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.

Posted by erasmuse at 05:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by erasmuse at 10:25 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by erasmuse at 05:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by erasmuse at 11:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack