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May 09, 2005

Ten Questions Answered

In which I answer ten questions posed by a guest blogger over at Drezner with snark, insight and aplomb. Says me:

1. Does the rise in anti-Americanism concern you? If so, do you link it to the Bush Administration's policies? Even if you don't think it's a major issue that should be guiding policy choices, do you think it matters at the margins and can make it tougher to build support for U.S. goals?

It matters at the margins and I have no problem assigning blame the GWBush. However, I think most anti-Americanism is practically, by definition, less than rational and noisy. It's actually very simple, there is really a stark short list of real offenses for which that the Bush administration is responsible all originating in the Iraqi conflict, and the divisions in this country amplifies the cascade of bitterness. We are too close to this history to know what the real effect will be.

2. Do you really think we can make the UN further U.S. interests by criticizing and beating down the organization? Do you believe that John Bolton's style will enable him to actually accomplish things, or is it more a matter of his standing in the way of the UN doing wrong?

I have no opinion on Bolton's style or substance. I don't know where the liberal defenders of Andrew Young are. After all, he made a Nixonian gesture to Arafat in the days before Arafat refused his Best Offer. This UN Ambassador will be forgotten too. The UN simply doesn't move things geopolitically. Hell, they can't even stop Nike sweatshops. The UN ought to simply be a clearinghouse for NGO activities. When Amnesty Internatational subjects its pronouncements to UN approval, then the US can too. Until then, UNICEF cards are cute, and Annan strikes a stunning profile. BFD.

3. Do you believe that in order to effectively promote goals like democratization and human rights around the world, the U.S. must itself be seen as an exemplar of these values? Do you believe that our status as a standard-bearer of justice and liberty is so well-entrenched that revelations like the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo won't negatively affect it?

We're at least as good as the French. On the other hand, Canada has never done anything, so far as we know, like Abu Ghraib. But when Liberians suffer at the hands of their dictators, they don't call out for help from Canada. I don't hear any stories of Sudanese sending messages of thanks to the Canadian government for their shining example. The Roadmap to peace between Israel and Palestine is not coming from the model written up by Finland. The world depends upon the US because of our strength, not because they like the way we hold elections. Hell, even Mexicans get a holiday to vote. That wasn't our idea.

4. What do you really think of the failure to find WMD in Iraq? Do you believe that the Administration was genuinely as surprised as the American people were? Does this make you question intelligence assessments on other matters like North Korea and Iran; why or why not?

I think it was an honest mistake, and not an unpreventable one, nor one that mitigates the threat of Saddam. Hussein was the same kind of menace as DeKlerk. I don't think that many citizens, myself included, are in a position to assess the capacity or the proper deployment of our intelligence services. I haven't plowed through the subcommittee reports and I'm not going to. Congress has been a herd of cows through this whole matter, and largely irresponsible. I'm sick of hearing all the blame tossed at the Executive.

5. Do you believe that an international criminal court would be likely to indict U.S. servicemembers for war crimes, notwithstanding the provision that when countries are capable of investigating and prosecuting crimes in their own court systems, an international court will not have jurisdiction? Is this a real fear, or a stand-in for a broader concern over the impact of an international criminal justice system?

I believe that no nation on this planet, save those who are powerless, have any great hopes or respect for an international criminal court. America is a nation that won the Cold War and assisted in the destruction of the Soviet Union. An international tribunal's worst damage are mere pinpricks and all nations will inevitably subvert it according to their interests. There is no international anything, save currency exchanges and trading blocks. Wait until cell phones work like Babelfish, then we'll all talk.

6. Do you believe that development aid is important in its own right, or do you see it more as something the U.S is compelled to do for image reasons, much of which winds up being wasteful? How important is the Millennium Challenge Account, in your view?

It seems aimed in the right direction. I subscribe to the view that some authoritarianism is necessary for the safety of international investment. So long as investors are willing to try and governments are willing to assure some stability, good things can happen. I'm all for a new and improved Imperium. I'm not sure the US can pull it off though.

7. How important is intelligence reform? Is this a real priority, or more a political exigency driven by the 9/11 and Silberman-Robb reports? As the profile of those reports fades, is intelligence reform likely to recede as an issue?

Tenet was the longest serving DCI in a generation. There is something radically wrong with an organization as huge and powerful as the CIA that goes through so many management shakeups. Let's not forget that Aldrige Ames was the equivalent of an Enron at CIA. Reorganization for its own sake will not improve the organization because there will always be egos involved trying to take the credit. Only a crisis will bring focus, selflessness and the willingness to slash bureacracy. Quite frankly, I don't think Al Qaeda actually poses a big enough threat of crisis to reform the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community. We need doodoo much deeper than the sort on our shoes now, otherwise nobody anywhere would be making such a fuss while our silly airports do what El Al did decades ago.

8. How worried are you about China? What about in the long-term?

The question of China depends primarily on America's willingness to be a better trading partner. Which is to say that as America and China compete for the resources driving their respective consumer economies, supplier countries will have to decide whom they like better. I think that the future favors us because we allow our trading partners to put their money in our very safe banks and domestic investments. The Chinese don't have open markets in that way, and so until they develop them all of the traders they make rich will feel more like high paid flunkies instead of sharers in the wealth of China. China will in that regard seem domnineering. Besides, they compare themeselves more to India, and I think the world likes Indians more than Chinese too. China is a great place to be Chinese. The rest of us may wind up annoyed.

9. How worried are you about the sagging dollar and yawning balance of payments deficit?

About as worried as I am that the Pope can't prove God exists. Nobody's going to quit over such imponderables. America will pull another economy out of its hat, and the Chinese will not let the Yuan float. Even if worse comes to worse, could it possibly be worse than the failure of LTCM or the Savings & Loans? The most powerful country on the planet has infinite credit, by definition.

10. What to you is most problematic about the Bush Administration's foreign policy? If there's one thing you don't like, what is it?

I don't like that GWBush cannot talk a good game like Tony Blair, but there's not much that can be done about that, neh? More seriously however, he has wasted Colin Powell and overspent Rumsfeld. There's a lot of patching up to be done at the Pentagon for the sake of the Neocon picnic. I happen to love the menu at the neocon picnic, but GWBush seems incapable of finessing the situation which proves that he depends a great deal more on Carl Rove than he should. The very fact that liberals believe that the Christian Right is in control of anything in this nation only proves that Rove is a genius. If I had it my way, it would have been Cheney-Bush.

Posted by mbowen at May 9, 2005 09:27 PM

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I once heard a senior intel bubba say "We did research once on massive intelligence failures. There was a one-to-one correspondence between failures and multiple changes of leadership."

Worth thinking about.

Posted by: Chap at May 10, 2005 02:12 PM


I enjoyed reading this. I really thought your answer about China was well worth saying. Would you trust the Chinese Communist Party Officials to hang onto your money? I wouldn't. The "law" doesn't apply to the party members. The system in China needs to change but I don't forsee a smooth or peaceful change.

Posted by: Rakhiir at May 13, 2005 11:53 AM