A site dedicated to the discussion of world politics, international relations, and anything else that crosses my mind

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Moving Day...

Well, after a 6 months of on-again, off-again posting I am officially shutting Discord and Elaboration down (sort-of). I am finally past my comprehensive exams and am ready to post again, however the pressure of maintaing a site on my own is too much given other responsibilities that I must now attend to. Therefore, I will be posting but only at The Duck of Minerva, a group blog dedicated to international relations. I hope those of you that have enjoyed this site will follow me over there. For those that have tuned in these last few months I want to say thanks. Hopefully you will enjoy the group site. In any event, the site will remain up but barring some unforseen circumstances any posting will be at the Duck. Hope to see you all there!


Friday, July 01, 2005

It's On...

Strap on your seatbelts folks, this one's gonna get ugly.

"Supreme Court Justice O'Connor Resigns"

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Practical Consequences of Definitions

Well, the news is a flutter with talk of a new "Asian Invasion". The Chinese state-owned CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Corporation) has made an unsolicited offer for the US-based UNOCAL which trumps the current offer by Chevron. This bid follows hot on the heals of the acquisition of IBM's personal computer arm by the Lenova Group as well as another bid for an American company, this time Maytag, by the China-based Haier. One cannot help but see parallels (state-led--or state-'influenced'--industrial policy combined with cheap financing) between this incarnation of the Asian Invasion and the original involving the Japanese in the 80s and 90s. The obvious difference between the two cases is that we were long time Japanese allies when the great shopping spree began. This is obviously not the case with China. Additionally, the Japanese seemed more preoccupied with purchasing "trophy assets", such as Rockefeller Center, than firms which could be construed as vital to our economic and national security. This last point is both interesting and salient: How one defines or conceptualizes "national security" can have a significant impact on the kinds of policies one sees as imperative as well as eventual state behavior.

Continue reading at "The Duck"...

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Sunday, June 19, 2005

I guess I'm home...

After seeing Dan's post on his most appropriate city I couldn't resist taking the test. The result (oddly enough):

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us


Now this works out rather well since I am attending Penn at the moment. However, knowing my luck and the crappiness that is the academic job market I will probably end up living somewhere in Montana when it is all said and done (just kidding hon). Anyway, the rest of the list is pretty reasonable. Chicago and NYC are definitely in my top three (with NYC being my personal #1). I was a little surprised by Austin and Denver though--never would have guessed those.

American Cities That Best Fit You:

65% Philadelphia

60% Chicago

60% New York City

50% Austin

50% Denver

Friday, June 17, 2005

First Principles and the Truman National Security Project

Dan Nexon over at "The Duck"recently discussed the debate over at Democracy Arsenal by members of the Truman National Security Project on what a progressive national security platform would/should look like. He provided a summary-to-date of the discussion, which I shamelessly pilfered for this post:
Michael Singer started by posting a series of common principles that he felt had emerged from the Truman National Security Project's annual meeting. At America Abroad, Ivo Daalder took issue with Singer's description of American exceptionalism. Suzanne Nossel also responded to Singer's post, taking issue with each of the three principles that Singer identified as being common to both "Truman Democrats" and neoconservatives. Singer modified, but also reaffirmed, those three principles.

While I agree with much of the project I believe it has a way to go. First, there needs to be a separation between the first principles of a national security policy and the marketing of that policy. Second, I believe there is an overblown concern about Democrats and the use of qualification and nuance when discussing policy, especially when it comes to the use of force. Finally, Signer’s latest argument regarding hegemony and coercion seems to play against the group’s true "center of gravity", that being their vision and appreciation for America as a ‘persuasive leader’, one that is ‘centered in the global community’.

The first three principles espoused by Signer were:
1) American exceptionalism: Like the neoconservatives, we believe that America is the greatest country the world has known. We are historically, morally, and intellectually unique. Unlike the necons, however, we believe we must constantly earn our exceptionalism through our moral conduct. Our uniqueness stems from our values, and so we bear a unique responsibility for living up to those values in shaping and influencing the world.

