Sunday, October 31, 2004

Well, its now official.
John Kerry will win Tuesday's election.

How do I know this? How can I be so sure?
Well, in every election since 1936, the results of the Redskins home game before the election has successfully predicted the election. Redskins win, party in White House stays in power. Redskins lose, challenging party wins.

Well, the Packers beat the Redskins today, 28-14.
So, Kerry will win.

And like you or anyone else have any better insights as to who will win? This is my pick, this is my reason, and I suppose I'll stick to it.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Well, after last night, West Wing has officially Jumped the Shark.
Sucks, because that was such a great show in its prime.

The big news of the day (in the world, not Boston), is that Arafat is really ill.
You know things are serious when:
His wife, who hasn't seen him in 3 years flys back from Paris to be with him,
the Palestinians call all the important people into HQ,
Doctors from just about every Arab country come to visit and all say he should go to a hospital,
he actually agrees to go to Paris for medical treatment,
Israel lets him go and promises to allow him to return.

The real question is what would the Middle East look like without Arafat? He didn't just make the PLO, he made the Palestinian people what they are today. He has been the center of Palestinian politics since the early 1960's.
So, what would happen if this is it?

The rosy scenario is that the nacent democratic institutions of the PA work, a successor is legitimately elected, and that person is able to get the peace process back on track.
The nightmare scenario is that a power vacuum emerges, several factions seek power, and Hammas takes control of Gaza while the West Bank becomes a mess.

So, where in between the two are we headed?

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

So, how do you lose 380 Tons of high explosives?
The NY Times reported yesterday that 380 tons of high explosives are missing in Iraq. Now, we're not talking mere TNT, but HMX and RDX, which to the non-technical group of you out there, is significantly more powerful, pound for pound, than normal stuff like dynamite.
These types of explosives are used in building nuclear bombs. To make a plutonium based bomb, you take a perfect sphere of plutonium and surround it with high explosives all set to detonate at exactly the same time. The resulting pressure compacts the plutonium in on itself, producing a nuclear explosion-- if you have ever seen the Peacemaker, at the end when they disarm the bomb they show this.
In regular use, about a pound of this stuff was used to blow up an airplane in mid-flight over Lockerbie Scotland.

The crux of the issue is this: The Weapons Inspectors, both with the UN and US, knew about this for years (literally!!!). The whole reason we supposedly went to war was to deal with Saddam's WMD capability. These explosives are part of that program and capability.
So, why not secure them and render them useless as soon as possible?

Instead, we let them sit, unmonitored, and now the explosives are gone.
And, its not like they could be taken off by some looters-- it would take upwards of 40 big trucks to move all this stuff-- requiring planning, organization, and money.
So, who could have the explosives?
Where could they be?

And, most frightening, where might they be used?

The White House is spinning this as no big deal.
Or, is it more like incompetence?

Thursday, October 21, 2004

1--West Wing is done. Wells is turning it into the ER of the White House. The original brilliance of the show was Sorkin's dialogue and banter and the built-in clock. They started in the first term, they ran for re-election, and now they are in the final year of the second term. So, the show should end. But, they are trying to keep it alive with a new prez, but that will never work and the show now is no good.

2-Hurray, the Yankees lost.

Its amazing how the world seems to stop as everyone waits for the US Presidential election.

3-Must read of the week: Ron Suskind's article in the NY Times Magazine about George Bush and the Faith Based Presidency. (its long, but worth it). It explains alot about how this administraiton works, and why they have done Iraq as they have.

4-I must stop blogging to go watch the Daily Show, it has become Must-See TV. Its sad when the best and most reliable news coverage of the election comes from a fake news program. He was right on in his criticism of Cross-fire.
And its soooo funny!!!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

David Brooks, writing in today's NY Times, argues that the differences between Bush and Kerry reflect two different theories of how the world works.
Reading that this morning made me think about this question, and an email from a former student has convinced me that this is a very worth-while topic to ponder.

International Relations Theory has a really hard time dealing with the Bush Administration. The circuitously is that this is a Realist administration, and they came into office acting as such. Read Condi Rice's Foreign Affairs article Promoting the National Interest, written just before the 2000 election, outlining a Bush Foreign Policy approach. Its off-the-shelf realism.
But, of course, this all goes out the window after September 11, 2001.
Bush as Realist runs into its greatest hurdle in Iraq. No self-respecting realist would engage in the folly of a major military operation to overthrow a weak and dying regime that we had successfully deterred through sanctions for over 10 years, let alone engage in the mission of bringing democracy to the Middle East. Why is it so important to build democracy in Iraq? Realism has no real answer-- Realism says all states behave the same, so why bother with democracy.

