January 04, 2005

Rascally European Union Commissioners

The Edge of England's Sword cites this November 2004 article by MEP Daniel Hannan:
How have we MEPs reacted to the revelation that Jacques Barrot, the EU's new transport commissioner, had a criminal conviction in a party funding scandal?...

Of the 25 commissioners, six are former Communists and four have recently lost elections - again demonstrating that the Commission is not so much undemocratic as anti-democratic, attracting politicians who have been expressly rejected by voters....

Again and again, it is left to the tiny contingent of Euro-sceptics to carry out what ought to be the primary duty of the European Parliament, namely to hold the Commission to account. For years, only British Tories ever asked awkward questions about the budget: most other MEPs were more interested in expanding the EU's finances than in ensuring they were properly spent.

It fell to a man called Nigel Farage, capo of the UK Independence Party, to inform the chamber of Mr Barrot's conviction. The pro-EU parties had not looked into his background because, deep down, they didn't want to find anything.

I hold no brief for the Farageistes. They are doing Blair's work for him, by dividing the Euro-sceptic vote. But the way MEPs reacted to Farage's revelation was horrible. One by one they rose to threaten him with legal action. The Liberal leader, Graham Watson, likened him to the football hooligans who had disgraced Britain in Europe. A fomer colleague of Barrot's, Jacques Toubon, rushed up and down the aisle, apparently looking for someone to punch (Robert Kilroy-Silk, recognising him as the minister who had tried to ban the English language from French airwaves, told him mischievously that no one would understand him unless he spoke English, which sent him into a choking fit). All this because Farage was doing the job that the rest of us ought to have done.

If you think I am exaggerating, consider the Commission's other personnel change - one that has been largely overlooked as a result of the Buttiglione and Barrot affairs. The Latvian candidate, Ingrida Udre, was withdrawn as a candidate. Her crime? To tell MEPs that she favoured tax competition. Her inquisitors were scandalised, and Mrs Udre was duly replaced by a Hungarian apparatchik.

I wonder what European government will be like in fifty years. An oligarchy? But perhaps that is what it is now.

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January 03, 2005

Disappearnce of Weapons during the U.S. Occupation of Japan

People have commented that although the U.S. occupations of Germany and Japan after World War II are generally thought to be a grand success, they, like our occupation of Iraq, had their rough spots. I just came across an example of this in Robert Whiting, Tokyo Underworld (1999), page 19:
"But those responsible for the disappearance of large stores of diamonds--transferred to the custody of the U.S. Army from--the Bank of Japan and other venues--were never found; nor Ware those who had made off with the entire armory of the disarmed Tokyo police force sometime between 1945, when the GHQ disarmed the Metropolitan Police Department and placed the weapons in securely locked storage crates in a military warehouse in Yokohama, and 1946, when the crates were opened and the contents were discovered to be missing."
Whiting's book tells about the pervasive influence of black marketeering gangsters during the Occupation-- gangsters whose influence rivalled that of the legitimate Japanese government and were more important to daily life than was the small U.S. presence.

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December 31, 2004

Countries' Generosity with Foreign Aid: Drezner Post

Professor Drezner has a thorough post on the per capita foreign aid of different countries.

Of course, the United States is also the biggest economy, so the raw dollar term doesn't mean that much. What about in per capita terms? Here's the ranking of contries by relief aid per capita per day (in cents, not dollars):

1. Norway 21.04
2. Sweden 11.81
3. Denmark 5.95
4. Switzerland 5.85
5. Netherlands 5.15
6. Belgium 2.94
7. United Kingdom 2.58
8. Finland 2.38
9. United States 2.34
10. France 2.17
11. Canada 2.10
12. Australia 1.93
13. Ireland 1.83
14. Austria 1.23
15. New Zealand 1.18
16. Spain 0.61
17. Germany 0.61
18. Italy 0.42
19. Greece 0.27
20. Japan 0.06
21. Portugal 0.03


Even if you factor in private giving, the United States ranks 19th out of 21 rich countries in terms of per capita expenditures, according to the 2004 Ranking the Rich exercise. Here's a link to the background paper for those curious about the methodology, which factors in the extent to which aid is "tied" (requiring recipients to spend it {inefficiently} on donor country goods) and whether the aid is going to governments that spend the money wisely. For what it includes, the methodology on this dimension is rock-solid.

