high culture, low politics, and everything in between  

Giants and Dwarfs


Home Archives Contact

Friday, February 14, 2003 :::
 
CIVILITY IN SETON HALL. A report from the trenches by prof. Erin O'Connor.

::: posted by our man in Oxford at 9:54 AM


 
FOR THOSE more interested in the debate on Iraq than Chelsea Clinton (see previous post), do check out these answers in addition to our own (further below): Little Green Footballs, the Daily Pundit, Live from Brussels (you read that correctly, a pro-war person in Brussels!), The Weigh In, and Heretical Ideas. Anti-war answers will be posted later.

::: posted by our man in Oxford at 9:44 AM


 
CLINTON GOSSIP CENTRAL. Although Giants & Dwarfs is supposed to be a blog devoted to high culture, we can't help but being interested in Clinton gossip. The news that Chelsea will be leaving Oxford for McKinsey in New York is getting firmer. Page Six, the ever-reliable gossip page of the New York Post, said the following yesterday: "Chelsea Clinton may end up being one of the best-paid college graduates ever. The McKinsey and Boston consulting firms [they mean Boston Consulting Group] are both vying for the Oxford scholar, and one source said, 'McKinsey has upped the ante and offered her close to $100,000 a year.' It beats the $60,000 PAGE SIX reported she was offered last month. Clinton's area of specialty? Health care, of course. 'Chelsea wants to take over where her mother left off,' our spy snickered, referring to Hillary Clinton's embarrassingly failed attempt in 1993 to establish a federal health care service." Gawker.com knows how she got the job. One strange thing was pointed out to us by our McKinsey buddies: the health care division is in New Jersey, not Manhattan...Those with insider-knowledge are encouraged to drop the world a note.

::: posted by our man in Oxford at 9:25 AM


Wednesday, February 12, 2003 :::
 
CROSS-BLOG WAR DEBATE: N.Z. Bear (pro-war) and No War Blog (anti-war) are hosting a “cross-blog war debate.” Bloggers are encouraged to post their answer to a set of five questions. Pro-war bloggers must answer the questions from the anti-war side, and vice versa. You can read more about the process here and here. My answers (purely personal opinions) follow in the next five posts.

::: posted by our man in Oxford at 2:47 PM


 
CROSS-BLOG WAR DEBATE QUESTION #1: Attacking Iraq has been publicly called a "pre-emption" of a threat from Saddam Hussein's regime, whose sins include launching regional wars of aggression. Do you think there is a clear and reliable difference between pre-emptive and aggressive warfare, and if so, what is it? My answer: Yes, there is. An aggressive war is an unprovoked act of aggression of one nation or alliance against one or more other nations, with the aim of destroying those nations or conquering (parts of) their territory. The pre-emptive war that the US and its allies are seeking to wage against Iraq is neither unprovoked, nor intended to destroy Iraq, nor intended to conquer Iraq. Like the pre-emptive strike in 1981 by Israel, the actions by the US are designed to take out a threat before it is too late to do anything about it. Traditionally, the principle of pre-emptive action has been recognized as a valid principle of the ‘just war’.

::: posted by our man in Oxford at 2:45 PM


 
CROSS-BLOG WAR DEBATE QUESTION #2: What do you feel are the prospects that an invasion of Iraq will succeed in a)maintaining it as a stable entity and b) in turning it into a democracy? Are there any precedents in the past 50 years that influence your answer? My answer: How important is it that Iraq stays a “stable entity”? There are those, in the realpolitik school who think that Iraq ought to serve as a counter poise to powerful states in the region, by which they mean Iran. Those theorists are probably right, and therefore powerful forces like the US and Turkey (which seeks to prevent a Kurdish state) will ensure that the territorial integrity of Iraq will be guaranteed. Either way, Iraq now is only stable because it is ruled by a ruthless dictator. Its stability is not natural. Kurds in the North are de facto independent, and the Shi’ites of the South hate Saddam and his Sunni clan even more than the rest of the country. If Iraq is liberated from Saddam, there is room to create a federal state on the territory of Iraq, with more autonomy for the Kurds and the Shi’ites, Iraq will then be a more stable entity than now. As for democracy: I disagree with those on the pro-war front who think Iraq can magically be turned into a healthy democracy overnight. Liberty is more important than freedom and it takes time for liberal democracy to take root. Anyone who thinks that merely holding elections means you’re a liberal democracy should read Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and think again. Nonetheless, the only way to start the necessary process towards liberal democracy in the Middle East is to begin somewhere. Iraq is as good a first step as any. “Precedents” in politics are of limited value. Politics is all about prudence – and that means paying attention to the specific circumstances of each case. There are no hard rules in international politics, only imperfect analogies.