Bush as Liberal? This obviously doesn't sit right. He clearly has little use for international law and the international organizations that are the hallmark of a liberal approach to international affairs. But, the call for freedom and democracy in Iraq echoes of Wilson's liberal quest for self-determination as the solution to war and conflict. This is such a central tenet in the Iraq plan--not just to make Iraq into a democracy, but to spread democracy across the Middle East--that it cannot be ignored. Certainly there is some sort of liberal streak in Bush's approach to the world, but it is unlike any brand of Liberalism that we currently understand as a way to approach IR.

Perhaps Bush is a Constructivist. I think that this actually could be the case, despite the fact that Bush probably has no idea of what Constructivism is. Wolfowitz and Rice, back in their academic days, might have been exposed to it but probably wouldn't associate with it. But, what are they seeking to do? They want to overturn one set of rules for governance and government and replace them with a different set of rules for regional security. They do so by using not just the power of the US military, but the power of US ideas of freedom, liberty, and individualism. They want to write a new identity for the Middle East, and have democracy as a core element in producing that identity. It is, of course, a realist-constructivist approach, but constructivist nonetheless. I think this works as an analytical tool, but the problem is that no one within 10 miles of this administration would cop to being a real constructivist (I think--feel free to prove me wrong on this one...)

So, this brings us to Brooks' analysis: Bush - red state- wide open spaces - more liberty - less regulation vs. Kerry - blue state - urban living - rules for getting along - government (governance) to keep order. In a sense, he maps the domestic debate onto foreign policy.

The great irony is that I read this as Brooks declaring that the election is now Bush The Liberal vs. Kerry the Neo-Liberal.
The Bush that Brooks describes is a Liberal in the most classical of all connotations: Adam Smith (recall that Smith was a moral philosopher, and this makes more sense!). In this classical liberal approach, the individual has interests, and allowing the individual to maximize those interests with little to no interference produces the best outcomes for all. Laissez-faire capitalism becomes Laissez-faire international politics.
Kerry becomes the Neo-Liberal (read Keynes). Sure, markets are great, but markets fail, and we need regulation and cooperation so that we can avoid the problems of market failure and continue to get along. Let individuals maximize their interests within a framework rules that keeps the game from falling apart.

It kind of works (and goes along with a colleague's contention that all Americans are irrational Lockeans) up to a point, and that point is Power.
This issue dates back to Hobbes (so, its no great or new revelation). In a world where you have a bunch of individuals maximizing their interests, at a certain point, the more powerful ones will turn on the less powerful ones, and before you know it, the strong are doing what they can to maximize their interests and the weak are suffering what they must. You can't take the power out of the equation.
Well, you can, and Hobbes recognized that-- you create a Leviathan to keep order by holding all the power, leaving the individuals free to go about their business. We call that Leviathan The State. This works in domestic politics because there is a state, a government, that can maintain order. But, of course, there is no international Leviathan--the rules of sovereignty leave us with Anarchy. No state legally rules another state. So, the rules of world politics develop out of a combination of Power and Law, giving rise to the Realist and Liberal approach.

So, to circle back to the original point, Bush is a real problem for IR scholars (or should I say Bush shows a problem with IR scholars). The theories of Realism and Liberalism don't have much to say about Bush's approach to foreign policy. Brooks' attempt to transpose the domestic debate on world affairs might work in Bush's mind, but I think that Wolfowitz and the other architects of the Iraq war and National Security Strategy have bigger fish to fry. They are building a World Order, using US power to manage a moment of global hegemony. (if you haven't seen this frontline episode, you really need to...)

Really, to me, it seems as if they are realist-constructivists slightly ahead of their times.
Its just that the World Order they are constructing is not one that any constructivist I know would have wanted to build....

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Fun this evening-- went to hear Joshua Goldstein talk about his new book, The Real Price of War.
The whole talk will be on CSPAN (either booknotes or book tv, i forget which) in the near future.

It was very interesting. Goldstein makes the argument that war, particularly the war on terrorism, is very expensive. He adds up all the costs of war--not just the $120-200 billion that Cheney and Edwards were fighting over, but the rest of the defense budget, the homeland security budget, and so on. All together, he estimates, the whole cost is about $500 per MONTH for the average US household. A lot, but not unmanageable.
His point is that this is bankrupting the USA because we are not paying for it the way you normally pay for war--with taxes. In all previous wars, the government raised taxes in some form and Americans paid their fair share of the cost of defending the country. Now, however, the Administration and Congress cut taxes while trying to pay for a war at the same time. This has two problems: 1) we have to fight the war on the cheap and 2) its still driving us into incredible debt that is absolutely devestating.

