Friday, September 13, 2002

Pulled up from The New Yorker's archives for this week: an important piece from the indispensable Bernard Lewis.

Thursday, September 12, 2002

Oh, fer cryin' out loud. I understand why this was the moment for the U.S. to make a diplomatic show of not being unilateralist or isolationist. But rejoining UNESCO? Couldn't we have come up with something that was both less trivial and actually the right thing to do-- like, say, repealing all our illegal trade barriers erected over the last eighteen months?
See Instapundit's collection of apposite (and stirring) Tolkien quotations.
Roderick Long joins the ranks of bloggers, with an essay on his still-dovish and still-anarchistic interpretation of September 11, and of what came before and has come since. I won't respond in any serious way, since I don't think I'll be able to match the job that Brink Lindsey has done over the last year in articulating why he doesn't agree with that stance. But I will say that the last year has made me more interventionist than I had ever thought conceivable, by convincing me that even the internal affairs of other states can pose a mortal threat. The central example: libertarian foreign policy is predicated on trade. In 1991, I was firmly of the camp that said, "Even if Saddam gets control of the Saudi oil fields, he'll still have to sell the oil for it to be of any use to him; so, ultimately, who cares, in any way stronger than caring about the somewhat increased market share he'd control that would allow him to raise prices?" (And a mere price increase had to be weighed against the costs of war; it was not itself a likely justification for going to war.) I now believe that the endless flow of American dollars into Saudi hands has financed the spread of a vicious and deadly ideology, has even financed the growing dominance of that ideology over other, benign forms of Islam, and has done so even in the United States. And I believe that even the government of a free and religiously tolerant society ought to take notice of such trends and developments, in a fashion other than saying "Well, when they kill some of us, we'll take them to court and demand compensation." Trade is sometimes the beginning of the story, not the end. And I say this as someone who remains convinced that free and open trade is among the most central goals of a foreign policy. But: do I think the world would be improved if the U.S. withdrew from Saudi Arabia, withdrew its support for Israel, stopped offending the murderers with an interventionist foreign policy, and continued to buy oil ad infinitum from the Saudi government, thereby continuing to enrich the Wahabbi clerics and their movement? No, I'm afraid I can no longer bring myself to believe such a thing.

Of course I welcome Roderick's contributions; he is someone who has taught me a great deal over the years and whose opinions and judgments carry weight with me. But on this set of issues, I can no longer agree with him

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

The article in yesterday's NYT about rural Democrats touting their pro-gun-rights credentials made me wonder: what is the rational course of action for a pro-gun-rights voter in such a district? More broadly: what's the rational voter to do, when confronted with two candidates with similar positions on the voter's primary issue or issues, one of whom belongs to a party that shares those views, one of whom does not?

Here are the intuitions pulling in two directions. On one hand, parties matter. If the southern white rural man votes for a Democrat for Senate, he may end up with a pro-gun-rights Senator-- but an anti-gun-rights Senate Majority Leader and chairs of all the relevant committees. Similarly, if a northeastern pro-choice suburban woman votes for an Olympia Snowe or Lincoln Chafee (or, until last year, Jim Jeffords) for Senate, she might get a pro-choice Senator, but she'd ensure a pro-life Majority Leader and pro-lifers' control over most committees. American voters probably underappreciate and underemphasize the importance of parties in their votes for legislators-- unlike in Westminster systems, in which almost all votes are cast on the basis of which party the voter wants to control the legislature as a whole, almost none on the basis of the individual candidate's views. We personalize and localize our Senate and House races to a significant degree; it's very hard to nationalize Congressional elections (though it can sometimes be done). But given the state of American partisan politics right now, any given Senate race or any given House race might well determine which party controls the chamber. (Incentives are different when one's in an era of one-party dominance, as in the House from the 50s until the 90s.)

