Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Links (Way Early) For Thursday

Non-Musharraf stuff to keep you busy:

Fred Kaplan succinctly sums up the Bush administration's problems on the world stage:
Bush and most of his top officials have now reached the point, if they haven't raced past it long ago, where nobody can afford to believe a single thing they say.

The New York Times with a fantastic feature on who I believe to be the smartest television personality I've ever seen (I really do mean that): Jon Stewart. It does an excellent job of summing up why he and his show are so brilliant.

Ok, I lied at the beginning of this post: there is
one Musharraf link. Hamid Mir (yeah, yeah, I know) reports on Musharraf's evil Machiavellian-Bismarckian-Sun Tzuian plan to have Nawaz and Zardari bleed each other to death in a political battle over the judges. I've always found that political leaders' egos are boosted considerably more by their enemies than by their sycophants. By attributing to them the most cunning and forward-looking modes of thought, they greatly exaggerate the extent to which leaders actually know what the fuck they're doing. To be clear, I'm not saying Hamid Mir's reporting is false in this case; I simply don't know. It's more of a general observation. (Courtesy Faraz)

An interesting read on the "demise" of the Jamaat-e-Islami. The writer basically argues that the JI has come up short in an age that is shown to be a resurgent one for political Islam (in places like Turkey and Egypt, with the AK party and the Brotherhood, for instance). Moreover, it does not contribute substantively to the intellectual and political discourse of the day in a way that can be taken seriously. My two cents on the matter would be that both the AK party and the Brotherhood (to cite two examples from the article) have historically run up against strong institutional constraints (to say the least) in their respective countries, and have grown stronger because of the struggles attached to fighting those constraints (the strong survive and all that). The Jamaat, meanwhile, has grown fat on state and military patronage, especially over the last generation, and perhaps has forgotten what it takes to be a viable political and intellectual organization. (Via Grand Trunk Road)

New York magazine tells us this charming story about how Barack met Michelle. (See Oba? We
do do cute and cuddly around here).
Michelle, meanwhile, later told the Washington Post that she had heard his “strange name” and assumed that “any black guy who spent his formative years on an island had to be a little nerdy, a little strange.” “I already had in my mind that this guy was going to be lame,” she told Ebony.

But the presumed dork turned out more attractive than the photo he’d sent in, and he was confident, easy to talk to, and had a good sense of humor. When they went out to lunch that first day, Obama learned about Michelle’s family and schooling, and liked that she “knew how to laugh, brightly and easily,” while noticing, as he writes in The Audacity of Hope, that she “didn’t seem in too much of a hurry to get back to the office.” About a month into the summer Obama asked her out, but she declined. “I thought, 'No way.’ This is completely tacky,” Michelle told ABC. “This is my first summer. I've got an advisee and I'm gonna date him? I thought, 'No, no, I can't do that.’ And he was like, 'No one cares.’" Obama kept at it, and even threatened to quit if it meant he could romance her. “Eventually, I wore her down,” he writes. One day, after Michelle drove him home from a business picnic, they went to the Baskin-Robbins across from his place and sat together on the curb eating ice cream. “I asked if I could kiss her,” he remembers. “It tasted of chocolate.” On their first formal date, the pair saw Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, where Obama, as he later bragged, was allowed to touch Michelle's knee.

(Courtesy Nikhil)

Man, events in Eastern Europe
have escalated, haven't they? I want to write a longish IR-y post on this when I get the time, but for now all I'll say is this: current events in the region remind me a lot of the first fourteen years of the last century, especially the decade or so before World War I. Mindless adventures where states feel like they must send statements (Tangier and Agadir then, Kosovo and Georgia today), the rise of a powerful state that legitimately feels encircled (Imperial Germany then, Russia today), whose actions born of insecurity are viewed with increasing suspicion in the political capital of the Western world (London then, Washington today). Why are these states (America, Russia, and the EU) acting the way they are today? Because while I think we are in a period resembling pre-World War I, they think we are in a period resembling pre-World War II. In other words, they think showing strength is a way to deter opponents who prey on the weakness of others (Nazi Germany and the problems of appeasement are the historical analogue). The problem, of course, is that if you are actually in a pre-World War I world (where backing off pays) but think you're in pre-World War II world (where puffing your chest out pays), the things you choose to do are the exact and precise actions that will make things worse. (The interested reader can go to Chapter 3 of Jervis' Perception and Misperception in International Politics for more on this issue).

1 comment:

bubs said...

I was going to do a post on that Hamid Mir piece and outright say that he made a lot of it up. The phrase "Inko nani yaad aa jaey gi" is something I would expect a person of Hamid Mir's calibre to say and not Musharraf.