And, being Goldstein, he has the data (lots of data) to back it all up.

Gordon Adams of George Washington U was the discussant-- he's a former OMB official who dealt with defense issues. His issues were not with the budget parts of the book, which are great, but with the notion that paying for the war would fix things. Its not the money, its the policy, stupid (his quote--and a good one).

I don't know when it will be on TV (need to check the listings on line later in the weekend), but it was a fascinating discussion certainly worth watching.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

So, I watched the VP debate last night. Probably would have been better off watching the Twins beat the Yankees (and I think that, unlike years past when they could come back after losing game 1, the Yanks are in real trouble this year--thier pitching is bad). Boring television (debate, not the game!). Sure, Cheney was prepared, and he is great at sitting down and saying the most outrageous things in total deadpan as if they were matter-of-fact. Edwards got in a few good barbs, made a few good points, but missed a number of chances. He stuck to his script a bit too much. R's will say that Cheney mopped the floor with an inexperienced Edwards. D's will say that Edwards showed that he could hold his own with Cheney. Really, who cares?

1--they were "debating in the 3rd person" How many times did Edwards talk about Kerry? A ton, because ultimately, his job is to persuade people to vote for Kerry. How many times did Cheney mention Bush? Not once.....

2--really, is anyone out there going to make a choice based on the #2 spot on the ticket? No. You vote for Bush or Kerry, not the VP. The real hay will be made in St. Louis this Friday.

And, in all honesty, I think that the Supreme Court is one of the most important yet least discussed issues of the campaign. Who ever wins will certainly name some justices, and that will have a dramatic impact on the Court.

Also, Note what Bremer said on Iraq (gee, i am starting to sound like The Note here....): The Administration erred by not having enough troops. But, he also said that Kerry and Bush will probably do the same thing in Iraq-- so the biggest issue of the campaign might not matter at all?

Should have watched baseball....

Sunday, October 03, 2004

How did we mess up the intelligence on Iraq?
The NYT tells the story.
Its pretty interesting reading, and it shows how easy it is to politicize intelligence and the intelligence community.
It also shows how, though facts may be stubborn things, facts never speak for themselves.
Facts require a spokesperson and an audience, and that i show we end up where we are.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Taking shameless privilage of editing my blog, Jenny's voter registration link is reduced to one line.

Well, I watched the debates tonight.
Awesome political theater, completely addictive for a political and IR junkie like myself.

And, if you are one of the lucky few who were in my WoPo classes today, you were well prepared for the discussion-- it covered the exact ground we went over in class: Pre-emption, Iraq, North Korea. It was great.
(full transcript of debates link here)

I thought that the debate was fantastic. It was substantive. Neither candidate make a major mistake with his facts. Rather, what you saw were two distinct interpretations of facts and policy recommendations based on those differing views. There is a clear and distinct choice on how America should conduct its National Security Policy, and its pretty clear that your choice in this election matters. The two candidates went after each other. They pointed out differences, they offered stances. I also think the moderator, Jim Lehrer, did a great job asking direct and pointed questions-- no beating around the bush (probably not the best metaphor to be using here....)
It was, perhaps, one of the best presidential debates I have ever seen.

Who wins? I'll preface it by saying that both Bush and Kerry delivered what I thought were strong performances. Neither backed down, neither was over the top-- they had a message, they answered the questions, and they engaged each other's ideas.
That said, the conventional wisdom is that "time will tell" which means we need to put a poll into the field and see what it says.
In the narrowest of terms, I think Kerry "won" in that he gave the performance he needed to give to put his campaign and candidacy back on track. A poor performance and Kerry was toast. A strong showing like he had keeps him alive. He showed that he could look presidential, that he could easily and comfortably share the stage with the President, and he passes the test of does he feel the part-- commander in chief you trust to see on your TV.
But its not like its a knock-out or anything like that. But I do think that it makes the race quite close, much closer than it was before the debate.
There were things that Kerry said that really got Bush.
There were things that Bush said that really got Kerry.
In a sense (to echo other conventional wisdom), much of what many voters took out of the debate probably depended on what they brought in. Kerry supporters could find much to like. Bush supporters could find much to like. Each should rightfully feel energized by the debate.

For anyone who studies IR and World Politics, the debate was fantastic. If only we had more just like it.

So, what do you think? If there is one sure thing about the debate, its that will evoke strong opinions from just about everyone who watched it (even including my mom!).

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