On the other hand, it's strategically important to encourage those elements of the opposing party that have views most like one's own, for two reasons. One is so that the opposing party perceives electoral returns in shifting toward your view. The other is to prevent your own party from taking you for granted. It's strategically desirable to be perceived as part of a swing-voting class-- especially, again, in an era of very-closely-balanced parties. It's strategically undesirable to be viewed by one party as utterly unavailable and by the other party as utterly dependable. Pro-choicers should want there to be pro-choice Republicans; gun supporters should want there to be pro-gun Democrats. It seems to me terrifically important that there be Republicans in favor of gay rights and Democrats in favor of free trade (though it'd be nice if Republicans remembered that they're supposed to favor that, too). Moreover, even putting a party in the majority doesn't necessaily put that party's majority caucus into complete control. The Boll Weevil Democrats in the early 80s became the swing-voters in the House itself, and were able to control its agenda, even in the face of atavistic Old Democrat Tip O'Neil's gavel. The northeastern Republicans had almost-comparable power in the Senate before Jeffords' switch. Electing your local counterintuitive candidate (the pro-gun Democrat, the pro-choice Republican, etc) can strengthen the position of their bloc within their party-- and that might be desirable even if it meant that a party you oppose in general took control of the chamber.

There would be ways to formalize these countervailing considerations, but they likely wouldn't tell us anything more than the intuitions themselves do. How to weigh them depends on how closely balanced the parties are, how fervently opposed to your views the leadership of one party is, how whether your local counterintuitive candidate would have a bloc of similar-minded legislators with whom to join, whether the issue is one that routinely comes to floor votes or one that routinely lives or dies in committee, etc. Some gut-calls: right now it would be very much in the interest of African-Americans to support any Republicans who come near to their policy views; the black vote is being written off by the GOP and taken for granted by Democrats. Gay and lesbian voters have moved a little further toward swing-voter status, and would be well-served to move further still. In both cases Republican House candidates would be better to support than Republican Senate candidates; Majority Leader Lott would oppose their interests more than Speaker Hastert. Pro-free-trade voters should not vote for any Democrats for the House, no matter how free-trade they might be; Speaker Gephardt is an outcome such voters should fear. Pro-choicers might want to vote for pro-choice Republicans for the House but to stick Democratic in the Senate, to ensure continued control of Judiciary. States'-rightsers should engage in the same reasoning: Republican control of Senate Judiciary should take priority over encouraging federalist Democrats in the Senate, but the House is fair game. And those rural gun voters: my guess is that it is currently rational for them to support their local pro-gun Democrats. First, they're not seeking to change law, but to fight a holding action. (If you're on the side of legislative change, it's more important for your party to control the schedule, the rules committee, etc.) Second, contentious gun bills don't get attached as amendments to omnibus bills in committee and then pass in the dead of night; they come up for floor votes, and pro-gun Democrats help to kill them.

One more complication: I've been pretending that the rational voter votes as if his or her vote will be decisive, and he or she knows that. In fact, his or her vote will not be decisive under ordinary circumstances, and he or she knows that. This increases the incentive to vote for a counterintuitive candidate. You want your local pro-choice Republican to win a smashing victory instead of a squeaker; you want your local pro-gun Democrat to put up a respectable showing instead of getting crushed. The "cheering for your side" expressive aspect of voting (analyzed in Brennan and Lomasky's Democracy and Decision takes priority when you're voting in, say, one party's safe House district (as almost all House districts are).

Note that there are many fewer complications when voting for a governor or president. An executive gets to set his or her administration's policies, and isn't part of a governing coalition in the same way that a legislator is. The northeasterners can continue to vote for their Welds, Patakis, and Whitmans, without fearing that they're tipping control of the country to southern Republicans they despise. Something equivalent can be said about southern Democratic governors.
Via Instapundit: Larry Summers' September 11 speech at Harvard.
Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah has written a letter of condolences and sympathy to President Boush and the American people for last September's attacks. He writes in part:

"We in Saudi Arabia felt an especially great pain at the realisation that a number of young Saudi citizens had been enticed and deluded and their reasoning subverted to the degree of denying the tolerance that their religion embraced, and turning their backs on the homeland, which has always stood for understanding and moderation... I would like to make it clear that true Muslims all over the world will never allow a minority of deviant extremists to speak in the name of Islam and distort its spirit of tolerance."

