Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Speaking at Bard College on counterterrorism policy

I'm blogging from the home of my old friend John Ryle, at Bard College at Annandale on Hudson, a couple of hours up the Hudson River from NYC. It's a lovely small liberal arts college, and my friend John comes over from London to teach one semester a year in the Anthropology Department. He asked me up here to deliver a lecture on counterterrorism in the next administration - the topic I've been going on about for quite a while - you can read Elisa Massimino's and my joint take on it, here, downloadable at SSRN. I enjoyed giving the lecture very much - I hope the audience took something away from it, even though I realize that collectively they had many disagreements with me about substance. But it was also interesting for me to realize that even though, given American University's location on the outskirts of DC, I don't quite think of myself as a DC policy type, to an audience outside the Beltway, that's exactly what I sound like.

Anyway, I hope the talk wasn't too wonky, probably was. John, always the greatest host, organized a pizza party at his house on the campus of this quite rural college, with a number of students and faculty. I was absolutely delighted to see the great Ian Buruma and his wife - I hadn't seen Ian in years, while admiring his books and writing from afar. And a special surprise, Jonathan Becker, an old friend from the Open Society Institute days, now teaching political science at Bard, and also Dean of International Studies. The students made me feel very, very welcome - again, they obviously disagreed with much of what I had to say, but they were both very serious and very polite in expressing their disagreement - my friend, and their professor, John, thought they had been much too easy on me.

Today, after speaking at John's human rights class and a terrific lunch with Ian and a resident novelist at Bard, John and I took a beautiful drive around the Catskills and Hudson valley - driving up to Woodstock, where I bought googahs for Renee and Jean-Marie and then looping around through the mountains and across the Rip van Winkle bridge. A beautiful day and lovely company.

Tomorrow, off early for home. John - many thanks!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Goodbye to All That? A Requiem for Neoconservatism: Post comments here

If anyone would like to post comments about my Requiem for Neoconservatism review of Francis Fukuyama's After the Neocons and Peter Beinart's The Good Fight, this is the place for them. I have no idea if anyone actually is interested, but anyway here is the place. Ones that I find especially interesting will be pulled up into the body of the post. I may also post a couple of excerpts from the article below.

Thanks Legal Theory Blog for mentioning my Goodbye to All That? A Requiem for Neoconservatism

When the brilliant and erudite jurisprudentialist Larry Solum posts my SSRN abstract on the Legal Theory Blog, gives it his highly coveted "highly recommended" rating, and tells the world that I am a "creative and deeply interesting thinker," well, who am I to disagree? Larry, who is an old and dear friend and must be forgiven some creative liberties in that post, is referencing my newly published Goodbye to All That? A Requiem for Neoconservatism. It just appeared in 22 American University International Law Review, No. 2, at 277 (March 2007). Available at SSRN, free download, here. (The earlier working paper is also up on SSRN, this one, with the American University vol. 22 reference, is the one you want, the final version.)

The piece is a long review essay on Francis Fukuyama's After the Neocons and Peter Beinart's The Good Fight but, as with most of my long review essays, it is mostly me on neoconservatism with a large discussion of multiculturalism, and a sharp attack by me on what I call the "new liberal realism." Fukuyama's book is a powerful one, and will likely be around for quite a while as the defining intellectual statement on neoconservatism. Beinart's book troubled me a great deal - it has a very powerful positive point wrapped up in a rant that seems mostly designed to reassure Beinart's liberal readers that he really is one of them. I will post a couple of bits from the essay up here, and if I can figure out how to do it, set up a space on this blog on the offchance that anyone wants to comment on the essay or the books reviewed.

The AUILR review is an expanded version of an essay just on the Fukuyama book in the September 20, 2006 Times Literary Supplement, downloadable at SSRN, here.

(Update, March 19, 2007. And thanks Instapundit for the Instalanche of the paper on SSRN! thank you Glenn Reynolds!)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Downloading Mark O'Connor's Appalachia Waltz

Very cool - I have been curious for some years to see the written music for fiddler Mark O'Connor's lovely Appalachia Waltz - the piece that he, Yo Yo Ma, and Edgar Meyer performed so successfully back in their bluegrass interlude in the 1990s. You can listen to a snippet of Yo Yo Ma performing it as a solo piece, here. So I went to Mark O'Connor's homepage and purchased the score, downloadable as a pdf file, for $4.00. I got the solo cello version - the one Yo-Yo Ma plays as an encore frequently at concerts. It is filled with a dismaying number of double stops, runs fairly high, and I'm not sure if I'm really up to tackling it. Nonetheless, I am pleased to have the score.

(PS. I have been listening to the trio version O'Connor has recorded for fiddle, viola, and cello, snippet here, and I like it a lot. It is quite playable for intermediate players in all instruments. Funny, I admit I have rarely paid much attention to viola - I tend to dismiss it as the thing between the violin and the cello - but in this recording, the viola carries a lot of the weight of the piece, and I found myself very much in love with the timbre of the viola. It is also available in sheet music downloadable at O'Connor's homepage.)

Jacob Weisberg on neocons and Cheney in the Financial Times

Jacob Weisberg, editor of Slate, has this piece in the March 14, 2007 Financial Times, "Are Neocons History?" - on neoconservativism and Dick Cheney. In it he recounts attending the annual dinner at the American Enterprise Institute last week:

The term “neo-conservative” has many usages, including “former liberal” and “Jewish conservative”. In recent years, however, it has taken on clearer definition as a philosophy of aggressive unilateralism and the attempt to impose democratic ideas on the Arab world. The neo-conservatives also constitute a distinct group around George W. Bush, the US president. They pushed for the invasion of Iraq and remain identified with hardline positions on Iran, Syria and North Korea.

