather, Bolton is departing in a snit because US Trade Rep Robert Zoellick is going to get the job he wanted: Condi Rice's deputy replacing Richard Armitage.

If Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby are shown the door, turn up the jukebox and tap the keg.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Time is on my side

One of the luxuries of a sabbatical: time to read long and interesting articles.

This morning, I read Lawrence Freedman's "War in Iraq: Selling the Threat," which was published in Survival, Summer 2004 (pp. 7-50). The author is a Professor of War Studies at King's College, London. Back in graduate school, I read his Evolution of Nuclear Strategy, which is still in print.

Freedman provides a thorough overview of the Iraq war debate and makes several important points worth preserving.

For example, Freedman notes (p. 27) that the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate was produced after various Bush administration officials already made definitive statements about the Iraqi WMD threat in August and September 2002. Indeed, to be technical, they made these statements before the NIE was even requested.

Senators Rockefeller, Levin and Durbin offered the same criticism in their "Additional Views" to the Senate Intelligence Committee report, but it hasn't really made a political splash. Maybe when that followup report comes out? We'll see.

Freedman also points out that the Pentagon prepared for a wartime humanitarian emergency in Iraq (p. 36). Though it never materialized, this was a huge concern of human rights NGOs prior to the war. Thus, even though the administration is criticized for its secrecy and aloof decision-making, it actually listened to the views of NGOs in this case.

Have they listened to other NGOs on other issues? That's a question for another time and post.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

It's a big job...

...but someone has to do it.

And according to the Defense Science Board, the State Department needs to play a much larger role in nation-building. The DSB also criticizes the Pentagon's efforts to date, in Iraq and elsewhere. From today's Boston Globe (sorry for the length of the excerpt, but it's great to be reading a very good paper on a daily basis):
'The Department of State will need substantially more resources, both people and funds, to fulfill its proper role in stabilization and reconstruction operations," the report states, saying that State Department diplomats can help rebuild civic institutions and win over local populations in ways the military cannot.

It also says nation-building efforts depend upon a ''stronger partnership and working relationship" between Defense and State, which have had a rocky interaction while headed by Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

The study, prepared under the aegis of scores of military and foreign policy specialists, concludes that US forces remain ill-prepared to take on nation-building efforts despite the fact that such missions -- both large and small -- have been undertaken at least once every 18 to 24 months since the end of the Cold War. Each of the six missions, according to the report, was ''more ambitious than the last."

Instead of treating postwar rebuilding as a key tenet of defense planning, the Defense Department does not regard it as a core mission, according to the 170-page report.

The Defense Department ''has not yet embraced stabilization and reconstruction operations as an explicit mission with same seriousness as combat operations," according to the study. ''This mind-set must be changed."

...The US government ''needs a strong and adequately resourced Department of State to lead nonmilitary aspects of stabilization and reconstruction and partner with the Defense Department to plan and execute these operations," the report says. This ''will require extraordinarily close working relationships to successfully accomplish these crucial tasks -- relationships that do not currently exist."

The report urges passage of the so-called Lugar-Biden bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana and Democratic Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, the chairman and ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee. The bill calls for establishing a new office in the State Department to coordinate nation-building efforts, a civilian Readiness Response Corps, and a $100 million contingency fund to provide a quicker response in the aftermath of future conflicts.
The report implicitly critizes the Bush administration for failing to develop adequate advance plans for the mission in post-war Iraq. It also says the US should have had a LOT more troops in Iraq: 20 occupation troops for every 1000 people. In Iraq, that would have meant 500,000 troops rather than 150,000.

In the future, DSB says that the Pentagon will have to train soldiers as much for nation-building as for combat.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

One last vacation post

How I spent my winter break:

Movies: In the theater, I saw Sideways and The Incredibles. Both were quite entertaining. See them.

On home video, I watched Dirty Pretty Things, The Door in the Floor, Collateral and The Terminal. These were definitely second tier; I've listed them from best to worst though the two in the middle could perhaps be flip-flopped.

Theater: "Thoroughly Modern Millie" (with the lead role played by the understudy). It was only so-so (I'm not a big fan of musical comedy), but it was nice to visit the Kennedy Center.

Hmmm. What else did I do?

Oh, I fixed the page proofs on an article for a policy journal. More on that later.

And finally, since December 18, I've slept in 5 different beds, ate a lot of mediocre pizza, and drove at least 1500 miles.

The Somerville apartment now has high speed internet access, my office computer is going to be set up tomorrow, and I've got months to think, research and write.

Time to get to work.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Somewhere in Somerville

I arrived Saturday morning after a long day of driving Friday. My family's New Year's Eve was spent quietly in a hotel room. We did have a nice (late) brunch with an old friend and his family in Baltimore. We logged nearly 350 miles after departing about 3:30 pm.

The new apartment has a great view of downtown Boston and is only about 20 to 25 blocks from Harvard Square. We have new beds, but not much other furniture.

The high speed internet connection is supposed to arrive in around 24 hours.

More after that.