2) The use of force: Like the neocons, we're comfortable with the use of force for morally good ends. Unlike the neocons, as a general matter, we believe force shouldn't be the default choice for achieving our ends. We're neither reflexive doves nor pacifists; rather, we're pragmatists on the use of force.

3) American hegemony: Like the neocons, we want America to retain its supremacy as the military, political, and economic leader of the world in order that we can maintain our own security, help strengthen the world's safety and stability, and accomplish morally right goals. We are and should be a unipolar power. Unlike the neocons, however, we believe we must constantly earn and affirm the right to exercise that power.
In Signer’s most recent post, "The Passions of the Left?", he takes issue with Suzanne Nossel’s qualifications of each of the three principles. His response left me with a few questions and concerns regarding this project, which I discuss in turn below.

First, Signer weighs in on the notion of American exceptionalism:
American exceptionalism: Do we really believe that America is unique, historically graced, and responsible for the world's greatest ideas? (When Suzanne writes, "We recognize that by claiming exceptionalism, we risk undercutting values and norms whose broad acceptance would advance U.S. national interests," I fear this is an exception that swallows the rule.)
The first question we must ask about American exceptionalism is whether it is a concept a) that is necessary as a grounding principle of center-left foreign policy and b) whether laying out first principles necessitates that we included how to sell the policy to the public (which is where I see the notion of exceptionalism fitting in, not that it makes it a bad thing).

The notion that one’s country is exceptional is hardly unique to the United States. One can quickly peruse the globe and find signs of feelings of exceptionalism in the rhetoric, symbols, culture, and national myths of just about any state. And while exceptionalism may serve as a useful focal point for collective action (e.g. appealing to exceptionalism in order to recruit the support of the public behind a massive political undertaking such as building and maintaining a global empire in the case of the British, enlarging a states global commitments militarily, financially, and politically in the case of the US, etc.) I am not sure what difference it makes as a guiding principle for foreign policy. Exceptionalism seems like more of a rhetorical justification for some bundle of policies rather than a grounding principle. The question we need to ask is whether a belief in American exceptionalism is required for many of the policies that follow (i.e. whether being comfortable with the use of force and maintaining hegemony require first that we believe in vague notions of American exceptionalism). If these policies would still be possible without a strong belief in exceptionalism (by policymakers, not the public) then I fail to see why it must be a cornerstone of a progressive foreign policy.

Suzanne’s point is a valuable one because it forces us to examine whether the benefits of adopting this principle are worth the potential costs. If the costs outweigh the benefits then again, this principle is more trouble than it is worth. For domestic political purposes is might be necessary, but as a founding principle of a coherent policy it is more likely superfluous and potentially thorny vis-à-vis allies and ‘undecided’ around the globe. This also relates to the 3rd point about American Hegemony, which I will discuss below.

Finally, the notion that we must believe that America is "responsible for the world's greatest ideas" also doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. The greatest ideas in the world have had many roots—for sure, some emigrated from America to other parts of the world but the flow of ideas has been reciprocal. It is impossible to argue that the greatest ideas can be solely credited to Americans since most thinkers from the US who we would credit with such ideas borrowed heavily from thinkers outside of the US. The works of Jefferson, Franklin, Paine, and Madison (to name a few) were all heavily influenced by thinkers from Spain, France, Great Britain, and Greece to name just a few locations. This is not say that American thinkers essentially produced "old wine in new bottles", but surely we can identify a lineage of democratic/liberal thought which made possible the contributions of American thinkers. From this perspective, to say that America is responsible for the world’s greatest ideas comes off more as hubris than national pride.

Next, Signer returned to the question of the use of force:
The use of force: Are we truly comfortable with the fundamental proposition that great ideas are worth dying for, and that great injustices are worth suffering and pain to rebuke? (I think Suzanne's nuances here probably improve on my post -- she writes, "We are hard-headed about what force can and cannot accomplish, and we're committed to ensuring that force is used wisely in combination with other forms of power." -- but I still am concerned about what "wise use" ultimately means.)