Outside the administration, the chief fulcrum of neo-conservatism is the American Enterprise Institute. The day after vice-president Dick Cheney’s former aide Scooter Libby was convicted of perjury, AEI held its annual black-tie gala. I did not go expecting contrition, but under the circumstances it seemed possible that self-examination might feature on the menu. Once a lazy pasture for moderate Republicans hurtled into the private sector by Gerald Ford’s 1976 defeat, AEI has turned in recent years into a kind of Cheney family think-tank. It had not been a good week, year, or second term for any of these people and I thought a few cocktails might cause them to consider their predicament. ***

But whether or not the neo-cons are prepared to face it, there are increasing signs that their moment is finally over. At the Defence department, Donald Rumsfeld has been replaced by Robert Gates, a member of the Iraq Study Group and an affiliate of the realist school associated with the previous President Bush. Paul Wolfowitz, the architect who wanted to build a new Middle East on Saddam’s rubble, has been moved to the World Bank, where he observes a Robert McNamara-like silence on the failure of his war. Another former Pentagon official, Douglas Feith, is under investigation for misrepresenting intelligence data to make the case for the invasion.

At the State department, Condoleezza Rice is returning to her realist roots and now actually seems to direct policy. She has embraced shuttle diplomacy in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, is considering conversation with Syria and Iran and even made a nuclear deal with North Korea. These steps signify a broader shift away from what the neo-con defector Francis Fukuyama calls “hard Wilsonian” ideas and back towards the less principled, more effective pragmatism of Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser, and James Baker, former secretary of state.

The most important sign of all is the fading influence of Mr Cheney, who for six years dominated foreign policy in a way no previous vice-president ever has. Mr Cheney is discredited, unwell and facing various congressional investigations.

I don't question that neoconservativism is dead, and indeed wrote exactly that in a review of Francis Fukuyama's After the Neocons, free download, here. And just today, I received the reprints of a much longer version of the same general thesis, in a long review essay of Fukuyama's book together with Peter Beinart's The Good Fight, in the American University International Law Review, downloadable free in final form, here. (The working paper form is also still up on SSRN, but you want the final form with the American University Vol. 22 citation - accept no substitutes!) I'll write more about the long AUILR piece later; for a while I didn't think I liked it, but I've changed my mind and like it quite a lot.

That said, I don't think Weisberg gets Cheney right in representing him as a neocon. Neocons are a certain species of foreign policy idealist. But Dick Cheney has never been an idealist or a neocon in foreign policy, so far as I can tell. He has always been a realist, always concerned about power. There were people - Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, among others, who really saw the issue as democracy. Not Cheney. Cheney is not precisely a classical American realist, either, in the school of Baker and Scowcroft - two realists whose policies of accommodation to dictators under earlier administrations including Bush pere, the neocons were right to say, are part of what got us to 9-11, despite the disaster in Iraq and despite the current liberal swoon for nasty realism of the kind that they used to disdain on grounds of higher Wilsonianism. Cheney, like Rumsfeld, is closer to what Fukuyama (drawing on Walter Russell Meade) calls a "Jacksonian nationalist" - sort of a realist, tending to a "narrow, security related view of American national interests [and] distrust of multilateralism." (Fukuyama, After the Neocons, at 7).

The traditional realists - the Bakers, Scowcrofts - did not buy into the neocon project of the Iraq war, believing instead in accommodation and containment. But the Jacksonian nationalists did - believing not in the democracy project but in the security risks posed by a dictator who, they were convinced - on the very good grounds that everyone else was, too - that Saddam had WMD, and at some point might well be inclined to pass it along to terrorists. No doubt it also had to do with a very Jacksonian nationalist calculation that it was probably the only moment in which the US would muster the will to go to war and ignore the rest of world - the moment would only come once, and they took it. But although they linked arms and joined forces with the neocons, the Jacksonian nationalists were never idealists, and their rationales for the Iraq war had very little to do with democracy and all that - it was a security calculation about, really, the limits of realist containment and accommodation or, in other words, an argument between themselves and, not the neocon idealists, but the traditional realists.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The launch last week of the Stanley Foundation paper, The Cost of Confusion

I mentioned earlier the new paper by Elisa Massimino, Washington Director of Human Rights First, and me, on counterterrorism policy - it can be downloaded free from SSRN, here. The Stanley Foundation held several excellent events last week to showcase the paper. One was a dinner at Nora restaurant in DC - one of my very favorite restaurants in DC, by the way - with a handful of people to discuss it. Then a larger lunch discussion at the Stimson Center in DC, with Elisa and me, and Ben Wittes, formerly of the editorial page of the Washington Post and now a visiting scholar at Brookings, moderating. Ben did a great job of moderating, because he led an active discussion on what the areas of agreement were but also what the areas of disagreement were. Understanding both the agreements and disagreements is crucial - in this paper, but also with respect to other papers in this series. There were many excellent comments - those by Stephen Rickard of the Open Society Institute stood out; he is always impressive, even when I don't agree with him.

But I came away from these events more convinced than ever that now, not November 2008, is the time to be proposing new ways of approaching counterterrorism policy. And, as readers of this blog, if you exist, are aware, I do not say this as an opponent of the Bush admininstration's overall policy.

