Sunday, September 28, 2003

'I do get rattled'

Paul Krugman is a mild-mannered university economist. He is also a New York Times columnist and President Bush's most scathing critic. Hence the death threats. He talks to Oliver Burkeman

Oliver Burkeman
Friday September 19, 2003
The Guardian

The letters that Paul Krugman receives these days have to be picked up with tongs, and his employer pays someone to delete the death threats from his email inbox. This isn't something that can be said of most academics, and emphatically not of economic theorists, but Krugman isn't a typical don. Intercepting him in London on his way back home to New Jersey after a holiday in France, I half expect to find a couple of burly minders keeping a close eye on him, although they would probably have to be minders with a sound grasp of Keynesian macroeconomics. "I can't say I never get rattled," the gnomish, bearded 50-year-old Princeton University professor says a little hesitantly, looking every inch the ivory-tower thinker he might once have expected to be. "When it gets personal, I do get rattled."

What drives his critics hysterical is not, it ought to be clarified, his PhD thesis on flexible exchange rates, or his well-regarded textbook on the principles of economics, co-written with his wife, the economist Robin Wells; nor the fact that he is probably the world authority on currency crises. For the past five years, Krugman - a lifelong academic with the exception of a brief stint as an economics staffer under Reagan - has been moonlighting as a columnist on the New York Times op ed page, a position so influential in the US that it has no real British parallel. And though that paper's editors seem to have believed that they were hiring him to ponder abstruse matters of economic policy, it didn't work out that way. For the rest of the Krugman interview, including mention of his theory about the "Bush Revolution," see The Guardian

Saturday, September 27, 2003

In GOP, Concern Over Iraq Price Tag
Some Doubt Need For $20.3 Billion For Rebuilding

By Jonathan Weisman and Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, September 26, 2003; Page A01

A new curriculum for training an Iraqi army for $164 million. Five hundred experts, at $200,000 each, to investigate crimes against humanity. A witness protection program for $200,000 per Iraqi participant. A computer study for the Iraqi postal service: $54 million.

Such numbers, buried in President Bush's $20.3 billion request for Iraq's reconstruction, have made some congressional Republicans nervous, even furious. Although the GOP leadership has tried to unite publicly around its president, cracks are beginning to show. For the rest of this analysis of Bush's reconstruction request and how Congressional Republicans are responding, see Washington Post

The Failure to Find Iraqi Weapons
The New York Times

This page did not support the war in Iraq, but it never quarreled with one of its basic premises. Like President Bush, we believed that Saddam Hussein was hiding potentially large quantities of chemical and biological weapons and aggressively pursuing nuclear arms. Like the president, we thought those weapons posed a grave danger to the United States and the rest of the world. Now it appears that premise was wrong. We cannot in hindsight blame the administration for its original conclusions. They were based on the best intelligence available, which had led the Clinton administration before it and the governments of allied nations to reach the same conclusion. But even the best intelligence can turn out to be mistaken, and the likelihood that this was the case in Iraq shows why pre-emptive war, the Bush administration's strategy since 9/11, is so ill conceived as a foundation for security policy. If intelligence and risk assessment are sketchy — and when are they not? — using them as the basis for pre-emptive war poses enormous dangers. For the rest of this editorial that presents a powerful argument against the Bush Doctrine, see The New York Times

Friday, September 26, 2003

Michael Prowse: The UN remains indispensable

By Michael Prowse
September 26 2003

Listening to President George W. Bush's harsh unilateralist rhetoric, it is sometimes difficult to believe that the US played a decisive role in creating the United Nations. Yet as Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, reminded the world this week, but for Franklin D. Roosevelt it would never have come into being.

Then, as now, the US was the world's dominant economic and military power. Yet having lived through the 1920s and 1930s, Roosevelt was acutely aware of the dangers of not engaging constructively with other nations. He understood that a rule-based system of international co-operation was one of the conditions for global peace and prosperity. Thanks largely to his leadership and inspiration, a forum was created through which the peoples of the world could work together for the common good. For the rest of this thoughtful analysis which appeared in the staid Financial Times of London, see Financial Times

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Iraq: Why Bush Now Wants the UN
     By Paul Reynolds
     BBC News Online

Wednesday 03 September 2003

In accepting that the UN should have a security role in Iraq, President Bush has accepted reality.

     Despite a recent claim by chief US administrator Paul Bremer that Iraq is "not a country in chaos and Baghdad is not a city in chaos", events suggest otherwise. Mr Bush does not want to get bogged down there.

     The presidential election next year is a powerful incentive for the Bush team to consider any proposal that prevents Iraq from becoming a determining campaign issue.

     And the influential Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which carries out independent policy studies, has provided a practical reason for Mr Bush to change his policy.

     It says basically that the United States does not have enough troops to do the job, especially if it needs to keep a substantial force free for potential action elsewhere. And the Korean peninsula is on everyone's mind these days. For the rest of the analysis, see BBC News

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Useful Background Analysis of Developments in the Middle East/Iraq

For dependable commentary on the Middle East, history, Islam, and religion that will serve as a useful foundation for understanding foreign policy developments in the region, I recommend the Blog of  Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan. His recent take on the assassination of Ayatollah Mohammed Bakr al-Hakim in Najaf is particularly useful. See Juan Cole * Informed Comment *