Bob Owens scrawls his latest post in poo.
Author Page for davenoon
So saith Assrocket:
In fact, as we have often noted, if you listened to any of the speeches President Bush gave on Iraq in 2003 or read the Congressional authorization on the war, every rationale that has ever been discussed is there. And, as I have often said, bringing reform and democracy to the Arab world was perceived by me, and by many if not most of the war’s early supporters, as the most important goal.
As Rob has pointed out many times (most recently here), the fact that (now disgruntled) supporters of the war imagined they would get a different kind of war than the one they were promised and the one that they got does not excuse their being played for suckers; as a corollary to that, I’d argue that (continually optimistic) supporters of the war can’t be allowed to retroactively assign equal value to any and all of the claims made by the Bush administration during its campaign for war in 2002-2003.
As even an undergraduate political science major could tell us, the Bush administration offered an incoherent array of justifications for war (Devon Largio actually identified 27). But however inspiring they may have been to John Hinderaker, George Bush’s off-hand, rhetorical promises to dismantle the “torture chambers” and “rape rooms” (at, ahem, Abu Ghraib) and convert Iraq into a “model” for other states in the region are, at the end of the day, as meaningless as McKinley’s vow to bring democratic institutions to the Philippines. If he wants to find some good news in that, more power to him.
After further reflection on the uses and mis-uses of statistics, I have concluded — along with Treason-in-Defense-of-Slavery Yankee, the Milton Friedman Appreciation Society and Supper Club, and Instahack — that something is seriously wrong when major publications print bogus, partisan data from studies whose methodology has been debunked by real, live experts in the field.
The presumption of male privilege is rarely declared so openly as when ignorant people begin yodeling about Title IX, which Congress passed in 1972 to counteract the self-evident gender disparities throughout the education system. Consider the latest cry for gender equity from E.M. Swift of Sports Illustrated:
Look, Title IX was needed in 1972. And it worked brilliantly. But the world has changed. I was a junior in college when it was passed. Now my son is a senior in college. A generation has elapsed, and women’s sports are here to stay. Thank God and Title IX.
But because of Title IX’s unintended consequences, in 2006 the law is causing more harm than good. Women’s sports are no longer on life support. They are vibrant, popular, well-funded and growing. They can be taken off the endangered-species list.
Almost nothing Swift has to say here is either relevant or factually correct. The McGuffin for Swift’s outrage, interestingly, was the decision by my undergraduate alma mater, James Madison University, to cut ten varsity sports (seven of which were men’s teams) to reach compliance with the “substantial proportionality” requirements of Title IX. That decision has evidently set the campus alight with rage, stoked by Jessica Gavora of the National Review among other parties, all of whom (like Swift) promote the errant nonsense that Title IX was “legitimate” in its time but that it has “outlived its usefulness” to such a degree that male athletes are endangered by “reverse discrimination.” (As an alumnus of JMU who remembers the late 1980s — when members of the football team ran a massive gambling operation, when members of the golf team attacked dorm-mates of mine with their putters and sand wedges, and the athletic department became the laughing stock of the mid-Atlantic by hiring Lefty Dreisell as basketball coach after he obstructed the investigation of Len Bias’ cocaine overdose — I can honestly say that the elimination of men’s varsity teams does not trouble me in the least. And Scott Norwood is a graduate of JMU, for chrissakes. But those are my personal views, and I can separate them, I think, from what I see as fair policies.)
As for Swift’s observation that Title IX “was needed” in 1972, nothing could be less obvious. At the time, for instance, women were awarded fewer than 10% of available spots in medical and law schools and earned less than one out of every four doctoral degrees in the US. The University of Virginia, he major public university in my own home state, began admitting women on an equal basis in 1970, the year I was born. Though the 1972 amendments covered all aspects of academic life, most of the hot air disgorged on this issue has emphasized its consequences for collegiate athletics. Swift might be surprised to learn that opposition to Title IX commenced almost instantaneously, before it could have the “brilliant” effects Swift claims to have observed over his lifetime. Since the 1970s, opposition to Title IX developed alongside other movements to curtail redistributive social and economic programs. Congressional efforts to limit the scope of Title IX were routinely raised (and defeated) during the 1970s, and a broader conservative campaign against Title IX has argued that the law has already achieved its goals and that it — like affirmative action, social welfare, the Clean Water Act and so forth — needs to be dismantled. No one, of course, argues that women don’t deserve equal access to higher education and is amenities; but the effects of freezing the enforcement of Title IX (which is what its opponents seek) would preserve the inequities that do in fact exist between women’s and men’s collegiate athletic programs.
For instance, in 2001 Division 1-A men’s college athletic programs spent more than twice the money on men’s programs ($10.9 million) as they spent on women’s ($4.6 million); universities spend an average of $34,000 for each male athlete, compared with about $20,000 for each female athlete. While it’s true that spending on women’s programs has grown at a faster rate than men’s since the 1980s, the overall growth of men’s programs has not — contrary to anti-Title IX mythology — been hampered. Throughout all NCAA divisions, 61 men’s teams were added between 1988-2002. While 174 Division I teams were euthanized, Division III schools added 212 teams Division II schools added just under two dozen. (The truly devoted can read 2002 and 2003 gender equity reports in .pdf form here and here. While improvements have been made since 1972, women are still at an unquestionable disadvantage by every objective measure.)