I am not sure about the nature of Michael’s discomfort regarding the Suzzane’s phrase "force is used wisely". It seems pretty straightforward—progressives understand the nature of military force (which is only one form of coercion), what it can accomplish and what it cannot, as well as how plans to use force must be executed in order to ensure that goals are met through its use. I do not see how this can be construed as some type of equivocation or ‘nuance’. In fact, if we want to contrast ourselves against the current administration, the Bush team has always maintained—both in rhetoric and practice I would argue—that using force is not enough. It is how you use force, under what conditions, for what goals, etc. The biggest critique of Clinton’s use of force during the first campaign was not that he didn’t use force but that it wasn’t used wisely (i.e. he didn’t use our military in situations that were clearly in our national interest—the whole "we don’t do national building" theme).

Should progressives be afraid to use force? No. Should progressives retreat from honest and frank discussions of what the wise or proper use of military force is and when other types of power and coercion should be utilized? Absolutely not. Again, I think this comes down to mixing principles and the marketing of those principles.

Finally, the issue of hegemony:
American hegemony: Do we truly believe that America is great and good enough to be in a single leadership position over the world? Especially when China -- which would surely manage the world in a much different (and worse) fashion than us, looms? (Suzanne writes, "But we don't think even a hegemon (even one that has "earned" its status) can rule by fiat." But I believe this drains the concept of hegemony of its core value. In many cases, the ability and threat of fiat is what starts and pulls along cooperation, right?)
While Michael is correct in that many times "the ability and threat to rule by fiat is what starts and pulls cooperation" along, it isn’t what maintains it—at least, it isn’t what has made the current liberal world order as resilient and effective as it has been. Certainly there have been international orders based heavily (if not solely) on sheer power and coercion, but their record of success seems less than ideal. One could argue that the Soviet Union attempted to build its own, separate international order during the Cold War. What the Soviets lacked to a large degree, I would argue, was leadership vs. coercion. Peoples and states cooperated with the Soviets over the long haul not because they necessarily consented to Soviet leadership, but because the Soviets utilized both direct and indirect coercion against them. In contrast, the US liberal order was maintained and more effective (save the occasional French defection) precisely because the US fostered a sense of partnership and leadership. Hegemony (or, successful hegemony) isn’t simply a matter of relative material power, but rather a matter of leadership—without leadership hegemony quickly deteriorates into a game of counter-balancing by other powers which works against US interests. Leadership requires that a first among equals wields power with tact and responsibility.

This does not mean that the US must "allow a global consensus to determine its policies". Rather, it requires that the US shape and inform a global consensus. In his first post on the subject, Signer himself notes that (post link) "these six principles combine into the single center of gravity for Truman Democrats: we believe in leadership, in inspiring the world community to follow us through our generosity, our values, and our accomplishments." I agree with Signer, but he seems to have either forgotten his own position on leadership or failed to square with his view on hegemony. The idea that the preponderance of US power should not be treated as a ticket to run roughshod over the concerns of allies and other world powers

Signer ends his post by noting that "We've got to have conviction on these three ideas. The exceptions can't swallow the rules. Then we can get down to details and nuances, and to specifics on hard cases. But we need to work on the big ideas first." I couldn't agree more. And it is a consensus about the big ideas/principles that needs to be reached before worrying about how to market these ideas. Conflating the two makes this task more difficult. In any case I am excited that there are a group of thinkers discussing and debating this topic. It is sorely needed.

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Thursday, June 16, 2005


This is beginning to get infuriating. Back in March during the whole Schiavo debacle Sen. Frist went on to the floor of the Senate and essentially provided his own diagnosis of Schiavo's medical condition. He made this diagnosis by watching a few video tapes. Now, a day after an official autopsy has proven Schiavo's doctors (you know, the ones who actually spent time with her and examined her for over a decade) correct--she had irreversible brain damage and did not have the capacity to be stimulated visually since the visual centers of her brain were dead--Frist is refusing to take it like a man and admit he was wrong (both in his diagnosis and in his political judgment). Instead of admitting that he was wrong professionally and that he made a mistake Frist is flip-flopping (wait, I thought only Democrats did that....). Today, Frist said "I never made the diagnosis, I wouldn't even attempt to make a diagnosis from a videotape." Here is the transcript from Frist's March Senate remarks:

"I question it [the diagnosis] based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office," he said in a lengthy speech in which he quoted medical texts and standards. "She certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli."

The line in bold says it all. Unless Frist is "doing nuance" (again, something I thought only Democrats liked to do...), he is essentially questioning the diagnosis of Schiavo's medical team. And unless I am mistaken, one can either respond or not respond to visual stimuli--he is clearly making a diagnosis (or passing his opinion as a "Dr." off as diagnosis) based on a home movie. Way to go doc, and way to weasel out of standing up and admitting you were wrong, not mistaken, wrong, dead wrong. You have got be kidding me that this guy thinks he is going to be President come January 2009. The Republicans can do much better, and his initials are J.M.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Expediency vs. Ideals or Intrinsic vs. Reputational Interests in Uzbekistan?

[Cross posted at "The Duck"]

I think Patrick Jackson is on to something when he writes that the current dilemma facing the US in Uzbekistan isn't strictly one of security-vs-morality. Of course, one could (and many have) frame the issue in this way. However I think there is another way to look at the issue. I see the problem as strategy-vs-strategy, or more specifically, intrinsic interests-vs-reputational interests. The Defense Department sees the K2 airbase (K2 is shorthand for Karshi-Khanabad) as an intrinsic interest, one that is vital operationally to fighting the GWOT (Greater War on Terror) and for maintaining the US ability to project power in the region. The State Department on the other hand sees the Andijan massacre and US actions regarding K2 as a reputational
, one that is important not for its immediate strategic value but rather for the inferences others will draw about the US.

The current situation in Uzbekistan offers a wonderful example of the dilemma that statesmen face from time to time between intrinsic and reputational interests. It also illustrates the difficulties in implementing a grand strategy that includes a component as amorphous as spreading democracy. A little background (if you already read Patrick's post you can skip this):

Back on May 13th an estimated 200 Uzbek protestors were gunned down by government troops as a result of a massive protest in Andijan's main square (another 500 reportedly fled across the border into Kyrgstan). The Uzbek government has claimed that less than 200 protestors died and the bulk of those were Islamic militants. However, eyewitness accounts and NGO investigations have put the official account into question. Human Rights Watch issued a report about the incident in which they claim that the protests were in no way connected to Islamic militants or calls for an Islamic theocracy. The report said in part:

"Interviews with numerous people present at the demonstrations consistently revealed that the protesters spoke about economic conditions in Andijan, government repression, and unfair trials--and not the creation of an Islamic state. People were shouting 'Ozodliq!'
['Freedom'] and not 'Allahu Akbar' ['God is Great']."

At last week's meeting of defense ministers in Brussels, Russia and the United States collaborated to kill any joint demand by NATO for an international probe into the events in Andijan. Several sources told the Washington Post that the eventual wording of the joint communique regarding the meeting (which merely stated that "issues of security and stability in Central Asia, including Uzbekistan" had been discussed) was the result of a fierce battle between "U.S. defense officials, who emphasized the importance of the base, and others, including State Department representatives at NATO headquarters, who favored language calling for a transparent, independent and international probe into the killings of Uzbekistan civilians by police and soldiers". There was some debate as to
whether Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was openly opposing stated US and State Department
policy towards the Andijan massacre (as Secretary Rice and President Bush have both openly denounced the action and called for an investigation) or simply being noncommittal because
he was not involved in recent high-level discussions regarding the issue. In either case it is clear that the US faces a dilemma in Uzbekistan specifically and with the democratization strategy in
general. The Washington Post has a nice quote that sums up the problem:

"It's like the dilemma we have in the democracy agenda in many places. We have to both press the democracy agenda and still, for example, cooperate when we need to on the war on terror," another senior U.S. official said.

Patrick is right when he notes that the debate within the Administration is not between 'narrow defenders of the national interest' and 'idealistic proponents of a normative consensus'. Both are in fact making value-judgements regarding security policy. The way I see it is that each side is, for whatever reason, placing a greater emphasis on one of two interests—either instrinsic or reputational—both of which are critical to US grand strategy.

What is the exact difference between these two types of interests? First espoused by Glenn Snyder and Paul Deising in Conflict Among Nations (and echoed by Robert Jervis), intrinsic interests are defined as those that are valued for their inherent and immediate material/military quality (e.g. a strategically located airbase, energy resources, high ground, etc.). Reputational interests differ from intrinsic interests in that they are valued not for their immediate value but for how they affect an actor's later bargaining position and the image that other actors will have of a state (e.g. a resolved, powerful actor that cannot be threatened). An example of a reputational interest is the US concern over Taiwan. Most observers agree that the US gains little strategic (i.e. military) advantage by maintaining the status quo in the Taiwan Straight. Some have noted that we might value our informal alliance with a relatively (if not juridically) independent Taiwan because it allows us to develop naval choke points against the Chinese, but this is not a view that is widely held. Maintaining Taiwan’s present status is viewed as a reputational interest because of what inferences we believe others draw from our behavior on this issue. The US believes that other actors (including the Chinese, but also other potential adversaries and current allies) use Taiwan as an index or metric from which to deduce information about the US--our resolve, commitment to allies, credibility, etc. If we were to abandon or sell-out Taiwan in the face of Chinese threats the belief is that others would draw the inference that the US lacks resolve in the face of threats and that we are not reliable allies.

So how does this apply to the current case of Uzbekistan? In my estimation the Defense Department views the Karshi-Khanabad airbase in Uzbekistan as a critical logistical hub in the region for both NATO and US operations. In this sense, DOD views the situation as one were the immediate strategic (i.e. military) value of K2 is of utmost importance. In contrast, a group of US Senators (including John McCain who wrote an opinion piece in the FT yesterday on this very topic), the State Department, and probably a number of other foreign policy officials within the administration view our response to the massacre in Andijan as pertaining to our reputational interests.

Reputation matters a great deal for our current grand strategy because of our stated commitment to democratization. Rhetorically and strategically, the administration’s grand strategy views the spread of democracy as a critical component (as I have argued here). The key word is “spread”. Actors in the second camp are concerned about the inferences current and potential allies (as well as those regimes we are trying to coerce into democratizing) will draw about our commitment to democracy depending upon our response to Andijan. Morality does not have to play a role in the State Department’s calls for an open, international investigation into the massacre. Rather, it is how the State Department conceptualizes the interests that are at stake that is most likely determining its position on this issue.

The inferences others draw about our commitment to democracy are of critical importance for a number of reasons. First, if the US is going to convince citizens in target countries that it is committed to democracy above all else. Ignoring the massacre in Andijan because of our intrinsic interest in K2 will certainly work against that goal. The conclusion citizens will (or may) draw is that the US is only committed to democracy in those countries where our strategic/military interests are minimal or that we deem immediate security threats (i.e. Iran and North Korea—cite post article from this morning). Second, despotic rulers who do not wish to democratize may draw the same inference. These rulers may decide that one way to maintain their rule without being pressured to democratize is to provide some vital strategic “good” (such as military basing or intelligence) to the US. Third, appearing to be uncommitted to the spread of democracy may disrupt support from existing allies (and potentially recruiting new ones), especially if those allies have legitimized their aid to the US to their citizens in terms of democratization. If US actions seem to signal that they are only rhetorically committed to democratization allies may have to cut off support.