In the kingdom that "has always stood for understanding and moderation," devoted to "the tolerance that their religion embraced," it is illegal to practice any religion but Islam; illegal to teach any interpretations or schools of Islam other than the official one (resulting, in particular, of persecution of Shi'ites and Sufis); illegal to wear symbols of any religion but Islam; illegal to import, publish, or circulate books supporting any religion but Islam or any rival interpretation of Islam; illegal to possess such books; and illegal to celebrate the holidays of any other religion, even in private.
I was prompted today, for reasons I won't go into, to wonder about the magnitude of the Palestinian "Nakba" of 1948-- the mass fleeing/ expulsion from the new state of Israel-- compared with other population transfers of the late 1940s. The results:

Between 700,000 and 750,000 Palestinians were refugees by the end of 1949. More than 100,000 remained in Israel. Those 750,000 left under very complicated and messy circumstances-- some fleeing attacks and village-razings by Zionist paramilitary groups, some urged to leave by surrounding Arab states or local Arab leaders, some fleeing under fear of local ethnic cleansing that appears to have been justified, some fleeing under fear that appears not to have been.

In 1945/46, three million Sudeten Germans were expelled, by clear and official state action, from Czechoslovakia-- essentially the entire such population. The expulsion was preceded and accompanied by somepretty substantial local violence.

The number of Germans expelled from Poland (partly from areas that were reallocated from Germany to Poland, partly from Danzig, partly from Poland's original territory) is under dispute but seems likely to have been more than 10,000,000-- again, nearly the entirety of the relevant population. Again, there was a great deal of associated violence; more than 1,000,000 Germans may have been killed.

The partition of India in 1947 sent more than tens of millions of refugees across the new borders in all directions-- again, often as part of a spiral of fear about local violence and pre-emptive violence. Millions were killed. While a substantial Muslim minority remained in India, almost no Hindus remained in Pakistan or East Pakistan. (UPDATE: See correction here.

More on this later. But notice that in only one of these cases is there still serious talk about a "right of return." Even if-- as is not true-- the entire group of 750,000 Palestinians had been 1) expelled 2) by deliberate centralized Israeli policy, this would have been a comparatively mild instance of the ethnic politics of the immediate postwar era. Notice, too, that the expelled Germans-- much as they might nurse historical grudges and want public apologies or compensation-- have never engaged in the organized murder of Poles or Czechs, have been received into the German states as citizens, and have thrived in democratic and capitalist settings.

I am very far from being an apologist for forced population transfers. But it is worth remembering how standard a part of international politics they were in 1945-50, and worth insisting on a common principle for addressing the legacies of all such transfers.
Australia is deploying forces to the Persian Gulf. Howard is playing up the possibility of a strong UN/ inspector response to Iraq-- but isn't using the UN as a club with which to beat the U.S. '"It's the UN that has the responsibility, and people who've been so quick to criticise the US – and there have been too many, in my view – are missing the point," Mr Howard said after a memorial service in Canberra. "America's not in the dock – it's Iraq's failure to comply with the United Nations resolutions, and the failure so far of the United Nations to do anything about that failure, which is the main issue."' As Sullivanhas been stressing lately: there's certainly a way to make good, strong use of the UN right now. This seems to be Howard's position: more UN-ish than Blair's, but wanting a much more aggressive UN response than does, say, Chirac.
See Dan Drezner's useful rejoinder to Robert "the Earthling" Wright's essay on gloablization and terrorism.

Monday, September 09, 2002

Eugene Volokh responds to my questions below about why scholar-blogging seems to be less prone to public-intellectualitis than do other forms of public commentary, and what he says seems persuasive about why blogging invites but op-eds repel admissions of uncertainty, nuance, and error.
Joe Conason claims that "so far the only media outlet with the courage to cover this story is the Orange County Weekly," that no one else has talked about the Dana Rohrabacher- Taliban meeting. As I recall, Joshua Marshall gave the story extensive play almost a month ago...
We keep hearing about the risk that Britain will be the only state standing alongside the U.S. in the event of war with Iraq. This has become somewhat less likely in the last few days, but it was never very likely. While Canada, for instance, is sounding obstructionist, the U.S. can almost certainly count on support from Australia-- and, indeed, already is counting on it. Australia lacks Britain's force-projection capabilities; but it also lacks Britain's messy EU ties and its primitive left.

