Monday, June 05, 2006

What to Do When the Bomb Goes Off

Go around the the corner. Someone on /. pointed this out. It does not appear to intentionally satirical. It's hard not to love DHS..

Killing Innovation

I just wanted to link a fantastic article in the IEEE magazine on how the DMCA (and potentially the broadcast flag) harm technological innovation and development. Hardly an original argument, but they have some really great examples and illustrations. I wish I would have had this when Jane Ginsburg came to visit...

Friday, June 02, 2006

More Than Bullshit

While poking around Slate to find the Metcalf article linked in my Fukuyama post, I came across this article on Iraq by Fred Kaplan. Kaplan is roundly disappointed by the approach of John McCain and Condi Rice to the violence in Iraq, which in McCain's words is to tell them to "stop the bullshit." Kaplan is absolutely correct that this is not a mere matter of bullshit or miscommunication, there is a structural problem with Iraq that threatens to rip apart any democratic government put in place. It's the problem I posted on a month ago (May 2nd) that where people identify themselves more by ethnicity or religion than by other political concerns, democracy only deepens the divisions. Every election in the foreseeable future in Iraq will have the same outcome: Shiites win. If you are a Sunni or a Kurd, democracy means you lose.

The issue of how to structure a government that can satisfy all three groups was a major question before we even set foot in Iraq (and one I raised in several contexts pre-TBWJ). They tried to hash this out in the constitutional convention and failed miserably, and basically left the constitution completely open-ended, deferring the problem to later. Now Iraq has struggled month after month just to put together a government after the December election. They haven't even broached the difficult (and likely intractable) question of creating a coherent state in which Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds can all be satisfied. That is not bullshit. That is likely game over for our grand plan to plant the seed of democracy in the Middle East.

Breaking Iraq into three independent nations will have consequences we won't like (destabilizing Turkey (and possible Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia) and creating an Iranian client state in the south), but it may be the only way to end the violence. But as Kaplan points out, there is really no one who can implement a plan like that. The Shiites (who will rule the country as it now stands) have no interest in it. The US and the UN don't appear to have the ability or wherewithal to impose it. Iraq appears to be completely dead in the water, adrift in violence and chaos with no route out.

I give Kaplan credit as well for trying to establish the distinction between Realpolitik and realism that I've argued for here before.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Fukuyama on Neoconservatism

I watched a video tonight of Francis Fukuyama giving a talk at the Miller Center a couple weeks ago. Fukuyama, a very prominent neocon, released a book not that long ago critical of the neocons, and the first part of his talk was a critique on what the neocons got wrong on Iraq. Attacking the neocons on Iraq is, at this point, a shooting fish in a barrel type exercise. But it's interesting to hear the views of someone sympathetic to that philosophy. The second part of Fukuyama's presentation was a critique of the immense focus that the Bush administration has put on democratization, making it the centerpiece of their war on terror. Not that Fukuyama is critical of democratization as a long term objective, but that lack of democracy is not a core cause of terrorism. Then he took a half hour of questions (it's a one hour video), and they were mostly excellent questions. As one questioner notes, Fukuyama covers an immense amount of ground over the course of the hour, but, I think, covers every topic thoroughly.

I have never read any of Fukuyama's books, although I've seen them mentioned often. I have read some of his op-ed's and have generally not been a fan of them. I was, however, pretty much blown away by his performance at the Miller Center. There were only a few minor points where I disagreed with him (primarily his brief comments on domestic policy), and I found him to be very insightful and persuasive, particularly on the second part of his speech (the sources of terrorism) and his discussion of the application of American power in the post-Cold War environment. His presentation of the neocon philosophy as a counter to Kissengerian realism was also quite interesting and has some real merits. His criticism of Kissenger is, in fact, little different from my own. I highly recommend taking the time to sit down and watch this video.

Update: I just wanted to add a link to a great Slate article from last month discussing the Broken Windows theory that Fukuyama mentions. This is not a reference to the broken window fallacy, which is a perfectly good theory, but rather a cockamamie scheme by which major crimes can be reduced by harsh enforcement of minor infractions. The Metcalf article debunks the idea that Broken Windows was a key to crime reduction in New York, and argues that it is merely a nicely dressed up rejection of causal explanations for social phenomena that conveniently allowed Giuliani to bring the full force of the state to bear on socially undesired persons. I found it to be an interesting and persuasive argument and so was disappointed when Fukuyama appeared to give Broken Windows a ringing endorsement in his speech. That was really my only major quibble with what he had to say...