This certainly isn’t the first intrinsic/reputational dilemma a state has found itself in. In fact, one could argue the US is perpetually facing such choices. My guess is that this one will be resolved more by the actions being taken by the Uzbek government than by the US. In response to recent criticism by Secretary Rice about the incident the Uzbekistan government has limited US access to K2. The US has already began re-routing air traffic to Bagram airbase in Kabul (post article). Additionally, the US today issued a statement denying that the Pentagon was trying to obstruct an investigation in order to maintain access to K2 and noting that $11 million of US assistance was being witheld from Uzbekistan. My guess is that the longer the Uzbekistan government refuses to allow an investigation as well as restricts access to K2 the US will simply adjust its logistic needs and thereby sink costs into some of these other (more sub-optimal at the moment) bases. But don’t quote me on that…

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Monday, June 13, 2005

The Downing Street Memo has Arrived in the States

Way back on May 2nd I wrote about the role the Iraq War was playing in British elections. Of particular interest was a document now referred to as the Downing Street Memo (or DSM). This memo contained minutes from a private meeting Blair held with his staff after a July 2002 meeting with the Bush administration. The juicy part of the memo reads in part:

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.
C reportedly refers to Sir Richard Dearlove, cheif of MI6. Now, the interesting part is the line that states "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy". Many in Britain seized upon this line as proof that Blair knowlingly lied to the British public about the rationale for the war, as well as the integrity of the intelligence that supported action. I haven't seen exit polls yet, but Blair's Labour party lost a significant part of their majority in those elections (although they maintained their absolute majority over the Torries) and many (including Blair) attributed it to the Iraq issue).

Slowly but surely this memo made its way over to the American media--although it certainly took a while (as bloggers had been talking about it about a month or so before the MSM began discussing it seriously). Rodger Payne has a good post over at the Duck discussing the the reactions of both Bush and Blair to the memo at a joint press conference on June 7th. Both dismissed the conclusion that the memo proved the administration was committed to removing Saddam by force prior to any real debate on the issue.

Now another memo has surfaced. Yesterday morning the Washington Post ran a front page story which discussed a briefing memo prepared for Tony Blair which stated that the US had not prepared properly for what the British believed would be a protracted war.

Saying that "we need to be sure that the outcome of the military action would match our objective," the memo's authors point out, "A post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise." The authors add, "As already made clear, the U.S. military plans are virtually silent on this point. Washington could look to us to share a disproportionate share of the burden."
Now, to be fair, this memo was written in July of 2002--almost a full year before the war. It is possible that more attention was given to post-invasion activities before the war began, although I doubt it given what we have learned about the confidence Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz seemed to have about US troops being "welcomed as liberators". There certainly seemed to be a missesimation of just how large of a security vaccuum would emerge in Iraq--one which would be filled by indiginous and outside resistence forces.

In any event, it seems the media and government (following the blogosphere) have grabbed onto these memos with both hands now and they are not likely to go away anytime soon (I believe the House has scheduled hearings for Thursday...). Whether or not they represent a "smoking gun" in terms of proof that the administration misrepresented its reasons for war is besides the point now--either way, perception is reality and this is going to be in the news cycle for a while.

My take on the Iraq War has remained the same since before it started. There was never a single reason to invade Iraq and depose Saddam. Rather, there were a number of reasons. Iraq fit into a larger strategy for combating terrorism and remaking the Middle East. You can read those musings here or here. So I am not as indignant as many are after reading these memos--either because I already knew that this was the case, or that I am interpreting them less drastically than others (make no mistake, there is room for interpretation with these memos, they are not as self-evident as they might appear). For more on these memos from around the web, see here, here, here, and here.

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

So how good is Pedro Martinez?