This figure does not include remittances, but as I've argued previously, it's questionable whether this reflects the generosity of Americans -- or, more importantly, whether such an inclusion would dramatically alter the rankings.

This does not mean that the United States is particularly stingy on other dimensions of helping the poor. The Ranking the Rich exercise included aid as only one of seven components -- the others are trade, investment, migration, environment, technology, and security. When you aggregate the different components, the U.S. comes in at 7th out of the 21 countries (intriguingly, among the G-7, the Anglosphere countries -- Great Britain, Canada, and the U.S. -- come in at 1-2-3). It turns out that the U.S. is comparatively more generous on other dimensions.

*A final note: Matthew Yglesias correctly points out that the comment triggering the whole debate was not aimed specifically at the United States:

What the UN official actually said was that rich countries including the US are stingy with aid money. ...

"It is beyond me why are we so stingy, really," the Norwegian-born U.N. official told reporters. "Christmastime should remind many Western countries at least, [of] how rich we have become."

"There are several donors who are less generous than before in a growing world economy," he said, adding that politicians in the United States and Europe "believe that they are really burdening the taxpayers too much, and the taxpayers want to give less. It's not true. They want to give more." (emphases added)

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December 28, 2004

French Policy: A French-Arab Alliance?

"Mass-Hysteria Time Following Black Tuesday --Nov. 2--Europe goes nuts" by David Pryce-Jones, from the November 29 print National Review says
A long-term policy is coming to a head. When the Soviet Union began to fail 20 years ago, France saw an opportunity to replace it in the Middle East. Supposedly the Europeans and the Arabs were to come together in a bloc, a superpower to counter the United States. As a means to this end, Chirac was always glad to give unconditional support to Saddam Hussein.
This theory fits all the facts. Has it been overtly stated by French politicians or intellectuals?

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November 16, 2004

French-American Relations--Chirac Hostility to the Bush Administration

It is important for anyone who blames Bush for poor relations with France to remember not only France's past support for Saddam Hussein and profit from dealings with him, but also the harsh words France has for us. From the London Times

M Chirac, speaking to British journalists, including The Times, soon after General Powell’s announcement, revealed that he had urged Mr Blair to demand the relaunch of the Middle East peace process in return for backing the war.

"Well, Britain gave its support but I did not see anything in return. I’m not sure it is in the nature of our American friends at the moment to return favours systematically."

In other remarks that will sting the Bush Administration, he again outlined his vision of a "multipolar" world in which a
united Europe would be equal with the US, and mocked Donald
Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, for his division of Europe into old and new.

M Chirac said that there would be no division between Britain and France.

"It is like that nice guy in America " what’s his name again? " who spoke about ‘old Europe’. It has no sense. It’s a lack of culture to imagine that. Imagining that there can be division between the British and French vision of Europe is as absurd as imagining that we are building Europe against the United States."

Surely it is well past time to stop thinking of France as being any more our ally (or enemy) than Russia is.

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October 30, 2004

The Situation in Sudan

It's Sudan Day here at Indiana University. Sudan now has not one but two distinct collapses of civil society: in the South, and in Darfur. The South has been in turmoil ever since the 1950's, except for one period from 1972 to 1983 when the Khartoum government made peace and allowed autonomy. There is no reason for the Moslem North and the Christian/Pagan South to be one country, really, though a federal system could work. But in 1983, the discovery of oil in the South and Northern Islamism combined to make the North end autonomy and restart the war. It's unclear how many hundreds of thousands or millions have died in the South (some say 3 million). But what is clear is that the South has been in anarchy. The North has not seriously tried to conquer the South, but it has used such things as raids, funding of bandits and militias, and aerial bombing of civilians to prevent anybody else from governing the South. The aim seems to have been to keep the South utterly undeveloped, so it could not present any kind of threat to Northern plans. The situation would be like the traditional one, where the North, in a more advanced state of development, could go South for resources (slaves then, oil now) without needing to actually govern it....

...It took 20 years, but now the oil is flowing. A couple of good reports on it are the U.S. Dept. of Energy Sudan Brief and the 3MB Human Rights Watch 2003 oil report , especially the section, "Oil Revenues Soar", and the International Crisis Group's 250-page 2002"God, Oil and Country: Changing the Logic of War in Sudan". (See also the older report of my own organization, South Sudanese Friends International). Total government revenue from all sources rose from 800 million dollars in 1999 to 1,799 million dollars in 2002; revenue from oil rose from 61 to 805 million dollars (Table 1). By 2005 oil output will have doubled-- and oil prices are up too. So time are good for Khartoum.