My thanks to David Schorr and the Stanley Foundation for putting on these events, and for sponsoring this very interesting project on foreign policy. And especially to Elisa Massimino, for being willing to take risks in her institutional role in human rights to try and seek where we could find agreements.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

On matters entirely unrelated to the topic of this blog ...

First, thank goodness for the early reappearance of daylight savings time. I go crazy in the early darkness all about.

Second, I haven't been practicing my cello very much at all in the last six months. Nonetheless, I am gradually reaching the end of Bach's flute partita in A minor, BWV No. 1013, transcribed for cello in D minor - lovely piece - I don't play it very well, but I think it is time to move on. Question is, move on to what? I would like to play the Vivaldi two cello concerto thing in Renee's Suzuki book - nice piece - but alas, the kid is not wild about playing with Daddy. My view, for what's it's worth, is what was the point of raising her with music lessons if she won't play music with me? On the electric cello frontier, I still need to finish transcribing Santana's La samba pa ti, so I can finish learning it. But what new in the classical field?

Third, after thinking it over carefully, I've decided that if I could play any instrument really well - apart from the cello, that is - it would be the pedal steel guitar. I don't think any instrument comes quite as close to the lyricism and timbre of the human voice. My impression talking with musicians is that it is a very difficult instrument to play well. But I sure do love it.

Fourth, said daughter has a big decision to make, whether to leave her current school, NCS, and go over to Sidwell, where she was just accepted. Tempted as I am to just tell her she's going and that's that - she's only fourteen and in 8th grade, for heaven's sake, and my wife and I know to our bones that she would be fantastically happier and at least as well educated - we've told her it's her decision. I'm holding my breath and hoping she does it.

Fifth, next week is my spring break week. It is a law of nature that my spring break never coincides with my wife and daughter's. So next week is a big writing week for me - I have to get the short UN book ms. redo heavily underway and revise the short Fordham piece and write the long pending stuff for the TLS and also make sure I'm prepared with my upcoming talks at Bard College and Wayne State University Law School. At the same time, I have important administrative stuff to do at school - turn in a proposal to start up a mini program on nonprofit law at my law school - and with the Media Development Loan Fund, getting ready for the April board meeting in New York.

Sixth, after I get back from break, I want to get my research assistants geared up to help me revise my course materials for my basic classes. I've decided I need to shift the focus in my corporate finance class - less emphasis on stuff that was covered in business associations, such as equity, and much more focus on bonds and debentures, as well as much more focus on derivatives. I don't plan to introduce any real quantitative stuff into the course - I used to do that, years ago, made the class all buy a particular calculator, did present value, etc., but with 90 students in very different "math places," it was a disaster year after year. The students who already knew it were bored and wrote notes in student evaluations about how much of their tuition dollars you wasted, and the ones who didn't didn't manage to learn it and wrote notes about the inverse. You need a four or five day a week class with small sections and homework each day, not a law school class. My colleague at WCL, Jonathan Baker, has started teaching a quantitative methods class that covers both litigation issues such as statistical use of evidence and basic finance stuff, and I push students over to him - the class is new but my students love it. But I do think you can study derivatives from a legal/finance standpoint as precisely what they are (and the folks at Long Term Capital forgot) - contracts. You can still do a lot with derivatives just dealing with forwards/futures, options, swaps, and securitization, just looking at their contractual characteristics and their marketplace uses. So I want to rework some of that material, also add more explanatory material to my IBT class, which mostly consists of basic contractual transactions.

Against the 'new liberal realism'

Here's what I had to say about the "new liberal realism" in a few first draft paragraphs drawn from part of my NYU talk transformed into something headed for Fordham International Law Journal. It's all first draft stuff, but anyway:

When one looks inside US politics, across the spectrum of mainstream politics over time, that politics is characterized by a shared sense of treating the international system, the UN, and international norms in highly pragmatic ways – a sense of pragmatism far more broadly shared than the bitter arguments required by today’s theatre of partisanship might superficially suggest. The differences are not entirely rhetorical – an administration of Clinton or Obama would behave with respect to the international system, and particularly the UN and its norm system, differently in some respects from an administration of McCain or Giuliani. But it is easy – and tempting, for many, wanting to read preferences into description – on the basis of heated rhetoric, to overstate the substantive differences. The mainstream center of US politics does not fetishize the UN or international law or the international system.

Let me try to put this point about shared, rather than battling, views of the international system and international law within the US political mainstream in a quite different way. Neoconservatism is currently the intellectual whipping boy for all that has gone wrong, or apparently gone wrong, in American foreign policy. Everyone seems to be dreaming up new alternatives, at least in Washington, in universities and think tanks and policy centers. For the moment, at least, everyone seems to agree that (conservative) idealism is the problem and we are all, conservatives and liberals, but particularly liberals, seeking to distinguish themselves from neo-conservatism, going to be realists for a good while, just as we should have remained realists after 9-11, particularly about Iraq. We should have accommodated to Saddam and his sons; we should have sought containment instead of removal. Indeed, containment and accommodation and the return to an entirely instrumental balance of power politics that disregards the nature of the regime and its rulers appears to be the new order of the day with pretty much every bad regime; the only regime, apparently, that can’t be accommodated in what we might call the new liberal realism is the Bush administration. One can represent that attitude as merely a realist bow to the fact that in Iraq the US has had its nose rubbed in the fact of what military action alone can get you and what it can’t in the way of cultural change; still, the new liberal realism seems to me to represent a more profound disillusionment than that, more than just a disillusionment with military solutions to problems, but a disillusionment with muscular idealism as such.

