August 26, 2005

Links of the Week

Jim Robbins looks at the fracturing alliance between domestic insurgents and al Qaeda in Iraq.

Omar of Iraq the Model explains the deadlock over the Iraqi constitution (which may break this weekend).

Instapundit does one of his ever-expanding posts, this time on SUVs and fuel economy.

Christian Lowe reports on the Pentagon's search for metrics to assess the success of the War on Terror.

Patrick Ruffini analyzes his latest poll of (self-selected) blog-readers' GOP primary preferences.

Finally, this clip has been going around, though I find it less interesting as a partisan brickbat and more interesting as a reminder that Bob Hope, who died only two years, was already in his late 30s by the time of The Ghost Breakers (1940).

Posted by John Tabin at 11:57 AM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2005

A UN for Democracies?

Mickey Kaus finds, in the December 3, 1984 New Republic, an item on a list of "good ideas for Democrats to start chewing on" that seems "much more relevant today, actually, than it was back in 1984, before the fall of the Berlin Wall:"

A United Nations of the democracies. A world body composed only of nations that share our most important values might be a more effective forum for addressing some of the international concerns now being ignored or parodied in the glass house by the East River. The promise of membership in such a prestigious club, and the threat of expulsion, might even become effective incentives for democratic behavior by countries on the brink. The first issue a "democratic U.N." might usefully address would be a treaty to fight terrorism. A common, and not always unjust, complaint about the Democratic Party is that it has become isolationist. If the "liberal internationalism" that the Scoop Jackson wing of the party claims to long for is to be distinguished from the foreign policy of President Reagan, it must include cooperative elements like this, and not just a military buildup and concomitant snarling.
Comments Kaus:
You'd think President Bush... might be highly receptive to this idea. Of course, a U.N. that included only democracies could also provide--eventually--a legitimate framework for a nascent world government. That would ... er, reduce its appeal to many of today's Republicans. But should it bother Democrats?
A union of democratic nations actually already exists. It's called the Community of Democracies. A couple of years ago I reviewed Mark Palmer's Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025, in which Palmer touts the CD:
Palmer admits that CD is a work in progress, but he envisions it as a muscular force for democracy promotion -- a strong caucus in the United Nations, a broad security alliance -- and calls on it to endorse "all out and universal democracy by 2025" as its goal. Palmer would thus like to upend the traditional fastidiousness about interfering in other countries’ affairs and declare dictatorship itself a crime against humanity.
I expressed skepticism about this back then; democracies are going to have a lot of trouble agreeing that spreading democracy is a legitimate or even wise goal, especially in a world where democratic politics is often marked by divisions over anti-Americanism and pro-Americanism.

James C. Bennett's network commonwealth idea seems much more promising as far as organizing democracies goes. (In addition to the Anglosphere, Bennett has also, in a letter to The National Interest, posited that links between Spain and Latin America might grow into a "Hispanosphere.")

I'm not saying the CD idea is useless. (I don't take the world government worry very seriously, at least in the medium term; what Eugene Volokh would call the mechanism of this slippery slope strikes me as relatively weak.) For Democrats, who ascribe the UN with so much import, improving it is indeed a worthy goal.

Posted by John Tabin at 09:32 PM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2005

Dhaka Blues

My AmSpec column today deals with how democracy, even in a less-than-robust form, will help Bangladesh (and by extention other Muslim countries) deal with Islamist terror.

(The title of this post is a reference to a song title. If you can name it, I'll be impressed.)

Posted by John Tabin at 01:46 AM | Comments (5)

August 19, 2005

Links of the Week

Bob Tyrell nominates Ariel Sharon for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Mickey Kaus didn't think he'd "ever again have to discuss 'comparable worth,' one of the really bad ideas from the comic book era of interest group liberalism in the Carter years," but he does.

Bill Ardolino tears apart rampant alarmism over the safety of chemical abortion.

Revenge of the Sith, when translated into Chinese and then back into English, is not quite the same.

Finally, talking about the new Harry Potter book with Max Burbank makes him spitting mad (naughty words alert).

Posted by John Tabin at 06:13 PM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2005

Horror in Bangladesh


Here's the CIA Word Factbook on Bangladesh; here's Freedom House. Highlights: 83% Muslim; Ranked "Partly Free"; is a somewhat-functional parliamentary democracy. Also, "extensive export of labor to Saudi Arabia" and other Gulf States.

Posted by John Tabin at 11:44 PM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2005

Links of the Week

Bruce Reed casts a jaundiced eye at the Able Danger story, and observes that "Big Brother and Big Government have a tendency to cancel each other out. Even when the government knows everything, there's no telling whether anyone in government knows it."

Meanwhile, Tom Maguire has spent the last several days examining the Able Danger story from every conceivable angle; just keep scrolling.

Tim Butcher of the Telegraph reports on the Israeli debate over bombing Iranian nuclear facilities.

