Is it any wonder the world has difficulty making sense of Washington’s loudly proclaimed support for democracy and freedom? Consider the following: the headline, in the Financial Times of September 8-9, reads “Bush’s fury at [a certain Asian] regime.” Now try to guess which country is the object of his indignation.
According to the report, “President George W. Bush, who is in Sydney, called for the regime to ‘stop arresting, harassing, and assaulting pro-democracy activists for organizing or participating in peaceful demonstrations.’”
The regime in question, meanwhile, has alleged that “external, anti-government groups” were trying to foment uprising and warned that: “The people will not accept any acts to destabilize the nation and harm their interests and are willing to prevent such destructive acts.”
On Thursday, China’s State Council announced the appointment of the first head and deputy head of the National Corruption Prevention Bureau. People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s flagship publication, called the bureau “a brand new and first ever anti-corruption agency.” Once it establishes its headquarters, the organization will set up units around the nation.
The Party already maintains the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and a multitude of local anti-corruption units at its lower levels. Furthermore, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate also has prosecutorial offices around the country. It’s not clear how the new bureau will relate to these other nationwide organizations.
China is infested with venal officials not because it lacks ministries, departments, or bureaus. Corruption has reached new levels in China because of the Communist Party’s insistence on political monopoly. Such rampant corruption nearly guarantees that problems will not be dealt with effectively.
Jonathan Rauch of the National Journal writes in his most recent column that I am the early architect of an “ugly” (The American Heritage definition is “morally reprehensible;” “repulsive;” and “offensive”) narrative. As you might imagine, I dispute that charge. Mr. Rauch is normally a careful and civil writer and thinker; in this case, he fell short of his usual standards—both in his substantive analysis and in his reckless use of an adjective.
There is a deeper issue wrapped up in all of this: Mr. Rauch, who is something of a centrist, is attempting to set ground rules in the Iraq debate that make it virtually impossible for antiwar critics to draw reasonable conclusions from the policies antiwar advocates are championing. Assume for a moment that the policies a person is advocating would lead to genocide and embolden an enemy. If that were in fact the case—and surely in some instances it is the case—is that something that cannot now be said as part of public discourse? That is unfortunately what Mr. Rauch is arguing. His appeal to civic comity would actually short-circuit what should be an honest and rigorous debate.
What Jon Rauch is attempting won’t work, and it shouldn’t be tried.
Osama bin Laden’s latest video is very peculiar, and not only because he is sporting a fake beard.
One of the oddest moments comes when he recommends that Americans read the works of two authors, Noam Chomsky and Michael Scheuer. Scheuer, who ran the CIA’s al-Qaeda unit from 1996 to 1999, has been making a great name for himself as a counterterrorism expert since leaving the agency in 2004. Among other high-visibility perches, he serves as a “consultant” to both CBS and ABC News and is cited frequently by leading journalists.
The question is: is bin Laden’s endorsement of Scheuer’s books good for this pundit’s career? Although one should never underestimate the media’s lack of curiosity, my own guess is that it is going to hurt, and hurt badly.
Bin Laden’s endorsement is not the direct reason. Rather, the increasing attention it will bring him will also bring him increasing scrutiny. And scrutiny is not something Scheuer will easily withstand.