Friday, January 13, 2006

A New Award

Today, I hereby announce the creation of the Bruce Ackerman Award for Political Advocacy Disguised As Scholarly Authority. We dedicate this award to the Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University because he has perfected the art of using his academic position and stature to engage in political advocacy disguised as learned scholarship. The best specimen I have ever seen is his brilliant piece in the London Review of Books claiming that Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, and Robert Bork are Neo-Conservative jurists! So with that, look forward to the very first award. A hint: like Ackerman, it will be a Yale Law Professor.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Alito and the Concerned Alumni of Princeton

Supposedly, Sam Alito included the CAP on his 1985 application to work in the Reagan administration as part of his conservative credentials. It has been alleged that the purpose of the CAP was to turn the tide against coeducation at Princeton and oppose the admission of blacks and other minorities. I don't know enough about CAP to say whether this is true or false, and certainly opposing the admission of blacks and other minorities sounds problematic. I also don't know enough about Alito's specific involvement with the group (did he just send a yearly check for a year or two, or was he plotting with the main guys what the strategy should be? are the bad-sounding statements made by the group's leaders indicative of the positions taken by CAP or did CAP have other official goals?).

I am simply commenting on the outrage that the coeducation bit has generated here and here.

Now, recall that until the late 1960's and early 1970's, some schools such as Princeton and Yale were all-male. Imagine now for a moment, that Bryn Mawr or Smith (which are currently all-female) decided now all of a sudden, to go co-ed and some powerful alumni were vocally opposed to that move. Would these alumni be in the wrong and should they be condemned for their sexism? After all, the number of men in colleges has been declining rather precipitously in recent years. Again, I am not saying that coeducation has been bad for Princeton and Yale. In fact, in hindsight, I think that it was a great idea. But, would it be wrong for alumni to want to maintain the distinctive character that defined their colleges? I don't think that nowadays, anyone would lambast Bryn Mawr or Smith alumni if they were opposed to co-education, nor should they. But why should CAP be criticized for their desire to keep Princeton all-male at the time?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Misoverestimating Europe

Katerina Apostolides, over at my old haunts, the Yale Free Press blog, writes up an interesting review of Robert Kagan's book Of Paradise And Power. I haven't read the book, so I cannot comment on Kagan's work, but I have some serious issues with Katerina's analysis of the relationship between European and American conceptions of power.

First, there are several problems with her facts. Among them, she writes:

Of course, during the Cold War, America had reasons for wanting Europe to arm herself (and take responsibility for self-protection), but in the aftermath of the Cold War, it has been to America's advantage to be able to establish world hegemony.

Umm, if that's true, then America has not been very succesful at it. Before the expansion of NATO in recent years, the ratio of North American defense expenditures (US and Canada) to those of Europe, has been essentially constant. You can go here to see the figures (I'm using the 1988 and the 2001 charts) for yourselves. So either, America was not particularly succesful at getting Europe to fund its own defense back during the Cold War, or it is not succesful now at supressing their military expenditures. And remember, that Germany, one of Europe's largest economies has a neutered military and so can not arm itself too much, even if it wanted to, or was asked by the US. So, I find it hard to believe that the US was attempting to drive up the European military industrial complex back in the 1980's.

Second, she seems to misrepresent the Bartholomew Telegram from 1991 in response to European desires to create a European defense alliance within NATO. I am no expert on the matter, but my cursory studying of the issue seems to indicate that Europe was sort of confused itself as to what role it wanted to take and the US, likewise, had a confused response. For example, later, President Bush the Elder said that if Western Europe wanted to take a more assertive role in its defense, it better make that decision soon. Again, I am not an expert on this, but my understanding of the issue is that it was a time of general confusion on both sides and that both sides sent rather mixed signals about European identity.

Later, she writes:
Among other things, Europe succeeded in getting Iran's support for the invasion of Afghanistan.

I can't imagine that it would have required much arm-twisting on the Europeans' part since Iran's ruling Shiite crypto-fascists hated Afghanistan's ruling Wahhabi crypto-fascists. In fact, the Iranian mullahs endorsed George Bush for president over John Kerry, among other things, thanking him for getting rid of its two sworn enemies, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.

But the problems about the facts are the least of them, in my opinion. She can not provide one iota of evidence how the "soft" approach of the Europeans can achieve anything. After the Iran zinger, she writes:
This may be true, and yet it denies that there is a place for diplomacy, soft power, and negotiation that Europe--uniquely--offers. For example, when Pres. Bush identified the 'axis of evil', including Iraq, Iran and North Korea, Europe understandably reacted to this language.

Does she have any insight or ideas as to why it is "understandable" that Europe would react to such language? Just because it's mean to say someone is evil?

She writes that "There needs to be an alternative to 'confrontational, coercive politics' and Europe embodies precisely that." But confrontational, coercive politics achieves results. I agree that starting random wars for no reason is a bad idea (and reasonable people can disagree about the wisdom of the Iraq War), but confrontational, coercive politics involves using both the carrot, and the stick. Because if there is no stick to back up warnings to rogue regimes to change their behavior, then these regimes will have no interest to change.

Finally, I think that part of her argument is somewhat incoherent. She first argues, as above, that the US wants Europe to be weak militarily now, because it's in our interest to become a global hegemon. But she then writes:
While it may benefit America in the long run for Europe to become stronger, it will not benefit her for Europe to embrace the full implications of the 'ideology of power.'

So which is it? Do we want a powerful Europe or don't we? Which will benefit us more, a powerful Europe or a weak Europe?

I am not saying that the Europeans are worthless and that we should not be partners with them. To the contrary, our partnership is important. It will only work, however, if both Europe and the US are in agreement as to the consequences to be faced by rogue states and actors who do not abide by civilized norms of behavior. There is a longer post waiting to be written here somewhere, but that will have to wait for another time.