None of this matter, though, to opponents of gender equity who refuse to be intellectually honest about what they actually want.
Rodger asks, “How would readers feel about adding these sets of questions to graduate school comprehensive exams in international relations?”
Some powers proudly announce their production of second and third generation nuclear weapons. What do they need these weapons for? Is the development and stockpiling of these deadly weapons designed to promote peace and democracy? Or are these weapons, in fact, instruments of coercion and threat against other peoples and governments?
How long should the people of the world live with the nightmare of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons? To what length can powers producing and possessing these weapons go? How can they be held accountable before the international community? And, are the inhabitants of these countries content with waste resulting from the use of their wealth and resources for the production of destructive arsenals?
Is it not possible to rely on justice, ethics and wisdom instead of on instruments of death? Aren’t wisdom and justice more compatible with peace and tranquility than nuclear, chemical and biological weapons?
Interesting questions, from an interesting source. Go see…
|Best known for The Battle of Algiers, Pontecorvo died yesterday in Rome. I watched this film again this past summer, a delayed reaction to this post written by Rob a year ago. The “Three Women/Three Bombs” sequence — from which this clip is taken — is among the most remarkable pieces of filmmaking I’ve ever seen.|
I can’t comment substantively on the proposed French law that would criminalize the denial of the World War I-era Armenian genocide. I know too little about French politics to predict whether it will pass or not (though some of the reporting suggests it probably won’t), and I know too little about the continental politics of the EU to speculate on the weave of motives that might be prompting this bill. Moreover, I tend not to get too animated about the contours of free speech law outside the US (where my ability to alter anything amounts to something less than nil.)
Like Henry, though, I can’t imagine this is going to be especially productive. The Turkish government has always sought to quash debate about the Armenian genocide within and outside its national borders; and whereas few people recall the attempted extermination of the Armenian people (as Hitler once noted in an oft-quoted remark), I simply can’t imagine that the state of actual genocide denial is so great that a law of any sort is going to have much of an effect. There really isn’t any room for disputing the historical evidence of genocide against Armenians within the Ottoman Empire. Like all great bureaucratic atrocities, this one is abundantly documented. To be quite reductive and personal, I equate denying the Armenian genocide with being a shithead. Whether France or anyone else needs an anti-shithead law is worth considering, I suppose, but it strikes me as being somewhat beside the point.
Meantime, though, it’s worth reflecting for a moment on the official stance of the United States government with respect to the Armenian genocide. If the statute being considered in France has debatable value, what are we to make of the official American position, which continues to resist using the actual term “genocide” to describe the liquidation of 1.5 million lives between 1915 and 1917. In a letter sent on 19 February 2000 to Edgar Hagopian and Vasken Setrakian of the Armenian National Committee of America, candidate George W. Bush offered the following uncontroversial observations, which he topped off with a simple pledge:
The twentieth century was marred by wars of unimaginable brutality, mass murder and genocide. History records that the Armenians were the first people of the last century to have endured these cruelties. The Armenians were subjected to a genocidal campaign that defies comprehension and commands all decent people to remember and acknowledge the facts and lessons of an awful crime in a century of bloody crimes against humanity. If elected President, I would ensure that our nation properly recognizes the tragic suffering of the Armenian people.
After his ascent to office, however, Bush carried on in the tradition of his predecessor, who had also — after campaigning in 1992 on a similar pledge — resorted to post-election vague phrases intended not to dismay the Turkish government. It has been 25 years now since an American president used the word “genocide” to describe the 1.5 million Armenian deaths that occurred between 1915-1917. Ronald Reagan was the last — and in fact the only one ever — to do so, which he did quite clearly on 22 April 1981. Every April 24, the date on which Armenians mark the commencement of the genocide, Bush has spoken of the “tragedy,” the “calamity” of these “mass killings”; he has mourned the “bitter fate” and celebrated the “indomitable will” of the Armenian people. But he has carefully refused to use the proper words — that is, the proper word — on those days or any others.
I used to think this cowardice was merely strategic, a style of discourse calculated not to offend an important military and economic ally. I’m now convinced, though, that the vague annual rituals surrounding the Armenian “tragedy” are more than that. Genocide is in fact a legal category, with unmistakable implications for states who choose to invoke the term; by virtue of the 1948 Convention on Genocide (not ratified by the US until the mid-1980s), signatories are obliged to act to “prevent and suppress” acts of genocide. Clearly, to call the slaughter of Armenians “genocide” does nothing to alter the history of that period. The use of the term, however, does serve perhaps as a reminder that the United States knew about the events in eastern Anatolia as they were occurring — they were widely and graphically discussed in the pages of the New York Times, for example — and chose to remain silent. Woodrow Wilson’s Secretary of State Robert Lansing even expressed his view at the time that the Ottoman policies were “more or less justifiable” given the “disloyalty” of Armenians within the realm. He did note, almost off-handedly, that the harsh treatment of the Armenian people might jeopardize the “good feeling” that existed between the Ottoman rulers and the United States.