But not everything has been good. There are two problems for oil production: the turmoil in the South, and international-- especially American-- disapproval. The calculus of costs and benefits for the North has changed. The Islamist leader Hassan Turabi is under house arrest, and his secular ally General Bashir is firmly in power. Foreign oil companies are producing the oil, but with the exception of the Swedish-Swiss private company Lundin, they are non-western oil companies. Talisman, the Canadian company, sold its stake after criticism of its support for Khartoum became too hot. And the war in the South is bad for oil production. Thus, peace now has the possibility of being a win-win situation. The North can escape foreign criticism and produce oil at less cost; the South can have peace and a share of the oil money.

In 2004, Khartoum and the SPLA, the biggest of the many Southern groups, signed a peace, under U.S. auspices. Whether Khartoum will keep to the details of the agreement seems to me doubtful-- a 50-50 oil split and possible independence of the South in a few years seems much too good to be true-- but what is much more likely is that peace will come. That is what the South chiefly needs-- peace, so that the villages and towns can operate normally, and begin the climb from poverty that occurs automatically if official and unofficial pillage does not prevent it. Even if the oil money all goes to the SPLA leadership and Khartoum, if that keeps them off the backs of the Southern people, it will be a blessing.

"What about Darfur?" you may ask. I don't understand what is going on there. It is an immense tragedy, similar to the Southern one in that it takes the form of rampaging militias tacitly supported by Khartoum and of a refusal to govern. Khartoum's motivation is harder to see. The people in Darfur who are being oppressed are among the most Moslem in Sudan, so perhaps this is Bashir firming up his power-- wreck the political structure in Darfur, and then go in to pick up the pieces later. Torabi is on the side of the people in Darfur, which supports this, and there has apparently been a purge of Darfurians in position of power in Khartoum. They have composed a disproportionately large share of the army in the past. Unlike the South, Darfur-- in alliance with Moslems in Khartoum-- actually has been a threat to the Bashir regime. That threat is now being suppressed.

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September 27, 2004

The Iraq War: Iraq vs. Iran

Orin Kerr at VC asks whether the pro-war blogosphere is disheartened by events in Iraq. I'm not. In fact, though I used to be firmly in the camp of people who thought that the war was a good thing but that we should have departed after our victory and left Iraq to stew in its own juices, things are going better than I expected, and I'm now wondering whether maybe we will pull off this "First Arab Democracy" business. It's costing dollars and casualties, to be sure, but no more than I would have predicted, and perhaps less.

More generally, I hope the following questions will help sharpen thinking on the value of the Iraq War. We have something akin to a controlled experiment. In 2000, two adjacent countries worried us with their domestic tyrannies and aggressive foreign policies. We overthrew the government of Iraq, but not that of Iran....

...1a. Which country's possible weapons of mass destruction worried you more in 2000, Iraq or Iran?

1b. Which country's possible weapons of mass destruction worry you more in 2004, Iraq or Iran?

2a. Which country had a more oppressive government in 2000, Iraq or Iran?

2b. Which country has a more oppressive government in 2004, Iraq or Iran?

3a. Which country was more apt to aid terrorist attacks in the U.S. in 2000, Iraq or Iran?

3b. Which country is more apt to aid terrorist attacks in the U.S. in 2004, Iraq or Iran?

It seems to me that except for these last questions-- where one might have been more aprehensive about Iran in 2000 than about Iraq-- the answers would point to Iraq being far worse than Iran in 2000 and far better in 2004.

A final question, a bit different, is

4. In 2004, is Iran more apt to use weapons of mass destruction, more oppressive, and more likely to aid terrorist attacks on the U.S. than it was in 2000?

These questions do not address cost, of course, no more than does pointing out how bad and dangerous Hitler was address whether World War II was worth its cost. But they are a good starting point.

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September 22, 2004

Vietnam Warnings Since 1975: Wrong Every Time?

Via IP, I see that Michael Totten says

In one of the cover stories Yossi Klein Halevi and Michael B. Oren (author of the indispensable Six Days of War) explain how Israel beat back the intifada. Here’s the short version.

Israel's triumph over the Palestinian attempt to unravel its society is the result of a systematic assault on terrorism that emerged only fitfully over the past four years. The fence, initially opposed by the army and the government, has thwarted terrorist infiltration in those areas where it has been completed. Border towns like Hadera and Afula, which had experienced some of the worst attacks, have been terror-free since the fence was completed in their areas. Targeted assassinations and constant military forays into Palestinian neighborhoods have decimated the terrorists' leadership, and roadblocks have intercepted hundreds of bombs, some concealed in ambulances, children's backpacks, and, most recently, a baby carriage.

At every phase of Israel's counteroffensive, skeptics have worried that attempts to suppress terrorism would only encourage more of it. [Emphasis added.]

The doom-mongers were wrong. Period. Just as they were wrong when they predicted disaster in Afghanistan. Just as they were wrong when they predicted disaster in Iraq the first time around. Just as they were wrong when they (although it was mostly Republicans this time) predicted disaster in Kosovo.

Those who keep insisting we or one of our democratic allies will actually lose a war have been wrong for a third of a century now. I am thirty four years old. The last time the doom-mongers were right I was three. They have been consistently wrong throughout my entire living memory. (Am I forgetting something? Have we lost a war since Vietnam?)

It’s always the same refrain. Only the details are different.

I might add that we didn't lose in Vietnam either, except by default. The US and South Vietnam destroyed the Viet Cong in 1968. American ground troops then left, and South Vietnam fought off North Vietnam in the 1972 offensive (with lots of US supplies and air support). Until 1975, North Vietnam didn't conquer a single provincial capital. But then South Vietnam collapsed, when North Vietnam attacked and the U.S. would not provide backup. That's not surprising, since countries such as West Germany wouldn't have remained independent after a U.S. pullout and announcement of neutrality either.

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August 18, 2004

U.S. Popularity in Latin America; Economist Magazine Bias

A poll from Latinobarometro asked "What is your opinion of the United States?" As reported in the August 14, 2004 issue of The Economist, there was considerable variance among countries. What was reported for 1996 and 2004 was

Favorability =[("very good" + "good") - (very bad" + bad")]

In 2004, the most favorable was Central America (about +70%, reading from the diagram) and the least favorable was Argentina, at -30%. The positive countries were Central America, Ecuador, Peru, Columbia, Paraguay, Chile, Venezuala, and Brazil. Uruguay and Bolivia were both at about zero. Mexico and Argentina were the only countries unfavorable to the Unite States.

How about the change from 1996 to 2004? Has Bush dissipated America's goodwill abroad? The biggest gain in favorability towards America was Columbia, at about a 60 point gain, and the biggest decline was Argentina, with a 50 point loss. Here are my estimates for all the changes:

> >
Change in Favorability towards the United States, 1996 to 2004
COUNTRY CHANGE (+ means more favorable)
Columbia +60
Central America +40
Peru +20
Ecuador 0
Chile 0
Venezuala 0
Bolivia 0
Mexico -10
Uruguay -20
Brazil -30
Paraguay -30
Argentina -50

I don't see much of a pattern in this. Three countries are more favorable, four are about the same, and five are less favorable.

Thus, I would conclude that Latin Americans are surprisingly favorable to the United States in view of the longstanding anti-Americanism of its Left (and maybe its Right too), and that the War Against Terror has not had a clear effect either way. Yet The Economist titles the table "Cool to Uncle Sam" and summarizes it as

"But Central America and some Andean countries apart, the region remains alienated from the United States (chart 8). The Anti-Americanism that surged over the war in Iraq has not yet subsided."

This is so contrary to what Chart 8 actually says, which I just described above, that I checked it over several times just to see if they'd gotten the chart description backwards by accident. But no, the chart numbers really do contradict their summary of it.

The Economist hates President Bush, and this shows up in a slide in the quality of its reporting.

Media bias is nothing new, of course. Kevin Hassett and John Lott have a 2004 working paper, "Is Newspaper Coverage of Economic Events Politically Biased?", quantifying the anti-Republican bias in the election year economic coverage of major newspapers. I mention this story mainly because I used to read and respect The Economist. I hadn't read it for a year or so, and haven't read it regularly for ten years or so, and I was shocked when I picked up the August 14 issue to read on the airplane recently.

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