::: posted by our man in Oxford at 2:44 PM


 
CROSS-BLOG WAR DEBATE QUESTION #3: How successful do you think the military operations and "regime change" in Afghanistan have been in achieving their stated objectives? Does this example affect your feelings about war in Iraq in any way? My answer: The stated primary objective was to ensure that Afghanistan ceased to be a haven for the terrorist network of al-Qa’eda, which had essentially taken over the sovereignty of Afghanistan through their alliance with the Taliban. The secondary objective was to kill or apprehend as many members of al-Qa’eda as possible. The first objective has been a resounding success, as the Taliban has been deposed, and al-Qa’eda can no longer operate its camps from Afghanistan with impunity. The second has been a mixed success. Up to a third of the major al-Qa’eda operatives have been killed or detained. Given the absence of any successful operations in the West since 9/11, clearly al-Qa’eda has been hit hard. It is disappointing that Osama bin Laden’s body has not turned up, although I am very skeptical that he is still alive. If he is, why doesn’t he put out a new video? There is no direct connection between the largely successful operation in Afghanistan and my position on the war with Iraq, since the two are distinctly different operations. However, I do want to note that the critics of the Afghanistan operation were proven largely wrong.

::: posted by our man in Oxford at 2:43 PM


 
CROSS-BLOG WAR DEBATE QUESTION #4: As a basis for war, the Bush Administration accuses Iraq of trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological, nuclear), supporting terrorism, and brutalizing their own people. Since Iraq is not the only country engaged in these actions, under what circumstances should the US go to war with other such nations, in addition to going to war with Iraq? My answer: I think the case for war made by the Bush administration is slightly different: Saddam is pursuing illegal weapons of mass destruction (WMDs); he has used WMDs in his possession in the past, both against Iran and his own population; from his behavior of thirty years in power in Iraq we can infer that Saddam is willing to take great risks -- such as attempting to assassinate a former US president and launching missile strikes on the only nuclear power in the region; the more WMD capability Saddam therefore acquires, the more dangerous he becomes; this is true because Saddam could both extract concessions from his neighbors and the West using his WMDs as threats, à la North Korea, or he could actually decide to use his WMDs during a war started by himself, or he could arm various terrorist groups with WMDs in operations directed against Israel, the US, or other Western nations, or nations Saddam disagrees with (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kuwait etc.). To those who think Saddam is unlikely to share his WMD capabilities with non-state terrorist groups because Saddam is jealously guarding his secrets, or doesn't share the same goals as the Islamists, I say that you have not been paying attention. In the first place, it is well documented that Saddam has supported radical Islamic groups such as Hamas. In the second place, why couldn't Saddam simply set up a terrorist group of his own, disguising his sponsorship, and let them terrorize his enemies in the West? All in all, the threat of Saddam is very specific. The US does not want to attack Iraq merely because it has WMDs, or because it has engaged in aggressive wars in the past, or because it sponsors terrorism, or because it brutalizes its population. It wants to attack Iraq because all of the above apply, and Saddam's behavior over the years suggests he cannnot be contained or deterred. How does this apply to other nations? Simply having or seeking to develop WMDs is clearly not a casus belli. The French and the UK has nuclear weapons, so does Israel, so does India, so does Pakistan. In none of these countries, however, (with the possible exception of Pakistan) is there any reason to suspect that those countries are going to use those weapons to threaten the interests of the US. Therefore, there is no need to go to war to take out those regimes. In the future, more military action and/or various kinds of non-military pressure may have to be applied to countries that have WMD capability or seek it, and threaten US or Western or civilized interests, and cannot be deterred. This applies to North Korea, Iran, and possibly Pakistan. How to do always depends on the circumstances of the case, which includes weighing the dangers of non-action versus the dangers of action, as well as the chance of success.

::: posted by our man in Oxford at 2:42 PM


 
CROSS-BLOG WAR DEBATE QUESTION #5: The Bush Administration has issued numerous allegations about the threat represented by Iraq, many of which have been criticized in some quarters as hearsay, speculation or misstatements. Which of the Administration's allegations do you feel stand up best to those criticisms?Answer: I take it that the question refers to Iraq's illegal pursuit of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. I am personally convinced it is attempting to pursue all three. But in terms of evidence it seems especially clear to me that Saddam is pursuing chemical and biological weapons. From previous inspections we know for a fact that he had VX nerve gas and anthrax. He has not given the inspectors the documentary evidence to back up his assertion he has destroyed this. Clearly, it's in Saddam's interests to avert an attack on Iraq. If he really had destroyed it, he would surely have handed over the documents. But he hasn't handed it over, because he hasn't actually destroyed it. I don’t see how anyone can explain this otherwise.