By ‘muscular idealism’, I mean a very particular and unattractive feature of the new liberal realism. It is realism insisted upon with respect to actions by the United States as a democratic sovereign state. What, after all, was the idealism of the Bush doctrine? It was the Bush fils repudiation of the Bush pere balance of power realism among authoritarian, corrupt, and murderous dictators in the Middle East, on the grounds that this ‘realism’ was a core part of what set the terms for 9-11. That idealism is shoved aside in the new liberal realism. We are offered instead the canonization of James “No Dog in this Fight” Baker by – God help us all – American liberals. But although the United States is now supposed to be governed by the hard requirements of realism, the new liberal realists nonetheless want to have their cake and eat it, too – they want to claim not to have lost their idealism. But their idealism is now located in the place least likely to bear any idealist fruit – the proven ineffectuality of the international system. Assert one’s idealism through the UN and our allies – well, that’s easy, it is unlikely to be tested in action, because it so rarely gets that far. Impeccably credentialed idealism, the idealism of the international system – and a practical guarantee of ineffectiveness. Meanwhile, the idealism of democratic sovereigns – which, in muscle, means the United States – is henceforth governed by the propositions of realism. This gets it exactly backwards – but in a way that allows the new liberal realists to claim, fantastically, both labels at the same time. Among realists, Rieff, however, stands alone because he does not demand to have it both ways. He is one of the very few – if not the only one – who has honestly acknowledged that he has, in fact, changed his mind. Should not the new liberal realists, if they are as honest as Rieff, do the same? Not want to have it both ways?

The new liberal realism, let’s be clear, is profoundly unattractive – as though liberal idealists, long constrained by their moral Calvinism to worship at the altar of severe Wilsonan idealism, were suddenly freed, through the failure of conservative idealism, the failure of neoconservatism, to celebrate a Carnival of realism, petit moralistes, catechists of the Categorical Imperative, until now sternly watched over and instructively smacked on the head to prevent dozing off in the Church of Human Rights by – who? – oh, say, Michael Ignatieff, Kenneth Roth, Samantha Power, Geoffrey Robinson, Jimmy Carter, Louise Arbour – suddenly freed to dance drunk in the avenues of dubious virtue, to party in the sinful precincts of hard realism usually reserved to the morally benighted Brent Scowcroft and James Baker, freed to expound on the virtues of accommodation, containment, stability, and interests, freed to expatiate realist necessity, game theory, instrumentalism, rational choice, freed not to have to sing hosannas at every goddam moment to the glory of Moral Ends and Human Rights Universalism, and freed to maintain the necessity of ‘our sonofabitch’.

I also do not think the Carnival will last. Liberals and Democrats in the United States will sober up and rediscover – the sooner the better, to my mind – that they are committed long term to certain values that will require means actually, and not merely rhetorically, adequate to pursue them. The means of that idealism will have to be something more effective than the “international system,” and the objects of that idealism – its targets – will have to be more than simply going after the Bush administration which, in any case, will not be around that much longer. But essential to understanding the long term center of American foreign policy is understanding how much of neoconservatism is, in other language and other forms, part of that long term center, part of the ideals even liberals espouse, or will again one of these days. Walk through Francis Fukuyama’s After the Neocons; it offers a useful critical guide to the underlying propositions of neo-conservatism, and what you will find is that most – not all, but most – of them will show up again in idealisms of both right and left in America, even if under other names, because there is an irreducible idealist strain in American foreign policy that will not go away.[1]

The point is this. America’s superpower status is irretrievably bound up in its own mind, in its political center, in its mainstream politics both Democratic and Republican, with the moral legitimacy of that power. One may scoff at that, shudder even, think it supremely hypocritical, accept it as the fact of power without legitimacy, regard it as an exercise in gross wickedness, etc. – but it would be a profound mistake to imagine that a change of administration in the United States will deeply alter that internal perception. Superpower emphasizes “power”; American politics, by contrast, even with the bitter debates over the morality of American actions in the world from Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib, emphasizes its legitimacy. A new Democratic administration is unlikely to draw from the experience post 9-11 that America is a superpower by reason of power alone, but instead the quite different lesson that it has to clean up the moral mess of the Bush administration in order to continue what it, along with the American ‘vital center’, has long seen as the legitimate international moral order – a flexible, pragmatic international system that consists of a sometimes messy, sometimes inconsistent, conjoined US-international system. In the collective mind of that American vital center, the international community, the UN, international law are not – as they are for some on the American right – irrelevant, just as they are not – as they are for some on the American left – overriding. It is a messily conjoined system.


[1] Frances Fukuyama, After the Neocons: America at the Crossroads (Yale 2006). I highly recommend the book – I’ve written two reviews of it, and as time goes by, I’ve decided that those reviews are actually too harsh. It is a very insightful book, not just for its dissection of neoconservatism, but for its attempt to sketch a future foreign policy. For the short review, see “Doomed Internationalist,” Times Literary Supplement (London), September 20, 2006, available at SSRN, here, The long version, with a lengthy discussion of multiculturalism and terrorism, and also a much more developed discussion of the ‘new liberal realism’, appears as “Goodbye to All That? A Requiem for Neo-conservatism,” American University International Law Review, Vol. 22, February 2007, available at SSRN, here,

Tony Smith in WP on Democratic foreign policy options

I just said in my post below that I'm not very into news-blogging. But in my talk at NYU and in various other venues, I've been saying - mostly to progressives, often non-Americans - that the center of American politics on foreign policy does not diverge so much as one might think in the theatre of partisanship over the Iraq war. There are, obviously, large differences. But in the center right and center left, they are less than one might think listening to pundits. I didn't mean this as anything other than a description with the audiences I was addressing, although it had a prescriptive point - it is a mistake to get all worked up over the profound changes a new Congress and new Democratic administration might make. Tony Smith makes something like that point in his op-ed piece in the Washington Post today, Sunday, March 11, 2007, "It's Uphill for the Democrats." Here in the WP. As Smith, who heads the political science department at Tufts, notes:

"[Democrats] want to change the Bush administration's policy in Iraq without discussing the underlying ideas that produced it. And although they now cast themselves as alternatives to President Bush, the fact is that prevailing Democratic doctrine is not that different from the Bush-Cheney doctrine.