The Land Down Under was the first state to invoke a mutual-defence treaty with the United States last September; days before NATO held that the North Atlantic Treaty had been triggered, Australia said so about the ANZUS pact. (Note that ANZUS is now entirely a treaty between Australia and the U.S., since New Zealand has effectively withdrawn from it.) And this from a state whose nearest neighbors are Muslim giants that it would rather not offend, before it was at all clear how Malaysia and Indonesia would line up in the war on terror. Prime Minister John Howard was in Washington on 9-11, and his administration has been firmly on side ever since.

I don't want to make Howard out to be a great hero; with respect to refugees and asylum he's been really quite terrible. (See this article, or this paper, by my friend, the distinguished Australian political scientist William Maley.) But his administration has faithfully reflected Australia's political climate on matters of war and peace, and that climate is very different from that of Germany, France, or even Britain. Just compare Scott Ritter's current stance with that of Richard Butler, an Australian former UN weapons inspector and UN ambassador who says that it's the Security Council that's on trial: "If the Security Council cannot get its act together on this one, I do not believe it would survive this failure to put down this most extreme rejection of its authority." Howard can't precommit to military action the details of which he doesn't know; but expect the Aussies to fight alongside us.

On a related note, the Australian-led UN reconstruction of East Timor seems to me a useful example of institution-building by outsiders, one that could be kept in mind for today's Afghanistan and tomorrow's Iraq. It required a large and serious investment of time, money, and attention; but it set limited, attainable goals and a finite timetable. And it was substantially successful. Our quarter-heartedness in Afghanistant is making our long-term project much harder, and is contributing to a sense among both Europeans and Iraqis that we can't be counted on to do the job right in Baghdad. See Spencer Abraham's article in the New Republic.

Sunday, September 08, 2002

Politics from back home: I was born and raised in New Hampshire, and cut my teeth on New Hampshire politics. I still follow it with at least moderate intensity. The intensity is going up right now, because Senator Bob Smith looks very likely to get unceremoniously retired next week. It's a pretty rare event for me to be rooting for a Sununu for anything; John Sr. had that dreadful Al Gore quality of being sure that he was twice as smart as anyone else in government or politics, and the same Gore-like propensity to overplan as a result. (Remember the W-vs-Gore debates about intelligence, humility, and so on, when some on the right made a virtue out of W's apparent lack of intellectual firepower? The balance seemed obvious to me then, and still does now. What one wants in an executive is someone who's smarter than he realizes that he is, someone with the humility of a Socrates rather than that of a Schweik. Sununu Sr., like Gore, lacked either sort.) John Jr. genuinely is more pro-Arab than I'm at all comfortable with, though he's certainly not the security risk Smith is now portraying in a nasty ethnic slur. (Sununu is of Lebanese descent. See this piece from last year's New Republic by Franklin Foer or this one from the Manchester Union Leader describing Smith's new TV commercial.)

But Smith is now and always has been a disgrace, a public embarrassment to New Hampshire, to the Senate, and to the Republican Party. (I care least about the public image of the last, but it counts for something.) His silly run for President, his brief turn to the theocratic U.S. Taxpayers' Party, and his craven and opportunistic return to the GOP in exchange for a committee chairmanship, only showed the whole world what had been evident for years to those who looked carefully enough: Smith is, simply, ridiculous, quite apart from his views on the issues (he's never met a civil liberty he liked, for instance; what's more, he's anti-trade-- and what are Republicans for if they're going to vote against trade agreements?)

If Smith joins Bob Barr and Cynthia McKinney in early retirement, then the Capitol will be a much less colorful place next year-- and a much less absurd one.

In case it wasn't clear: this is a political-scientist's-hat-off, citizen's-hat-on post...
Category of in-case-you've-missed-'em:

Ronald Bailey's coverage of the Johannesberg summit and
Gordon Silverstein's thoughtful New Republic piece on Congress and war. TNR has made for exceptionally good and important reading the last couple of issues, just as it did for several issues just under a year ago