Jacob Sullum highlights one of the more egregious Drug War stories in recent memory.

Jonah Goldberg pinpoints the problem with the cable news habit of pitting opinion journalists against party hacks.

Finally, speaking of Jonah Goldberg: You provide the name, and the Random Goldberg-ism Generator will spit out a Jonah-style insult. Did you know that "Brad DeLong is a perfidious, jabbering shyster?"

Posted by John Tabin at 09:19 PM | Comments (0)

Brad DeLong is Embarrassed

Says the Paul Krugman of the West Coast, Berkeley economist J. Bradford DeLong:

I am embarrassed for [TechCentralStation] by John Tabin's inability to grasp the point that there is good reason to fear that the private sector won't do enough basic R&D because that kind of intellectual property is hard to appropriate: TCS: Tech Central Station - Big Government Libertarianism
I got some nice responses to that column-- Ramesh Ponnuru linked, Stephen Green declared it "Required Reading"-- but I don't think anything could be nicer than a diss by DeLong. I love you, too, Professor!

P.S. Is there a chance that I'd grasp said point if the good Professor deigned to, you know, argue it? Well, there's no way to know, is there?

P.P.S. DeLong more or less rests his anti-TCS case on the argument that no one who gets financial support from a lobbying firm can have anything worthwhile to say. Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign got $195,825 from lobbyists (and a lot more from their clients). DeLong worked for the Clinton Administration. I don't think that necessarily means no one should ever take DeLong seriously. Perhaps he disagrees?

Posted by John Tabin at 12:36 AM | Comments (2)

August 11, 2005

I Just Ran, Iran All Night And Day

Some notes on the responses to last week's AmSpec column about Iran.

Commenter Lamar Johnson questions the Washington Post's sourcing. While I have no doubt that the anonymous leakers have an anti-Bush agenda, I don't think that means WaPo has the story wrong, exactly. The article is obviously spun to support the "Bush is overhyping the threat" view, but there are apparently enough sources that one of them probably would have said so if the facts on the content of the NIE were actually wrong.

So, should we trust the "carefully hedged" NIE that Iran is ten years from the bomb? Yes and no. We should at least keep the 10-year figure in mind as a best-case scenario, just as we should keep the worst case scenarios in mind. Remember, Reuel Marc Gerecht was warning two years ago that Iran could go nuclear by this year. It's reasonable to assume that the truth lies somewhere in between those extremes. And since the best-case scenario anyone was talking about prior to the new NIE was a five-year timeline, it's not crazy to analyze the situation under the assumption that we have more time than we thought before a preemptive strike, of the sort that Gerecht (along with Gary Schmitt and Charles Krauthammer) has called for, becomes necessary.

Speaking of worst-case scenarios, if you have digital access to The New Republic it's worth contemplating Michael J. Mazarr's argument against such a strike, on the grounds that it could trigger an extremely destructive response from Tehran. There are echoes of some of the sillier bouts of post-Vietnam antiwar scaremongering, but such pessimism is worth at least considering before throwing one's support behind any military action. (Often when you confront a former hawk who has gone wobbly on the Iraq war, it turns out that he never even considered how bad things could get; set alongside the worst-case scenarios brought up before the war, the facts on the ground have never been all that bad, relatively speaking.)

Consider also Trey Jackson's observation that we're already at war with Iran, whence some of the roadside bombs exploding in Iraq are coming. A strike on nuclear facilities won't stop that; per Mazarr, it might greatly exacerbate the problem. In the end, our only hope of fundamentally changing Tehran's behavior is regime change, which a strike would arguably make harder. What we can do to effect regime change before resorting to such a strike, we should.

Posted by John Tabin at 09:40 PM | Comments (1)

August 09, 2005

Hey, Big Spenders?

I discuss embryo-research in a column today at TechCentralStation, and argue what a lot of libertarians seem to have forgotten: federal spending hikes are bad.

Posted by John Tabin at 03:15 AM | Comments (5)

Loose Ends

Sorry to flake out on the link round-up last week, but these things happen.

As to the responses on Friday's Iran column, the most common one is to question the NIE and/or the Washington Post spin on it. That's worth discussing in detail, along with some other Iran-related issues, but it'll have to wait for tomorrow or maybe Thursday; I'm not going to have time today. If you're one of those kids who was always reading ahead in class, some links to get you thinking here and here (though I'm afraid you'll need a TNRDigital subscription for the second link), and check back here later in the week.

Posted by John Tabin at 02:31 AM | Comments (0)

August 05, 2005

And Iran, Iran So Far Away

If Iran is further away than we thought from going nuclear, that's all the more reason to push for regime change. So I argue in my AmSpec column today.

Incidentally, I got the idea for this argument from a Frank Foer blog post. I probably should have mentioned that in the column, but I forgot. (Ramesh Ponnuru is right -- Foer's guestblogging at has been quite good.)

Posted by John Tabin at 01:59 AM | Comments (3)