Many Democrats, including senators who voted to authorize the war in Iraq, embraced the idea of muscular foreign policy based on American global supremacy and the presumed right to intervene to promote democracy or to defend key U.S. interests long before 9/11, and they have not changed course since. Even those who have shifted against the war have avoided doctrinal questions.

But without a coherent alternative to the Bush doctrine, with its confidence in America's military preeminence and the global appeal of "free market democracy," the Democrats' midterm victory may not be repeated in November 2008. Or, if the Democrats do win in 2008, they could remain staked to a vision of a Pax Americana strikingly reminiscent of Bush's.
Democratic adherents to what might be called the "neoliberal" position are well organized and well positioned. Their credo was enunciated just nine years ago by Madeleine Albright, then President Bill Clinton's secretary of state: "If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further into the future." She was speaking of Bosnia at the time, but her remark had much wider implications.

Since 1992, the ascendant Democratic faction in foreign policy debates has been the thinkers associated with the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and its think tank, the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI). Since 2003, the PPI has issued repeated broadsides damning Bush's handling of the Iraq war, but it has never condemned the invasion. It has criticized Bush's failure to achieve U.S. domination of the Middle East, arguing that Democrats could do it better.
Consider a volume published last spring and edited by Will Marshall, president of the PPI since 1989. The book, "With All Our Might: A Progressive Strategy for Defeating Jihadism and Defending Liberty," contains essays by 19 liberal Democrats.

"Make no mistake," write Marshall and Jeremy Rosner in their introduction, "we are committed to preserving America's military preeminence. We recognize that a strong military undergirds U.S. global leadership." Recalling a Democratic "tradition of muscular liberalism," they insist that "Progressives and Democrats must not give up the promotion of democracy and human rights abroad just because President Bush has paid it lip service. Advancing democracy -- in practice, not just in rhetoric -- is fundamentally the Democrats' legacy, the Democrats' cause, and the Democrats' responsibility."

In the volume, a Muslim American calls on us to prevail in the "cosmic war" with terrorism by winning "The Struggle for Islam's Soul." Stephen Solarz worries about Pakistan; Anne-Marie Slaughter would "Reinvent the U.N." Larry Diamond and Michael McFaul defend "Seeding Liberal Democracy." Kenneth Pollack, whose 2002 book, "The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq," was as influential as any single writing in urging the invasion of Iraq, presents "A Grand Strategy for the Middle East."

"For better or worse, whether you supported the war or not, it is all about Iraq now," writes Pollack. The goal of this Democrat who helped bring us Iraq? "The end state that America's grand strategy toward the Middle East must envision is a new liberal order to replace a status quo marked by political repression, economic stagnation and cultural conflict." His problem with the Bush administration? "It has not made transformation its highest goal. . . . Iran and Syria's rogue regimes seem to be the only exceptions. The administration insists on democratic change there in a manner it eschews for Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other allies. . . . The right grand strategy would make transformation of our friends and our foes alike our agenda's foremost issue."

This is not a fringe group. Many prominent Democrats are PPI stalwarts, including Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Evan Bayh, Thomas R. Carper and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, published a book last year, "The Plan: Big Ideas for America," co-authored by Bruce Reed, editor of the PPI's magazine Blueprint and president of the DLC.

Emanuel and Reed salute Marshall's "outstanding anthology" for its "refreshingly hardnosed and intelligent new approach . . . which breathes new life into the Democratic vision of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John Kennedy." Not a word in their book appears hostile to the idea of invading Iraq. Instead, the authors fault Bush for allowing a "troop gap" to develop (they favor increasing the Army by 100,000 and expanding the Marines and Special Forces) and for failing to "enlist our allies in a common mission." The message once again is that Democrats could do it better.

In fact, these neoliberals are nearly indistinguishable from the better-known neoconservatives. The neocons' think tank, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), often salutes individuals within the PPI, and PPI members such as Marshall signed PNAC petitions endorsing the Iraq invasion. Weeks after "With All Our Might" appeared, the Weekly Standard, virtually the PNAC house organ, gave it a thumbs-up review. And why not? The PPI and PNAC are tweedledum and tweedledee.

Sources for many of the critical elements of the Bush doctrine can be found in the emergence of neoliberal thought during the 1990s, after the end of the Cold War. In think tanks, universities and government offices, left-leaning intellectuals, many close to the Democratic Party, formulated concepts to bring to fruition the age-old dream of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson "to make the world safe for democracy." These neolibs advocated the global expansion of "market democracy." They presented empirical, theoretical, even philosophical arguments to support the idea of the United States as the indispensable nation. Albright's self-assured declaration descended directly from traditional Wilsonianism.

Talking in the refined language of the social sciences about "democratic peace theory," neolibs such as Bruce Russett at Yale maintained that a world of democracies would mean the end of war. Neolibs such as Larry Diamond at Stanford also posited the "universal appeal of democracy," suggesting that "regime change" leading to "the democratic transition" was a manageable undertaking. Anne-Marie Slaughter at Princeton asserted that "rogue states" guilty of systematic human-rights abuses or that built weapons of mass destruction had only "conditional sovereignty" and were legally open to attack. These views were echoed in the columns of Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. Here was the intellectual substance of much of the Bush doctrine, coming from non-Republicans.

Dealing with Serbia in the 1990s cemented the neocon-neolib entente. By Sept. 11, 2001, these two groups had converged as a single ideological family. They agreed that American nationalism was best expressed in world affairs as a progressive imperialism. The rallying call for armed action would be promoting human rights and democratic government among peoples who resisted American hegemony.

And so we may appreciate the Democrats' difficulty in their search for an exit strategy not only from Iraq but also from the temptations of a superpower.

Ironically, the neolibs are more powerful today in the Democratic Party than the neocons are among Republicans. Senior Republicans such as Brent Scowcroft, James A. Baker III and the late Gerald R. Ford seem more skeptical about an American bid for world supremacy than do comparable senior Democrats. "I can understand the theory of wanting to free people," Ford told Bob Woodward in 2004. But the former president doubted "whether you can detach that from the obligation number one of what's in our national interest. And I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our national security."

There is a precedent for the Democrats' dilemma as 2008 approaches. When Richard M. Nixon ran for president 40 years ago, he, too, needed to formulate a policy that distinguished him from the unpopular war in Vietnam prosecuted by an unpopular Democratic administration. He promised that "a new leadership will end the war," hinting that he had a secret plan to do so. But it turned out that Nixon's "new leadership" was as committed to prevailing in Southeast Asia as Lyndon B. Johnson had been.

The early positions of the 2008 Democratic presidential candidates illustrate their party's problem. The front-runner, Hillary Clinton, has not moved from her traditional support of the DLC's basic position -- she criticizes the conduct of the war, but not the idea of the war. Former senator John Edwards and Sen. Barack Obama are more outspoken; both call the war a serious mistake, but neither has articulated a vision for a more modest U.S. role in the world generally.

It isn't easy to offer a true alternative. The challenges to world order are many, as are the influential special interests in this country that want an aggressive policy: globalizing corporations, the military-industrial complex, the pro-Israel lobbies, those who covet Middle Eastern oil. The nationalist conviction that we are indeed "the indispensable nation" will continue to tempt our leaders to overplay their hand. The danger lies in believing that our power is beyond challenge, that the righteousness of our goals is beyond question and that the real task is not to reformulate our role in the world so much as to assert more effectively a global American peace."

This is more or less what I was trying to say - less articulately, alas - in the last couple of speaking engagements. I do not share Smith's hostility to the neoliberal position - what I share is his perception that it is a common ground across the center right and left in American politics. Indeed, if you follow - in addition to the book Smith describes above - the essays that will be appearing between now and June in the Stanley Foundation's "Bridging the Foreign Policy Divide" - Elisa Massimino and I have one in that series, described in an earlier post, on war on terror issues of detention and interrogation policies, available as a pdf here - you will see that center left and center right have very important common ground in foreign policy on a wide variety of issues. Even Elisa and I, on some of the most difficult values questions about counterterrorism, found very important common ground on core issues.

At the same time, I have been ferociously criticizing what I have been calling the "new liberal realism," one which indulges in the crudest realism with respect to the United States and how it behaves - while trying to preserve traditional liberal Wilsonianism by calling upon the US to work its idealism through international institutions of guaranteed ineffectuality. It's a case of wanting to have your realist cake and idealistically eat it, too. David Rieff is the great exception to this want-it-both-ways that characterizes the current "new liberal realism" - because David, to his great credit, admits straight out that he has changed his mind, and has really moved from 1990s idealism to hard realism. I remain an idealist for whom the importance of realism is that it acts as a caution upon idealism, but doesn't seek to displace it altogether, but my admiration for David's honest position is very great.

(PS, March 12, 2007. I see there is a lot of stuff running around the opinion pages and blogosphere about "neoliberalism" crashing not dissimilarly to neoconservatism. I guess part of this is reaction to the slow collapse of The New Republic. I don't know whether all that is true or not, but I don't think it really addresses the observation above that there is a foreign policy center in American politics that does cut across center right and center left, and that if looked at from the standpoint of how likely Democratic or Republican administrations are likely to behave, well, there is an awful lot of intertia in the system at least with respect to foreign policy basics.)

Who reads this blog anyway?

In my last post, I asked any editors reading this to contact me about a "review of reviews" of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book. This is hope over experience. When I look at the site meter to see what kinds of searches lead (a very small number of) people to this blog, they apparently are:

  • People interested in spanking, either researching the law of child corporal punishment or else straight interested in adult spanking porn, apparently because I once mentioned on this blog a book on human rights and corporal punishment of children
  • People interested in porn related to (clothed) female guards and (naked) male prisoners, apparently on the basis of a legal memo posted to this blog and written by one of my research assistants on court cases dealing with the conflict between prisoner privacy rights versus cross-gender employment rights in prisons
  • People interested in photographs of nude adolescents by Jock Sturges and David Hamilton, apparently because of a post mentioning a book review I had done on nude photography in the TLS back in the 1990s.

You catch the drift. Those searches account for a very sizable percentage of hits on this site. Among the academic searches, the largest part seem to be:

  • Students searching for help on just war theory for term papers - there is a dependable surge toward the end of each semester on exactly this topic, and related matters like Michael Walzer, laws of war, etc.
  • Enquiries about the celebrated international legal scholar Martti Koskenniemi - apparently, a brief post I wrote about his work is cited somewhere on Wikipedia
  • The occasional international legal scholar who thought he or she was going to Opinio Juris!