As a New York Mets fan I can't help but marvel at the acquisition and the performance of Pedro Martinez this season. True, many doubted whether giving Pedro a 4-year deal given his age, loss of velocity, and recent injuries was a wise move by the Metsies, but so far the investment is paying off. It got me thinking--just exactly how good is Pedro? It seems to me that his antics over the years (the midgtet mascot, the Don Zimmer throw down, the threat to peg the Bambino in his *ss, etc.) has to some extent lessened the apprecatiation for just how dominant a pitcher Pedro has been in his era and historically. So following Patrick's lead on the trustworthiness of statistics in baseball (a position I firmly agree with and endorse), I ran the numbers. What they seem to say is that even I underestimated just how good Pedro Martinez is. Arguably, he is the best ever...I tried to take the most relevant stats that are representative of individual performance for a pitcher (e.g. ERA, WHIP (walks+hits/innings pitched), strike outs/9 innings) as well as average number of wins per season and winning percentage (so as to normalize the statistics). As far as active pitchers go (those that pitched in 2004 and have over 1000 innings pitched), Pedro is number 1 in ERA (2.71), number 1 in winning percentage (.705), and tied for second in K's/9 innings (10.4). As if that wasn't enough, I ran some statistics which paired Pedro up against modern pitchers as well as all pitchers going back to 1871 (again, with at least 1000 IP's). His dominance gets even scarier...

[Continue reading this post at "The Duck"]

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Morning Notes for June 9th, 2005

Okay, so posting will be more sporadic than I had anticipated. I have an article manuscript to edit, research for a professor to complete, comps to study for, and--oh yeah--I have to work all day. In any event, here are some stories that I am following.

Could the "Non" and "Nee" votes evetnually cripple the EMU?

Wolfgang Munchau had an excellent piece in the Financial Times yesterday about the potential breakdown of the EMU (European Economic and Monetary Union). While some commentators were quick to dismiss the potential link between the rejection by France and the Netherlands of the EU constitution and the EMU which is the basis for the euro (and believe me, politicians were even quicker, attempting to lessen the fallout from the markets), Munchau points to a number of stressors that could build upon one another a trigger a euro-crisis. The most interesting part was the fact that Roberto Maroni, Italy's welfare minister, stated for the first time last week that his country ought to bring back the lira. It was the first time that an EU member state had publicly raised the possibility of abondoning the euro in favor of its previous currency. This type of rhetorical opening is sometimes all it takes to provide others with similar feelings an opportunity to echo those sentiments. And with many in Europe unhappy about the euro (both from an economic and identity/symbolic standpoint) many politicians might sieze on this opportunity to score some electoral points.

Taiwan enacts constitutional reforms

Taiwan enacted constitutional changes this week which, depending on who you are, make any attempt at formal/legal independence either easier or more difficult. Future changes to the constitution will have to be decided by referedums, but these referendums require 50% of the entire electorate--not just those who vote. So if you are China you do not like the fact that President Chen Shui-bian could fast track legal independence by by-passing the legislature, but he would have a near impossible hurdle to clear given the 50% threshold. We will just have to wait and see how China reacts, although I do not think this will garner that large of a reaction given their current focus on disputes with Japan, the EU, and the US.

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Friday, June 03, 2005

The US, Democratization, and Grand Strategy

Cross posted at "The Duck"