::: posted by our man in Oxford at 2:40 PM


 
JOHN C. WOHLSTETTER has some wise words on the future of the US space program. It is a good beginning of the discussion.

::: posted by our man in Chicago at 12:19 PM


 
THE FORTIETH PRESIDENT of the United States of America is in bad health. Soon the nation will mourn the death of one of its greatest liberal leaders, writes Joshua Green. Yes, you read that correctly... Given the current conservative mythology that surrounds the Gipper, Green's provocative essay provides a perhaps welcome counterbalance. Yet as a loyal Reaganaut, your correspondent in Chicago remains true to the image of the conservative hero of his youth. Admittedly, as no hero is ever perfect, heroes are best admired from afar. Watched from afar, however, they will set a clear example, and none more so than Reagan. Despite his inevitable flaws as a mortal being, the vision that guided Ronald Reagan was never in doubt.

::: posted by our man in Chicago at 1:56 AM


Tuesday, February 11, 2003 :::
 
AN IMPORTANT breakthrough in the field of rodent performance evaluation by our friends over at Harvard Yard.

::: posted by our man in Oxford at 12:42 PM


 
DEATH OF COMMON SENSE IV: The Upper Canada District School Board has removed the word "gun" from all spelling tests in its schools as a result of a complaint by parents of a Grade 1 student. "I realize people hunt in this area, but I still don't think that warrants the teaching of this word to my daughter or any other child," said Mrs. Sousa, the pacifist parent who filed the complaint. Read the whole article, until its nauseating end.

::: posted by our man in Oxford at 11:50 AM


 
SOMEONE in Britain wakes up and smells the coffee. Private companies must be invited to run all new state secondary schools in the UK under plans set out yesterday that will greatly extend private sector involvement in state education. Essentially, whenever a new school is proposed, local authorities will be compelled to seek bids from businesses, charities and parents’ groups. Until now, private companies have been confined to bidding to save failing schools or been involved in establishing city academies to replace them. This is a major revolution in British education. Once again, the Blair government shows that it has the guts to (occasionally) do what my be difficult, but necessary.

::: posted by our man in Oxford at 5:21 AM


 
THE BATTLE IS ON. Chris Patten, the (in my view) insufferable former governor of Hong Kong and current EU External Affairs kommisar will declare his candidacy for Chancellor of Oxford. He will oppose Lord Bingham, the former Lord Chief Justice. Both are former members of Balliol College, as were the previous two Chancellors. If you want to vote, you can find details on the procedure here. It's customary in Oxford not to go through the elaborate graduation procedure until some time after you've actually completed the course. If you want to participate in this unique voting process, however, you can participate in a special ceremony in absentia. Let your college know by 3 March. Your correspondent for one, plans to be there. After all, how many times in your life you do actually get to vote in an election such as this? Just read this priceless statement: "Lord Bingham, 69, confessed to a lack of recent campaigning experience. 'The last time I stood for election was when I stood for the Presidency of Balliol junior common room, and I won by only one vote,' the Senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary said yesterday."

::: posted by our man in Oxford at 4:46 AM


Monday, February 10, 2003 :::
 
HOW TEACHERS UNIONS are busy destroying American education -- the view of the controversial Peter Brimelow.

::: posted by our man in Oxford at 5:39 PM


 
CLINTONS EXITING OXFORD. Word has it that Bill Clinton has said no to becoming Oxford University's new chancellor (scroll down to second item). Apparently, Clinton is "very busy with his.. foundation." It remains to be seen where socialite Chelsea Clinton will go next. Her course at Oxford (an MPhil in International Relations) ends next term, so in less than six months. Some have thought that she will follow her father's footsteps to Yale Law School, but others report she's been offered a job at McKinsey's in New York.

::: posted by our man in Oxford at 12:12 PM


 
NANNY STATE WATCH: "Come fall, parents of schoolchildren in [Lebanon, PA] could be getting report cards of their own. The school system's superintendent is proposing that parents be graded on how involved they are in their children's education ... Under the proposal, parents in this 4,200-student district would be evaluated in areas such as attendance at parent-teacher conferences, whether they return things they have to sign and whether their children come to school healthy and properly dressed. Teachers would check 'yes' or 'no' and send the forms home with student report cards." We need a more responsible, more mature culture. What we get from our state schools is the opposite. Instead of teaching children to grow up, we treat grown ups like children.

::: posted by our man in Oxford at 9:34 AM




Powered by Blogger
Enter your email address below to subscribe to Giants & Dwarfs!


powered by Bloglet