Lansing’s equivocations would be replicated countless times over the next century, as the United States mumbled and ruminated over — and at times passively abetted — genocidal campaigns in Cambodia, Rwanda, Iraq, and the disintegrating Yugoslavia. The Armenian genocide calls to mind this depressing history. Our government’s refusal to use the correct language is a revealing embarrassment.
You mean I no longer have to rely on Charles Johnson and Michelle Malkin for my news on Middle Eastern affairs?
Mark Lynch of Abu Aardvark has just rolled out a new Middle Eastern “blog-journal,” Qahwa Sada (which evidently means “black coffee”). Lynch explains the premise:
Why a new blog-journal by Middle East experts? Because Middle East studies specialists have a phenomenal amount of quality knowledge about the Arab and Islamic world: deep knowledge about the history of the region, detailed empirical knowledge of political and social trends, sophisticated theoretical insights into their meaning. Many are out there in the region, seeing things happen and talking to people over a sustained period of time. But they often have trouble getting that knowledge out into the public realm. Part of the problem is that there just aren’t nearly enough of the right kind of outlets. Academic journals are not well suited to getting information and analysis out to a wide public, and many have yet to adapt to the internet era. Blogs are wonderful, but not everyone wants one or has the time to run one. The op-ed pages are a crapshoot. MERIP and the Arab Reform Bulletin can’t do it all on their own. That means that debate is too often dominated by people with, shall we say, a less empirically rich or theoretically sophisticated understanding of the region.
I’m particularly excited about this. Abu Aardvark is a daily read for me, and Lynch (whom I’ve never met) seems like a swell fellow in addition to offering really smart observations on media, politics and society in the Middle East.
I will note, however, that it took exactly one post before a commenter — the first commenter ever at Qahwa Sada– descended into a thinly-veiled attack on Juan Cole. Which I suppose only underscores why this project is needed in the first place.
In addition to throwing a competent knuckleball and embarking on a genuine, wake-up-in-a-ditch bender, it’s been a lifelong ambition of mine to write an article on foreign affairs for The Weekly Standard. It can’t be that difficult, as Waller Newell demonstrates this week in yet another bodice-ripper devoted to unmasking the grave existential peril posed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who tips his sinister hand by smiling mysteriously, “as if he knows something we don’t.” Known best for his anthology of writings on manly virtue, Newell has lately restyled himself as an interpreter of political Islam, writing articles that insist by juxtaposition that contemporary jihadists are actually European leftists in Muslim garb. His latest piece claims to locate Ahmadinejad in a perverse intellectual genealogy that includes Hugo Chavez, Robert Mugabe, Jean-Paul Sartre, Frantz Fanon, Martin Heiddeger, Michel Foucault and a more generalized pool of nihilist ideologues including “the Jacobins, the Bolsheviks, and the Nazis, and extending to later third world offshoots like the Khmer Rouge.” (Curiously, Kant and Locke are omitted from this roster of the damned. He’s evidently not a reader of Chris Muir. His loss, I suppose.) Newell packs his article with predictable, apocalyptic references to the “Hidden Imam” — whose return, we are told, will be assured by Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons — as well as the obligatory, credulous reminders that Ahmadinejad seeks to “wipe Israel from the map.” he spends a great deal of time arguing that Ahmadinejad is a contemporary disciple of Ali Shariati, the late Iranian sociologist of religion whose works Newell has clearly not bothered to read.
It’s all a gigantic mess, with scraps of Orientalist gristle thrown together like a mangy dog’s breakfast. But its so typical of the Standard’s prevailing hermeneutic: take an apparently dangerous and unstable personality, imply dark and indiscernible motives behind their conduct, impute to them certain real-world powers that they don’t actually possess, marshall the evidence selectively to show their filial relations to the worst monsters of the 20th century, and wrap it up with intellectually sloppy claims about what this all owes to postmodernism, postcolonialism, Marxism, and Dr. Spock.
I’m pretty sure I could do that.
A brief public service announcement here to any new or soon-to-be new parents in the greater LG&M area: I cannot recommend strongly enough against giving your sick, six-month-old child a “slightly larger than recommended” dose of Tylenol Infant Cold and Cough at, say, 11:30 in the evening. Unless (like me, evidently) you prefer to spend much of your night listening to your child babble incoherently and kick her feet enthusiastically against the bars and mattress of her crib. If my daughter were able to walk, I am pretty confident she’d have stolen her father’s laptop and robbed a liquor store by now.
Shorter Confederate Wankee: Occam’s Razor clearly tells us that the simplest explanation for this study is that a team of researchers devoted years toward earning respected positions in their fields; developing reliable and widely-used statistical methods; composing a study that applies those methods to a current conflict; and surreptitiously grooming peer-reviewers to approve a bogus, partisan article for publication in the world’s most prestigious medical journal . . . all to make the previously-unheard-of observation that the Iraq War has delivered catastrophic effects to the people of Iraq.