Yesterday I mentioned the new blog America Abroad which is essentially the international relations arm of TPMCafe. G. John Ikenberry, an esteemed professor of IR at Princeton, had an interesting piece the other day on the seeming shift from a focus on terrorism to democratization by the Bush administration. It was a post in response to one by Anne Marie Slaughter--also of Princeton--who argued that the administration had not foresaken the fight against terrorists for a crusade of democractization, but rather the latter had subsumed the former. Slaughter writes:
the Bush Administration doesn't think it has won the war on terror—that war has just been subsumed into a larger global struggle now referred to as the war on tyranny, or, better yet, the fight for freedom.
Ikenberry essentially agrees with Slaughter regarding this transformation, and believes this was done for two reasons. The first is tactical. He argues that the fallout of the Iraq War has created a legitimacy crisis for the Bush administration abroad. In keeping with his scholarly focus on the construction of international orders, Ikenberry argues that Iraq War did not providfe a "master narrative", a rationale for the war--and implicitly a vision of international order--that other states could feel comfortable with1. Second, Ikenberry argues the Bush administration had to come to grips with the problem of "extremist violence". He notes that, "looking into the future, it seems all too clear that small groups of angry and determined extremists will find it increasingly easy to obtain chemical, biological or nuclear capabilities and unleash them upon the civilized world." The question is how to deal with this threat. By focusing on democratization the Bush administration is answering this question by establishing a link between politically and economically underdeveloped or failed states. Battling extremism is hard enough, but it can be made easier if developed, politically transparent states exist which deprive these groups of resources and staging grounds. Ikenberry concludes:
If this logic is correct, President Bush’s claim is true that America is less secure when freedom and democracy are in retreat -- and more secure when freedom and democracy are on the march. The essential insight is this: the 'quality' of the governments around the world bears directly on the 'quality' of international security. This is a sort of a rump liberal internationalist insight -- even though it is being articulated by a conservative nationalist. The Bush shift from a focus on the war on terrorism to the promotion of open and accountable government is a step forward. It is a rhetorical shift that seems to also entail a shift in the diagnosis of the terrorist threat. The threat is not simply terrorists who are evil and hate us for who we are. Tyranny and bad government are now seen as integral to the problem.
My reaction to this piece is mixed. While I agree with Ikenberry that the focus on democratization certainly has a practical, strategic element I disagree that the impetus and timing behind the new rhetoric was primarily about repairing a crisis of legitimacy.

The shift in rhetoric for Bush's second term certainly was used as a legitimation tool. However, the focus on democratization as a guiding principle of a grand strategy designed to deal with the terrorist threat was enshrined in 2002 in the National Security Strategy. The connection made between terrorism and dictatorships was evident in that document years before this supposed "shift". I have no doubt that the President honestly believes in the underlying logic of this connection. Ikenberry's contention that the shift was due to the fact that the original rationale for the Iraq War failed ignores the possibility that the war fit quite well into a strategy that already included democratization and the desire to rein in and eventually oust tryannical leaders. If this was the case--which I believe it was--Iraq was a natural and attrative target for a number of reasons.

First, removing Hussein from power allowed the US to begin shifting troops out of Saudi Arabia--this was a central call to arms for many terrorists associated with Al Queda, and while the US will never admit it (because it can't), this move facilitated the removal of one major point of political friction.

Second, Iraq was incredibly weak militarily. A decade of UN sanctions as well as the enforcement of no-fly zones made the invasion and occupation of Iraq relatively simple compared to what similar operations elsewhere would have been (granted, extended occupation has been incredibly difficult and it appears the administration completely underestimated this fact, but I digress...).

Third, the administration needed a "demonstration effect" for their new policy--an example that would demonstrate a) the US was capable and willing to execute regime change if necessary and b) an image of Middle Eastern citizens from one of the most despotic states in the region freely participating in politics which would hopefully encouraged the public in other states as well as freighten tryannical leaders, all leading to one giant snowball of democratization in the region--similar to Eastern Europe in the late 80's early 90's (whether we are witnessing a "fourth wave" in the region which is the result of the war in Iraq is hotly contested. See here, here, and here).

So while the shift in the intensity and frequency of Wilsonian-rhetoric seems to emerge in time for the President's 2nd term, the focus on democratization as a center-piece of policy can be dated earlier. Whether the policy will actually work is anothe question. However, I think its harder to argue that it is simply the result of a legitimacy crisis over the Iraq War. Rather, I think the focus on democratization was there all along--and Iraq certainly (altough not obviously) fit into this strategy.

1I would note here that Ikenberry does not consider that the administration was also facing a potential legitimacy crisis among its own citizens over this episode. The need to rationalize the war in this fashion after the original rationale--WMD's--fell through certainly played a role and is consistent with his logic.

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