I'm not quite sure what I intend this blog to be, and since I only occasionally have time to post, I only occasionally think about it. I'm not really interested in the sort of comment on the news blogging, but tend instead to think of it as a sort of open filing cabinet or public notepad. Why it should be an open notepad, rather than, say, actually taking notes privately then working them up into some polished public article or presentation is a very good question to which I have no answer.

I can say that every one of my serious, professional editors - we're talking TLS, NYT magazine, LAT book review, etc., superbly professional editors of impeccable judgment - has thought that blogging was bad for my prose style - accentuated the worst habits toward verbosity and sanctimony and bad jokes and whining and believing that first draft is good enough for last draft and that kind of snide aside that so deforms much blogospheric writing, combined with an informality of language that infects everything else in a bad way. So. I don't actually deny it. One editor friend told me that as far as he could tell, this blog really served as a sort of advertisement for myself - one the one hand, pure self-indulgence, and on the other, a way of disseminating my work, such as it is, in the brave new world of intellectual production in which, unless you are much more important and famous than I am, no one quite knows the rules for distributing high level, uneconomically self-sustaining academic cultural production. All that is probably about right. I'll try to think harder about this - later. I have some real work to do!

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, quick note to self about reading the reviews of Infidel

This is really a note to myself on something to follow up. I am not especially interested in reviewing Ayaan Hirsi Ali's new memoir, Infidel, which is now somewhere high up on the NYT bestseller list. I am, however, quite interested in reviewing the reviews, which I find quite troubling. (This is just a note to self, so I won't march through them here - they are accumulating on my side table, though.) Many of them are critical of Ali on what amount to the ground that she has not written an academic tome, with all the carefully hedged defenses and qualifying language and attention to scholarly detail that academic books require, or anyway should require.

Infidel is, however, exactly what it is, no more, but certainly no less, a highly personal memoir, a polemic, an incendiary statement of leaving the faith that has, or used to have, or has provided one is not a (ex)Muslim woman doing it, a long and honorable history in literature and politics. The pedantic, carping - see the TLS review, in particular - grounds on which the critical reviews choose to attack her have about as much sense of proportion and groundedness as subjecting, oh, say, The Vagina Monologues to a witheringly critical academic eye. Infidel, like The Vagina Monologues, and a vast amount of the even quasi-academic literature in the journals of gender and feminism, is really a cri-de-coeur, and has to be taken on that basis. The Vagina Monologues get played on pretty much every college campus in America annually, as a solidarity ritual, not about intellect but affect, and it wouldn't occur to me - and I am scarcely a feminist - to think it appropriate to critize it as though published as a Ph.D dissertation from Oxford or Cambridge UP. So on what double standard does Infidel deserve to get beat up that way?

Well, I recently reread the text of J'accuse - truth is, it wouldn't stand up all that well to a withering academic attack even in the context of what was known at the moment it was written, an academic attack that carped and jibbed about the nature of the French state, the military, French society, the social and cultural role of the Jews in France, etc. That The Vagina Monologues are merely fiction, a play? Well, one could point to so many things in the history of feminism of the past forty years instead that aren't presented as fiction, but are instead presented as personal memoir, personal confession, the primacy of personal experience - everything from performance art masquerading as academic classes in women's studies departments around the country to the content of many frankly confessional academic articles - and the academic articles defending the honesty of the confessional rather than analytic genre. For that matter, Infidel, in the history of feminism in the Muslim world, is something akin to burning bras back in the 70s - it's a polemical act, a move in the culture, not something to analyze according to high-brow academic criteria (although, as I recall, there was plenty of that kind of writing at the time, too). Tighten up the straightjacket - the corset? the burqa? - of multiculturalism to muzzle the kind of polemical act that has been considered a time-honored way of cultural and social protest until a (ex)Muslim woman decides to give it a shot. Where is the sisterhood? Dwelling in the small details, the academic failings, the little errors, seemingly in order to avoid having to take a plain stand for what, so long as the targets are Christian or Catholic or Western or patriarchy in the abstract, seemed so obvious. Gone AWOL.

And likewise the small, churlish asides aimed at the American Enterprise Institute by several of these reviewers, snidely noting the obvious - news just in, AEI is conservative! - that has given a home to Ali. A home, that is, after the Dutch chased her out of Holland. The Dutch are impeccably multiculturalist. They are also, these days, strongly anti-immigrant. In Ali, as Mark Steyn has noted, they finally managed to find a Muslim extremist so extreme that they could even rouse themselves get her out of the country. Deport some crazy imam preaching death to the enemies of Islam? Naw - instead they chased out a self declared ex Muslim feminist immigrant. God help us all.

But friends of mine at AEI told me not long before Ali arrived that they had strong qualms about taking on an exile case precisely because she's neither an academic/policy analyst/scholar nor a conservative. AEI did it reluctantly, I know from conversations with AEI people, before she arrived and got onto to the NYT bestseller list, as a matter of conscience - because American universities were not falling all over themselves to provide sanctuary and safe haven to an endangered (ex)Muslim feminist, partly, it would seem, out of security concerns and partly out of a deep desire not to anger Muslim students on American university campuses. The places where a Ayaan Hirsi Ali should have been welcomed with open arms - the women's studies departments of any American university, for example - conspicuously failed to step up to the plate. AEI provided safe haven to a feminist exile driven out of civilized, multiculturalist Western Europe that civilized, multiculturalist American universities did not. AEI, I'm certain, is very happy that this has gone well, but it had reasons to be doubtful before the fact.

(This is something that I'd like to take up perhaps in one of the gender & law journals, as a review of the reviews of Infidel, if it is able to deal with something of a J'accuse. Actually, I think it would make a good short polemic for the New York Times Magazine or maybe the weekend WSJ if it hadn't already done a "weekend interview" with Ali. It would have been perfect, I think, for the LAT Book Review under the great, great Steve Wasserman. The TLS has already done a review of it which, although learned and elegant, still managed to annoy me. The decline of the book reviews in newspapers is dismaying - topic for another day. Anyway, if there are any of editors out there interested in discussing a short review of reviews along these lines, contact me. The reviews are piling up here on my desk.)

Thanks to the NYU International Human Rights Colloquium

Professor Philip Alston, a leading worldwide academic on human rights and professor at NYU law school, invited me up to the International Human Rights Colloquim at NYU last week to address the question of the superpower's compliance with international human rights norms. My thanks to Philip and to the students in the Colloquium and to NYU law school - it was a lovely experience in every way. The students, while understandably skeptical of the positions I took, without exception went out of their way to be generous in absorbing my arguments, while not hestating stronlgy to express their own views. I appreciated greatly the intellectual vigor they put into the process, the preparation they put into reading my memo - especially since it arrived barely in time for the session itself and was very much a first draft - and particularly the care they took in listening to views that in large part differed from their own. That kind of fairmindedness is rare in today's bitterly partisan environment and, believe me, it gets noticed. I also greatly appreciated Philip's introduction, because it, too, showed extraordinary intellectual generosity in talking about positions I've taken with respect to things like global civil society over the years, human rights, etc. Philip is a great person anyway - a wickedly dry sense of humor - and NYU is very lucky to have him. The discussion was great, I learned a lot; dinner afterwards Philip and some students in the Village was great fun - at least for me, hope everyone else enjoyed it as much as I did. Even though I had to get up at 4:30 am to get a train back in time for class in DC the next day, the law school gives visitors the finest view in Manhattan from the 14th floor suite looking uptown to the Empire State Building. Great trip, and my thanks to Philip and everyone at NYU.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Announcing policy paper on counterterrorism policy by Elisa Massimino, Human Rights First, and ... me!

(Update, Thursday, March 7, 2006: Welcome Opinio Juris readers, and my thanks to Peter Spiro there for calling attention to Elisa's and my piece!)

The Stanley Foundation, headquartered in Muscatine, Iowa, has an ambitious and exciting foreign policy project in the run-up to the 2008 elections. Called "Bridging the Foreign Policy Divide," it brings together pairs of experts across the center left, center right divide to write a joint paper exploring both common ground and differences on important foreign policy topics. David Shorr, a long time human rights and foreign policy expert and advocate in DC, now with the Stanley Foundation in Iowa, coordinates the program. It has many outstanding participants - Mark Lagon and David Shorr on the UN; Gary Schmitt and Michael Schiffer on China; Ivo Daalder and Robert Kagan on America and the Use of Force; Michael O'Hanlon and Frederick Kagan on Iraq and US military strength - you can see the full list at the Stanley Foundation website. The project is just starting to release the published reports - starting with Lagon and Shorr on the UN - and they can be accessed here. The series is edited by Derek Chollett of CSIS, Tod Lindberg of Hoover and editor of Policy Review, and David Shorr of the Stanley Foundation; they also writing in the series.

Elisa Massimino, long time Washington director of Human Rights First - the leading civil liberties/human rights advocacy organization on the US war on terror - and I were asked if we would write a paper together on issues related to the war on terror. The idea, once again, is to pair a centrist conservative with a centrist progressive (Elisa, can I call you a "centrist progressive"?) to see what common ground - without ignoring the differences - we could work out. I found this to be one of the most enjoyable collaborations in writing I've ever had - almost entirely due to Elisa being such a wonderful person. She never hesitates to state her view plainly, without pulling punches, so you always know where she's coming from, but at the same time is utterly reasonable about everything and is always willing to try and see the other side and try to find the common ground. I can see why her reputation as a human rights advocate is so high here in DC. She's also a great writer and editor, knows all of these issues like the alphabet - this article was a great pleasure to produce.

It's also hard, of course, if you are in Elisa's institutional position - I'm just an academic and can say anything I like, but if you are a leading institutional advocate, then you have to think very carefully about how an attempt to build common ground, find compromises that you might not have advocated on your own, will go over with your own human rights community. It took some guts for Elisa to sign off on this project in a way that is simply not an issue if you are, like me, a free agent academic. But one of the great things about this project is that working closely with someone as experienced, informed, and smart as Elisa really did cause me to rethink my positions - I changed my mind on some important things, not on some others, but I have a far better understanding of the complicated arguments on all sides, and that's thanks to Elisa's patient discussions.

Anyway, our paper, The Cost of Confusion: Resolving Ambiguities in Detainee Treatment, is being released next week. We're having a small dinner to launch it Tuesday night, and then a larger lunch event in DC on Friday. It is not long - deliberately held down to 6 or 7,000 words, and we've tried to avoid swamping the piece with legal technicalities. But we think it's a pretty good policy statement of where a new administration ought to go. I will be writing more on this myself down the road, and I'm sure Elisa will be as well, and this joint project has underpinned my thinking about these issues. The paper can be downloaded from the Stanley Foundation, but I've also posted it to SSRN, here.